Sortition on Youtube

One of the new pro-sortition bloggers recently posted this homemade video on the subject–

Two comments. First, I do think that a lot of sortition fans act as though it was obviously bad that a system doesn’t give everyone exactly an equal probability of getting into office. But it’s just not an obvious problem. I can’t think of any job where “equal opportunity” means having all candidates getting the job with equal probability. (The legal scholar Lesley Jacobs is good on this point.) Second, I think it’s important to stress the internal problems with parties. It’s true that (in England at least) you can’t win office without a political party. But the modern ideal says that it’s good to have a different groups of people organized behind different principles competing for office. It takes a separate critique to show why this is a bad thing. (Incidentally, has anyone read Nancy Rosenblum’s recent book on partisanship and political parties? It’s on my “to read” list.)

Advertisements

128 Responses

  1. Peter,

    > a lot of sortition fans act as though it was obviously bad that a system doesn’t give everyone exactly an equal probability of getting into office. But it’s just not an obvious problem. I can’t think of any job where “equal opportunity” means having all candidates getting the job with equal probability.

    Regarding the analogy to a job candidate: The job of allotted delegates is like no other job in the sense that they are not supposed to carry out the job (of governing) themselves – they are supposed to make sure that the job is carried out to their satisfaction – by themselves if they find it appropriate, or by others if they prefer to work by proxy. That is, the position of the allotted delegates is akin to that of the employer, not of the employee. An employer can hire a professional manager if she believes that the manager would do a better job at a certain point, but she would not transfer ownership to the manager, and would reserve the right to overrule the manager at any point. Thus, the manager is essentially in no more than an advisory role.

    As for theoretical justification for sortition – how about the following? As I see things, there is no legitimate democratic way to institute a system that is not sortition-based. The reason is this: to begin with, any proposal for a system of government would be created by a select group, and therefore, unless the group is allotted, would be inherently democratically illegitimate. Thus, at the outset, constitutional design can only be carried out by an allotted chamber.

    But the same argument, essentially, goes for legislation and any other aspect of government. Delegation of authority from a representative sample to a non-representative sample can only be a matter of convenience, not a matter of principle. Thus, at any point an allotted body should be able to over-rule any political decision by a non-allotted body.

    [There are a few exceptions – when the interests of the allotted are in conflict with those of the public, but those exceptions are quite limited, and the natural solution to those problems would be to rely on plebiscites, not on experts.]

    Like

  2. Yoram, I think you may be blurring together the questions of 1) how should a government official, however selected, behave, and 2) how should government officials be selected? Of course, we might answer #2 by relying on an answer to #1–in other words, we might say, we want officials to do this, and randomly-selected officials are the people who are most likely to do this.

    With that in mind, I still think it’s true that sortition proponents act like its an automatic failing that everyone doesn’t have an equal probability of getting into office. My point was just that we don’t think this about plumbers, or morticians, or brain surgeons. So either we admit that it’s not automatically bad for some people to get into office with greater probability than others, or else we show why and how political office is just so different. We get competence performances out of many non-randomly-selected people; we need a special story to show why competent performance from political officials can require sortition.

    Like

  3. > I think you may be blurring together the questions

    I don’t see what your meaning here is. I argued that no system that removes policy making control from the hands of an allotted body could claim to be democratic. One could still claim that such a system (e.g., an expert-run system) would produce better results, but doing that must lead to an explicitly anti-democratic stance – i.e., a stance which claims that most people are unable to understand their own best interests even when they are given the resources and the motivation to do so.

    > I still think it’s true that sortition proponents act like its an automatic failing that everyone doesn’t have an equal probability of getting into office. My point was just that we don’t think this about plumbers, or morticians, or brain surgeons.

    My reply was that the analogy between delegates and employees is inappropriate. Rather, the appropriate analogy is to an employer, or a business owner.

    Say, for example, that you inherit one day a business which you know nothing about. Many would recommend to you to avoid doing the managing of the business yourself and instead hire a manager.

    But it would be a very odd recommendation to create a binding mechanism in which control of the business is transferred permanently to the manager in such a way that the you would be unable to find out the details of how the business is run, unable to intervene in particular decisions, and would be barred from removing the manager and taking back control of the business yourself at any future time.

    Thus – the manager is essentially in an advisory role. He is handling matters only as long as, and only on those matters that, the owner finds it suitable to do so. This is exactly the relationship that the allotted chamber should be taking with any professional personnel.

    Like

  4. “Thus – the manager is essentially in an advisory role. He is handling matters only as long as, and only on those matters that, the owner finds it suitable to do so. This is exactly the relationship that the allotted chamber should be taking with any professional personnel.”

    Agreed, and most business proprietors would seek to hire the most competent manager. If it was a business they knew nothing about they would almost certainly outsource the shortlisting to a firm of headhunters (although they would wish to make the final choice and would ensure that the contract of employment left them with the power to fire an incompetent or venal manager).

    Like

  5. P.S. Better not to use the word “delegate” in this context, the normal word is “representative”. If anything the delegate relationship is that between (in your analogy) the proprietor and the hired manager.

    Like

  6. I wrote a reply about headhunters that got eaten by the system before it got posted in a previous thread, perhaps I can restate the gist of it here.

    Corporate culture isn’t an ideal that should be emulated uncritically. There’s a great deal of plain stupidity going on – a bit of it in particular relation to headhunters, consulting companies etc.

    There may be good reasons to use such “expert on expert” services. There are also at least two very bad ones, which are hard to miss:

    1. Business executives can be pretty superstitious in their way. They do a lot of things for reasons of self-reassurance. There is scarcely a company of significant size that doesn’t buy some management snake oil – which, like medical snake oil, does have a certain placebo effect. “I’m fit to steer this ship” is sometimes hard to tell yourself. Even if the medicine doesn’t make you a better captain, it may help you believe it, and that’s better than nothing – or is it?

    2. Blame. Using expert-experts introduces another level of people to blame when things go wrong. It is quite rational – in a perverse sort of way – to pay a high price for an emergency scapegoat.

    It seems to me that quite often, the surplus value that a head-hunting/consultancy company creates (which allows it to go on existing) is not from being better at finding competent people than their customers, but that they are providing these two perverse services – reassurance and cover from responsibility.

    Like

  7. Agreed. Nevertheless, a proprietor who knows nothing at all about the business (Yoram’s analogy) would have no alternative but to put the shortlisting of candidates for the position of manager in professional hands. Otherwise he might be inclined to resort to nepotism — Uncle Alf used run a whelk store, so I’m sure he would make a good chief executive. The other danger to nepotism is corruption (someone he meets in the pub might offer him some tax-free inducements to favour an otherwise unsuitable candidate). On the other current thread, an unwarranted degree of faith has been expressed in the uncorruptability of ordinary citizens (as opposed to members of the political class).

    The crucial issue is that the owner should have the ultimate right to hire and fire (and, by analogy, that the sovereign citizen assembly should have the right to hire and fire government officials). This seems like a sensible balance of expertise and democratic control.

    Like

  8. I’m a little confused by the employer analogy? Who is being compared to an employer? I thought you were comparing the REPRESENTATIVE to an employer. That seemed to me to be a question of how the representative should act, which is separable from the question of how the representative should be selected (although obviously the questions are interrelated). If you mean that the PUBLIC is like an employer, then that just reinforces my point. No employer decides who to place in an important position by selecting someone by lot. Rather, they’d select the guy who has the best qualifications, keep him in as long as he did a good job, and fire him if he did badly. In other words, they’d do exactly what we do with elections. And so I think that if you’re going to distinguish sortition and elections, you need to tell a story about the former that is very different from the traditional story about employers and employees.

    Finally, Yoram could you please restate briefly the argument that “no system that removes policy making control from the hands of an allotted body could claim to be democratic. “I’m afraid I’m missing it, and it’s not an obvious point. Maybe it’s true, but it requires a strong defense.

    Like

  9. In the analogy the (mini) public is the employer, and I agree that competence should be the prime qualification when the sovereign body delegates tasks to government officials. This is just regular Rousseau, the principal difference is that the sovereign assembly is selected by lot. Admittedly Rousseau assumed the delegated officials would also be wise and virtuous, but we would be unwise to make such optimistic assumptions.

    Like

  10. Peter,

    I think I see your point now. I do mean the analogy to be between the allotted chamber and an employer. I now see that some steps in my argument remained implicit. I’ll write another comment to explicate things. Thanks.

    Like

  11. Harald,

    Leaving the management consultancy issue aside (which, I agree, has very little to do with the actual productivity of the firm), “headhunting” – i.e., recruitment – is a necessary function.

    The question of whether recruitment should be carried out by a professional recruiter or by the employer directly is, as I see things, besides the point for the purposes of our discussion. The point is that it should be up to the employer to decide what recruiting method she employs. Again, in our case the employer is the allotted chamber. The idea that the allotted chamber would be forced to rely on a certain non-allotted agency in order to do the recruiting is anti-democratic because it infringes on the powers of the allotted chamber. It is analogous to an employer being forced to use a certain recruitment procedure even if the employer thinks that the procedure produces poor results.

    Like

  12. However the “shareholders” (unallotted citizens) would want some guarantee of competence and security against nepotism and corruption. What you are suggesting risks a return to eighteenth-century political arrangements. But I’m repeating myself again, so by all means (continue to) ignore this argument, as we don’t want to bore everyone to tears over again.

    Like

  13. Peter,

    > could you please restate briefly the argument that “no system that removes policy making control from the hands of an allotted body could claim to be democratic.”

    The argument goes as follows:

    (1) In a democratic system, policy is determined according to the informed, considered opinion of the majority of citizens. In a democracy, this principle holds at any point in time and on any matter, rather than only occasionally or on limited issues.

    (2) With few exceptions, the most effective way of determining the informed, considered opinion of the majority of citizens is by empowering a random sample of citizens – an allotted chamber (AC) – to make the relevant decisions (after due investigation and discussion). Indeed, on almost all matters, allowing an AC to make the relevant decisions is the only way to determine the informed, considered opinion of the majority of citizens.

    (3) Thus, if at any point decision making power is taken out of the hands of an AC, the decisions made are no longer democratically legitimate. Of course, an AC may choose to follow the recommendations of an expert, or even to empower an expert to take independent action, but such decision are at all times and on all matters those of the AC – and may be changed or reversed if the AC decides to do so.

    (4) Going into the realm of paradoxes of omnipotence, one could ask about a hypothetical situation in which an AC chooses to permanently, or semi-permanently, transfer decision power to a non-representative body. Such a decision would be non-democratic in the same way that a decision to strip some citizens of their political rights would be non-democratic even if it were made by a representative body.

    (5) The suggestion to institute a system in which decision power is given to, say, an elected body, is essentially a suggestion to make a decision of the type discussed in item (4) above. According to this suggestion, a representative body would commit the population in a permanent or semi-permanent fashion to a non-democratic decision making procedure. Again, I think it is rather obvious that such a decision (even if it did reflect the informed, considered opinion of the population at the time that it was made) cannot be a democratic decision, since it privileges the opinions of the population at the time of the constitutional decision is made over the opinions of the population at later times.

    As for the relationship between the population and the AC: as I indicated before, the analogy between allotted delegates and employees is inappropriate. The reason is apparent from point (2) above. An AC represents the interests of the population by its very nature, not due to some sort of compensation or to a mechanism of accountability. In our society, which fetishizes employer-employee relationships, there is a tendency to portray every relationship in those terms, but they are completely in appropriate in many situations including this one.

    A more appropriate analogy for the relationship between the population and an AC may be the relationship between a person and the same person at a different time. If I do my house chores on a certain day, I do not do so in order to be compensated by the me-of-tomorrow who would enjoy the benefits of having those chores carried out. I do it because the me-of-today shares the interests and ideas of the me-of-tomorrow.

    Like

  14. Thanks for this. A few comments. Claim 1 strikes me as plausible–it would be nice to have a clear defense of it, but most people would probably grant it. Critically, if you want to ascertain the “informed, considered opinion” of a group, it is neither necessary nor sufficient actually to ask them. It is not sufficient because the opinion might not be informed or considered, which would disqualify it from being democratic on your story. It is not necessary because other people (including, critically, an AC) are capable of ascertaining it without consulting the people as a whole. In principle, if I could consult the Oracle of Delphi and ask her what the informed considered judgment of the people would be, then it would be democratic of me to impose that opinion on the public, right?

    Claim 2 seems to be the critical move for you. Again, I find it intuitively plausible, but it’s pretty darn tough to mount a sustained theoretical defense of it. (I’ve tried, and I haven’t found anyone else that’s done a great job either.)

    I’m not sure if I accept Claim 4. I guess I don’t see any reason why a group could not democratically decide to abolish democracy. We need to separate the questions of a) would a decision to take power out of the hands of the people (or an AC) be democratic and b) would the resulting system be democratic. I say yes to a but no to b. You might say that Athens actually did this during the Peloponnesian War, when the Assembly decided to transfer power to the Four Hundred. That might have been a mistake, but it was arguably still a democratic decision.

    On a related note, suppose that one believed that a representative electoral body could accurately ascertain the informed, considered opinion of the entire people. Wouldn’t it then be democratic, by your definition? I’m not saying I believe this to be the case; I just want to emphasize that what’s at stake here is an epistemic question–who is most likely to figure out what the “will of the people” (albeit informed and considered) really is.

    Finally, it seems that there is a tough problem generated when one moves from the individual to the collective. I can make sense of the idea of me acting in accordance with your informed, considered opinion–I might have trouble doing it in practice, but in theory it’s pretty straightforward. But it ‘s harder to make sense of the idea of me acting in accordance with the informed, considered opinion of a collective body–the people as a whole. And it’s even harder to make sense of the idea of one collective body–the AC–acting in accordance with the informed, considered opinion of another collective body. So that’s what I’m stuck trying to figure out.

    Like

  15. Peter,

    You made several points. I’ll address a couple, starting from the top, and hopefully we will eventually get to discuss all your points.

    > In principle, if I could consult the Oracle of Delphi and ask her what the informed considered judgment of the people would be, then it would be democratic of me to impose that opinion on the public, right?

    This seems like a self-contradictory hypothesis: since you are talking about imposition, I understand that you are imagining a situation where it is the will of the people not to follow the advice of the Oracle. If this is the case, then how could the Oracle be reflecting the judgment of the people?

    > Claim 2 seems to be the critical move for you. Again, I find it intuitively plausible, but it’s pretty darn tough to mount a sustained theoretical defense of it.

    When you say that it is difficult to defend (2), what do you mean? Are you claiming that there is a better (or even any alternative) way to find out what the informed, considered opinion of the majority of citizens is? Or, that you are unaware of such an alternative but that as long as such a way could hypothetically exist then then (2) is indefensible. As I see things, the absence of a known alternative is enough for our purposes. I would not rule out the possibility of establishing theoretically that an alternative cannot exist, but, again, I think this is not necessary for our purposes. As long as no credible alternative has been offered, we are bound to use the AC method to determine what the informed, considered citizen opinion is.

    Like

  16. >This seems like a self-contradictory hypothesis: since you are talking about imposition, I understand that you are imagining a situation where it is the will of the people not to follow the advice of the Oracle. If this is the case, then how could the Oracle be reflecting the judgment of the people?

    Not really self-contradictory. The critical bit is “informed and considered.” If the actual people disagree with the Oracle, it could just mean that they are not giving an informed and considered judgment–just as it might be the case that the actual people disagree with an AC for the same reason. Like I said–it’s a question of who should we ask if we want to ascertain what the informed and considered opinion of the entire people would be. It could be the people, but it might not be for all the reasons people have given for opposing direct democracy (rational ignorance, etc.). And if an AC could do a better job in principle of ascertaining this, then I’m simply saying it’s possible that somebody else might also do well. It’s an open question.

    This relates to your second point. I guess what I want is a theoretical argument as to why the AC would reliably reach the informed and considered judgment of the people. I guess the argument is 1) the composition of the 2 groups is the same, and 2) the people in the AC would become informed and consider things carefully, therefore the conclusion follows, QED. I guess I’m not quite ready to admit that 1) and 2) obviously establish the conclusion. It might be right–there’s an intuitive appeal to the idea. And you’re right–I don’t have reason to believe some other body would do better (although this doesn’t mean I’d endorse an AC for all decision-making purposes). But as a theorist, it would be nice to have something more–ESPECIALLY if we propose to use sortition to fill some offices but not others. (Surely we don’t want to say that filling any office non-randomly is anti-democratic, do we?)

    Like

  17. > The critical bit is “informed and considered.” If the actual people disagree with the Oracle, it could just mean that they are not giving an informed and considered judgment–just as it might be the case that the actual people disagree with an AC for the same reason.

    In that case, I don’t think there is any difficulty – it is clear that the Oracle or AC is the way to go. Uninformed or unconsidered decisions are useless, and following them is not a democracy but a sham-democracy.

    > I guess I’m not quite ready to admit that 1) and 2) obviously establish the conclusion.

    Where do you suspect the flaw in the argument is? I would concede, for example, that there are clearly some very specific points where there is reason to suspect that the interests of the AC would diverge from that of the population. An obvious example would be the matter of the salary of the AC members. As I wrote above, I consider such matters to be rather rare exceptions. Are you looking for an analysis that would explicitly handle the distinction between questions on which the outlook of the AC and the population can be expected to be the same and the questions on which it can be expected to diverge?

    > Surely we don’t want to say that filling any office non-randomly is anti-democratic, do we?

    Do we not? What would be examples of offices that you consider as not being suitable for being filled by lot? It seems that the considerations above show that any office that carries political power should, ideally, be filled by an AC. There are, of course, some important practical constraints, but as a matter of principle this seems right, and the more powerful the position, the more important it is that the principle would be followed.

    Like

  18. “Uninformed or unconsidered decisions are useless, and following them is not a democracy but a sham-democracy.”

    Is that strictly true? I suspect this is based on the widespread view that democracy is a Good Thing. Athens was just as much a democracy before the introduction of the nomothetai, it’s just that there was a need for democratic decisions to be informed and considered. Similarly the decisions of a monarch or an oligarchy could be informed and considered without being democratic.

    Like

  19. Either way, if the people don’t see the need for an AC, and disagree with the one they have and consider their own unconsidered opinion is superior, that is a huge problem. You could even say it’s the problem we have today. I don’t think instituting an AC by force would be either a useful or morally defensible thing to do.

    As such, I disagree that uninformed and unconsidered decisions are useless – at the very least, we need a (relatively) uninformed and unconsidered decision to prefer the informed and considered decisions of an AC.

    Like

  20. Agree with Harald that a functioning democracy that is regarded by the public as legitimate requires both; the crucial proviso being that the considered vote in the AC should trump the unconsidered US verdict (US in this context meaning universal suffrage, rather than useless). Perhaps trumping is not the right word as the two processes would have separate functions (setting the agenda and deciding on the outcome).

    Like

  21. That is not what I believe.I trust allotted assemblies to set the agenda also (it could of course be a different allotted assembly from the one making the ultimate decisions, if you’re concerned with separating investigation from judgement).

    What I’m saying is that although the allotted assembly can fairly represent people’s interests, a simple majority (of comparatively uninformed, unconsidered opinions) nonetheless need to realize and accept this for it to be democratic. An initial referendum, maybe followed by formal reaffirmation every ten years or so, would be sufficient for legitimacy – keeping the old show of party elections going alongside it would not.

    Like

  22. > if the people don’t see the need for an AC, and disagree with the one they have and consider their own unconsidered opinion is superior, that is a huge problem. You could even say it’s the problem we have today. I don’t think instituting an AC by force would be either a useful or morally defensible thing to do.

    I completely agree.

    > we need a (relatively) uninformed and unconsidered decision to prefer the informed and considered decisions of an AC.

    As I see it, we need a fully informed and considered decision to prefer the informed and considered decisions of an AC. There is no reason that the average person cannot make a considered and informed decision about such a fundamental question that is a matter of general principle rather than of fine details and expertise. As I see it, the objective of a pro-sortition movement should be exactly to encourage a public discussion and decision making process that would allow the population-at-large to reach that informed and considered decision.

    Like

  23. But that is, in effect, saying that unconsidered view of the majority should trump the considered view of the AC. This is what happened in the oft-cited case of the 2005 British Columbia constitutional convention, and is the opposite of all that sortitionistas believe in.

    Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding you and you are calling for periodic referenda on the continuing existence of the AC. This would be a highly unusual constitutional strategy — either a structural arrangement is legitimate or it isn’t, and this certainly wouldn’t constrain the behaviour of allotted members as they would certainly have changed several times during the ten-year interval. And why would you wish to leave this decision in the hands of uninformed and unconsidered opinion?

    The decision would also be open to manipulation by all sorts of nefarious forces with a vested interest in the corruption of democracy. It would be very easy for a Caesarist demagogue to seize power by ridiculing a couple of bad decisions by the AC. Constitutions are long-term things and do not benefit from upheavals every ten years.

    Like

  24. […] Opinion vs. Sortition Posted on February 11, 2011 by peterstone There’s been some recent discussion here of the possibility that a randomly-selected decision-making body (an Allotted Chamber, or AC) might […]

    Like

  25. > But that is, in effect, saying that unconsidered view of the majority should trump the considered view of the AC. This is what happened in the oft-cited case of the 2005 British Columbia constitutional convention, and is the opposite of all that sortitionistas believe in.

    I am not quite sure what you mean by that. I am certainly not suggesting that ratification referenda should be held on every decision made by the AC. Since on most questions referenda do not produce an informed and considered decision then they are usually not a democratic procedure and should usually be avoided in a well functioning democratic system.

    That said, I think that any well functioning government system (democratic or not) should enjoy a wide perception of legitimacy, and so a situation in which most of the population sees the AC as not being the source of legitimate decisions would indicate a deep problem in the system.

    BTW, this situation – of the government being seen as acting in illegitimate ways – is the current situation in the US, and it does indicate a serious problem with the system.

    Like

  26. Sorry, this was a response to Harald, and I think I misunderstood his argument. I agree that plebiscites (the modern equivalent of thumbs up or thumbs down at gladiatorial contests in the Roman arena) should be avoided at all costs.

    On the question of perceived legitimacy, public information campaigns are much less effective than practical demonstrations — this is why I urge everyone to support Fishkin’s efforts. Even if you find his work less than optimal, incremental steps are the most effective way of demonstrating the effectiveness of sortition. Say, for example, if Fishkin-style deliberative forums were introduced as an integral part of democratic procedures it would be a relatively small step for such bodies to insist on setting their own agenda and appointing their own advocates (even though the likes of Fishkin and myself would argue strongly against it).

