Suzuki: The solution we need is a system where politicians are drawn from a hat

Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki has given up on the electoral system and proposes to replace it with a sortition-based system. Some excerpts from an interview with the National Observer:

Q: Trudeau’s called the pipelines a “trade off” for the national carbon plan. Earlier this month, he was in Nanaimo saying we can both build Kinder Morgan and hit the Paris targets.

DS: That’s such a lot of bullshit! this is just political doublespeak: ‘We’ve got to keep burning more oil, more fossil fuels, in order to meet our reduction targets.’ What are you talking about? That’s such a crock of shit!

Q: So how can citizens hold our democratic leaders accountable?

DS: I was asked to give a talk to the Senate last year on the 150th anniversary of Canada. What I said is, ‘We elect people to run government, but their problem is they only look to the next election.’ They can’t look down and say, ‘Jesus, we have to spend $50 billion a year for the next fifteen years to deal with climate change,’ because they know someone else will take credit for it. They won’t be in office then. So that kind of view is not in their thinking.

So I said, ‘You guys are the Senate. You’re not elected. You’re appointed for life! You’re the ones to think of sober second thought, and think in terms of one generation, two generations from now. You’re the guys who should be doing that.’

They didn’t do a goddamn thing. But I really think that would be a huge opportunity, if we’ve got that bicameral system.
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Video of Workshop on Citizens Juries and Sortition

This past March, a deep-dive workshop on Citizens Juries, Citizens Assemblies, and sortition was put on by members of Democracy R&D at the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. I have posted the full video recording of the workshop as a playlist on YouTube.

The full-day event was geared toward practitioners and included:

  • An overview of sortition and its increasing use around the world by David Schecter (newDemocracy Foundation) – Part 1
  • A walk-through of how to convene Citizens Juries by Kyle Bozentko (Jefferson Center) – Part 2
  • A discussion about the challenges of trying to scale sortition-based practices like Oregon’s Citizens Initiative Review without losing integrity of the process, led by Tyrone Reitman (Policy Jury Group and formerly Healthy Democracy) – Part 3
  • Engaging Q&A with people working in different contexts and countries – in all videos and especially Part 4

Jury citoyen

The original post comes from: www.stochocratie.org. The post below is in French (for Yoram to practise :) but there is an English version here: http://www.stochocratie.org/2018/04/17/jury-citoyen.

La dĂ©mocratie prend trop de temps au citoyen ordinaire et devrait ĂȘtre laissĂ©e Ă  un petit nombre de personnes soigneusement sĂ©lectionnĂ©es. Telles Ă©taient les pensĂ©es des fondateurs de nos dĂ©mocraties modernes. Ils ont dĂ©cidĂ© que nous devrions Ă©lire les personnes qui dĂ©tiennent le pouvoir entre leurs mains. La sĂ©lection alĂ©atoire permettrait aux gens de dĂ©cider pour eux-mĂȘmes – beaucoup trop dangereux selon eux. Les fondateurs savaient que la sortition permettait la dĂ©mocratie et que les Ă©lections favorisent l’aristocratie. C’est pour cette raison qu’ils ont choisi les Ă©lections. Mais dĂ©cider en utilisant le hasard semble …. mmh…. alĂ©atoire… Jury Citoyen ou Citizen Jury Ă©galement appelĂ© Minipublics se penche sur cette question.

Deux personnes qui ont proposĂ© ou proposent d’utiliser plus souvent le Jury Populaire en politique. SegolĂšne Royal et LoĂŻc Blondiaux (source : Wikimedia).

Utiliser un dĂ© pour dĂ©cider serait stupide. Choisir au hasard une seule personne pour dĂ©cider serait Ă©galement stupide. Choisir quelques personnes – aussi peu que quinze personnes – pour donner un avis sur un sujet prĂ©cis est une excellente idĂ©e. Les politologues et le grand public se penchent sur cette question dans de nombreux pays comme l’Irlande, le Canada, l’Australie, l’Islande ou la France. Partout les effets sont similaires : les personnes sĂ©lectionnĂ©es changent souvent d’avis aprĂšs les longues discussions pendant les quelques week-ends oĂč le rassemblement a lieu ; elles s’impliquent davantage dans la politique et prennent davantage conscience de l’intĂ©rĂȘt publics. Partout, ils fournissent de nouvelles orientations qui peuvent ĂȘtre suivies ou non par les politiciens. Mais pourquoi ne peuvent-ils pas prendre des dĂ©cisions exĂ©cutives ?

Les mini-publics sont trop souvent des boĂźtes noires. La sĂ©lection alĂ©atoire se fait souvent derriĂšre d’Ă©pais rideaux. De plus, il est facile de faire pression sur quinze personnes. Ces deux arguments rĂ©duisent de beaucoup la lĂ©gitimitĂ© d’un Minipublic. Je plaide dans ce blog pour la transparence et propose des moyens de rendre la sĂ©lection alĂ©atoire plus fluide. Il faut consulter des experts, le Minipublic a besoin de demander leurs avis, mais pas de les laisser dĂ©cider quoi que ce soit. Les modĂ©rateurs/animateurs/facilitateurs jouent un rĂŽle clĂ© et devraient ĂȘtre sĂ©lectionnĂ©s en utilisant la sortition ;) Les politiciens professionnels et les journalistes affiliĂ©s adorent critiquer les membres du Jury populaire. Le Figaro a montrĂ© une photo des gens du Jury Populaire pour dĂ©montrer Ă  quel point Nuit Debout Ă©tait devenue farfelue.

Pourtant, ces jurys fournissent d’excellents avis et certains proposent que nous utilisions les Minipublics pour nommer nos dirigeants exĂ©cutifs. J’irai ici encore un peu plus loin, peut-ĂȘtre pourrions-nous utiliser les Minipublics pour prendre des dĂ©cisions exĂ©cutives ?

The programmable voter, or, elections are not what they used to be

Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of Congress to answer for the “Cambridge Analytica scandal”. In the hearing he remorsefully promised that his top priority is now “making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world”.

At face value this is a meaningless (and somewhat self-important) promise – there is nothing to distinguish “interference” from plain old campaign propaganda. And indeed at some level the whole spectacle was nothing more than a show – nothing concrete can be expected to be gained or lost. Presumably Facebook will make some changes to the way information (or misinformation) flows through its servers and the result will be that some pieces information (or misinformation) will be amplified and others suppressed. But, of course, Facebook already processes information in some way and this existing way also inevitably discriminates between pieces of information. What Facebook does or will do with the information it handles is completely up this private, unaccountable, opaque organization, motivated by its business and political interests, and there is thus little reason to expect any fairness or equality in the way it handles information. Thus no substantive change can be expected.
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Sortition in eight flavors

In four screenplays, a short stage play, a long essay, a novella and a novel I consider the pros and cons of using sortition (random selection) to ensure that policy-making bodies accurately represent the people they serve.

The Fight for Random – wild magical realist screenplay

Random Takes Off – political action drama screenplay

Democracy at Random – road trip screenplay addressing eugenics and income

Random Takes Baltimore – municipal version of “Random Takes Off” screenplay

Next Step for Democracy – a short comedic educational stage play

Why Elections Are the Problem and How to Make Democracy Real — annotated essay

On the Citizen House: A Disquisitional Fiction – a disputatious novella

The Common Lot: A Novel – as stated

Detailed descriptions at https://amazon.com/author/grantd.