Beppe Grillo proposes sortition

Beppe Grillo, the co-founder of the Italian Five Star Movement, the party that won the second largest share of the votes in the 2018 parliamentary elections, has published a post in his blog where he proposes replacing elections with sortition [Google translation]:

The idea is very simple: we select people by lot and put them in parliament.

It seems absurd, but think about it for a moment. The selections should be fair and representative of the country. 50% would be women. Many would be young, some old, some rich, but most of them would be ordinary people. It would be a microcosm of society.

However, there would be an important side effect: if we replaced the elections with the draw and made our parliament truly representative of society, it would mean the end of politicians and politics as we have always thought about it.

Naturally the proposal drew some media attention.

It seems, by the way, that Grillo learned about sortition through Brett Hennig (presumably his TED talk). Grillo also mentions Democracy in Practice and newDemocracy as examples of ongoing experimentation with sortition.

A fact emerges from all modern examples: if you give people responsibility, they act responsibly. Do not get me wrong, I do not say it’s perfect.

The right question is: does it work better? As far as I’m concerned, it’s YES.

Thanks to Tomas Mancebo for drawing attention to this rather dramatic development.

21 Responses


  1. Telediario italiano comentando la noticia. Desde el minuto 19 hasta el 21 y medio aproximadamente

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We should be concerned if sortition gets associated with the grotesque chaos of Italian politics.

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  3. What is associated with the grotesque chaos of Italian politics (as well as with the grotesque politics in the West in general) is, of course, elections.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most fair-minded commentators accept that Churchill’s back-handed compliment to democracy still applies. Whilst sortition could certainly help improve our democratic institutions, siren calls for the abolition of elections and the end of politicians should be avoided like the plague. I’m no expert on Italian politics, but believe it’s the case that studies of Grillo and his movement have been less than flattering.

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  5. Thank you, Sutherland. This handy condensation of the establishment’s talking points has just saved us all the need to read about 200 editorials, op-eds and articles in the Times, the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, the Economist, and similar outlets of great importance.

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  6. Glad to oblige (and you might even consider whether the 200 editorials might even have something useful to say).

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  7. I lived the first 3 decades of my life taking those editorials seriously. In retrospect this seems unbelievable considering how transparent their propaganda is but of course convention is an awesomely powerful force.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What led to your Damascene conversion, when you realised it was all just an establishment conspiracy?

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  9. > Damascene conversion

    As usual, you manage to pack falsehoods even into your questions.

    There was nothing Damascene about it. It was a slow and multi-staged process (possibly still-ongoing) of which I became aware only in retrospect. Of course, discovering that contrary to their modern brand image, elections have classically been seen as an oligarchical mechanism was part of this process.

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  10. And what makes you so sure that Brett and yourself are right and all the experts you cite are either stupid or self-serving?

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  11. It seems we are wading into deep epistemological waters here. Other than the support of important people, what can make somebody sure that they are right and others are wrong?

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  12. I guess extreme nominalists like you would have to conclude that the only way of knowing is either a) democratic [the conclusion of the demos] or authoritarian [the conclusion of “important” people]. Those of us who believe that there is a right and a wrong answer would consult the relevant disciplines (analytic philosophy, political theory, social psychology, history, psephology etc).

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  13. Ah, so you can perceive of ways that might lead one to feel one is right and “all the experts” are wrong. It seemed before like no such ways could exist.

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  14. When it comes to matters of fact (such as the nature of democracy and whether or not it could ever be achieved by statistical sampling alone) there is a right and a wrong answer. What you (or anyone else, for that matter) might feel is neither here nor there.

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  15. I am glad that you feel that way. Unfortunately, it is hard to square this attitude with your repudiation of both facts and logic.

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  16. Yoram, I’m really struggling to understand you. All along you have claimed that right and wrong is a matter of power, and that in a democracy what is right is whatever a randomly-selected minipublic decrees to be true. And now you are agreeing with my claim that some of these questions can be answered scientifically (or are you being sarcastic?)

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  17. It is you, who has rejected any allegiance to facts (being to busy to ascertain the facts) and logic (dismissed as “logical syllogism”), to whom no other method remains for acquiring knowledge than subservience to power.

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  18. Eh, sorry for the typo: “too busy to ascertain”.

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  19. I’ll respond to that with a new post on democracy and the nature of sampling, in due course. I really am trying to understand you, but can’t when you just trade insults rather than answering my question.

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  20. As always, your questions are premised on falsehoods, that you will not try to substantiate. And, again, if you find stated facts about your behavior to be insults, you should not complain about being insulted but rather change your behavior.

    Like

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