ParPolity

Tomas Mancebo wrote to point out a proposal for a constitutional system by Stephen Shalom called Participatory politics, or ParPolity, which contains a sortition-based element.

The main part of the proposal is a “nested councils” structure – a standard proposal of a hierarchical structure of elected bodies where each body elects a representative to a higher-level body:

Unlike typical direct elections, a good political system must give people an organic connection to those they elect so they can adequately monitor their performance and remove them when necessary. There cannot be large or remote constituencies that render monitoring impossible or even burdensome.

Unlike typical indirect elections, a good political system must ensure that the people’s will does not get attenuated through each intermediate level of voting.

The way in which parpolity achieves these dual goals is through the system of nested councils, with delegates to each council level known personally to the council members who elected them. This maintains the organic connection missing from so many direct elections. But at the same time, there are various mechanisms to assure that the will of the people actually emerges. The most significant mechanism is that a petition signed by a given number of people or primary councils can always assure that an issue is returned to the primary level councils (of which every citizen is a member) for a vote. (The petitions, of course, would be electronic, and the number of signatures needed would be relatively small.) Additionally, a higher level council can always decide to send an issue to the primary level for decision. This will make sense whenever the issue is contentious and at all close.

[…]

Other mechanisms to prevent the nested councils from undermining democratic control include: delegates return frequently to their sending councils, any delegate is subject to immediate recall by the sending council, delegates are rotated, and all deliberations and decisions of higher level councils are recorded and accessible to members of lower level councils.

The sortition-based element, the “council courts”, Shalom sees as a mechanism for protecting minority rights:

Choose a small group at random from the population to constitute “council courts.” These courts will review decisions made by councils to see if they interfere with basic rights and constitutional protections. Each level council above the primary-level will be assigned a court, with the court assigned to the highest level council being the High Council Court. Like current-day juries, these courts will be deliberative bodies, though unlike juries they would have a term longer than a single case — perhaps staggered two year terms. As a cross-section of the population, these will be democratic bodies: democratic bodies serving to check the democratic councils. The logic here again makes use of the finding, noted above, that when people make decisions through a deliberative process, the result is likely to be less intolerant than a simple poll of public opinion.

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4 Responses

  1. *** The model of ParPolity contains almost all the drawbacks of « representative government » , as the « delegates » are only a kind of representatives.
    *** For instance we can consider the « vote after deliberation ». When an elected Council will deliberate about some issue, councillors will often end to a conclusion different from their primary opinion, their spontaneous opinion (that is the use of deliberation !). Either the delegate votes for what he thinks good, even if different from the spontaneous opinion of his electors, and he will logically be subject of recall, or he votes against his own idea of public good, resulting into irrational and unethical behaviour.
    *** The « principle of distinction » (Bernard Manin) will always result into a difference of political leanings between the common citizenry and the « political class », and more at every level of delegation.
    *** Therefore the interaction betwen the elected Councils and the allotted « council Courts » of the model will amount quickly to a clash between different political leanings, rather that a real « judicial review ».

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  2. Yes – the hierarchical structure adds nothing to the electoral system other than complication. The effects of mass politics remain. It seems it is hard to let go of the electoral dogma even for those who are unsympathetic to the current system and even for those who can conceive of a role for sortition.

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  3. André>The « principle of distinction » (Bernard Manin) will always result into a difference of political leanings between the common citizenry and the « political class », and more at every level of delegation.

    Manin’s principle of distinction is a reflection on the character, motivation and perceived status of elected politicians, which may or may not lead to a difference in political leanings. Nowhere does Manin suggest that elected politicians are different from ordinary citizens on any dimension of the political spectrum (left-wing, right-wing etc.). This is clearly not the case, given the cycling effects that are prevalent in most electoral democracies, which tend to swing from left to right every 5-10 years.

    Yoram>It seems it is hard to let go of the electoral dogma even for those who are unsympathetic to the current system and even for those who can conceive of a role for sortition.

    It is possible to conceive of a role for sortition and acknowledge a role for election without recourse to dogma. The two balloting mechanisms fulfil two different functions (as Pitkin makes clear in her book). André is right to point out the tension between deliberation and recall, but this doesn’t indicate that Mancebo is a dogmatist, simply that he hasn’t fully thought the proposal through.

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  4. […] R. Shalom)提出了"參與式政治體"(ParPolity),具體落實為一種嵌模式的議會(nested […]

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