No equality for women without sortition

The essay below was written at the suggestion of Campbell Wallace. It is meant as an attempt to recruit feminists to the cause of sortition. As an aside, it is worth mentioning, I think, that while, of course, men could be feminists, and some are, it is still somewhat embarrassing that all of the regular writers on Equality-by-Lot are men (I believe).

Almost 100 years ago, as the suffragist struggle in the US was approaching its successful culmination with the 19th Amendment, the feminist-anarchist activist Emma Goldman wrote her essay “Woman Suffrage”. It opens so:

We boast of the age of advancement, of science, and progress. Is it not strange, then, that we still believe in fetich [sic] worship? True, our fetiches have different form and substance, yet in their power over the human mind they are still as disastrous as were those of old. Our modern fetich is universal suffrage. Those who have not yet achieved that goal fight bloody revolutions to obtain it, and those who have enjoyed its reign bring heavy sacrifice to the altar of this omnipotent deity. Woe to the heretic who dare question that divinity!

And later:

There is no reason whatever to assume that woman, in her climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot.

Electoral fetish

The veracity of Goldman’s opening statements has not diminished by the passage of time. Indeed, “electoral fetish” is a two-word description of most of the political discourse of the last 100 years, both public and academic. As for Goldman’s last assertion, it may be considered somewhat extreme, but what is clear is that 100 years of women’s suffrage have not brought women anywhere near equality with men. If attaining suffrage was a tool of emancipation (rather than merely the milestone it surely was), then it is evident that this tool was not nearly as powerful as its most ardent promoters believed it would be1.

In 2013 women still make a small minority in almost every high powered elected political body. In the US congress less than 20% are women, while in US statewide elective positions and in state legislatures they make less than 25%2. The situation in Europe is somewhat better, but still no European country has a majority of women in Parliament and only in 3 countries the share of women is over 40%3.

Much more important than the lack of equal share in elected office is the fact that a century of voting has failed to equalize women’s power and status in all aspects and activities in Western society. Women are poorer than men4, they hold lower status occupations and lower positions in government, business, the military, and powerful organizations5.

The fact that women’s suffrage has failed to produce the promised equality would not have surprised Goldman. As she pointed out, since voting men of the 19th and early 20th century did not manage to exert power against the elites, the expectation that women would be able to wield power through suffrage was unrealistic. Voters, then as now, men as women, have a very limited influence in politics. The electoral system is not a channel for expressing the interests, ideas and world view of the voters. It is merely a way to arbitrate power among a small pre-selected set of options.

In other words, whether the suffrage is limited to property holding white men, or to all men, or open to all people, the electoral system is not a democratic system – it is an oligarchical system. It is a system that maintains power in the hands of an elite. The electoral elite is a system of people and organizations. The organizations are mechanisms for attaining and exerting power – political parties, mass media channels, large businesses and related organizations. Those organizations cooperate and compete for power. Vote getting is one of the activities of those organizations.

The members of the elite are men and women with characteristics that are distinct from those of the bulk of the population. They constitute a stable caste which changes very gradually over decades and centuries. The fact that this elite is still dominated by men is just one aspect of the nature of the electoral mechanism. A more crucial aspect is that the women who are elected are very atypical women (in the same way, of course, that elected men are atypical men) – they are older, richer, more educated, more ambitious, more widely known and better connected, etc. They therefore do not – cannot – represent the average woman any more than elected men represent the average man.

The voting record of U.S. congresswomen shows that as a group they are barely distinguishable from their male colleagues6. Thus while women suffer the brunt of economic inequality, elected women play their part in perpetuating and accentuating income disparities and undermining economic safety. And consistent differences in public opinion between women and men, such as greater aversion to war and heightened concern for the environment, do not get reflected in the policy making impact of elected women.

The feminist alternative: sortition

Goldman’s skepticism about suffrage proved well justified, then, but the weakness of her message is obvious: Goldman did not offer an alternative to suffrage as a way for exerting political power. Power requires organization, and if the electoral system is rejected as being inherently undemocratic, an alternative must be offered or the struggle is forfeit at the outset.

The democratic alternative to elections is sortition. Sortition is the practice of selecting decision makers as a random statistical sample of the population. This ancient mechanism still survives in a somewhat degenerate form in jury selection, but the same mechanism can be used to select political officers, and in particular, members of the legislature.

A statistically representative legislature will fulfill the ideal of being, “in miniature, an exact portrait of the people at large”7. A legislature selected by sortition can be expected to contain members of every subgroup in the population according to its prevalence. In particular, about half of the members of a legislature selected by sortition will be women. But much more important than the aggregate proportion of women in government would be the fact that those women would be truly representative of the population of women (as the men would of the population of men). Not only would the legislators’ situation in life be representative – ages, income levels, family sizes, educational levels, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, etc. – but ideas, beliefs, and world-views would be represented in the legislature according to their proportion in the population.

Such a representation can be expected to legislate in a way that promotes the interests of the population rather than in a way that promotes the interests of a political elite and its allies. This can be expected to improve the condition of under-privileged groups in general, but in the case of women the advantages of sortition are clearest, due to the fact that unlike many other under-privileged groups, women are not a minority in the population. Women, therefore, do not need to rely on coalition with similarly minded groups in order to assert their positions and set public policy accordingly. Due to their numbers women merely need to be represented faithfully in decision making bodies in order to exercise their power. As Goldman knew a hundred years ago, elections cannot deliver faithful representation. Sortition, on the other hand, promises to do just that.

Notes:

[1] Susan B. Anthony: The Status of Women, Past, Present and Future, 1897.

“With the advantages already obtained, with the great liberalizing of public sentiment, and with the actual proof that the results of enlarged opportunities for women have been for the betterment of society, the next decade ought to see the completion of the struggle for the equality of the sexes. The hardest of the battles have been fought, and, while there is still need for both generals and soldiers, the greatest necessity is for the body of women to take possession and hold the ground that has been gained. [...]

There will be a gradual yielding of the laws in recognition of woman’s improved position in all departments, but here also there will never be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect law-makers. In view of this indisputable fact, the advanced thinkers are agreed that the strongest efforts should be concentrated upon this point. [...]

It may be delayed longer than we think; it may be here sooner than we expect; but the day will come when man will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside but in the councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.”

[2] Center for American Women and Politics, Women in Elective Offices 2013.

[3] United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, 2012 data, The three countries with over 40% women in parliament are Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

[4] 30% of single women live in poverty as opposed to 15% of single men. U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, table 4. In all OECD countries median wages for men are higher than those for women. The average difference is more than 15% and only in two countries (New Zealand and Belgium) it is less than 10%. Women and Men in OECD Countries, p. 15.

[5] In the OECD 7% of men and 4% of women hold managerial positions. Women and Men in OECD Countries, p. 23. Women make 17% of S&P 500 directors, and 4% of S&P 500 CEOs.

[6] E.g., Men and Women’s Support For War: Accounting for the gender gap in public opinion (2012), Ben Clements; Elaborating on Gender Differences in Environmentalism (2000), Lynnette C. Zelezny, Poh-Pheng Chua, Christina Aldrich.

[7] “Thoughts on Government” (1776), John Adams.

44 Responses

  1. Positive discrimination and gender-equality quotas will achieve parity far more quickly.

    “it is still somewhat embarrassing that all of the regular writers on Equality-by-Lot are men (I believe).”

    The political theory reading group in my department is dominated by men, and female members have told me that they lack the confidence to speak. This would suggest that, absent a cultural revolution, sortition will only achieve gender equality if it assumes a judgment-only role with speech acts delivered by persons elected on a gender-balanced ticket. There is no reason to believe that an allotted chamber with full powers would achieve equal gender representation for the reasons just given. A body that looks like [America] will reflect the patriarchical culture that we are led to believe dominates the wider society. Feminists will not be satisfied with a portrait in miniature of a patriarchical culture.

  2. Nicely written Yoram. Have you considers submitting it to an online paper or blog aggregator, maybe someplace like openD?

  3. […] The essay below was written at the suggestion of Campbell Wallace. It is meant as an attempt to recruit feminists to the cause of sortition. As an aside, it is worth mentioning, I think, that while…  […]

  4. I’m still keen to hear from Campbell or Yoram in what sense a portrait in miniature would not simply mirror the cultural prejudices/biological predispositions [delete as appropriate] that exist in the larger population. Why would sortition make any difference?

  5. > Positive discrimination and gender-equality quotas will achieve parity far more quickly.

    I do recommend reading posts before responding.

    > A body that looks like [America] will reflect the patriarchical culture that we are led to believe dominates the wider society.

    This argument would imply (among other absurd implications) that the emancipation of slaves would make no difference in their status since they would continue to play the role of slaves under any legal framework.

  6. Thanks, Ahmed.

    > Have you considers submitting it to an online paper or blog aggregator, maybe someplace like openD?

    What is openD? I would appreciate any ideas and help with distributing this essay.

  7. >This argument would imply (among other absurd implications) that the emancipation of slaves would make no difference in their status since they would continue to play the role of slaves under any legal framework.

    This is a false comparison (women will not be emancipated by sortition as they gained the vote quite a long time ago), nevertheless there is some truth in your implication. The long road for freedom for African-Americans only begun with emancipation, the attainment of true equality takes many many generations owing, in part, to white supremacy norms built in to popular culture. Exactly the same is true in the gender wars, and it should be noted that those most committed to gender equality are largely drawn from the metropolitan elite. Rule by sortition is likely to be a backward step from a feminist perspective.

