The first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland takes place this weekend

Gareth Jones writes in Third Force News:

A new era for democracy in Scotland is set to begin this weekend

The first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland is being held this weekend (26 and 27 October), with 100 people taking part in a unique project that will help shape Scotland’s constitutional future.

The assembly, convened by David Martin and Kate Wimpress, has recruited people from across Scotland who are representative of the wider public as a whole to consider three key questions for the nation.

These are: What kind of country are we seeking to build?; How can we best overcome the challenges the challenges that Scotland and the world faces, including those arising from Brexit?; and What further work should be carried out to give people the detail they need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

The members were recruited through a process of random selection to broadly reflect the adult population of Scotland in terms of geography, age, gender, ethnic group, educational qualifications, limiting long term conditions/disability and political attitudes towards Scottish independence, the UK’s membership of the EU and Scottish Parliament voting preferences.

Over the course of six weekends, members will undertake a process of learning and discussion in order to come up with a range of conclusions and recommendations in response to the three questions in the remit.

These conclusions and recommendations will be set out in a report to the Scottish Government and Parliament and then a plan will be prepared setting out how they will respond to those assembly recommendations that have been agreed by the parliament.

Kate Wimpress, convener of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, said: “The assembly is something new for Scotland, and it should be a crucial role in embedding a wider participatory agenda into the way we do government.

“This focus on participation is something that has been established since the opening of the Scottish Parliament and successive governments have looked for ways of involving the public in opportunities to influence the decisions that affect their lives and their communities. By the end of this first weekend members will be starting to think about the outlook for the country and how we might be affected by constitutional change. We are at the beginning of journey that allows for us to learn from combined efforts of Assembly members.”

The conveners have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Scottish Government setting out the arrangements in place to allow the Assembly to deliver on its remit independently.

Convener David Martin said: “The assembly is a forum for open-minded deliberation between participants that is fully open to public scrutiny to help ensure that it receives an open-minded response from the parliament and government.

“Citizens’ assemblies are increasingly being used successfully across the world to bring people together to work on complex and contentious issues. It’s an exciting time for democracy in Scotland. We are looking forward to Saturday and building on our proud democratic traditions and successful record in public participation.”

More information on the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland can be found online.

44 Responses

  1. Seriously?

    100 random citizens are tasked to come up with: “How can we best overcome the challenges that Scotland and the world faces, including those arising from Brexit?”


    The cognitive capability of a random sample of citizens, what a Citizen Jury can do, is exactly: decide on proposals. Not more, not less.

    This is readily available knowledge since Perikles who famously stated: “Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.”


  2. Presumably, if Pericles said it (did he?), it must be true.


  3. Yes, I’m sceptical particularly of the vision thing – the first question. That always generates the same answer. We want:
    1) prosperity
    2) fairness and
    3) environmental sustainability

    I’ve never thought much of government by abstract nouns.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Agree with Nick — we all want to have our cake and eat it. A good clue to the role of a citizens’ jury can be found in its name. In fairness to this instance, they referred to it as an assembly, not a jury. But then a parliament is a citizens’ assembly, the only difference being that the citizens were chosen by their peers, rather than (effectively) themselves.


  5. The assembly is something new for Scotland, and it should be a crucial role in embedding a wider participatory agenda into the way we do government.

    How can a group of 100 volunteers talking amongst themselves indicate an increase in participation in Carole Pateman’s use of the term?


  6. Keith,
    There are volunteers and there are VOLUNTEERS. there is self-selection and SELF-SELECTION. I believe (with good reason) that there is a huge difference between a group of people who proactively stepped forward to form a decision-making body (with no lottery phase), and the group that would be formed from a lottery process (without obligatory service). Ideally we should have two different terms for these sorts of people. Those who SEEK authority are different from those who ACCEPT authority. I often point to people like my next door neighbor who is a bright, community minded woman who would never step up and put herself forward for an election or any other government body, but, who if “called” would feel honored, and that it was her civic duty to serve. She is exactly the KIND of person I would WANT making decisions about my community

    Liked by 2 people

  7. you are forgetting something (from their website) : Citizens’ Assemblies and other participative forums like this have been used in other places around the world and have achieved fantastic results.

    The members were recruited through a process of random selection to broadly reflect the adult population of Scotland in terms of geography, age, gender, ethnic group, educational qualifications, limiting long term conditions/disability and political attitudes towards Scottish independence, the UK’s membership of the EU and Scottish Parliament voting preferences.

    But how did they do that?

    We accept for the sake of discussion that stratification ‘might’ result in a ‘better’ representativity (better in this case meaning better than statistically calculated in a SRS system for 100 participants).
    But nevertheless you have to do it in the right way: lets assume they took the 8 historical regions, 3 age groups, 2 genders, 2 ethnic groups, 2 educational qualifications, 2 preferences about independence, and 2 about EU membership. This makes 8 x 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 768 people. Where am I wrong?

    I also think that this selection is, at least partly, done by means of questionnaires and we know that people are not always honest in such cases. We know, here in Belgium, that when asked for voting intentions the people are in fact voting for far right or left in greater number than they admit when asked. I am sure that we can find studies out there who will confirm this.
    Furthermore discussions are life streamed, this will eliminate a lot of people (volunteers not used to discuss in public and certainly not life streamed) or at least limit their freedom of expression.


  8. Paul>> This makes 8 x 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 768 people. Where am I wrong?

    If this is not just a rhetoric question, happy to explain:

    This is a frequent misconception by a vast majority of people. Actually more so with highly educated people than those who work by intuition. Thinking in terms of frequentist statistics applies perfectly to find out representative facts about an inanimate object class, like screws or apples.

    However, a deliberative format is very different, it is a collective intelligence process. With the right protocol, humans interacting, they absorb subject matter information, be it in a debate, creative exercise, or analytic ones like a prediction market. They aggregate and benchmark, they empathise with their peers (very important!), they change their mind. This is far better modelled with Bayesian statistics, which is all about knowledge and linear adaptation, and not about strict point frequency.

    When I run an analytic exercise on Prediki, I am therefore less worried about the exact number of sample of a specific characteristic (I still like representativeness but do not get overly hung up about it). I put much more effort into a “reasonable” incidence (in the true sense of the word reason) of the diverse characteristics of the universe population (it’s NOT “sample”). Factors which can be ex ante suspected come into play. Then I rely that the lot and randomness takes reasonably care of the unknown remainder of further needful aspects such as ideological value systems.

    The validity of this approach is falsifiable, of course, by controlled experiments where just several focus groups worth of participants resulting in better or even just the same accuracy of verifiable real-world forecasts than a much larger frequentist sample. Replicable.


  9. ;-) it was not only rethoric, I got it from Oliver Stone’s book ‘ The Luck of the draw’ .

    > they empathise with their peers (very important!), they change their mind.

    Isn’t this contradictory with the wisdom of crowds?

    Flawed thinking

    Still, Surowiecki also pointed out that the crowd is far from infallible. He explained that one requirement for a good crowd judgement is that people’s decisions are independent of one another. If everyone let themselves be influenced by each other’s guesses, there’s more chance that the guesses will drift towards a misplaced bias. This undermining effect of social influence was demonstrated in 2011 by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. They asked groups of participants to estimate certain quantities in geography or crime, about which none of them could be expected to have perfect knowledge but all could hazard a guess – the length of the Swiss-Italian border, for example, or the annual number of murders in Switzerland. The participants were offered modest financial rewards for good group guesses, to make sure they took the challenge seriously.

    The researchers found that, as the amount of information participants were given about each others guesses increased, the range of their guesses got narrower, and the centre of this range could drift further from the true value. In other words, the groups were tending towards a consensus, to the detriment of accuracy.


  10. Terry,

    I’m sure your neighbour is a wonderful human being, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she would be a good legislator. The trouble with bright, community-minded people is that they tend to (charitably) assume that everyone is like them (or would be, were it not for factor x), whereas an average cross-section of all citizens would be more sceptical. The best people to legislate on law and order are reformed criminals, and old lags tend to be a lot more cynical than “community-minded” folk.


  11. Paul and Hubertus,

    The problem is the mixing of two completely different functions, both of which can use random selection in a distinct manner. Final judging of a policy proposal requires both attention (making referendums faulty) and reasonable statistical accuracy, so that the mini-public can serve as a legitimate stand in for the entire population. These bodies will also necessarily be larger to achieve adequate statistical accuracy. However, if the members share personal information and actively debate, such a body can suffer information cascades that can forfeit one concept of the wisdom of crowds.

    On the other hand, there is a kind of wisdom or community knowledge that can ONLY be developed by active discussion and sharing among a relatively smaller group of mostly impartial members. Here diversity and broad (rough) community representativeness that can be achieved with stratified sampling are beneficial. But different amalgamations of people in different random groups would likely settle on different proposals. However most of these proposals will be ones that a truly accurate mini-public would embrace (there is rarely only one “right” policy). The occasional bad draft policy should be able to be vetoed by an accurate mini-public. This takes me back yet again to my fundamental insight that a democracy needs different SORTS of random bodies to carry out different specific tasks in the law-making project.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Terry> my fundamental insight that a democracy needs different SORTS of random bodies

    insight: noun. an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding

    Forgive me, but that’s a tad hubristic. I would be more to describe it as a perspective, paradigm, presupposition, doctrine, viewpoint or some such — the opposing viewpoint being that democracy requires different sorts of bodies, some allotted, some elected . . .


  13. What is a disillusion for me is that some people are trying to resolve the crisis in the electoral representative system, which is imo a crisis of trust, with another system based on trust.

    -You have to trust the organising committee.
    -You have to trust the institution and people performing the selection of the participants where sortition is only one element of the selection.
    -You have to trust the proposed system to work with (mixed panel, long term appointment, limited participation, live streaming of the discussions, and so on)
    -You have to trust the people who select the experts to hear.
    -You have to trust the moderators of the discussions.
    -You have to trust the people assembling and writing the reports (and believe me, this is not to underestimate).

    And I don’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Paul,

    I think the analogy that you are drawing – between trusting elected politicians and trusting the sortition-based system – is interesting, but it is ultimately false.

    Both electoral systems and sortition-based systems can be defective and arouse mistrust in the sense that one suspects that they don’t really work as they are supposed to. But those failures can, at least in principle, be addressed and fixed.

    Elected politicians on the other hand cannot be trusted not because of failures of the electoral system but because of its inherent properties. The fact that politicians do not serve the general public is not a corruption of the electoral system – it is an inherent (and a deliberate) characteristic or electoralism as an oligarchical system.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Paul,

    Your comment raises the question of how one can build the institution of sortition without that institution-building being at the mercy of the existing system.

    That is, the way I’d like to see sortition based mechanisms working would be for the sortition based mechanisms to come to govern themselves in the spirit of sortition. That can’t occur at the outset because the exercise has to be bootstrapped by the existing system. But one could, for instance, have a selection mechanism in which over time those administering sortition were not appointed by the electoral system but rather were composed of a cadre of those who’d previously participated. I think there are mechanisms such as the one usedin the Adelaide citizens’ assembly on nuclear energy that protect the mechanism from many of the pathologies of elections.

    Thus one can generate a council of elders of sortition – who themselves might be selected by lot from a larger cadre – which would be composed of people who’d been through a citizens’ assembly and had gained the trust of their cohort.


  16. @Paul,

    Isn’t this contradictory with the wisdom of crowds?

