Buchstein: Democracy and lottery: Revisited

Ten years ago Hubertus Buchstein pinned some high hopes on the application of sortition in government (“Reviving Randomness for Political Rationality”, Constellations 17(3), 2010):

[T]he horizon for further development of randomly selected councils boils down to two options. One can either stay on the beaten path and continue working with the experiments and projects described above with their non-binding status. That would amount to supporting commendable projects instructive about democracy, which admittedly remain mere ornaments of the political system’s routines, projects that participants expect to have little tangible influence, thus engendering the problems of motivation. Or the standing of randomly selected councils could be reinforced; their integration in existing institutional arrangements with a clearly defined and binding set of competencies would form the culminating point of such a reform policy.

There is much to be said for the fact that random selection, if used wisely, could prove a useful complement to the procedures in place until now. And if we have the courage to make such changes, there is reason to believe that judicious integration of components of lotteries in modern democracies can contribute to a reform policy model, relevant beyond nation-states and the example of the EU, for coping with the institutional demands of the spatial transformation of democracy beyond the framework of the nation-state currently on the agenda. Resorting to chance in such a program of policy for democracy is not an expression of resignation or fatalism, but instead of democratic experimentalism striving to increase democracy’s potential for rationality.

A decade later, Buchstein is singing a very different tune (“Democracy and lottery: Revisited”, Constalleations 26(3), 2019). Buchstein now opens his article with some accusations directed toward sortition advocates and with some skeptical questions:

Over the last 10 years has emerged an even more widely shared euphoria among quite a number of political scientists about the use of lotteries to promote democracy. However, such euphoria on the part of so many political scientists has made me suspicious and given reason to a set of concerns and questions: what is the political meaning of the surprising comeback of the lottery in the democratic toolkit today, more than 2,000 years after the fall of ancient democracies? Can one register its comeback in political theory and practice as a potential step forward in the project of democratizing democracy? Are mini‐publics meant to be part of a serious attempt to move beyond traditional parliamentary democracy?

Buchstein answers these questions negatively and mandates a severe restriction on the applicability of sortition:

My general formula is: in all cases (and in only those cases) in which there are indications of a deficit in will or neutrality, as describes above [changing electoral rules and determining the payment of politicians], we should consider whether to switch from elective to aleatory parliamentarism and place the political decision‐making process in the hands of a house of lots.

In 2019, then, Buchstein sees sortition as useful only as a tool for buttressing electoralism by applying it to eliminate some of the most obvious (and superficial) conflicts of interest that are part of a system where elections are the only tool for appointing decision-makers. Like the mainstream of “deliberative democracy”, Buchstein seems not to be worried by actual policy but about about polarization, and the loss of confidence in political representatives. Policy-wise, things can possibly be improved here and there (randomizing MP assignments to committees, maybe), but sortition? That’s just crazy. Things are just about fine as they are. Elites need to behave, the public needs to calm down and be reasonable. That’s more or less that, it seems. If we talk a lot, that will surely help.

44 Responses

  1. Non conosco l’inglese al punto da scrivere in modo comprensibile in questa lingua. Me ne scuso.
    Chi critica il sistema democratico pone spesso in antitesi il metodo elettorale e quello di estrazione a sorte. Non è il caso di Buchstein nè di Van Reybrouck nè di altri, che alla fine accettano la convivenza dei due sistemi.
    Ho l’ impressione che l’indagine di questi studiosi sulla relazione tra i cittadini in genere e quelli di loro che si dedicano alla gestione della cosa pubblica rischi di avere un difetto. L’indagine mi sembra infatti condotta tutta all’interno del sistema politico vigente, di cui si coglie correttamente la crisi, trascurando quindi la componente dei cittadini in genere con le evoluzioni, di cui è portatrice, legate alle condizioni variabili della sua vita e della conseguente idea di sé.
    Il nodo cruciale che consente questo limite di visuale è il non prendere in considerazione la popolazione come parte costituente della democrazia, quindi come stakeholder per l’affronto dei problemi che una società complessa presenta, ma come elemento a parte, con un ruolo recessivo rispetto ad altri ruoli dominanti.
    Se osserviamo in modo distaccato le attuali democrazie vediamo che chi le presiede è spesso un “uomo qualunque”, dotato magari di relazioni economiche o politiche maggiori della gente comune ma non certo di personalità capaci di ricordare la figura che la storia ci consegna come gestore del potere in quanto dotato di capacità superiori e di visioni ampie nel tempo e nello spazio. In sostanza vediamo che il rapporto tra “eletto” ed “elettori” è molto più stretto di quanto si voglia ritenere.
    Il significato civile dell’estrazione a sorte va quindi elaborato in questa chiave, non in quella di tecnica democratica utile al funzionamento dei partiti. Questa infatti ne è una conseguenza, non l’obiettivo.
    Grazie per l’attenzione.
    Mi scuso ancora per la mia ignoranza dell’inglese.
    Giuseppe Maria Greco

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  2. Hubertus has a point. Despite years of widespread uses, CJs have never been more than ‘advisory’, lacking executive power. (I’d love to hear of an example where this isn’t true?). Elected politicians can and have tossed aside conclusions of a CJ they don’t like.

    Referendums are treated differently — a sore point here in the UK, where the parliamentarians feel that the ‘advisory’ Brexit referendum must be implemented, even though a majority of elected representatives think it is the wrong thing to do.

    So referendum results sacred, CJ conclusions disposable. Not there yet, are we?

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  3. Of course we are not there yet. But Buchstein asserts that we shouldn’t be going there at all. As far as he is concerned, we are doing pretty well where we are now.

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  4. Conall:> referendum results sacred, CJ conclusions disposable.

    Perhaps the reason is that, given the variation between the outcome of different CJs (e.g. the Texas utilities DPs), it’s not clear what the considered will of the demos is, so how could politicians implement it? In a democracy legitimacy has to be demonstrable and that requires statistical tools rather than logical syllogisms or pious notions like the general good.

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  5. Sempre scusandomi per l’uso dell’italiano, replico che l’estrazione a sorte così come tutti i sistemi partecipativi non possono essere utilizzati come fossero degli strumenti meccanici. Un trapano serve per fare qualsiasi buco cilindrico, un po’ come sono utilizzate le elezioni, mentre le attività partecipative devono essere studiate e graduate a seconda di quanto si vuole decidere. Ad esempio, l’estrazione a sorte non serve se si deve stabilire se fare o no un passaggio pedonale. La conseguenza è che occorrerebbe dimostrare che le applicazioni nel Texas siano o no assimilabili tra loro per concludere che i loro effetti siano contraddittori, oppure che i sistemi partecipativi usati siano tutti adeguati ai temi affrontati e applicati in modo corretto. Cosa ne dite?
    Grazie
    Giuseppe Maria Greco

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  6. Guiseppe [via Google Translate]:> it would be necessary to demonstrate that the applications in Texas are or are not assimilable to each other.

    They were. Here’s Bob Goodin’s take on it:

    In his report on deliberative polls done for three different local public utilities in Texas, Fishkin is pleased to report that in all three cases the shift in public opinion, pre- to post-deliberation, was in the same direction (Fishkin, 1997, p. 220). But the absolute numbers nonetheless diverged wildly. In one case, half the respondents thought post-deliberation that ‘investing in conservation’ was the ‘option to pursue first’, whereas in another case less than a sixth thought so. In one case, over a third still thought post-deliberation that ‘renewable energy’ should be the top option, whereas in another case less than a sixth thought so. Clearly, these deliberating groups ought not to be regarded as interchangeable. Neither, in consequence, does this evidence inspire confidence in the general theory of ‘ersatz deliberation’, treating smaller deliberative groups as microcosms capable of literally ‘substituting’ for deliberation across the whole community.

    Until it can be demonstrated that the informed preferences of a deliberative minipublic are constant (within an agreed margin of error) across the target population there can be no chance of sortition becoming a legitimate form of democratic decision making.

    Ref. Goodin, R. (2003), Democratic deliberation within. In J. Fishkin & P. Laslett (Eds.), Debating Deliberative Democracy (pp. 54-79). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, p. 74

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  7. Corretto. Restano due ultime obiezioni cui rispondere:
    1. le popolazioni da cui vengono estratte le persone sono simili o differenti tra loro?
    2. le persone estratte sono veramente rappresentative delle popolazioni da cui provengono?
    Grazie

    Correct. There are two last objections to answer:
    1. are the populations from which people are extracted similar or different?
    2. are the people extracted really representative of the populations they come from?
    Thank you

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  8. Guiseppe,

    Good point. You really need to compare different batches of the same population, sampled at the same time with the same methodology (and consistent information and advocacy between the different groups). Fishkin goes to great lengths to ensure a representative sample, that’s why Mansbridge describes the DP methodology as the “gold standard”. I’ll see if I can find out anything more about the target population of the three Texas DPs.

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  9. The polls were for three different geographical areas represented by three public utilities: Central Power and Light, West Texas Utilities and South West Electric Power. So it’s possible the differences are partly the result of different population profiles (urban/country etc). Here’s the full paper: https://cdd.stanford.edu/mm/2000/utility_paper.pdf

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  10. Keith notes that >” given the variation between the outcome of different” mini-publics, how could their decisions legitimately be deemed final. But the identical problem exists with referendums. On different outings, the same electorate delivers different outcomes in referendums. Indeed, it is quite possible that if in a jurisdiction the day is sunny and warm vs. cold and rainy, (or any of a million other variables) a referendum such as the Brexit one might have come out differently. there is no “rational” basis for holding referendums in higher esteem. Indeed, due to the lack of attention and consideration voters give referendums (not to mention elite ability at manipulation), compared to members of a well organized mini-public, they absolutely should be seen as inferior. the exact same dynamic applies to elected legislatures as well. A vote one hour earlier or later can have different results. Two elected chambers from the same population can be unalterably opposed on a single issue. Group decision making is not EVER replicable. Nor is this even the case within a single person. A decision mad at 9:00 am might be the opposite if made at 11:00 am. In short, Keith, you can abandon this replicability argument… it is meaningless.

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  11. Terry,

    I’m not arguing in favour of referendums or decisions made by elected politicians, only that we can do better, and produce consistent outcomes in jury decisions (within an agreed margin of error). The reason you oppose this is because it introduces a limited mandate for allotted assemblies and requires them to be part of a hybrid system, and this goes against your unbending commitment to “pure” sortition — a utopian fantasy as there has never been a pure system of governance anywhere in the world.

    I agree with Guiseppe’s two points and argue that iff a number of samples of the same population came to the same conclusion (within an agreed margin of error) that it would be extremely hard to claim that this did not represent the considered will of the target population.

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  12. Terry,

    PS as you know I advocated a judge led public enquiry with allotted jury as an alternative to the Brexit referendum. The total sample size would have been 6,766 to return a 2% margin of error. If the jury had been split into six, deliberated in parallel, and they had all returned the same verdict then I think this would have been viewed as a legitimate alternative to the referendum. But if each jury had come to a different conclusion then there would be no way of knowing which one represented the informed preferences of the British people. Given the meaning of the term statistical representation, I don’t see why you find that problematic.

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  13. *** I agree with Bouricius, the role of chance may be high in polyarchies. But I am not sure that means the replicability issue is meaningless when debating about democracy-through-minipopulus. The political system of a polyarchy is openly complex, and the legitimacy of its specific constitution mainly historical. In (ortho-)democracy, there is a sovereign, his will rules, therefore it is more a problem if there is doubt about this will (if the king changes his mind every morning, the legitimacy of the absolute monarchy is in jeopardy). I don’t think this issue is alive for now, I did never see it in debates about sortition, except in the fear of sampling luck, which can be answered by statistical considerations. But this issue will appear if the minipopulus model leaves the realm of theory and comes close to reality.
    *** Among people with true democrat feelings the doubts about minipopulus come mainly from two points: the true representativity of the sample (very doubtful if not mandatory), the fear that citizens without much previous idea of an issue will be brainwashed by biased information and oratory. If these two fears are not met convincingly, the minipopulus model will not be accepted by the common citizens. Therefore the replicability issue is : if these two fears are met convincingly (a big IF), what about the possible lack of replicability coming from the debate itself ? Is this residual risk high ? Which solutions ?
    *** Among possible solutions : a set of juries, with the final choice being the choice of the majority of juries.

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  14. This remark undermines parliamentary decisions and justifies the contradictions between a government of a different colour and the next of a colour. In other words, it seems to accept that it is normal to renounce a policy that is not primarily interested in the conquest of power but rather in the so-called common good. In fact, as in the case of draw-by-house, the variable balances of parliament also lead to changes in parliamentary decisions.
    In essence, the proposed consideration does nothing but eat itself. The reason is that the problem is placed incorrectly. The unanimity of decisions in terms of place and time does not depend on the decision system, but on the cultural moment at which it is taken. Unanimity, or at least the willingness to do so, predas the decision-making moment. The climate in which the decision is put on the agenda is therefore crucial. Democracy itself comes into play. An absolute power would have good play to create uniformity of climate and thought, but this is a different theme.

    Questa osservazione mette in crisi le decisioni parlamentari e giustifica le contraddizioni tra un governo di un colore e quello successivo di colore diverso. Sembra cioè accettare che sia normale rinunciare a una politica che non sia interessata soprattutto alla conquista del potere ma piuttosto al cosiddetto bene comune. Infatti, come accade nel caso dell’estrazione a sorte, anche gli equilibri variabili del parlamento comportano variazioni nelle decisioni parlamentari.
    In sostanza, la considerazione proposta non fa altro che mangiare se stessa. Il motivo è che il problema è posto in modo non corretto. L’unanimità delle decisioni in termini di luogo e di tempo non dipende infatti dal sistema di decisione, ma dal momento culturale in cui questa viene presa. L’unanimità, o almeno la disponibilità ad essa, è precedente al momento decisionale. È quindi determinante il clima nel quale la decisione viene messa all’ordine del giorno. È la democrazia stessa ad entrare in gioco. Un potere assoluto avrebbe buon gioco a creare uniformità di clima e di pensiero, ma questo è un tema diverso.

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  15. Andre:> the true representativity of the sample (very doubtful if not mandatory)

    Yes indeed, quasi-mandatory participation is essential.

    >citizens without much previous idea of an issue will be brainwashed by biased information and oratory.

    In my Brexit proposal the case for and against was in the hands of the official Leave and Remain camps, so the bias would be self-correcting.

    >the final choice being the choice of the majority of juries.

    Yes it would need to be a statistical solution.

    Guiseppe, sorry I think we’ve lost something in translation. I don’t really understand your point.

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  16. In summary: your position is contradictory. In fact, what you criticize in the draw can also occur in the elected parliament, which can vary decisions depending on balances and opportunities. The consistency of decisions does not depend on the decision-making system but on the cultural moment and the climate in which the decision is taken.

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  17. Andre,

    > *** Among people with true democrat feelings the doubts about minipopulus come mainly from two points: the true representativity of the sample (very doubtful if not mandatory), the fear that citizens without much previous idea of an issue will be brainwashed by biased information and oratory.

    1. Representativity is indeed essential, but the way to gain it is by having voluntary participation with low turn-down rates (via good compensation and appropriate accommodation of personal constraints), not by forcing the unwilling to attend. The latter is a recipe for making the allotted body an object of mockery (as a steady stream of incidents of unwilling “participants” making decisions they are unable to justify taints the image of the allotted body) and thus undermining the legitimacy of the entire sortition-based system.

    2. Information and oratory can only be biased if those are not representative themselves. If the allotted body itself controls what information it gathers and uses and who speaks in front of it, then no issues of bias can come up.

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  18. André,
    You noted that the issue of the possibility of different decisions by different mini-publics “Among possible solutions : a set of juries, with the final choice being the choice of the majority of juries.” For most policy decisions we can rely on reversion to the mean, as subsequent mini-public “fix” the “errors” of perhaps unrepresentative prior bodies. In this sense, sortitional democracy is self-correcting over time. However, some decisions are very big and have irreversible impacts. A proposal that was made in the Blog some years ago, for a related but different concern, was to set a margin threshold… perhaps 55% majority, and that if the threshold wasn’t exceeded, a second mini-public of twice the size could be called to consider the matter afresh. this process allows smaller (less expensive) mini-publics to come to decisions on “obvious” decisions, but allows more precision for close decisions, or irreversible decisions.

    As for lack of reproducible decisions, a brief anecdote from my state of Vermont may be entertaining. When Vermont was an independent nation in 1700s, and for many decades after it joined the United States of America it had a unicameral legislature, “The General Assembly.” into the 1820s and 1830s there was a lot of upset that the legislature kept switching partisan majorities each year (elections were held yearly), with many laws being passed, repealed, and passed again year after year. Eventually a new chamber, the Senate, was amended into the Constitution, for the express purpose of slowing down the law-making process, merely so the laws would be more stable over time. Similar to the U.S. Senate, this body originally gave each County equal representation, regardless of population, so that partisan majority swings were less common. Nobody thought the second chamber made the legislature more representative… it simply increased stability.

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  19. Guiseppe,

    What, in your view, is the purpose of random selection in politics? From my perspective it’s statistical (descriptive) representation. The variability that concerns me is between different samples of the same population deliberating concurrently. The decision itself (Brexit or Remain) will vary over time according to the cultural climate in which it is taken but the climate at any one time will be the same for both samples. If so, and the decision output of the two samples differ, then which is the representative one?

    Yoram,

    As you well know Andre, Terry and myself are advocates of quasi-mandatory participation. If participation can be ensured by the carrot rather than the stick that would be better (though we need to be aware that bribing citizens into participating is also a form of corruption). But unless the vast majority of those chosen by lot participate then it will not be a representative sample.

    >If the allotted body itself controls what information it gathers and uses and who speaks in front of it, then no issues of bias can come up.

    This dogmatic claim (my emphasis) is the result of your logical syllogism approach. As I’ve pointed out before, political and social science are empirical domains of enquiry and your claim is refuted by a wealth of data from social psychology.

    Terry:> reversion to the mean, as subsequent mini-public “fix” the “errors” of perhaps unrepresentative prior bodies.

    All that is saying is that a parliament (irrespective of how it is constituted) is not bound by the decisions of its predecessor. Although you use scare quotes, the implication is that there is a correct answer to public policy.

    >set a margin threshold… perhaps 55% majority

    OK but we would also need to ensure that the jury was a) large, b) quasi-mandatory, c) informed in a balanced manner and d) immunised against the random fluctuations resulting from individual speech acts. Without that a 5% margin of error would not be sufficient as the decision could be wildly unrepresentative of “what everyone would think under good conditions”.

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  20. *** Considering the ancient democracies (in the “4.Excursus” part of his article), Buchstein wants “to disconnect the use of lot from the democratic narrative”. But this disconnection is not admissible. Sortition was clearly linked to democracy in the characterization of democracies we can find in Greek pro-democrat or anti-democrat literature. In 4th century Athens, the allotted jurors appear more powerful than the allotted “magistrates”, including councillors. In other democracies, it could be different. Mythical Theseus in his characterization of democracy (Euripides’ Suppliant Women) does not distinguish when he says “The demos reigns through annual turns”. But, some way or other, political lot is linked to democracy from democrat-leaning Herodotus (III, 80, characterizing the system: “It determines offices by lot, and holds power accountable, and conducts all deliberating publicly”), to open anti-democrat Plato (Republic VIII, 557a: they “grant the rest of the citizens an equal share3 in both citizenship and offices—and for the most part these offices are assigned by lot”), through many sentences of the more oblique anti-democrat Aristotle. Political lottery could exist outside democracy; but what we could name the “standard democratic model” included use of lot.
    *** There is a basic logical mistake in Buchstein. He develops two theses.
    Thesis A: Lot was used in ancient Greece, outside the democratic processes. Political lot might be used, outside of democracy, to fight corruption and avoid rivalry between candidates, which may lead to stasis, to civil war. Lot was widely seen having pragmatic assets, useful in democracy as in other systems.
    Thesis B: Political lot did not have in Greece systemic link with democracy, it was not an element of the standard democratic model.
    Thesis A is true, thesis B is not true. And thesis A does not imply thesis B.
    *** The mass of quotations proving thesis A does not prove thesis B. It could not, because thesis B is not true. And it is not easy to accept that Buchstein omits a text as famous as Herodotus’ ”Debate of the Persian conspirators”, the first political debate in Greek literature (he mentioned it in his 2015 article, but quickly forgot it).
    *** Representative election was present in many late-medieval kingdoms. But it would be untrue to say that is is not an element of the standard polyarchic model, as political lot was of democratic model. The English kingdom history and tradition helped representative election to become an element of the modern polyarchic model developed in 19th century Western societies. The strong presence of lot in Greek ancient culture helped political lot to become an element of an innovative democratic model in late 6th century BC.

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  21. *** Yoram Gat says Buchstein ten years later is singing another tune.
    *** Anybody has the right to change his mind, but with good reasons, and some of Buchstein are not very good.
    *** We must consider that “retreats”, even if they become numerous, are not really bad news for kleroterians. The sortition idea was in the Limbo since the end of 18th century. In the end of 20th century, it went to belong again to the space of rational thought. Now it seems to be close to political plausibility And that in a world where polyarchy is no more sure to be “the end of history” – Yoram noted Buchstein’ worries (about “social and political polarization in western democracies” and “feelings that liberal democracy is in crisis”). Among the political theorists supporting polyarchy, some bold and daring ones, as Rosanvallon, think that sortition, “well” established and organized, could be used against dangerous popular movements. Others characters will be afraid, and see the attraction of the sortition idea as adding to the dangers. It is no more pure intellectual musing.

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  22. André,

    Yes, Buchstein’s argument is transparently faulty – on multiple counts. However, anyone can make mistakes, and even silly ones. Unfortunately, it is hard to describes Buchstein’s faults as honest mistakes.

    The most damning feature of Buchstein’s argument is that he, like much of the “deliberative democracy” narrative, shows an almost complete lack of interest in people’s actual lives. Under the guise of sophistication, “deliberative democracy” is in fact a radically conservative project useful for promoting academic careers and little else.

    (Lafont, whom Buchstein praises so highly is guilty of much the same attitude, it seems, but at least she is interesting. Buchstein is pretentious and boring, covering very old ground.)

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  23. There is a funny example of the systemic link between lot and ancient democracy in the “Life of Pythagoras”, by Iamblichus (late writer but with ancient sources). We find (§260) an explanation of the strange Pythagorean taboo against beans. Modern historians of religion have ideas about it. But some Ancients said that it was the result of the anti-democratic ideology of the Pythagoreans: they banned beans because bean = lot = democracy ! They had not read Buchstein.

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  24. Our conversation I think is shifting to a typical aspect of democracy: that of its dual soul, characterized at the same time by variability and stability. These two characters, rather than balancing each other, have long been in conflict with each other, generating the political crisis we are experiencing. In this climate, the variability of decision-making of the draw-by-lot depends as much on time as on space, just as the political choice of elected representatives in parliament is inconsistent with the varying conditions and expectations of the population from which the components of participatory bodies are drawn by lot. Clearly, the balance between the two characters can be recovered from a situation of low political and social economic variability. However, it can contribute positively to a participatory system that reduces mutual variability between elected and voters through systems such as, for example, random draw, which, however imperfect if correctives are not found, still allows for greater harmony between the two democratic roles.

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  25. Guiseppe,

    Sure, decisions will vary over time as the cultural climate changes (in classical Athens, that sometimes happened overnight). But the salient point is if a decision is taken at time x on issue y and two samples of the same population return different verdicts (concurrently), which is the representative one?
    You could take a very large sample, randomly divide it in two and have each half deliberate separately and they could come to different decisions. If so there is no way that sortition can be taken seriously — it just doesn’t make sense in any way that a statistician, pollster or majoritarian democrat would understand.

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  26. Yoram:> “deliberative democracy” is in fact a radically conservative project useful for promoting academic careers and little else.

    I think that’s a little uncharitable. There are some who would argue that it’s important just to let people voice their opinions in a way that respects the equality of all participants. While I’m all for that, the problem is when the deliberative forum becomes a proxy for a target population — that’s when some very serious constraints have to be introduced to ensure ongoing representativity. Deliberative democrats are, on the whole, hostile to that as it breaches the Habermasian ideal speech situation, but deliberative democrats are not generally concerned with representation. I guess that is a tad conservative for those of us who view sortition as a radical tool to empower the demos, but I don’t think it’s fair to write off other people working in the field as just furthering their own interests, academic careers or whatever. That certainly is unfair where Hubertus is concerned.

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  27. If the population from which people are extracted remains the same, the result does not change. So it doesn’t make any sense to talk about different populations. But let’s admit that in two different counties you have to decide on the same problem, and that the outcomes are different. It will be up to a central body to understand the reasons for diversity and to act accordingly, perhaps with the help of representatives of the two different populations.

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  28. >If the population from which people are extracted remains the same, the result does not change.

    A typical DP involves around 300 randomly-selected persons. If you took a sample of 1,200 from a given population and then split it (via random selection) into four samples of 300 it’s perfectly possible that the four samples could deliberate concurrently and come up with different decisions. We won’t know until we do the experiment.

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  29. In fact, the groups cannot be divided, just as a parliament cannot be divided into pieces. Each piece would make different decisions if the party did not force them to a single answer. But then we get into the field of party limits

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  30. I’ve been thinking about our conversation, which I think is leading us to the real problem. If I do not understand badly we are talking as if the role of the elected (and therefore of the parliament), and the role of the citizens in general are exactly the same. In most democratic states, and for most decisions even in these, ordinary people are normally called upon to declare only occasionally their consent on the work of the elected. When a problem needs to be addressed, the elected representatives, to define the project that can solve it, today call stakeholders (experts, banks, etc.). Citizens are not considered stakeholders with their own specific competence, so they are not required within the project, but possibly only after its definition, in order to avoid, during implementation, annoying contrasts for the elected. The citizen, in fact, does not have a defined participatory role, but only has a generic figure in the constitutional field. The lack of a defined role in decision-making and clear ways of exercising it, different depending on the scale of the problem to be faced, entails the possibility of variability that rightly concerns you. While the parliamentary group is the same as long as it remains in office, so it can be assumed that it will defend its decisions even if it were to change its mind in some way, the group of citizens drawn by lot, devoid of decision-making identity, can be random, indeed occasional. This would be impossible if they were integrated, with their specific functions, into the decision-making process. What do you think?
    Thank you.
    GMG

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  31. Guiseppe,

    Yes indeed. The problem is the assumption that the only difference between an elected and allotted parliament is the selection mechanism. In fact they are entirely different creatures. In the first case citizens choose persons and/or parties to take decisions on their behalf, in what political theorists would call a “trustee” relationship — this will mean, as you point out, that consistency will only be introduced by the party whips as judgments will naturally diverge between MPs. An allotted parliament, however, is really a deliberative opinion poll. If you take an existing poll and divide it in half by a random process, one will expect each half to match (more or less).

    A nice analogy is cutting up a piece of photographic film, in the former case you would expect each half to be different. But if you cut up a piece of holographic film you end up with two identical pieces, but at a lower resolution.

    This assumes that the function of random selection is statistical representation — to produce a portrait in miniature of the target population. To be honest I can’t see any other justification for sortition (from the point of view of political representation). My perspective will produce only a limited role for sortition, in conjunction with election and appointment as part of a mixed constitution.

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  32. Thank you. The example of the films is useful. However, it should be completed with the process of making the image, so it should be done not on the film developed but on the virgin one. In this case it would be obvious that one part of the film is not able to communicate the information it has to the other party. This is what is provided in the process of operating the draw-by-lot with respect to the people from which they come, so as to bring them in some way closer to the hologram. We agree, if I understand correctly, that in general the draw-by-lot is a constituent element of a working group that combines different powers, including the legal and the constitutional skills of which the people are not, on average, provided. Macron has recently taken advantage of this limit to prevent, despite having promised, the direct presentation in parliament of the environmental law proposed by citizens drawn by lot. In this way he recreated the condition of sub-parenthood of citizenship in relation to equal collaboration in the diversity of roles.

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  33. Guiseppe,

    I’m afraid I don’t understand your first point. Regarding Macron, he has inverted the Athenian process (where the politicians propose and the people decide) to “the people” propose and then the politicians decide whether or not to implement the proposal. I’m surprised to hear that van Reybrouck was the source of this idea, in which case it seems that deliberative democracy has completely betrayed its classical origins.

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  34. *** Yoram Gat says “Under the guise of sophistication, “deliberative democracy” is in fact a radically conservative project useful for promoting academic careers and little else”.
    *** Maybe too widely critical a comment. Actually I found interesting Bernard Manin’s article ’Volonté générale ou délibération” (1985) translated into English as “On Legitimacy and Political Deliberation” (Political theory, 1987, August, vol.15, issue 3, pp 338-368). Manin doesn’t support (ortho-)democracy, but his work is interesting, and it is not to be considered as only a part of a wide discourse against popular sovereignty.
    *** Is there really one “deliberative democracy narrative”? I don’t find Habermas’ discourse always very clear, but, when I understand it, it is a discourse against dêmokratia. In his article “Three Normative models of democracy” he criticizes « the unrealistic assumption of a citizenry capable of collective action » (p 7), the concept of « a social whole centered in the state and imagined as a goal-oriented subject writ large » (p 8) and “one encompassing macro-subject” “the citizenry as a collective actor that reflects the whole and acts for it”, and on a sovereignty concept which is « bound to the notion of an embodiment in the assembled, physically present people». (p 9). And when Dahl’s model of minipopulus gives a kind of solution to the difficulty of an « assembled, physically present people», Habermas dismisses it in “Between Facts and Norms” as « abstract and somewhat utopian ». (chap. VII, part III, fifth paragraph), without the least serious argument.
    *** It seems that Habermas’ model of so called “procedural democracy” (without dêmos or kratos !) is basically a view of polyarchy emphasizing the role of the debates in the elites, seen as leading to semi-consensus that will be later converted into government policies. Such a view valorizes the role of the culture elite and thus may minimize antipolyarchic leanings in some fractions of it. It is therefore useful for protecting the system, and not only for promoting academic careers (both uses are not contradictory !).

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  35. Manin’s 1987 article is viewed as the foundation stone of the deliberative democracy movement. It’s interesting that he has refocused his position recently away from the (Habermasian) equal speech situation to advocating a debate format encouraging the conflict between opposing viewpoints. As he came to this perspective around the time of his retirement from NYU, I’m not sure whether that supports or undermines Yoram’s claim regarding academic careers. But I wouldn’t have described either approach as “radically conservative”.

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  36. Andre,

    > I found interesting Bernard Manin’s article ’Volonté générale ou délibération” (1985)

    Yes – good researchers can be interesting even when they are part of agenda that is generally fruitless and even deliberately barren. That said, I wonder what it is about Manin’s paper that you found interesting. Surely his “principles of representative government” is much more interesting.

    > *** Is there really one “deliberative democracy narrative”?

    As far as I am aware, the focus on formalisms and the avoidance of questions of policy and its outcomes is a common theme of the “deliberative democracy” genre. This common theme seems enough to assure that the project does not address any issues of real importance.

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  37. > Keith
    Bernard Manin’s preference for contradictory debate (more oratory than conversation) is not something recent : it was developed in his 2005 article: “Democratic deliberation: why we should promote debate rather than discussion” (the article quotes the example of political issues and Athenian juries).

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  38. Andre,

    Yes I know, I cite the 2005 article frequently. I guess I should have said “more recent” (than his 1985/7 position). I don’t know exactly when Manin retired from NYU but I don’t think either of us believe that he only published stuff that he thought would enhance his academic career. Although this might come as a shock to Yoram, sometimes academics (and other elite members) profess opinions because they believe them to be true, rather than just furthering their interests.

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  39. *** The primary political question is “who has the last word on policy choices”? Questions like “does a deliberation reveals a preexisting collective will, or constructs it? “ or “is deliberation better by concentrating on conversation, or is an oratory step very important ? “ are not directly linked to this basic issue (actually they could concern a pure aristocracy), but are nevertheless useful for democratic thinking.
    *** The different “deliberative narratives” are not really neutral concerning the primary political question. Manin is not ortho-democrat, but his deliberative ideas are at least compatible with dêmokratia. Habermas’ ideas are contrary, even if sometimes the obscurity of the writing covers the fact. The “procedural democracy” model is clearly anti-democratic.
    *** Some may think that the “deliberative turn” is a way to forget the primary political question, and to have an academic career without touching this dangerous question. Maybe there is some truth here. But , likewise, it is discussing about basic political questions, which brings always some risk for the established system. Some supporters of polyarchy take this risk, maybe to have a career, but with a clear political conscience, seeing in Habermassian discourse a counter-attack against a democratic danger. The veneration for Habermas in some French media is to be understood this way.

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  40. Andre:> The primary political question is “who has the last word on policy choices”?

    Yes I think that’s right, and we all agree that the decision should be taken by a descriptively representative sample of the demos. But we shouldn’t forget that, in the ancient world, isegoria was also viewed as essential for a well-functioning democracy. How to ensure that equal speech rights are ensured in large states is a non-trivial problem — some of us arguing that sortition can have no role to play. Habermas argues that this was the role of the (bourgeois) public sphere, but claims that this has been corrupted by universal franchise. Alex and myself argue that this means we need a new model of political parties to establish representative isegoria.

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  41. I agree with the idea of a new party model. When, in an earlier speech, I spoke of the need for recognition, both for citizens and for parties, of a different role, I was referring to a new model of parties (and therefore also of a new role of citizens). The current pandemic has highlighted the limitations and mistakes in which democracies live. Each state suffers from problems that depend on its particular political history, but the issue of citizens’ detachment from parties is common to all. European unity can be a positive step if the different populations feel united in walking together to clarify who the European citizen is.

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  42. Interesting the ways Buchstein tries to discredit the interest to political lottery when he fears it becomes a serious thing:
    *** “escape from reality” ; actually what he dislikes is the model going closer to reality !
    *** “nostalgia for Athen’s alleged radical demokratia” ; actually he doesn’t like the hopes behind the idea; hope is not nostalgia
    *** “just the artificial product of the institutional turn in the academic discourse on deliberative democracy” – well, as I said, any discourse about basic political problems is dangerous, and Buchstein belongs to the kind of polyarchy supporters who see dangers more than opportunities; if “artificial” means without possible link with political reality, actually Buchstein fears that a link could appear !

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  43. André,

    > it is discussing about basic political questions, which brings always some risk for the established system

    I really can’t see the “deliberative democracy” research leading to any challenges the established system. Do you believe otherwise? If so, how?

    Yes, problematizing basic political assumptions could certainly challenge the status quo. Manin did exactly that in his Principles (even if he himself remained largely unmoved but his own queries). “Deliberative democracy”, however, does not see to have any potential for such subversion.

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  44. Yoram;
    Buchstein, at least, saw a potential of subversion in “the academic discourse on deliberative democracy” as factor of the “comeback of political lottery”

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