  8. >”I’m still keen to hear from Campbell or Yoram in what sense a portrait in miniature would not simply mirror the cultural prejudices/biological predispositions [delete as appropriate] that exist in the larger population. Why would sortition make any difference?”

    Taking the last sentence first, Keith, if you cannot see that there is a difference between less than 20% women and 50% women, then I don’t think I can help you.

    As for the cultural prejudices, I personally had not thought that sortition could help here. However, you have made me realise that an allotted assembly that discusses and debates legislation would help greatly, since one of the most potent methods of reducing prejudices is to put people from different backgrounds in contact and get them to talk to each other. A mute, impotent moot would be useless. Thank you, Keith.

    >”The long road for freedom for African-Americans only begun with emancipation, the attainment of true equality takes many many generations owing, in part, to white supremacy norms built in to popular culture.”

    Indeed, elections and the party system are, in effect, white male supremacy norms built into the popular culture.

    >”It should be noted that those most committed to gender equality are largely drawn from the metropolitan elite.”

    If this is indeed the case, so what? Women from other backgrounds are not automatically idiots, and can be presumed to know their own interest just as well as other people know theirs.

    >”Rule by sortition is likely to be a backward step from a feminist perspective.”

    A bald statement, without a scrap of justification. You’ll have to do better than this, Keith.

  9. Campbell,

    Feminists claim the problem is a combination of an imbalance of power and deeply-entrenched patriarchal norms. I agree that an allotted group that is comprised approx. 50/50 on a gender basis is likely to further women’s interests when it comes to voting, but speech acts will reflect the imbalances indicated in the first sentence. Advocates for women’s rights are much more likely to be found amongst the metropolitan elites favoured by the electoral process. The history of Afro-American emancipation would support this claim, as the equal-rights initiatives were driven by elected politicians at the Federal level. I’m no expert on US history but Lincoln had to play his cards very carefully, as did those supporting the late 20th century civil rights agenda. Most movements for social change are driven by an elite vanguard and are (initially) accepted grudgingly by the broader population (this is certainly the case with LGBT activists in the UK). Sortition would exert a strongly conservative influence on social norms — if I were a feminist I would not support the full-mandate allotment that Yoram and yourself advocate as it would merely reflect the existing patriarchy (although I would favour the equalisation of voting rights that sortition would introduce).

  10. Keith,
    it seems likely an allotted legislature would establish rules to regulate speaking time, and promote balance. While they may not set a male/female speaking quota, it seems likely that the roughly 50% women in attendance would notice and complain (and change the rules) if the men were heavily dominating discussion.

    Campbell,
    Your point that putting diverse groups in direct contact WITH DISCUSSION is potentially beneficial for breaking down stereotypes, is important. Of course, social psychologists have a raft of suggestions for assuring this happens, rather than spontaneously identifying as us/them or in/out groups. Interestingly, spychologists have shown that this us/them tendency is far more prevalent under the stress of threat…which is inherent in competitive electoral bodies, but could be largely eliminated in one-time allotted groups. I think sortition WITH DISCUSSION can lead to dramatically better common-good finding.

  11. Terry,

    My experience with the reading group would suggest that it’s nothing to do with rules — the chair falls over backwards (so to speak) to ensure even-handedness, it’s just that the women lack the confidence to speak — and this in a sample that would, by normal standards, be considered highly empowered (and extremely PC). Whether you attribute this to 2,000 + years of patriarchy, indoctrination (Yoram’s favourite trope) or innate sociobiological dispositions, its going to take a lot more than rule changes to alter it. The feminist agenda is entirely dominated by elite actors, and full-mandate sortition would set it back to the dark ages.

    This post is a good illustration of the flaw in the claim* that a microcosm will “automatically” act in the interests of the population that it represents. As Pitkin pointed out there are two principal forms of representation — “standing for” and “acting for”. Sortition establishes the former, whereas the latter requires a different kind of agency.

    * more akin to a catechism as it has yet to be dignified by a coherent argument.

  12. Thank god all those shrinking violets have you, Keith, and other chivalrous men, such as the Chair of your department, to speak up for them, since, you tell us, they are completely unable to speak for themselves despite all of your best efforts.

    But, of course, if the dainty members of the fair sex can rely on the presence of chivalrous men like your humble self, why can’t they rely on such gentlemen saving the day in the allotted chamber? Is it because you and the Chair are members of those benevolent metropolitan elites, while the allotted chamber will be filled with country rubes?

  13. Yoram,

    While Keith may be expressing the point in an exasperating way, it doesn’t deserve mocking. There really ARE challenges that need overcoming to get people of lesser power and status to participate fully in group settings. I think this can be done, and an allotted body would likely pursue those strategies far more effectively than would a competitive elected body which always has a hidden or overt imperative of exerting POWER over opponents.

