A response to Cody Hipskind, part 1

Thank you Cody for your post. I believe it can serve as a starting point for a fruitful discussion – a discussion that has already started in the comments thread to the post.

I would like to address various points you made separately. Here are the first 3 points, corresponding to the first 6 paragraphs in your post.

1. Class and political conflict

It is an obvious fact of life that different people have different political ideas. If everybody agreed on everything politics would be very easy – any one of “us” would do what “we” all agree upon. Still, there is a tendency, which used to be the dominant line of elite political thought in pre-modern times but is common today especially among liberals, to argue, or at least to imply, that disagreements are over means rather than ends. That is, that “we” all agree what is the common good (or at least would agree what is the common good if some of us overcame our ignorance) and the main difficulty is finding competent people who would be able to achieve that good. This translates to elitism. The elitism used to be explicit with the pre-moderns, the archetype being Plato, it was slightly less explicit with the early moderns, e.g., the American Founders, and it is much more implicit today. Nevertheless, it is often still just below the surface of the democratic rhetoric.

The notion that “we” all agree on goals can be dismissed. The common-goals ideology and the attendant elitism are of course self-serving notions for those in power. They imply that to the extent policy produces undesirable outcomes – say enrichment of those in power and their associates and the impoverishment of much of the rest of the population – then those in power can at most be blamed for incompetence rather than corruption. (Naturally, they would in fact argue that unfortunate as the outcomes are, they are necessary for the achievement of the commonly agreed goals.)

In fact, of course, different people can and do have different, competing, goals. There is no doubt that to some extent the conflicting goals can be associated with economic class characteristics while other conflicts can be associated with race and gender and characteristics, ideologies and other factors.

However, while the fact that different groups of people have different, often conflicting, goals is necessary to understand the oligarchizing effects of electoralism and the democratizing potential of sortition, it seems to me that explaining those differences of objectives in terms of other differences is unnecessary for such an analysis. Thus, I put aside the question of which social groups or characteristics are associated with political conflict, while keeping in the forefront that political conflict exists and that groups with disproportional political power can and do use that power to promote their goals at the expense of the goals of other, dis-empowered groups. The question is not whether Congress is dominated by White males, or by lawyers, or by rich people or Protestants or by old people, etc. The crucial fact is that those in power represent a group whose goals are distinct from those of the large majority of the population. The wield the power they have in order to promote those goals and the expense of the rest of the population. This is unjust and undemocratic and a sortition-based system has the potential to change that.

2. Electoral competition and accountability

There are two common lines of argument for the benefits of electoralism: the rewards-based argument and the virtue-based argument. The supposed benefits of electoral competition can be attributed either to inducing elites to act against their own interests in order to win votes or to allowing better (or at least less venal) candidates to win over the worse ones.

Both lines of argument do not really make much sense when analyzed with any care (here I go into some of the ways the rewards-based, or “accountability”, argument fails). And indeed the empirical evidence is that the world over people do not feel that their goals, interests, values are represented by elected officials. Do we really want to keep this mechanism in the hope that it will one day start laying golden eggs?

As opposed to relying on the fictional mechanism of ‘electoral accountability’, allotted bodies can be representative of the goals of the population through a completely different mechanism. Because they are created by sampling, allotted bodies generalize self-representation of the body itself to representation of the population from which they are drawn. This mechanism generates representation directly rather than through the secondary, fictional, route of ‘accountability’. Of course, corruption would still be handled by the courts (which themselves must be democratized by making them sortition-based as well).

3. Politics of division and politics of consensus

The objective of sortition-based government is certainly not to create consensus-based politics. Consensus can only be based on suppression of the diversity of opinions (as is often the case in electoralism). The notion that consensus is a legitimate democratic or even progressive goal is at best a mistake and can also serve as deliberate conservative tool that serves to entrench the status quo, e.g., when legislative processes, including those involving allotted bodies, require super-majorities in order to change established procedures. The objective sortition-based politics is to find common ground where there is one – politics is far from being a zero sum game – and to decide by considered and informed majority opinion on issues that are in contention.

74 Responses

  1. I agree “consensus” is typically used to reproduce status quo outcomes. Agonism is a good thing.

    But in a narrower sense, what do you think of consensus in the way Lyn Carson uses it?

    Carson: “The fundamental difference between deliberation and debate is whether the end objective is zero-sum or consensus seeking. … When a group deliberates, it seeks consensus without requiring its achievement. Indeed, minority reports are always encouraged in minipublics. The aim of a deliberative group is to establish the extent of agreement and what each person can live with. Premature voting can be the death knell of consensus because it closes minds before all is known about a topic.” “A vote can kill deliberation and is best delayed or avoided altogether.”

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  2. Hi Jonathan,

    I would call this (as above) “seeking common ground” rather than “seeking consensus”. This seems like good commonsense practice. But who would object to that, unless they have some ulterior motive? (By the way, “logrolling” – i.e., reaching grand bargains across policy areas – is a good thing because it is a way to seek common ground.)

    As for “premature voting”, I am not sure who Carson thinks would be guilty of this practice. Are we really supposed to believe that elected officials are too vote-happy to deliberate even when it could be useful for them? No, everybody deliberates as long as they think they can potentially get something out of it.

    The notion that the problem with electoral politics is due to partisan fighting or “closed minds” is just feel-good “centrism”. The problem with electoral politics is that it serves narrow elite interests which is common ground for all major parties and that the partisan fighting is almost entirely a show put on for the benefit of the voting public.

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  3. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Yoram. I’ll probably follow up with another full post of my own, but first I’d like to clarify a one point in particular.

    Under your third heading, ” Politics of division and politics of consensus,” you state, “The objective of sortition-based government is certainly not to create consensus-based politics.” I’m certainly glad that we are in agreement in not prioritizing the goal of achieving consensus based politics.

    However, as it currently stands, it would appear that you reduce political antagonism around different goals to the realm of mere clashes on the debate floor, without a clear role for mass mobilization-based political antagonism.

    My question, then, is whether you see a role for mass mobilization politics, and, if you do, what forms that role would take under sortition?

    Clarification on this point will be important to crafting a response to your post. Thanks again!

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  4. Yoram,

    Can’t electoralism suffer from BOTH closed minded partisanship AND domination by narrow elite interests? On the issue of legislative deliberation, I can attest (as a former legislator) that there is virtually NO deliberation in legislatures because partisans have their minds made up in advance, and all “debate” is mere showmanship to villainize the other parties. The difference in debate between an allotted chamber and an elected chamber would be like day and night.

    As for your suggestion that
    >”‘logrolling’ – i.e., reaching grand bargains across policy areas – is a good thing because it is a way to seek common ground.” …
    In unique cases there could be positive outcomes, but in principle, and almost always in reality, it is terrible. What ACTUALLY happens is that one special interest that can’t justify its bad policy wish that is harmful to most members of society, makes a deal with ANOTHER special interest with an equally bad idea (both epistemically bad as well as unpopular) that they will each throw votes to support the other’s agenda wishes to cobble together a majority. I’ve seen this up close and it is disgusting and extremely anti-democratic.

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  5. Cody,

    I am relatively new to this site (and sortition), so let that be a disclaimer for what follows. My sense, though, is that government by lot would allow ample room for mass political mobilization–but the goal of that mobilization would shift away from running candidates for elections and toward three different goals:

    Firstly, educating the populace and raising political consciousness. Since everyday people will be selected via sortition to govern, it would behoove political organizations to evangelize their particular message among the citizens. The more citizens who ascribe to a particular political philosophy, the greater the odds that they will be selected to govern, advocate for that philosophy, and bring that viewpoint into their deliberations (while maintaining openness to the viewpoints of the others in the chamber).

    Secondly, a Citizens’ Assembly–picked via sortition–could (and should) be open to petition by the rest of the population. Mass political movements would have the right–and be encouraged–to submit petitions to the Assembly for consideration. There could even be a provision stating that if a petition reaches a high threshold of signatures, the petition would automatically get placed on the Assembly’s agenda (though this could be abused if not thought out).

    Finally, some sortition models make use of reference panels in which groups of citizens, experts, policy makers, etc. form committees that draft policy proposals and submit them to the sortition chamber for consideration when drafting laws. These kinds of opportunities open the door for mass political organizations to get their ideas across to the sortition chamber, competing in a marketplace of ideas (to use an unfortunate capitalist metaphor).

    In all these ways, democracy via sortition would become what it should be–an inclusive, egalitarian process of gaining influence via persuasion of the people. In fact, with its emphasis on inclusivity and egalitarianism, sortition is very much the handmaid of democratic socialism.

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  6. Hi Cody,

    Regarding the role of mass mobilization: I don’t think sortition is inherently conducive or inherently antithetical to mass mobilization.

    A group of people can engage in a campaign for raising attention to a particular issue or set of issues and in this way to try to influence public opinion in general and the opinions of allotted delegates in particular. The question of how effective such a strategy is, is a different matter.

    Separately (but more importantly) there is the question of how desirable, i.e., how democratic, mass mobilization is as a political tool. I think both theoretical analysis and experience show that there is good reason to see mass mobilization as generally serving the elites that organize the mobilization rather than the rank-and-file. The advantage of sortition over electoralism is that it provides more democratic, as well as more effective, means than mass mobilization for affecting public policy. I will expand on this in the following part of my response.

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  7. Terry,

    > Can’t electoralism suffer from BOTH closed minded partisanship AND domination by narrow elite interests

    Are you arguing that elected officials give up opportunities to further their own agendas because they are too obstinate to deliberate? That would imply that they are stupid people who don’t know what is good for themselves. This seems to me unlikely.

    Of course, elite deliberation takes place behind closed doors rather than in public view. Public spaces are indeed reserved solely for showmanship.

    > What ACTUALLY happens is that one special interest […]

    In a special-interest-dominated system, as the electoral system is, political deal-making is likely to promote special interests – this would be true for logrolling as for any other political dealmaking. In a democratic system, as a sortition-based system could be, there is no reason that logrolling, like other forms of political deal-making, should not serve popular interests. There is nothing in logrolling that is inherently useful for narrow interests rather than popular interests.

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  8. Nick:> Finally, some sortition models make use of reference panels in which groups of citizens, experts, policy makers, etc. form committees that draft policy proposals and submit them to the sortition chamber for consideration when drafting laws. These kinds of opportunities open the door for mass political organizations to get their ideas across to the sortition chamber.

    True. I’ve made the point frequently to Terry Bouricius that his policy forums would be wide open to manipulation by the Tea Party and other partisan organisations on the left and the right (something that you clearly approve of). Abolishing election does not mean banishing partisanship, it just increases the power of activist lobby groups, who can find useful idiots who do not have to suffer the indignity of seeking re-election.

    >sortition is very much the handmaid of democratic socialism.

    Yes that’s very true for full-mandate sortition advocates, and why those of us who don’t have a moral objection to free market ideology seek to retain an ongoing role for election alongside sortition.

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  9. Keith: I don’t approve of manipulation at all and, as you rightly point out, the policy forums are a weak point in Terry’s model. Thy are the clearest place where a small group could potentially gain undue influence and “throttle” the system somehow.

    But that seems a risk that we’d have to run if the system is to be open and allow input from experts, policy makers, political organizations, etc. Otherwise you run the other risk of the system being too closed and losing legitimacy or wisdom. Not all voices have the right to be endorsed by the chamber, but all do have the right to be heard.

    That’s why Terry includes an oversight committee and rules committee in his model, to keep tabs on what is happening and adjust accordingly–seeing to it that certain groups aren’t abusing policy forums somehow, but allowing any and all to have a seat at the table. It’s a self-correcting system, one of its many virtues.

    As for the free market, that doesn’t actually exist in reality. In practice, lobbyists, oligarchs, and corporations buy-off politicians and get the government to manipulate the economy for their enrichment and to protect them from market failures (see the Gilded Age and the last forty years of U.S. history). Keeping elections and politicians would only allow this avenue for corruption to continue.

    Moreover, as Terry rightly argues, in a scenario where there is an elected chamber and a sortition chamber, you run the real risk of the politicians thwarting the sortition chamber’s will in order to benefit special interests, who don’t want the policies that the people do.

    Case in point, contemporary Ireland, where the national legislature is dragging its feet on acting on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly there, with no accountability or means for the CA to bring them to heal. A bicameral elected-sortition legislature is a recipe for further stalemate and logjams, which could sour public opinion on sortition (or, potentially, whet the public’s appetite for doing away with the elected chamber altogether).

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  10. Odd as it may seem, I am going to defend Keith a bit on his elected chamber notion. Although I don’t favor it, in general, KEITH’s version has a narrowly prescribed elected chamber that is not part of a traditional bicameral system (where each body initiates AND passes laws). His version has the elected chamber ONLY authorized to initiate and advocate for bills with ONLY the allotted camber empowered to say yes or no. While I don’t like the idea of privileging partisan elites in the initiation phase, at least this isn’t as bad as the frequently advocated hybrid bicameral legislature concept.

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  11. How is having an elected chamber with a monopoly on initiation and advocacy better than a symmetrical arrangement? In the former arrangement the elected chamber is completely in control with the allotted chamber being subordinated to it (Pepsi or Coke – you decide). In the latter case the two chambers are at least nominally on equal footing.

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  12. […] Cody Hispkind’s post is here. The first part of my response is here. […]

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  13. Thanks for that Terry.

    Nick: Terry and I agree that democracy is a hybrid of two Greek egalitarian norms — isegoria (equal speech) and isonomia (equal decision power). In large modern states both norms have to be instantiated in a representative manner, and we agree on how to do this only in the latter case. My treatment of representative isegoria is the weakest part of my thesis and is currently being reworked by Alex Kovner, so I’ll ask him to address your points. Our new proposal is indeed based on political parties and elections, but in a new incarnation that only bears scant resemblance to current liberal democratic institutions.

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  14. There is a good reason to split the legislative function into proposing and deciding, assigning the deciding function to a randomly selected citizen panel. The reason is this: we can get rid of proposing as a chamber, and just have it as a service–a service which is nevertheless democratic in that proposing rights come from elections.

    The main problem with legislative chambers is precisely that they are chambers, i.e. single entities. This perpetuates the fiction that their actions are the actions of the entire chamber. As we all know, the actions of any legislative chamber are really the actions of whoever can assemble 50% + 1. This is the genesis of political parties in the worst sense. Venal politicians work behind the scenes to assemble 50% + 1 by hook or by crook, often by enforcing a merciless party loyalty that renders the notion of “representation” by an elected legislator laughable.

    The proposing service, as I conceive it, consists of corporate entities (I call them parties, in keeping with historic tradition, but they are significantly different from today’s political parties) that earn proportional rights (via general election) to propose legislation and advance executive and judicial candidates for office. There is no “chamber” to gum up the works. Just propose, and hope that a panel of citizens finds your proposals better than that of the other parties. Parties that lose favor with the electorate are eliminated and replaced with new parties, providing plenty of opportunity for individual activism, though always channelled through the proposing service.

    Keith and I are writing a book, “The Jurga Manifesto: Toward a Sortition-Based Democracy”, that will lay out the full system.

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  15. > a service which is nevertheless democratic in that proposing rights come from elections.

    You might as well write: “a service which is nevertheless democratic in that proposing rights are based on lineage.” There is nothing democratic about elections. As was recognized in pre-modern political philosophy and was the conventional wisdom in ancient Greece, elections are an oligarchical mechanism selecting into power members of the elites. When all the items on the policy menu are written by elites, why would you expect that any of those items would be a good choice from the view point of the majority of the population?

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  16. You might as well write: “a service which is nevertheless democratic in that proposing rights are based on lineage.”

    Not so. Corporate bodies behave differently in different circumstances, which is the point of regulation. A corporate body that makes money by clearcutting the forest behaves differently from a corporate body that is regulated to used forest resources sustainably. If a political party is sufficiently captive to its vote share, then it will act in accordance with the wishes of its voters.

    Two things to note in this context: 1. People vote for the parties, not individuals, and 2. The parties cannot enact anything, they can only propose. A citizen panel then decides from a number of alternatives submitted by the parties.

    Political parties today are not really captive to their vote share. There are so many other influences over them, from corporate money to the conflation of proposing with deciding.

    Reflexive anti-elitism isn’t the answer. Any successful anti-elitist movement just replaces an old elite with a new one. The trick is to hold the elite captive to the broader political will, and to ensure that anything the political elite might do goes through a truly democratic layer, namely a citizen panel.

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  17. Alex:> The trick is to hold the elite captive to the broader political will, and to ensure that anything the political elite might do goes through a truly democratic layer, namely a citizen panel.

    That’s a good summary of the legislative process in 4th century Athens, the only working precedent we have for sortition-based political decision making. The Athenians maintained the rigorous conceptual distinction between isegoria and isonomia and only used sortition in the latter case. As for Terry’s model of multi-layered voluntary sortition committees, it’s better to start with something we all agree on (decision making by randomly-selected juries) that also benefits from modern experience with trial juries, rather than proposing the equivalent of selecting prosecution and defence advocates by lot.

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  18. > 1. People vote for the parties, not individuals

    This is already the case in many countries. What of it?

    2. The parties cannot enact anything, they can only propose. A citizen panel then decides from a number of alternatives submitted by the parties.

    Pepsi or Coke? We’re at your command!

    > Political parties today are not really captive to their vote share. There are so many other influences over them, from corporate money to the conflation of proposing with deciding.

    Why would things be different? Political parties are there to get something from their power. Power which they exert to further the objectives of their voters alone is useless for them.

    > Any successful anti-elitist movement just replaces an old elite with a new one.

    Eh, no. That’s a failed anti-elitist movement, or a successful elitist movement (which often masquerades as an anti-elitist movement in order to recruit mass support).

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  19. Yoram:> Why would things be different? Political parties are there to get something from their power. Power which they exert to further the objectives of their voters alone is useless for them.

    In our model, parties are solely funded by the state, but in proportion to their vote share.

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  20. > In our model, parties are solely funded by the state, but in proportion to their vote share.

    Again, this practice is quite common. (Also, in any case, if this device could create responsive parties, why would there be any need for adding the allotted chamber?)

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  21. Voting for parties is not a huge change, but it is novel for Americans. In our system, it also allows a rolling election, in which the electorate is divided into cohorts, each of which votes at a separate time during the election cycle. This eliminates many risks associated with general elections that take place at a particular time.

    > Pepsi or Coke? We’re at your command!

    Parties offer real choices to voters. For example, in the U.S., the Democrats passed a significant reform to the health care system, which the Republicans are actively trying to subvert. The problem here isn’t that the choices aren’t there, or aren’t real, it is that the conflation of proposing and deciding makes the results of those choices almost meaningless. What percentage of votes changed hands to give Republicans the power to subvert the Democratic health reform? 5%? If that? In our vision, a 5% change in the vote would simply mean a 5% change in ability to propose laws and candidates. No more, no less.

    > Why would things be different? Political parties are there to get something from their power. Power which they exert to further the objectives of their voters alone is useless for them.

    Corporate bodies respond to incentives. Parties in our system cannot enact anything. On the back end, they are entirely dependent on their vote share for their ability to propose. On the front end, they are entirely dependent on a random panel of citizens to enact anything. They are the meat in the sandwich. Anything a party realistically wants comes from these two sources.

    Cynicism is not the same as realism. Elections are a signal that has some effect on public policy. That signal is extremely weak, but it isn’t non-existent. Our thesis is that the conflation of proposing and deciding is the main factor keeping that signal weak. Separate the two and the signal strengthens by an order of magnitude or more.

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  22. Alex,
    What do you mean by the term “corporate body?” And why do you use that phrase, since the assortment of “parties” never convene as a body. For lay readers that word “corporate” connotes profit-making corporation (even though municipalities and charities are also technically “corporations,” they aren’t referred to that way.)

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  23. Yoram:> if this device could create responsive parties, why would there be any need for adding the allotted chamber?

    Because parties would be responding to uninformed voter preferences, whereas the allotted chamber votes after in-depth deliberative exchange, and each vote carries real causal power. And the final veto power reduces the risk of collusion or other forms of corruption.

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  24. tbouricius:

    A corporate body is really any legal entity other than a person. Probably the best analogy to what I have in mind for political parties is teams in a sports league (https://alexkovner.com/2019/04/03/politics-as-sport-the-npl-national-politics-league/).

    Don’t be fooled by the fact that the result of a sports league (who wins, who loses) is of no interest politically. The form of such a league is of tremendous interest. From within a monopoly–the league–a bunch of corporate entities–teams–compete on very narrow grounds that are entirely controlled by the league.

    This is precisely what we want from our political parties. We want them to propose public policy, either in the form of legislation or candidates for office. We want them to have no control over the success criteria, that’s what the citizen panels are for. And unlike a chamber that runs on the 50% + 1 principle, we want their ability to propose to be directly proportional to their vote share.

    Sports leagues have problems: for one, teams in rich markets like New York and London have greater resources that do not depend on their success on the field. We eliminate this by making all a party’s resources dependent exclusively on their vote share. There are other issues, of course, and Keith and I are writing a book together on this very subject.

    But sports leagues are a proof-of-concept, and they are common around the world. With a proper rule set, political parties can be captured and forced to compete on much narrower grounds than they currently do. That’s what we are after.

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  25. > Because parties would be responding to uninformed voter preferences

    Then what’s the point of those parties to begin with?

    It seems quite obvious that your convoluted argumentation is nothing more than a decoration for your admitted a-priori commitment to “free market ideology”.

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  26. Alex:> A corporate body is really any legal entity other than a person.

    The problem is that political parties have not traditionally been viewed as legal entities. To Madison and the other founders they were anathema — factional cancers on the body politic — a view that has been adopted by this forum. In the UK, the political party has only been a legal entity since an Act of Parliament of 1975. And yet the party is the dominant political entity, leading to the grotesque parody of democracy whereby the next prime minister will be chosen by less than 100,000 UK citizens.

    The proposal that Alex and I are making is to bring de jure in line with de facto, and on a democratic basis. Note that the democracy comes from the relationship between the parties (determined by voters), internally parties are entirely oligarchical — as befits a corporate “person”.

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  27. Yoram:> Then what’s the point of those parties to begin with?

    In order to allow all citizens to express a raw preference, which will then be refined by the participation of a representative subset in a deliberative process. This is an exact analogy of 4th century Athenian practice — the only example we have of ortho-democracy (as Andre terms it).

    >It seems quite obvious that your convoluted argumentation is nothing more than a decoration for your admitted a-priori commitment to “free market ideology”.

    Absolutely. I’m not a Marxist, so make no apologies for adopting capitalist slogans.

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  28. > Absolutely. I’m not a Marxist, so make no apologies for adopting capitalist slogans.

    It’s good to finally clear up this issue. It would be less mendacious of you if you just made it clear that your proposals follow from this a-priori commitment to “capitalist slogans” rather than pretending that you are following some ever-shifting theoretical considerations.

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  29. The slogan “free market ideology” is derived from a distinguished tradition of political economy which goes back at least as far as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776). Free market ideology has also been applied to the political sphere, leading to the system that is called liberal democracy. For an in-depth justification of free markets from the perspective of moral philosophy I would recommend Gerard Casey’s Freedom’s Progress: A History of Political Thought. Although you might consider us self-serving capitalist lickspittles, liberals like Casey (and myself) genuinely believe that free-market competition is the best option from both a moral and instrumental point of view in knowledge and political domains as well as the economy.

    PS I’ve no idea at all as to whether or not my co-author Alex Kovner subscribes to free market ideology — we have never discussed our general political leanings.

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  30. Yoram> Then what’s the point of those parties to begin with?

    This is an excellent question, and deserves a serious answer.

    Let’s start with the notion of deliberation by a group of people. To keep it simple, this comes in two flavors: silent and noisy. Silent deliberation means each member of the group deliberates on their own, perhaps with guidance, and comes to a decision. Noisy deliberation means everyone assembles in a room and talks until the group resolves on some conclusion.

    Silent deliberation requires that proposals be set forth in advance, noisy deliberation does not. This is crucial because it means that any version of the proposal function that uses deliberation (we use a different mechanism, namely parties with proportional proposing rights) must use noisy deliberation. A group of people assembles with no rules and no particular agenda and somehow must get to a resolution.

    Our view is simple: Noisy deliberation doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work if you’re dealing with professional politicians–we have evidence of that failure every day. But it also doesn’t work with amateurs selected at random. A few loudmouths take over, and the more passive participants are resentful, and just want the thing to end. Since the agenda is not set, there are all kinds of games–vote trading, side deals, etc–that happen just to get anything done. This is as true for amateurs as it is for pros.

    These games happen not because the folks in the room are bad people, but because a group of people has no agency. Just dump a bunch of people in a room and say “come up with something”? Forget it. Amateurs might be more civilized about it, but noisy deliberation is fundamentally undemocratic.

    What we need, then, is a two part process: A way to generate proposals, and a silent deliberation model to decide from among the options generated. Political parties in this system are just corporate bodies that channel each voter’s sovereign proposal right into a proportion which can be exercised with meaningful agency.

    Note that the real evil of political parties stems precisely from the noisy deliberation model. Since a chamber of representatives has no inherent agency, parties step in to fill the void, and in the most unaccountable way possible. Our parties have no such role.

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  31. By the way, I consider myself neither a Marxist nor a Capitalist. Capitalism is not a political theory, though it has been widely conflated with one. Markets are a tool that should be used to achieve positive ends, whatever those might be. Markets that fail to deliver positive ends should be modified or eliminated.

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  32. Alex:> Amateurs might be more civilized about it, but noisy deliberation is fundamentally undemocratic.

    Absolutely. That’s why sortitionists need to abandon in the pious platitudes of deliberative “democrats” and accept that politics is an inherently agonistic process. Nancy Rosenblum’s book On the Side of the Angels is very clear about the potential of political parties to civilise agonism. We should also remember that Edmund Burke — the patron saint of deliberative theorists — was also a strong advocate of political parties.

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  33. Who ultimately should decide whether there are elected offices or political parties? Should it be the decision of a sortition body? If not, who should have this ultimate authority? Political scientists or political elites?

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  34. Alex,
    your parties are so unlike existing parties, the word seems misleading. These policy teams (like sports teams) would still have an incentive (like existing parties) to misinform and manipulate poorly-informed voters. Public relations would still be a dominant tool. But it is important to understand the huge amount of political science research indicating that in many countries (especially the United States) future policy is almost ENTIRELY ignored by voters. Voters select parties based on either their perception of recent economic performance (which they rightly or wrongly attribute to the incumbents) and emotional appeal. Is there any research that supports your hope that your policy teams competing in elections would add any epistemic value to policy generation, or is it just an arbitrary method that appears (falsely) to fit with the history of political parties as a way of easing its adoption. In other words… it seems that elections among prevaricating public relations teams among ill-informed emotionally-motivated voters would gain society nothing, and could harm society through the manufacture of partisan “enemies within” in addition to any natural fault lines. Instead, the door could be flung open for any groups to make policy proposals… with allotted bodies charged ONLY with learning about issues and then filtering the flow of ideas to a set of worthy options for final juries to vote on. (That is the design I advocate in my 2013 paper on multi-body sortition).

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  35. Jonathan,

    I do think there is an important role for expertise — political theorists, statisticians, political scientists, social psychologists, constitutional lawyers etc. Each profession has its own process of peer review as to who would be the best advocates, but the final decision should be with an allotted jury. Of course there’s not a remote chance of such a “rational” solution as constitutions tend to evolve on an ad hoc basis — in England nobody decided that there should be elected offices or political parties, they “emerged” as the unintended consequence of historical contingencies.

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  36. tbouricius,

    Keep in mind that parties in my system are sandwiched between two versions of the body politic: the electorate in general, and the specific mini-public that evaluates a set of proposals. The mini-public has both considerable information and time. Members of the mini-public are paid and required to put in a full work day evaluating the options for the duration of the deliberation, which might be a month or more, depending on the complexity of the issues.

    These two versions of the public play off each other, because a party’s success rate at getting laws passed and candidates confirmed would be a major element in how it is viewed by the public. Parties will engaged in public disinformation campaigns as they do now. But a party with a 30% vote share that never gets any legislation through the mini-public will have to explain itself.

    In addition, as Keith and I lay out in our forthcoming book, every political party must advance a proposal for every situation. Each proposal is a “real” proposal, because the parties do not know in advance which proposals will be selected for presentation to a mini-public. We do this through the magic of random selection.

    This means that each party is on the record with a real proposal for every policy issue. This makes disinformation harder, though not impossible.

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  37. tbouricius (cont)

    “Instead, the door could be flung open for any groups to make policy proposals”

    What are these but political teams? As long as there are political teams, they should be regulated and tied to the electorate. A system in which any group could form a political team to advance policy would be highly opaque. Where does the funding come from? What media outlets are allied with what teams? This is the nightmare of modern American politics, where dark money reigns supreme.

    Saying things like “the door could be flung open to anyone” sounds nice, but in practice favors oligarchs. We institutionalize parties not to empower them, but to contain them.

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  38. We all agree that laws be decided by jury (minipublic), not by elected politicians. (At least I think we all agree on this.)

    With regard to choosing public officials by popular election, I am very much against it, as some or all of you know. Far better that they be chosen by jury.

    Most of my reasons for this position can be found in these two articles of mine: https://dissidentvoice.org/search/?q=simon+threlkeld&sa=Search

    I think that some jury-chosen officials, chosen by a PR method, are among those who should be able to propose laws to juries. This could include politicians chosen by jury, and also for example law reform commissions chosen by jury.

    Members of a law-proposing body chosen by jury (such as a law reform commission or a parliament or congress) should be allowed to propose laws to juries without getting the majority support of the body they are part of. The reason is so that juries will have a full range of choices that hopefully include the best possible legislative proposals on each topic.

    (I have always held the view that juries deciding laws serve for short terms of service and decide only one or a small number of laws, analogous to how trial juries and Athenian jury courts only serve for the period of one trial and only decide that one trial.)

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  39. Alex,

    > Our view is simple: Noisy deliberation doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work if you’re dealing with professional politicians–we have evidence of that failure every day.

    As I pointed out above, the appearance that there is no deliberation among professional politicians is an illusion (a media nurtured illusion, by the way). Yes – professionals do not deliberate in public. Public spaces are reserved for electoral sloganeering. They most obviously, however, deliberate in private. No policy, and certainly no legislation, would be possible otherwise. In addition, politicians would have to be irrational to forego a tool that could further their interests. Politicians, like everybody else, deliberate as long as they potentially have something to gain from doing so.

    > But it also doesn’t work with amateurs selected at random. A few loudmouths take over, and the more passive participants are resentful, and just want the thing to end. Since the agenda is not set, there are all kinds of games–vote trading, side deals, etc–that happen just to get anything done. This is as true for amateurs as it is for pros.

    The loudmouths can only take over in a poorly designed system. Yes – creating a democratic space for deliberation requires careful design. Obviously, for example, there would have to be rules allocating speech time equally. Other rules would aim toward making sure that there is enough time to deliberate and enough resources (e.g., professional staff) to acquire independent and reliable information and that allotted delegates are well-compensated so that they are well-motivated to carry out their role.

    > noisy deliberation is fundamentally undemocratic

    This has things exactly backwards. Individual, atomized contemplation (what you euphemistically call “silent deliberation”) means that someone else has set the agenda. (Sutherland also likes to impose an information embargo so that the allotted must rely on information provided to them by others – I am not sure if this is your position as well.) Whoever set the agenda is really in control. This is exactly how elections work: the voters can choose among candidates that the elite has selected. Once the field of candidates has been narrowed to include by the elite, the choice within that field is largely meaningless. This is a deliberately undemocratic, oligarchical mechanism. Your proposal goes down the same wrong path. (Wrong, that is, assuming that, unlike Sutherland, you really aim at coming up with a democratic government system rather than just shoring up or legitimizing an oligarchical system.)

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  40. Yoram:> Obviously, for example, there would have to be rules allocating speech time equally.

    Do you really believe that would even out the imbalances in the perlocutionary effect of the speech acts of a randomly-selected group of amateurs (with no specific training in rhetoric and huge imbalances in education and perceived status). These people have to represent the constituents that they “describe”, so the beliefs and preferences of people of a reticent and unconfident nature would be systematically marginalised. This would primarily disadvantage already marginalised groups (baskets of deplorables etc) who could no longer choose a spokesperson to advocate their interests. There’s a whole literature on the social psychology of group dynamics that you would be well advised to read.

    >professional staff) to acquire independent and reliable information

    So who would evaluate the independence and reliability criteria? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    >Sutherland also likes to impose an information embargo

    Not so, allotted members (unlike trial jurors) would be at liberty to follow media commentary (both commercial and online) as they see fit. But the principal source of information and advocacy would be the political parties.

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  41. […] Hispkind’s post is here. The previous parts of my response are here and […]

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  42. Yoram,

    Part of our disagreement about deliberation may stem from how the word is defined. I am using the Deliberative Democrat meaning (as used by people like James Fishkin and Amy Gutmann). This is distinct from negotiation or debate. in a nutshell, “deliberation” requires that participants approach as equals and be open to changing their minds.

    Fishkin’s determination of genuine deliberation, as summarized in Wikipedia, go like this:
    ~Information: The extent to which participants are given access to reasonably accurate information that they believe to be relevant to the issue
    ~Substantive balance: The extent to which arguments offered by one side or from one perspective are answered by considerations offered by those who hold other perspectives
    ~Diversity: The extent to which the major positions in the public are represented by participants in the discussion
    ~Conscientiousness: The extent to which participants sincerely weigh the merits of the arguments
    ~Equal consideration: The extent to which arguments offered by all participants are considered on the merits regardless of which participants offer them

    Negotiation, on the other had assumes participants already have a preferred conclusion in mind, and are simply finding the balance point that reflects their relative power. Deliberation is amenable to scientific and fact-based analysis, while debate, negotiation or discussion are emotional and anti-scientific, derived from power relationships.

    I assure you elected legislators do NOT deliberate. Their staff may do something like deliberation with various lobbyists in private, but that is about it.

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  43. Terry,

    Your outline of deliberative norms is very attractive but the republic of reasons would appear to be the dwelling place of very few souls.** And, judging by the debating style of sortition partisans on this blog, the ability to follow Fishkin’s desiderata is inversely related to the strength of one’s prior intellectual commitments, rather than being ruled by interests or the passions. Madison’s solution to Calvinist scepticism was a “republican” system that would select wise, just and patriotic representatives, but we all know where that ended up.

    As Helene Landemore acknowledges, deliberative democracy is little more than a set of normative guidelines and Habermas himself acknowledges that ‘rational discourses have an improbable character and are like islands in the ocean of everyday practice’ (Habermas, 1996, p. 323). Landemore frankly admits that her concerns are purely epistemic/consequential and do not address the case for democracy in terms of intrinsic procedural norms such as fairness, equality and representativity (Landemore, 2013, p. 8). Furthermore:

    [T]he epistemic framework of the argument presented in this book assumes that people are voting what they think is right for the common good, no matter how unpleasant it is for them, whether ideologically or economically. (Landemore, 2013, pp. 196-7)

    As I put it to her, this takes Rousseauian civic obligation well into Buzz Lightyear territory [“To Infinity and Beyond”]

    Bernard Manin – whose seminal paper ‘On legitimacy and political deliberation’ is often cited as the manifesto for the modern deliberative democracy movement. But it would appear that the gamekeeper has turned poacher:

    Debate format – in which speakers address an audience that merely listens to them – is a more promising set-up for exposure to conflicting positions than interactive personal engagement amongst holders of opposing views, as people tend to avoid face-to-face disagreement.… speakers should be primarily policy experts, group leaders, moral authorities. Politicians may be involved too, but on the condition that their participation is decoupled from electoral campaigns.(Manin, 2005, pp. 18-19)

    If our concern is fixing our broken politics rather than dreaming amongst the [normative] dandelions (to purloin a Marxist metaphor) then we need to acknowledge how human reasoning actually works and this should tip us in the direction of evolutionary psychology (refs below) rather than normative and science fiction projects.

    ** The admixture of Rawlsian and Calivinist metaphors is deliberate: http://ctheory.net/ctheory_wp/john-rawls-a-calvinist-after-image/

    Refs
    ===
    Habermas, J. (1996). Between Facts and Norms. Contributions to a Theory of Law and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Landemore, H. (2013b). Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Manin, B. (2005). Deliberation: Why we should focus on debate rather than discussion. Paper presented at the Program in Ethics and Public Affairs seminar.

    Mercier, H., & Landemore, H. (2012). Reasoning is for arguing: Understanding the successes and failures of deliberation. Political Psychology, 33(2), 243-258.

    Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2017). The Enigma of Reason: A new theory of human understanding. London: Allen Lane.

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  44. Terry,

    As your list demonstrates, “deliberative democrats” tend to come up with various fantasies about how politics should be. Those often involve fictitious notions such as “substantive balance” and “equal consideration” that exist only in their ideological world where objective Truth exists (and, of course, miraculously reflects their own prejudices).

    In reality, people have objectives, pre-conceived notions, interests, etc. They arrive at discussions with some background. The expectation that they erase this background to fit the “deliberative” ideal is not only unrealistic, it is meaningless (and in fact is derived from implicit elitist notions about what “balance” and “merit” mean).

    Professional politicians, like any other people, “engage” (deliberate, negotiate, whatever you may call it) with other people in an attempt to find ways in which they can collaborate – otherwise they would simply not bother. Of course, the background position of professional politicians is very different from that of others – they may have more concrete and entrenched preconceived goals and thus be less likely to change their opinions. This is a matter of degree rather than kind. Even that is probably very dependent on the situation. For example, when a powerful person in a politician’s own party tells them that a certain objective has been adopted by the party, that politician will be quite receptive to this new idea, even if they were opposed to it earlier.

    In conclusion, the schematic that “professional politicians don’t deliberate” is, at best, a misleading way to phrase a truism. As a diagnosis of the problem with the existing political system it is worse than useless – it is a major (and often deliberate) distraction from the real problem: that the current system is an oligarchy. The current system is not gridlocked. It functions quite effectively when it comes to promoting elite interests.

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  45. Yoram:> fictitious notions such as “substantive balance” and “equal consideration” that exist only in their ideological world where objective Truth exists.

    The notion of objective truth is certainly part of epistemic democracy, particularly in its Habermasian incarnation. For us ordinary mortals, substantive balance is achieved dialectically, and equal consideration using a clock (as in Athens).

    >The current system is not gridlocked. It functions quite effectively when it comes to promoting elite interests.

    How do you square that with the political reality in the UK regarding Brexit? If (as seems highly likely) Boris Johnson is elected leader of the Conservative Party then there is a high probability that the UK will leave the EU without a deal — something that the political elite (in all probability including Boris Johnson) is united against.

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  46. The ideal of deliberation, is just that, an “ideal” that we can only approach. My point is that partisan elected politicians are COMPLETELY incapable of deliberating because their very existence is predicated on the firm belief that they already know and are committed to certain policy positions before they even enter the “engagement” with other elected officials. the raft of evolutionary psychological dynamics (like confirmation bias, etc.) are MOST pronounced among elected politicians. However, a random collection of citizens generally have NOT formed firm opinions on most policy matters and in a well-structured process with expert witnesses, etc.are far MORE capable of genuine deliberation than politicians.

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  47. The greatest challenge of group deliberation stems from the need for the group to “speak as one”–to come to a binding, single conclusion that can be considered the expression of the entire body, at least in a symbolic sense. But the requirement to speak as one is only needed to decide. Proposing requires no such unity.

    Currently, the proposing function is held hostage to the irrelevant “unity of voice” requirement. This is where so much up political rage is generated. If we just give society a way to propose laws and policies in a pluralistic way, then use citizen assemblies to decide, the bubble of rage politics would pop (or shrink at the very least).

    An assembly, citizen or otherwise, can never be a pure proposal mechanism. Even if there are two chambers operating in sequence, the first is a combination propose and decide, while the second is pure decide. This is the nature of assemblies: they must “speak with one voice” to have agency.

    What’s needed instead is a plurality of proposing agents. Each of these agents must have independent rights to propose. These proposals can then be submitted to citizen assemblies for a final decision.

    How to accomplish this in a fair and transparent manner should be the primary focus of sortition research.

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  48. Terry:> the raft of evolutionary psychological dynamics (like confirmation bias, etc.) are MOST pronounced among elected politicians.

    That’s right — Landemore argues that the confirmatory bias is an essential cognitive tool for persuaders.

    >a random collection of citizens generally have NOT formed firm opinions on most policy matters and in a well-structured process with expert witnesses, etc.are far MORE capable of genuine deliberation than politicians.

    Again, that’s right, but in the second sense of deliberation as “weighing” the competing arguments of advocates. Mercier and Landemore posit a second cognitive mechanism for this purpose. However, once you’ve spoken out in favour of a particular policy it is much harder to alter your views as you’ve already nailed your colours to the mast, hence the value of silent deliberation within.

    The trouble with deliberative democracy is it conflates these two functions and is predicated on the discredited classical (Cartesian) model of reasoning as updating one’s own beliefs. Evolutionary psychology suggests a strict separation between proposers and disposers — persuaders have isegoria rights (but no isonomia), whereas disposers have isonomia rights (but no isegoria). The division of labour is nicely illustrated by Pericles’ last speech, in which he reminds the Athenians that they are just as responsible for the war as he is: ‘I advised it [isegoria], but you voted for it [isonomia]’ (Thuc., 2, VII).

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  49. Alex,
    We don’t disagree really. You are simply leaving out one democratic step. I agree that a mini-public is not suitable for the generation of raw proposals. Groups of advocates and experts need to hammer out raw proposals (your “sports teams” parties that gain proposing slots based on votes they gather.) And then YOU go right to the mini-public deciding phase. but you have left out the crucial democratic deliberation phase. A SEPARATE mini-public should receive all the raw proposals on a given agenda item (from whatever source – but not restricted to elites) and deliberate over them by interrogating expert witnesses, etc. This body can forge a FINAL proposal by rejecting some proposals completely, combining parts of one with another and referring back problematic pieces for re-working. Only THEN is the final proposal ready for submission to the final jury. (This is the core design feature of my multi-body sportition, but with added mini-publics for setting the agenda, and another for overseeing and reforming the entire process.)

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  50. Terry:> A SEPARATE mini-public should receive all the raw proposals on a given agenda item

    Your implication being that a group selected by a (quasi) impartial procedure will therefore come to impartial decisions. I say “quasi” because current data would suggest that only some 4% of those selected by sortition would accept the invitation, so the procedure will be partial towards the kind of people who are attracted to policy making — i.e. more extreme versions of the sort of people who would normally offer themselves up as candidates for election. I say “more extreme” because (majoritarian) election favours candidates from the centre ground, so your policy and review committees are likely to be a magnet for Tea Party activists and other lobbyists. In addition, the length of service required means any initial descriptive representativity will rapidly evaporate. You accept all these points regarding the final decision jury and yet insist that your volunteer activists are more representative than existing politicians because nobody chose them to act on their behalf (the regular criterion of political representation).

    Terry, I appreciate that you have invested a lot of time in your utopian project for multi-body sortition and that confirmation bias will make it difficult to abandon it but there comes a time when you need to wake up and smell the coffee.

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  51. tbouricius:> We don’t disagree really

    There is a lot of overlap in our proposals. We both agree that proposal and decision should be split, and that a minipublic is suitable for the latter, but not the former. These are to my mind the most important elements of any truly democratic system.

    tbouricius:> You are simply leaving out one democratic step.

    I don’t think so. The political parties–teams–that generate proposal have a democratic mandate. An extra step to filter these proposals adds nothing democratic, as the proposals start with a democratic provenance.

    tbouricius:> A SEPARATE mini-public should receive all the raw proposals on a given agenda item (from whatever source – but not restricted to elites)

    I admit this has some emotional appeal to me. The idea of opening the process to all comers sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, it also leaves the proposal space effectively unregulated, and unregulated generally means dominated by money.

    I grew up in California, which has a high-minded initiative process whereby, in theory, anyone can put a proposal on the ballot. In practice, however, “anyone” means anyone with a lot of money, and often the purpose of the proposals is just to sow confusion.

    A minipublic will have somewhat greater bandwidth to sort through proposals, but it will be no match for the unlimited resources of, say, the fossil fuels industry. Hundreds of supposedly “grass roots” advocacy groups will spring up to make thousands of proposals, rendering the task of the minipublic hopeless. And that’s assuming that your version of a minipublic is representative, an assumption that Keith has rightly questioned.

    Getting rid of elites is not an end, it is a means to an end. The key is that the democratic provenance of all proposals must be maintained throughout the process. We start with a proposal from a body with a democratic mandate–staffed by professionals, of course, which it must be to generate proposals that are more than merely aspirational. These proposals are passed on to be evaluated by a minipublic that also has a clear democratic mandate and a strong claim to being representative.

    In our system, the democratic “chain of custody” is unbroken. Can you say the same about yours?

