Étienne Chouard: Public decision-making from the perspective of the common good, Part 2

Previously published parts of this essay are the Introduction and Part 1.

(i) Elections infantilize, and in this way paralyze, the voters. They discourage thinking and defending the common good (whereas sortition does not)

Starting with the governed, let’s see, point-by-point, how elections infantilize, and in this way paralyze, the voters:

1. By definition, elections are aristocratic, whereas sortition is democratic

The greatest political thinkers have long known what we have now forgotten:

Aristotle (332 BC): “Elections are aristocratic and non-democratic: they introduce an element of deliberate choice, of selection of the best citizens, the aristoi, in place of government by the people” [Politics IV, 1300b4-5]. This quote is spurious. EC has requested that it be replaced with the following quote.

Aristotle (332 BC): “It is thought to be democratic for political offices to be assigned by lot, for them to be elected oligarchic” [Politics IV, 1294b].

Montesquieu (1748): “Sortition is natural to democracy. Elections are natural to aristocracy” [The Spirit of the Laws].

Cornélius Castoriadis (1996): “It is the Greeks who have invented elections. It is an established historical fact. They may have been wrong to do so, but they have invented elections! Who was elected in Athens? They did not elect political officers. Those were selected using sortition or rotation. For Aristotle, you should know, a citizen is someone who is able to govern and be governed. Everybody is able to govern, and therefore sortition is used. Why? Because politics is not a business for experts. There is no science of the political. That was the conventional knowledge among the Greeks” [Post scriptum on Insignificance].

So, the word aristos means the best in Greek. Elections, which by definition aim to choose the best, are by construction aristocratic. The promise of democratic equality is therefore not kept. The elected representatives and the voters are not on equal footings: the elected dominate the voters, the few control the many. We should therefore suspect that the common good would be threatened as the elected come to serve personal interests rather than the general interest.

In contrast, sortition selects indiscriminately. It is therefore the only procedure that respects the foundational promise of democracy – political equality between citizens.

2. By definition, elections are an abdication, a renunciation of the exercising of one’s sovereignty oneself, it is delegation, it is the renunciation of legislation, whereas sortition is the assertion of sovereignty

The word “representative” is polysemous. It can designate two opposite meanings: a representative could be a servant (an agent who carefully carries out the instructions of their mandate of action), but it could also be a master (such as a guardian who makes decisions for someone who is incapable of making those decisions themselves). This polysemy is the source of some great confusions (not to say, some of the worst political frauds).

By construction, today the procedure of election among candidates produces representatives who are to be masters, by making all the laws in place of the voters. Whereas sortition would produce representatives who would be equals, leaving the right to make laws to the citizens themselves. The elected decide everything in place of the voters, thus elections dispossess voters of the sovereignty. The allotted, on the other hand, decide only those things that the voters cannot (or do not want to) decide themselves (the preparation of laws, their execution, individual judgements), thus sortition does not dispossess voters of their sovereignty.

Robespierre, a true democrat, expressed this state of affairs in this way:

“Democracy is a situation where the people are sovereign, guided by laws which are of their own making, made by themselves when that is possible and by delegates when they cannot do it themselves” [Robespierre, speech of pluviôse 18th, year II].

In our “republics”, we therefore falsely call voters “citizens”. In fact a voter is a subject: a voter is subject to laws written by another. In contrast, citizens are autonomous, producing themselves the laws to which they consent to obey.

Thus, elections among candidates reduce the people to the degraded rank of voters, of political infants (etymologically, “infants” are those who are incapable of speaking), of the politically powerless. Elections function as a gag, a muffler, a stifler. They infantilize us politically and in consequence socially and economically. In this way elections prevent the many from defending the common good. We are not citizens, we are voters.