  14. Yoram,

    I’m only reporting what two of my female friends told me. And the situation is still unresolved, despite the department being a haven for political correctness and the women in question being a lot more empowered than most of the sisterhood. As for the “country rubes” jibe, are you taking issue with my claim that PC and the feminist agenda is far more active within metropolitan elites?

  15. Keith,

    >”Advocates for women’s rights are much more likely to be found amongst the metropolitan elites favoured by the electoral process.”

    1 In fact, circumscriptions are often gerrymandered to exclude the sort of left-wing subversives that favour equality.
    2 The media, with a few exceptions, are unfavourable to them.
    3 Political parties seem to seek a balance between what they guess will win, and what policies are favoured by the financial backers, with the compromise gift-wrapped in whatever fibs are necessary.
    Sortition would help enormously to make things fairer, by eliminating (1), mitigating (2), and making the financial string-pullers in (3) irrelevent.

    >” if I were a feminist”

    Clearly you are not. Quite obviously you think people who do not come from the “elite” – your word – are not as capable as you are of judging what is in their best interests.
    Which is pretty elitist, and insulting to the rest of us.

    Curiously, while I agree that some people are more persuasive than others, the more you speak against “speech acts” the more you convince me of their value. Is that negative eloquence?

    Terry,
    >”it seems likely an allotted legislature would establish rules to regulate speaking time, and promote balance.”

    I think the necessity of this would become very apparent.

    I’ve just been wondering if it would be a good idea to require each member to speak a certain number of times in a month, under pain of a fine.

    >”Interestingly, spychologists have shown that this us/them tendency is far more prevalent under the stress of threat…which is inherent in competitive electoral bodies, but could be largely eliminated in one-time allotted groups. I think sortition WITH DISCUSSION can lead to dramatically better common-good finding.

    I heartily agree.

  16. Campbell,

    I don’t know what you mean by “circumscriptions” (a reference to non-monotonic logic or a prescription for circumcision?), but the tabloid press and elected politicians take up positions that are popular (ie sell newspapers and win votes). And why should “financial backers” be opposed to feminism? Increasing the size of the workforce and improving its spending power is good capitalist practice, and this applies both to feminism and the pink pound.

    Speech acts are extremely valuable, that’s why we need to ensure that they function in a representative way. I note with interest your proposal to fine people who do not speak, are you also planning mandatory courses in rhetoric? And will you be constructing a veil of ignorance to hide any clue of their social standing? Bearing in mind that allotted members are not experts in the subject under discussion and did not choose to be there in the first place, perhaps those who are silent don’t have anything in particular to say.

    BTW I do sincerely believe that ordinary well-informed people are capable of judging what is in their best interests, that’s why I’m an enthusiastic advocate of sortition.

  17. PS, why do you need Yoram to write your essays, why not do it yourself?

  18. Terry,

    Obviously, achieving equality within an allotted chamber is not a trivial task and requires careful thought. This is an issue that has been discussed here many times. Keith’s pretense that we are too simple to realize this point is rather comical, but maybe does not deserve mocking.

    However, Keith’s insistence that other people, including, it appears, a large proportion of women, are so childlike that they are better-off being represented by others than by themselves does deserves derision. Don’t you think so?

  19. >”I don’t know what you mean by “circumscriptions” (a reference to non-monotonic logic or a prescription for circumcision?”

    My mistake. I seem to have imported a foreign word and done it into English; inadvertently, as I try to avoid jargon. I mean “electorate” in the sense of the region that an elected member represents (circumscribed by an electoral boundary).

    >”And why should “financial backers” be opposed to feminism?”
    I really don’t know. Perhaps they don’t know their own interest as well as you. But the fact – borne out by history – is that the establishment habitually opposes change, presumably because the “haves” fear that if the “have-nots” get any improvement in wealth, power or even health, they themselves must lose. Since fear sells newspapers, and since advertising revenue comes from wealthy companies, this fear is strenuously maintained by the media. You can see this today in India, in the USA (opposition to “Obamacare”), historically in the opposition to the suffragettes, and to the women’s rights and black rights movements in the 60s, and so on.

    >”are you also planning mandatory courses in rhetoric? And will you be constructing a veil of ignorance to hide any clue of their social standing? Bearing in mind that allotted members are not experts in the subject under discussion and did not choose to be there in the first place, perhaps those who are silent don’t have anything in particular to say.”

    Most of this doesn’t deserve a reply. Note, though, that as I have said before, I would not compel anyone to accept a place in an allotted body, so members would be there by choice. They would also be free to resign: for health or family reasons, for instance.

    On any particular topic, it is true a member might not have a preference, or else feel that someone else had expressed his views, so would not care to comment. I am not wedded to the idea of a minimum number of speeches, but it might encourage the timid to come forward, thus mitigating the imbalances in “speech acts” that so obsess you.
    I also recall a certain elected member who in 26 years as an MP made exactly one “speech act”, to wit, “Mr Speaker, I suggest that we open the windows”. Perhaps he was wise:

    “I scarcely ever ope my lips”, says one
    “Simonides, what think you of my rule?”
    “If you’re a fool, I think you’re very wise,
    If you are wise, I think you are a fool.”

    >”BTW I do sincerely believe that ordinary well-informed people are capable of judging what is in their best interests, that’s why I’m an enthusiastic advocate of sortition.”

    You fooled me completely on both scores.

    >”PS, why do you need Yoram to write your essays, why not do it yourself?”

    This essay is Yoram’s, not mine. I merely suggested that women and minority groups had a lot to gain under sortition, and that writing some sort of letter to feminist leaders might help to give the idea of sortition an airing.

  20. Campbell,

    >>”And why should “financial backers” be opposed to feminism?”
    >I really don’t know. Perhaps they don’t know their own interest as well as you. But the fact – borne out by history – is that the establishment habitually opposes change

    You are conflating rich ‘n powerful lobbyists with “the establishment”. Perhaps there was some correlation of these two historically, not so nowadays, especially with the growth of transnational corporate power — an anarchic, iconoclastic and anti-establishment force. Global capitalism seeks to expand its market and the purchasing power of its customers and this generates an agenda that favours feminism and the pink pound. The conservative elements in modern politics are the broader population, that you are seeking to empower via sortition.

    Let’s look at a recent example in the UK. The previous (Labour) administration was an eager supporter of unchecked immigration as it appealed to its legacy internationalist sentiments and was helping to gerrymander a new client electorate (its traditional working-class power-base being rapidly eroded). It was also a way of atoning for left-wing guilt over our colonial history and was helped by the view, in PC circles, that any opposition to immigration was xenophobic. In addition the business class was eager for cheap foreign labour. The biggest losers were the indigenous working classes, who have historically been the most opposed to immigration, and their only allies were the tabloid media. The following extract from a review in a Labour-supporting journal of a book we published opposed to large-scale immigration illustrates this point:

    “The best thing about this book is that it saves you the cost of an evening in the pub. Just reading Moxon conjured up the filthy red carpet, the sticky counter, the smoky air and the swivel-eyed patron on the next stool, sharing his opinions. Mmm.. . . the book also demonstrates the pernicious effect of the new breed of immigration Jeremiahs: Antony Browne, David Coleman, Andrew Green.” Will Higham, Progress.

    In this scenario the (conservative) establishment is the general population that you are seeking to empower via sortition. As a conservative that’s fine with me, but I think you are unlikely to find many friends in the feminist lobby (or any other group advocating radical social change).

    >I would not compel anyone to accept a place in an allotted body, so members would be there by choice.

    Then it will cease to be statistically representative, and consequently forfeits its mandate.

    >>”BTW I do sincerely believe that ordinary well-informed people are capable of judging what is in their best interests, that’s why I’m an enthusiastic advocate of sortition.”
    >You fooled me completely on both scores.

    Why so? This has been my consistent position in everything I have written on this blog.

  21. Yoram,

    A portrait-in-miniature of a patriarchal society will be . . . patriarchal. There is no evidence that patriarchy is a product of preference elections, indeed feminist theory claims that it is a product of the nuclear family, where fathers hold authority over women and children. Changing the procedure for selecting political leaders will not alter this, although I agree that, given balanced information and advocacy, a group with a 50/50 gender balance is likely to judge political issues in a different way from one that is predominately male.

  22. >”You are conflating rich ‘n powerful lobbyists with “the establishment”.”

    Not so, although they are part of it.

    >”The previous (Labour) administration was an eager supporter of unchecked immigration.”

    Which is why there was no one in Sangatte when it was closed in 2002. The figure of 1500 would-be immigrants to the UK is a pure myth. However, I’m not really interested in discussing UK immigration policies with you, it’s not my business, fortunately. It’s not terribly relevant here, either.

    >”the (conservative) establishment is the general population”

    That’s a new and original definition, to my knowledge.

    >”Then it will cease to be statistically representative, and consequently forfeits its mandate.”

    At best a gross exaggeration, at worst a falsehood.
    How in the name of cats are you going to compel people to stay in the assembly if they are suffering from serious disease and need to be hospitalised? If they commit a crime and are sent to prison? If they have a sick spouse they want to be with? Or if they thoughtlessly just up and die, without so much as giving you a week’s notice in writing?

    And what would be the point of compelling someone who simply doesn’t want to be there, whether it’s to run a billion-pound publishing business, to meditate cross-legged on a mountain top, or to prostitute himself in order to pay off his gambling debts?

    If the replacement is chosen by lot, it is possible that you might, for instance, lose an ardent Maoist, and “gain” a rabid neo-Nazi. (If Maoists are 0.1% of the population, and neo-Nazis 10%, the probability would be 1 in 10 000 of this happening.) Even in this extreme case, in a chamber of 500 members, this would be unlikely to change majorities much. On some issues they might vote in the same way. Statistical representation will never be perfect in an allotted chamber but it will be vastly better than anything that we have at present. The picture will always be somewhat pixellated, but always recognisable as a good likeness. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

  23. Just to avoid misperceptions:
    >”This essay is Yoram’s, not mine.”
    This does NOT mean that I don’t agree with it. I think it’s a good piece of work, and I congratulate him on it.

  24. Campbell,

    The default position, as with any form of jury service, is that those selected by lot should attend. No statistical microcosm is a perfect representation, but making the process quasi-voluntary will provide an atypical sample.

    I also congratulate Yoram on posting this piece as it demonstrates very clearly the flaws in the claim that a statistical sample will automatically act in the interests of the population that it is supposed to represent. Feminists should avoid sortition at all costs, due to its built-in conservatism. Patriarchy is not the product of the electoral system, and a portrait-in-miniature of a patriarchal society will be equally patriarchal.

  25. This thread demonstrates nicely the standard progression of a discussion with Keith:

    (1) Keith makes a transparently absurd statement [in the present thread, that power structures are so embedded in the psychology of the members of society that any change in the institutions of society cannot affect them],

    (2) An obvious counter-argument points out the absurdity of Keith’s statement [if this is so, legally emancipated slaves would remain in their roles as slaves],

    (3) Keith responds by a convoluted explanation, apparently conceding that his original point was false, [the legal emancipation of slaves set them on a course toward equality],

    (4) A long discussion ensues in which Keith adds many false points, which are largely irrelevant to the original point he made,

    (5) At some point Keith reverts to the original, transparently absurd, claim.

  26. Yoram,

    Clearly institutional changes (laws and procedures) make a difference but it takes a very long time, as the example of Afro-American emancipation demonstrates. In the current example (female emancipation), sortition would just mirror the existing status-quo, because patriarchy ["the rule of the father"] is not a result of selecting political leaders by preference election. So shifting from an elite-based politics would be an entirely backward step as it’s hard to think of a more elite-based movement for social change than feminism.

  27. >”The default position, as with any form of jury service, is that those selected by lot should attend.”

    And if it is financially attractive, for the most part, they will.
    Are you proposing to send the police to fetch those who don’t want to? Into the nursing homes and intensive care wards? Into homes where the person chosen by lot is caring for an invalid? Overseas? To pluck them from yachts at sea or archaeologists’ digs in the Gobi Desert? Come off it, Keith, it must be voluntary for practical reasons.
    And who decreed what is “the default position”? You?

    >” but making the process quasi-voluntary will provide an atypical sample.”

    There is a slight element of truth in this, in that those who are too ill to attend will be under-represented. That is unfortunate, but inevitable. So will those who can make so much money elsewhere that they are not interested. That is their choice, and good luck to them. But the proportion of extremely rich and extremely ill is probably small, and in any case they will be represented in other characteristics by others.
    The glaring example of lack of representation – sometimes more than 20% of the population – concerns children. Why don’t you make a fuss at this? Would your non-voluntary silent chamber include children? (Good luck with the silence!) Would you oblige babes in arms to attend?

    >”it demonstrates very clearly the flaws in the claim that a statistical sample will automatically act in the interests of the population that it is supposed to represent.”

    I suspect that you’re using your favourite tactic of attacking a straw man. If anyone else has made this claim, I have not. In the last comment but one before yours, I said:

    “Statistical representation will never be perfect in an allotted chamber but it will be vastly better than anything that we have at present. The picture will always be somewhat pixellated, but always recognisable as a good likeness. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous.”

    Individuals often don’t act in their own best interests. There will be times when an allotted chamber will make mistakes. However, to suggest that women generally will be worse served by women like themselves than by a bunch of mostly male, mostly wealthy, career politicians is arrant nonsense, and shows that your claim above:

    ” I do sincerely believe that ordinary well-informed people are capable of judging what is in their best interests, that’s why I’m an enthusiastic advocate of sortition.”

    is completely insincere.

  28. Campbell,

    >And who decreed what is “the default position”? You?

    The default position is the statutory arrangements for jury service. Children are excluded as they are not generally deemed to be capable of mature and informed judgement. None of these legal requirements have anything to do with my personal preferences/prejudices, I am merely suggesting that existing juristic practice is the obvious place to start for a legislative jury. Why do you find that controversial?

    >”a statistical sample will automatically act in the interests of the population that it is supposed to represent.”

    That is a claim that Yoram has made repeatedly, I apologise if I attributed it to you as well. The authorship of this piece is somewhat ambiguous, so it’s not clear exactly where Yoram’s views diverge from your own. Note that the issue is not the accuracy of the representation (pixellated etc) it is the distinction between “acting for” and “standing for” (two entirely different forms of representation). My claim (or, more accurately, Pitkin’s claim) is that there is no particular reason to believe that an assembly that looks like America will necessarily act like America.

    Regarding my alleged insincerity, I’ve always made a distinction between aggregate judgment and individual speech acts. The representativity of sortition applies to the former only and I’ve consistently argued that an allotted chamber is the best way for people to judge what is in their best interests, so long as members are well informed on the topic in question. If you don’t acknowledge the distinction between “standing for” and “acting for” then you will continue to misunderstand my position (and question my integrity). And this is not just a personal fetish, it’s the standard currency of the discourse on the nature of representation in mainstream political theory.

  29. >”The authorship of this piece is somewhat ambiguous”

    I have already said that the article is Yoram’s, not mine.
    What part of that don’t you understand?

    >”The default position is the statutory arrangements for jury service.”

    Why should that be so? Maybe it’s not universally true, but I have been told by people who have served on juries that the pay they received was derisory. No wonder many (most?) people do all they can to avoid it, and have to be compelled.
    I have proposed that allotted members be very generously rewarded, and gave my reasons. I know you read what I wrote, as you chose to mock me for it.

    >” there is no particular reason to believe that an assembly that looks like America will necessarily act like America.”

    There is every reason to believe that an assembly that looks nothing like America will often not act in America’s interests. We see that every day.

    >” If you don’t acknowledge the distinction between “standing for” and “acting for” then you will continue to misunderstand my position (and question my integrity). And this is not just a personal fetish, it’s the standard currency of the discourse on the nature of representation in mainstream political theory.”

    It’s not a matter of your views or Pitkin’s on representation. Nor is it a matter of your superior knowledge of political theory. I question your integrity when I perceive that you refuse to acknowledge a rational argument, or change your grounds in the course of a discussion, or use your straw man tactics, or deliberately stray from the subject under discussion to dodge the point, or misquote others or twist their arguments, and so on.

    I don’t get that feeling with other people on this site.

  30. PS, to clarify the distinction between standing for and acting for, a speech act is representative iff the person being represented has chosen the representative to speak on her behalf. In the same way that one chooses an attorney to speak on one’s behalf in court, some women might choose to vote for politicians who are standing on a pro-feminist ticket (or who have demonstrated their feminist credentials in other ways). The representative would then be said to act for the person(s) being represented. This argument does not apply to a randomly-selected body, because the speech acts are entirely random — ie there is no way of ensuring that active representation is proportionate to the population that is being represented, as some human agents are more persuasive than others — see the recent thread on jury service: http://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/the-jurys-still-out/

    This is such an obvious point that I’m puzzled we are still arguing about it.

  31. Campbell,

    I agree that pay for political juries should be more generous, in order to ensure that the courts do not overrepresent poor and unemployed people. In a court of law the task is epistemic, whereas with a legislative court interests come to bear, hence the need to ensure accurate representation. So the quasi-mandatory nature of jury service is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

    The way to ensure that a legislature acts and looks like America is to allocate the judgment role to a statistical sample. But the agenda, information and advocacy role cannot be left to happenstance — measures have to be taken to ensure that the active function is equally representative, and sortition cannot achieve this (for reasons that I have already given).

    I’m sorry that I’ve failed to convince you regarding my personal integrity. I can’t really see that I can do anything more in that respect. Perhaps I should hire Terry as an advocate, as he seems to be the only active participant who understands my perspective (even though he disagrees with it).

  32. >> ”a statistical sample will automatically act in the interests of the population that it is supposed to represent.”

    > That is a claim that Yoram has made repeatedly,

    Just another another one of the false claims Keith so frequently makes.

    Campbell,

    > I question your [Keith's] integrity when I perceive that you refuse to acknowledge a rational argument, or change your grounds in the course of a discussion, or use your straw man tactics, or deliberately stray from the subject under discussion to dodge the point, or misquote others or twist their arguments, and so on.

    You are far from being the first person on this blog to feel this way.

  33. >”is representative iff the person being represented has chosen the representative to speak on her behalf.”

    Unmasked at last! A backsliding electoralist-roader! Your own mouth condemns you! “has chosen”: the true mark of a running-dog of electoral imperialism!

    More seriously, I don’t see why I or anyone else must accept that definition. As has been pointed out countless times, the sense of the word “choose” when electors are said to choose their representatives in an election has been perverted beyond all recognition.

  34. Campbell,

    >Unmasked at last! A backsliding electoralist-roader!

    Huh? I’ve consistently argued that we need distinct procedures to implement the two forms of representation (acting for and standing for). Choice, as you rightly point out, can only be exercised between the alternatives on offer, hence the need to supplement election (where the choice is highly approximate) with direct-democratic mechanisms. But imperfect choice is better than no choice at all, and there is no reason that someone who acts for me need resemble me (my accountant and I share very little in common). As for your irritation with my postings and suspicion of my motives, I suspect this may have something to do with the fact that I am the only active poster who takes issue with the consensus on this blog that sortition is the only valid method of political representation.

  35. Yoram,

    >>> ”a statistical sample will automatically act in the interests of the population that it is supposed to represent.”
    >> That is a claim that Yoram has made repeatedly,
    > Just another another one of the false claims Keith so frequently makes.

    “automatically” refers to your insistence that as the group is representative of the target population then its strategy to inform itself will be equally representative. The word is used in the logical, not temporal, sense.

  36. >”But imperfect choice is better than no choice at all”

    That is not always so. A few years ago, if you were a UK socialist whose principal concern was to get Britain out of Iraq, you were presented with a choice of Tony Blair’s Labour, or the Tories. Both were committed to the war, although a majority of people opposed it. You would have been better off taking pot luck with a phone book and a pin; you would have had better than a 50% chance in selecting a PM, if allowed to select the whole Parliament, you would almost certainly have had an anti-war one.

    There is another example, the recent Croatian referendum on marriage. As it has been reported, voters were asked the question “Do you believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman?”
    Obviously one can hardly answer “no”, in 99% or more cases this is so. The government used the inevitable No vote to justify legislating against homosexual marriage.
    Incidentally this highly dishonest proceeding is a good example of what we can expect with your scheme where an allotted chamber is only permitted to vote on questions carefully worded by “experts”.

    >”As for your irritation with my postings and suspicion of my motives, I suspect this may have something to do with the fact that I am the only active poster who takes issue with the consensus on this blog that sortition is the only valid method of political representation.”

    It is not simply because you disagree with me, Keith.

  37. > I am the only active poster who takes issue with the consensus on this blog that sortition is the only valid method of political representation.

    Yet another falsehood. Suggestions involving the combination of sortition with elections or other delegate selection methods are quite common on this blog. It is the obnoxiousness and carelessness with the facts that are unique to you, Keith.

  38. Yoram,

    I should have said frequent commentator (ie Campbell, Terry, yourself and me); of which I’m the only one who argues for sortition as a supplement to rather than replacement for election. I admit to carelessness, but let’s make a new years resolution to avoid adjectives like obnoxious.

    Happy Christmas

    Keith

  39. Campbell,

    I’m no fan of policy aggregation, my preference being for Swiss-style votation on an issue-by-issue basis. Our existing political arrangements do not exhaust the potential of the electoral principle. As for the wording of referendums, the adversarial DP-style procedure that I advocate would lead to the sort of detailed scrutiny that we witnessed recently with the Scottish independence referendum.

  40. > I should have said [...]

    Writing things you shouldn’t have is such a common occurrence with you, that useful discussion is impossible.

    > avoid adjectives like obnoxious

    Avoiding adjectives like obnoxious should be easy once obnoxiousness is avoided.

  41. Yoram, we’re all busy people, and blogging takes a lot of time, but a careless mistake (confusing frequent commentators and active posters) wouldn’t normally raise complaints of obnoxious behaviour. Cambell, Terry, Yoram and Keith make most of the comments and three out of four of these frequent commentators want to replace “electoralism” with sortition. So what I intended to say is clearly true, just rather clumsily expressed. I’ve already apologised for my imprecise language but this wouldn’t normally be seen as a hanging offence.

  42. > a careless mistake

    A single careless mistakes, or a few careless mistakes, do happen. But when you can rarely bring yourself to write a single comment which is not based on what is either a deliberate misrepresentation or extreme carelessness with the facts, then productive discussion is ruled out in advance. When many of those mistakes involve making various false claims about other people, then “obnoxiousness” the appropriate description.

    For a busy man you write here an awful lot. You should consider the possibility that you are too focused on quantity rather than quality in your writing.

  43. Yoram, why are you getting so exercised over a trivial use of words? It remains the default position of the frequent commentators on this site (apart from myself and Ahmed) that “electoralism” should be replaced by sortition. Given that I am in the minority, it is me who should be feeling insecure. Why are you so bothered about the views of outliers? Those in the majority position can afford to be a little more magnanimous.

  44. […] approndire l’argomento rimando all’articolo di Yoram Gat “No equality for women without sortition”, 16 dicembre […]

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