Fintan O’Toole: If only Brexit had been run like Ireland’s referendum

Fintan O’Toole has a glowing account in the Guardian about Ireland’s constitutional referendum. It advertises the allotted chamber process as the antidote to what troubles the establishment with electoral politics.

As O’Toole’s sees things, the trouble with electoral politics is “tribalism and fake ‘facts’”. With some careful management, the public can come to see sense and vote accordingly.

In all the excitement of what happened in Ireland’s referendum on abortion, we should not lose sight of what did not happen. A vote on an emotive subject was not subverted. The tactics that have been so successful for the right and the far right in the UK, the US, Hungary and elsewhere did not work. A democracy navigated its way through some very rough terrain and came home not just alive but more alive than it was before. In the world we inhabit, these things are worth celebrating but also worth learning from. Political circumstances are never quite the same twice, but some of what happened and did not happen in Ireland surely contains more general lessons.

73 Responses

  1. Great piece – fantastic context to the story of public deliberation.

    It makes me think: Equality by Lot is a great blog – thanks Yoram, in particular, for all the dedication and hard work that you put into this.

    At the same time it is clearly vital to tell ordinary people’s stories – to always remember the human and to go beyond the sortition details that, if I might be so bold, some EBL posters get rather aggressively attached to.

    I fully acknowledge, at the same time, that is equally vital to protect the integrity and value of public deliberation, hence the need for near OCD-levels of attention to getting the real-life execution right and to be brutally honest when things go wrong.

    The two are possible, and in harmony.

    I can’t help but think that things are moving sortition’s way though. My hope is that we can speed the process without losing the vital essence.

    EBL plays an important part in that – I’ve learnt alot here.

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  2. If the Brexit referendum had been preceded by such a respectful, dignified and humble exercise in listening and thinking, it would surely have been a radically different experience.

    I argued the case for this in the Spectator (June 2013) https://www.spectator.co.uk/2013/06/letters-285/ and Open Democracy (April 2016) https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/keith-sutherland/brexit-lottery. But nobody took any notice.

    The Irish parliament did listen – an all-party parliamentary committee essentially adopted the proposals of the Citizens’ Assembly. So did the government.

    This should encourage those of us who argue that sortition can become part of the political process (rather than seeking to overthrow “electoralism”). When it comes to controversial issues, we are pushing at an open door.

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  3. Although it is reason to champion the Irish use of sortition in order to spread awareness of the concept, I think the Ireland mixed body combining randomly selected citizens and elected politicians in a mixed body is a bad precedent. A key point is that I believe the Irish issues were unique cases where the potential harm of a mixed body was masked. This is because they were tackling CULTURAL issues, where many politicians did not already have entrenched positions they had promised their constituents to fight for, and the issues cut across class and partisan lines. SUCH issues CAN incorporate politicians with LESS harm, but still harm the advance of MEANINGFUL sortition (as opposed to politician “fig leaf” sortition), more than they help it.

    A mixed body is bad for both epistemic reasons and also for theoretical reasons.

    1. The mixed body will not invoke political equality. As in Animal Farm, some will be “more equal than others.”
    2. There is a danger that many randomly selected citizens will have a psychological tendency to defer to their “betters” who have higher status. Rather than genuinely uncovering the wisdom of crowds, we will get a distorted deliberation. This also engenders an intellectual “free rider” problem.
    3. If the issue has a significant partisan divide, many allotted members will prematurely “take sides” with their favored political party politicians who are participating.
    4. If the issue threatens the privilege or power of elected officials they will conspire to stop it, and they know how to “play that game” in a deliberative body.
    5. Unlike the Irish experience, if the minipublic advances a policy that many politicians in the body vote AGAINST, rather than having the politicians ADD to the credibility of the minipublic (them speaking favorably to the press, etc.), the politicians will use their INSIDE knowledge to belittle the process, question the legitimacy of the minipublic in order to attack the proposal (and there will always be anecdotes that can be found to make the allotted members seem stupid as a whole).
    6. An elected chamber has a (questionable) logic for its legitimacy (the principle of distinction,… voters selected the best agents to work on their behalf), and a randomly selected minipublic that closely matches the demographic mix of the population has a DIFFERENT logic for its legitimacy, which we know well. But a MIXED body has NO logical basis for legitimacy. It will NOT be a microcosm of the population (it will lean male, older and wealthier), nor will it be seen as the “best” agents for the people. By including politicians in the minipublic you destroy the logic for its legitimacy, and strongly suggest that average citizens are simply not up to the task (they lack competence, or something). So although politicians may repeat the process of a mixed body for later issues (either cultural ones, or ones where they want a protective fig leaf), and this gives sortition advocates the feeling or progress for sortition, Mixed bodies will enshrine the idea of never letting the people make any deliberative decisions without the politicians able to put their thumb on the scale. In short, I fear the irish experiment is a pyrrhic victory that APPEARS to advance sortition, but actually endangers it evolving in a powerful way.

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  4. Agree with Terry, and this is all the more reason for those of us with OCD-levels of attention to getting the real-life execution right (as Patrick put it) to point out the entirely different mandates of elected and allotted bodies and the danger of mixing the two. But the Irish experiment should also encourage us to be less hostile to sortition proposals from existing political elites — in the first instance they may well be only cultural issues that politicians view as an electoral liability, but every wedge has a thin end.

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  5. Those are great comments – I really appreciate them all. What I found interesting was the idea that the CA helped politicians move their positions – daring to go outside of the constrained boundaries they imagined they had to operate within.

    According to the exit polls – after people had had to cross their ballots – Irish people were way ahead of their politicians.

    I really value these points though and I hope this will be more than pyrrhic.

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  6. >Irish people were way ahead of their politicians.

    There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader. (Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin)

    Of course what constitutes “ahead” depends on where you stand on the issue in question. There is an assumption that sortition will lead to “progressive” outcomes on issues like abortion, Brexit and anti-Trumpism. In the Irish example this was the case (although we don’t know how the referendum would have panned out in the absence of the citizens’ assembly), but it would be unwise to assume that will generally be the case.

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  7. Terry,
    As you may remember, I personally favour a mixed system like the one proposed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and not even as a transitional step but as an endpoint. I posit that every citizen has an individual right to decide how she wants to be represented. She can either delegate and vote for a candidate, which -she thinks- represents her own views and interests as accurately as she herself would, or not delegate and try her chances at the lottery.
    Incidentally, I favour this not for ideological reasons but for purely practical ones. The threshold for implementation is much lower than convincing half or more of the citizens to relinquish all or part of their proportional share of sovereignty (Rousseau) to an allotted body. Instead, I am only asking that you do as you fancy with your own share and do not tell me what I must do with mine – a straightforward matter of individual freedom.
    Implicit in all this is the idea that both sources of legitimacy are perfectly equivalent: elected members will be representative as agents of those who preferred to vote and allotted members will be representative as a random sample of those who opted for the lottery. Each citizen will be represented with the same weight.
    With regard to the operational concerns that you raise, the arrangement I’ve suggested for the Congreso (in Spanish) acknowledges the fact that there will be two different kinds of members. There will be a separate political group, or caucus, called the Citizens’ Group, whose votes will always be secret.
    Now, being different is one thing and being subordinate, as you seem to imply, is a very different one. Learning and thinking about sortition has helped me in having a higher concept of any person I randomly meet. I’m convinced that if we fall again and again in the same tricks by the same politicians is simply because we are not paying enough attention, busy as we are living our lives. Give anyone an incentive to pay attention (in other words, overcome rational ignorance) and all the artful trickery of our callous-unemotional politicians gradually becomes more and more transparent.

