A policy jury is “innovative, genuine democracy”

Noosa Council, Queensland, Australia:

A Noosa Community Jury of 24 randomly selected citizens will be used to consider certain complex and weighty local issues. Council could either ask for a recommendation, or in some circumstances Council may agree beforehand to implement the jury’s decision.

Mayor Noel Playford says the Community Jury will not take over the Councillors’ role, but will complement their work when everyday citizens, given time and access to all the information they need, in independently facilitated forums, can make an informed decision that earns community trust.

A citizens’ jury statistically reflecting the whole community will be randomly selected by an independent agency, not by the Council.

“These are the vital ingredients” Mr Playford said, “random selection, time and access to information and facilitated forums, independent of the Council.”

The Mayor described the jury as “innovative, genuine democracy”.

“In the de-amalgamation battle, our community was not just fighting for the return of their council, but also for a bigger say in local decision-making.”

The new democratic structure in Noosa will be organised in partnership with the newDemocracy Foundation, a respected, national research foundation made up of former leading politicians and academic experts in the field.
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Vernon Bogdanor calls for sortition

The Sunday Times has published a pull-out on the Scottish Referendum and asked Vernon Bogdanor (David Cameron’s politics tutor at Oxford, now professor of government at King’s College London and the UK’s leading constitutional expert) to examine the consequences of the Referendum for the rest of the UK. Here’s an excerpt from his article:

The Next Question: Should England have a new Magna Carta?

Here is one suggestion. The Scottish referendum has released a hitherto submerged civic spirit, especially among younger voters. That spirit could also be tapped in England.

Suppose a small proportion of councillors — say 5% or 10% — were to be selected randomly by lot from the electoral register. Those chosen could refuse to serve, but most would probably do so and would include the young and members of ethnic minorities, groups markedly underrepresented in local government.

Those selected would be genuine independents, deciding what was best for their communities without being beholden to party. They would undergo a valuable form of civic education with beneficial consequences for local democracy. Local government could begin once again to become representative government.

Bogdanor reviewed both of my books on sortition — the first time (The Party’s Over) quietly ridiculing it and the second time (A People’s Parliament) agreeing that sortition is something that should be investigated at the local level.

Sortition insured a fair jury for indictment of Texas governor

A story in the New York Times:

With Governor’s Indictment, Scrutiny of Grand Jury System

AUSTIN — The indictment of Gov. Rick Perry by a Travis County grand jury has put the spotlight on the state’s quirky system that gives judges a choice in how to seat a grand jury.

Mr. Perry’s charges for overstepping his authority as governor came from a type of grand jury that is not the norm in Austin’s criminal courts: one whose members were chosen at random.

Austin courts, like those in many of Texas’ larger cities, typically rely on a so-called “key man” selection process, where judges choose a commissioner responsible for recruiting a panel of grand jurors. The practice was not used to seat Mr. Perry’s grand jury because the judge overseeing the case comes from San Antonio, where random selection is preferred.

The Blind Break, the Invisible Hand and the Wisdom of Crowds: The political potential of sortition

[Update: Commenting was accidentally initially off, enabled now.]

Draft paper:

Abstract: Following (Waldron, 2013), this paper draws a distinction between ‘social’ and ‘political’ variants of sortition, focusing principally on the latter. The two leading theories – the ‘blind break’ and the ‘invisible hand’ of descriptive representation – rely on different principles, focus on different levels of analysis (individual and collective) and have little in common. The attempt by epistemic democrats to bridge the gap via small-group face-to-face deliberation fails on account of the lack of concern for statistical representativity and the lack of distinction between the different roles of advocacy and judgment (proposing and disposing) in political decision-making, sortition only being relevant to the latter function.

This is derived from the paper that I presented at the recent IPSA Montreal conference, where I was encouraged to write it up and submit to a journal. I’d really appreciate comments and criticisms via this forum. Here’s the full draft (click the download button on the right).

‏‎J’ai pas voté

J’ai pas voté is a documentary by Moise Courilleau and Morgan Zahnd. It is “an autopsy of French democracy aiming to create a new opportunity for growth of a new era of political organization”. Among those featured are Loic Blondiaux, Yves Sintomer, Jean-Paul Jouary, Jacques testard, Bernard Manin, Etienne Chouard, and Hervé Kempf.

Again, an English translation or synopsis would be greatly appreciated. Ideally, English subtitling would allow this video to reach the non-French speaking audience.

The tired democracy

A discussion with Etienne Chouard and David Van Reybrouck under the title “The tired democracy – what are the solutions?” was held in Brussels in April. A video of part of the meeting is available. Unfortunately, the audio quality is rather poor.

Below is Ahmed Teleb’s English summary of the talk (Thanks!).
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Impact of money raising considerations on campaign rhetoric

The virtue-based justification of electoralism implies an indirect connection between public opinion and policy. According to this justification, the public identifies people it trusts and puts them in office. Those people then determine policy as they see fit. According to this theory, then, the connection between policy and popular opinion is mediated by character judgments.

The rewards-based justification, on the other hand, implies a direct connection: elected officials wish to please the public in order to be re-elected and thus pursue policy that matches public opinion (in the sense that if they pursue policy X, then there exists no alternative policy which would win higher approval ratings).

The rewards-based theory suffers from two fundamental defects:

  1. It ignores the epistemic difficulties facing voters. In reality voters’ ability to determine the effects of government policy is very limited. They are therefore unable to tell whether government policy matches their world view and promotes their interests.
  2. It assumes that politicians lack policy preferences of their own. The theory assumes that politicians want to be elected simply and solely for pleasure of being in office rather than to promote any specific policy.

Those defects indicate why the rewards-based theory cannot be expected to explain policy setting by elected government. However, those defects do not apply to the rewards-based theory in the limited context of campaign rhetoric. Continue reading

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