Moreover, the founding fathers of our regime knew very well that they were going, due to the adoption of this useful word ‘representatives’, to keep the people at a distance from the creation of laws. Abbé Sieyes, a self-declared anti-democrat, expressed this in the following terms:

“The citizens who appoint representatives renounce, and must renounce, making laws themselves. They have no particular will to impose. If they had a will, France would not be a representative state any longer, it would be a democratic state. The people, I repeat, in a country that is not a democracy (and France would not be a democracy), the people cannot speak, cannot act but through their representatives” [Speech on September 7th, 1789].

Can we really pretend that the common good can be attained while consistently and deliberately keeping the many away from political action and decision-making? However, there are many, the great thinkers, who have clearly observed that better decisions are made by a popular assembly than by a single person.

Aristotle: “Deliberation will be indeed better if all deliberate together, the people together with the nobles” [Politics IV, 14, 1298b].

Machiavelli: “I say that a people is wiser and more considered than a prince” [Discourses on Livy (1531), book 1, chapter 58].

3. Elections infantilize, strip of responsibility, dissuade from doing what is right, and distance the people from politics and the common good, whereas sortition encourages, and promote responsibility, for doing the right thing

In practice, elections are therefore a training in servitude, a tutelage in resignation, imprisoning the voters in the role of the dominated. By infantilizing them, elections strip voters of responsibility. In contrast, sortition emancipates the citizens, by treating them like responsible adults.

Tocqueville has written eloquently at length about the educational virtues of allotted civil juries, which promote taking on responsibility. Here is an excerpt:

“By jury I mean a group of citizens chosen at random and granted temporarily with the authority to judge. […T]he jury is primarily a political institution. It has to be considered as an expression of the sovereignty of the people […] The jury, and most of all a civil jury, serves to endow all the citizens with some of the habits of judges. And these habits are precisely those which best prepare the people to be free. The jury disseminates among all the classes respect for the courts and for the law. Without those, the love of independence is nothing but a destructive passion. The jury teaches men the practice of equality. Each one, in judging their neighbor, considers that they will be judged in their turn. […] The jury teaches each person to not shirk their responsibility for their own acts, a manly disposition without which there is no political virtue. […] By forcing people to mind affairs other than their own, it fights against individual egoism, which is the rust of all societies. The jury serves extremely well to improve the judgement and the natural intelligence of the people. There lies, in my opinion, its greatest advantage. We must consider the jury as a free and always-open school school, where each juror is instructed about their rights, where they come in daily communication with the most educated and enlightened of the upper classes, where the laws are taught in a practical way […] Thus the jury, which is the most energetic means for making the people rule, is also the more effective way to teach the people to rule” [Democracy in America, Book I, Chapter 8].

Thus on the side of the governed, regarding each one of their three most outstanding characteristics of elections among candidates (an aristocratic, infantilizing, and demotivating procedure) we observe that elections reduce to almost nothing the number of people able to defend the common good.

We are going to see now that in addition to paralyzing the governed, elections select the worst to govern.

28 Responses

  1. Elections and sortition both have their role. The demarcation line between the two is rule making vs. political appointments. We want the best of us to fill positions of power and responsibility which calls for elections (not today’s generalised mass elections but more fine grained processes). We want equality when it comes to rule making, which calls for sortition from amongst all of us. Today’s party systems also give the power of rule making to those who are supposed to be constrained by them.

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  2. The notion that elections allow the public to appoint “the best of us” to positions of power is, to put it politely, unrealistic.

    Appointments should be done by allotted panels.

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  3. hubertus,
    While it is inevitable that elections will persist for some time, I disagree that they offer anything positive for a democracy. A huge problem with trying to use both partisan elections and sortition in conjunction is the social psychology of elections infects the members of a jury. Jury members, rather than exercising independent judgment tend to follow the lead of the party leaders of the party they voted for in the last election, undercutting the wisdom of crowds. I urge people to read the recent book by Achen and Bartels, *Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government.” While the authors don’t come around to sortition, they DO prove rather convincingly that elections inherently fail to reflect “the will of the people.” They also demonstrate how group identity and followership (especially when partisan) shapes political opinions in a manner such that people only think they have made up their own minds. Too many political scientists lack an appreciation of political psychology. (Interestingly, political psychology was better appreciated centuries ago and decades ago, than more recently with the newer focus on quantitative analysis of surveys, etc.).

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  4. *** Chouard quotes: « Aristotle (332 BC): “Elections are aristocratic and non-democratic: they introduce an element of deliberate choice, of selection of the best citizens, the aristoi, in place of government by the people” [Politics IV, 1300b4-5]. «
    *** Where did Chouard find this Aristotle’s sentence ? In a papyrus newly found ? I am confined far from any Aristotle’s book, somebody is able to check ?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. *** I found in on line Aristotle’s Politics (Perseus Digital Texts) the sentence Chouard is ” quoting”. Note it is about magistracies, not sovereignty. « For a certain class to make a preliminary selection from the whole body and then for all to appoint from among certain persons (thus selected) is aristocratic. » (transl. H. Rackham). For Aristotle the selection step by an elite gives to the whole processus an aristocratic character, not election per se, as Chouard is having us to understand.
    *** Aristotle’s idea can be relevant to contemporary polyarchic elections, but only partly, the elites are not all powerful to select candidates. The principle of distinction underlined by Manin is another factor.
    *** The Athenian democrats were never against election of some “magistracies” : military and later financial managers. What was anathema to them was the election of some citizens to sovereign powers, as the Spartan Senate. I quote again Demosthenes Against Leptines (to be more trusted as democrat than Aristotle !) [107] « [In Sparta] Whenever a man is elected to the Council of Elders, as they call it, because he showed the relevant qualities, he is absolute master (despotês) of the multitude. For there [in Sparta] the prize of merit is to share with one’s peers the sovereign power on the political system (politeia). With us the people is sovereign (kurios), and there are imprecations, laws and other safeguards to prevent any other to become sovereign (kurios).»
    *** Neither Aristotle nor the Athenian democrats said that election is per se undemocratic. The Athenian democrats were against the use of election for sovereignty, thus any kind of representative elections.

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  6. >The Athenian democrats were against the use of election for sovereignty.

    As was Rousseau and all of us sortitionists. But that does not mean that election cannot have a role in the generation of policy proposals or the appointment of citizens to government office.

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  7. Hi Andre,

    In the original French Chouard’s quote is

    Aristote (-332): « Les élections sont aristocratiques et non démocratiques : elles introduisent un élément de choix délibéré, de sélection des meilleurs citoyens, les aristoi, au lieu du gouvernement par le peuple tout entier. »

    Looking this supposed quote up on the web, there are multiple sources.

    One of the sources is a 1995 book by Bertlinde Laniel. In this book, Le mot “democracy” et son histoire aux États-Unis de 1780 à 1856, in footnote 2 on page 73, the author indicates that he is using a translation by J. Tricot and that the quote is referred to in a composition by Finley.

    All that said, the quote seems to be false. I will bring this up with Etienne Chouard.

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  8. *** Well, I have the French original version of Chouard’s text. It is not a problem of French to English,
    *** It seems that the false quote, whatever his author, is a mixing of a bad understanding of the Greek text and of ideas taken from Manin.
    *** Aristotle’s Politics is easily misunderstood because it is not always very clear.or coherent. Some scholars think it is made from students’ notes.
    *** I am afraid Chouard took too easily this sentence because it was matching well his demonization of elections.

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  9. Andre,

    I guess you do not have with you Tricot’s translation? Presumably this is not a matter of some creative translation?

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  10. Good evening everyone,

    First, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Yoram (the host of this blog, which I consider to be one of the most important blogs for the emancipation of people in the world) for his hard work of translation, very useful work, from my point of view, because it will certainly help me to make better known throughout the world (most often English-speaking) the central idea that I defend: the idea of the constituent citizens.

    I already know that I will learn a lot from contact with new interlocutors and opponents (English speakers this time): I have known for a long time that we only progress in contradiction.

    * * *

    Reading your inquiry about Aristotle’s quote, I of course rushed to my copy of the Politics and, like you, I didn’t find the quote… Damned. Where did I find this quote? What is certain is that I did not invent it :-) Since last night, I have been looking for … Bernard Manin? No. Hans Morgen Hansen? Niet. Pierre Rosanvallon? No more. Another Aristotle book? No more. But still … … Ah! that’s it ! I found ! It’s in Finley:

    « The elections, says Aristotle (Politics, IV, 1300b4-5), are aristocratic and non-democratic: they introduce an element of deliberate choice, of selection of the best citizens, the aristoi, instead of government by the whole people. » Moses I. Finley, “Ancient Democracy and Modern Democracy” (Payot, 1972, p. 66).

    It is true that Finley does not put the sentence in quotation marks and that we can therefore admit that he quotes Aristotle “in substance”. What I do not do myself since I put the sentence in quotes (without any reference to Finley).

    Mea culpa, sorry.

    * * *

    That said, the essential rule that Finley notes (the election is by nature oligarchic, undemocratic, while sortition is the only democratic procedure worthy of the name) is found everywhere in The Politics of Aristotle, I give you some here three examples (with pages :-) ):

    “The fact that magistrates are neither paid nor drawn by lot must be considered aristocratic. Aristotle, Politicians, II, 11, 1273-a (GF Flammarion 1993, transl. Pellegrin, p 194.

    “I mean, for example, that it is considered democratic that the courts are allocated by lot and as oligarchic that they are elective. Aristotle, Politics, IV, 9, 1294-b (GF Flammarion 1993, transl. Pellegrin, p 307.

    “Others, on the other hand, speak of it as an oligarchy because it has many oligarchic elements. For example, all the magistracies are elective, that is to say that none is drawn by lot. Aristotle, Politics, IV, 9, 1294-b (GF Flammarion 1993, trad. Pellegrin, p 308.

    * * *

    I am happy to be able to communicate with specialists-amateurs in the political sortition. I will give you each time a French version and another English version, because I am not at all sure of my English (forgive me my faults which will undoubtedly be enormous…).

    Sincerely.

    Etienne.
    ————————-

    Bonjour à tous,

    Je voudrais d’abord, du fond du cœur, remercier Yoram (l’animateur de ce blog que je considère comme un des blogs les plus importants pour l’émancipation des peuples dans le monde) pour son gros travail de traduction, travail très utile de mon point de vue, car il va certainement m’aider à faire mieux connaître à travers le monde (le plus souvent anglophone) l’idée centrale que je défends : l’idée des citoyens constituants.

    Je sais déjà que je vais beaucoup apprendre au contact de nouveaux interlocuteurs et contradicteurs (anglophones, cette fois) : je sais depuis longtemps qu’on ne progresse que dans la contradiction.

    * * *

    En lisant votre interpellation sur la citation d’Aristote, je me suis bien sûr précipité sur mon exemplaire des Politiques et, comme vous, je n’ai pas retrouvé la citation… Damned. Où ai-je bien pu trouver cette citation ? Ce qui est sûr, c’est que je ne l’ai pas inventée  Depuis hier soir, je cherche… Bernard Manin ? Non. Hans Morgen Hansen ? Niet. Pierre Rosanvallon ? Pas davantage. Un autre livre d’Aristote ? Non plus. Mais quand même… … Ah ! ça y est ! J’ai trouvé ! C’est dans Finley :

    « Les élections, dit Aristote {Politique, IV, 1300b4-5), sont aristocratiques et non démocratiques : elles introduisent un élément de choix délibéré, de sélection des meilleurs citoyens, les aristoi, au lieu du gouvernement par le peuple tout entier. » Moses I. Finley, « Démocratie antique et démocratie moderne » (Payot, 1972, p. 66).