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  52. Alex:> We both agree that proposal and decision should be split, and that a minipublic is suitable for the latter, but not the former.

    Actually Terry does have a key role for allotted (long-term and voluntary) policy-generating committees but (unlike Yoram) does not propose limiting formal proposal rights to persons chosen by lot. It’s these policy committees that I anticipate being dominated by lobbyists of varying stripes as they will not be constrained by party discipline or the need to be re-elected.

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  53. Alex:> [Terry:] … We both agree that proposal and decision should be split, and that a minipublic is suitable for the latter, but not the former.

    My proposal has always been that proposal and decision be split in lawmaking, with decision being done by minipublic/jury.

    Alex:> . We start with a proposal from a body with a democratic mandate–staffed by professionals, of course, which it must be to generate proposals that are more than merely aspirational.

    If I correctly understand that the “democratic mandate” you speak of is popular election, then I have to disagree because it is not a democratic mandate, or if there is an insistence on calling it such then it is a very flawed and undesirable type of democratic mandate. Far better that public officials be chosen by juries rather than by popular election.

    Voters are poorly informed about the candidates in popular elections. They are likely to be even more poorly informed than they are now if those they elect only have the power to propose laws (and not to decide them).

    Popular election is extremely unsuitable for putting all of those interested in seeking a particular office on a level playing field, because of the importance of money, political parties, political machines, the media, and celebrity-status, in elections, and because it is not possible in a popular election for the public to become informed about all of the several, dozens, scores or hundreds of people who might be worthy of consideration for each of the public offices chosen by popular election.

    Juries are well-suited for choosing public officials on an informed basis. No matter how many public officials are chosen, the selection of each one, or each group of officials using a PR method like single alternative vote, receives the full-time attention of one jury/minipublic for as many weeks as needed.

    I think any well-designed method of selecting public officials needs to ensure that all those interested in seeking a public office are put on a level playing field, and that those doing the choosing have an open democratic choice (rather than a choice constrained or skewed by moneyed interests, political parties, the media, etc.). Juries are well-suited for providing this (because the candidates seeking public office appear directly before the jurors face to face, and therefore are not dependent on raising a fortune for ads and campaign staff reaching out to the entire public, nor on the backing of a political party or machine, nor on the media and people’s media choices, nor on being celebrities already known to much of the public.)

    Alex:>the requirement to speak as one is only needed to decide. Proposing requires no such unity.

    Well said. Minorities need to have the power and right to propose laws to juries. (Such as a minority in a jury-chosen parliament or house of representatives, or along the lines of what Alex and Keith suggest, each of several “teams” chosen by jury by a PR method).

    The reason minorities need this right and power is of course so that legislative juries/minipublics will have an open democratic choice of proposals on each topic, not one that is constrained by for example the majority vote of a parliament chosen by vote (whether by popular vote or voting by jury).

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  54. Simon,

    The model for election and political parties proposed by Alex and myself bears only a scant resemblance to their current incarnation. See https://equalitybylot.com/2019/06/07/a-response-to-cody-hipskind-part-1/#comment-27051. We were tempted to find an alternative word for “party”, but prefer to reclaim the original Madisonian sense of “advocate”. I’ll leave it to Alex to respond on your specific points.

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  55. Simon:> If I correctly understand that the “democratic mandate” you speak of is popular election, then I have to disagree because it is not a democratic mandate, or if there is an insistence on calling it such then it is a very flawed and undesirable type of democratic mandate. Far better that public officials be chosen by juries rather than by popular election.

    I think there may be some confusion about what we are proposing. In our system, public officials (executive officers and jurists, mostly) are selected by minipublics from slates of candidates put forward by parties. The parties themselves have a score (a percentage, really) based upon an aggregated ranking supplied by every citizen.

    Basically, the electorate is divided into cohorts–say 12, one for each month. The members of each cohort rank all the political parties in order of preference. At any given time, the political party’s score represents how much that party can propose to a minipublic: the higher the score, the more they can propose. This requires some care to do right; the details will be discussed in our forthcoming book.

    The political parties thus get their proposing strength (proposing both laws and candidates for office) from a rolling general election. We could, however, substitute a minipublic for each cohort, which would have epistemic benefits. We choose the cohort approach because we think it would lead to greater perceived legitimacy, especially at first. Once the public gets used to minipublics, the cohorts can be replaced.

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  56. Simon:> I think any well-designed method of selecting public officials needs to ensure that all those interested in seeking a public office are put on a level playing field, …

    I disagree. Democracy is both an equal right to decide and an equal right to propose. A system of “all comers welcome” has tremendous emotional appeal, but it does not respect citizens’ equal right to propose. It grants office seekers the right to advance themselves, while leaving everyone else bereft.

    Ultimately, the equal right to propose must be aggregated, since it is infeasible to have every citizen make independent proposals for consideration by a minipublic. In our system, political parties are the vehicle for this aggregation. They are very different from today’s political parties, however. Most importantly, they have no power to enact anything.

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  57. Keith:> The model for election and political parties proposed by Alex and myself bears only a scant resemblance to their current incarnation. See https://equalitybylot.com/2019/06/07/a-response-to-cody-hipskind-part-1/#comment-27051.

    Is that the link you intended? What came up for me on that link does not seem to set out a model for election and political parties.

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  58. Alex:>We choose the cohort approach because we think it would lead to greater perceived legitimacy, especially at first. Once the public gets used to minipublics, the cohorts can be replaced.

    Yes popular election of public officials is now perceived as legitimate. Selection of public officials by minipublics is better for the reasons briefly mentioned, but is of course also an idea few have even heard of us. So, proposing both methods makes some sense, as long as it is made clear the latter is the better and more democratic, albeit presently almost entirely unknown to the public.

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  59. 1. Alex, I don’t understand your objection to those interested in public offices being chosen from a level playing field.

    I assume that you don’t mean you are in favour of public officials (and political parties) being chosen on the basis an unlevel playing field. That is, a playing field skewed in favour of for example those supported by rich interests and billionaires, the favourites of corporate media and the BBC, the favourites of party establishments and apparatchiks, the favourites of the top 1% or top 10% (in wealth and income), and the famous. Or a playing field unlevel in some other way, for example with men and white people getting three votes each and women and people of colour only getting half a vote each.

    That is not what you are saying, correct?

    2. I don’t see any advantage to limiting public officials and proposers of laws to the nominees of political parties/teams.

    It would in fact be quite undemocratic because about a third of Americans are political independents, it would restrict the public’s freedom to vote for who they prefer in public office, and most or much of the public might well prefer an independent for a particular public office, or a party member other than the party nominee (were they to become well informed about all of those interested in the office).

    Giving political parties/teams a monopoly on choosing nominees for public office is to put in place an oligarchic filter that limits who can be chosen for public offices, and shifts rule away from the people and into the hands of parties/teams.

    Political parties are oligarchic creatures, for the reasons I have indicated above, and which Terry has indicated above.

    They are dependent on donors and special interest money for election campaigns, and therefore need to cater to their donors and to special interests (as opposed to just having to cater to the people).

    In Canada, and I imagine elsewhere, those who vote for nominees at party meetings are quite unrepresentative of the public (in terms of wealth and age for example), even more so than those who vote in general elections. In the US those who vote in primaries are unrepresentative of the public, so much so that Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens consider it a good reason to abolish primaries (even were primaries to be conducted in the most democratic manner they can think of, rather than what is now the case).

    3. Alex:>Ultimately, the equal right to propose must be aggregated, since it is infeasible to have every citizen make independent proposals for consideration by a minipublic.

    Limiting the number of people who can propose laws does not require political parties, never mind that political parties have a monopoly on nominating public officials.

    For example, a 4 member tax reform commission could be chosen by jury by single alternative vote, with each of the 4 commissioners having the power to propose new tax laws to juries. There’d be no advantage to restricting the choice of the jury to candidates nominated by parties (it would in fact be quite undemocratic to do so).

    For example, the US House of Representatives could be chosen by jury on the basis of single alternative vote and multi-member electoral districts. If a member of the House was unable to get majority support for a proposed law they wished to put to a minipublic for a final decision, they could have the right to put that proposed law to such a minipublic if they could get it endorsed by say 15% of the members of the House. There is no advantage I can see in restricting the right of juries to choose member of the House to the nominees of political parties (and doing so would be very undemocratic).

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  60. Simon:> 1. Alex, I don’t understand your objection to those interested in public offices being chosen from a level playing field.

    What is a level playing field? Allowing anyone to put themselves forward with equal consideration is not the same as equal proposing rights for all citizens. It means that office seekers have their proposing rights magnified, and others have theirs diminished.

    Equality is not a natural condition. It is highly artificial, and requires careful work to enforce correctly. Just saying, “let everyone come forward” doesn’t create a level playing field.

    Simon:> 2. I don’t see any advantage to limiting public officials and proposers of laws to the nominees of political parties/teams.

    I do. The teams’ ability to nominate/propose is proportional to their support in the population. They are acting as the agent of the citizenry’s equal right to propose.

    Without the limitation, activists of all stripes–including entrenched interests–get outsized proposing rights.

    Simon:> For example, a 4 member tax reform commission could be chosen by jury by single alternative vote, with each of the 4 commissioners having the power to propose new tax laws to juries. There’d be no advantage to restricting the choice of the jury to candidates nominated by parties (it would in fact be quite undemocratic to do so).

    From among what slate are these 4 members chosen? If it’s all comers, then the process is highly undemocratic. Activists will dominate, rather than the will of the general population. The original slate of candidates must be selected in proportion to the aggregated proposing rights of all citizens.

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  61. Alex,

    > Just saying, “let everyone come forward” doesn’t create a level playing field.

    You are right to object that “ho boulomenos” is a mere formality. However, it is absurd to complain about that and at the same time propose giving privileged power to parties. The electoral competition between parties is in fact an extreme case of “ho boulomenos”.

    Sortition is in fact a way out of the dead-end of mass politics that both these mechanisms exemplify. Only in a small-group setting can there be meaningful equality in decision making.

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  62. Simon,

    We all agree that in large polities democracy is only possible via representation and that representative isonomia can only be achieved via sortition, but Terry, Yoram and yourself insist that the same principle applies to isegoria. Pitkin, however, is clear that this conflates two entirely distinct principles (descriptive representation and the active representation of interests) and that the democratic role of the former is necessarily limited to the decision function:

    If the contemplated action is voting, then presumably (but not obviously) it means that the [descriptively-mandated] representative must vote as a majority of his constituents would. But any activities other than voting are less easy to deal with. Is he really literally to deliberate as if he were several hundred thousand people? To bargain that way? To speak that way? And if not that way, then how? (Pitkin,
    1967, pp. 144-145)

    I have yet to come across a convincing refutation of this argument, so we clearly need a different mechanism for representative isegoria — how to find people to “speak that way” as the law of large numbers does not apply to the perlocutionary effect of the speech acts of the members of a tiny randomly-selected group. Alex and myself, therefore, resort to election for the proposal function (active representation of interests) which inevitably leads to political parties, but NOT AS WE KNOW THEM as they are stripped of all decision rights and are exclusively funded by the state in proportion to their vote share [Alex, perhaps this principle could also be developed for equal access to the media?]. I guess this won’t be clear until Alex has finished this chapter of our forthcoming book.

    Yoram:> The electoral competition between parties is in fact an extreme case of “ho boulomenos”.

    That’s right, as it allows the voice of every citizen to be heard in proportion to the distribution of “persons like them” within the electorate. That’s why we refer to it as representative isegoria.

    Like

  63. Keith:> [Alex, perhaps this principle could also be developed for equal access to the media?]

    Yes, this is a good point. I make clear that all resources must be allocated in accordance with vote share, but I did not specifically mention media access. This should be explicitly stated.

    Like

  64. I think there is a lot of confusion about the role of what we call “political parties”, due to the historic (and justified) opprobrium that institutions with that title have earned. We chose the term to express some amount of historical continuity with current systems, but that historical continuity is quite limited. Perhaps this forum has shown simply that the name is wrong. For the purposes of this discussion, let me give them a more accurate and less historically freighted term: I will call them “proposing agents”

    Proposing agents do nothing but propose laws and candidates for office. That’s it. They do this in proportion to their support in the population, however we choose to measure that support.

    Why do we need proposing agents? Because all citizens have an equal right to propose. To be anything but a mere formality, that right has to be aggregated and delegated to an agent. Having every person in society literally able to submit proposals to a minipublic is not feasible.

    Importantly, just opening the system to all comers does not respect equal proposing rights, and hence is not democratic. “Open to all” sounds great, but it really just means unregulated, and unregulated falls to the least common denominator, usually money.

    The only thing that really matters about the agents is that they are captive to their vote share, which is a reflection of citizens’ equal right to propose. It doesn’t even matter if the “agent” is a person or a corporate body, though a corporate body is less volatile over time. The agent could, in theory, be an AI bot.

    How do we capture the proposing agent? This is a big part of our forthcoming book, but we have cited one important proof-of-concept here already: sports teams in a league. These organizations are nominally independent, yet are forced by the structure of the league to compete on extremely narrow grounds for a particular purpose.

    And this point reveals why political parties today are so horrible: they are not captive to their vote share. This happens for a lot of reasons, but I will list the main ones here:

    1) Conflation of proposing and deciding. This is a huge one. Virtually all parliamentary gamesmanship falls under this heading

    2) Failure to capture financially. Parties must receive all of their resources (money, office space, media access) in accordance with vote share, and cannot receive any resources from any other source.

    3) Inevitability: Parties can have no ability to block other parties. The process must proceed regardless of any deliberate non-participation by any other party.

    A proposing agent that is truly captive to its vote share will not be able to act as political parties do now. There’s nothing inherently evil about delegated agents, whether they be people, corporate bodies, or AI bots. It’s all about the constraints that are placed on them.

    The original sin of contemporary democracy is the belief that they can be eliminated. Legislative bodies are assumed to be composed of individual agents called representatives. But the true agents in legislative bodies are these unregulated parties. Failure to define them makes them more dangerous, not less.

    Far better to define–and constrain–parties from the start. Parties as they currently exist are horrid, but they supply agency where none has been properly defined. A system of “all comers” has a similar agency gap, which will be filled by the same venal “dark parties” that corrupt our system today.

    Define the parties from the start. Make sure every step in the process is carried forward by a real agent, with real power to act in an intentional way. Then constrain those agents to act on behalf of the equal rights of all citizens.

    Like

  65. Alex:> From among what slate are these 4 members chosen [a tax reform commission chosen by jury by single alternative vote]? If it’s all comers, then the process is highly undemocratic. Activists will dominate, rather than the will of the general population. The original slate of candidates must be selected in proportion to the aggregated proposing rights of all citizens.

    They are chosen by the jurors from among all those who are interested in applying to become one of the four commissioners on the tax reform commission.

    Restricting those who can apply to be on the commission to the nominees of political parties would be highly undemocratic. It would be a curtailing, disenfranchisement and stripping of the basic democratic right of the jurors to choose whoever they like (regardless of whether or not the candidate they like has been nominated by a political party).

    If the US or UK were to pass a law requiring that only the nominees of political parties would be allowed to run for public office, it would be correctly denounced as undemocratic, and in the US I’m guessing it would be struck down by the courts.

    Now of course in practice popular elections are dominated by political parties, and there are only a small number of political independents that make it into legislatures, elected judicial offices and so on. Electoral democracy’s heavily skewed playing field in favour of political parties and party nominees is exactly one of its democratic deficits, not a virtue.

    In order for juries to choose candidates for office in a democratic way, the jurors must be given an open choice of all those who wish to apply, not a choice limited to the nominees of political parties. One of the virtues of juries choosing public officials is that it removes the domination of political parties, and puts candidates who are not nominated by a political party on a level playing with party nominees.

    Restricting those who can propose laws to the nominees of political parties is not needed to provide a method of selecting proposers “in proportion to the aggregated proposing rights of all citizens.” Choosing proposers by by jury already does that, as long as the jurors use some form proportional representation voting to choose the proposers.

    Like

  66. Alex, just seeing your latest post now.

    Alex:> Why do we need proposing agents? Because all citizens have an equal right to propose. To be anything but a mere formality, that right has to be aggregated and delegated to an agent. Having every person in society literally able to submit proposals to a minipublic is not feasible.

    I agree that we need to have proposing agents chosen in a democratic way, and also (I think we agree on this) that a proportional representation voting method be used to choose them.

    I don’t see a need for proposing agents to be parties or teams rather than individuals (and I find restricting them to parties or teams undemocratic).

    Alex:> Proposing agents do nothing but propose laws and candidates for office.

    I don’t think there’s any need for proposing agents to propose candidates for public office. Far better that juries choose candidates for public office from all those who wish to apply. (I am here thinking of all of the public offices that are or ought to be independent from politicians and parties and that are now typically chosen by politicians {such as judges, regulatory commissions, heads of agencies, district attorneys …}, I am not suggesting juries choose for example court stenographers or ordinary police officers though I am I suppose not especially against that.)

    Like

  67. Simon:> I don’t see a need for proposing agents to be parties or teams rather than individuals (and I find restricting them to parties or teams undemocratic).

    Alex and I don’t care whether they are parties, persons or AI bots, so long as their predominance is a function of the share of the votes that they receive. What we are opposed to is unrepresentative ho boulomenos, as this privileges loudmouths and those with money and high status. We appreciate that mass election is vulnerable to rational ignorance, but the role of the decision jurga is to subject the unreflective choice of the demos to deliberative scrutiny (as in the 4th century Athenian legislative procedure).

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  68. Simon:> They are chosen by the jurors from among all those who are interested in applying to become one of the four commissioners on the tax reform commission.

    The real proposing agents in this scenario are the office seekers. The jurors are not the proposers, they are the deciders, no matter how many juries you place in sequence. You can have 1000 juries narrowing down the result one after another, and if they only choose from those who apply, they are deciders, not proposers.

    The problem is that you have tied proposing and seeking. In this case, only office seekers get proposal rights, non-seekers get none. Romanticizing this setup with phrases like “open to all comers” doesn’t justify denying the vast majority of the population their equal right to propose.

    Simon:> Restricting those who can apply to be on the commission to the nominees of political parties would be highly undemocratic. It would be a curtailing, disenfranchisement and stripping of the basic democratic right of the jurors to choose whoever they like

    They cannot choose whoever they like. They can only choose from among those who apply. Proposing agents have no such restriction. They can seek out and actively recruit candidates. They can offer training to less qualified candidates. In theory, there could even be a regime of compulsory service, similar to a military draft, in which proposing agents simply put forward anyone they choose, and nominees must serve if selected. I don’t recommend this last approach, but it is possible; not so with juries. Juries need a predefined slate of candidates, and a predefined method of voting on them. That is what makes a jury a “decider” rather than a “proposer”.

    Proposing agents reflect the will of everyone, office seeker or not. How does your system honor the equal proposing rights of office non-seekers?

    Simon:> If the US or UK were to pass a law requiring that only the nominees of political parties would be allowed to run for public office, it would be correctly denounced as undemocratic, and in the US I’m guessing it would be struck down by the courts.

    That’s true, but it is because nobody votes directly for parties in the US or UK. In countries where voters vote directly for parties, those parties do control candidate selection. This is just fine, because the parties have a democratic mandate.

    Also, office seekers in the US must collect a certain number of signatures to appear on the ballot. This reflects the fact that ballot access is a function of everyone’s right to propose, not just that of the office seekers themselves.

    Simon:> I don’t see a need for proposing agents to be parties or teams rather than individuals (and I find restricting them to parties or teams undemocratic).

    I agree from the point of view of democratic theory. I don’t care whether the proposing agents are teams or individuals in that sense. But individuals are more volatile. What if a person who has a mandate to act as a proposing agent dies or resigns? That vote share is effectively orphaned. Teams are more continuous over time.

    Restricting them to parties or teams is irrelevant from the point of view of democratic theory. All that matters is that they are agents, with full power to act on behalf of their mandate. The rest is practical.

    Like

  69. Simon,

    From you and many others on this blog there is a tremendous hatred for parties, that manifests itself in a reflexive desire to eliminate every corporate body (in the broadest sense) from politics. I understand the emotion behind this instinct, but it is misguided in my view.

    Political parties as they exist now are an abomination, we all agree. But we have to ask why. Is it because they are corporate bodies? No, there are all kinds of corporate bodies–from charities to for-profit companies–that do things we like. So why are political parties in particular so bad?

    The common answer on this site is that they are inherently bad and must be eliminated. But historically, the framers of the US constitution also hated political parties, and yet they crafted probably the worst system in the world in terms of party dominance.

    My answer is much different. Parties are bad because legislative chambers as they exist now are fatally flawed. They are built on the pretense that you can throw a few hundred people into a room with no predefined agenda or success criteria and expect them to “act as one”. This is patently ridiculous. Parties supply the missing agency in the worst way possible, but the underlying flaw is the chamber itself.

    Once you solve this problem, you have nothing to fear from the mere existence of a corporate body in the political process. Of course it is still possible to have a poorly designed system, but that’s true even without corporate bodies.

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  70. > From you and many others on this blog there is a tremendous hatred for parties, that manifests itself in a reflexive desire to eliminate every corporate body (in the broadest sense) from politics

    Just in case this is supposed to refer to my positions as well: I have no particular hatred for parties or corporate bodies in general. Under the proper model or governance, such bodies could be very beneficial (like the state itself, which is of course also a “corporate body”).

    The issue is that in a democratic society power must be representative. The model you have proposed: empowering “parties” (or whatever you may call your “proposing agents”) via elections (i.e., the existing electoralist model) is oligarchical, anti-democratic. Countering this fact with slogans such as that the parties would supposedly be “captive to their vote share” is wholly unsatisfactory. Yes, yes, we all understand that you propose that an allotted body would be the one selecting from a menu of options offered by the parties. Again, that is completely unsatisfactory as a response to the obvious fact that by setting the agenda, the proposers control the range of policy available.

    > there are all kinds of corporate bodies–from charities to for-profit companies–that do things we like. So why are political parties in particular so bad?

    No – all of those bodies are oligarchical and in general they are all held in justified suspicion. The reason parties are more hated than the other bodies is that they have more power (or at least seem to have more power).

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  71. Yoram:> Countering [the iron law of oligarchy] with slogans such as that the parties would supposedly be “captive to their vote share” is wholly unsatisfactory.

    Alex and I acknowledge — indeed applaud — the fact that the internal organisation of parties is oligarchical, as democracy is achieved by the competition between parties. Given that funding and media access is strictly proportional to vote share, in what sense is Alex’s claim a “slogan”?

    [charities and for-profit companies] are oligarchical and in general they are all held in justified suspicion.

    Thank you for nailing your colours to the mast, as it’s now clear that you hate any corporate body that isn’t under public control. I guess that’s to be expected as your thread is a sympathetic response to Cody’s Marxist Analysis of Sortition https://equalitybylot.com/2019/06/04/a-marxist-analysis-of-sortition/

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  72. Alex:> The common answer on this site is that they are inherently bad and must be eliminated. But historically, the framers of the US constitution also hated political parties, and yet they crafted probably the worst system in the world in terms of party dominance.

    This is an important point as it demonstrates the unintended consequences of social action (as Merton and Popper put it). Utopian plans for all-sortition democracy are likely to demonstrate this truth a lot more dramatically than Madison’s minor reforms of representative government.

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  73. Alex:> Just dump a bunch of people in a room and say “come up with something”? Forget it. Amateurs might be more civilized about it, but noisy deliberation is fundamentally undemocratic. . . The jurors are not the proposers, they are the deciders, no matter how many juries you place in sequence.

    It’s worth noting how confused the public debate on citizen juries has become. From today’s BBC website:

    [Conservative leadership contestant Rory Stewart] proposed setting up a citizens’ jury to break the Brexit impasse. Under his plan, a group of people representing the country’s demographics would be given three weeks to make recommendations which Parliament would then be able to approve or reject.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48653990

    Despite this confusion, it does indicate the appeal of sortition to politicians when there is no other obvious solution to a pressing issue. But I think it behoves those of us who have spent a long time studying what sortition can and cannot do to think and speak clearly about these matters: https://equalitybylot.com/2011/03/03/what-sortition-can-and-cannot-do/

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  74. So much to respond to, but just a narrow point in this comment. Parties with power based on share of the popular vote is a poor method for selecting proposals for a final jury to consider.

    Alex wrote:
    >”The teams’ ability to nominate/propose is proportional to their support in the population. They are acting as the agent of the citizenry’s equal right to propose.Without the limitation, activists of all stripes–including entrenched interests–get outsized proposing rights.”
    and
    Keith wrote:
    >”What we are opposed to is unrepresentative ho boulomenos, as this privileges loudmouths and those with money and high status.”

    But this is EXACTLY the sort of people that will dominate these political parties (proposing agents). The fact that they must also develop skills in mass public relations, demonizing other parties, and manipulation, does not make them better.

    Why are electoral parties especially inappropriate for narrowing proposals to a final set for mini-publics to consider? Parties cobble together an assortment of policy positions that are fundamentally unrelated. Perhaps party A favors the death penalty, opposes abortion as murder and supports expanding the military and going to war. If a voter is most concerned about protecting life and has been convinced by targeted Internet ads that stopping abortion is crucial and votes for that party, the party also gets added power to sponsor a series of death-promoting proposals, based on its vote share from “pro-life” abortion opponents. Many voters do not agree with ANY party on a majority of their positions, yet you apportion proposal rights based on vote share (with many voters not voting for any of these proposing agents). Elections at best create an ILLUSION of representativeness and authorization, since many or most voters don’t vote at all, or are simply voting against some other party.

    There is another fundamental shortcoming with this design for generating proposals. By limiting deliberation to WITHIN each separate party (proposing agent), with the mini-public only able to say yes or no to one plan (allowed to go to the mini-public based on vote share in a popular elections), you have forfeited all of the benefits of diversity in deliberation in refining raw proposals. This is an element of democracy you have not incorporated.

    Better to allow any person who wants, to participate in a proposal team (these might be randomly mixed people or people of common interests) who can try to craft a proposal (by requiring raw proposals to come from such teams you narrow the total number of proposals). These teams won’t be very representative, so have no power to adopt… but will be diverse and contradictory, and pull in expertise. All of these raw proposals on the same topic get presented to a randomly selected Review Panel that can genuinely deliberate, hear from all sorts of experts and advocates, have professional staff, recombine and amend various raw proposal elements, ask proposal teams to collaborate or redraft problem sections, and ultimately agree on a final proposal to present to the final mini-public. Because these diverse Review Panels will need to have longish terms (perhaps months or years) they also will be not fully representative, and so also have no final authority. And here is one of the keys…. because the proposal teams know that their proposals will be compared to many OTHER proposals on the same topic, and must pass muster in front of both a review panel and the final mini-public, they have a strong motivation to craft a proposal with broad appeal, and seek common ground. Your partisan teams will instead have motivation to offer their dream (extreme) proposal, that they think they can get through the mini-public, without comparison to alternative proposals and no diverse deliberation.

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