Contributors

  • Terry Bouricius served ten years as a city councilor and another ten years as a legislator in the Vermont House of Representatives in the U.S. He has worked as an election reform policy analyst and election administrator for non-profit organizations. His experience and research led him to conclude that elections are simply not the right tool for running a democracy, and has focused on sortition for the past several years.
  • Conall Boyle is a fan of lotteries for distribution, from Ireland living in Wales.
  • John Burnheim is a proponent of Demarchy and the author of Is Democracy Possible?
  • Yoram Gat is a statistician and software engineer, living in Israel.
  • David Grant brings more than four decades of dedication to political and community affairs. Among his many pursuits, he lists: producer-director for public television; self-sufficient homesteader; Peace Corps agroforester with upland aboriginals; executive director of an advocacy group that developed innovative community organizing tools; founder of a drama troupe; educator and trainer of international nonviolent political engagement; and a director of an organization specializing in the unarmed protection of civilians in conflict zones around the world.
  • Bill Harper is a retired lecturer in Management Accounting and author of various business-orientated books including Statistics.  He sees modern politics as being a race between Catastrophe and Sortition.
  • Ronald Mercer
  • Jon Roland is founder and president of the Constitution Society, which has a subsite devoted to sortition. Editor of the canonical online editions of most of the more important works on constitutional history, law, and government leading up to the U.S. Constitution. Legal historian, mathematician, and computer programmer.
  • David Schecter is a consultant to nonprofit organizations. He is fascinated by democratic practices like sortition, and also by thinking methods and tools for individuals and groups.
  • Peter Stone is Ussher Lecturer in Political Science (Political Theory) at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of The Luck of the Draw: The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making (Oxford University Press, 2011) and the editor of Lotteries in Public Life: A Reader (Imprint Academic, 2011). He has also published a number of papers on lotteries and random selection, in such journals as the Journal of Political Philosophy, the Journal of Theoretical Politics, Political Theory, and Social Theory and Practice.
  • Keith Sutherland is publisher of the Sortition and Public Policy series at Imprint Academic.
  • Ahmed R Teleb is a blogger, tutor, political scientist-in-training, author of filasophia.com and curator of twisdoms.com. He is a Fulbright and AmeriCorps Alum and lives in Wisconsin.
  • Alex Zakaras teaches political science at the University of Vermont.

37 Responses

  1. I’d like to post a contribution. I read on the Kleroterians site I must set up a Word Press blog so I have done so at: http://commonlot.wordpress.com/
    Please advise now how I can post.
    Thank you

    I added you as a contributor. You should now see Equality by Lot as one of your blogs when you log in to wordpress and be able to submit posts. Let me know if you have any problems.

    Yoram

  2. If you wish to have me be a contributor, please feel free to do so. Besides the website http://www.globalpublic.org, I am also the primary author of the corresponding book “IT IS” (ISBN 978-0-9795-5450-6). The website and book clearly promote the use of random selection (combined with elections as a means of preliminary screening) as a better way to protect democracy and restore the people’s voice in self-governing, from local to national levels.

    Regards,
    Mr King

  3. Greetings.

    Last Fall I posted 10 brief articles on the United States’ pressing need to embrace sortition as the means to Rectify Misrepresentative Democracy (see here http://rectifymisrepresentativedemocracy.wordpress.com/ ).

    I have just re-jiggled the dates of the articles so that they appear in proper sequence I-X (instead of the usual blog sequence X-I), and have opened comments on the last article (X). I’m happy to make these posts available to those “Equality by Lot” participants who might be interested.

    Thanks.

    Greg

    I’ll create a post linking to your articles. Thanks! -Yoram

  4. [...] wrote to announce a series of articles arguing against elections and offering sortition as an [...]

  5. For Egypt, Are Elections the Way Forward?

    The people of Egypt are standing at an historic crossroad. But to hear other people tell it, Egyptians are travelling down the highway to democracy. They’ve been stalled for decades but now their engines are revving and they are all but on their way to western style democracy. First stop: free and fair elections.

    To all those who died and sacrificed, it would be a disservice to commence this trip without fully examining the destination and any and all alternatives. Required reading before you embark on this journey is Animal Farm by George Orwell. Moral: If new people are put into any version of the same system, no matter how reformed, you will eventually end up with the same results. The problems may be to a lesser degree, more benign, but you will not have the freedom for which people died.

    As an American who dabbled in local politics, consider this my postcard from Destination: Democracy. I don’t wish you were here. Sure, I have a vote; I have a voice, but it is not heard. If you have a voice which you can’t use, are you in a worse position than one who can use their voice, unheard? What is the difference?

    “Although Bahrain has a parliamentary system, many Shias feel elections have only served to co-opt them into the political system and did not improve their access to government jobs and services.” (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/201121251854857192.html – 2-12-11)

    So, apparently, no difference. Free elections only encourage those who would, to achieve power, do and say anything, those with no scruples, the lowest of our low. Anyone who says they want to run for a political office should be immediately disqualified from politics. The process of running for office does not appeal to anyone who is, at heart, a good honest person. Isn’t that who we need now, good honest people?

    There should never be a political class, a group of people who make their living as politicians. The political class is insulated, protected from the very people whom they are supposed to represent. How then, can politicians represent people?

    Is there another way, a different road to take? First, decide what your destination is. For the voices of the people to be heard. For the will of the people to be enacted. To be free; to rule ourselves.

    Well, it’s clear that free democratic elections won’t get you there. I suggest the direct route. Fill all political offices by lottery. It works for jury duty. I haven’t heard of that system being corrupt, beyond people trying to get undeserved exemptions. It works for military duty except, again, people trying to get exempted.

    The people of Egypt could vote on the framework of the system. Who is included in the pool? How often can people from the same family be eligible for duty? Should eligibility for national positions rotate geographically?

    During a term officers should receive a stipend equal to %200 of their salary from the previous year. They should continue to live in their house amongst their neighbors. It should be seen as a simple matter of changing jobs . Then after they have served a term or two they will go back to their old job.

    Enough! of political intrigue and manipulation. Enough! of corporate interests instead of those of the people. Enough! of rule by the rich for the rich. Politicians are a scourge and they do not represent people. We the people should start to begin to represent and rule ourselves. In this age of crowdsourcing we know that we can create, we can collaborate. Yes, WE can. Not ‘we can get him elected to change things’; WE can make change.

    If you don’t take this opportunity to now try something new you will regret it. For the highway to democracy is actually a ring road. Eventually you will end up where you started and you will see your grandchildren in Tahrir Square. But, they will go home unsuccessful, unheard. Because, they will live in a democracy and they will have a vote.

  6. Nicely argued: as the Who put it, “meet the old boss, same as the new boss”. See also my reply to your other post.

  7. It may be worth your while linking up with:

    http://etienne.chouard.free.fr/Europe/forum/index.php?2011/04/27/123-centralite-du-tirage-au-sort-en-democratie

  8. Thanks, Paul. Yes – this looks interesting. Unfortunately, I do not read French. I will send the author an email.

  9. Dear all

    As you perhaps know, Spain is undergoing some difficult times, both economically and politically.

    Since May a new social movement, demanding “real democracy now” has taken the streets. Its main focus is to criticize the lack of democratic participation rights and the hegemonic position of the two main political parties.

    Some discussions and debates tend to concentrate on possible direct democratic institutions, already present in other countries, such as referenda, recall and legislatitive initiative.

    However, discussion of sortition as a democratic tool is for the first time seriously hitting the streets. During the local elections in May a small political party favouring sortition launched its initiative in Galicia (www.sorteopolitico.com).

    On November 20th we will have general elections for our parliament and a new initiative to form a party is being launched: http://www.partidoazar.com/index.php. It is worthwhile to spend some minutes visiting the website and reading its well written and argued contents.

    i would be very thankful if you could post this contribution on your website.

    Best regards

    Jorge Cancio

  10. YORAM: I THINK THIS SHOULD BE PLACED IN ‘EXPERIMENTS’ BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PUT IT THERE. WILL YOU DO IT?
    Thanks, David Grant
    ==================
    I recently met a former colleague and friend from Sierra Leone. He is intrigued with the political use of sortition and wants to implement it, beginning with local councils. He says that since Sierra Leone is one of the primary concerns of the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission, it is the perfect place to institute ‘the next step for democracy’.

    Mr. Pokawa is a dual citizen of the US and of his birthplace. In Sierra Leone he and his family have prominence and credibility. Mr. Pokawa has been making regular visits and was considering running for political office in his home district.

    As we discussed this matter, he and I agreed that we probably would benefit from involving an institution or individual with recognized expertise and credibility in political science. I wonder if any contributor to this blog might be interested or make a recommendation?

    I immediately thought of Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy but I’ve had no correspondence with Professor James Fishkin. Besides, they seem to be limiting themselves to short-term sortitionally-selected advisory bodies. Am I correct in that assumption?

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Best wishes,

    David Grant, President

    Common Lot Productions
    600 Water Street SW
    Unit 4-7
    Washington DC 20024
    +1 202 577-3145
    Skype: davidgrant09

    Next Step for Democracy

    It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election. — Aristotle {Pol. 4.1294be}

  11. David – you are a contributor. Why don’t you create a post and check the “experiments” category? (Or I can do this if you want.)

  12. Thanks for suggestion, Yoram. I didn’t know how to do that but just figured it out. Unfortunately I forgot to add a few ‘tags’ so I re-sent it. Since it goes to ‘preview’ I gather you are the gatekeeper and will use the second submission, yes?

  13. An element of education is required too !!!

    There should be further details on randomlords.co.uk soon.

    Basis suggestion:

    Between 300 and 1600 Lords

    [Foundation course]
    2 years Education
    2 years Junior Lord
    2 years Research/Teaching
    2 years Senior Lord
    [Consultancy/Reorientation]

    A small, highly academic Senate [none from the Humanities, but capable of interviewing and reporting back from Humanities, eg Theoretical Physics, Medicine, Civil Engineeering, Classics] would provide advice, as maybe Judges on purely legal matters.
    No political or geographic subgroups to be allowed.

  14. We have our own site dedicated to the subject at http://sortition.net/ and a subsite at http://constitution.org/elec/sortition.htm where we have a link to this blog.

  15. Hi Jon,

    If you are a supporter of sortition, please join our discussions here. Of particular interest are ideas for promoting the idea of sortition and bringing it the fore of public discourse.

  16. I do intend to participate in discussions here, but since I have already written so much, and have my own sites, I will usually do most of my writing there and post summaries and links here.

    What seems likely to be the best approach to getting acceptance is to do what we have been doing to get acceptance of alternative voting methods: introducing them into private organizations and local governments, and building on that experience.

  17. It is also useful to establish definitions. When I use the term “sortition” I mean a method of selecting decisionmakers at least one phase of which is random drawing from a pool of candidates. It is not just the random phase. Past of the problem of gaining acceptance is that too many people think it is only the random phase and that will not select for merit. Acceptable proposals need at least one merit selection phase.

  18. > I will usually do most of my writing there and post summaries and links here.

    You are certainly welcome to do that. I hope that some discussion would follow.

    > Acceptable proposals need at least one merit selection phase.

    I disagree, and, in fact, I think this is not even a meaningful requirement since merit is a subjective characteristic. Who is to judge merit?

  19. An election or preference ranking phase is a merit selection phase, as is voir dire for juries. The 1268-1729 Venetian system is an example of alternating random and election phases. There can also be objective screening methods, such as passing a test, or winning a game, as was done in ancient China to qualify candidates for their civil service, using the game of go.

    Not very many people would want the President of the United States to be selected purely at random from the general population. What is wanted is a process of elimination that ends with the most qualified candidate whose selection is not influenced by special interests.

  20. Sortition is not only needed for at least one house of bicameral legislatures, but also for executive and judicial officials, including judges and juries. But we want judges to know something about the law, and executive officials to know something about managing large organizations.

  21. None of the screening methods you suggest is objective. A test is subjective since whoever writes the test decides what constitutes merit.

    An election is a paradoxical method of screening for merit. To justify it you would have to assume that people are able to select meritorious people to handle their affairs instinctively and effortlessly (since most voters put very little effort and thought into their selection). But at the same time you are saying that the same people, if given the chance to make policy decisions, would not seek out and follow the advice of those same meritorious people.

    Yes – judicial bodies should also be selected by sortition. Such an important business must not be left in the hands of professionals with their own special ideas and interests. Of course, jurists may want to use the advice of professionals, but it should be up to the jurists to decide whose advice to ask and in what way to use it.

    As for the office of the president: any office held by a single person should not should not be an allotted office. If such offices must exist, then it is best to have them appointed, and closely supervised, by allotted bodies.

  22. Yoram: As for the office of the president: any office held by a single person should not should not be an allotted office. If such offices must exist, then it is best to have them appointed, and closely supervised, by allotted bodies.

    Agreed, although sortition could be based to choose from a shortlist of suitably-qualified persons. Regarding Jon’s proposal for a preference ranking phase this would suggest elections over policy options (ie public votation), rather than persons.

  23. Merit screening is always likely to be partially subjective. The main consideration is that it be controlled by a random panel. Thus, a jury verdict in a criminal trial combines subjective (“Is the witness lying?”) and objective (“Is there evidence the victim actually died?”). A randomly selected body can adopt a test from among several proposed (“What are the professional skills of the candidate and how well do they fit the demands of this job?”).

    I use the term “appointment” for election by a body of one, so if a random body votes for a final candidate that is merit votation.

    Using sortition or voting for policy options presents special problems, especially for deciding components of a complete and likely complex policy design. It it likely to work better for a design to have either a single author or a team led by a dominant designer who resolves conflicts before the design is presented to an approving body for an up or down vote. So I might recommend sortition for selecting a designer but probably not for the design.

    Imagine sortition used to design Chartres Cathedral.

  24. >Using sortition or voting for policy options presents special problems, especially for deciding components of a complete and likely complex policy design. It it likely to work better for a design to have either a single author or a team led by a dominant designer who resolves conflicts before the design is presented to an approving body for an up or down vote. So I might recommend sortition for selecting a designer but probably not for the design.

    NIcely put. In my first book (The Party’s Over) I argued the Mill-Rousseau case that the government should be the source of policy options. But this was criticised as “undemocratic”, hence the suggestion of a public votation. The problem with policy originating in an allotted group is the statistical representation mandate only applies in aggregate, whereas the generation of policy options depends on the speech acts of (random) individuals, so this is not an option. I would envisage a combination of government proposals (“single author or a team led by a dominant engineer”) and either public votation or the political party that secures a mandate for its election manifesto. In either case an allotted house would have veto power — making the up-down decision of whether the proposal becomes law, but I’ve yet to hear a successful argument for a wider use of sortition.

  25. Keith, Since ‘votation’ does not show up in my online dictionary, could you please (again) explain what it means. Or point me (again) to the citation in this blog where you do define it. / Also, Yoram, shouldn’t most of this thread be placed somewhere other than ‘Contributors’?

  26. I encountered the term on p.15 of Gil Delannoi’s chapter in Delannoi and Dowlen (ed.), Sortition: Theory and Practice:

    “. . . votation (to use the contemporary Swiss term). Here the citizenry choose between several legislative options that are either proposed by the government or put forward by popular initiative.”

    This would be stage two of the legislative process, stage three being the deliberative scrutiny of whichever proposals are approved in the public votation. This means consulting the same population in two different ways — in stage 2 all citizens are consulted (but the votation largely reflects uninformed [or misinformed] prejudice); in stage three the same population, sampled descriptively, is invited to veto the proposal that it originally approved. Although this appears irrational, I can’t see any democratic way of moving directly from stage 1 to stage 3, and the convoluted nature of the process has the added Condorcettian/Madisonian benefit of allowing the temporal gaps in between the three stages to be filled with public (and media) deliberation. The worst forms of constitutional settlements are rationally designed, rather than evolving to fit the crooked timbers of mankind.

  27. I will be on along with Eric Liu, former Clinton speechwriter and adviser, and others.

    Here’s the link to the topic we’ll be discussing:

    http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1963&context=fss_papers

    Other sites for this topic:

    http://sortition.net

    http://constitution.org/cs_elect.htm

    Watch us on @HuffPostLive tonight, 8/13/12, 8:00pm CT live.huffingtonpost.com

  28. Hello, We just began to translate the website “The Message” of Etienne Chouard in English. We’re looking for people able to proofread it, with an understanding of what the translation from french should be. If any of you can just read it and give us his opinion… contact us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/virustraducteurs/

    Thanks!

    http://www.le-message.org/?lang=en

  29. L14B,

    I’d be happy to help with proof-reading English. (I don’t know any French, however.)

  30. a Belgian politician dissolves his party, advocates against partitocracy, fights for a real democracy and is in favor of sortition.

    http://www.levif.be/info/actualite/belgique/laurent-louis-reclame-la-dissolution-de-tous-les-partis-politiques/article-4000232208403.htm

  31. Interesting development – thanks for calling our attention to this.

  32. My contributor status having been restored, I still lack a listing and a bio:

    Founder and President of the Constitution Society, which has a subsite devoted to sortition. Editor of the canonical online editions of most of the more important works on constitutional history, law, and government leading up to the U.S. Constitution. Legal historian, mathematician, and computer programmer.

  33. Added.

  34. G’day,

    I wanted to contribute or suggest this article about selecting Australia’s Head of State by lot (http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=7990&page=1) that I wrote in 2008 at OnlineOpinion.com.au but I’m not sure exactly how to go about it. I have a wordpress blog, but obviously the article has already been published by onlineopinion.com.au

  35. Hi Luke,

    If you are interested in publishing the article again here, I’d be happy to set you up as a contributor to the blog. I’ll send you an invitation.

  36. Hello. There is now a Citizens’ Assembly in Vancouver where I live. I will follow its progress and I thought I could contribute a post or two on it some time in the next few weeks or months.

    http://grandview-woodland.ca/

  37. Hi Mike,

    That’s great! I just sent you an invitation to become a contributor so you can submit posts.

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