Launch of International Sortition Network: Democracy R&D

On Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th of January 2018 around 40 people from more than 15 organisations will meet, many in person at Medialab Prado in Madrid (others will join online), to develop the founding principles and processes of an international sortition network: Democracy R&D.

The Sortition Foundation will be at the two day meeting, alongside representatives from newDemocracy (Australia), hosts ParticipaLab (Spain), Forum dos Cidadãos (Portugal), G1000 (Belgium) and G1000 (Netherlands), MASS LBP (Canada), Missions Publiques (France), Particitiz (Belgium), Japan Research Forum on Mini-PublicsDanish Board of Technology FoundationBertelsmann Stiftung Foundation (Germany), ECI Campaign (EU), Democracy in Practice (Bolivia/US/Canada), Jefferson Center (US), Healthy Democracy (US), Empowering Participation (Australia), the Policy Jury Group (US) and the Nexus Institute (Germany).

The two day meeting promises to lay the groundwork for international collaboration and skill-sharing to promote and institute sortition locally, nationally, and even internationally. A post-meeting report will appear on the Sortition Foundation blog.

[Note: this is an edited repost from: http://www.sortitionfoundation.org/launch_of_international_sortition_network]

67 Responses

  1. Great thing to see sortition uniting people from all around the world! Keep on the good work gals and guys… This is one great thing about sortition: it is a mean and not an ideology. Everybody can agree on a mean while it is impossible to settle on an ideology.

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  2. Excellent initiative Brett.

    What’s the deal for media? I see it’s possible to participate online too – is this for all sessions or certain ones?

    Good luck with it, in any case.

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  3. Hi Patrick,

    Just to clarify, this meeting is only for members of the organizations that Brett mentioned (plus Empowering Participation in Western Australia).

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  4. Too bad meeting is closed as I would have liked to attend on-line but I understand. Overjoyed to see Democracy in Practice attending. Their project in Bolivia may be the longest running (3+ years?) use of sortition in a real government setting, albeit student government, in the recent past (maybe since ancient Greece and Roman times?). I highly recommend ya’ll check it out: https://democracyinpractice.org/

    From their website: “Elections give the wrong kind of civic education
    Student government is meant to introduce young people to democracy and develop tomorrow’s leaders. In practice, however, school elections exclude all but the most popular, charismatic, and ambitious students from actively participating. Elections incorrectly teach young people that there are a few natural-born leaders, and that for the rest democracy simply means casting an occasional vote. We wouldn’t use a popularity contest to decide which few students get to learn math or history, so why do we do this with leadership and civic education?”

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  5. The first item on the sortitionist agenda is to disseminate the idea of sortition as a democratic competitor to elections.

    Is Democracy R&D going to pursue this task? If so, how?

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  6. >The first item on the sortitionist agenda is to disseminate the idea of sortition as a democratic competitor to elections.

    No it isn’t — it can never be a competitor, as the representative mechanisms involved (both of which are essential to democracy) are different. Most of the books and articles advocate sortition as a supplement to election, not a replacement. What you refer to as “the sortitionist agenda” is Gatism.

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  7. Yes – the mechanisms involved are very different. As was obvious to the Athenians, one of them – sortition – is democratic, while the other – elections – is oligarchical.

    So, I repeat my question to Brett and David, and to the other members of the select groups involved: is the new organization, or network of organizations, going to be popularizing the idea of sortition as a democratic alternative to elections? And if so, how?

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  8. The Athenians required both mechanisms for a primitive and homogeneous city-state — in fact the 4th century reforms which introduced randomly-selected legislative juries also increased the role of election (both for key magistracies and for the advocates in the legislative courts). So why do you think that large complex modern states can do without elections?

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  9. The agenda of the meeting is largely open space (to be determined at the start of the meeting). Exaclty how the network works and what it pursues will begin to be determined at the meeting… The initital five principles are on the home page of the website – althouhg I assume at this point (more or less the formation of the network) even these could be modified.

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  10. It seems likely that the organization will remain agnostic on whether sortition should supplement or supplant elections in the long run, as there are a variety of views among participants. The key concept is to expand the use and awareness of sortition as a democratic tool and to steadily improve the designs through experience.

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  11. Ideal.

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  12. > The key concept is to expand the use and awareness of sortition as a democratic tool

    Expanding the use of sortition and expanding awareness of sortition are two very different things.

    The first implies addressing oneself to existing political elites and trying to convince them that sortition is useful for them. The second implies addressing oneself to the people and proposing sortition as a tool for combating the oligarchical nature of the existing system.

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  13. Yes, that’s why we need both approaches.

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  14. In case it was not obvious, the two activities are mutually contradictory. If sortition is useful for existing political elites then it is not useful as a tool against the oligarchical nature of the existing system, and vice versa.

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  15. As there are no “pure” political systems it isn’t a zero sum game. All “democratic” polities are and always will be a mixture of democratic and oligarchic elements.

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  16. While I respect Yorams concern about the co-optation and misdirection of the sortition tool towards elite protection, I think that seeing real-world implementations is essential for ordinary citizens to be willing to even consider making any sort of bigger break with electoralism.

    It might be helpful to think about the evolution of other governance tools. The monarchy in France advanced elections as a means of selecting representatives of the third estate as a way of establishing formal acceptance of monarchy imposed taxes. Elections were utilized by the monarchy to shore up its legitimacy. It was only later that elections were promoted by the bourgeoisie as a means of legitimizing THEIR elite governance in OPPOSITION to the monarchy. The TOOL of elections had become an accepted tool by then, NOT as a tool for democracy, or even wealthy elite rule, but as a tool of the monarchy. The propertied elites of revolutionary France who excluded ordinary people (unpropertied laborers and women) from elections (both in terms of franchise and candidacy) did not envision that elections would eventually encompass virtually all adults. The tool changed over time. Likewise, the citizens’ assembly in Ancient Greece was used by monarchs and oligarchs for generations before the implementation of democracy (the aristocracy controlled the agenda). Even random selection was a tool that was used by elites in Greece and elsewhere long before it was used in democracy.

    In short, I think the path to a sortition democracy will not be a straight line. We should proceed on both paths… theoretical and practical, recognizing that many of the initial uses of sportition will fall far short of the democratic ideal. But until sortition is being used all over the place it will not be possible for most people to imagine how well it might work as a means for democracy.

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  17. Happy to agree with Terry’s analysis — though I’m not sure of the need to season it with Marxist history (but understandable given who you were responding to). Perhaps Yoram should be reminded that there are only eight months between February and October and that history tends to speed up the second time round so he won’t need to sup with the devil for very long as oligarchy inevitably transitions into the glorious uplands of Real Democracy.

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  18. Terry,

    I am very much in favor of legitimizing sortition through real-world implementations. The question is which ones. Implementations that are no more than tools for the legitimization of the existing power structure are not going to legitimize sortition, but rather to de-legitimize it as being part of a corrupt, bankrupt system.

    What we should be pushing toward initially are applications of sortition that are of limited scope but are democratic nonetheless. As has been mentioned here before, a supervisory, anti-corruption body seems like a very promising direction. I think it is very likely that the idea would win wide popular support on the one hand and would be hard for politicians to resist on the other.

    Democracy R&D could come up with a concrete proposal for such a body and propagandize for it.

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  19. *** Keith Sutherland remind us (January 15, 7.52) , rightly, that in 4th century the Athenian democracy increased the role of popular juries (actually giving them the last word in any field except war, peace and external affairs) and at the same time increased the role of election, especially creating new elected financial “magistracies”.
    *** These two trends are not really independent.
    *** First because they imply the same move from the 5th democracy model, where all main decisions were issued through mass vote of the Assembly, and where the elected magistrates were political leaders and their friends (famously the poet Sophocles was elected stratêgos because he was a personal and political friend of the popular leader Pericles, without any kind of military knowledge). In 4th century Athens the stratêgoi are usually military experts, often with specific tasks; they are “military managers”. And the newly elected financial “magistrates” are financial managers, implementing precise financial policies which were clearly successful (better management of silver mines, better management of the taxes) allowing for a kind of welfare state even if there was no more imperial domination and tribute.
    The increasing role of juries is likewise a way of giving power to more specialized bodies, with closer and deeper thought about a specific subject , giving more enlightened decisions than mass votes.
    *** Second, as there is growing role of managers, helped by public slaves – the beginning of a “State apparatus” – , there is a growing need of oversight of them, which the Assembly could not operate efficiently. The old ostracism voted by the Assembly was a useful tool against “big men” and dangerous leaders, it fell out of use, but the allotted juries were convenient to rein on the political class including elected managers.
    *** Modern societies, complex and dynamic ones, will need administrative apparatus and competent managers. And because of that a modern democracy will need extensive use of allotted juries, deciding the policies then electing and overseeing those who implement them. Some people nowadays dream of everyday referenda through internet as” the way” to modern democracy. That would only lead to a society where, under a noise of ill-informed referenda, the Deep State (and the connected elites and lobbies) will rule through their practical decisions.