    C’est vrai que Finley ne met pas la phrase entre guillemets et qu’on peut donc admettre qu’il cite Aristote « en substance ». Ce que je ne fais pas moi-même puisque je mets la phrase entre guillemets (sans aucune référence à Finley).

    Mea culpa, pardon.

    * * *

    Ceci dit, la règle essentielle que relève Finley (l’élection est par nature oligarchique, antidémocratique, alors que le tirage au sort est la seule procédure démocratique digne de ce nom) se retrouve partout dans Les Politiques d’Aristote, je vous en donne ici trois exemples (avec les pages :-) ) :

    « Le fait que les magistrats ne sont ni rétribués ni tirés au sort doit être considéré comme aristocratique. » Aristote, Les politiques, II, 11, 1273-a (GF Flammarion 1993, trad. Pellegrin, p 194.

    « Je veux dire, par exemple, qu’il est considéré comme démocratique que les magistratures soient attribuées par le sort et comme oligarchique qu’elles soient électives. » Aristote, Les politiques, IV, 9, 1294-b (GF Flammarion 1993, trad. Pellegrin, p 307.

    « D’autres, par contre, en parlent comme d’une oligarchie du fait qu’elle a beaucoup d’éléments oligarchiques. Par exemple toutes les magistratures sont électives c’est-à-dire qu’aucune n’est tirée au sort. » Aristote, Les politiques, IV, 9, 1294-b (GF Flammarion 1993, trad. Pellegrin, p 308.

    * * *

    Je suis heureux de pouvoir communiquer avec des spécialistes amateurs du tirage au sort en politique. Je vous donnerai chaque fois une version française et une autre anglaise, car je ne suis pas sûr du tout de mon anglais (pardonnez-moi mes fautes qui vont sans doute être énormes…).

    Bien amicalement.

    Étienne.

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  11. Aristotle does not say words as in Chouard’s understanding : « Sortition is the only democratic procedure worthy of the name ». Aristotle only notes an affinity of democracy with sortition – something all democrats agreed. First, popular sovereignty implies that legislation, justice, control of the high executive, war and peace, are powers given either to the Assembly or to allotted juries. Second, an huge part of administration or its control must be given to allotted panels, to prevent usurpation by a political class or a deep State. These two reasons induces the affinity between democracy and sortition. But Aristotle did never say that the Athenian uses of election – for military and financial managers, or for public advocates to defending an established law against a new proposal, i.e. in cases the People must trust both loyalty and technical ability – are a scandal along democratic standards. Nor any democrat said that.

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  12. *** Terry Bouricius underlines a « huge problem » « the social psychology of elections infects the members of a jury. Jury members, rather than exercising independent judgment tend to follow the lead of the party leaders of the party they voted for in the last election, undercutting the wisdom of crowds. »
    *** * The current model of « party » is not a trans-historical fact. In all kinds of ancient democracies, ancient republics or ancient representative systems, they were some kinds of « party », of networks around leaders and options, but often quite different from the contemporary ones, much less strongly organized, much less resilient, often prone to constant scissions and reorganizations (historians sometimes are therefore reluctant to call them « parties »). The mid-modern model of « party » was the result of co-acting parameters : huge number of elected functions, huge power of some functions, often mass social struggles, easy etablishment of national networks whereas ordinary citizens had mostly indirect contact with the known politicians.
    *** In a 21 st century (ortho-)democracy, there will be always political networks (you cannot forbid them) but far from the mid-modern model of « party ». Because the parameters will not be the same : small number of elected functions, no elected « representatives » exercizing sovereignty, a society more complex, easy tele-contact of ordinary citizens with « orators ».
    *** Therefore the effect Terry underlines will be much less dangerous.
    *** Even in 21st century polyarchies, this effect is lessening : you can see referenda results against all the parties or most of the parties (European Constitution in France, Brexit).

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  13. Andre:> Therefore the effect Terry underlines will be much less dangerous.

    Yes indeed, the new model party that Alex and myself propose is designed for a political system in which sovereignty is vested in allotted juries, not elected politicians. Such bodies will be very different from the current incarnation of political parties, but without parties it is hard to see how policy proposals would be generated democratically.

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  14. Answer to Yoram Gat about French translations of Aristotle’s Politics.
    *** I have no Aristotle’s book here, and impossible to go to public libraries, anyway closed. Online there is a 19th century French translation, by Saint-Hilaire, who understands Aristotle’s sentence along the 19th century concept of restricted eligibility.
    *** Looking to the Greek text, I am not very sure about the processus Aristotle was thinking about : popular election among previously selected candidates, OK, but how the selection step ? Aristotle calls the processus an aristocratic one, not an oligarchic one. In Aristotle’s vocabulary, oligarchic is about socio-economic class only, aristocratic implies idea of « quality » (moral, intellectual), actually linked to the class, sure, but not so roughly and crudely. Maybe an elite selection of a list of candidates and the assembly chooses among them. Such two-steps elections are known historically. Aristotle may think such a processus will be better to select « quality », with less weight of crude class interests.
    *** Anyway, there is no idea that electing magistrates (it is the subject) is per se undemocratic.

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  15. Andre,

    > But Aristotle did never say that the Athenian uses of election – for military and financial managers, or for public advocates to defending an established law against a new proposal, i.e. in cases the People must trust both loyalty and technical ability – are a scandal along democratic standards.

    True, but what of it? It seems that elections had almost exactly the same function that appointment has today. And yet no one would say that appointment is a democratic procedure. It is merely a technical tool that can be used by any type of regime. So it was, it appears, with elections for the Athenians.

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  16. *** Yes; I agree. Election of managers was a technical tool for the Athenians.The sovereign People in democracy may appoint a manager, as may an absolute King.
    *** But the sovereign People is more able to monitor or control his managers, because he can multiplicate himself into allotted panels, whereas the absolute King does not control easily the State, which makes absolute monarchy easily a cover for oligarchies

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  17. My comment about the danger of mixing sortition and election was a response to Hubertus who advocated using elections for positions of power and responsibility, and sortition for rule making. If a new democracy had an elected president (likely through a partisan election), this would fatally harm sortition democracy. A mini-public may safely “elect” (appoint) a chief administrative officer. But mass elections with partisan candidates advancing policy proposals undercuts democracy. It is common for some sortition advocates to imagine a system with both elected and allotted representatives in a bicameral structure. This FEELS like a compromise that gains the benefits of both forms. But I argue that maintaining high stakes elections dooms sortition in the long run, largely for social psychological reasons. The paper I wrote about this is available without a pay wall here:
    https://www.academia.edu/37578530/Why_Hybrid_Bicameralism_is_Not_Right_for_Sortition

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  18. At Chouard’s request I replaced the spurious quote with a real one. Thanks Anrdé for pointing out the error.

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  19. About appointment as technical tool.
    *** We must distinguish two classes of political systems. First class, the sovereignty is clearly located and therefore is distinguished from magistracies. Here a part of the magistracies are appointed ones – appointment being a technical tool to get both technical ability and trust in loyalty. Another part of magistracies are established through processus having affinity to the principles of the system : princes of royal blood or hereditary high lords in a traditional absolute monarchy ; allotted panels in a democracy ; kinds of political commissars in a totalitarian system.
    *** In a second class of systems, there is no clearly located sovereignty and thus magistracies are not clearly distinguished from sovereignty. Examples : ancient oligarchizing republics, as the Roman one ; modern polyarchies ; and authoritarian systems. In oligarchizing republics and polyarchies, vote is not a only kind of appointment / technical tool, it is likewise an element of the production of basic decisions, the blending of these two characters allowing the opaqueness of the system. And elections are made along procedures often far from rational appointment.
    *** From the ambiguous and deceptive role of election in oligarchizing republics and polyarchy we must not deduce that a democracy must give up any use of election as technical tool – which would lead to an unbearable loss of efficiency, or to ascendancy of the deep State. Therefore we must not demonize election per se, whatever its intrinsic drawbacks.