    I remember reading the paper which the BBC mentions and being quite appalled, at the time. It had a flawed design. The experimenters did not use a prediction market system as a collective intelligence mechanism, but built one which they simply claimed to produce “Wisdom of the Crowd”.

    Listen to this: They used a vanilla one-way, non-interactive survey question, but changed the protocol by informing respondents about a statistically not yet valid (!) average opinion during fielding, suggesting (frequentist) validity to respondents without this bing so.

    Obviously, it is established knowledge that in a frequentist mechanism, you never give out the result before asking for votes, because it causes distortions.

    In contrast, in a Bayesian mechanism, like a market, you always see the current price as this changes the individual variable incentive to trade.


  17. A nice thread e have here.


    “the question of how one can build the institution of sortition without that institution-building being at the mercy of the existing system.”

    defines the task re trust requirement ver nicely.

    The solution which we have been testing in Vienna is that the organisation responsible for developing and iteratively improving a trustworthy sortition process is essentially a “party” (non-partisan, so to say) in the existing system. Citizens’ can then express trust by voting for it.

    The positive part of the experience so far indicates that this is possible, by starting with trust within an closely-knit idealistic group bootstrapping and expanding slowly outwards. Important: This “party” applies the same principles to itself as it proposes to the general public, mutatis mutandis.

    Te negative experience is, if you do this too fast, you get untrusting or untrustworthy individuals as “gravel in the process” before the bootstrapping unit reaches enough protocol definition to have all checks and balances in place for this new level of trustworthiness.


  18. Thanks hubertushofkirchner

    My one concern is the use of elections in the process you describe. I’m suspicious of using a competitive mechanism. I outlined an alternative in the article I linked to.


  19. Thanks Nicholas, here’s a misunderstanding. I may have expressed it badly.

    Clarification: The trustworthy organisation (non-partisan party) which organises citizen juries for subject matter decisions and executive appointments, may very well work along similar principles as described in the article which you linked.

    For example, here is the protocol we use:

    It avoids self-nomination and works strictly along the degrees of personal connection, so that there is real, not just superficial, knowledge of the candidates.

    In your example:

    Instead of asking people to stand up and take the third, another party could select by lot 12 who then as a group nominate 38 people with less than 3 vetos (95% confidence level on a 15% confidence interval of the 350 participants in the nuclear citizen jury). It needs two rounds ln(350)/ln(38) and then the final round determines the 6 needed jurors out of the 38 (no more lots).

    Hence what I meant, is that the electing public could vote for the party organisation which has the best performing, most trustworthy protocol.


    Liked by 1 person

  20. Terry is correct to point to different kinds of wisdom. What Page, Hong, & Landemore refer to as the difference between the “wisdom of crowds” from the “wisdom of groups.” A group is “wise” in the sense of bringing to the table a wide variety of information, heuristics, models, and perspectives in so far as it brings together a variety of “toolboxes.” Now if once we have one toolbox with a hammer, we may not need ten more toolboxes of the same type/characteristics; in the same way we may not need 40 young people out of 100, because, in this way of understanding collective problem solving, a lot of what they “bring to the table” will be redundant.
    On the other hand, as Terry suggests, and as Keith (with Rousseau?) seems to think the ONLY function of assemblies should be to vote, then statistical representativeness matters more and “redundancy” actually helps accuracy of the decision–helps with the “Condorcet Theorem.”

    Now this “Assembly,” which seems on the small size, apparently has a goal of generating ideas? But the three questions are so vague that I’m not sure what the goal. The vagueness of the questions also suggests this process will be especially sensitive to the moderation, facilitation, and the choice of experts/witnesses. In some “hippie” circles I’ve hear of “vision” conferences. Maybe that’s what this is. The article linked leaves something to be desired.

    p.s. Terry, I saw you in a new ad from the Sanders campaign that shows you in old television footage talking about his time as Burlington mayor!


  21. Ahmed,

    Helene Landemore’s distinction is between the Wisdom of Crowds and Collective Intelligence. Unfortunately there’s no good reason to believe that sortition is the optimal way to generate the cognitive diversity that leads to collective intelligence. Chapter 6 of my thesis contains a critique of the three examples that Helene provides in her book and I argue that crowdsourcing would be a better method than random selection. Her selective genealogy of the epistemic argument for democracy (unintentionally) supports the Surowiecki camp, and the Hong-Page theorem is a contrived computer simulation that has no real-world application. (Thompson, 2014)


  22. Terry> But different amalgamations of people in different random groups would likely settle on different proposals.

    That’s not a flaw, it’s a feature. Let’s abandon Hammer/Nail-Land.

    Sortition for the generation of policy proposals is self-evidently inferior to open crowdsourcing which empowers any self-selected social innovator who is convinced of his or her solution. Innovators can then do “market (citizen) research” by whatever tools they think best to optimise their proposals. There is lots of innovation going on on this tool front.

    Once such proposals are ready, in come Citizen Juries, where a reasonably representative number of sortitioned people can gate specific proposals to the next stage, or not.

    This Stage Gate process is used quite successfully in business.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hubertus:> Sortition for the generation of policy proposals is self-evidently inferior to open crowdsourcing which empowers any self-selected social innovator who is convinced of his or her solution.

    Absolutely. If the entrepreneurial principle works for goods and services, then it also applies to ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. > Once such proposals are ready, in come Citizen Juries

    To repeat the obvious objection that is never addressed:

    Depending on the proposal qualification process, there are two options:

    (1) The qualification barrier is fairly easy to meet, in which case there would be very many proposals (hundreds or more), and therefore the CJ would not be able to consider them all substantively and would thus have to rely on non-substantive filtering of qualified proposals, or

    (2) The qualification barrier is high, in which case only powerful actors would be able to meet it, meaning that all the proposals would represent the interests of the powerful.

    In either case, the result is anti-democratic.


  25. Many more than just two options, Yoram.

    (3) Division of labour and a step-wise gating / ranking process on an innovation platform, where the final gating decisions are random, reasonably stratified (Bayesian representative) triage of increasing number. Citizen Juries at neuralgic points, at a minimum for final decision.

    I am sure there are many more.

    Happy to discuss specific advantages/disadvantages. But “anti-democratic” does not help, it is kind of a killer phrase these days.


  26. Hubertus:> reasonably stratified (Bayesian representative) triage of increasing number. Citizen Juries at neuralgic points

    Love the medical lingo — sounds like a total car crash! Trouble is people new to the debate might think it’s a case for the funny farm (psychiatric ward), or a sting on postmodern gobbledegook by Alan Sokal.


  27. I have been using the word “triage” quite productively with general population people as it signals that we make a limited – but still democratic – effort at early stage proposals.

    “Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.” – Tractatus logico-philosophicus, 5.6


  28. triage

    noun: (in medical use) the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.

    And I’m with Wittgenstein in my preference for ordinary language.


  29. noun: (in political use) the methodic assignment of degrees of urgency to societal problem statements or solution ideas to decide the order of treatment of a large number of proposals by a citizen jury.


  30. Where’s the definition from? Sounds a bit like a private language and you know what Ludwig had to say on that subject. But there is a serious point — if we want to reach out beyond the sortinista community then we need to adopt the lingua franca and not resort to arcane terminology.


  31. New technology or methodology brings new terminology. And all innovation will meet resistance. :-)


  32. In response to you and Keith re “crowdsourcing,” The reason the “group wisdom” crowd suggests face-to-face or even peer-to-peer among a small group is the idea that something happens–a synergy–in small groups can happen that is impossible in very large or anonymous settings. There are two issues here:
    1) We do not KNOW because it has no been studied whether crodsourcing or small group discussion can generate better solutions.
    2) When we are talking about political decisions, it is not a matter of finding a “truth” that is out there, but about collectively CREATING something, a collective political project.


  33. Ahmed>> “it has no been studied whether crodsourcing or small group discussion can generate better solutions.”

    We can take the studies from business, e.g. Prof. Christensen’s results for innovation in business. The broad crowdsourcing (startup entrepreneur) ecosystem is way more successful in innovation than small groups within big corporates (innovation by committee). And corporates don’t even just put any random people into those committees.

    PS: I am not sure we are even talking about the same issue here. Innovating entrepreneurs in a crowdsourcing ecosystem certainly use group discussions, too, just not with random people.


  34. Ahmed,

    I’ve got no objections to small group deliberation for policy proposals, only that there is no good reason to constitute the group by sortition (other than the [entirely spurious] argument that such a body is “representative” of the target population). From an epistemic perspective Helene Landemore’s comparison between democracy and a bunch of people trying to find the best way out of a maze just doesn’t work — the lead will be provided by the expert cryptographers and linguists who can read the runes written on the walls. The Bletchley Park group may have been cognitively diverse, but they were all experts in their respective field (mathematics, crossword puzzles, archaeology, linguistics etc). If they had been picked by random selection then the Enigma code wouldn’t have been cracked.

    If you look at the examples that Helene gives in her book, the New Haven bridge committee was composed of some very highly motivated citizens who didn’t want to get mugged on the way home and it only required three of them (each experts in their own domain) to come up with the solution. But a public competition (as in John Harrison’s solution to the longitude problem) might have worked just as well. As for the other examples, French deputies we would not be the paradigm example of cognitive diversity and Twelve Angry Men is a Hollywood movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. > (3) Division of labour and a step-wise gating / ranking process on an innovation platform

    This is suddenly very vague – which of course is a way to avoid, rather than address the objection.

    But vague as it may be, your description cannot get around the fact that the mass political, formally egalitarian process you are suggesting is in fact unavoidably anti-democratic – for exactly the reason that elections are anti-democratic.


  36. Yoram, your objection hints vaguely at some form of “qualification process” which makes the objection a straw man which I cannot answer to.

    The objection also seems to assume that there is only one CJ while I am (hopefully) known in this forum as an advocate for a massive number of parallel CJs.

    If you kindly elaborate what qualification process you have in mind, I will certainly answer. But in any case, it is puzzling why that process would be the only one possible.


  37. Thanks for your elaboration here Hubertus. I remain sceptical of the complexity of what you’re proposing because for good or ill, political communication and political engagement is a matter of engaging the emotions which are central to our making decisions and to motivating us (though in a good system one is engaging reason as well.)

    Things may be different in German-speaking countries, but where I come from the complexity and cerebral nature of what you’re offering would struggle to engage the public as an alternative to the freak show they’re both caught up in as an entertainment – and of course repelled by.

    Thing is, I’m very supportive of the ‘spirit’ of what you’re doing. I’m trying to develop the political repertoire that might see our system starting to see the merits of many of the kinds of mechanisms and approaches you are proposing.


  38. This discussion keeps driving home the value of the multi-body design I proposed back in 2013
    In a nutshell… Any citizen who wishes can offer a proposed policy on an agenda item…These could come from an Interest Panel of a dozen members, who may be diverse (randomly assembled from volunteers) or could be like-minded self organized groups. Alternatively some sort of crowdsourcing or prize offer could be used. These RAW proposals then go to a mid-sized citizens’ assembly that reviews, amends, recombines, rejects, refers back for redrafting, etc. until a final proposal is developed. Even if hundreds of proposals come forward, there are many suitable triage systems in which several members of the jury see each one (probably randomly distributed), and thumbs up or thumbs down them, etc. etc. to get the best proposals eventually reviewed by all members. At THIS stage sortition serves to provide impartiality (no stacked committees) as well as diversity. However, because the workload of such citizen assemblies, and their likely duration is so challenging, many citizens would likely refuse to serve, thus making it not adequately representative (though more representative than any elected legislature), so their final draft goes to a large mini-public (quasi-mandatory service) to give the final approval or rejection of the bill. The three stages, 1. drafting raw proposals, 2. reviewing and refining to draft a final proposal, and 3. adoption of a law are optimally carried out by distinct bodies with distinct makeups and procedures.

