Sortition (or: after overthrowing the system, then what?)

A message I sent to Paul Jay and Chris Hedges:

Dear Paul and Chris,

I am writing to you after watching the Reality Asserts Itself interview. I share the abhorrence you express toward the ruling elites and their oppressive policies. I share the rejection of the electoral system as a means for achieving the political ends of the 99%, and I support the call for creating a mass movement to effect change – to overthrow the system.

I would like, however, to point out that an important piece is missing from this agenda. Overthrowing the system would just be the beginning. Something needs to replace the system once it is overthrown. Until the Left articulates a credible alternative to the existing system it would be difficult to mobilize support for the revolutionary movement. Why would the people risk overthrowing the system (with all of its oppression and criminality) if there is no expectation that the outcome would be different.

“Occupy”, with its vaguely anarchist ideology, tended to avoid the matter of proposing such an alternative system. It hardly ever went beyond the standard anarchist slogans about consensus-building mechanisms, popular assemblies and horizontal power structures. This, I believe, was the main reason “occupy” failed to galvanize the bulk of the public, leading to its fizzling.

I have an alternative system to offer: sortition. Sortition, i.e., selecting people to political office as a statistical sample of the population, was the original democratic mechanism used in ancient Athens. In contrast, elections, which were used in Sparta for example, were recognized as an oligarchical mechanism. This identification of sortition with democracy and of elections with oligarchy was conventional until the 19th century. Only in the 19th century elections were re-packaged and promoted as being democratic. It is time to re-assert the reality of the classical view. It must be the task of the revolutionary movement to reject elections and fight for democratic representation via sortition.

I’d appreciate having your thoughts on this idea.

Best regards,

Yoram Gat

https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/introduction-to-sortition-government-by-jury/

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56 Responses

  1. Yoram

    I’m glad you’ve made explicit your desire to take to the barricades. I doubt, however, that you have a snowball’s chance in hell of creating a mass movement to overthrow “the system”, even if you have a clear blueprint for the New Jerusalem that you seek to construct on the smouldering ruins of electoral democracy. The last summons to the barricades was greeted with a resounding yawn, as “the masses” (a dubious sociological construct at best) preferred to go shopping rather than play their allotted (sic) role in the historical dialectic. In the meantime cod-Marxist sloganising like this just serves to drive away those making serious proposals to introduce sortition as a pragmatic tool to address some of the deficiencies of representative government.

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  2. Bravo Yoram! For shame Keith!

    For sure, the present form of government needs to be replaced if we are to save the planet and the creatures who inhabit it. Sortition should definitely be part of the package. Yoram, you are quite right for chastising Chris Hedges. My suspicion is that many of the liberal intelligentsia prefer to rail against the system than change it.

    I prefer evolution to revolution. Typically revolution is sudden and violent. Evolution is gradual and peaceful. In “Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained: The True Meaning of Democracy” I suggest establishing discussion groups around the country that I refer to as “civic gatherings.” These would be forums for engaging the citizenry in the process of transformation through discussions about government and democracy. “What is the function of government? How well is the current government performing its function? How can government be modified so that it will better perform its function?” These are the kinds of questions that could be discussed. There is precedent for democratic discussion groups in the U.S. and in France at the end of the 18th century. It is time to revive them.

    Keith, your knee-jerk sloganeering and smear tactics reveal your disdain for and fear of democracy. You speak of sortition as a “pragmatic tool to address some of the deficiencies of representative government.” It is representative government itself, i.e. oligarchy, that needs to be replaced. The day of addressing deficiencies is long since past.

    Arthur D. Robbins

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  3. Arthur, sortition (in large modern states) is a variant of representative government. This is the one thing that Yoram and myself agree on. I have no disdain for democracy, but view it as an essential part of a mixed constitution. Modern history shows that attempts to set up pure systems of government lead to the gulags and killing fields. So my disagreement with both Yoram and yourself appears to be over both means and ends.

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  4. Arthur,

    I agree – I support a gradualist, peaceful approach as well. Abrupt and chaotic changes tend not to serve the democratic interest. Instead they allow narrow interests to pull the strings behind the scenes. “Revolution” means a transformation that radically reforms power structures – it does not imply violence or abruptness.

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  5. One more thing;

    > My suspicion is that many of the liberal intelligentsia prefer to rail against the system than change it.

    It seems to me that Hedges is sincere and committed to reform. I think the problem is that he really doesn’t have an alternative to offer and so has to satisfy himself with critique of the status quo and with advocating resistance in vague terms.

    I am not so naive as to think that Hedges would adopt sortition immediately as the revolutionary solution he has been looking for (it looks as if, like many others, he had given up hope of finding such a solution), but I am hoping that over time he would come to think of it as an important goal of a revolutionary movement. The chance of this happening would be greatly increased if he were exposed to this idea frequently and by various voices – so I encourage all sortition supporters to write letters to Hedges (as well as to other potentially sympathetic people) advocating for the idea.

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  6. @Yoram

    It’s a misconception that you need a revolution to implement sortition.

    All you need is a political party dedicated to sortition, like Newid in Wales.

    Easier said than done :)

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  7. @Arthur

    > Keith, your knee-jerk sloganeering and smear tactics reveal your disdain for and fear of democracy. You speak of sortition as a “pragmatic tool to address some of the deficiencies of representative government.” It is representative government itself, i.e. oligarchy, that needs to be replaced. The day of addressing deficiencies is long since past.

    Bravo! I think you speak for most people on this one.

    Providing another fig leaf of legitimacy for the oligarchy is *not* the desired outcome.

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  8. Martin,

    If Arthur were speaking for “most people” then Newid would have received a lot more votes than it did (leaving aside the irony that its manifesto was based on the abolition of voting). I’ve been there and I’ve still got the T-shirt, though I imagine Martin still has several truck loads. The principal conceit of radical activists is the conviction that they are speaking for most people, if only the latter could get beyond the false consciousness that is preventing them from understanding their real interests. Until such time the revolutionary vanguard will need to speak on their behalf by attacking the capitalist lickspittles who are propping up the old rotten oligarchy.

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  9. Actually, the distrust most people have for the current form of government is very well documented. The problem of the reformist or revolutionary is to translate this sentiment into support for a specific reform agenda. A necessary condition for this is to offer a specific reform agenda. Again, the failure to do this was the reason for the fizzling of “Occupy”.

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  10. > It’s a misconception that you need a revolution to implement sortition. All you need is a political party dedicated to sortition, like Newid in Wales.

    I don’t think we are in disagreement. Sortition is the revolution (if implemented radically, not as window dressing). A political party promoting sortition is a revolutionary party.

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  11. >A political party promoting sortition is a revolutionary party.

    Maybe (depending on how radical its program was), but a) it’s a contradiction in terms (vote for us in order not to vote) and b) attempts to build one (by the likes of Martin Davies and Paul Judge) have failed. Judge’s (appropriately named) Jury Party was extremely well resourced and Sir Paul has good political and media contacts. So it would seem that the claim that such a party would receive mass support is false, even granted that most people are mistrustful of our current political arrangements. This would indicate that there is a lot of education to do and it doesn’t help when advocates of sortition use the discredited rhetoric of the hard left, as people are even more suspicious of old lefties wearing new clothes.

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  12. It is with great reluctance that I find myself in agreement with Keith Sutherland when he refers to “the discredited rhetoric of the hard left.” He is quite right. We need new words. The old rhetoric of left/right has its basis in an economic program, with social welfare/socialism embraced or eschewed. Sortition and other forms of democracy are political programs. Socialism is about distribution of wealth and leads to concentration of power. Democracy is about distribution of power and leads to decentralization. I prefer democracy.

    Arthur D. Robbins

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  13. Keith,

    “Mixed constitution” i.e. monarchy, oligarchy, democracy? How quaint! Where is your tricorne?

    Arthur D. Robbins

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  14. Arthur,

    The terminology is not important to me as long as we know what we are talking about. I don’t like, however, avoiding (or using) certain words just in order to appeal to some conventional sensibilities.

    > Socialism is about distribution of wealth and leads to concentration of power. Democracy is about distribution of power and leads to decentralization.

    I disagree both that “socialism leads to concentration of power” and that “democracy leads to decentralization.” I believe that economic equality (socialism) and political equality (democracy) are to a large extent independent – so they are neither identical nor antithetical. The Athenians, for example, had a capitalist democracy (unlike the modern Western system which is a capitalist oligarchy). If the people truly choose economic inequality, then it is economic inequality they should have, but until we have a democracy, then there is no way to know what the people choose.

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  15. Arthur,

    Unfortunately the theory of the mixed constitution is, indeed, quaint, as it went out of fashion in the sixteenth century as a result of the scribblings of Jean Bodin. Unfortunately Bodin never explained the reason for his “intuition” that sovereignty was indivisible. Perhaps it was a reflection of Roman law corporation theory, or the (pragmatic) advantage of an undivided sovereign will, or his religious cosmology, or “a visitation by a beneficent demon in 1567 that directed his attention to the unitary nature of authority” (Salmon, 1996, p.502). My hunch is to put it down to him being a lawyer — lawyers like tidy solutions whereas practical people are more concerned with the complex balance of actual political power which constituted the ancient doctrine of the mixed constitution. Political power was divided between the empirical estates of the realm which were hereditary in origin, hence the preference of the American founders for Montesquieu’s attempt to slice and dice unitary “popular” sovereignty into tranches and attempt to isolate them with parchment barriers. Of course this didn’t work as the barriers leaked and, although modern estates had no legal status, that didn’t make their power any less real, otherwise Yoram and yourself wouldn’t keep banging on about “the ruling elites and their oppressive policies”.* To paraphrase Bronx wisdom, you can take the republic out of the estates but you’ll never get the estates out of the republic.

    * Unfortunately there is no modern analogue of the monarch, who often sided with the people against the overweening barons — no doubt for his own reasons. Elected monarchs (“presidents”) are creatures of the same party system as the dreaded elites and have no independent power base. The only way to balance power is to have independent estates, each appointed by a unique selection principle (merit, election and sortition).

    Ref
    ===

    J.H.M. Salmon (1996), “The Legacy of Jean Bodin: Absolutism, populism or constitutionalism?”, History of Political Thought, XVII (4), pp.500-522.

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  16. @keithsutherland

    Well done – 2 straw man fallacies in one post!

    > attempts to build one (by the likes of Martin Davies and Paul Judge) have failed

    Judges Jury Team party was not avocating sortition.

    > So it would seem that the claim that such a party would receive mass support is false,

    No one is making this claim.

    > Until such time the revolutionary vanguard will need to speak on their behalf by attacking the capitalist lickspittles who are propping up the old rotten oligarchy.

    Can you translate that into English please :)

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  17. Martin (aka Anonymous)

    It’s true that Jury Team was a misnomer, however Paul Judge was seeking to address most of the flaws of elective democracy, and argued that “regular people can make decisions about complex problems with integrity and without any vested interests”, the leitmotif of most sortinistas. Although opinion polling predicted that the disaffection with party democracy would generate support for his programme, it sank without trace, notwithstanding his substantial resources and media contact. This would suggest that the chances of building a mass movement in favour of sortition (Yoram’s aspiration) are negligible.

    “Capitalist lickspittles who are propping up the old rotten oligarchy” was a reference to charges that have frequently been aimed at me on account of my proposal to use sortition as a means of improving, rather than replacing, our existing political institutions. To my mind this is a far more realistic prospect, and it is an agenda that should be taken up by all those with an interest in instituting sortition, even if this means holding one’s nose whilst collaborating with the enemy. It would also suggest dropping the language of revolution and referring to existing politicians as criminal and oppressive.

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  18. Yoram, have you posted it as a comment to the article? That would be a good way to get a wider audience to start asking what sortition is.

    IMHO rather than revolution or evolution advocates of reform could get better mileage out of more public awareness and deeper discussion of alternative political organizations –that is, public education about electoral and non-electoral alternatives to current electoral systems would serve us best, especially here in America where we don’t even have proportional voting and, therefore, a mathematically determined two-party system.

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  19. There are some key considerations in any transition to sortition (revolutionary/evolutionary), which Yoram has alluded to. People need to see examples in practice…but the question is what are the traits the implementation needs to exhibit to be helpful. This question deserves careful examination by would-be reformers/revolutionaries.

    Many of us agree that an exemplary (useful) implementation needs to make actual (or virtually actual) decisions, rather than mere recommendations. But what about agenda control? Is it useful for educating people if the jury is only presented pre-defined options? Keith would say yes, but Yoram might not…But Yoram…as a transitional example for educating people rather than ultimate form, is that useful?
    What about selection pre-qualifications (sortition among a specified group…like bookkeepers for selecting an auditing team)? Does that help people appreciate the value of sortition in terms of overcoming corruption?

    I tend to think Fishkin-type advisory implementations are of marginal value…though I have to admit, I DO refer to them when arguing with skeptics about the potential of sortition.

    I think a check-list of characteristics of a useful implementation might be good to develop, even if we don’t all agree on every point.

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  20. Terry,

    > Is it useful for educating people if the jury is only presented pre-defined options?

    That would depend greatly on the circumstances, but I think that in many cases it would be counter-productive and generally should be avoided. It would tend to create an infantilizating scenario, where the real decisions are made a-priori by the grown-ups (i.e., elites) and the allotted body acts as no more than a legitimating mechanism.

    > What about selection pre-qualifications (sortition among a specified group…like bookkeepers for selecting an auditing team)? Does that help people appreciate the value of sortition in terms of overcoming corruption?

    The real value of sortition is, in my mind, having decisions made by a representative sample of the population. Once qualifications are introduced, this value is eliminated. See here about various forms of exclusion.

    > I think a check-list of characteristics of a useful implementation might be good to develop, even if we don’t all agree on every point.

    I made a stab at this here and here.

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  21. Terry,

    Whatever one’s views on the democratic legitimacy of full-mandate sortition, as an interim measure it’s unlikely that an allotted body would be given the right of agenda control (policy innovation) AND binding decision power — it’s just not going to happen in the real world any time soon. The BC constitutional forum had agenda control but no right of determination. The only body that I’m aware of that had effective decision power, but no agenda control, was the Zegou DP. I don’t think there are any examples of both. As for the issue of its advisory status, the DP is at the mercy of whoever commissioned it — if the commissioning body chose to give it binding decision power then DP methodology is perfectly compatible with that. I’m sure Fishkin would have no objections, otherwise he would not be holding the Zegou DP up as a prototype of a new form of democratic decision making. And while we’re talking amongst ourselves about ideal democratic models Fishkin is busy demonstrating the potential of sortition in the real world, and without alienating the powers-that-be with talk of the criminal and oppressive policies of ruling elites (probably not the best way to win friends and influence people).

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  22. Thank you all three for the clarifications. It seems there are at least two (or three) models generally advocated on this forum. Laying out the various options and trusting “people” to decide at some future point is already quite a step forward, imho. I’ll be redundant in saying, most citizens of “grown-up” democracies don’t even know that alternatives exist–alternatives short of “revolution” and emotional language.

    That said, more can always be done to make these kinds of reforms more accessible to the uninitiated and to refine what’s already been done, such as the checklist mentioned.

    Would that “21st century human” is aware that changing structures, even in small steps, can make a real difference in how politics plays out, and that besides blaming or conspiracy-finding there is authentic systemic analysis and creative problem solving. Equality by Lot is no utopia, it is an essential part of thinking about political life beyond the currently restricted sphere of party politics.

    Kudos again to Yoram for engaging the press and raising awareness.

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  23. Thanks Yoram, the word really needs to get out. In my uneducated opinion the system is working overtime to overthrow itself, and if that happens then people need to be aware that alternatives exist.

    I wonder, though, if you think it’s a good idea to make an appeal to the Left or any other political persuasion. It seems possible that sortition’s neutrality with respect to political divisions might be the key to its adoption.

    From what I’ve read, even among open-minded people the main objection to sortition will be the belief that political expertise is necessary to navigate the complexities of government. Would it be a good idea to suggest that the complexity arises from bureaucracy and the cocoon of jargon and ritual the powerful weave for themselves, rather than from the issues?

    Similarly, the objection will be raised that the average person is unqualified to make important decisions. However, Rousseau wrote that “When choice and lot are combined, positions that require special talents, such as military posts, should be filled by the former; the latter does for cases, such as judicial offices, in which good sense, justice, and integrity are enough, because in a State that is well constituted, these qualities are common to all the citizens.” Is it worthwhile to suggest that if the citizens are unfit to rule it’s because the state is not well constituted?

    It was actually Occupy* that got me interested in all this stuff. I sensed that they were going to vote themselves into a dead end and wondered how things might be done differently. I’ve got a lot more enthusiasm than knowledge so please accept my comments in the spirit they’re intended. Good luck to you all.

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  24. Eric,

    Agree that it’s essential for sortition not to be seen as partisan (although partisans of all persuasions will naturally seek to use it for their own ends). As this is a forum dedicated to sortition it’s wrong to use partisan language, hence my original comment.

    Rousseau’s primary distinction was between the delegated government and the sovereign legislature. The former requires expertise, whereas good sense and justice (common to all citizens) are sufficient for the latter. However Rousseau also argued that the inititiation of legislative proposals was the rightful business of the government, not the sovereign legislature. Unless we keep these two roles separate we will be open to the criticism that sortition cannot cope with the complexities of governing a large modern state.

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  25. Hi Eric,

    Welcome – thanks for your comments, and I hope you will find effective ways to translate your enthusiasm to activism (and share those ways with us).

    Regarding addressing the Left: I addressed myself specifically to the Left in this context since this was the context of the interview I was responding to, since this was to a large extent the agenda behind Occupy, and since this is a camp of thought that I am part of. I do agree that sortition should, and does, appeal to non-socialist democrats. If you look at the articles here, they usually do not touch upon the standard Left-Right spectrum issues. Indeed some of the visitors and authors on Equality-by-Lot are non-, and even anti-socialist.

    Regarding the standard “competence” objection to sortition, see my response here: I like you as a voter.

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  26. >Indeed some of the visitors and authors on Equality-by-Lot are non-, and even anti-socialist.

    Shock, horror! I would have hoped that the majority of visitors and authors would not be partisans for what is now generally seen as an outmoded social theory. I’m sorry to hear that socialist leanings are taken to be the default position for visitors and authors to a blog dealing with structural (as opposed to policy) issues. This probably explains why there are so few visitors and authors.

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  27. Eric,

    You asked: ” Would it be a good idea to suggest that the complexity arises from bureaucracy and the cocoon of jargon and ritual the powerful weave for themselves, rather than from the issues?”

    While this is partially true, I think that is not a fruitful persuasion tack…since many government issues are indeed EXCEEDINGLY complex. I used to be a legislator, and can state categorically that LEGISLATORS are NOT experts, or particularly competent (though a few are). EXPERTISE resides in the staff and lobbyists, with legislators simply learning the right buzz words and statistics to quote. I think it is better to argue that CURRENT legislators do NOT exhibit exceptional “smarts.” They are not (as a whole) superior, just more ego-driven, and good at public relations.

    I think Keith is on the right track..separating those functions that require expertise like ADMINISTRATION by government bureaucrats, as well as complex policy proposal initiation (all of which can be very complicated), from the legislative function of deciding broader policy directions, and choosing between alternatives. The people who engage in the LEGISLATIVE function should be chosen by lot. But what is more…the Government chief executives should be selected by an allotted body as well. A smaller group of average citizens can recruit and interview potential executives, similar to the way a city council hires a city manager. the key is to keep policy determination OUT of the hands of the executive and government bureaucrats.

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  28. Hi Yoram, my worry is that an unscrupulous opponent to sortition would use any pretext to align it along some political divide. Aside from that, most non-socialists would probably call me a socialist so I have no quarrel with appealing to the Left.

    Keith, I agree that proposal and disposal of legislation should be separated, mainly because having the group (or parallel groups) that votes on legislation be the same group that sponsors, introduces, and decides which measures come to the floor is to my mind a glaring misplacement of power and practically guarantees corruption.

    Terry, by bureaucracy I meant an administrative group that assumes undue power rather than a dedicated corps of civil servants. From what I’ve seen, the really complicated measures are “fast track” bills from government agencies that would normally be passed as a matter of course except for challenges from rival agencies competing for a piece of the pie, and bills that are tortuously worded to disguise the fact that they are granting exclusive rights to special interests. I agree that there should be specialists in the process of legislation, but I’m unconvinced that there should be specialists in the content of legislation.

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  29. >Keith, I agree that proposal and disposal of legislation should be separated, mainly because having the group (or parallel groups) that votes on legislation be the same group that sponsors, introduces, and decides which measures come to the floor is to my mind a glaring misplacement of power and practically guarantees corruption.

    Absolutely. And this has been the primary concern of political theorists, from Harrington and Rousseau to J.S. Mill. Madison was aware of the potential for corruption, but did nothing in practice to address it.

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  30. *** Keith Sutherland says :« However Rousseau also argued that the inititiation of legislative proposals was the rightful business of the government, not the sovereign legislature ».
    *** Keith Sutherland is right, Rousseau did not want to leave the legislative initiative to the People’s Assembly. It was to be left to the « government ». But beware, for Rousseau « government » is not what the word suggests to a modern reader. It is the set of all the political powers others than the legislative power (held by the People’s Assembly). And Rousseau allows for sortition for the members of the Government . See the Social Contract, translated 1782 by G. D. H. Cole, book IV, ch. 03, Elections (« election » includes « election by lot» i.e. sortition) : « In the elections of the prince and the magistrates, which are, as I have said, complex acts, there are two possible methods of procedure, choice and lot. Both have been employed in various republics (…) When choice and lot are combined, positions that require special talents, such as military posts, should be filled by the former; the latter does for cases, such as judicial offices, in which good sense, justice, and integrity are enough, because in a State that is well constituted, these qualities are common to all the citizens ». Rousseau does not precise if the initiative of legislation requires special talents, and we could think that an alloted body, with time for discussion and in-depth study, is appropriate.

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  31. Rousseau does indeed claim that the government may be the one, the few or them many — his own preference being the few (an elected aristocracy). In the chapter on government he argues that the particular form depends on the size/population and that a democratic government is only suitable for angels, rather than men (or a very small state, where everybody gets to take turns). His reference to the combination of choice and lot is clearly aimed at Athens (a form of government that he held greatly inferior to that of Sparta). He is also emphatic that the legislative initiative and sovereign power should NOT be in the hands of the same people.

    One thing that Rousseau fails to consider is sortition for the legislature. I have a paper in which I argue that establishing a legislative assembly by sortition would not contravene Rousseau’s strictures on freedom and equality. However this presupposes that the legislative inititiative does not come from the internal deliberations of an allotted assembly. Here’s the abstract for the paper:

    Deliberation and Representation: Squaring the Circle
    Keith Sutherland, Department of Politics, University of Exeter
    jkbs201@exeter.ac.uk

    Abstract: This paper argues that the ‘deliberative turn’ in democratic theory could undermine the very institution (representative democracy) that it is seeking to enhance, unless steps are taken to ensure that the sample of citizens chosen to deliberate accurately reflects the interests and preferences of the whole political community. The model of representative deliberation proposed in this paper is, paradoxically, derived from Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is best known for his contempt for political representation, arguing instead that popular sovereignty cannot be delegated to representatives without compromising the moral equality (of legislative right) of all citizens required by the social contract. This obliged him to propose a system of direct popular sovereignty that was ideally suited for small political communities like Geneva or Corsica, and of little relevance to large-scale modern states.

    This paper proposes a radical alternative for the composition of the sovereign legislature – sortition (random sampling by lot). Although the mechanism originated in 5th century Athens, it has potential for application in large modern states. Moreover, unlike electoral representation, statistical sampling by sortition would not contravene Rousseau’s strictures on popular sovereignty, so long as the resultant assembly also followed his call for inner deliberation (the silent weighing of arguments, followed by voting). Active political functions, like policy proposal and advocacy, would be delegated to the physical branch of government, constituted by different principles. Although Rousseau considered sortition for the appointment of magistrates in a democratic government he failed to consider random sampling as a way of creating a legislature that would be a ‘portrait in miniature’ of the whole citizenry. A legislature constituted by sortition would enable deliberative decision-making without alienation of popular sovereignty, as the ‘collective being’ of the sovereign would be represented [in microcosm] ‘by himself’ (SC, II:1).

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  32. Re: proposal and disposal of legislation should be separated

    Is this not easily solved using random selection & frequent rotation?

    A previous chamber selects the policy options & a subsequent group decides.

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  33. Technically yes, but that would not have satisfied Rousseau and Mill, the reason being that government is a practical activity and most legislative proposals arise from the need to trim the sails of the ship of state to keep it on course. This was the line I took in my first book (The Party’s Over) but I was subsequently persuaded that this was undemocratic. However, in a large state, no amount of rotation would ensure that everyone would have a say in proposal, hence the need for some combination of election and public initiative for policy proposal. Although the aggregate judgment (ie votes) of an allotted assembly can be held to represent the considered views of the whole citizen body, the same cannot be said for the speech acts of individual members, hence the need for different democratic mechanisms for policy proposals.

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  34. About Rousseau and democracy-through-sortition.
    *** We must not separate Rousseau from the other thinkers of his century, especially Montesquieu, whom he read and admired, even if their political instincts and class consciousness were very different.
    *** We must beware that the Enlightenment thinkers usually named “democracy” the political model of the Greek dêmokratia, the model where the people is really the sovereign. Rousseau used “democracy” in an especially restricted sense; a dêmokratia where most of the executive and judicial powers are in the hands of the People’s Assembly; a model taken from the first Athenian democracy (with some schematization).
    *** Rousseau, as Montesquieu and the contemporary thinkers, did not have a clear idea of the differences between the political systems of the first and the second Athenian democracies, the system as described by Thucydides and the one at the time of Demosthenes. This can be ascribed to different factors, especially the fascination for the Golden Age of Athens, the Age of Pericles, the lack of great historian in 4th century, and the bias of the anti-democrat philosophers Aristotle and Plato (you cannot find mention of a legislative jury in any extant work by Aristotle!). The knowledge of the Athenian democracy in the Age of Demosthenes – to quote the great book by Hansen – needs to study thoroughly the speeches of the fourth-century orators after taking off the erroneous postulate of the perfect similarity between the two Athenian democratic systems. Basically Rousseau and Montesquieu knew only the first Athenian model.
    *** Keith Sutherland writes: “Although Rousseau considered sortition for the appointment of magistrates in a democratic government he failed to consider random sampling as a way of creating a legislature that would be a ‘portrait in miniature’ of the whole citizenry”. Right. But the same for Montesquieu. Why?
    ** The eighteenth century did not have the modern concept of the “representative sample”.
    ** Rousseau as Montesquieu considered the model of dêmokratia as meaningful only for a small state – and they were right, only the modern electronic technology makes possible a dêmokratia in a big state. In a small state and in pre-modern times, with slow changes in a society, the small legislative task can be taken over by the People’s Assembly. In a modern society, with the speed of social changes, the legislative task is such that it cannot be seriously worked by referendums. Sortition is a necessity for legislative power in a modern society, it was not in an ancient Greek state.
    ** Even if the use of sortition for legislative power was not a necessity in an ancient dêmokratia, it was a possibility, as we can see from the second Athenian democracy. But this possibility could be left out of consideration by 18th great thinkers, who did not have neither the historical knowledge nor the statistical concepts we, smaller thinkers of the 21st century, have.
    *** Keith Sutherland says that the reference of Rousseau “to the combination of choice and lot is clearly aimed at Athens (a form of government that he held greatly inferior to that of Sparta)”. Actually Rousseau was following closely Montesquieu (Spirit of the Laws, book I, chap. 2), and, right, Montesquieu reasoned at least partly from the Athenian model. The Spartan political model was not well known by the 18th century historians, and actually is not so well known by the 21st century historians. The Sparta Rousseau liked so much was a mythical Sparta, coming at least partly through Plutarch from the political myths of the Spartan revolutionaries (late third century BC).
    *** The paper by Keith Sutherland “Deliberation and Representation: Squaring the Circle” is a great work. Congratulations. Here I will take exception with a point: the “silent weighing of arguments” as required by Rousseau, was intended for a People’s Assembly, where a serious deliberation was difficult – impossible thought Rousseau, who saw the Athenian Assembly as a toy manipulated by the orators, and was afraid of more or less organized factions. But Rousseau was not against collective political deliberation in small circles – see “Letter to M. D’Alembert on Spectacles” about political discussion in Geneva circles.

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  35. Thanks Andre that’s all very helpful. I agree that Rousseau was heavily influenced by Montesquieu, especially with regard to the notion of the general will (although, according to Patrick Riley, this has its origin in the will of God to save all men, and was merely secularised by Montesquieu and Rousseau). I think we should be cautious about applying divine attributes to fallen men (this was also the mistake of the 19th century idealists).

    I like your strong separation between the first and second democracies and agree that that latter was distinguished primarily by the legislative courts (although you could also focus on the increased use of election for financial and other key magistracies and the [conservative] emphasis on the rule of law, rather than the rule of men). I think we both are followers of Hansen, as opposed to Ober.

    The only thing I would take issue over is the discussion of the “silent weighing of arguments”. Rousseau’s model here must have been the legislative courts, as he cannot have modelled his people’s assembly on the ancient people’s assembly (which was anything other than silent). If the Athenians were convinced that sortition was necessary for the legislative courts, then it would be essential in a large modern state. I am tentatively persuaded by your claim that the Athenians saw this as a representative function, but am still mindful of the danger of anachronism. I haven’t read the letter to D’Alambert but elsewhere Rousseau was insistent that deliberation was a delegated function of the (elected) government. The Athenians did not allow deliberation within the allotted juries, Rousseau proscribed it for the people’s assembly and Harrington called for anyone in the Prerogative Tribe (allotted people’s assembly) found guilty of deliberation to be taken out and hanged. Deliberation is anathema to representation, so why do you insist that a modern nomothetai should be deliberative? Apart from this, I think we are in agreement (this is also my only argument with Terry Bouricios). There is a danger in requiring a single mechanism (sortition) to do everything, just because Montesquieu characterised it as a democratic mechanism for the selection of government officials. There is no historical precedent for what Terry and yourself are advocating, and I don’t see that linking small groups by a real-time electronic network will overcome the fundamental problem of the unrepresentative character of individual speech acts.

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  36. About “sortition everywhere”
    *** Keith Sutherland says “There is a danger in requiring a single mechanism (sortition) to do everything, just because Montesquieu characterised it as a democratic mechanism for the selection of government officials.” Sortition, even if it can be found in different political systems, has a specific relevance for democracy, as said Montesquieu, and the ancient philosophers before him. But neither in Montesquieu’s work nor in my comments you can find the eccentric idea that sortition has to do everything!
    Sortition is necessary in a modern dêmokratia where are taken sovereign decisions (last word in important matters), and in critical points of control. In other areas, the use of lottery is only an option among others; without the anti-democratic bias against lot, sure, but considering pragmatically the specifics.

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  37. About face-to-face deliberation.

    *** Face-to-face deliberation was not absent in ancient Athens in main political matters. It was informal, in the Agora, its open space and its shops. We must acknowledge it could be manipulated, as tells us Plutarch about the ill-fated decision about the Sicily (Life of Nicias, XII, 17 – but the delightful description was written some centuries later). When, let’s say, a jury was hearing the speeches of Aeschines and Demosthenes about the policy in front of the Macedonians, it followed many arguments in face-to-face discussions among citizens. Deliberation involving exchanges between ordinary citizens was practically impossible in a 501 members jury, and any endeavour would have led to disorder, or to alignment along party lines – something contrary to democratic idea, and in the Council we know that the seats of the (permanent) councillors were given by lot, evidently to prevent alignment.
    *** Rousseau was not against any face-to-face deliberation. But in his dream of Geneva with people’s sovereignty, the face-to-face deliberations were to occur in informal political discussions in pubs, the civic role of which he extolled in the Letter to d’Alembert. In the People’s Assembly conceived by Rousseau, any endeavour of exchanges between ordinary citizens would have led to disorder, to manipulation, or, worse, to alignment along party lines; three things Rousseau abhorred .
    *** The critics of face-to-face deliberation say it gives too much influence to the people of higher rhetorical abilities, which leads to two drawbacks: lack of repeatability (especially underlined by Keith), and very high influence for the more educated classes of society, with the risk of dêmokratia being seen as an hidden aristocracy. I think these drawbacks are real, but that they can be limited by well-designed organization, especially with a mixing of face-to-face deliberation and “rhetorical deliberation” with intervention of “national orators” by telecommunication.
    *** In modern societies there is no equivalent of the Greek agora or of the Genevan pubs. Internet does not supply an equivalent, because there is too much freedom of choice about your discussion partners. Face-to-face discussion including all kinds of citizens, of different origin, class or political leaning, will be a part of sovereign deliberation only if it is a part of the formal process. And I believe strongly that an important element of face-to-face deliberation is necessary to a good dêmokratia. First because it is a strong factor against party alignment (“party” in a general sense; it can be a loose ideological identity). In our electoral systems, many people vote along such alignments. In face-to-face deliberation you have to give reasons, and at least apparently rational reasons, and that leads to getting more or less out the alignment. Second, in a face-to-face deliberation citizens have to hear one another, and thus are led to accept a formal equality with other citizens, to accept at least formally to give equal foot to the ideas of any co-citizen – which is the primary requirement of dêmokratia.

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  38. Andre

    Of course I’m in favour of informal face-to-face deliberation in the modern equivalent of the agora. The problem only arises in a legislative assembly whose members are selected at random (it’s not a problem when citizens choose those who are to deliberate on their behalf, or where the outcome is purely advisory). I agree with you regarding the normative benefits of deliberation, and for all the reasons that you give, but I genuinely don’t see how it’s possible in a legislative body without destroying its statistical representativity. All the benefits that you list — the standard currency of Habermasian deliberative theorists — would be applicable if the assembly were purely to have an advisory role, with the final decision being taken by elected politicians. (Another alternative would be to adopt Terry’s proposal for deliberative policy panels at an early stage of the legislative process.) But for an assembly with final legislative powers repeatability trumps everything else, as the only democratic mandate it has is as an accurate portrait in miniature of the whole citizen body. If this means the decision outcome is less rational and more partisan than might otherwise be the case, then so be it.

    Notwithstanding its name, the Deliberative Poll only allocates a minor role to small-group deliberations and the only way to gain any semblance of illocutionary parity is for the conversations to be actively monitored by trained facilitators. Even then, different DPs come to different conclusions on the same issue, so the decision cannot be held to reflect the considered view of the whole citizen body. I’m sorry if this is just repeating something I said earlier, but there is an inherent conflict between deliberation and representation, and democratic norms privilege the latter. This is one of the reasons why the Greeks, Rousseau and Harrington all proscribed deliberation in the jury/assembly, so why would we seek to deny this wisdom? Rousseau was right to limit deliberations to the Genevan pubs, Habermas’s mistake was to attempt to model a political decision-making system around the conversations in London coffee houses. People go to coffee houses because they want to converse (and drink coffee) but would be surprised to hear that their conversations performed a representative function.

    >But neither in Montesquieu’s work nor in my comments you can find the eccentric idea that sortition has to do everything!

    Although some people on this forum would indeed support this eccentric idea, my concern is extending sortition beyond the final legislative decision function (aggregate voting) into areas where a statistical mandate cannot be claimed (ie any speech acts).

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  39. *** Following Keith Sutherland, any element of face-to-face deliberation in a sovereign decision by an allotted body would destroy the “representativity” of the jury. No, it will not destroy the representativity, it will only diminish it, as will the sampling alea. But we must accept this fact, because if we eliminate any face-to-face, we increase the phenomena of alignment, which will I think in many cases will take us even further of the “ideal collective decision”.
    *** The ancient democracy fighted alignment along various ways; I quoted one, the allotment of the seats in the Council of 500 in Athens. But a key factor was the ubiquity of face-to-face political discussion. Rousseau mentioned face-to-face deliberation only in a work without direct political subject, not in the “Social Contract”, because he took it for granted. As we do jogging because we do not run, and don’t walk so much (Régis Debray), we must institutionalize face-to-face deliberation.
    *** Actually I think that it would be useful to include in face-to-face deliberations not only the jurymen (who will vote), but for instance allotted “representatives” of persons especially affected by a decision.
    *** I agree that an element of “rhetorical deliberation” with “national orators” must be organized in order to guarantee that an option will never lack an able advocacy (even here we must think about the process in order of lessening the risk of alignment).
    *** Some will find strange that the backers of democracy-through-sortition are so often in strong disagreement. But it can be explained by the purely theoretical state of the subject. When there will be various full scale experiments in different societies, we will see what works with only minor drawbacks, and what leads to poor results. Often I think compromises will be wrought out. The one point which is not open to compromise is the democratic principle itself: the last word to allotted juries, to the ordinary citizens.

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  40. Andre

    Both the ancient democracy and Rousseau could afford to be more relaxed about deliberation as representation was not the primary function. In Athens ALL citizens could (and should) participate in the political process by offering themselves as part of the allotment pool; and Rousseau argued that ALL citizens should attend the general assembly. Participation was the default position, whereas in modern large-scale democracies it could only ever be a infinitessimally tiny sample, hence the need to guarantee representativity. The inequalities introduced by face-to-face deliberation will diminish representativity far more than the sampling process. The latter can be easily rectified by increasing the size of the sample, not so the former.

    Why is face-to-face deliberation so important — what’s wrong with deliberation within? (Rousseau, Condorcet and Goodin’s alternative model). Surely the difference is that the former allows us to persuade our co-deliberators of the rightness of our position, in which case huge inequalities are inevitable, as some people are a lot more persuasive than others. This is completely unacceptable when the agents in question are there as proxies for the vast majority who have been disenfranchised by the allotment process. What if the persons who most accurately reflect your views and interests are unpersuasive morons and/or of low perceived status?

    I’m puzzled as to your fear of alignment — surely this is only a problem when parties (factions) are required to present consolidated political programmes across a variety of domains? (fiscal, social etc). In the model of democratic decision making that we are all advocating allotted juries make decisions over individual bills. Besides which, political scientists argue that alignment is very much a 20th century phenomenon; in the 21st century the old political alignments have fissipated into a multitude of diverse (and shifting) interests. I’m wary of terms like the “ideal collective decision” as this suggests a pressure to consensus, which is antithetical to Condorcet mechanisms and the wisdom of crowds.

    >It would be useful to include in face-to-face deliberations not only the jurymen (who will vote), but for instance allotted “representatives” of persons especially affected by a decision.

    Yes, but this is part of the advocacy process — all parties especially affected by a decision should have their own advocates (but they shouldn’t get to vote on the outcome). But why should these advocates by allotted — why not allow such communities to elect their most eloquent and persuasive spokesperson? If not, then they will be outperformed by the “national” advocates. If you want equality of advocacy then you want achieve this via allotment.

    >The one point which is not open to compromise is the democratic principle itself: the last word to allotted juries, to the ordinary citizens.

    Yes, we all agree on that, even Yoram and myself, who are at loggerheads over practically everything else. I also agree that we need more experiments, but the DP experiments (which have been running for 20 years or so) have already shown that different samples of the same population return different verdicts and it is the reasons for these variances that need to be addressed. How can you have an “ideal collective decision” if each sample returns a different decision? This is the key issue for decision-making by a descriptively-representative microcosm, everything else is mere detail.

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  41. >If you want equality of advocacy then you want achieve this via allotment.

    Sorry for the typo, I meant to say:

    If you want equality of advocacy then you won’t achieve this via allotment.

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  42. *** Keith Sutherland says he is” puzzled” by my fear of alignment. I don’ think it is an eccentric view of mine, it is a classical democrat concern, and a very understandable one. Democratic majority rule – as actually any majority rule – can be accepted only if a strong part of ordinary citizens are open to discussion, able to hear reasons of others, inclined to vote along a personal way. If too many of them react automatically, if for instance they do not consider seriously the options but class them immediately as “conservative” or “liberal” and vote accordingly, the vote is no more a real collective decision, it is a photograph of the numerical strength of two sides in a “culture war”.
    *** Keith says “political scientists argue that alignment is very much a 20th century phenomenon”, not so much a 21st century one. Maybe, at least in Europe, but some political leaders will always be tempted to manipulate symbols in order to lead to alignment rather than open discussion.
    *** Keith says: “Why is face-to -face deliberation so important — what’s wrong with deliberation within?” Both ways are useful, and must be organized in a modern dêmokratia. But as I said in the modern world “face-to -face deliberation” is to be institutionalized, because internet is not an agora. I think that “deliberation within” must be the last stage, before secret vote.
    *** Keith says: “Why should the advocates (of groups specifically affected) be allotted — why not allow such communities to elect their most eloquent and persuasive spokesperson?”. Because these elected spokespersons will be actually “representatives” of their sub-community, even if Keith avoids the word “representatives”, and we will have all the drawbacks of “representative election”. But furthermore these elected representatives of a sub-community will behave as leaders of this sub-community, very concerned by strengthening it as a body, by homogeneizing it, by building a group spirit, and by putting it against the other sub-communities – which will actually lessen their efficiency as spokespersons, but strengthen themselves as leaders. Election of representatives of a sub-community is the way to split the dêmos.
    *** Keith says: “the DP experiments (which have been running for 20 years or so) have already shown that different samples of the same population return different verdicts “. I think these experiments, however interesting, are in a non-democratic context. But as I am not a political scientist, could Keith tell me where the data can be easily found?

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  43. Andre,

    I have been finding your posts extremely helpful and clear. I am wondering what your scholarly focus is (saying you aren’t a political scientist).

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  44. Andre

    All polities, with the exception of autocracies and dictatorships, are subject to agonistic cleavages – indeed Solon’s law required that, at times of stasis, all citizens should come off the fence and side with one faction or another. Agonism cannot be abolished by fiat. I agree with you that large modern states lack viable forms of face-to-face dialogue, and this was one of the reasons for Rousseau’s skepticism over the possibility of political freedom anywhere other than in small, primitive societies such as Corsica. I can understand why aleatory deliberative democrats are keen to establish face-to-face dialogue in the allotted microcosm but the mistake is to assume that, because most members will be drawn from the Graeber/Yat 99% that the resulting deliberations will *automatically* be representative. By all means let’s encourage face-to-face dialogue but, if we are interested in the lot as a system of democratic representation (and many scholars in this field [Stone, Dowlen, Landemore etc.] – aren’t) then we have to rule it out for the allotted assembly, irrespective of how this will impoverish the dialogue and endanger nonpartisan consensus. I agree that the internet is not the modern agora but the face-to-face deliberations of a tiny microcosm can only be held to represent the face-to-face deliberations of the disenfranchised majority iff it makes no difference to the decision outcome which empirical citizens are included in the sample (I think this is the ONLY point on which we are still talking past each other).

    Although I appear to be in a minority of one when I make this argument on this forum, if I run it past anyone without a prior intellectual investment in sortation and/or deliberative democracy they get the point immediately – the illocutionary differences within the microcosm will immediately negate the collective representativity of the group. This perhaps accords with the general viewpoint that Andre has canvassed from his non-sortinista associates that allotment will mean being subject to rule by the incompetent.

    >Democratic majority rule – as actually any majority rule – can be accepted only if a strong part of ordinary citizens are open to discussion, able to hear reasons of others, inclined to vote along a personal way

    Not so. The problem is not the existence of cleavages, but when individual factions seize control of the state (as is currently the case in liberal democracies). But if mature democracies can cope with the alternation of competing factions as an acceptable price to pay for majority rule, how much better if legislative decisions are taken by ordinary people, rather than the dominant faction. Competing factions can continue to huff and puff, but they will no longer be able to blow the house down (You can’t abolish the Big Bad Wolf, but you can do a lot to diminish his power).

    >Some political leaders will always be tempted to manipulate symbols in order to lead to alignment rather than open discussion.

    That’s true, but why do you assume that allotted juries will be preconditioned by the “liberal” and “conservative” symbols that they use? This is only the case when citizens have to vote for persons to legislate on their behalf and the resulting parties are obliged to package up proposals together in order to secure the most votes. When (an allotted sample of) citizens are obliged to attend to the arguments and vote on individual legislative bills there is no reason to believe that they will only listen to one faction and not the other – they might well be swayed by the forceless force of the better argument. And when there is no need to package policies together to gain electoral support one can anticipate a much more fluid system in which factions will rise and fall in keeping with changes in the political priorities of the nation. We are already seeing this in modern democracies, where single-issue pressure groups have far larger membership levels than political parties. In the UK, membership of the Conservative Party has dropped from 3 million to less than 100,000 over the course of half a century, whereas Greenpeace started in 1971 as a small group of activists and now numbers 2.9 million members.

    As for the possibility of allotted democracy in deeply divided (factional) societies, a chapter of Fishkin’s 2009 book is devoted to this topic. Although Fishkin does claim that face-to-face deliberation in small groups is an important part of the DP process, the basic design of the DP involves balanced information/advocacy followed by secret voting. Although the DP experiments were originally couched in terms of opinion polling, rather than democratic decision-making, they provide a methodological template for what Fishkin claims could be a new model of democracy. But the problem is that different samples of the same population give different verdicts on the same topic, so until this nettle is firmly grasped, the representative potential of the DP cannot be demonstrated. The best discussion of this is the chapter “First talk, then vote” in Goodin (2008), where he discusses problems of path-dependency and the difficulty of ensuring balanced information and advocacy. I signed up to a summer school on the statistical basis of the Deliberative Poll taught by Fishkin’s co-author, Prof Robert Luskin, but it was cancelled as I think I would have been the only student. My exchange with Luskin contains a reference to another Goodin paper:

    “I’m particularly interested in what would be involved in generating a consistent outcome between the same polls using different samples, being mindful of Bob Goodin’s argument (Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2000, p.89) that “ersatz” deliberation delivers “wildly diverging” preference shifts (referring to Jim’s discussion of three DPs in Voice of the People, p.220). My hunch is that the small groups deliberation introduces the variance, but I’ve discussed this with Jim and he’s insistent that the small groups are an essential component in deliberative preference shift. I’m also uneasy about the role of “impartial” moderators in an assembly with a legislative role.”

    Luskin was keen to pursue this topic, but the summer school was cancelled.

    In sum, I completely agree with Andre that nonpartisan face-to-face deliberation is valuable, but would ask him to simply bracket out this desideratum for the time being and address the following quandary:

    1. If it is not possible for all citizens to contribute directly to political decision making (on account of the scale of modern societies and the resultant problem of rational ignorance), then the decisions should be taken by a statistically-accurate sample.

    2. If the resultant decisions vary between different samples, then which decision can be taken to represent the view of the vast majority of citizens who have been disenfranchised by the allotment process? If it is apparent that the variation is on account of which particular persons were selected and their differential ability to sway the views of their peers, is it likely that those among the disenfranchised who do not share the views of those with the most illocutionary power will accept the outcome?

    I find your posts as helpful and informative as Terry does, so please accept my apologies for asking you to focus on this narrow question. You are right to point out that this is a fixation of mine, but it strikes me that it is the sine qua non for a representative legislature, everything else is just the icing on the cake.

    References
    =========
    Fishkin (2009), When the People Speak (Oxford, OUP)

    Goodin (2000), Democratic Deliberation Within, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 29, 79-107

    Goodin (2008), Innovating Democracy (Oxford, OUP)

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  45. PS the assumption I’m making throughout is that “balanced information/advocacy” is inherently factional. The claims of academics and “public service” organisations such as the BBC to be impartial are pure cant; indeed the latter only achieves impartiality by allowing equal time to parties at opposite poles of the discursive divide. This is probably the only point on which Yoram and myself are in agreement.

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  46. >But as I said in the modern world “face-to -face deliberation” is to be institutionalized, because internet is not an agora.

    This is no more than speculation, but I wonder if the lack of serious deliberation in modern societies is in part because citizens know that the legislative outcome is predetermined by the parliamentary/congressional arithmetic. If, however the decision is in the hands of a non-partisan jury and if citizens know the decision makers are ordinary people like themselves there might be greater interest in the issue currently under consideration. Public debate would mirror the proceedings inside parliament: newspapers (in part) mirror the views of their readers and allotted jurors will, and should, not be insulated from the wider public discourse. In ongoing criminal trials the media are obliged not to publish anything that might be ruled in contempt of court, but I doubt if the assaying of legislative bills would be amenable to this sort of protection — all the more reason for the break up of concentrated media power. Face-to-face deliberation is an intrinsic public good and it needs to be cultivated amongst all citizens, not just the tiny group that wins the lottery.

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  47. *** Thanks to Keith Sutherland for his informations and clarifications, I find this material very useful.
    *** I think Keith Sutherland and me are not so far on many points. Notwithstanding my agreement or suspensive thinking about many of Keith’s comments, I will put here some objections.
    *** Keith Sutherland, answering my fear of symbol manipulation, says that my example of conservative vs liberal is maybe outdated, and that “one can anticipate a much more fluid system in which factions will rise and fall in keeping with changes in the political priorities of the nation”. Right, but manipulating symbols can be a tactic for any kind of faction. An ethnocentric movement, for instance, can do it, whereas face-to-face deliberation including citizens of various ascents can lead the deliberation to a more realistic field.
    *** Keith Sutherland says “Face-to-face deliberation is an intrinsic public good and it needs to be cultivated among all citizens, not just the tiny group that wins the lottery”.Right, but I don’t agree with the final wording “the tiny group that wins the lottery”. In a modern democracy-through-sortition, each sovereign decision will be taken by a tiny fraction of the citizen body (whereas in the second Athenian democracy a jury could amount to let’s say 1/50 of the citizen body – nobody knows the real numbers about a Greek city, it was not a “quantitative” world, even if it is difficult for us to imagine). But that does not imply that only a tiny fraction of a modern citizen body will engage into institutional political deliberation! To the legislative juries a modern dêmokratia would have to add juries in charge of some critical decisions; judicial juries; juries in charge of independent agencies; juries for local government; juries to elect the “ministers”; juries to perform audits, or to study the results of professional audits; “cognitive juries” to ascertain the facts and weighing the hypotheses about socially important subjects… Actually some will think this amount of work is an argument against dêmokratia, but let’s consider the real fraction of the population working in economic activities now (people not retired, not studying, not jobless ..); and if a dêmokratia would be a little more concerned about joblessness than our polycracies, the fraction of time used for economic activities would maybe not be lesser, even given the political work.
    *** Keith says that an organism like BBC can only achieve “impartiality by allowing equal time to parties at opposite poles of the discursive divide”. This wording implies that any issue can be described as a monodimensional logical space, which cannot be accepted as a general rule. The problem of balanced information and advocacy is more complicated.
    *** Keith says : “the illocutionary differences within the microcosm will immediately negate the collective representativity of the group. This perhaps accords with the general viewpoint that Andre has canvassed from his non-sortinista associates that allotment will mean being subject to rule by the incompetent.” I don’t think so; the randomness issue that Keith insists about – and he is right, it is a real problem – is not present in many minds when discussing the sortition. Most people I discussed with, including those with a university training, underestimate all forms of randomness, including the sampling randomness (even for a jury of twelve !). The hostility to democracy-through sortition, expressed as fear or contempt of the morons (or the bigots, or the pseudo-victims on welfare …), is basically hostility to dêmokratia. The common citizens are seen as having very poor political abilities and/or very unpleasant proclivities, and the contemporary “democracy” is preferred because, precisely, it does not give real power to the ordinary citizens.
    *** Keith says: “The problem is not the existence of cleavages, but when individual factions seize control of the state”. I don’t agree with this sentence. The existence of cleavages so strong as to lead to “automatic” votes is a problem for the democratic principle, potentially leading to the cleavage of the civic community in two or several communities, the vote being reduced to a census. Actually in such a situation dêmokratia can be a dangerous regime, the openness of the agonism can lead to a moral civil war, or a real one, more easily than in a complex political system.
    *** Let’s come back to the basic issue. Keith insists on the problem of repeatability linked to the randomness of the presence of people with most illocutionary power in case of face-to-face deliberation. The ine-quality of illocutional power is the classical argument against dêmokratia, and, Keith is right, it has a specific strength in face-to-face deliberation; and a specific class content: not the ability of sophistic orators to manipulate masses, but the ability of the more educated elite to dominate ordinary citizens. I would not say it is a pointless issue. Actually we see some models of “deliberative democracy” where this phenomenon is clearly an objective: in these models the deliberative bodies are a mix of allotted people and associative militants, the allotted members giving a democratic mask to a deliberation where will dominate the associative people (often belong-ing mainly to specific social classes). This anti-democratic use of sortition is a reason more to take seriously Keith’s objections. I acknowledge that the solutions I think about are not so evidently efficient as to be absolutely convincing. The subject is difficult.

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  48. Terry Bouricius asked personal information about my “scholarly focus”.
    I am a retired engineer, whose professional concerns included statistics; as a personal hobby, I have studied with my brother (professor at the University of Montpellier) comparative mythology, with special interest about ancient Greece (publications only in French). From statistics and ancient Greece came naturally an interest for the model of democracy-through-sortition, although I have no scholarly background of political science.

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  49. André

    I also value your input to this debate enormously. It would be great to meet up sometime — might you be able to attend the sortition workshop in Lausanne, October 24-25? The main presenter is Hélène Landemore — she’s very smart and I think her perspective is very close to your own, see http://www.helenelandemore.com/

    I’m happy to concede all the minor points (symbol manipulation, cleavages etc) if we can make some progress on the issue of statistical representation (although your repeated use of the word “juries” does suggest we agree basically that the role of allotment is decision making, rather than deliberation). I also agree that a mono dimensional logical space is an impoverished way of describing most issues, but the need for balance has to be prioritised when a small group of people are deciding on behalf of everyone else.

    But let us focus on the main point: by coincidence my son is also an engineer and when I put it to him that the representativity of a statistical sample would be compromised by the differential power of the speech acts of the component individuals he immediately agreed, and was puzzled that anyone should find this objection problematic (given that the democratic mandate for an allotted body is purely statistical). It’s deeply ironic that my own background is in the humanities, and yet the two people I’m arguing with on this point (Yoram and yourself) are both professional engineers. Might I ask you to remove, for the moment, your “concerned citizen” hat and resort to a purely mathematical perspective? I haven’t done any maths for over 45 years, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but a statistical sample is a numerical model — thus a scale model of a population with a 50/50 male-female distribution, would retain the same ratio (if the sample is large enough). A statistical sample of, say 1,000 might contain roughly 500 males and 500 females, or thereabouts. But the scale model only works if each component has the same vector force and, if the feminists are right in their analysis of the imbalance of patriarchal power, this would immediately be thrown out if allotted persons did anything other than vote in secret. In the political theory reading group at my university, most of the discussion is between the male participants; female colleagues have told me that they do not feel confident enough to speak (even though the facilitator is scrupulously fair-minded and inclusive, always giving priority to people who rarely speak, and “aggressive” [ie non-PC] rhetoric is not tolerated [I was once severely censured for suggesting that Mary Wollstonecraft’s personal life might have affected her political views]). I suppose one might argue that the scale model simply mirrors the imbalances of power in the larger society, but to advocate such a model would not be compatible with the ethos of this forum (Equality by Lot). I use the example of gender ratios as it is the easiest to illustrate, but the same problem applies to every other factor that might be deemed salient to political decision making. This rules out deliberation for an allotted assembly with legislative powers, as all those disenfranchised by the replacement of preference elections with sortition would not accept anything other than a truly representative process, and mere membership of the 99% will not suffice. Most of the literature on deliberative democracy has nothing to do with legislative mandates, so I think you need to be wary about referencing this literature in this context. For example Hélène’s interest is the epistemic value of cognitive diversity and she rarely talks about representativity. Deliberative democrats are, at root, only interested in the arguments, not the interests that (often) lie behind them.

    I do hope you can come to Lausanne so that we can continue this conversation in person. Your presence at the meeting would be highly valued. I don’t know why the meeting hasn’t been announced on this forum.

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  50. PS I am a little concerned by the suggestion that a multiplicity of juries in a democracy-through-sortition will create representativity at the aggregate level. It’s true involving more people will have an educative effect (in terms of increased civic participation) but each and every decision needs to be representative and this will be distorted by active deliberation. It’s also important to remember that deliberative democrats view their work as providing a normative (procedural) model and make no claims regarding its actual effectiveness in achieving the ideal speech situation. But if we are proposing a representative democracy-through-sortition this isn’t good enough, we have to be concerned with likely outcomes, rather than procedural niceties.

    It’s also the case, as Andre points out, that deliberative democrats often use sortition as a cover for the domination of “associative militants”; see for example Stephen Estlund’s book Deliberative and Associational Democracy (Edinburgh University Press). Estlund is the convenor of the Deliberative and Participatory Democracy group of the Political Studies Association and actively argues for the privileging of association members (and other volunteers) in deliberative democracy as opposed to our approach of “mini publics”. I imagine such people share the contempt of Andre’s friends for rule by ordinary citizens. Thus we can’t hold out for much support from advocates of deliberative democracy, which is now the leading force in democracy studies.

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  51. Andre,

    I’m not sure how long you have been reading this Blog, so I just wanted to draw your attention to a sortition paper I announced on this Blog last May, which I think you will find interesting. The title is “Democracy Through Multi-Body Sortition: Athenian Lessons for the Modern Day.” Here is the link: http://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol9/iss1/art11

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  52. *** Keith Sutherland remind us that the “representativity of a statistical sample would be compromised by the differential power of the speech acts of the component individuals”. I agree, I had always agreed. I said only that the representativity, however crucial it is, is not the sole parameter of democratic value. Keith sometimes reminds me of the borgesian Emperor who wanted a perfectly representative map of his Empire; he got it, at last; it was as large as the Empire itself, which it covered; with perfect representativity, but some drawbacks. My position is to look for a compromise taking into account the advantages of face-to-face organized deliberation, and minimizing its drawbacks. We cannot take as sole objective a perfect representativity, or even a near-perfect one; the objective must be only a reasonably high degree of representativity. Anyway, the sampling randomness prevents us to hope for a near-perfect representativity.
    *** Keith Sutherland says: “ a scale model of a population with a 50/50 male-female distribution, would retain the same ratio (if the sample is large enough). A statistical sample of, say 1,000 might contain roughly 500 males and 500 females, or thereabouts”. “Roughly”, says Keith. Well, the margin error will be 3%, not so small, and for a 95% confidence, which is not a nuclear safety confidence. The same margin error will apply for the ratio of YES and NO if the two votes are very close. The sampling randomness cannot be dismissed easily, and a democracy-through-sortition would have to accept a reasonable level of intrinsic randomness.
    *** Keith Sutherland likes the idea of face-to-face deliberation, but an informal one, as in the ancient Agora. Actually, this kind of deliberation has many drawbacks, can be affected strongly by illocutional inequality, and by various dangerous psychic and cognitive phenomena. Many modern studies of quality and fiability have demonstrated that the deliberation must be organized along some well-thought rules as to avoid some dangerous drawbacks. Informal deliberation cannot be the ideal. (Plutarch gave us an example of the risk of informal debate about the Sicilian expedition in “Life of Nicias”, 12,1 – well, the description was written after several centuries, and has a dubious historical value, but is at least a good illustration).
    *** Keith says we cannot hope for much support from the advocates of the “deliberative democracy” approach. I think some of them work actually in the direction of a democracy-through sortition. Others not, it is sure.
    PS I have no info about the workshop in Lausanne. I must say that I am not very attracted by such an international workshop, where usually the working language is English. I cannot write good English, but at least, I hope, I write an understandable one; but I am not able to speak well English, or to understand well the spoken English (except spoken by French) – which confirms that language is a problem in face-to-face discussion !
    PS The paper by Terry Bouricius “democracy through multi-body sortition” looks very interesting and needs study. Thanks for the info about it.

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  53. Andre, I’ll respond tomorrow to your substantive points but the language of the previous sortition workshops has been 50/50 French and English as they have been organised out of Paris by Sciences Po. They are very small meetings and people have chosen their own language preference in the past (much to the dismay of us Anglophones). I believe most of the presenters are French.

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  54. >Keith sometimes reminds me of the borgesian Emperor who wanted a perfectly representative map of his Empire; he got it, at last; it was as large as the Empire itself, which it covered; with perfect representativity

    Au contraire, I would be perfectly satisfied with a 3% margin @ a 95% level of confidence. There is a trade-off between representative accuracy and rational ignorance — the larger the sample the greater the likelihood that individuals will not take the process seriously, as their vote will have diminished causal efficacy. The exact number of an allotted representative assembly would be arrived at by a combination of statistical theory and trial and error. However with a deliberative assembly there is no way of calculating the efficacy of individual speech acts so the representativity would be . . . er . . . entirely random. This simply would not work as a model for a legislative assembly as it would not command the support of the (disenfranchised) masses.

    >Keith Sutherland likes the idea of face-to-face deliberation, but an informal one

    Not so, the model of deliberation that I am proposing is more akin to a debate in the Oxford Union, where all speakers are strictly limited in the time that they each have and the rhetorical decorum is constrained by a mixture of rules, norms and traditions. The role of the jury is to deliberate within and determine the outcome, but their thinking would be affected by the informal deliberations in the media and the wider society.

    >Keith says we cannot hope for much support from the advocates of the “deliberative democracy” approach. I think some of them work actually in the direction of a democracy-through sortition.

    Really? If so they misunderstand the potential of sortition. Take, for example, Jon Elster’s book “Deliberative Democracy”. In it he defines democracy as “any kind of effective and formalized control by citizens” (p.98). Elster doesn’t seem to care *which* citizens are in control and whether they accurately represent the views and interests of everybody else. This puzzling oversight is because deliberative democrats are only interested in the power of reasoned argument and seek a consensual outcome (the god’s eye view). It’s also no coincidence that Elster and Habermas share a Marxist background in which the interests of the 99% are defined in homogeneous terms (i.e. class interests). Unfortunately both assumptions are inapplicable to postmodern pluralistic societies.

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  55. About the deliberative democracy thought.
    *** Goodin & Dryzek distinguish different sets among the “deliberative democracy” thought (“Innovative Democracy”, p 11; “deliberative impacts” in Internet) : “Some theorists place their hopes in conventional institutions of government such as legislatures or courts, some in civil society, others in e-networks or mass-mediated deliberation, yet others in empathetic imaginings” – from Bessette to Goodin through Habermas (I would add that some find interesting to use sortition, but only to put a number of ordinary citizens in institutions actually dominated by far-from-ordinary citizens, so as to disguise their oligarchic nature). We have here a normative theory giving to the established polyarchic system a specific kind of legitimacy; and at the same time tending to inflect the model (any legitimizing theory of a political system has such an effect), specially increasing the relative political weight of some elite fractions.
    *** But, add Goodin & Dryzek “Still other deliberative democrats place their hopes in “mini-publics” – from Dahl to Fishkin. A mini-public, or mini-populus, is ideally taken by lottery from the entire citizen body. Quoting Dahl “Suppose an advanced democratic country were to create a “minipopulus” consisting of perhaps a thousand citizens randomly selected out of the entire demos”. In most proposals the mini-populus is to act only as a consultative body, adding an element to the complex polyarchic system. But even acknowledging this, I think that the mini-populus model is on the road to democracy-through-sortition. It introduces the idea of “representation through sortition”, of “representative sample acting politically on behalf of the entire populus”, of legitimacy through sortition. It is only one step from the democracy-through-sortition concept. And when Habermas crushes the proposal of Dahl about a consultative “mini-populus” by short contemptuous comments – “utopian”, “abstract” – he is right. Behind the cautious and pragmatic proposal of the American political scientist, the German philosopher has seen the specter of dêmokratia.

    Ps Thanks to Keith for his information about the conference in Lausanne. I would be happy to go there, and to meet him. Unfortunately I cannot because of a family problem (surgery). Next time, I hope.

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  56. Thanks for that Andre, very helpful clarification. If I’m not mistaken Fishkin was a student of Dahl’s — if not then they are certainly in the same tradition of thought. I agree that the minipopulus/deliberative poll approach is the one with representative potential. With Dahl it was only theoretical, but Fishkin has turned this into practice and has a 20-year history of experiments to call on. Fishkin is very aware of the distorting effect of speech acts and this is why he relies on carefully-trained moderators for the small-group deliberative exchanges. Whilst that might be acceptable for a deliberative poll with a purely advisory remit, it would not be possible for a legislative assembly, as there would be no way of ensuring the impartiality of the moderators.

    Given that different Deliberative Polls on the same topic have returned different verdicts, it’s hard to know which sample can be taken to be representative of the informed judgment of the whole political body. I argued to Fishkin (private communication) that this was on account of the variation introduced by the small-group deliberations but he insists that they are an essential part of opinion modification. To my mind he is simply trying to maintain the (Habermasian) deliberative credentials of the DP (Fishkin’s system has been heavily criticised by deliberative democrats like Dryzek for the paucity of the deliberations). But if representative decision making is our goal (unlike the examples in your first paragraph) then we simply have to accept that randomly-selected persons will have to limit their deliberations to the inner (silent) variant — in the Rousseau/Goodin sense. It’s instructive that Fishkin derives the word deliberation from the Latin for “weighing” (an argument), whereas Habermasians depend on the German word for “deliberative voice”.

    >a representative sample acting politically on behalf of the entire populus

    This is the claim that I take issue with. In her book on representation, Hanna Fishkin distinguishing “standing for” and “acting for” as two analytically distinct aspects of political representation. In Pitkin’s view statistical samples can only stand for the whole population, they cannot perform (speech) acts. I warmly recommend Pitkin’s book, The Concept of Representation, as it is the seminal text for the modern narrative on representation — I would be surprised if it were not translated into French.

    I’m very sorry that we won’t be able to meet in Lausanne. How about the IPSA sortition panel in Montreal next year? I believe this is also an Anglo-French bilingual event.

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