Sortition on BBC4 Radio PM programme

Today (27 Nov 2013) in a series about reforming democracy, a listener proposes picking MPs by lot. A panel of Bogdanor, Runciman and Clare Fox sympathise but don’t think it would solve anything.

It starts at 25 mins in, and runs for about 5 mins at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03jdw6p

[BBC sometimes does not allow access outside UK]

About these ads

9 Responses

  1. Yes, sortition won’t solve neither anything nor everything.
    It will just improve the system…

  2. David Runciman was right to point out the radical contrast between the active republican culture of classical Athens and the indifference of most citizens in modern liberal states; Clare Fox is a former (?) Marxist and, as Vernon Bogdanor points out, has a romantic nostalgia for the doctrinal battles of yore.

    Bogdanor is generally viewed as the leading expert on the British constitution and I think we should be encouraged by his cautious welcome for sortition. He reviewed my first book, The Party’s Over, in THES and was entirely dismissive, but his review of my second book, A People’s Parliamen, in TLS was a lot more sympathetic — it was in that review that he first floated his idea of experimenting with sortition at the local level. The trouble is local democracy was entirely hollowed out during the Thatcher period so I’m doubtful if the experiments that he is suggesting would generate much interest. But we should be pleased that the leading constitutional theorist of our time is prepared to take sortition seriously (especially as he was David Cameron’s tutor at Oxford). All the more reason not to seek to alienate mainstream political theorists and practicing politicians by referring to the former as dogmatists and the latter as self-interested grandi

  3. It is great to hear this idea offered again. As can be expected, the panelists make the usual cliche objections.

    > David Runciman was right to point out the radical contrast between the active republican culture of classical Athens

    This is cliche mythology. Athenians had to be paid before they bothered showing up for Assembly meetings, and those showing up for juries were the old and poor who needed the money. No – if the allotted are compensated properly, as the listener suggested, there should be no problem getting people to play their part well.

    As for experimenting with sortition with lower powered bodies: there are clear disadvantages to that. As was suggested here before, experimenting with supervisory bodies makes much more sense than experiments at the local government level.

  4. >Athenians had to be paid before they bothered showing up for Assembly meetings, and those showing up for juries were the old and poor who needed the money.

    Whist that’s true it underestimates the difference between ancient republics and modern liberal democracies (Benjamin Constant’s essay is a good starting point here). It’s not just “cliche mythology” — the term idiotes referred to the “citizen who (contrary to the democratic ideals) shunned any form of political activity” (Hansen, 1991, p.396). The republican notion of virtue was a product of martial values and the citizens who voted for war or peace were the same hoplites and rowers who fought the battles, so political participation was the default position. I’m sure that properly compensating allotted citizens will help, but Runciman is correct to point out the huge differences involved.

  5. Yoram,

    You wrote: “As was suggested here before, experimenting with supervisory bodies makes much more sense than experiments at the local government level.”

    I have the opposite attitude…It seems to me that an allotted body with ACTUAL power (even if merely over a local matter) was a more significant step forward for the future of sortition than a merely ADVISORY body, regardless of the level. With no real power, participants have little motivation to overcome “rational ignorance.”

  6. anybody could download the debate and publish it on youtube please? I am outside the UK so I can’t access it… :(

  7. Terry,

    First, a supervisory body can have binding decision making powers. A supervisory power can, for example, be entrusted with authority to act in various ways against corruption of elected officials.

    Second, an important source of democratic power is public attention. A supervisory body which deals with issues that the public considers important can exert considerable power on behalf of the public even in the absence of decision making power.

    On the other hand, a decision making body whose activity is largely unknown to the public – like an obscure local authority – is essentially unaccountable and therefore potentially unrepresentative. When its decisions do make a difference it may or may not act in accord with the public interest and whether it does so or not will remain unknown to most people.

  8. Hi lii,

    I made a crude recording of the segment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8YZBv_oiwg. The sound quality is quite horrible but good enough to understand what is being said, I believe.

  9. Yoram,

    Sorry, I miss-read your earlier post as “advisory” rather than “supervisory.” this makes sense now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 244 other followers

%d bloggers like this: