Le Forme della Politica: Improving Democracy

Roberto Barabino writes the following:

Le Forme della politica” (Forms of Politics, abbr. FDP) is a an Italian non-partisan association whose objective is to analyze the forms, i.e. the rules of the game and the conceptual premises of the political decisions, in order to make proposals and take action for their improvement. The FDP is based on the teachings of the philosopher Giuseppe Polistena, who is also a co-founder of the association. He intends to correct “Aristotle’s mistake” (his statement that “the man is a political animal”), because politics is the pursuit of the common good and this is not a natural attribute of men and women, but requires a difficult effort in order to be achieved.

The FDP was founded in 2012 and up until 2016 focused on the Italian political sphere. The main themes were: the criteria necessary to guarantee the democratic functioning of political parties, the differences between institutional and political leadership, the limits to parliamentary mandates, and the study of foreign experiences regarding direct democracy and participation.

In 2016 we read and discussed David Van Reybroucks’s outstanding book “Against elections” that showed the intrinsic weaknesses of the electoral-representative democracy and proposed a bi-representative democracy in which sortition plays a relevant role. This was the inspiration for creating the international branch of our association, called “Improving Democracy” (ID), and to launch the “International Sortition Project” (ISP), in which we propose that a small proportion (e.g., 10%) of the members of the elective assemblies at various levels (parliament, regional council, town council, etc.) should be reserved for citizens, who will be able to put themselves forward as candidates for such roles without being part of an organized political force.

Our first aim is to inform the top institutional and political leaders about this opportunity, then continue by informing the leaders of the intermediate bodies of civil society and those citizens that could share an interest in the political “forms”. We started with some Western countries in which an uneasiness about politics was particularly evident. Information should be the basis for building a network made by intermediate bodies’ representatives and citizens without ideological bias in order to gradually influence the political environment.

Our approach is largely inspired by Van Reybrouck’s ideas and by the experiments carried out in many countries and cited in his book. However, we introduce an innovation: the concept of the “qualified draw”, which takes into serious consideration the main objection posed to the use of sortition, i.e. the risk of having incompetent people in delicate public roles. “Qualified draw” means that, after a random or stratified selection among volunteers, the candidates emerging from it can be sifted in order to verify if they have the minimum requirements to cover the role. This kind of sortition is compared to others in a document recently sent to the above mentioned interlocutors.

53 Responses

  1. Hello Roberto,
    the candidates emerging from it can be sifted in order to verify if they have the minimum requirements to cover the role. unquote

    all depend on the requirements of course. If this requirements are to difficult you don’t have an image of society, the key requirement of real representation by sortition, but you end up with “the best” which is an aristocratic system by definition.

    I am also skeptical about merging citizens appointed by sortition with professional politicians. I don’t give that much chance to succeed. Imagine that a juridical jury is merged with some top lawyers with all the facilities of their office. I would not be judged by this lot.

    I don’ know if you read our proposal, it has some of the ideas you mention but is different in his execution. http://blogimages.seniorennet.be/democratie/attach/137395.pdf


  2. For a review of the book from David Van Reybroeck I can recommend the work of Roslyn Fuller https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/democracy-elections-go/ I do not agree with DVRs comments about the referendum, he makes, amongst other questionable assumptions, no difference between plebiscites (referendum at the initiative of government which is not a democratic instrument but an instrument of party politics and dictators) and citizens initiated referendums.


  3. We discussed Van Reybrouck’s book (and an associated long article in the Guardian) in several posts, including one about Fuller’s review.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Yoram,

    DVR also propose to form a Senate composed of citizens appointed by sortition and professional politicians. For me personally I find this a proposal that harms the whole idea of representation by sortition. Of course this will give an ideal opportunity to destroy the possibilities of a real power shift from the electoral elite to the citizens. By doing so politicians will have the chance to discredit the whole sortition idea. It is an harmless (for them) evolution. That is why they support it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. >“Qualified draw” means that, after a random or stratified selection among volunteers, the candidates emerging from it can be sifted in order to verify if they have the minimum requirements to cover the role.

    No doubt this would exclude the basket of deplorables who voted for Donald Trump and Brexit, especially on account of the focus of the FDP on the “common good”. Unfortunately the pursuit of this innocuous Rousseauian concept always ends in a vale of tears.

