Feertchak: The Citizen Convention for the Climate does not meet with unanimity

With the Citizen Convention on the Climate publishing its report, Alexis Feertchak writes in the Le Figaro about early reactions.

The Citizen Convention for the Climate does not meet with unanimity
June 20th, 2020

The 150 allotted citizens are voting this weekend for as many environmental proposals. But since its introduction, reactions to this body have been mixed.

“Involve citizens in the governance of transportation at the local level as well as at the national level.” The “technical” tone of this proposal makes it sound more like a recommendation in report of the state bureaucracy than a conclusion of a citizen assembly chosen by lot. It is one of the points that are regularly made on the social networks: if we involve citizens directly in democratic deliberation, we should have been able to get more original results than that one.

Rather than being original, the 150 proposals or so, showing a leftist slant economically, seem quite familiar. Responding to the proposal of reducing the work week to 28 hours (a proposal that was eventually not presented), increasing the minimum wage, taxing dividends, etc., Philippe Bas, senator for [the center-right party] Les Républicains and head of the laws committee, twitted: “The results of the so-called citizen convention are a disappointment: a rehashing of the hymn book of the environmental lobby, (…) economic ignorance, total lack of legitimacy. Sortition exposed as a democratic deception!”

Many of the other proposals create together a long list of prohibitions, or at least of limitations: a prohibition of sales of the most polluting vehicles, of certain advertising, of illuminated signs, of heated porches in bars and restaurants, a speed limit of 110 km/h in the freeway. It is the return of the punitive ecology, assert some, while others joke about “Khmers verts”. “The Citizen Convention has proclaimed itself as being a remarkable factory of taxes, prohibitions and other Soviet-like projects with a coat of green paint on top. Its productivity has surpassed all expectations”, vented, for example, Olivier Babeau, president of the right-leaning think tank “Institut Sapiens”.

Some astonishing gaps

On France Info, the proposals were lambasted as well by a well known environmental lawyer, Nicolas Gossement, who has participated in 2007 in the Grenelle de l’environnement as spokesman for France Nature Environnement – a federation of French environmental organizations. “This report could have been titled ‘Free beer tomorrow’. It is a compilation of good ideas which have been around for 20 years”, opined the lawyer, who added: “A citizens’ report could have been expected. In most aspects it is an experts’ report: it is obvious that the overwhelming majority of the proposals were not formulated by the citizens. The organizers say that the citizens were assisted by qualified experts […]. It would have been nice to see a little more imprudence on the part of citizens. This report is what we get when we ask the state bureaucracy what measures they are going to take.”

The environmental lawyer also points out some blind spots. For example, the Convention has not made its voice clear on the idea of “carbon tax”. “Most of the controversial subjects were pushed aside”, Gossement notes. Nothing is said, for example, on nuclear power, which provides 70% of French electricity. That fact that no opinion is expressed on this matter is astonishing. On the other hand, some new, non-specific proposals already exist… “The renovation of buildings is part of two recent laws. It is not at all new, and I have not seen a big difference except for pushing the target date out to 2040. They should have specified what exists, what is going to be modified, and how it is going to be modified”, says the lawyer.

Liberal economist Jean-Marc Daniel, professor emeritus at ESCP Europe, voiced his criticism to BFMTV: “The remarkable thing about these proposals is that the sample is supposed to be representative. There was a lot of use of the expression ‘randomize’ during the coronavirus crisis. I am not sure that this sample was randomized”, notes economist. “The selection techniques enabled getting a rather objective view of French citizens about reality. In any case, if this is what they think, it is a rather radical and rather negative vision of the future.” This raises the question of the legitimacy of various forms of direct democracy.

39 Responses

  1. This raises the question of the legitimacy of various forms of direct democracy.

    The overly negative tone of this report reinforces my concern that poorly-designed sortition initiatives are counterproductive.

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  2. Le Figaro is a conservative right wing newspaper.

    Climate science deniers and do-nothing-about-it people on the political right, including perhaps Le Figaro, are likely to object to any reasonable evidence-based policies addressing climate change, and to horrors likes taxes on dividends and restrictions on “the most polluting vehicles.”

    The article quotes a “liberal economist” as saying “if this is what they think, it is a rather radical and rather negative vision of the future.” I wonder what planet he may live on. It would appear to be one other than Planet Earth which on its present course is headed for catastrophic climate change.

    I’d be interested to hear what other publications have to say about it, such as, thinking of English publications, The Guardian and The Independent. Or maybe Le Monde (i’ve no idea if it is much good these days or not).

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  3. I would actually be more interested in what average Frenchpeople think than in what French pundits think, no matter which faction of the elite those pundits represent.

    While suspicions about the influence of elite groups on the outcome is quite legitimate, it is rather ironic (but of course not surprising) that the papers bring in various members of the elite to complain about how they are unhappy with the proposals of the “allotted” body. These are exactly the people whose privileged opinions this convention was supposed to override. Most ridiculous, I guess, is the senator who is outraged that the convention made proposals that he has already been rejecting for years!

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  4. “The 150 allotted citizens are voting this weekend for as many environmental proposals. But since its introduction, reactions to this body have been mixed” Sorry…can anyone clarify: was the assembly expected to reach a consensus on each individual proposal or was the whole thing being voted on as a package?

    I was under the impression that most assemblies focused on one particular question/issue/resolution? 150 proposals seems completely insane. I would have to agree with Keith, on this one…it sounds like it was doomed to fail from the get-go.

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  5. King,

    This body was focused on environmental issues (and more specifically on the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases), so it does fit your “one particular issue” criterion. But of course handling such an issue requires a whole set of decisions and actions. Expecting that policy can be reduced to a single question sounds unrealistic.

    That said, I agree that the notion that a one-off body producing a large number of proposals could be an effective way to create policy is unrealistic as well. And yet this kind of proposal – applying sortition to form limited-lifespan single-issue bodies – is quite common in sortitionist circles.

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  6. Yoram:> applying sortition to form limited-lifespan single-issue bodies – is quite common in sortitionist circles.

    To be clear, my proposal is for limited-lifespan single-issue juries to decide whether or not to implement policy proposals generated by other bodies. This has nothing in common with the French citizen climate convention, which I guess is more like one of Terry Bouricius’s policy forums.

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  7. I think we, or at least me, need more information about the French Climate Convention before assessing it. If they are voting on 150 or so proposals, that certainly does seem like a lot and may be problematic with regard to whether those votes are informed votes.

    Single-issue juries that make proposals (which is only one of the ways I think proposals should be made to legislative juries for a final decision) of course need to be well-designed. Part of good design is I think that they are paid to work full-time for as many months as needed, (up to perhaps a limit of one year), and that perhaps they are smaller than the legislative juries that decide whether proposals are enacted.

