Democratic accountability, part 2

Part 1 describes what “democratic accountability theory” is.

“Accountability” has a generalized positive connotation. Surely it is better when power is held accountable than when it is unaccountable or arbitrary. Scratching the surface, however, various considerations make it evident that the appeal of “electoral accountability” is illusory.

  • First, an “accountable government” is presumably self-evidently superior to an “unaccountable government” whose mandate is permanent and therefore cannot be replaced. But the charm of accountability seems less clear when the alternative is a different “unaccountable” government – a government whose mandate is temporary and cannot be renewed. If elections are the only method of accountability then such a limited mandate government is not accountable either. Accountability, it turns out, is not about replacing government any more than it is about permanent government. For some reason, a government must be re-electable to be “accountable”. It is the ability to award the prize of re-election that makes a government electorally accountable. If a prize cannot be awarded, or cannot be withdrawn, the spell of accountability is nullified.

  • Secondly, accountability is purely retrospective. The politicians have had their time in office and are now either rewarded or punished for past actions. This is a radical retreat not only from the naive (Schumpeter’s “classical”) theory of elections which relied in addition to the retrospective rewards-based argument on the prospective virtue-based argument (“the voters will select people who are competent and trustworthy”), but also from the Schumpeterian theory. Schumpeter explicitly draws the analogy between voting and making a purchasing selection (e.g., “what businessmen do not understand is that exactly as they are dealing in oil so [politicians are] dealing in votes”). The analogy is imperfect but it does imply, like the naive theory, application of both prospective and retrospective considerations: on the one hand the buyer tries to assess the quality of the items for sale before the purchase, and on the other hand the seller is interested in repeat business and so has the incentive to keep his customers happy.

    One implication of a theory whose main emphasis is on retrospection is that the question of how an official attained power matters little. “Accountability” is supposed to guide anyone in power toward the Good as long as they stand for elections at some not too distant point in the future. The leaders of a coup, say, are accountable – and therefore democratic – if they hold “free and fair” elections within a few years of taking power.

  • Thirdly, if some sort of a prize that may or may not be awarded to a government officials at the end of their term is required in order to make them accountable, then many possible prizes besides re-election could be considered. It is certainly possible to imagine a system where at the end of each term government officials are graded, by popular vote or by some other mechanism, and have some just desserts – either positive or negative – bestowed or inflicted upon them. Anything from monetary rewards or fines to statues and jail time can be considered. It is quite unclear why these would not serve as effective media for accountability. The existence of anti-bribery laws, for example, implies that monetary motivations have high potential in motivating government official to make their decisions in accordance with the interests of those awarding them cash.

  • Finally, the whole rewards-based argument for electoralism is entirely unconvincing. That is, not only isn’t it clear why re-election should be seen as the only accountability-inducing prize, it is quite unclear how re-election could serve as a prize for high-quality government policy at all. Empirically the idea that the public is able to effectively assess the quality of past policy is highly unrealistic. It is based on some sort of a spectator sport analogy: like, say, elite sprinters who can run faster than most anyone in the audience, elected politicians are unique for their ability to craft policy better than most any voter. However, like the viewers of a sprint who can all see which one of the sprinters runs the fastest, the voters can easily see who actually governs best.

    Even in the case of running, there is much more to selecting the “best” in the field than meets the eye (increasingly sophisticated drug tests, for example), but when it comes to selecting politicians, retrospection by itself gives very limited information about quality. Voters are at the mercy of the politicians themselves and their allies or opponents in the media when they gather information upon which they have to base their selection. Coming up with a realistic estimate of the quality of government policy is much too difficult and expensive to justify the effort. “Electoral accountability” rests therefore upon the slogans and manipulation of mass politics rather than on informed and considered choices.

    Beyond these epistemic barriers, proposing re-election as an accountability-inducing prize creates another problem – coming up with a psychological model which would be consistent with the supposed advantages of the electoral system. If the electoral system is such that the elected are induced to use their power in accordance with the interests of the people rather than for personal profit, then it is not clear what the allure of being elected is. It seems paradoxical to assume that an elected official give up their opportunity to, say, enrich themselves and their associates, only for the (uncertain) privilege of getting re-elected for another term, in which they will also not be able to enrich themselves because they would be concerned about being re-elected yet again. At some point of this chain of postponed gratification the politician needs a real prize – a prize that is not just another chance of convincing the public that they should be re-elected.

    It could be, of course, that public service itself is the prize. This would contradict accepted dogma about people being self-serving, but dogma is always flexible in hands of the propagandist. However, if this is the case then the elected politician would pursue it whether or not re-election is offered.

    The only remaining possibility, it seems, is that politicians are after the offices alone. According to this rationalization, they do not care about serving the public, but their main profit from service is not setting policy in accordance with their interests, but simply being elected again and again for office. Under this model, the elected politicians do not want to risk their main objective – simply being in high office – by pursuing minor objectives, such as distributing society’s resources in a way that would materially benefit their political backers. It is possible that this carefully contrived model is what “accountability” theorists have in mind. Schmitter and Karl may allude to that when they talk about “professional politicians who orient their careers around the desire to fill key offices.” Like other aspects of their model, they seem content not to scrutinize this issue too closely.

Conclusion

Accountability theory rose from the ashes of explicitly elitist theories in the vein of the Schumpeterian theory. As elitist theories became increasingly unfashionable during the last quarter of the previous century mystification became a convenient alternative. What accountability theory lacks in coherence it more than makes up for in superficial respectability and agreeability to established power. It serves those “variety of needs – psychological, socio-economic, political, propagandistic – that transcend the need of pedants for scientific cogency”. Having attained conventional status in intellectual circles, there is no reason to expect accountability theory to lose any of its charm until public opinion forcefully rejects it. In the same way that the civil rights struggle managed to sway public opinion against the oligarchical mindset of elitist theories, present-day democratic political activism should aim to delegitimate the false pretenses of the accepted political science that has grown since.

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208 Responses

  1. >It could be, of course, that public service itself is the prize. This would contradict accepted dogma about people being self-serving, but dogma is always flexible in hands of the propagandist. However, if this is the case then the elected politician would pursue it whether or not re-election is offered.

    Not so. The economic theory of democracy merely states that politicians operate a policy of vote maximisation in order to obtain/retain public office. Why they choose a life of public service in the first place is on account of a complex mixture of motives, including love of power and glory, competitiveness, amour propre, ideology, desire to introduce policies that improve the lot of their fellow citizens and/or lead to a more productive society, sense of calling, personal enrichment, class interest etc etc. Re-election is necessary in every case. No doubt politicians could be evaluated by other means but election also serves a prospective function, in that voters have an opportunity to judge the manifesto pledges of the competing parties (the product marketing brochure in your Schumpeterian example).

    >Coming up with a realistic estimate of the quality of government policy is much too difficult and expensive to justify the effort [of electors].

    Ben Page’s The Rational Public offers a 490-page refutation of this claim, as does Erikson et al’s The Macro Policy. Both works rely on a view of collective intelligence that transcends the individual judge perspective that you adopt here. All of us on this forum would agree that there are better ways of implementing collective intelligence, but that doesn’t mean the existing methods are entirely without merit.

    PS to maintain the recent outbreak of cordiality on this blog, please can we avoid referring to views that we disagree with as “dogma”.

  2. The argument for “accountability” presented above is essentially an argument against a system of pure, one-step sortition or klerostocracy. There is indeed a risk that a sorted kleristocrat, serving for only a single term with no prospects for further service beyond that term, might take advantage, along with his fellows, of having control of the public fisc, to feather his nest and that of his friends. That is apparently one of the reasons why the Venetian doge was selected to serve for life and not for a limited term. It is a mistake to presume that a selectee in a simple, pure, one-step sortition system would be motivated only by a sense of duty, patriotism, public acclaim, or a craftsman’s satisfaction in a job done well.

    In a well-designed multistage process in which sortition alternates with filtering for merit, the candidates do have the prospect of being selected again, based on their reputations and records of accomplishment, if not in for the same office then for another. But the prospect of surviving the selection process for some job may be expected to provide a strong incentive to honestly and competently serve in the present job. The key is to have the merit-screening done by randomly selected screeners.

    In other words, it would operate much like the present marketplace for professional short-term contractors, who apply for jobs randomly and are selected based on their reputation, resumes, and letters of recommendation. That is not to say that government by professional contractors could not go astray. Corruption in government contracting is a well-known problem and measures like audits, reports, and competitive bidding are often not sufficient to avoid contractor selection based on bribery, intimidation, or connections rather than merit, but in most of those instances of corruption the screening decisions were not made by randomly selected screeners.

    Pure, one-step sortition should not be proposed for well-deserved criticism. It should be discussed as a critical but not complete solution to the problem of selecting officials that balance the demands for representativity with the demands for independence, accountability, competence, and wisdom. Let us develop and propose such multi-stage methods and not just limit our discussion to the sortition phases of them.

  3. >Let us develop and propose such multi-stage methods and not just limit our discussion to the sortition phases of them.

    Agree with all Jon’s comments, though I’m still disposed to view merit, election and sortition, as unique principles for the three different branches of government (executive, policy advocacy and legislative judgment). But agree on the need for a balanced constitution — any pure system cannot fulfill the competing demands for independence, accountability, competence, wisdom (and representativity).

    As for the all-powerful kleristocrats — off with their heads!

  4. I agree with “constitutionalism’s” multi-step filtering process for selecting executives, but believe it would be counter-productive for the legislative branch, by narrowing the cognitive diversity and democratic representativeness of the body. There are no experts (or uniquely wise and virtuous) in terms of deciding WHAT society should do, only on HOW best to accomplish it.

  5. @Yoram, are you DEFINING accountability as re-electability or are you critiquing such a definition?
    Is it clear that that is what the common notion of “accountability” entails? For some “being answerable to the law,” or something else, would constitute being accountable.

    The meta-question would be: why is this of a concern to you?

  6. Ahmed,

    As I wrote in the first part of the post, it appears that as far as it has any real content “democratic accountability” or “electoral accountability” theory – which is an influential, if not the most influential, mainstream theory of “democracy” nowadays – makes two statements. One statement is positive: following Schumpeter, the theory asserts that “democracy” means an elections based system. The other statement is normative: the fact that government officials stand for re-election makes “democracy” Good, and in fact it is to a large extent the only way to make a Good government system.

    My point in this part is that the normative statement is false.

  7. Jon,

    > The argument for “accountability” presented above is essentially an argument against a system of pure, one-step sortition or klerostocracy.

    Of course, I don’t see how this is true.

    > There is indeed a risk that a sorted kleristocrat, serving for only a single term with no prospects for further service beyond that term, might take advantage, along with his fellows, of having control of the public fisc, to feather his nest and that of his friends.

    As I explained in the post, the notion that re-election is to any extent a deterrence or an incentive against “feathering one’s nest” is false for multiple reasons. As I also explained, different incentive mechanisms can be devised which can be expected to be effective.

  8. I like the idea of a merit based multi-stage executive selection process. I just have to wonder if it would be popular enough to compete with direct election. Thanks to modern media, most people will be very much aware of the actions and personalities of those in office. I suspect the idea of turning the offices over to the people for a direct vote will remain a powerful one.

    >The only remaining possibility, it seems, is that politicians are after the offices alone. According to this rationalization, they do not care about serving the public, but their main profit from service is not setting policy in accordance with their interests, but simply being elected again and again for office.

    This is exactly what I would argue. A typical politician’s positions shift as much as is needed to maintain a large enough support base to retain (or obtain higher) office. Power would seem to be its own reward. This is one possible problem with electoral democracy: You end up with something that could be labeled sociopathacracy. Only those who act in the pursuit of maximizing their own power go very far. Not that this is inherently a bad thing. I’d be fine being governed by those sorts of people if they did a good job. The problem is that their interests are not what they would need to be in order to drive behavior consistent with good government.

    It is worth emphasizing the role of institutional configuration on accountability. Dividing the electoral components of government into multiple, conflicting, institutions is dubious at best. When power is divided, responsibility is shared. When responsibility is shared, no one is personally responsible for anything and any attempt to enforce accountability on a personal level will be futile. In a nonpartisan, or weakly partisan, assembly (for example) no one is responsible for the actions of the assembly as a whole. An individual member of a legislative body could be the most intelligent, capable, honest, hard-working person to ever grace the Earth, yet if his colleagues insist on doing silly things, the assembly will do silly things. You can’t penalize him for that. No one is responsible for the assembly, the members are responsible only for their own actions. And they will act in their own interests, even when the sum total of all their interests is very much counter to the needs of the assembly as a whole.

    This is one of the big reasons political scientists are so fond of highly disciplined political parties. Parties bridge the gap between individuals in government. They reduce the number of effective actors to a more manageable number.

  9. I think, while merit-based sortition makes sense in order to have qualified people in government, I fear it would exacerbate the sense of wide groups of the public that they have no influence on public policy. Even now, this is of course a problem, but at least everyone gets a vote and can start organizations to group like-minded people (as many recently have in Germany with a swath of new parties coming and going quickly).

    In a pure sortition system without merit-filtering, at least you can argue that everyone gets a fair chance to implement their policies – although I think this is problematic in a pratical sense (big countries, 4 year terms of legislative body makes any sole persons chance of serving pretty much 0). In a merit-based sortition system, it is worse because many people know (and I would guess resent) the notion that they would be considered “too stupid” to be selected to decide on things they feel strongly about.

    Also, the absence of accountability in sortition is in fact a problem I would argue. Let me give an example. Recently in Germany, a high government official (not elected but directly working for Merkel) decided to make a switch from government into industry. This was news for days – the public feeling that he leveraged his position to sell out to car companies in exchange for their preferential treatment in recent emissions negotiations. Also, Schröder, the former chancellor, has had a lot of bad press when, after leaving office, he started to work for a gas pipeline project. This of course did not directly hurt these people, but it does hurt their party. This gives the party they are working for a strong incentive to keep these actions that look like “I give you preferential treatment while in office and you give me a job afterwards” to a minimum. Also, the realistic chance of being re-elected (which for key party members is very high in Germany) is a strong insulation against such advances by industry,

    In a sortition based system – what is stopping anyone from doing exactly that? For example, even in a sortition based system, the sheer number of tasks do to and their complexity would require sub-committees of some sort or other. This again gives every subcommittee member considerable power (as it is now) – and therefore lobbyists the incentive to bribe them. The classical case – defense projects. They are huge, costly, highly complex and a lot can be gained by greasing the right people. What’s is to stop any defense company from bribing sortition selected officials? The simple fact that it is illegal is not enough, b/c
    a) proving bribery is very hard
    b) there are perfectly legal quid-pro-quo schemes that can work very well without anyone getting directly rewarded or even approached. All that is needed is that every sub-committee member on the defense panel knows that if they play ball, a job is waiting in their future …

    The potential subsceptibility is made worse by every sortition-based selected official essentially knowing with probability 1 that they will not serve a second term. However, after being outside of their regular job for say a term of 4 years (as Benet Bradreth has mentioned as a possible length of term), they would certainly have strong disadvantages in their old job, even if they go back (the literature on the penalty women suffer for taking time off their job is quite extensive I think). So – they have a natural tendency when serving longer terms to try and leverage their sortition based power into something that at least outweighs the disadvantages they suffer. And while they are it – why not get a little extra – after all everyone will be doing it.

  10. Yoram, bastante de acuerdo contigo. La rendición de cuentas de los políticos elegidos por plebiscito es un adorno teórico más que una realidad tangible.
    Ahora deberías escribir un tercer post sobre este tema explicando como la rendición de cuentas de una asamblea sorteada podría ser mucho mas realista con los arreglos institucionales adecuados.

  11. Naomi,

    Your post nicely indicates the impossibility of maintaining a genuine separation of powers when a single mechanism (election) is used for each power — the parchment barriers are simply too porous. (It also indicates the danger of conflating executive selection and legislative functions). The US Founders believed that the differing constituencies, terms and direct/indirect nature of the elections would give rise to bodies with entirely different characteristics, but in practice the Senate (intended as a bulwark against hasty decisions) has proved more sensitive to changes in the public mood than the House and the presidency has become entirely politicised. If we are serious about the separation of powers then we need unique selection principles for each power, and each body would be accountable in different ways:

    Election: Democratic norms suggest that everyone should be entitled to pick the legislative proposals that appeal to them and one mechanism is the party election manifesto (another mechanism is the popular initiative). Accountability would take a Bayesian form: political parties that made epistemically successful proposals would benefit from increased public confidence (and vv for the turkeys), so future proposals would be judged in the light of past performance. Accountability would be medium- to long-term, in line with the waxing and waning fortunes of the parties concerned.

    Sortition: A jury benefits, as Euripides pointed out, from the harlot’s prerogative — power without responsibility. Although my preference has been for ad hoc juries on the Athenian model, a more accountable alternative would be a rolling three year term with an annual sortition. Budgets are normally annual and, given a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, legislative juries would be bound, at minimum, by fiscal accountability (unlike our current arrangements).

    Meritocracy: It’s unclear to me why anyone would want to either vote in or randomly select government officers — no other large organisation works in this manner. Government officers should be selected on merit and removed by a censure motion in the legislature. Ministers would be accountable to the sovereign people (or at least a representative microcosm thereof), exactly as Rousseau intended.

    HH,

    Hard to take issue with any of the points that you make. Sortition only protects the government against corruption ex ante. I agree with you that (full-function) allotted legislatures would be wide open to bribery ex post, and that, in the absence of party discipline, the corruption floodgates would be wide open (a point that I’ve made several times before on this forum). That’s why allotted legislators could only ever listen to the debate between expert advocates and determine the outcome by secret vote. Any active function (ie proposing and arguing for or against legislative bills) would open them to corruption and destroy the statistical representativity of the allotted body (which only applies, ex hypothesi, at the aggregate level). A large (c.300-600) jury that only votes in secret would be very hard to bribe. The notion of an “allotted representative” is a category error, as the descriptive-representation mandate only applies in aggregate, so individual speech acts are ruled out a priori. As a statistician I hope you will confirm this point, as most people on this blog seem to view an allotted representative as on a par with an elected representative, only selected by a different ballot mechanism.

    Naomi: >”And they will act in their own interests, even when the sum total of all their interests is very much counter to the needs of the assembly as a whole.”

    That’s a very interesting point, as many on this blog assume that the individual actions will neatly sum in such a way as to ensure ongoing representativity (and epistemic efficiency). This ignores the huge differences in persuasive power and perceived status of the different individuals involved — hence the likelihood that “the sum total of all their interests is very much counter to the needs of the assembly as a whole.” I take it the “needs of the assembly as a whole” are a proxy for the General Will?

  12. Hi Keith,

    yes, I think sortition only works as to insofar as random selection guarantees that the decision of the body is close to what the overall population would have decided (law of large numbers).

    However, this theory only holds if randomly drawn representatives do not interact. As soon as representatives interact and dicuss the issues and get to know each other (a special concern if they serve longer terms) – they are not a random sample of e.g. 300 people anymore. By interacting, correlations creep in. After a while, small groups of people that decide together may emerge and coordinate – say you have 30 groups of 10 people each. However, once this occurs, the sample size is now effectively reduced to 30, from 300.

    This reduction I see in the following form. Assume that instead of drawing 300 people at random – you divide the whole population into groups of people of 10 each (that already know each other and agree on topics) and now draw 30 such groups. Of course, such a scheme would have a considerably higher variance as a sample size of 30 is too small to guarantee good representation.

    In a sense – my description from above is even optimistic. In a jury of 300 people, experts in certain fields may emerge over time that large groups of people simply follow – recreating the rational ingnorance problem that occurs in referendums. You may eventually reach a situation where decisions are effectively made by only a handfull of people on certain topics.

    For random sampling like this to work, retricting interactions between the chosen people is essential – this is also why Naomi’s suggestion from an earlier post is spot-on. Several small juries deciding independently is better than one large one.

  13. HH

    Thanks, glad to have my intuition confirmed by a statistician. The Condorcet Jury Theorem holds that safeguarding the independent judgment of each person is vital and Surowiecki’s book on the wisdom of crowds agrees. One of the problems is the very word jury — in the legal instance unanimity is necessary (or at least highly desirable), hence the need for deliberation. Not so in a legislative jury, where we would do better to follow the Athenian example.

  14. PS the reason the Habermasians privilege active deliberation is because they are seeking, like Burke, to uncover the laws of [god and] reason, they’re not interested in representativity. In fact the two forms of deliberation have different etymology — deliberate (“weigh” [an argument] in Latin) and deliberativestimme (“deliberative voice” in German). They really have entirely different aims, epistemic in the German case and democratic judgment in the Latinate form. Of course we would hope that informed democratic decision making would benefit from the wisdom of crowds effect, but this is a secondary consideration, if we want a system that everyone who does not participate directly can consent to.

  15. Naomi,

    > Power would seem to be its own reward.

    If we believe your description then the elected position is not a position of power at all. It is merely a fancy title. According to your description elected politicians get to make no choices according to their own judgment or preferences – all their decisions are a reflection of popular preferences.

    So again: we are assuming that the politician (1) is not actually interested in serving the public, since in that case the reward of office would not be necessary, and (2) is so obsessed with the title of an office that he is willing to give up using any power the office wields toward promoting any other personal interest – financial, egotistical, aesthetic, or any other – for the quite uncertain prospect of getting re-elected. This is theoretically possible, I presume, but beyond being constantly controverted by the facts, it seems like an absurdly contrived psychological model to begin with.

    As a very obvious example of the way this model is a poor description of reality, if it had any truth to it we would not be seeing elected politicians granting themselves very high salaries in the face of widespread public disapproval with this.

  16. Tomas,

    This is an interesting idea. I am not sure I would want to design a detailed system of incentives. One thing is clear, however: the people in power should be subject to examination by representative bodies. They could, for example, stand to trial for corruption if they participate in what appears to be an exchange of favors.

    Such exchanges are a routine part of the existing system and are completely legal because the people in power are not interested in having them checked.

  17. Hi Yoram, Naomi,

    I think it oversimplifies the situation a bit if you are trying to reduce a politicians reason for trying to get elected to office to a single motive. People (and Politicians) are not that simple. I would argue that a mixture of many reasons is present in to a varying degree in every politician:

    a) a drive to serve the public – or a part of the public that aligns with ones own party and overall broad opinions. This can of course, depending on the size of the party, strongly disagree with overall public opinon. Nonetheless, I am sure they would argue that they are serving the public.

    b) Money – after all being a politician is a job and they are in general being paid handsomely with salaries that many of them would never reach in the day job they would otherwise hold

    c) True will for power. This is certainly plays a role, but to very varying degrees. A backbencher motivated by this may get frustrated. On the other hand, Merkel for example is someone for who this is really important – she is not in it for the money, living not extravagantly and showing no sign of trying to change that. She also does not have a clear policy agenda she is trying to achieve nor does she outright pander to the public. In the end, she does whatever is necessary to stay Chancellor.

    d) probably several other reason I don’t think off

  18. >I take it the “needs of the assembly as a whole” are a proxy for the General Will?

    Perhaps. Here’s an example. In the classic Madisonian perspective we expect each institution to fight to maximize it’s own power against the others. Classical presidentalism depends on it. But constitutions written by sitting legislatures in place of a dedicated convention *almost univerally* have fantastically powerful presidents and much weaker legislatures, paradoxically. The thing is, when presidents are powerful, to the point of being able to make laws to some extent by decree, they assume a disproportionate share of the responsibility for the government’s failures. The legislature can pick and choose what to become involved with (picking only win-win topics and ideologically moving issues) and leaving the rest to the president. This increases the legislature’s incumbency rate, serving the interests of the members on an individual basis. The incumbency advantage of the President is reduced (where reelection is permitted at all) which serves the interests of the leaders of the legislature, as they are the ones who have the best shot of going on to become president one day.

    Presidents and Assemblies by Shugart and Carey has an excellent breakdown of this behavior.

  19. HH

    Agree that we are all subject to mixed motives — surprising that anyone would seek to even question that.

    Naomi,

    >In the classic Madisonian perspective we expect each institution to fight to maximize it’s own power against the others.

    I’m not sure that James Madison would have taken quite such an agonistic perspective. My understanding was that the US Constitution was intended as a republican version of Montesquieu’s discourse on English political practice in which each estate performed a different (but complementary) role and had a distinctive virtue. But as the American republic could not allow the hereditary principle, the founders were constrained to use a single appointment method and slice and dice the resulting muddle accordingly. Gordon Wood’s book is very good on the trouble the founders had instituting the aristocratic body (the senate) without recourse to a distinctive selection principle. And, of course, the presidency was politicised as soon as Washington renounced office.

  20. It was definitely a poor choice of words. However, he was a big believer in constitutional stability through the institutionalization of conflict between institutions. To quote the Federalist Papers:

    “But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition”

    –James Madison, Federalist 51

  21. That’s also Machiavelli’s reasoning for a people’s Tribunate with veto power over elites! As I argued recently on openDemocracy. If we reason this ways, then ALL Executive agencies in the US, like the FEC, FCC, SSA, etc. should have popular checks either through “Tribunes” or through Citizen Juries or the like.

  22. Yoram,
    While I have other objections to Keith’s preference for an elected law-drafting body serving as an advocacy body before the allotted jury, I am curious if you don’t see value in dividing the law drafting and law voting functions between distinct bodies (I favor having both selected by lot). The point of many posts above that allotment of a single all-purpose body leaves the door open for corruption by after-service reward seems valid to me. This isn’t identical to “accountability” as the term is used by electoral advocates, but related. Do you think that laws forbidding taking jobs (or accepting gifts) after leaving service would suffice? Wouldn’t the currently serving members of an allotted body (if it had free rein) have an incentive to repeal such anti-corruption post-service reward laws? I think it is essential that the body that adopts and enforces the rules be SEPARATE from the body that passes the laws.

  23. HH,

    > I would argue that a mixture of many reasons is present in to a varying degree in every politician:

    Sure. My point is that the “re-election is a prize which motivates good governance” argument doesn’t work under any of those reasons. One has to construct a very contrived and counter-factual model of the politician in order to justify the rewards-based argument for the electoral system.

  24. Terry,

    > I am curious if you don’t see value in dividing the law drafting and law voting functions between distinct bodies (I favor having both selected by lot).

    As long as all bodies are representative (i.e., allotted), I don’t have a strong stand either in favor or against splitting authority. There are advantages and disadvantages to various arrangements and it is best to let the details be set over time by people who have experience with the working system rather than try to design them ahead of time based on various guesses as to how things would turn out.

    > The point of many posts above that allotment of a single all-purpose body leaves the door open for corruption by after-service reward seems valid to me.

    Such corruption is always a risk, but I don’t see how splitting authority reduces the risk. However power is arranged, we are expecting the system as a whole to be able to set new policy as it sees fit. That power to set policy can be abused, i.e., to set policy in a way that serves the elite at the expense of the population. Splitting power may make any change in policy more difficult, but why would we believe that the way it affects corrupt policy is any different than the way it affects good policy?

  25. @Yoram
    Sorry, I am confused. Assume you are a politician who wants to be one for all the reasons I have listed above, so public service, money and power. Without re-election he will loose those things – so from that perspective it is a “prize”. And without good governance, the voters won’t re-elect (unless they don’t really have choices, of course). So, why does “re-election is a prize which motivates good governance” not work? For a lot of issues, this has worked very well. For example, SPD (social party) in a coalition with CDU (conservative) increased retirement age from 65 to 67 against the wishes of a lot of voters of the SPD who see this as fundamentally unfair. SPD lost the next election big time (it is now 10 years ago) and to this day have not recovered fully. Now they are back in a coalition with the CDU again and trying to roll back some of those changes. So – how has re-election not worked to focus them on what voters wanted and ecouraged “good governance” in the sense that they follow their voters wishes?

  26. HH,

    First, IIUC, your example is not an example of good governance, but one of a failure of representation of popular opinion. Ten years later, the unpopular policy is still in place.

    As for the theoretical considerations: IIUC, you are claiming that despite the fact that no single motivation for running for office is consistent with the rewards-based argument, some combination of the motivations is consistent?

    That is, with officials who are motivated by either “a drive to serve the public”, or by “money” or by “true will for power” the prospect of re-election will not result in good governance, but with officials who are motivated by some combination of the three it will?

  27. >First, IIUC, your example is not an example of good governance, but one of a failure of representation of popular opinion.

    What’s everyone’s opinion on what should happen when representing popular opinion and good governance are mutually exclusive?

  28. I have spent enough time with members of the U.S. Congress, including more than two years in Washington, DC, to get a strong sense of what motivates members to modify their actions in response to demands from various stakeholders. Most members are spending more than half of their waking hours trying to raise funds for their re-election, so to the extent the demands are coming from the voters generally, it is a strong factor in public accountability. But most voters are influenced more by campaign marketing or things like the economy than by scrutiny of the actions of the incumbent. However, to a larger extent the demands are coming from special interests, which creates a different kind of accountability.

    An elected incumbent can be regarded as an investment by himself and his supporters. He probably arrives with an agenda of a few things he wants to do, and soon finds he can’t do most or any of them in one term, and that to get enough support from other members he may have to support their agendas even if he doesn’t approve of what they want.

    Each time he is re-elected his influence, and therefore his ability to get a return on the investment in his incumbency, grows. If it is expected he will continue to be around for years to come, people are more likely to give him more of what he wants.

    The wealth gains that come to most incumbents is usually not mostly for their personal consumption. Being an effective incumbent for almost any purpose is expensive in many ways, far exceeding member and staff salaries. If they didn’t accept some of those undue “benefits” they would be operating at a loss and when their personal wealth was exhausted, they would be forced to quit.

    However, holding elected officials accountable, whether by denial of re-election or in other ways, is not just about influencing their behavior. It is mainly about removing them so they can’t do any more damage. The expectation of not being re-elected may not influence an incumbent very much at all, especially if he has good prospects for another job when he leaves. We don’t remove rotten apples from barrels with the expectation that it will influence them to refrain from rotting.

    Using sortition steps in a selection process should be seen mainly as a way to disperse factions and reduce decisionmaking based more on connections and favors than on knowledge, skills, patriotism, and judgment.

    On the point that once a jury deliberates it is no longer representative of the public pool of people from whom it is drawn, the standard for representativity should not be resemblance to the public in their state of non-deliberation, but to their state if they did deliberate, although it is impractical for them to do so.

  29. I have proposed amendments http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/con_amend.htm that would adopt sortition for selection of the president and senators, but use proxy voting for members of the House.

    Selecting electors for president and vice-president:

    The electors for president and vice-president shall be selected in each state by the following procedure:
    An initial panel of citizens qualified to vote in that state equal to one hundred times the number of electors to be selected from that state shall be selected at random, in a process that shall be supervised by a randomly-selected grand jury specially empaneled for that task;
    Members of this initial panel shall take an examination in which each shall recite from memory 20 randomly selected clauses of this Constitution, and shall receive a score of one for each clause he or she is able to recite without error;
    A second panel shall be selected from the first, consisting of ten times the number of electors to be selected, with the odds of selecting each weighted by the score he or she received in the examination, and with exclusion of any who scored zero;
    Members of the second panel shall meet, and each shall rank all the others in descending order of civic virtue, giving a score indicating the rank consisting of the number of panelists for the highest down to one for the lowest;
    The electors shall then be selected from this second panel at random, but weighted by his or her average rank from the previous round of peer assessments.

    Proxy voting in legislative bodies elected by population:

    Members of the United States House of Representatives, and houses of state legislatures whose members represent political subdivisions that elect a number of representatives in proportion to their population, shall elect representatives at large, and the number of allocated representatives receiving the most votes shall be declared elected.
    Each such member shall cast a fractional vote equal to the number N of members allocated to that state or subdivision, multiplied by the number of votes he or she received in the election, divided by the total number of votes cast in the state or subdivision for the N candidates receiving the most votes, in all proceedings of the house to which elected.
    Each candidate shall, prior to election, declare a list of successors if he or she becomes unable to serve, or is removed from office, who shall be appointed to replace him or her.
    If the chain of successors is exhausted the State Governor shall appoint the successor.

    Selection of members of legislative bodies not elected by population:

    Members of the United States Senate, and houses of state legislatures whose members represent political subdivisions not based on population, shall be selected by a multi-stage nominating process that first randomly selects precinct panels of twenty-three, who then elect a person from each precinct, from among whom are randomly selected twenty-three persons for the next higher jurisdiction or district, and thus by alternating random selection and election to the next level, when they reach the top level, the number of randomly selected candidates shall be two, who shall be the nominees on the ballot for the final election by general electors, except that general electors may write-in other persons.
    Electors may vote for more than one nominee, using the method of approval voting.
    There must also be an alternative of “none of the above”.
    The nominee receiving the most votes shall be declared elected, unless “none of the above” wins, in which case the position shall remain vacant until the next election.

  30. @Naomi
    “what should happen when representing popular opinion and good governance are mutually exclusive?”

    It can be argued that popular opinion is at least in partial conflict with good governance in almost every country today. That’s why direct democracy in which most policy decisions are made by popular referendum is generally seen as a bad idea, and why most countrys only have the people elect representatives who meet and deliberate before deciding. Popular opinion is mainly useful for throwing out bad officials when they become intolerable, not for making nuanced and insightful policy decisions. Even the experts often aren’t able to do that.

  31. Terry,

    >I think it is essential that the body that adopts and enforces the rules be SEPARATE from the body that passes the laws.

    Given Naomi’s observations on the inability of two bodies constituted by the same mechanism (election) to check each other, why would two bodies constituted by sortition be different?

    Jon,

    >On the point that once a jury deliberates it is no longer representative of the public pool of people from whom it is drawn, the standard for representativity should not be resemblance to the public in their state of non-deliberation, but to their state if they did deliberate, although it is impractical for them to do so.

    We all agree on that, but what if each deliberative sample comes to a different conclusion on the same issue? To which outcome would the vast majority of citizens who did not deliberate be deemed to consent? You appear to be suggesting that deliberation will always lead to consistent outcomes, irrespective of which individuals are involved. My argument is that this is only true of aggregate functions such as voting, not speech acts — which are the province of individuals. Statisticians like HH find this point obvious, not so with those whose concerns are more epistemic.

    >Members of this initial panel shall take an examination in which each shall recite from memory 20 randomly selected clauses of this Constitution.

    Why is the ability to memorise the content of a historic document an indication of a person’s fitness to serve on a legislative panel?

  32. Concerning the notion of separating the functions of developing legislation from voting on it, we have many examples of where that is done, or is supposed to be done.

    In the original adoption of the U.S. Constitution, and its methods of amendment, one body frames the provisions and other bodies have to decide whether to ratify them. They don’t get to approve only parts of them, or make changes. It is up or down.

    However, the inability of the ratifying body to amend does not mean it may not demand amendments from another framing body. Most of the state ratifying conventions ratified on the agreement that their proposed amendments would be submitted for approval. That was how the Bill of Rights was adopted http://constitution.org/dhbr.htm

    So even if the two functions are formally divided, in practice the two functions tend to cross over and feed back on one another.

    We also see that in bicameral legislatures, especially where only one house can propose certain measures, such as revenue bills. Of course that does not prevent ruses like the Senate “amending” a House-originated bill to replace every provision of it with their own.

    We also see this in the way chief executive officers can veto legislation, either having to veto the entire bill, or line items in it. But he can also usually find a member to introduce legislation he has developed, so there are always workarounds.

  33. @keithsutherland
    “what if each deliberative sample comes to a different conclusion on the same issue? To which outcome would the vast majority of citizens who did not deliberate be deemed to consent?”

    That happens in every polity with branches, levels, and bicameral legislatures, all of which are required to concur. There are usually mechanisms for reconciling their differences, which has the effect of temporarily merging them into a single body for each measure, although they have initially arrived at conflicting positions before the merger.

    A system that does not provide for such a reconciliation process but still has multiple bodies, without the ability to act unless they agree, is a system designed not to act without a general consensus, which is likely to be a good design for many kinds of decisions.

    We have to consider how partisan behavior defeats the intent of such consensus designs and allows all parts of government to fall under the control of a single faction. Reform may consist of impeding majoritarian decisionmaking with countermajoritarian veto blocks.

  34. @keithsutherland
    “Why is the ability to memorise the content of a historic document an indication of a person’s fitness to serve on a legislative panel?”
    It is an objective way to screen out those lacking sufficient motivation, or the cognitive capacity, to do a good job. The U.S. Constitution is a short document (although my amendments would make it much longer) that is easily memorized, and encouraging more people to memorize it is likely to bring benefits to society in other ways.

  35. >That’s why direct democracy in which most policy decisions are made by popular referendum is generally seen as a bad idea,

    Depends on what circles you frequent. In more liberal circles the idea of putting *everything* to a vote has considerable traction. Which is odd, as referenda tend to return more conservative results than the conventional legislative system.

    >Why is the ability to memorise the content of a historic document an indication of a person’s fitness to serve on a legislative panel?

    Agreed. The American civil religion strikes me as downright creepy. And I say this as an American.

  36. >However, the inability of the ratifying body to amend does not mean it may not demand amendments from another framing body.

    Which is one of the reasons why I favor a highly decentralized process. It would, I’d imagine, rob those responsible for ratification of their leverage.

  37. @Naomi
    “The American civil religion strikes me as downright creepy.”

    Requiring people to memorize things is not religion, but sound education in needed cognitive skills, that happen to also provide a way to filter out those who lack them, or the diligence to improve.

    One of the most valuable things I got from public education came from my 8th grade English teacher who required us all to memorize one-page poems in four minutes. It was difficult at first, but within about four or five sessions everyone in the class became able to do it, and I could see a distinct improvement in their academic performance thereafter.

    Moderns disdain “rote” learning but that has long been a mainstay of public education until the 20th century brought “reforms” that deprecated memory skills. That was not the reform that was needed.

    We should require everyone to memorize and recite all kinds of things just to keep them sharp. The U.S. Constitution just provides one thing to memorize that is of a convenient length.

    It might also get more people to learn to understand the Constitution in depth, and it might avoid a lot of convictions for “crimes” not authorized by the Constitution if jurors commenced with copies already in their heads, since most judges today forbid them to have a printed copy.

  38. @Naomi
    “I favor a highly decentralized process.”

    But ultimately there has to be a single decision at the level action is needed, and that means however decentralized the process may have been in the early stages, it has to be centralized to arrive at the destination.

    However, having multiple intermediate deliberative bodies who must temporarily merge to reconcile their differences is likely to improve the quality and sound judgment of the process overall, at the cost of speed.

  39. This is what I find creepy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_civil_religion

    >A system that does not provide for such a reconciliation process but still has multiple bodies, without the ability to act unless they agree, is a system designed not to act without a general consensus, which is likely to be a good design for many kinds of decisions.

    IMO, one of the greatest flaws of the American system is that it both requires consensus to function and rewards the taking of an adversarial stance due to the existence of a powerful, unilateral, majoritarian executive. There are far better starting points if you care for consensus.

    >But ultimately there has to be a single decision at the level action is needed, and that means however decentralized the process may have been in the early stages, it has to be centralized to arrive at the destination.

    I’m talking about starting centralised, with a decentralised yes/no on an elected body’s decision.

    >However, having multiple intermediate deliberative bodies who must temporarily merge to reconcile their differences is likely to improve the quality and sound judgment of the process overall, at the cost of speed.

    And at the cost of accountability. There is no accountability in a committee. It doesn’t matter whether we have a committee of individuals or a committee of institutions.

  40. @Yoram
    Actually I would argue that a combination of the three are truly better than each of the 3 in isolation. My reasons
    a) Will to serve the public. This is noble, but in order to make an impact, you need a certain ruthless and ability to get your opinion heard. Also, you need staying power. This is an important aspect so that a politician does not go astray, but he/she will not be effective if it is solely based on it

    b) Money, maybe the most mundane, but also the best reason to simply stick it out sometimes if everything looks bad. Of course, on its own it just leads to people doing nothing but trying to get re-elected. In concert with the others, it is a force for good.

    c) Power – crucial to have for any leader. Without power, you get nothing down. With no of the other attributes, you either burn out quickly or implement the wrong policies wiht the power you wield.

    So yes, I think politicians motivated by a combination of the three are truly better suited for their jobs than any politician solely motivated by one of 3.

  41. @Jon @ Keith
    Regarding on Keiths earlier point that deliberation leads to results that are problematic regarding “representation” think of the following model

    Asumme we have a country, consisting of 1000 villages of 300 people each. All these villages are representative of their demographcs (in the sense that when the country was formed, citizens were assigned to villages completely at random). After this assignment, no one is allowed to move, but they interact freely within their village. Over time, different opinons in different villages will occur through networking effects in each village.

    Now assume we draw 300 people at random for a legislative body. At the beginning, this legislative body will resemble a population as if we had drawn 300 people without taking villages into account. After longer deliberation over time – the 300 people in their opinion structure will start to look more as if they have emerged from a single village.

    So, the basic question now is. Would you consider a sortition system that does not choose entirely at random from the population, but only chooses one whole village to fill the entire legislative body as a good way to represent the will of the whole country?

  42. Jon:

    >So even if the two functions are formally divided, in practice the two functions tend to cross over and feed back on one another.

    Exactly, that’s why we need bodies constituted by different mechanisms. In a law court there is no confusion as to who are the advocates and who are the jurors. Madison deplored the fusing of advocacy and judgment, but didn’t offer any way of overcoming it as election is the only mechanism available to the republican constitution builder.

    >That [different decisions on the same issue] happens in every polity with branches, levels, and bicameral legislatures, all of which are required to concur.

    But all these bodies derive their democratic legitimacy from election — if voters choose to return a Republican House along with a Democratic Senate and President then that’s their choice. Not so in a sortition-based polity where citizens are selected randomly. Consent-by-proxy (for the vast majority who don’t draw the golden ticket) presupposes consistent decision outcomes between samples, and that will not happen if speech acts are permitted. This would be a minor restriction on the rights of allotted members compared to the effective disenfranchisement of 99.999999% of the electorate, whose rights are most in need of protection.

    >It [rote learning] might also get more people to learn to understand the Constitution in depth, and it might avoid a lot of convictions for “crimes” not authorized by the Constitution.

    That’s the reason the Catholic Church required the learning of the catechism by heart.

    HH:

    >So yes, I think politicians motivated by a combination of the three are truly better suited for their jobs than any politician solely motivated by one of 3.

    Agreed. And it’s hard to think of examples of politicians who claim to be motivated by a single pure principle — Robespierre? The world of empirical human beings is a lot more messy than the ideal-type constructions of the political theorist.

  43. HH,

    > I would argue that a combination of the three are truly better than each of the 3 in isolation

    Be that as it may, this is not the question we were discussing, I believe. The question was whether the rewards-based argument for re-election is valid with any of the 3 motivations in isolation or only with some combination of the 3 (or not at all).

    It seemed to me that you granted that the argument was invalid with any of the 3 in isolation but claimed that it is valid for some combination of the 3. I don’t see how this could be true.

    For example, I don’t see how the money motive could be compatible with good governance even if other motives are present. Once the official uses his office to promote his pecuniary ends, good governance is already ruled out, regardless of whether the official has other motivations. If on the other hand the office is not used to promote the official’s pecuniary ends, then how can there be a “money motive” for getting elected?

    By the way, this analysis does not mean there can be no responsiveness at all with the electoral system. It is just that based on the rewards-based argument, the expectation is for corruption to be prevalent.

  44. @Yoram

    The money argument was not about corruption, but about the salary of an elected official. It is after all quite considerably and most people elected to public office would not earn this amount in their other line of work. This, btw. is very much the whole point of granting them a high salary – isolating them against corruption. At the same time it is a money motive for re-election. In and of itself, it does not really promote direct good governance – but it does not hurt it either. And it can work well with the other motives as insofar it leads perseverance in the face of obstacles.

    As to how it can be valid with a combination as to each in isolation. Well, assume that “good governance” of a politician is a concave function of each of the 3 attributes. Assume a negative “good governance” function means that this politician should not be re-elected. Then of course, a concave function can be positive for some combination of the 3 attributes even if it is negative for each in isolation …

  45. @Yoram
    An addition – a high salary also is a good deterrent against doing stuff that is illegal or going against public opinion. After all, who wants to loose a good steady income stream?

  46. @Keith,

    The problem with interaction between randomly selected officals is not just with speech acts. Any sort of interaction – and be it just a meeting for coffee can turn problematic. Friendships should not form. No one should have a high regard for anyone else’s opinon. In fact, I think it would be very hard to implement in practice. Maybe they would not even know nor meet each other with everything being done by one-way video? But then, this sounds ridiculous.

  47. >Maybe they would not even know nor meet each other with everything being done by one-way video? But then, this sounds ridiculous.

    Perhaps you could choose a thousand people at random and simply send them each a postal ballot for some issue. Government by mandatory participation opinion polling.

  48. >Perhaps you could choose a thousand people at random and simply send them each a postal ballot for some issue. Government by mandatory participation opinion polling.

    No use if we’re interested in considered and well-informed opinion. The model that I prefer is that of the Deliberative Poll in which 300-600 or so citizens are selected randomly and extensive efforts are taken to ensure that they all turn up (financial compensation, child care arrangements etc). They then receive balanced briefing from both parties in the debate (pro and con), witness the adversarial exchange between the advocates, ask questions and then determine the outcome by secret vote. The DP also has moderated deliberation in small groups, but this, IMO, is the cause of the variation between decision outcomes between DPs and moderation would not be possible in a legislature on account of the Quis Custodiet problem.

    >Any sort of interaction – and be it just a meeting for coffee can turn problematic. Friendships should not form.

    This is why I prefer ad hoc juries — one per legislative bill. But problems arise regarding (fiscal) accountability, so there is a good argument for legislatures to have the same (annual) term as budgets. Continuity might also suggest a three-year term, with annual sortitions for 1/3 of the members.

  49. Keith asked: “Given Naomi’s observations on the inability of two bodies constituted by the same mechanism (election) to check each other, why would two bodies constituted by sortition be different?”

    Keith, I think you have layered onto Naomi’s comment about the problem of dividing responsibility, your own notion that the selection method shouldn’t be the same (all election or all sortition). Naomi can correct me, but I think her concern had nothing to do with using the same or different selection methods, but rather conflict in bicameral systems, or between a president and a legislature. This is different than separating functions (such as drafting, approving, administering).

    It seems to me that using sortition as a selection method for multiple distinct bodies that do not compete with each other over the SAME function, but instead check each other by controlling different functions is perfectly workable. Using different selection methods doesn’t really accomplish anything special. Different bodies made up of different humans can have an appropriate level of checking each other.

  50. Keith,
    Great point. But do you think the small number of votes combined with a several day long window to complete the ballot before turning it in result in sufficient motivation for adequate independent research?

    For what it’s worth, I do favor debate and deliberation between selected individuals, as I mostly would like to see sortition used for oversight purposes and this seems to be a fine way of letting the most reasonable (read: most defensible) proposals through. That’s why I’d like to have a statistically significant number of bodies in which debate freely occurs.

    Terry,
    That was my intent, but I very much agree with Keith’s interpretation of my argument as well.

    >Different bodies made up of different humans can have an appropriate level of checking each other.

    Two sufficiently large (statistically significant) bodies selected by sortition should be basically identical at the start. I suspect giving them different roles will make them develop differently. And people can certainly become irrationally attached to their own ideas. Passing a proposal to another body (even one that is basically identical) could be healthy. I would prefer different methods of selection, though.

  51. One of the problems in juries is that strong personalities can emerge to lead the body in a direction they might not otherwise take. Lawyers call this a “shepherd in the fold”. It is is often difficult to pack juries to get a desired outcome by non-randomly selecting the members while seeming to do it randomly. But it is often possible to insert a single strong personality to take control and steer the jury. One sign of this is the judge appointing one juror as the foreperson (the jury is supposed to elect their foreperson as the first order of business). This is usually done by collusion between the prosecutor and judge to get a conviction, but sometimes a prosecutor can insert his shepherd without the judge noticing, especially in jurisdictions where the sheriff or other law enforcement official administers the selection process who is a crony of the prosecutor.

    Separating the function among multiple juries can provide some protection from this kind of subversion.

  52. Terry:

    >Naomi can correct me, but I think her concern had nothing to do with using the same or different selection methods, but rather conflict in bicameral systems, or between a president and a legislature. This is different than separating functions (such as drafting, approving, administering).

    Yes, I suppose mine was a different point (a single selection method will lead to the convergence of analytically-distinct functions). American history bears this out, and also that conflict will arise when two or more bodies, comprised by the same mechanism (election), compete over the same function. The ancient theory of the mixed constitution viewed the functions of bodies comprised by different mechanisms (heredity, election, sortition) as complementary but in practice conflict still occurred.

    Naomi:

    >do you think the small number of votes combined with a several day long window to complete the ballot before turning it in result in sufficient motivation for adequate independent research?

    “Independent research”, IMO, will lead to variation between samples and a lack of representativity (and the resultant problem of consent for those not selected in the sortition). I’m intrigued by your proposal to aggregate the decisions of multiple small sortition-based groups, but a) it would be expensive b) it would still suffer from rational ignorance (due to the aggregation problem) and c) there would be no way to demonstrate repeatability, so consent would not automatically arise. The principal anxiety of Hobbes and Rousseau (authorising the lawgiver and magistrate) has been anaesthetised by several centuries of relative peace in elective democracies but ongoing events in the Ukraine show how fragile the whole edifice is.

    Jon:

    >One of the problems in juries is that strong personalities can emerge to lead the body in a direction they might not otherwise take.

    Exactly. That’s why legislative juries must be limited to voting in secret. As there is no need for unanimity there is no case for deliberation.

  53. HH,

    > The money argument was not about corruption, but about the salary of an elected official.

    By “corruption” I mean any act (official policy or individual acts) that benefit the those in power at the expense of the general population. Whether it is legal or illegal doesn’t matter.

    > After all, who wants to loose a good steady income stream?

    Within a single term a politician can generate material gains for himself and his associates that would dwarf his salary for his entire career. Why would the politician be satisfied with the uncertain prospect of continuing to draw a few hundreds of thousands a year when he can guarantee millions upon millions by serving his backers and friends (and still have more or less the same uncertain chance of getting re-elected and preserving his salary)?

  54. Yoram:

    >Why would the politician be satisfied with the uncertain prospect of continuing to draw a few hundreds of thousands a year when he can guarantee millions upon millions by serving his backers and friends.

    That would only be true in the case of a tiny minority of elected politicians (and extremely rare in the UK). Tony Blair is the only recent example that comes to mind and it would require considerable evidence to demonstrate that this was his overriding motivation for seeking office. There are many more examples of independently rich individuals who have used their private wealth in order to seek public office, so their motivation has to be a combination of love of power and glory, ideology and the desire to improve the efficiency of society and/or the lot of their fellow citizens. It’s very hard to explain such cases by recourse to rational choice theory, and it’s ironic that you are resorting to arguments that are normally used to support the median voter theorem (which you deny).

    The case for electoral accountability is very simple:

    1. A political party that campaigned on the basis of an 80% tax rate and promised to distribute most of the revenue to the needy in the third world would be very unlikely to gain office in a state with a possessive-individualist culture like the US.

    2. A political party that campaigned on the basis of median voter preferences and then, once having attained office, switched to the above-mentioned policy would be ejected at the next election (if not before).

    3. The results of demonstrably “free and fair” elections generally attract the (grudging) consent of citizens. This is particularly the case when the median voter theorem guides policy as preferences tend to converge with policy implementation. In polities where a left-right cycle applies, losers know that they are likely to win the next time round. If there had been a demonstrably fair and independent way of resolving the hanging chad issue, then everyone would have accepted the result. It may well be the case that consent is based on false consciousness generated by years of indoctrination by “electoralist dogma”, but it does ensure that the pikes remain hidden in the thatch.

    We reject these prudential concerns at our peril, so any implementation of sortition must be a) gradual and b) capable of demonstrating, at minimum, no reduction in the accountability of decision makers and the consent of the governed. Full-mandate sortition runs contrary to both of these desiderata.

  55. @Yoram

    > Why would the politician be satisfied with the uncertain prospect of continuing to draw a few hundreds of thousands a year when he can guarantee millions upon millions by serving his backers and friends (and still have more or less the same uncertain chance of getting re-elected and preserving his salary)?

    Yes, an individual that is only motivated by greed might do that. But the other aspect (duty, seeking power) moderate precisely this. A duty bound individual would not do it, a power hungry individual would also not (because it threatens his future power).

    I feel like you are not seeing the wood b/c all you are looking at is individual trees. You are looking at human traits in isolation, take it to the extreme and complain that then the outcome is bad. All the while, you dismiss or ignore how these traits work together to moderate the bad and enhance the good sides.

