Short refutations of common arguments for sortition (part 2)

Part 1 is here.

The two arguments presented below pin the problem with elections on the voters.

4. The masses are rationally ignorant. Therefore any system that relies on their judgement would not function well. Sortition does not rely on mass judgement.

According to this argument elections present a variety of choices to the voters, with some of these choices being on the whole materially better than others as measured by the interests and values of the voters. The voters, however, each knowing that the impact of their vote is tiny, are too selfish (or more politely, too busy taking care of their private business) to spend the time and effort to determine which candidate or party are better than others. Instead they hope that others would do the work for them, and in this way they would save the effort of figuring out which alternatives are the better ones but at the same time they will enjoy the good outcomes of other people’s choices. But since everybody, or at least the large majority of voters, follow the same calculation, almost everybody is uninformed and as a result when they arrive at the voting booth, they often select poor alternatives.

All this sounds very sophisticated and has the stamp of approval of the economists and rational-choice theorists. The argument suffers, however, from at least two severe problems. First, the assumption that the electoral alternatives present to voters a meaningful choice is theoretically problematic. Since the electoral choice is between elite factions, the range of choice must be severely limited. The factions of the elite all share certain elite values and interests that any of them will promote if and when they are in power. The promotion of those values and interests is often made at the expense of the values and interests of the general population, making the policies pursued by government – regardless of the elite faction in power – detrimental to the general population.
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