    Regarding the perceived legitimacy of elected governments, Fishkin found (in his Italian DP) that the AC was viewed by the public as a lot more legitimate than elected officials — due, primarily, to widespread corruption in Italian politics. So we really are pushing at an open door here (which will be slammed back shut if we insist on sortition as the only way, rather than starting off as a supplement). As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    Like

  27. Rome wasn’t built in a day, OK, but one of Gandhi’s rules which I like is that you got to be up front about your demands, and not move the goalposts when they are fulfilled. Doing that can certainly work, but it’s not right.

    I’m all for sortition as a supplement, but I won’t hide that I have more faith in it than that.

    Like

  28. Unfortunately Gandhi failed completely to implement his ideal of a non-sectarian independent India. It was Nehru, Jinnah and others who played the regular political game who won out in the end. Perhaps Gandhi would have been more successful if he had adopted Baden-Powell’s maxim (softly, softly, catchee monkey)

    Like

  29. I hope you’re not advocating concealing from the public what you really want, or moving the demand goalposts, Keith Sutherland. That was the only aspect of Gandhi’s practice which I was referring to.

    Like

  30. > I hope you’re not advocating concealing from the public what you really want

    Keith is being honest about his willingness to be dishonest.

    Like

  31. Excuse my butting in, but how does the honesty of participant sortites play in any of this, other than as some idealized and hoped for, but no-to-be expected, attribute?

    I mean, we’re still talking about real live human beings, right? If we set up a decision process that is dependent upon real live participants to the decision being honest (with each other and themselves), then haven’t we, essentially, set that process up to fail? Doesn’t the process have to be set up in such a way that it is somehow able to minimize the effect of, if not outsmart, the inevitable dishonesty that creeps into it?

    Like

  32. Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend you read Machiavelli’s Il Principe, nevertheless it remains the case that Gandhi failed. I would prefer success to martyrdom and if that means taking an incremental approach, then so be it.

    Like

  33. “Doesn’t the process have to be set up in such a way that it is somehow able to minimize the effect of, if not outsmart, the inevitable dishonesty that creeps into it?”

    Absolutely. This is why I prefer Harrington’s self-regulating approach to good government rather than the competing civic humanist approach with its inevitable appeal to virtu. What Pettit, Skinner and the rest of the republican gang fail to appreciate is that virtu was itself a product of structural features (the need to defend the integrity of the polis against outside threats). If you translate this “virtue” into modern conditions you end up with the Third Reich.

    Like

  34. Greg, it’s not about the honesty of allotted members, but about the honesty of sortition advocates. Should we say:

    “This fair and balanced approach featuring an elected executive, appointed judges, and a little sortition in one legislative branch is the ideal. Really, it’s perfect. We’ll never suggest another reform after this!”

    Or should we say:

    “Ideally, we want to use sortition for everything that remotely might be a position of power, but sure, even some allotted advisory committees are better than nothing.”

    First is not acceptable according to Gandhi. Even if you think it’s more effective (which I don’t), it’s not a matter of what “works”. I have a feeling some sortition advocates (not just Keith Sutherland) are selling the idea short in an attempt to make it more palatable.

    Like

  35. > I have a feeling some sortition advocates (not just Keith Sutherland) are selling the idea short in an attempt to make it more palatable.

    Well, Keith is claiming that he is on our side, deceiving those on the other side, but since he has already admitted to favor the use of deception, I find it just as likely that he is on other side, deceiving us.

    As for making sortition more palatable, I don’t see Keith making significant gains in garnering support for his “moderate”, by-his-own-admission-deceptive, proposals. If he did, he wouldn’t still be hanging out with us, the fundamentalist sortinistas.

    Like

  36. Thank you, Harald, for the clarification.

    But, then, why not approach the matter with the view that we aren’t certain about the precise extent to which sortition applies, and precisely where/how it applies, but that we are confident that when tried in the following manner (whatever that manner might be) that the wizards of sortition in conjunction with the participant sortites will advance further recommendations/proposals for consideration once we all acquire greater practical experience [poorly crafted sentence, for sure, but I think you’ll get my drift]? Kinda bootstrap our way along, if you will, while not saying we’re sure of the precise outcome in advance.

    Like

  37. “As for making sortition more palatable, I don’t see Keith making significant gains in garnering support for his “moderate”, by-his-own-admission-deceptive, proposals. If he did, he wouldn’t still be hanging out with us, the fundamentalist sortinistas.”

    Yes that’s true. The trouble with sortition is that people either think it’s completely insane or else believe it’s the only show in town. If there is a blog for moderate sortinistas, please point me to it and I’ll leave you all in peace. As for your recourse to extreme paranoia (which I hope is tongue in cheek), I’m afraid I really am lost for words (other than to say that gradualism and deception are not really the same thing).

    Actually there are a number of moderate sortinistas on Conall’s list but I suspect they are put off by all the mud-slinging. And I think it’s fair to say that all blogs tend to reflect the views of the moderator, however impartial he or she strives to be. And it’s also the case that blogs tend to attract those with the most impassioned views. So I may have a long wait.

    Like

  38. > If there is a blog for moderate sortinistas, please point me to it and I’ll leave you all in peace.

    Well, there isn’t as far as any of us is aware, and that is exactly the point: if the whole “moderate position” is merely a ploy to garner support, then not only isn’t it honest, it is not effective either.

    As for leaving us in peace – by the amount of responses your comments generate, it seems that your presence here is not without some appeal to other readers, so there is really no need for you to feel unwanted.

    > As for your recourse to extreme paranoia (which I hope is tongue in cheek), I’m afraid I really am lost for words (other than to say that gradualism and deception are not really the same thing).

    Gradualism and deception are surely not the same thing. Your Baden-Powell reference puts you squarely in the deception area. Since this is the case, I think it is not paranoia, but merely healthy realism, to consider the possibility that you would be willing to apply your “softly, softly” tactics in your dealings with us as well. (Not that it really matters to me – just something to be aware of.)

    > Actually there are a number of moderate sortinistas on Conall’s list but I suspect they are put off by all the mud-slinging.

    I am afraid that is probably not the reason. For one thing, this blog was much less contentious before you joined us, and yet the list of contributors (of posts or comments) was even more limited than it is now. Secondly, if those people wanted a less-tumultuous forum, they could have easily arranged for one. I think you are much closer to the mark with your point about people with impassioned views – those who are aware of this blog but choose not to contribute are probably not as emotionally moved by the idea of sortition as those who take part in the conversation.

    > And I think it’s fair to say that all blogs tend to reflect the views of the moderator, however impartial he or she strives to be.

    This blog doesn’t have a moderator in the sense that no content contributed has ever been rejected or materially changed. As an editor I carry out completely mechanical functions. You, or anybody else, can contribute just as much as I do and thus have as much influence on the blog as I do. This blog reflects the views of its contributors (weighted by the contributors’ activity levels) and it is the case that your views are minority views here.

    Like

  39. Whatever my other crimes, “softly, softly tactics” on this blog is not one of them, as I’ve repeated my views ad nauseam. What I do believe though is you can’t always get what you want, as the Stones put it, hence the need for an incremental approach.

    Like

  40. sorry for jumping in; as you know, i’m new here.

    Yoram – “A more appropriate analogy for the relationship between the population and an AC may be the relationship between a person and the same person at a different time. If I do my house chores on a certain day, I do not do so in order to be compensated by the me-of-tomorrow who would enjoy the benefits of having those chores carried out. I do it because the me-of-today shares the interests and ideas of the me-of-tomorrow.”

    exactly.

    @ peter
    “Finally, it seems that there is a tough problem generated when one moves from the individual to the collective. I can make sense of the idea of me acting in accordance with your informed, considered opinion–I might have trouble doing it in practice, but in theory it’s pretty straightforward. But it ‘s harder to make sense of the idea of me acting in accordance with the informed, considered opinion of a collective body–the people as a whole. And it’s even harder to make sense of the idea of one collective body–the AC–acting in accordance with the informed, considered opinion of another collective body. So that’s what I’m stuck trying to figure out”

    it’s because the individual is a part of the collective. there is no permanent political class. the individual was not part of the AC, now they are, but after a term, they will not be. so it is in their long term interest to do what is best for people who are not in the AC.

    @yoram “An obvious example would be the matter of the salary of the AC members.”

    salary should be set in the constitution as 200% of the individual’s previous year’s salary. that way all are compensated at the level which they are foregoing in order to serve. plus a little extra. allowing them to decide their own salary is too much temptation.

    @igregor “approach the matter with the view that we aren’t certain about the precise extent to which sortition applies, and precisely…”

    sounds great. “we are really excited about seeing how this works here. and we think eventually all governance can take place this way.”

    re: employer, employee, headhunter

    i’m not sure what the grand design is envisioned here for sortition. i’m working on an assumption that different positions would have different pools. so minister of education would be allotted from a pool of eligible educators (with parental and student advisors). i would take it farther down and say that a principal of a school should be allotted from amongst it’s teachers. police chief should be chosen from the ranks, etc. i think if i owned a company this is how i would pick managers.

    anybody know of anywhere that does this already? and can it be expanded now?

    Like

  41. > salary should be set in the constitution as 200% of the individual’s previous year’s salary. that way all are compensated at the level which they are foregoing in order to serve. plus a little extra.

    That’s actually the part of your proposal that I don’t quite agree with. I don’t see any reason that a poor person would be paid less than a rich person for the same job. I think that the salary should be set at a fixed level which is reasonably high, to reflect the importance that society places on this job. Say 200% of the median household income. If someone finds this level of pay unsatisfactory, they would have the option of giving up their spot.

    > allowing them to decide their own salary is too much temptation.

    That’s true, and even if they do manage to resist the temptation, this situation (which is the situation today, BTW) is bound to arouse suspicion.

    Like

  42. > That’s actually the part of your proposal that I don’t quite agree with. I don’t see any reason that a poor person would be paid less than a rich person for the same job.

    Well, it’s not an ordinary job. I can see the argument about opportunity cost: we shouldn’t discourage rich people from taking the seat. Alien as the thought may be that rich people need to be protected from disenfrancisement, it would be bad if wealthier people systematically refused to serve.

    By the way, that is arguably the case in Norway. The PM makes 1.1 million NOK, less than 200000$. The most common profession (aside from full-time politician) is teacher and nurse. People from the private sector are underrepresented, and engineers are among the least represented of all.

    Of course, this may be because rich businesspeople find that they can influence society to their satisfaction without being elected. I don’t exactly pity the rich in Norway for their lack of representation (also, millionaires are still overrepresented in congress, although there are only a handful).

    Like

  43. (that should be parliament in the last sentence)

    Like

  44. > I can see the argument about opportunity cost: we shouldn’t discourage rich people from taking the seat.

    I find this argument to be wholly without merit. Again, the idea that because one is rich then one should be paid more is odious to me. Talking about opportunity costs is just a polite way of saying that some people’s time and effort are more valuable than those of others. And, as usual, “opportunity cost” is applied only to monetary opportunities – what about other types of opportunities – familial, romantic, intellectual, etc., etc., etc.? Are you going to compensate people for those? Even on a practical level, differential pay will enhance inequality among the allotted delegates, reducing the chance that democratic dynamics would be created within the chamber.

    As for the rich not serving, one can set the compensation bar high enough so that very few will turn it down. I doubt that many would turn this opportunity down even at 2x median income, but if refusal rates prove to be high, pay can be set at 3x or 4x. For those few rich who are still concerned about the money they will not make, it is their privilege to give up their slot. The same goes for other people who are concerned about missing the other opportunities suggested above. The recruiting mechanism should try to accommodate people’s legitimate needs and concerns, but there is no reason to accommodate extravagant demands.

    All in all, I find the idea of differential pay to be the source of potential great damage and very little potential gain.

    Like

  45. yoram,

    thanks for that. mind if i edit the salary part out of the egypt post. i’d never considered other opportunity costs. and, even though i am a stay at home, homeschooling, anti-everybody-into-the-workforce-so-you-can-consume-more mom i hadn’t ever considered my own position. under that system, if i was allotted a seat in an AC i wouldn’t get paid anything.

    and what about others who are writers, students, ok, i can see that 200% of previous year’s salary doesn’t work. also, what about farmers. a farm is not something that you can just leave for a term.

    @harald “it would be bad if wealthier people systematically refused to serve.”

    can you tell me why? i don’t think i would lose any sleep over underrepresented rich people. it just doesn’t sound like a problem to me; so i’m curious. also, i’d like to think that under a system of sortition, things would begin to balance out a bit more so we wouldn’t have such disgustingly rich people.

    Like

  46. Sa’ada: For the same reason it would be bad that poor people would be underrepresented. Rich people are also people, and they are entitled to a say in how the country is run.

    I agree we would hopefully get much less economic inequality under sortition.

    I’m not married to differential pay myself – in fact, one right-wing proposal (here in Norway) that I have a good deal of sympathy for is eliminating differentiated pensions: The state should provide a solid minimum pension for all, not further reward the wealthy. If the wealthy want larger pensions (and they/we probably will) they can take their chances with private pension schemes.

    But we must be very pragmatic when it comes to getting people to serve. If any group turns out to reject serving to a significant degree, whether it’s farmers, poor people, rich people, drug addicts or prisoners, steps need to be taken to make it more appealing to them.

    Like

  47. harald,

    yes, rich people are people too and deserve representation. but i wouldn’t be worried if they weren’t represented in the way in which i would be worried if poor people weren’t represented. rich people have an interest (sole interest?) in keeping themselves rich and making themselves richer which usually happens at the expense of the poor, making them poorer.

    whereas, the interest of poor people is to maintain or improve their lot and sure, the rich will become not as rich, especially comparatively, but i don’t think the poor would set out to make the rich poor.

    by the way, no offense intended if you’re a rich person. seeing as how you support sortition i’ll be glad to make you an honorary poor person.

    Like

  48. I’m not a very rich person by my country’s standards. But this argument sounds a lot like an opposite version of the one used by many constitution-makers to argue for land ownership as a prerequisite for voting. They said that since the poor have nothing to lose, they aren’t concerned enough in protecting the social order, in particular protecting property rights.

    I think the basic institutions need to be as free from bias as we can possibly make them. If a bias would be a good thing, it can be argued for inside the system.

    Like

  49. > I think the basic institutions need to be as free from bias as we can possibly make them.

    Is it really your claim that not paying the rich delegates more is bias against the rich? I think it is absurd. To the contrary: paying the poor less is bias against the poor.

    Like

  50. I think that the work of John McCormick is relevant here. He points out that rules that de jure treat people equally may de facto give some much more power than others. Everyone in the U.S. is equally entitled to vote and run for office, but obviously rich people and people who do what rich people want have a huge advantage in obtaining it. And so we need to be mindful of both effects.

    Now McCormick’s solution, I understand, is to reconsider de jure equality–perhaps, he suggests, there should be special tribunals just for ordinary (non-rich) people. But an alternative possibility is to set the institutions up in a de jure equal way but in ways that tilt in the direction of non-rich people. This is how Aristotle thought democracies worked. Democracies, he thought, paid people small amounts to hold office–enough to entice the poor but not the rich. Aristocracies didn’t pay officials at all, so only the rich could afford to serve. (They also fined the rich for not participating, but let’s ignore that right now.) Both could conceivably be de jure equal, but the democracies will have lots of poor people serving in office and the aristocracies will not.

    I think that in ANY social system, rich people are going to have more political influence than poor people. Even with a system of sortition, they will be better able to access the media, fund think tanks, get their positions put before randomly-selected bodies, etc. A system in which few rich people sat on randomly-selected bodies (which seems to be the worry expressed here) might still be de jure equal (everyone’s eligible to serve) but with an anti-rich bias de facto–but one that has the effect of countering the unavoidable pro-rich bias any system gives to the rich.

    Of course, this argument does work at cross-purposes to a number of other goals people have attributed to ACs, like descriptive representation, but that simply proves that sortition can serve different goals depending upon how the accompanying institutions are structured.

    Like

  51. “Democracies, he thought, paid people small amounts to hold office–enough to entice the poor but not the rich.”

    I wonder what he would have to say about today’s mega-rich deigning to serve for a couple years at the federal maximum salary, only to revise the rules of the game while in office to create even greater avenues to mega-mega-riches for themselves & fellow country-clubbers upon their departure through the revolving door (just think Henry Paulson, for starters).

    I would hope sortition would, somehow, form a natural obstruction to this type corruption. Perhaps by limiting the power of such self-servants to enact unilateral decisions without formally consulting the AC.

    Like

  52. peter,

    i think that you said what i was trying to say. thank you!

    harald, of course i wouldn’t want to have the system be biased against anyone. but a scenario like greg outlines is very worrisome.

    Like

  53. > Is it really your claim that not paying the rich delegates more is bias against the rich? I think it is absurd. To the contrary: paying the poor less is bias against the poor.

    That may be. We will see. The test of what is bias against either group, is how many will turn up from either at a given wage. I’m not saying we have to pay people differently. I’m saying it should not be off the table for securing the participation of all.

    You know from our long squabbles with Keith that there are very few things I want to be off the table for the allotted. That doesn’t mean I want them to do it. If there were to be differences in payment, it would have to be instituted by the allotted themselves – hopefully they will also have sense to not set their own wages, and only make such changes apply to the next set of allotted members.

    Like

  54. > de jure equal

    How would you define “de jure equal”? One could claim that any rule that doesn’t explicitly categorize people according to inherent characteristics is de jure equal. If we accept that then an explicit plutocracy would be de jure equal.

    I think it is quite clear that de facto equality is the only thing that matters. Some forms of de jure equality could probably be used as tools toward de facto equality.

    Like

  55. > The test of what is bias against either group, is how many will turn up from either at a given wage.

    This measures but one aspect of bias, and it is a problematic measure even of that aspect. If someone simply refuses to attend, for no particular reason, would you say the system is biased against him? If he comes up with arbitrary demands as conditions for attending, would you try to accommodate him in various ways? If he demands that he is given larger staff than other delegates, would you accommodate that? Would you be biasing the system against him if you don’t?

    As for taking things off the table – anything that is clearly undemocratic should be taken off the table. I think differential pay is undemocratic. Of course, deciding what’s democratic cannot be done extra-politically so in any case what I am arguing for is, in effect, not taking differential pay off the table but that decision should be made, by the appropriate democratic decision maker, against differential pay.

    Like

  56. Peter,

    Since it seems our discussion here has ground to a halt, I would like to briefly respond to the points you made (here) that I haven’t responded to yet.

    > I guess I don’t see any reason why a group could not democratically decide to abolish democracy. We need to separate the questions of a) would a decision to take power out of the hands of the people (or an AC) be democratic and b) would the resulting system be democratic.

    This may be just a matter of terminology. I think it is clear that if it is the informed and considered decision of the people to eliminate the democratic system, then there is no course of action that can be considered democratic. Following the decision is anti-democratic by assumption, and not following the decision is anti-democratic by definition. Thus, I am led to conclude that “democracy” cannot be defined as a system of rules controlling the activities of a group, but as a state of the group – a state which encompasses the the mental state of the members of the group. Certain collective mental states are undemocratic under any rule system. When such a mental state is reached, the group is no longer democratic, no matter what the system of rules controlling the group is.

    > I just want to emphasize that what’s at stake here is an epistemic question–who is most likely to figure out what the “will of the people” (albeit informed and considered) really is.

    I agree. I think this is the allure of the electoral system – it has the superficial appearance of reflecting the “will of the people”. If it really did, it would be a democratic system.

    > And it’s even harder to make sense of the idea of one collective body–the AC–acting in accordance with the informed, considered opinion of another collective body.

    Here is a suggested hypothetical way to determine whether an agent (single or collective) worked in accordance with the interests of a group (you may recognize this from a previous communication):

    Allow each member of the group to follow the activities of the agent – having been given the resources, time, motivation and authority to access all the information needed for understanding the decision making activity. Then take a vote among the group members as to whether or not the agent has been acting in the interests of the group. An agent that wins the approval of a majority of the members of the group would be determined, according to this criterion, as having acted in the interests of the group.

    Like

  57. “I don’t see any reason why a group could not democratically decide to abolish democracy”

    This points to one of the most troubling flaws in most (all?) practical schemes of democracy. It is not only the views of those citizens currently on the planet that must be taken into account, but those of future generations of citizens, as well. It was West Churchman, I think, who, several decades ago brought to my attention that, though not limited to democracy, even the most perfectly formed democracy totally discounts the will of those people who, in many ways have the largest stake in the outcome of any decision made today: unborn future generations.

    This flaw manifests in such contemporary difficulties as: (1) during the last 3 decades we the living have discounted the interests of unrepresented future fellow citizens by sticking them with the tab for our living waaaaaay beyond our means, and (2) in much the same way we currently living benefactors of industrialization have heaped enormous environmental deficits that will be payable by those poor souls who arrive on the scene in our wake.

    Like

  58. Mike Saward argues this point well in his new book, The Representative Claim, although I don’t agree with his proposed remedy (leaving it all to Bono and Bob Geldof). It strikes me that a more sensible proposal is for a mixed constitution, in which the long-term interest is ensured by a hereditary monarchy — Prince Charles has always spoke eloquently on the need to ensure the interests of future generations. Hans-Herman Hoppe argues a strong case for hereditary monarchy in his book Democracy — the God that Failed, but I can already hear the howls of outrage from everyone on this list who feels that the answer is to “simply apply sortition”.

    Like

  59. I’d rather have Bono than Prince Charles as king, all things considered. But if we aren’t capable of looking after our long-term interests on our own, we’re royally messed up no matter what we do.

    Like

  60. We’ve shown conclusively that we aren’t capable, for all the reasons that Greg has outlined. Bono and Geldof currently have more influence on UK policy than Prince Charles and there isn’t any sign that they are looking after future generations. In fact opponents of Western policies on overseas aid argue that the effect is malign in the long term as it tends to undermine local self-sufficiency.

    Like

  61. “… if we aren’t capable of looking after our long-term interests on our own, we’re royally messed up no matter what we do.”

    Yes, we are messed up. Experience repeatedly shows the corrupting influence of power. That’s behind the need for governments, in the first place.