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  20. Andre,

    That’s all very interesting, but i wonder if your modern proposal really has the ancient provenance that you seek?

    a modern democracy will need extensive use of allotted juries, deciding the policies then electing and overseeing those who implement them

    First of all the financial magistrates (aka managers) were elected by all citizens, not by the allotted juries. And secondly the juries were not deliberative policy-making bodies and were only called to perform their oversight role by (elite) competitors in the assembly. What you are proposing is something very different and without democratic provenance.

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  21. To Keith
    *** You are right, in 4th century Athens elected magistrates were elected by mass vote. But they were closely overseen by juries.
    *** You are not right when you write that juries had only an oversight role. Laws were decided by legislative juries, and the vote of the basic laws about financial affairs, as about the Theôrikon fund and its welfare system, was for the legislative juries. Demosthenes proposed actually to change laws, diverting money from welfare towards defence against the Macedonians; he tried to convince the whole civic body, but institutionaly the vote about this policy was a jury vote.
    *** What I am proposing is to extend this system, because we live in dynamic societies, where there are many choices of policy in changing surroundings.
    *** We cannot copy the Athenian system in a very different modern world, a very dynamic and complex one. But the idea of an allotted jury “acting for” the entire dêmos and deciding about a policy issue has an ancient “democratic provenance”.

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  22. Andre,

    I was referring to the oversight role of the People’s Courts — these were not permanent standing bodies (like parliamentary select committees), they were set up on an ad hoc basis after prosecutions initiated (for the most part) by other elite politicians. As for the role of the nomothetai in legislative decision making I fully endorse this as a model for complex and dynamic modern societies, but once again these bodies were purely juries, with the policy input being provided exogenously (primarily by elite politicians.). Your example of Demosthenes supports the argument that Athenian juries had no role in initiating prosecutions and policies, so the notion of a “democracy by minipublics” has no historical provenance.

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  23. Keith,

    You are splitting words… (“by” can mean including or exclusively by) I think your point is that democracy can’t be BY minipublics (alone). Of course, all ideas (proposals) are initiated or expressed by individuals, (whether within a minipublic or outside). Like you, I favor casting a wider net to allow citizens outside the minipublics to offer proposals to a decision-making minipublic. Your notion of how to limit proposals to a manageable number is to use elections to select who may offer proposals, while I favor letting any group of citizens offer a proposal (Interest Panels), and have a separate minipublic comb through the submissions to narrow the list, and refine them to generate final proposals for the decision-making minipublic. This could certainly be defined as democracy BY minipublic (even though ideas are initiated by individual humans), and I would argue more democratic than relying on an elite-dominated election process for generating proposals.

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  24. Terry,

    I’m not splitting hairs — “democracy by minipublics” has been put forward (by Yoram and yourself) as an alternative to “democracy by elections”.

    >Your notion of how to limit proposals to a manageable number is to use elections to select who may offer proposals.

    Elections supplemented by citizen initiatives (reduced to a manageable number by public votation).

    >more democratic than relying on an elite-dominated election process

    I don’t see that there is anything remotely democratic about self-selection.

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  25. Keith,

    The democratic heritage from Athens is clear… “ho boulomenos” — “anyone who wishes” (which is the essence of self-selection) may submit their ideas to the decision-making bodies, is a fundamental elaboration of isegoria (political equality). Self-selection BY ITSELF (without minipublic review) is of course undemocratic. But a society in which only those selected through an elite-dominated filtering process (whether elections or aristocratic lineage) which advantages the wealthy and well-connected, is far less democratic than a society in which any citizen who wishes may participate in making proposals for democratic consideration.

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  26. Terry, you are comparing chalk and cheese. Most citizens participated in the Athenian direct democracy (approx 1/4 could claim to have been ruler of Athens for 24 hours) and would have had the opportunity to judge for themselves the speech acts of those who chose to exercise their isegoria. In large modern states representation is necessary for both isonomia and isegoria, and there is no reason to believe that self-selecting volunteers and activists are typical exemplars of their fellow citizens. It would be more accurate to say that they were members of an over-educated (and over-opinionated) cultural elite. Whilst elections do privilege the wealthy and well-connected, at least all citizens have the opportunity to choose between the competing candidates — not so in a “democracy-by-minipublics”. Note that I’m completely comfortable with a society in which any citizen who wishes may participate in making proposals, but insist that all citizen initiatives should (as in the Athenian case) pass an initial threshold of public approval. Your constitutional proposal, like Madison’s, aims for the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity.

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  27. The problem of how to generate proposals for a given policy choice is a problem for any true sovereignty, i.e. where there is clearly an entity who chooses. Let’s consider an absolute king, having to choose. The best way is a multiplicity of proposal generators: some proposals will come from people chosen by the king for this specific issue, some will come from permanent councilors, some will come from the mind of the king himself. Likewise a modern dêmokratia must organize the proposal generation with multiple ways

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  28. Keith,

    The phrase ” the people in their collective capacity,” is meaningless in a society of millions. People cannot act collectively when they number in the hundreds of thousands or millions, except on those extremely rare issues where all citizens have knowledge and understanding. Collective action generally can only occur through some sort of representation and rotation. The word “capacity” reminds us that we want the people to have meaningful choices, to understand what is being decided, to know something about the likely ramifications, and not be easily manipulated by elites pulling strings. I would argue that elections completely fail as an example of the the people acting in their collective capacity. The only form of representation that is democratic is through sortition. That decision-making role of minipublics should not be confused with the proposal role. With modern technologies it is certainly possible to allow ANY citizen who wishes to contribute to proposal generation (I favor doing this within small diverse groups), and to then use any of various democratic (non-corrupt) tools to winnow down the list. The one supposedly “democratic” tool that is NOT appropriate for winnowing the list of proposals is mass election, which assures that most participants will not be informed, and will instead be subject to manipulation from above.

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  29. Andre,

    >a modern dêmokratia must organize the proposal generation with multiple ways

    Unfortunately all the ways that you mention are incompatible with Dahl’s second principle of democratic decision making:

    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)

    In the chapter of my thesis dealing with proposal generation I outline fifteen potential mechanisms, but subject them all to the test of whether or not they pass Dahl’s second principle.

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  30. Terry,

    Naturally I agree with you regarding the need for representation in large-scale democracies (although I’m sceptical about the possibility of rotation).

    >The only form of representation that is democratic is through sortition.

    That’s the sort of dogmatic claim that demeans this forum. As you know Pitkin uncovers a number of varieties of representation and concludes that both active and descriptive representation have democratic potential. The former is indeed open to attack by elites but the solution lies in the plural nature of the word — as our current political systems are polyarchic, not monarchic, democratic freedoms can be preserved through the conflict between different elites (cultural, economic, political etc). The notion of the ignorant masses being manipulated “from above” is long past its sell-by date.

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  31. > The notion of the ignorant masses being manipulated “from above” is long past its sell-by date.

    The problem is not the masses being manipulated – although of course that may be a concern depending on context, – it is their lack of incentive to become informed (rational ignorance/rational irrationality).

    Besides, if you’re talking about conflict between different elites, that “polyarchy” is not democratic, it is still oligarchic. Many people are not in any kind of elite, be it cultural, economic, etc, and that conflict will not necessarily create a balance that preserves democratic freedoms for all.

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  32. Paulo,

    Andre, Terry and myself (along with every commentator on this forum) agree 100% that legislative judgment should be delegated to an “attentive” (i.e. well-informed) minipublic. The problem we are addressing here is the more challenging one of how to generate the initial policy proposals in a democratically-legitimate manner (Dahl’s second principle). Andre is content to rely on a variety of sources, none of which strike me as particularly democratic, whereas Terry’s concern is to eliminate elite influence at all costs. My preference is to quarantine elites to a purely advocacy role, as in the 4th century Athenian democracy.

    >Many people are not in any kind of elite

    Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean they are not capable of judging between the competing representative claims of cultural, economic and political elites in a manner that reflects the informed preferences of the target population that they represent “descriptively”, thereby preserving democratic freedoms for all.

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  33. Keith,

    Yes, I read the thread and I assumed there was a common ground in your opinions (as you put it succinctly, legislative judgment delegated to an informed minipublic). My comment was just on that particular sentence, because Terry’s argument doesn’t need the notion of “manipulated ignorant masses” to be valid. Applying it to this:

    > but that doesn’t mean they are not capable of judging between the competing representative claims of cultural, economic and political elites in a manner that reflects the informed preferences

    I don’t doubt that they (we) are capable, my concern is whether we are willing to spend the time to become informed.

    That said, I also like your preference of the elites having an advocacy role. From what I’ve read, that doesn’t seem incompatible with anything Terry wrote though (if anyone can advocate, the elites can too, right?).

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  34. Thanks Paulo, that’s very helpful

    >I don’t doubt that they (we) are capable, my concern is whether we are willing to spend the time to become informed.

    Terry, Andre and myself argue that participation in the randomly-selected minipublic should be quasi-mandatory, as with trial juries. We would also hope that civic republican norms would ensure that those chosen would rise to the challenge — and all jurors have to do is remain awake during the legislative “trial” before registering their verdict. Both Terry and I argue the case for ad hoc short-service juries, as is the case with experiments in Deliberative Polling.

    >if anyone can advocate, the elites can too, right?

    Yes, that’s right, Terry is only opposed to the structural privileging of existing elites. He argues (rightly) that elections and other forms of mass democracy lead to elite domination. I agree with this, but argue that polyarchy is an adequate defence, especially given the fragmentation of current elites. Although the rich ‘n powerful will try to dominate elections and popular initiatives, the ultimate currency of elections is votes, not dollars. Unfortunately the Mosca/Pareto/Michels ruling class doctrine has a very long tail, even though the social conditions of modern polyarchies are very different from the inter-war period (notwithstanding Gilens and Page’s claim to the contrary). I think it’s also the case that cultural elites currently have more power than economic elites, particularly given their crossover with opinion-formers in the mainstream media.

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  35. Keith,

    Yes, I’m aware of deliberative polling (I’m in one of the organizations listed in the post), and while I think a lot more research needs to be done in that setting (I’m not sure I’m comfortable with quasi-mandatory participation, but I’m tentatively in favor of members being paid so the least likely to participate have an incentive), my concern was with the willingness of the general public to become informed, so they can judge between the competing claims of cultural, economic and political elites, outside these minipublics (i.e. in elections).

    I think your claim that cultural elites have more power than economic elites is interesting, I certainly would like to see data about it. It’s plausible to me, but naively, I also wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that for all their opinion making, cultural elites are ultimately powerless in face of economic constraints. It probably depends a lot on context too.

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  36. Paulo,

    Fair point. In my proposal the winning elite(s) will have to persuade both the (uninformed) general public and the attentive minipublic. I can understand the temptation to exclude the former but I don’t think that a political system that completely excludes the people in their collective capacity will ever be perceived as democratically legitimate. I know that historical precedent isn’t everything, but the 4th century reforms still required a majority in the assembly before giving the final decision power to the attentive minipublic. And the advocates against the new laws were elected by the assembly. I think Terry will have to learn to sup with the devil (i.e. “electoralism”) if we are going to stand any chance of adding sortition to the democratic toolbox.

    As for the relative power of cultural and economic elites, I’m no political scientist so don’t have any data to offer, over and above an earlier critique of Gilens and Page’s paper: https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/commentary-on-gilens-and-page-average-citizens-have-no-political-influence/

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  37. Keith,

    > I can understand the temptation to exclude the former but I don’t think that a political system that completely excludes the people in their collective capacity will ever be perceived as democratically legitimate.

    I’m not convinced either way, in that regard I totally agree with Terry Bouricius’ first comments in this thread: a lot of experimentation will have to be done, much of which may fail, and then we’ll be in a better position to evaluate what’s possible and desirable. I am very curious to learn about what may be perceived as democratically legitimate by the public (I like Democracy in Practice’s approach, for instance).

    That said, I think elections in large constituencies, as they exist now, are a bad decision making process, and that it doesn’t make sense to vote, from the citizen’s point of view. I’m just not convinced there is a good alternative, or that elections cannot be improved. I like to think of it independently of mechanisms and methods. I’ve read Robert Dahl’s On Political Equality over the holidays, and that struck me as a nice way to frame it: maximize political equality by whatever means. Of course, first you have to define it.

    Thanks for the link. I can see from the discussion that it was a contentious topic, and a quick Google search also shows some critiques and authors’ response… and that’s just skimming the surface, because then you also have to think about what shapes people’s opinions and preferences.

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  38. Paulo,

    >I think elections in large constituencies, as they exist now, are a bad decision making process, and that it doesn’t make sense to vote, from the citizen’s point of view.

    Yes that’s true — and that’s why the ignorance involved is of a rational kind. In my proposal elections are not part of the decision-making process, they are merely a way for the public to indicate which issues they feel merit consideration by an attentive minipublic. As a conservative who respects historical precedent I’m encouraged that this is a close replica of the 4th century legislative process. The Athenians realised that the assembly was a forum characterised by rational ignorance but they insisted that all legislative proposals needed to pass this initial threshold of public concern in order not to undermine the kratos of the demos.

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  39. *** I said that “a modern dêmokratia must organize the proposal generation with multiple ways”, giving some examples, and Keith commented: “Andre is content to rely on a variety of sources, none of which strike me as particularly democratic”.
    *** Some of the proposal generating devices will be, right, of the same kind for any sovereign, whether an absolute king, a patrician Senate, or a sovereign dêmos: for example choosing freely some kinds of advisers who will be able to generate proposals (this is said usually nomination by a king, election by a Senate); receiving proposals from the deliberating entity (the mind of the king, the Senate itself, the minipublic); imagining other channels.
    *** There is notwithstanding a difference. An absolute king or an aristocratic Senate, whose sovereignty is built on a kind of distinction principle, may say: we accept proposals only from ourselves or from another kind of elite, we reject other proposals as presumed valueless. A democracy cannot say that, and whatever practical channels a modern democracy-through-minipublics could establish, it cannot be restricted to elite channels; it cannot be restricted for instance to elected politicians, who are an elite (even if it is a democratically-established one). The system may be complex, but the aim is that any proposal which is not absurd or spurious must be considered without screening by any kind of elite. To summarize, the system may allow elites to generate a proposal, not to veto a proposal.
    *** Terry Bouricius interest panel may be one of the channels.
    *** If steps of screening are necessary, they must be carried by a minipublic.

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  40. Andre, I agree with all you say, except “if steps of screening are necessary, they must be carried by a minipublic.” Whilst I agree that a large randomly-selected jury is the democratic way of determining the outcome of a debate on the pros and cons of a legislative proposal, the demos must a) have a say in what proposals should be deliberated and b) have the opportunity of electing advocates to argue against the proposals (as in the second Athenian demokratia). The reason for this is the internal deliberations of a minipublic will be random in the pejorative sense — only a tiny minority of those selected by lot would have the knowledge and skills required for the forensic examination of the proposals and there are no good reasons to believe that this small group of individuals will “stand for” the target population as it will not be subject to the law of large numbers. This is particularly problematic if participation is on a voluntary basis. Democratic freedom can only be secured by the robust exchange of views between well-informed advocates (adjudged by a randomly-selected jury). One of the problems with the sortition project is that it has been corrupted by arguments derived from the (oxymoronic) deliberative democracy movement. Athenian democracy and deliberative democracy have nothing in common, notwithstanding Fishkin’s misguided reference to the Athenian council for his Californian project.

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  41. The challenge of agenda setting, and proposal generationis indeed problematic for a democracy. There is NO perfect agenda, nor perfect proposal (from a democratic, or any other perspective). Instead the goal is to select reasonable options, that are not consistently biased against the interests of the general population. Those of us who favor incorporating sortition in THESE tasks are focused on sortition’s other benefit of protection against elite domination and improved deliberation through diversity, than the statistically accurate representation that sortition at the end point of final voting (which is Keith’s focus). It is reasonable to expect that a minipublic charged with agenda setting or policy review will seek out expert advice, recognizing their own knowledge limitations. But it is also possible to imagine using random selection of a non-representative panel from a pool of qualified experts for proposal generation, merely to avoid capture by a specific elite. This is related to Keith’s notion of using elections to select pseudo-experts. This, of course, risks simply shifting the point of elite control to the expert qualification process, like the election process. Ultimately, mini-publics need to be the deciders of each aspect of decision-making, even if that decision is to delegate certain tasks.

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  42. Terry, that all sounds sensible, but

    >the goal is to select reasonable options, that are not consistently biased against the interests of the general population.

    The theoretical justification of the electoral process is that it is designed to do exactly this. Of course it doesn’t always work out this way but are you suggesting that voters are seduced by elites into choosing unreasonable options that are against their interests? If so then who is to assume the god’s eye view to decide what is reasonable and in the interests of the general population? It strikes me that on most political issues — healthcare, taxation etc — there are a range of views, but if the winnowing-down decision is to be taken by self-selecting volunteers this is likely to privilege activists and others who claim that their standards are the ones that should prevail. Given the sharply divided nature of US politics, your interest committees are likely to reflect this partisan battle, but without the democratic mandate that comes via the ballot box. It would be very easy to stuff these committees with Tea Party activists, Sandernistas (or whatever the word is for Sanders supporters) etc. Whilst these cleavages are certainly exacerbated by the electoral process, they do represent underlying differences (of beliefs and preferences) within the general public. Or do you believe they will simply wither away in the post-electoralist age?

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  43. Keith asks:
    >”who is to assume the god’s eye view to decide what is reasonable and in the interests of the general population?”

    Answer: minipublics.
    But these minipublics don’t need even Solomon’s wisdom… just an ability to be sort of representative and reasonable, without a consistent bias towards an elite. They gain capacity (what Jeremy Bentaham called “active aptitude”) simply by having been selected and asked to focus on the matter at hand (which is impossible in a mass general election due to rational ignorance.) Even roughly representative groups selected by lot, even if service is merely incentivized rather than mandatory, will be FAR more representative and democratic than any partisan election outcome. Such minipublics can muddle through the process of agenda setting and proposal winnowing. Exactness and perfection are not the goals… merely reasonableness and not being captive.

    Also, to be clear, I have never advocated that the self-selected Interest Panels should winnow proposals, but merely generate raw material for minipublics to evaluate (with expert support). So it doesn’t matter if the interest panels frequently generate extreme partisan proposals…This is only fodder. Also, note that these Interest Panels have an overwhelming incentive to draft the kind of proposals that they think can pass muster from both a Review Panel minipublic and a final Policy Jury minipublic… so drafting extremist products would be a waste of their time. Such Interest Panels can include true policy experts, even if they lack the egocentric personality and public relations skills to win elective office.

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  44. Terry,

    >Even roughly representative groups selected by lot, even if service is merely incentivized rather than mandatory, will be FAR more representative and democratic than any partisan election outcome.

    In the BC Constitutional Convention, 96% of those selected by lot declined the invitation. In what sense were the remaining 4% “far more representative” of the target population? Why should they even achieve your modest goal of being “sort of representative”? This tiny minority is (by definition) interested in politics and such people tend as a whole to be more educated and more opinionated than average citizens. Given the highly polarised state of the US demos, a long-serving review panel will reflect these cleavages and will quickly organise itself along partisan lines (the only difference being that nobody chose them), thereby fulfilling Madison’s dream of excluding the people in their collective capacity from the political process.

    >Interest Panels have an overwhelming incentive to draft the kind of proposals that they think can pass muster from both a Review Panel minipublic and a final Policy Jury minipublic… so drafting extremist products would be a waste of their time.

    The same would be true of elected policy advocates — in fact your sentence is a paraphrase of Harrington’s example of two girls dividing a cake equitably (“you divide and I’ll chose”). In Harrington’s analogy the dividers are elected whereas the choosers are (part) selected by lot.

    >it doesn’t matter if the interest panels frequently generate extreme partisan proposals…This is only fodder.

    So why do you deny elected politicians the same privilege? In your anxiety to exclude any input from elites you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Note that in my proposal winning parties do not have exclusive initiative rights, so the policy jury minipublics could end up adjudicating between competing healthcare and taxation bills from Trumpists and Sandinistas. That strikes me as far more democratic than having the proposals winnowed down by a bunch of self-selecting (in the 96%-4% sense) busybodies, notwithstanding how “reasonable” and “sort of representative” such noble souls might be.

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  45. Keith,

    > In the BC Constitutional Convention, 96% of those selected by lot declined the invitation. In what sense were the remaining 4% “far more representative” of the target population?

    That’s a single event, I don’t think it’s very useful for the discussion. I’ve heard of significantly higher numbers elsewhere (probably around 30%), but that’s besides the point. You have mentioned quasi-mandatory participation before, and I suggested monetary incentives. If the problem cannot be overcome with those mechanisms, then you have a point.

    Still, the possibility or respecting some people’s wishes to not participate is also something to have in mind. In other words, eliminate the barriers but not necessarily push people to participate. That’s controversial, as has been discussed before.

    > Given the highly polarised state of the US demos, a long-serving review panel will reflect these cleavages and will quickly organise itself along partisan lines

    Is there evidence of that?

    > So why do you deny elected politicians the same privilege? In your anxiety to exclude any input from elites you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    You don’t exclude input from elites by eliminating elections, you just put them on the same footing as everyone else (assuming elections do privilege the opinions of the elites). Rightly or wrongly, the idea is to eliminate undue privileges, not to deny the same privileges everyone else has.

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  46. Paulo,

    I’m happy with financial incentives, so long as they work. The problem with respecting people’s wish not to participate is that they effectively disenfranchise all those people who they “describe” (assuming that non-participation is a politically-significant population parameter).

    Obviously there’s no evidence on whether or not a long-serving review panel would self-organise in a partisan way (as there are no examples), but if the cleavages within the demos are not entirely caused by “electoralism” (a moot point), then this is the outcome that one would predict.

    The problem with excluding elites is the general one of the need for representative isegoria in large states. Given the impossibility of everyone speaking then the best one can hope for is for the representative claims of competing spokespersons to be evaluated. The electoral principle assumes that people will choose the spokesperson whose discourse best matches their own beliefs and preferences. In my model this is only one source of policy advocacy (I discuss 14 others as well).

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  47. Keith,

    > The problem with respecting people’s wish not to participate is that they effectively disenfranchise all those people who they “describe”

    Sure, but there has to be a decision of what to privilege. One of those principles will always lose (respecting people’s wishes or that disenfranchisement). As you say, there is also the issue of whether non-participation is politically significant. But this is an open issue for me, I don’t have strong opinions about quasi-mandatory, payments, etc, as I said before.

    > but if the cleavages within the demos are not entirely caused by “electoralism” (a moot point)

    Why is that a moot point? It’s not crucial to this argument, but it may be interesting. And the cleavages don’t have to be “entirely caused” by electoralism for that issue to be relevant. As for evidence, I know there are no examples, but there may be indirect evidence from other associations or just groups of people (I’m not aware of any, just wondering).

    > The problem with excluding elites

    You are not “excluding elites” by eliminating elections, they can still advocate. I understand your point about isegoria, I just think “excluding elites” is not the right term.

    > The electoral principle assumes that people will choose the spokesperson whose discourse best matches their own beliefs and preferences

    With rational ignorance, that assumption is flawed, to say the least. Like I said previously, if elections could be improved in that regard, the problem would be solved and the assumption would hold, but I’m not sure how.

    Like

  48. *** Keith Sutherland wrote to Terry Bouricius (January 28, 8:55) . “It would be very easy to stuff these committees with Tea Party activists, Sandernistas (or whatever the word is for Sanders supporters) etc. Whilst these cleavages are certainly exacerbated by the electoral process, they do represent underlying differences (of beliefs and preferences) within the general public. Or do you believe they will simply wither away in the post-electoralist age?”
    *** Along Keith’s model, the main factions in our polyarchies correspond to underlying basic differences only “exacerbated” by the electoral process. But in polyarchies the factional phenomena crystallize factional identities by selecting some issues and neglecting others. And usually the resulting factions correspond to configurations strong among the elites. Other configurations cannot easily appear in the media-political landscape, or only through extremist groups, with disqualifying effects.
    *** Exceptions to this rule are possible, and Sanders may be one. I think we can describe Sanders program, roughly, as two-fold: for some issues Obama but pushed further (towards social-democrat policies of the Scandinavian kind), and against free trade – here perfectly opposite to Obama. That was a configuration with some appeal among the US common citizens, but, at least up to recent times, with small strength in the US elites, and therefore it was not present in the political offer until the last elections (and we do not know about its future).
    *** Many Laborite electors voted for Brexit. If I am not mistaken, there is no corresponding faction in the British electoral landscape.
    *** In a modern dêmokratia, there will be factions, but as the factional phenomenon will not be exacerbated by representative elections and will be less screened by elite dominance, the factions will exhibit much more diversity, more flexibility, less resilience, less “tribalism”. The factions are not a given infrastructure, the factional phenomenon depends strongly on the political system.
    *** It is better to acknowledge the factional phenomenon rather than leave it underground. In cases of election, its knowledge may be useful. Let’s consider the binary legislative process in the Second Athenian Democracy. The Assembly elected orators to defend the old law. These elected orators were not “representatives of the dêmos”, idea alien to the dêmokratia, they were elected to a specific function (a “technical” one, as for any elected one): to display all possible arguments against the new legislative proposal. We must suppose they were chosen among a political group the dêmos knew was hostile to the new law; without knowing the political connections it would have been difficult for the dêmos to choose orators fitting this specific role.

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  49. Paulo,

    >there is also the issue of whether non-participation is politically significant

    The beauty of quasi-mandatory sortition is that you don’t have to know which population parameters are significant, descriptive representation is achieved by the law of large numbers. As to whether to privilege individual freedom or vicarious enfranchisement, I’m with the civic republicans rather than the liberals on this. Athenian democracy depended on the notion of civic virtue, and I think this will be just as true of a modern demokratia. If the jury service is ad hoc, short, and well paid, then I don’t think it’s a lot to ask. But we need to back up the carrot with a bit of stick as it’s a civic duty, not a lifestyle choice.

    >With rational ignorance, [electoral representation] is flawed, to say the least.

    The best we can hope is to balance the rational ignorance involved in the electoral process with the considered verdict of the deliberative minipublic. Bear in mind the minipublic has the final say so (as Terry has argued), elites will be motivated to offer policies that will pass the unconsidered will of the general public and the considered verdict of the minipublic. The 4th century reforms introduced the latter, but certainly did not abolish the former, as it would have constituted an assault on the democratic principle (the sovereignty of the assembly).

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  50. Andre,

    Happy to agree with all that. My point regarding Sanders-style policies (on, say, healthcare and taxation) is that they could be introduced via citizen initiative, rather than elections. It’s true that they would then need to pass the subsequent votation threshold and that they would be opposed at that stage by existing elites, but given the popularity of Sanders’ proposals this would not be difficult to achieve, as it’s just a question of selecting the top (say) 10 citizen initiatives rather than needing a majority for a particular proposal. That way it would be perfectly possible for policy juries to end up choosing between (say) Sanders, Trump, Neoliberal and Tea Party policies on key issues. What I am opposed to is policy generation by a small self-nominating group of kleristocrats.

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  51. Two issues in this comment:

    1. Keith’s concept of “representative isegoria” seems to me to be a semantic game, fundamentally abandoning actual isegoria (which requires the ability of ALL). However some sort of representative process makes sense even if merely due to rational ignorance to assure that proposals are thoroughly thought out by those offering them. Keith writes: “What I am opposed to is policy generation by a small self-nominating group of kleristocrats.” None of us are proposing that, but I DO support allowing some minipublic to review and refine proposals that can come from anybody in society. So assuming that THIS is what Keith is objecting to (Keith viewing a high declination rate as sort of like “self-nominating”), I want to ask what is the difference between a “self-nominating group of kleristocrats,” on the one hand, and a “self-nominating group of partisan election candidates” on the other? Keith would say that because of the high rate of declining the random group is unrepresentative, and I would say that due to rational ignorance and public relations manipulation, that the elected members are unrepresentative, and likely far LESS representative than randomly selected opt-in minipublic members. Note that this dispute is NOT about the final jury, where Keith and I BOTH support quasi-mandatory service, only in the reviewing and refining of proposals.

    Let me offer an analogy that is not quite fair, but makes a valid point… If a society made decisions by having shamans examine chicken entrails, and somebody came up with the idea of using sortition to pull a representative minipublic to review proposals and another jury for deciding, because the chicken entrail system was very bad…. should they KEEP the chicken entrail examination system for the proposal generation part of the decision-making process, or get rid of it all together. That being said…. I recognize that there is a path dependence problem, and that getting rid of elections completely would probably take generations.

    2. A big philosophical question is DOES DEMOCRACY REQUIRE THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE, TO PARTICIPATE?
    If some portion of those who are called to serve on a jury decline, Keith worries that the other citizens who they “describe” get disenfranchised. But aren’t they effectively representing their fellow citizens who ALSO would refuse to serve if called? The key is that barriers to service must be reduced to virtually zero, so that nobody declines because of a burden.

    If a society of 100 shipwrecked people agree to form a direct democracy on an isolated island, and five survivors say “whatever… the rest of you guys make the decisions.” Is that still a legitimate democracy? The Athenians would clearly deem that to be an acceptable democracy (it is what they had… nobody was compelled to attend the assembly or volunteer for court service). Is the defining trait of a democracy what percentage of citizens refuse to serve?

    An anecdote: When I was a city councilor, I remember campaigning for re-election and knocking on the door of a family of Seventh Day Adventists, and asked if they wanted to register to vote. Their understanding of the world was that the second coming of Christ was imminent and participation in politics (even voting) was way too worldly, and they viewed my visit to their door the same way I viewed a Jehovah Witness evangelist knocking on MY door. Respect that the person at the door is sincere, but not interested in participating.

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  52. Terry,

    >Keith’s concept of “representative isegoria” seems to me to be a semantic game

    It’s deeply serious, so let me try once more to explain. Every citizen has beliefs and preferences (informed, rationally ignorant or whatever), but not everybody has the disposition, confidence and rhetorical skills to re-present those beliefs and preferences to their fellow citizens. Judging by the refuseniks in the BC citizen convention, this group is around 96% of the citizen body; this doesn’t mean they have nothing to say, just that they lack the disposition and skills to articulate their beliefs and preferences. This is why (in an electoral democracy), members of the remaining 4% make a representative claim on the part of their fellow citizens, who then choose between the competing claims. In the US example I would hazard a guess that, absent strategic voting, if Trump, Clinton and Sanders had all been allowed to put their representative claim to the test, that voters might well have been evenly divided three ways. Note that the concept of the “representative claim” (Saward, 2010), is not my invention, it is currently the dominant model in democratic theory, my only innovation being to couch it in terms of representative isegoria, as that better fits the sortition debate.

    As for the notion of path dependency, it really is silly to compare electoral democracy — whereby anyone can (in theory) make a representative claim and all citizens can choose between the claims on offer — and the examination of chicken entrails. I do think that Terry’s visceral hatred of electoralism is clouding his judgment — no doubt his view would have been different if his friend Bernie had predominated over the DNC. He would put the primary result down to the domination of Wall Street, whereas a more sober analysis might argue that the DNC felt that Clinton would attract more votes (and they were nearly right).

    >DOES DEMOCRACY REQUIRE THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE, TO PARTICIPATE?

    Yes, iff it is a large state, with representation by proxy. Your examples (shipwrecked mariners and classical Athens) are direct democracies, wherein one’s choice not to participate only affects oneself. Note that my argument is different from Callenbach and Phillips’ beach bums (2008, p. 47), who choose to take the salary and stay at home. My case is that non-participation is a politically-significant population parameter, so that the beliefs and preferences of the vast majority (96%) of citizens would be underrepresented if participation were voluntary. Note that the principle would still apply if the BC convention figure was atypical and a smaller number chose not to participate.

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  53. > Every citizen has beliefs and preferences (informed, rationally ignorant or whatever), but not everybody has the disposition, confidence and rhetorical skills to re-present those beliefs and preferences to their fellow citizens. Judging by the refuseniks in the BC citizen convention, this group is around 96% of the citizen body

    You are again extrapolating from a single event, and jumping to conclusions without presenting evidence. The problem of disposition is a moot point under your proposed quasi-mandatory system, and it may be alleviated with incentives, as an alternative. Do you have data supporting the notion that everybody, or most people, do not have the confidence and rhetorical skills to represent their beliefs and preferences to their fellow citizens, or that those skills are even necessary, given the appropriate settings (i.e. good facilitation and access to experts)?

    The debate on whether participation should be mandatory is not very interesting to me, at the moment. It’s theoretically interesting, sure, but since I’m willing to consider all possibilities (quasi-mandatory, incentives…), it’s not a pressing matter. I’d like to see a lot more research and experimentation before reaching any conclusion. I do think Keith has a point on how those unwilling to participate may effect the quality of representation. Terry said:

    > But aren’t they effectively representing their fellow citizens who ALSO would refuse to serve if called?

    Maybe. They represent that trait, but other important ones could be missed. For instance, in a highly misogynistic society where married men tended to participate, and married women not, even if you imposed a ~50% gender sample stratification there would be a bias against a subset of the female population.

    > I DO support allowing some minipublic to review and refine proposals that can come from anybody in society.

    If that’s feasible in practice, and can be done in a way that is generally seen as fair, it seems ideal to me, eliminating elections.

    > I would say that due to rational ignorance and public relations manipulation, that the elected members are unrepresentative, and likely far LESS representative than randomly selected opt-in minipublic members.

    That’s a key point to me. A sortition system doesn’t have to be perfect to be favored, it just needs to improve on the status quo. And of course it doesn’t have to keep any of the old mechanisms, although I also agree that if we ever do away with elections, it will take a long while. I don’t expect to see it within my lifetime. That said, it could happen faster in countries that are not currently democratic. For instance, China has important local deliberative practices, you see the developments in Mongolia, experiments all over the world… Some countries could skip the electoral step and go right for “open democracy”. If it were to happen in China, it might be one more way for them to overtake the “West”, which would be interesting.

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  54. Paulo,

    >You are again extrapolating from a single event, and jumping to conclusions without presenting evidence.

    I don’t have the Deliberative Minipublics book to hand (I’m at work), but the participation figures for most allotted bodies are disappointing (I’ll dig out the book when I’m at home tomorrow morning and quote some more stats). The reason that I cite the BC convention is that it required a comparable level of commitment to that which would be required by Terry’s review panels. Even Deliberative Polls (apart from the Zegou, China example) have a patchy level of take up, disappointing in view of the modest commitment required and the financial and child-care assistance offered.

    >Do you have data supporting the notion that everybody, or most people, do not have the confidence and rhetorical skills to represent their beliefs and preferences to their fellow citizens.

    I don’t know what that data would look like, but my conclusions are supported by published interviews with participants in the popular deliberative assemblies established in the wake of Argentina’s political crisis of 2001. Here’s an example:

    [At the beginning we thought] ‘fine, we have people who did not finish elementary school and who join because they want security, they want their children to be able to safely go through the park, and at the same time we have a psychologist, an economist, people with previous political participation. Our discussions are going to oscillate and we are going to grow up together. The lady who is worried that their children can walk through the park is going to learn from the other one, and the latter is going to learn from her’. I thought that was going to yield a change. But no, the neighbor simply left (…) People who came as plain neighbors, without much of an intellect, had to give way to those who knew, because those who knew were the visionaries (Female, 55, ex- Asamblea de Monserrat, with previous political experience). (Pousadela 2008., p. 112)

    [are] those skills are even necessary, given the appropriate settings (i.e. good facilitation and access to experts?

    You are moving into difficult territory for an assembly with some sort of legislative mandate on account of Juvenal’s problem (Quis Custodiet?)

    >A sortition system doesn’t have to be perfect to be favored, it just needs to improve on the status quo.

    That’s a contentious claim from the perspective of democratic theory. Dahl (for example) claims that democracy is fundamentally a set of core principles and the degree to which institutions match up to these core principles is another matter. The pragmatic approach may work in the case of amending existing practices, but the sortition model (particularly in the extreme form advocated by Terry and Yoram on this forum) could not be seen as an incremental improvement on existing practice. In fact they specifically reject that, as a compromise with “electoralism”, so there is a need to outline the principles in advance. To my mind this rules out randomly-selected bodies performing anything other than a role comparable to trial juries.

    Reference
    ========
    Pousadela, I. M. (2008). Participation vs. Representation? The Experience of the Neighborhood Assemblies of Buenos Aires, 2001-2003. In C. Raventós (Ed.), Democratic Innovation in the South: Participation and Representation in Asia, Africa and Latin America (pp. 71-122). Buenos Aires: Clacso.

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  55. Paulo,

    I want to convince you that the issue of participation (and legitimacy of mini-publics with low rates) SHOULD be a concern of yours. Keith argues in favor of quasi-mandatory (or one might determine through experience that hefty incentives is as good), for a short duration jury that hears pro/con presentations on a bill and votes without debate. But due to participation rates rejects any role for a minipublic in refining proposals. If the deliberative democratic vision of breaking in to small groups for active deliberation and problem solving to possibly find new win/win options is to be pursued, a process that can be intensive and require substantially more commitment for an extended term of service is pursued, it seems VERY likely that participation will be much reduced (even if mandated to sit in the room… many members may sit silently and ignore the proceedings.) Keith says that therefore such active deliberation to refine proposals by a minipublic is illegitimate from a democratic perspective. I argue that it is still legitimate since it will still almost certainly be more representative and less corrupt than an elected body AND it is only a preparatory stage with a more fully representative minipublic making the final call.

    So, Paulo, do you want any minipublics to ACTIVELY deliberate or deliberate only internally (within each member’s own head)?

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  56. Terry,

    >due to participation rates [Keith] rejects any role for a minipublic in refining proposals.

    Not just participation rates, I reject any active deliberative role for minipublics due to the inapplicability of the LLN. Even if the group is statistically representative as a whole (i.e. large and quasi-mandatory), there is no way of equalising the illocutionary force of the speech acts of individuals within the group, so ongoing statistical representativity is compromised.

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  57. > The reason that I cite the BC convention is that it required a comparable level of commitment to that which would be required by Terry’s review panels.

    It’s fine to cite it as an example, but you go on to make a sweeping judgment based on that number, that was my criticism. I’ll look forward to those stats though, especially if they are accompanied by the specific setting (particularly incentives).

    > I don’t know what that data would look like, but my conclusions are supported by published interviews with participants in the popular deliberative assemblies established in the wake of Argentina’s political crisis of 2001. Here’s an example:

    Again, the plural of anecdote is not data, and this doesn’t tell me much (what was the setting, was there facilitation…). I see that you left the reference, thanks, I’ll check it. On the other hand, I’ve also seen glowing praise of, and by, citizens of these assemblies (if you go to the Jefferson Center web site, for instance), and I’ve organized (a very small) one myself that left me good impressions. I don’t consider that good evidence in favor of sortition assemblies either, just encouragement to keep working on it. I’m not criticizing you here, I just think a lot more research is necessary.

    >> [are] those skills are even necessary, given the appropriate settings (i.e. good facilitation and access to experts?

    > You are moving into difficult territory for an assembly with some sort of legislative mandate on account of Juvenal’s problem (Quis Custodiet?)

    Quis Custodiet is certainly an important issue, but in the sentence you quoted I was just talking about skills. My point was that with facilitation and access to experts, citizens without oratory skills and self-confidence can participate at the same level (or closer than without them), independently of how the discussion is framed. Or are you saying a Citizen’s Assembly without facilitation is more democratic because there is less room for manipulation? That is debatable. There are many sources of manipulation.

    > Dahl (for example) claims that democracy is fundamentally a set of core principles

    I don’t know much about Dahl, I just read that book I mentioned before, but it does mention those principles. One of them is “Gaining enlightened understanding”, where he says that “within a reasonable amount of time, each member would have equal and effective opportunities for learning about the relevant alternative policies and their likely consequences”. That’s my main problem with the principles. I think it’s impossible for each member to have equal and effective opportunities for learning, within a reasonable amount of time, if they have to learn about every issue. And even if it were possible, it would be a tremendous waste of time; people would have to dedicate their lives to it. That, for me, is the whole point of deliberation: have a few people at a time think deeply about a problem.

    > and the degree to which institutions match up to these core principles is another matter.

    I completely agree, and that notion is present in my sentence you quoted (it will never be perfect, it needs to be better). That’s my second highlight of Dahl’s book: “Although the political institutions of actual democracies may be necessary in order for a political system to attain a relatively high level of democracy, they may not be, indeed almost certainly will not be, sufficient to achieve anything like perfect or ideal democracy. Yet the institutions amount to a large step toward the ideal”.

    Where I disagree is in thinking elections must be one of those institutions. Like I said before, what I liked most about this book was the focus on Political Equality as a goal. That is my goal, then I’ll try to learn how to best achieve it.

    And Dahl also questions the value of the “mandate”. If you’ve read this book (On Political Equality), do you have any comment on the section The Myth of the Mandate?

    “The claim to a “mandate” persists even though it rests on two wholly dubious assumptions. (…) The absence of scientific opinion surveys makes any such claims [of a presidential mandate] before 1940 wholly implausible. (…) Without scientific surveys (…) how could anyone know what a majority of voters intended (…)? Even the introduction of scientific opinion surveys in 1940 has not satisfactorily solved the problem. (…) If the pollsters questions not preceded by thoughtful deliberation on the part of the respondents, the answers will be no more than shallow responses, not necessarily what voters might actually support if they had an opportunity to acquire more information (…).”

    That echoes sentiments I had before reading the book: rational ignorance not only undermines the quality of electoral decisions, it impinges on their legitimacy.

    > but the sortition model (particularly in the extreme form advocated by Terry and Yoram on this forum) could not be seen as an incremental improvement on existing practice.

    I see an incremental path; in fact, right now (except in “non-Western” countries, as I mentioned) I see an incremental path or no path at all. Research, Citizens’ Assembly events, Sortition chambers in parliaments, etc. I can understand the objections and fear of everything falling apart (for another generation) if it’s not done right.

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  58. (Sorry for the double comment, I don’t know if it’s frowned upon, but this might get lost in the previous one)

    Terry,

    > I want to convince you that the issue of participation (and legitimacy of mini-publics with low rates) SHOULD be a concern of yours.

    Sorry, maybe I wasn’t very clear before. When I said the mandatory nature of minipublics was not my concern, at the moment, I meant it mostly as opposed to monetary incentives, because I’m willing to accept both. If incentives were not enough to increase participation to acceptable levels (whatever that might mean), I would not reject a quasi-mandatory system on principle.

    Regarding low participation, I do think it would push the system away from the democratic ideal, but not make it illegitimate. Precisely because, as you say, it can still be better than the alternative.

    So, to answer your question, I would very much like those minipublics to actively deliberate.

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  59. Paulo,
    I think our inclinations are very much in accord. One point you made has been on my mind a lot lately, yet hardly anybody seems concerned about it. you wrote:
    >”I think it’s impossible for each member (of a democracy) to have equal and effective opportunities for learning, within a reasonable amount of time, if they have to learn about every issue. And even if it were possible, it would be a tremendous waste of time; people would have to dedicate their lives to it.”

    The fact that so many people spend a huge number of hours paying attention to political news, yet have no REAL say about the policy decisions being made by a handful of elected officials is a massive waste of human effort. The best that can be hoped is that they might write a letter to their Congressman, or try to help hold them accountable in the next election cycle (if there happens to be a candidate who would be reliably better on all the issues, and doesn’t have worse character). With a limited menu of viable candidate options on offer in elections, the “holding to account” is mostly a fantasy concept, and I can assure you that the congressional staffers deeply discount constituent letters except as to whether they are pro or con for the campaign database.

    Instead, a division of labor, where groups of citizens take turns becoming WELL informed on a particular issue for a short time and then can USE that acquired knowledge to actually help make a decision, is not only more democratic and epistemologically superior (compared to ego-driven politicians who rely on lobbyist expertise), it is also WAY more efficient use of everyone’s time.

    When I was on the City Council, as an example, I became very knowledgeable at one point in the logic, environmental, economic and equity issues of wastewater and drinking water rate setting. I played a very positive role, but now have no desire to continue “keeping up” with the issue. I want to let some other people who are like me, with no inside deals or campaign contributions, to take a turn dealing with the issue for a while. That’s how every public policy issue should be tackled. We learn a bunch about an issue when that learning will be useful, and don’t expect citizens to constantly “stay well-informed,” which is impossible.

    I think it might have been Thoreau who said that he didn’t understand why everybody rushed off to read their morning newspaper, when there hadn’t been anything substantially new since the French Revolution.

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  60. Paulo,

    My source is Iain O’Flynn and Gaurav Sood’s chapter, ‘What Would Dahl Say?’ in Gronlund et al., 2014. This is their verdict on the Deliberative Poll, a procedure that requires hugely less commitment than either the BC convention or one of Terry’s review panels:

    Recruitment of the initial sample [which they criticise on account of reliance on random digit dialling, which introduces a selection bias] is but one half of the process that determines who participates in a DP. The surveyed respondents (or a random subset) are invited to participate, and often enough a great many of the invited — roughly seventy-five percent on average — do not. However, the proportion of the invitees who eventually participate varies widely across polls, and across sub-populations. For instance, while nearly 92 per cent of those invited participated in a local DP in China, only about 12 per cent did so in a DP in Greece, and only 4.1 per cent did so in a DP in Argentina.

    Little is known of why participation rates differ so widely across polls. However we have some knowledge of the biases in who turns up. For instance, participants are typically significantly more knowledgeable than the non-participants. That suggests that political interest plays a role in the decision (not) to attend DPs. Regularly failing to include those not interested in politics along with the chasmic differences that sometimes appear on socio-demographic variables undercut claims to a reliable process that guarantees inclusion.

    Note that when Terry, Andre and myself refer to “quasi-mandatory” participation we really don’t care whether this through bribes (as in the DP) or through the enforcement of civic republican norms.

    On the difficulty of establishing representative isegoria via sortition:

    According to Dahl, a democratic process must give everyone an equal opportunity to have his say. But even when the opportunity is formally the same for everyone, in practice, major disparities can still occur. For reasons already discussed, imperfections in recruiting mean that some people have less of an opportunity to participate than others. But even those who participated may not be able to participate on an equal footing. The garrulous, those strongly attached to their views, those who think the issue is important, the self-righteously knowledgeable, among many other species, all prefer talking to listening, often at the expense of giving others the chance to air their views. Then there are those who, even when they have the opportunity to talk, talk very little.

    Leaving aside the Quis Custodiet problem, can moderators help?

    Unfortunately, proactive measures can fail. For instance, deliberative polls use trained moderators to facilitate the small-group discussions. The purpose is to ‘maintain an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect, encourage the diffident, restraint the loquacious and ensure that all the major arguments for and against in the briefing document get aired’. Even so, the fact remains that many participants hardly speak at all. Insofar as they do not speak because they are crowded out by other participants, deliberate polls fail, in practice, to facilitate effective participation

    Remember that our concern is not with the isegoria rights of those who choose to remain silent, it’s with those whom they act as proxies for in the target population — and this may well be a source of systematic bias.

    I’ll respond to your other points in my next post.

    Reference
    ========
    O’Flynn, I., & Sood, G. (2014). What would Dahl say? An appraisal of the democratic credentials of Deliberative Polls and other mini-publics. In K. Gronlund, A. Bachtiger & M. Setala (Eds.), Deliberative Mini-Publics: Involving citizens in the democratic process (pp. 41-58). Colchester: ECPR Press.

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  61. Paulo,

    The key text that O’Flynn, Soud and I rely on is Dahl 1989. Especially:

    The process for making binding decisions includes at least two analytically distinguishable stages: setting the agenda and deciding the outcome. (Dahl, 1989, p. 107)

    For the decision process to be considered a democratic one, this presupposes that in the first stage:

    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. (ibid., p. 113)

    Whereas at the second stage:

    At the decisive stage of collective decisions, each citizen must be ensured an equal opportunity to express a choice that will be counted as equal in weight to the choice expressed by any other citizen. In determining outcomes at the decisive stage, these choices, and only these choices, must be taken into account (ibid., p. 109, my emphasis)

    To my mind, sortition can only play a role in the second stage.

    >The whole point of deliberation [is] to have a few people at a time think deeply about a problem.

    I agree, but we need to ensure that those who think about the problem consistently reflect what everybody would think under good conditions. I can see no way of ensuring this other than separating the advocacy and judgment role along the lines of my comment to the SA Nuclear Waste thread, however distasteful that may be to Habermasians.

    >Do you have any comment on the section The Myth of the Mandate?

    In the system I am proposing political elites will have to satisfy both the unconsidered judgment of all the people, together with the considered judgment of the minidemos. That strikes me as a fair compromise between democratic equality and wise decision making (from an epistemic perspective). I certainly agree that the winning parties in an election should not have the right to implement their manifesto via the party whip, as I am proposing a radical separation of the advocacy and judgment role. I also include a major role for the citizen initiative in policy generation.

    >I see an incremental path or no path at all.

    That’s not really compatible with the view that elections should play no part in political decision making.

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

    Like

  62. Sorry, coding errors in my last comment, should be:

    Paulo,

    The key text that O’Flynn, Soud and I rely on is Dahl 1989. Especially:

    The process for making binding decisions includes at least two analytically distinguishable stages: setting the agenda and deciding the outcome. (Dahl, 1989, p. 107)

    For the decision process to be considered a democratic one, this presupposes that in the first stage:

    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. (ibid., p. 113)

    Whereas at the second stage:

    At the decisive stage of collective decisions, each citizen must be ensured an equal opportunity to express a choice that will be counted as equal in weight to the choice expressed by any other citizen. In determining outcomes at the decisive stage, these choices, and only these choices, must be taken into account (ibid., p. 109, my emphasis)

    To my mind, sortition can only play a role in the second stage.

    >The whole point of deliberation [is] to have a few people at a time think deeply about a problem.

    I agree, but we need to ensure that those who think about the problem consistently reflect what everybody would think under good conditions. I can see no way of ensuring this other than separating the advocacy and judgment role along the lines of my comment to the SA Nuclear Waste thread, however distasteful that may be to Habermasians.