    In fact – I challenge you to the following: Find a single human trait for me that does not lead to bad results when taken to the extreme.

  56. HH:

    >Find a single human trait for me that does not lead to bad results when taken to the extreme.

    Good point. And the same could be said for any system of governance that relies exclusively on a single selection mechanism. The word “pure” sounds great but, when applied to politics, leads to the Killing Fields.

  57. > A duty bound individual would not do it,

    Yes, but a duty bound individual doesn’t need the re-election prize offered in order to serve the public.

    > a power hungry individual would also not (because it threatens his future power).

    What does “power hungry” mean? If the politician’s policy making is completely dictated by electoral considerations, then he has no independent power. If he has maneuvering room, then he would use that room to promote his own ends – presumably, grab more power in various ways including through self-enrichment, so good governance is no longer expected.

    Maybe you mean, like Naomi, seeking office for the office’s sake. As I wrote, this seems like a very contrived psychological model, as well as one that is clearly controverted by the facts.

    (Of course, beyond all that, seeking electoral success may very well not be the same as good governance, but contrary to elite dogma, this is a secondary problem with electroalism.)

    > Find a single human trait for me that does not lead to bad results when taken to the extreme.

    As it happens, I don’t find your arguments against seeking to serve the public interest convincing. But, in any case, such psychological analysis is not very useful. The question is not what the best personality is but what the best institutional arrangements are. My point was that with any reasonable psychological model, the rewards-based argument is not a valid justification of electoralism.

  58. Yoram,

    >a duty bound individual doesn’t need the re-election prize offered in order to serve the public.

    How is it possible, in an electoral democracy, for a politician to serve the public without re-election, given the difficulty of implementing long-term policy goals within the term of a single period of office?

    >The question is not what the best personality is but what the best institutional arrangements are.

    True, that’s why I extended HH’s argument to the problem of a single principle of governance. However your own analysis focused on motivational, rather than institutional design factors, hence HH’s original question.

  59. @Yoram

    > But, in any case, such psychological analysis is not very useful. The question is not what the best personality is but what the best institutional arrangements are.My point was that with any reasonable psychological model, the rewards-based argument is not a valid justification of electoralism.

    a) If in any reasonable psychological model, the rewards based argument doesn’t hold – then please argue taking more complex psychologies into account. After all – psychological models that assume a mix of traits in people are very reasonable

    b) Please don’t argue so much in black and white terms, the world is not like that

    c) I was not looking for a “best personality” at all. I was arguing that for a very wide range of personalitlies, re-election is a reward worth seeking.

    d) Psychology of individual people and groups is also very much important for institutional decisions. After all, institutions influence how people behave and what they can do a lot. Also, the use of institutions is determined by psychology. (As a case study, you could look at how the use of “Filibuster” in the U.S. senate has changed over time and how it has influenced the nature of political debate). Furthermore – institutions that work well in one country do not necessarily work well in another. It is very much influence by the culture and psychology of the people that sit in it.

    e) Groups of people are hightly interconnected and behave in very complex ways. A parliamentary system that works very well, for example, to check corruption in a group of people that are all very honest and therefore control themselves may exacerbate that corrupt behaviour in a group of people that is quite corrupt already (i.e. i will do it as everyone else is also doing it).

    So yes, I think psychological analysis is not only useful, but very necessary!

  60. @keithsutherland
    “legislative juries must be limited to voting in secret. As there is no need for unanimity there is no case for deliberation.”

    On the contrary, without deliberation most members would more likely be unable to make a decision at all. We can see how this works in judicial juries, which generally get the hard cases, not the easy ones. Most members can hear all the evidence and arguments, but won’t understand most of it unless or until they have gone through a thorough deliberative process. Each of the jurors is likely to get a different part of it, and explain it to the others, until they together arrive at a common understanding, if not always agreement.

    This is not just for jurors in courts. Initially the judges and lawyers are likely not to understand the evidence and argument well enough to reach a decision. Each lawyer learns not just from researching his own case but from the challenges from the opposing lawyer, and often has to change course on his line of argument during the trial as he learns more.

    As for legislative juries without deliberation there could be no compromises or reconciliation of differences. Almost no issue that comes before a legislature comes neatly packaged for a mere up or down vote. There will often be dozens or even hundreds of different bills from as many members to do roughly the same thing. That is why they are sent to the same committees, to be worked into a final form to be put to a vote on the floor. If there are bills from each of two houses, they probably won’t be the same and it will take a conference committee to reconcile the differences. Even when a conference bill goes to the floors of each house, there are likely to be demands from the members to make further amendments, to start the reconciliation process all over again.

    No, deliberation is not a luxury. Almost no member or even outside advocate can ever know enough or be skilled enough to propose a perfect bill. One of the main values of representivity is to bring in persons with different backgrounds and perceptions to catch things the others have disregarded or overlooked. Even then they are likely not to get it right. In the immortal words of Nancy Pelosi, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

    Some seem to underestimate the difficulty of making sound public decisions. Compared to a large and important piece of legislation, engineering a two-way manned mission to Mars is easy.

    Heed my experience helping members of Congress develop legislation. The members don’t know what they are doing. They don’t know enough to know who the experts are. Even the experts can’t agree on who the experts are, or even if there are any experts.

    It is easy to contemplate procedural reforms for public decisionmaking, but we also need to contemplate the awesome complexity of the systems we are trying to manage, with incomplete and often wrong information, wacky theories, and with dismally inadequate cognitive capacities. Our reforms need to not just avoid undue influences, but improve our odds for managing the unmanageable.

  61. For a hopefully amusing takeoff on the perils of impaired deliberation, I offer this:

    The Blind Men and the Elephant
    Anonymous (2009)
    with apologies to John Godfrey Saxe

    It was six men of Indostan
    To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the Elephant
    (Though all of them were blind),
    That each by observation
    Might satisfy his mind.

    The First approached the Elephant,
    And happening to fall
    Into its warm and steaming stool,
    At once began to bawl:
    “God bless me! but the Elephant
    Is very like a STALL!”

    The Second, feeling of the parts,
    Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
    So very round and soft and squishy?
    To me ’tis mighty clear
    This wonder of an Elephant
    Is very like a PEAR!”

    The Third approached the animal,
    And happening to take
    The dripping drool within his hands,
    Thus boldly up and spake:
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a LAKE!”

    The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
    But passed by the behemoth
    “What most this wondrous beast is like
    Is mighty plain,” he quoth:
    “‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
    Is very like a TRUTH!”

    The Fifth, who touched a fellow scholar,
    Said: “E’en the blindest fan
    Can tell what this resembles most;
    Deny the fact who can,
    This marvel of an Elephant
    Is very like a MAN!”

    The Sixth no sooner had begun
    About the beast to grope,
    Than sensing of the blowing breath
    That hit him like bad dope,
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a HOPE!”

    And so these men of Indostan
    Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
    Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
    And all were in the wrong!

    The original is at http://www.constitution.org/col/blind_men.htm

  62. Jon,

    >On the contrary, without deliberation most members would more likely be unable to make a decision at all. We can see how this works in judicial juries, which generally get the hard cases, not the easy ones. Most members can hear all the evidence and arguments, but won’t understand most of it unless or until they have gone through a thorough deliberative process.

    I did jury service recently and this was not my experience. Most of us had made up our minds during the trial (guilty) and all that happened in the jury room was that one particularly persuasive member of the panel (me) managed to browbeat one of his colleagues into changing her mind, resulting in the dismissal of the jury (and a possible retrial). Irrespective of whether this improved the epistemic outcome of the trial (the goal of the juristic process), the jury, at that point, ceased to be representative. If we are proposing legislative juries, then we need to take very seriously the Hobbesian perspective — i.e. that the jury should authorise the legislative process. Whilst epistemic considerations are important the crucial thing is that the decision should be demonstrably representative, and that presupposes consistency. Otherwise what would all those disenfranchised by the sortition process be deemed to consent to? Everything else (“good” laws etc) is just icing on the cake.

    I accept your description of the existing US legislative process, where you seem to be suggesting some sort of Darwinian competition to survive. I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of UK parliamentary procedure, but if it is then it would need to change to fit the new legislative environment. My proposal is as follows:

    1. There are two forms of bills:

    a) Government housekeeping procedures. It should not be beyond the wit of ministers and the bureaucracy to come up with single proposals that are both coherent and comprehensible to a lay jury. If they can’t then the bills will be rejected.

    b) Democratic policy initiatives. These would be the manifesto pledges of the majority party/ies in the election and/or the most successful public initiatives/petitions. There would be a strict limit on the number in each parliamentary session.

    2. All bills would be proposed by the advocates (ministers/parties/petitioners) and opposition spokesmen would be drawn from a permanent house of advocates. The legislative jury of 300-600 would listen to the arguments and then vote in secret (this is modelled closely on 4th century Athenian practice). In order to demonstrate representativity there would initially be a need for several parallel juries on each bill, but once it was demonstrated that the verdicts were consistent this could be reduced to one.

    If this brings about a dramatic reduction in the volume of legislation then that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

  63. >Compared to a large and important piece of legislation, engineering a two-way manned mission to Mars is easy.

    This is off topic, but if you believe this… you clearly don’t come from an engineering/scientific background. Everything seems easy until you actually understand the scope of what is involved.

  64. *** In America some judges or public attorneys are elected. In France few people favor the election for judicial functions, even in the less elitist circles, because the dominating idea is “a judge must follow his conscience; whereas an elected judge, looking for reelection, will have to please the lobbies or the uninformed public opinion”.
    *** There is something strange in this reasoning. A judge must follow his conscience when deciding if a man will be sent to death. But when a president decides a war, or economic sanctions which maybe will have a significant effect on infant mortality, it seems that “following his conscience” is no more important.
    *** I hope that many statespersons will risk “electoral suicide” rather than deciding what they think bad. But such persons will be statistically eliminated by the electoral process (negative ethical selection). And it is sometimes so easy to persuade oneself that the decision which is good for reelection is the good decision….
    *** Looking for reelection will mean pleasing the lobbies, the activist ones and the moneyed ones. But even neglecting this side, representative electoral accountability implies that the elected representative, must decide, not what he thinks good, but what will be deemed good by an electorate which will judge without good information and without deep deliberation. Representative electoral accountability is a perverse idea.

  65. As to Constitutionalism’s post starting “On the contrary, without deliberation most members would more likely be unable to make a decision at all.” I agree 100 % (except for the Mars mission part ;)

    It is that give-and-take, common understanding, and compromise part of deliberation where democratic principles are absolutely crucial, rather than exclusively in the final up/down vote on passage.

    As I argued in my paper in the Journal of Public Deliberation http://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol9/iss1/art11/
    we ideally need separate and distinct bodies, both of which should use a lottery selection process…The first engages in intense fact-finding, debate and compromise to produce a final product that they hope a separate jury will approve of after listening to pro and con presentations (as Keith favors). My plan allows for some volunteer bias in the first stage to find people willing to do all that work (constitutionalism prefers a “competency” filter process, which I don’t), but a more fully representative jury for the final vote.

    I think Yoram agrees with me that leaving all of that deliberative haggling to an elected body of “advocates” gives almost all real power to the elites, rather than the democratic jury. I am speaking of an idealized system here, rather than a plausible transition system that might be tried in my lifetime — which may well incorporate an elected body due to custom and inertia.

    p.s. I was surprised to see that my acdemic paper on JPD is second in a Google search of “sortition.” That doesn’t seem appropriate (it has had a lot of downloads and links to it I guess). We should figure out how to raise the listing of this Blog in Google searches.

  66. @Terry, Jon etc

    I think the following point is worth making again:

    Deliberation destroys the representativeness of a jury selected at random from the population (see my earlier post about “villages in a country example”)

  67. @keithsutherland
    “the crucial thing is that the decision should be demonstrably representative, and that presupposes consistency. Otherwise what would all those disenfranchised by the sortition process be deemed to consent to?”

    That is demanding too much of the standard of representivity. Most of the represented are satisfied if their needs and desires are given sufficient attention and understanding, and perhaps weight — for distributive decisions. It is more a matter of perception than of demonstration or consistency. The represented would likely not even be consistent with themselves from one day to the next. For most the process is more important than the outcome.

    It is like an umpire making calls during a sporting contest. Most of us allow for some differences of opinion on such calls, and even inconsistent calls, provided that they do not exhibit a clear bias one way or the other. Then the disadvantaged side walks out in protest, or if it is a contest in some countries, have a merry little riot. (Notice that those seem to be rare in the U.S., but common in England.)

  68. HH, and constitutionalism

    I fall between HH and constitutionalism on this…I also accept some deviation from pure representativeness to allow better decision making (my first stage body), but also want to protect against group-think distortion and preserve representativeness by submitting products to a non-debating final jury that votes by secret ballot.

    Sorry Yoram that we are failing to stay on the accountability thread here, but it’s all interconnected.

  69. @constitutionalism

    I like your umpire comparison. So to use it a little further – would you be happy that the same umpire judges all sporting contests for a period of 4 years? (i.e. one jury for 4 years)? Or should there be a new umpire for every game (of course with re-use for practicality)?

  70. @All

    Also one more practical point – what is stopping these jury members from playing with their IPhone during the expert testimony (after all that stuff is all so boring) or not reading the material they were given beforehand and then just decide at random (or follow the nerd of the group who actually reads and listens)?

    Doing a deliberation once is certainly intersting and people will be inspired by civic duty. Doing it 250 times is bound to be troublesome, especially with a different topic every day …

  71. >I like your umpire comparison.

    So do I.

    I’m inclined to believe that civil discourse will tend to have the same effect on popular opinion as reasoned debate has on the views of a body selected by sortition… on average. The divergence from popular opinion is thus justifiable, in my view.

  72. I am glad this passionate discussion is happening, although I agree with little of what is being said. My concern can be summarized:

    “If a revolution destroys a government but retains its patterns of thought, then it will reproduce the government.”

    I see two camps, a Gat camp that believes elected officials cannot help but be narrowly self-interested, a Sutherland camp that believes little is amiss with contemporary representative government, perhaps outside of the US. One would maximize the use of lotteries to prevent any “gaming” of the system; one would simply tweak the Parliamentary system with a last-minute up/down by a randomly selected deaf, dumb and sequestered voting jury.

    What they have in common is looking only at preventing misrule, rather than promoting harmony and good rule. They are all stick and no carrot.

    What about promoting pro-social government behavior? What about a neo-euthonoi (randomly selected large jury) to both reward good behavior with honors and deter bad behavior with punishment? What about improving deliberation itself through more psychologically-savvy facilitation and better dialogue? What about taking advantage of the “networking of social knowledge” that Ober believed was key to the Council’s and Athenian’s success?

    What about modeling good dialogue including on internet forums? Debate and point scoring may be fun sport but it rarely produces long-term harmony.

  73. HH,

    > Deliberation destroys the representativeness of a jury selected at random from the population (see my earlier post about “villages in a country example”)

    This argument relies on a mistaken notion of what the decision group is supposed to represent – “mirroring”. For a discussion and an alternative argument for the representativity of sortition see A theory of sortition, part 1 of 2 and A theory of sortition, part 2 of 2.

  74. @Yoram

    thanks for referring me to these posts, they are very instructive and I agree with them. So let me clarify my earlier point a bit. Delibration leads to correlations in the opinions of the members of the group. That, in and of itself is not a problem. As point 2 in your part 2 post points out, the interest of the group will still correlate well with the interests of the whole population.

    The issue I am having is that this group is not making one decision, but the same group is making several hundred decisions in a row. In general, the group is aligned with the overall population, but biased in a certain way. And the same bias will be repeated for years on end. And as they are not accountable to anyone, no corrective is available if the overall populations turns out to be unhappy (other than waiting for the next jury).

    In any case, this is why I would prefer juries for specialized questions, similar to the situation were referendums are now used. Hurdles for this could be smaller and decisions much more varied and complex than is currently the case in a referendum, that essentially has to dumb down every question to 2 opposing sides being represented by a single paragrah.

  75. Terry,

    > I think Yoram agrees with me that leaving all of that deliberative haggling to an elected body of “advocates” gives almost all real power to the elites, rather than the democratic jury.

    Yes.

    > p.s. I was surprised to see that my acdemic paper on JPD is second in a Google search of “sortition.” That doesn’t seem appropriate (it has had a lot of downloads and links to it I guess). We should figure out how to raise the listing of this Blog in Google searches.

    You may be seeing personalized search results. If you open an “incognito window” on the Chrome browser or a “private window” on Firefox you will probably get different results (they may still depend on your location). When I search for “sortition” on such a “clean” window I get the “What is sortition?” page on Equality by lot as the 4th result preceded by Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica and constitution.org (in that order), so we are doing reasonably well.

  76. OK, so let me spell out Hobbes’s problematic in a little more detail. His sole concern was how to authorise and preserve the rule of law, a delicate operation at the best of times. Leviathan was written in the context of the Civil War, so it was plausible (assuming a prudentialist approach to human psychology) that people were deemed to authorise the volitions of the magistrate in so far as they accepted his protection from the danger of violent death. Nowadays our criteria are more exacting: we want to choose our own magistrates and have some say in the laws that they enact. Democratic norms indicate that the majority (or at least plurality) choice should be sovereign.

    We meddle with this principle at our peril. In eastern Ukraine the separatists argue that their democratically-elected president was overthrown in a (Western-inspired) putsch and that the rule of law has been usurped. If we are going to replace an electoral majority with an allotted sample of the whole population then we have to ensure that the wishes of the majority prevail and this means that each sample should behave in a similar manner to the whole. Any deliberation, as HH points out, will destroy this representativity.

    In the case of the umpire, all parties have chosen to take part in the game, have accepted the rules and merely require an impartial person to implement them. There is no parallel at all between this and the role of a legislature, which is to create new rules.

    Jon: >For most the process is more important than the outcome.

    Exactly, that’s why repeatability is so important, irrespective of its epistemic merits.

    Andre,

    Your case against electing the commander-in-chief (or for that matter any government executive) is a convincing one. Statespersons (government ministers) should follow their conscience/professional judgment, but if that judgment goes against the interests of the sovereign people they should be dismissed by a censure motion raised by a sample thereof. The role of election is to establish new legislative proposals, not to sanction executive acts (I don’t recall the declaration of war or the imposition of sanctions ever appearing on an election manifesto). Andre’s post nicely illustrates the need to keep the mechanisms for selecting executives, advocates and legislators entirely distinct.

    Terry: >I think Yoram agrees with me that leaving all of that deliberative haggling to an elected body of “advocates” gives almost all real power to the elites, rather than the democratic jury. I am speaking of an idealized system here

    OK then let’s take a real-life scenario. I have proposed in the Sunday Times that the EU referendum should be replaced by a judge-led public enquiry with confrontational advocates and the decision taken by an allotted jury. The advocates for remaining in the EU would be, largely speaking, the main political parties and business interests, whereas the advocates for leaving would be the likes of UKIP. UKIP (who are viewed by the media as populist rabble rousers) are predicted to win the EU election, and have consistently outgunned the three main parties, so would have a very good chance of winning in the above public enquiry scenario. So why is this “giving all real power to elites”? Another scenario I’ve suggested is a DP on fracking, with Cuadrilla on one side and Friends of the Earth on the other. Is that handing power to elites or just making sure that the best and most persuasive advocates are chosen. In the 4th century Athenian scenario the advocates were mainly disssed by the elites as demagogues and rabble rousers, so why do you think a modern reincarnation of this would be so different?

    HH: >Also one more practical point – what is stopping these jury members from playing with their IPhone during the expert testimony (after all that stuff is all so boring)?

    That’s why a) the number of jurors needs to be relatively small (so they have real power b) the decorum of the body needs to be highly respected (the English are very good at this sort of flummery) and c) ideally we would have a new jury for every bill.

    Naomi: >The divergence from popular opinion is thus justifiable, in my view.

    Sure, but that doesn’t mean that people not included will consent to the outcomes (however reasonable they may be). If everyone was reasonable we wouldn’t need to bother with inconvenient things like politics.

  77. @Ahmed R Teleb

    Better than “euthonoi” would be “euthynoi” (ευθυνοι, responsibility) or even better, “euthynon” (ευθυνον, what determines responsibility).

    A related term is synedrion (συνεδριόν, congress), from which the Hebrews took the term sanhedrin (סנהדרין), with 23 members, that was the basis for the grand jury adopted in England in the 13th century.

  78. @Keith

    > That’s why a) the number of jurors needs to be relatively small (so they have real power)

    Yes that is true and certainly necessary. One is walking a fine line here, after all, the whole point of selecting a sufficiently sized jury is to ensure that their discision does *not* deviate too much from what the whole population would have done. The idea of a single juror having real power and all of them combined not produce overly surprising result would be hard to manage.

    After all, being 1 of 300, do you have real power?

    > b) the decorum of the body needs to be highly respected (the English are very good at this sort of flummery)

    Hmmm, not to put a too fine point on it – but many other countries would not be too good at this (insert the country that had your favorite brawl in parliament here …)

    c) ideally we would have a new jury for every bill.

    Very much agreed. Logisitics might be difficult, but that could give *a lot* of people a sense of real power besides being the best civics lesson they have ever gotten.

  79. Ahmed:

    >a Sutherland camp that believes little is amiss with contemporary representative government, perhaps outside of the US.

    Not so, otherwise I would not have written two books advocating sortition and would not be in the middle of a PhD on the same topic. All I’m saying is that sortition is not a magic bullet — a stable form of governance, that benefits from the consent of all citizens and (hopefully) rules wisely has to be a mixture of appointment, election and sortition.

    >a randomly selected deaf, dumb and sequestered voting jury.

    dumb: yes
    sequestered: yes
    deaf: NO!

    Perhaps you’ve been listening too much to The Who (Pinball Wizard). But Pete Townsend would also agree with your “If a revolution destroys a government but retains its patterns of thought, then it will reproduce the government.”

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    . . .
    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss

    >What about modeling good dialogue including on internet forums? Debate and point scoring may be fun sport but it rarely produces long-term harmony.

    The dialogue on this forum has improved remarkably during the last week or so. The debate is fruitful and I’m not aware of anyone scoring points, merely agreeing and disagreeing as they see fit. What’s wrong with that?

  80. HH,

    >One is walking a fine line here, after all, the whole point of selecting a sufficiently sized jury is to ensure that their discision does *not* deviate too much from what the whole population would have done. The idea of a single juror having real power and all of them combined not produce overly surprising result would be hard to manage.

    Yes it is a fine balance. The typical DP has around 300 members and is “semi-sequestered” (ie the pay is reasonable and child-care arrangements acceptable), and the organisers conclude that most participants are engaged in the process even though DPs have no legislative power (apart from one that was undertaken in China a few years ago, where the local communist party duly implemented the results). Representativity requires a large jury; but staying awake and fully engaged requires a small one. Participants need to feel that they are performing an important civic duty. Your example of brawling legislators is another good reason to keep their role to voting only!

  81. HH,

    > The issue I am having is that this group is not making one decision, but the same group is making several hundred decisions in a row. In general, the group is aligned with the overall population, but biased in a certain way.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to splitting decision making power in various ways. You can easily get to a situation where official decision making power is spread too thin and as a result real, unofficial, decision making power is concentrated in non-representative hands. An extreme example of this situation is mass politics, e.g., electoralism, or referenda-based policy making. This crucial fact is not accounted for by standard democratic theory.

    Sure – any sample will be biased in one way or another. But as long as the bias is minor, the harmful effects may be less important than the beneficial effects of having a group that is motivated to learn the issues, has the time to do so, and has a long enough and wide enough mandate to monitor execution and amend the policy if needed.

  82. HH asked “Also one more practical point – what is stopping these jury members from playing with their IPhone during the expert testimony.”

    While there are numerous manipulations that can be done to encourage paying attention (Bentham advocated sitting on benches as in the House of Commons because having desks as in the Congress invites legislators to work on other stuff, rather than listen), such as confiscating iPhones…the key is giving motivation to take the deliberation very seriously. This requires limiting to a single bill, or perhaps a single topic area where expertise can develop; a sufficiently small size to elevate the importance of each member’s vote, and some sort of masked presentation process so members aren’t tempted to engage in free-riding by going along with the presenter from the ideology or organization they generally prefer. A study was done in which partisan voters were given arguments for and against a policy containing (fictitious) quotes from well-known politicians…as a result most partisans favoring Democrats ended supporting right-wing policies IF they believed they were being supported by left-wing politicians, and the flip side for Republican supporters. The Democratic support for “Obamacare” which was originally a right-wing “market-driven” proposal pushed by Republicans like Romney is instructive.

  83. Some seem to think legislation or other government decisions can be done by neatly dividing issues into single standalone subjects that can be decided by bodies convened to consider only them. That almost works for judicial cases, because the system is set up that way, but even in that field there would be chaos if decisions in different cases were not reconciled and integrated. That is what appellate courts are for, and they are not able to keep up with all the trial decisions, resulting in growing frustration on the part of most of the stakeholders, albeit for somewhat different reasons.

    These days only a few legislative issues can be cleanly compartmentalized. Almost any change, even the most seemingly innocuous, sends disturbances throughout the system of laws, governmental processes, the economy, and society. The old saying is “You can’t fix just one thing.” As much as half of most major legislation consists of citations to provisions of previous law that is repealed or amended by it, and half of most hearings consists of attempts to anticipate all the effects and side effects the legislation might have. Most legislation is passed without identifying all the consequences, and too often the legislature just hands off the problems of reconciliation to administrative agencies, which makes the bureaucrats more powerful than the legislators.

    That is also why it takes so long for new members to learn their jobs and so long to get new kinds of legislation passed. It is trying to fix one part of a vastly complicated machine that no one fully knows and do so while it is still running without causing the entire system to collapse.

  84. >Sure, but that doesn’t mean that people not included will consent to the outcomes (however reasonable they may be). If everyone was reasonable we wouldn’t need to bother with inconvenient things like politics.

    You’re absolutely right. Problem is… this is also the case when you eliminate rational ignorance. Everybody holds views that are born out of ignorance. Me. You. Everyone reading this. That doesn’t mean we don’t value those views like all the others. If most people support a certain course of action, and the randomly selected bodies keep refusing to carry out that action, and the people don’t have another outlet they can pursue, popular opinion will turn against those bodies. People remember being slighted. But when government works well, few people notice. Sooner or later everyone will have cause to feel resentment. Take the American Supreme Court for example. It’s done vastly more good than harm yet almost everyone seems to resent it.

    This is one of the reasons why I like the idea of a referenda mechanism, perhaps one that’s somewhat more difficult to trigger than what we see in many US states. Consent is thus implicit. If the people were opposed to the government’s actions, they could override those actions themselves.

    >a Sutherland camp that believes little is amiss with contemporary representative government, perhaps outside of the US.

    I wouldn’t say “little amiss,” but I do very much believe that we can fix representative democracy through the use of sortition. I believe we have only scratched the surface of what can be done with a representative framework. I see sortition as an excellent tool to help with that.

  85. Terry: >A study was done in which partisan voters were given arguments for and against a policy containing (fictitious) quotes from well-known politicians…as a result most partisans favoring Democrats ended supporting right-wing policies IF they believed they were being supported by left-wing politicians, and the flip side for Republican supporters.

    That looks like an interesting study. Was there an attempt to balance the propaganda evenly? It would be difficult in a real-life legislative debate to even out the advocacy input, especially if you were going to institute the sort of double-blind process you are suggesting. Who would adjudicate and who would guard the guards? I think the best one might hope for would be to attempt to even the stakes by providing the same amount of public funding to both parties and, perhaps, to require all advocates to take some sort of oath before entering the witness box, with a risk of perjury for those peddling disinformation. If we’re going to have a legislative trial then we might as well avail ourselves of the penalties available in the court room. The alternative approach, whereby the collective assembly seeks to uncover the truth via its own investigations is more like the European examining magistracy, so I guess it’s down to whether you prefer Anglo-American or continental justice. Watching French cop shows like Engrenages is a strange experience for those of us schooled in Anglo-American jurisprudence.

    >The Democratic support for “Obamacare” which was originally a right-wing “market-driven” proposal pushed by Republicans like Romney is instructive.

    Without wanting to enter into the cesspit of American politics is this a suggestion that Obama is some sort of Republican stooge or (more likely) that the policy is a compromise aimed at the median voter? In the UK, market-driven policies are no longer viewed as right wing (other than by diehard socialists). But probably best if we don’t go down that road on this blog!

    Jon: >Most legislation is passed without identifying all the consequences, and too often the legislature just hands off the problems of reconciliation to administrative agencies, which makes the bureaucrats more powerful than the legislators.

    Fair point. In my proposal the vast increase in the entirely unaccountable power of randomly-selected jurors would be offset by increased power of semi-permanent government ministers. The latter, however, would be held to account by allotted juries (similar to congressional oversight committees and HoC departmental select committees), who could remove them with a censure motion. That has the potential to create a virtuous circle, but I hope this isn’t just wishful thinking. But it’s reassuring to hear from Jon and Terry what a mess our existing arrangements are.

    Naomi: >If most people support a certain course of action, and the randomly selected bodies keep refusing to carry out that action, and the people don’t have another outlet they can pursue, popular opinion will turn against those bodies.

    But what if it could be demonstrated (by Fishkin-style social science experiments) that any number of samples of ordinary people would change their views in a consistent manner? Would this not suggest that it would be the same for every sample of the population (within an acceptable margin of error)? If so then seeking to override the decision would just privilege irrational ignorance. Why wouldn’t citizens trust a process that had been demonstrated to instantiate the informed preferences of people just like themselves? In reality public preferences are unlikely to undergo a 180 degree shift, for all the partisan reasons that Terry has indicated, so I can’t see that this would be a serious problem. But it certainly would be a problem if different samples were seen to return different decisions, hence my insistence that the deliberative mandate of allotted assemblies has to be limited to aggregate functions only (otherwise popular opinion will turn against the kleristocracy). I think this is also an argument for one-issue-at-a-time ad hoc juries, so that there’s no risk of them going native and ensuring that as many citizens as possible are included in the sortition process. As the National Lottery ads put it “It could be you“.

    >I do very much believe that we can fix representative democracy through the use of sortition. I believe we have only scratched the surface of what can be done with a representative framework. I see sortition as an excellent tool to help with that.

    I’m in 100% agreement with you on that — mixed constitutions are the ones that work best. The modern use of sortition is as a form of statistical representation and, as Hanna Pitkin puts it in her book (highly recommended), democracies need both descriptive and active representation, the latter requiring elections and/or popular initiatives. There is no magic bullet and we certainly don’t want to chuck out the baby with the bathwater.

  86. >Why wouldn’t citizens trust a process that had been demonstrated to instantiate the informed preferences of people just like themselves?

    I don’t believe they would. This would seem to assume that people tend to be rational in the reasons they hold their views. Truth is, it’s just more satisfying and less uncomfortable to blame the system than it is to reexamine one’s own views. Most people are going to look at an unfavorable result and say, “meh, I don’t agree. Most people are idiots. Of course the juries are stacked with idiots every time.” Then they’ll turn around and seek out sources of news and opinion that tell them what they want to hear. Just like they do now. Furthermore, holding a minority view doesn’t make that view wrong. Even if a the views of a policy jury shift away from your own views, your views are not necessarily wrong. So why change them?

    Sure, if the people and the juries are rarely at odds there is little problem. But then you also rarely get any benefit from alleviating rational ignorance. As bad as mass politics gets, circumventing it was never a goal of mine. It is difficult to describe a system that can freely and indefinitely refuse the popular will where one clearly exists as being democratic. I favor fostering consensus and constructive civil discourse, rather than addressing ignorance. Taking policy making power out of the hands of the voters diminishes the importance of persuading others. If you changes someone’s view in electoral/direct type framework, you gain a vote. A vote might be *almost* nothing, but it isn’t nothing. If you persuade someone and they are never picked to serve in one of these sortition based assemblies, then you really gain nothing. Yes. I know, for statistical reasons, both of these cases are equivalent, but people don’t think statistically. I had a coworker, a chemist no less, seriously argue that being near someone who had been in a tornado diminishes your chances of being hit by one. Because… what are the chances of getting hit twice? I’m serious. The ability to appreciate the practical implications of statiatics can take considerable mathematical education.

    The system I proposed in the other thread was conceived as a faster and more representative alternative to referenda. Even in an e-democracy framework, direct democracy is government by the angry and the bored and is thus a poor and unrepresentative model. However, if the people disagree with the results returned by the juries, they can go through the effort needed to go around them.

    What I want out of sortition, really, is a truly apolitical, non-oligarchic, oversight branch of government. One that not only rules on matters of legislation (which has always made me a bit uncomfortable, to be honest) but also selects judges, watchdogs, auditors, public prosecutors and can take on the non-policy matters currently handled by political branches of government. A truly apolitical branch would be of incalculable value to the constitution designer.

  87. Naomi: >What I want out of sortition, really, is a truly apolitical, non-oligarchic, oversight branch of government.

    That puts you very much in the Oliver Dowlen/Peter Stone school of sortition, where the emphasis is on impartiality and anti-factionalism. This is the mainstream perspective on what sortition has to offer. Those of us who view it as a form of descriptive representation have a much harder job to do. But if sortition were to be demonstrated as a sensible way of resolving a genuinely intractable problem that would normally go to referendum (in the UK this could well be ongoing membership of the EU and/or fracking), and several different juries all returned the same considered verdict it would be hard to object to the outcome.

    Whether it could ever become a part of the regular lawmaking process is a moot point, and your suggestion of overturning a jury verdict by public referendum would certainly be a way of minimising the risk involved. But I agree that the public would never support juries that returned inconsistent (random) verdicts — consistency would be the minimum requirement for public consent. Claims that random selection will produce “wise” decisions on account of the cognitive diversity on tap, along with claims that decisions would automatically be in the public interest if they were arrived at by a deliberative minipublic would cut little ice. Such arrangements will rightly be rejected as undemocratic.

  88. Keith Sutherland writes (May 3); “A jury benefits, as Euripides pointed out, from the harlot’s prerogative — power without responsibility”
    *** I don’t remember such Euripides quotation. Please, can I get the Euripides verse?
    *** Power without responsibility (other than moral one) is the prerogative of many judges in different countries – where is prized the “independence” of judiciary. It is the prerogative of the members of US Supreme Court, or of French Constitutional Council. It is the prerogative of President Obama, as he is in his second term, and third term is not allowed.
    *** In any system of “true sovereignty”, the sovereign has power without responsibility, because if he is accountable to a superior entity, this entity is sovereign. In a dêmokratia, the dêmos is sovereign, therefore is not accountable (except to his moral conscience). In the Second Athenian Democracy, when a judicial jury canceled a law voted by a legislative jury (as maybe was the fate of the Law of Leptines), it was not an example of “accountability” of the “nomothêtai” to the “dikastai”. It was the dêmos “thinking twice” on the subject, and in the second case concentrating more on the constitutional sides (without forgetting the practical sides).

  89. @Keith, André, re responsibility Current trial juries are not anonymous, and jurors are repeatedly instructed on their responsibilities moral and otherwise. In the US for example, they are often interviewed by attorneys and the public after their verdict.

    @Keith, Naomi, re use of citizen panels to resolve controversial issues. That’s what the Citizen Juries run by Jefferson Center are meant to do. This is also the view of Atlee and Burnheim on the potential of such adhoc panels and minipublics.

    I’ve been invited to observe a CJ in rural Minnesota next month, the topic will be public in a week or two. I will certainly go, and I will certainly report back on E by L!

    This brings me back to the “positive use” of sortition (through adhoc or periodic minipublics). If Ober is right about the boule, Atlee (& Burnheim) right about small groups and facilitation–that is, if the social psychology of small groups is much different than crowds, especially when well-facilitated, then sortition can truly change political culture.

    If small groups with relevant information and minimal training or facilitation can build true community, and serve an epistemic function, then there will be a “leap” in future governance.

    @Keith, re repeatability, we ought not demand more of minipublics than we demand of legislatures. Second, that sort of language assumes that “solutions” are quantifiable and comparable. These adhoc juries would not be returning binary verdicts, at least much of the time so exact repeatability would be an irrelevant standard. And, even when a verdict is comparable, some variability would happen in any decision procedure, including legislative votes and universal referenda.

    People are not computer programs with inputs and outputs. The same piece of information would effect the same person differently on different occasions. Neither will citizen panels or assemblies return the same proposals or same decisions. This is nothing to lament. This is part of being human and living in a changing world. Right now Presidents, MPs, etc are reflected or not based on the season or random events that they had nothing to so with. Nothing about minipublics, citizen assemblies should make things any worse. In fact, in all likelihood decisions should improve based on removing the perverse incentives we have in representative assemblies today, especially those with two or few dominant parties.

    All this of course depends on what proposal we are talking about. There’s probably half a dozen different mechanisms on people’s minds throughout this thread. Are we talking about small panels or large assemblies? Are they term dependent or adhoc? Are they based on majority, supermajority or unanimity? Do they set their own agendas or not? Do they deliberate or only vote? Is the vote secret or public? If it’s a small panel of what size? What sort of information is made available and how? Are they instructed or not? Are they facilitated or not?

    Voila my venting. Main point: the specifics will matter and sortition institutional design has enormous potential! Terry’s system alone with its un-gameable complexity says a lot about the number of possibilities.

  90. >Those of us who view it as a form of descriptive representation have a much harder job to do.

    Well, I wish you the best with that. I don’t think I agree with your position, but I do respect it.

  91. Ahmed: >re repeatability, we ought not demand more of minipublics than we demand of legislatures.

    The crucial difference is that existing legislatures are authorised by the plurality vote of ALL citizens; not so with a minipublic which is a microscopically tiny subset of all citizens. My concern, along with Hobbes and Naomi, is to avoid the insurrection that would happen when the vast majority of citizens wake up one morning and find that their long and bloody battle for the franchise has been overturned by a kleristocratic putsch. All your other desiderata are entirely irrelevant if the proposed solution doesn’t meet with the consent of all. At the moment all citizens who can be bothered to get out of bed and go to the polling station are EQUALLY impotent; not so in a kleristocracy where power is handed to a tiny random oligarchy. I’m genuinely puzzled as to why nobody (apart from Naomi) seems to understand this point (the difference between electoral choice and a randomisation).

    I’ve argued that if it can be demonstrated that it makes no difference which empirical citizens are included in the sample, the decision outcome will be the same (i.e. the decision outcome of a randomly selected body is predetermined**), then there is a chance that people will understand and consent to this form of representative government. Naomi doubts that even that will cut the mustard, as people do not have an adequate grasp of statistical probability. But the bottom line is that unless we can produce a solution that will meet with public acceptance then everything else is just blah, blah, blah.

    ** Note that predermination is not incompatible with a deliberative and considered outcome, merely that — assuming balanced information and advocacy — the law of large numbers will inevitably lead to the same outcome. It’s as if the demos has an invisible hand which is pulling the strings of its allotted representatives. Why would anyone (other than epistemic Platonists) object to that as a decision mechanism?

  92. @Keith
    Couldn’t agree more. I certainly would not agree to a random selection of people if the results do not meet a minimal consistency threshold. And I am already a statistician, so do understand the implications.

    Also, all this talk about how a legislative body using sortition would be set up is nice – but purely theoretical. There is no country on this planet that would ever let this happen as the first step. There always would be an intermediate sortition based proposal first.

    I would really be curious if anyone here actually has a half-way realistic proposal as to how any population worldwide could be convinced to let their parliament be chosen by random lot.

    Issue-based sortition is much more realistic and feasible.

  93. Andre: >I don’t remember such Euripides quotation [juries enjoy the harlot’s prerogative}. Please, can I get the Euripides verse?

    Sorry, it’s Aristophanes’ Wasps.

    “As far as our power is concerned,” [the juror] tells his son, “it’s equal to that of any king [basileias]. What creature is there today more happy and enviable, or more pampered, or more to be feared, than a juror…?” Philocleon makes much of the fact that the jurors are supplicated and begged to give certain verdicts, but that they are able to decide whatever they want; indeed, he insists that the jurors’ power
    is not constrained but entirely discretionary. “Do I not wield great power [megalēn archēn archō], in no way inferior to that of Zeus?”

    I’ll send you Kinch Hoekstra’s draft paper where he cites the relevant verses.

    >In any system of “true sovereignty”, the sovereign has power without responsibility, because if he is accountable to a superior entity, this entity is sovereign.

    Yes, that’s very true. Kinch Hoekstra** argues that the demos had power without responsibility in the 5th century, but that in the 4th century this was usurped by the rule of law. So the 4th-century constitution was more of a nomocracy than a democracy. But doesn’t the mixed constitution usurp this principle of unconstrained sovereignty? When three or more bodies share sovereignty then they are accountable to each other and, if one of the bodies is the demos, then this form of limited democracy is an improvement on the harlot’s prerogative. If the dictatorship of the demos was such a good thing, then the 4th century reforms would not have been required. That’s why the argument for politeia is such a strong one.

    ** Kinch also claims (controversially) that the true target of Aristotle’s critique of radical democracy was the age of Pericles, rather than the demokratia he was living in.

  94. HH:>Issue-based sortition is much more realistic and feasible.

    Absolutely. And it could also act as a Trojan Horse, thin end of the wedge, or whatever. Plans for a popular uprising to throw off the oligarchs and replace them with the dictatorship of the proletariat didn’t work the first time round because the workers opted to underwrite the existing system by demanding higher wages in order to go shopping and buy their council houses. I don’t see any sign of that changing any time soon, especially if the mechanism to establish the rule of the people is to deprive them of their vote.

  95. @K, HH, re irrelevant replies, You are shooting at straw men. I haven’t advocated a parliament by lot. One of you, however, had written a book with that title! I’ve never said NO reproducibility requirement. I said that TODAY most if not ALL rep’ govs wouldn’t produce reproducible outcomes in the strict sense.

    You’ve ignored the most important issue, which might be sortition’s biggest selling point to non-statisticians, especially to Social Scientists: the positive aspects of repeated minipublics: community building and social knowledge/information creation. This is NOT necessarily what’s labeled “deliberation” today.

    If you need a dead white guy reference to take anything seriously: Hume & Rousseau. Emotions emotions, emotions, and community. This is why it may not matter much–in the long run-whether minipublics have ACTUAL mandates or just CONSULTIVE power. The positive effects on political culture and knowledge building may be enough.

    Lastly, re concrete proposals, I’ve repeated, no reform will make any meaningful change that does not address the enormous power (often called unconstitutional, tho that’s no arg in itself) of the Executive in the US. A quick and dirty reform would simply add regular trial juries as a check on decisions of the Alphabet Soup administrative agencies. Why not do that to all Presidential appointments, such as appointment to federal judges. The options are not simply, a leg by lot or referenda.

    But we’re not even talking about (highly nonlinear) systems or humans yet. The mechanistic, self assured language of this thread turns me off and doesn’t seem fit for a social phenomenon in the 21st century. I’m done with it for now, and take no offense as I’m used to being a minority of one on E by L.

  96. Ahmed,

    >I haven’t advocated a parliament by lot.

    But this thread is dealing with democratic accountability, rather than consultative power. If you want to discuss epistemic and other such issues then you should open a new thread.

    >If you need a dead white guy reference to take anything seriously: Hume & Rousseau

    Hume and Rousseau have little in common when it comes to political theory. Rousseau’s sole concern was that all citizens should approve the laws that they are governed by (of little interest to a Tory like Hume), but was at a loss to explain how this might happen in anything other than small primitive communities. He did consider (spatial) rotation (in one sentence of the Social Contract), and I’ve developed his “the Sovereign, who is no less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by himself” into a theory of sovereignty by representative microcosm which I think is true to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Social Contract.

    >sortition’s biggest selling point to non-statisticians, especially to Social Scientists

    I’m more concerned about selling it to the demos, rather than a small academic elite. The reason that statisticians are necessary to have on board is to help explain the nature of descriptive representativity (our candidate mechanism to replace election for the sovereign body). Whilst social scientists are certainly interested in deliberation and the effects of cognitive diversity, their claims are fairly modest — Estlund for example simply arguing that the decision outcome of such a body is no worse than that of an expert body.

    >I’m done with it for now, and take no offense as I’m used to being a minority of one on E by L.

    Not so, your position is very close to Terry’s. We would be sorry to lose you — why not open another thread on the “warm and fluffy” (your words) issues that concern you so that they can be debated in full?

  97. Returning to the theme of “accountability”… Even if one isn’t convinced by Yoram’s explanation of why he thinks the reward concept of “electoral accountability” makes no sense, it is obvious that it is AT BEST an ineffectual retrospective tool that can rotate among bums to be thrown out in the next election.

    I like Andre’s point of shifting focus from the concept of “accountability” (which assumes a divergence of interests and suspicious distrust of the ruling elite) to repeat allotted bodies reconsidering decisions (“thinking twice”). As he wrote about the Athenain Court over-turning a Jury-adopted law, “it was not an example of “accountability” of the “nomothêtai” to the “dikastai”. It was the dêmos “thinking twice” on the subject, and in the second case concentrating more on the constitutional sides (without forgetting the practical sides).”

  98. I also share Ahmed’s notion that approximate repeatability is just as likely to be achieved with a series of allotted bodies, as it would be achieved by elected ones. Keith’s argument that people accept the legitimacy of a plurality-elected legislature (because they got to vote, even if on the losing side), but would not accept the legitimacy of an allotted body if they disagreed with it, needs examination. I think any transition to an allotted system would ideally involve some sort of legitimizing referendum (since that is the currently accepted legitimator (except in Ukraine)). If the citizenry authorized allotted bodies to make future decisions, why couldn’t that provide as much legitimacy as candidate elections?

  99. @Terry,

    > If the citizenry authorized allotted bodies to make future decisions, why couldn’t that provide as much legitimacy as candidate elections?

    I think that is rather simple. For the first few years, it may be viewed as legitimate. But say 20 years after the original referendum (with a lot of new voters that never got a say), legitimacy is much more questionable – especially if people aren’t happy with it.

    Overall however, this is all completely academic. Sorry, but sortition for a legislative body will never even make it to a referendum about its introduction. Any realistic goal has to be set much much lower, e.g. Making thorny decision on a city/state-level by mini-publics. And even there, it will likely only be consultative. If that is widely introduced and has worked well for a generation – we can talk again.

  100. About “representative electoralist indoctrination”
    *** Keith Sutherland writes (May 5) “The results of demonstrably “free and fair” elections generally attract the (grudging) consent of citizens. (…). It may well be the case that consent is based on false consciousness generated by years of indoctrination by “electoralist dogma”, but it does ensure that the pikes remain hidden in the thatch.”
    *** It may be dangerous to overestimate the effect of years of political indoctrination. The Soviet system melted down after several generations of intense political indoctrination.
    *** Since the beginnings of representative systems, and even after general enfranchisement, in many countries the representative system was brushed aside with a substantial popular support for the coup.
    *** Right, in most contemporary polyarchies, we can find a (grudging) consent of citizens. But I believe it is mostly because of their fear of all the alternative systems as shown in the last century, authoritarian or totalitarian. If dêmokratia (in modern version, democracy-through-sortition) appears as a possible alternative, the “grudging consent” may melt down easily enough.
    *** The representative electoral idea is difficult to contradict because of the many and subtle facets of the processes. But these complexity and subtlety makes popular indoctrination uneasy. The French elites say to the common citizen: “the representatives are legitimate because you voted them” and at the same time require quotas of men and women in the Parliament that the “free” vote does not carry. Maybe some sophisticate theorists can propose a solution to the paradox, but they will find difficult to put it into a popular doctrinal memo … And, actually, trying would be dangerous. Even the most unilateral indoctrination may lead citizens to think to the basics of politics. In most polyarchies “grudging consent” may be the result of prudential concerns, tradition, absence of reasonable alternatives and fear of the “historical” alternatives, more than real “electoralist indoctrination”.

  101. *** Keith Sutherland writes (May 4): “if voters choose to return a Republican House along with a Democratic Senate and President then that’s their choice”.
    *** Keith fails to acknowledge that the opposition between elected bodies is most often a built-in effect of the electoral procedures. Actually the systems are designed to avoid that a strong movement of popular opinion could give power to authorities linked to the same strong project, as could appear Obama’s undertaking. (and should the division of elected powers be not enough, the Supreme Court could act).
    *** It reminds us that the division of powers in modern polyarchy has not the same basic content that for instance the Athenian division between legislative juries and judicial juries (with “judicial review” power) – the difference here was about concentrating more on a specific side, but the juries had the same political sensitivity.

  102. *** HH writes (May 5): “After all, being 1 of 300, do you have real power?”
    *** Well, much more than being one of 30 millions, or 1 billion …
    *** But anyway let’s consider a citizen jury in a modern society, with computers allowing for preferential choices. Some choices may be binary, but usually policy choices will be multiple. Like A1>A2>A3>B1>B2>C1>C2, where A1, A2, A3 are options different, but of the same family. Even if, given the political sensitivities, we can be sure that options of the B and C family have no chance, the a priori differences between the option of the A family may be such that nobody could be sure of the decision before the deliberation and the vote, and nobody could consider his vote as weightless. If the difference between A1 and A2 is finally 30 votes, the power of one juror is to be felt against the number 30, not the number 300.
    *** This consideration of “feeling of power” is an argument against the idea of one jury for one choice. Some jurors may feel, rightly or wrongly, that the choice is “evident”. If the jury has some permanency, any juror may feel that someday his vote will have a strong weight.

  103. Terry: > [electoral accountability] is AT BEST an ineffectual retrospective tool that can rotate among bums to be thrown out in the next election.

    That’s the old-fashioned Schumpeterian view (he published his book in 1942). The post-1950s polsci perspective is that elections introduce a measure of policy accountability. The only dispute is over whether some citizens get to play a bigger role than others in influencing policies (in a minority of cases). There are also problems regarding the aggregation of preferences, but nobody (other than Yoram and a small number of neo-Schumpeterians) is questioning the principle of electoral accountability.

    >If the citizenry authorized allotted bodies to make future decisions, why couldn’t that provide as much legitimacy as candidate elections?

    You can opt for a procedural take on legitimacy if you like (Napoleon and Hitler legitimised their constitutional changes by plebiscite), but why do you think a citizen would give away her hard-won vote to a klerotocracy, if it cannot be demonstrated that this would re-enfrachise her (to the extent that her presence/absence in the sample would make no difference). I would certainly vote against such a constitution, and I’m a big fan of the sortition principle, so why would someone who knows nothing about it, or thinks picking politicians by bean is absurd, agree? What would your publicity for the referendum look like?

  104. @Andre
    >HH writes (May 5): “After all, being 1 of 300, do you have real power?”

    You should take into account the context of when I wrote this. The question was about jury members being motivated to listen to experts and read possible dense and long technical material. In that perspective, being only 1 of 300 could actually lead a lot of people to rather go to the beach and vote by coin-toss. This would be especially true if they are chosen for longer time frames (e.g. 1 year), not accountable to anyone for how they decide and have freedom to show up or not …

    Of course – you could try to run this like a jury in a court – but good luck prohibiting cell phones and computers to 300 people in a parliament for 8 hours a day for 250 days a year.

  105. Andre:>The French elites say to the common citizen: “the representatives are legitimate because you voted them” and at the same time require quotas of men and women in the Parliament that the “free” vote does not carry.

    This absurdity results from trying to instantiate descriptive and active representation with a single mechanism (election). Much better to elect politicians for the active function (proposing and advocating policies) and to use sortition to create a statistically-representative microcosm to judge whether or not to introduce the policies (rather than just privileging gender, ethnicity or other arbitrary qualities).

    >If the jury has some permanency, any juror may feel that someday his vote will have a strong weight.

    Yes, but what about the vast majority who fail to be selected? Single- issue juries will directly enfranchise more people and will minimise the risk of corruption and “going native” — both factors that will adversely affect representativity. The problem is the lack of accountability, so that’s why I’m leaning towards the argument for an annual sortition, to coincide with the budget. If there were a constitutional requirement to balance the budget, then the jury’s decisions on particular policy issues will be subject to this fiscal constraint. This would mean that all laws are passed at the same time, once a year (although the deliberations would take place over the full 12-month term).

  106. @Keith
    I sympathize with your thrust of wanting to restrict the amount of deliberations a jury does, but I fear you are giving up practicality for it. It is simply not feasible to pass laws only once a year.

  107. Agreed. I’m just struggling between the need for both ongoing statistical representativity and accountability. It’s ironic that the two things appear to be incompatible, as they both rely on “faithfulness” to a target population — in the first instance describing it and in the second instance looking after its interests. Many people on this blog (Yoram being the paradigm example) feel that the first automatically gives rise to the second, but accountability always applies to individual persons rather than aggregates (we naturally baulk at any form of collective punishment). So if legislative juries cannot be accountable (except via police action) then we will need increased accountability from elected politicians and appointed ministers.

    The ongoing problems at the (UK) Co-operative Group — see Lord Myners’ report published yesterday — indicate how electing lay overseers can be the worst way of holding executives to account. This is probably because elections will return partisans, whose concerns are anything but pragmatic. If the Co-op had used sortition within its members to select its lay oversight committee, might things have worked out better? (this is orthogonal to the need for peer oversight). I’d be curious to know Bernie’s views on this.

  108. @Keith

    After the discussions I have read on this blog by now, I am honestly less and less convinced that sortition can be a replacement for a parliament selected by election (or even an addition). There are just so many practical problems with it – and a frightening number of sortition advocates on this blog simply don’t think they are a problem at all.

  109. Agree to the latter (though will keep labouring away at the coal face, trying to address the problems).

  110. @Keith
    And that is certainly I good idea (and it is a big coal face :-), happy digging!). I also find the range of possible options how sortition can be used rather daunting, as there seem to be a lot of variations, all with their own specific problems. Is there a good overview of this somewhere along the lines
    - 1-3 paragraph overview of the planned structure
    - Advantages/Issues summarized in about 1-2 pages?

  111. Peter Stone did a summary of the different perspectives which he linked to on this blog — search under Dublin Declaration (!). IMO it was slanted towards the Stone/Dowlen “prophylactic” line, but it did summarise all the various approaches.

  112. *** Keith Sutherland says (May 4) “moderation would not be possible in a legislature on account of the Quis Custodiet problem.”
    *** Moderators, facilitators and other kinds of functions helping the deliberation (and likewise some kinds of auditing and information research) are professional jobs, and, right, there is a risk of them aiming, consciously or not, to control the citizen jury. But that must not lead a dêmokratia to give up such necessary functions (there is likewise a risk with executive functions, a big part of which in modern complex societies will be carried by civil servants). The work of moderators and facilitators may be audited a posteriori, through random checks, by an auditing jury. Professional honor (not sufficient, I know, but helping) and some training of the jurors themselves will act in the good direction. Furthermore, in a modern dêmokratia where juries would decide in many areas of life (not only on national policies, and from the schooldays), jurors will have usually a good experience of deliberation, and manipulating deliberation will be not so easy.

  113. HH,

    > I also find the range of possible options how sortition can be used rather daunting, as there seem to be a lot of variations, all with their own specific problems. Is there a good overview of this somewhere along the lines

    These two posts may be relevant to your query. They are more of a framework of description and analysis than an attempt to present a comprehensive discussion:

    http://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/institutional-design-power-parameters/

    http://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/internal-dynamics-design-parameters/

  114. But the “mainstream” school of sortition is not interested with decision making or advising, only impartial distribution and addressing factionalism and corruption. Sortition as a representative mechanism is off the radar for the likes of Stone, Dowlen and Boyle.

  115. HH,

    Yes, sortition implementation would certainly reveal many problems not anticipated by the posters on this Blog… but what of elections? Elections are far worse (in terms of policy quality, elite domination, popular accountability, building a community of common interests, etc.) than most people appreciate. If we had no custom of either of these (elections or sortition), but had scientific evaluations of their working in some other society, I am convinced elections would be revealed to be far worse than sortition. The problem, of course, is that we don’t have a blank slate. We have custom, inertia, and a general assumption that elections are the ONLY democratic option. The short term task is to simply introduce more people to the awareness that there could be an alternative form of democracy, that most people have never heard of and never imagined.

  116. Terry:>Yes, sortition implementation would certainly reveal many problems not anticipated by the posters on this Blog.

    Very true. But the biggest problem is when someone does anticipate a problem and then it gets ignored or dismissed as “electoralist dogma”. One of the main purposes of this sort of forum is to raise potential problems (even if it involves a measure of devil’s advocacy) and then for us all to explore ways of addressing them.

  117. I see a good amount of dogma and religion on this thread; I also see much labeling and classification into schools or camps, like the oversimplification given to college freshman.

    I also see gross misunderstanding of current institutions and their origins. The 18th century American experiment was not tried based on some well thought out scientific theory. It was tried because it served a desire and a purpose. It was considered risky at the time but it worked and was kept. Some years later people came to have other, more complicated desires, beyond preventing the tyranny of one, the protection of property, or the obligations of debt contracts.

    People have come to desire a new purpose, that will require new mechanisms, and perhaps more courage, both psychological and intellectual. Handling ambiguity and uncertainty would be one.

  118. > The short term task is to simply introduce more people to the awareness that there could be an alternative form of democracy, that most people have never heard of and never imagined.

    I agree. (Except that since electoralism is not a form of democracy for any reasonable definition of “democracy”, sortition is not an “alternative” form of democracy. It is, as far as we know, the only form of large scale democracy.)

  119. Ahmed:>The 18th century American experiment was not tried based on some well thought out scientific theory. It was tried because it served a desire and a purpose.

    That’s a little cynical. The founders availed themselves both of the lessons of history and the understanding of individual and group psychology that prevailed at the time. The underlying moral and philosophical principles were debated at length in the press and it’s reductive to claim that the constitution merely served a “desire and a purpose”. I’m not denying that the Federalists and Anti-Federalists also represented certain interests, merely disputing your claim that it was not a well thought out theory. Historians of political thought debate at length as to whether it was more Lockean or republican but few now would accept Charles Beard’s reduction of the constitution to the play of economic interests.

    Yoram:>sortition is not an “alternative” form of democracy. It is, as far as we know, the only form of large scale democracy.

    If you were to rephrase that as “a necessary component of large scale democracy” then I would be happy to agree.

  120. Ahmed:>I also see much labeling and classification into schools or camps.

    Why do you find that problematic (and what has it to do with dogma and religion)? Dowlen, Stone and Boyle have made it clear that they are not interested in sortition as a form of representation, that’s why they rarely debate on this blog. Terry and yourself have shown most interest in its epistemic potential, whereas Yoram and myself are concerned exclusively with representativity. If you don’t label and classify then people just talk past each other — what’s the point of that? To my mind the whole point of political theory is to establish a bit of formal clarity in our understanding of political practice, and that inevitably leads to some kind of taxonomy.

  121. “The Fathers” were not political scientists, least of all theorists, afaik. It would not be a “reduction” to say that they did not really know the theory; it is statement of (my view of) the facts. What is clear from their writings is that they had DIFFERENT aims than we have today. To continually fall back on their ideas, especially in grave, religious tones as “founders” is to reproduce their thinking and their result. In this sense I agree with thou that clarity is important, as far as what we want gov to do. You will recall, my own view, admittedly a minority view, is that what we want is SO DIFFERENT from what they wanted, that I would use a word other than government. So even if they were political scientist, they not only lived in a different world but sought different aims; they therefore have little to recommend to us directly.

    The point about Hume that you missed the other day–you interpreted found something in his political views rather than his philosophical/social view—is that feelings, desire, purpose all PRECEDE not follow reason. Reason comes later whether it prompts further action, change of means or even change of purpose. We should simply acknowledge that. It is not that sortition or any other innovation in itself is either the cause or the goal of the political re-thinking that’s happening right now. 

    It is the fact that we, all kinds of people, see something we want that’s not provided by the current arrangement. Yoram would perhaps put it, “real democracy,” Habermas (since it might matter to you the origin of a term) “substantive democracy.” And I would perhaps only define it vaguely—yes unclear, like many things in real life are—a gov responsive, equitable, and effective at more than just protecting the values (literal and figurative) of 18th century white men, scientists or gentlemen farmers.

  122. About binary choices.
    *** The Second Athenian Democracy worked through binary choices- which led often to results different from the real preference, or to cumbersome processes, as you can sometimes approximate a multiple choice by a sequence of binary choices. This defect was the consequence of the level of technology.
    *** Referendums must work practically with binary choices, which is one of the basic defects of the procedure.
    *** Modern technology allows for multiple choices by citizen juries.
    *** But Keith Sutherland leads us to neglect this superiority. He considers only binary choices. Some choices may be binary by essence, but few of them actually.
    *** Let’s consider the energy policy. How to supply the necessary energy? I consider economy (through thermal isolation, collective transportation etc) and austerity (reducing consumption to “necessary”) as kinds of supplies. The energy policy can be written as a formula: x % austerity, y% economy, z% renewable energy, v% nuclear energy, w% fossil energy (sorry if simplified), each of these supplies having its drawbacks. Theorically you have an infinity of policies, practically we can reduce to a shorter list through a screening by a jury who would melt close proposals. But remains a list of policies, not two policies. Preferential voting is necessary. If you want to approximate the choice by a sequence of binary choices, the deliberation will be bad as each choice will consider only part of the problem; and the procedure will be easily distorted through the ordering of the binary votes. The pro-nuclear will ask for choosing first about fossil energy (high or low %), hoping that they will get a low % by agitating the climate issue – and that after nuclear energy will be felt necessary; whereas the anti-nuclear will ask for a first vote about nuclear energy …
    *** Such a preferential voting will ask much work from the jurors, I agree. But I think their responsibility would be so clear and heavy (including for their everyday life), that we may expect strong commitment.

  123. Ahmed:>You will recall, my own view, admittedly a minority view, that what we want is SO DIFFERENT from what [the founders] wanted, that I would use a word other than government.

    Huh? This is the majority view on this blog, from which I would seek to distance myself. Surely we all want to live at peace with each other, to have some say in the laws that govern us, and to ensure that those laws are as “good” as possible. The problem of how to trade off these desiderata against each other strikes me as both universal and perennial. What makes us so different from our ancestors? As for the “wish for government”, just look what happens when it breaks down.

    I agree that both Hume and Rousseau were emotivists; Madison had the advantage that he saw emotion as merely one (autonomous) rung on the hierarchy of human faculties (and did not seek to reduce one to the other). Your final paragraph could be straight out of Beard; as for the “origin of the term [real democracy]“, the Oxford Handbook of Political Theory is clear on the Marxian provenance of deliberative democracy (and its development by post-Frankfurt school critical theorists like Habermas).

  124. Andre,

    I’m entirely relaxed about multiple and preferential voting by juries — the binary emphasis is on account of a) the technology and b) the historical association with verdicts (guilty/innocent) in a criminal trial. The problem is trying to ensure that the decision is representative and this requires consistency. There is no inherent reason for this to require a binary decision process; the design challenge being to ensure that the process is repeatable. If we want the outcome to meet with the consent of all citizens not involved in the deliberation then consistent outcomes are essential. I don’t think the commitment of the jurors is in question, merely the representativity of their decisions.

    Why not have a deliberative exchange in which advocates for x,y,z, v and w make their arguments and then a final decision ticket containing (say) 10 competing trade-offs to choose from? This would mean digitising an analogue argument (necessary in every legislative case), but not reducing it to a binary choice. If it was an important matter (as energy policy undoubtedly is) then you could have as many as a dozen samples and then choose the supermajority preference.

  125. keithsutherland: > consistent outcomes are essential.

    Consistent with what? With other juries convened to decide similar questions, or with the general public that does not get the same evidence or engage in comparable deliberation about it?

    The most we can hope for in public decisions, whether by the entire public or a jury, is a steady trend of the median of such decisions, although the spread may be quite large. No level of deliberation, from nil to intense, is going to produce perfectly consistent outcomes under any system in which humans are the components.

  126. Jon,

    I’m not looking for perfection, only a degree of consistency that will enable those excluded from the ranks of the kleristocracy to feel that the jury would have voted in the same way if they had participated in person. In terms of the alternatives you suggest:

    “Consistent with other juries convened to decide similar questions?”

    Yes

    “Consistent with the general public that does not get the same evidence or engage in comparable deliberation about it?”

    No. What we are interested in is balanced advocacy and informed deliberation: “what everyone would think under good conditions” as Fishkin puts it. Jim calls this “consent by proxy” and I think that’s about as good as we can hope for in the real world. The only thing I differ with him is over the use of small groups — Jim insists that they are essential for the transformation of preferences, whereas I would argue that they are an unacceptable source of variation.

  127. And consistency can be improved very easily by not using a single jury (of say 300 people) but 10 independent juries of 30 people each. If you do those juries locally – you will even be able to track local decision patterns this way.

  128. Historically, after experimenting with various jury sizes, at least at the time they had most influence on the Hebrews, the optimum sie of the synedrion was found to be 23, and the Hebrews adopted that size for their primary sanhedrin used for judicial decisions. (they also called the larger legislative body a sanhedrin but that was to allow representation by the various tribes scattered over the country, and it proved to be less effective at deliberating.

    So better 13 juries of 23 each, if the results can be aggregated without some kind of conference or reconciliation jury.

  129. Explanation: It was the Greeks (really the Macedonians) that used the synedrion model.

  130. Note that the greater sanhedrin was 71. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanhedrin

  131. So these multiple small juries would have full deliberative powers, but the variation would be aggregated out? That’s an interesting suggestion. The problem is that this is more or less a simulation of existing DP procedure — where the plenary jury (300+) splits into small groups for face to face deliberation — and yet there was still considerable variability between different DPs on the same topic (Texas utilities DPs). Consent-by-proxy is a very demanding standard and I’m not sure if it’s compatible with face-to-face deliberation. I’m open to persuasion, so please talk us through how it might work!

  132. We can start by examining existing government structures and procedures for making decisions, such as that of the U.S., even though most of the components are not selected by sortition. A bill is introduced in one or both of two houses of Congress, and if each house passes some version of the bill, the leaders of each house appoint a conference committee of members of the winning side who meet, reconcile differences, and send the conference bill back to each house for an up or down vote (although sometimes amendments are allowed, which can defeat the purpose of the conference process).

    In the judicial branch, for a criminal case, a grand jury (sorted) decides whether evidence is sufficient for trial, then a trial jury (sorted) renders a verdict. But the judge may overrule in favor of the defendant, as can any of the appellate courts above it. In the U.S. many appellate panels are selected at random, and cases randomly assigned to judges at the trial level.

    For a criminal case, a trial jury of 12 is already expensive enough that cost would make larger juries infeasible.

    For legislative decisions, one can imagine 13 juries of 23. If at least, say, 17 of them agreed, no need for a conference. Just take that decision. If not, appoint a conference jury of one member from each that voted with the majority, work out a compromise position, and submit it back to the 13 juries. If 17 still don’t agree, then the proposal fails.

    For things like budgets where a decision has to be made, simple majorities might suffice.

  133. Jon,

    I like it — sounds like a viable social science experiment (with the benefit of impeccable Hebrew provenance). Who can we tap for the funds to test it out?

  134. @Keith, By “minority view” I mean my tentative position that the word “government” itself reeks of control, hierarchy, elitism. I believe I stared a thread called “Is the word government the problem?” I am not so sure I am as convinced or care as much about that point today.

    As for why current structures ought to be rethought, I insert the following from Federalist 10 (James Madison) not for your benefit but for that of the occasional interloper or internet passerby:

    “From this view of the subject, it may be concluded, that pure democracy, by which I mean, society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert, results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general, been as short in their lives, as they have been violent and their deaths.” Federalist 10 par. 15

    Not the words of a fan of democracy.

    @Keith, on representativeness. One who wants a representative sample in the minipublic does not necessarily want it with respect to results of the minipublic. One could even think that “representativeness” of a decision is not at all a meaningful concept.

    @Jon, Keith, re repeated juries, In a conversation with someone who’s been conducing these type of juries for years, I learned that at least for single-issue adhoc juries cost is the main reason that more of them are not conducted (on a consultative or experimental basis). The biggest driver of cost is compensating participants for their time, and, to my surprise getting access to the voter list. Most jurisdictions, it appears, do not give out the list. Other large costs are the meeting space and travel when a jury is selected from a large geographic area. The cost of facilitation is not significant. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no shortage of advocates and experts willing to volunteer to talk to the juries.

    Because adhoc citizen panels are so expensive, redundant, large scale juries are not realistic. But with any adhoc mechanism, the TRIGGER is important. Some ways around running multiple juries when they are not needed, but also getting the benefit of “2nd looks”:

    a) let the citizen panel itself measure its own confidence in its decision b) set a high supermajority requirement where the panel can simply be deadlocked c) have a certain level of dissent trigger another panel d) have a petition mechanism where the general public, a citizen assembly, or legislature can invoke other panel(s)

    I did not come up with most of those ideas myself, but owe them to Atlee, Burnheim. Another question of course is what TRIGGERS a citizen jury in the first place. I know that point can also be contentious on this forum.

  135. Ahmed:>Not the words of a fan of democracy.

    That’s a somewhat anachronistic judgment. Madison was simply reflecting the common understanding of his time. It’s hard to think of any fans of democracy during the eighteenth century.

    >One who wants a representative sample in the minipublic does not necessarily want it with respect to results of the minipublic. One could even think that “representativeness” of a decision is not at all a meaningful concept.

    OK, then what form should democracy in a large multicultural state take? The author of this thread claims that it is impossible for an elected assembly to be held to account and randomly-selected persons can only be held to account by police action. So what would be the relationship between the kleristocracy and the general public? Would their (random) edicts just be imposed by the full force of the law?

  136. What I particularly like about Jon (and Terry’s) perspectives is that they have had direct experience working with legislatures (in a variety of capacities). The rest of us can only refer to principles, academic research etc. I do think we need both approaches — the floating of new ideas (and the resultant critical exchanges) as well as those who might have a better idea how to put them into practice. My concerns are limited to democratic representativity and the consent of the excluded, Yoram’s the first of the above, and Terry and Ahmed have (primarily) epistemic concerns. Jon, HH, Naomi and Bernie share some of these theoretical interests but also address practical implementation. Between us all this makes for a rich and cognitively diverse exchange.

  137. *** Keith Sutherland writes (May 9) about the “Marxian provenance of deliberative democracy (and its development by post-Frankfurt school critical theorists like Habermas).”
    *** That kind of considerations is interesting for whoever wants to study the historical thread of thoughts in the left-wing German circles. But are they relevant for the study of the “political problem” itself? Maybe if we could think the “deliberative turn” is under Karl Marx’s long shadow. But is it true? I have difficulties to read Habermas work– even translated into French; I find it as it was written in a foreign language. But I could read and understand the “deliberative” essay of Bernard Manin « Volonté générale ou délibération», Le Débat, janvier 1985) – I don’t know if there is an English translation – which is interesting. And frankly I doubt Bernard Manin is under Karl Marx’s long shadow.
    *** It is clear the people developing the “deliberative idea” are not all supporters of a modern dêmokratia, which can only be a democracy-through-sortition. I am afraid that many of them are only building a new version of the “democratic myth” to give a renewed legitimacy to polyarchy. But some others seem pushing towards dêmokratia. Anyway I don’t think the Karl Marx reference is enlightening.

  138. Andre,

    My principal source is Scheuerman, W. E. (2006). Critical Theory Beyond Habermas. In B. Honig, J. S. Dryzek & A. Phillips (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory (pp. 84-105). Oxford: Oxford University Press:

    “deliberative democracy, when properly conceived, is the rightful heir of the early Frankfurt School” (p.86)

    Whether deliberative theorists like Habermas, Elster and Dryzek are post- neo- or ‘cultural’ Marxists is a moot point, but yes I do believe there is a long shadow. For some time I was puzzled by their lack of concern with statistical representativity: Elster, for example defines democracy as “any kind of effective and formalized control by citizens over leaders or policies” (1998, p.98). Elster isn’t remotely bothered by which citizens have control and this only really makes sense if you posit two reasonably homogeneous groups: “citizens” and “leaders” (elites in the parlance of this blog) and assume that political power is the product of class division (Townsend, 2009, p.101). This is very similar to Marxian class-based political sociology, and is a long way removed from modern perspectives on multi-cultural societies. John Dryzek (2000) refers to any concerns over democratic legitimacy and representativity as a “sell out to liberal constitutionalism”.

    The very notion of “pure” democracy has its origins in Marx:

    “Democracy is for Marx the political form of socialism . . . democratic institutions on this view should no longer be aggregative or based on rational self-interest; rather, they should be participatory and based on richer notions of reason and solidarity.” (Gargarella, 1998)

    Marx modelled this on Ancient Athenian democracy (Townsend, 2009, p.102), described by Hunt (1975) as “democracy without professionals” (p. 82) — “government of the people by the people” (Marx, 1962, p. 527). This bears a strong affinity to some of the proposals made on this blog and explains the attraction of sortition to the post-Marxist hard left (who have respositioned the egalitarian agenda away from economics to cultural, social and political domains). Perhaps Manin is the exception to the rule, I’m not sure.

    References

    Dryzek, J. S. (2000). Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Elster, J. (Ed.). (1998). Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Gargarella, R. (1998). Full representation, deliberation and impartiality. In J. Elster (Ed.), Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Hunt, R.N. (1975), The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels, Vol. 1 (Basingstoke: Macmillan).

    Marx, K. (1962). The Civil War in France. In MESW1 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Printing House).

    Scheuerman, W. E. (2006). Critical Theory Beyond Habermas. In B. Honig, J. S. Dryzek & A. Phillips (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory (pp. 84-105). Oxford: Oxford University Press

    Townsend, J. (2009). Getting from Here to There: Marxism and the paradoxes of leadership. In J. Femia, A. Korosnyi & G. Slomp (Eds.), Political Leadership in Liberal and Democratic Theory (pp. 79-100). Exeter: Imprint Academic.

  139. PS. The Gargarella, 1998 ref. should have been Bohman, 1996, p.191 (sorry — glitch in my Endnote software).

    Bohman, J. (1996). Critical Theory and Democracy. In D. Rasmussen (Ed.), The Handbook of Critical Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

  140. >Between us all this makes for a rich and cognitively diverse exchange.

    Agreed. This has been an unusually stimulating discussion. I find I have many strong, but poorly organized, feelings about some of these topics. For example, I think I’d be okay letting the sortition-based bodies take center-stage if an initiative/referendum system were included in the plan, despite generally fearing referendums for a variety of reasons. I’m still going back-and-forth on this. I do believe we can, in principle, fix electoral democracy. I’m not sure which would end up being a better option. Voting is just so darn satisfying. So legitimizing.

    >*** Referendums must work practically with binary choices, which is one of the basic defects of the procedure.

    It’s commonplace for swiss referendums to be between three options (status quo, initiative proposal, parliament’s alternative to the initiative proposal). There’s no reason you couldn’t pose as many possibilities as you’d like and have the voters rank them. Standard IRV.

    >One could even think that “representativeness” of a decision is not at all a meaningful concept.

    When people oppose a decision made by the Supreme Court, they generally do so because they have a problem with either the consequences of the ruling or the reasoning behind the ruling. Non-representativeness might be used as an argument but it is never (to my knowledge) the underlying motivation behind opposition to a ruling. This was even true in the cases where the court addressed women’s issues when there were fewer women on the court than there are today. Non-representativeness was claimed to be the source of the bad decisions (the justices, being men, didn’t fully understand what they were doing), but the bad decisions were never claimed to have been bad due to the taint of them being made in a non-representative fashion. If the justices had gotten to the “right” decision no one would have cared that they were mostly a bunch of old white men who really represented nothing beyond their own reasoning.

  141. One way to combine sortition with election would be to make the initial choice using a (multi-stage) sortition process, then after one term of office, allow the public to vote him out or in for a second term. That would give them a direct voice that could be taken as a way to legitimize the sortition choice beyond whatever respect it might have going in. The third term would be by sortition again, and so the two methods alternate.

    The most important phase in which sortition is needed is the nomination phase. In the U.S. it could be used to narrow the choice or candidates to two, and submit those to the voters, perhaps with an option of “none of the above (NOTA)”. That would give them the final choice but make it difficult for monied interests to game the system.

  142. Naomi: >I think I’d be okay letting the sortition-based bodies take center-stage if an initiative/referendum system were included in the plan . . . I do believe we can, in principle, fix electoral democracy. I’m not sure which would end up being a better option. Voting is just so darn satisfying. So legitimizing.

    That would be a good way of testing out sortition, both from a prudential point of view (we just don’t know if it would work in practice) and also because existing political elites would not be required to shoot themselves in the foot. I agree that the legitimizing issue is crucial, and this would require demonstrating in practice that sortition can give rise to decisions that are both representative (consistent with majority opinion when better informed) and that lead to epistemic outcomes that are, at minimum, no worse than our existing arrangements.

    If the Conservatives win the 2015 general election they are committed to an in-out EU referendum before 2017. The political class is mostly in favour of membership and, if the referendum were replaced by a number of parallel DPs, would have a chance of persuading the jurors to agree with them. If UKIP wins this month’s EU election (as predicted) then there will be no shortage of advocates for quitting the EU. There is reasonably confidence in public enquiries in the UK and this would be the suggested model, the only difference being that the verdict would be delivered by jury/ies and would be binding. Whether or not that would lead to the wholesale adoption of sortition is a moot point, but any innovations need to be tested before being put into operation and a public enquiry/DP would be a huge improvement on the rationally ignorant conclusions of a referendum.

  143. Jon,

    What you suggest is certainly a way to help insulate the political process from ex ante corruption, but doesn’t meet the need for representativity. The two functions of sortition — prophylactic and representative — are entirely different, one negative and one positive. The mistake that Stone and Dowlen make is to try and shoehorn them into a single “lottery principle”. You seem to be alternating between the two, with your earlier suggestion for multiple small juries and your latest comment.

    For the sake of analytical clarity we need to keep these two functions separate, that’s why I like to refer to them as a) the Blind Break and b) the Invisible Hand (I’m writing a paper on this for the IPSA conference in Montreal). In the former we don’t know which empirical individuals will be selected, whereas in the latter we do know which categories and in what proportion. In a jury of several hundred we would be surprised if there was much deviation from 50/50 male-female and we assume that political views, interests etc are distributed in a similar manner and that this would pre-determine the decision outcome of each jury (assuming the same information and advocacy). That’s why I refer to it as the “Invisible Hand”. It’s the predeterminacy that makes the process representative (and democratically legitimate).

    The trouble with mixing sortition and election for the same office is that this conflates the two forms of representation (descriptive and active) that Pitkin distinguishes so well in her book. Madison respects this distinction in his observation on the danger of combining judges and parties (advocates) within the same body of men, but fails to draw the obvious conclusion — separate these two functions and allocate each to a separate body, each constituted by a unique selection mechanism. Then there is no danger of mutual corruption. This works for the courts (we wouldn’t expect the attorneys to adjudicate in their own debates), so why not the High Court of Parliament?

  144. Naomi:>If the justices had gotten to the “right” decision no one would have cared that they were mostly a bunch of old white men who really represented nothing beyond their own reasoning.

    That’s because the courts have no democratic mandate and are intended as a check on the representative principle, as part of a mixed constitution. But if election and/or referenda were replaced by sortition then representativity is the defining principle. You point out that elections are “so darn satisfying” for this reason — I’m not sure that I would go that far but they’ve certainly helped to maintain the peace (Hobbes’s sole concern); they certainly authorise and legitimise the decisions of elected officials.

  145. @Keith, re representation, I bring this up because you read a dichotomy in Pitkin’s work. Not only do I see more than 2 forms of representation, at least four perhaps five, but also see not mutually exclusivity. For example, active “standing for” sense could mean following the exact mandate of those represented, what’s been called “taxi driver representation,” or working for the interests of the constituent, “expert doctor representation.” And there may even be another level of nuance if we distinguish regional from national interests.

    Why does this matter? Keeping in mind the 4-7 possible meanings, one doesn’t have to agree with your preemptive sandboxing of elections from sortition and vice versa.

    Combining sortition and election/selection may be worth a try depending on how it’s done and the gov function for which it’s used. For example, I would love to see sortition used in the appointment/election of judges at both the Federal and State levels in America! Party-chosen judges not only tarnish the reputation of that branch of gov but they are often make shallow, mediocre jurists!

  146. This video from the Philadelphia public access series once mentioned here was turned up by google alert. It is relevant to this discussion and is only 2minutes long: http://serial5.ru/watch/jFaW5mn7lPI/conceptual-concepts-sortition-part-2.html

  147. Ahmed,

    Pitkin does indeed consider several different forms of representation but concludes that “acting for” and “standing for” are the two prime variants of political representation. Representatives who act for (not stand for) their principals can also be categorised along the delegate-trustee axis but there is no reason at all for a representative to resemble the principal who she acts for. Indeed if my doctor accurately resembled me then she would share my ignorance of medical matters, ditto lawyers and (especially) the mentally ill — an example Pitkin explicitly raises. But would such a person be a better judge of what was for the general good of the whole polis than a statistical sample? Only if you are an epistemic Platonist.

    The argument for appointing judges at random is a good one but it’s a prophylactic, not a representative one (keeping the process impartial).

  148. About democracy, sortition and Marx following Keith Sutherland (May 10)
    *** I am no expert in the position of Karl Marx on the “political problem”. I will read the book by Hunt mentioned by Keith Sutherland. From my readings of Marx, I feel that the “political problem” was actually not for him a strong theoretical concern. And for today Marxists? Democrats consider the problem of sovereignty as a basic one, and partly separated from problems in other “spheres”, and I doubt followers of the Marxist “messianic meta-historicism” be really democrats. I remember some Marxists interested by democracy-through- sortition … but “only when all inequalities have been eradicated, including the cultural ones, which would need some time and a provisional proletarian dictatorship during this time” …. Dêmokratia, yes, but for the Last Times.
    *** But Keith seems to consider rather as “Marxian” the postulate that “the society includes two reasonably homogeneous groups: “citizens” and “leaders” (elites in the parlance of this blog) “, the political power being “the product of class division.” Well, it is Aristotle’s postulate, and we must acknowledge Aristotle’s priority. This postulate was maybe realistic in Aristotle’s Greece or Marx’ Britain, I don’t think it is valid for most contemporary developed countries. We must acknowledge that there are various elites, various elitist phenomena with only partial correlation (the powerful lobbies being usually linked to some elite). The most salient elites are usually the money elite and the culture elite; with a partial correlation, as the high on the culture dimension are not usually very poor. Among the supporters of democracy-through sortition, we can find some who are on the line “we are the 99%”; either because they accept the Aristotle/Marx postulate, which is wrong; or because they think that practically the money elite and its linked lobbies are responsible of the major contemporary cases of policy detrimental to the public good, which is arguable, but is not absurd, and does not imply the Aristotle/Marx postulate.
    *** Anyway democracy-through-sortition is an effective weapon against any elitist power – the richest 1%, and the others. The ambiguity appears with some ideas of “participatory democracy” or “deliberative democracy” which intend to” better modern democracy” by giving power to entities mixing “voluntary associations” and “sorted citizens” – the first element supplying extra power to lobbies often linked to the culture elite, and the second element supplying “democratic legitimacy”.

  149. Naomi,
    While I agree that using referenda (or elections) in addition to sortition would placate people who identify them sith “democracy,” I would argue referenda in general would be used as a means for elite to take control (partially through spending on prpaganda, but mainly by lulling people into free-riding on the presumed understanding of “opinion-leaders.” In other words what is GAINED through sortition (overcoming rational ignorance and cognitive free-riding) is then forfeited by providing an end run (in the form of mass-based referenda) for elites to use to circumvent the gains provided by sortition. The two exceptions I would support for the use of referenda would be 1. periodic ratification of the use of sortition as the primary means of democratic decision-making, and 2. Policy issues that an allotted law-making body DECIDED should go to referendum (seven the BEST theoretical decision is only genuinely the BEST if the rationally ignorant will not rebel against it, and an allotted body might decide to pass some particular law subject to approval by referendum).

    Do you see an epistemically desirable role for referenda beyond the legitimacy they offer for those who assume they are the purest way to provide legitimacy?

  150. Terry,
    Would not providing a periodic vote on the use of sortition have the same sort of problem with elites? They would have plenty of incentive to push for a switch to a system they could more easily influence. We would be drowning in TV ads featuring former members of policy juries saying the most breathtakingly inane things about policy. The former members who go on to commit felonies and other miscellaneous ethical violations after leaving office would be paraded around for months before each vote.

    Even without a periodic vote we can all be sure the elites will paint the system in the worst light possible at every opportunity possible so as to stir up popular opposition and tarnish the reputation of the sortition-based institutions.

    One of things I like most about elections is that they channel ambition. I would argue there is great merit in a system that can accommodate the ambitions of independently powerful individuals (such as popular military generals and the independently wealthy) rather than forcing them to use their pre-existing power base to circumvent the constitutional order if they wish to seek political power. Extra-constitutional power bases are inevitable in any free society. If the elites are excluded from the process then *all* of the them have motive to stand together against the system. You see how the media’s narrative shapes popular opinion here in the US. How long would it be before those selected for service vote to abolish their own institutions in the face of perpetual (albeit subtle, perhaps) media slandering of the system in favor of elections? Decades? Generations? My gut feeling is that a pure sortition-based approach would not be stable over long periods of time.

    >In other words what is GAINED through sortition (overcoming rational ignorance and cognitive free-riding) is then forfeited by providing an end run (in the form of mass-based referenda) for elites to use to circumvent the gains provided by sortition.

    It would seem to me, as a simple observer, that the majority of the acts of a legislature are of little interest to the great majority of people. It would make sense to only turn a matter over to a vote if there were sufficient popular support for a direct vote. I was thinking of something along the lines of a jury (surprise surprise) that would review successful initiative petitions and decide which should be dismissed out of hand, which should go before a popular vote, and which should go before the policy juries for ratification or dismissal, with the possibility of additional review steps.

    >Do you see an epistemically desirable role for referenda beyond the legitimacy they offer for those who assume they are the purest way to provide legitimacy?

    Not really. Not exactly. My thinking was not necessarily to provide legitimacy through referendums but to ensure that the gap between the government’s actions and the public’s will (where will can be said to exist) can never be significant. At least over time. A delay between the emergence of popular will on a subject and action on that will is certainly healthy, I’d argue.

    For what it’s worth I find legitimacy, while important, to be less of a concern than is general agreeableness.

  151. Naomi: >One of things I like most about elections is that they channel ambition. I would argue there is great merit in a system that can accommodate the ambitions of independently powerful individuals (such as popular military generals and the independently wealthy) rather than forcing them to use their pre-existing power base to circumvent the constitutional order if they wish to seek political power. Extra-constitutional power bases are inevitable in any free society. If the elites are excluded from the process then *all* of the them have motive to stand together against the system.

    Very, very true. Ambition cannot be abolished by fiat, so it needs to be securely quarantined (channelled). That’s why Harrington gave his ‘natural aristocracy of merit’ (revealed by election) the power of initiative and advocacy, but allocated the decision power to the Prerogative Tribe (constituted by sortition). Quarantining requires unique selection principles for each function, otherwise diseases will spread and corrupt the body politic. I know that counterfactual history isn’t very highly regarded, but imagine if Athens had not provided a safety-valve for the ambitious in the form of the political leader (demagogue). What alternative mischief might Pericles and Demosthenes resorted to? The object lesson is not to abolish leadership but to hold it strictly to account, and punish those who fail. Hansen argues that modernity adopted sixth-century Athenian electoral democracy (mediated via Aquinas’s Summa Theologica), but overlooked the annual calling to account of elected leaders (euthynai).

  152. Andre,

    Happy to concur with your response. Contemporary post-Marxists** have, by and large, abjured messianic meta-historicism, and focus instead on equality in its various guises (including equality by lot). I agree that the distinction between the 1% and the 99% has its origins in Aristotelian political sociology, but has also been adopted by contemporary post-Marxists — such as David Graeber — and is referenced frequently on this blog. It’s this perspective (and I agree with you that it fails to represent complex multicultural societies) that we see time and time again on this blog, manifesting both in political anthropology and sociology of knowledge. It would appear to take the following forms, and they are all, broadly speaking, post-Marxist:

    1. Sociology of Knowledge: Ideology (including abstractions like “political theory”) is an epiphenomenon caused by underlying (material) interests. Critical theory (the leading incarnation of post-Marxism) does allow cultural ideology to take a causal role but argues that the masses are the victims of false consciousness, as they have been indoctrinated by the mass media (owned by rich and powerful and employed to defend their own class and patriarchical interests). Empirical evidence (such as the paper by Gilens and Page) indicating a stronger link between policy outcomes and the preferences of the wealthy than the preferences of median voters assumes material interests to be the underlying causal factor (no other hypotheses being considered).

    2. Political Sociology: The split between the 1% and the 99% (the elite and the masses) is universal, although different theorists might go for different percentages. Mosca, for example agreed with Pareto that the split was 20/80 (I’m not suggesting either of the two were Marxists, only pointing out the common political sociology).

    3. Praxis: The divide can only be overcome by eradicating inequalities, the only dispute being whether these inequalities are economic or political.

    4. Fix or Replace? As electoralism, via the principle of distinction, will always reflect the elite/masses distinction, it must be abolished and replaced with “pure [Athenian-style] democracy” (a Marxian term). Electoralism cannot be ameliorated as it reflects and preserves the above-mentioned class divisions, so it must be abolished and replaced by sortition.

    5. Representativity: An allotted microcosm which “looks like America” (Bill Clinton’s term) will automatically act like America — i.e. in the interests of the 99%. Differences in the illocutionary powers of the persons selected by lot will be automatically overcome by the overwhelming majority presence of “average” citizens (outvoting the 1%). As average persons share the same class interests, it matters little which person gets to speak as the result will be the same. Rather than statistical representativity applying at the aggregate level, sortition works by selecting a vast majority of “average” citizens, in line with the above-mentioned political sociology.

    6. Revolution: Given that elected officials represent the interests of the “ruling class” they will never relinquish power voluntarily, so can only be overthrown by a popular mass movement. The role of intellectuals is to act as a vanguard, by increasing awareness of the revolutionary alternative (sortition) to the masses. The system cannot be reformed, it must be overthrown.

    It strikes me that all these six points share a common provenance with post-Marxist thought.

    >The ambiguity appears with some ideas of “participatory democracy” or “deliberative democracy” which intend to” better modern democracy” by giving power to entities mixing “voluntary associations” and “sorted citizens” – the first element supplying extra power to lobbies often linked to the culture elite, and the second element supplying “democratic legitimacy”.

    Yes, and I think we should be very suspicious of these developments (books like Stephen Elstub’s Deliberative and Associational Democracy, along with Mike Saward’s attempt to privilege those in civil society who make a “Representative Claim”) as they seek to privilege even further an already vocal and unaccountable cultural elite, to the detriment of the silent majority.

    ** I take the term “post-Marxist” to be a variation on the adage that you can take the boy out of the Bronx, but you can’t take the Bronx out of the boy.

  153. For a brief overview, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_in_Marxism

  154. Naomi,
    I find myself being swayed by your arguments (similar to Keith’s) about “channeling ambition.” I wonder if some modern version of Athenian honors (crowns of gold) could be invented to satisfy the egos of the ambitious with power — rather than granting them privileged policy power through elective office (ticker-tape parades?)

    I am curious as to whether you are merely a lay person with keen perceptiveness, or if you are an academic who has studied such things.

    Keith,
    A question about Harrington’s Oceana… I haven’t read it thoroughly, but the sections I have read don’t seem to qquite match your description. I thought his plan called for one chamber of aristocrats (through inheritance I assume), and one of commoners, but BOTH were to be formed the same way…election following a lottery selection of electors from among those two classes. Am I wrong?

  155. Naomi,

    > Would not providing a periodic vote on the use of sortition have the same sort of problem with elites?

    Such a vote would indeed be a mass political activity which as you colorfully point out admits the application of elite manipulation tactics. However, there is a crucial distinction between voting on a matter of principle and general structure (sortition vs. elections) and voting on details of policy or for choosing the people in power. In the latter setting the elites control the agenda (which propositions or candidates are on the ballot) and the voters are in no position to make informed and considered decisions.

    When making broad systemic choices, on the other hand, the voter’s choice reflects deep seated values and general, long term understanding and perceptions of the workings of the system. Such a choice is actually meaningful because it does not allow the elites to dictate the agenda and because it involves no pretense that the public can follow the minutia and technicalities of individual government decisions. In this setting the manipulation tactics employed by the elite can be expected to have only limited effect, while in the elections or popular proposition settings they are essentially all that matters.

    > One of things I like most about elections is that they channel ambition.

    There is every reason to expect elites to fight sortition in every way they can. Granting them some limited power would only allow them to use that power against the popular power of an allotted chamber. Why would they settle for a sharing power when they can grab it all?

    > Extra-constitutional power bases are inevitable in any free society.

    True, but how would enhancing the power of elites constitutionally be a tool for limiting their power? If we follow this reasoning we should argue that criminals should be allowed to carry out some criminal activity without punishment since some level of criminality is inevitable in any free society.

    > How long would it be before those selected for service vote to abolish their own institutions in the face of perpetual (albeit subtle, perhaps) media slandering of the system in favor of elections? Decades? Generations? My gut feeling is that a pure sortition-based approach would not be stable over long periods of time.

    I see no reason to believe this is the case. Quite the contrary: I think sortition will, over time, displace elections as the ideological cornerstone of legitimate government and any argument against it would be considered unacceptable elitism.

    In classical Athens, by the way, the aristocrats never tired of agitating against sortition, but apparently got nowhere – sortition became more and more entrenched as time went on.

  156. Terry: >I wonder if some modern version of Athenian honors (crowns of gold) could be invented to satisfy the egos of the ambitious

    But honours were only granted to those who proposed good laws (and those who proposed bad laws were punished). In a direct democracy all one needed to do was stand up and speak, whereas in large polities election or some form of initiative is necessary. So election and the concomitant rewards is just the modern equivalent of Athenian political practice.

    >I thought [Harrington's] plan called for one chamber of aristocrats (through inheritance I assume), and one of commoners, but BOTH were to be formed the same way.

    The Senate was elected from a property-based franchise (the Knights), not an inheritance-based class. Harrington also proposed radical agrarian reforms, that he believed would enable any “natural aristocrat” (person of ability) to gain the necessary property franchise. The Prerogative Tribe was constituted by a mixture of election and sortition, from a universal franchise (excluding the Knights). We no longer believe in property franchise so I’ve attempted to modernise Harrington’s proposal by abstracting the two defining principles (election and sortition).

    Yoram: >Why would [elites] settle for a sharing power when they can grab it all?

    When the issue to be decided is controversial and/or shows no obvious electoral benefits — ie issues that offend and please electors in equal numbers. I was reading somewhere recently about how legislatures prefer to leave such matters in the hands of presidents. So the potential for power sharing is much greater than you indicate.

  157. Terry: >I am curious as to whether you are merely a lay person with keen perceptiveness, or if you are an academic who has studied such things.

    Actually, I’m a chemist. I developed a passion for comparative institutions about 7 or 8 years ago. Anyway, I’m not as well read on matters of philosophy as I should be. Mostly I focus on contemporary scholars who study executive-legislature relations. That is a great interest of mine.

    Yoram: >In classical Athens, by the way, the aristocrats never tired of agitating against sortition, but apparently got nowhere – sortition became more and more entrenched as time went on

    Very true. However, the Athenian system was very much a hybrid, much like the proposal I was discussing. Furthermore, it’s my understanding that most voters served in the Boule at some point in their lives. It’s much harder to slander something with which you have a full year of personal experience. That’s one of the many reasons why I like the system I proposed in the other thread. Most people would end up being called to serve at least once or twice in their lives. Not that spending a day in a policy jury is even vaguely similar to serving a year in the Boule. It certainly doesn’t hurt.

    Finally, the Athenians lacked anything even remotely resembling mass media as we understand it. Word-of-mouth propaganda is mediocre to say the least. I wouldn’t underestimate the modern propagandist’s tool set.

    You say there is a fundamental difference between voting on institutional configuration and policy. I don’t think you are wrong. One is somewhat more a matter of ideology (the “right” way to govern a society) and the other is somewhat more about knowledge and judgment. Mostly. Without a doubt there is considerable overlap. The problem is that, if the history of Continental Europe is any indication, ideologies can be manipulated as readily as anything else. And there’s not much of an ideological gap between election and sortition. Not in principle.

  158. Keith: >I was reading somewhere recently about how legislatures prefer to leave such matters in the hands of presidents.

    I posted a comment about that above. About 50 pages up. The president’s powers have to be great enough that the members of the legislature can plausibly claim to have had nothing to do with the policy. If, however, most members depend on the support of constituents who have an ideological stake in that particular policy, they will certainly inject themselves into the debate with great vigor. Most parties in most presidental republics are poorly disciplined and most members of most parties are more interested in (and better served by) focusing on local politics and leaving national-level politics to the president. They tend to use what influence they do have over national policy to get local policy concessions.

  159. Naomi,

    Regarding propagandizing against sortition: I agree this is an important issue to consider. The main risk I think is not once sortition is established and its effects are evident, but during the transition period. At this early point the elite would have the opportunity to manipulate the settings in which the allotted institutions would operate. This could result in situations where those institutions are set up to fail in various ways with those failures being used to discredit the whole idea of sortition. This is something that sortition activists should be aware of.

    Regarding the ease manipulating fundamental beliefs: I disagree. I think experience shows that it is quite difficult to change fundamental beliefs. However, if we do accept your claims then the whole notion of democracy is meaningless – people have no fundamental worldview and interests that can be reflected in policy and any policy is as good as any other.

  160. Yoram:> At this early point the elite would have the opportunity to manipulate the settings in which the allotted institutions would operate. This could result in situations where those institutions are set up to fail in various ways with those failures being used to discredit the whole idea of sortition.

    Naomi’s point is that legislatures would want to ensure that sortition succeeds as they can then outsource unpopular ad hoc decisions and wash their hands of the problem. (This would be much more agreeable to them than outsourcing to the president as many of them come from the same political faction, and would suffer collateral damage.) This is particularly true when the public hold politicians in low esteem (as at present). Fishkin noted how Italian politicians used one of his DPs to legitimise their own decision process** and this is also the reason the Chinese CP was so enthusiastic about the Zegou DP (the Communist Party are the biggest user of opinion polling in China). In the latter case, of course, the ultimate authority of the party was not threatened and if we want to implement sortition in the real world (rather than the world of millenarian fantasies) we should accept that there will be an ongoing need for politicians, albeit quarantined to a relatively harmless advocacy role. Notwithstanding your argument at the top of this thread, the ongoing need will be, as in 4th-century Athens, for political leaders to be held to account for their policy proposals. This will involve a mixture of reward and punishment, the latter being that politicians who introduce epistemically flawed proposals will suffer a reduction in public confidence in their future proposals and this will put them out of a job. But if they can pin the epistemic failure of a proposal they made on the flawed decision of an allotted jury this provides them with a very convenient escape clause. Machiavelli for the 21st century.

    ** Ledru-Rollin nicely captured the mindset of the democratic politician: “There go the people, I must follow them, for I am their leader”.

  161. Yoram: >However, if we do accept your claims then the whole notion of democracy is meaningless – people have no fundamental worldview and interests that can be reflected in policy and any policy is as good as any other.

    It’s not either/or. People have interests and beliefs and act accordingly. People’s views shift over their lives due to their experiences, both personal experiences and from what they hear about second hand. I’m willing to bet your views on the “right” way to constitute a government have changed considerably over your life. A bigger issue is, perhaps, that government by sortition and government by elections are not that different ideologically. You can appeal to the same underlying ideals in both cases. That leaves us with the exact same knowledge and ignorance issue that has been pointed out many times above.

    Even fixing ignorance doesn’t necessarily fix the problem because, as has been pointed out before, people don’t necessarily hold views for rational reasons. You are right back at mass politics. Only in this case the issue at hand is institutional configuration.

  162. Naomi,

    Of course people’s interests and fundamental beliefs can change over time (this is, of course, a good thing). This is very different from what happens in electoral and proposition campaigns which is really no more than brainwashing. Again, the difference is crucial. The former setting allows a process based on evidence and consideration, while the latter doesn’t.

    In addition to (and even more important than) the rational ignorance issue, as I mentioned, is the fact that general structural design, due to its coarse nature, can be a process where the agenda is not controlled by elites while choices of individual people or policy items cannot.

    > A bigger issue is, perhaps, that government by sortition and government by elections are not that different ideologically. You can appeal to the same underlying ideals in both cases.

    One can appeal to whatever ideals one wants. It is up to the listeners to judge whether the appeal is credible. It appears that appealing to democracy in order to justify the electoral system has become less and less credible over the past few decades.

  163. Yoram,

    The rational ignorance problem has nothing to do with elites, it’s just the application of rational choice theory to voting behaviour (there’s no point investing time and effort in studying the issues as your individual vote carries no causal power). If a sorted assembly were too large then it would also be subject to rational ignorance, so the design challenge is to make it large enough to be representative but not so large that it exceeds the rational ignorance threshold.

  164. >This is very different from what happens in electoral and proposition campaigns which is really no more than brainwashing. Again, the difference is crucial.

    Here’s the thing. A person’s views change over time as a result of what they see and hear. This is true whether we are talking about policy or something more fundamental – - making both fair game for brainwashing. I’m not claiming that both are equally easy, only that both can be manipulated by those with the resources and motivation to do so.

    I’m a big believer in the idea that the aggregate affect of millions of people having millions of debates on matters of policy will over time drive the popular will in the direction of the beliefs and policies that are “better” in the sense that they are more defensible. But the way in which an argument is publicly framed matters greatly. Take a look at policy matters that have been in the public conscience for decades (if not generations). Very few are positive examples. The worst (see health care, climate change, etc) are the ones where the interests of the independently powerful are at stake.

  165. Naomi: >I’m a big believer in the idea that the aggregate affect of millions of people having millions of debates on matters of policy will over time drive the popular will in the direction of the beliefs and policies that are “better” in the sense that they are more defensible.

    That’s a very interesting claim, and one which reasonable people would like to believe in. It fits well with the wisdom of crowds literature from a normative perspective. The huge growth of opinion polling over the last few decades (and the attention given to polls by political elites) provides some empirical support, the only rider (apart from the framing issue that you mention) being the need for public opinion to be well informed. Sortition and deliberative polling is the best way of ensuring this happens. The growth of the internet and the erosion of media monopolies is one way of ameliorating the framing issue.

  166. Naomi,

    > I’m not claiming that both are equally easy, only that both can be manipulated by those with the resources and motivation to do so.

    For some definition of “can”.

    Again, in the context of elections manipulation is essentially all there is to the process. In the context of selecting between an elections-based system and a sortition-based system, manipulation is a potential problem but not necessarily a determinant factor. (And in fact it is up to sortition activists to make sure it is not a determinant factor.)

  167. Rational ignorance become a bigger problem the bigger the body (with mass elections being the most extreme case)…but there is another related psychological factor that is independent of the size of the deliberating group…and that is cognitive free-riding (letting some other trusted individual or group figure things out for you, and then going along). It is this cognitive free-riding that I see as the biggest danger of keeping an electoral chamber in the legislative realm. The nominally independent jury members will be tempted to defer to the judgment of the political party they generally favor, not only assuming that policy is “best” but also to enhance the prestige and power of their preferred party. While many citizens in modern societies are fed up with political parties, there are still a lot of partisans as well…and probably enough to distort jury deliberation, regardless of size, as long as there are high-stakes party elections full of drama and power contests.

  168. Returning to the thread header, there is an irony in calling elections an accountability measure. The irony also touches on a contradiction within “representation” (one Keith appears unaware of despite his repeated invocation of H.P.). Elections, rather than an imperfect tool to hold politicians accountable, are mostly a collection of perverse incentives NOT to work for the common good/will.

    The elected is under three simultaneous pressures that all but make genuine collective work within a group (parliament) impossible. She must please her party (hold the party line) or be thrown out of it. She must please her donors or have no resources to run for office again. She must please her constituents or risk losing their votes. This last pressure, from constituents, depends on whether she “represents” their particular positions or their general interests. An added complication is whether she represents her district or the whole.

    The distinction between two (or three) kinds of “acting for” representation comes to bear. If she represents their particular positions on issue, then she is a “taxi driver” representative. If she represents their general interests but uses her own judgment, she is a “doctor” rep. If she represents their interests AS SHE DEEMS LEGITIMATE she is acting like a “parent.” The only way elections can have much value as an “accountability measure” would be that both the person doing the rep and the person doing the judging (the voter) share the “taxi driver” conception, otherwise the voter cannot judge the rep’s actions as improper or ineffective.

    But all of these, perhaps except the “representative as parent” preemptively SABOTAGE the group decision making process. If a group is to work together taking account of everyone’s interests, views, and information, it ought not be hampered by each member deliberating/negotiating/creating must constantly be thinking “what would the party think,” “what would contributors think,” “what would the voters think”—and all of these elements are outside of the process, by definition (not by education or propaganda) ignorant of all the evidence, all the arguments, and all the competing interests. This is the reasoning behind the jury system—disinterestedness in the sense of undue pressures and incentives. This is the reason why sortition in the first place.

    It is moving away from the contradictions (& perversions) of political representation that moved me towards sortition, although my initial attraction was statistical representation. Moreover representation presumes a class of rulers and one of the ruled. I do not buy this not only because of being a “democrat” but because I a do not trust the “expert” more than the “commoner,” based on experience independent of philosophy. Some of the wisest people I’ve met have never gone to university or made a fortune in business.

    I thought this post was ill-conceived because too much talk about elections draws attention away from what sortinistas presumably want, better government through genuine, pressure-free deliberation and judgment—or even, as the more ambitious envision, dissolution of the systemic separation between governors and governed. On the other hand, it generated quality discussion, despite the language that has too much in common with formalistic, liberal-constitutional electionism, imho. 

  169. Re: Political parties

    If you read the contemporary literature, you’ll see an almost universal view that highly disciplined political parties are the cornerstone of electoral democracy. The more disciplined, the better.

    When the United States government passes a piece of legislation, who is responsible for it? Who ought to be punished if it’s bad and rewarded if it’s good? Without a consensus ahead-of-time as to who is responsible for the government’s actions there can be no objective exercise of *accountability* for those actions. Is the president ultimately responsible? He certainly has a bigger say on the process than any other individual. Is it congress? Which house? Which individuals? Anyone can justify blaming anyone they’d like. So nobody can truly be held accountable. How do you get good government if those in power can act with little fear of being blamed for bad policy? How can one expect the members of a legislative body to represent the interests and wishes of the people if they cannot be held accountable for failing to do so? Let’s say you believe that the House of Representatives is responsible the failings of the government. Okay. Which individuals? Is it the set of members who voted for the act? Is it the members who voted down amendments to the act that would have improved it substantially? Is it the opposition members who will vote down everything who kept the House from getting something good? Everyone will come up with a different way of assigning blame. Nine times out of ten hey will blame either those they disagree with or those they happen to dislike on a personal level.

    The reason is that American political parties are hated with a passion is because they are the only institutions with the scope to be blamed for the actions of the government as a whole. Yet they are not cohesive enough to act as a unit, leaving them as little more than simple scapegoats. The buck has to stop somewhere. When parties are disciplined, each party is effectively a single actor in the system. The buck stops with them and they can be blamed or rewarded appropriately. Assuming, of course, you don’t have an institutional configuration that confuses the lines of responsibility.

  170. Yoram: >in the context of elections manipulation is essentially all there is to the process.

    That’s a very strong claim, which presupposes that electors are stupid enough to be constantly duped (the Frankfurt School perspective) and that there is no plurality of choice.

    Terry:> cognitive free-riding (letting some other trusted individual or group figure things out for you, and then going along).

    Cognitive free-riding is endemic of the human condition and not a product of election. An allotted assembly with full deliberative powers would be just as prone, the only difference being the increased randomness of the trusted individuals. The only way to overcome this is via balanced advocacy and insisting that voting members attend, and listen to, the full deliberative exchange. Although preferences are “sticky” for the reasons that you give, DP experiments do indicate significant preference shifts.

    Naomi: >If you read the contemporary literature, you’ll see an almost universal view that highly disciplined political parties are the cornerstone of electoral democracy. The more disciplined, the better.

    Absolutely. Modern political parties are nothing more than the large-scale modern recreation of Athenian practice, whereby those who introduced legislative proposals were rewarded and punished for the epistemic outcomes. Although laws were enacted in the name of the boule and demos, it was individual politicians who were punished when things went wrong.

  171. I think Naomi and Ahmed have compellingly explained why electoral accountability in the American system is nonsensical. But what about in a party-list proportional representation election system? In that case, as Naomi points out, there are just a handful of “actors” (the parties), and voters might broadly evaluate and assign blame (whether justified or not) by deciding if they are better off or worse off than they since the last election. I would argue, that even in this simplified electoral world, accountability is still nonsensical. Setting aside the play of random events in the world and counter-factual guesses about the effects some other policy might have brought about, (making blame completely unreliable)…We also have the problem that one party may advocate policy A, B, and C, while another party advocates A, X, and Y, and another A, G, H, while the voter may hate policy A, and favor policy M and P. How does the voter use elections to achieve accountability?

  172. Terry is right to point out the accountability problem caused by policy aggregation, and this is particularly the case in post-ideological multicultural societies where there are no strong connections between social and economic attitudes. Hansen laments the fact that the Athenian policy of personal accountability was overlooked by Aquinas, when he introduced Athenian 6th-century practice to modernity. This doesn’t mean that political parties are not accountable (if so then there would be no cycling over time), just that the process is somewhat approximate (rather than nonsensical). A sortition-based system would involve no accountability at all.

    In my proposal government ministers would be fully accountable, in that their tenure is permanent until ejected by a no-confidence measure in the allotted legislature. But ministers only get to introduce housekeeping bills, “political” (policy) bills require either political parties or popular initiative. The reason that I blow hot and cold on these two alternatives is because of the accountability issue (currently only available via election). In practice I think it could be a combination of the two in that the introducers of a successful initiative would morph into a political party and the level of confidence created by epistemically successful outcomes would determine their success in introducing new proposals. This is a benign example of cognitive free-riding.

  173. Ahmed,

    You are right to point out the different varieties of active representation, but voters are free to decide on whichever criteria they choose — they may seek to reward/punish their representatives on the basis of their competence, trustworthiness, policy preferences, height, good looks and/or skills on the saxophone. If you find a courier service unreliable [delegate representation] you can switch from FedEx to UPS; if your accountant [trustee representation] gives you poor advice you can switch to another firm; if your chosen party changes its policies [party representation] you can switch to another party (especially in PR-based electoral systems). In each case the accountability mechanism may not be perfect but its better than nothing at all (as would be the case with a kleristocracy).

    >If a group is to work together taking account of everyone’s interests, views, and information. . . This is the reasoning behind the jury system—disinterestedness in the sense of undue pressures and incentives. This is the reason why sortition in the first place.

    That’s a somewhat idealised view of deliberation — it’s the (Habermasian) norm and there is no evidence that political decisions can be taken in a disinterested manner. Whilst a court jury is charged to seek the truth (guilty/innocent), legislative juries merely have to indicate a preference. If the jury merely listened to the advocates and then voted there are good reasons to believe that the decision outcome would reflect the informed preferences of the whole electorate. But if the jury sought to usurp the advocacy function then the speech-act imbalances would distort the descriptive representativity of the decision outcome and individual members would be wide open to “undue pressures and incentives”. As Naomi has shown, pressure to toe the party line can increase accountability, and party discipline also helps to reduce the corruptibility of individual politicians (“corruptibility” in the vernacular sense, rather than Yoram’s redefinition of the term).

    Most of us on this blog are in favour of statistical representation and the wisdom of crowds. I also believe that a statistically-representative jury can do away with the distinction between the rulers and the ruled in Rousseau’s sense that the ‘collective being’ of the sovereign would be (descriptively) represented ‘by himself’ (Social Contract, II:1). If it makes no difference to the decision outcome whether or not I’m included in the sample then this is a big improvement on the Athenian ideal of ruling and being ruled in turn, as this implies a high measure of arbitrary randomness (putting up with someone else’s arbitrary decisions as I can get my own way later). Much better to be ruled by a proxy of myself.

  174. Terry: >Setting aside the play of random events in the world and counter-factual guesses about the effects some other policy might have brought about, (making blame completely unreliable)…

    Absolutely. This is absolutely a problem in any principal>agent relationship. Say a company experienced a bad year. Is it the CEO’s fault for not anticipating the challenges that hurt the company or were those challenges unpredictable? Are they the result of policies enacted by the CEO? There’s generally *something* (no matter how far fetched) that could have been done if the CEO had foresight enough. A judgment call has to be made. In any case there’s no ambiguity about who acted (or failed to act) and thus no ambiguity about who should be blamed if blame is due.

    >We also have the problem that one party may advocate policy A, B, and C, while another party advocates A, X, and Y, and another A, G, H, while the voter may hate policy A, and favor policy M and P.

    In any system you are going to have to compromise on matters of policy simply because everyone is a minority in certain areas. In an electoral democracy you can either compromise before the election or after it. If there are only two viable parties, each will propose a compromise plan that stands a chance of majority approval. Virtually everyone has to hold their noses and vote for a plan filled with things they disagree with. Sure. But what you see is what you get, in principle. If there are many parties, chances are good you’ll be able to find one that closely aligns with your views. So will everyone else. The party you vote for will have to go on to compromise on your behalf in ways that were unknown to you when you cast your ballot. That’s a serious problem in Israel where it’s likely several elections would have gone differently if the resulting coalition configuration had been known beforehand. You need enough parties that most people can punish the party they previously voted for without screwing themselves over on policy and without there being so many that the impact of a person’s support is unpredictable.

    I like policy aggregation. One of the things I fear most about direct democracy is the fact that simply adding everyone’s policy preferences together is unlikely to result in a cohesive policy plan on account of the fact that everyone supports different things for different reasons. Parties are forced to propose viable plans. You don’t see many parties proposing massive tax cuts and spending increases at the same time, to use an overly simplistic example. Policy and policy outcome is fused, to an extent. Politicians can (and do) act in an unpopular fashion where necessary to get a popular outcome. A great strength, in my opinion.

  175. Keith: >In my proposal government ministers would be fully accountable, in that their tenure is permanent until ejected by a no-confidence measure in the allotted legislature.

    Interesting. Would you mind elaborating further or pointing me in the direction of where you did so previously? What sort of cabinet structure are we talking about here? Is there a prime minister or some other analog?

    >But ministers only get to introduce housekeeping bills, “political” (policy) bills require either political parties or popular initiative.

    Is there mechanism to prevent them from introducing policy bills? A review board or something?

  176. Naomi: >Would you mind elaborating further or pointing me in the direction of where you did so previously?

    It’s in my book A People’s Parliament. I’m not an institutional political scientist and, unlike Terry and Jon, have no personal experience of legislative/governmental practice. But, as a political theorist, I take a literal view of the separation of powers — legislators should make the rules and government executives should apply them, just as Rousseau intended. But if ministers and legislators are appointed by the same mechanism then the parchment barriers separating the functions will prove too porous. Given that we supposedly live in a post-ideological age (at least on this side of the pond, not so sure with you Yanks, who still seem to be fighting the Civil War), then the obvious criterion for the selection of executives is competence; legislators, on the other hand, bear a representative relationship with citizens so need to be appointed by some sort of ballot mechanism (election, sortition or a combination thereof).

    >What sort of cabinet structure are we talking about here? Is there a prime minister or some other analog?

    Yes. The legislature might (say) charge the environment secretary with a carbon emissions target and the energy secretary with instructions to make sure that power is affordable and that the lights don’t go out. These two mandates are in conflict, hence the need for cabinet-level deliberation, chaired by a “prime” minister. There is no such office, formally speaking, in the English constitution (the “prime minister” originated as a term of abuse in the Walpole era), the PM’s official title is First Lord of the Treasury. This is because fiscal imperatives are the prime constraint on government action and (assuming the legislature mandates it) budgets have to balance over the economic cycle. So the Treasury Secretary will become the de facto prime minister. Those who lean to the left might find that a little distasteful but, as Labour Chancellor Denis Healey put it,** governmental powers do not extend to the abolition of the laws of arithmetic.

    >Is there mechanism to prevent [appointed ministers] from introducing policy bills? A review board or something?

    There is, indeed, a fine line between housekeeping and political bills. However all bills would need to pass in the allotted house, so this would be a self-correcting mechanism (if ministers introduced political bills that were not to the taste of the legislature they would be rejected and ministers would be open to a censure motion). But this would, admittedly, further increase the power of unrepresentative institutions so a watching brief would be necessary. However, given that electoral accountability is approximate (for the reasons that Terry has given) and allotted legislators would be accountable to nobody, I’m in favour of individuals (appointed ministers) being held personally to account. As with Athenian practice, politicians were well rewarded for success and subject to draconian punishment for failure. (I’m aware that I’m conflating policy proposers [politicians] and executive officers, but the Athenians did not have such a clear distinction between the two powers, and I’m increasingly mindful of the need for genuine accountability in representative politics [the theme of this thread]). Modern accountability would mean ministers removed by censure vote in parliament and politicians fired at the polls. The modern equivalent of gold crowns could be generous pensions that would be forfeited (in part) on failure.

    ** Healey was in fact criticising uncosted Tory promises, the epithet came from a 1979 Labour election broadcast:

    “Now those are facts nobody can dispute – hard facts to set against the misty policies of the Tories. They seem to have abolished the laws of arithmetic in their manifesto. And the question we all want them to answer is this: ‘Who’s going to pay for all these promises they keep making?’ “

  177. Naomi:>I like policy aggregation. One of the things I fear most about direct democracy is the fact that simply adding everyone’s policy preferences together is unlikely to result in a cohesive policy plan on account of the fact that everyone supports different things for different reasons.

    True, but policy cohesion could be achieved by an appointed cabinet (chaired by the treasury secretary) who would be legally obliged to cost bills and to inform the legislature of fiscal consequences and likely collateral damage to other policies. But it would suggest annual terms for an allotted parliament, and the synchronisation of major spending bills with annual budgets. An appointed cabinet would need to have very considerable powers and censure/resignation would have to be seen as a serious matter to compensate for the ad hoc and unaccountable nature of direct or sorted democracy.

    >Parties are forced to propose viable plans. You don’t see many parties proposing massive tax cuts and spending increases at the same time.

    That’s not the case when accountability is short-term and borrowing is cheap, as most western democracies have found to their cost. In the US this was the province of Dubya/Reaganomics, but parliamentary (party) democracies are not immune from the same form of economic illiteracy.

  178. Keith,
    Your design of an accountable democracy, as you repeatedly state, needs bodies constituted by different mechanisms. I can agree that there probably is a “check and balance” value in having distinct bodies, but I don’t see any logical need for them to be constituted differently. A “danger” of having bodies constituted the same, presumably, is that if a harmful passion were to sweep through a populace, both chamber of a bicameral legislature and the executive all elected, or all selected by lot would exhibit this passion and act too quickly, and live to regret it. But this danger can be avoided without constituting bodies in different ways…They could simply be constituted at different times and be of different individuals with different missions and institutional cultures or methods of operation. Just as the present me can hold the future me accountable in terms of my diet, by not buying junk food when shopping,one allotted body can hold another allotted body accountable by being separated in time, even if constituted in the same manner (likewise two elected bodies elected at different times (by the same means) might function this way…providing accountability to each other, though probably not to the people).

    So I agree that a meaningful difference is valuable to promote something like accountability, (or “thinking twice” as Andre noted), but think you are fixated on the means of their being constituted merely due to historic custom of aristocratic and common chambers.

  179. Terry: > I don’t see any logical need for them to be constituted differently . . . [I] think you are fixated on the means of their being constituted merely due to historic custom of aristocratic and common chambers.

    Actually my concerns are entirely pragmatic. Rather than focusing on the “logical need” we should examine the evidence (rather than “historical custom”). The American founders attempted to logically design three very different institutions — the presidency, the representative house and the senate — using one mechanism (election) but with different time-frames, constituencies and direct/indirect franchises. This was a total failure — the presidency was politicised almost immediately (the John Adams HBO series shows this graphically) and the Senate — the “aristocratic” check, if anything is even more subject to the vicissitudes of public passions than the House. If the presidency and congress are drawn from the same party there is no adequate check, if from competing parties then they oppose each other out of principle. The track record of the mixed constitution is much better, as each institution is constituted differently and serves a different function.

    >A “danger” of having bodies constituted the same, presumably, is that if a harmful passion were to sweep through a populace, both chamber of a bicameral legislature and the executive all elected, or all selected by lot would exhibit this passion and act too quickly, and live to regret it.

    That’s only one problem among many, and I don’t see how temporal differences would overcome it, as the latest incarnation would simply overrule the decisions of the earlier one as it would hold the trump card (no parliament can bind its successors). The principal reason for different selection methods is that each office serves a different role, from both an epistemic and democratic perspective. We both agree that the executive should be appointed on merit (epistemic) but held to account by an allotted assembly (democratic). We both agree that legislative decisions should be taken by a minipublic on account of the epistemic benefits of the wisdom of crowds and the democratic benefits of descriptive representation. The only thing that we disagree on is policy initiation and advocacy — I go for some mixture of election and direct democracy whereas you prefer policies to emerge from a deliberative microcosm. The problem with this (IMO) is that there are better ways of tapping into the epistemic benefits of cognitive diversity, such as crowd-sourcing, e-petitions, competitions [e.g.Longitude], knowledge markets etc., and your democratic case is sullied by the unavoidable illocutionary imbalances between its members. I fully accept that my preferred option (election/direct democracy) is open to both rational ignorance and manipulation by elites, but the former is corrected by the subsequent deliberative scrutiny and the latter can be ameliorated by the levelling of the playing field by the internet, limits on political funding, proportional representation etc. Each mechanism — appointment, sortition and election/direct democracy — has its own strengths and weaknesses, but together the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

  180. *** Keith Sytherland says (May 15) « Given that we supposedly live in a post-ideological age (at least on this side of the pond, not so sure with you Yanks, who still seem to be fighting the Civil War), then the obvious criterion for the selection of executives is competence »
    *** « A post-ideological age » ? In France at least we see strong ideologies at work. The « first-modern » ideologies are not dead : we can find in France Jacobins, some Marxists, even some Fascists …. But above all we can find various brands of « second-modern » ideologies : Feminists, Queer militants, Ecologists, and others less strident but no without influence …. In each family you can find various tendencies.
    *** It is erroneous to consider those second-modern ideologies as « one-issue ». For instance, in many cases, if you consider a specific ecologist movement, the environment may be the axial theme, but inside a whole systemic vision of history, society, cosmos ….
    *** Among the « second-modern » ideological movements, even the more sectarian persons usually have given up any idea of militant domination through « totalitarian regimes ». Some are supporters of democracy-through-sortition. Feminists can be happy of the built-in « parity » of sexes in any modern mini-populus. Many ecologists believe they will be able to convince the ordinary citizens in a free deliberation… But others militants prefer polyarchy (eventually a revised form) – especially because they consider the ordinary citizens have deeply buried « bad » ideas, whereas the culture elite is more open.
    *** But there is another point : among the most radical fractions of these movements, many dislike deeply the idea of open and free political deliberation, the « isêgoria », because « it gives equal illocutionary status to the good and to the bad » – I remember « isêgoria » described as « 30 min for Hitler, 30 min for the Jews » (Hitler = the specific foe of the movement). These radicals would prefer polyarchy because they hope to impose in the ruling circles their own version of « political correction », and cannot accept the requirements of isêgoria in a dêmokratia.
    *** The relationship between dêmokratia (in modern times, democracy-through-sortition) and second-modern ideologies is very complex, as you can find in these ideological movements strong supporters of dêmokratia as well as deep-feeling adversaries.
    *** Anyway the idea of the contemporary Western societies as post-ideological ones is erroneous, as a general postulate. These societies are post-totalitarian, and in some cases (not USA, it seems) post-bipartisan – it is another thing.

  181. > the idea of the contemporary Western societies as post-ideological ones is erroneous

    The whole “post-ideological” is cliched nonsense. One can no more be post-ideological than one can be post-ideas. Any policy or proposed policy is motivated by an ideology – a set of ideas about the world. The set of ideas may be explicit or it may masquerade as “pragmatism” or “technocracy”, but the latter is no less ideological, just less candid.

  182. Basically, I agree with Yoram Gat. But we may distinguish, among the ideologies, those which are sets of ideas diffuse in a social group, for instance, or a part of a social group; or sets of ideas about a specific issue; and the ideologies, more strident, systemic, covering many issues, which are the reference of mass militant movements.

  183. *** Keith Sutherland mentions (May 13) the use by the Chinese regime of « deliberative polls », with, it seems, serious practical following.
    *** We must remember that local forms of self-government were often accepted by authoritarian governments in very big States. This is actually a classical character of « Oriental Despotism ». It allows the Central (authoritarian) Government to remain in contact with local opinion, which is always useful, and it lessens power of the local strong men, of potentially independent-minded governors and of wide-scale oligarchizing social powers. These self-governments may be local dêmokratias – Herodotus says that Mardonius, sent by Darius High King of the Persian Empire against Greece, and arriving in the Egean Coast of Asia, « deposed all the Ionian tyrants and set up democracies in their cities.» (Hdt, 6, 43, 3).The High King was not afraid of the democratic model, who could be set by a dêmos assembled in a city, but not by an impossible assembly in the scale of an Empire.
    *** The contemporary Chinese State is no more totalitarian, it is an authoritarian regime, and we must not be bewildered if it sets some instances of democracy-through-sortition at the local scale. It conforms to the tradition.
    *** If there was in the world an instance of large-scale dêmokratia, maybe the Chinese regime would be cautious. But, for now, the regime is not afraid of dêmokratia. It is afraid of polyarchy, of the subversion of the authoritarian State by oligarchical networks – as occurred in Soviet Union. Local (well overviewed and well controlled) occurrences of democracy-through-sortition may be useful to take away popular support from any polyarchic subversion in the name of « representative democracy ».
    *** Could such experiments lead some day to a Chinese dêmokratia ? I think the probability is low, but not nil. We can imagine someday a violent strife between factions inside the regime, and the loser calling the people for help, as did one fraction of the Athenian nobility under Clisthenes, and, as them, preferring dêmokratia to pure defeat.
    *** Such events may occur in a polyarchy, but less probably, as a defeated faction has usually some hope left of coming back to the honors.

  184. Andre

    By a “post-ideological” age, I was drawing a contrast with the 1945 elections in the UK. The Labour Government was elected on the basis of a radical manifesto to build a comprehensive welfare state, and there was a sharp divide with Conservative Party proposals. The Attlee reforms would not have not been possible without highly politicised government ministers forcing through the changes (in the face of opposition from a reluctant civil service) on the basis of the election manifesto. This is what you refer to as first-modern ideologies and voters were signed up on one side or other of what was a clear partisan divide.

    This is not the case now, where all UK parties are targeting the median voter and have to artificially manufacture cleavages to differentiate their product from the opposition. Voters nowadays, at least in the UK, evaluate political candidates less on the basis of their manifesto proposals and more in terms of their (ministerial) competence potential. We all agree that election is not a sound way of selecting persons of competence. Yoram might well be right to claim that this indicates a hidden conservative ideology — if so then it is widely shared by voters as radical manifestos don’t attract electoral support. Ed Miliband was criticised last week for alienating “aspirational” Southern voters by appealing to his diminishing pool of hardcore Labour supporters and this is likely to cost him the 2015 election.

    This mass conservatism is, no doubt, the result of false consciousness (in first-modern ideological parlance). The “second-modern” ideologies that you refer to (Feminists, Queer militants, Ecologists) are of little interest to the vast majority of voters. You French may still have your Jacobins and Marxists (and the Americans their Yankees and Confederates) but we have no equivalent on this side of the Channel/Pond, having got all that out of the way 350 years ago.

  185. Andre,

    The Communist Party is by far the biggest customer for opinion polling in China, all Fishkin has done is to make the opinion polling more deliberative. The party sets the agenda, lays out the options for the deliberative minipublic and puts the results of the resultant secret vote into practice (the only time this has happened in the 20 year history of the DP?). I agree that this doesn’t constitute dêmokratia but could become what Fishkin refers to as a “whole new political model” (I would view it more as a return to an ancient form of mixed governance).

    Do I view that as a template for the West? No, as we don’t share the same authoritarian cultural traditions. But I do view mixed government as more stable and of capable of greater longevity than dêmokratia (and the historical evidence would seem to be on my side). I think the West could learn a lot from the Chinese mandarin governance system, but we would require a plurality of elites to indulge in a competitive struggle for setting the policy agenda. And the agonistic struggle between elites could help the battle against corruption — the Athenian demos was perfectly happy to hand out golden crowns to politicians who served its purposes (and to mercilessly punish those who failed).

  186. The model of doctor as trustee.
    *** Keith Sutherland (May 11) uses the model of the doctor as trustee « Representatives who act for (not stand for) their principals can also be categorised along the delegate-trustee axis but there is no reason at all for a representative to resemble the principal who she acts for. Indeed if my doctor accurately resembled me then she would share my ignorance of medical matters ».
    *** The « doctor » model of trusteeship is not so clear as Keith Sutherland seems to imply. If a woman wants to follow an « artificial » contraception or undergo an abortion, maybe she would prefer a doctor who is not strongly antagonistic to such choices, for religious /philosophical reasons. Many gynaecologists, especially in USA, seem to have underestimate the hazards of some new types of contraceptive pills, even after some worrying data, and I am afraid that one cause of this behaviour was staunch feminism, leading to demonize everything which could be linked to hostility towards women’s liberation. In France the scandal of the « contaminated blood », leading to the slaughter of the haemophiliacs, was for a big part caused by ideological bias of the doctors in charge of the processes (some ideological bias linked to the cultural elite, but others linked to specific bias of the medical elites in charge).
    *** In a modern dêmokratia, executive networks will need to be formed with professional public servants. It is unavoidable. But naive trust about the absence of bias would be very dangerous. Overseeing by alloted juries, and in some cases direct decisions by alloted juries, will be necessary to prevent drifts.

  187. Fragility of dêmokratia
    *** Keith Sutherland says (May 19) he does « view mixed government as more stable and of capable of greater longevity than dêmokratia (and the historical evidence would seem to be on my side) ». The fragility of ancient dêmokratia is a commonplace view in modern political thought (Madison, Federalist 10, say democracies « have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths »).. But actually the model of ancient dêmokratia did not disappear because of its specific fragility ; it disappeared with the sovereign City-State, as dêmokratia needed a very small society in ancient times, wheras modern dêmokratia, with electronic technology, will be possible in big China as in small Iceland.
    *** The basic weak point of ancient dêmokratia was the animosity of a strong part of the elite, well described by Aristotle (and exemplified by him); an elite where converged « good birth » (eugeneia), wealth and culture (paideia). The modern elitism is more complex, with different elites only partially correlated. We can think it will be easier for a modern dêmokratia to withstand attacks founded on elitisms. The difficulty, for a modern dêmokratia, will be more probably to be born rather than to survive.
    *** I conclude : that democratic Athens lasted two centuries, and autocratic China lasted two millenia does not teach anything about the relative fragilities of authoritarian regime and (eventual) dêmokratia in Modern Times.

  188. I would point out that individual Chinese autocratic regimes were not necessarily all that durable. Many successive regimes embraced the system as there were no good alternatives for governing a highly centralized state like China. Even coups that were prompted by an emperor’s excesses quickly slipped into the same patterns, just with a new boss.

    Much the same can be said for electoral democracy. If the people hold to the democratic idea then it is easy enough to appeal to them directly and hold a quick election after the overthrow of a dictator. Those responsible for the democratic coup tend to be the most popular of the visible leaders and so they tend to win comfortably, giving them all the incentive in the world to hold an election to consolidate what would otherwise have been a very tenuous grasp on power. Sometimes they go on to rig elections and become autocrats themselves. Sometimes a stable electoral democracy is the result. It depends on the character of the leaders and the sorts of pressures at work.

    It is the norm for the constitutional order to be overturned more than once in a nation’s history. This would seem to be true regardless of government type. Constitutional durability then has two factors: resistance to gradual evolution and the ease with which the system can be restored after a coup. While I think that mixed types likely yield better policy and are more resilient to evolution, I’m inclined to believe that they may be more difficult to restore on account of their dependence on the specific details of their institutional arrangements.

  189. Naomi>: While I think that mixed types likely yield better policy and are more resilient to evolution, I’m inclined to believe that they may be more difficult to restore on account of their dependence on the specific details of their institutional arrangements.

    I’m not so sure — the UK constitution has been mixed since early in the 18th century and, according to Charles I, was mixed at his time. The historian J.G.A. Pocock refers to Charles’s Answer to the Nineteen Propositions of Parliament as the first modern republican manifesto for mixed government. The regime was restored after a short interlude and all that has happened since then has been the ongoing rebalancing of the three elements (crown, lords and commons) in the favour of the latter. I’m entirely in favour of extending this rebalancing to institute the democratic element by sortition, but that will not (fortunately) lead to pure demokratia.

    It’s also doubtful whether there could ever be such a thing as “pure” monarchy/autocracy, as single persons can only rule with the aid of a whole phalanx of other interests that they have to keep on side. Athens in the age of Pericles was also decidedly mixed (viewed by some as a dictatorship) and the fourth century saw a mixture of sortition, election and demagoguery. So speculations regarding “pure” democracy (defined here as sortition alone and disparaged by Jon Roland as kleristocracy) are entirely without historical precedent. Andre views that as a positive, whereas I’m more inclined to view untested political arrangements as dangerously utopian.

  190. Charles I Answers to the Nineteen Propositions at http://www.constitution.org/eng/nineteen_propositions_1642.html

  191. About Post-Marxist influence
    *** Keith Sutherland gives us (May 12) a listing of points – actually ideological postulates – he finds in political discourse, including among the proponents of democracy-through-sortition, and says « it strikes me all these six points share a common provenance with post-Marxist thought ».
    *** Each point has to be evaluated along its own value – the supposed post-Marxist provenance is not an argument by itself. Pythagoras’ theorem is said to come from the Pythagorean tradition (I don’t want to discuss here the historical point ! ) i-e the tradition of a religious sect which seems to have been politically, at some moment, the ancient equivalent of a totalitarian sect of last century. Well, I can adopt the Pythagoras’ theorem without adopting the whole Pythagorean ideological legacy.
    *** Some points may be possibly integrated in some post-Marxist system, but were enunciated well before, and by thinkers much different from Karl Marx.That « electing the rulers » is not really « democratic » (point 4) can be found maybe in some circles connected to post-Marxian tradition, but likewise in Rousseau (with reference to England) or Demosthenes (with reference to Sparta) !
    *** Some other points may be actually half-true. Let’s consider Keith’s « point 1 ». « Ideology (including abstractions like “political theory”) is an epiphenomenon caused by underlying (material) interests ». It is not true. First, because moral interests may underlie ideologies. Second, because « pure » intellectual factors may have a strong role. For instance, few ideological sets today include a proposal of totalitarian dictatorship (absolute power of a « good » militant minority), even among the more strident and intolerant movements, because the last century gave to all minds a dreadful lesson about the involved risks. That said, it is clear that material interests are a strong factor in ideological sets, specially as adopted by wide groups. I don’t know about Britain, but there are some newspapers in France where it would be difficult to find an idea antagonistic to the material interests of the moneyed upper class, even looking strenuously for an instance.
    *** Considering a specific set of ideas as a system may be interesting for the history of ideas. It is politically interesting if the group supporting this system may be thought to take the power, or a part of it. But the proponents of democracy-through-sortition must not be seen as a militant minority asking for power : if they win, the power will go to a mini-populus who will not be, for instance, post-marxist only because some of the most distinguished proponents of dêmokratia are post-marxist. The proponents of dêmokratia, if they win, will only get the right to convince a mini-populus of their specific ideas other than the dêmokratia agenda.
    *** A story said that Clisthenes, having established in Athens dêmokratia, with ostracism as weapon against a would-be tyrant, was himself ostracized. It is most probably an (anti-democratic) legend, but later a much known member of Clisthenes nobiliary clan was really ostracized (archeologists found the ostraka). Clisthenes’ installation of dêmokratia maybe gave some specific influence to his kinsmen the Alkmeonids (Pericles was of Alkmeonid ascent through his mother), but was much different from a takeover by a nobility fraction. If some « post-marxists » help to set a modern dêmokratia, that may give them a bit of specific clout, no more.

  192. Jon, I would be interested in your view on the extent to which the US Constitution was modelled on English political experience. Of course the hereditary principle was ruled out, hence the (doomed) attempt to establish three different estates using only one mechanism (election). It also strikes me that sortitition was not considered partially on account of the Calvinist sensibilities of Madison and his colleagues (it certainly had nothing to do with the natural law theory of consent or Charles Beard’s influential Marxist analysis). Naomi’s claim that election feels “so darned satisfying” could be viewed as a secularised manifestation of this protestant sensibility.

  193. Andre:> But the proponents of democracy-through-sortition must not be seen as a militant minority asking for power : if they win, the power will go to a mini-populus who will not be, for instance, post-marxist only because some of the most distinguished proponents of dêmokratia are post-marxist.

    Yes that’s very true. I didn’t mean to suggest that sortition was being used as some kind of Trotskyite entryist strategy whereby power could be seized by post-Marxists, merely that the kleristocratic mindset divides the population into the 1% and the 99% and that these classes are internally homogeneous from the point of view of their interests. This being the case it matters little whose speech acts are privileged as the vast majority of the allotted assembly will be members of the proletariat (99%), who share the same interests.

  194. @keithsutherland

    The U.S. model was a borrowing of some features, and a rejection of others, from several different legacies, not just England. That was aided in part by such writings as John Adams’ “Defense of the Constitutions” (by which he meant the new state constitutions, on which the U.S. Constitution would later be modeled), in which he examined the history and structure of every kind of government known in Europe. From England they took a bicameral legislature, and rejected the monarchy. They took the procedural and interpretative components of the Common Law and rejected prosecution of common law crimes (although that may have been an oversight). They took many of the reforms urged in England but often not adopted, such as those of the Levellers and Whigs.

    Adams did discuss the Venetian system, but in a somewhat cursory way that may not have registered with the Framers who read it. Random selection of juries was established English practice, but election of members of Parliament was also established, and the Framers probably couldn’t imagine any other process. Remember that at the time not as much was known about the Athenian process than has emerged from later scholarship. They were disposed to stick to successful models and not venture far into new territory.

    Election of the president appears to have been inspired by the process used by the Holy Roman Empire to elect its Emperor.

    The evidence of all this can be found at constitution.org

    It should be kept in mind that majoritarian election was a kind of surrogate for armed conflict. It would be like two generals counting each others’ forces on the field, and the weaker yielding to the stronger to avoid bloodshed. If the most numerous faction can be expected to win a fight, should it come to that, better to concede. Supermajority or veto rules reflect an assessment that a determined minority can cause enough trouble to make inaction a wiser choice.

    Ultimately the choice of election was simply because it was easier to understand and to execute. If they had proposed something like the Venetian model the Constitution would have been rejected because people wouldn’t understand it.

    Let’s face it. Sortition, especially the multi-step kind I tend to favor, is complicated. It is difficult to convey the idea on a bumpersticker.

  195. Jon:> It should be kept in mind that majoritarian election was a kind of surrogate for armed conflict. It would be like two generals counting each others’ forces on the field, and the weaker yielding to the stronger to avoid bloodshed. If the most numerous faction can be expected to win a fight, should it come to that, better to concede.

    Very true, and something we should not lose sight of. Several people on this blog have argued the opposite — elections generate artificial cleavages, but we should always remember Churchill’s dictum (jaw-jaw being better than war-war). The notion that the common interest is the state of nature before nasty politicians create division is a little naive.

    >Let’s face it. Sortition, especially the multi-step kind I tend to favor, is complicated.

    That’s certainly true for the multi-step versions that Terry and yourself have proposed (“Byzantine” being my chosen adjective for Terry’s proposal), but the Madisonian division between advocacy and judgment, with the latter being exercised by statistically-representative sample(s) of the whole polis is extremely simple. Yoram’s proposal also has the merit of simplicity, but it is for a “pure” system, rather than being one component in a mixed constitution.

  196. Andre,

    A 7th point on the post-Marxist/demokratia thread:

    ‘Largely under the influence of Habermas, the idea that democracy revolves around the transformation rather than the aggregation of preferences [a principal focus of the critical theory project] has become almost an axiom of contemporary democratic theory’. (Femia, 2009, p. 68, my emphasis). The overriding need, according to the Italian cultural Marxist Antonio Gramsci, was to emancipate the masses from the ‘bourgeois cultural hegemony’ created by the myriad mechanisms of socialization/indoctrination, by dissolving the resultant ‘contradictory consciousness’ to reveal an underlying rationality of everyday ‘lived’ experience (Femia, 1987). Deliberation amongst ‘ordinary’ people, under conditions of equality, might help overcome the prevailing bourgeois hegemony, as it could allow the working-class to develop organic intellectuals and an alternative hegemony within civil society. The (statistical) privileging of ‘ordinary’ people is the prime attraction of sortition to Marxists like C.L.R. James (James, 1956)

    Refs

    Femia, J. (1987). Gramsci’s political thought. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

    Femia, J. (2009). Elites vs. the popular will. In J. Femia, A. Korosenyi & G. Slomp (Eds.), Political Leadership in Contemporary Liberal and Democratic Theory (pp. 67-78). Exeter: Imprint Academic.

    James, C. L. R. (1956). Every Cook Can Govern: A study of democracy in Ancient Greece and its meaning for today. Retrieved 22 May 2014, 2014, from http://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/1956/06/every-cook.htm

  197. About mass conservatism.
    *** Keith Sutherland (May 19) states that in the contemporary Britain there is a « mass conservatism » which « is, no doubt, the result of false consciousness (in first-modern ideological parlance) » – i.e. the result of class domination.
    *** The comment by Keith is ironical. And it is right that an unifactorial analysis of « popular conservatism » is excessive. That said, the dominating fractions of the society have interest to explain to the lower classes that they have to be satisfied of their fate, that any strong push to change it would lead to chaos, tyranny, general poverty etc … and they have strong means to preach that self-serving gospel.
    *** Note that in some points the common citizens may be right to be afraid of changes, especially of some possibly impending changes in a bad direction, and the conservatism may be rational. Generalized and automatic conservatism seems less rational for people who don’have the best lot in the existing order.
    *** There are many factors which can favor general popular conservatism in developed Western countries – for instance the ageing of the societies.
    *** But a specific point is to be considered. In polyarchies the common citizens are powerless, they have no real control of the society evolution, and at the same time it is difficult to identify who has the power, which actually belongs to a complex system of elites and lobbies. The common citizens are unable to control the society changes, and likewise unable to identify clearly who controls them. That could be a recipe for general conservatism. If we cannot control the car, let’s push on the braking pedal.
    *** In the Ancient Greek World the Athenians were known as an activist people, or an over-activist one, among the main Greek Cities. Maybe that was an old specific psychic legacy which had helped the establishment of dêmokratia; but maybe the dêmokratia gave to the common citizens some ideas of being able to control at least partly their society.

  198. Andre:> In polyarchies the common citizens are powerless, they have no real control of the society evolution, and at the same time it is difficult to identify who has the power, which actually belongs to a complex system of elites and lobbies.

    I’m currently re-reading Dahl’s Preface to Democratic Theory and note that he came to his original polyarchy thesis “in a graduate seminar [he] was teaching during the early 1950s” (p.xi). This was only 10 years after Schumpeter published his “excellent analysis of democracy” (p.131n), which came out three years after Mosca’s Ruling Class (in translation), itself based on Taine’s analysis of the Ancien Regime.

    Why are we so in awe of these old books? No doubt they were an adequate reflection of the highly deferential class-based society that existed at the time, but why do we seek to apply these dogmas to the very different political reality of the 21st century? My latest comment on the Gilens thread http://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/commentary-on-gilens-and-page-average-citizens-have-no-political-influence/#comment-11068 indicates (proves?)** how the demos is ultimately in charge. No doubt political elites do attempt to manipulate public policy but the results of the EU elections (especially in France and the UK) indicate that, in the long run, they have to pander to the median voter, not the so-called “polyarchies”.

    ** the testable hypothesis is that UKIP policy will continue to develop from its original right-wing libertarian formulation in the direction of median-voter preferences in the hope of winning seats in the 2015 general election. I know little about French politics, but it will be interesting to see if the policies of the Front National develop in a similar manner.

  199. PS the conservatism at the core of the UKIP mindset is entirely reactionary — ie a response to the perceived elitism of the “metropolitan political class” and its pet “progressive” projects. As well as opposition to immigration (and the determination of domestic policies by the Brussels elite) many have switched to UKIP on account of disaffection with (liberal) elite policies on gay marriage and other social initiatives common to Labour, Liberals and the “Conservative” Party. I have yet to come across a single analysis of the UKIP phenomenon that resorts to polyarchy theory (although the election poster campaign was financed by one wealthy individual). UKIP is very much a grass-roots organisation — membership has already reached 1/3 of the membership of the Conservative Party. Routledge has a new (academic) book out on UKIP which is selling well: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Revolt-Right-Explaining-Extremism-Democracy/dp/0415661501 “A sympathetic and occasionally touching account of the frustrations of the white working class voters progressive culture and conservative economics have decided they can do without.” Nick Cohen, The Observer.

  200. Andre:> the dominating fractions of the society have interest to explain to the lower classes that they have to be satisfied of their fate, that any strong push to change it would lead to chaos, tyranny, general poverty etc.

    It’s hard to differentiate between this and Schumpeter’s “infantilist” view of the lower classes. A more charitable view of the intelligence of our fellow citizens would suggest we’re all are a bit chary, given the chequered history of calls for a “strong push to change”, most of which have their origins on the hard left. Perhaps, rather than taking over the bakery, the “masses” (whoever they are) would just prefer a larger slice of the cake and understand this requires an incremental approach (otherwise the bakery might be forced out of business). Some of us impertinent proles even have the temerity to open our own bakeries (I started mine in 1973) and claim our position in the dominating fractions.

    From an empirical perspective who are these “dominating fractions” and who are the “lower classes”? This is the sort of language that was in use when I was a sociology undergraduate (1969-1972), but it makes little sense nowadays. Are you (Andre) a member of one of the dominating fractions or the lower classes, or do you claim the privileged god’s-eye view from the ivory towers of academe? Given the target for 50% of Brits to go to university (40% currently achieved) does that mean the remaining 50% are now the huddled masses? If so then I think we need a new term to refer to them, especially as a good proportion of skilled artisans will be enjoying better job security and earning <em<more than their over-educated peers (it’s hard to outsource plumbing, building and car repairs to China and Vietnam; not so with the majority of middle-class and professional occupations).

    It’s time for all these dusty old books (Marx, Mosca, Pareto, Michels, Schumpeter, Dahl, Mills etc) to be relegated to the library basement and replaced with a more up-to-date political sociology that recognises that there is a (small) under-class, a (small) uber-rich class and most of us are on a continuum in the middle. Archaic terms like “lower classes” would not be found in modern sociology textbooks.

  201. *** Keith Sutherland describes (May 26) a deliberative version of post-marxism : «The overriding need, according to the Italian cultural Marxist Antonio Gramsci, was to emancipate the masses from the ‘bourgeois cultural hegemony’ created by the myriad mechanisms of socialization/indoctrination (…) Deliberation amongst ‘ordinary’ people, under conditions of equality, might help overcome the prevailing bourgeois hegemony »
    *** This description of a specific contemporary thought is interesting. But we must acknowledge that this « post-Marxist » idea is actually radically opposite to a basic Marxist postulate. Marxism, against the legacy of French Revolution and of Jacobinism, stated that the political is secundary to the socio-economical, that the « citizen scene » is an illusory superstructure, that the revolution to come will change the economy organisation and destroy the basis of the capitalist class domination, and that only later, « pure democracy » could be established – political equality being illusory before the establishment of socio-economic equality. The schema described by Keith is radically opposite, as it implies political equality and democracy first (even if unperfect democracy), the functioning of democracy eroding progressively the ideological domination of the capitalist class, and thus allowing for the future replacement of the capitalist system by some better system.
    *** Whatever the ideas of Marx himself, considering democracy as really possible only after the cataclysmic change of economic system and class structure led easily to the schema of provisional dictatorship, with democracy for later times – much later times… The totalitarian legacy of Marxism was a virtual product of the « anti-political » element of the Marxist thought.
    *** As much the Marxism led to totalitarianism, the post-Marxist thought described by Keith is perfectly compatible with dêmokratia.
    *** I believe that the eroding effect of democratic deliberation, with « isêgoria », on the inherited ideologies, was actually seen by the ancient anti-democratic philosophers, but that they did not distinguish it well from the ideological effect of the democratic values of freedom and equality. But, anyway, for them, such eroding effects were a default of dêmokratia, leading to disrespect of the natural hierarchies and traditional rules.
    *** If the post-Marxist thought described by Keith is compatible with dêmokratia, it is clear that dêmokratia does not imply this specific historical agenda. Dêmokratia does not imply economic equality, and if a dêmos is sovereign, he can choose the socio-economic model, and for instance he can give a wide share of economy to free-market, because the dêmos thinks that more efficient, even if free-market implies some amount of economic inequality.
    *** As I am suspicious about the many disguises of elite hegemonisms (some could want erode the capitalist hegemony to substitute their own), I would like to know how many of these « post-Marxist deliberationists » agree really with the idea of giving last word to alloted juries of the « mini-populus» kind. I remember Habermas considering the modest proposal of Dahl about a consultative mini-populus, and dismissing it as « abstract » and « utopian » … (see “Between facts and norms”, chap. 7)

  202. Andre,

    Many (most?) people on this blog advocate a rich face-to-face deliberative style and this is generally associated with (Habermasian) deliberative democracy; all I wanted to do was to bring our attention to the post-Marxist provenance of this (see the references cited earlier). According to Derrida, post-Marxists subscribe to at least one of Marx’s or Marxism’s ‘spirits’, because they ‘came out of the Marxist tradition and often combined Marxism in some way with other explanatory paradigms, or were still asking Marxist questions without necessarily coming up with Marxist answers’ (Townsend, 2009, p.120). Many post-Marxists have dropped Marx’s materialism and historical determinism and accept culture as an independent causal variable (especially the Frankfurt School of ‘cultural’ Marxism, Habermas’s alma mater). Post-Marxists generally agree with Marxian political sociology, hence David Graeber’s coining of the 1% / 99% dichotomy. This is the most plausible explanation for the [mistaken] belief that the descriptive representation achieved by sortition will not be affected by rich interpersonal deliberation — given that most deliberators will be chosen from the 99% and will share the same group [class] interests. As I’ve repeatedly stated, this archaic assumption fails to reflect the sheer diversity of complex multicultural societies, which cannot be arbitrarily divided into an elite (1%) and the masses (99%).

    Given that my reference is to post-Marxist doctrines, Marx’s own views on democracy are less important. I’m not a Marx scholar but I believe there is some material on democracy in his early writings and he was referring to the here-and-now rather than after the cataclysm. That’s certainly the perspective that Townsend takes in his article.

    >I would like to know how many of these « post-Marxist deliberationists » agree really with the idea of giving last word to alloted juries of the « mini-populus» kind.

    Yes, that’s an interesting question — disagreement would suggest a rejection of fundamental Marxian assumptions. Marx’s followers never really forgave the masses for failing to fulfil their allotted historical role and have since preferred to privilege specific ‘disadvantaged’ minorities, rather than the undifferentiated masses. I think the debate on Equality by Lot is much closer to Marx’s ‘spirit’, even though the emphasis is on political rather than economic equality. Yoram, for example, has argued that it will require a mass uprising to overthrow electoralism and that the role of intellectuals like us is as the vanguard party. The only way in which this differs from orthodox Marxism-Leninism is the replacement of ‘capitalism’ with ‘electoralism’, the ‘spirit’ is exactly the same. This is entirely compatible with the post-Marxist shift of focus from the economy to other forms of equality.

    Ref

    Townsend, J. (2009). Getting from here to there: Marxism and the paradox of leadership. In J. Femia, A. Korosenyi & G. Slomp (Eds.), Political Leadership in Liberal and Democratic Theory (pp. 11-30). Exeter: Imprint Academic.

  203. PS Anne Phillips’ book The Politics of Presence is a good example of the attempt to achieve a just representation of interests by privileging the “excluded” rather than more accurately “describing” the masses. I’m not sure of her views on deliberative democracy but she co-edited the Oxford handbook that made the original claim about the post-Marxist provenance of deliberative democracy. As her co-editor, one assumes that John Dryzek did not take issue with this claim.

    Dryzek, John S. and Honig, Bonnie and Phillips, Anne, eds (2006) Oxford handbook of political theory Oxford Handbooks of Political Science. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.. ISBN 0199270031

    Phillips, Anne (1995) The politics of presence Oxford political theory. Clarendon Press, Oxford, U.K.; New York, U.S., 209. ISBN 0198279426

  204. > Yoram, for example, has argued that it will require a mass uprising to overthrow electoralism and that the role of intellectuals like us is as the vanguard party.

    As always, Sutherland’s assertions reflect his own preconceptions rather than reality.

  205. Yoram,

    Perhaps “uprising” was too strong a word, but you have consistently argued that sortition will only be introduced in response to pressure from the “masses”, and that the political class will have to be dragged kicking and screaming as nobody wants to share power. The role of the Kleroterian movement in your view is to publicise the benefits of sortition rather than to persuade and convince (dogmatic) academics and the political elite, hence my reference to the vanguard party.

  206. *** Keith asks (May 29) : « Are you (Andre) a member of one of the dominating fractions or the lower classes, or do you claim the privileged god’s-eye view from the ivory towers of academe? »
    *** The question is personal, but my answers can have a more general interests.
    *** I am in the French « culture elite » as I studied in University, I am suscriber to the Nouvel Observateur, and I know superficially all the authors and subjects this magazine mentions frequently. At the same time, I am intellectually « peripheral » inside this elite, as I am strongly interested in some subjects which are overlooked by the cultural elite, as ancient history or statistical knowledge – even without political connections, and unhappy with many intellectual drifts in this elite, even outside politics. Why am I intellectually peripheral ? For specific biographic factors, some of them can be partially linked to collective factors –as the engineer profession, or an age different from the median.
    *** Along the money scale, I belong to the « median classes » as defined practically in relationship with the salient political agenda in the socio-economic field in France: « crushing the welfare state » i-e substituting social security by private insurance, substituting « social pensions » by self-directed investment, removing general children allowance, removing free higher schooling – and removing progressive income tax. For the richest fraction of French society, crushing the welfare state is seen as being materially very beneficial, even if some may disagree with the idea for solidarity reasons or cautious conservatism; for a big part of the population, let’s say the « poor » fraction, crushing the welfare state appears evidently and strongly detrimental, even if some may criticize welfare abuses ; for other groups, as those I am near, the balance is seen as probably not strongly positive or negative, and actually they don’t know exactly ; this give to this « medium » citizens more ideological « freedom » (Note that for someone « rationalist » as I am, there is something disturbing in the idea that ignorance may have good civic effects). The income of these medium citizens is much higher than the median income, but from the ideological point of view, the important is the material propension in relationship with the more salient agenda.
    *** Keith speaks of « god’s-eye view ». He should not be ironical : everybody who thinks about a subject should make an effort to lessen his bias to find out the truth. But we must acknowledge it is easier when the social propensions are weaker, and I think the supporters of « democracy-through-sortition » will be often found in persons belonging neither to the typical bulk of the culture elite nor to the money elite (« the rich class ») –I speak only of a statistical tendency.
    *** Keith writes : « a good proportion of skilled artisans will be enjoying better job security and earning more than their over-educated peers (it’s hard to outsource plumbing, building and car repairs to China and Vietnam; not so with the majority of middle-class and professional occupations). » He may be right, and this discordance between the culture scale and the money scale may be a « revolutionary » factor which could deeply disturb the established systems, which look so strong nowadays.
    *** I consider two scales of inequality, which clearly is simplistic, but is a model nearer to reality than the one-scale of Aristotelians or Marxists ; including the one-dimension model proposed by Keith « a (small) under-class, a (small) uber-rich class and most of us are on a continuum in the middle » (NB how to place in this continuum the well off plumbers and the poor professionals he mentioned ?)
    *** I don’t say everything must be understood only considering inequality phenomena ; but we must not overlook them, they are important. And much of the hostility to democracy-through-sortition comes from them.

  207. Andre:> For the richest fraction of French society, crushing the welfare state is seen as being materially very beneficial, even if some may disagree with the idea for solidarity reasons or cautious conservatism; for a big part of the population, let’s say the « poor » fraction, crushing the welfare state appears evidently and strongly detrimental, even if some may criticize welfare abuses.

    Agreed — that’s good evidence for the median voter theorem, borne out by the fact that UKIP are quietly jettisoning their right-wing libertarian views and moving to the centre ground. The Front National started from a different position to UKIP but we can anticipate a similar movement to the centre. For a good theoretical defence of this argument, see the chapter “Is Minority Domination Inevitable” in Dahl’s Democracy and its Critics. Dahl opines strongly against the Marx-Mosca theory of elite domination.

  208. […] The rewards-based theory suffers from two fundamental defects: […]

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