    So, if an argument for sortition rests upon a rightful suspicion that others will have difficulty resisting the inevitable corrupting influences of power to the point that they are incapable of properly representing the rest of us, then what would lead any reasonable person to conclude that the living will be able to resist the temptation to attempt to sustain a standard of living beyond their means by passing increasing burdens onto future generations? Surely there is little in the last 40 years that would sustain such a conclusion, as is indicated by exploding national debts and deteriorating environmental conditions.

    Imagine that we were among the crop of characters who will come to comprise the citizenry of the future (surely, there was a time when this was so). Wouldn’t we be justified in our suspicion of any system of government that leaves the future of the planet in the hands of proven self-servants?

    I believe that Jefferson was concerned about this as he contemplated the post-revolution, fledgling US. He was not just interested in the lessons of Rome and Athens, and so forth, but in the lessons of the Iroquois Nations and their stated interest to see that policy decisions weighed the impact of such choices over the subsequent severn generations. Their solution left this in the hands of tribal chiefs — essentially getting to a Bono vs Prince Charles sort of debate.

    I’m not suggesting that to operationalize such a system doesn’t depend on resolving enormous conceptual, theoretical and practical challenges. I merely am suggesting that democracy in it’s most perfect form is deficient to the extent that it does not properly weigh the will/interests of those who come in our wake.

    Like

  62. > This flaw manifests in such contemporary difficulties as: […]

    This current situation (of the environment, I don’t really believe in the “beyond our means” story) does indicate disregard for future generations, but how can that be seen as an indication of a problem in democracy, if the current system is anti-democratic?

    I think there is every reason to believe that a democratic system would take much better care of the interests of future generations than the current elitist system. For example, even with the ubiquitous corporate and governmental anti-environmental propaganda, public sentiment is much more concerned about environmental issues than the government is.

    Like

  63. The public may claim to be more concerned about environmental issues but (as I’ve mentioned before) Blair refused to impose an aviation fuel tax because he feared a mass uprising and I would imagine this is one of the reasons why no US government is prepared to tax gasoline in the way that environmentalists advocate.

    So I agree with Greg’s pessimism regarding the inherent problems of “democracy in its most perfect form”, hence the need for a mixed constitution including a hereditary monarchy to look after the interests of the unborn.

    Like

  64. > I merely am suggesting that democracy in it’s most perfect form is deficient to the extent that it does not properly weigh the will/interests of those who come in our wake.

    I’m not worried about this, actually. If a well-informed citizen isn’t concerned about his children’s future, that is equally much a problem whether his name is Charles, Bob, Paul David or anything else.

    But there’s a decision here: how much to discount the future. Discounting the future may sound bad, but we all do it, not because the future is unimportant but because the future is ultimately uncertain, and out of your control even given the best of intentions (yes, even if you are a government).

    Lest you think a sharp discounting of the future is only the province of the Lomborgs of the world, consider that Jesus demanded a very sharp future discount when he advocated doing the right thing now and “let tomorrow worry about itself”.

    For good or bad, how much and how to discount the future is a question the presently living have to agree on. They’re better represented through an allotted assembly than a hereditary monarch.

    Like

  65. @Yoram
    “…how can that be seen as an indication of a problem in democracy, if the current system is anti-democratic?”

    Sure, I’m not making the claim in any empirical sense. Rather it’s conceptual. But, how does this make any difference? Much of what is discussed here and elsewhere about proposed government systems has not been tested/tried empirically on a large scale, if at all.

    “there is every reason to believe that a democratic system would take much better care of the interests of future generations than the current elitist system.”

    How so? This is the argument of the aristocrats — that they’ll take better care of the rest of us than we’d be able to care for ourselves — all we have to do is trust in their judgment. Sure, this might work, but we’re right to be suspicious.

    If you were to look at the situation from the perspective of a member of a future society, you might well consider those currently living souls in the same light as aristocrats without much other than their virtue to protect the interests of future generations. Accepting that we the living will much consider the will/interests of the many who follow requires a good degree of wishful thinking — seems to me.

    @Harald
    “If a well-informed citizen isn’t concerned about his children’s future.”

    And what justifies your confidence that well-informed (and virtuous) folks will come to prevail, let alone exist in any but small numbers among the masses?

    And, isn’t there everywhere evidence of parents who care little about their children’s future? Or, if they do care about the future of their, are either clueless about what needs be done to protect it or indifferent about the well-being of someone else’s kids?

    I mean, it’s seems a matter of social justice to design a system that, somehow, incorporates the voices/interests of all stakeholders into policy decisions — and not just excuse this consideration on the basis that the masses might magically, and in opposition to experience everywhere, become well-intended and well-informed guardians & representatives of the interests of the children of complete strangers.

    Like

  66. Greg: You care about future generations. I care about future generation. I’m sure people like us exist in more than small numbers. I’m not worried that we’ll neglect to take future generations into account.
    I worry a lot more that someone will demand more than their fair share of influence over society, with the justification of serving future generations.

    Really. I know one particular loon, for instance. He runs a popular Norwegian blog, stylizes himself a serious intellectual – a disturbing number of people think of him as such since he’s got some kind of natural science degree. He quite seriously thinks the muslims are coming to take over Europe, kill all the men and steal our superior genes by using “our” women for breeding purposes. (He assumes all serious people except silly sentimental westerners secretly share his social darwinistic beliefs as well). I see all to well what people like him are calling for in order to protect future generations.

    Like

  67. > I’m not making the claim in any empirical sense.

    I interpreted your argument as seeing current conditions as being evidence for a problem with democracy.

    >> there is every reason to believe that a democratic system would take much better care of the interests of future generations than the current elitist system.

    > How so?

    I see the fact that popular sentiment supports stronger environmental protections than those implemented by elite government as supporting this view. I also think that this difference in attitude makes sense – an elite group can realistically hope to use its power to insulate itself from any long term negative consequences of current policy. The average person cannot.

    Like

  68. > For good or bad, how much and how to discount the future is a question the presently living have to agree on. They’re better represented through an allotted assembly than a hereditary monarch.

    Very true – but I would go even farther. It is not only a matter of balancing current interests vs. future interests. It is a matter of deciding what those future interests are (or would be). The current oligarchs argue that “growth” promotes future interests even if the environment is destroyed in the process. Most people disagree, but it is an inherently political matter. No one can claim to be an objective representative of interests of future generations.

    Like

  69. @Harald
    “I’m not worried that we’ll neglect to take future generations into account.”

    But, the point is that this is the same argument the aristocrats make when they say they care about the common folk and aren’t worried that they’ll neglect to take them into account. The proof is in how the future sees what we do today, and that creates an enormous challenge that, in my view, deserves to be taken seriously — which few, if any, discussions on democracy seem willing to do.

    @Yoram
    “…popular sentiment supports stronger environmental protections than those implemented by elite government …”

    Yes, this may well be the case. But, if it were not, then would we merely ignore/dismiss it? To do so would be following the same course as some arrogant cult of elites. And to not do so begs the question: What is the appropriate way to address these concerns?

    Like

  70. > What is the appropriate way to address these concerns?

    So you are concerned that future generations would feel that democratic governments of previous generations have ignored their interests. To emphasize, this is not about non-democratic governments, and this is not about mistakes made in good faith, but about intentional or negligent disregard of the interests of future generations by democratic governments.

    Regarding this concern, I would say (1) this seems like a quite hypothetical problem because (a) there are currently no democratic governments, and (b) there is no way to know how future generations would feel, (2) there does not seem to be any possible solution to this hypothetical problem.

    Like

  71. Yoram, the problem is not merely hypothetical. If we look over our own history, there are many groups that can be seen to be rightly offended by the choices of ancestral generations — perhaps even worthy of reparations, if you’re of such a mind. Blacks in America, to some great extent continue to suffer from disadvantages institutionalized in the original U.S. Constitution. And certainly many of Native American heritage are disadvantaged due to results of the invasion of North America by European fore-bearers during the 16th-19th centuries. Surely there are other examples if you find these unsuitable.

    Is there evidence to suggest true democracy would have spoken to, or resolved such inequities and injustice? I’m more than a little skeptical that there is such evidence for the reason you submit (there are no true democracies), but, also, since I’m not so sanguine to expect that even the most perfect democracy ever conceived has much of anything to contribute to resolving this challenge.

    Now, that we might lack the interest and/or imagination to address the problem, is itself part of the problem I’m trying to make clear.

    Like

  72. “I see the fact that popular sentiment supports stronger environmental protections than those implemented by elite government as supporting this view.”

    This is just as unfounded as my claims on the Egyptian revolution that you castigated me for. It’s very easy to get popular (hypothetical) support for environmental issues, but the support usually evaporates when confronted with real choices (tax dollars and reduction in consumption). If anything it would be more true to say that environmentalism was an elite issue that is only constrained by popular (electoral) pressure.

    Greg’s pessimism over unchecked democracy is very hard to refute.

    Like

  73. Greg,

    > If we look over our own history, there are many groups that can be seen to be rightly offended by the choices of ancestral generations

    I don’t see the examples that you give as being good cases of inter-generational injustices. They are cases of injustice carried out against living people (which of course have consequences for future generations as well). We are imagining a situation where a certain generation decides, say, to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 because doing so provides the members of that generation with certain advantages, while ignoring the possibly catastrophic consequences of such activity for future generations.

    Again, I don’t dismiss such concerns as unfounded, but I do think this is not a high priority concern at this point, because of the considerations I laid out above.

    > Is there evidence to suggest true democracy would have spoken to, or resolved such inequities and injustice?

    I don’t see democracy as a panacea. Democracies can carry out grave injustices – the Athenian democracy certainly did. (Although the injustice is usually carried out against those that are officially outside the democratic group.) My claim is that all indications – both empirical and theoretical – are that democracies are more just than conceivable alternatives (at least partly because of the reduction of injustice toward people within the democratic group).

    Like

  74. > This is just as unfounded as my claims on the Egyptian revolution that you castigated me for.

    Don’t flatter yourself. When you provide opinion poll results showing that a large sector of the Egyptian population was prompted to go to Tahrir square by Mr. Ghonim’s Facebook page, then our claims would be resting on a comparable basis. As it is, my claim has a basis (shaky or not, we may disagree, but a basis nonetheless), while yours is baseless.

    The same goes for the various nonsense in your current comment – it is not really worth a substantive reply until you back up your claims with any kind of evidence (and, no, Blair’s self-serving excuses for destroying the environment do not count as evidence).

    Like

  75. “My claim is that all indications – both empirical and theoretical – are that democracies are more just than conceivable alternatives ”

    Perhaps, so. But no need to limit democracies to familiar conceptualizations once a serious deficit with even the most favored conceptualization is identified.

    Now, since we still seem to not agree on the nature of the deficit or its seriousness, let me try another approach.

    I think we’d agree that one of the major advantages of sortition-based democracy lies in its capability to rectify the misrepresentation that throughout history has corrupted all attempted democracies. While sortition does not guarantee freedom from corruption, it goes a long way toward combatting the corruption associated with selecting representatives from a biased sample (of likely arrogant and all-too-easily corruptible buffoons).

    Now, it is also true that when trying to decide policy issues we are concerned with matters that largely, if not completely, manifest their impact in the future through experiences that have yet to occur and for which there can be very limited data before the fact (basically, in a fluid and complex social situation we cannot be certain of the outcome of decisions regardless what has happened in the past).

    So, how is it just to discount the stake of a huge portion of folks (unborn) who will experience the future outcomes of the choices made today? I assert it is not just, and all the claims of the difficulty associated with accounting for such outcomes is little more than parroting claims made by arrogant aristocrats who incumber positions as modern day misrepresentatives of the masses.

    Like

  76. > So, how is it just to discount the stake of a huge portion of folks (unborn) who will experience the future outcomes of the choices made today?

    I think that philosophically, this is a bit dubious. Don’t you have to exist in order to have a stake in something? Either way, we discount the future all the time, as I pointed out.

    Anyway, suppose one of my great-grandchildren visits me in a time machine and accuses me of not taking his interests more into account. “I really tried!” I say. “Not hard enough!” he answers, “and when you did care, you were blocked by contemporaries who didn’t. You shouldn’t have let them decide!”

    “Could you have done any better?” I retort. “Even if we could make a better system, how could we have persuaded the people to accept it? You can’t make a system better than the people it’s composed of, and it wasn’t possible to make one composed of you as well.”

    Feel free to tell me what my great-grandchild would have replied.

    (But if he launches into a speech about the virtues of hereditary monarchy, I will say “You’re no child of mine! Begone!”)

    Like

  77. “…dubious…Don’t you have to exist in order to have a stake in something?”

    Dubious? No more than any discussion about the existence of the future — which is the appropriate realm of policy.

    Exist? I’m reminded of a recent snake-oil President on this side of the Atlantic, who might well reply that this depends on what the meaning of the word “exist” is. Exist in an empirical sense, or more abstractly?

    The answer, for me, is not limited to empirical existence — since the existence of the future is itself no less an abstraction than the people who will come to inhabit it. As, too, is the meaning of the word democracy (or any other word so far created by the mind of the living and those abstractions we carry around about those who preceded us).

    Accepting you invitation to speculate on the reply of your great-grandchild — “Thanks for all of your good work, gramps. But, in spite of your good work, clean water and clean air and fertile soil are in desperately short supply beyond the gated communities of the oligarchs. Had you and others given serious consideration to Greg’s constructive criticism, you might have been able to come up with an innovative approach to forestall the desperate conditions that I now confront.”

    Like

  78. In any democracy, there will be groups which cannot feasibly represent their own interests, although they have legitimate ones. Small children and people with dementia or other severe mental illness, to name a couple. I suppose if you wish, you can think of of people who may come to exist in the future into this category (though I still think it’s dubious).

    It isn’t perfect – the perfect would be to make them capable of representing their own interests somehow – but I think admonishing the regular allotted assembly to keep their interests in mind is the best we can do. If they wish, they may appoint special advisors to the assembly for these groups (ombudsman for children, ombudsman for the mentally ill), but they should not have power to vote in the assembly or veto its decisions. Such power can be all too easily abused – “think of the children!” is a phrase that has been used to justify a lot of dubious things.

    The assembly – not us, and especially not Keith – must decide which group they want an ombudsman-advisor for, or any other special arrangement. They could also make laws applying to themselves, saying we will not do so and so – but it would be up to them to not repeal them again. (The assembly cannot make a rock so heavy they can’t lift it themselves).

    To my great-grandchild, regarding innovative approaches, I would ask, “such as?” (and also, probably: “where did you get oligarchs?!”)

    Like

  79. Greg, I’m completely with you on this (not that it will provide much succour, given the general opprobrium my views elicit on this blog). The only qualification that I would add is the Burkean/Confucian observation that the compact also includes past generations, whose views are usually discounted here.

    Keith

    Like

  80. Yoram: “Don’t flatter yourself. When you provide opinion poll results showing that a large sector of the Egyptian population was prompted to go to Tahrir square by Mr. Ghonim’s Facebook page, then our claims would be resting on a comparable basis. . . . The same goes for the various nonsense in your current comment.”

    Those of us who advocate the informed decision making generated by sortive bodies would be unwise to give much credence to opinion polls. And I do think it unseemly for the moderator of this blog to use such unparliamentary language. I’ve never resorted to such tactics (unless, that is you take the word Marxist to be a term of abuse), so I don’t see why my posts should be treated in this way.

    Like

  81. P.S. I’m a big boy, sticks and stones etc, so I really don’t mind Yoram’s little tantrums. But I think most people will be put off from a blog that is dominated by a bunch of Marxist fundamentalists who decry any viewpoint that smacks of liberal pluralism and a longer-term perspective than the immediate whims of the current demos as Madisonian reaction. If we want any success in the real world, then I think sensible people need to reclaim sortition from fundamentalism of all varieties.

    Like

  82. > – not us, and especially not Keith –

    heheh.

    Like

  83. Keith,

    > But I think most people will be put off from a blog that is dominated by a bunch of Marxist fundamentalists

    Your concern troll protestations are about as convincing as your other arguments. Also, writing a sentence like that within minutes after claiming that you don’t resort to “unparliamentary language” is laughable.

    Like

  84. “It isn’t perfect – the perfect would be to make them capable of representing their own interests somehow…”

    OK. So, after all this, it seems that you actually agree with my original point from several days ago that even the most perfectly formed democracy discounts the will of unborn future generations — and that’s worthy of being addressed, somehow.

    Thank you.

    Now. can we proceed to inventing a way to address this matter in a way that does not resort to hereditary monarchies, if that’s what you find so distressing?

    I, too, am not too keen on hereditary monarchies, or any other variety of monarchy. So, I’d prefer to spend energy finding alternative approaches for how to address this issue justly, rather than denying the seriousness of the deficit in traditional democratic theory.

    Like

  85. Greg,

    > rather than denying the seriousness of the deficit in traditional democratic theory.

    It is one thing to state that a problem exists, or at least could potentially exist, as Harald and I do, and it is another to assert that this is a major problem. I think there are many problems with defining and implementing a democratic system that are at least as serious as the one you raised. Would you agree, or do you believe that the problem of representation of the not-yet-born is a particularly serious and/or urgent problem?

    Like

  86. Yoram,

    I believe it to be a serious problem that becomes more serious as the time horizon increases beyond the life span of those currently living. if the impact of policy measures are realized during the life times of those who are represented within the the AC, then they will deal with matters as well as is humanly possible. But, if the time span is beyond the expected life spans of those within the AC, then it’s too easy for them to be ignored and discounted.

    For example, when we built dams all over the western US during the 20th century, it offered great benefit during the lifetimes of most who came to live there, and created enormous problems for those who followed. It’s not that we were completely surprised by these unintended consequences, although many were not anticipated, but that the others were completely ignored.

    I expect they would have been less ignored had a system of AC been in place that distributed representation across the population, but still the weight would have been too heavy on current generations.

    Now, how to deal with this is a real challenge. It clearly requires some degree of representation of those who do not yet exist, but will suffer the burdens of today’s choices. And, of course, we’re all sensitive to the inherent weakness of any system of representation that does not fairly represent all with a stake in the outcome.

    Like

  87. Again, I am not quite sure that the dams example is a good example for your case. I think this is more a case of lack of public awareness (possibly due to manipulation by elites). My general feeling is that once people become aware of long term damage of various policies, they become quite concerned.

    But be that as it may, accepting the potential for present generations to promote their own interests at the expense of future generations, and since to you this seems like a particularly acute matter, do you have any proposals for addressing this issue?

    Like

  88. > OK. So, after all this, it seems that you actually agree with my original point from several days ago that even the most perfectly formed democracy discounts the will of unborn future generations

    Not exactly. I said, I still think it’s dubious to say people who don’t exist yet have an interest (I wondered if I should compare it to the absurdity of claiming long-dead people have an interest in our present arrangements, but Keith beat me to it in a suprising way, by thinking that they do) – but it’s kind of a moot point, since “they”, like a few other groups, aren’t capable of representing their own interests.

    I said also how I suggested dealing with such groups as fairly as possible (whether future persons qualify as such a group or not). I insist, in opposition to Keith and in agreement with Yoram, that special arrangements to take care of such interests must _not_ be done by a privileged group of constitution writers. How and how much to give advantage to a supposedly unrepresented group, is a political question, and political questions need to be answered by an assembly that is as representative as possible.

    They are free to make these advantages quite constitution-like (e.g, mandating that laws must respect the rights of children, and instituting a citizen jury to judge whether a given law doesn’t), but they cannot “make a rock so heavy they cannot lift it”: such laws must be equally possible to remove.

    The assembly must follow their own rules, but no one has sovereignty to stop them from changing them. Maybe future generations ought to for all I know, but they aren’t here, and no one is especially entitled to speak on their behalf.

    Like

  89. ok, in islam, the place where the unborn and the dead reside is called the barzak. we may be able to find a sufi adept who speaks the language of the barzak and is able to communicate with the inhabitants in order to ascertain their position(s) on contemporary issues. is this an acceptable solution?

    any other ideas?

    Like

  90. Hehe, sa’ada… If the assembly wants to take advice from the sufi adept, that is up to them. But such an arrangement should not be written into the initial constitution by us: we must steer clear of political and religious issues as far as we can.

    Like

  91. ok, so if the solution is that the solution is not up to us then why are we spending all this energy deciding which solution we want?

    do we have any more important work to be doing? just from reading comments about the current revolutions it is dishearteningly astounding the number of people who believe in the electoral system. can some people see no need for change?

    Like

  92. Let me point out that I believe in the electoral system quite a lot myself: Done right, it can give representative government on a couple of core issues, as selected by the people (not all issues will be up for choice, though, and there is still the problem of rational ignorance when the people are choosing). Sortition would suit the new Arab democracies best, but proportional representation and parliamentarism will be a vast improvement, and probably solve most of the people’s current frustrations (it will bring new ones, though).

    I wouldn’t downplay either of these ideas: A strong elected executive as there is in the US and France, is bad, bad, bad. If they get parliamentarism, they at least get rid of one particularly harmful variant of elections. And if it’s coupled with parliamentarism, the public has a good chance at fighting those elite policies which they manage to effectively organize against.

    Like

  93. Coupled with proportional representation, the last phrase should read.

    Like

  94. I seem to have wasted my time. I won’t be making this mistake here, again. Bye.

    Like

  95. greg, what were you trying to accomplish with your time? i’d like to thank you for bringing to my attention a problem that should be sorted. but really, if none of us can think of any solutions, and don’t view the problem as a deal breaker for sortition, then we should just keep it in mind and move on. what more could you accomplish?

    Like

  96. Yeah, I’d like to know what was offensive as well. I’d even like to know what you disagree with, Greg.

    Like

  97. (You did not think I suggested parliamentarism and PR would be a vast improvement over sortition, did you? I meant over the present state of events.)

    Like

  98. I’ve been following this discussion, and I also don’t see what was said that was obnoxious (towards Greg anyway). I admit that the discussion may in the end have generated more light than heat, but I also don’t see why this is a specifically democratic problem. Any government will have trouble representing the interests of people who aren’t there yet–that goes for monarchies, electoral democracies, demarchies, theocracies, etc. It’s a problem, and we should look for ways to encourage all governments towards long-term thinking. But why exactly is this a particular problem for sortition? I guess I just missed that.

    Like

  99. > If they get parliamentarism, […] Coupled with proportional representation

    As you know, I am with sa’ada on this – I don’t think there is evidence that there is much inherent difference between the systems. Elitism is a core characteristic of the electoral system, and so it promotes elite interests.