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  20. *** I agree with Bouricius, there is a danger on mixing sortition and election in an hybrid system, either with one allotted chamber and an elected one, or following Hubertus who advocates »« using elections for positions of power and responsibility, and sortition for rule making ».
    *** But let’s consider an hybrid system with an elected president, and allotted chambers and courts. Problems, sure. But maybe such a system could evolve into an (ortho)democracy where the president will be a Keeper of Democracy, without « executive power » but entitled to denounce biased points and behaviours in the overall system and take them to the High Court. Such an institution would be useful to dissolve latent suspicions of fakes in a complex democratic system.
    *** In some polyarchies the head of state is elected through general suffrage but does not have executive power.
    *** Thus I agree with Bouricius about the problem, but I think that a kind of hybrid systems may netherless be a (uneasy) step towards (ortho)democracy. It is difficult to imagine other ways, except in revolutionary or high crisis circumstances we cannot forecast anyway (and maybe we must not hope for).

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  21. I have an out-of-focus concept of an analogy about elections that I would love to have someone with a more poetic nature perfect.

    Having a population elect rulers in mass elections is like asking people who are half asleep, drunk, distracted by countless televisions, feeling threatened by someone in the shadows, and another person whispering lies in their ears, to make a life and death decision about an issue that they know almost nothing about. By using a mini-public, this subset of the people is able to focus, be alert, learn about the issue, find out what is true and what is uncertain. It is not that the people are too stupid or incompetent, but that we need a system that puts them in their best condition of ability and attention through sortition. Otherwise they are not truly exercising sovereignty.

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  22. Terry:> Otherwise they are not truly exercising sovereignty.

    We’re all in complete agreement about the superiority of sortition over election when it comes to the exercise of sovereignty. But there are other aspects of democratic governance and no historical examples of using minipublics to generate policy proposals. And — absent utopian projects of byzantine complexity — it’s hard to see how that might even be possible in theory. Simple dualisms are always attractive to those of a “poetic” nature (as you put it) but the world we live in is grey, not black and white.

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  23. Terry,

    > Having a population elect rulers in mass elections is like asking people who are half asleep, drunk, distracted by countless televisions, feeling threatened by someone in the shadows, and another person whispering lies in their ears, to make a life and death decision about an issue that they know almost nothing about.

    Your description is focused on the problem of rational ignorance. Let me point out again that while rational ignorance is indeed a problem with the electoral mechanism, it is not the main problem.

    The main problem is that of agenda setting. In an electoral system the elite sets the agenda. When electing rulers, the agenda is the candidates themselves who must all be members of the elite. By the time the voters cast their votes, they will therefore select a member of the elite regardless of how alert and well-informed they are. A government by the elite is most likely a government for the elite. This is the main problem with electing rulers.

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  24. Yoram:> A government by the elite is most likely a government for the elite.

    Yes that’s right, and it’s why “government” needs to be carefully subdivided into its component elements — agenda setting and decision in lawmaking; and executive functions. We all agree that the decision power should be in the hands of allotted juries, the problem is the need to change the electoral system to enable new style political parties to contribute to agenda setting in a democratic manner. This would be a mixed constitution, containing both elite and popular elements.

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  25. […] Chouard: Public decision-making from the perspective of the common good, Part 2 equalitybylot.com/2020/03/28/eti… […]

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  26. André,

    > Therefore we must not demonize election per se, whatever its intrinsic drawbacks.

    This is not a matter of demonization but of examining the pro’s and con’s of this mechanism. Unlike appointment, it simply seems the case that there is nothing of value that mass elections can achieve that could not be better served using a different mechanism.

    What do you see as a situation where mass elections provide good service to a democratic system?

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  27. […] published parts of this essay are the Introduction, Part 1, Part 2 and Part […]

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  28. […] published parts of this essay are the Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part […]

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