Article The First: Beyond Elections But Lessons From Them

[Disclaimer: I did not intend to write this blog this early.  I’m still caught up by Canadian provincial efforts at electoral reform, of which I’ve posted on  That said, an article on Jacobin compelled me, so to speak.]

Article The First: Beyond Elections But Lessons From Them

“After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.” (Article The First)

Tom Malleson’s article on Jacobin, Beyond Electoral Democracy, suggests the implementation of a bicameral legislature, with one of the two bodies being selected entirely by lot.  I would argue that this article doesn’t go far enough, firstly and most importantly because there are no direct proposals for controlling the standards of living of representatives, and because there is not even one path, let alone multiple paths, for instant recallability (Paul Lucardie’s “Jacobinland” and genuine Socialist Politics 101).

Other than this shortcoming, the article doesn’t go far enough because, despite the laudable goal of going beyond elections altogether, there are lessons that can be learned from them: particular features.  The main body for public policymaking and accountability should already be populated by lot, but particular features from various electoral systems should be incorporated.

The first, most important feature from electoral systems that must be incorporated is the party concept.  “Party-recallable” checks on legislators by political parties is the apex of this.  It is no coincidence that historians have written about correlations between vibrant civil societies at large and vibrant party systems, such as in Europe.

The second important feature from electoral systems that must be incorporated is proportional representation:

“Proportional representation, and, until this is introduced, legal redistribution of electoral districts after every census.” (Erfurt Program)
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Why Executive Power Matters

It’s a bit surprising that this sortition blog hasn’t ventured much into executive power.  Most of the time it’s focused on either legislative power or some other non-executive power.

Not for nothing did one example from Paul Lucardie’s book on radical democratic theory (Democratic Extremism), the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, decide a century ago to appoint a truly revolutionary provisional government to “get things done”: the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom).

That said, sortition today could be applied to traditional cabinets. It could be applied to multiple cabinets in some proposals (state, social, economic, industrial). It could even be applied to the topmost consultative bodies headed by individual ministers, collegia.

Sortition and stronger executive power?

Can sortition facilitate stronger executive power?  I think it can, and in a way that results in more effective implementation of left public policymaking.

The traditional Marxist literature refers to the combination of legislative and executive power as a means of facilitating worker-class rule or broader popular rule, yet has not taken into account a key development in executive power itself in the 20th century: the war cabinet.

It is this particular form of government that poses strategic questions of power, not traditional legislatures, not town hall meetings, and not strike committees.  Its contemporary application is diverse, from the early and wartime Soviet governments, to the early government of the People’s Republic of China, to the first seventeen years of Cuba’s government after the Cuban Revolution, to Churchill’s wartime cabinet.

The initial approach to all this government stuff is this: redefine the relationship between (a) public policymaking, (b) legislative power, (c) governmental executive power, (d), ceremonial and other prerogative power, (e) civil administration, and (f) “legislating from the bench” (judicial review regarding constitutional law) on the basis of random sortition.  Drilling down, I will focus on the combination of (b), (c), (d), and at least part of (f) in either one unified organ or parallel organs.

(For the purposes of this discussion, I’ve broken down the conventional view of “executive power” into its three functional components: (c), (d), and (e).)
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Party policies?

Without political programs there are no political movements.

I’m putting this very mildly with this article (though I may not be as mild with my comments), but this is a different spin on the Exclusions post by Yoram Gat. Over there, I suggested that policy proposals be the exclusive domain of expert bodies filled by random selection, with the general body being left to vote up or down on each line of every policy proposal. In other words, I put forward stratified sampling.
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