Threlkeld’s reply to Paul Lucardie

This is my reply to Paul Lucardie’s 2014 book Democratic Extremism in Theory and Practice: All Power to the People, regarding his questions, objections and comments about my 1998 proposal for democratic lawmaking.

In my reply I explain why Lucardie’s alleged category of “democratic extremism” is illogical and should be rejected.

I do not find the book’s objections to what I propose to be convincing, but I do find them and Lucardie’s questions interesting and worth replying to. For example, he suggests that compared to popular election, citizen juries waste political talent. I explain, in response, why popular election massively wastes political talent compared to the citizen jury proposals I have made.

In the course of replying, I outline much of my position on citizen juries, including details I have not published before, such as some further details about why the final say in lawmaking needs to be transferred to legislative juries, and about juries deciding how public decision-makers are chosen.

Excerpt:

Lucardie observes that: “Obviously, it is rather inconvenient if one wants to write about a phenomenon [democratic extremism] that by definition cannot exist [because it is a contradiction in terms].” (14.) Lucardie then tries to define “democratic extremism” in a way that is not a contradiction in terms, but he does not succeed.

After indicating (top of 15) that he will consider advocates of “pure democracy” to be “democratic extremists” Lucardie says: “In a pure democracy all important decisions are taken by the people, either directly or indirectly. In all pure regimes [evidently including all “pure democracies”], ideological homogeneity has replaced pluralism and absolute power has replaced checks and balances. This definition of extremism … will serve as a guideline in this book.” (See 13-15 and 154 regarding Lucardie’s thoughts on “democratic extremism.”)

Lucardie’s said statement of what he means by “democratic extremism” illustrates that it is a contradiction in terms, despite his claim that it is not. When we speak of “ideological homogeneity” that has replaced “pluralism,” and of “absolute power” that has replaced “checks and balances,” we are no longer speaking of democracy. These things are profoundly undemocratic, and although they may describe political extremism, (including for example the Soviet Union under Stalin and Germany under Hitler), they do not describe anything that can reasonably be called democracy. Freedom of thought, speech, religion and association, and the ideological diversity, open marketplace of ideas, and pluralism that go with these freedoms, are basic aspects of democracy. So too are checks and balances and the absence of absolute power, and other things contrary to the concept of political extremism used by Lucardie in the above quote.

In order to label “pure democracy” as “democratic extremism” Lucardie defines “pure democracy” in a way that cannot reasonably be regarded as falling within the ambit of what democracy is. By doing so he creates a contradiction in terms.

80 Responses

  1. Hi Simon,

    Presumably, the idea is that in “a pure regime” all decisions are taken according to a single set of considerations. In a pure democracy, all decisions are made according to the values and interests of the people (as represented by a random sample). Thus, while there may be ideological heterogeneity and plurality of ideas and interests within the people, these do not get reflected in decision-making because by the time decisions are being made, the heterogeneity has been eliminated by the process of aggregation in the random sample.

    This is supposedly contrasted with “a mixed regime” where different decision making powers are in the hands of different bodies which represent different interests. So, for example, an elected legislature represents one set of interests while the appointed supreme court represents a different set, and so those supposedly “check and balance” each other.

    (Note that I don’t endorse this Madisonian theory – I think it is dogma that is aimed at justifying an anti-democratic system. I am just trying to rationalize what Lucardie [and others offering the same idea] are arguing.)

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  2. Naturally I agree with Paul (and Aristotle) on the extreme nature of any pure system of governance.

    >Freedom of thought, speech, religion and association, and the ideological diversity, open marketplace of ideas, and pluralism that go with these freedoms, are basic aspects of democracy. So too are checks and balances and the absence of absolute power.

    These are features of the modern Western hybrid that we refer to as “liberal democracy”, they have nothing to do with democracy per se as they all refer to to the liberal part of the hybrid (the connection with democracy being contingent rather than necessary.)

    Yoram: > In a pure democracy, all decisions are made according to the values and interests of the people (as represented by a random sample).

    That is only true in the a priori definitional sense. Those of us who make the case for mixed governance argue that the representation of the values and interests of the people requires a complex combination of institutions, primarily in order to establish representative isegoria (impossible to achieve by sortition alone). You can’t get round this empirical difficulty by definitional fiat.

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  3. Keith, I do not see how we can have democracy without “Freedom of thought, speech, religion and association, … checks and balances and the absence of absolute power.”

    If all speech critical of the government and its official ideology (whatever that might be) were banned, with those breaking the ban being fined or jailed, and banned from universities, teaching positions, public office, the media, and any form of public speaking, and publicly listed as “enemies of the people” or “thought criminals,” I don’t see how that would be a democracy, nor how Classical Greek democrats such as Pericles (it being understood they are democrats only in a narrow and dubious sense due to slavery etc.) would regard it as a democracy.

    Much the same can be said for the other things listed in the quote.

    Do you consider Classical Athens an example of political extremism, say in the time of Pericles, and say after the introduction of the nomothetai? (And of course I am talking about the democratic aspects of the system, not the undemocratic political extremism aspects such as slavery, and the exclusion of women from the Assembly, juries, and plays.)

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  4. Simon,

    I agree that free speech in the limited ho boulomenos sense would be necessary, but that shouldn’t be confused with modern liberal democracy. The Greeks valued homonoia (same mindedness), there was little if any religious freedom and their society could not be characterized as pluralistic. Aristotle certainly viewed late 5th- and early 4th-century democracy as extreme, and he had the advantage over us of actually being there (and enemies of the people like Socrates were executed for thought crimes.) I agree with Yoram that checks and balances run contrary to democratic norms — that’s why Madison was so keen on them.

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  5. PS

    Yoram: >while there may be ideological heterogeneity and plurality of ideas and interests within the people, these do not get reflected in decision-making because by the time decisions are being made, the heterogeneity has been eliminated by the process of aggregation in the random sample.

    That would certainly be true of votes as they are of equal value, so all you have to do is add them up to find the majority position. But how do you aggregate ideas and interests, given that some people will articulate theirs more effectively than others? Most people will have little or nothing to say if the group is large enough to be statistically accurate — it takes a lot of courage to stand up and speak before a group of 300-1,000 people, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The outcome of the aggregation process will inevitably reflect the arbitrary distribution of rhetorical skills and the effects of perceived status, so the outcome cannot be held to accurately mirror the ideas and interests of the target population. Different samples will lead to different outcomes, so which one will be taken to accurately represent the ideas and interests of those who are not called to participate?

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  6. Keith, I think free speech in Athens was pretty broad, including not just the right to speak in the Assembly and to the Council, and to propose laws and decrees, but to criticize and even make fun of existing laws, policies and officials, and to argue for new laws and policies.

    Lack of religious freedom (freedom to disbelieve in an official state religion for example) is undemocratic wouldn’t you agree?

    Are you sure Classical Athens cannot be reasonably called a pluralistic society? Plato’s dialogues and Aristophanes’ plays portray a lot of diversity in opinion, and Pericles in the Funeral Oration speaks of people being left to lead their private lives as they like with freedom to enjoy themselves in their own way. Yes Socrates was eventually charged at I believe age 70, after enjoying the freedom to be a “gadfly” for decades, but that was I believe only after some of his students had been involved in the overthrow of the democracy, and the jury was quite divided on the finding of guilt. Plato and Aristotle were, I believe, not charged. In the U.S. the FBI tried to “neutralize” (their word) Martin Luther King, the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Cttee) and others (google COINTELPRO if this is not familiar to you), and John Kiriakou (CIA torture whistleblower) faced politically motivated prosecution under Obama (as may Julian Assange if he steps out of the embassy), and so on, but despite these examples of anti-pluralism and anti-democracy, we do not say the U.S. is not a pluralistic society.

    I believe you and Yoram are correct about Madison. But though checks and balances can be undemocratic they are also very much part of democracy in Athens and today – it depends on the details as to whether they are democratic or undemocratic. Some of Madison’s undemocratic checks and balances were revised into something more democratic (Senate chosen by popular election – 17th Amendment – rather than by state politicians, President chosen by popularly elected electoral college, instead of one appointed by state politicians as Madison envisaged). In Athens, the nomothetai, the Council, the jury courts, the arbitrators, the laws and other things were surely part of a system of checks and balances were they not?

    (I of course think the existing system of checks and balances in our countries falls far short of democratic ideas and principles.)

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  7. Keith: > it takes a lot of courage to stand up and speak before a group of 300-1,000 people, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    True. That’s one very good reason why discussion and deliberation by jurors in jury assemblies of such a size should take place in small groups, perhaps about the size of trial juries, rather than in plenary (with the entire jury assembly).

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  8. Simon

    Neither you or I are historians, I merely warn of the dangers of viewing ancient civilisations through rose-tinted glasses — what Arlene Saxonhouse refers to as the “modern myth-making project”. This includes the (farcical) notion that classical Athens was a proto-deliberative democracy, whereas in fact the nature of the rhetoric involved was entirely forensic and agonistic. And the right to speak and propose new laws should not obscure the fact that the right was generally taken up by the usual suspects. And the age of Pericles would appear to have been more a dictatorship than a democracy.

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  9. >discussion and deliberation by jurors in jury assemblies of such a size should take place in small groups, perhaps about the size of trial juries

    Then they cease to be representative, as the LLN does not apply to a group of 12. This is not a problem in law courts as the task is epistemic, but a legislative jury is charged to reflect the preferences of its target population.

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  10. >Neither you or I are historians

    True. But we can of course read what the historians say, and work out from that what might be good to avoid and be wary of. I don’t think Pericles was a dictator, and don’t imagine there are many, if any, historians who say quite that. But in any case we are not proposing popular assembly democracy (as the Ekklesia was of course an example of), nor popular election (thinking of Pericles being elected as one of the strategoi by the Ekklesia).

    >Then they cease to be representative, as the LLN does not apply to a group of 12.

    ?

    A large statistically representative jury assembly of say 300 to 1,000 citizens can break into randomly sampled small groups for the purpose of deliberation, and then convene in plenary to continue the hearing, and when ready to vote by secret ballot and majority vote. The fact that the randomly sampled small groups are too small to be statistically reliable random samples of course does not mean the whole jury assembly of 300 to 1,000 is not.

    (I don’t know what LLN stands for but take it to refer to the larger sizes needed for statistical reliability.)

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  11. Simon,

    >The fact that the randomly sampled small groups are too small to be statistically reliable random samples of course does not mean the whole jury assembly of 300 to 1,000 is not.

    The illocutionary imbalances introduced by the small group deliberations will affect the representativity of the plenary vote. The only way of countering this would be to treat each small group as a single individual and ensure there was no communication between groups, but this would make for a huge plenary that would a) be far too expensive and b) exceed the rational ignorance threshold. Note that this is not just a hypothetical argument — the Texas utilities DPs returned wildly different verdicts on the same topic and my suggestion is that this was largely the consequence of variation introduced by the small-group deliberation.

    LLN: Law of Large Numbers

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  12. Simon,

    This is from the statistician John Garry (Queen’s University Belfast), who is leader of a team working on sortition and deliberation:

    ‘Decisions made by imagined [silent] deliberation are invariant across sample but decisions made by talk-based deliberation are not’ (Garry, et al., 2015, p. 7).

    Any decision that is not invariant across different samples of the same population cannot be a representative one (for obvious reasons).

    Ref
    ===
    Garry, J., Stevenson, C., & Stone, P. (2015). Imaginative randomocracy: A general model of citizen decision making applied to Northern Ireland. Paper presented at the Citizens and Constitutions — Engaging citizens in debates over constitutional reforms on these islands.

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  13. Or, in the words of Bob Goodin:

    On the face of it, [ongoing descriptive representativity of the minipopulus] seems unlikely. From everyday life we know that different conversations with different participants (or with the same participants interjecting at different points) proceed in radically different directions. Given the path dependency of conversational dynamics, and the sheer creativity of conversing agents, it beggars belief that any one group would come to exactly the same conclusions by exactly the same route as any other. (Lawyers say it is a ‘well-known secret’ that ‘no two juries and no two judges are alike.) Yet that is what strong advocates of ersatz deliberation must be claiming to be at least approximately true, in insisting that deliberation within a representative subset will genuinely mirror, and can therefore substitute for, deliberations across the whole community. (Goodin, 2003, pp. 58-59)

    In his report on deliberative polls done for three different local public utilities in Texas, Fishkin is pleased to report that in all three cases the shift in public opinion, pre- to post-deliberation, was in the same direction (Fishkin, 1997, p. 220). But the absolute numbers nonetheless diverged wildly. In one case, half the respondents thought post-deliberation that ‘investing in conservation’ was the ‘option to pursue first’, whereas in another case less than a sixth thought so. In one case, over a third still thought post-deliberation that ‘renewable energy’ should be the top option, whereas in another case less than a sixth thought so. Clearly, these deliberating groups ought not to be regarded as interchangeable. Neither, in consequence, does this evidence inspire confidence in the general theory of ‘ersatz deliberation’, treating smaller deliberative groups as microcosms capable of literally ‘substituting’ for deliberation across the whole community. (ibid., p. 74)

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  14. And on the issue of pluralism:

    ‘Athenian democracy at its core relied on the possibility that the cultural homogeneity of its male citizenry, bound together by myths of autochthony and loyalty to the artificial tribes to which Cleisthenes had allocated their demes, could override the divisive class interests that otherwise might lead to faction and civil war. Some of the most powerful appeals in Greek rhetoric, from Pericles’ funeral speech to Themistocles’ appeal to the Greeks before Salamis, are to similarity and shared culture.’ (Atack, 2017, p. 585)

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  15. Keith, if deliberation in small groups (perhaps of 10 or so jurors each), results in more informed, thought out and intelligent decisions, that is a good reason in favour of such deliberation (as I assume you agree).

    If we have a legislative jury of 500 that by random selection breaks into 50 groups of 10 for deliberation, would things not be likely to “balance out” (on the basis of LLN)? That is, if we had two juries of 500 each breaking into 50 groups of 10 for deliberation is there likely to be significantly more divergence in outcome (in the decision the 500 jurors make by majority vote secret ballot at the end of the process), than there would be between two juries of 500 that do not engage in deliberation?

    (Yes I’ve put looking at the sources you mention on my to-do list.)

    In any case, it is hard to see how there can be only one absolutely correct answer to what trade-offs should be made between having consistent decisions (in the way you, Garry and Goodin define that), and having ones that are more informed and thought out.

    So, as I think you have gathered, what I think we need is an informed, intelligent and democratic way of deciding the procedures (which includes of course making such trade-offs), and of being able to adjust the procedures over time in light of new evidence, thinking and understanding. I’ve long proposed that a jury-chosen commission work out the best possible procedures and improve them over time, and that juries decide, after hearing the expert views of the commission and others, which procedures will be used (including for example whether legislative juries will break into small groups for deliberation or not).

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  16. Keith, regarding Atak’s quote about Athens, it is consistent with a high degree of pluralism. The common culture Pericles refers to in the Funeral Oration is a fairly pluralistic one. Were there no pluralism in the form of tolerance for freedom of speech and divergent opinion on public policy, it would not have been a democracy (not even in the narrow sense in which it was one – that is, only for the male citizens), and the pluralistic tolerance for divergent lifestyles Pericles speaks of is also, it seems to me, part of democracy.

    I’ve not thought about it a lot, but the kind of pluralism we want is one that is consistent with and supportive of democracy, liberty and political equality. For example we can do without a “pluralism” that includes large numbers of opponents of democracy, liberty and political equality, such as white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, supporters of Al Qaeda and supporters of an oppressive plutocracy.

    Atak: “… override the divisive class interests that otherwise might lead to faction and civil war.” I think we can have a lot of pluralism before we have an “anti-pluralism pluralism” that leads to faction and civil war.

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  17. Simon,

    >if deliberation in small groups (perhaps of 10 or so jurors each), results in more informed, thought out and intelligent decisions, that is a good reason in favour of such deliberation

    The evidence from the DPs suggests that most of the preference alteration comes from the information and plenary stages. There is no good reason to believe that silent internal deliberation (“weighing” of the options) cannot do all the heavy lifting.

    >if we had two juries of 500 each breaking into 50 groups of 10 for deliberation is there likely to be significantly more divergence in outcome (in the decision the 500 jurors make by majority vote secret ballot at the end of the process), than there would be between two juries of 500 that do not engage in deliberation?

    That is certainly open to empirical refutation. The brute fact is that the DPs (which break into small groups) diverge wildly in their outcomes. My hunch is that the small group deliberation is the source of the variation.

    >the kind of pluralism we want . . . we can do without a “pluralism” . . .

    This sort of plea is worrying from a democratic perspective — the “we” would seem to refer to well-educated liberals. I’m afraid if you want democracy then you have to take the rough with the smooth.

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  18. Keith, dealing with the opponents of democracy and pluralism in democratic plural societies is a problem, and not just for well-educated liberals. I appreciate it is not a simple problem. On the one hand, for example, we could say Neo-Nazis and their right to speak and organize are part of democracy and pluralism, on the other their project is very much about ending democracy and pluralism. This is a problem for everyone who favours democracy and pluralism, and history shows we (which is the “we” I am more or less talking about) are not necessarily on the winning side, and of course it is especially a problem for the main targets of Neo-Nazis such as Jews, people of colour, LGBTQ people, those who criticize them (such at the woman recently murdered by car terrorism in the U.S., and the dozens of young social democrats murdered a few years back in Norway), and so on.

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  19. Fine, but that’s an argument for a mixed constitution, replete with liberal checks and balances, not a pure democracy, so it supports Paul Lucardie’s case. Any pure system is wide open to the sort of abuses that you have just catalogued.

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  20. Keith, as said, Lucardie’s category of “pure democracy” that does not include freedom of speech and does not have checks and balances is a contradiction in terms (and therefor as Lucardie points out about contradictions in terms, does not exist). A political system that is devoid of freedom of speech, checks and balances, and various other aspects of democracy, is not a democracy. Maybe it might be “pure” in some sense, but it is not a democracy.

    Checks and balances are not a specifically “liberal” thing. Athens had checks and balances, and so, perhaps more on paper than in reality, did the rather undemocratic Roman Republic (the tribunes for example – though of course in practice when the two most famous of them tried to protect the rights and interests of the plebs they were murdered, and so on). The checks and balances and separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution are an echo of the Roman Republic. Any well-designed system of democracy for a modern state will, it seems clear to me, have to include intelligent design of checks and balances, with a much better design job being called for than what now exists in for example the U.S., Canada and Britain.

    “Mixed constitution” is a very broad and rather amorphous idea, and mixed constitutions can of course be very undemocratic, as was the case with for example the Roman Republic, and 18th century Britain.

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  21. Simon, we don’t seem to be progressing this conversation, so I’ll leave it to Paul to respond in due course. It’s worth noting in passing that Yoram, for example, advocates a form of pure democracy and specifically rejects checks and balances as undemocratic (unless its the case of one allotted group being checked by another constituted by the same mechanism). Mixed constitutions, by contrast rely on different mechanisms, including election, sortition and appointment on merit.

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  22. Keith, I’ll be very interested in whatever comments Paul might make, as I was in those in his book.

    I think an allotted body can be a check and balance on other allotted bodies, and that this was part of what took place in Athens. I think that popular election is not necessary for a good system of checks and balances, and that jury-chosen decision-makers are better for the purpose (for example jury-chosen judges are better for checks and balances than popularly elected ones, for reasons I have given).

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  23. >I think an allotted body can be a check and balance on other allotted bodies, and that this was part of what took place in Athens.

    That’s an oversimplification — both changes to the law and political prosecutions were launched by individual persons and defenders of the existing laws were elected by the assembly. As both dikastes and nomothetai were viewed as subcommittees of the assembly (created for administrative convenience) your claim amounts to the assembly acted as a check and balance on itself. The argument against the separation of powers (with its highly permeable parchment barriers) is similar, that’s why both Manin and Hansen argue the case for the mixed constitution.

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  24. >both changes to the law and political prosecutions were launched by individual persons and defenders of the existing laws were elected by the assembly.

    Yes, but the decision about whether a law is passed (and also about whether someone made an illegal proposal) was made by allotted bodies.

    No one is saying (certainly not me and certainly not the Athenians) that legislative juries won’t or shouldn’t hear from those best able to make the case for and against the proposed law they decide. On the contrary, a well designed legislative jury process will make sure they do (as was done in Athens as you know).

    No one is saying (certainly not me or the Athenians) that prosecutions should not be conducted by capable individuals. (No one says prosecutors should be replaced with allotted committees, certainly not me or the Athenians.)

    > As both dikastes and nomothetai were viewed as subcommittees of the assembly (created for administrative convenience) your claim amounts to the assembly acted as a check and balance on itself.

    Not at all, the dikastes, nomothetai and also the Boule were all distinct from the Assembly.

    The nomothetai, with their structured and informed method of deciding laws, were a check and balance on poorly informed lawmaking by the Assembly, and on the Assembly being swayed by demagogues and rhetors without giving adequate and sober consideration to the arguments of the other side.

    The jury courts under graphe paranomon were as you know a check and balance on the Assembly passing illegal proposals put forward by demagogues and rhetors, as those demagogues and rhetors could be prosecuted in the jury courts for making such proposals. How effective a check and balance this was I don’t know.

    By being chosen by lot the jury courts, nomothetai and Boule were a check and balance on one faction packing the Assembly. How important a check and balance this was I don’t know.

    The courts and nomothetai also used secret ballot, which was I understand not the case in the Assembly, and this is also a check and balance on the Assembly (by protecting voting in the courts and legislative juries from being based on peer pressure, or on the possibility of reprisals or thanks).

    According to stoa.org, for reasons they indicate “While any male citizen was invited to speak in an Assembly and all male citizens could vote, the topics for discussion and vote were limited by what amounted to a system of checks and balances between the Assembly and the Council.” http://www.stoa.org/projects/demos/article_democracy_overview?page=6&greekEncoding=

    The 10 member allotted committees were checked and balanced by the jury courts where I believe their members could be prosecuted for misconduct, and by the Boule which oversaw the administration of Athens. (Note that this is of course an example of allotted bodies being a check and balance on other allotted bodies.)

    Each committee had only a limited set of powers within a context of rule of law, which was a check and balance on such committees (compared to all of the powers of the committees being concentrated into one committee, and compared to them all being concentrated in one elected individual).

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  25. Simon,

    >dikastes, nomothetai and also the Boule were all distinct from the Assembly.

    Historians certainly agree that the collective secretariat that was the council was designed to protect the assembly from domination by factional and aristocratic influence. My PhD supervisor (prof. of classical Athenian political history) tells me that there is also agreement that the derogation of criminal trials and then legislation to allotted bodies was primarily for administrative convenience (it took too much time in the assembly). The very fact that the 4th century reforms in the nomothesia process were so uncontroversial (barely reported!) is a good indication that the nomothetai were simply viewed as a subcommittee of the assembly. To view the jurors as checking the popular will would have been seen as an attack on the demokratia. It’s also significant that the 4th century is described as the age of the demagogue. Aristotle certainly believed that he lived in an extreme (pure) democracy as opposed to a mixed constitution, and modern lawyers should be aware of the danger of anachronism — viewing Athenian institutions from a post-Montesquieu perspective.

    PS Unlike the law courts, the nomothetai voted by show of hands, not secret ballot. My own proposal for a modern version of the nomothetai (as part of a mixed constitution) assumes the secret ballot.

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  26. Keith, thank you for the correction re the nomothetai re secret ballot. Have you a source?

    I had thought the nomothetai voted by secret ballot like the jury courts. They certainly ought to have for the obvious reasons. Yes secret ballot needs to be part of legislative jury proposals today, as we both agree, and is certainly part of what we propose.

    The nomothetai seem designed to reach a more informed and considered decision than the Assembly would (and also a more statistically representative one). Even if administrative efficiency was the reason for them, they still achieve those purposes, and were therefore a check and balance, or a fix, to poorly informed legislative decisions by the Assembly.

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  27. Keith, thank you for the correction re the nomothetai re secret ballot. Have you a published source?

    I had thought the nomothetai voted by secret ballot like the jury courts. They certainly ought to have for the obvious reasons. Yes secret ballot needs to be part of legislative jury proposals today, as we both agree, and is part of what we propose.

    The nomothetai seem designed to reach a more informed and considered decision than the Assembly would (and also a more statistically representative one, leaving aside the 30+ requirement). Even if administrative efficiency was the reason for them, they still achieve those purposes, and were therefore a check and balance, or a fix, to poorly informed legislative decisions by the Assembly.

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  28. “When both parties have spoken, the nomothetai decide by show of hands.” Hansen, 1991, p. 169. His source is Demosthenes 24.33.

    I used to believe everything you have claimed regarding the Athenian democracy, but then studying it properly found out that a lot of my views were anachronistic (the biggest crime being when Habermasians and epistemic theorists claim that the council was a prototype for deliberative democracy and the modern sortition project). In a sense it doesn’t matter, because the modern project is what it says it is. But you do need to take seriously the contemporary view that late 5th and early 4th century Athens was a pure or extreme form of democracy and that most of your supposed checks and balances are anachronistic. I do agree though that there is merit in the epistemic argument for the nomothetai, but the rhetorical style was forensic and agonistic, not deliberative. Also the number of new laws (compared to Assembly decrees) was tiny.

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  29. Keith, thank you for the reference and the comments about citizen rule in Athens!

    Lucardie’s category of “democratic political extremism” is a contradiction in terms and therefore does not exist, for the reasons I mention in section 12 and endnote viii. Using the words “democratic extremism” and “pure democracy” to refer to things that are undemocratic, and even extremely undemocratic, as Lucardie does, is nonsensical.

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  30. Well, as I said before I think you are conflating democracy and liberal democracy, but let’s hope Paul chips in himself.

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  31. > I had thought the nomothetai voted by secret ballot like the jury courts. They certainly ought to have for the obvious reasons.

    As I have pointed out before, secrecy is antithetical to democracy, or indeed to any sort of good governance. See my comment here and the discussion below.

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  32. Yoram: >secrecy is antithetical to democracy

    Bear in mind that the discussion is on the nomothetai (ancient and modern), where jurors deliberate in silence before returning their verdict. I’m not aware of any sources indicating why dikastai voted in secret but nomothetai through show of hands, but the classical playwrights did comment on the unaccountability of jurors in general. It was the rhetores who were held to account, not the decision makers (I appreciate that your modern proposal doesn’t endorse this distinction.)

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  33. Yoram, the rules regarding secret ballot, privacy and transparency ought to be decided by minipublics rather than by politicians (for reasons I have indicated, and which may be obvious to anyone reading this thread).

    The standard reasons in favour of secret ballot in popular election and referenda are very good it seems to me: to protect the right of voters to vote as they wish, and to prevent corruption. If how voters vote is public information that anyone can find, then people’s votes may be influenced by bribes from politicians, political parties and special interests, and by inducements and sanctions from employers, colleagues, customers, spouses, family and friends (including not just adverse or positive economic and employment consequences, but also social consequences such as being insulted, mocked and scorned, and in an extreme case by being physically assaulted by for example an abusive husband who told his wife how to vote).

    The same reasons apply also to secret ballot for legislative juries and selection juries (that choose officials), it seems to me.

    Transparency is needed regarding those who serve the public, such as elected politicians and the police. However, not complete transparency in all cases, for example publishing the addresses of police officers, what cases they are investigating, what they have found so far in their investigation, the names and addresses of any witnesses they may have, and the names and addresses of any undercover police officers who may for example have infiltrated organized crime. I also think there are good reasons why cabinet meetings are sometimes secret (in camera) until years after the fact.

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  34. Simon:> If how voters vote is public information that anyone can find, then people’s votes may be influenced by bribes from politicians, political parties and special interests.

    That’s clearly true, but the same would apply to speech acts such as policy proposal and advocacy. This would suggest either that a) an allotted legislature would need to debate in camera and be bound by judicial omerta or b) that their role should purely be that of the juror — to listen to the debate and then determine the outcome by secret ballot. The behaviour of existing politicians is constrained by party discipline and the need to secure re-election (the primary currency of electoral democracy being votes, not dollars), but no such constraint would exist with allotted legislators. Theorists and activists who propose legislatures selected by sortition really need to confront this essential difference between elected and allotted representation — there is a lot more involved than merely a change of balloting method.

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  35. Keith, it is indeed very ill-considered to think that all that need be done is to switch the method of selection of a legislature from popular election to sortition.

    What people might say in small group discussions in legislative juries and selection juries need not be made public, and people’s recollections of what others said would not necessarily show how they voted. Possibly a rule not allowing jurors to disclose the name of any other juror regarding what that juror said in such discussions would be helpful.

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  36. Simon,

    If the advocacy services (I’m not referring to voting) of an “allotted representative” (scare quotes, because I don’t believe there is any such creature) had been bought by a lobby group it would be quite easy for the lobbyists to require evidence that they are getting the necessary bang for their buck. It’s interesting to contrast your “small group discussions in legislative juries and selection juries need not be made public” with John Burnheim’s insistence that discourse in demarchic committees should be in the full glare of publicity. I genuinely believe that the contradictions involved mean that all allotted jurors can do is to listen to the debates and register their vote in secret, however impoverishing this may be from a deliberative and epistemic perspective.

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  37. Simon,

    I don’t feel that you addressed the [rather obvious] points I made in the thread I linked to. I don’t think any meaningful analogy can be drawn between voting in mass elections and voting (and other activity) by the allotted, neither regarding the matter of voting secrecy nor regarding any other matter.

    Again, it is common sense that rather than preventing corruption secrecy breeds it. The less the public knows about how government reaches its decisions, the more likely it is that government is not run in the interests of the public.

    > Transparency is needed regarding those who serve the public, such as elected politicians and the police

    The allotted are public servants and even putting aside the possibility of outright bribery, which is greatly amplified by having a cloak of secrecy to hide behind, it is the fact that the allotted would be in the limelight of public attention that would keep them personally motivated to put in the significant effort required in order to serve the public properly.

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  38. Yoram: >it is the fact that the allotted would be in the limelight of public attention that would keep them personally motivated to put in the significant effort required in order to serve the public properly.

    That’s a very strong assumption — what is your supporting evidence? If it is true, then why does it not (in your view) apply to public servants chosen by preference election? One would expect it to apply even more, as the public has directly chosen them to do the job (whereas allotted persons can claim that they are just conscripted into national service). In the only historical example we have (classical Athens) it was the (elected) rhetores kai strategoi who were held to account, not the jurors. Given that (in your view) people act in their own interest, then why would not allotted persons put their own interests before their civic duty?

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  39. Dear Simon, Keith and others,
    I am very sorry I could not react earlier (I was on vacation without Internet). As it is a while ago and other topics may occupy your mind, I will be brief. I am grateful Simon takes my book very seriously.
    The notion of democratic extremism needs more clarification, it seems to me now, but I still maintain it is not a contradiction in terms.
    Perhaps we should distinguish ‘purism’ and ‘extremism’: a pure democracy need not be extremist if sufficient checks and balances are built in to guarantee or at least facilitate some pluralism.
    Simons model seems to do so, as does Terry’s, I gather: different allotted panels may check and balance each other.
    Yet imagine a direct assembly democracy like advocated by Bookchin: no checks or balances whatsoever. This model is often applied in practice, not at a state level but at a micro level, e.g. communes, cooperatives and the like. I have experienced it twice in a housing coop, where all decisions were taken by the assembly of all members and a majority did consistently overrule a minority. One time it ended in violence and at court. That is democratic extremism, I would argue! Simon might call it dictatorship by a majority, but that seems a play with words to me. Democracy is rule by a majority; all the other features like checks and balances, freedom etc may be secondary characteristsic or necessary conditions, I would argue.

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  40. Paul: > different allotted panels may check and balance each other.

    This is as incoherent as claiming that two bodies, elected on the same day using the same franchise and constituencies can check each other. If one body (elected or allotted) decided in favour of option A and the other option B, then which decision would carry? This is why bicameral systems always have some difference in the appointment mechanism for each chamber, and it’s also why a “pure” sortition system (even if it were possible) would be a form of democratic extremism.

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  41. Keith,
    You are right on this point, I was too vague; but what about say the Interest Panel, Review Panel and Policy Jury proposed by Terry Bouricius? Each one has its own jurisdiction, but indirectly they may balance each other, if I understand him correctly. If the Interest Panel drafts a crazy or outrageous bill, it may be amended by the Review Panel and/or rejected by the Policy Jury. Simon has developed similar ideas, as I understand now.

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  42. If all three are statistical samples of the same population then why privilege one over the other? If not then what is the relevant legitimising principle?

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  43. In brief, the design Lucardie references: Following a call for proposals by the Agenda Council, Interest Panels would be self-selected, with as many groups of a dozen each as are interested (ANY citizen who wants to participate in the democracy, can, without waiting for a lottery call). It doesn’t really matter if Interest Panels favoring policy A far outnumber those opposed to policy A, since their sheer number has no relevance. Diversity of input is the point. But because they would know their draft proposals would have to pass muster of a Review Panel selected by lot, and a final random Policy Jury, they would seek to develop proposals that they believe a well-informed mini-public could be convinced to support. The Review Panels would serve for multiple years (with perhaps 1/3 rotating each year), and thus because citizens would not be compelled to serve, these would be somewhat descriptively representative (stratified sampling might help) than the final Policy Jury, though more representative than any elected legislature in history. That body would amend, recombine, etc. the raw material coming from the more expert but unrepresentative Interest Panels, to develop a final proposed law to be presented to a Policy Jury. Service on a Policy Jury would be quasi-mandatory, but last for only a matter of days or weeks, after taking a final secret ballot vote on the single bill.

    The nature of the check and balance is very different than the bi-cameral legislature and executive veto in the U.S. Constitution, which often results in gridlock rather than balance. Each unit has full authority within their narrowly circumscribed realm, but has an incentive to consider the views of those who might disagree with them. It also enshrines the principle that the author of a proposal is not fit to also be the judge of their handiwork.

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  44. “Checks and balances” is not a term with a specific meaning but is rather a marketing slogan. Any power structure can be described as having “checks and balances”. An all powerful assembly can be described as embodying a situation where different factions within the assembly check and balance each other. Why is that less of a valid description than a situation where the assembly and a court “check and balance” each other?

    To point out the obvious: any power structure can produce “bad” outcomes. Other than dogma, is there any reason to suppose that a power-sharing arrangement between an allotted assembly and a court staffed with professional lawyers, say, would be less susceptible to producing bad outcomes than an allotted assembly?

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  45. Terry, how does your system fulfil Dahl’s fourth requirement for democratic equality?

    The demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda of matters that are to be decided by means of the democratic process. (Dahl, 1989, p. 113)

    This works in an approximate manner in electoral systems, in that people vote for the political parties that offer the most attractive policies, but it’s not at all clear how this works in the case of self-nominating political activists.

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  46. Yoram: >An all powerful assembly can be described as embodying a situation where different factions within the assembly check and balance each other.

    And one will always seek to come out on top — historians of late eighteenth-century France (and early 20th century Russia) will tell you what that leads to. I can’t think of a single example where factional disputes within an all-powerful assembly didn’t end in tears.

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  47. Keith,
    Under my scheme, and Agenda Council is drawn by lot to select issues needing legislation in the coming period. Since they would not be deciding WHAT the new laws would be, only the topics, it is less crucial that they be strictly descriptively representative, so they can also serve multi-year terms. They could use serious risk assessments, etc. to decide, since there is no incentive to pick issues that help politicians vilify their opponents, and be turned into sound bites, etc. This would allow the well-informed “will of the people” to guide the agenda more than any political party, or election process possibly could. However, I think some sort of petition process should also be allowed to force topics onto the agenda. If an issue has a feeling of urgency, even if a careful analysis and studies reveals it is silly, the uninformed public still needs to be able to get the topic looked at. This is not subject to corruption because those with deep pockets hiring signature gatherers and placing an item on the agenda does not advance one policy on the topic over another… So for example, a wealthy interest might want a new law giving them a tax break… but if they managed to get the issue of taxes on their industry onto the agenda through a petition effort, the outcome might be an increase in their taxes instead.

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  48. Terry,

    OK, but the public are still excluded in their collective capacity from any share in the agenda-setting process, and this puts you much closer to Madison than Dahl (at least Madison argued that the demos should choose their own aristocrats, rather than leaving it ourely to self-nomination). I think it’s also dangerous to dismiss public opinion as silly and uninformed (compared to the serious and analytic approach adopted by the self-nominated activists who would rush to serve on your Agenda Council). However, although your elitist proposal is problematic from an egalitarian perspective it doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being implemented so I guess we can all relax (although it does risk associating sortition with projects of such Byzantine complexity that they make the Venetian balloting system seem simple in comparison).

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  49. Yoram,

    PS It’s unusual for a sortition activist to argue in favour of conflict between factions, but then you never cease to surprise us.

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  50. Yoram,

    Transparency is often helpful for democracy, but sometimes what is called for to further democracy is a cloak of secrecy.

    The laws governing transparency should be decided by legislative juries rather than by politicians. One reason for this is the conflict of interest politicians have, specifically in limiting the extent to which their policies and actions are made transparent to the public.

    I infer that you do not object to the secret ballot for popular election and referenda. For the same reasons secret ballot is desirable and democratic in popular vote, so too is it for legislative and selection juries.

    >it is common sense that rather than preventing corruption secrecy breeds it. The less the public knows about how government reaches its decisions, the more likely it is that government is not run in the interests of the public.

    It depends on the circumstances. Secret ballot reduces corruption by making it harder to bribe voters. With secret ballot would-be bribers cannot be sure they are getting what they paid for. This is as true of legislative and selection juries as of popular election voters. The bribery problem that secret ballot thwarts is greater with juries than popular vote because for the same amount of bribery money it is possible to bribe a larger portion of those who decide (the dozens or hundreds on a jury, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands or millions of voters in a popular election).

    For the same reasons popular election voters should not be accountable (punished and rewarded for who or what they vote for, for example by being black-listed by possible employers) so to is it important than legislative and selection jurors are not accountable (punished and rewarded for how they vote, for example by being black-listed by potential employers, or laid off by an existing one).

    Although I am not in favour of Congress voting by secret ballot, it might not be worse than what we have now, because it would make it harder for Wall Street and the rest of America’s big business elites to buy their votes – they would have no way of knowing if they were getting what they paid for. Transparency (public record of how politicians vote) is one of the bases of oligarchy in the U.S. (My solution is of course not to have Congress vote by secret ballot, I am just pointing out that transparency does not necessarily improve democracy – it depends on the circumstances.)

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  51. Keith: >The view that [different allotted panels may check and balance each other] … is as incoherent as claiming that two bodies, elected on the same day using the same franchise and constituencies can check each other. If one body (elected or allotted) decided in favour of option A and the other option B, then which decision would carry? This is why bicameral systems always have some difference in the appointment mechanism for each chamber, and it’s also why a “pure” sortition system (even if it were possible) would be a form of democratic extremism.

    Really?

    I thought you had long accepted the fact that different allotted bodies can check and balance each other. In any case, it is rather obviously true, was true in Athens, and is true of the proposals I have made.

    One allotted body can be a check and balance on other allotted bodies by deciding the rules and procedures for future allotted bodies.

    We don’t want an allotted body deciding all of its own rules and procedures because of conflicts of interest (such as there would be if it for example decides how much its members will be paid, whether they will vote by secret ballot, what sanction there will be for jurors who show up late, and what powers that jury will have). Having previous allotted bodies decide the rules and procedures for future ones is a very effective check and balance on this conflict of interest problem.

    A legislative jury of 100 could decide a proposed law on the basis of a 2/3rds super-majority. If there was not a 2/3rds super-majority either way, then the proposed law could go to a legislative jury of say 1,000 jurors for a final decision. In this way the 1,000 member jury is part of a check and balance on the jury of 100 member jury being an inaccurate sample of the public.

    The U.S. Senate is chosen on the basis of equal rep by state, the House on the basis of rep by pop. This could be translated into legislative juries, with one jury comprised of an equal number of citizens from each state, and the other of a random sample of the whole country. I am not advocating this, but it is easy to see how two such juries could be a check and balance on each other (contrary of course to your claim that this cannot happen).

    Re your claim that “bicameral systems always have some difference in the appointment mechanism for each chamber,” all of the bicameral state legislatures in the U.S. are chosen by popular vote. The upper chamber may be chosen for longer terms from larger districts, which I suppose is a “difference.” So too could we have little differences between how two allotted bodies are chosen.

    With regard to the federal bicameral U.S. legislature, where the difference in the method of selection is perhaps more significant, that, as said, can be translated into citizen juries.

    There is no such thing as “democratic extremism,” for the reasons I have given.

    Is it your view that for example the U.S. is a “pure” popular election system, because the Congress and president are all chosen by popular election (leaving aside the Electoral College distortion re the president)? How about the states where the legislature, governor, and sometimes the judiciary, are all chosen by popular election? If so, are the federal political system, and the state systems, according to you, examples of political extremism for that reason?

    In Canada all the provincial legislatures are unicameral and chosen by popular election. Do you regard that as an example of political extremism? If not, how is that consistent with quote of your words?

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  52. Paul, I am very glad you have commented in this thread, and very glad to have been in your thoughtful and interesting book! You’ve responded much faster than I managed to respond to your book.

    I don’t think I have anything to add re why “democratic extremism” is a contradiction, and why democracy and political extremism are at opposite ends of a spectrum, beyond what I say in my reply in section 12 and endnote viii.

    As I also say in section 12, “democratic extremism” is a pejorative, and for that reason needs a very good justification for use. It could potentially be used as a malleable weaponized term to oppose democratic reform. This is I think an additional good reason not to use it.

    Using the term could also provide a reason to narrow and diminish the meaning of “democracy,” in order to help claim “democracy” and “political extremism” are not mutually exclusive categories. If so, this takes things in the wrong direction I think. What is called for I think is to use “democracy” in a rich, robust and broad sense, not to narrow and diminish the term.

    Paul:>Democracy is rule by a majority; all the other features like checks and balances, freedom etc may be secondary characteristsic or necessary conditions, I would argue.

    O.k., but rule by a majority is not a sufficient condition for democracy. I think you may agree with that, for example because you say democracy also “may” have “secondary characteristics or necessary conditions” “like checks and balances, freedom etc”.

    Is a lynch mob an example of democracy, if the majority in the lynch mob and in the locality are in favour of the lynching? I don’t think so, and I’m guessing you don’t either. The reason is that democracy is not only majority rule, it is also other things like freedom from arbitrary detention and murder, rule of law, the right to a fair trial, and, I argue, informed rule by the people (a lynch mob would not be informed until after hearing and paying attention to all the evidence, after all the evidence was carefully gathered, in an open-minded way – I don’t consider uninformed decisions to be democratic). If the motive of the lynch mob is that their intended victim allegedly insulted Jesus or the Koran, then it would also be contrary to other democratic ideas, such as freedom of speech, religion and thought.

    Hitler was elected, but even had he been elected by a majority, and supported by a majority til say 1941, Hitler and the Nazis would still not be an example of democracy, because there is more to democracy than majority rule. Democratic ideas are contrary to Hitler and the Nazis, such as freedom of speech and assembly, a free press, freedom from arbitrary search and detention, freedom from torture, murder and enslavement, etc.

    I would distinguish majoritarian extremism from democracy. A lynch mob would perhaps be a good example of majoritarian extremism, but not an example of democracy.

    If “democracy” only meant majority rule I would not support it and would not be a democrat. But I see no reason to accept such a narrow definition. Other things being equal, each of the various aspects of democracy makes a society more democratic, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from arbitrary search and detention, informed rule by the people, and so on.

    Paul:>Perhaps we should distinguish ‘purism’ and ‘extremism’

    I don’t believe in a pure sortition system. Nor did they in Athens, as for example when the nomothetai decided on a new law, neither the case for the new law nor the case for the existing law was made by an allotted body, but instead by people especially capable of presenting those cases. Legislative juries need to hear from those best able to present the case for and against the law, in order to make a well-informed decision, and those especially able people are not likely to be found by sortition. I also, as I imagine you gathered, believe in a wide range of officials being chosen by jury (which is I argue far more democratic and much better than their being chosen by popular election or by politicians), rather than leaving everything to allotted bodies, and also so that such officials can assist legislative juries to make more informed decisions.