    My original design also had an agenda bodies and an oversight bodies, also selected by lot.


  39. Terry,

    Your multi-body (5 in total?) sortition model is open to the same criticism of complexity and intellectualism that Nick has made regarding Hubertus’s proposal. You have acknowledged in the past that your work lies at the utopian end of the spectrum and there is a danger that this (along with the need for arcane private languages) will alienate anyone who is not already convinced of the viability of sortition (i.e. the vast majority of political scientists, pubic servants and citizens). Much better to focus on what we all agree on (final decision juries) as these have both ancient and modern precedents, rather than being the product of armchair thought experiments. Once they are put into practice then by all means argue for the extension of sortition to other areas of the political process, but for the moment I suggest you keep your powder dry. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same will be true of Aleatoria.


  40. Hubertus,

    “Qualification process” is simply the process by which a proposal becomes formally up for the consideration by the decision making body. In your proposal, it now seems, a proposal would have to be approved by several filtering CJs before it is considered by the final decision making body.

    So supposedly people would be sitting in CJs considering dozens of proposals substantively and deciding upon those they see as having merit, only for those select few to be merged with the output of many other filtering CJs and serve as the input for another filtering CJ, and so and so forth for several iterations.

    This proposal falls in the second category of systems that I described above (high barrier).

    First, this would be an absurdly wasteful project in terms of human effort even if it would function as proposed. However, it is obvious that this project will certainly not function as proposed. Only mad people would be willing to spend time and effort substantively considering dozens of proposals whose chance of becoming law is for all practical purposes zero. The result would be a completely a-rational, unrepresentative process through which only powerful actors would be able to push their proposals.


  41. I agree with you that the analogy to solving a puzzle is weak. But then we should also not pretend that there is some predetermined “truth” about what people want BEFORE such processes have taken place. But if we are interested both in the higher quality deliberation and in CREATING a collective will compelling enough to make those involved want to carry it through, then perhaps a mix of small group and assembly. Something like to is was tried around nuclear energy/waste in Germany in 80s where 500 allotted citizens met in 20 INDEPENDENT groups of 25, then the results were summarized for where they overlapped/differed.

    Crowdsourcing might get increase the sheer number of ideas or it might be a good way to write code but it does not do the work of CREATING a collective project, which is what makes politics different than just working out a logistics problem.


  42. That does not sound like a relevant analogy to POLITICAL questions. In the Business case, there are clear yardsticks, sales, profits, that do not pertain in the political arena, where the issue is WHAT KIND OF A WORLD do we want to live in together and what COLLECTIVE PROJECTS are we willing to work together for.


  43. Ahmed,

    Helene’s references are purely to the epistemic value of different decision-making processes — if the New Haven bridge problem had been solved by crowd sourcing or competition she would have been entirely content, as it was (as you put it) a logistics problem.

    I think you need to separate out the epistemic issue from your normative concern for collective projects (general will, what sort of a world we live in). You have referenced the Hong Page theorem in this context, but Gerald Gaus has pointed out that it is only applicable to political contexts where the group concurs on the domain of options ‘and the scores of each option are known by (or agreed to by) all. So that’s not going to help you in your wish to construct a general will. It may well be that a few people talking to each other can come up with something that they agree to be a good thing, but you need to get on board everyone else (excluded, ex hypothesi, from the procedure). In large states the only way to do this is via some kind of representative process and your little platoons can make no valid representative claim.


  44. […] had a citizens’ assembly for “shaping Scotland’s […]


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