Voting is a Community Right

In an election day post, I discuss how traditional voting and sortition can be viewed as aspects of the same right. Unifying both is the need to reverse the burden of action: while voting requires citizens to decide to vote, sortition requires proper authorities to find participants. Instead, voting in democracies now should require electoral authorities to obtain a valid vote from everyone who is eligible. At that point, calling random juries and assemblies will be a breeze.

Random Selection for the Supreme Court

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Yale law student Melody Wang lays out an extremely cogent argument for random selection in choosing cases. She emphasizes the power of random selection to prevent corrupt practices, and to focus advocates on directing their arguments to the general good, rather than to specific decision makers.

What is a Majority?

My latest post discusses citizen juries from the perspective cognitive science. Starting with the argumentative theory of reason, I argue that final decision makers must be insulated from any requirement of justifying their decisions. This is precisely what juries do in trials: they apply a community standard, one that is inscrutable to advocates within the system, who operate on the basis of rules. The lack of such a function in democratic systems is an existential flaw that sortition must aim to correct.

The Blind Break is the Heart of Democracy

In part 4 of my legislative series, I propose a new definition of democracy, one that revolves around the blind break. The blind break is, of course, an information control mechanism, and has not usually been treated as so essential to the political project. While concepts like representation and delegation have historically been treated as essential to political theory, information flow has been treated as secondary.

In this post, I aim to correct this mistake. Political systems are information flows at their very core. We must treat constraints on those flows as central to the entire political project, right up there with separation of powers, equality under the law, and other traditional notions of political theory.

Executive Harmony

In the third post in my executive series, I explore how a pluralistic executive deals with conflict among independent office holders. While this apparatus might seem like a waste of resources, what is the cost of authoritarianism? I think it is much better to ask the question: Can’t a pluralistic executive just get along with itself?

The Jury of the Whole

In my latest post on the legislative branch, I look at what happens after a set of concrete proposals are made and published. This is the most transformative aspect of the proposal-jury model. It engages every aspect of a polity, from intellectual and business elites, to the news media, to ordinary citizens. And it is the closest that any large, modern society can come to experiencing direct democracy.

The Service Pool

I don’t think we pay enough attention to the executive branch on this blog, nor do we pay enough attention to the careers of executive branch officials. There’s nothing theoretically fun about it, but when democracies give way to dictatorships, it’s usually through some group of executive branch officials who commandeer the system for their personal benefit.

In part 2 of my never-ending series on the executive branch, I explore ways to create a more professional corps of executive officers. Perhaps one day a force organized along these lines will be able to steer the ship of state with no chance of crashing into the rocks of authoritarianism or running aground on the shoals of dysfunction.

Superminority

Consensus-based legislatures favor bad faith actors. Just getting to a final vote on any measure is a herculean undertaking. This fact makes obstructionist tactics highly successful, so much so that legislatures are largely viewed as dysfunctional throughout the democratic world.

In part 2 of my legislative series, I introduce the superminority, a way of producing laws more pluralistically. It not only introduces a regular pattern for introducing citizen juries, but eliminates most of the tactics that make legislative politics so toxic.

Kill The Assembly

In the first post of my series on the legislative, I discuss what is wrong with the general assembly (spoiler alert: everything). Nevertheless, in the history of the assembly there are the seeds of new growth. We can get back to a more honest, more productive assembly if we take it apart, honor its historical motivation, and rebuild it with some modern innovations.

Sortition in the Executive

Much of the sortition discussion revolves around the legislative branch, but historically, it was often the random selection of magistrates that signaled a true democracy. I would like to start a discussion of how executive officers can be selected by lot in a modern state. This is crucially important, because while the legislature may be the traditional home of sovereignty in a democracy, the executive branch is what most citizens experience as the state.

My first post deals with a structure that I call a coordination hierarchy, which I believe should be the standard way to organize the political layer of the executive branch. In future posts, I will discuss criticisms and challenges to this structure, as well as fleshing out some other requirements to make this system work in practice. My ultimate goal is to describe a way in which the political layer can be populated by a political service: a professional corps of public servants who are responsive to the public through citizen juries, but which operates under a set of constraints that make it look more like the civil service.