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.

73 Responses

  1. The Irish deliberation is a very good example of the strengths of deliberation by a relatively small representative body of ordinary citizens. Such deliberations are very good at dealing with the kind of issues that affect most people or involve factors that are well within their experience and concepts.

    That covers most of the issues that are decided on a relatively local or national level. But we also face many issues that can be dealt with effectively only at an international or global level or involve technical and scientific considerations where such small closed representation is not adequate, because the ordinary experience of citizens does no t equip them with the capacity to argue about some of the factors involved. Such issues as climate change, the international monetary system, populatioon growth, nuclear warfare and so on are most important to us all, but it cannot be guaranteed that a small body that can meet face-to-face will include much of the required knowledge and skills. On the other hand, these issues are too important to be left to the experts, whose perspective is often too narrow/

    My contention is that only a completely open forum in which anybody can contribute and everything they say is scrutinised can assure us that this unprecedented and difficult problems can be fully deliberated. We never know where new ideas are required or where they may come from. This completely open forum has been impossible before the universal access to the internet, but, as I agree in ˆThe Demarchy Manifesto it is now possible if well organised.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good points.

    My sense is that this is not a bad start, nonetheless. If we could get these going as standard practice in many countries, we’d see the effects of better governance filter through to higher level institutions.

    Like

  3. What I am missing is the motivation of appointing 100 people by lot (why not 15 – Jaques Testart or 1000 – G 1000 or 500 – descriptive representative). There is no indication that is was a stratified sample and how this eventually was done or motivated scientifically.

    Like

  4. Hi Paul – a good question for Equality by Lot followers, of course, though not a point to include in a 16m32s public film. You can find more information on the selection process and jury composition from this link (https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/About-the-Citizens-Assembly/Who-are-the-Members/) and more on the Assembly itself here (https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/Resource-Area/FAQ/)

    Like

  5. The lack of any explanation about the process is dangerous because it give the impression that anything goes. Of course you get an other result with 6 or 15 or 100 citizens (what was the case in this event I think) but who cares if there is a well written result. Who questions the method used? Why the Oregon Citizens Review uses 20 citizens, the electoral reform panel in BC consisted of 161 citizens? Anyway, James Fishkin is very critical about the system used in BC (volunteers combined with sortition in several stages) and the Oregon CIR (only 20 citizens, far to few to claim any representativity). They ar all far away of any descriptive representation (even the ancient Athenians knew better :-) ) but hoera, there was a well written proposal and the participant were enthousiast and learned a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Paul – that’s true but I suppose I’d invite you to use the same quality of scrutiny for our existing system and make your comments in that context. I’m not sure where you’re based but for the UK – DUP/Conservative – it’s pretty spectacularly unrepresentative.

    Like

  7. > only 20 citizens, far too few to claim any representativity

    This kind of comment is often made here, but it is really very far from being self-evident. It really depends on what the body does and what kind of service it is expected to perform.

    It could be, for example, that we expect that on most issues handled there would be agreement among a large majority of the population, and the point is not so much to decide on marginal issues as it is to block decisions in favor of narrow interests. In this case 20 citizens could be plenty.

    Like

  8. Oh, no, :-) I am sure that we can do better then politicians with the right ‘democratic’ instruments. I am from Belgium and although we have a totally other political system (more or less proportional) we don’t have ‘democracy’ at all (it is an ‘electoral aristocracy’ by definition). But not all sortition projects have a link with ‘democracy’. I think that we have to separate ‘informative deliberative panels’ from the panels with ‘legislative power’, who don’t exist for the moment, but are promoted here. Just the same with referenda where the results of ‘plebiscites’ (government initiative) and ‘referendums’ (citizens initiative) are not comparable. What I wanted to emphasise is that the total lack of any standard, differentiating the different use (sortition in the football league also has no link with democracy), or effort for explanation may be the cause that ‘sortition’ loses his trustworthiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Patrick,

    Thanks – very well done, IMHO. Hearing the citizens talking about their experience was unexpectedly emotionally moving.

    I also liked the tie to the politics around the economic crisis hinting that sortition could not only be a way to rationally address divisive issues but (more importantly in my mind) provide an alternative to the existing system which keeps putting in power people who actively undermine the public interest to further their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks Yoram and yes, I agree, the power of this film lies with the participants.

    What I love is their demonstration of common wisdom, humility and a determination to get to grips with what is a highly contentious issue for the Irish (and many others, of course).

    It’s truly refreshing and inspiring – so far from what we are told will be the tyranny of the people.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Paul’s point is important, and should be addressed in a subsequent video (this is intended to be a series). While it is important to portray (as in this video) the ability of ordinary citizens to tackle difficult questions, because that is one of the big hurdles we need to get over (“ordinary people are too stupid”), there is a huge danger of governments deploying elements of sortition in a very anti-democratic way to provide a fig leaf for elites who are controlling the agenda behind the scenes. Eventually we need a thoroughly vetted set of “best practices” or “minimum standards” that delineate the democratic use of sortition for a variety of different functions. As Yoram implies, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula… For some functions huge sample sizes might be necessary, while for others a small sample would suffice, mandatory service might be necessary for some purposes, but opt-in voluntarism might work in other situations. Eventually control over the agenda will be essential, but probably only after sortition has proved itself in a series of one-off implementations. etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Patrick, I read at your links that there was a whole set up for the ‘random sample’. I want to believe it (this one) was honestly done but if we want to be manipulated in the future we have to do it that way. It is at best a ‘constructed’ random sample. When there are big (monetary) interest involved I won’t trust it for a second. If we (the proponents for democracy) loose trust in an instrument we propose, as important as sortition, the harm is not to estimate.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hi Paul, Terry and Yoram – I appreciate your greater depth and awareness around this topic, to which I am doing my best to bring my journalistic scrutiny.

    It is hugely valuable for me to have the feedback from people diving deeply into this issue, reaching depths that are hard for me to reach as I juggle all things necessary to get the films done.

    So a big thank you for that.

    This is the proof-of-concept film, generously funded by the newDemocracy Foundation on the basis of me telling them that I could deliver. The next step is to secure further funders, and media partners, to take it to the next stage. That may well include crowd funding in the next couple of months, finding funds episode by episode if that’s what it takes.

    It will also involve deepening the scrutiny with your help, with me keeping an eye to making sure that a non expert public stays interested.

