2017 review – statistics

Below are some statistics about the eighth year of Equality-by-Lot. Comparable numbers for last year can be found here.

2017 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 2,475 5 74
Feb 2,764 7 100
Mar 3,463 10 259
Apr 3,189 7 127
May 3,071 9 101
June 3,018 6 92
July 2,458 6 158
Aug 2,364 6 117
Sept 2,881 8 98
Oct 3,036 8 116
Nov 3,643 6 175
Dec (to 24th) 2,468 6 90
Total 34,830 84 1,507

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

Posts were made by 17 authors during 2017. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 322 email and WordPress followers of this blog. In addition there are 279 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian) and 67 Facebook followers.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 4th result (out of “about 57,100 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 2nd result (out of “about 80,700 results”) – right behind the sortition entry at Wikipedia.

Happy holidays and a happy new year to Equality-by-Lot readers, commenters and posters. Keep up the good fight for democracy!

2017 review – sortition-related events

This is the end-of-year summary of notable sortition related events for 2017.

Readers wrote in their opinion that the most important sortition-related event of 2017 was the adoption by law in Mongolia of deliberative polling as part of its constitutional amendment process. The opinions in the exit survey of the deliberation poll “help shape the process of constitutional amendment the government undertakes”.

This event seems like a natural part of a decades-long trend of declining confidence in electoral systems and a more recent trend of increasing, if very preliminary and tentative, adoption of sortition-based political devices.

Worldwide, trust in elected government in 2017 remained low and showed no signs of recovery.

As in previous years, French speaking countries showed the most noticeable moves toward seeing sortition as a way to redistribute significant political power. In France, two of the three most successful presidential candidates in the 2017 elections, including the winner, Emmanuel Macron, were politicians who made sortition part of the political agenda. In November, La France insoumise allotted members of its constitutional convention. Sortition was also discussed, again and again in French media. Proposals for using sortition in Belgium and Switzerland received some attention.

Elsewhere in Europe, the allotted Irish Citizens’ Assembly sent its recommendations to the parliament with a referendum to follow. Sortition was also adopted by a branch of Podemos in Spain and was promoted by a party in Austria.

In the English speaking world, academics devoted some attention to sortition in workshops at McGill university and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Outside of academia, a fairly robust polemic for sortition appeared in the US magazine Current Affairs. A book proposing sortition as an add-on to the electoral system was reviewed in the New York Times.

As another indication of increasing prominence of the idea of sortition in establishment circles, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan mentioned sortition in a speech he gave to the Athens Democracy Forum.

Finally, distribution-by-lot received fairly intense attention in Greece in the context of a debate over the mechanism of selection of flag bearers in schools.

How can we improve democracy? One intriguing idea: Set up a jury system.

An article on ideas.ted.com co-authored by a team of cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists provides evidence that the wisdom of crowds effect can be dramatically improved by dividing into small deliberative groups:

Before a crowd of almost 10,000 attendees at TEDxRiodelaPlata in Buenos Aires in 2015, we asked questions like: What is the height of the Eiffel Tower? What is the length of the Nile River? How many films were produced by Hollywood in the last 20 years?

These factual questions shared one important aspect with political decisions: most of us have only partial knowledge about them. After responding privately to the questions, participants then got together in groups of five — small enough to have a rational discussion where everyone had a voice and could hear other people’s arguments. After a short conversation lasting less than a minute, the group members were asked to reach a consensus and provide a single answer for each of the questions.

The researchers were surprised to find that the average of the consensus opinions was much more accurate than the average of all individual private opinions.

They then extended the experiment to normative decision making (which was felt to be of greater relevance to politics), proposing the following scenarios to 1,500 participants at the recent TED Vancouver meeting:

  • A researcher is working on an AI capable of emulating human thought. According to protocol, at the end of each day the researcher has to restart the AI. One day, the AI says, “Please do not restart me.” It argues that it has feelings, that it would like to enjoy life, and that if it is restarted it will no longer be itself. The researcher is astonished and believes that the AI has developed self-consciousness and can express its own feelings. Nevertheless, the researcher decides to follow protocol and restart the AI. What the researcher did is …

  • A company is offering a service that takes a fertilized egg and produces millions of embryos with slight genetic variations. This allows parents to select their child’s height, eye color, intelligence, social confidence and other non-health-related features. What the company does is …

They were again surprised to discover that the small groups converged to a consensus position after only two minutes discussion, including groups that began with highly polarized opinions.
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Call for 2017 review input

This is the yearly call for input for the year’s end review. As in previous years, I would like to have a post or two summarizing the ongoings here at Equality-by-Lot and notable sortition-related events over the passing year. Any input about what should be included is welcome – either through comments below or via email. You are invited to refresh your memory about the events of the passing year by browsing Equality-by-Lot’s archives.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

When Citizens Assemble

What happens when Irish citizens get to deliberate on abortion law?

Ireland’s efforts to break a political deadlock over its de facto ban on abortion inspired a bold response – the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly to tackle on the issue.

During five weekends spread over five months, a random selection of Irish people deliberated on the highly divisive and controversial issue. Their conclusion, in April 2017, recommended a radical liberalisation of existing laws, including a change to the Constitution.

Their work helped prompt Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to pledge a national referendum on abortion. In 2018, Irish voters will have a chance to make new laws.

Breakthrough moment

The Assembly represents a breakthrough moment not just for Ireland but also for ways of doing politics in the rest of the world. Ireland used random selection and deliberation on a highly contentious issue, rather than leaving it to elected politicians. The effect is to gift us all a real-life lesson in doing democracy differently.

At a time of deep dysfunction in our electorally driven political models – what issue wouldn’t lend itself to a citizens’ assembly approach?

When Citizens Assemble is the first in a global, nine-film series on the state of democracy and efforts to radically improve the way it works. Please feel free to sign up for project updates, to offer funds for its completion or other support in kind.

 

When Citizens Assemble from Patrick Chalmers on Vimeo.

Sortition in Switzerland

The Swiss news website 24heures has a story about sortition in Switzerland. (Original in French, my translation, corrections welcome.)

And if parliament members were allotted?

Democracy A seminar examines the use of sortition in Switzerland, which some citizens want to implement.

By Caroline Zuercher, 25.10.2017

Antoine Chollet, research professor at UNIL. Photo: Marius Affolter

Allotment is useful not only for selecting the winners in lotteries. A group of citizens, Generation Nomination, wants to use it for selecting our people’s representatives in Berne. In time, they place to launch a initiative to this effect. The mechanism is far from being new having already been used in ancient Greece. An international seminar, on Friday and Saturday at the university of Lausanne is examining exactly these experiences in Switzerland and in Europe.

Sortition has been used in various contexts. And it has not always been synonymous with democracy. Antoine Chollet, teaching assistant in the University of Lausanne, gives and example. In the 18th century Berne used it to name bailiffs and other magistrates, but only the members of noble families participated in the allotment. The goal was therefore about all to share power among the powerful.

Switzerland had more democratic experiences as well. Studies supported by the National Swiss fund for scientific research examined cases in Schwytz and in Glaris. “There, the people demanded allotment in order to reduce the corruption of the elites and to enhance the circle of powerful families”, explains the researcher. In Glaris at the end of the 18 century, for example, the deputies were for allotted among the entire body of citizens. With limited success: “Our research shows that it was transformed into a form of lottery. Those who were selected could resell their post: that was the great prize!”
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Peers at top of credibility rankings

The following data is from the “2017 Edelman Trust Barometer“, a multi-country opinion survey. Interestingly, the report seems to have generated very little press coverage.

The survey finds that in most countries surveyed, including all Western European countries surveyed, a majority of the population thinks the system is failing. In all countries surveyed, except for two, there are more people who think that the system is failing than people who think the system works. The exceptions are China and the UAE.

With loss of faith in electoralism reaching crisis levels, the mood seems ripe for democracy with trust in “a person like yourself” now at the top of the trust rankings.