    Single-issue proposal juries are preferable to ones that are responsible for producing proposals on several or dozens of different issues, for obvious reasons (takes a lot more time to become informed about many things than a few things). So, if single-issue minipublics that make proposals are objected to on epistemic grounds, then all the more should there be an epistemic objection to multi-issue minipublics that make proposals (and maybe even more so if those multi-issue proposal juries also decide if their proposals are enacted).

    It is obviously an example of bad design if single-issue proposal juries are not given enough time to reach informed decisions and vote on an informed basis.

    Possibly the work of the French Climate Convention could have been divided into several minipublics, with the Convention itself having the power to do that (including the power to have additional jurors randomly selected to form additional minipublics), and to decide the agenda for those several minipublics. Perhaps first of all the Convention could have decided how essential it is to head off catastrophic climate change by limiting and reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Next, it could have for example had a minipublic convene to address how to reduce carbon emissions internationally (through international agreements, maybe by trying to make large and unjustifiable carbon emissions a crime against humanity justiciable at an international climate court, and so on), perhaps another to consider changes to the French political system to better ensure or give due weight to policy based on climate science rather than other considerations, perhaps one on reducing carbon emissions from vehicles, and so on.

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  8. Simon:> if single-issue minipublics that make proposals are objected to on epistemic grounds, then all the more should there be an epistemic objection to multi-issue minipublics that make proposals.

    My objections are democratic, not epistemic, and apply in both instances. In this respect I agree with Yoram, but for different reasons — he doesn’t believe in rational ignorance, whereas I argue that speech acts are (statistically) unrepresentative as they are not subject to the law of large numbers.

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  9. Keith:> My objections are democratic, not epistemic, and apply in both instances.

    I think deliberative minipublics making proposals is democratic (as long as they are well-designed), though the concern you raise is real. I’m not sure how big a problem is it in a well-designed process, and whether it offsets the advantages of deliberation. Also, I don’t see how the making of proposals by deliberative elected bodies (whether elected by jury or popular vote) would be more democratic.

    Re final decisions, I am now agnostic (due to your bad influence or good influence as the case may be) on whether they should break into small groups to deliberate, or simply cast their secret ballots without such deliberation.

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  10. >I don’t see how the making of proposals by deliberative elected bodies (whether elected by jury or popular vote) would be more democratic.

    Because they use a different representation principle — choice, rather than statistical resemblence. Of course there are drawbacks with elected bodies — this is what my colleague Alex Kovner is working on — but our basic principle (based on Harrington’s distinction) is that all citizens should choose who gets to make proposals, whereas the final outcome should be decided by an allotted sample, whose role is limited to deciding the outcome of the arguments between (elected) advocates. Alex has just completed a debate (organised by Ahmed Teleb) with Brett Hennig, Lawrence Lessig and Roslyn Fuller on how best to address the drawbacks of elections which should be available to hear soon.

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  11. Keith:> all citizens should choose who gets to make proposals, whereas the final outcome should be decided by an allotted sample, whose role is limited to deciding the outcome of the arguments between (elected) advocates.

    Agreed of course re final outcome being decided by an allotted sample after hearing the arguments between chosen (not allotted) advocates. (I think the allotted body could or should also have the power to call for more proposals rather than simply being able to vote yes/no on the proposal presented to them. At any rate, some method of ensuring a variety of proposals are presented, especially those an allotted body would most prefer to all the alternatives, is often needed)

    I don’t see how proposals being made by a body chosen by popular election (or election by jury) is more democratic than proposals being made by a minipublic. That is, I don’t see how choice (by popular election or election by jury) is a more democratic basis for a proposing body than statistical resemblance.

    I think that electing a proposing body by jury is much more democratic than electing it by popular election. (Better for ensuring candidates are chosen by informed choice by a representative portion of the public, with all those interested in the public office being placed on an open and level playing field. Popular election is much less democratic because the voters are poorly informed, are an unrepresentative portion of the public, and the playing field is closed and heavily skewed by a variety of factors. For example it is skewed in favour of the preferred candidates of the rich and more affluent, and against those they oppose, because of the importance of money in elections, by the who the media giants prefer and do not prefer, and who they cover more, by the role of political parties, and a candidate is famous or not, fame and name recognition often being very helpful in the the low-information universe of popular election.)

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  12. As a footnote I should perhaps add that when a minipublic is a proposing body, it can choose (elect) the advocates that will present its case to the legislative jury that decides if the proposal will be enacted. (This of course being consistent with the principle that advocates be chosen/selected, not allotted. A principle we agree on.)

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  13. Simon:> I don’t see how proposals being made by a body chosen by popular election (or election by jury) is more democratic than proposals being made by a minipublic. That is, I don’t see how choice (by popular election or election by jury) is a more democratic basis for a proposing body than statistical resemblance.

    It’s an entirely different form of representation, you’re comparing chalk (speech acts) and cheese (aggregate judgment). This is Alex’s domain, so I’ll see if he can respond to your points.

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  14. Keith and Simon:> There are a couple of epistemic requirements for a proposing body that makes it different from a deciding final jury. First, it needs to produce multiple outputs that are ideologically diverse. Second, it needs to be able to learn, and hence it has to exist, with roughly the same composition, for a period of a couple of years at least.

    On the first point (ideological diversity) that cannot be accomplished by a single chamber that is acting by consensus. If a group of people is assembled and told to come up with three or four proposals, those proposals will not be ideologically diverse even if all the members are acting in good faith. Intellectual and ideological diversity requires independence. But even independence is not enough. If we just chose three different proposing assemblies to come up with three different proposals, those proposals would independent, but each would reflect a kind of average of the general population, rather than a particular ideological perspective from that population. Instead, we need a process that leads to meaningful ideological differentiation among the groups, and random selection does not meet this test, whereas election does.

    On the second point (learning) we have to understand the epistemic purpose of the proposing function. It is there to be ideologically diverse, but it is also there to internalize the policy preferences of the general public, as expressed by the deciding jury. It is this tension, in my view, that gives it legitimacy: It represents diverse viewpoints within the body politic, but it must also temper its own views in order to gain approval from the deciding body.

    These two epistemic concerns—ideological diversity coupled with internalization of the public’s wider preferences—calls out for elected rather than sampled representation. We could argue all day about why this is the case, but I just don’t see how you get a randomly selected body to satisfy these two requirements.

    In addition, we should consider the possibility that the notion of partisanship may never go away, that it is in fact a basic part of our nature as political animals. We are living in a time of hyper-partisanship, and in a system that seems to encourage partisanship above all else, so it is easy to wish partisanship away completely. But I don’t think that’s healthy. People are always going to have some notion of playing for political teams. A system in which these teams produce four or five outputs and send them to a jury diminishes the power of partisanship in two ways: it ensures that there are more than two viable teams, avoiding the toxic environment in which two major parties are locked in an existential power struggle, and it guarantees that final passage is determined by ordinary citizens, not politicians. But it doesn’t eliminate partisanship altogether, nor should it.

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  15. Keith and Alex:

    I think we agree on the deciding final jury.

    Re the proposing body:
    Alex: First, it needs to produce multiple outputs that are ideologically diverse.

    I agree on diverse proposing bodies, and in particular am in favour of: 1) law commissions chosen by jury by a proportional representation method being able to propose laws to legislative juries, with each member of the commission being able to propose laws.
    2) The existing popularly elected legislatures being able to propose laws to legislative juries, including minorities within them that cannot get the support of a majority in the legislature for their bill. (I would prefer existing legislatures to be chosen by jury not by popular election, for reasons I’ve mentioned).
    3) A jury analog/translation of the ballot initiative with approval-by-jury replacing the signature requirement, and legislative juries replacing the popular vote. In California and other states with the initiative citizen groups can propose laws once every two years, which seems a reasonable schedule to me (that is, once every two years qualifying juries would hear citizen proposed laws, and and any of those proposals that are qualified would go to a legislative jury for a final decision).

    I am also in favour of proposal juries. These bodies are of course diverse. On matters where they are fairly closely split, I don’t see why they could not have a minority recommendation. In any case if they make a proposal that only has barely over 50% support, that will itself be an indication that maybe more proposals are needed. If say 80% of them agree on a proposal that’s a very good basis on which to send it to a legislative jury it seems to me.

    Proposing juries are more democratic than elected proposing bodies in one important regard, namely the fact they are a microcosm of the people. But I am in favour of all four methods being used.

    In my proposal the extent to which jury-chosen law commissions and proposing juries are used, and what their mandates and budgets are, is decided by agenda juries. And can also be decided legislative juries (if they receive proposals to establish such bodies).

    I don’t think being able to make an informed proposal on a topic necessarily takes two years. I am in favour of proposing juries working full-time for as many days, weeks or months as needed to make one or more informed proposals. I would like the terms of jurors to be fairly short, not more than a few months, or at maximum one year.

    Alex:> We are living in a time of hyper-partisanship, and in a system that seems to encourage partisanship above all else, so it is easy to wish partisanship away completely. But I don’t think that’s healthy. People are always going to have some notion of playing for political teams.

    Partisanship is largely a product of choosing politicians by popular election, because popular elections are creatures of political parties. Only about 25% of Americans strongly identify with either of the two main parties. Majorities of the American public across the political spectrum agree on quite a few things. If popular election is replaced with election by jury there will be a lot less partisanship in elected bodies due to the level and open playing politicians would be chosen from, rather than a popular election type of playing field which tends to be dominated by political parties, money and the media giants (and by people’s media choices).

    Alex:> It [an elected proposing body] is there to be ideologically diverse, but it is also there to internalize the policy preferences of the general public, as expressed by the deciding jury. It is this tension, in my view, that gives it legitimacy: It represents diverse viewpoints within the body politic, but it must also temper its own views in order to gain approval from the deciding body.

    Yes indeed, there are some very good dynamics at play in this kind of arrangement. First of all election (or at least election by jury) has a basis in public concerns and interests, so the range of proposals a body elected by jury makes will likely include those that are preferred by legislative juries. And in addition, as you point out, they have an incentive to make proposals a legislative jury will support, as those are the only proposals that will be enacted.

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  16. Simon,

    The trouble is it’s all so complicated — I described Terry’s proposal for multi-level sortition bodies as “byzantine” and I think you’re running the danger of falling into the same trap. We need to start from where we are — people are familiar with voting for persons/parties on the basis of their (vaguely outlined) policy proposals and most people agree that juries are the least worst way of determining the outcome of the argument between competing advocates. We all agree that existing electoral practices are sub-optimal and Alex is trying to outline a way of improving them. I think that’s more realistic — sortition all the way down is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    It’s worth noting that the approach of the French climate assembly is the exact opposite of that which Alex and myself are advocating, and runs against the grain of both existing practices and democratic theory.

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  17. Keith:> most people agree that juries are the least worst way of determining the outcome of the argument between competing advocates.

    We agree, but of course most people have not yet heard of this idea.

    Keith:> it’s all so complicated

    The individual proposals I make are not that complicated, and each of them could be implemented without implementing the others.

    Replacing popular elections with jury elections is not an especially complicated idea. Same is true of the rest of the proposals I make.

    If we can get jury elections, or even just jury primaries, that would already be a huge advance. Ditto re getting a jury analog of the veto referendum or of the ballot initiative.

    An imaginary conversation in Athens at the beginning of the democracy: “You want a Council of 500 chosen by lottery, courts chosen by lottery, a wide range of 10-citizen magistries chosen by lottery, and some public offices chosen by popular vote, and you want an Assembly in which all citizens who show up can vote, it’s all so complicated.”

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  18. We agree on one point… relying on mini-publics as the generators of proposals is an inadequate approach.

    However, there is no logical reason to limit policy proposing to elites able to raise money, and who are skilled in media manipulation and public relations. Society would benefit from allowing ANY groups of citizens (experts, special interests, advocates, or random mini-publics) to draft a wide variety of proposals as raw material for mini-publics to consider. Since these drafting panels would know they were only preparing raw material that ultimately would need to pass muster in front of a jury, they would have motivation to craft less extremist proposals. There are many good democratic options for winnowing too many proposals down to a manageable number.

    Modern elections stoke “us-vs.-them” polarization. But also, if popular elections persist, the members of the final jury will include many members who have essentially off-loaded their judgement to leaders of the party they voted for in the last election. Such cognitive free-riding (deferring to partisan leaders) is natural and will result in pre-judging, rather than the independent assessment necessary to discover the wisdom of crowds.

    Now it is possible that in Alex’s modified election system, in which parties have no formal final decision making power, this dynamic may be different. However, if the parties aren’t winning “power” the entire campaign dynamic and voter interest may wane even more dramatically than it has in the past few decades. If voter rational ignorance is already a failing of elections, when the parties are only proposing ideas, my guess is voter interest, knowledge and participation will shrink to a miniscule level, making the logic of having these parties as the designated policy generators rather pointless and counter-productive.

    Ho boulomenos … let any citizen who wishes work with others in small groups to craft diverse draft proposals.

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  19. > It’s worth noting that the approach of the French climate assembly is the exact opposite of that which Alex and myself are advocating, and runs against the grain of both existing practices and democratic theory.

    Is that actually the case here Keith? It seems to me that the complaint of the article is that the recommendations look too much like they were written by experts or bureaucrats.

    What is like to have happened is that when faced with making so many recommendations on such a wide topic, the participants settled on adopting suggestions from experts where there was little disagreement and instead focused their energy on proposals that needed work to find common ground.

    I agree with many of your and Alex’s points above but I think one aspect of jury produced proposals is the way in which they challenge existing knowledge orthodoxy. Through my work with juries, some of the best work I have seen is when randomly-selected citizens develop proposals that experts and government would never have thought of simply because they approach the task with a diverse skill set and problem-solving mindset.

    I would advocate for jurors to have the ability to spend time generating their own proposals as well as adjudicating on those originating from elected representatives.

    I haven’t settled my own thoughts on what a preferred system would look like, mostly because I haven’t thought through how the changing nature of the electoral incentive would work in a system where you are no longer campaigning to govern – do we want a legislature full of single-issue “parties”?

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  20. Simon:> An imaginary conversation in Athens at the beginning of the democracy: “You want [various allotted institutions] and you want an Assembly in which all citizens who show up can vote.”

    Your and Terry’s proposal would remove any analogue of the Assembly. Most historians agree that the allotted institutions were put in place to protect the primacy of the Assembly.

    Terry:> However, if the parties aren’t winning “power” the entire campaign dynamic and voter interest may wane even more dramatically than it has in the past few decades.

    That’s true, our vision is that politics should become as boring as possible. But the principal constraint on the parties would be to come up with proposals that will pass muster with the deciding juries and I don’t share your pessimism that allotted jurors will just kowtow to the whim of leaders who have no executive or decision power.

    Kyle,

    Yes, it confirms my suspicion that allotted amateurs are more likely to echo the policy proposals of experts and bureaucrats. Alex and my model is to acknowledge this, so the role of allotted juries (rather than elected officials) is to decide which ones to accept. This is the opposite of the French procedure (allotted group comes up with proposals, Macron decides which ones he accepts). Can you tell us more about your work with the epistemic potential of diverse groups of amateurs? The only thing I’m familiar with is Helene Landemore’s book.

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  21. Keith:> Your and Terry’s proposal would remove any analogue of the Assembly. Most historians agree that the allotted institutions were put in place to protect the primacy of the Assembly.

    What would a modern analog of the Assembly be? Constant referendums on large numbers of proposed laws, perhaps by e-voting? That would be a very bad idea for obvious reasons.

    Instead, we can have informed rule by the people through minipublics. That’s the only option for informed rule by the people in modern societies.

    Terry:> However, if the parties aren’t winning “power” the entire campaign dynamic and voter interest may wane even more dramatically than it has in the past few decades.

    That seems likely. And is all the more reason why elected (chosen by voting) proposing bodies need to be elected by jury not by popular vote. (So that they will be chosen on an informed basis from highly representative portions of the public from an open and level playing field. When voter interest wanes, voters tend to be less informed, less representative {because smaller voter turnouts tend to also be less representative of the public}, and possibly a less informed public will result in a more skewed and closed playing field with voters relying more heavily on cues such as party label, who is covered in the media, whose ads they see, whose name they already know.)

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  22. Simon,

    In the fifth century all citizens indicated their raw preferences as to which legislative proposals should be considered by allotted panels via listening to the (short) Assembly debate and voting accordingly. This is not possible nowadays on account of the size of modern states, so the analogue is that all citizens indicate their raw policy preferences via voting in elections. The process is far from perfect, hence the improvements that Alex is suggesting, but any attempt to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority of citizens is undemocratic (and will be fiercely resisted).

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  23. PS Error in last comment (should have been 4th century).

    PPS In the light of the work of Mirko Canovara there is increasing scepticism regarding the existence of allotted legislative juries in Athens. According to Canovara the nomothetai involved the whole assembly in a different mode (putting on their legislator hats). If this is true and the jury is still out (forgive the pun) this will mean that sortition in Athens was for magistrates only (the council was a large collective magistracy), thereby supporting Blind Break theorists over those of us who are interested in statistical representation. I do hope Mirko is wrong but there is no doubt that the Athenians would have been appalled by any plan to exclude the vast majority of citizens from any role in the legislative process. They would have viewed it as entirely undemocratic.

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  24. Keith:> Most historians agree that the allotted institutions were put in place to protect the primacy of the Assembly.

    The allotted institutions protected the primacy of the demos, and provided informed rule by the demos regarding the decisions the allotted bodies made.

    The jury-courts provided a check and balance on the Assembly (for example re illegal proposals in the Assembly).

    Yes the Assembly seems to have been the highest authority in Athens on most things (especially if Canovara is correct), but the primary authority in Athens is I think better understood as being the demos, not just the Assembly.

    Keith:> the analogue is that all citizens indicate their raw policy preferences via voting [for candidates/parties] in elections.

    This is not similar to voting in the Assembly, nor to voting by the nomothetai (both in the case of the nomothetai being an allotted body, and in the case they were a special session of the Assembly). On the contrary, it is a rejection of the democratic ideas of sortition and the Assembly in favour of an idea that according to the Greeks is oligarchic and not democratic (namely decision-making by bodies or individuals chosen by voting). I don’t think that the fact the elected body you propose only has the power to propose means that it is not oligarchic from Greek point of view, (and on this – the oligarchic nature of voting – I think the Greeks are very much correct).

    In addition, the Assembly is thought to have never been attended by more than about 6,000 citizens, whereas the population of citizens was several times that size. Therefore the Assembly was not an example of “all citizens” voting. If the citizens numbered 30,000 it is an example of not more than about 20% of the citizens voting on each proposal.

    In this additional regard the Assembly is more like a jury than a modern election, at least if voter turnout in a modern election is fairly high. That is, the Assembly is a decision-making body that like a jury was never comprised of more than a fraction of the citizens (perhaps never more than 1/5th of them). The democratic deficiency of the Assembly compared to an allotted body is that it is a less accurate cross-section or microcosm of the demos. However, this democratic deficiency is less or non-existent if participation in allotted bodies is entirely voluntary, as it was in Athens. In both the Assembly and the allotted bodies in Athens, participation was entirely voluntary. The difference is that with the Assembly everyone who wishes to serve (up to the 6,00oth or so person who gets there) serves, whereas with allotted bodies it was only an allotted portion of those wishing to serve who served.

    Keith:> any attempt to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority of citizens is undemocratic (and will be fiercely resisted).

    The people in the existing democracies are already disenfranchised, especially from the power to decide laws. The resistance to this has so far not been as fierce as I would like.

    Anyway, putting the final say about the laws in the hands of legislative juries is just as much “disenfranchising” them as having public officials chosen by jury. The way to “enfranchise” people to decide laws, using “enfranchise” in the sense in which you are using it, is to have all laws decided by popular vote so that everyone is “enfranchised.” Or, some would say, by having all laws decided by elected officials because the people are “enfranchised” by all being able to vote for those public officials, rather than being “disenfrachised” by allotted legislative juries they did not vote for.

    Oddly enough, people today do not feel disenfranchised by the trial jury which “disenfranchises” them in the sense you are using that word, because the verdicts are decided by allotted juries, instead of by a popular vote that everyone can vote in.

    Our position (as sortitionists) is and has to be that allotted bodies are a better way of enfranchising the public than popular vote. This is the Classical Greek view, popular vote is oligarchic, sortition is democratic. Sortition in the Greek view enfranchises the people, whereas popular vote disenfranchises the people. And on this they are correct.

    Far from enfranchising the people, popular election means decisions are made by poorly informed and unrepresentative portions of the public in the context of a heavily skewed playing field, a stacked deck, a rigged system, not an open and level playing field.

    Now, of course I agree that sortition will be attacked as “disenfranchising” the people, and we all know it will continue to be claimed that popular election “enfranchises” the people. But we, like the Greeks, know or ought to know that these claims do not correspond to reality.

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  25. Simon:> the primary authority in Athens is I think better understood as being the demos, not just the Assembly.

    I think the Athenians were more concerned with concrete arrangements than abstractions, hence the focus on the reforms of Ephialtes (that introduced pay and reduced the property qualification for public office holders). Aristotle’s oft-quoted remark on elections being oligarchic referred to magistracies, whereas the notion of elections as a way of indicating policy preferences is a very recent one. Alex and I are simply trying to open this up from elite domination to make it a form of representative ho boulomenos (the right of parties to make proposals for consideration by allotted juries is proportionate to their share of the popular vote).

    >putting the final say about the laws in the hands of legislative juries is just as much “disenfranchising” [the vast majority of the people] as having public officials chosen by jury.

    Not if it can be demonstrated empirically that the outcome would be the same, irrespective of which citizens were chosen. Why would anyone object to that (most people would avoid jury service if they could, so long as they believed their absence would lead to a miscarriage of justice).

    Like

  26. sorry, i meant “so long as they did not believe”

    Like

  27. Simon and Keith:> I have the great advantage over both of you that I am not very knowledgeable about Athenian practice, and am hence not encumbered by it. With that in mind, I would like to lay out a path dependent approach.

    The first change is the simplest, but the most profound: make whatever body passes laws into a proposing body, by lowering the threshold from majority (50% + 1) to one-sixth. This gives five outputs; ie five bills for every agenda item. Send these five to a citizen jury for final passage. This change is easy to explain and does not alter the system of voting as people understand it now. It therefore has a maximum chance of meeting with approval from diverse sections of the population.

    The second change is to move from a fixed threshold (one-sixth) to a stochastic one. For example, if 2% of the members of the assembly support a proposal, that proposal should have a roughly 2% chance of making it to the citizen jury. Thus members of the legislature would submit their bills, and would have a weighted lottery choose which bills are advanced. This is a bit more complicated, but has an obvious motivation: make the threshold continuous. Instead of having to get to a fixed number of members, authors of bills can, in a continuous manner, choose either to write a more general compromise bill and attract more sponsors, or write a more ideologically specific bill with less (but still nonzero) chance of making it to the CJ.

    The third change is to realize that the membership of the chamber is now just a numerical proxy for party strength. At this point we scrap the assembly, and instead just assign each party its weight based on the overall vote. This will be a hard sell in countries with territorial voting, but in countries with proportional representation, this will not be so hard.

    The fourth change is to move to “cohort voting”: instead of all votes being counted at the same time, citizens vote in cohorts throughout the year. This is possible because the vote is for parties, not individual candidates, and the only outcome of each cohort is an incremental change in each party’s score. This has a huge benefit in and of itself, because elections are now deeply traumatic events; making them more continuous over time would make the system far more stable, and less anxiety inducing.

    Only at this point does the question arise of whether to replace voting with juries. Since party scores are being updated frequently, we could simply replace cohort voting with a large jury for each cohort. We could also add some ability to submit proposals through signature gathering or other “grassroots” mechanism, though I certainly don’t think that such a mechanism would ever replace parties.

    The point of all this is to lay out a series of changes, each one of which can actually be acceptable to the body politic in general. Many of the solutions in this thread are really not justifiable as single, stand-alone changes. For those who are proposing such solutions, I would ask, “what is the path?” The path must be composed of changes that are each relatively simple, with a clear motivation.

    I would also point out that many great improvements have nothing to do with sortition theory per se. For example, moving to cohort voting would avoid dangerous,, single-point-of-failure elections, which has nothing to do with sortition at all. Providing multiple proposals for every agenda item would force every party to advance meaningful policy on every issue, would in turn transform media coverage of politics. Again, the connection to sortition is only indirect.

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  28. Alex,

    That all seems very feasible. Two minor observations:

    Stage 3: Is it necessary (or even desirable) to scrap the proposing assembly? Why would we not want to encourage the parties to talk to each other? I guess there is the danger of an establishment stitch-up, but if there had to be a minimum number of (say) five bills for every agenda item and (once accepted by the weighted lottery) each had an equal chance of becoming law, this still should ensure sufficient ideological diversity. Even if there were one or two “establishment” (compromise) proposals a citizen jury might well prefer one of the minority outliers.

    Stage 5: If the earlier revisions achieve the democratic and epistemic goals that sortinistas have argued for, then there would be no need to replace voting with juries. As you rightly state, many of the improvements have little to do with sortition per se. Sortition is simply one tool among many, a means rather than an end in itself. I think your proposal would be much more likely to succeed than siren calls for “pure” sortition. This is particularly the case as your proposal does not involve disenfranchising anybody.

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  29. Keith, you quoted me as follows: “putting the final say about the laws in the hands of legislative juries is just as much “disenfranchising” [the vast majority of the people] as having public officials chosen by jury.”

    Just to be clear, I reject the idea that decision-making by allotted bodies disenfranchises the public, both with regard to legislative juries and with regard to juries that choose public officials. Instead, my position is that juries, both legislative juries and juries that choose public officials, are far better for enfranchising the people and providing informed rule by the people than popular vote.

    I reject as false any definition of “disenfranchise” that equates “disenfranchisement” with the absence of a popular vote, whether that popular vote is for a proposed law (as happens in a referendum) or for a public official (as happens in popular election).

    Alex and Keith, as noted, we agree that laws should be decided by legislative juries rather than by popularly elected officials, or by referendums. We also I believe agree that there should not be a single gatekeeper for the laws that can be proposed to legislative juries, but that instead we need a well-designed system that allows a variety of laws to be proposed on each topic. I think we also agree that we don’t want the variety to be merely random, but rather want the proposing of laws to be designed in a way that ensures as much as possible that on each topic the laws that are proposed include the law that is in the informed judgement of a legislative jury preferable to all of the possible alternatives. (That’s quite a lot of agreement it seems to me.)

    We have some different thoughts on how best to ensure that the best possible laws (those that legislative juries prefer to all of the possible alternatives) are worked out and proposed.

    I do not share your enthusiasm for political parties and popular election. But I still propose that the existing legislatures (whether chosen by popular election or by jury) be able to propose laws to legislative juries. And that minorities within those legislatures be allowed to propose alternative laws to what the majority or plurality of the legislature proposes.

    I also propose, as mentioned above, three other ways for laws to be proposed to juries.

    I am also, like you, in favour of a series of fairly simple sortition proposals being made, each of which can be implemented on its own, rather than requiring a whole set of proposals to be implemented all at once. All of my proposals are of this kind, as I think I already mentioned.

    Alex:> We could also add some ability to submit proposals through signature gathering or other “grassroots” mechanism

    Signature requirements are not a democratic way to winnow down proposed laws, for reasons I have repeatedly pointed out for years, most recently here, under the first subheading: https://dissidentvoice.org/2020/06/let-legislative-juries-decide-laws/?fbclid=IwAR3oGmtKye2yU4AgxmzkmhTOXtEssnLrdPT4snrcGF1OIQIdQ2bGP4p7Ff8

    Far better to use “qualifying juries” or “prelimary juries” to winnow out proposed laws that have no real chance of being enacted by a legislative jury.

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  30. Simon:> Signature requirements are not a democratic way to winnow down proposed laws,…

    Fair enough, I’m not really a big fan of signature gathering campaigns either. For me it’s mostly because in California, where I grew up, I would be accosted whenever I went to the grocery store to sign something or other. For you the objection is theoretical, for me it is entirely practical. I only meant to say that, once the reforms I proposed go through, that will make it easier for more unorthodox proposing mechanisms to be tried.

    Simon:> … (That’s quite a lot of agreement it seems to me)

    I agree, and think it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate that. In my earlier response I listed five stages I’d like to see happen. But the truth is that just the first stage—citizen juries to decide based on lower proposing thresholds in otherwise traditional legislatures—would be a huge advance. Such a change would also pave the way for a full reform of the proposing function.

    Strategically, however, it makes no sense to try to create citizen juries for final decisions at the same time as reforming the proposing mechanism. That just opens you up to a wide range of criticisms, not least of which is overreach. The advantage of using traditional assemblies to propose laws is it focuses reform on a single, easily understood change: having ordinary citizens make all final political decisions.

    Keith:> Is it necessary (or even desirable) to scrap the proposing assembly?

    My main goal here is to get to cohort elections. I consider current, single-point-of-failure elections to be extremely dangerous, with the embarrassing presidential election of 2016 the canonical example. I don’t see how to do this with the traditional assembly. The membership would be changing on an almost weekly basis, making continuity all but impossible. What happens if a party is about to finalize a major proposal, and a key member loses his seat?

    Also, the debate within the legislature doesn’t really involve the back benchers anyway. Prime Minister’s questions is basically a shouting match among party leaders, with a few questions from back benchers as a token. You could still have something like Prime Minister’s questions among party leaders, and if you replaced the backbenchers with well-chosen wallpaper, no one would be the wiser.

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  31. Simon,

    Disfranchisement (also called disenfranchisement) is the revocation of suffrage (the right to vote) of a person or group of people, or through practices, prevention of a person exercising the right to vote. (Wikipedia)

    The only reason I would claim those not selected to vote in a large, quasi-mandatory, final decision minipublic are not disenfranchised is iff it could be demonstrated that it makes no difference which empirical individuals are included in the sample, the outcome would be the same. This would be true for pragmatic rather than definitional reasons — why would anyone mind if if made no difference whether they were franchised or not as the outcome would still be the same? This cannot be true regarding the proposing function, as the currency of proposing chambers is speech acts and these are not subject to the law of large numbers. So switching the proposal function to a minipublic would be a case of disenfranchisement (and augmenting elected assemblies with randomly-selected proposers would be partial disenfranchisement).

    >I do not share your enthusiasm for political parties and popular election.

    I used to be a sortition fundamentalist (my first book on the subject was called The Party’s Over, but I then came to understand that a political system without elections would not be a democracy. The attraction of Alex’s proposal is that the principles are simple and easily grasped and the incremental procedure he advocates is eminently feasible.

    Alex:> Strategically, however, it makes no sense to try to create citizen juries for final decisions at the same time as reforming the proposing mechanism.

    Presumably you don’t include your stage 1 in this? The final decision jury would need to get its proposal(s) from somewhere, or are you suggesting that we start off with Stag 0 — i.e. a simple up/down decision on a single majority proposal from the assembly?

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  32. Keith:> Stage one is designed to be the most minimal reform possible of the proposing function. The only change is to lower the threshold below 50% + 1. Of course this is a change, but it is the most minimal change possible, and is easily understood. No, I am not suggesting an up-or-down vote on the assembly items. That would be a sham. Still, the first attempts might only require two proposals, which would be a threshold of 33% + 1. This is fewer than I prefer, but at least the citizen jury is making a real decision.

    Another reason to “get rid of the assembly” is to split scores among multiple axes. For example, parties could have different scores for legislative proposals as opposed to executive appointments. Perhaps a more limited statement of this principle would be to “decouple proposing power from numerical representation” in the assembly. The assembly can still exist, perhaps to perform oversight and constituent services. What really bothers me about the assembly is the fact that party strength is synonymous with number of members. I believe there is a real need to get rid of this linkage, because that frees us up to do cohort voting and have different party strengths for different functions. But I’m perfectly happy to have an assembly in the sense of a wood-paneled room where politicians hash out their differences—or make them worse, as the case may be.

    We could also keep the assembly as an oversight, constituent services, and discussion forum by having the parties appoint members according to their overall score. The assembly would exist, but its members would be party appointees, not directly elected politicians. This suggestion would meet with considerable resistance, however.

    Another possibility is to keep the assembly as the agenda setting body. The assembly could continue to exist more or less as now, but all it could do is pass agenda items. Once an agenda item is passed (by majority, since agenda items do not allow multiple options), the party scores kick in for the proposal phase. I think this points out an important structural observation. We are not just separating proposing from deciding, we are really separating agenda setting as well, which means we really have three separate functions to reform.

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  33. Keith, the Mirriam-Webster dictionary does not limit the definition of enfranchise to what you mention.

    Mirriam-Webster:

    enfranchise verb
    en·​fran·​chise | \ in-ˈfran-ˌchīz
    , en- \
    enfranchised; enfranchising
    Definition of enfranchise

    transitive verb
    1 : to set free (as from slavery)
    2 : to endow with a franchise: such as
    a : to admit to the privileges of a citizen and especially to the right of suffrage
    b : to admit (a municipality) to political privileges or rights

    Oxford dictionary:
    Origin
    Late Middle English (formerly also as infranchise): from Old French enfranchiss-, lengthened stem of enfranchir, from en- (expressing a change of state) + franc, franche ‘free’.

    If we understand “enfranchise” to refer only to the right to vote in popular elections and referendums then the citizens of Athens were disenfranchised, as rule by the people in Athens was exercised through allotted bodies, and also through the Assembly which as mentioned could only hold a fraction of the citizens.

    It would also, as I believe I already indicated, mean that trial by jury (as compared to trial by referendum) and legislative juries (as compared to referendums) disenfranchise the people.

    Instead of accepting or pushing a definition of “enfranchisement” to mean only the right to vote in popular elections and referendums, we need to be clear, it seems to me, that allotted bodies are also a form of enfranchising the people.

    We are coming from a history in which the jury idea has been very much marginalized. I think we should not be proposing or accepting popular electionist spins on the basic terminology of democracy (such as the term “enfranchisement”).

    When gays and lesbians sought marriage equality, they did not accept a heterosexist definition of “marriage,” Instead they correctly insisted that there was no valid reason why people could not marry people of the same gender.

    Keith:> The only reason I would claim those not selected to vote in a large, quasi-mandatory, final decision minipublic are not disenfranchised is iff it could be demonstrated that it makes no difference which empirical individuals are included in the sample, the outcome would be the same. This would be true for pragmatic rather than definitional reasons — why would anyone mind if if made no difference whether they were franchised or not as the outcome would still be the same?

    That’s a pretty roundabout route to claim they are not “disenfranchised,” and is also inconsistent with the definition of “enfranchised” as being able to vote in a popular election or referendum. (Part of the point of minipublics is as of course you know that they do not always make the same decision as the people would in a referendum – so if “enfranchise” means having the right to vote in referendums and popular elections, it is hard to see how a minipublic is not something different from that. And some of those who find that the minipublic does not share their opinion will certainly mind, and perhaps even more so if opinion polls show that most of the public does not agree with the minipublic decision, or is undecided.)

    There’s no reason to surrender the words “franchise” and “disenfranchise” to popular electionists who oppose decision-making by allotted bodies, and who may claim it “disenfranchises” the people.

    The etymology (Oxford dictionary quote above) is on our side, and it would also I think be ridiculous to for example say that the Athenians were not enfranchised because they used allotted bodies instead of popular election.

    The Mirriam-Webster dictionary is also on our side: “to endow with a franchise such as to admit to the privileges of a citizen …”

    Just because there’s been a failure in democratic imagination for over 2,000 years, and many can only imagine rule by the people in modern societies being exercised through popular vote, is no reason to define “enfranchise” to only refer to popular vote. There’s another method of rule by the people and enfranchisement of the people: sortition.

    Gays and lesbians working for the right to equal marriage had the good sense not to say things like “we accept that “marriage” is defined as a union between one man and one woman, and that therefore people of the same sex cannot marry each other, but as there’s no reason we should not have equivalent rights we should be given equivalent rights, but we’ll use a different name for it than marriage, maybe “conjugal union” or something, we acknowledge that we will remain unmarried, and as “wedding” refers to marriage we won’t call getting “conjugal unioned” a “wedding.””

    Mirriam-Webster definition of franchise:
    “… a constitutional or statutory right or privilege especially : the right to vote …”

    Note the Mirriam-Webster does not say it only means the right to vote in popular elections and referendums, nor that it only means the right vote.

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to say the people are enfranchised through allotted bodies.

    The core or underlying meaning of “franchise” is something like giving people the right to participate in democratic decision-making as an equal, whether that is through being able to vote in a popular election, or in a referendum, or having an equal right to be randomly selected to be in an allotted body and vote in that body if so selected.

    As popular elections in for example the United States are not very democratic, I think it is accurate to say they disenfranchise the public, or do so to a large extent. In the former Soviet Bloc they had elections too, sometimes allowing you to vote for either the candidate of one part of the communist party or the candidate of some other part of the communist party. I think it reasonable to say the people of the former Soviet Bloc were disenfranchised, even though they had the “franchise” in the sense of having the right to vote in elections, and sometimes even in elections with more than one candidate. So, merely being able to vote in popular elections does not necessarily enfranchise people. There’s more to the story of enfranchisement than just that – do the people have meaningful choices, is it really a system of rule by the people (as opposed to for example rule by the communist party, or by a theocracy as in Iran, or by a plutocracy, or by the Republican-Democrat duopoly)?

    Anyway, I’m just thinking it through. It had not occurred to me to try to restrict the meaning of “enfranchise” to voting in popular elections and referendums or at local assemblies everyone could attend.

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  34. In general I agree with everything Simon posted above… while I might amplify some points. I will primarily focus on some other points now.

    Keith’s notion that eliminating mass elections would be a disenfranchisement has been addressed by Simon. In response to Keith’s contention that “a political system without elections would not be a democracy.” I would argue along with the Ancient Greeks just the opposite… a political system that relies on elections is oligarchic and NOT democratic. However, rather than get bogged down further in semantics, let’s follow Alex’s lead and simply devise a good system (by whatever name) for assuring the population as a whole, rather than an elite, rules.

    Alex asked “what is the path?” others would propose to a better democracy using sortition. The path I have proposed i call “peeling.” Transfer proposal and decision responsibilities completely away from any mass electoral process, and vest one issue area at a time in a new system that has final decision authority vested in a statistically representative mini-public. I have my preferences for proposal generation, but there are many options, (though elections are the Achilles Heel).

    To commence “peeling,” in the U.S, I imagine having a system using mini-publics, rather than Congress, take full charge of the healthcare system, as an example. The right distrusts government bureaucrats making decision on healthcare, and the left distrusts insurance executives, but both might trust a random group of 500 citizens. If that works well, then there may be unstoppable pressure to transfer other issue areas (perhaps taxation, or the environment) to a mini-public system. My goal is to avoid having elected politicians having any role at all in the issue areas tackled by mini-publics for two main reasons.

    1. Members of mini-publics will have a psychological tendency to defer to the party leaders of the party they voted for in the last election. This cognitive free-riding is a well-documented behavior. if you doubt it, I would point to “Obama-care.” It was originally a right wing market approach developed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, that when implemented in Massachusetts was called “Romney-care” after the Republican Governor. When Obama became president he abandoned single-payer health care as too divisive, and embraced this Republican initiative in hopes of gaining bi-partisan support. The Republicans unanimously opposed it BECAUSE a Democrat was now pushing it. It got rebranded as “Obama-care,” and nearly all Democrats rallied around this right-wing proposal in support, while the Republicans made repealing Obama-care a fundamental priority. Partisan loyalty totally overpowered policy reality.

    2. The second danger of having a mini-public deal with the same issues advocated or opposed by elected politicians, is that if the mini-public contradicts the dominant political party, that party will have an powerful incentive (and ability) to discredit the mini-public’s legitimacy. Politicians who are public relations experts with a career path will belittle the mini-public made up of ordinary citizens with no career on the line, since they will be off the mini-public soon enough any way.

    I imagine a steady transfer of topics from elected chambers to mini-publics, until the elected chamber is like various European monarchies… still existing, but toothless.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Simon,

    Etymology is a fascinating subject but I’m more interested in how words are actually used in (modern) practice. Type “disenfranchisement” into Google and all the top hits refer to the removal of the right to vote.

    To expand on the contrast between my “pragmatic” and your “definitional” approach, I view representative democracy as a machine for converting popular preferences into legislative outcomes. From a pragmatic point of view it makes no difference whether everyone or an allotted sample determines the outcome of the debate, so long as every sample returns the same verdict (within an agreed margin of error). And we agree that a large, quasi-mandatory sample would be better for epistemic reasons (although this has no bearing on democratic equality per se). But this machine cannot work for the proposing function for reasons that it would be tedious to repeat again, so we should all take Alex’s suggestions very seriously.

    >Some of those who find that the minipublic does not share their opinion will certainly mind, and perhaps even more so if opinion polls show that most of the public does not agree with the minipublic decision, or is undecided.

    Yes that’s true, hence the need to demonstrate empirically that different samples of the same population would come to the same decision. The outcome of elections is accepted because most citizens view the procedure as fair, even if they disagree with the outcome. It would be impossible to do this for the proposal function — sortition is simply the wrong machine for generating policy proposals.

    Terry:> I would argue along with the Ancient Greeks just the opposite… a political system that relies on elections is oligarchic and NOT democratic.

    You are comparing the appointment mechanism for magistrates in a tiny polis with the need for representation in large modern states. This is comparing chalk and cheese, apples and oranges (why do I need to keep making this point?). The truth is if you are going to reject election out of principle (even allowing for a process of incremental “peeling”), then there is no way of pursuing this debate fruitfully. That’s a real shame, because Alex’s innovative proposals deserve careful scrutiny, rather than rejection for doctrinal reasons. Proposing and disposing are different functions and require entirely different machines if our goal is democratic representativity.

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  36. Alex:> I’m perfectly happy to have an assembly in the sense of a wood-paneled room where politicians hash out their differences . . .

    Sounds like a good idea, along with the other residual functions. Agree it’s important also to distinguish between agenda setting and making proposals.

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  37. Keith:> Type “disenfranchisement” into Google and all the top hits refer to the removal of the right to vote.

    So what? Many mentions of democracy refer to choosing our rulers by popular vote. Nevertheless, democracy does not mean, or does not only mean, choosing our rulers by popular vote. Methods of providing rule by the people other than by choosing our rulers by popular vote are not ipso facto undemocratic, nor a form of depriving the people of democracy.

    Similarly, just because decisions are made by some method other than popular vote and referendum, does not mean the people are disenfranchised. Again, the trial jury does not disenfranchise the people. Again, the Athenian Council of 500, jury-courts, allotted magistries, and nomothetai (if they were legislative juries) did not disenfranchise the citizens.

    The meaning of disenfrachisement and enfranchisement are not reducible to decision-making by popular vote, no more so than the meaning of democracy is.

    Minipublics are well-suited for enfranchising the people and providing a more genuine democracy. This statement makes perfect sense, it seems to me.

    As indicated already, the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, and the etymology of the word “enfranchise” make it clear that the concept is broader than voting in popular elections and referendums. And even if that was not clear in Mirriam-Webster, it would be up to us to make it clear.

    If Mirriam-Webster said the only way to enfranchise people is through popular vote (which Mirriam-Webster does not say), then it would be up to us to correct that and make it clear there are other ways to enfranchise people.

    As we, like the Greeks, don’t agree that popular vote is the only method of rule by the people, it does not make sense for us to try to narrow the meaning of enfranchise to popular vote.

    Here’s another quote from Mirriam-Webster (online):
    “Examples of enfranchise in a Sentence
    in a way, modern labor-saving appliances enfranchised people, giving them much more leisure time”

    Words In a Sentence on using “enfranchise” is a sentence:

    “Definition of Enfranchise

    to extend privileges or rights

    Examples of Enfranchise in a sentence

    One purpose of the immigration bill is to enfranchise citizenship to people who are willing to make a commitment to this country. 🔊

    With just a few more signatures, the corporate office will enfranchise the operational rights of one of its entities to your partnership. 🔊

    The metal worker’s union works hard to enfranchise fair wages and affordable healthcare options to the laborers. 🔊

    Even before slavery was abolished, the plantation owner made plans to enfranchise freedom to his slaves. 🔊

    The civil rights laws were enacted to end discrimination and enfranchise equal rights to all citizens”

    https://wordsinasentence.com/enfranchise-in-a-sentence/

    https://www.yourdictionary.com/enfranchise:

    “enfranchise

    transitive verb
    -·chised·, -·chis·ing

    to free from slavery, bondage, legal obligation, etc.
    to give a franchise to; specif., to admit to citizenship, esp. to the right to vote”

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/enfranchise:
    “enfranchise (v.)

    early 15c., “grant (someone) the status or privilege of citizenship, admit to membership in a town,” from Old French enfranchiss-, present participle stem of enfranchir “to set or make free; grant a franchise to;” from en- “make, put in” (see en- (1)) + franc “free” (see franchise (n.)). Generally with reference to voting privileges after c. 1700.”

    Anyway, that’s enough belabouring of that point.

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  38. I think we are losing sight of the objective here. The question is, how do we get groups of people to make multiple proposals on every agenda item so that those proposals are well drafted and represent the ideological diversity of the electorate? My solution is to take the traditional assembly and simply lower the threshold.

    What is the main purpose of this? It really has nothing to do with the manner in which representatives are selected. The primary benefit is to change the victory condition. People like to win. They love to win. Winning is an end in itself, and people will change political views and many other things for no greater goal than to be perceived as having won.

    Want to change behavior? Change the victory condition. Want people to fight tooth and nail to achieve power? Use the system we have now, where the victory condition is attaining a majority. Want people to compete to craft better policy? Lower the threshold, then put an independent judge at the end to decide who wins. The only way for proposers to win in this situation is to write better policy.

    The citizen jury is undoubtedly democratic, but that’s not its main purpose. Its main purpose is just to be a truly independent victory condition. The reason it works for this is because the information flow is one way: information moves from proposers to the CJ, but because the CJ is selected after the proposers do their work, information cannot flow the other way. Want to see randomly selected citizens engage in a counterproductive power struggle? Put them in a traditional assembly with majority rule. They will behave this way not because of elections, original sin, human nature, or any of that garbage. They will behave that way because the victory condition requires such behavior.

    I think that the proposing branch should be elected for entirely practical reasons. Writing good proposals requires time to learn. I don’t just mean the basics of legislative drafting, I mean learning how to write bills that appeal to ordinary citizens through the CJ. As a result, you need people to do it for years at a time. This simply cannot be done by random selection, and relying on volunteers severely distorts the notion of ideological diversity, much more than elections do. But I have no theoretical attachment to elections; I’m all ears if you have a serious way to get random samples of citizens to work over years to write proposals.

    But one thing I’m certain of: obsessing over elections vs random selection is misguided. Change the victory condition so the system moves smoothly, without obstruction, from agenda to proposals to final passage. Control the flow of information so that downstream processes cannot contaminate upstream ones. Such a system can be populated in any number of ways and will still work, whereas a system with a winner-take-all victory condition and corrupt information practices will fail no matter how it is populated. Structural politics is about our systems, not our souls.

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  39. Alex,

    I agree that we should shift our focus from etymology and the details of Athenian politics to what is most likely to improve modern practice.

    >Want people to compete to craft better policy? Lower the [victory] threshold, then put an independent judge at the end to decide who wins. The only way for proposers to win in this situation is to write better policy.

    Agreed, but with the rider that the policy proposals should reflect (albeit stochastically) the preferences of the target population.

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