Dan Hind: The Cooperative State

Dan Hind proposes using sortition to achieve a “cooperative state”.

Rather refreshingly Hind rejects the “modernization” argument:

I do not propose far-reaching constitutional change in Britain or the United States because the current arrangements are irrational or anachronistic. On the contrary, these arrangements are, for the most part, rational and frighteningly up-to-date.

Hind’s proposal is an elections-sortition hybrid:

The idea is not to do away with elections. Some offices require technical abilities or experience and election does not seem like a terrible way of filling them, even if at times it is hard to imagine a worse person for an elected office than the person holding it. But it does not follow that public office should be monopolised by those who, for whatever reason, manage to win an election. Indeed, if representation is to retain its authority, it will have to be supplemented by more properly democratic institutional forms.

Hind seems to fall into an obvious fallacy: the simple point that not every position should be filled by lot does very little to advance the argument that some positions should be filled by election.

That said, Hind does propose to invest allotted bodies with some real powers of oversight:

A democratic constitution would establish large, permanent juries to oversee departments of government and public bodies such as the police and the central bank. Each jury would be comprised of at least 30 citizens who would be chosen by lot to serve one-year terms. Their duties would take up a few hours a week at median pay and members could apply for more money if they wished to spend more time on their work.44 They would interview elected representatives and officials regularly. They would act as a venue for reports of dereliction of duty, bullying and criminal wrongdoing in the institutions of the state. Whistleblowers would be able to appeal to them when the chain of command had become corrupt. Their published statements would be protected by a form of legal privilege and they would have the power to initiate impeachment and recall procedures, and to commend those who had assisted the citizen body. Their work would be made publicly available and promoted through publicly owned digital and broadcast assets according to a defined protocol. Each jury would be served by a secretariat that would ensure that its work was accessible to researchers and interested citizens. Special provision would be made for them to communicate with other oversight juries, and with their replacements at the end of each year.

These standing juries would be able to investigate subjects in depth and make their findings generally available. Media institutions would be able to use this material to inform their investigative work, analysis and advocacy. And juries would also oversee the governance of the public media funding platform and the wider sector. Media organizations that misused public funds or behaved irresponsibly in other ways could be publicly censured by these juries. As citizens we would still be free to fund them, but we would do so knowing that a group of ordinarily disinterested citizens had more or less powerful objections to our doing so. This would not prevent unsavoury individuals or groups from getting their hands on public money, but it would make it more difficult, and would act as an important barrier to their achieving wider publicity for the material they produced. It is one thing for a panel of appointed regulators to raise concerns about a media organization. It is quite another if a body of citizens does so. This, combined with the fact that media institutions will be subject to investigation by journalists and researchers funded by the isegoria powers, will make the media far more accountable as well as free.

3 Responses

  1. Hi Yoram, what do you mean by modernization argument and what do you find problematic about it? (“Rather refreshingly Hind rejects the “modernization” argument”)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to see Dan Hind get his head around sortition questions – his book Return of the Public did a good job of dismantling the case for BBC’s current governance structures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jonathan,

    > what do you mean by modernization argument

    David Van Reybrouck puts things this way: “Elections are the fossil fuel of politics”.

    > what do you find problematic about it?

    The modernization argument is a cliche that is repurposed from other discussions (e.g., fossil fuels). It makes the false claim that elections used to serve us well but are somehow not fit for the modern world. This fallacy naturally mixes with other fallacies and a general attitude that the way to promote sortition is to try to make it palatable to the existing elite.


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