A 5-minute video lesson about sortition

Melissa Schwartzberg is a professor of Politics at NYU.

John Garry : Randomocracy in Northern Ireland

John Garry writes in sluggerotoole.com:

There are three crucial ingredients for a high quality democracy: a very large hat, a pen and lots of small bits of paper. Write the name of each citizen in the land on a bit of paper, put all the bits of paper in the hat, close your eyes and pluck out 500 names from the hat. Write to each of the 500 saying:

“Congratulations, you have been picked as one of the 500 people who will run the country for the next five years. Please come along to our Random Parliament and start making decisions about things like welfare reform, flag display and corporation tax rates (maybe). We’ll put you up in a swanky hotel, pay you loads of expenses and square it with your boss. Look forward to seeing you…”

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Paul Rosenfeld: The Extinction of Politics

A post by Paul Rosenfeld.

To readers of this blog the idea that random selection should play a central role in government may seem like common sense, but clearly it’s not. 341 followers (344 at last count!) represent a statistically invisible group on a planet of 7 billion. We aren’t a minority and we aren’t a fringe group (not even a lunatic fringe); from the perspective of politics we simply don’t exist (at least not in the U.S.). Our sense of things is anything but common, it is exceedingly rare. If we ever hope to see this thinking converted into action that will have to change. Somehow we must convince enough people to put our movement on the map. For this, we will need a highly effective argument, because the people we wish to persuade are living under the thrall of a myth.

The average citizen of our globe believes fervently in something which they call “The Democratic Process”. Voting is its central tenet. No matter how often it fails them they rarely waver in their devotion. And like true believers, fundamentalists even, each further obstacle is taken as a sign; the path is righteous but rocky, we must purify our faith and trudge ever onward. When we are finally worthy, the Democratic Process will at last deliver us. The road to true reverence has been long. Following the rise of the Third Estate there came the fall of property qualifications; then the secret ballot; voting by freed slaves; direct election of Senators; the ballot initiative and finally women were included. None of this brought deliverance and so today’s mantra is “corporate cash”. If only we can somehow stay the floodgates of corporate influence which pervert the process of “True” Democracy, then at long long last we will finally enter the promised land.
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John Oliver on elected judges

Yes, but aren’t those same arguments valid in the case of elected politicians as well?

Oh, those complex governing structures

It turns out that in addition to dealing with complex governing structures modern elected officials face another objective problem which makes dealing with democratic discontent difficult: the problem of living “simply on £60,000” a year.

Sortition: It’s for your own good

Claudia Chwalisz follows up on a recent article.

Chwalisz’s previous article concluded by observing that

the dilemma of how to get elected elites to relinquish their grip on the seats of power remains unresolved.

Chwalisz’s attempt at a resolution follows the lead of David Van Reybrouk. She addresses herself to the ruling class as the responsible concerned advisor who aims to help established actors find their way through troubled seas, meet the gathering hostile forces and to finally emerge maintaining as much of their power as possible.

The new article’s abstract is as follows:

New forms of contact democracy and innovative forums that allow political and economic institutions to deliberate with citizens are important steps in the long-term battle to renew representative democracy for the 21st century. They should not be seen as a threat to formal systems of government but as important add-ons that enrich democracy and give a window into the complexity of governance

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Citizens’ Juries: Taken for Fools?

Following the rejection of the Icelandic citizens’ jury’s conclusions on constitutional reform, it is disappointing to report that much the same has happened in Ireland:

[T]he people who were involved really cared about this thing and did everything they could to make it a model for new ways of thinking about democracy in the 21st century. There was a glimmer of hope that some kind of dignity was being restored to the political process. Instead all it’s really done is to polish up the sign on the gates of institutional democracy: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

The process showed that, given half a chance, citizens are not cynical and want to engage positively with their State. It also showed that that State, given half a chance, will make them feel like fools for wasting their time.

You can read the full article here: Fintan O’Toole: How hopes raised by the Constitutional Convention were dashed.

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