Another flavor of “deliberative democracy”

An article regarding “participative budgeting” in Calgary makes good material for critical reading. Among other issues, random selection is mentioned:

It’s not enough to simply invite citizens to give input, she [Victoria councillor Lisa Helps] argued. The problem is that special-interest groups can too easily dominate the discussion.

Dan Doherty, a director with a non-profit called Wise Democracy, has already tested one possible solution.

In 2011, he was contracted by the city to build “citizens insight councils” tasked with giving input into the city’s official community planning process. He found participants through a random selection process.

By calling 60 people, selected randomly by address, Doherty found 24 willing participants who agreed to a half-day workshop.

“It gets at people whose voices are not usually heard,” said Doherty.

Following up on “Wise Democracy” yielded their website, with a table explaining how the Wise Democracy process is differentiated from other “deliberative democracy” processes.

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Plenarchy?

Is anyone here familiar with the idea of plenarchy? This proposed political system apparently makes use of sortition. See–

http://plenarchist.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/keeping-the-sortition-process-honest

FWIW, I am not personally very enamored with the fact that this system seems to place personal choice (a literal “social contract”) at its heart. I think it is a dangerous mistake to think that any political system could ever by voluntary (although I do believe that political system owe those who live under than an explanation for the way they handle things).

Criteria for a “good” legislative system?

I’d like to pose a question to everyone in this forum – what are your preferred criteria for a “good” legislative system?

The San Francisco Chronicle: Fishkin promoting a citizens advisory council

Lois Kazakoff, Chronicle Columnist, writes:

Concerned by California’s faltering government, a coalition of eight nonprofit good government groups conducted an experiment in June. They invited 435 Californians of every stripe from every corner of the state, from every political persuasion to spend three days in a Torrance hotel deliberating 30 proposals for government reform. The coalition raised $1 million to cover their travel costs.

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D.G. Martin: Replacing elections with lotteries

D.G. Martin, the host UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch,” writes:

There has to be a better way.

Some of us reached that conclusion after discussing the mess our congressional and legislative governing systems have come to.

[…]

How could we find a system that frees our elective representatives from the servitude of full-time fundraising, from the draining of energy and spirit that go with permanent campaigns, and from the tribal commitments to political caucuses and parties? How could we free them from these things so they could spend full time working on legislation to make our state and nation better?

Somebody asked, what about a lottery? Why not just select our representatives by lottery?

That suggestion sounded like a joke. At first.
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How to design a democratic legislative system – order of questions

I think it will help us, and could help many other people, to have a useful order of questions for designing a democratic legislative system. I’m not saying “the right order of questions,” or even “the most useful order” – only “a useful order.” I’m also not suggesting that we should follow this order in our conversations. Instead, I think it could act as a useful reference point for those times when someone says, “Wait a minute – it’s premature to talk about x before we’ve settled y.”

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Criteria – What criteria should define a “democratic” and “good” legislative system?
  2. Categories of actors – Which broad categories of actors (e.g. all the people, allotted representatives, elected representatives, all-purpose versus limited-purpose representatives, staff) should play important roles in the legislative process? What roles should they play?
  3. Activities – What are the main activities that must (or should?) be carried out in a democratic legislative process, and in what order? In some cases order will matter, in others it won’t.
  4. Bodies and offices – Which specific bodies and offices (e.g. allotted chamber, single issue panels) should carry out each activity, playing what roles?
  5. Processes – What processes should be used for each activity?

What do you think? I look forward to your ideas, and I’m hoping that maybe together we can create a simple structure that will not only help us, but many others as well.

Democracy and Social Justice

The new special issue of the journal Studies in Social Justice may be of interest to this forum, although only one of the papers (my own) is specifically on sortition. Full text freely available on line.

VOL 5, NO 2: SPECIAL ISSUE: DEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

Guest Editor: Bob Brecher

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction: Democracy and Social Justice, Bob Brecher

Articles

Property, Propriety and Democracy, Mark Devenney
Jürgen Habermas and Bush’s Neoconservatives: Too Close for Comfort?, Vivienne Matthies-Boon
Inclusion and Participation: Working with the Tensions, Gideon Calder
The Two Sides of the Representative Coin, Keith Sutherland
The Dilemma of Democracy: Collusion and the State of Exception, Mark McGovern
Derrida, Democracy and Violence, Nick Mansfield