    I think “pure sortition” with every conceivable decision-making body, and every advisory body, every specialized regulatory body, all civil servants, all coroners, and all chiefs of police all chosen by sortition from the general public, would be a very bad idea, and perhaps an extreme one.

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  53. Simon,

    >A legislative jury of 100 could decide a proposed law on the basis of a 2/3rds super-majority. If there was not a 2/3rds super-majority either way, then the proposed law could go to a legislative jury of say 1,000 jurors for a final decision. In this way the 1,000 member jury is part of a check and balance on the jury of 100 member jury being an inaccurate sample of the public.

    This has nothing to do with checks and balances, it’s just the mathematical claim that there is a necessary relationship between margin of error, decision threshold and sample size. Here’s the relevant numbers:

    Margin of error Decision threshold Sample size
    2% 52/48 6,766
    5% 55/45 1,083
    10% 60/40 271

    >Is it your view that for example the U.S. is a “pure” popular election system.

    No. I agree with both Manin and Hansen that all political systems — past, present and future — are mixed constitutions. For example your description of the Athenian nomothetai is a mixture of democracy and aristocracy (the proposers being, for the most part, members of the political elite, the defenders being [elected] aristocrats, while the verdict was in the hands of a democratic jury) and, during the age of Pericles, Athens had a strong monarchical element. Hansen describes G.W. Bush and Tony Blair as having powers that are on a par with those of Louis XIV, and argues that the mixed constitution is a far more accurate way of describing modern “democracies” than the separation of powers.

    >“democratic extremism” is a pejorative.

    The problem is the other way round — you are using “democracy” as a hurrah word, taking it to mean a (mixed) system of governance that you approve of (Skinner, 1973). Those of us who earn our dinners from careful analysis of the concepts used by political theorists are careful to distinguish between democracy and the liberal checks and balances that you (rightly) applaud. They confluence between liberal constitutionalism and democracy in modern western states is a contingent, rather than a necessary one. I warmly recommend Manin’s book and Hansen’s article — then we won’t waste time talking past each other!

    Refs
    ==

    Hansen, M. H. (2010). The Mixed Constitution Versus the Separation of Powers: Monarchical and Aristocratic Aspects of Modern Democracy. History of Political Thought, XXXI(3), 509-531.

    Manin, B. (1997). The Principles of Representative Government, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Skinner, Q. (1973), The empirical theorists of democracy and their critics: A plague on both their houses, Political Theory, 1 (3), 287-306.

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  54. Keith:>I agree with both Manin and Hansen that all political systems — past, present and future — are mixed constitutions. For example your description of the Athenian nomothetai is a mixture of democracy and aristocracy

    Yes, (with aristocracy being understood to mean something like “the best”).

    Democracy (as I understand it) requires aristocracy in certain regards and ways. The above case of the nomethetai is a good example. We need the best people we can get to present the cases for the new law and for the existing law, in order for the lawmaking process to be democratic and for the nomothetai (or a modern legislative jury) to make a democratic decision. (A poorly informed decision would be undemocratic, at least in my view, and the decision would probably be poorly informed if either or both of the two cases was poorly made.) So, far from being an opposite of democracy, aristocracy in the said sense and in certain circumstances, and in the context of for example a level playing field (as there is when both cases are presented to the nomothetai by capable people who are given equal time), is a necessary condition for democracy. We agree on this, correct?

    What those circumstances and details are (for aristocracy in the above sense to enhance, make possible and safeguard democracy) needs to be decided democratically. That is, at least according to me, by well-informed citizen juries.

    Keith:>This [Juries of 100, jury of 1,000] has nothing to do with checks and balances, it’s just the mathematical claim that there is a necessary relationship between margin of error, decision threshold and sample size.

    Sounds like a check and balance to me. Being based on a “mathematical claim” does not prevent it being a check and balance.

    Why do appellate courts have more than one judge? Why does the U.S. Supreme Court have nine judges instead of just one like a trial court, or three like the federal appellate courts below the Supreme Court? Just because part of the reason may be a “mathematical claim” that the greater number of judges makes the decision more credible or legitimate, not just possibly an aberration by one or two judicial outliers, does not mean the Supreme Court is not a check and balance on the courts below, and that an aspect of that check and balance is the larger number of judges on it. (I of course am strongly opposed to judges being chosen by the president rather than by juries, partly for checks and balances reasons, but that is perhaps another topic.)

    Thank you for the references, always appreciated. I read a little of Hansen today regarding Aristotle, and found it excellent stuff excellently written. Reflections on Aristotle’s Politics, 2013. (Would not have read it had you not mentioned Hansen in an earlier comment above.)

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  55. Simon:> Democracy (as I understand it) requires aristocracy in certain regards and ways.

    Yes, that is the argument for the mixed constitution.

    >Being based on a “mathematical claim” does not prevent it being a check and balance.

    Checks and balances normally mean the decisions of a democratic legislature being constrained by the courts or entrenched constitutional rights; or the monarchical (presidential) power being constrained by the democratic legislature (and vice versa). Manin and Hansen are adamant that the resulting polity is mixed, not a democracy. “Pure” democracy (were it possible) would be a form of majoritarian tyranny.

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  56. Keith:>you are using “democracy” as a hurrah word

    It is a hurrah word. And rightly so, and usefully for supporters of democracy I think.

    I think checks and balances are part of democracy, not some optional addition to it. Ditto for other things often described as “liberal” such as freedom of speech and assembly, and freedom from arbitrary search, arrest and detention.

    Will be a pleasure to read the Hansen article you suggest, but of course many competing things for me to do.

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  57. Simon:> Democracy is a hurrah word.

    I’m afraid that puts you in the company of Bush and Blair, whereas I’m using the word in the analytic sense adopted by political scientists since the time of Aristotle. I imagine the same is true of Paul Lucardie.

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  58. Keith:>I’m afraid that puts you in the company of Bush and Blair, whereas I’m using the word in the analytic sense adopted by political scientists since the time of Aristotle.

    No, it simply means I am recognizing a fact. It is a hurrah word. Perhaps you deny that fact? It would be rather silly if you do.

    Recognizing the fact “democracy” is a hurrah word does not prevent thinking about democracy analytically, nor does it put anyone in the company of the two war criminals you mention.

    As Aristotle used more than one definition of “democracy,” speaking of “the analytic sense” of the word (emphasis on the word “the”) in reference to him does not make sense, (nor has subsequent political science and theory been characterized by one analytic sense of the word “democracy”). Perhaps you meant Aristotle and others approached the word “analytically” or something like that? As said, recognizing it is a hurrah word does not prevent anyone from thinking about it analytically.

    The sixfold model of constitutions used by Aristotle (but not invented by him) pairs hurrah words with non-hurrah words (kingship – tyranny, aristocracy – oligarchy, polity – democracy). The former word in each pair is used by Aristotle to name “correct” constitutions, the latter “deviant” ones. I don’t think this model with its hurrah and non-hurrah words prevented him from thinking analytically. Nor will using “democracy” to refer to certain “correct” and desirable political arrangements (that is, as a hurrah word) prevent us from thinking analytically.

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  59. Simon,

    This is how Quentin Skinner (the leading political theorist of his generation) puts it:

    The term [democracy] makes two points about any political system which it is used to describe: one is that the system possesses a more or less determinate set of characteristics which may be taken to constitute “rule by the people”; the other is that the system deserves to be commended . . . democracy has become a member of the class of so-called evaluative descriptive terms which philosophers of language have recently been much concerned to analyze. (Skinner, 1973, p. 298)

    If we are going to have a serious debate about democracy then we need to decide which of these approaches (descriptive or evaluative) we are going to use. If the former then we need to disentangle the meaning of the concept (i.e. rule by the people) from the modern liberal and constitutional baggage that has become associated with it as part of a mixed constitution. Yoram, for example, is adamant that democracy constitutes the tyranny of the majority (of the allotted sample of the people) and rejects all constitutional checks and balances. This is an example of “pure” democracy, so democratic extremism is not an oxymoron.

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  60. By contrast, “Liberal democracy guarantees political equality by upholding basic civil and political liberties for all citizens and ensuring equal standing under the law” (Dahl, 1989). Note the emphasis on “liberal”, “liberties” and the rule of law, as opposed to democracy (the kratos of the demos). Liberal democracy involves the conflation of two analytically distinct political concepts.

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  61. > Yoram, for example, is adamant that democracy constitutes the tyranny of the majority

    As always, Sutherland can be relied upon to misrepresent other people’s views. I am very much a Dahl-ite, and have been one for at least a decade.. Presumably the notion that Robert Dahl was a sensible moderate is beyond dispute.

