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.

However, the fact that the spectacle took place, and the forcefulness of the ongoing propaganda campaign which Zuckerberg’s testimony was a part of, is a development of some importance. The narrative that is being endlessly repeated is that elections – even “fair and free elections” according to previously established standards – can no longer be trusted to produce legitimate results. The details of the story may vary. Some would put the focus on foreign meddling, some on law breaking activities of “shady” firms, some on social media in general, while others would blame monopolistic media companies. The bottom line, however, is that elections are, if not broken, dangerously fragile. The average voter can be exposed to a few well placed, artfully crafted messages and be turned into an automaton who supports hideous ideas and absurdly unqualified candidates. Voters thus are not the best judges of their own interests and values as democratic dogma asserts.

The question of whether this narrative is true or not is not directly connected to the question of why it is being promoted. Powerful interests do not promote ideas because they are true (or because they are false) but because they are useful to them. Thus, it seems elites in the U.S. have reached the conclusion that casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections is useful. This is rather jarring since until quite recently elections were held by the elite as the one and only source of legitimate power (the implication is, again, that this was useful to them at the time). The turnaround is a symptom (and possibly an accelerating factor of) the crisis of electoralism. As citizens lose faith in the idea that the electoral system produces good government, and clutch at unconventional, desperate electoral choices, elections are losing their value for the elite because they no longer produce the expected outcomes at the ballot and they no longer legitimate the elected when they do operate as intended. That is, the elite is disparaging elections not because the voters can be manipulated, but because of the opposite reason: voters can no longer be manipulated as reliably as they used be.

So, yes, obviously elections are heavily influenced by whoever controls mass media – as they always were. But, no, elections are not more easily manipulated today than they were 2, 20 or 200 years ago. Facebook is not more powerful than was (and is) elite control of the press, the radio and television. What is new is the fact that trust in the electoral system has deteriorated far enough to have reached a tipping point.

The tipping point is of course an opportunity for anyone offering alternatives to elections, as sortitionists are (and as are those offering anti-democratic ideas and mechanisms). This opportunity should be exploited, but without embracing the false and inherently anti-democratic narrative of the programmability of the citizens. The reason that elections should not be used is primarily because of the principle of distinction (i.e., because all the credible candidates must be members of the elite) rather than because voters cannot be relied upon to select the “right” candidate from the short list of credible candidates.

26 Responses

  1. *** I applaud Yoram Gat’s bright analysis of the new discourse casting doubts on popular votes.
    *** But I don’t agree when Yoram Gat reduces the criticism of electoral representation to the “principle of distinction” and the elite belonging of the elected representatives. Let’s imagine a law which would exclude from candidacies all members of the main elites, or at least would put social quotas as we see with race and gender quotas. That could seem respond to Yoram’s criticism, but we would not get a true democracy. When I was young the French Communist Party had many elected people taken from the working class; that did not imply they were good representatives of their working class electors; here the difference was not elitarian, but sectarian. Electoral representation is never democratic, because no kind of selection of representatives (excluding sortition) can guarantee they mirror the civic body.
    *** The new discourse casting doubts on popular votes is actually part of the new ideological model which was brightly expounded by the French historian and ideologue Rosanvallon as “polyphonic democracy” – see “A reflection on populism” in Internet. The people will have four voices, as 1 arithmetic people (electorate); 2 social people (public opinion, activists); 3 courts defending the principles; 4 “random people” as in “participation in a consensus conference”. With this “polyphony”, the Establishment will be protected easily enough from any popular move.
    *** The discourse lessening the legitimacy of the electoral process does not intend to discard it, but to put in on a lesser level, equal to the other “voices”.
    *** The downgrading of general vote and the opening to sortition are opportunities for the supporters of democracy-through-minipublics, but they must be aware that the brightest minds of the established political system have other aims.

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  2. André,

    Thanks!

    I think we agree but are using the term “elite” somewhat differently.

    Any person who is in the position to command the attention of a sufficient share of the public to get elected is necessarily in a privileged position in society. Such a person occupies a special place in society that allows them to influence others much more than the normal person can. This privileged position is what I mean by membership in the elite. So while this is not common in our society, a person can have a working class background and be a member of the elite.

    > Electoral representation is never democratic, because no kind of selection of representatives (excluding sortition) can guarantee they mirror the civic body.

    Yes. The principle of distinction goes a step further and says that electoral representation does guarantee that power would be in the hands of the elite – those who are able to make themselves known to a large part of the electorate. This is a property that is inherently characteristic of a tiny minority of a large population.

    > “polyphonic democracy”

    This is a revival of the old Liberal/Madisonian idea of a system that in various ways attempts to circumvent electoral results (e.g., judicial review). The 18th century distrust of elections (seeing them as leading to democracy, which is the same as ochlocracy) was diminished during the latter part of the 20th century when elections appeared to be able to achieve both elitist policy goals and legitimization of those results. Now that elections are losing their power to serve those functions it is time for polyphony once again.

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  3. Yoram:> The principle of distinction goes a step further and says that electoral representation does guarantee that power would be in the hands of the elite.

    That’s certainly (and tautologically) true. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that those with power will automatically act in their own interest. In theory electoral competition will mean that different elites compete for power and those who can best approximate — or appear to approximate — the beliefs and interests of a plurality of the electorate will succeed. Of course this is not always true in practice, but it is also the case that persons selected at random will not necessarily perform any better — all one can claim is that the aggregate judgment of a large sample will reflect the target population, given certain exacting constraints to protect the independence of each member of the sample. This would suggest a polyphonic model, but one in which the “voice” of each element (elites and demos) had its own unique function. The establishment would not be protected from a popular move as the final decision power would be in the hands of the large randomly-selected sample of the target population.

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  4. *** Yoram Gat says that my disagreement with him stems from different uses of the word “elite”. I agree. But I think it is useful to distinguish two kinds of differences. First the elitarian differences, especially in contemporary Atlantic societies the difference of money, with links to managerial jobs, and the difference of “culture”, linked to symbol-using and “creative” jobs. Political elites are the projection of these social elites in the political field. Second the difference between activists and less politically active citizens. Sure there are some relations: activism is not evenly distributed among social groups; and an activist minority may become a kind of elite inside a “totalitarian” State, or inside a totalitarian party apparatus in a polyarchy. But elitarism and activism are nevertheless different things.
    ***Yoram Gat says that Rosanvallon’s “polyphonic democracy” is a revival of an old model. I agree, but there is something new: the fourth “voice”, the “random people”. The smartest ideologists of polyarchy found that, rather than demonize the sortition, it is better to adapt this dangerous thing into a well tamed form, as before this other dangerous thing, general franchise.
    *** In a democracy-through-minipublics, as says Keith Sutherland “the establishment would not be protected from a popular move as the final decision power would be in the hands of the large randomly-selected sample of the target population.” But the “polyphonic model” will work against that, first by giving political weight to the other three “voices” (elections, courts, “civil society”), and second by taming sortition – Rosanvallon avoids “minipublic” and prefers speaking about the “participation in a consensus conference”.

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  5. Andre:> Rosanvallon avoids “minipublic” and prefers speaking about the “participation in a consensus conference”.

    That’s why sortitionists should reject the deliberative democracy project and the search for consensus in favour of the agonism that characterised Athenian politics. Although this will involve a crucial role for elites their only power is to persuade, not to decide. Such a model pits the various polyarchic elites against each other with the decision power in the hands of the minipublic. You can’t abolish elites, all that can be done is to quarantine their role to an advisory one. Rosanvallon’s proposal is very different and should, as Andre suggests, be rejected by anyone who believes in democracy.

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  6. Andre,

    I am not sure I understand the point you are making regarding the difference between “elitarism and activism”.

    What may be termed “activism”, i.e., putting some effort into attaining a position of influence, is probably a necessary condition for actually attaining it in an elections-based society (and to some extent in any political system). However, in a large society activism is very, very far from being a sufficient condition since there will always be many more people willing to be active than there are in such a society positions of high power. Thus, while activists may be more similar to the members of the much smaller group of the power elite in some respects, it should not be presumed that they carry much power in an electorally-based society.

    The argument above applies not only to the group of activists but to any mass group. In an electorally-based society no mass group carries much power – power is systemically concentrated in the hands of the very select few who win the competition of the public’s attention, and are thus able to project their names (or their political labels) at large segments of society and in this way to attempt to garner votes. The others – i.e., the overwhelming majority in society – are excluded from power at the outset.

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  7. Yoram:> Thus, while activists may be more similar to the members of the much smaller group of the power elite in some respects, it should not be presumed that they carry much power in an electorally-based society.

    That’s an anachronistic claim. Much of the legislative activity on LGBTQ, ethnic minority and environmental causes has been catalysed by small groups of activists. Both elected politicians and corporate bodies in general are responsive to twitter storms and the like, which require the input of relatively small (but well-organised) groups of activists. The notion that elected office holders can simply follow their own interests in between elections would be dismissed by most political scientists.

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  8. *** I think Yoram’s words are mistaken when he describes polyarchies as “electorally-based societies”. Election is only one pillar of the polyarchic model, an important one. Which the dominant elites are willing to downgrade somewhat – as described in Yoram’s post.
    *** I said we must distinguish between activism and elitarism, but I acknowledged there are interactions. Especially, an activist group will have much more weight if it belongs to an elite, or if it finds some amount of support in an elite.
    *** Keith Sutherland says: “Both elected politicians and corporate bodies in general are responsive to twitter storms and the like, which require the input of relatively small (but well-organised) groups of activists”. Right, but they are especially responsive when the activist stance has some links to an elite material or moral interest, or sensitivity. Sometimes an activist group is only the vanguard of a deeper elitarian movement. Keith speaks about activists as “catalysts” – but a catalyst initiates a chemical process only when it follows a “deep” thermodynamic affinity. A catalyst may accelerate a chemical process, or orientate it by choice between different paths, but no catalyst can work against the “chemical affinity”. A match may set fire to wood, it will never set fire on ice.
    *** Sometimes an activism can be an ally of the Establishment, especially against a popular move. We could see in France last elections some “far-left” attacks against left-populist Melenchon, attacks well attuned to the elite media antipathy. Were not such phenomena against Sanders in the USA?
    *** Keith Sutherland mentions “twitter storms and the like”, but activism may be more discreet. Activism in social sciences or economy academic circles may be efficient to create false scientific consensus.
    *** Supporters of (ortho-)democracy must consider elitarism and activism as dangers, but not elites and militants as enemies. First, as Keith says “we cannot abolish elites”, and there will be always citizens with a militant mind. Second, I doubt a democracy may appear in a modern society without the help of at least an elite fraction (as Athenian democracy appeared with the help of a nobiliary fraction), and some activists may be strongly democrat-minded (in France the clearest sympathies for the minipublics idea are among the “ecologist” activists).

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  9. Andre,

    Your careful delineation of the function of activists in electoralist societies is of course much more accurate than the clichés repeated self-importantly by Sutherland.

    Regarding the nature of polyarchies: what would you say are those additional pillars of polyarchy? I believe that in the past we mentioned “judicial review”, or more generally “judicial control” or “judicial independence”. Are there any other additional pillars you are thinking of?

    I agree that it is true that the “independent” role of the judicial elite indeed has a presence in modern western ideology. However, it is important not to mistake this role as having anywhere near the power of elections. Elections are the main legitimating power of government, while the judiciary is at best perceived as a corrective force when that power is abused by the elected. A polyarchy cannot afford to openly limit the power of elections by resorting to resting on the explicitly elitist role of the judiciary. This would risk the collapse of the legitimacy of the system.

    The elites may grumble about the problems with elections but they have no other pillar on which to rest their power. The “crisis of democracy” is a crisis because it has no foreseeable solution within the existing system. The proposals for adding subordinate allotted institutions are attempting to do exactly that, but to do that they would have to strike a very delicate balance between having institutions that are transparently controlled by the elites and thus provide no additional legitimacy, and having truly democratic institutions that would provide an alternative for elections. It is doubtful whether such a balance can be struck for any length of time.

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  10. Yoram:> Elections are the main legitimating power of government

    Yet the current UK government is almost entirely powerless. Elections only lead to powerful government when they reflect the will of the majority of electors. As Adam Boulton argued the problem is the people don’t know what they want: https://equalitybylot.com/2018/05/04/stephen-boucher-proposes-an-eu-collective-intelligence-forum/#comment-23522

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  11. *** Yoram Gat doubts there is in contemporary polyarchies any “pillar” other than the electoral-representative one.
    I think we can ascertain some others, following especially various Rosanvallon studies, and putting aside his newer element, the “random people”.
    ** First pillar, and a basic one, I agree, the “arithmetic people”, i.e. popular vote, either through representative elections or through referenda.
    ** Second pillar, the constitutional one, in a wide sense (including for instance election rules) with the power of the Courts to protect “the constitution and its principles or values” and the deference of citizens towards the established rules. This deference is important. Everybody knows that elections may give different results depending of the election rules. Trump is the US president with fewer votes than Clinton (and nobody knows the result with a French-style second round without “small candidates”). Proportional election and majoritarian election may give different parliaments etc. If the one pillar of the legitimacy would be “arithmetic”, this dependency on electoral rules would be a major legitimacy problem; it is actually a minor one.
    ** Third pillar, the “deep State” , with the everyday actions of public agents and judges, the “independent administrative” agencies, and the high or low bureaucracies, with their own agendas. Their legitimacy is founded on the idea of impartiality, of impartial efficiency serving the Common Good, and has real weight, although external to any democratic idea.
    ** Fourth pillar, the “social voice of the people”: openly active lobbies, NGO, activists, “twitters storms and the like” as says Keith, influence networks… Rosanvallon considers it as the “social voice” of the people, a set of free, spontaneous, experimental voices, opposed to the heavy voice of the “arithmetic people”. A “successful” social voice gives a kind of democratic legitimacy, even outside of an arithmetic legitimacy.
    *** An interesting case: among today feminist activisms (a complex set), one is trying to change, at least for female victims, the official rule of the burden of proof – either the burden must be on the male defendant, or there must be symmetry (as in the civil trials). Such an important legal change is not really proposed in an “arithmetic” perspective, although the women are majority in the civic collectivity. The aim is to change the way the police investigates and questions, the way the media tell the stories, the way the judges decide. To win a majority approval is secondary . And these activists are right: whatever the legal rule, the real thing is the way it is enforced, selectively enforced, or not enforced at all.
    *** Yoram Gat (as many other kleroterian-minded people) is too much centered on the official legislative power (including “judicial review”, actually part of legislative power). The dêmos rules on the society only when it is has the last word in any important judicial case, and when he controls closely the executive power. A political system where the dêmos has only central legislative power (either through referenda or through minipublics) would be an hybrid system.
    *** Today polyarchic elites are looking for a new equilibrium between the pillars. They want to diminish the role of the arithmetic, including electoral-representative pillar, found “excessive” after the populist surges. But, I agree with Yoram, it remains the main popular legitimacy-giver. The task is difficult. The proposals for adding subordinate allotted bodies are therefore attractive.
    Yoram Gat says “they would have to strike a very delicate balance between having institutions that are transparently controlled by the elites and thus provide no additional legitimacy, and having truly democratic institutions that would provide an alternative for elections. It is doubtful whether such a balance can be struck for any length of time.” Maybe Yoram underestimates the flexibility of the polyarchic model, which allowed it to cross the last century. But, I agree, this delicate balance leaves open a window for an (ortho-)democratic endeavor.

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  12. Thanks to Andre for his subtle analysis of the pillars of polyarchy. As he rightly points out there are a number of different, but overlapping elites, including activists, media and policy wonks (whose “soft” power should not be underestimated). A switch to election by lot would only affect the arithmetic power, leaving the other elite influences largely untouched — in fact there are good reasons to believe that the powers of the judiciary, the deep state and the “social voice” would be increased by the rule of unelected amateurs, who would lack the experience, competence and electoral legitimacy to challenge the non-democratic influences. Much better therefore to accept the essentially hybrid nature of modern governance, quarantining the role of each element to its legitimate domain.

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  13. Andre,

    Yes, elections involve a set of rules that can be tweaked in various ways and the details of those rules matter in some cases. But those rules derive their legitimacy from supposedly conforming to a simple majoritarian principle. No system that openly disempowers the majority can be perceived as legitimate.

    Yes, professionals (including judges, prosecutors and the police) are respected as long as they appear to be merely carrying out impartial administrative tasks. Once they appear to be applying their own judgement, they become suspect and must be subordinated to representative control.

    Yes, activism is considered a legitimate political activity – as long as it is perceived as giving voice to the people. Lobbyists, for example, who are perceived as representing narrow interests, are not considered as having legitimacy.

    So again, among the supposed pillars of polyarchic ideology (i.e., bases for legitimacy of power), the primacy of elections is supreme. Any attempt to shift the burden of legitimacy away from elections and onto explicitly elitist bases undermines the legitimacy of the system.

    The flexibility of polyarchy is in its ability to integrate new groups of people and new elites into the electoral process. It appears to me to be inflexible both in its popular democratic ideological underpinnings and in its drive toward oligarchical policy outcomes. Those two long term trends are contradictory and it seems to me to be a contradiction that cannot be resolved within the polyarchic system.

    Introducing meaningful sortition-based decision making fits within the ideology of polyarchy, but it does not fit within its power structure.

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  14. Yoram:> Introducing meaningful sortition-based decision making fits within the ideology of polyarchy,

    Then we should couch our programmes in terms of polyarchic ideology, my own preference being Dahl’s proposal for Polyarchy III. The only constraint is the need to ensure our programmes honour the majoritarian principle.

    >: but it does not fit within its power structure.

    The ultimate currency of polyarchy is votes, not dollars, so the majoritarian principle would oblige elites to (ulimately) adopt sortition-based decision making (adjusting their own roles to suit).

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  15. *** Keith says “there are good reasons to believe that the powers of the judiciary, the deep state and the “social voice” would be increased by the rule of unelected amateurs, who would lack the experience, competence and electoral legitimacy to challenge the non-democratic influences.”
    *** Restricting the question here to the “deep State”, I agree that some dose of election may be useful to rein on the bureaucracies. But I think Keith is exaggerating the weight of the polyarchic “political class” in front of the bureaucratic elites. The politicians have their time consumed by the reelection and the climbing in the party, and have not so much time left overseeing the bureaucracies. And if they want to control the bureaucracies “because they have the legitimate power”, they will get strong backfire from the bureaucratic elites, very dangerous for their political career.
    *** President Trump – we must acknowledge that – is useful to reveal things usually veiled. We can see him at war with several parts of the deep state, including the “intelligence community” (a very interesting concept), which attacks him with orientated leaks, among other ways. See the article by Amanda Taub and Max Fischer, New York Times, February 16, 2017; on Internet. The magazine Time described the situation as an example of “checks and balances” working in the USA (not an example Montesquieu foresaw!). The US intelligence apparatus was known as conspiring against foreign governments (including elected ones), now it is conspiring against its own. An extreme case, but any politician opposing a bureaucratic elite will get backfire, even of a more discreet kind. And if the politician is too aggressive, he will appear “extremist”: because the bureaucratic elites are kinds of social powers, which have right to be a part of polyarchic rule, as other social powers.
    *** Actually allotted bodies are able to control their bureaucracies better than elected bodies, because they can multiply themselves into auditing citizen juries.
    *** Ancient Athens had few public servants, and they were mostly public slaves. Small danger of deep state power. Modern societies need bureaucratic professional apparatuses. In a polyarchy, a bureaucratic elite is one of the social powers of the “parallelogram of forces” carries the political choices. Totalitarian regimes could not accept that, their solution was to double bureaucracies by parallel militant networks.
    *** In a modern (ortho-)democracy the sovereign people could protect his power first through auditing juries and second by giving decisional power to citizen juries instead of professionals for the cases where the decision includes a high level of “arbitrary” choice.
    *** Systemic approaches may be useful to lessen the risk of crystallization of a specific bureaucratic elite, for instance by diversifying the recruitment paths.
    *** Election of managers may help – we could say it is one way of recruitment diversification.

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  16. Andre:> any politician opposing a bureaucratic elite will get backfire, even of a more discreet kind.

    That’s very true, as your Trump example demonstrates. But the bureaucratic elite will attempt to manipulate the “jury” to its own will and will ridicule any decisions that go against it.

    >In a modern (ortho-)democracy the sovereign people could protect his power first through auditing juries.

    You have yet to explain exactly how such a body would function. In every example that I can think of (including the Athenian juries), prosecutions were launched by competing politicians and other elite members. What would be the modern equivalent, given that you are posing the juries as an alternative power to the elites that you described earlier?

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  17. *** Yoram Gat says « Among the supposed pillars of polyarchic ideology (i.e., bases for legitimacy of power), the primacy of elections is supreme. Any attempt to shift the burden of legitimacy away from elections and onto explicitly elitist bases undermines the legitimacy of the system. »
    *** I agree with Yoram basically, but we must see that the oligarchizing elites are trying to lessen this primacy. They are taking risks. In texts with wide-reading, I find many discourses about « democracy is not people’s power, don’t trust etymology ». Maybe I find such texts are many because I mind more the subject, but these texts are not rare.
    *** Maybe the oligarchizing elites are taking reckless risks.
    *** The Western Establishment believed some decades ago that polyarchy was the final form of government, that, at least for the evolution of political ideology, it was « the end of history ». The surges of populist phenomena, demonstrating that the elites did not control anymore a big part of the common citizens, were deeply disturbing, and may explain such a dangerous game.

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  18. Given the elite backlash against populism, we might well choose not to align our rhetoric with the latter. This would mean abandoning siren calls to abolish electoralism while rejecting token gestures for subordinate allotted bodies a la Rosanvallon. That would require a careful distinction between the decision power of well-informed minidemoi and the advisory power of elite actors. The resulting system would be Polyarchy III, not orthodemocracy, but hopefully could be transitioned without the need for a period of explicit oligarchy, which is presumably what Andre is suggesting by “oligarchizing elites taking reckless risks.” I’m not in favour of revolutions, whether of an oligarchical or populist stripe.

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  19. *** Keith Sutherland (11 May, 12 :12 pm) thinks that the bureaucratic elite [or elements of it], when disapproving a minipublic decision, will ridicule it [or worse]. I agree : we see that already when the media don’t like a judicial jury’s verdict, they conceal the facts which may explain « this strange verdict ».
    *** I think that, in a modern (ortho-)democracy, when a minipublic opts for a given policy, it may elect a manager to control the bureaucracy, and likewise elect some « advocates of the policy », able to stand up for this policy, with a legal « right to reply » as exists for individuals in several countries, including France.
    *** Electing a representative is inherently anti-democratic, but electing advocates is not. In the Second Athenian Democracy, when a politician asked for changing a law, the legislative jury had to choose (a kind of trial) between the old law and the new one ; and the assembly elected the advocates of the old law (who were not representatives of the dêmos, but chosen for a specific task ; and could have various political leanings).

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  20. > Electing a representative is inherently anti-democratic, but electing advocates is not

    But advocates are also a type of representatives. Advocates have a privileged position in the decision making process and as such carry significant political power. Allowing any positions with significant political power to be selected through elections is anti-democratic.

    The democratic procedure would have an allotted chamber select advocates (this could theoretically be a different chamber from the one making the decision, but I do not see any advantage in splitting these functions).

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  21. Elect, select, appoint what’s the difference? (other than only the first is subject to the majoritarian principle). Each procedure is reliant on the principle of distinction as the (mini)demos wants to have the person(s) best able to defend its decision.

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  22. A comment on the idea that the bureaucracy “when disapproving a minipublic decision, will ridicule it [or worse].” This is also true of an elected chamber if there is both an elected and allotted hybrid bicameral system (many sortitionists advocate), and both chambers get a turn on the same bill, so that both can be viewed as knowledgeable on the topic. The danger is that a likely strategy of an aggrieved elected chamber will be to discredit and attack the legitimacy of the allotted chamber. In addition, the elected chamber is made up of self-confident “leaders” with a “mandate” who are skilled at public relations and persuasion, while the allotted members will be far less likely to have these characteristics. The elected representatives will have their political careers and power as an incentive to challenge the sortition chamber, while the sortition members have no political career to cling to as motivation. This is why I think the strategy of having one chamber in a bicameral system allotted and one elected is a poor strategy for developing an “ortho-democracy” (in André’s terminology).

    I think the better transitional strategy (assuming an elected legislature will persist for a while along side any sortition process), is to peel away one issue area at a time, and vest total control on THAT topic with the sortition system, so that the two chambers never need to butt heads on any given bill. This has a realistic prospect simply because at the start there are many issue areas that the elected chamber would happily no longer deal with (they are no-win issues that mobilize constituents against them no matter which way they vote).

    In the same way that we still have monarchs in many European electoral countries, who have, over time, been reduced to figure heads. I think the same could happen to an elected legislature as a series of constitutional amendments transfer more and more power to the sortition arm of government.

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  23. Terry is right to remind us that in a bicameral system the elected chamber will always win. His update of Walter Bagehot’s whig theory of history — in which successive elements move from the efficient to the dignified arm of the constitution — is an interesting one as this will mean that the demos rules directly (through representative samples), resulting in the withering away of the political state (as anticipated by Bagehot’s contemporary, Karl Marx).

    In their updates of Bagehot’s thesis, both Richard Crossman and Tony Benn argued that parliament had already joined the monarchy on the dignified benches as the executive ruled (having purloined the royal prerogative). This would be a distinct danger to an “orthodemocracy” as Andre has still not explained (despite repeated requests!) how the executive would be constrained by “juries”. In the Athenian case, the prosecutions were usually launched by competing politicians, but these unfortunate creatures have already been consigned to the dustbin of history (at least in Terry’s version of the whig apocalypse).

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  24. *** Considering the hybrid model of elected representative bodies / allotted bodies, Terry Bouricius writes : « a likely strategy of an aggrieved elected chamber will be to discredit and attack the legitimacy of the allotted chamber » and « the elected representatives will have their political careers and power as an incentive to challenge the sortition chamber, while the sortition members have no political career to cling to as motivation ».
    *** If the allotted body , after choosing a policy, elects as advocates politicians who may belong to different networks but were supporting this choice, it will be a war of politicians , or « orators ». The allotted body will not be so easily ridiculed, and we may especially think that young ambitious politicians will be glad to be advocates of the minipublic.
    *** There will be always some kind of « political elite ». One aim of ortho-democracy would be to prevent too advanced a crystallization (for instance by diversification) . But the institution of minipublic’s advocates will be useful to keep a high level of clash inside this elite, whatever in an ortho-democracy or in an hybrid system.

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  25. Agree with Andre — democratic liberty has always required a competition between politicians/orators. Personal ambition can be recruited for the public good (as the Athenians understood so well). Such a system is essentially hybrid (even in a unicameral democracy).

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  26. Interesting comments regarding the supposed vulnerability of elections by US senator Mark Warner:

    Russian active measures on social media have two things in common: They are effective. And they are cheap. For just pennies on the dollar, they can wreak havoc in our society and in our elections.

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