    Today is an important step nonetheless.

    Like

  14. If you meet Lyn Carson from the New Democracy Foundation say hello from me, her work was very helpful for me. I am working on a proposal (the second) for the use of sortition in politics and therefore I had to get an idea of the criteria for a proposal that could resist to some criticism.
    This criteria are here on the forum or can be retrieved at http://blogimages.seniorennet.be/democratie/attach/142906.pdf and give an idea of what we try to do. It is the first effort of his kind as far as I know so it can only become better :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I fully endorse Paul and Terry’s concerns regarding the representativity of small voluntary samples and agree that this risks bringing sortition into disrepute. I’m disappointed that New Democracy agreed to fund the publicising of such a flawed process.

    Yoram: >It could be, for example, that we expect that on most issues handled there would be agreement among a large majority of the population, and the point is not so much to decide on marginal issues as it is to block decisions in favor of narrow interests. In this case 20 citizens could be plenty.

    Only those who maintain the simplistic (and archaic) political sociology of elite and mass interests would expect this to be true. Given Yoram’s repeated claims that statistical representation is the primary function of sortition, this is a distinctly odd statement. And, of course, if it were true then there would be no need for sortition. I refer back to the statistician John Garry’s claim (on this forum) that a sample size of 1,000, with mandatory participation, balanced advocacy and no interaction between jurors would be necessary to reliably reflect the informed preferences of the target population.

    Like

  16. Hi Keith

    I find your position fairly spectacular, to be honest.

    My hope is that you’re just being cheekily provocative in the hope of promoting constructive, edifying dialogue that will enrich us all.

    In that spirit, and to the best of my limited ability, I give you the following response.

    I look around the world and see an increasing numbers of national leaders who are various degrees of severely authoritarian, lethally so for their opponents in many cases.

    I would say the state of our political systems generally is nothing short of dire.

    There are also various natural indicators screaming out for serious changes in political direction, quite literally suggesting significant threats to the future of our species if we don’t.

    And yet for all of the above you’re “disappointed New Democracy agreed to fund the publicising of such a flawed process”?

    I’m dumbstruck, really.

    Sure, there may be things that could be done better in the Irish process but seriously – it’s not as if the existing political system in Ireland is some halcyon bed of roses.

    This assembly in Ireland, as it is and as it’s worked, may well significantly improve the lives of Irish women who, at present, are seriously disadvantaged by the status quo political deadlock. That depends on the 2018 referendum – part of an overall political package that makes the assembly part of a whole, for better or worse.

    Are you saying that because of some never-to-be-attained nirvana of sortition purity that they should be denied that? Should women in other countries who have no access to the full spectrum of reproductive health possibilities, including abortions, not be able to know about a political process that could improve their situations significantly?

    I think the Equality by Lot forum is a valuable place to exchange thoughts and ideas about how best to put sortition into real, effective practice.

    I find the range of content and comments to be enriching and informative – meaning I usually leave each time knowing more than when I arrived

    I do find, however, that some comments err into the realms of surreal absurdity, totally divorced from political reality.

    And that, of course, is my entirely biased and subjective view of the world. Bring on the assembly to balance it out against those of others.

    Like

  17. Patrick, I was merely endorsing the earlier comments from Paul and Terry. Nobody is disputing the dire state of our current political arrangements, but if we want to suggest something better than we have a serious responsibility to get it right. Voluntarist allotment over-represents political activists at the expense of the silent majority and would be dismissed by most political scientists as an abuse of democracy. In Paul’s words:

    James Fishkin is very critical about the system used in BC (volunteers combined with sortition in several stages) and the Oregon CIR (only 20 citizens, far to few to claim any representativity). They are all far away of any descriptive representation (even the ancient Athenians knew better).

    Fishkin has done more than anyone to establish sortition as a way of representing the informed judgment of a target population, so I can understand why he is alarmed at ill-considered experiments that undermine the credibility of his life’s work.

    Like

  18. Hi Keith – thanks for that. You’d best take it up with David Farrell – whether he thinks your concern discredits the whole. http://www.ucd.ie/research/people/politicsintrelations/professordavidfarrell/

    Like

  19. I believe I met him at the sortition workshop at Trinity College Dublin. Unfortunately the focus of the workshop was sortition as a prophylactic against factionalism and corruption, as opposed to a form of statistical representation. It’s important to maintain the distinction between these two principles as the voluntarism/sample size problem doesn’t really apply to the former. How Yoram manages to reconcile statistical representation and sample sizes of 20 or so people is beyond me.

    Like

  20. Hi Patrick,

    The point that allowing the organizers to introduce procedural complexity into the selection process is destructive to the democratic value of the process is both valid and critically important.

    (That said, Sutherland’s objections to the Ireland process are probably less due to any principled stance and more to his unhappiness with the process’s substantive outcome, which conflict with his anti-progressive world view. This can be attested by the fact that Sutherland in the past has endorsed other applications of sortition which suffered from the same problem (e.g., here).)

    Like

  21. My priority is to emancipate the silent majority via a statistically-representative minidemos — if their considered and well-informed choice is anti-progressive then that’s democracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Hi Yoram and thanks for that clarification.

    That challenge, of accepting the sortition-inspired outcomes with which we personally disagree, is a major one.

    I found that to be the case with S Korea on civil nuclear power – as per this (https://twitter.com/SortitionNow/status/922778281467961346).

    We’re all human and fallible – that’s why we need sortition!

    For Keith – I’ve invited David Farrell to comment on this post and its related comments thread – we’ll see if he comes (https://twitter.com/PatrickChalmers/status/940946105138806785)

    Like

  23. Patrick:> That challenge, of accepting the sortition-inspired outcomes with which we personally disagree, is a major one.

    Why so? This just illustrates Andre’s concern that sortition is not being used against the Established powers, but against the populisms menacing the Established powers. Yoram made a similar point regarding Nick Gruen’s (anti) Brexit proposal.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. We all harbour inner dictators, more or less benign.

    Like

  25. That’s why the sortition process has to be designed with immaculate care to ensure balanced advocacy and a consistent and representative outcome — something that Jim Fishkin has been working on for over two decades. Although current democratic arrangements are sub-optimal, everyone gets to choose and this right would be sacrificed in a democracy-by-minipublic regime.

    Like

  26. A definition of democracy to bear in mind is that it ‘is a political system whereby the way decisions are made, and the outcome, are accepted by everyone, even when you personally don’t agree’.

    Like

  27. A definition of democracy to bear in mind is that it ‘is a political system whereby the way decisions are made, and the outcome, are accepted by everyone, even when you personally don’t agree’.

    Like

  28. Sorry for the double posting :-). In the Ireland case I would accept something less than full ‘descriptive representativity ‘ because it is in a way the replacement of signature gathering for a referendum. The same system Californians tried to implement (prop 31 James Fishkin, Thad Kousser, Robert C. Luskin, Alice Siu “Deliberative Agenda Setting Piloting Reform of Direct Democracy in California.pdf “ ) but failed. Not because it was a bad proposal on his own but because it was part of a package and some parts of that package were controversial (this experience learns us that voting in packages is also a bad system). Nevertheless, that sayd, the system used is, in my view, not scientifically defendable and that is a danger for all of us.
    The system used must be ‘scientifically defendable’ as ‘representative’. Not only the system used but also the execution has to meet high scientific standards. If not, we risk that people loose trust in a very important democratic instrument, even before it can be used in full. We all know that polls, performed with sortition, are often wrong in their outcome and that is something we want to avoid in applications connected with ‘democracy’.

    Like

  29. Paul,

    Agree with all your point, and thank your for introducing some much needed clarity into the debate. In the paper you cite, Fishkin draws a comparison between the California initiative panel and the Athenian Council of 500, which he (mistakenly) claims was a deliberative body. Historians are adamant that the Council was a purely administrative body and only set the agenda in the sense that it was the secretariat for the Assembly. It’s important to preserve the Athenian distinction between administrative magistracies (constituted by sortition) and the large randomly-selected legislative juries introduced by the 4th century reforms. The rationale for the former was rotation, not representation, and this principle is clearly inapplicable to large modern states. Whilst the Athenians had no notion of mathematical proportionality, nevertheless they accepted that the decision of the nomothetai represented the considered verdict of the demos as a whole.

    >The system used must be ‘scientifically defendable’ as ‘representative’. Not only the system used but also the execution has to meet high scientific standards. If not, we risk that people lose trust in a very important democratic instrument, even before it can be used in full.

    Absolutely, and this requires that the system generate “right” outcomes in terms of consistency between different samples, otherwise it’s impossible to say which decision represents the target population. Personally I’m sceptical that sortition can play any role at all in the agenda-setting process, for both epistemic and democratic reasons.

    Like

  30. Hi Keith, the Fishkin paper I mention is ‘l’avenir de la démocratie délibérative’ draft May 2015 (The Quest for Deliberative Democracy). When you read our proposal you will see that rotation is possible even in our present states :-), and I use the agenda setting principle also. http://blogimages.seniorennet.be/democratie/attach/137395.pdf .Our next development is a two Chamber system (translation in progress). But that was not the issue here. What I notice is that, even here in Belgium, private companies are entering the ‘political market’ for the organisation of panels appointed by sortition all the way to the final print of the results. I am sure that they can make an offer at far less cost than simple random sampling (say with 500 people) with the use of a panel of 100 (at the most, 15 at the least) and they can claim theoretical comparable results. But with complexity (see the Irish example, stratified sampling, interviews and hand picked selection and so on) the possibility for manipulation grows exponentially. And I am willing ‘to loose’ within a democratic system as far that I personally am convinced that it is not rigged from the start. And even at the end stage, I was often enough the person who wrote the report of an assemblee and I know very well what I could do to influence the results, even when the report had to be discussed and approved afterward.

    Like

  31. Paul:> I am sure that they can make an offer at far less cost than simple random sampling (say with 500 people) with the use of a panel of 100 (at the most, 15 at the least) and they can claim theoretical comparable results.

    How can a panel of 15 persons accurately reflect the cognitive diversity of citizens in a large multicultural state?

    Like

  32. what is the problem :-) ? Washington state uses 10 citizens appointed by sortition in a mixed panel (citizens and selected specialists) https://salaries.wa.gov/commissioners/how-commissioners-are-selected Of course the results are questionable, there are none, compared with states where the salaries are set by referendum. Of course I can’t know if the jobs are comparable.

    How state legislator salaries are set
    Salaries of state legislators are determined in four ways.

    Nineteen states use a commission of some kind to determine the salary of legislators. The powers of these commissions vary from non-binding reports to reports that are implemented unless voted down by the legislature, not approved by the governor, or overturned by citizen referenda.
    In two of the 19 states mentioned above—Arizona and Nebraska—any recommendation to change legislators’ pay must be approved by voters before going into effect.
    Some states tie legislative salaries to those of other state employees.
    Other states allow the legislators themselves to set their own salaries.
    Arkansas $39,400/year

    California $104,115/year

    Missouri $35,915/year
    Washington $45,474/year

    high
    California $104,115/year

    low
    Texas $7,200/year

    to approve by voters
    Arizona $24,000/year

    Nebraska $12,000/year

    Like

  33. Hi Keith and Paul – I’m following your dialogue with interest without contributing to the detail, which is beyond my current knowledge even though I understand what it is that you’re both aiming at.

    If I may, a question/request to you both, and to anyone else reading EBL, which relates to my main field of expertise and activity, which is journalism.

    It is this: “Can you suggest ways in which the journalism project, of which this film is the first part, could attract the funders and other partners necessary for its completion?”

    My challenge is to bring an enthusiastic sceptic’s eye to real-life experiments in sortition-based democratic innovations. I must then convey what I find to non-expert audiences in a way that is both comprehensible and compelling to them. That is what I’ve attempted to do with this film, the first of nine that I’m planning in order to then make an eventual documentary.

    I need media partners and funders to do this work, as well as legions of people engaged in helping it on its way in non-financial ways. Those might include sharing it across networks, to email lists and by making introductions to potential funders and partners.

    A “no way”, or stronger, will not offend in any way, not least because the feedback you and others have already provided on the thread above is already valuable to me, and I’m grateful for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Paul, to choose a different example, given that the UK electorate are evenly divided on the Brexit issue, would you claim that a deliberative group of 15, or even 150 people would be sufficient to make an informed decision that would represent “what everyone would think under good conditions” (Fishkin)? And do you think such a small group would be perceived as a legitimate alternative to the referendum in the eyes of the public? According to my calculations a group of over 6,000 would be necessary for a population divided 48/52 and the deliberative mandate would need to be severely constrained in order to ensure representative consistency (independence being a necessary condition of the Condorcet theorem).

