Invitation and call for posters: International conference Direct Democracy v. Populism, Geneva, 17-18 May 2019

On Friday and Saturday, May 17th-18th, 2019, the university of Geneva will hold a conference on the theme of “Direct Democracy v. Populism”.

On Friday evening there will be a public meeting in French, while an academic conference in English will be held on Saturday. The program: PDF.

Registration for the workshop is free but places are limited for catering purposes. If you would like to register please contact, before 2 May 2019, alexander.geisler@unige.ch.

Call for Posters: You currently work (or have worked or are planning to work…) on a project on direct democracy, democratic theory, democratic innovations, sortition or populism? Send us your
poster proposal by 15 April. Accepted authors will be notified by 17 April. Submissions and further information: nenad.stojanovic@unige.ch.

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.

Umbers: Against Lottocracy

“Against Lottocracy” (PDF) is a 2018 paper by Lachlan Montgomery Umbers from the department of philosophy at the University of Western Australia.

Abstract

Dissatisfaction with democratic institutions has run high in recent years. Perhaps as a result, political theorists have begun to turn their attention to possible alternative modes of political decision-making. Many of the most interesting among these involve reliance on lotteries in one way or another – as a means of distributing the franchise, selecting representatives, or making social choices. Advocates of these ‘lottocratic’ systems contend that they retain the egalitarian appeal of democracy, while promising improved political outcomes. The aim of this article is to defend democracy (or, at least, universal suffrage and majority rule) against the challenge posed by these proposals. I argue, firstly, that lottocratic systems necessarily involve the establishment of objectionable social and political inequalities in a way that democracies do not. Secondly, I raise a number of doubts with respect to the purported instrumental benefits of these proposals.

The paper is an attempt to formulate a reasoned (negative) response to proposals for instituting sortition-based government as a substitute to elections-based government, and specifically (as its name indicates) to Alexander Guerrero’s proposals. By doing so, the paper represents a significant step forward in the Anglophone academic discussion of sortition. In English-speaking academia proposals for setting up “citizen juries” – i.e., allotted, one-time, limited-purview decision making or (more often) advisory bodies – are discussed at length. So far, however, proposals for setting up sortition-based government were either ignored or summarily dismissed (“Nobody is going to support replacing Congress or Parliament with a randomly selected assembly,” as Helen Landemore put it). As it turns out, Umbers argues for the same reformist academic position. Umbers, however, does break some new ground by devoting his energies to making a detailed argument rather than simply taking sortition-based government off the table at the outset.
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Hind and Mills: A citizen jury visits the secret castle

Dan Hind and Tom Mills write in openDemocracy:

Entering the secret castle: A small step towards democratic public media?

Last week the BBC gave a representative audience panel control of its Brexit output for one day. Could this ‘citizens juries’ type approach begin to transform our media?

It didn’t receive much attention, but last week the BBC tried something interesting. For one day, Friday 1st March, its Brexit-related output was overseen by a representative audience panel that would, as the BBC put it, ‘control’ coverage ‘across a range of BBC News outlets’. The initiative, branded Brexit: Your Stories, was intended, the BBC said, to reflect ‘how Britain really feels about Brexit’. Kamal Ahmed, the editorial director of BBC News, was quoted as saying:

Not only will it be a very different and thought-provoking way of reporting the news that day, but it will help inform how we shape our news coverage in the future. We want our news rooms across the UK to be less a set of secret castles where, to the public, mysterious things happen. We want to open up the process and this first day is just the start.

Does this unusual step from the BBC signal a genuine interest in organisational change? Will it be a first step in democratising its output, as the statement put it? Or was Friday’s experiment more an exercise in PR?

Time will tell. But the rather narrow focus suggests a significant motivation was to help the BBC navigate the choppy waters of Brexit reporting, which has presented enormous challenges for the broadcaster.

[…]

Two proposals for representative representation

Representative representation: a citizens’ jury appointed by sortition (v 2019.03.11). (For a fuller context, see the paper released by democratie.nu: ‘Sortition as a democratic system for the appointment of a real parliament, also called ‘Citizens’ Jury’).

Introduction

Proposal I: The principle of our proposals is derived from some aspects of the jury in its judicial application. The ‘Legislative Citizens’ Jury’ is only called when necessary and has a short term mandate with the power to make a decision in just one specific case.

During the national elections, voters can allocate a number of additional parliamentary ‘seats’ to a descriptively representative Citizens’ Jury of at least 500 citizens, appointed by sortition[1]. This Legislative Citizens’ Jury will vote, along with the elected parliamentarians, on all bills and proposals for implementing decisions that citizens consider to be of sufficient social importance. A new jury will be summoned for each vote.

Questions and answers

Q1. What does the legislative power look like after summoning a ‘Legislative Citizens’ Jury’?

A1. The Citizens’ Jury presents itself like a ‘party’ in the political structure. The citizen himself determines the balance of power during free elections.


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Lottocracy among 5 ideas to upgrade democracy

NJ.com presents “5 ideas to upgrade democracy” by 5 “of America’s leading political philosophers”. One of those is Alexander Guerrero, professor of philosophy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Science, who offers the readers his ‘lottocracy‘:

Maybe America’s problem stems not from the fact that we aren’t picking the right people, but from the fact that we aren’t picking them in the right way.

Maybe — bear with me here — we should get rid of elections. I believe that you — that each of us — has something to offer, and that we can find ways to work together.

I propose we use a new system that uses random selection, rather than elections, to select political representatives.

I call it lottocracy.

For it to work, we must agree that having an elected, generalist legislature has run its course.

We should instead have randomly-chosen citizens selected to serve on single-issue legislatures, each covering specific areas such as immigration, transportation, education, agriculture and so on.

Each of the proposals was evaluated by 3 political scholars from Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics: Ashley Koning, Elizabeth C. Matto and John Weingart. Here is what they wrote about lottocracy:

Why won’t this work?
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A first article is published by BIRDS

Bard Institute for the Revival of Democracy through Sortition (BIRDS) was recently founded by Jonas Kunz and Hans Kern.

Kunz and Kern have now published a lengthy article in which they offer sortition as a tool for taking action on climate change:

Sortition: The Key to Globally Coordinated Climate Change Action?

Climate change by human industry (anthropogenic warming) has been known to scientists at the highest levels within the U.S. government, at least since 1979. That year, the ‘Charney Report’ — Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment — presented the research of nine atmospheric, meteorological and oceanographic scientists convened at Woods Hole Institute, to the National Research Council. The introduction to this report by Werner E. Suomi pronounces: “If carbon dioxide continues to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible. The conclusions of prior studies have been generally reaffirmed. …[“]

[Natheniel Rich writes in a New York Times article:] “in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions.” To arrive at a clear understanding of what went wrong, we must first do away with the common misconception that big industry is and always has been the main culprit. In fact, as the article reveals, the oil industry was the first, to take due diligence measures, on the dangers of climate change and was preparing to adapt to policy changes. The policy changes, however, never came. Resistance did not come from the outside, it came from within the political structures themselves.

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