    Like

  100. I’ll also add my voice to the chorus of those mystified by Greg’s abrupt departure. I thought we were having a calm discussion. I am disappointed.

    Like

  101. > I don’t think there is evidence that there is much inherent difference between the systems.

    I came across a claim on wikipedia, though not fully sourced:

    “There is also a body of scholarship, associated with Juan Linz, Fred Riggs, Bruce Ackerman, and Robert Dahl that claims that parliamentarianism is less prone to authoritarian collapse. These scholars point out that since World War II, two-thirds of Third World countries establishing parliamentary governments successfully made the transition to democracy. By contrast, no Third World presidential system successfully made the transition to democracy without experiencing coups and other constitutional breakdowns.[citation needed]

    A recent World Bank study found that parliamentary systems are associated with lower corruption.[2]”

    Like

  102. I don’t see any incompatibility between these claims. To say that changing features of an electoral democracy–unicameral vs. bicameral legislature, PR vs. plurality rule, presidential vs. parliamentary system, single- vs. multi-member districts–won’t solve the problem of elite rule is not to say that changing these features will make no difference at all. It just won’t solve the problem of concern here.

    Like

  103. I agree with Peter.

    I would also point out that the causation mechanism for the parliamentarism-stability association (to the extent such an association does exist) could be very different from the “parliamentarism causes stability” implied by the Wikipedia quote.

    Like

  104. “But why exactly is this a particular problem for sortition? I guess I just missed that.”

    Greg never claimed that it was, only that it was an inherent problem with any form of unchecked democracy (I’ve pointed this out over and over again, only to be derided as a “Madisonian Reactionary”). Unfortunately this is what the fundamentalist majority on this blog is advocating (unchecked democracy), so I can fully understand Greg’s frustrations, especially when the moderator keeps saying things like “heheh”. I’ve left this blog several times out of a similar sense of frustration, and can only hope that Greg’s departure will make the fundamentalists rethink their views. I enormously valued Greg’s contribution and I’m deeply saddened that he was driven away.

    If this is the effect on the tiny number of sortinistas (Greg’s word) just think how insane we must look to the rest of the world). It really is time to grow up.

    Keith

    Like

  105. > fundamentalist majority on this blog

    I had a feeling Keith would use Greg’s inexplicable departure to promote his inexplicable views. This inexplicability is the only shared characteristic of those two matters. Up until Greg joined this thread he was part of this fundamentalist majority you are decrying.

    > sortinistas (Greg’s word)

    Maybe I misremember, but as I recollect it was your term. Can you point me to the point where Greg first made use of this term?

    Like

  106. Keith, I’m still not getting how this is supposed to be a problem for democracy, on either your view or Greg’s. (I also thought Greg was on the opposite side from you in many of these debates. Am I wrong about this?) I guess I don’t see why one would expect a nondemocratic regime to care more about the future than a democratic one. Certainly, there’s no evidence that Mubarak or Gaddafi cared about the future more than their respective peoples did, unless you count their Swiss bank accounts. (It’s nice to be able to use the past tense for each of those SOBs.)

    Like

  107. > > sortinistas (Greg’s word)

    Ok – I checked. It is your word, Keith. How do you expect to be taken seriously, Keith, when you cannot be trusted on the matter of the record of your own words?

    Like

  108. “Keith, I’m still not getting how this is supposed to be a problem for democracy”

    the key word is “unchecked”. Any kind of checks and balances are derided by the Taliban element on this blog as undemocratic

    I acknowledge having repeated Greg’s use of the word “sortinistas”.

    Like

  109. PS I suspect that Greg’s departure may have been a result of sarcastic references to the need to employ a medium or Sufi mystic in order to divine the wishes of the unborn. I’m very grateful to Greg for raising this point, which hadn’t really occurred to me, but even if you don’t agree with his concerns you should at least treat them as genuine and not employ sarcasm as a response.

    Regarding my own reference to the Marxist wing of this blog, this was intended to be an accurate description of the conversation on the Paul Cockcroft thread. I’m not up to date with socialist terminology so if “Marxist” was the wrong word, then I stand corrected (I should have said Socialist, Leninist, Troskyite or whatever). I should add that I have a lot of time for Marxist sociology (not eschatology) so this was not intended as a term of abuse. But I don’t think this blog is the right place to discuss the length of the working week etc.

    Like

  110. keith, you’re right. what i wrote was obnoxious, as peter said, and trivializes my own beliefs. if there was an edit button i would delete that comment. just goes to show that, once said, i can’t take it back so i should think about it beforehand. i apologize to greg and the rest of you.

    Like

  111. Sa’ada: I did not think your joke was out of line, nor does it trivializes your faith or make me doubt its sincerity. No apology needed :)

    Like

  112. thanks harald but, as much as i believe in the barzak i don’t think that any of you do therefore my remark was sarcastic and obnoxious. and using it to try to make a point here does trivialize it. what i should have said is:

    yes, greg, i can see how that is a problem. thanks for bringing it up. i can’t think of any acceptable solutions now and since the problem is not unique to sortition, maybe we should keep it in mind while we move on to something else.

    @keith
    ok, so which checks and balances should we employ to ensure that the interests of future generations are served?

    > just think how insane we must look to the rest of the world)

    considering how insane the rest of the world looks to me, i don’t mind if they think the same of me :)

    Like

  113. I don’t think there’s anything out of line with pointing out that there’s no way to ascertain today what people who have not yet (and possibly never will) be born think. We can ask how to consider the interests of future people, but there’s nothing to be said about considering their opinions. The very idea does indeed deserve ridicule.

    Keith–still not getting it. I get that “unchecked” democracy might conceivably cause certain problems. But I don’t see how a disregard of future persons is one of them. First, why should “unchecked” democracy do worse at considering future persons than “unchecked” monarchy, aristocracy, etc. Second, is it obvious that “unchecked” government will do worse on this issue than “checked” government? Maybe sometimes, but in the U.S. global warming is being almost entirely neglected by the federal government precisely because there are just so many places for the oil companies to intervene and “check” energy policies. Maybe checks and balances do more good than harm, but surely you will acknowledge that they can do real harm in some instances.

    Like

  114. > I acknowledge having repeated Greg’s use of the word “sortinistas”.

    No, Mr. Sutherland. It is your neologism which Greg repeated. The link I gave above is to the first use of the term on this blog (and quite likely the first use of the term ever on the Web).

    Again – you simply cannot be taken seriously. Not even when it comes to the easily verifiable record of your own words.

    Like

  115. sa’ada,

    > keith, you’re right. what i wrote was obnoxious, as peter said, and trivializes my own beliefs. if there was an edit button i would delete that comment. just goes to show that, once said, i can’t take it back so i should think about it beforehand. i apologize to greg and the rest of you.

    That’s interesting – I took you to be sincere in your suggestion. I certainly do not find your suggestion (essentially, relying on expert opinion) to be any more objectionable, unreasonable or comical than Keith’s ideas about relying on Prince Charles to represent future generations.

    Like

  116. I would also add that even if Greg perceived that he was being made the butt of a joke, I think he over-reacted. His ideas did get seriously considered by all of the discussants here.

    Like

  117. yoram,

    but i knew that no one else would accept that suggestion, therefore it was obnoxious, sarcastic, disingenuous, whatever. and the fact that it could be compared to prince charles representing future generations – trivializing. it should not be objectionable, unreasonable, or comical.

    moving on: in talking to people on other forums i find that many have an abiding faith in elections to deliver reform. they say that the revolution could be taken over by the militaries in egypt and tunisia so the revolution is not complete until elections are held. could we start (or do we have) a talking points section to be used when discussing sortition with people who are unfamiliar with it?
    i’d like to offer one here.

    somebody said ‘at least in a democracy if politicians do something we don’t agree with, we get the chance to vote the bums out’

    wrong. you get the chance to vote other bums in which is not the same thing. the new bums are owned by and represent the same interests as the old bums.

    Like

  118. Sa’ada: It is in some ways true, but not always, and not always equally much. There are significant, important policy differences between the roughly seven influential parties in Norwegian parliament. They are also, of course, non-representative on many important secondary issues.

    But it’s important that you who live in the US, and less democratic democracies, understand that dissatisfaction with government doesn’t go nearly as far here as it does elsewhere. It’s also associated with extremist groups, mostly on the right.

    Consequently, if you attack government as viciously as sometimes happens on this blog, you’re in danger of being seen as a dangerous fanatic. I think it’s more sensible, and more effective, to acknowledge the current system’s strengths as well as its weaknesses, and large potential for improvement (from starting to use allotted bodies for increasingly more tasks).

    Like

  119. Sa’ada: many thanks for your kind apology to Greg, I do hope he gets to read it.

    Peter: Obviously unchecked aristocracy or monarchy is just as bad as unchecked democracy (as acknowledged by Charles I in his reply to the parliamentarian petitition). I certainly wouldn’t wish to suggest that the US was a good example of mixed or separated government in either the classical or Montesquieu sense. The lobbying power of Big Oil is purely derived from the need to finance electoral democracy with campaign contributions; whereas a genuine mixed constitution would not be dominated in the same way as there would be a balance of sortive, elective, ex officio and hereditary interests. Whilst I agree with Greg that it would be good to find a “modern” alternative to the latter, if the best that anyone can come up with is Bono and Bob Geldof, I’d rather stick with the devil we know. Hoppe does offer a convincing argument in favour of hereditary monarchy in his book Democracy: The God that Failed and I would strongly recommend it (as I’m still on holiday I don’t have it to hand and I’m loth to paraphrase the argument from memory, especially as it’s very late and I’ve had much too much to drink).

    Yoram: I really can’t be bothered to trawl through old posts over such a banal triviality, but I assure you that I did not invent the delightful term sortinista (this was a Gregologism). Although people often claim credit for things they didn’ t do, it’s rare for it to happen the other way round, but by all means attribute this to me if it makes you happy (although Greg might be even more pissed off to find his words stolen).

    Keith

    Like

  120. > I really can’t be bothered to trawl through old posts over such a banal triviality, but I assure you that I did not invent the delightful term sortinista

    Sorry, but your assurances carry very little weight. I am well aware, however, that you often cannot be bothered to check the veracity of various claims you make.

    As for whether this is a banal triviality: If this is a banal triviality, why did you make the point of asserting that it was his term? Obviously you attached some importance to this point – an importance that you now deny. And in any case, as I said, even if this is banal, it is a simple and verifiable matter regarding the record of your own words – if you cannot be trusted on this, you simply cannot be taken seriously.

    Like

  121. sa’ada

    > could we start (or do we have) a talking points section to be used when discussing sortition with people who are unfamiliar with it?

    As I think I wrote to you before, I have in the past suggested that we create a manifesto that would be a concise introduction to the idea. Unfortunately, the response here was tepid. I have recently created a pamphlet of sorts that could serve as starting point. It addresses the very topic that you mentioned – the impossibility of “throwing the bums out”. If you or others here would like to collaborate on that, I would be happy to be part of this effort.

    Like

  122. > But it’s important that you who live in the US, and less democratic democracies, understand that dissatisfaction with government doesn’t go nearly as far here as it does elsewhere. It’s also associated with extremist groups, mostly on the right.

    That may be true, but I doubt that a clear association with the type of the electoral system can be established. I doubt that people in Ireland, Iceland and Israel are as happy with their government as the Norwegians are, despite the fact that all four have PR without a directly elected executive.

    > acknowledge the current system’s strengths

    What do you see those strengths as being? This is not a rhetorical question – I really want to know.

    I think I already at one point cited Amartya Sen’s claim that by nature electoral regimes do not produce famines, together with his qualification that they do produce chronic malnutrition and other chronic health issues. He (cited by Chomsky) also pointed out that overall China did much better than India over their first four or five decades – the two countries having started from a similar starting point more or less at the same time.

    Like

  123. > I doubt that people in Ireland, Iceland and Israel are as happy with their government as the Norwegians are.

    Right now? No, probably not. But over the course of their history, it’s probably comparable – and better than executive-oriented systems. There is both empirical evidence that people in PR states are happier with their governments, and good theoretical explanations why it would be so.

    One theoretical explanations you’ve touched on yourself: In a FPTP system the main argument that politicians will behave is because they’ll be thrown out if they don’t. You try to make them represent your interests, in other words. (The reward-based theory of virtue you wrote about).

    In a PR system, your ability to wield the whip over individual members is reduced (because of lists), but you instead have more options to look for people likely to advance your interests without the use of that whip.

    It’s no surprise that the latter works better in practice. Even if it’s hard to find people who can be counted on to advance your interests, it’s far harder to wield the whip effectively (more information is needed).

    It’s fundamentally the right approach – it’s what sortition does as well! Where PR limits the option of “throwing the bums out” in favour of seeking representative representatives, sortition takes the “throwing out” option completely away, and relies solely on a priori expectation of representativeness.

    > What do you see those strengths as being? This is not a rhetorical question – I really want to know.

    The main two strengths being that :

    1. on a couple of core issues, politicians will be reasonably representative of (uninformed, possibly quite manipulated) popular opinion.

    2. There is some diversity on non-core issues, so if these interests can be accomodated at low cost, they often will be.

    In concrete terms: 1. Things like the Iraq war won’t be initiated, and are unlikely to be supported. 2. Things like what’s going on in Wisconsin are unlikely to happen.

    Like

  124. > There is both empirical evidence that people in PR states are happier with their governments, and good theoretical explanations why it would be so.

    I am not aware of convincing evidence of either kind – empirical or theoretical – that the electoral system makes much of a difference. Certainly the theoretical argument that you sketch ignores the most important question – to what extent the elected really are representing a substantive variety of positions on the most important issues.

    Yes, nominally there are more credibly electable options available to the voter in a PR system, but there is no real reason to believe that this makes a significant difference. All the options have been vetted by the competitive process of becoming credibly electable – a process which is guarantees that those vetted will have more in common with each other than with the public. Even if a certain party manages to become electorally noticeable without being corrupt, it is soon co-opted by various devices on its way to becoming a major political force.

    And, of course, the concession you made – that the voters are uninformed and possibly manipulated – would take away much of the force of your argument about the existence of a substantive variety of positions, even if the argument was convincing. (In Israel, for example, decades of government propaganda and manipulation have created absurd public misperceptions of the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in severe popular belligerence.)

    > In concrete terms: 1. Things like the Iraq war won’t be initiated, and are unlikely to be supported.

    What do you mean by “things like the Irag war”? The Iraq war did enjoy popular support in the US at the time of the invasion. (Of course, this was after a propaganda campaign by the government in concert with various corporations.) At the same time, the governments of both Denmark and Spain, both of which are elected using a PR system, supported the US invasion despite having majorities of their populations being opposed to the war.

    > 2. Things like what’s going on in Wisconsin are unlikely to happen.

    Again, what do you mean by “like what’s going on in Wisconsin”? What about the austerity measures in Ireland? How are they different from the “what’s going on in Wisconsin”?

    Again, I believe both the empirical data and the theoretical support for your position are somewhere between weak and non-existent.

    By the way, I wonder, do you think many people in Norway specifically and in PR states in general think that PR is significantly better than FPTP systems? I do not think this is the case in Israel, and I doubt this is the case in other places. In Israel, where pro-Americanism is rampant, the US system is often brought up as a model for emulation. Except for you, I never heard the claim for the superiority of PR anywhere outside of theory books and the occasional clueless op-ed writer (in those sources claims for superiority are made on both sides, of course).

    Like

  125. I was considering adding a caveat about Israel, for obvious reasons (large part of population are there by choice + most militarized western democracy by far). Israel will not be like other democracies. But still, judging by turnout, they consider their system far more usful than Americans consider theirs.

    > do you think many people in Norway specifically and in PR states in general think that PR is significantly better than FPTP systems?

    Most people in PR systems indeed have no clue about what kind of system we have; some react with surprise and rejection when they find out just how different it is from the US one. There are always people who will want a political system because it favors people like them, so right-wingers who see right-wingers in charge in the US sometimes demand a more “American” system (usually only by advocating direct elections of things like mayors, though).

    Few people have lived in both systems (and most of those who have are rather privileged) so naturally people will complain about the system they have – with good reason – and sometimes demand systems more like what other people have (with far worse arguments).

    Of people who have studied it, you’ll find almost zero people in PR countries who prefer FPTP over PR. Whereas in FPTP countries, you will find a lot – possibly even a majority – supporting a change to PR. This is just the impression I have from the bookshelves of the political science library at the University of Oslo, of course, so feel free to show me otherwise.

    > What do you mean by “things like the Irag war”? The Iraq war did enjoy popular support in the US at the time of the invasion. (Of course, this was after a propaganda campaign by the government in concert with various corporations.)

    A campaign which could not have been pulled off just anywhere.

    > At the same time, the governments of both Denmark and Spain, both of which are elected using a PR system, supported the US invasion despite having majorities of their populations being opposed to the war.

    In part, yes they did – at least after the invasion appeared to be successful. It would probably have been quietly supported by our government also, if it wasn’t for the Christian Democratic party being in coalition with the Conservatives. But it would never have been initiated. It was never a core issue for the population in Norway, and I’ve already conceded PR systems do not give very representative government on non-core issues. But if it was Norway going to war, you can bet that would have been a core issue!

    > What about the austerity measures in Ireland? How are they different from the “what’s going on in Wisconsin”?

    Well, for one thing, the republican party doesn’t stand to have their support decimated by these actions. Fianna Fáil appears to have lost 59 of their 77 seats. Will that lead to a change in policy? Yes. As much as it should? Maybe not. More change in policy than you could expect to get in a PR system? Hell yes.

    (Also, I think outlawing collective bargaining is a far more chilling thing than the Irish austerity policy.)

    Like

  126. Harald,

    Unsurprisingly, I am not convinced by your case. I think the lines you are drawing of what would or wouldn’t happen in the various systems are too arbitrary to be a compelling description of a clear difference between the systems. It seems that you are making your theory so flexible that it is in fact non-falsifiable (you are the who recommended Popper, I think?).

    Just as an example: you argued before that

    > In a PR system, your ability to wield the whip over individual members is reduced (because of lists), but you instead have more options to look for people likely to advance your interests without the use of that whip.

    Now you are arguing that PR system in Ireland is more responsive than the FPTP system in the US because the former delivered a whiplash to the non-representative government.

    Like

  127. > Now you are arguing that PR system in Ireland is more responsive than the FPTP system in the US because the former delivered a whiplash to the non-representative government.

    No. What I said was that the ability to wield the whip over individual members is indeed higher in FPTP systems. But your ability to wield it over parties, and actually change policy at election time, is better in PR systems.

    Also, I’ve never said PR systems do not rely on after the fact-control at all. I said they rely more on before the fact-control than FPTP systems. This is not a controversial statement – you can find both opponents and proponents of PR who state it.

    The system that relies only on before the fact-control is sortition. And remember, IMO that’s the way to go. But some after the fact-control is better than nothing.

    By the way, the Irish were not nearly as opposed to the “tiger” economic policy before it crashed and burned. Before the fact-accountability might not have helped much. Even an allotted assembly might have been fooled by its apparent success – we can hope they would have seen through it, but it is by no means certain.

    (As I’ve said before, in Ireland, the social axis – social conservative, social liberal – appears to matter more compared to the economic axis, than in otherwise similar states. Thus, in the first place I expect their government to be less representative on economic issues than, say, the Norwegian government will be. This is a subjective judgement, so if you disagree that social issues are more in the forefront in Ireland than Norway, feel free to object.)

    As to falsifiability, it’s a much easier demand to satisfy than many think. If, over the next hundred years, PR democracies initiate as many wars of agression as FPTP democracies do, I will consider my ideas conclusively falsified. There you have it, my ideas are falsifiable. It doesn’t have to be easy to falsify to be falsifiable.

    But I shall hardly be that unreasonable. I probably will also admit that I am wrong if you for instance can show me that FPTP/presidental systems have larger participation rates than PR/parlamentarist systems overall.

    I am not preaching to a crowd here, I’m talking to you. It all comes more down to whether you have faith in my intellectual honesty or not, than issues of falsifiability.

    It won’t be easy to disprove what I believe I see with my own eyes (that the governments of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Spain, etc. do a better job of representing their citizens than the governments of the UK, the US, France, Italy and Russia to name a few) but if anyone could do it it’s probably you.

    Like

  128. > I said they rely more on before the fact-control than FPTP systems.

    Ok, but faced with a case where before-the-fact control failed, you invoked after-the-fact control. It seems that you are convinced of the superiority of PR, and when one mechanism that you offer to explain your conviction doesn’t work, you are immediately willing to resort to a different mechanism. This is not a convincing theoretical argument.

    > By the way, the Irish were not nearly as opposed to the “tiger” economic policy before it crashed and burned. Before the fact-accountability might not have helped much. Even an allotted assembly might have been fooled by its apparent success – we can hope they would have seen through it, but it is by no means certain.

    Maybe they were simply propagandized into supporting this policy – by the same kind of propaganda that you said is a feature of FPTP systems? Again – I think your argument is too malleable to be convincing. You are able to portray any set of facts as supporting your conclusion.

    > There you have it, my ideas are falsifiable. It doesn’t have to be easy to falsify to be falsifiable.

    Well – they are not falsifiable for the next 100 years, so for our purposes they are not falsifiable. But your other proposed test – participation (turnout?) rates – is not really much better. It is such a coarse aggregate statistic with such a tenuous link to your rather strong claim, that it is quite difficult to see it as a real prediction that provides an opportunity for falsification.

    > I am not preaching to a crowd here, I’m talking to you. It all comes more down to whether you have faith in my intellectual honesty or not, than issues of falsifiability.

    I don’t doubt your intellectual honesty, in the sense that you believe what you say. On the other hand, I think we are all prone to come to believe in various things without having good grounds for doing so. It certainly happened to me before.

    > I believe I see with my own eyes (that the governments of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Spain, etc. do a better job of representing their citizens than the governments of the UK, the US, France, Italy and Russia to name a few)

    I just don’t share this sense that the first group is doing clearly better than the second one. Admittedly, I don’t know most of those countries at anything beyond a very superficial level. Yet, you don’t seem to be able to provide data that would justify your convictions on this matter. (BTW, Russia seems like a clear odd man out here that is too conveniently for your case bundled with the “bad” systems. Also BTW, I thought Italy is a PR system.)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: