Lawrence Lessig on deliberative polls

In this interesting and entertaining August 2017 TED Talk, Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard law professor, shows an appreciation for some of what is wrong with decision-making by popular vote in contemporary societies, and for some of the political significance of deliberative polls.

… the answer is not to reject democracy. The answer is to find a way for democracy to represent us better. To give up the idea that when we talk about “we” as in “we the people” we’re talking about what we happen to think now, and replace that idea with a conception of “we” where what we mean is what we think when we are informed and [have] deliberated.

He then indicates deliberative polls provide a “we the people” of the kind he describes, and discusses, in glowing terms, the 800 member deliberative poll in Mongolia on the constitution (at which he was an observer).  He does not (in this video) suggest any actual democratic reforms for the U.S.

Lille en comme’un

Could an anarchist organization run a city? The words seem to contradict each other: “anarchist”, “organization” and “run”. The anarchist movement generally presupposes a total absence of authority. But by anarchy I mean a much softer idea: the impermanence of a drawn authority. Municipalism and participatory lists partly implement this idea at the level of the city, and at the commune of Saillans a participatory list uses the drawing of lots on a regular basis. Along that same line of thought, I created this week a group whose name is “Lille en comme’un 2020” aiming to present a list in the next municipal elections of Lille. This name derives from “Barcelona en comu” and also comes from a discussion we had in a meeting of the Listes Participatives Paris. My objective: to participate in the genesis and success of such a list in Lille.


An image illustrating Lille en comme’un 2020. The shape of Lille and inside an enso.

Our meetings will have one thing in common, we will designate with a die the people who will moderate our meetings. One moderates by giving the floor to people who raise their hands, by controlling speaking time, but also by asking the quiet ones for their opinion. Before the appointment, we all agree on a maximum term of office – which can be as short as 20 minutes. Someone then casts a die and the n-th person to their left will moderate – n being the number on the die. At the end of his or her term or if the moderator resigns earlier, he or she rolls the die again to appoint a new moderator. So the power turns.

We have already tried this three times in the meetings of the Paris participative lists. And at our first meeting for Lille en Comme’un that took place last Friday. It worked well (we talked for 4 hours using this method) and this modus operandi makes it possible to avoid long speeches and capture of power in the meeting. This method is not perfect and I was able to observe that one problem at our last meeting in Paris was the absence of a secretary to write a report.

One possible solution that we could test in Lille is for the person who moderates to appoint a secretary at the beginning of his mandate. It is optional to change the person for this function after each moderator’s mandate so that stability and professionalism are brought to the meeting.

Thank you for reading! And I look forward to meeting you in person at Lille en comme’un 2020.

P.S: This post comes from my blog on sortition. Don’t hesitate to pay a visit!

A bold new trust-building project called a Community Solutions Panel

From the Byron Shire Council website:

Community Solutions Panel
What infrastructure spending should we prioritise, and how should we fund these priorities if the rates alone are not enough?

This is the question that Byron Council will put to a randomly selected group of 28 people as part of a bold new trust-building project called a Community Solutions Panel.

Council has chosen to work with the newDemocracy Foundation to see if a community deliberation can be designed which delivers an informed voice of everyday people.
Continue reading

Passerelle

Some consider Switzerland as a laboratory for democratic experiments. The Swiss town of Bienne exemplifies this trend. This city of more than 50,000 inhabitants is home for a movement called Passerrelle.

Having been created in 2008, Passerrelle recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. In 2011, they advocated for the involvement of foreigners in communal policies. This step toward openness demonstrates their philosophy: use everybody’s ideas. In 2017 Passerelle has proposed the creation of citizen assemblies. The assemblies would suggest ideas for solving municipal problems. Like many sortition proponents, Passarelle mentions the reliance on sortition in ancient Greece.

Two bridges which link different landscapes or methods.

Passerelle is putting up a candidate for the March 2018 elections of Berne’s regional council. Ruth Tennenbaum is the name of their candidate. This is an unimportant detail since, as a hack of the Swiss electoral system, Tennenbaum will resign as soon as she gets elected. I already wrote about a method used by Demorun to mix the electoral system with random selection in a previous post. Passerelle aims to go further and make the random selection after the vote to avoid any possible personification occurring during the campaign. Some “technical” details remain to be decided: the list they will pick from and the method used to perform the random selection. On this latter point I contacted a source close to Passerelle who told me that they might use the method I described in a previous post! The election takes place on the 22nd of March. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! If I forgot something, the comment section is just below.

This post was originally published on The sortition blog.

Saillans

Let’s do some sightseeing and go to Saillans. A small village in a South of France tried something unusual, and I belong to a collective in Paris wanting to reproduce their experiment. A member sent a bunch of links to videos about Saillans.

Two images to help locating Saillans. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Saillans’ town hall uses sortition massively. 12 randomly selected citizen control the elected official (check 5:00 of this video). They also use random selection to build action groups on specific topics, like designing the city’s urban plan. The experiment demonstrates how we can use chance to enhance citizen involvement. They demonstrate at least two points: (1) Citizens can perform executive functions, and (2) Citizens can be used to control the executive power.

Of course, some locals speak against this method and for them things were better before. And some mayors around look on Saillans with a judgemental eye. They argue that people should not decide on topics unknown to them. We can answer this argument in two ways: people can become experts through action, and certain mayors didn’t have any prior training before their elections.

But the easiest criticism of this experiment is about its scale (Saillans’ population is around 1,200 inhabitants). Hey, we need to start somewhere and better start at the smallest scale possible. I like the bottom-up approach and believe that a revolution should be done one step at a time. The town hall has worked this way for four years now. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! Write below, if you want to add information about Saillans or why you agree or disagree.

This post was originally published on http://www.stochocratie.org.

New “sortition around the globe” map

The Sortition Foundation has launched its new “sortition around the globe” map – we know there are many examples missing (those that we do know about will slowly be added). If you want to help just get in touch!sortition_around_the_globe_map

And a reminder about Sortition Foundation events happening in London this weekend:

  1. Sortition Foundation AGM, 8pm Saturday 10th March: contact us for details.
  2. Back to the Future for a Real Democracy” discussion at Conway Hall, 11am Sunday 11th March. Tickets now available.

Official records lacking in EMA location allotment

Corriere dela Sera writes:

Doubts emerge over EMA ballot and “burnt” voting slips

Various aspects of assignment to Netherlands of EMA headquarters still unclear, also due to lack of official records regarding draw by lot

The assignment of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Amsterdam by lot – to the detriment of Milan – was made official at the EU General Affairs Council on 20 November. But it has now emerged that there is no documentary evidence to reassure European citizens everything was done correctly and according to the rules; the procedure displayed unprecedented anomalies and levels of secrecy, culminating in selection by lot. The representatives of Italy and the Netherlands were not even called to supervise the proceedings at close hand. “Even in children’s tournaments the referee allows the two team captains to watch the toss of the coin …”, commented one ambassador present on the day.

No checks
The ballot papers of the three rounds of voting by the ministers were immediately burned, and the speed with which the draw was performed made any checks either before or after impossible. Above all, on 20 November there was an attempt to shroud everything in the utmost secrecy, with not even the draw method made public. Moreover, since last week the EU Council has continued to refuse to give the Corriere any information on how the voting and count took place, let alone on the lot drawing procedure. We have been able to reconstruct what happened thanks to informal interviews with ministers and ambassadors present, who set greater importance on the value of transparency than on being sworn to secrecy.