Sénat Citoyen and Citizens’ Assemblies

Sénat Citoyen is a French organization whose manifesto offers the following principle:

For every authority, government or elected assembly, there must exist an allotted citizen assembly which monitors, creates proposals and controls this authority.

Citizens’ Assemblies is a book by the Polish activist Marcin Gerwin which he describes as “a step-by-step presentation of how to organise a citizens’ assembly, with the primary focus on the city level”. It is available online for free in 6 languages.

On the website Gerwin lists “Basic standards for organizing citizens’ assemblies”, which are:

  1. Random selection of participants
  2. Demographic representation
  3. Independent coordination
  4. Citizens’ assembly can invite experts
  5. Inclusion of a widest practical range of perspectives
  6. Inviting all stakeholders
  7. Deliberation
  8. Openness
  9. Sufficient time for reflection
  10. Impact
  11. Transparency
  12. Visibility

Politics as a profession

In a recent debate with Etienne Chouard, among quite a few fallacies and hypocritical talking points, Raphaël Enthoven makes an interesting point regarding the role of training in politics (about 23 minutes into the recording) [my transcription and translation, corrections welcome]:

The fact is that, as Plato argues, politics is a profession.

[ Chourad interjects: “Plato was an aristocrat!” ]

Politics is a profession, even if you ask a democratic such as yourself. Even if you ask yourself. How would you explain the place that you accord in [your book] “Notre Cause Commune” [“Our Common Cause”], in your work, in your blog, always, since 2005, to constituent workshops? The fundamental role that you assign to instruction and to training of citizens? Isn’t it in order to give citizens the means to exercise correctly, properly and competently (if you excuse the adverb) the powers they were temporarily entrusted with?

It is obvious that politics is a profession and requires information. This profession, this information, must be open to all. There should be an equality of opportunity, there should be a wealth of opportunities for democratic practice and learning, including through sortition. Saying, however, that the equality of rights, the equality of competence would justify that each and every person would govern successively, as they did in Athens – a very small city – appointed by sortition and as a part time job, ignores the fact that it is the exercise of power that relieves incompetence, unprofessionalism, and lack of skills.

55% of the online participants in the French Grand Debate support sortition

Le Monde reports that 500,000 people have participated in the French “Grand Debate” by submitting an online form. Of those, 55% indicated that they would support “involving citizens in public decisions using sortition”.

Sortition at the 2019 ECPR General Conference

The 2019 ECPR General Conference will be held at the University of Wrocław, Poland in September. It will feature hundreds of panels and thousands of papers. One of those papers will deal with sortition:

Sortition as a Finalite Politique for EU Democracy
Paweł Glogowski, University of Wrocław

Abstract: The issue of democratic deficit in the European Union has been present in the academic and political debate for many years now. The first natural reaction to that complex and multilevel problem was to strengthen democracy known as a representative system. The cure was supposed to come primarily through better representation of citizens’ in the European Parliament. As we know, this has not helped the EU in solving the issue. In fact, together with the dynamic increase of EP powers, the voters turn out in European elections has dropped. In consequence, the Union proposed to fight the democratic deficit with participatory democracy, and such innovative tool like European Citizens’ Initiative. Seven years of experience show that this instruments has also failed to empower and engage EU citizens. Hence, this article will try to answer the question whether deliberative democracy is the last chance to solve the issue of EU’s democratic deficit. The author will examine the pros and cons of sortition on a transnational level, and if this kind of democratic innovation has any chance to heal democracy in the European Union.

Most Americans do not believe that government policies reflect the views of most Americans

A 2018 opinion poll by the Pew Research Center has quite a few useful findings about the perceptions of government and political parties by American citizens. Some highlights:

Democracy: Most Americans do not believe that government policies reflect the views of most Americans and most say that government is run by a few big interests. Yet most say that American democracy works very or somewhat well.


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Large majorities in most OECD countries believe that government ignores them when setting social benefits

“Risks that Matter 2019”, a new OECD report [PDF], shows a familiar public opinion pattern. Most people in most countries (in this case OECD countries) feel government does not serve their needs and does not take their opinions into account when formulating policy.

A call for papers: The return of sortition to politics

A call for papers has been issued for a colloquium in Lyon, France titled “Le retour du tirage au sort en politique: État des lieux et prospectives critiques entre sciences politiques et philosophie” (The return of sortition to politics: the lay of the land and critical perspectives between political science and philosophy).

The colloquium is organized by MAAD (Mutations et Approches Actuelles de la Démocratie) at the ENS in Lyon and will take place on October 10th and 11th, 2019. The call for papers mentions that, in addition to French, submissions in English and Spanish would be accepted as well.

The call for papers has a useful bibliography which contains a number of interesting recent sortition-related academic publications.