2019 review – sortition-related events

As I have done at every end-of-year of the last 9, I am offering my summary of notable sortition-related events that occurred over the last year.

As polls indicate that people continue to believe that governments do not represent them, the idea of the single-issue citizens’ assembly made strides in various European countries in 2019. In France, the Citizens’ Climate Convention is taking place, where 150 allotted people are tasked with selecting ways to address the climate crisis. This body is relatively high profile and received attention by various writers. A similar body is being demanded in the UK by the Extinction Rebellion movement.

Scotland had a citizens’ assembly for “shaping Scotland’s future”.

Participations journal devoted a special issue to sortition. 24 papers dealt with various aspects of the topic. The book Legislature by Lot, with the papers from a workshop by the same name was also published.

A citizens’ assembly on Brexit was widely discussed in the UK.

A permanent allotted body was instituted by the German speaking community in Belgium and by City Hall in Madrid.

The increasing use of allotted citizen bodies resulted in increasing scrutiny of the ways in which they are constituted and run, as well as their institutional role.

Blok: Sortition and democracy: equality, justice and the challenge of present-day democracy

Prof. Josine Blok, a classicist from the University of Utrecht, will be giving a talk titled “Sortition and democracy: equality, justice and the challenge of present-day democracy” at the University of Dresden on Feb 5th, 2020.

It turns out that Blok has been interested in sortition for some time. In 2014 she has published a paper called “Participatory Governance: The Case for Allotment” in the journal Participation. The paper is viewable and downloadable here.

In the paper, Blok hypothesizes that sortition was legitimated in Athens by the custom of using the lottery to allocate shares of inheritances among the heirs. Other parts of her discussion are interesting and original as well.

Equality by Lot‘s first decade – a call for review input

The first post on Equality by Lot was published ten years ago, on December 14th, 2009. Over a thousand posts were published since, and happily enough sortition has made great strides in the public sphere worldwide.

This year, in addition to the yearly summary of the sortition-related ongoings, I would like to publish a decennial summary. You are all invited to register your input as to what are the important sortition-related things to note – over the last year as well as over the last decade. Please either post your input as a comment to this post or send it to me via email.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

Fienberg: Randomization and Social Affairs: The 1970 Draft Lottery

A 1971 Science article by Stephen E. Fienberg, professor of statistics at the University of Chicago, deals with the problematic 1970 draft lottery and places it in a wider context of randomization in social affairs.

Upcoming Sortition Foundation meeting

A note from Owen Shaffer of the Sortition Foundation:

The United States Chapter of the Sortition Foundation continues to have guest presenters at our online meeting every other month. This Sunday’s meeting features Linn Davis of Healthy Democracy! It begins at 4pm Eastern US time (3pm Central, 2pm Mountain and 1pm PCT).

Linn will explain HD’s unique form of Citizens Jury: the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), which is established in Oregon state statute, and has since been replicated in five US states and two European countries. He will also explain HD’s new local government Citizens Jury (CJ) model and touch on future designs for larger-scale city, state, and national sortition-based task forces and Citizens Assemblies.

Time permitting, Linn will also explain about an exciting new initiative to synthesize several decades of CJ experience (from HD, the Jefferson Center, the newDemocracy Foundation, and others) into a mass-market CJ model that is low-cost, time-efficient, and easily replicated in cities anywhere with sticky policy questions but modest means.

Our group includes some folks you would recognize and has a healthy group of people that are new to sortition. If you would like to join the meeting, email me at dshaffer@lander.edu and I will send you the link. You can also join our group email for announcements at http://lists.sortitionfoundation.org/subscribe/usa and a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/420337885380259/ as well.

Owen Shaffer, Convenor

Citizen Climate Convention: Become a Democratic Assembly!

An open letter to the members of the French Citizen Climate Convention from several mass-action environmental organizations was recently published in Reporterre – a French environmental daily newspaper. [Original in French.]

A Citizen Climate Convention has been convening since October 4 over the course of 6 sessions of three days each until the upcoming January. How to make sure this unprecedented test of collective democracy, which gives 150 allotted citizens the power to deliberate measures for reducing France’s CO2 emissions by at least 40% in 10 years, does not end up as a tool of self-promotion for a government whose real policy for the last two years has been so blatantly anti-environmental that it forces Nicolas Hulot, its very moderate minister of the environment, to resign? That is possible if the allotted rely on their popular legitimacy in order to change the nature and the objective of their upcoming deliberations. It is for this democratic usurpation that we are calling.

What is it that makes you legitimate, more legitimate in any case than the committee that is supposed to “govern” you? It is not that fact that you were allotted according to social-professional or geographic “representivity” criteria defined by the polling institute. This representativity has no democratic value. The fact that an allotted woman is a self-employed resident of Brittany like me does not in any way guarantee that she would faithfully represent my political convictions. It is therefore not the allotment according to social-professional categories which makes you close to your fellow citizens, but rather the fact that you share their situation of democratic dispossession. In these dying days of this deceptive regime of “representative democracy”, we are all reduced to being nothing more than private individuals, deprived of any meaningful political power.
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Kovner: The Jurga System

A post by Alex Kovner.

In The Jurga System, I outline a complete democracy centered around citizen juries. At its core is a sharp division of democratic policy making into proposing and deciding. While this is conceptually simple, it is surprisingly difficult in practice. Doing so requires liberal use of the “blind break” to ensure that proposers cannot corrupt the decision process, and vice-versa. The book looks at this dynamic in great detail as it applies to all branches of government.

While the scheme outlined here will not be implemented anytime soon, it is a good thought experiment regarding what a complete political system based on citizen panels might look like. It also suggests a different direction from what we see today: instead of open-ended citizen assemblies tasked with generating grandiose proposals, we should prioritize citizen juries with narrower mandates but binding authority to act. Only this way will sortition become a regular, indispensable feature of democracy.

Full text available to download: https://alexkovner.com/2019/11/12/the-jurga-system/.