Invitation to The Similitude

Hello, Kleroterians! Nick Coccoma here from Boston, USA. I’ve been a follower of the blog and member of the sortition movement for several years now, after I discovered the theory and practice in the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election. In the years since, I’ve been a part of The Sortition Foundation and Democracy Without Elections, and published an article on sortition a couple of years ago for the journal New Politics.

Last February I launched my own Substack newsletter, The Similitude, where I cover politics, culture, and religion. I’ve written several posts on sortition, including a recent one entitled “Real Democracy Now: How Americans Can Win Self-Government.” It makes the case for sortition and features original interviews with our own Brett Hennig, Terry Bouricius, and Adam Cronkright. In your kindness, consider subscribing to the newsletter and sharing it in your circles as I seek more readers. I’d love to have the Kleroterians join the conversation. Many thanks for your ongoing work to bring about real democracy in our time!

AI-enabled deliberative democracy

The proponents of “deliberative democracy” have spent decades dredging a this-but-that argumentative quagmire that has yielded nothing of either theoretical or practical value for democracy. One of the prolific underlying springs of sticky material for the quagmire has been the inherent contradiction between two dicta of “deliberative democracy”: mass participation and deliberation. It is very straightforward that masses cannot deliberate. Meaningful deliberation can occur in groups of at most a few hundreds of people (and even at this scale all-to-all deliberation could occur only under very favorable conditions).

Thus, “deliberative democracy” professionals can develop entire careers stirring, pouring and piling the sands of participation and deliberation without ever managing (or, it could be argued, without ever trying) to build any solid structure. Those of us who would suggest that both mass participation and deliberation are at best tools for good outcomes, rather than sacrosanct goals, are severely chastised for looking for illegitimate “shortcuts”.

Technology is one of the implements that have been routinely used to stir those sticky sands. Over and over again we have been promised that new information technology would allow democracy to go where it has never gone before. Mass education, remote participation, virtual mass discussions, crowd-sourced documents – these and many other unprecedented tools of democracy would be enabled by innovative technology. The fact that such promises go back to the advent of the radio (and probably much farther back) never discourages the prophets of mass participation from promising that the next technological innovation would be the one that would usher in democratic utopia where millions of voices would be heard by millions of people who all make meaningful – equally meaningful – contributions to decision making.

In the spirit of the times (or maybe a bit behind the times), the latest technology recruited to the cause of mass deliberation is Artificial Intelligence. Continue reading

Sortion [sic] on Chapo Trap House

Chapo Trap House is a popular American left-wing political podcast, with over 100,000 weekly listeners.

Wikipedia says the following about Chapo Trap House:

[Podcat co-host Will] Menaker has said that Chapo is meant to be in “marked contrast to the utterly humorless and bloodless path that leads many people with liberal or leftist proclivities into the trap of living in constant fear of offending some group that you’re not a part of, up to and including the ruling class.”

Sortition (mispronounced as “sortion”) made a brief appearance in episode #662 of the podcast, “The Queen” (about 46 minutes and 30 seconds into the show). Sortition is offered as part of a reform of the U.S. political system in which voting is used to select limited-tenure monarchs among celebrities, while “governing is actually carried out by permanent bureaucracies overseen by a rotating cast of essentially jury duty citizens”. The proposer did not indicate the rotation period of the “national service” but noted that, for that period, service would be considered as a full time job and would be paid accordingly.

The Trouble with Elections: with Terry Bouricius

This interview for the first edition of the Democracy Creative TV series is an hour and twenty minutes long. The focus is why elections are a poor tool for running a democracy and why civic lotteries would be better. This isn’t the ideal outreach piece because the introduction highlights my leftist political background. But the bulk of the interview is useful analysis for anybody.

Meeting: Sunday, October 23, 2022 – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates will have our next meeting on, Sunday, October 23, 2022, at 19:00 GMT (London) [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AED].

The meeting will be held on our Discord platform. You must register on the app to attend the meeting. Here is your Discord invitation: https://discord.gg/6sgnrphp6w.

Once you have completed registration, to join the meeting:

  • Navigate to the heading “Talekanaler” on the left side of your screen (it’s before the “Linguistic Regions”)
  • Click on: “🔊General”
  • Click on: “Video

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to a maximum of 1-hour in length.

Hansen: ancient and modern democracy

In a recent article Dr. Polyvia Parara made reference to a 2005 book by Mogens Herman Hansen, The Tradition of Ancient Greek Democracy and its Importance for Modern Democracy. It turns out this book is available online.

As always, Hansen is a very useful source of information about democracy in the ancient Greek world. In this book, Hansen focuses less on ancient Greece and more on the connections between ancient Greek democracy and “modern democracy”. Hansen rightly points out that, contrary to what some would have us believe (he cites and quotes Hannah Arendt), there is very little evidence for either institutional or ideological continuity between the two periods.

Hansen focuses first on the ideology.

The classical example that inspired the American and French revolutionaries as well as the English radicals was Rome rather than Greece. Thus, the Founding Fathers who met in Philadelphia in 1787, did not set up a Council of the Areopagos, but a Senate, that, eventually, met on the Capitol. And the French constitution of 1799, designed by Sieyès, had no board of strategoi but a triumvirate of consuls.

Continue reading

Sortition in the Netherlands

The very useful Dutch sortition-focused blog Tegen Verkiezingen reports about a new bachelor’s thesis at Leiden university in the Netherlands titled “Lottery as a democratic instrument?”. The thesis was written by Max Van Duijn, who is the leader of a local political party in the Katwijk municipality named DURF. DURF, which is the biggest party in the municipal council, advocates the application of sortition at the municipal level.

Tegen Verkiezingen provides the following translation of an excerpt from the thesis:

In essence ‘representative democracy’ is not democratic. It’s something fundamentally different. It would be more justified to label it ‘elective aristocracy’. In that sense the contrast between classical and representative democracy is a false one. In fact what we’re talking about is a contrast between democracy (sortition) and aristocracy (elections).

Parara: Democracy and the modifiers of modernity

Dr. Polyvia Parara teaches Classics and Modern Greek Studies at the University of Maryland College Park. In a recent article in the English edition of the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Parara argues that modern Western-system states, conventionally known as “democracies”, are in fact a distortion of the original meaning of democracy, since they do not implement “Isopoliteia” – political equality.

Compared to the original meaning of democracy, it is deduced that modern western societies constitute liberal parliamentary republics protecting individual freedoms and granting rights. They are governed by elected representatives, professional politicians that draw legitimacy by the popular vote. Yet, the citizenry remains limited in the private sphere, not constituting a governing body.

Parara references work of interest by two authors. Continue reading

Independent Candidate Hugh McTavish for Governor of Minnesota puts “Jury Democracy” #1 on his political platform

Hugh McTavish is running as an independent for the governor of Minnesota. McTavish’s primary policy position is

Jury Democracy. Have statistically valid juries of 500+ randomly selected citizens make all important decisions of government after hearing full debate and information from all sides on a single issue or proposal.

McTavish elaborates:

What would be the characteristics of an ideal government?  It would produce decisions in this way:

  • Decisions made by every citizen, not just by a single dictator or president and not just by a small number of representatives or the elites of society.
  • Decisions made with full information and after careful consideration of all evidence and arguments and with respectful, open-minded discussion about the decision among the decision makers; not made based on snap emotion or limited and biased information.
  • Decisions made by consensus where possible and not be 51% imposing their will on 49%.

Obviously, our current system falls short of these goals.  But that is necessary, right?  We do not have time for everyone in society to stop their lives to carefully consider all the evidence on every issue that our government has to decide.

Does it have to be this way? Can we achieve a better government?

Yes, we can. The way is a new idea I developed that I call Jury Democracy.

Jury Democracy is a system of government of having large juries (about 500 to 2,000 persons) of randomly selected citizens, where the juries constitute statistically valid samples of the citizenry or voters, make policy decisions for government after seeing full informed debate on the policy, being given full information for and against the policy, and fully deliberating and discussing the decision with equally informed citizens in the same jury.

McTavish is running as an independent and faces an uphill battle. Incumbent Governor Tim Walz has a commanding 18-point lead over his Republican challenger Scott Jensen 51% to 33%. However, I welcome any campaign that can promote the idea of democracy by lottery.

Meeting: Thursday, September 22, 2022 – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates will have our next meeting on, Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 19:00 GMT [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AED].

The meeting will be held on our Discord platform. You must register on the app to attend the meeting. If you’re interested in registering on on the Discord platform and attending the upcoming meeting contact: Rich Brown at rbrowncmt@yahoo.com.

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to a maximum of 1-hour in length.