    >Do you have any comment on the section The Myth of the Mandate?

    In the system I am proposing political elites will have to satisfy both the unconsidered judgment of all the people, together with the considered judgment of the minidemos. That strikes me as a fair compromise between democratic equality and wise decision making (from an epistemic perspective). I certainly agree that the winning parties in an election should not have the right to implement their manifesto via the party whip, as I am proposing a radical separation of the advocacy and judgment role. I also include a major role for the citizen initiative in policy generation.

    >I see an incremental path or no path at all.

    That’s not really compatible with the view that elections should play no part in political decision making.

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

    Like

  63. Keith and Paulo,

    Two points:

    1. A fundamental point of disagreement I have with Keith is his rejection of minipublic deliberation. We agree that final decisions should be made by minipublics that do not actively deliberate, but who should do the DELIBERATING part? Keith notes that two different minipublics, (for argument’s sake assuming mandatory participation) simply because of the chance inclusion of a persuasive individual FOR policy A in one and AGAINST policy A in the second, means they could develop very different proposals. Thus it is impossible to say which represents the proposal that a gathering of society as a whole (were such a thing possible) would generate. However, his alternative is to allow elite elected (likely male, ego-driven, finance-corrupted experts in campaign tactics) generate proposals (or similarly votation referendums determined by manipulation of rationally ignorant voters) to set the agenda. A series of mini-publics setting agendas and refining proposals will regress to the mean (what the people as a whole if well informed would choose), while elite representatives maintain a consistent set of biases. Deliberation within a more diverse descriptively representative body is less likely to generate partisan win/lose proposals.

    2. On the issue of incremental transition to a sortition democracy…
    My preferred strategy is to peel away one issue area at a time. For example, in a city, perhaps first all zoning decisions would be made by juries instead of the city council. They don’t make recommendations to the council… The council is out of it altogether. If that works well, maybe oversight of the police department would be transferred to minipublics, or decisions about tax appeals, etc. My notion is that elections have to be understood as the flaw that needs replacing in a democracy… but carefully and step by step. My analogy is the monarchy in many constitutional democracies today. Over time the monarchies became less powerful until they were essentially symbolic. The same could happen with an elected parliament…having fewer and fewer responsibilities, until like the House of Lords, they exist, and do a few things, but are essentially vestigial. Even in Ancient Athens this occurred with the ruling elected Archons of pre-democratic Athens who still existed after the development of democracy, but had only very minor powers.

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  64. Keith,

    The problems you mention in the first comment are not new to me. Some of the numbers are, but they generally confirm what I thought (I even said in a previous comment that I believed 30% was closer to my expectations, when you talked about 4%). With such a wide range, and uncertainty and variety of reasons, it definitely needs more research. And so do all the other issues you raise. A couple of years ago I read the book Democracy in Motion, and it explores whether and how many shortcomings with sortition may be overcome. Again, it is far from perfect, and it will never be perfect, but it has to be judged against the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives.

    On the rest, I think I understand the core of your position, and I respect it. I don’t agree that satisfying the unconsidered judgment of all the people is a hallmark of democratic equality, for the reasons I stated above (e.g. the ones in Dahl’s Myth of the Mandate). I see no equality there, so it doesn’t strike me as a fair compromise. I also see a role for something like “parties” in advocacy, just for the efficiency of specialization, but not in an elected capacity. How that might work would depend on the specific mechanisms of decision-making.

    Regarding:

    > That’s not really compatible with the view that elections should play no part in political decision making.

    I disagree, and I don’t see how that could be, unless you are saying revolution is the only legitimate path to deep political changes. If that change ever happens, I’d rather have it peacefully.

    Terry,

    Yes, from what I’ve read I agree with a lot of what you say, and I have to credit you with generating some of my early interest on these matters. Democracy Through Multi-Body Sortition was an important read, not so much for the details, which were all a bit too new for me at the time, but for the imaginative leap of considering the possibility at all.

    Like

  65. Terry,

    Thank you for accurately summarising my position.

    >elite representatives maintain a consistent set of biases.

    Given the plural nature of elites in modern multicultural societies this is not true (unless you accept Gilens and Page’s interpretation of the statistics). For example the Brexit debate was dominated by elites on both sides and yet the outcome was too close to call. A similar argument would apply to the last US Presidential election, unless you are arguing that Hillary’s policies would have been the same as Trump.

    Paulo, >I see an incremental path or no path at all.

    What I meant was that your end goal is the (effective) abolition of election. Whether you choose Terry’s incremental approach or Yoram’s call to the barricades, the intention is the same. The overwhelming majority of political scientists (including Dahl) have concluded that democracy without elections is impossible and seek therefore to improve the way they work (including supplementing elections with juries appointed by sortition).

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  66. Keith,

    > What I meant was that your end goal is the (effective) abolition of election.

    That is not my end goal. As I said in the beginning, I’m not convinced either way. I am convinced that elections are a bad decision making process, and that it doesn’t make sense for an individual to vote, which is why I entertain the possibility of creating a system without them. This new system has to prove itself though. Obviously I respect the opinion of political scientists who have thought about the issue much more deeply than myself, but I haven’t seen conclusive evidence, and I see lots of research being done on the subject. I really liked Hélène Landemore’s article last year, on Deliberative Democracy as Open, not just Representative Democracy, where she writes, for instance:

    “Another way out–more promising, in my view–is to acknowledge that democracy is always representative but that “representative democracy” as a historical paradigm is but one model of indirect or (more aptly) deliberative and reflexive democracy.
    But here, too, there are two possible strategies. One is to reclaim the concept of representation and build into it new, more democratic meanings. This is the path currently taken by a number of democratic theorists. Michael Saward, for example, has argued for “making representation strange again” and redefining it away from electoral authorization, as well as one-to-one or one-to-many relationships mediated by voting only, and toward a pluralized understanding of representation as “claim-making.” In the same vein, a number of democratic theorists have started advocating for nonelectoral forms of democratic representation.”

    “In a democratic context, however, representation should not necessarily (or at all) translate into electoral modes of representation. Thus, the principles of open democracy do not explicitly include the
    principle of elections because elections, far from being a, let alone the democratic principle, are merely one selection mechanism
    among others.”

    It doesn’t exclude elections necessarily, but it doesn’t see them as an essential condition either. That is very close to my own thoughts. As I’ve been saying, I would need to see a lot more research before coming to a conclusion.

    > Given the plural nature of elites in modern multicultural societies this is not true

    I’ve said this before:

    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/launch-of-international-sortition-network-democracy-rd/#comment-22187

    Even if modern elites are plural, that doesn’t mean they encompass the gamut of modern societies (let alone multicultural societies). Even if what you say is true, it doesn’t exclude the possibility that the opinion of those who do not belong to any of these plural elites is being voiced.

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  67. Paulo,

    Thank you for your clarification — I confused your scepticism over election with the visceral opposition from some other commentators on this forum.

    In her book Hélène makes clear that her concerns are purely the epistemic merits of cognitive diversity, rather than representation and legitimacy — democratic authority being ‘a maze that I do not wish, or need, to enter’:

    Whether epistemic properties add to the legitimacy of democratic decisions in general or simply provide prudential reasons to abide by them is a question I will thus leave unaddressed. (Landemore 2013, p. 47)

    As an indication of the epistemic nature of her concerns:

    In this pure problem-solving context, we implicity assume the existence of an oracle, namely a machine, person, or internal intuition, than can reveal the correct ranking of any proposed solutions. (Landemore and Page, 2015, p. 234)

    I’m glad to hear that Hélène, a recent convert to sortition, is now moving beyond purely epistemic considerations. Mike Saward’s book is an excellent model for representative isegoria beyond electoralism, but his principal weakness is the (lack of) mechanisms for evaluating the democratic legitimacy of representative claims. He postpones this to the end of his book (Chapter 6) and then fails to come up with convincing procedures. My suggestion is to accept his notion of the Representative Claim for isegoria but for the competing claims to be judged by large randomly-selected juries (representative isonomia).

    >Even if what you say is true, it doesn’t exclude the possibility that the opinion of those who do not belong to any of these plural elites is being voiced.

    Yes that’s true, especially for minority interests that do not fall into the categories currently being championed by activists. But the Representative Claim model is (in theory) open to all, and there are no guarantees that random selection will be any more effective in generating effective spokespersons for minority interests.

    References
    =========

    Landemore, H. (2013). Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Landemore, H., & Page, S. E. (2015). Deliberation and disagreement: Problem solving, prediction and positive dissensus. Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 14(3), 229-254.

    Saward, M. (2010). The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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