Dedieu and Toulemonde: Taking political chances with sortition

Franck Dedieu, a professor at the IPAG Business School, and Charles Toulemonde, a research engineer, write in Le Croix.

This short and readable essay is critical of sortition, or at least of the proposals currently discussed in France, but is not completely hostile to the idea. The authors avoid some of the most common knee-jerk anti-sortition arguments and make some interesting and valuable points.

Taking political chances with sortition
29 November 2016, Franck Dedieu and Charles Toulemonde

Machiavelli attributed to chance more than half of human actions. Free choice and individual will would therefore control the minor part of history. Miserable fate! And yet, over the last several years, and more so over the course of the present presidential campaign, the idea of drawing by lot representatives of the people made a breakthrough in the political agenda.

A proven system

In 2012, Ségolène Royal imagined citizen juries supervising the elected officials. Today, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France Insoumise, has relied partially on chance last October for selecting delegates to his convention.

Arnaud Montebourg, a candidate in the primary of the left, wants to do the same for selecting the members of the senate. The environmentalists of the EELV, the activists of the Nouvelle Donne party and the members of the Nuit Debout movement of the spring of 2016 have crowned sortition with all the political virtues. This idea of a horizontal Republic is based on a simple argument: the elected, having become the professionals of politics, are living in a closed vessel in an increasingly inbred system and do not represent the social and sociological realities of the electorate. However, as usual in politics, we must be wary of silver-bullet ready-made solutions.

Controversial legitimacy?

On reflection, this stochocracy (from the Greek stokhastikos, randomness, a term used by the philosopher Reger de Sizif) moves away from democracy, rather than approaches it. There is a risk that sortition would strengthen the foibles of the very “electoral oligarchy” is denounces. How will the two political classes share power? Will the “elected deputies” regard themselves as equal to the “loto-senators”? The “chosen” will have the upper hand of the electoral legitimacy while the “commoners” will only have the legitimacy of the lucky draw. What a distance between the Oath of the Tennis Court of the deputies of the Third Estate and the oath of the casino of the Mélenchonists!
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