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Well, that is my point. Nobody, to my knowledge, defend, or has to defend, his use of 10 citizens or 100 of what so ever, on the contrary. Here in Belgium the G1000 organisation specified that they were not looking for ‘represenativity’ but for maximum diversity. Of course they decided themselves what ‘diversity’ means. And they printed a nice report. Everybody is doing whatever they like or is suggesting to them by the ‘specialists’. In some cases they are explaining what they are doiing but nobody, for the moment with exception of J.Fishkin, ask a question about that. Of course they have ‘a’ result, they present ‘happy participants’ because they know their job (offering a listening ear to citizens who are feeling important because that is what they are told they are and perhaps it is the first time in their life that somebody pays attention to what ‘they’ think about something), and that’s it. You can see that in the video (Irish) and also on some other occasions. But the happyness of the participants, and the fact that they learned a lot, altough important for the people who are organising the event, is not important at all for us.
    But to evaluate the outcome that is something else. In the case of Washington we could compare the outcome of the current panel with a panel appointed with simple random sampling of 50 citizens. Otherwise we can’t know what the value is of the panel they installed. I can’t give Patrick any advice, his aim is totally different from what we are looking for. Of course it is important to show that panels appointed by sortition can produce a ‘nice’ outcome. But that outcome has to be robust enough to whitstand criticism and that is what I am afraid of. And not only the result has to be robust, also the system used because that is what has to meet the ‘democracy’ criteria: A definition of democracy to bear in mind is that it ‘is a political system whereby the way decisions are made, and the outcome, are accepted by everyone, even when you personally don’t agree’.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Good answer – this post has been worth it for that alone. Thanks Paul.

    Like

  37. I think the Condorcet theorem is only valid with a simple majority vote. I don’t even know how the decisions are made in those panels :-) .
    To summarise the problem, I think that with the first organised attack against such panels, appointed by sortitition, they will be blown away without much defence (from the point of view of democratically better than the elected aristocracy). And that will be difficult to repair.

    Like

  38. the random sampling in the Washington example must be 500 instead of 50 :-)

    Like

  39. Agree. Democracy is evaluated by procedural rather than epistemic (outcome) criteria. In the case of the US presidential election it’s a question of hanging chads and corruption by foreign powers rather than whether Bush or Trump would make a good president. In the case of democracy by minipublic it’s beholden on the organisers to demonstrate consistency between different samples of the same population. Whether or not you like the outcome of democracy by minipublic is neither here nor there.

    Like

  40. And not only that. The work of the minipublic and the specialists they hear has to be public in sofar that the decisions they make are still consisted with the public at large. It is, in the long term, of no use that an informed mini public makes decisions that is contrary to the opinion at large of the public. At least the effort must be made. I am not promoting, contrary to J. Fishkin I think, to film and put on line the individual performance of jury members, I think this has all kind of effects contrary to what we want the Jury to be.

    Like

  41. So your challenge as academics then is to encourage mass real-world experimentation using techniques that you adjudge to be intellectually sound.

    Then people like me, journalists, can then communicate their execution to wider society.

    Different jobs at different stages of the same process with utimately similar, even identical, aims?

    If you have recommendations of real-world examples that you DO like, I’m all ears/eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Hi Patrick, I am not an academic at all, I am a retired electrician :-) and only in favour of democracy. And I would make a difference between ‘intelectually sound’ and ‘manipulation proof’. In the Fishkin paper I mentioned, Fishkin gives some “key considerations in evaluating viable designs”:
    a/ Random sampling
    b/Sample size
    c/attitudinal as well as demographic representativeness
    d/ A design that avoids distortions of small group psychology
    e/ a design that embodies good conditions for considering the issue
    To answer your question about examples who are less vulnarable to fundamental criticism I would mention the experiment in California with 412 participants appointed by sortition. Fishkin (in the paper I mentioned) writes: A sample that was demonstrably representative in attitudes and demographics deliberated …. That is a very positive evaluation compared with his evaluation of the Oregon CIR and the BC panel. And we are only talking about panels with an ‘informative task’. I can only recommend to read the whole paper. And of course our paper mentioned before and developed on the hand of our “sortition library’ in Dutch, English and German. (Not recently made up to date because a lack of time)

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Paul:> It is, in the long term, of no use that an informed mini public makes decisions that is contrary to the opinion at large of the public. I am not promoting, contrary to J. Fishkin I think, to film and put on line the individual performance of jury members, I think this has all kind of effects contrary to what we want the Jury to be.

    Agree. An alternative to making the jury-room deliberation public is (as in the DP) ensuring balanced public information and advocacy in the plenary sessions. Political parties and pressure and advocacy groups could have an important role in ensuring that the concerns of the minipublic remain actively aligned to the target population that it (descriptively) represents. In the example of Brexit, the two official advocacy groups would present their case before the jury, who’s role would be limited to listening to the opposing arguments and then determining the outcome.

    Although Jane Mansbridge describes Fishkin’s DP as the “gold standard” in public deliberation, it remains the case that a series of DPs on the same topic (with different samples) have delivered wildly divergent outcomes, to the extent that it is impossible to say which outcome represents the target population. I have had a prolonged exchange with Fishkin on this problem and have put to him that the problem is the small-group deliberations, which can swing the outcome via purely random (in the pejorative sense) factors, and that he may need to better approximate the Athenian nomothetai process, which involves public advocacy (the defenders of the old laws were elected by the assembly) with silent deliberative judgment by a large randomly-selected jury.

    Like

  44. @Keith, in our latest proposal (in translation) we propose to keep an important part of the deliberation process. We propose that, during breaks and work lunches the participants are brought together in small groups, appointed by sortion, (also the chair at each table is appointed by sortition), not to discuss the matter at hand, but to give a synthesis of what is presented to them. Because the participants know that each of them will be asked to give a short summary there is a ‘pressure’ to think about a synthesis. This is an important part of the ‘Fishkin’ deliberation process but without the actual discussions and guidence of the organizers. This way we think that we keep the best of both systems. Or at least, the possibiliy is put forward for discussion.

