Sortition as a direct democratic system to appoint a real citizens representation, also called “citizen jury“


According to historical sources our political system was developed AGAINST democracy (sovereignty of the people). An “Electoral Aristocracy” was installed (18 century). Nevertheless, this can be seen as a positive evolution compared with ruling by inheritance.

Later on some “democratic” elements were installed, for instance “free” or so called “democratic” elections with universal suffrage, the equality principle, freedom of speech, freedom of organisation, free press, … but some of them were weakened or eliminated afterwards.

But a “democratic element” is not yet a “democracy”. Freedom of organisation may be a “democratic element”, without it a democracy can not exists, on his own it is no democracy. This way “free elections”, to appoint a governor for instance, can be a democratic element but on his own it is by no means a democracy.

Furthermore, our political system of representation by elected representatives is derived from the Roman Republic system and not from the Athenian Democracy. Naming our political system a “democracy” is deliberately misleading propaganda.

With the rise of the political parties, who have in fact taken over the legislative power, whereby the lobbyists can work more directly, the result is a concentration of power, of both legislative and economic and financial interests, that eliminate the last remains of democracy in our political system.

One could say that history repeats itself. The Roman Empire collapsed by internal decadency and accumulation of wealth and power by the few, what apparently is inherent to the electoral representative system.

Some other Countries and States, also many cities and communities, made the choice for a more democratic political system, already more than a century ago, by introducing the initiative and referendum, some others joined more recently. The best known examples are Switzerland and half of the States in the US.

Also here we notice an evolution, or a demand, towards a further democratisation with, for instance, the institution of representation of the people, appointed by sortition. Main cause is the ever increasing power of the financial and economical interests and their influence on the legislation.

PROPOSITION: As a transition arrangement to a fully operational democracy the citizens decide the balance of power between the “Legislative Citizens Jury” selected by sortition and the “elected Representatives”.  During “free” elections the citizens can cast a vote for the “Legislative Citizens Jury selected by Sortition” as well as voting for a candidate or a political party.

5 Responses

  1. Like guns, citizens initiated referendums are used well (mostly) in Switzerland and often badly in the US. This led to the system in Oregon of citizen juries reviewing and making recommendations to the voters on each proposition put to the electorate. It seems to work well.


  2. The CIR published in Participedia : and I am in favor. (it is a geographic and demographic stratified sample, which might be justified in this case)
    But I still struggle with the notion “good and bad” of the result of Citizens Initiated Referenda.
    Who says the result is “good” or “bad”? What are the criteria? I can refer to the work of Matsusaka (it took him 10 years) who studied the results of initiatives and published this in his work “For the many or the Few”. He is clear about the criteria he uses and the ones he didn’t (and are also important).


  3. Paul,

    There’s a contradiction in your title between: “a direct democratic system” and “real citizens representation”. In the classical example, Athens was a direct democracy when all citizens decided each issue together in the ecclesia; as soon as legislative sovereignty was delegated to a randomly-selected jury it became an indirect democracy, albeit involving a different principle of representation to the election of political officers. The notion of the randomly-selected assembly as a “portrait in miniature” of the demos is derived from the language of representation, it’s just that the representative principle is descriptive rather than ascriptive.

    This may look like quibbling over the meaning of words but if we don’t focus on the descriptive representativity of the randomly-selected minidemos then we run the risk of accepting the rule of very small groups of citizen volunteers as democratically legitimate. The analogy of a piece of holographic film is apposite — if you cut it in half if still represents the whole of the original image, but at a lower resolution. If you cut it in half again the same principle applies but there comes a point at which the resolution is so degraded that it is no longer possible to discern the original image — at which point it ceases to be a working representation. In the case of democratic politics, there is no way that a group smaller than around 300 could be conceived as descriptively representative, unless there was a very low decision threshold.

    The danger of using the language of direct democracy is that the rule of individuals drawn directly from the demos by sortition might be (mis)conceived as democratically legitimate. This is a conflation with the other use of sortition in small ancient poleis — the selection of individual magistrates on an annual basis. This was viewed (by Aristotle) as democratically legitimate in so far as everybody got to rule and be ruled in turn, but this is clearly inapplicable to huge modern states.


    PS On a historical note, although it’s true that modern electoral representation has more in common with republican Rome than classical Greece, both Montesquieu and Manin view its origins in medieval European practices.


  4. Hi Keith

    yes, may be this would be better: Sortition as a democratic system to appoint a real citizens representation, also called “citizen jury“
    I keep a note for the next edition.


  5. Ideal

    Liked by 1 person

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