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  8. Arturo:> I’m convinced that if we fall again and again in the same tricks by the same politicians is simply because we are not paying enough attention, busy as we are living our lives.

    One of the distinctive characteristics that leads to electoral success is having much better rhetorical skills than average citizens — many (most?) of who would be to shy to speak in an assembly of several hundred persons on a subject that they are not familiar with. This alone will provide elected members with a huge advantage, and is the principal reason for Terry’s argument against assemblies with a mixed mandate.

    >Each citizen will be represented with the same weight.

    That’s clearly not the case, for the above reason. And it also applies to listeners, who are likely to be persuaded by a good speaker with a claim to a mandate.

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  9. Keith,
    Oratorical art can hide the truth – to a point. Dig a little more, and truth emerges unscathed.
    Have you ever thought about how rational ignorance works all the time in real life? Soundbites and slogans are so powerful because people tend to hesitate (and I don’t blame them) before putting an effort and thinking for themselves unless what is at stake means a lot to them personally. And this is the main source of autoritas for most politicians: that we are simply too lazy or too distracted to stop for a second and question if what they are saying is true.
    If I hear in passing that a bank rescue is unavoidable because, if we don’t do it, the sky will fall on our heads, I may be tempted to believe it and pass to the next thing. But if I have the time and leisure to look at all arguments for and against, I will rapidly go beyond any simplistic explanation and start asking questions about economic causality or relevant historical precedents. I may very well end up not paying attention anymore to what politicians have to say on that or any other matter.
    An allotted member of the parliament will have only one job: not to take at face value what the politicians are saying.

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  10. Arturo,

    While I admire the internal logic, even elegance, of your transition plan, I am afraid the resulting body will not be a good one from a democracy perspective for very fundamental psychological reasons (those Keith noted, and many others). If you persist in promoting this approach, at the very least include these two features… 1. assign random representation also for all those citizens who do not cast a ballot at all (as they have not endorsed any of the elected candidates), and 2. make separate bodies for the elected representatives and the randomly allotted ones… don’t mix them in the same body.

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  11. Arturo:> But if I have the time and leisure to look at all arguments for and against, I will rapidly go beyond any simplistic explanation and start asking questions about economic causality or relevant historical precedents.

    That may be true for you (and other highly-educated politically-engaged people) I would be cautious about attributing this to a bunch of randomly-selected conscripts (remember that a voluntary sortition will not be representative). I think you also underestimate the tendency to deference amongst people who generally have no interest in politics.

    >unless what is at stake means a lot to them personally

    Many of the topics that will be considered by a legislative assembly will not affect the participants personally.

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  12. Arturo,

    Sutherland’s basic position is that most people are too stupid, easily-manipulated, selfish, and/or lazy to know what is good for themselves and therefore are better off managed by their betters. (By pure coincidence, Sutherland gets to decide who are to be those managers.)

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  13. Yoram,

    Just as you correctly object when Keith Sutherland (by creative interpolation) attributes opinions to you that you do not hold, and have not stated, I would also urge you not to do the same thing to him. While I share many of your criticisms of Keith’s sortition design preferences (such as allowing elected officials to have overwhelming influence over the agenda and form of proposals). However, putting words in his mouth (like “their betters”) isn’t fair.

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  14. Terry,

    The analogy you are drawing is false. Sutherland is simply a liar. Among his other lies, he regularly attributes to others ideas they never expressed (and sometimes ideas they explicitly rejected). If you ask him for evidence that the ideas he attributed to others were actually expressed by them he is unable to provide any such evidence (and feels himself under no obligation to do so).

    On the other hand, the ideas I attributed above to Sutherland are certainly his. My phrasing is, perhaps, a bit more explicit than Sutherland would use, for when phrased this way it is quite clear that those ideas are odious and they garner no support. However, even if instead of saying “their betters” Sutherland uses a more polite term such as “highly-educated” the essence of the ideas is the same. There is nothing unfair in stripping the essence of ideas from the rhetoric that clothes them and presenting it clearly for examination.

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  15. Keith,
    The main difference between your approach and mine is the importance each gives to the effect of rational ignorance. While you think that “people who generally have no interest in politics” (and rightly so, given the tiny influence they wield over the final outcome) broadly remain the same after being drawn at the lottery, I am convinced that they will be thoroughly transformed.
    The main lever of rational ignorance is lack of time: in the first place, time to gather, check and double-check information; then, and even more crucially, time to lay down for a while and just think hard, in the intimacy of our souls, about the pros and cons of any given proposal. Most people’s lives are just too busy to stop for a second and think about anything, especially if we are presented instead with an easy, ready-made answer.
    But let’s take one of these people and let’s tell her that her life is about to change. She will get a hefty salary for four years and a lifelong pension after that (hey, she just won the lottery!). More relevant to our analysis, she will now have both the opportunity (she will have only one daily job: not satisfy herself with ready-made answers and think hard instead) and the motive (the influence of her vote is now five orders of magnitude higher) to become, as you would put it, “interested in politics”.

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  16. Yoram,

    Given your general worldview that people always act in their own interest, then what would be my motive for lying? I have never been a member of a political party, or offered myself as an electoral candidate and have no intention of doing so at any time in the future. When it comes to making political choices I often act against my interests — for example I voted for Brexit, whereas most people of my background (highly educated) and income (business owner) voted Remain. I earn my living as a commercial printer and have no wish to pursue an academic career, so have no intellectual investment to protect. Do you think I’m in the pay of some sinister interest — in which case who might that be?

    In defence of my position I have been a passionate advocate of sortition for over 10 years and decided 7 years ago (at great expense and inconvenience) to do a PhD on the subject as I wanted my own prejudices on the topic to be challenged by my intellectual peers (and betters). I have refined and enlarged my position on sortition as a consequence, to the extent of viewing my first book on the subject (The Party’s Over) as a good candidate for burning. I hugely enjoy debating on this forum and have benefited enormously from the exchanges — especially with Andre and Terry. I do, however, get irritated when a prominent poster refuses to alter his basic position on the topic, and claims that it can be validated by logical syllogism. Most of us believe that the topic requires a multi-disciplinary approach, including history, social psychology and social-science experimentation — all grounded in careful philosophical analysis of what the word “democracy” means and what sorition can and cannot do to realise it in practice. But most importantly it involves listening to others in an open-minded and charitable manner — a key desideratum within the deliberative democracy movement.

    >instead of saying “their betters” Sutherland uses a more polite term such as “highly-educated”

    What I actually claimed was just a tautology — that highly-educated politically-engaged people are more likely to engage with political decision making than those less so. I don’t generally believe that high levels of education indicate merit (and have been persuaded to drop the minimal threshold of political competence testing that I suggested for the allotted assembly in my first book).

    Arturo,

    I agree with you regarding the necessity to overcome rational ignorance — that’s why my proposal is based around final legislative decisions being arrogated to a large randomly-selected jury (a position that I share with Andre and Terry). But I’m very doubtful that sortition will be able to fulfil the policy generation and advocacy role in a democratically acceptable manner, especially if this would require a 4-year term of service (during which time the allotted sample would cease to properly “describe” the target population). I guess this is largely an empirical matter as your claims could be tested in practice, but I think most social psychologists would dismiss them a priori as wishful thinking.

    PS If you want some evidence in support of this view, I recommend

    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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  17. *** Patrick Chalmers found interesting (May 31, 2 :59 pm) « the idea that the CA helped politicians move their positions – daring to go outside of the constrained boundaries they imagined they had to operate within ». The idea of allotted citizens used in an « exploratory » way is indeed interesting. The political elite of the Republic of Ireland may have thought that the decreasing influence of the traditional Christian Faith allowed for the legalization of abortion, but they might have been afraid of the electorate reaction after a deep debate. Several referenda have shown that ordinary opinion polls indicate the immediate reaction of the polled people, but not how these reactions might evolve when the debate is developed. If they did not want to take political risks with the referendum, it was a good idea to elaborate a mixed body with politicians and ordinary citizens, to see the virtual evolution of ordinary citizens (in an environment not equalitarian, but such are polyarchic debates).
    *** Such a body lacks deep legitimacy, says Bouricius (among other comments I agree wholeheartedly with). But its lack of legitimacy is an asset for its polyarchic organizers. Such a mixed body is useful as a social voice in Rosanvallon’s model, and likewise here as a tool for exploring the public opinion potential moves, but it is not a minipublic. A true minipublic, even auxiliary, consultative or whatever, is virtually a piece of (ortho-) democratic power, is virtually subversive. Establishing a minipublic is a step towards democracy-through-minipublics, or at least towards an hybrid model. It will be not easily accepted by parts of the political elite – except in the kind of dramatic circumstances where parts of the established elites are ready to consider a political mutation. I doubt it was the case in the Republic of Ireland.

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  18. Andre,

    What do you mean when you write “virtually”? Did you mean to write “essentially” or “inherently”?

    Also, when you refer to “a true minipublic”, what makes a body “a true minipublic”?

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  19. *** A true minipublic is an exact mirror of the public. A minipopulus in an exact mirror of the populus – with the same percent of women, of morons and of bald persons (to quote a sentence by an enemy of minipublics). A body made from a mix of allotted citizens and of selected ones cannot be a minipublic.
    *** Sorry, as you must have guessed, I am not good in English. I wrote « virtually », as French « virtuellement », which translates in English as « potentially ». The minipopulus of Dahl, although supposed to be only a « complement » to the established legislative bodies, was potentially subversive, which explains the harsh reaction of Habermas ; we can note likewise a tendency towards eliminating this « utopian element » from the comments about Dahl’s work, including in wikipedia. Dahl wrote (Democracy and its critics, 1989, p 340). : « The judgment of a minipopulus wouId “represent” the judgment of the demos. Its verdict would be the verdict of the demos itself, if the demos were able to advantage of the best available knowledge to decide what policies were most likely to achieve the ends it sought. The judgments of the minipopulus wouId thus derive their authority from the legitimacy of democracy. » Such a sentence is potentially subversive of polyarchy.

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  20. I see.

    But then the ability of an allotted body to represent the people depends many parameters. If, for example, its term of service is short, or if its agenda is restricted, or if its sources of information are controlled by outside forces, then it can be controlled and its subversive potential is eliminated.

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  21. Yoram,
    But there is the dilemma… if their term is short, you fear they will not master their craft (perhaps), and fail to live up to their potential… but if their terms are long, they will cease to be a mirror of the population, as they will undergo psychological changes through the extended exercise of power (not to mention other risks of corruption). This is why I advocate separate minipublic bodies… those serving longer terms craft final proposals from the input from anywhere in society, but without ultimate power, and short duration minipublics that have final say about adoption.

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  22. Terry,

    Naturally, there is a trade-off representativity and competence. As we have discussed before, distributing power between multiple bodies has both advantages and disadvantages. It is by no means a magic bullet and, depending on the particulars of the arrangement, may cause more harm than good.

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  23. Yoram:> distributing power between multiple [allotted] bodies . . . may cause more harm than good.

    Agreed. But then the trade-off needs to be between elected and short-term allotted bodies, corresponding to the two principal forms of political representation: active and descriptive. As Pitkin put it, it’s not at all clear what a descriptively-representative body can do other than vote (as a proxy for what everybody would do under similar conditions).

    >It is by no means a magic bullet

    Correct.

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  24. Of course the devil is in the details, and a sortition system can be designed badly such that it is a miserable failure. But here are the considerations that convince me a multi-minipublic design is optimal.
    1. It is undesirable and undemocratic to leave the active deliberation and crafting of a final proposal to an elite group (especially not to elected partisans). elected partisans have no interest and are largely incapable of genuine deliberation in search of common ground. They are motivated to maximize power and defeat the others.
    2. Active deliberation and crafting of final proposals is best done by a highly diverse group with no overriding sets of hidden agendas (as politicians have). A minipublic is ideal for this task. To gain adequate knowledge and understanding they will have to serve for a “long” term (probably more than a year, or several years). However this process will make then unrepresentative of the general population… both because too many ordinary citizens will be likely to decline to serve (making the random sample less random due to self-selection bias), and creeping feelings of power will tend to corrupt or alter them psychologically.
    3. In addition, a long-serving body capable of crafting legislation (whether elected or a minipublic) becomes ill-suited for judging their own handiwork… the author is not a good judge of what they have produced.
    4. A short duration minipublic that makes the final yes/no decision on a bill after pro and con presentations, will be a more accurate reflection of the population, both because it is feasible to quasi-mandate service with fewer decliners, and they will be less prone to psychological deviation from the general public. It is also easier to shield them from bribery or corruption, as with laws against jury tampering.

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  25. Terry,

    Of course, I completely agree on the matter of elected politicians. Elected politicians an anti-democratic force, no matter what their powers are. We are dealing with the question of to what extent division of power between multiple allotted bodies is a good idea.

    Regarding the representativity of a long serving body: if this body is non-representative then it is not democratic, it should not be given any powers. Instead of granting power to a non-democratic body, the long-serving body should be designed so that it is representative, by (1) making sure that incentives are accommodations are given to motivate and allow all the allotted to participate, (2) having society and the political system set up to insure that the allotted body is not prone to aggrandization.

    Regarding being unable to judge one’s handiwork: I tend to disagree. In general terms, it takes an expert to evaluate an expert’s work. In the absence of a personal profit motive, a long serving body would be much better able to judge their own work than any short term body would be able to.

    Finally, knowing that one’s long hard work could be thrown down the drain at the whim of a poorly informed body is a sure way to demotivate the members of the long-term body and thus reduce the commitment of the members and the quality of their work and in this way delegitimate the system.

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  26. Yoram:> having society and the political system set up to insure that the allotted body is not prone to aggrandization.

    Well that sounds like a walk in the park! Note the assumption that only social and political factors have to be “set up” appropriately, psychology (let alone human nature) clearly having no role to play in the Gat worldview. This shouldn’t surprise us as Marx rejected the notion of human nature in favour of species being — formed by the totality of social relations. So if the latter are set up in the correct way then the persons selected by lot will naturally attune their individual nature to the general good and the issue of who and how many are selected, along with the length of service is irrelevant.

    Of course from the perspective of individual and group psychology this is just bonkers.

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  27. Terry:> elected partisans . . . are motivated to maximize power and defeat the others

    A more charitable interpretation would be that politicians are motivated to seek re-election and this requires (inter alia) keeping their constituents happy. We all agree on the principle of ho boulomenos (except Yoram, who wants to restrict policy initiative rights to persons selected at random), the question is how this might be possible in large states. My hunch is that most citizens would prefer to choose for themselves what proposals should be the subject of deliberation and this presupposes election and/or votation. I don’t think there’s any chance that citizens in a democratic era would opt to completely disenfranchise themselves (as required by your multi-body sortition model).

    >genuine deliberation in search of common ground

    Where is the evidence that a voluntary sortition body would exhibit these characteristics? It’s just as likely to be dominated by those with a strong interest in political life, including activists and partisans. And such small long-serving bodies would be wide open to pressure from lobby groups and others seeking to dominate the political process (bear in mind Andre’s earlier comments regarding corruption in the Athenian council).

    PS It’s worth noting that your bicameral proposal (for proposers and disposers) closely matches Harrington’s Senate and Prerogative Tribe, the only difference being that the former was elected by universal suffrage. This is ironic, given that Harrington (a former courtier to Charles I) published his proposal in 1656.

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  28. *** Yoram Gat said (June 8): « the ability of an allotted body to represent the people depends many parameters. If, for example, its term of service is short, or if its agenda is restricted, or if its sources of information are controlled by outside forces, then it can be controlled and its subversive potential is eliminated. »
    *** A body is a minipopulus if through allotment it is the exact mirror of the populus.
    *** The dêmokratia implies that any organization of the minipopulus system (including time of service, agenda, information etc.) is decided by a minipopulus, the concerned one or another one.
    *** Thus a minipopulus may exist, without democratic sovereignty, if its agenda, information etc. are decided outside of the minipopulus system.
    *** That said, the idea of minipopulus is inherently subversive. The 1789 French deputies, using the representative-electoral idea, said « we are the French People », and the King’s legitimacy – the king mystically embodying the People of the kingdom– was subverted. A minipopulus could always say « We are the People », or be seen as able to say it. It would be dangerous for a polyarchic establishment to set a true minipopulus, even controlling it , and therefore, outside exceptional circumstances the established polyarchic elites will be reluctant to establish a minipopulus, even controlling it. If they want to use allotment, along the « polyphonic » idea or as an opinion exploratory device, they will build bodies, for instance mixed ones, or with a volunteer recruitment with low representativity, or both.
    *** Maybe the device “true minipopulus but under control” will be more easily used in an autocratic regime, as Continental China, which has a pragmatic legitimacy – a legitimacy of another kind, without direct competition.

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  29. Andre> [1] A body is a minipopulus if through allotment it is the exact mirror of the populus.

    [2] The dêmokratia implies that any organization of the minipopulus system (including time of service, agenda, information etc.) is decided by a minipopulus

    What if the decisions result in a minipopulus that is no longer the exact mirror of the populus, an obvious example being length of service (for the reasons that Terry has provided)? Allotment is a necessary but not sufficient condition for ongoing representativity.

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  30. Andre,

    To put my point more clearly, political decisions (war and peace, tax on bread, women’s reproductive rights) are a matter of judgment, beliefs, preferences and interests. However ensuring that a minipopulus is (and more importantly, remains) an exact mirror of the populus is a matter of fact, that can be demonstrated by social science experiment. As such the people to make such decisions would be statisticians, psychologists, political scientists, political theorists and those with hands-on experience of group behaviour, especially that of legislatures. The views of a randomly-selected group of citizens are of no relevance.

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  31. Andre,

    > A minipopulus could always say « We are the People »

    I think this is unrealistically optimistic. An allotted body that is heavily controlled by the establishment would be no more able to find the voice to say “we are the people” than the population at large can.

    This, for example, is the case with juries. Of course in the first place their decisions are highly manipulated by the professional elites that control the courthouse – the prosecution, the lawyers, the judges. But even after they reach their decision, it can be over-ridden in various routine ways – the most frequent one, I believe, being an appeal to higher courts where there are no juries. Yet, I have never seen a credible challenge (either by the jury itself or by any other force) to this elitist system that uses juries to legitimate its actions but which is able to ignore them at will.

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  32. ➢ Yoram
    *** It is difficult to consider a Western contemporary judicial jury as a good example of minipopulus given its small size, which creates a high degree of randomness, and the availability of rejection and its extended use by prosecution and defense, which amount to selection.
    *** Conflicts between judicial juries and the global polyarchic system will be rare given the control of the system upon the juries ; but if they occur, they will not be usually conspicuous, because they can be explained away by reference to the specific case. A conflict of legitimacies would be more easily conspicuous if high political crimes (treason, corruption ..) would be judged by a national allotted jury. That was proposed by Pierre Leroux during the 1848 revolution (in Projet de constitution démocratique et sociale, Paris, 1848) but I don’t know polyarchies where it is established – clearly the Establishment generally does not trust its control on the juries.
    *** The Western contemporary judicial jury is not a true minipopulus, but it is somewhat akin to a minipopulus, and I think it may explain that the Western jury is in 21st century an endangered species. In the USA a very small percent of crimes are heard by juries – see « Twelve absent men » by Albert W. Dzur (Boston Review, July 22, 2013). For instance « In 2005 the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that juries heard 4 percent of all alleged criminal offenses brought before federal courts ». In France many crimes which should legally be heard by a “Cour d’Assises”, with jurors, are practically given to professional magistrates (« correctionnalisation »), and it will be legalized through a bill prepared by the new President.
    *** The reasons given are pragmatic ones : less costly, more efficient. But I suspect that the ghost of dêmokratia is at least partly behind this drift. Any institution which looks too much like a minipopulus is not likeable.

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  33. Andre,

    > A conflict of legitimacies would be more easily conspicuous if high political crimes (treason, corruption ..) would be judged by a national allotted jury. That was proposed by Pierre Leroux during the 1848 revolution

    Monitoring elected politicians for corruption is an excellent first objective for sorititionism, in my opinion. Do you have a specific source for the proposal in Leroux’s writings?

    > less costly, more efficient

    Yes – getting the “correct” result in the first place is less costly and more efficient than having to resort to appeals in order to reverse “wrong” decisions.

    But, again, I think that short term allotted bodies (which necessarily implies an externally determined agenda) have very limited potential subversive potential even if they are fully and fairly allotted with high levels of participation.

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  34. Toram wrote
    >”Yet, I have never seen a credible challenge (either by the jury itself or by any other force) to this elitist system that uses juries to legitimate its actions but which is able to ignore them at will.”