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  62. Yoram, If you’re a Dahlite then I’m a Dalek (although you have often implied that I am a Dalit):

    Perhaps the greatest error in thinking about democratic authority is to believe that ideas about democracy and authority are simple and must lead to simple prescriptions . . . if you think there are simple prescriptions, then we cannot hope to understand one another. (Dahl, 1990, p. 73)

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  63. Presumably what you wrote and the out-of-context quote you dredged up make some sense in the world you inhabit.

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  64. Keith:>If we are going to have a serious debate about democracy then we need to decide which of these approaches (descriptive or evaluative) we are going to use.

    I don’t see why that is so, nor how anyone can evaluate something without also being descriptive. In your quote of Skinner he says (correctly) that “democracy” is both descriptive and evaluative. Aristotle, as noted, used a six-fold constitutional model in which all six terms were both evaluative and descriptive.

    Keith:> “Liberal democracy guarantees political equality by upholding basic civil and political liberties for all citizens and ensuring equal standing under the law” (Dahl, 1989). Note the emphasis on “liberal”, “liberties” and the rule of law, as opposed to democracy (the kratos of the demos). Liberal democracy involves the conflation of two analytically distinct political concepts.

    I don’t see Dahl in this quote denying that political equality entails rule by the people (“kratos of the demos” as you call it here), nor that rule by the people requires liberties (such as freedom of speech for example). Also, just because two things are “analytically distinct concepts” does not mean they are not closely related, nor that they do not entail each other.

    In any case, rule by the people and political equality are closely related. We have to have rule by the people (rather than oligarchy) in order to have political equality. We have to have a lot of political equality in order to have rule by the people (for example if the political leaders are chosen by vote and only the rich can vote, then that lack of political equality also means we don’t have rule by the people).

    If we don’t have “basic civil and political liberties,” then neither will we have rule by the people.

    “Liberal” has a range of meanings, some of them at odds with liberties and rule by the people.

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  65. Simon,

    My point is that liberal democracy requires a mixture of democratic (allotted), aristocratic (elective) and monarchical (appointed) functions, so the notion of pure or extreme democracy (that only uses the first mechanism) would be highly illiberal (assuming that it was possible).

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  66. Keith, there is no need for popular election, if that is what you mean by “elective.”

    It is incorrect or dubious to describe popular election as “aristocratic,” as it is ill-suited for choosing the best people for public office.

    If we want to choose the best people for public office, electing officials by jury will do the job far better than popular election. Lower level public officials being appointed by those chosen by jury is also suited for finding the best officials (that is, for aristocracy). I don’t see how “appointed” is “monarchical” – instead it is aristocratic, at least to the extent the method of appointment actually results in the best being selected (as opposed to the appointment of officials on the basis of for example patronage or their servility to those in power).

    I agree that sortition is the only really democratic element in this. This is why allotted bodies should have the final say in lawmaking, and in for example the funding of public broadcasting. It is also why, to the extent an aristocratic element is called for, juries should choose public officials, or at least the more important ones. The aristocratic element needs to exist in a democratic context, part of that is selection by jury, another part of the that is what we discussed above about the presenting of the cases for and against a proposed law before a legislative jury.

    I don’t really care what “liberal democracy” requires, whatever exactly that might be. I do care about what democracy, liberty, and political equality require (and I think these three things largely entail each other, and that they very much overlap). (I of course appreciate all three of these terms are contested.)

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  67. >It is incorrect or dubious to describe popular election as “aristocratic,” as it is ill-suited for choosing the best people for public office.

    Manin argues that electors select the “best” according to whatever criteria they deem appropriate, and the “principle of distinction” makes no epistemic claims.

    >allotted bodies should have the final say . . . The aristocratic element needs to exist in a democratic context

    Absolutely — Harrington would have been in complete agreement. You make a persuasive argument for a mixed constitution (and against democratic extremism). We seem to be primarily arguing over terminology.

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  68. Keith, we do indeed agree on much.

    Not sure why you are so attached to the non-existent category of “democratic extremism,” don’t really have more to add about it.

    Keith:>Manin argues that electors [popular election voters I take it] select …”

    If that’s what Manin says, he’s got it wrong, perhaps especially so with regard to the U.S. The selection in popular election is largely not made by the voters. The voters don’t have an open democratic choice, but rather a choice between the nominees of the main parties. This reached especially farcical lengths in the last U.S. presidential election where the choice was between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, each with a record low approval rating. In addition, the selecting is largely done by rich campaign donors (rather than by the voters). As Chomsky observes: “Extensive political science research, notably the work of Thomas Ferguson, has shown convincingly that elections are pretty much bought.”

    In any case, as the choice in popular election is not an informed choice from a full and open field of of candidates, who are independent from moneyed interests and need not be party nominees, it is not accurate to call popular election “aristocratic.” “Oligarchic” would be a better description. And oligarchy (unlike aristocracy in the sense discussed and with the provisos indicated) is something we need to keep out of the mix.

    Liked by 1 person

  69. Also, if there’s no “epistemic” basis or no merit-based selection, we do not have a selection of the best. (If the voter’s criterion is whoever is listed first on the ballot, or something else irrelevant to the merit of the candidate, or if the voter is too poorly informed to make a meaningful assessment of the candidate’s merit, we do not have a selection of the best.)

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  70. Simon,

    Manin’s concern is with the principle involved (the clue is in the title of his book), not the grubby realities. And I get nervous when over-educated liberals lay down the standards according to which hoi polloi should exercise their judgment, especially when grounding their arguments in the polemical claims of Noam Chomsky (who, the last time I looked him up, was a [discredited] linguist and cognitive scientist without any professional background in political science).

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  71. Keith, I suspect Manin is using aristocracy in the sense of elite rule rather than rule by the best. But I don’t know Manin’s work.

    The rest of your comment is nonsense, and does not offer any counter-argument to anything I say, though you seem to be disagreeing with something (I can’t tell what).

    Having an open informed democratic choice not dominated by economic and political elites is democratic, not some kind of “liberal” elitism as you apparently suggest.

    After continually talking about “liberal democracy” in favourable terms, as if we should all be endorsing whatever exactly you might mean by it, you now use “liberals” as a pejorative.

    You offer no counter-argument to Chomsky’s point in the quote, and don’t even mention the scholar whose work he explicitly cites, but instead go off on a tangent making ad personum claims about Chomsky. You mis-characterize Chomsky’s point as “polemical claims,” you seem to imply the view in the quote is unique to Chomsky when that is not at all the case as Chomsky himself makes clear in the quote by referencing the work of others.

    I assume your dislike of Chomsky is ideologically motivated by something in Chomsky’s political views that you don’t like, but exactly what that might be you don’t mention, never mind offering any kind of counter-argument. Possibly your views on Chomsky are based on right wing propaganda from somewhere, but I of course don’t know.

    In the real world, unlike the one you appear to inhabit on the topic of Chomsky, whether you agree with him or not, Chomsky has for example received honourary degrees from dozens of universities, received prestigious academic awards (including from the British Academy in 2014 for his work in linguistics), dozens of his books (including dozens on politics) have been published, he is invited to give lectures all over the world, and was voted the world’s foremost public intellectual in I believe 2005. In Canada he was invited to give the Massey Lectures some years ago (on political topics), something very few political scientists have ever been invited to do.

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  72. Simon,

    You really ought to read Manin, Hansen and Pitkin if you want to understand this field properly.

    >After continually talking about “liberal democracy” in favourable terms, as if we should all be endorsing whatever exactly you might mean by it, you now use “liberals” as a pejorative.

    Yes, the problem is the word has so many meanings. In constitutional terms it means the curtailment of majority tyranny by checks and balances to ensure the rights of minorities and the rule of law. However political liberalism used to be associated with freedom from state control — originally over matters of religion and conscience and then, during the nineteenth century over free market economics. This was overturned by the likes of “New” Liberals like T.H. Green and L.T. Hobhouse and led to the early twentieth century view that freedom for the pike is death for the minnows, which morphed into the American perspective of Left-Liberalism (not to be confused with neo-liberalism, which is a return to nineteenth-century laissez faire). The word means different things in different contexts.

    As for Chomsky, his doctrines on linguistics have largely been overturned and it’s only a matter of time before his political views receive a similar treatment. In the departmental political theory seminars that I’ve attended for the last 10 years or so, I don’t recall his name being mentioned once.

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  73. Keith, regarding Chomsky I am specifically impressed by his critique of U.S. foreign policy, politics and media, and also of the history of political ideas going back to the 18th century, and also of his critique of for example the Soviet Union and Bolshevik counter-revolution.

    I once asked a communications professor why Chomsky was not on the reading list for his undergrad course on the media. He replied that it would only confuse the students, which I did not find very satisfactory.

    Chomsky is not exactly a stranger to giving university courses on politics. A recent example: https://sbs.arizona.edu/news/noam-chomsky-teach-politics-course-spring

    Chomsky has not expressed an especially flattering view of U.S. (and other) political scientists as a category, going back at least to 1967 (“Responsibility of Intellectuals”). Could be a factor. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

    Probably time for us to move on from this thread, though I’ll certainly read any reply you might make.