    Agree with Paul that the attempt to mix allotted and elected members in the same chamber is a serious mistake.


  6. Hi Paul,

    I agree that mixed professional/citizen bodies are dangerous. I think, however, that Montebourg did propose a citizen-only senate. In general, I think it is important to be cautious rather than embrace any proposal that has an allotment component in it. That is why the idea of presenting specific criteria seems very useful to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. >no difference between plebiscites (referendum at the initiative of government which is not a democratic instrument but an instrument of party politics and dictators) and citizens initiated referendums.

    I would caution against drawing too great a distinction. Any party which can pull down millions of votes in an election can drum up a few hundred thousand signatures at will. Any party which can pull down millions of votes can—assuming a decent electoral system—exert sufficient leverage to get concessions the old-fashioned way. Ukip’s success is a fine case study in this.

    >Agree with Paul that the attempt to mix allotted and elected members in the same chamber is a serious mistake.

    Given that the elected politicians would surely dominate any debate in the chamber and that the balance of power would be decided on a case-by-case basis through the persuasion of the allotted members, it would seem that a mixed assembly could be a backdoor strategy of getting the sort of system you want.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Naomi,

    >it would seem that a mixed assembly could be a backdoor strategy of getting the sort of system you want.

    Yes it could be, but wouldn’t that make for a very large assembly, assuming that the allotted element would be both a minority and yet a reasonably accurate portrait in miniature of the target population.* It would be much more practical to make a functional distinction between proposers/advocates and disposers.

    *I assume you disagree with HJH that just 31 persons would be enough to accurately describe the whole population of the world?


  9. Zoon politikon can only be translated as “city animal”, that is, an animal that dwells in cities. It has nothing to do with politics.


  10. Naomi, of course there is freedom of association. A politician can also start a citizens initiated referendum but at least at the same conditions as everybody else. There is not a equal playing field for everybody but it must be as equal as possible. That is also why the opinion of the Venice commission is important. For instance on the Trento proposal http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2015)009-e 24. Article 5 of the Bill proposes reimbursement of expenses to anyone who proposes a referendum (including popular initiative) (1 € per signature required) or a citizens’ bill (0.5 € per signature required). Reimbursement is uncommon in states with strong participative institutions, like Switzerland and the United States. The same is true for most of the German Länder (however, in six German Länder there are rules on reimbursement); 10 in Spain, the reimbursement is provided for in national and regional law, for the citizens’ bills. While reimbursement – which is already provided by Article 24 RL – enhances the chances for minority groups outside the realm of established parties or well-funded pressure groups to promote their ideas and to bring along political change, it also bears a risk of abuse, as it might be used as a way of general fundraising, or by persons simply launching a referendum in order to receive the reimbursement. On the other hand, public reimbursement reduces the danger that the collection of signatures is funded by private sources, a practice that – according to the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice – should be prohibited from the outset.11
    25. In order to be in line with international standards, reimbursement of expenses for the promoters of referendums or initiatives must respect the principles of transparency and of equal opportunity. This entails a neutral approach by the administrative authorities responsible for the funding,12 which is best fulfilled if the criteria for reimbursement are laid down in the law.13 … and so on


  11. I would add that also in the Netherlands there is a reimbursement when a referendum has gathered enough signatures :
    De referendumcommissie maakte op 16 november 2015 bekend twee miljoen euro beschikbaar te hebben gesteld voor het voeren van campagne. Zowel voor- als tegenstanders van het associatieverdrag konden aanspraak maken op deze subsidie, in de hoedanigheid van (politieke) partij, organisatie, bedrijf of particulier (individu). Ook neutrale campagnes konden een subsidieverzoek indienen.[26] Het bedrag van twee miljoen werd als volgt verdeeld: ‘ja’-campagnes en ‘nee’-campagnes kregen ieder in totaal 700.000 euro; neutrale campagnes kregen 600.000 euro.[27] Tachtig procent van het totaal was voor organisaties; twintig procent voor particulieren.[27]

    In total a sum of 2 million Euro was granted for campaigning during the Ukraine referendum. Yes camp and No camp received each 700.000 Euro, neutral got 600.000 Euro.


  12. Hello Keith.
    I am intrigued by your assertion “the pursuit of this innocuous Rousseauian concept always ends in a vale of tears” and I would be grateful for some example.
    I know that the idea of “common good” can be considered too idealistic on the basis of what we see in the political arena, but what we see isn’t politics , it is the negation of it and is one of the main causes of the current problems of credibility of the political establishment worldwide.


  13. Roberto,

    >I am intrigued by your assertion “the pursuit of this innocuous Rousseauian concept always ends in a vale of tears” and I would be grateful for some example.

    Robespierre and Pol Pot. Note: I’m a fan of the Social Contract (less so of his other work), so I’m referring to the unintended consequences.


  14. I don’t see why the allotted subset needs to be a minor component. One could easily have four hundred allotted members and two hundred elected members. Four hundred is probably good enough for most purposes. Furthermore, almost nothing would be able to pass without the support of a significant wing of the elected members. These members would share in the responsibility of the outcomes of these acts to a much greater degree than they would have if they simply advised the sampling one way or the other. And the voters can exact vengeance on those members if these acts turn out to be bad.

    The allotted members would prevent a governing majority from having a lock on power while the elected members buffer the assembly against statistical fluctuations or flights of fancy. It’s not a terrible option by any means. Convincing people that the sampling should be kept silent is also non-trivial, as you know from experience. Sidestepping the issue and instead pushing to tack-on allotted members to existing upper houses could prove more practical.

    Yes. Thirty-one is too few.


  15. Keith,
    > to mix allotted and elected members in the same chamber is a serious mistake.

    > I agree that mixed professional/citizen bodies are dangerous.

    I am interested in your arguments against a mixed chamber (other than, as Keith so nicely puts it, the functional distinction between proposers/advocates and disposers).

    Why? Not only because, as I have always said, this is the only realistic chance of a meaningful change, a purely alloted chamber acceptable by politicians being by definition deprived of any real power, but also because now Melechon is proposing exactly that:


    Given the non-negligible probability for Hamon to step back after being betrayed by the Zionist wing of the French Socialist Party and then rejoin Melenchon, I guess this is the closest we will be in a while of sortition becoming real.

    Yoram may want to open a new thread with the announcement by France Insumise / Avenir En Commun, so that we don’t hijack Roberto’s post. In this hope, I beg you to hold your horses and reply there.


  16. I tried to send this reply many ours ago but it was refused by the system; I try again:

    Hello Paul,
    I agree that the requirements shouldn’t be too difficult, but the idea of indicating them as a condition to be accepted has two purposes: the first is to avoid or to contrast the objection of looking for incompetents, that is so frequent not only among politicians but also in the public opinion at large; the second is to raise the issue of the criteria used to choose the new candidates for elections, that generally speaking are more related to factors like the ability to collect votes or to be condescending to the will of a political boss than to having a particular competence.
    Of course, if we decide to ask drawn candidates to demonstrate specific knowledge or skills, the same should be done for those who aspire to become professional politicians.
    As far as merging professional politicians with citizens, I agree that there is the risk of manipulation but it’s a risk that could be faced in order to bring a direct voice of the people inside the legislative assemblies.
    I am reading the very interesting document you linked, on which I will make comments when I have reflected upon. The same for the revision of DVR book.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Arturo,

    I don’t see any strong reason to separate functions between different bodies any more than they are separated in the current system – so IMO the natural democratic system would be a parliament with essentially the same functions it has now, but where it is selected via sortition instead of via elections.

    A mixed chamber is a recipe for manipulation of the allotted amateurs by the elected professionals. It is likely that the professionals will use their lifetime of experience and longer terms to rig the system as to control it completely.

    A better form of a mixed sortition/elections system would be a two-chamber system with one chamber elected and one chamber allotted. Even then the risk for manipulation is significant, but with some care it could be defended against.

    As for what can be “realistically” achieved: no meaningful change can be achieved without threatening the established elite. Once the established elite is threatened, power structures can be changed in various ways, but this will not happen before mass sentiment turns against elections. This is a process that is already happening but even if does culminate in complete rejection of the established system (an outcome that seems likely) it may not lead to a democratic alternative.

