Venice and Why Sortition is Not Enough

Without much commentary, given the high level of knowledge and debate on this blog, I share an important document about elections in Ancient Venice. As most here will know, I hold it that ‘pure’ sortition is a suitable and necessary tool for democracy. However, it is also an insufficient one, as has been criticised already at the time of sortition’s outset, with the powerful “Socratic Objection” as documented by Xenophon. Today, I describe the missing element specifically for appointments to positions of power.

As most here will know, the Ancient Venetians combined sortition with elections in multiple iterations to determine their leadership, the Doge. Their success with this add-on innovation was superior to the Athenians, as evidenced by the significantly longer duration of their system. Now, there clearly were flaws, room for improvement, as their system ended by reversal to today’s unfortunate party system but that’s for another day.

So far, most scientific papers on this topic have been descriptive. Now Miranda Mowbray, and Dieter Gollmann of the Enterprise Systems and Storage Laboratory at
HP Bristol expand the debate with this paper on the mathematical properties of the Venetian method in avoiding usurpation of power while still finding the best leadership. The authors have their mind on applications in distributed computing security, but for us here, the advantages for a more mundane topic such as democracy may be good enough to give it some thought.

Enjoy.

As an aside, the statutes of G!LT in Austria therefore employ the Venetian model for all executive leadership elections. My rationale is that the party system with its unholy alliance with mass media rewards showmanship and superficiality, as evidenced by the high proportion of TV Actors and Reality Show Stars in top jobs. Instead G!LT’s protocol ensures a reasonably self-experienced, direct, personal knowledge of a candidate’s ability and suitability for an executive position. For those who read German, here to the Statutes of G!LT. For those who don’t there is Google Translate.

G!LT Party in Austria to use sortition

This sortition community may be pleased to hear that a new party employing principles of sortition was recently founded by Austrian Comedian Roland Düringer. The new party is called “Meine Stimme GILT” (translates as: “My Vote Counts”) and is now highly likely to get sufficient popular support to run at Austria’s national parliamentary elections in October.

Roland Düringer has puzzled media and pundits by declaring himself not eligible for election, which of course sounds absurd for party system adherents. In fact, however, he is not a candidate and will not accept a mandate. Also, the party has declared that it has absolutely no political program which adds to journalists’ head scratching but is a logical consequence of a commitment to crowdsourcing all future policy proposals and decisions with full neutrality.

Once sufficient supporting signatures have come in from all Austrian federal states, expected to happen at the end of next week, G!LT will allot 50 parliamentary candidates for its election lists from a group of 1,000 vetted volunteers. These volunteers committed to donate most of their salary (anything above 2017 Euros) to social or democratic causes and to represent the General Will in parliament. This will be determined by “Open Democracy“, a multi-stage process mixing elements of several democratic approaches:

  1. Participative democracy — broad public participation during initial opinion and prediction gathering, open for all citizens
  2. Sortition democracy — stratified random sampling for demarchic committees from volunteers vetted by prediction success
  3. Deliberative democracy — demarchic committees will vote after a multi-phase hearing of innovators, the pro and the con side, and deliberation
  4. Anticipatory democracy — all committee decisions will be backed and tracked by falsifiable impact predictions

(Here are the principles of this process in English.)

The party decided to adopt this model for the upcoming elections, over two other competing ones (Liquid Democracy and Sociocracy), after research by a combination of questionnaire and prediction market forecasts drawing on a representative sample of 1,000 Austrians.

Democratic legitimisation will be effected by vote share in general election. Or not, as a 4% hurdle applies.

If there is sufficient interest, I can keep this community posted on new developments and of course on actual election results.