    Jury nullification does happen in the U.S occasionally. This is when a jury rejects the directions of the judge and either decides a law is unjust, or there are countervailing considerations and declares a defendant who is unquestionably LEGALLY guilty, to be “not guilty.” In those cases the defendant is freed and there is no option for appeal by the prosecution. Jury nullification is highly controversial, but does persist.

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  35. Terry,

    Even in the rare cases when it does happen, jury nullification remains a localized decision without a subversive impact on society. I believe that it is this wider subversive impact – challenging the system rather than challenging one specific decision – that Andre attributes to allotted bodies.

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  36. Yoram:> Monitoring elected politicians for corruption is an excellent first objective for sorititionism

    Such a body would need to be a) long-serving and b) embedded — in the sense of having knowledge of the offices and familiarity with their occupants (that’s why parliamentary select committees are reasonably effective in holding the executive to account). As such your proposed allotted body would be an immediate target for lobbying and corruption. So who would guard the guardians? Bear in mind also that in antiquity accusations of corruption mostly originated with ambitious elite members who were in competition with those they were accusing; the modern (representative) equivalent would be political parties and the mass media, institutions that you dismiss as oligarchic.

    Needless to say I have no problem at all with the trial of a politician for corruption being judged by a large jury, selected at random. But that is not what you are proposing as it would have no “subversive impact on society” (an eccentric role for a trial jury).

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  37. *** Keith Sutherland thinks strange that a trial jury could be subversive. I don’t know well British and US history, but I believed that some cases could be seen like that. Anyway let’s imagine a US-like constitution where the president could be indicted by a House elected proportionally (the more democratic method, some say) and judged by an allotted National Jury. If the President is indicted by 70 % of the elected representatives and acquitted by 70 % of the allotted jurors, everybody will think : which body is representative ?
    *** Therefore I think usually polyarchies will avoid such a situation of « clash of legitimacies ».
    *** But even the mere idea of an allotted jury is becoming dangerous, now that « political sortition » came out of the Limbo.

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  38. About the Projet de constitution démocratique et sociale, Paris, 1848, by Pierre Leroux, wich included (pp 57-58) an allotted Jury National.
    *** The text can be found in Internet (gallica.bnf.fr)
    *** Leroux did not propose use of sortition for legislative power, but only for high criminal judicial power. His draft of constitution would have established an allotted court to judge the representatives accused for their political functions (corruption, treason, …). This “jury national” was to be formed by 3 allotted citizens by department, therefore 258 jurors; and 42 jurors from the colonies (the “old” colonies which are now French “overseas departments” and where the 1848 revolution converted slaves into citizens); thus 300 jurors.
    *** Leroux was one of the “romantic socialists”, blending social philosophy, humanitarian feelings, religious ideas (and sometimes some ambiguous judeophobia). After 1848 their ideas went out of the intellectual landscape. And Leroux, who maybe was eccentric among them, was forgotten, except as the supposed creator of the word “socialism”.

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  39. *** Keith Sutherland wrote (July 11, 2/22 pm) :« ensuring that a minipopulus is (and more importantly, remains) an exact mirror of the populus is a matter of fact, that can be demonstrated by social science experiment. As such the people to make such decisions would be statisticians, psychologists, political scientists, political theorists and those with hands-on experience of group behaviour, especially that of legislatures. The views of a randomly-selected group of citizens are of no relevance ».
    *** Here Keith is confusing decision and expertise. Let’s consider a simple case. Minipopulus A , in charge of institutional organization, drafts a minipopulus B, which will be in charge of fire arms control, or food safety, or .. The size of minipopulus B is to be decided. Before deciding, the minipopulus A will have to know the risks of deviation from perfect mirror linked to the various sizes, and he will ask statisticians for that. But minipopulus A will decide the size , knowing the associated risk. Likewise if I have to decide whether I undergo surgery, I will ask medical experts to know the associated risk, but I will decide.

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  40. Andre,

    In your example, the indictment (prosecution) was by an elected body and the verdict by an allotted jury, so the latter rules. This is standard juridical practice, rather than subversion. Polyarchies are likely to promote such a procedure only for controversial topics with no clear electoral benefit (abortion, Brexit, voluntary euthanasia, legalisation of drugs), and I agree that once the genie is out of the bottle it cannot be shut back in. But the (belated) calls from academic and journalistic elites for an allotted solution to Brexit show that this would be preferred to referenda, so don’t rule out the potential attraction of sortition to polyarchies.

    >Keith is confusing decision and expertise

    Fire arms control and food safety are domains of belief and preference and involve trade-offs between competing values; this is not the case with assembly size and terms of service,* where allotted members won’t even know which experts to ask. If it is to be decided by committee, then the members should be appointed by the relevant professional bodies. Given the clear brief — to design an allotment system that is, and remains for its duration, an “exact mirror of the populus” (your phrase), and is immune to corrupting influence, there is no reason for such a committee not to return an informed design consensus. Constitutions evolve over time, so if the design is flawed — with different allotted bodies returning different judgments — then the design will have to be tweaked. There is nothing political about such design decisions, so there is no need to arrogate them to allotted committees.

    * the only trade-offs are between representative fidelity and rational ignorance and even that can be accommodated technically (by decision threshold).

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  41. *** When I say that a true minipopulus is an exact mirror of the civic body, I mean that it is a sample extracted without any bias. Clearly, it will never be a « perfect » mirror. First, it should be as big as the populus itself – I remember the story, by Borges I think, of the Emperor who asked for a perfect map of the Empire, at the end the map was as large as the Empire, which was covered with it. Second, as the moment a citizen is allotted for a power position, he is mentally changed, even without oath.
    *** When we lessen the size and extend the time, the minipopulus will be less perfect. But a big size will be expensive and prone to rational ignorance; and in a complex and dynamic society one-day deliberations would be often prone to irrational ignorance, by lack of time for information and deliberation. We cannot avoid trade-offs; we cannot avoid political decisions.
    *** Thus a minipopulus A, in charge of organization, must decide; the decisions may be different for size and time assigned to minipopulus B and minipopulus C, in charge of different issues. These decisions may be enlightened by scientific consensus (maybe got more easily from statistics than from social psychology) but in the end it will be a decision involving a trade off.
    *** Keith says that the trade off about size can be accommodated technically by decision threshold. Nothing purely technical here ! Personally I would maybe accept a « final » threshold in some cases, as for a minipopulus acting as criminal court ; but not in most cases, as it would establish a supermajority rule I am against for reasons I have explained – and others kleroterians too. When the vote is under the threshold, I would favor more deliberation, or convening a bigger minipopulus. Minipopulus A would have to decide the rules. The choice of the threshold and the associated risk is anyway a political decision. We cannot avoid political decisions in the organization of the minipopulus system.

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  42. Andre:> We cannot avoid trade-offs; we cannot avoid political decisions.

    The former does not imply the latter, as the requirement for supermajorities is on account of statistical confidence in the representativity of the sample, not the wish to privilege the status quo on constitutional and other matters. Bearing in mind the overriding consideration, from a democratic perspective, is the ongoing representativity of the sample, the size and terms of service of a minipublic can be deduced from purely statistical factors (leavened by robust experimental findings in social psychology).

    Two factors need to be considered when it comes to calculating the necessary sample size and decision threshold for a proportionately representative body. A ‘confidence interval’ (margin of error) is a range of values that is likely to contain an unknown population parameter. If you draw a random sample many times, a certain percentage of the confidence intervals will contain the population mean. This percentage is the confidence level. For example, suppose all possible samples were selected from the same population, and a confidence interval were computed for each sample, a 95% confidence level implies that 95% of the confidence intervals would include the population parameter.

    Given that it would be essential for a legislative minidemos to be an accurate portrait-in-miniature of the target population, the most demanding confidence level of 99.9% is assumed in the following calculations of sample size and decision threshold for a target population the size of the UK electorate (37,831,600) or US electorate (235,248,000):

    Margin of error Decision threshold Sample size
    2% 52/48 6,766
    5% 55/45 1,083
    10% 60/40 271

    A minor bill would only require a sample of several hundred, but if the resultant vote fell outside the margin of error for that jury size (10%), a ‘retrial’ would be necessary in front of a larger jury. The Brexit result (52/48) would suggest that a jury of well over 6,000 would have been necessary for accurate representation, possibly divided between a number of parallel sittings. If (say) eight or ten juries of 1,000 had listened to identical balanced briefings from the advocates of the Remain and Leave campaigns and then voted, the aggregate vote could well be taken to indicate the considered will of the whole electorate. If the outcome were closer than 52/48 this would trigger a full public referendum.

    Regarding your preference for “more deliberation” to resolve a decision that fell outside the requisite decision threshold, my hunch is that any “Habermasian” (person-to-person) deliberation will introduced variance in the decision output of the sample and will be democratically illegitimate. But this hypothesis can easily be put to the test.

    In sum, all of the factors determining the design of a representative minipublic can be resolved by the relevant experts — such a matter is simply not suitable for decision by randomly-selected persons, however distasteful that may be to deliberative democrats, critical theorists and others seeking to overturn polyarchy/liberal democracy (choose your own pejorative). Like Dahl, I’m in favour of reforming, rather than abolishing polyarchy.

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  43. For convenience, Leroux’s proposal, “Du Jury National”, is available here.

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  44. >Keith
    *** I agree with your numbers, at least approximately (maybe I use a different approximation).
    *** You write « for a target population the size of the UK electorate (37,831,600) or US electorate (235,248,000) ». Actually the numbers are practically the same for Slovenia or China.
    *** You choose a confidence level of 99,9 %. It is a reasonable choice for « basic » decisions, but it is a choice – others may prefer 99% or 99.99%. You cannot avoid such choices, statistics are a science, not a political philosophy.
    *** A basic disagreement between you and me seems the following : you think that the confidence level must be always 99% ; I think that the organizing minipopulus may allow a lower confidence level for specific minipopuli (or sometimes a dissymmetric rule, for instance favoring innocence for the accused). More generally, I think the organizing minipopulus must be entitled to allow a higher level of randomness (without bias).

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  45. Andre:> A basic disagreement between you and me seems the following : you think that the confidence level must be always 99%.

    My overriding concern is that different samples of the same population should return the same “verdict”. Without this (and it is eminently testable), the principal justification for sortition (statistical sampling) is null and void. If two different samples come to different “verdicts” then there is no way of knowing which one is the representative one. The decision as to the size of the jury and decision threshold is determined by statistical theory, there is no need for a sovereign minidemos to rule on purely technical matters.

    The reason I use scare quotes for “verdict” is the difference between trial and legislative juries — the first are charged with uncovering the facts of the matter, whereas the latter are charged with representing what the majority of the target population would think under well-informed conditions.

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  46. Andre,

    The considerations regarding the size an allotted decision making body are so much more complex than the matter of the random variation in sampling.

    And moreover, the parameters that need to be set when constituting a decision making body are so much more complex than just determining its size.

    Whoever sets those parameters has a huge impact over the way the body functions and thus over its decisions. Therefore, any body setting those parameters has significant political power, and thus must be democratic – and thus in particular must be allotted.

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  47. Yoram:> Therefore, any body setting those parameters has significant political power, and thus must be democratic – and thus in particular must be allotted.

    And what if the design decisions of the parameter-setting assembly resulted in a decision-making body that was not democratic (as it failed to retain its statistical representativity over the course of its term of office)? This is highly likely if the parameter-setting body is composed of persons with no expertise in statistics or social psychology. There is a fundamental difference between a legislative assembly and a body with a purely technical remit.

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  48. > parameter-setting assembly

    This should not be a one time assembly, it should be an ongoing process undertaken by a permanent body.

    > not democratic

    Not democratic according to whom? Only an allotted body could have the legitimacy to have make such a determination.

    Yes, an allotted body could be non-democratic, but a non-allotted body cannot be democratic and so it cannot be entrusted with any political power in a democratic system.

    > technical remit

    Again, whoever sets the parameters has a lot of power and can use that power to influence decisions. Therefore only a democratic body can have the legitimacy to carry out this function.

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  49. Yoram:> Only an allotted body could have the legitimacy to [determine what is democratic] . . . a non-allotted body cannot be democratic.

    The reason we constantly talk past each other is on account of radically different methodologies. You define democracy as the decision output of a deliberative minipublic (a definition that you have arrived at via a 3-stage logical syllogism). As a consequence anything else is non-democratic (by definition). My approach is to start with a careful analysis of the concept of democracy — the considered will of the demos — but then to take an open-minded and multi-disciplinary approach as to how the concept can be realised in practice. Large modern states mean that representation is inevitable but what form that should take can only be arrived at by experiment. My hunch is that democracy (or Polyarchy III) will involve a deliberative exchange between competing elites, with the outcome determined by a large randomly-selected minidemos. The hypothesis can be tested by carefully designed social science experiments — Fishkin has been doing this for two decades but has yet to focus on obtaining a consistent decision outcome between different samples, a vital requirement for any system that seeks to represent the considered will of the population that is being sampled. Of course this doesn’t matter to you, as you have defined democracy as whatever a deliberative minipublic chooses to do. My reductio of your argument is to point out that an allotted parameter-setting assembly could very well come up with a design for a deliberative minipublic that was radically undemocratic.

    I guess I’m taking a rather old-fashioned and quasi-Platonic approach to a concept like democracy, as I do believe that there is an ideal type that we are seeking to approximate, rather than just claiming that democracy is whatever a tiny group of randomly-selected persons decide it to be. If I’m right, then the adherence to the ideal form can be measured by objective standards, rather than resorting to the radical nominalism and subjectivism that you appear to champion.

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  50. > The reason we constantly talk past each other is on account of radically different methodologies

    Right – your “methodology” of discourse is built entirely around complete carelessness about the truth. You latest comment is no exception. If you are able to provide evidence for your claim about my “definition of democracy”, we can go ahead. Otherwise, there is really no point to continue. There is no point in trying to have a discussion with an unrepentant liar.

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  51. Yoram, I’m really trying to engage with you in a constructive way and I’m disappointed that you feel unable to reciprocate. Your consistent position on this forum has been the operational definition of democracy in terms of the decision output of randomly-selected deliberative groups and this you claim to be equally true of both ancient and modern demokratia. Pretty well everything you have said on this forum is consistent with this perspective. How would you (operationally) define democracy if not so?