    Our goal therefore should be to mobilize people behind democratic principles (and behind support for sortition as their operationalization), not work toward some short term illusory goals that may very well end up discrediting sortition entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Yoram,

    it seems to me that, in order to threaten the political establishment , a political strategy should be put in place.
    I am wondering if this point has been faced in your previous discussions or is an issue that has to be started.


  19. Hi Roberto,

    What do you mean by “political strategy”? IMO, the strategy at this point is simply the dissemination of the principles of democracy and their expression through sortition.


  20. As I see it, there are essentially two paths to bring about sortition. The steep path is propagandizing until mass sentiment turns against elections, as Yoram so nicely puts it. This means in practice having at some point half plus one of the votes in favor of shifting a given share of power from an elected to an alloted body. Can this happen? It is certainly not impossible, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

    Then there is what I feel today like calling the Rousseauian path, since it is based in the concept of part individuelle de l’autorité souveraine as discussed in chapter I of book III of The Social Contract. Each citizen must be free to choose her preferred method of delegating her personal portion of sovereignity, either voting for a candidate (the aristocratic method) or having a chance of being sorted (the democratic method). This results in a mixed chamber, with elected and alloted members in a proportion determined by the sum of individual choices.

    This does not require for half plus one of the population to give up elections, at least partly, but only to acknowledge the oppression suffered by those who prefer sortition and their right to political participation.

    And this is, as I said, what Melenchon is advocating right now. By the way, does anyone intend to publish a new post to discuss the proposal by La France Insumise?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. So much to say… but briefly…
    a MIXED chamber is a very unworkable idea. The members would not be equals (authority or legitimacy derived from almost opposite bases, with the elected members being inherently viewed as superior (aristocratic — after all they were intentionally CHOSEN as the “best”). In a partially elected chamber there would still be partisan battles and electoral imperatives, and an effort to recruit the allotted members by each party team. Almost none of the benefits of sortition would occur in this mixed chamber.

    Having one chamber fully allotted in a bicameral structure with the other elected (modeled on elected bicameral systems) is not much better. The allotted members would tend to defer to the party members in the elected chamber of the party they generally preferred. And if they didn’t, imagine the result if the sortition mini-public disagreed with the elected chamber on policy X. One body has temporary members with no incentives or skills for amassing power, while the elected chamber is full of outspoken public relations experts with a powerful motivation to delegitmize the sortition chamber (which disagrees with them) as “merely some random group of know-nothings.”

    Furthermore, in an elected chamber most policy work is done in tiny committees (there are just too many issues to do much in plenary sessions), with the bulk of members simply deferring to the members of their own party from that committee. If we replicated that system in an allotted chamber, the individual committees would be far too small to be statistically close to representative, and the plenary members would have no basis to defer to an unrepresentative committee.

    Instead, the path for transition should occur through carve outs of individual policy areas… removing them from the elected legislature entirely and putting them completely into the mini-public arena. For example… put the issue of health care into a mini-public, or transportation, etc., Then if people are happy with the policy decisions of the mini-publics, steadily remove one policy area after another from the elected legislature, and reassign it to mini-publics.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Arturo,

    Regarding the Melenchon proposal you mentioned – I have not had time to read about it. Would you like to post about it?


  23. Arturo,

    Regarding making an individual choice between elections and sortition. As a matter of principle it is a good method. However, in practice its application seems very risky since it allows the professionals in the system to manage the transition and they are likely to introduce mechanisms that contain democratic power.

    Of course, it is also unlikely that such a system would be introduced without significant popular pressure anyway, so in this sense it is not a much likelier path than the one involving the creation of an allotted chamber. In general, easy paths to democracy cannot exist since democracy must involve decreasing the power of established elites. Those elites will hold on to as much power as they can for as long as they can so any changes introduced without significant pressure cannot be meaningfully democratic.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Arturo,

    “” Each citizen must be free to choose her preferred method of delegating her personal portion of sovereignity, either voting for a candidate (the aristocratic method) or having a chance of being sorted (the democratic method). This results in a mixed chamber, with elected and alloted members in a proportion determined by the sum of individual choices. “”

    We propose as a transition that it must be possible, in elections, to vote for an allotted party as well for individual candidates from a political party. This results in a mixed chamber but they don’t need to meet each other, on the contrary, this must be avoided at all cost in order to keep the advantages of sortition. The elected and the allotted votes are simply added together. This legislative Jury is only called for a short time to vote on one bill and is always made up by 400 citizens, no matter how many “seats” they have in the Chamber.

    PROPOSITION: (see also schematic overview next page)
    As a transition arrangement to a fully operational democracy the citizens decides the balance of power between the ” Legislative Citizens Jury” (3.) selected by sortition” and the
    “Elected Representatives” (5.). During “free” elections the citizens can cast a vote for the “Legislative Citizen Jury selected by Sortition” as well as voting for a candidate or a political party.
    The amount of “seats” of the “Legislative Citizen Jury” (3.) is at the most the same as the number of seats of the “Elected Representatives” (5.) with a minimum of three (*23). The “vote value” of the “Legislative Citizens Jury” is proportional to the amount of votes received during the elections and the “seats” of both groups, “elected” and “appointed by sortition” (See also attachment 3).
    The Agenda-jury (2.), or a citizen petition (1.), decides whether a Bill, handled by the “Elected Representatives” (5.) is of sufficient societal importance to be submitted to the “Legislative Citizens Jury” (3.). In case a “Legislative Citizens Jury” (3.) is called, the votes of the Elected
    Representatives (5.) and the “Legislative Citizens Jury” (3.), casted on that specific Bill, are aggregated in order to accept or reject the Bill.
    The Evaluation Jury (7.) will evaluate legislative proposals, who are submitted by citizen petition (4.), on their societal importance. In case of acceptance they are submitted to the “elected representatives” (5.) and the “Legislative Citizens Jury” to vote on (3.).

    Full proposal:

    Click to access 137395.pdf


  25. Hi Yoram,

    By “political strategy” I mean the actions to be taken in order to obtain the “popular pressure” you mentioned in your answer to Arturo. A pressure strong enough to achieve the objective of empower the people.
    In my view a systemic and transparent approach is needed, i.e. actions contemporarily directed towards three targets: the elite, the intermediate bodies of the civil society and the citizens, in a way that let each of the three groups know which actions and reactions involves the others.
    I am sorry but I have to leave now for a trip. So I will integrate this reflection later today or tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Arturo,

    >Then there is what I feel today like calling the Rousseauian path, since it is based in the concept of part individuelle de l’autorité souveraine as discussed in chapter I of book III of The Social Contract. Each citizen must be free to choose her preferred method of delegating her personal portion of sovereignity, either voting for a candidate (the aristocratic method) or having a chance of being sorted (the democratic method).

    Huh? Book III of the Social Contract is on executive, not legislative, power. For Rousseau the delegation of personal sovereignty (legislative right) amounts to nothing more than slavery. Rousseau’s discussion on monarchy, aristocracy and democracy is limited to different forms of government and has nothing to do with sovereignty.


  27. Hi Roberto,

    In my opinion there is not much point in attempting to convince the elite to adopt democratic reforms at this time because there would be no political force behind those attempts and therefore there would be no reason to expect the elite to cede their power (or some meaningful measure of it).

    As for involving civil society: to the extent this means democratically minded organizations – sure. What were you thinking about?


  28. > Book III of the Social Contract is on executive, not legislative, power.

    You are right, Keith, as always (if I may say so). I had that same perception and it took me a very long time going back and forth through the book last night because I was fully convinced that what I was looking for had to be found in books I or II. But it is indeed in chapter I of book III that Rousseau made this analysis, more quantitativo:

    Suppose the State is composed of ten thousand citizens. The Sovereign can only be considered collectively and as a body; but each member, as being a subject, is regarded as an individual: thus the Sovereign is to the subject as ten thousand to one, i.e., each member of the State has as his share only a ten-thousandth part of the sovereign authority, although he is wholly under its control. If the people numbers a hundred thousand, the condition of the subject undergoes no change, and each equally is under the whole authority of the laws, while his vote, being reduced to a hundred-thousandth part, has ten times less influence in drawing them up.


  29. Yoram,
    I will send you soon something about Melenchon’s promise of introducing sortition if he wins.
    Regarding yours and Terry’s objections to a mixed chamber, which (please correct me if I am wrong) boil down to “poor little allotted members will be eaten alive by big bad elected members”, I will only say what Hume said of Berkeley’s arguments: they admit no refutation, they produce no persuasion.


  30. Hi Yoram,

    A systemic political strategy should, in my opinion, be composed of two interrelated subsystem than can be nominated through acronyms:

    1 – EEP, that means: Emphasis, Emulation, Pressure

    As I said in the previous comment, pressure is, at the end, the deciding factor but it can increase only if the other twoo factors are present and sinergically managed. Emphasis implies that all the “good practices” are detected and underlined. Emulation implies that all those who count are informed and stimulated to imitate the appropriate behaviour. Pressure increases when more and more people approves the best practices.
    We have a very good example in the french situation,as Arturo told us: Melenchon is the only one candidate to the presidency that esplicitly support a sortition based reform of the parliament.
    This news, probably well known in France but most probably ignored in other countries has to be properly spread and this bring us to the second acronym.

    2 – CD – i.e. Concentration and Diffusion

    Target one (Elite) and target two (Intermediate Bodies) should be composed of a very limited number of people. In our International Sortition Project we just include 37 people in target one for the six countries involved. For target two we still don’t have a precise evaluation, because we are defining which bodies to consider. For example, in Italy we have informed the top leaders of the three main unions and we are doing the same with those of the association of managers and of some organized citizens networks. We are also considering consumers associations and professional Orders. This is an aspect on which we would very much appreciate a conceptual contribution of the kleroterians and, if possible, a practical help for the other countries involved ( France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK and USA).


  31. Roberto,
    With regard to your three-prone strategy, I am very skeptic about the transforming potential of so-called civil society organisations. In my experience, they are entirely functional to the domination system: mere fig leafs to cover the absence of people’s power.
    I favor a strategy that builds upon the generalised rejection of the powers that be at a personal level. As I always tell my children, and anyone who wants to listen: I obey the laws and pay taxes because the police have guns, not because I recognise any legitimacy to a state the deprives me of my right to political participation.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Roberto,

    I am afraid that in most cases Arturo is right. Most civil society organisations are used to work in the existing political system where lobying is the rule. And they know that works. We are asking them to shift that line of working towards a very uncertain outcome. We tried to “influence” Attac at a conference in Freiburg 2011 but there was no response at all from the organsation. Nevertheless we had a well attended meeting there. (We presented a workshop “politics without politicians” in honour of Akiva Orr ) http://www.e2d-i.net/ENA2011%20introduction%20to%20Politics%20without%20Politicians.ppt


  33. Hi Yoram,

    I have to complete my reasoning.

    We should use all the positive events happening on levels one and two to inform the others and try to establish contact with people in critical position inside the Organizations considered, in order to possibly create durable links and different types of cooperation.
    As far as the citizens, we should stimulate the traditional mass media to inform them but , considering the probably limited availability of many of them, the social media should be the primary information vehicles.

    For the moment I stop here.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Arturo,

    “Eaten alive” may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but the fact that experience is associated with proficiency and thus with efficacy and power seems too commonplace to debate. I don’t see why it would be different in the context of a decision-making body.


  35. Arturo,

    You need to read that passage in its proper context — Rousseau is making the argument that the larger the state the greater the need for strong and unitary government. This being the case the natural form of government for large states is monarchy, so I don’t think you are looking in the right place for an argument for sortition in the sovereign legislature.

    >what Hume said of Berkeley’s arguments: they admit no refutation, they produce no persuasion.

    Dr Johnson’s refutation of Berkeley was a lot more persuasive, but is also a good example of how arguing with Yoram only leads to a sore foot:

    After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.”


  36. Arturo and Paul,

    A skeptical approach is absolutely legitimate considering the present reality.
    But we have to consider that we are not in ordinary times: the deep credibility crises that invest the members of level one imposes them the search of a change, because they are losing control. The results of the 2016 Davos Economic Meeting indicate that the Elite is afraid of the potentially disrupting social and political consequences of the 4.0 industry revolution . This creates an objective space for influence from organized societal actions.
    The level two crises is even bigger because its components have lost their power to mediate between level one and the citizens. They too are looking for a new role.
    It is in this “liquid” situation that it becomes possible to “break the wall” of resistence to a process of true democratization. As the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead said:
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
    My compliments to Paul for the excellent presentation made at the Freiburg Meeting, whose analysis I completely subscribe.


  37. >“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

    That might as well have come from Lenin, but the centenary of the October Revolution will have few celebrants in Russia. BTW this sort of elitist rhetoric sounds pretty weird from people (supposedly) advocating the rule of the silent majority, but then that has always been the case with the Vanguard Party.


  38. In my opinion, a change strategy cannot be conceived by the silent majority and even the kleroterians , that deeply discuss on how to implement a democratic change, are not for that reason an elitist group


  39. I guess the argument is more evolution vs revolution. Not all of us are persuaded by Yoram’s argument that the elite will only relinquish power when forced to. One of the arguments in favour of allotted second chambers and sharing power between elected and allotted representatives is that it provides for a developmental, rather than revolutionary, approach and follows the precautionary principle.


  40. Hi Roberto,

    I’m really glad to hear about your group and it’s work. And I am also very glad to hear that you are thinking internationally now. I hope you are able to make lots of contacts with like-minded organizations in other countries.


  41. Hi Keith,

    Also my approach is evolutionary and implies an organized and coordinated action from different actors of the civil society in order to gradually influence the elite.
    It is our intention, for example, to inform the 37 elite members that we normally address, of Melenchon’s intention about sortition and to invite them to consider our proposals that don’t differ so much from those of the French candidate. We don’t expect, obviously, that they will be taken into consideration in a brief time. But from now on they cannot ignore that the issue is present in the political arena and that it could become an object of emulation.


  42. Hi David,

    thanks for your appreciation. We hope as well to find the right contacts and would be grateful for any possible suggestions from the kleroterians, as far as the intermediate bodies to be contacted in the five already mentioned countries (France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK and USA).


  43. Thanks for the clarification Roberto, my argument is with those on this forum who view any attempt to persuade (rather than confront) the powers that be as tantamount to sleeping with the enemy.


  44. Keith,

    “”Not all of us are persuaded by Yoram’s argument that the elite will only relinquish power when forced to. “” Nevertheless I think Yoram is right.
    All their initiatives do score very low on the Arnstein ladder http://www.participatorymethods.org/sites/participatorymethods.org/files/Arnstein%20ladder%201969.pdf .
    But there is a flaw in their defences and that comes from the fact that in most electoral systems there are parties who will promise to do whatever needed to gain a, or some, seats in the elected parliament. That why we also publish some research and questionnaires to answer by parties and politicians about their intentions concerning the introduction of democratic instruments (in our case referendum at citizens initiative and sortition) in order to boost some competition. Of course a promise from a politician is not of great value but in any way it can sharpen the competition towards democracy.


  45. Roberto,

    You asked about organizations in five countries (France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK and USA) doing work related to sortition.

    I know of Missions Publiques in France, the Sortition Foundation in the UK, and the Jefferson Center, Healthy Democracy, and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in the USA. There is an organization in the Netherlands that did a G-1000 event (like the Belgian G-1000 that van Reybrouck writes about), but I don’t know their name. I don’t know organizations in Germany, but I think the Missions Publique people do.

    Can other people here suggest other organizations in these countries?


  46. Hello Roberto,

    We ( http://www.democratie.nu ) are in support of sortition but for us the referendum at citizens initiative stays the ultimate expression of souvereignty. We (also the democracy movement in the Netherlands https://www.meerdemocratie.nl/doe-mee and our international organization https://www.democracy-international.org/ ) can’t work together with organizations or persons who actively are against the initiative. This means that we, at least until this moment, can’t work together with for example David Van Reybroeck. We contacted him in order to find common ground and we argue that a division of our forces towards democracy is not in our interest but it had no result.
    So, sadly enough, we are for sortition but against David Van Reybroeck, not only his rhetoric against the initiative but also against his proposals for a (powerless) Senate appointed by sortition. I would rather work together and let the citizens make their choice about democratic systems and instruments they want to use but at the moment this is the situation.


  47. David,

    thank again for your very useful indications about organizations active in the sortition field, that I will call “Org.1”
    We are very much interested in knowing the strategy that such organizations are using in order to let sortition become an accepted tool of democracy. If you have information on this point, I would appreciate if you let me know.
    Moreover we are interested in getting in touch with other intermediate bodies that have different objectives but nevertheless are “on the citizen’s side” ( like unions, organized citizen networks, consumers associations, etc.) that I will call “Org.2” . They could benefit in their specific field if citizen’s participation improves towards a true democracy, where the people can really express its sovereignty without a complete delegation to professional politicians
    We would also like to know if Org.1 have already tried to involve Org.2 and with what results; we would appreciate any information on this point from you or other kleroterians.


  48. Hi Paul,

    I am very surprised to know that DVR is against the initiative; I didn’t get this point reading his book and I ask you to kindly tell me where I can find his position on this aspect.
    We in FDP agree that initiative and referendums are the best expressions of direct democracy (we love the Swiss experience that, for us, is the only true democracy of the western world).
    Sortition is a way to try to democratize the representative system that, as I also read in your documents, are intrinsecally the base of oligarchies.
    I am sorry for the preclusions that at the moment impede the cooperation among organizations that have the same objective, at least with reference to sortition.
    But I am glad that FDP is compatible with the organizations you are working with and hope that some collaboration will be possible.


  49. Hi Roberto,

    sadly enough DVR is not only against elections but also against the referendum. And not only aigainst it, but activly against it.
    Roslyn Fuller (active proponent of referendum in Ireland)
    https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/democracy-elections-go/ wrote a very good review and I would certainly promote her book as a far more scientific approach. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beasts-Gods-Democracy-Changed-Meaning/dp/1783605421
    We (Dutch referendum proponent) spoke to him and we do read his other publications.
    In Dutch : . Verkiezingen en referenda zijn primitieve instrumenten die op dit ogenblik de democratie meer schaden dan mogelijk maken. .. from DVR http://www.knack.be/nieuws/wereld/reacties-uit-binnen-en-buitenland-verkiezingen-zijn-primitieve-instrumenten/article-normal-774589.html
    translation: Elections and referenda are primitive instruments who are for the moment more harmful for democracy then make democracy possible..
    In English:
    Referendums and elections are both arcane instruments of public deliberation.

    He doesn’t make any distinction at all between plebiscites (referendums at initiative of government, not even allowed in Switserland) and the citizens initiated referendums. Plebiscites are instruments of political parties, politicians and dictators and can not be compared with “referendums at citizens initiatives”.
    I don’t think this is the place to discuss the referendum pro and cons, everyone has his preferences.
    But never mind the “preference” It would be better in my view to work together. At this moment DVR makes it difficult to defend sortition (in pro democracy organisations like democracy international and the Dutch movement) because in most cases those people are in favor of the referendum system. The referendum and sortition are both democratic instruments and, in our view, worth to defend against the electoral system. The referendum has a long track record and his pro and cons are well known. That is why we published our book (in 10 languages) https://www.democracy-international.org/direct-democracy-facts-arguments they are free to download in pdf.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Hi Paul ,

    thank you very much for the detailed information and the documents, that explain very well the reasons of the present difficulty regarding the cooperation. I agree that it would be much better if this problem was solved.
    When we commented DVR’s book, a question came out about the fact that the Author never mentioned the Swiss democracy, in which the sovereignty of the people is so true and strong .
    At the time we didn’t find the answer, that now becomes clear.


  51. John Gastil and Robert Richards wrote an interesting piece about combining the initiative and sortition. It’s called Making Direct Democracy Deliberative through Random Assemblies, and it was published in Politics & Society (4)1, in 2013.

    Liked by 2 people

  52. The “ Emulation” effect that I indicated as a necessary component of a systemic political strategy is now operating in France because, after Melenchon’s proposal of a partially allotted constitutional body, Macron promoted a totally allotted supervisory body.
    We will soon inform of these events the institutional and political leaders of the six countries involved in our International Sortition Project in order to create the “Emphasys” effect.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. Thanks David, for those interested in a pdf file of “Making Direct Democracy Deliberative” http://sites.psu.edu/citizensinitiativereview/wp-content/uploads/sites/23162/2015/01/RandomAssemblies.pdf


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