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  74. >Probably time for us to move on from this thread

    Agree

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  75. Keith Sutherland on this thread (September 24) repeats the theme « Athenian democracy vs. intellectual freedom » with two subjects, the death of Socrates and the Law against atheism.
    *** Is really the death of Socrates a proof of lack of intellectual freedom in Athenian democracy ? The sentence of Socrates was probably a miscarriage of justice, but in exceptional circumstances. After the defeat, after a bloody collaborationist dictatorship, after civil war, the Second Athenian democracy established a general amnesty. But there were deep resentments, and due to his provocative behavior Socrates « the teacher of Critias » became the scapegoat. But this was an exceptional case. It is not good reasoning to draw the rule of «intolerant democracy » from an exception.
    *** Keith’s other argument is the Athenian law against atheism. Right, atheism was an exception from the general freedom of thought in Athens. Horrible exception ? Proof of totalitarianism ? Maybe Keith could remember that in the Western Enlightenment such thinkers as Rousseau (Social Contract, IV, 8) and Locke (A Letter concerning Toleration) excluded atheism from the religious freedom, and for the same reasons – I quote Locke : « those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all ». Today, we know that a society with a huge proportion of acknowledged atheists and agnostics, as France, is no more crime-prone that the contrary society of the United States ; we know that atheist totalitarian sects may be crime-prone, but likewise the Christian Iron Guard (“Legion of the Archangel Michael”) or the Muslim Daesh. We know today that there is no strict correlation between metaphysical tenets and ethical behavior. But Keith could excuse the Athenian dêmos 25 centuries ago for not knowing it, as Locke three centuries ago.
    *** Keith should stop to follow the modern anti-democratic line describing the Athenian democracy as against individual freedom, and especially thought freedom, which is contrary to what say the ancient democrats as well as the ancient anti-democrats (I did remind them 2017, February 24, in comment to “McCormick new ochlophobia” February 20), and contrary to the most basic facts. Let’s consider for instance how during the second Athenian democracy Plato could create a kind of private university where he delivered an intensely anti-democrat teaching without any fear of retaliation ! And it was not in a secret cave, but in the Grove of Academus.

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  76. About vote secrecy in the Athenian democracy, and specially in legislative juries. Sorry for the late comment, and the details.
    *** Vote secrecy is a democratic rule, as it protects from fear and corruption : nobody can buy my vote, or can blackmail me into a vote, if my vote is unknown. Montesquieu did disagree (Spirit of laws, II, 2) but because he thought secrecy was working against intimidation by elites, which reason is for me a supplementary reason for vote secrecy.
    *** The vote in Athenian popular courts was by tokens, with secrecy. The votes in the Assembly was by show of hands, and therefore not secret, but tokens were used for some specific subjects, as grants of citizenship to foreigners. Note that the word for a decree by the Assembly was « psêphisma », from « psêphos » = pebble, token, even if the votes were actually by show of hands. The old word for « vote », implying tokens, was kept, even if practically in a democratic Assembly it was impossible to vote usually by tokens. We must distinguish, when we consider the Athenian institutions, which was the result of principle and which was the result of practical necessities.
    *** How did the legislative juries vote ? Given that clearly the legislative process was a copy of the judicial process, with the old law as defendant and binary votes, we could think that the vote was by tokens and secret. It is the idea of Rhodes 1985 (“Nomothesia in Fourth-Century Athens,” Classical Quarterly, 35,1985, pp 55-60). Hansen disagrees (“Athenian Nomothesia” 1985, “Greek, Roman and Byzantine studies”, in Internet, p 365 and “The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes” 1991, p 169), with a good argument ; a law quoted in a speech by Demosthenes (Against Timocrates, 33) which he accepts as genuine (not everybody agrees, we will see) uses for the legislators’ vote the verb « cheirotonein », normally « to vote by show of hands (from cheir = hand). Rhodes believes (p 58) that it was an extended use of « cheirotonein », meaning here « to vote » in general and not only by hands. Hansen does not believe it, nor Mc Dowell 1975 p 70 ( “Law-making at Athens in the Fourth Century B.C.” Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 95, 1975, pp 62-74), because there is no other instance of such an extended meaning. In his 1985 detailed article about nomothesia, Hansen writes « It is probable that the first vote taken by the nomothetai was normally by a show of hands ; but in cases of doubt, when the proedroi did not agree on the outcome of the vote even after a repeated cherotonia [vote by hands], the Athenians may have resorted to psephoria [vote by tokens] ».
    *** But is the mentioned legal document genuine ? The young scholar Mirko Carnevaro thinks it is a late forgery. Hansen 2016 answers in « The authenticity of the law about Nomothesia … » (2016, “Greek, Roman and Byzantine studies”, in Internet, p 594-610). He thinks it is a genuine document, but acknowledges there is doubt and concludes « unless a marble copy (of the law) or a papyrus fragment of Against Timokrates from the early Hellenistic period (…) turns up in the future, there can be no definitive answer ».
    *** Debates among scholars about nomothesia are possible only because data are not clear. We should refer to Aristotle’s works, but he does not mention at all the process with legislative juries. It is the result of the dogmatic anti-democrat thought of the philosopher. The Athenian democracy is the democracy in its latest, « perfect » and worst stage, where the dêmos is a tyrant governing through decrees without anything as the « rule of law ». Any institutional fact which is against Aristotle’s dogma is omitted.
    *** The number of members of a judicial jury could vary according to the importance of the subject. For legislative juries it must have been great : in a case mentioned by Demosthenes (Against Timocrates 27) the number of jurors was 1001. For such a huge number voting by tokens was possible but cumbersome, and voting by hands did imply a low risk of corruption or pressure. So the idea of voting by hands and only in case of small majority voting by tokens (the idea of Hansen 1985) follows practical logics.
    *** A reasonable conclusion : the Athenian democracy did use tokens, allowing secrecy, when it was practically reasonable, and always in judicial cases where risk of pressure by the defendant or his enemies was strong.

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  77. Andre,

    I’m only trying to point out the difference between the Athenian demokratia and modern liberal democracy. Larry Seidentop is adamant that the “individual” (and his associated freedoms) is a modern invention (Gerard Casey takes a similar line in his new book Freedom’s Progress) and Burckhardt and Oakeshott agree. We should be aware of the danger of viewing ancient societies through modern eyes.

    Seidentop: “Try to imagine ourselves into a world of humans or persons who were not ‘individuals’ as we would understand them now.”

    Casey: “The ancient Greeks took the little city-states in which they lived to be the primary reality and regarded the individuals of which they were composed as secondary.”

    Thanks for the clarification on the voting procedure in the nomothetai.

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  78. *** Keith says : « We should be aware of the danger of viewing ancient societies through modern eyes ». I agree, and supporters of modern dêmokratia may be prone to that. But its opponents too, as we see many times. Especially when they connect the (ortho-)democratic idea with things displeasing to contemporary minds, as slavery, inferior status of women, prohibition of atheism ; things common to all or many ancient civilizations, including the Western one until modernity.
    *** There are many differences between the worldviews of Demosthenes and Hyperides, at the end of the Athenian dêmokratia, and for instance Madison and Jefferson, in the first polyarchy (I say the first because free of hereditary power) ; or between Euripides and a modern Western intellectual as Sartre, who adapted one of his plays. But that the mentioned Greeks did see themselves as bees in a hive, I doubt strongly. Sentences as Casey’s “The ancient Greeks took the little city-states in which they lived to be the primary reality and regarded the individuals of which they were composed as secondary” are excessive.
    *** Keith’s sentence about « the difference between the Athenian demokratia and modern liberal democracy » is dangerous because it conflates the difference between civilizations (ancient Greece / modernity) and between political systems (ortho-democracy / polyarchy). Some political systems may be incompatible with a given civilization, but I don’t see strong reason to affirm that the ortho-democratic model is incompatible with modernity.
    *** There are, sure, numerous strong differences between ancient Greece and Modernity. But to see them as totally different humanities is often, I think, a mean to close the modern mind to some use of ancient models, as dêmokratia.

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  79. André,
    As usual I find your careful comments to be the most thoughtful and useful content on this entire Blog. Thank you.

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  80. Andre:> I don’t see strong reason to affirm that the ortho-democratic model is incompatible with modernity.

    As you know I’m in favour of incorporating aspects of the restored Athenian democracy (specifically random-selected legislative courts) into modern polyarchies, but the thought of governance by sortition alone (advocated by some members of this forum), without liberal checks and balances, is a form of democratic extremism that would be obnoxious to modern sensibilities (were it not for the fact that it would be impossible). This is the topic of the thread, not the closing of the mind to ancient models — bear in mind that I’ve written two books and a PhD thesis on the political potential of stochation.

    I second Terry’s last comment and would be interested to hear your thoughts on the Hello World thread.

    PS Have you read Julian Jaynes’s book on the (historical) origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind? It’s an extreme version of the thesis that the inhabitants of the ancient world were nothing like modern humans.

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