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

4 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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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

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