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  52. Just to clarify, I acknowledge that your theoretical (and controversial) definition of democracy is a system of government that acts in the interests of the masses, my earlier comment was on your operational definition and the (deductive) means by which you have arrived at it.

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  53. So within 3 comments you have managed to start with a confident and completely false assertion about my position and then revise it twice, but still haven’t managed to get things quite right. Sorry, you just can’t be taken seriously.

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  54. Yoram:> still haven’t managed to get things quite right.

    Glad to see from the qualifier (“quite”) that I’m getting warmer. Can you let me know in what respect I’ve mis-represented you and whether it is regarding your theoretical or operational definition of democracy. I’m keen to ensure that we no longer talk past each other, and it strikes me that this is down to a fundamental disagreement regarding methodology in the social sciences.

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  55. Yes – it is fantastic to see that if you put your mind to it you can make progress toward understanding other people. It is a shame you so rarely try.

    As for what’s still wrong: a democratic government promotes everyone’s interests and values equally, balancing competing interests and values proportionally to the number of people behind them.

    Thus, no one is excluded from this equality of political power. In a democracy everyone has equal power, not only “the masses”. Moreover, there is no assumption that there even exists some coherent group that can be called “the masses” whose members have identical interests and values.

    Of course, to the extent that certain values or interests are widely shared, those should be promoted by a democratic government.

    As for operationalization, you can refer to this as a starting point. Please avoid rehashing points that were already well covered in that discussion.

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  56. Yoram,

    Thank you for the clarification of your theoretical definition of democracy — I’m relieved to hear that your focus is on the demos, rather than the “masses”.

    Regarding the operational definition, I note that you accept both survey and “objective” measures to assess the degree to which the democratic ideal has been realised in institutional form. But my query was not how to test the democratic credentials of electoralism (or any other political system, including a benign dictatorship), it was how to get from a) to b) — how to put democratic theory into practice. The relevant post (I’m sure you have it indexed somewhere) is your three-part logical syllogism on each person being the best judge of her own interests, building up through small groups to the representation of the interests of the demos. If I recall correctly your methodology was entirely deductive.

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  57. I presume you refer to this: https://equalitybylot.com/2013/09/29/a-theory-of-sortition-part-2-of-2. Yes, this is a theoretical analysis. As the article itself mentions, however, the theory can be tested empirically.

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  58. The validity of the extension argument can be tested empirically. If the system is working as the argument describes, most citizens would feel, upon examination of the workings and decisions of the decision-making body, that the policies enacted represent their interests. To measure whether this is the case, a separate body, also made up by sortition, can be put in charge of monitoring the decision-making body.

    The question being begged is whether the vast majority of citizens disenfranchised by the new orthodemocracy would agree. My hunch is that they wouldn’t — that it would be necessary to demonstrate by experiment that different samples, deliberating in parallel, would come up with and approve the same policy proposals — it making no difference which empirical individuals were included. My (testable) hunch is that serious constraints would need to be placed on the deliberative mandate of the decision-making body in order to generate the necessary consistency.

    Extending your scenario, what would happen if you had two decision-making bodies on the same legislative subdomain (say the legalisation of drugs or voluntary euthanasia) each with their own monitoring body? If each body came up with different conclusions, which would be the representative one? In my competing proposal, each body would listen in silence to the same competing advocates before voting in secret, so there is a strong likelihood of agreement. Not so with a full-mandate sortition body, where each sample chooses advocates according to its own whims (or, more likely, the whims of a vocal minority of its members).

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  59. > The question being begged is whether the vast majority of citizens disenfranchised by the new orthodemocracy would agree

    Putting aside your tendentious use of the term “disenfranchised”, you are, again, very careless with your relationship to the truth. The question is not begged at all. As I explicitly wrote, this is a matter that can and should be empirically verified. (It is interesting and revealing, by the way, to note that the current system makes no official attempt to measure the its own perceived legitimacy. Of course, the results would be quite embarrassing if an attempt were made.)

    > what would happen if you had two decision-making bodies

    Any system has to have a way to decide competing claims of authority. I don’t see why this is inherently more of a problem for a democratic, or a sortition-based system than any other system.

    > In my competing proposal

    Your proposal is anti-democratic so it is of no interest to anyone whose objective is to democratize our societies. (Also, the question of whether a system – democratic or not – fulfills some arbitrary criterion you have concocted is of no interest.)

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  60. > The question is not begged at all. As I explicitly wrote, this is a matter that can and should be empirically verified.

    Unfortunately your verification procedure is entirely circular — what is at issue is the representativity of the decisions of an allotted sample vis-a-vis its target population, and you are testing this via . . . the decisions of another allotted sample. This is only democratic in theory (according to your syllogism), your empirical test is a prime example of trying to pull yourself up with your own bootstraps.

    > Any system has to have a way to decide competing claims of authority. I don’t see why this is inherently more of a problem for a democratic, or a sortition-based system than any other system.

    The competing claims of bicameral systems are easy to adjudicate — in democracies the elected house trumps the objections of the hereditary/appointed house. But the only justification of a sortition-based system is its representativity (there are no independent criteria), so if one sample decides a) and the other b) then there is no way of choosing between them (other than flipping a coin, and I don’t think that’s the sort of randomisation we are trying to promote).

    > Your proposal is anti-democratic

    As defined by your logical syllogism. If we are going to make progress in the real world we need to move beyond definitions and start to utilise standard social science methodologies. How to represent considered public opinion in large multicultural states is a deeply complex problem which cannot be solved purely with the tools of deductive logic.

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  61. > what is at issue is the representativity of the decisions of an allotted sample vis-a-vis its target population, and you are testing this via . . . the decisions of another allotted sample

    First, a decision making body is not at all the same as a monitoring body, so this is not at all a circular criterion.

    Second, I presented multiple criteria, many of which have little to do with allotted bodies. In general I expect citizens to have faith in a democratic system. A situation in which an allotted monitoring body declares a system to be democratic while the average person on the street disagrees would be problematic and would certainly indicate some sort of a problem with the system. Whether in such case the system should be considered democratic or not is less important than the fact that such a system needs significant reform to gain the trust of the citizens.

    Finally, you may be unhappy with the criteria I present – that’s fine. But pretending that I have not presented empirical criteria is simply a lie.

    You can present your own criteria and we can evaluate them. (But if your criterion is something about different bodies arriving at the same decision, you can save you breath. As I have pointed out in the past (and as is completely obvious) this a completely useless criterion. It is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for democracy.)

    > The competing claims of bicameral systems are easy to adjudicate

    This is nonsense. There are many systems with two elected chambers. In addition, any system has many, many decision making bodies. There is always need for various mechanisms for deciding competing claims for authority. Again, I don’t see any reason to assume that this issue is going to be any more problematic in a democratic system than in other systems.

    > As defined by your logical syllogism

    Sigh. Ok, this is probably going to be a huge boring waste of time, but I’ll humor you. What is your definition for democracy according to which your proposed system is democratic?

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  62. > a decision making body is not at all the same as a monitoring body

    What if two different examples of the latter came to different views regarding the performance of the former — which one would be representative? At the end of the day any collective with political power has to come to a decision (generally via voting), so monitoring bodies are decision making as well.

    > I expect citizens to have faith in a democratic system

    Your expectations are neither here nor there (especially when it’s you that has defined the system as democratic). Your expectation needs to be tested empirically, and your proposed testing procedure (the verdict of another allotted body) is entirely circular.

    > different bodies arriving at the same decision . . . [is] a completely useless criterion

    This is bog-standard sampling theory. If a poll generates conflicting results from different samples of the same population then the pollsters have to amend their sampling criteria.

    > There is always need for various mechanisms for deciding competing claims for authority.

    But when the selection criterion (statistical representativity) is identical, then there is no way of resolving the claim.

    > What is your definition for democracy according to which your proposed system is democratic?

    A system that reflects the informed preferences/beliefs of the majority of citizens. Note two riders:

    1) The word “informed” is an improvement on the standard definition of democracy.

    2) My preference is for a mixed constitution (politeia), rather than democracy or any other pure system of government. This reflects a) my (Burkeian) view that government should be a compact between the past, the present and the future, b) the need to protect the rights and interests of minorities and c) the need for stable, competent and accountable public administration.

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  63. > What if two different examples of the latter came to different views regarding the performance of the former … tested empirically …

    This is rather boring. Writing the same thing over and over is not a discussion.

    >A system that reflects the informed preferences/beliefs of the majority of citizens.

    This is very much the same definition I used above, but…

    > My preference is for a mixed constitution (politeia), rather than democracy

    Yes, I know. This is the essential point here. So when you write “informed” you mean “informed by their betters” while for a democrat it means “informed as they see fit”.

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  64. > This is rather boring. Writing the same thing over and over is not a discussion.

    That’s because you refuse to answer the question, dismissing it as irrelevant and/or arbitrary. We both claim that sortition is a form of statistical sampling, yet you refuse to accept the methodological constraints that go with statistical sampling.

    > when you write “informed” you mean “informed by their betters”

    Not so, I merely argue that citizens should be able to choose the representative claims that best approximate their own beliefs, preferences and interests. I doubt whether many of the people who voted for Trump did so because they viewed him as their “better”; however his speech acts and rhetoric suggested (rightly or wrongly) that he was standing up for people like them.

    > to a democrat it means “informed as they see fit”

    “They” in this case being the tiny number of citizens selected by lot. Your assumption that a randomly-selected body that looks like America will automatically act like America (or at least the majority of Americans) is merely an act of faith. I don’t think the disenfranchised** majority would agree. As Pitkin has pointed out, the descriptive mandate only applies to collective actions (i.e. voting); speech acts, however, pertain to individuals and the law of large numbers does not apply. How to combine the decision right of a representative sample with active political functions (information and advocacy) is a seriously challenging problem that cannot be resolved by definitional fiat.

    ** I know you find “disenfranchised” a disagreeable term, but it accurately describes losing the vote and having no involvement at all in the political process. You may view the popular vote as effectively worthless, not so the millions of people who participate in elections.

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  65. The choice of Trump or any other person by elections is itself uninformed, and cannot be informed, because to be informed it would require the comparison of millions of potential representatives based on substantive criteria. Thus, by the agreed criterion of “representing informed preferences” elections are not and cannot be democratic.

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  66. The informed preferences come in at the second stage (the aggregate vote of the representative sample) isonomia in Greek terminology. How to achieve representative isegoria in large modern states is a difficult question. Speech acts are by their nature partisan and the appropriate rhetorical style is forensic, not deliberative, as the goal of the adviser is to win votes. The general public will — in elections and votations — register an uninformed preference which is then subject to the deliberative judgment of a statistically-representative microcosm. This is a direct analogue of 4th century Athenian practice, who would have been horrified by your proposal for the abolition of mass democracy (even though they were satisfied for the final judgment to be in the hands of a large representative jury).

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  67. > The informed preferences come in at the second stage

    But then those “informed preferences” are preferences among a set of options created by a set of oligarchs. By that point, the “informed preferences” are merely a formality. Coke or Pepsi?

    But then again, this is exactly what your “mixed system” aims at.

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  68. Yes and no. Yes, in that I do believe it helps if the people who speak know what they are talking about; No, in that the competition between elites will mean that the successful rhetor is the one who best aligns his advice to popular preferences (Trump’s winning strategy). In 5th and 4th century Athens most of the advisers were elite members, yet the Athenian political system is generally described as a democracy, not an oligarchy. My model for the modern equivalent is based on Dahl’s sketchy draft for Polyarchy III, and he would have denied that this was an oligarchic system.

    PS would you describe May and Corbyn as Coke or Pepsi? And what if it had been Trump and Sanders?

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  69. > I do believe it helps if the people who speak know what they are talking about;

    Indeed, that is what is at the bottom of all of your proposals. The average people should be guided by their betters, who unlike the average person, know what they are talking about, even though, as you admitted, those “guides” have been chosen in an irrational manner, i.e., based solely on their status in society.

    > May and Corbyn as Coke or Pepsi? And what if it had been Trump and Sanders?

    Occasionally even a junk food outlet will serve you a salad. One judges a system based on its typical or average effects, not based on some unusual events that may or may not happen once in a few decades.

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  70. I would prefer “knowledgeable” to “better” as the latter has moral and social connotations. Whilst perceived status is a factor we no longer live in an age of deference. In modern democracies anyone can make a representative claim and it is judged by the audience partly on its intrinsic merits. The crucial element is the competition between elites and the ease with which claims can be made (my model includes citizen initiatives alongside election). Bear in mind also my House of Advocacy which is staffed by expert delegates from a wide range of civil society and professional organisations corresponding with the issues likely to be covered by legislation.

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  71. > I would prefer “knowledgeable” to “better” as the latter has moral and social connotations.

    What you would prefer is neither here nor there. Every elitist likes to justify their elitism by appeal to some “intrinsic merit” of their preferred class of people (which would not make them any less of an elitist anyway even if such intrinsic merit did exist).

    However, we have already established that there is no rational basis for electoral choices, thus the elected are not selected for being knowledgeable. They are in fact selected essentially solely on the basis of their social position – being well connected, rich, famous, etc. Thus a system, such as the one you propose, that has the elected manage the allotted is quite literally one where average people are managed by their betters, even if we narrow the meaning the latter term to mean “having privileged social position”.

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  72. > Every elitist likes to justify their elitism by appeal to some “intrinsic merit” of their preferred class of people

    If being knowledgeable is an intrinsic merit (although in modern societies knowledge can be attained by anybody) then I guess I must plead guilty as charged.

    > Thus a system, such as the one you propose, that has the elected manage the allotted

    In Harrington’s proposal (which I follow closely) it’s the other way round, as the elected are doubly constrained — they have to come up with proposals that a) win the election and b) pass the scrutiny of the sovereign allotted body. And in my modern version any citizen may make an initiative/petition, whereas you would limit it to the handful of citizens selected by lot.

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  73. You seem to be unable to understand one of the conclusions of the discussion:

    By your own standards, the elected have essentially no qualification other their social status. There is no reason to assume that they are more knowledgeable than the average person, or that they possess any other qualifying characteristic. Entrusting political power of any kind in their hands thus can only be justified by an inherent belief in rule by the “betters”.

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