More Sortition from Greece

In my last posting, I discussed a paper by Filimon Peonidis, a paper that offered a novel proposal for introducing random selection into our government. Turns out he has thought about sortition before. The March 2009 issue of International Journal of World Peace features an article by him entitled “Corresponding Citizens.” I can’t find it online, but the journal can be found at

http://www.ijwp.org/download/volume-xxi-2009/ijwp-26-1/

Basically, Peonidis proposes sortition as a means of reigning in the conduct of the major world powers. The big boys on the international scene (primarily the U.S. and Britain) have an enormous influence on the rest of the world through the policies they enact. This is true even when they are not literally sending in the troops to other countries. But democracy requires people to have a say over the decision-making bodies that affect them. Therefore, the rest of the world needs a say in how the U.S. et al. are governed. How can this be done? Take the U.S. case, says Peonidis (p. 58). Whenever the U.S. has a presidential election, have each country in the world select a random sample of citizens (say, 1% of each country’s electorate). Then have the voters in each sample vote for which presidential candidate they’d like to see win. That candidate gets 1 electoral vote for every country whose random sample gives him/her a plurality. With 191 U.N. member nations besides the U.S., that means adding 191 electoral votes to the current 538 votes in the electoral college. Those 191 electoral votes would go to whichever candidates most impressed the international community (or a random sample therefrom.)

As with his other paper, Peonidis’ proposal is very thought-provoking. It is interesting that he regards it as more practical and less “utopian” than a functioning and democratic world government. Indeed, he recommends it for that reason. I’m not so sure. As an American, I suspect the wretched “tea bagger” community would love his proposal just as much as they love world “guvmint,” and their ability to interfere with constructive international engagement is breathtaking. I am similarly skeptical of this proposal working in countries that are currently nondemocratic. Wouldn’t a random sample of voters from China simply follow orders from the Chinese government? (It’s hard to imagine China participating in the program under any other terms.) There’s nothing democratic about allowing authoritarian governments (as opposed to their peoples) influencing America’s elections. Peonidis recognizes the problem, but seems to regard it as small and easy to address (p. 62). Again, that seems pretty utopian to me.

Kudos to Peonidis for putting two such interesting proposals on the table! Nice to see that sortition still remains on the mind of at least some Greeks!

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2 Responses

  1. I don’t see this proposal as being about sortition at all. It is about giving foreigners a vote. This may be a good idea (even if completely unrealistic) in the same sense that extending the franchise to all citizens was a good idea, but would still leave us with essentially the same mechanism we have now. As Emma Goldman supposedly said (exaggerating somewhat in my opinion): “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

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  2. Well, sortition does play a role here. It’s obviously infeasible to ask the entire planet Earth to take part in regular elections. A random sample (though perhaps smaller than 1% for big countries–imagine 10 million Chinese or Indians voting!) could provide some of the advantages of worldwide voting without the obvious logistical nightmares. If it could be kept truly random, it would also prevent local governments around the world from capturing the process (although they might try to capture it afterwards, as I suggested). And so if the idea of giving foreigners a vote has any appeal whatsoever, sortition contributes something to it, IMHO.

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