A theory of sortition, part 1 of 2

Mirroring

In his Introduction to A Citizen Legislature by Ernest Callenbach and Michael Phillips, Peter Stone commends the authors for doing “an excellent job of presenting the idea of a representative House — a House that will truly be “of the people” — as an inspiring piece of democratic reform.” On the other hand, such inspiring presentation does not meet the philosopher’s standard of a good argument: “Their [C&P’s] efforts to defend their proposal, however, have a number of shortcomings.”

Stone rejects the implied argument that descriptive representation is a desirable end. Descriptive representation is a means, not an end, Stone argues: “descriptive representation is desirable because — and only to the extent that — it contributes to the goal of good lawmaking.” And while some may reject this point of view, and argue that the symbolism of microcosm is indeed an end in itself, I think that would be an evasion of the main point. The essential function of government is to generate good policy – i.e., policy that promotes the interests of the population – and, as Stone asserts, sortition is a useful tool if and only if it can be expected to produce a government that generates good policy. (By “interests” I mean to encompass whatever a person, or a group of people, perceive, upon informed and considered reflection, as important or desirable.)

While C&P imply the “sortition as an end” argument, it is quite clear that, in addition, they believe that descriptive representation promotes representation of interests. However, as Stone points out, they fail to make a detailed argument of why this would be so. It may be that they considered the argument to be too obvious to require explication: “a parliament that mirrors the population will act as the population would” may seem at first glance like all that can be said about the matter. But, as often happens, this turns out not to be the case. Just like the intuitive argument for elections (“elections represent the people’s interests because they produce the government that people think will do the best job”) turns out to require further elaboration (and eventually falls apart under examination – see section 3 of the presentation here for a brief discussion), the mirroring argument, in its naive form presented above, is far from being convincing.

A fundamental point of weakness of the mirroring argument is that it not clear what the mirror is of. “Act as the population would”, implies a situation in which the “population would act” in one way or another. Presumably this envisions a hypothetical situation in which the entire population engages in a deliberation which has the all-to-all characteristics that are associated with a small-group setting. This is a very remote hypothetical. Specifically it involves the members of the population being able to listen to, understand the ideas of, and weigh and discuss the proposals of, what could run into millions of people. Thus the hypothesis here involves, among other conditions, a relaxation of the cognitive constraints of humans.

Once such a hypothetical mirroring target has been assumed, the remaining difficulty is showing that the statistical sample would be likely to make decisions similar to those of the target. But with the mirroring target being such a strange object, it seems that it would be rather difficult to make any claims about its properties, including in particular claims that it would produce decisions that are similar to those yielded by a specific, real world procedure. And, of course, even ignoring the remoteness of the target, asserting “similarity” between decisions is another thorny issue.

Beyond those difficulties with the mirroring argument, there are the well-known difficulties associated with aggregating preferences, which are often taken to imply that representative policy is simply impossible. Social choice theory claims to show that any way to convert preferences of individuals in a group into group preferences must violate one of several properties, all of which seem essential to group preference in order to be representative. Sortition, like any other procedure for setting group policy, will have, then, to violate one of those properties and thus any argument for its representativity – not just the mirroring argument – must fail.

In the face of such difficulties, Stone and his collaborator Oliver Dowlen propose (1, 2) to abandon the representativity justification for sortition. Instead they offer a different justification, namely that sortition is a tool to prevent domination and corruption in government. Stone and Dowlen do not explicitly state the difference between “defence of an open, fair, inclusive, rule governed polity” and representativity, but the former is apparently taken to be a more modest, and thus more realistic, task. Prevention of domination and corruption is compatible, it seems, with continued existence of political elites holding significant power as long as the “gap […] between a professional political caste and the people at large” is diminished. Indeed Stone approvingly quotes Dowlen as saying that

[t]he most significant and fundamental reason that lot is used in the selection of public officers is to inhibit the power that any individual or group of individuals might seek to exercise over that process of selection,

which seems like an exceedingly narrow function.

The narrow justification that Stone and Dowlen are apparently making is in fact rather similar in content and in language to the standard academic justifications for electoralism. These justifications are essentially adornments of the Schumpeterian elitist “theory of democracy” (in fact, theory of electoralism) with vague terms such as accountability, responsiveness, rule-of-law and non-domination. These apologia for the existing political system are often coupled with various touch-up proposals that would supposedly alleviate various deficiencies in the system. In the hands of Stone and Dowlen sortition becomes not much more than one of those proposed touch-ups. Any hope of moving beyond the fog of apologia for electoralism and toward a clearer view of what democracy is and how to attain it is given up upon at the outset together with the notion of representativity.

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35 Responses

  1. >In the face of such difficulties, Stone and his collaborator Oliver Dowlen propose (1, 2) to abandon the representativity justification for sortition.

    In Dowlen’s case it’s not a case of abandoning representativity. His starting point is purely theoretical — what a lottery does — as opposed to what use it is. Dowlen pre-defines a lottery in terms of the arational “blind break”, hence any positive function such as descriptive representation is, at best, a “weak” use of sortition. This is because sampling can be done in other ways than by the use of randomness. However, given that political decisions concern the “general arrangements” of a group of people, we cannot know in advance what sampling criteria are relevant, hence sortition is the ONLY way of securing a representative sample — hence my earlier use of the term “invisible hand”. This is the ultimate strong use of sortition, as I cannot imagine any other way of producing a portrait in miniature of the larger society on the basis of unknowable criteria. Sortition, from this point of view, is entirely rational, as the goal is to produce a sample that preserves the ratio of politically salient properties within the larger population. Dowlen’s theoretical starting point rules out this approach a priori, hence the extremely partisan executive summary for the Dublin conference.

    It’s some time since I’ve read Peter’s book, so I can’t remember if his starting point is theoretical or practical. I would, however, dispute his (consequentialist) claim that the only point of democracy is “good” lawmaking. This is a defence of epistocracy. However — as Rousseau pointed out — the preservation of our natural right to freedom presupposes that we should each be the author of our own laws. Whether we make “good” or “bad” laws is orthogonal to the intrinsic case for democratic decision making. Of course how we can “each” be the author our own laws in a large modern polis is a tough challenge — indeed it is the central concern of this forum.

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  2. I would argue that the mechanism by which any legislative body creates law; from the introduction of the initial idea, through its debate and amendment process, to votes required for its adoption have a far greater impact on the creation of good laws than how representatives are selected. What seems to be implied here is that sortition because it fails to guarantee good legislation ipso facto it is no better than elections, and perhaps may be worse if it were simply applied to existing bodies, running under their current rules and this may well be so. Therefore clearly the introduction of sortition would also require a full overhaul of the rules to reflect the different dynamic one would expect to see in an assembly selected by lot.

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  3. Rob, what sort of rule changes did you have in mind? It strikes me that what passes currently for rules is simply a reflection of the balance of power (the British constitution has been described as whatever the ruling party decides at the time). The majority party can point to its electoral mandate to justify this, not so with representatives chosen by lot. It has been suggested that allotted groups should be allowed to make up their own rules, but this might well confound the problem.

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  4. Hi Rob,

    First, let me make it clear that I don’t actually agree with the positions Stone and Dowlen are taking. I think that sortition does hold the promise of creating democratic – i.e., representative – government. The second part of this article will present an argument for this claim.

    Second, I disagree with the idea that the rules matter more than the make-up. The rules are an effect, not a cause. I think the rules, as they currently are, are pretty effective: they allow the delegates to pursue their goals effectively. The problem is that their goals do not serve the public at large. Fundamentally, what needs to be changed is the makeup of the decision-making body, not its rules. (Once the make-up is changed, it can be expected that the new delegates will change some of rules to suit their ideas and ends.)

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  5. “Delegates” — that’s an interesting term, usually associated with binding (imperative) mandate. Why do you use it in this context?

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  6. I agree that legislative rules need to be changed, if merely to reflect improvements suggested by current understanding about social psychology (confirmation bias, deindividuation, etc.). I think the rules should be adopted NOT by the chamber considering the laws, but rather by a separate allotted body. Once an existing law-making group becomes “self-aware” of what interests have majority control…that majority will have an interest in modifying the rules to favor themselves. This is why I think rules should be established by an allotted outside body that specifically studies group process dynamics, etc.

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  7. […] @AhmedRTeleb: Mirroring? Non-domination? #politicalTheory #democracy #sortition #fb equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/a-t… […]

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  8. Terry,

    Given the special skills and knowledge would be involved, how would you propose that such an allotted body informs itself in a competent and well-balanced manner?

    Yoram,

    The dictionary definition of delegate is “a person authorized to act as representative for another; a deputy or an agent”. What is your justification for using this term in the context of allottment? Who has authorized persons selected at random to speak on their behalf?

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  9. The rules are important for the functioning of any legislative assembly and those that are currently in force in most existing bodies are a reflection of dynamics by which sitting members obtain and hold their seats. Rules that prevent secret voting on bills, for example are ostensibly there so that voters may know just what policies their elected representative are supporting but in large part are used to enforce party discipline and are also used by those that donate to campaigns to determine if their interests are being served. This is to say nothing about the practice of vote trading and other abuses that are a consequence of this. This is not to say this would or would not be needed in an assembly selected by lot only that currently this is an artifact of elected ones that is a consequence of that fact.
    In so-called responsible parliaments, where the executive sits as members, depends heavily on the existence of pre-established parties to provide an armature around which a government can be formed and there would be difficulties doing so without them as things are now constituted in an orderly manner and in a reasonable timeframe.

    The point I was making is that while sortition is a great idea, it simply cannot be applied ad hoc to existing bodies with any hope of working effectively without a full overhaul of existing rules and this would by necessity need to occur before this method of selecting members is used.

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  10. The key rule change would be secret voting on bills. This would be the prime factor protecting allotted representatives against corruption.

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  11. Secret voting on bills is just one element, how bills are tabled and who can do so is another. Now major legislation is not written by members but by functionaries who are supposed to reflect the will of the cabinet, or at least the caucus of the party that is putting it forward. I do not think one could depend on a flurry of private member bills to run a government effectively. The point here being that we need to consider a bottom-to-top redesign of the legislative system, not just try and dump sortition onto existing structures and hope for the best.

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  12. > The dictionary definition of delegate is “a person authorized to act as representative for another; a deputy or an agent”

    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/sortition-is-natural-to-democracy-as-elections-are-to-aristocracy/#comment-4166

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  13. > The key rule change would be secret voting on bills. This would be the prime factor protecting allotted representatives against corruption.

    Secrecy does not diminish corruption – it breeds it.

    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/sortition-experiment/#comment-1769

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  14. >Secrecy does not diminish corruption – it breeds it.

    Not always. Open voting has become a problem in some places because it is used by lobbyists to monitor compliance, while this might not be as big an issue in a legislature selected by lot, it is not a simple matter that can be dismissed out of hand.

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  15. Keith asked: “Given the special skills and knowledge would be involved, how would you propose that such an allotted body informs itself in a competent and well-balanced manner?”

    There are three plausible approaches…, The first one, which I reject, is to have an expertise qualification for being in the pool to be drawn for the Rules Council. I do not agree that these members need unique skills, and the knowledge they can gain through their work. The second, which I prefer, is to conduct a normal draw from the whole population, but let the people who accept the appointment study the matter, and take testimony from experts, etc. The point is they should not have their judgment about optimal rules be tainted by being tempted to craft them to help pass a particular piece of legislation they are working on as well. The third option is one I could live with, which is to narrow the lottery pool to include only those average citizens who have served on some other allotted body previously (so they can better appreciate the task at hand.)

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  16. Rob,

    I agree with all you say regarding the tabling of bills and the case against open voting. Regarding the former the caucus of the majority party can at least claim a popular mandate, especially if the bills are the product of manifesto commitments. A flurry of private members’ bills will be nothing more than the whim of the individuals concerned and there is no statistical reason to believe that they would somehow represent the wishes of the disenfranchised majority. This is the reason that I draw a clear distinction between the aggregate judgment of a legislative assembly (via the secret vote) and the tabling and advocacy of bills. Only the former is open to allotment, so this is not just an issue of rule change, it’s an argument that sortition could only be a part of democratic government.

    Terry,

    >let the people who accept the appointment study the matter [confirmation bias, deindividuation, etc.], and take testimony from experts, etc.

    That’s a little vague, given that most randomly-selected citizens would have no idea what these social-psychological terms even mean. Who would decide the course syllabus, who would write the textbooks and who would decide which experts should be allowed to give testimony?

    Yoram,

    It would be much easier to carry on a real-time conversation if you were to move from the past to the present tense, and stop citing archival authority. Who knows, you might even find that you have changed your views as a result of the conversations that have taken place since your earlier canonical pronouncements. Given that this is your thread it’s a little rude not to reply to questions — in my ciase three unanswered question marks.

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  17. Robert,

    > Open voting has become a problem in some places because it is used by lobbyists to monitor compliance, while this might not be as big an issue in a legislature selected by lot, it is not a simple matter that can be dismissed out of hand.

    When in are in a situation that the delegates have to be concerned about what the lobbyists think about them, we have already lost. Trying to fix this situation by introducing secrecy only makes matters worse, since now an important part of decision making is done out of view of the public. For the lobbyists, monitoring compliance is a technical issue that can always be arranged, secret voting or not.

    In any case, what would you do about the other parts of decision-making – setting the agenda and deliberation? Will you try to hold that in secret as well?

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  18. Keith,

    I feel I have answered your questions in full in previous discussions. I see no reason to repeat those discussions here. If you have something new to add, please feel free to do so, and I will respond.

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  19. Yoram,

    Secret or public voting can matter a lot. How would an allotted body conduct a public vote? Would it be one at a time as in a typical roll-call? In that case there is compelling evidence that the early voters will sway the later voters (based on perceived status, etc.), and the “wisdom of crowds” will be lost as documented by Surowiecki and Sunstein. If they vote simultaneously and then the votes are revealed simultaneously, what have you gained other than the opportunity for members to prove to their buyer that they carried out their commitment when selling their vote? Would we rather have members feel free to vote honestly for the policy they think best, or fear retribution from citizens (perhaps an employer) who can de fact “hold them to account.” Since there are no elections, and there are no legitimate “constituents” back home to hold each individual member “accountable”…what is the PURPOSE of a public vote, when the risks and costs are so severe?

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  20. Yoram:

    >For the lobbyists, monitoring compliance is a technical issue.

    That’s an interesting way of putting it, the normal term is “bribery and corruption”. And what “technical” means would lobbyists bring to bear if the vote was secret — how could they figure out what sort of bang they are getting for their buck? Perhaps they would need to put their chosen representatives on the rack and extract a confession under torture.

    >I feel I have answered your questions in full in previous discussions.

    If you are not prepared to even acknowledge the possibility of changing your view in the light of the ongoing exchange, then I can understand why you don’t want to respond. But then why bother to enter the discussion in the first place? It would be more instructive (and interesting) to watch the paint dry on the back door.

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  21. Terry,

    > Secret or public voting can matter a lot.

    Indeed, but I suspect that the effect is opposite of what you suggest. Secrecy would create an atmosphere of unaccountability. It would reduce the motivation of the delegates to put the effort required to reach an informed and considered decision – in this way it would in fact increase their susceptibility to undue influence. It would also, like any form of secrecy, reduce public trust in the system (and with good reason). In short, it would be very destructive.

    > Would it be one at a time as in a typical roll-call?

    I consider the issue of simultaneity to be a minor one, but in any case it is independent of the issue of secrecy. You could reveal the votes once everybody is done voting.

    > Since there are no elections, and there are no legitimate “constituents” back home to hold each individual member “accountable”

    Again, I think you have this exactly backwards. Delegates are not held accountable by elections. They are held accountable by the people they interact with. Delegates should be ready to defend their votes – as well as all their other actions – in the open in front of those whose opinions they respect and whose reactions they have to live with.

    > when the risks and costs are so severe?

    Again – I believe the risks of secrecy are severe, not of openness.

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  22. If allotted members were delegates — ie bearers of an imperative mandate — then public voting would make sense. However they are not delegates, they are members of the public chosen at random and have no constituents to account to. Public voting would simply make them the target of lobbying and corruption. If you would only say what you mean by “representation”, “delegate” etc then we might be able to make some progress in this debate.

    >if the delegates have to be concerned about what the lobbyists think about them, we have already lost.

    Are you suggesting sortition as a means of introducing a republic of virtuous citizens? It’s hard to find any other way of making sense of this claim.

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  23. Keith,

    Let the distracting issue of the meaning of the word “delegate” go…Yoram has made it clear he means merely “member of the allotted body” without the binding mandate connotation.

    As for the issue of “representation,” it seems clear that Yoram considers the allotted body to be a representative group of the larger community from which it is selected…with the reasonable assertion that it will share the diversity, interests, biases, and character of the society as a whole, and thus will “represent” the population better than any elected body. Even if different allotted bodies might make different decisions (non-replicable) they will in general serve the public well. Your contrast of such a fully empowered assembly with the hypothetical right of each member of society to represent him/herself is merely a philosophical exercize. ..The only comparison that has meaning for a mass society is with some other ACTUALLY achievable means of governance (election, dictatorship, or whatever). Yoram seems to simply be saying an allotted body will likely do a better job representing society than any other plausible method.

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  24. Terry,

    I’m prepared to pass on the issue of the abuse of language — although the incorrect use of the word “delegate” speaks volumes for Yoram’s notion of representative accountability. I would agree with Yoram and yourself that an allotted body (in the literal [“corpus”] sense of the word) represents (descriptively) the larger community from which it is selected. But I’m puzzled by your claim that an allotted body with full powers would, of necessity, serve the public well, and would ask you to address my earlier question of how “delegates” would inform themselves in a well-rounded way, absent any extrinsic constraints on the provision of information and advocacy. The truth is we simply don’t know, as the experiment has never been done. If we compound this by public voting then not only will members be wide open to corruption by lobbyists, they will also be subject to the tyranny of (uninformed) public opinion. Legislators often have to do unpopular things (as I’m sure you can confirm from your own experience). How many randomly-selected citizens will have the courage to follow Burke’s advice in his address to the electors of Bristol? Public voting would make allotted members mere proxies for decision-making by public referendum.

    >Your contrast of such a fully empowered assembly with the hypothetical right of each member of society to represent him/herself is merely a philosophical exercise.

    Not so. My multi-stage model for policy generation, in which every citizen has the opportunity to propose policies and to rank the proposals of his peers, is a) entirely concrete and b) based on actual working examples (the UK government e-petition system allied with the Swiss system of votation). What I am opposed to is policy making “by bean” (the random whims of whoever happened to draw the golden ticket). It’s hard to think of anything less democratic.

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  25. > And what “technical” means would lobbyists bring to bear if the vote was secret — how could they figure out what sort of bang they are getting for their buck?

    As I have already pointed out, one simple way would be to dispense rewards or punishment based on aggregate results. For example, the lobbyists tell the delegates that they get a reward if and only if the lobbyists’ proposal gets a majority vote. Now all the delegates have an incentive to vote as the lobbyists wish.

    In any case, this question betrays a misunderstanding of how corruption normally works. While direct payments for votes occasionally happen, usually the lobbyists get the delegates to sympathize with their positions – to see themselves as doing the right thing by supporting the policy the lobbyists promote. Then, enforcement by reward or punishment is unnecessary.

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  26. Keith,

    Needless to say, I consider your use of the term “representative” to describe elected officials to be misleading. But of course it is your choice whether to use it or not. Your attempt to dictate usage of language to others is obnoxious, pretentious, repetitive and useless. In this way, it is similar to much of your writing.

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  27. Yoram,

    Why do you think lobbyists will play according to the rules that you lay down? They are employed to get results and will use whatever means they have at their disposal. The simplest/cheapest method is to bribe high-status and persuasive members of the allotted assembly to sponsor the legislative bills that are in their clients’ interests. Unlike current politicians, allotted members will not be constrained by party discipline or the need to secure re-election. If the role of the assembly were limited to voting, but the vote was public, this would be a little more expensive but they would still only need to pay “their” members if they voted according to instruction. The secret ballot was introduced in the 19th century in order to remove this form of corruption. I agree with you (and J.S. Mill) that this has the potential to introduce a new dysfunction, but it would be better to refer to this as irresponsibility rather than corruption. The way to address this lack of accountability is by keeping the allotted body as small as possible and by using every possible means to ensure that members were aware of the vital public service role that they are performing on behalf of everyone else. The parliamentary term “honourable member” would still need to be maintained if the selection method shifts from election to allotment.

    Regarding your abuse of the term “delegate”, language (as Wittgenstein pointed out), is a tool for public communication, there being no private language. Language rules are laid out in things called dictionaries, and the word “delegate”, derived from the Latin “delegatus”, refers to a person authorised by a group to commit a task on their behalf. In political parlance this is always associated with the imperative mandate (ie the delegate doesn’t make up her own mind, she is simply an emissary, or vote carrier, for the group). This is why Burke was so opposed to the use of the word “delegate” in politics, arguing instead that parliamentary members were representatives, who were to deliberate together and decide the outcome on the basis of the reasons exchanged.

    Representation, unlike delegation, is a much more complex term. Hanna Pitkin devoted a whole book to unpicking it into its component elements — principally “standing for” and “acting for”. Elected representatives currently do both and, as Madison pointed out, this leads to corruption. My concern is to separate them, with an allotted body, “standing for” the whole political community, deciding the outcome of legislative debates via the secret vote. “Acting for”, however, is an entirely different matter — speech acts are the province of concrete individuals and those selected by lot have, unlike elected representatives, no mandate to speak on behalf of anyone else. Therefore a deliberative assembly, selected by lot, would cease to be representative.

    Nowhere have I suggested limiting the use of the term representative to elected officials, I’m merely insisting that we analyse complex terms like representation into their elements and don’t try to confuse the debate by inventing private languages. So for the sake of clarity, let’s use the word “representation” rather than “delegation”.

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  28. Keith,

    “Delegate” simply has more meanings than you appreciate. Three states in the U.S. (Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia) call their lower chamber the “House of Delegates” rather than House of Representatives. The members are “Delegates” but expected to use their best judgment in passing laws.

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  29. Edmund Burke must be rolling in his grave!

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  30. . . . but Burke would have been relieved that the remaining 47 states use the correct term. And I would still appreciate a response to my earlier question, as I think it makes clear the problem of an allotted house with full powers:

    >let the people who accept the appointment [to an allotted rules committee] study the matter [confirmation bias, deindividuation, etc.], and take testimony from experts, etc.

    That’s a little vague, given that most randomly-selected citizens would have no idea what these social-psychological terms even mean. Who would decide the course syllabus, who would write the textbooks and who would decide which experts should be allowed to give testimony?

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  31. *** The defense of sortition by Yoram is a good one. But I would ob-ject to his reluctance towards the argument “Act as the population would”. He says “ Presumably this envisions a hypothetical situation in which the entire population engages in a deliberation which has the all-to-all characteristics that are associated with a small-group setting. This is a very remote hypothetical. Specifically it involves the members of the population being able to listen to, understand the ideas of, and weigh and discuss the proposals of, what could run into millions people.”
    Let’s imagine the Chinese people discussing the options of foreign policy about the (desert) Paracel islands. We can imagine different options: Hard stance towards Vietnam, “because we are in our right”; giving the islands to Vietnam; partition; maybe some other kinds of compromise, after mediation; giving them back to France (my favorite); looking for an impartial arbiter; well, various options, but not as many options as Chinese citizens, and not a billion of different reasonings …
    *** Yoram is right, “This is a very remote hypothetical”. And what? It is intended to be hypothetical. It is a way to make clear that democracy-through-sortition and democracy-through-general assembly are two kinds of the same dêmokratia model. As democracy-through-general assembly is not possible in a modern society, the one form of dêmokratia is democracy-through-sortition.

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  32. Yoram reminds us that “Social choice theory claims to show that any way to convert preferences of individuals in a group into group prefer-ences must violate one of several properties”. Right, but it is not a specific problem of dêmokratia. A Condorcet cycle, for instance, can occur in a Parliament, in an aristocratic Council, in the Central Committee of a one-party system, anywhere with a majority vote. Only one-man autocracy is safe – but the model has its own specific drawbacks …

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  33. *** Discussing the word “delegate”, Keith Sutherland says “Who has authorized persons selected at random to speak on their behalf?” I think that the French dêmos may be ready to authorize a micro-demos created by sortition to speak on his behalf because he will consider this sample as a small portion of himself and as a small mirror of himself. In the “Suppliant women” of Euripides, Theseus, mythical founder of the Athenian democracy, says that the Athenian dêmos rules by turns, therefore by portions of himself in succession, but that implies that each portion is approximately the mirror of the entire dêmos – Theseus does not fear that a portion of far-left leanings will be followed by a portion of far-right leanings!
    *** Terry Bouricius says rightly “Let the distracting issue of the meaning of the word “delegate” go”. More generally, all the vocabulary linked to delegation and representation (other than the statistical meaning of “representative”) is to be avoided discussing dêmokratia, because it imports concepts and connotations exterior to dêmokratia.

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  34. Andre, I’m sure that the demos would consider the SAMPLE as a small portion of himself, but not each concrete individual who makes up that sample. Perhaps in the (mythical) time of Theseus there was greater homogeneity within the demos; not so in postmodern multicultural societies. The mirroring principle only applies at the level of the aggregate sample (portion), not the concrete individuals. It’s highly likely that each portion will be somewhere in the middle (leaning neither to the right or the left) but that doesn’t mean that actual portions cannot be dominated by charismatic and/or high-status individuals who might happen to lean one way or the other. Such a system would be unrepresentative and a long way removed from the Athenian legislative jury, who only listened to the arguments and then voted by secret ballot.

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  35. Andre:

    >More generally, all the vocabulary linked to delegation and representation (other than the statistical meaning of “representative”) is to be avoided discussing dêmokratia, because it imports concepts and connotations exterior to dêmokratia.

    I would agree with that, hence the need only to refer to an allotted body as statistically representative of the wider population. In fact there is no such creature as an individual allotted “representative” (and certainly not a delegate) as this is one of a small number of entities that only exists in plural form. It’s what the philosopher Gilbert Ryle called a category mistake — in which “a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property”.

    One can refer to the results of an opinion poll in statistical language (percentages etc) but a single poll respondent is merely a data point — and only exists relative to the other data points. But add the data points together and you end up with an aggregate figure that represents the whole target population statistically. Terms derived from electoral representation (delegates, representatives, honourable members etc) should be avoided.

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