Politics as a profession

In a recent debate with Etienne Chouard, among quite a few fallacies and hypocritical talking points, Raphaël Enthoven makes an interesting point regarding the role of training in politics (about 23 minutes into the recording) [my transcription and translation, corrections welcome]:

The fact is that, as Plato argues, politics is a profession.

[ Chourad interjects: “Plato was an aristocrat!” ]

Politics is a profession, even if you ask a democratic such as yourself. Even if you ask yourself. How would you explain the place that you accord in [your book] “Notre Cause Commune” [“Our Common Cause”], in your work, in your blog, always, since 2005, to constituent workshops? The fundamental role that you assign to instruction and to training of citizens? Isn’t it in order to give citizens the means to exercise correctly, properly and competently (if you excuse the adverb) the powers they were temporarily entrusted with?

It is obvious that politics is a profession and requires information. This profession, this information, must be open to all. There should be an equality of opportunity, there should be a wealth of opportunities for democratic practice and learning, including through sortition. Saying, however, that the equality of rights, the equality of competence would justify that each and every person would govern successively, as they did in Athens – a very small city – appointed by sortition and as a part time job, ignores the fact that it is the exercise of power that relieves incompetence, unprofessionalism, and lack of skills.

One Response

  1. Judging from the excerpt, Chouard appears to be conflating two distinct functions of sortition in antiquity — the equal right of all to rule and be ruled in turn (as magistrates) and the aggregate decision-making function of large randomly-selected juries. In modern states competence would seem essential for the former but the wisdom of crowds should suffice for the latter. And its impossible for all citizens to rule and be ruled in turn in large states, so I’m surprised if Chouard uses that as an argument for the reincarnation of sorition — or even refers to it — as it is irrelevant for the modern project. This is also true for the equal (but miniscule) chance of any individual being selected by lot. Does anyone view the National Lottery as an exercise in social justice (as opposed to a tax on the poor and stupid)?

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