Democracy for the USA

Bob Moore wrote to call attention to the website of Democracy for the USA – a new organization that advocates replacing elections with sortition. Democracy for the USA is based in Chicago and bills itself as an outgrowth of the Occupy Chicago movement aiming to rectify the deficiency of Occupy’s platform – the lack of a workable alternative to the electoral system.

THE BIG IDEA

The heart of democracy is the community meeting. Of course there are already neighborhood meetings, but these do not determine government policy; they are not effective instruments of popular power. In a democratic USA, by contrast, the people will exercise sovereign rule collectively through regular and frequent community meetings across the country. Unlike the political system now in place, there will be no bodies of politicians–a Congress, state legislatures, city councils–drafting our laws. There will be no lobbyists, no groups such as ALEC, usurping the process. Neither will there be a president, governors, or mayors directing the government. Instead, through Community Assemblies and Executive Councils staffed by ordinary citizens selected by lot, everyone will truly have an equal voice in policy-making and an equal opportunity of serving in government.

In essence it is really this simple. We will not get anywhere flailing away within the confines of the current political structures. We will be like rats running around in a maze, succeeding perhaps in making life a little less unbearable for some people in spots, but ultimately getting nowhere fast. In the meantime the earth will be consumed and we will find ourselves in a condition of serfdom or worse. We have no option: we have to make the necessary change from the current system to democracy.

The website links to Ted Aranda’s The Racket and the Answer, that is apparently based on his 2008 Ph.D. thesis.

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10 Responses

  1. Yoram,

    Congratulations on your blog.
    You’re quite a resource for al things ‘random’.

    So glad to see sortiton getting traction in the US.
    (Great to hear the young Belgians recommending it).

    Down here in Australia we’ve been advocating (and researching) for over 5 years.
    We’ve completed several jury projects with State and Federal Governments.
    our experience is that it takes quite a few projects before people get comfortable with how juries work on larger policy issues.

    When the evidence shows how well juries deliberate…then people have more confidence in embedding the process into government itself.

    Here’s our link: http://www.newdemocracy.com.au

    Also a profile in Sydney’s lead newspaper:
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/lunch-with-luca-belgiornonettis-20140117-30zn3.html

    Luca Belgiorno-Nettis
    Founder
    The newDemocracy Foundation

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  2. Hi Luca – welcome.

    We have, of course, been following the work that newDemocracy has been doing in Australia and noted your own talk at TED.

    The profile you linked to is interesting reading, raising various points worth considering. What do you think of it?

    I’d love to read more from you at Equality-by-Lot, either in comments or in posts. If you want to post let me know and I’ll set you up as a contributor. (By the way, this blog is an open, collaborative effort rather than “my” blog.)

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  3. Thanks Yoram,
    I should have remembered (with Iain’s contribution not so long ago).
    I’m quite happy with the profile..it was a full page and the response so far seems fairly positive overall.
    What we are all promoting is seen as radical.
    As Christopher Hitchens said of Darwin’s theory of evolution: ‘…(it) had to be broken to people very gently’.
    I’d welcome coming on as a contributor with your some of our mutual friends..Alex, Terry and John.
    Cheers,
    Luca

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  4. >Darwin’s theory of evolution: ‘…(it) had to be broken to people very gently’.

    Absolutely. Darwin was extremely careful to not to disparage existing sensibilities and his strategy certainly paid off in the long run. Sortinistas could learn a lot from his example.

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  5. Luca,

    Although its been a while since I last Skyped with you or Iain. I want to encourage you to participate in this forum…I find it very useful (though it can get snarky at times) in helping me evaluate my own ideas and analysis for that book on sortition I am still writing. By the way, has your son already started school in Canada? I’d love to meet him if he takes a ski trip to Vermont.

    Terry B.

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  6. Luca,

    I just sent you the invitation to become contributor. Once you accept you should be able to see “Equality by Lot” as one of your blogs when you visit wordpress.com (and log in if you are not already logged in).

    > What we are all promoting is seen as radical.

    It is radical – not in terms of officially ideology, which is already democratic, but in terms of the realities of existing government. What we are doing is pushing toward the alignment of the realities with the pretensions of ideology.

    > As Christopher Hitchens said of Darwin’s theory of evolution: ‘…(it) had to be broken to people very gently’.

    Rather paternalistic it seems (if not outright deceitful). Yes, we are climbing the mountain of unfamiliarity and swimming against the current of convention. But the task is not going to become any easier by mincing words.

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  7. >But the task is not going to become any easier by mincing words.

    The task becomes more difficult if we insist on a pure system of sortition-based democracy that contains no place for election or any other measure deemed to favour elite interests.

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  8. Because we are being more consistent?

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  9. Consistency has to be tempered by expediency and due regard for existing realities, however much we may deplore them. Evolution, not revolution. Darwin’s respect for cultural sensibilities paid off in the long run. But I suppose every paradigm shift needs its own bulldog — Darwin had Huxley and we have Yoram Gat.

    BTW, logical consistency plays only a small part in human affairs, and political systems evolve over time to suit the arrangements of the community that hosts them, hence the inevitable mixture of forms. History teaches us that insistence on doctrinal purity, clean slates and year zeros leads only to the Killing Fields. Whilst its possible to abstract principles from past political arrangements, the practice is always a lot more messy (inconsistent, in your parlance) and not particularly amenable to approaches derived from engineering.

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  10. Evolution or revolution, I think there is something about Tahrir, Occupy and the 21st Century geist: I wrote some of this up on an op-ed today: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21776-the-zeitgeist-of-tahir-and-occupy

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