Let Juries Choose Public Officials

In my view, and as I have argued in published form since the late 1990s, two basic and complementary reforms are needed in order to bring modern societies into accord with democracy. One is to transfer the power to decide laws to juries (a.k.a. minipublics), and the other is to transfer the power to choose a wide range of public officials to juries (a.k.a. minipublics). My latest article in Dissident Voice (October 23, 2019) focuses on the latter part of that reform, choosing public officials by jury.

We have been taught since childhood that popular election is essential for democracy. In reality, although it is much better than, for example, a military junta, it is a very problematic way to choose public officials and is 100% not necessary for democracy.

The US political system would be far better and far more democratic if all the public officials now chosen by popular election were instead chosen by juries randomly sampled from the people.

Another very important set of public officials that could be chosen by juries are the independent and supposedly independent public officials now chosen by politicians. Continue reading

6 Responses

  1. Alex Kovner’s forthcoming book The Jurga Manifesto: A democracy built on sortition involves the selection of public officials by randomly-selected jurgas (a neologism combining the trial jury with the Afghan tribal council (loya jirga)

    http://books.imprint.co.uk/book/?gcoi=71157100751970

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Popular voting is problematic for choosing pubic officials, the reasons in the article cannot be denied.

    I wonder: Is this proposal an example of every problem being a nail to a hammer called “minipublic”?

    The proposals claims that “there is only one way to do this: select public officials by jury.”

    Only one way? Certainly not, there are many potential other ways. One nearly forgotten alternative is Venetian elections.

    Is it really true that “the US political system would be far better and far more democratic if all the public officials now chosen by popular election were instead chosen by juries randomly sampled from the people.”

    Selecting job candidates is a know-how intensive matter, of an entirely different nature to the determination of the general will for general rules. Let us be mindful of Socrates’s objection on flutists and expand it to the first derivative. Do random citizens really possess the level of competence to elect better public officials in today’s complex and highly specialised world?

    The biggest objection: “more democratic” (which means very different things to different people) and an equally undefined “better” hints at a metaphysical belief.

    So before deciding on a new or method (“the only one way”) the first task at hand is to develop a theory of what “better” actually means, in a falsifiable way.

    Like

  3. I agree that a better phraseology is that sortition should be at least a PART of any good executive selection process. A simple one-step mini-public hiring committee is one possible approach, but some sort of winnowing and nominating procedure as in Italian City Republics of old (but not limited to the elites), might be even better. Any one-step process is open to corruption of charismatic leadership (a majority of a mini-public may be in awe of such a celebrity). For me, a key goal is to recognise the danger of political “leaders” in general… of any ideological stripe. Any person who WANTS to lead, is thereby shown to be unsuited to the task in a democracy. The problem isn’t actually with leadership or leaders, but with our natural tendency to followership, and suspending independent judgment in favor of loyalty to the leader…which is incompatible with democracy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I myself believe that we should replace mass democracy with “mini” or “micro” democracy. I.e., democracies in which officials are elected by grand-jury-sized electorates (of 23), chosen in part by lot and in part by “ballotery,” in which names are drawn from a pot containing ballots cast by citizens for their fellow citizens. I’ve written an 8-page article on this proposal, titled “Demarchy—small, sample electorates electing officials.” It’s on this site at: https://equalitybylot.com/2018/10/20/demarchy-small-sample-electorates-electing-officials/

    It’s also at https://www.academia.edu/38701375/Demarchy_small_sample_electorates_electing_officials

    Like

  5. Hubertus, I am finally getting around to responding (and perhaps to reading your comment for the first time, though it is so far back I can’t remember if I already read it or not, but if did I think I’d have replied).

    Hubertus:> The proposals claims that “there is only one way to do this: select public officials by jury.”

    Here is the paragraph from which you quote the last sentence:

    “Instead of popular election’s poorly informed voting, skewed playing fields and unrepresentative voters, we need public officials to be chosen by the people in an informed manner, with everyone interested in public office being placed on a level playing field, and with no portion of the public being underrepresented among those doing the choosing. There is only one way to do this: select public officials by jury.”

    Yes, choosing public officials by jury in the manner I outline, is the only way to do all of the things I mention in this paragraph.

    Hubertus:> Selecting job candidates is a know-how intensive matter, of an entirely different nature to the determination of the general will for general rules. Let us be mindful of Socrates’s objection on flutists and expand it to the first derivative. Do random citizens really possess the level of competence to elect better public officials in today’s complex and highly specialised world?

    I am mystified by this comment. Are you opposed to the selection of public officials by popular election? Your comment implies that you are, as the general public does not possess a higher “level of competence” than juries (juries of course being representative portions of the general public chosen by random selection).

    Randomly sampled juries, choosing public officials in the manner I mention, possess a far higher level of competence than the general public (who are poorly informed, often pay little attention to elections, and choose candidates in the context of a heavily skewed playing field).

    Hubertus:> The biggest objection: “more democratic” (which means very different things to different people) and an equally undefined “better” hints at a metaphysical belief.

    My view is that it is better and more democratic for public officials to be chosen in an informed manner, from a fair and level playing, by a representative portion of the public, than (as is the case with popular election) in an uninformed or poorly informed manner, from a heavily skewed and unfair playing field, by the unrepresentative portion of the public that votes in a popular election.

    It think it clear that this is in fact more democratic and better, on any more or less plausible understanding of these words. Democracy has a meaning, even though it is contested and may escape a complete and final definition – part of what it means is rule by the people. “Better” does not imply anything especially metaphysical. I think FDR is better than Hitler. This is of course a value judgement. I also think choosing politicians by jury is, for the reasons I mention, better than choosing them by popular election. If someone wishes to argue that it is better for them to be chosen in poorly informed money-dominated and party-dominated manner I am happy to debate that point of view.

    Venetian elections were undemocratic elections with the only candidates being members of the Venetian oligarchy, so I’m not sure why this is regarded as an example of democracy, nor do I see a good case for a combination of voting and lottery being used to choose politicians and other public officials today.

    Hubertus:> the first task at hand is to develop a theory of what “better” actually means, in a falsifiable way.

    I am mystified by this comment as well. We don’t need a theory of what “better” means. We know what it means well enough. We can for example debate whether a lower murder rate is better or not, but we don’t need a theory of what “better” means to have that debate.

    Like

  6. Hubertus:> I wonder: Is this proposal an example of every problem being a nail to a hammer called “minipublic”?

    I agree this is a concern, and even a trap, that we should keep in mind. Minipublics/juries are not the best solution to every problem. Sometimes there is a better or equally good solution.

    However, I think the case for choosing a wide range of public officials by jury/minipublic is sound for the reasons I outline.

    I first published my proposal for selecting a wide range or public officials by jury in the late 90s, a little before publishing my proposal for legislative juries for the first time.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: