Criteria for a representative citizens’ assembly

Given the high profile of some recent (UK) proposals for allotted citizens’ assemblies — including Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart’s Brexit assembly and Extinction Rebellion’s global warming assembly — there is an urgent need to initiate an informed conversation on the requisite criteria to ensure that the assembly design is compatible with principles of democratic legitimacy. As we have been debating this topic in depth on this forum for many years, this looks like a good place to start. The underlying assumption of this post is that the legitimising principle is ‘stochation’ — i.e. an assembly that is a portrait in miniature of the population that it seeks to ‘describe’ and that the goal is to increase the fidelity of the representation, subject to cost and other practical constraints. I would suggest the following criteria:

Criteria for the acceptability of the allotment procedure
The criteria for an impartial random-selection algorithm have been covered by Yoram Gat’s recent post. Terry Bouricius has also argued that the need to be seen to be fair might require some sort of public ceremony, as in pre-modern applications of sortition.

Selection pool
Should the same criteria of citizenship be used as for the electoral role, or is there a case to open it to all affected interests? However the Athenians were less inclusive, requiring a higher age for lawmakers than regular citizens along with swearing the heliastic oath.

Voluntary or quasi-mandatory participation?
Athenian legislative juries were drawn from a pool of volunteers, but the 6,000 citizens were a very substantial proportion of the citizen body and there was strong normative pressure for all citizens to serve (those who didn’t were ho idiōtēs).  However the modern take-up of sortition invitations has been in the region of only 4%, so it might well be argued that voluntary participation would generate an atypical sample. If so, should participation be a civic duty (as in jury service) or will incentives and support suffice, bearing in mind that the relevant principle is the representation of the beliefs and preferences of the vast majority of citizens who are not included in the allotment?

Size of the allotted sample
Modern examples of sortition have been for bodies ranging from only twenty to several hundred, and some statisticians have argued that 1,000 is the minimum size for a reasonably accurate representation (Athenian juries ranged from 501 to 5,001). What is the connection between sample size, decision threshold and confidence interval? How big could the sample be before the onset of rational ignorance?

Length of service
On the one hand a citizens’ assembly would need time to gain adequate knowledge on the issue under consideration, whereas on the other there is the danger of participants ‘going native’ and thereby ceasing to adequately reflect the beliefs and preferences of their (virtual) constituents. Should assemblies be convened on an ad hoc basis (as with 4th century Athenian lawmaking), or is there a case for permanent bodies with rolling tenure for members?

Information and advocacy
In the Athenian case information and advocacy for the new law originated with the proposer(s), and the defence of the old law was undertaken by five citizens elected by the assembly. The goal was balanced advocacy, implemented with the aid of water clocks. Modern experiments with Deliberative Polling have (broadly speaking) followed this template. Should advocacy rights be restricted to political parties or is there a case for wider participation based, for example, on the arguments contained in Michael Saward’s highly influential monograph, The Representative Claim? As the jury proceedings cannot be isolated from external influence is it possible (and desirable) to ensure balanced media advocacy for each side of the debate?

Some have argued that information and advocacy should be generated internally by the allotted assembly, but would this introduce randomness (in the pejorative sense) and leave excessive influence in the hands of the permanent civil servants servicing the assembly? A group of randomly-chosen amateurs might easily be manipulated by the ‘deep’ State.

Deliberative style and decision mechanism
The term ‘deliberation’ has two alternative meanings — ‘good discussion’ and the ‘weighing’ of an argument. Deliberative democrats in the Habermasian tradition have argued the case for the former, therein privileging the free exchange of reasons between persons afforded equal opportunity and supported by trained facilitators. Habermasian deliberative democrats prefer consensual decision making (on the basis of the ‘unforced’ force of the better argument) and only using voting as a last resort.

Adherents of the ‘weighing’ approach to deliberation claim that inevitable variations in the perceived status and persuasive skills of citizens selected by lot will introduce randomness (in the pejorative sense) which will adversely affect the ongoing representativity of the assembly.  Moderators would not be permissible in a legislative assembly on account of Juvenal’s quis custodiet (who guards the guards?) principle. Studies on the Condorcet Jury Theorem suggest that independence of judgment is essential for the epistemic benefits of the ‘wisdom of crowds’. Adding in the empirical social psychology research on information cascades, confirmation bias and other such factors, a case can be made for restricting the information exchange to the pro and con advocates (as in a law court) and limiting the role of the randomly-selected jurors to silent deliberation — ‘weighing’ the arguments before voting in silence. However, although such a body is more likely to accurately reflect the beliefs and preferences of the population that it ‘describes’, it would be entirely at the mercy of the information and advocacy provided to it exogenously.

Ex-post corruptibility
Whilst the Blind Break introduced by the random selection algorithm will dramatically reduce the possibility of selecting lawmakers in hock to ‘sinister interests’, arguably long-serving allotted members with speech rights would be more subject to lobbying and inducements than politicians who have to submit to party discipline and (every few years) the scrutiny of voters when they stand for re-election. However, short-term allotted bodies, where members only have the mandate to vote in secret, would be less open to corruption.

Binding or advisory outcome?
Governments are increasingly bringing in public referenda with binding outcomes, but the only example to date of decision-making by allotted body in which the instigators (the local Communist party) agreed in advance to accept the outcome unconditionally was a Deliberative Poll on infrastructure spending in Zegou, China. But there is no inherent reason why the decisions of an allotted body should be purely advisory.

Quis custodiet?
So who should decide on how these criteria should be instituted? In the UK the Supreme Court is generally regarded as impartial in nature, so a case could be made for a judge-led inquiry with a majority vote on each of the criteria. The enquiry might take evidence from (inter alia) the UK Statistics Authority, The Royal Statistical Society, The Political Studies Association, The British Psychological SocietyThe Institute for Government, The Electoral CommissionThe World Association for Public Opinion Research etc. There would also be a need to consult specialist organisations such the Center for Deliberative Democracy with long experience in experiments with large randomly-selected decision-making bodies.

And, at the risk of putting the cart before the horse, the final decision of the Supreme Court enquiry would need to be approved by a large jury, selected by lot.

50 Responses

  1. I thought you might steer us with some of your own views on these very expansive questions Keith ;)

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  2. Hi Nick, as you know I’m generally with Harry Truman when it comes to one-handed counsellors, but on this occasion thought it better to keep my own prejudices sotto voce. What we need to focus on is the criteria, so is there anything that I’ve overlooked?

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  3. One thing I forgot (I guess it would come in the Size of the Allotted Sample section) is whether or not a consistent decision outcome (within a pre-specified margin of error) should be required between different samples of the same population. If there is variation, then which decision is the representative one? If there is wide variance in the decision outcome between different groups (Goodin, 2003, p. 74) then what actions need to be taken to bring the variation in line with the pre-specified margin of error.

    Goodin, R. E. (2003). Democratic deliberation within. In J. Fishkin & P. Laslett (Eds.), Debating Deliberative Democracy (pp. 54-79). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

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  4. The legitimising principle is the lottery principle — i.e. an impartial selection procedure that gives the same weight to each citizen’s aliquot portion of sovereignty (Rousseau, Contrat, III, 1). The descriptive value of the resulting sample is only a desirable feature.
    The selection pool should result from exactly the same criteria used to determine who can vote at the elections.
    Participation is non-mandatory but with strong incentives: same salary as the elected members of the chamber plus a life-long pension, compatible with any other source of income, at the end of the four or five years’ term.
    Rational ignorance being a subjective phenomenon, I personally feel that the absolute maximum size of a decision-making body is around 11 or 12 hundreds. Although not being all that interested in the descriptive argument, I have nothing against much smaller samples.
    Career officials in the supporting Secretariat should be emphatically given the name of “servant of the Assembly” and wear an unadorned uniform as a permanent reminder of their subordinate role.
    The best answer to the problem of lobbying and corruption is to be found in criminal law, under the form of an extreme “risk asymmetry”: members who accepted bribes not only will be pardoned if they denounce their accomplices before being discovered, they even get to keep their ill-gotten gains! The goal is that nobody dares to bribe a member because the rational course of action of the latter will always be to denounce the plot.

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  5. Selection pool: https://tidsskrift.dk/res_cogitans/article/download/27221/23963 Democracy and the All-Affected Principle
    By Eerik Lagerspetz
    The All-Affected Principle has an important status in recent theoretical
    discussions on democracy. According to the principle, all who are
    affected by a decision should have a right to participate into making it.

    There are a lot of arguments about this ‘inclusion’, for and against, but I think it is sufficient to mention the possibilities. In the case of a legislative level I would propose the official “electoral list” or the official “resisident list” depending on the level of inclusion that is previously agreed upon.

    I have not encountered any other selection method ( the pool subject ) that is in compliance of the basic criteria of sortition on that level (Dimitri Courant – Impartiality, Equality, representativeness, legitimacy https://www.academia.edu/37132101/Thinking_Sortition._Modes_of_selection_deliberative_frameworks_and_democratic_principles ) At this level of application it has to be as manipulation proof as possible, excluding all “scientific manipulation”.

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  6. Arturo:> The legitimising principle is the lottery principle — i.e. an impartial selection procedure that gives the same weight to each citizen’s aliquot portion of sovereignty (Rousseau, Contrat, III, 1). The descriptive value of the resulting sample is only a desirable feature.

    That’s certainly the Blind Break viewpoint (Dowlen, Stone, Boyle etc), but it has no relevance to the principle of democratic representation (the rationale for both the Brexit and the climate change citizens’ assemblies). The relevant issue is not the equal chance of an individual being selected, it’s the representativity of the whole group vis-a-vis the target population (the principal focus of this forum). The Blind Break is a negative principle but descriptive representation (aka The Invisible Hand) is a positive principle — they have precious little in common. See this post for a detailed analysis of the differences: https://equalitybylot.com/2014/09/12/the-blind-break-the-invisible-hand-and-the-wisdom-of-crowds-the-political-potential-of-sortition/

    If we can’t even agree on this distinction then there is no hope at all for the establishment of citizens’ assemblies as a vehicle for democratic decision making. That’s why I prefer the term stochation to sortition for random selection as a form of descriptive representation.

    >not being all that interested in the descriptive argument, I have nothing against much smaller samples.

    Yes, that’s the trouble. Unfortunately the smaller samples that you suggest are of no relevance to the democratic case for decision-making by allotted assemblies, although normative political theorists working in the field of equality per se may find them interesting (Rousseau, of course, was no democrat).

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  7. Keith,
    I remember carefully reading your paper when you circulated it to us five years ago. I also remember remaining unconvinced by your arguments (I may or may not have mentioned Hume, who mentioned Berkeley…). What you call the blind break, with a purely utilitarian meaning (to sanitize the political process fighting partiality, nepotism, factionalism etc.) is certainly not a legitimising principle. Neither is a legitimising principle per se what you call the invisible hand — i.e. descriptive representation.
    ‘Descriptive’ is just an adjective (nice and desirable, I agree); the operational word is ‘representation’.
    The only source of legitimacy (in other words, the answer to the question “why should I obey the law”) is the social contract: I renounce to my natural liberty and submit to the laws IN EXCHANGE of having my voice heard when these laws are written, with the same weight in the final decision as anyone else. In groups large enough, where we cannot meet all, all the time, we select representatives. The most trivial method to do this is through elections: one man, one vote. In 508 B.C., Cleisthenes devised another method who also satisfies the requirement of giving the same weight (or the same chances: there is no difference once you accept the lottery principle) to everyone.
    Rousseau was no democrat at heart, I agree. He said that our current systems of elective aristocracy were the best conceivable ones, if only (I cite from memory) our ci-devant betters cared for the general well-being and not only for their own.

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  8. I said earlier: “The selection pool should result from exactly the same criteria used to determine who can vote at the elections”.
    I remember now that intellectually-disabled people in Spain were recently given the right to vote at the European elections (and, I assume, all the other ones). While I fully support this, I would not include these people in the pool for sortition (I am of course interested in hearing diverging arguments).

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  9. Arturo,
    Including people with Down’s syndrome, or other mental handicaps, in the pool is desirable. We are concerned with the competence of the panel AS A WHOLE… not the competence of individual members. The mere presence of a mentally retarded member in a deliberative assembly may improve the competence of the body! It may cause other members to recognize that some policy they were considering would harm this person sitting next to them, because they couldn’t manager the challenge of completing some application process or whatever. The increased diversity can INFORM other members, not only bring forth additional information or interpretations by that handicapped member. We also have the obvious slippery slope of deciding how superior or defective a member needs to be to be included or excluded.

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  10. Arturo:> I renounce to my natural liberty and submit to the laws IN EXCHANGE of having my voice heard when these laws are written, with the same weight in the final decision as anyone else. In groups large enough, where we cannot meet all, all the time, we select representatives.

    Absolutely. In an election every vote has equal causal power. The challenge for those who want to introduce sortition as a democratic procedure is how to distribute equal power to the vast majority of people who will not be selected to serve. This requires an entirely different representation principle, for which Andre Sauzeau came up with the neologism “stochation” (the ability of randomly-selected groups to benefit from the law of large numbers). This is the representative principle that I am exploring in this post.

    >the requirement of giving the same weight (or the same chances: there is no difference once you accept the lottery principle) to everyone

    Not so (absent the stochation principle), as those who are not selected have no weight at all, so the resulting political system would be a kleristocracy, not a democracy. The “lottery principle” is something recently invented by Peter Stone and Oliver Dowlen, and has little relevance to those of us seeking to use sortition to achieve democratic representation. As to why Cleisthenes introduced sortition, we don’t really know — it’s generally believed that it was to insulate the general assembly from aristocratic influence, but it had a proto-representative element and was also an effective system of rotation.

    And I don’t see the relevance of Hume or Berkeley to any of this.

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  11. Keith,
    You are interested in one particular function for a mini-public, which is making a yes/no decision about a policy developed by some other group. You and I largely agree about the design features of such a body. However there are many OTHER functions that sortition can beneficially serve… and these tasks will optimally have different design features. Some of these tasks have representativeness as only a secondary or even irrelevant factor. A yes/no jury benefits from “weighing” deliberation (avoiding the psychological mine fields of internal advocacy) to allow for independent judgment by each. However, formulation, or amending of proposals necessitates active give-and-take deliberation. A random body can seek win-win solutions that political parties, or advocacy groups would not advance. Such mini-publics (the vast majority of sortition implementations around the world in this century) benefit most strikingly by the DIVERSITY and IMPARTIALITY of the members, with representativeness being significant, but secondary … so long as this body is not ALSO making a final decision on the policy. Likewise, an agenda setting body might be different again (different size, different procedures, etc.). An executive oversight body with power to remove a chief executive, or hire a chief executive (these should be distinct groups of people), should be different yet again.

    Sortition can be superior to election for all of these tasks, and each sort of panel needs to be designed optimally for the task. Keith is only interested in one task, and so is focused on design for a large mute body that listens to balanced presentations and votes yes/no on a presented policy. Many other sortition advocates favor an all-purpose allotted legislative body, modeled on existing elected legislatures, except randomly selected. I have written elsewhere about why I think is also a terrible mistake
    https://www.academia.edu/37578530/Why_Hybrid_Bicameralism_is_Not_Right_for_Sortition
    But I think it would be very sad if the multifaceted potential of sortition was narrowly confined to one task, while ignoring the many other benefits it has to offer.

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  12. Terry,

    My interest is in democracy so let’s remind ourselves of Dahl’s strictures:

    The process for making binding decisions includes at least two analytically distinguishable stages: [1] setting the agenda and [2] deciding the outcome. (Dahl, 1989, p. 107)

    We both agree that stochation is a democratic mechanism for [2], but what about [1]?

    The demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda of matters that are to be decided by means of the democratic process. (Dahl, 1989, p. 113)

    Do you believe that to be true? If so then what is the representative principle that renders the other uses of sortition you mention democratic? Clearly it has nothing to do the law of large numbers and nobody gets to choose these people (and turn the rascals out).

    Ref
    ===

    Dahl, R. A. (1989). Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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  13. Paulnollen noted the principle that “all who are affected by a decision should have a right to participate into making it.” I myself have repeated this for decades as a radical argument for extending democracy into the workplace, the economy, the schools, etc. Demarchy is also based on deliberation among directly affected interests. However, in recent times I have come to think this principle is not always optimal. In some situations it might be better to EXCLUDE all those with a direct interest. Think of a criminal jury.

    When faced with a zero-sum game (one side will win and one will lose) democratically including all those with a direct interest in the outcome simply means the larger group can abuse the smaller group. It respects power over justice. We are accustomed to think of a powerless majority having decisions forced upon them by a powerful elite…. but that is not the only scenario. In some situations (and I am not clear when this applies) an impartial group that can judge the fairness and equity of a decision may be more just and better than a majoritarian decision. This impartiality feature of sortition is something that intrigues me.

    An odd example… looking at the corruption problem in Mexico, one theorist proposed that rather than having the people in a community who are directly impacted by corruption who are dealing with a corrupt police force, (either negatively by being asked for bribes, or “positively” by getting special treatment by PAYING bribes). Dealing with the issue locally will put citizens who testify and their family members in danger. It might be better to have a random group of anonymous citizens on the other side of the country WHO ARE NOT IMPACTED BY THE DECISION empowered to make decisions about firing police officers in that community.

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  14. Keith:> how to distribute equal power to the vast majority of people who will not be selected to serve.
    Do you feel cheated or shortchanged when you don’t win a pecuniary lottery? I would only feel cheated if I later learned that my number was not in the drum.

    >the “lottery principle” is something recently invented by Peter Stone and Oliver Dowlen
    I thought it was Barbara Goodwin who used it first.

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  15. *** The democratic idea was never to give equal political power to all members of the community, including small children or mentally defective adults. It was to give equal weight in sovereignty to all the members of the community who were considered as « able » in the common life social roles. A person who has right to freely marry and beget children and educate them ; who has right to emigrate to another country ; who has right to enlist into the army ; who has right to acquire or sell property ; a person who therefore is considered « able » in common life major decisions, must be considered able to participate in sovereignty. The democratic idea does not reject the idea of ability, it rejects the idea of a specifically political ability which could be specifically assessed (and be the basis of a « true » aristocracy).
    *** Terry Bouricius wants to include in the sovereign body people with strong mental defects. But he does not say anything about the children. Does he want to include 10 years old children ? It seems a logical result of his discourse.
    *** Terry Bouricius mentions « the obvious slippery slope of deciding how superior or defective a member needs to be to be included or excluded ». I think the risk of politically biased rules about mental defects is low. The risk is high for the age limit, and actually we see it in the debates about age limit in referendums, 16 years or 18 years. But the slippery slope argument is not strong if we follow the idea of common life ability. It is democratic to give sovereignty participation to 15 or 16 years members of the community if, and only if, we give them the right to freely marry and beget children and educate them, to emigrate to another country, to enlist into the army etc.
    *** Note that participation to consultative bodies is another thing, and must be considered along the specific case. To have 15 years adolescents give, through allotted panels, advice about issues affecting them specifically (as education, sexuality) … is maybe a good idea, but advisory panels and sovereign bodies have not to follow the same logics.

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  16. Arturo,

    Winning (or losing) the National Lottery bears no comparision to establishing descriptively-representative sovereign bodies through sortition. Perhaps if those of us who are interested in the latter use André’s term stochation, this would prevent us talking past each other.

    Thank you for reminding me to include Barbara Goodwin in the Blind Break camp — she delivered a paper at one of the Paris sortition workshops in which she acknowledged that she has no interest in the representative potential of sortition (in fact she views a sortition-based assembly as a variant of direct democracy). Jon Elster’s early work is primarily on the Blind Break (though his recent book Securities Against Misrule also covers the representative potential of sortition). So to clarify matters, the work of Goodwin, (early) Elster, Stone, Dowlen and Boyle has no relevance to this particular thread. The ‘lottery principle’ that we are interested in here is the LLN (Law of Large Numbers), which is an entirely rational property of lotteries. Pace Peter Stone’s claim, you cannot subsume a positive within a negative, so they have no right to make a proprietary claim regarding a single ‘lottery principle’.

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  17. I accept André’s point about inclusion/exclusion of those with sufficiently severe mental deficiencies, within a liberal society that has a quasi-universal adult franchise. I guess my concern was to nip in the bud the argument some sortition supporters have advanced that there should be some sort of “competency test” to be in the pool (literally a paper and pencil test like a citizenship test for immigrants). My worry is informed by the history of the franchise that concluded children, but also women, and landless laborers were not able to exercise independent judgment, as well as the introduction of “literacy” tests in many U.S. states to block Blacks from voting. Perhaps it is easiest to argue that there should be no special qualifications created JUST for the sortition pool.

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  18. maybe not mentioned yet as a criterium, but it was mentioned in a previous posting, is that the whole selection procedure for the participants (at this level, 6-7-8 Arnstein) has to rely solely on sortition and, in case of stratification, on objective and ‘official’ criteria. This exclude all ‘scientific selection’ and manipulation on the hand of questionnaires and stratification criteria who are personal interpretations of the persons performing them. I presume that this way only age, gender and official residence are acceptable stratification data. This means also that sortition in steps is still allowed.

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  19. Given that the only objections to these criteria (from Arturo and Terry) concern the non-democratic use of sortition, can I take it that everyone is broadly happy with the nine criteria? Given that the Sortition Foundation has now joined the list of corporate contractors offering their services to bodies seeking to faux-legitimise their policymaking, there is a real urgency to expose this as an anti-democratic sleight of hand which can only bring sortition into disrepute.

    Terry, I really would appreciate an answer to my earlier question: https://equalitybylot.com/2019/07/25/criteria-for-a-representative-citizens-assembly/#comment-27452

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  20. Paul Nollen says that stratification must rely « on objective and ‘official’ criteria », and presumes that « this way only age, gender and official residence are acceptable stratification data ». It seems that more data may be allowed following his logics : for instance the number of children, the official income as declared for taxation…

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  21. The owning of land or other assets, … historical we had all that but left it for good reasons I think. It is not because these data (may) exists legally and officially that they must be used and are “acceptable” in our application. Maybe we have to limit eventual stratification to the same data as is appropriate in most countries for taking part in ‘free’ elections.

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  22. Keith wants to know if I agree with Dahl, that the demos must control the agenda setting, not only the final decision step, and how I think sortition could play a role.

    Yes, control of the agenda is essential. Electoral systems leave this to a dance among partisan activists, wealthy interests, and media companies, with the demos being essentially spectators. Sparta (which had an assembly similar to Athens) left control of the agenda to elite aristocratic families (undemocratic). Athens relied on a randomly selected Council of 500 to craft proposals for an agenda, or refine and pass through agenda items submitted by any citizen. This is the democratic procedure I favor.

    There is no such thing as a PERFECT democratic agenda. There are just millions of reasonably good ones and millions of very bad ones (and many that are mixed). What the demos needs to do is assure that a reasonable agenda is advanced, and that the agenda is not controlled and manipulated by undemocratic elites, and that bad agendas are rejected. Allowing partisan activists working with monied interests and public relations experts (the current scheme) will generally ignore certain sorts of important agenda items and elevate other bad or ridiculous ones, either in the interests of powerful elites, or to seek emotional sway over an ill-informed (rationally ignorant) electorate. So we can reject leaving agenda setting to parties, because that means the demos is absolutely not in control.

    The demos could designate a direct system for picking agenda items by referendum. But that is a poor idea, as it magnifies the failings of rational ignorance. and puts an unreasonable burden (waste of time) on the general population, so that a self-selected minority will vote in referendums generating an undemocratic agenda.

    That leaves sortition is the optimal democratic method for creating an agenda. Since this agenda setting body will not have final decision making power over agenda items they select, we can be less concerned about the accuracy of its representativeness… We only need to assure it is not under the control of powerful elites who might seek to manipulate the agenda. We can expect that a group of diverse people will pick one of millions of possible reasonable agendas, rather than a bad one (that a powerful elite, or ill-informed and manipulated referendum voters would select). A roughly representative agenda council (rough, because the workload and cognitive burden is such that many people would decline to serve) can take testimony from all sorts of experts, without concerns about the public relations ramifications of agenda items selected, and with seeking agenda items that can put opponents in a bad light (as in partisan electoral politics). The detailed proposals that are responsive to this demos controlled agenda, can come from any citizen (as in Athens), though we would probably want to require some pre-filter such as being brought forth by a small GROUP of citizens, rather than individually.

    Note that there is an element of self-selection here (people cannot CHOOSE to participate, but they can decline). But there is far LESS than in a system that allows partisan activists to run political campaigns or vote in referendums. in addition, unlike referendums, or candidate elections, the smaller size means this group of citizens can overcome rational ignorance and make considered decisions about the agenda.

    Keith’s notion of using the law of large numbers, zero give-and-take deliberation, and mandatory service to achieve ideal representativeness makes it impossible for such a body to GENERATE an agenda or proposal, so he resorts to undemocratic political parties and elections. I believe a far better and far more democratic method is to model a system roughly on the Athenian Council of 500, using sortition to form an agenda setting body that can filter ideas coming from anywhere in the demos. Rather than relying exclusively, or even primarily on the law of large numbers, this relies on the “disinfecting” impartiality (blind break) feature of sortition… as did the original Greek democracies, as well as the improvements offered by increase diversity.

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  23. Terry,

    The recent high-stakes proposals for citizens’ assemblies (Brexit and global warming) would have to be instituted by government, especially if the changes proposed were constitutional in nature. Governments would be obliged to take a formal de jure (rather than de facto) approach to the design of the assembly.

    The formal representative principle involved in election is free choice — electors decide who to vote for, anyone can (in theory) stand for election, and all votes are equal in value. There is no de jure reason why a legislature composed entirely of rich, white, male lawyers (or billionaire property developers) should not represent the myriad beliefs and preferences of the electorate, although we know that de facto it doesn’t work out that way, for all the reasons that you have just shown.

    The formal representative principle involved in stochation is that the decision making body should, within practical and financial constraints, be a portrait in miniature of the whole electorate, and would reflect the beliefs and preferences of the electorate through the exercise of their equal votes. The purpose of this thread is to examine the criteria that would enable this formal representative principle to be put into practice.

    Your proposal for agenda setting by small voluntary committees does not rely on any comparable formal representative principle and involves a misunderstanding of classical-era history (the Athenian council being an administrative, rather than deliberative body) and fails Dahl’s second democratic principle. Even if it was deliberative in nature, the ratio between the size of the council and the citizen body enabled each citizen to participate in turn, whereas the demographics of large modern states rules out rotation as a formal legitimising principle. No government could institute such a body without a relevant de jure principle and the biggest de facto problem with this model is that it leads to the sort of faux-representative assembly promoted by the Sortition Foundation and other contractors designed to instil public confidence just because a handful of ‘ordinary’ people are involved in the deliberative exchange.

    As for my own preference for agenda setting (a radically revised version of political parties), we will have to wait for Alex’s Jurga Manifesto, but I can assure you it will be based on a de jure approach to the problem of democratic agenda setting.

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  24. Te agenda setting as you see it is more or less what we propose for the Agenda Jury and Evaluation Jury in our proposals. https://independent.academia.edu/PNollen/Sortition-for-a-real-citizens’-representation
    … The Agenda Jury is permanently active with a rapidly changing occupation.
    The Evaluation jury is summoned by a petition.
    If the proposal were interpreted more broadly, an extended Evaluation Jury (ref. G 1000), which is
    convened once a year, could launch its own proposals (see e.g. our ‘two chamber’-proposal at European
    level)….

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  25. Keith,

    [this post is a tangent only of interest to those concerned with Athenian constitutional history]

    I take exception to your statement (as if it were established fact) that my reference to the Council of 500 “involves a misunderstanding of classical-era history (the Athenian council being an administrative, rather than deliberative body)…” I and many others dispute this assertion.

    Exactly how the Athenian Constitution worked is not particularly helpful for deciding what WE should do in modern times, but seizing ownership of the word they invented “democracy,” while rejecting their principle constitutional framework is objectionable.

    Your insistence that the Council of 500 was merely administrative fits your preferences, but is not generally agreed to by historians who specialize in Classical Greek history. Some certainly have asserted this, while others note that ALL proposals coming before the Assembly were required to first be reviewed by the Council of 500. Indeed many proposals were initiated by the Council and presented to the Assembly with recommendation from the Council, and frequently passed by motion that the proposal be adopted without any deliberation by the Assembly. The Council, and/or its relevant committees must have engaged in active deliberation to prepare these proposals. And of course another randomly selected body (from volunteers), the nomothetai adopted laws after 403 BCE, (I know one scholar disputes this, but he seems to be alone) and the randomly selected court (also from volunteers) could over-rule the Assembly. While these latter two bodies did not use give-and take deliberation, the Council must have to craft and revise proposals.

    My most recent research about the constitution of Athens is from
    “A Handbook of Greek Constitutional History” by A. H. J. Greenidge. https://archive.org/stream/cu31924030430668#page/n7/mode/2up

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  26. For me it is important that I can invite everyone to calculate for themselves, for a Simple Random Sampling, what error rate and confidence level they consider acceptable for their use. and then they will see that 500 selected citizens is a ‘tipping point’. Of course a 1000 or more is better but all things considered 500 can be the best choice. That the ancient Greeks used the same number is interesting but for most people not relevant. http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html The use of this calculator, or any other one they choose, is also interesting because it gives them an insight in the parameters that are used.

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  27. next criterium: Voluntary or quasi-mandatory participation? I think that, at this level (6,7,8 Arnstein) we can defend obligatory participation. Furthermore participation becomes interesting because it involves decision making at legislative level. Personally I would not spend any of my time in a jury ‘advising’ politicians. Ofcource there need to be incentives for taking part and even, as in an Australian and US example, a special team can visit those who refuse and try to motivate them or provide for help if needed.

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  28. Terry:> Exactly how the Athenian Constitution worked is not particularly helpful for deciding what WE should do in modern times, but seizing ownership of the word they invented “democracy,” while rejecting their principle constitutional framework is objectionable.

    I agree that Athenian political institutions are of no relevance to a thread on the criteria for a modern citizen’s assembly, but I can’t leave this unanswered. Demokratia means that the people have power and (according to Aristotle) the formal principle involved was rotation — ruling and being ruled in turn. If you add together the council, the other magistracies and the juries, along with the strong cultural pressure to participate this meant that most citizens were involved in the rotation. Clearly this is impossible in large modern states, hence the need to establish the criteria for sortition as a system of representation. The nine criteria that I have outlined do not pertain to your small voluntary committees so I repeat my request as to what formal principle would render them compatible with Dahl’s stricture that “the demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda.”

    I’m taking a strident tone on this issue because the Sortition Foundation and other contractors are disseminating the faux-democratic claim that tiny groups of volunteers are a form of representation, without specifying the formal principle involved and this can only undermine our efforts to introduce democracy through sortition.

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  29. Paul, my hunch is also that 501 would be the minimum level and that quasi-mandatory participation is essential at the legislative level. But the thrust of this post is really just to find out which criteria are of relevance, rather than seeking to provide definitive answers (that would be the job of the inquiry commission after having taken the evidence).

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  30. Keith, the criteria alone are not enough to my experience. When I insisted on ‘short term mandate’ during a discussion, the answer was, ok, let’s take two years for a mandate by sortition instead of 4 years(which is the term for elected mandate). When I mean ‘short’ I am talking of a couple of day’s as in a judicial Jury (in most cases). In my opinion every day longer is a loss of the advantages (we have to list them and estimate the evolution in time) of appointment by sortition against the electoral system. If I have to make a choice between a two year mandate of citizens appointed by sortition or the 4 year mandate of elected representatives I am in favour of the elected system without any doubt. The electoral system is at least defendable as ‘aristocratic’ (the best). Of course we can only give a suggestion what is in our view optimal or at least acceptable.

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  31. Paul, I agree with you completely on the length of the mandate but I don’t think it’s up to you, me or anybody else to judge the outcome of the proposed inquiry commission, that’s why I put it as follows:

    Length of service
    On the one hand a citizens’ assembly would need time to gain adequate knowledge on the issue under consideration, whereas on the other there is the danger of participants ‘going native’ and thereby ceasing to adequately reflect the beliefs and preferences of their (virtual) constituents. Should assemblies be convened on an ad hoc basis (as with 4th century Athenian lawmaking), or is there a case for permanent bodies with rolling tenure for members?

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  32. Keith,

    When Dahl, or anybody, says that the demos must control the agenda, we all understand that inevitably it will be a segment of the population that works on setting the agenda (to overcome rational ignorance), if it is going to be done at all competently (it would be nonsensical to have all citizens try to debate the pros and cons of each possible agenda item, let alone specific policy proposals within each agenda area). So the real alternatives are to have an elite subset set the agenda (aristocracy – whether hereditary or elected), or to assure that ALL citizens have an EQUAL opportunity to work on this task. Only sortition assures this democratic political equality. The fact that many may decline (as many decline in elections … I can point to many municipal elections in the USA where voter turnout was less than 4%), does not invalidate this democratic principle of equal chance.

    So the democratic principles that allow a randomly selected panel to establish the public agenda for the coming period are the assurance that a powerful (olgarchic) elite will NOT control the agenda, and that all citizens have an EQUAL chance of being selected (whether they accept or not). When combined with various positive epistemic advantages of random selection such as diversity and defense against misrule, this is the MOST democratic means I can imagine for setting an agenda.

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  33. Terry,

    I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard equal chance being mooted as a democratic principle, although it’s the principal focus of normative political theory (lampooned recently by Jeremy Waldron for its obsession with “57 varieties of luck egalitarianism”). Your claim has no classical foundation as the Greeks viewed demokratia (ideologically speaking) as a combination of isegoria (equal speech) and isonomia (equal political right). Chance didn’t come into it (especially as they had no mathematical notion of probability).

    I can only repeat that for a democratic principle to be an acceptable foundation for a government-sponsored institution it would need to be of a formal de jure nature — all the factors that you cite (powerful oligarchic elites etc) are de facto. We should remember that Manin explained the triumph of election over sortition in terms of the natural right theory of consent, whereby people choose their political representatives, rather than relying on pure chance (equal or otherwise). If we want a return to sortition then we need to acknowledge that the old legitimising principle (rotation) no longer applies, hence our mutual advocacy of the stochation principle.

    Unfortunately the stochation principle doesn’t apply to small long-serving voluntary agenda and review committees, so your proposal fails the Dahl test. My own proposal for representative isegoria relies on Manin’s de jure electoral principle, but seeks to address some of the de facto abuses that you rightly highlight, but we’ll need to wait for Alex’s Jurga Manifesto before discussing it further. However from a formal democratic perspective I can’t see any viable alternative to the electoral principle.

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  34. PS a political system based on equal chance would be a kleristocracy or aleatocracy, not a democracy. Democracy presupposes the rule of the people — either directly, taking turns, or via a system of representation.

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  35. Keith,

    I think political equality (which includes equal chance when there is a limited supply of something in the political realm) IS a principle of democracy. The idea is that nobody has a political advantage due to class, wealth, birth, etc. It is an ideal (hard to achieve in reality). I think the Greek lottery system enshrined this principle (not merely rotation). One could rotate among elites (as in Italian City Republics), or have a written down alphabetical list of citizens if turn-taking was the only concern, which would be a more efficient way to achieve rotation than using a lottery. The Athenians knew that not all citizens could serve in the Boule, so in the interests of equality they used a lottery (and certainly ALSO used the lottery for its anti-corruption benefits – selecting jurors the morning of a case to avoid influencers and bribery).

    To say they were not using the lottery to give all citizens an equal chance of serving, because they didn’t have a “theory of probability” is silly. Some things are simply apparent without a theory. They didn’t have a good theory of gravity (other than objects “want” to get to their natural place), but they still USED gravity to accomplish everyday activities.

    One could also argue that your “electoral principle” (which the Greeks like Aristotle expressly rejected as a democratic principle, because of the advantage it gives to the wealthy and powerful) could be expressed as trying to use the equal chance notion. The idea is that every voter has an equal CHANCE to have their vote be the decisive vote… though it almost always fails to achieve this, while a lottery uniformly CAN achieve this political equality.

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  36. Terry,

    The only evidence we have as to why the ancients used sortition is Aristotle’s reference to rotation. Absent computers, the maintenance of an alphabetic list would have been difficult and the choice procedure would be open to manipulation. I think there is good evidence that Cleisthenes’ reforms were intended to reduce the advantage of elite factions and that equality was a key political norm — the only thing I’m disputing is your focus on chance, as it is orthogonal to the principle that the demos has kratos. And your case for equal chance as the defining principle of elections is a bit of a stretch — what counts is that citizens get to choose who rules them, so the guiding principle is majoritarianism. And it’s a mistake to conflate the Athenian use of elections for a tiny number of key magistracies in a small direct democracy with a comprehensive system of political representation in large modern states. The ancient and modern uses of election and sortition have very little in common.

    So, I think we have four formal democratic principles:

    Direct democracy
    Rotation
    Election
    Stochation

    I don’t see how your small voluntary committees count as democratic according to any of these principles. Have I missed something?

    PS would you claim that the Sortition Foundation’s selection and stratification services have anything to do with democracy (if so, then which variant)?

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  37. PS

    >To say they were not using the lottery to give all citizens an equal chance of serving, because they didn’t have a “theory of probability” is silly.

    I’m not saying that, merely that equal chance was not one of the guiding principles of Athenian democracy (unlike equal speech and equal political right). The best guess is that the lottery was used as a form or rotation and to protect the political process from factionalism and corruption.

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  38. I think Keith and I should give up trying to convince each other about equality of chance as a democratic principle. I insist it is fundamental, and he insists it isn’t.

    On a related line… Keith wrote:
    >”So, I think we have four formal democratic principles:
    Direct democracy
    Rotation
    Election
    Stochation”

    Rather than “principles” these are more like “tools.” Two of these were NOT used or not viewed as democratic in Athens.
    Elections were considered an oligarchic tool (that a democracy might employ for a few unique needs), and elections are still oligarchic today. And the Athenians never worried about stochation (a proposed new word meaning statistically representative sampling), as evidenced by the fact that all sortition was from among volunteers, many lottery selected panels had only ten members, or even single individuals. The democratic tool they used MOST of all, Keith has ignored…. the lottery without stochation.

    So perhaps Keith is talking about a new modern concept of “democracy” he hopes to help frame without regards to its historic meaning. In that case I would offer these tools instead:

    * Lottery – to achieve equality of chance, protection from corruption, promote diversity, and when practical, achieve representativeness (stochation).
    * Rotation (short duration terms) to spread authority more widely, and protect against corruption.
    * Equal freedom of speech
    * Equal freedom to initiate agenda and policy proposals through a well-structured system that protects equality.

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  39. Terry,

    Can you provide any citations to back up your view that equal chance is a democratic principle? I’m not aware of any democratic theorist who makes this claim.

    My four principles are certainly not tools, in that the same procedure (drawing lots) is used in every case. By “principle” political theorists mean open to formal definition, irrespective of whether it ever has, or even could be, put into practice. (I could define all four principles, but I think all of us on this blog know what the definitions would look like). As usual you are conflating de jure, de facto and historical issues (whether or not election in practice leads to oligarchic outcomes and what the Athenians did or did not do).

    Regarding your own four principles, the only one that meets Dahl’s criterion is the subsidiary clause of the first (“when practical, achieve representativeness”). The fourth could be, granted a “well-structured system that protects equality”, but I’m afraid that would involve a variant of the electoral principle. Rotation and freedom of speech are not per se democratic in large modern states. Freedom of speech is normally seen as a liberal value and equal freedom of speech is arguably impossible to achieve, absent representation (hence my concept of representative isegoria, which you believe is oxymoronic) .

    PS demokratia has the same meaning (the people have power) in ancient poleis and large modern states, but requires different means to achieve it.

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  40. Keith,

    I can’t follow your line of thinking (nor I suspect can others).

    You wrote
    >”My four principles are certainly not tools, in that the same procedure (drawing lots) is used in every case.” Is this a typo, or are you asserting that the lottery procedure is used by your election principle? You really make no sense in this post.

    You mention two of Dahl’s concerns about democracy (As I recall he set out 5 criteria in “Democracy and Its Critics”)… but these ASSUMED an electoral system (he mentions an equally weighted vote for each person at the decisive stage) and also stressed the need for informed/enlightened voters, and freedom of speech (though you say this is NOT a requirement of democracy). However rational ignorance in an electoral system precludes universal enlightenment.. so his criteria are contradictory and mutually exclusive. Yes, Dahl theorized about mini-publics, but only in an advisory capacity.

    Your four “principles” (tools) of a democracy do not align with Dahl’s criteria (he certainly never considered stochation), nor any other political theorist I have read. That’s fine… striking out and inventing new criteria (“principles”) is a time-honored habit of theorists.

    My discussion of equal chance is simply the implementation of the principle of “political equality” within a sortition democracy. You can’t have a democracy if some citizens are privileged over others in holding office or participating (Dahl would agree with that at least). It seems a waste of time to hold up Dah’s democratic principles that are based in electoralism when devising a democracy that uses sortition, since he never wrote about that sort of democracy.

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  41. next one: Deliberative style and decision mechanism

    >Keith: Adding in the empirical social psychology research on information cascades, confirmation bias and other such factors, a case can be made for restricting the information exchange to the pro and con advocates (as in a law court) and limiting the role of the randomly-selected jurors to silent deliberation — ‘weighing’ the arguments before voting in silence.

    I agree but I added in our proposals the possibility of encourage and even assist the Jury to make short notices of the cases presented. For people who never attended such an event this short notices, in my experience, are a very essential to reach a conclusion afterward. It might be defendable that the sequence of the presentations is also determined by lot, it is clear that in a non professional environment the last presentation might have the greatest impact. Of course making short notices is not an obligation but it helps in reaching the ‘verdict’ after the presentations. People sometimes dare not to be the first for taken notices during presentations but if organised it is a whole other experience. Altough most people kan write these day’s, it is not exceptional that people didn’t write anything for decades. So even taking short notices can be a problem for some of us. I don’t know how to resolve that.

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  42. Terry, apologies for the length of this response.

    Thanks for pointing out my error — I was trying to draw a distinction between principles and tools. For example the rotation principle can be achieved by a variety of tools (random selection, alphabetic lists), the direct democracy by general assemblies or postal referenda, etc.

    Dahl wrote Democracy and Its Critics (1989) before the modern resurgence of interest in sortition (in fact he kick-started it). He only devotes a few paragraphs to sortition (p. 340), but there are certain specific features that we can extract, without reading too much between the lines:

    1. The central institution of Polyarchy III would be a ” ‘minipopulus’ consisting perhaps of a thousand citizens randomly selected out of the entire demos”. Whilst not stipulating quasi-mandatory participation, if not then the typical acceptance rate of 4-7% would require an initial sample of around 20,000 and there is no mention of such figures. His student James Fishkin insists that in order for the minipopulus to accurately “describe” the target population it is essential that as many as possible of the persons selected by lot (ideally all of them) should participate.

    2. A plurality of minipopuli (presumably each of 1,000) would be required, one to “decide on the agenda of issues” and “one minipopulus for each major issue on the agenda”. Presumably the latter would approximate the number of existing government departments. It’s not clear whether “deciding on the agenda of issues” means coming up with specific policy proposals or merely putting items on the agenda of each departmental minipopulus (as with the Athenian council), but the numbers involved (1,000) bear no relation to your policymaking committees (which contravene his proposal that “the demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are placed on the agenda of matters that are to be decided by means of the democratic process” (p. 113).

    3. He doesn’t state that the institutions of Polyarchy III should be advisory, only complementary, to “supplement, not replace, the institutions of Polyarchy I and Polyarchy II” (p. 340).

    4. Dahl’s central argument was that:

    The judgment of a minipopulus would “represent” the judgment of the demos. Its verdict would be the verdict of the demos itself, if the demos were able to take advantage of the best available knowledge to decide what policies were most likely to achieve the ends it sought. The judgments of the minipopulus would thus derive their authority from the legitimacy of democracy.

    The last sentence would suggest that the institutions of Polyarchy III would be subject to the same general constraints as Polyarchy I and II, so I would be very surprised if Dahl would have instituted different principles for election and sortition-based democracy (there is a direct parallel here with Manin’s four general principles which he held to be invariant across the three historical metamorphoses of representative government).

    5. Unlike his general theory of the democratic process (Chapter 8) Dahl’s proposal for democratic minipopuli was little more than jottings on the back of an envelope. But his student James Fishkin has devoted over two decades to developing Dahl’s outline sketch via both conceptual clarification and practical experimentation. As such the DP guiding principles are our best guess as to how Dahl might have fleshed out his proposal. My only concern with the DP is that various polls on the same topic with different samples have come to wildly different conclusions so it’s hard to see which minipopulus would reflect the “verdict of the demos itself”. I’m sure Dahl would want to see this problem addressed in order for minipopuli to become key democratic institutions (rather than social science experiments with an advisory mandate).

    >[Dahl] mentions an equally weighted vote for each person at the decisive stage) and also stressed the need for informed/enlightened voters.

    We are all in agreement that this is an essential feature of decision juries — so Dahl’s two principles are equally applicable to sortition-based institutions.

    >his criteria are contradictory and mutually exclusive [in practice]

    It’s because he realised there was a de facto tension between mass democracy and enlightened opinion that he endorsed Gabriel Almond’s (1950) idea of an “attentive public” (p.339). It’s perfectly possible for de jure principles to contradict each other in practice (e.g. attentive – vs – public), but Dahl’s approach was to improve the practices rather than to reject the principles (hence his proposal for an attentive minipublic). A small voluntary committee may well be attentive, but it’s not a minipublic, so would involve the sacrifice of the fundamental democratic norm outlined on p. 113 of his book.

    >Your four “principles” (tools) of a democracy do not align with Dahl’s criteria (he certainly never considered stochation)

    He may not have known the term (Andre only coined it a couple of years ago), but p. 340 of his book is all about stochation.

    >My discussion of equal chance is simply the implementation of the principle of “political equality” within a sortition democracy. You can’t have a democracy if some citizens are privileged over others in holding office or participating.

    Agree — that’s the prophylactic effect of the Blind Break, and we all welcome that. But from the point of view of stochation, your focus on the equal chance for each citizen is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Unlike in the case of the National Lottery, the focus should not be on the equal chance of each individual winning, it’s that the sample selected should mirror (in aggregate) the beliefs and preferences of the target population. Unlike isonomia and isegoria, I can’t find any reference to equal chance as a normative ideal. The Athenians did value equal opportunity (as in Pericles’ funeral speech), but that was more to do with meritocracy than democracy per se.

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  43. Paul,

    Your experience with the detail of implementing sortition-based decision-making bodies should make you a primary witness if the Inquiry Tribunal ever takes place! My concern at this stage is drawing up the agenda and terms of reference, rather than making suggestions as to how best to implement the various criteria.

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  44. Terry, sorry my reply was so long, and hope you can find the time to respond as I think our exchange has been very fruitful.

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  45. In recent discussions I recognised the need for a glossary. I don’t know if it is possible but maybe we can try. (representativity, descriptive representativity, maximal diversity, simple random sampling, stratified sampling, error rate, confidence level, etc.. ). Also the proposals of ‘mixed’ chambers is a problem (Proposed by politicians in Belgium, a few citizens appointed by sortition may take part in the activities of the Senate). I compare that with a game of a football team that won the national competition (the electoral aristocracy) against a team of spectators appointed by sortition. This will be a massacre and even not a pleasure to look at.

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  46. Keith,
    I’m not going to take the time or space to answer all of your points, but will give a few reactions.
    1. Dahl is primarily interested in real-world “polyarchies” and considers democracy only a theoretical ideal. He doesn’t think ANY system of government can achieve the pure status of democracy, and settles for elections. So pointing out that a sortition system does not allow EVERY citizen to play a role in setting the public agenda is meaningless, since that is impossible under ANY system with more than a few people.
    2. When Dahl sets out various criteria he includes several that assume that elections will be used (equal voting rights, elections free from corruption, etc.) So saying that sortition doesn’t meet some of his criterion is pointless. It is like an expert saying a good car must have a gasoline tank that can hold at least 9 gallons… but then someone designs an electric car, and another person says, but it needs to have a gas tank according to the criteria!
    3. A minor quibble… Keith often writes about recent minipublics having a “typical acceptance rate of 4-7%.” This rate is for one-off, non-binding decisions in a community with no prior appreciation of sortition. This rate only tells us the lower limit and tells us nothing about what rate to expect in a functioning sortition democracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Terry,

    Dahl’s theory of democracy is at a high level of abstraction, so the principles apply to any instantiation — whether direct, elective, polyarchic or sortive. No political theorist ever believes that actual political institutions will even approximate the ideal, but that’s no reason for relaxing the criteria (or saying they apply to some systems but not others). Wearing his political scientist hat Dahl naturally studied the prevailing electoral institutions but pp. 339-341 of his book show that he did not rule out sortition-based systems.

    >pointing out that a sortition system does not allow EVERY citizen to play a role in setting the public agenda is meaningless, since that is impossible under ANY system with more than a few people.

    I never made that claim (as you well know!). Like Dahl I believe in the principle of representative isegoria, and the best (or possibly only) way of achieving this in large modern states is a variance of the electoral principle — wherein voters choose the policies of the person(s) and/or party they feel (rightly or wrongly) best speaks for them.

    >This [4-7% acceptance rate] is for one-off, non-binding decisions in a community with no prior appreciation of sortition.

    Yes that’s true, but given that we both believe that accurate descriptive representation is essential for decision-making juries, it’s better to assume the worst and insist on quasi-mandatory participation. The minor infringement on personal freedom (as in trial jury service) is a small price to pay to ensure accurate representation of the beliefs and preferences of the overwhelming majority of citizens who don’t even get the chance to turn down the invitation. I used to believe in the softly, softly, catchee monkey principle but the abuses of the selection process by the Sortition Foundation, newDemocracy and the Irish Constitutional Assembly have convinced me that we need to hold out for real stochation, rather than accepting voluntary small-size bodies that will only bring sortition into disrepute.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Two responses…

    Dahl’s criteria for “democracy” are not at the highest level of abstraction as you claim. He is ONLY considering electoral schemes. As an example, one of his criteria is that each citizen have an equally weighted vote at the decisive stage. I refer again to my analogy above insisting that an electric car needs a gas tank to fit some “car” criteria.

    Secondly, I don’t think you can rope Dahl into retroactive endorsement of your “representative isegoria” concept. [For those unfamiliar with the Classical Greek democratic terminology or principles… “isegoria” term refers to citizens’ equal rights to speak and initiate proposals for public consideration.] As I have said before “representative isegoria” is nonsensical. Extending that notion… it’s like saying I have the “freedom” not to be imprisoned if I have committed no crime… but under “representative freedom” I get to vote for some aristocrat or other who will be free while I am confined in prison… and that aristocrat will represent my freedom.

    Isegoria can exist in the modern world with equal opportunity to participate in public debate. This does not mean that other citizens are compelled to listen to me… but no citizen should get an automatic leg up due to wealth, power, or partisan loyalty… we need political equality which includes equal chance, even though some speech will end up being disagreed with and other speech will be agreed to.

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  49. Terry:> one of Dahl’s criteria is that each citizen have an equally weighted vote at the decisive stage.

    Why does that limit his theory to electoral regimes? It strikes me that the opposite is true — once you’ve elected a representative (assuming a trustee model) then the only citizens who have an equally weighted vote are the tiny number of elected representatives (hence Rousseau’s pithy remark on elected slavery). Stochation, however, assumes that (given certain very exacting constraints) the vote at the decisive stage is equal to the weighting of citizens with those beliefs and preferences in the target population. This is because allotted citizens would claim that they are exercising their own independent judgment (phenomenologically speaking), however from a sociological perspective they are delegates of the particular group of persons that they “describe”.

    We both agree that classical demokratia was a hybrid of two norms — isonomia and isegoria and that large-scale modern societies require a representative mechanism for the former. So why do you deny it to the latter? The political party (or presidential candidate) is an instantiation of representative isegoria, in that electors (in theory) vote on the merits of competing election manifestos. Nearly half of the American electorate voted for the orange man because they believed that he spoke for them. You may well question the empirical merits of this instantiation of representative isegoria but I don’t see why that makes the concept nonsensical. You’re just not taking the need for representation seriously.

    >no citizen should get an automatic leg up due to wealth, power, or partisan loyalty

    Really — what about the likes of Bono and sundry Hollywood luvvies? And even with randomised (but long-serving and voluntary) committees highly-opinionated and over-educated activists would get a substantial leg up.

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  50. Given the arguments from Extinction Rebellion for sortition-based alternatives, I was amused by their recent call to replace the London Fashion Week with “a people’s assembly of industry professionals and designers as a platform to declare a climate and ecological emergency” https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/aug/09/scrap-the-catwalk-extinction-rebellion-is-right-london-fashion-week-is-unsustainable

    Actually “amused” is not the right word because “a people’s assembly of . . . [anything other than a large random sample of the people]” is a contradiction in terms. No doubt parliamentarians will want to jump on the bandwagon by calling for a people’s assembly of elected MPs. At least Adolf Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft were assemblies of the (German) people, rather than “professionals and designers” handpicked on account of their views on environmental apocalypse, and viewed as a “platform” (i.e. PR vehicle).

    This shows how urgent it is for those of us who really believe in implementing sortition in order to improve existing democratic practices to get our act together and call out this mendacious abuse of language.

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