    Like

  45. I read with interest all the interesting comments. And thank you Patrick for the great video (Did you try tipeee to fund your project? I would gladly be one of the crowdfunder). The moments about the truck driver particularly moved me. It seems that it is one goal of sortition: bring people to the table that are not used be around it. This might also be a trap of sortition’s advocates. They are often highly interested by politics and are not necessarily pleased by bringing people with divergent opinions.

    I read a lot of comments about how many people there should be in the assembly: 10, 100, 1000? In this example a 100 seems to me like a good number. It is below the Dunbar number (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number), given the allotted time it enables people in the assembly to all discuss with each other. The representativity might not be the primary goal here, but rather the aim might be to reach a consensus position and to bring fresh looks. While it is possible to reach a consensus with a 100 people, it is impossible with a 1000. There are more ideas in 100 heads than in 1 but I think that there are less ideas in a 1000 heads (not a fan of group’s effect).

    I setup a discord server (https://discord.gg/qt4G89u) about sortition where I re-post from the equality by lot (in the channel #equality-by-lot). The idea is the more the merrier. Yoram already joined the server and I look forward to discuss live with more kleroterians.

    Liked by 2 people

  46. There is no ideal nor scientifically “correct” number of participants to have. Let me quote from one of my papers…
    “The division of legislative tasks among distinct bodies, mostly selected by lot, overcomes many design dilemmas: mandatory service for those called improves representativeness, but would also include members unwilling to perform their duty; a long term of office increases knowledge about issues, but also concentrates power, allowing corrupt deal-making; a smaller group facilitates give-and-take deliberation, but a larger group is needed to increase statistical sampling accuracy. The impulse is to seek out the “sweet spot” where we strike a compromise balance among these and other mutually exclusive benefits inherent in different design parameters (a chamber with X members serving terms of Y years, etc.). But the better solution is to use multiple bodies, each designed to maximize the benefits of certain attributes, and counter the negative effects of that design decision with a check and balance of a separate body using countervailing design features. “

    Liked by 2 people

  47. Although Keith often refers to my multi-body design that spreads out various law-making functions among separate bodies as “Byzantine,” I prefer to think of it as “Athenian.” in the post 403 BCE Athens, one random body (the Boule or Council of 500) might work out the wording of a new law proposal that some citizen offered and place it on the agenda of the Assembly, A second (voluntary) body, the Ecclesia or Assembly, could reject it or refer the new law proposal to a random panel (Nomothetai) that listened to pro and con arguments and had sole authority to adopt the law, yet another random body (the court) might take up a case challenging the constitutionality of that law and overrule the other bodies that advanced it, and if the law was sustained, randomly selected panels of magistrates would carry out the law.

    A major flaw with elected chambers today is not JUST that they are elected, but that they encompass too many functions in one body —
    setting the agenda, drafting bills, hearing the testimony on the bills they have drafted, and then also judging whether their handiwork should pass into law. These functions cannot be well performed by one group of people simply because of pride of authorship. Those who propose and draft a bill are not suited to judge whether it should be passed.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Thank you Romain for your feedback and also for your enthusiasm as a potential crowd funder (noted!) I’m thinking about that potentially for late January/February 2018 with an eye to the next episode (Government in Athens – election vs selection, today versus 2,500 years ago, as a way into the state of Western representative democracy and the origins of ideas behind real-life innovations based on random selection and deliberation).

    Thank you also for your question about tipeee, which I now know about thanks to your comment. I’ll check that out more deeply and maybe get something up there more quickly.

    I’ll also check out discord.

    Terry – thank you for your clear explanation of the representation/sample problem and a reminder of your, Athenian, solution. It’s good to have that back in mind. I’ll need to be reading a lot prior to the Athens film mentioned above.

    Like

  49. Paul,

    I was more relaxed about small-group deliberation until I read the following from 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)

    This caused me to argue to Fishkin that he might well need to jettison the small-group deliberations and adopt the perspective of the Athenian nomothetai (silent deliberation and voting by large juries). Jim refused to accept this criticism, largely I believe because he is still in hock to Habermasian norms of the ideal speech situation. And it’s not a problem to him (or Habermasian deliberative democrats in general) because the DP is just an (informed) opinion poll, but if we are proposing an assembly with binding legislative power than accurate and consistent representation is a sine qua non.

    Romain,

    It may well be moving to hear the testimonial of a truck driver but this has nothing to do with representative democracy (and neither does unanimity).

    Ref:
    Goodin, R. E. (2003). Democratic deliberation within. In J. Fishkin & P. Laslett (Eds.), Debating Deliberative Democracy (pp. 54-79). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Terry,

    Reference to the Athenian demokratia doesn’t cut the mustard, because the normative case for the Council of 500 depended on the principle of rotation — most citizens would have served at least once in their lifetime and everybody would know someone on the council. Not so in large modern states. Your multi-body proposal fails on account of Dahl’s argument:

    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)

    A bunch of self-selecting activists is not a minidemos — the only body in your proposal that would pass democratic norms is the nomothetai equivalent, but this presupposes advocates selected by different processes (voting and citizen initiative). In large modern states you can’t do everything by sortition, it’s not a magic bullet.

    Ref:

    Dahl, R. A. (1989). Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Like

  51. Hi Keith – I think it’s the ensemble that Terry’s suggesting, which I’m sort of surprised you don’t get.

    I’m also curious as to your strategy for arriving at the following, your professed objective:

    “My priority is to emancipate the silent majority via a statistically-representative minidemos — if their considered and well-informed choice is anti-progressive then that’s democracy.”

    I get all the different elements but I’ve no idea how you think we could get from where we are currently to anything like what you’re suggesting.

    I get no sense at all of how you think that might come about.

    It seems to me that to get there, it would take a whole series of experiments, probably some false starts, maybe some true starts that get thwarted by dint of circumstance, chance or otherwise. It also needs the debates on this thread to spread elsewhere, using language that ordinary people can relate to (and use of such language is a choice, too, it’s very easy to use technical or academic terms to obscure rather than to illuminate).

    As you know my principal activity, which is the source of my perspectives on all this and also the driver for my engagement with this thread and the people who contribute to it, is journalism. This involves trying to understand things, complex or otherwise, and synthesizing some sort of account of them for a wider audience. The best journalism also needs elements of campaigning for a universally better society, which today means the whole planet – we know better than ever that physics and biology are no respecter of our human-imagined boundaries.

    My sense is that to get from where we are to somewhere like you imagine in your stated priority, we’ll need this whole series of steps on the way, many of which may offend your idea of that ultimate priority. To me, and pardon me if you think this offensive, I don’t mean it to be, I often find the tone and tenor of your interventions to be combative to the point of being self defeating.

    How do you envisage getting from where we are to your objective? It would be good to know.

    The way I see it, there is a job to be done of make a far wider public aware of the competing definitions of “democracy”, election versus selection, and how to put them into action. There is also a job to be done in fighting for the notion that every one of the 7 billion plus humans on the planet, not to mention future generations, has an equally legitimate right to be heard and to have a voice.

    One of the problems suffered by members of elites, and frankly that ‘s what we are if we have access to a computer, the internet and time to exchange ideas on message boards, is that we tend to think democracy’s a great idea for people like us but not for that group X, Y, Z that we don’t like for some reason.

    So when I interview David Keogh, a 47-year-old, Irish truck driver, about his experience of deliberating about abortion law, I’m professionally happy. I find it a valuable sequence to use to address one thread of the various prejudices that exist in us all. Doing that with a sample of people who are not your average elected politicians makes that exercise more powerful as tool to address people’s prejudices. It’s not only an entirely legitimate and valuable exercise, it also helps engage more people in the conversation about transforming the way we do politics – they can see that there may be a place for them in all this when previously they didn’t believe that was so That’s a good antidote to fear-based politicking and the dangers that presents.

    So, you’re right, and so is Paul, it is very important to be attentive to the quality of representation that is achieved in the different iterations and different versions of innovation that are attempted to improve our frankly dire political systems.

    However, you also need to keep an eye to the bigger political picture, and to the trends that we are seeing and how they’re being driven.

    Not to do so is to risk a rather absurd, pedantic and unrealistic tail-chasing into oblivion.

    Like

  52. Patrick:> Hi Keith – I think it’s the ensemble that Terry’s suggesting, which I’m sort of surprised you don’t get.

    Yes I understand that, but Dahl’s insistence is that the demos should control every stage of the legislative process — from agenda setting and advocacy through to final decision making. In Terry’s proposal this is only the case with the final judgment stage, so none of his other panels would pass Dahl’s test.

    >I get all the different elements but I’ve no idea how you think we could get from where we are currently to anything like what you’re suggesting.
    I get no sense at all of how you think that might come about.

    See my proposal for an alternative to Brexit, published before the referendum: https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/keith-sutherland/brexit-lottery

    Given that the outcome was a 48/52 split, this would require a jury of over 6,000. Take a random sample of, say, 10.000 citizens and divide into ten juries of 1,000 which all received the same input and advocacy. if they all decided in the same way then most political scientists would accept that this was a reliable representation of the considered will of the majority of citizens (including those who did not participate in the referendum). This is the sort of experiment that would be needed. I appreciate that this would test the validity of sortition for decision making rather than agenda setting, but I don’t see how sortition could have any role in the latter.

    >every one of the 7 billion plus humans on the planet, not to mention future generations, has an equally legitimate right to be heard and to have a voice.

    Yes but the sheer numbers suggest that the Athenian direct-democratic model of ho boulomenos should be replaced by the representative claim model, and that would suggest an ongoing role for both election and direct initiative. Like it or lump it, nearly half of all US voters felt that Trump was speaking for them, whereas there is no way of testing whether the views of your 47-year old truck driver represent anyone other than himself.

    >I often find the tone and tenor of your interventions to be combative to the point of being self defeating.

    That’s because some of the poorly-considered proposals debated on this forum will have the effect of discrediting the whole sortition movement. I think this was why Paul intervened, and I’m just trying to back up his argument.

    Like

  53. What we are also witnessing is that the political establishment allows or even promote and support ‘sortition’ experiments. We have to ask ourselves ‘why’ because the main thing they respond to is ‘electoral gain’. As a proponent of the ‘referendum system’ we are constantly under attack. I think that the reason of this fierce resistance is that the referendum system has proved to some extend that it can change the balance of power toward real democracy (demos kratia). I am referring to the Swiss system (they don’t allow plebiscites) because they are our neighbours. But we are fully aware of the weak points and the continuous attacks forces us to build defences and work on reinforcements https://www.democracy-international.org/direct-democracy-facts-arguments . On the other hand I think that when the citizens fall asleep ‘democracy’ won’t last long, so in a way this continuous attacs keeps us alert. It is also my impression that for the moment the political establishment uses the sortition experiments to defuse some hot items in an attempt to do this without any ‘political damage’. It works as a safety valve without any change in the important fields of politics. That is why there is no attack of any importance against the sortition system used or his outcome, apart from the ‘friendly and polite’ warning shots of J Fishkin. But nevertheless he is showing us what the real ammunition could be if vested interest would take a shot. And of course it is important to experiment and evaluate the ‘sortition’ events but at the same time it is necessary to prepare for the bigger work. For now it is important to show ‘happy participants’ but it will become nasty when we are closing in to the ‘kratia’ part . It would be interesting to study the ‘recommendations’ of the Irish panel and the subjects accepted by the government.

    Like

  54. Paul:> It is also my impression that for the moment the political establishment uses the sortition experiments to defuse some hot items in an attempt to do this without any ‘political damage’. It works as a safety valve without any change in the important fields of politics.

    Yes that’s true, but if it can be shown to work for the hot items, then the cat is out of the bag and the Trojan Horse has penetrated the fortifications (forgive the mixed metaphors). Hence the need to ensure that the experiments are both well constituted and up-sizeable. I think there is also a need to drop the inflammatory rhetoric on the end of elections and demise of politicians if we want to capitalise on these opportunities.

    >That is why there is no attack of any importance against the sortition system used or his outcome, apart from the ‘friendly and polite’ warning shots of J Fishkin. But nevertheless he is showing us what the real ammunition could be if vested interest would take a shot.

    I think Fishkin’s focus will be on China — the only regime where the outcomes of the DP have been implemented. In his last book Fishkin referred (approvingly) to a new model of governance emerging from the Chinese DPs and President Xi emphasised the importance of public consultation in his long address to the party congress.

    Like

  55. Several points…

    1. Actually Fishkin’s biggest success has been Mongolia (rather than China), which has formally adopted into law a requirement for a deliberative poll before any constitutional amendment can proceed to referendum. I believe their sample size was 700 randomly selected (and stratified) citizens last time.

    2. I agree that as soon as mini-publics threaten entrenched powers they will come under attack, so we have to get the details right to make them defensible. BUT we are at an early stage where we need examples of implementation in order to spread awareness of the sortition option, which will inevitably mean select issues where the politicians don’t feel threatened, regardless of the popular decision on the issue.

    3. I would argue that having randomly selected citizens deliberate over agenda setting and refining proposed legislation is more democratic than self-selected politicians who have sought power for themselves. There is no way for the ENTIRE demos to knowledgeably participate in agenda setting. Having political parties shape the public agenda is less democratic than a sortition process. … EVEN IF the sortition process will not be perfectly replicable among multiple mini-publics… the point is not to assure that we have the EXACT perfect agenda, but merely that it is MORE democratic than an agenda established tactically by politicians manipulating the agenda for electoral advantage. Agenda setting should involve serious risk assessment for SOCIETY, rather than risk assessment by politicians seeking re-election advantage.

    Liked by 1 person

  56. Terry:> Agenda setting should involve serious risk assessment for SOCIETY, rather than risk assessment by politicians seeking re-election advantage.

    Dahl’s fourth criterion for democratic equality (Dahl, 1989, p.113) presupposes a liberal pluralist perspective. This perspective assumes methodological individualism — that citizens are free to form political parties and then to vote for the party with a manifesto that best approximates their own beliefs, interests and preferences. Whilst the empirical reality doesn’t live up to the theoretical ideal and political parties succumb to the iron law of oligarchy, nevertheless “democracy is not to be found in the parties but [in the competition] between the parties” (Schattscheinder, 1942, p. 60). Or as Dahl put it:

    Michels made an elementary mistake. If political parties are highly competitive, it may not matter a great deal if they are not internally democratic or even if they are internally rather oligarchical. If parties are actively competing for votes in elections, the party that fails to respond to majority concerns will probably lose elections, while a party that does respond to majority concerns will probably win elections. (Dahl, 1990 [1970], p. 5)

    It could also be viewed that the victory of candidate Trump over the GOP grandees and the general populist insurrection indicate that Michels’ iron law is getting a bit rusty (as is the general Mosca/Pareto/Michels elite theory).

    Your highlighting of the word SOCIETY (as opposed to the aggregate of individuals favoured by liberal theorists) would indicate that you reject methodological individualism in favour of a holistic perspective, in which the task of citizens is to uncover or determine the general will, rather than express their own preferences — a perspective you share with many others with a Marxist provenance. This is no coincidence as the deliberative democracy movement, that you clearly favour, “is the rightful heir of the early Frankfurt School [of cultural Marxism]” (Scheuerman, 2006, pp. 86)

    The difference in perspective between methodological individualists (liberals) and holists (‘communitarians’) is the primary reason that we continue to talk past each other. As for the disparity between theory and empirical outcomes, I would remind you of Popper’s classic critique of holism (Popper, 2002).

    Refs
    ===

    Dahl, R. A. (1989). Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Dahl, R. A. (1990 [1970]). After the Revolution: Authority in a Good Society. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Popper, Karl (2002), The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: Hegel and Marx (London: Routledge).

    Schattschneider, E. E. (1942). Party Government. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston.

    Scheuerman, W. E. (2006). Critical Theory Beyond Habermas. In B. Honig, J. S. Dryzek & A. Phillips (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory (pp. 84-105). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Like

  57. Keith,

    Your assessment of Michels’ iron law of oligarchy is a bit off. As a sociologist his research led him to argue that ALL complex organizations for practical and tactical reasons will tend to end up being run by an elite “leadership class,” and thus direct democracy can’t survive. This applies to individual political parties (and every other large organization whether it wishes to be democratic or not), as well as government as a whole. The notion that competition between (internally oligarchic) parties protects against the ensuing government being controlled by an elite has been convincingly falsified by two centuries of experience. The ONLY way to be free of the iron law is to prevent the persistence of individuals in authority roles by rotation (and sortition, by my preference). Of course, Michels warning is vital for us to design procedures that can protect against oligarchy among the bureaucrats who operate the sortition machinery (they need supervision by rotated overseers).

    As an aside, your trying to tie this view of elite domination to a Marxist worldview is funny, because Michels ended up moving to Italy and joining Mussolini’s fascist party. (Note: that his ending up as a fascist does not disprove his analysis).

    Liked by 1 person

  58. Keith (and all),

    On the topic of societal agenda setting, I highly recommend Murray Edelman’s 1988 book “Constructing the political spectacle.” Politicians have an incentive to select “problems” NOT to give voters choices among society’s most urgent issues, but rather for their value as spectacle for upcoming elections. Vital genuine problems are ignored by politicians unless they are beneficial for their electoral strategy. The elevation of “the wall” and immigration across the US southern border (though roughly half of the illegal immigrants in the US arrived by airplane and overstayed their visas), is an example of why elections are a stupid way to set the public agenda.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Terry:> The notion that competition between (internally oligarchic) parties protects against the ensuing government being controlled by an elite has been convincingly falsified by two centuries of experience.

    That was not the view of Dahl and Schattschneider. And Michels’ short journey from the hard left to the hard right is an interesting story which certainly endorses Popper’s view that holism is a characteristic of both ends of the political spectrum.

    >I highly recommend Murray Edelman’s 1988 book “Constructing the political spectacle.”

    As for the Edelman book, I’m continually surprised as to how popular hostility towards unprecedented levels of immigration is still perceived by the cultural elite as a problem manufactured by unscrupulous demagogues. I’ll be in Austria at Christmas and it will be interesting to see for myself.

    Like

  60. @Keith

    There are no truck-driver in the French parliament or government. This seems exactly what representation is about and why (among other reasons) this experiment is interesting. Sortition enables a representation of a never represented part of the population.

    @all

    I don’t think that the alpha-omega of democracy is referendum, especially since the Brexit one. A referendum on abortion will lead to the usual lobbying, painful to see and to hear. The most common opinion won’t be the one put forward, the loudest will (and pro-life are loudspeakers).

    Like

  61. Romain:>There are no truck-driver in the French parliament or government. This seems exactly what representation is about and why (among other reasons) this experiment is interesting. Sortition enables a representation of a never represented part of the population.

    Yes, that’s why I’m a sortinista. However not all truck drivers share the same views and some are more persuasive than others. It may well be the case that the majority of truck drivers voted for Trump, as they believed he would better articulate their views and stand up for their interests. I’m in favour of a large legislative jury that would include truck drivers in proportion to their distribution in the target population and that all legislative outcomes should be determined by this jury. But I’m not in favour of an entirely random system of policy generation that could well generate proposals that do not reflect the preferences of the target population.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. The moving part was that he changed his mind on abortion (initially pro-life). The majority of US truck drivers might have voted for Trump. But my conviction (hope) is that NO US truck driver would vote for Trump after several weekends of calm discussion with the other layers of the population.

    Like

  63. Romain’s comment above is an example of why I think sortition has a chance… \We ALL tend to think that if we could get other people to calmly listen to the facts they would come to agree with OUR view of policy. We believe that we are on the side of reason and goodness. This belief is harbored in the hearts of people on the left, right, decentralists, centralists, religious and atheists. Thus they can all think that sortition in which ordinary citizens get all the facts in a balanced way will end up favoring the policy that THEY favor. Obviously this can’t be true, but the hope that it is can motivate people from a broad political spectrum to embrace a transition to more sortition. I know that in Europe support has been more from the left than the right, but I have given presentations to right-wing libertarians in the US and received a LOT of head nodding agreement.

    Like

  64. @ Romain, this is not the place to discuss referenda but because you are referring to the Brexit, that was a ‘plebiscite’ (government initiated referendum) and for us (the proponents of referenda) this is not a democratic instrument. History proves that it is an instrument of dictators and party politics. Plebiscites are not allowed in Switserland. Launching a nation wide plebiscite in a country without any ‘democratic’ culture (citizens sovereignty) is asking for trouble.

    Like

  65. Romain:> my conviction (hope) is that NO US truck driver would vote for Trump after several weekends of calm discussion with the other layers of the population.

    This is what worries me about the current wave of enthusiasm for sortition as an antidote to populism. As Paul has pointed out, if you’re a democrat then you need to empower the people, even though the outcome might be distasteful to liberal sensibilities. We do not do any favours to our cause if we are seen to take sides in debates on abortion, Brexit, immigration or whatever.

    Like

  66. hi Terry, that is why I posted ( above https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/when-citizens-assemble/?replytocom=21985#comment-21917 ) what I think is the best and shortest definition I met sofar.

    Like

  67. I am not happy because he changed his mind to an opinion I like. I am happy because he changed his mind (final dot). Contrary to you I am not interested by politics and I don’t want to do politics. But I don’t want politics to do me. I don’t want that the outcome reflect mine, you are projecting your fantasms over me.

    Like

  68. I have learned a valuable lesson during my short carrer in science: the biggest enemy of science is not ignorance, its knowledge. The illusion of knowledge to be more exact. When you think you know, you stop searching. Likewise in politics, a person who say I know what’s the best course of action is either a liar or a moron (or both). I am not an Hillary supporter (nor Sander) but Trump election is as stupid as 1+1=5. The two propositions are both easy to falsify (Karl Popper style). Likewise pro-life arguments can be falsified with a short discussion. No need for long talks, a short rational discussion suffices. Sortition forces people to admit their ignorance and enforce rational listening. Happy that people from both the left and the right can see that.

    Like

  69. Romain:>[Political] propositions are both easy to falsify (Karl Popper style). Likewise pro-life arguments can be falsified with a short discussion.

    This is what Nadia Urbinati refers to as the epistemic disfiguration of democracy. Given that the concerns of this blog are procedural, not substantive, this is not the place to discuss abortion, Brexit, immigration etc.

    Like

  70. *** Terry Bouricius says : « We ALL tend to think that if we could get other people to calmly listen to the facts they would come to agree with OUR view of policy. We believe that we are on the side of reason and goodness. This belief is harbored in the hearts of people on the left, right, decentralists, centralists, religious and atheists. Thus they can all think that sortition in which ordinary citizens get all the facts in a balanced way will end up favoring the policy that THEY favor. Obviously this can’t be true, but the hope that it is can motivate people from a broad political spectrum to embrace a transition to more sortition. »
    *** Terry Bouricius is right, except for one (important !) point. The ALL is wrong. The people he speaks about may belong to different shades of the political spectrum, but they belong to one mental class, I will say the Universalists-Optimists. We can easily find minds outside of this mental class. People who consider the free debate as morally repellent, because it gives equal freedom to Good and Evil. People who don’t accept to give heavy political weight to crowds of morons. People who think that the man’s mind is made of a superior intellectual and moral part, and an inferior part of low impulses, which must be repressed and not allowed to get its way in public debate. People who reject the equal weight of “uneducated” and “educated” citizens. People who say that “subaltern” groups will always lose in “formally equalitarian” processes, and are best defended in polyarchy by their specific elites. People who say that the future generations interests will be forgotten in a democracy. People who agree with democracy-through-minipublics, but only in the future, when the minds of citizens are washed from all the ideological tenets brought by centuries of oppression (class, race, gender, straight .. oppressions). And I forget others, theocrats etc … All these enemies of democracy-through-minipublics belong, likewise, to various shades of the political spectrum, but they will rise up jointly against any serious proposal towards this model, as we saw in 2006 France when Ségolène Royal spoke about “citizen juries”.
    *** There is some indulgence for the sortition (stochation) idea nowadays, but because it is felt as potentially useful against populisms – along Rosanvallon’s polyphony model. But any serious proposal of democracy-through-minipublics, or only of an hybrid model, will meet the opposition of a wide coalition. Terry Bouricius may be wrong if he thinks Universalists-Optimists are a wide majority, at least in intellectual and media circles.

    Liked by 1 person

  71. Nicely put Andre, as always.

    >There is some indulgence for the sortition (stochation) idea nowadays, but because it is felt as potentially useful against populisms.

    To this we should add the need for governing elites to pass the buck with difficult and divisive policy decisions such as abortion and voluntary euthanasia (or even Brexit). I think this is possibly the most promising course of action, and that’s why it’s so important that we design the forums to ensure that they really do reflect what everybody would think under good conditions. Fishkin’s expertise in this area is hard to dispute, if we could get him to focus more on the need to ensure consistency between different samples of the same target population.

    Like

  72. […] in Europe, the allotted Irish Citizens’ Assembly sent its recommendations to the parliament with a referendum to follow. Sortition was also adopted […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: