The Blind Break, the Invisible Hand and the Wisdom of Crowds: The political potential of sortition

[Update: Commenting was accidentally initially off, enabled now.]

Draft paper:

Abstract: Following (Waldron, 2013), this paper draws a distinction between ‘social’ and ‘political’ variants of sortition, focusing principally on the latter. The two leading theories – the ‘blind break’ and the ‘invisible hand’ of descriptive representation – rely on different principles, focus on different levels of analysis (individual and collective) and have little in common. The attempt by epistemic democrats to bridge the gap via small-group face-to-face deliberation fails on account of the lack of concern for statistical representativity and the lack of distinction between the different roles of advocacy and judgment (proposing and disposing) in political decision-making, sortition only being relevant to the latter function.

This is derived from the paper that I presented at the recent IPSA Montreal conference, where I was encouraged to write it up and submit to a journal. I’d really appreciate comments and criticisms via this forum. Here’s the full draft (click the download button on the right).

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55 Responses

  1. As I wrote before, I find the argument that sortition is useful because it provides an arational “blind break” unconvincing. The fundamental fault of this justification, which I think you are not pointing out, is that simple random sampling is not any less rational than stratified sampling or elections or any other selection method.

    Regarding “statistical representation”: the paper repeats the argument you made many times on this blog that allotted delegates may not interact (and therefore cannot propose legislation) if they are to maintain their representative status.

    Like on many discussions on this blog, the paper doesn’t address the “extension of self-representation” justification for the representativity of an allotted chamber. The argument makes two points:

    1. A small group of people, under reasonably favorable conditions, is able to represent its own interests.

    2. Policy that promotes the interests of a small group of people which are selected as a sample of a larger group will tend to promote the interests of the larger group as well.

    Not only don’t those points require non-interaction between the members of the sample, the first point in fact requires interaction since without interaction it is unlikely that a small group would be able to represent its own interests. Therefore, according to this argument, a statistically representative body must be interactive and propose legislation if it is to produce representative policy.

    The paper ignores this justification and instead spends its energy assailing the intuitive but faulty “mirroring” justification – a strawman that is easy knock down (and which was in fact knocked down by Peter Stone in his introduction to C&P). This leaves the discussion of this issue in the paper less than satisfactory.

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  2. Thanks Yoram

    It’s really down to Peter and Oliver to defend the blind break argument, all I’m trying to do here is to demonstrate that the blind break and the invisible hand rely on different principles and that you cannot (as Peter claims) subsume the latter within the former. But I think Peter/Oliver would distinguish between the reasons for using a particular selection method and the inherent rationality/arationality of the method itself. The rationality of elections is to select “the best” (as defined by voters), the rationality of stratified sampling is to select according to pre-decided categories, whereas unstratified sortition involves no reasons at all, leaving it purely to chance (or at least an approximate simulation of chance). What they attempt to do in their books is to examine what reasons one may have for using an arational selection method.

    As for the extension of self-representation argument, as you rightly point out, we’ve covered it many times before and I’m anxious that the comments on this post will end up with you and me disagreeing again on this single point (which, as it’s only an entailment of the invisible hand argument, is subsidiary to the main distinction). So forgive me if I don’t pursue this objection as I don’t want to distract others from commenting on the principal distinctions at the heart of the paper. I do think though that the way to resolve our disagreement on this issue would be to put the matter to the test, rather than employing a purely deductive approach. In the meantime I think an examination of the experimental literature on the social psychology of small group behaviour would tell us a lot more than logical syllogisms.

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  3. > the rationality of stratified sampling is to select according to pre-decided categories, whereas unstratified sortition involves no reasons at all, leaving it purely to chance

    If one can say that “the rationality of stratified sampling is to select according to pre-decided categories”, then why can’t it be claimed that “the rationality of simple random sample is to select so that all samples have the same chance”?

    > demonstrate that the blind break and the invisible hand rely on different principles

    My point is that I don’t think there is any coherent principle behind the “blind break” argument. Sortition is about statistical representation. The claim that it somehow represents selection without reasons is unfounded.

    > As for the extension of self-representation argument, as you rightly point out, we’ve covered it many times before

    Why doesn’t the paper mention it then, even if only to argue against it?

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  4. >the rationality of simple random sample is to select so that all samples have the same chance.

    I don’t think Peter and Oliver would have any problem with rephrasing it that way — surely the point is that if everyone has the same chance then this rules out the selection of one person over another for any other reason (the only “reason” being selection by chance)? This insulates the selection process from ex-ante factionalism and corruption. Arationality and equal chance are really the two sides of the same coin. The reason for preferring arationality is because this is a political property, whereas equal chance is moving into social theory (equality, social justice etc) as it refocuses from property of the system to individuals (samples in your parlance).

    >Sortition is about statistical representation.

    It’s this sort of mono-causal claim that the paper seeks to challenge. Sortition is just a mechanism that has been used for a large variety of purposes. The paper goes into three modern political applications, but starts out with a survey of a whole load of different uses, both archaic and modern. The problem is when you try and shoe-horn them all into one overarching principle (arationality, equal chance, statistical representation or whatever).

    >Why doesn’t the paper mention [the extension of self-representation argument] then, even if only to argue against it?

    Because that would distract attention from its central theme. A good journal article should have one distinct argument, rather than trying to be a theory of everything.

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  5. > surely the point is that if everyone has the same chance then this rules out the selection of one person over another for any other reason

    Stratified sampling has everyone getting the same chance as well. (And in any case, this sounds very different from “arational”.)

    > It’s this sort of mono-causal claim that the paper seeks to challenge.

    It is not clear that this is the objective of the paper. It seems more like you are trying to argue that there are two or three different justifications for sortition, not that they are all valid.

    > A good journal article should have one distinct argument

    I don’t know where you got this idea from, but in any case your paper is very far from presenting one distinct argument.

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  6. Then I need to make it more clear that the argument is a plea for pluralism, rather than endorsing any of the three different options. I believe that both the prophylactic and the representative arguments for sortition are valid. I also think the epistemic argument is valid, and only seek to point out that there are better ways of brainstorming policy proposals than selecting people at random who may or may not have something to contribute to the debate.

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  7. Keith
    I suspect that in your reliance on the “wisdom” of crowds you are falling into the Durkheim fallacy. It is, of course, true that there must be an ontic basis for persistent regularities, but the character of that base is often quite different from the pattern of the regularity. So the behaviour of heat is very different from that of mechanical interactions, but the thermal properties of macroscopic substances are explained entirely by the microscopic mechanical interactions of their constituent molecules.

    There is a persistent tendency in political theory to postulate a specific causal efficacy over and above that of the constituents to account for descriptive regularities or wholes, real or imaginary. The Zeitgeist, the will of the people, the nation, the race and so on. The trouble is that such beliefs do have ontic psychological effects which in turn affect the way individuals and groups behave and so, paradoxically, create for themselves a certain ontic basis, as it were out of nothing.

    For me this is the basic problem of politics: how to avoid the basic danger of political holism, which almost inevitably results in people subordinating their basic real interests to some imaginary whole. Mass sortition offers no solution to that problem.

    On the other hand, of course, many think that to be human is precisely to pursue such imaginary goals and to despise merely material interests. I want to say we must live in imagination ,but fictively, not in reality.

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  8. John

    It’s over forty years since I last read Durkheim (the references in the article are all from Hacking). Did he really make that sort of claim? I appreciate that the notion of the “invisible hand” verges on the metaphysical or even mystical, but surely the LLN is just pointing out a stochastic regularity and has no existence over and above the individuals that comprise it? This is just regular emergence theory — there’s no need to postulate a Wizard pulling the strings from behind the curtain every time someone decides to commit suicide — individual suicides are just a product of the social forces that predominate at any one time. The distinction that I make in the paper between ontic and epistemic, when applied to your example, is that we don’t need to understand the mechanical interactions in order to experience the temperature — the thermometer would still read the same if we believed that temperature was caused by the presence or absence of the thermal equivalent of the aether.

    Applied to democratic politics there is no need to postulate the will of the people as an independent entity; I’m perfectly content with the aggregate judgment of a representative sample thereof. This isn’t holism, the general will is purely an emergent property of the aggregate judgment of all the individuals at any one time, but the LLN would indicate that (subject to certain conditions) the outcome will be the same whichever individuals we choose to sample. If that is the case then Popper would put me in with the good guys, not the Platonists or the Hegelians. Holism and emergence are chalk and cheese.

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  9. John

    On reflection I downplayed Durkheim’s emphasis on social facts in my previous response. Take the example of contemporary attitudes to, say, homosexuality. Just 50 years ago, most people would have disapproved of same-sex relationships (illegal at the time in many countries) and gay marriage would have seemed inconceivable; just contrast that with today. This profound change can only be explained in terms of social facts — the decline in traditional religious belief and the focus on equal rights pushed by a small and influential vanguard, which has had legislative consequences. This has had a profound effect on attitudes and behaviour — straight couples now participate in sexual acts that just 50 years ago most people would have viewed as abhorrent. The zeitgeist has a profound influence on the beliefs of individuals (Durkheim’s “error”); to deny this you would have to posit some sort of free Cartesian chooser, insulated from the world of social facts by the pineal gland. I’m not seeking to deny differences or even human freedom, but the options available are heavily constrained by social facts, so a statistical sample will contain substantial variations but will also reflect the zeitgeist. The LLN simply states that different statistical samples will converge on the norm (subject to certain constraints) and this is my justification for sortition as a democratic tool — the informed judgment of a statistical sample being a reliable proxy for what everyone would think under good conditions. I suppose this would be described as reflective emergent holism, which strikes me as about as good as it gets (from a democratic perspective). Not sure where that would put me in terms of Popper’s classification.

    Or have I misunderstood you?

    Note: the way to reduce the holism, and enhance the element of free choice, is to design the institutions in such a way as to minimise the contagion between the component individuals — hence my emphasis on Condorcet conditions. Yoram argues that interaction is necessary to establish the general will (and you argue that it is necessary to negotiate the best outcome between interested parties), but I think this ignores the pervasive influence of social facts. Yoram might well equate the latter with indoctrination and false consciousness, claiming that face-to-face interaction is necessary in order to deconstruct it and enable the emergence of genuine popular interests. I think that runs the danger of replacing the general zeitgeist with random factors and this is anything but democratic.

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  10. Good article about the collapse of trust in elected politicians by the (usually) ghastly Janet Daly in The Telegraph

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11092499/This-isnt-what-democracy-is-supposed-to-be.html

    In the comments section, as well as many conspiracists, there are a few who point out the futility of ‘democracy’ as implemented by the representative-electoral system.

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  11. OK so we know that the current acceptable form of ‘Democracy’ is elective oligarchy, and that looks like it’s failing (low turnouts in elections, too much corporate influence, maverick parties like UKIP and ScotNats winning in polls etc. etc)

    But have we Sortitionists anything to offer that is better?

    You’ve done an excellent job at showing the claimed-for benefits of forms of sortition do not amount to a coherent replacement of elective oligarchy. But this is all critique.

    Can we expect a follow-up paper which proposes out a better form of Democracy?

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  12. Conall – I would be interested to read your reasons why the argument I outlined above, and laid out here, is not making the case that sortition can be expected to produce a democratic system.

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  13. Perhaps it would be possible to have Yoram’s debate on the relevant thread:
    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/a-theory-of-sortition-part-2-of-2/

    I’ve published loads of stuff on this forum on proposals for better forms of democracy (and so has Yoram), but I really would appreciate comments here on the primary distinctions between the 3 models for the political potential of sortition.

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  14. It looks like nobody wants to debate the central theme of this paper and, seeing as Conall has not risen to Yoram’s challenge, I guess that means we’re back with the usual suspects. But, in order not to end up down our habitual cul-de-sac, I wanted to take a slightly different approach to analysing Yoram’s extension of self-representation argument:

    >A small group of people, under reasonably favorable conditions, is able to represent its own interests.

    We know from the logical positivists that propositions are either a) tautologically true or else b) open to empirical verification. This statement is clearly true in the first sense, but how might it stack up if verification is the criterion, political science being an empirical discipline? Some individuals and small groups represent their interests better than others, generally as a consequence of how well-informed they are. The evidence that I’m aware of from psychology and sociology indicates that individuals are generally motivated to reduce cognitive dissonance by seeking out information that confirms their existing prejudices (conservatives tend not to read the Guardian, or “liberals” the Telegraph) and that small groups privilege conformity — those members who seek to challenge the consensus being subject to a variety of social pressures to toe the line (I can supply references if required). This can lead to spectacularly bad decision making that fails to represent the interests of the individuals or the small group.

    >Policy that promotes the interests of a small group of people which are selected as a sample of a larger group will tend to promote the interests of the larger group as well.

    Whilst bad decision making is tolerated within liberal societies when one’s own interests are involved (“you’ve made your bed, now you must lie on it”; “give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself”), when the group is tasked to make decisions on the part of everybody else, and when there are no external checks on the quality and balance of the information available to the group, then the failure of the extension of self-representation principle undermines the freedom of all non-participants. This is particularly problematic if the decision makers are dealing with an issue regarding which they have no direct interests or knowledge (John Burnheim’s case for voluntary demarchic committees).

    In sum, we’ll never make any progress on resolving this dispute by adopting the tools of deductive logic (especially when the opening proposition is so vague as to be little more than a tautology). So I suggest that all parties focus on bringing some evidence to the table.

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  15. Sorry, anonymous was me (keith sutherland); not on my usual computer

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  16. By the way, Keith … John Adams was only the note-taker when he jotted down what I and so many have mis-attributed to him:

    “The government ought to possess not only, first, the force, but secondly, the mind or sense of the people at large. The legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole society.”

    Adams’ notes identify the speaker of those words as James Wilson. Wilson was one of the few signers of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

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  17. That’s very interesting, it’s always been a puzzle why an arch-Federalist like Adams would come up with such a democratic view. What about the “exact portrait, in miniature”? This is from Adams’s 1776 letter to John Penn, and it’s usually assumed that he was referring to his own views (at that time). Wilson’s views are normally referenced from the constitutional convention (1787). Adams was the ambassador to Court of St. James at the time, so we don’t really know what his views were on the ratification debate.

    Has anyone here actually read the letter to John Penn? (p. 205, vol. 4 of his collected works, 2nd edn., Boston 1951). Perhaps Jon Roland can help us out here.

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  18. David (Common Lot Sortitionist), can you provide any citation or other information about the miss-attribution to Adams? I and many others have used that quote.

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  19. About lot and the model of the homogeneous bulk.
    *** The draft by Keith Sutherland draws a distinction between two theories of sortition: the “blind break” – using arational lottery to sanitize the political process ( fighting partiality, nepotism, factionalism etc.), and the “invisible hand” of descriptive representation, based on modern statistical theory. These two theories, he writes, “have little in common”.
    *** I think that historically sortition was often based, even if not explicitly, on a model I will name “the homogeneous bulk”. Here the model: “The bulk of ordinary members of the collectivity (the collectivity could be an elite group) is somewhat homogeneous in all basic ideological dimensions relevant to the considered subject. But there are some fringe categories, people gone astray, or vicious, or heretical, or of lesser morality; they are in low numbers but unfortunately they exist. Therefore we cannot choose by lot a dictator; and even a hereditary lord, whatever his good ancestry and upbringing, may exceptionally be mad of vicious, or at least unable to overcome his partialities. But if we choose by lottery ten or twelve men, and allow some right of challenging them, we can be reasonably sure they belong to the bulk, and we can trust them”.
    *** This model can be considering as a kind of “sanitizing”; but it could be likewise be not so far of the idea of “representation”. There is not here the “clear distinction” Keith draws.
    *** The idea of the English judiciary juries, which appeared I think in societies far from democratic, and was approved in various societies by minds of low democratic feeling, can be understood by reference to the “homogeneous bulk” model. The bulk of the potential jurors was considered as homogeneous in their hostility to murder, rape etc., their willingness to punish the criminals, and their willingness not to punish innocent people. Ten or twelve jurors are a logical number, as likewise a right of challenge.
    *** Actually in contemporary dynamic societies the citizens are divided along many dimensions which are relevant in the repression of crimes. The homogeneous bulk model is contrary to the social reality, whence the manipulation of jury selection by lawyers, and if this manipulation is limited a big role of luck.
    *** In the one ancient democracy we know more or less well, the Second Athenian democracy, the legislative and judiciary juries were allotted with 201 or 501 members, or more, and without right of challenge – that seems to be related more to a “descriptive representation” model. The “magistracies” (executive, administrative and auxiliary functions) had usually a low number of members, often 10 (exception: the Council), and the members chosen by the lot could be challenged through the procedure of “dokimasia” – that seems more related to the “homogeneous bulk” model. But we don’t know of clear theory about the difference.
    *** We must not be amazed by the lack of clarity of the Athenians on this subject. We can find worse in contemporary societies. In France, with the specific local strength of the democratic myth, the jury system (although reduced in practice to a very small role) came to be considered as an example of “power to the dêmos” which was far from the idea of the statesmen who introduced it in the 19th century. But the “model of homogeneous bulk” is likewise strong, in a society which actually is, as any dynamic society, divided along many dimensions – and that allows to accept the presence in criminal courts of professional judges along with the jurors, and to avoid considering the huge role of luck for a small jury in such a society.

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  20. The interesting draft by Keith Sutherland calls for many comments. Here about Fustel de Coulanges, the gods and democratic sortition.
    *** In Keith Sutherland’s draft, we find the 19th century French historian Fustel de Coulanges mentioned about the religious origin or meaning of ancient democratic sortition. Let’s quote Fustel, “The Ancient City”, book III, chapter 10. « When revolutions had everywhere suppressed this royalty, men appear to have sought, in the place of birth, a mode of election which the gods might not have to disavow. The Athenians, like many Greek peoples, saw no better way than to draw lots; but we must not form a wrong idea of this procedure, which has been made a subject of reproach against the Athenian democracy; and for this reason it is necessary that we attempt to penetrate the view of the ancients on this point. For them the lot was not chance; it was the revelation of the divine will. Just as they had recourse to it in the temples to discover the secrets of the gods, so the city had recourse to it for the choice of its magistrate. It was believed that the gods designated the most worthy by making his name leap out of the urn. This was the opinion of Plato himself, who says, “He on whom the lot falls is the ruler, and is dear to the gods; and this we affirm to be quite just”. » Here it is not only speculations about the beginning of sortition in archaic times; Fustel wants us to think that the will of the gods was the basis of the democratic sortition in classical Athens, with the very weak support of a Plato’s sentence which is most probably a sarcasm.
    *** The book by Fustel was not politically neutral. It is very clear from the introduction of “The Ancient City”, where Fustel reminds the readers about the use of Antiquity by the French revolutionaries: « We shall attempt to set in a clear light the radical and essential differences which at all times distinguished these ancient peoples from modern societies. In our system of education, we live from infancy in the midst of the Greeks and Romans, and become accustomed continually to compare them with ourselves, to judge of their history by our own, and to explain our revolutions by theirs. (…) Hence spring many errors. (…) Now, errors of this kind are not without danger. The ideas which the moderns have had of Greece and Rome have often been in their way. Having imperfectly observed the institutions of the ancient city, men have dreamed of reviving them among us. They have deceived themselves about the liberty of the ancients, and on this very account liberty among the moderns has been put in peril. » Fustel de Coulanges intended to demonstrate that the Ancient Cities belonged to cultures radically different from the contemporary Western World, and that, therefore, using Greek and Roman institutions as models was foolish. And he exaggerated the point by a systematic “archaizing” of the Ancient Societies: classical Athens and classical Rome were conflated with their archaic and prehistoric forebears.
    *** The French Revolutionaries (with rare exceptions) were not admirers of the Athenian democracy. They took their models from the Roman republic and the Spartan republic (often from mythic views of them, especially through Plutarch). And they had no more use for democratic sortition than the American Revolutionaries. Therefore democratic sortition itself was not a target of Fustel de Coulanges, it was a collateral damage of his general undertaking, wiping out the Greek and Roman models from the French political imagination.
    *** Funny thing: Fustel de Coulanges (family name) had as first names “Numa Denis”, Numa being the name of the legendary second king of Rome, the legislator king. The first name given by his parents was an instance of the Roman and Greek imagination he was fighting against.
    *** The thesis of an Athenian sortition founded on a theological basis cannot be seriously maintained. There is no sentence issued by an ancient democrat to support that. In the most comprehensive piece of democratic theory which succeeded to come to us, Theseus, mythical founder of the Athenian democracy, characterizes the allotted jury as an expression of the People’s sovereignty in a remarkable sentence (Euripides The Suppliant Women vv 406-407), which refers evidently to the allotted bodies of Athenian democracy: “dêmos d’anassei diadokhaisin en merei eniausiaisin”, “the people rules by turns through annual successions”. The historical “origin” of democratic use of lot is not sure: in Homeric texts lot sometimes has religious overtones, but other times it seems to be purely secular; anyway in classical democracy no religious overtone can be found in democratic sortition.
    *** This absence of religious overtone in Athenian sortition explains that an allotted magistrate (including a councilor) could be subject to “dokimasia” and expelled as unfit, for lack of civic virtues or for oligarchic leanings. Expelling a citizen chosen by the gods would have been a blasphemy; and screening before the lot would have avoided the scandal. Nobody minded, because the lot was not a religious procedure.
    *** That said, it is true that the idea of lot as divine choice existed in the Ancient World, was a part of traditional beliefs, and even if it was not a part of conscious democratic principles, it could be a subconscious help to democratic sortition (whence Plato’s sarcasm).
    *** I am afraid that in the contemporary world it could be the opposite: the monotheistic traditions generally did not like the use of lot, as “tempting God”, and that could be a subconscious factor against democratic sortition, even founded on secular rationality (the “blind break” or the “descriptive representation”).

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  21. Andre, that’s very interesting. The application of the “homogeneous bulk” model to small ancient societies certainly indicates how sortition can simultaneously offer the benefits of the blind break, descriptive representation and cognitive diversity at the same time — my argument being against theorists who seek to hijack sortition for one theory alone, and deny, ignore or seek to subsume the two remaining theories. This applies to Dowlen and Stone, but also to Yoram Gat, who claims that sortition is about descriptive representation, period.

    Historians have argued that the Greeks had no (mathematical) notion of proportionality and you have claimed that polis life was homogeneous, so this might suggest that the large size of the juries was more to do with preventing bribery/intimidation and (possibly) the Aristotelian case for epistemic diversity. But what are the entailments for modern non-homogeneous societies? Clearly descriptive representation requires large numbers in a non-homogenous population and breaking down a sortition-based assembly into small deliberative groups would degrade the accuracy of descriptive representation.

    Is there any (primary or secondary) evidence to support the homogenous bulk model? I would like to include it in the paper and it would be easier if there was something to cite.

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  22. >“dêmos d’anassei diadokhaisin en merei eniausiaisin”, “the people rules by turns through annual successions”.

    It’s encouraging that Euripedes and Aristotle have the same view on this. Given the absence of competing primary sources (the line from Plato that you cite being the only other one?) would it be reasonable to conclude that the Greeks viewed allotted magistracies purely in terms of rotation? That might undermine your “homogeneous bulk” argument and certainly makes the Dowlen thesis look like an anachronism.

    >the monotheistic traditions generally did not like the use of lot, as “tempting God”, and that could be a subconscious factor against democratic sortition.

    Yes, and the Calvinist lionisation of “the elect” is also a subconscious factor supporting election. Even if religion played a minor role in the origin of the lot, it may have played a significant role in its demise.

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  23. *** Keith Sutherland asks « Is there any (primary or secondary) evidence to support the homogenous bulk model? » >>> This model seems to me the implicit rationale for the English judiciary jury. But I don’t know about textual evidence. It would be necessary to ask an historian of English law or political theory.
    *** I suggested that this model may have been part of the rationale for sortition in different historical settings. As it is an example of sortition having sanitizing effect, but at the same time resulting in juries mirroring (more or less) the collectivity, I suggested that it might have contributed to the fuzziness about the rationale of sortition.
    *** Now we have a level of statistical science able to support clear ideas about sortition as « descriptive representation ». The ancient dêmokratia, which used sortition, had no statistical knowledge enabling the democrats to develop a well formulated theory of democracy-through-sortition. I think that the lack of consensus among modern scholars about the rationale for sortition in the Second Athenian Democracy reflects the lack of clarity in the Athenians minds themselves. We can only think that an intuitive idea of descriptive representation prevailed about the legislative and judiciary juries, with two correlates : huge numbers, and no dokimasia (challenge) ; whereas ideas close to the « homogeneous bulk model » prevailed for magistracies, in charge of administrative functions, with two correlates : small numbers, around ten, and dokimasia ; the Council being a borderline case.
    *** A « homogeneous bulk » rationale would have been absurd for the juries who had the last word about political subjects, as the Athenian dêmos was deeply divided about subjects as imperialism, welfare state, conflict with the Macedonians etc. But it was not stupid to follow this model about administrative functions where were required only common moral decency and loyalty to dêmokratia.
    *** Besides these two « systemic » rationales of sortition we must consider the « value » rationale of democratic freedom, with the democratic formula expressed by Aristotle (Politics, VI, 2, 4; 1317b15) : « not to be governed, preferably not by anybody, or failing that, to govern and be governed in turns. »
    *** I don’t think that we can deduce from the lack of statistical thought in Ancient Greece that there was no element of « statistical representativity » in the Athenian idea of juries. People can have naive ideas on statistics (sometimes wrong ones) outside of any scientific schooling, and they had before the statistical science did exist (it is maybe the more recent of rational knowledge, beginning only four centuries ago). Let’s imagine an Athenian cook; he mixes components into a soup, he adds salt, he shakes, and he tastes a spoonful. He is considering that the spoonful is a representative sample of the soup, even lacking any theory. I did not invent the story (did I not see it in a text by Keith?). We must accept that the Athenians had the idea, in their naive understanding, that a huge jury could be taken as an unbiased sample of the citizen body. There is, as far as I know, no instance where somebody is afraid of a caprice of luck inversing the political majority in a jury of 201 jurors. Judging from contemporary Frenchmen without statistical culture, the propensity was maybe rather to underestimate the caprices of luck.
    *** I conclude that the rationale for sortition was complex in the minds of the Athenians, was never perfectly analysed, and that the « descriptive representation » element was specially difficult to clarify for them, given the lack of any statistical thought, but was nethertheless an important element, explaining the institutional mutation of the Second Athenian Democracy.
    *** That there was theoretical fuzziness about so important an institution as lot may appear strange. But if we consider the « representative election » in our polyarchies, officially the most important element in the system, we can find a big fuzziness too, and without any excuse as the difficulty Mankind experienced to develop a « science of luck ».

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  24. *** Keith Sutherland, quoting the Theseus of Euripides « dêmos d’anassei diadokhaisin en merei eniausiaisin », « the people rules by turns through annual successions », says : « It’s encouraging that Euripides and Aristotle have the same view on this. Given the absence of competing primary sources (the line from Plato that you cite being the only other one?) would it be reasonable to conclude that the Greeks viewed allotted magistracies purely in terms of rotation? »
    *** The idea of rotation is not always expressed when ancient writers mention democratic sortition. It is absent in the first text mentioning it, Herodotus debate about political regimes (3, 80). But we can think that sortition and rotation were closely linked in usual thinking. If we want to avoid the difficult, « metaphysical », question of luck, the simplest is to express sortition as rotation. It is always possible, theorically, even if in a big collectivity the chance to be alloted for a high function is smaller than in Athens. Note that even in a small collectivity, effective rotation is sure only with an infinite lifespan.
    *** But if we accept that the dêmos rules through rotations, it implies that the successive parts of dêmos exercizing power are « representative » of the whole, otherwise the governing of the City would be chaotic. We come back to « descriptive representation ».
    *** Note that the Euripides text express the idea that the dêmos as a whole reigns through the successive sortitions ; it is about collective power. « Dêmos » is a name in singular form, « anassei » is a verb in singular form ; the translation is « the People rules », not « the citizens rule ». Note, likewise, that Euripides uses the verb « anassein » (to rule, to reign), a strong word corresponding to the Homeric (and Mycenian) word for « king » « anax ».

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  25. André,

    >”the people rules by turns through annual successions”

    Yes, assuming Euripides was not just being careless with his syntax this does indicate the dêmos as a singularity. For it to be equivalent to Aristotle’s corresponding phrase would require “the people [citizens] rule” (rather than “the people rules”). I can understand how Euripides’ phrase (but not Aristotle’s) would suggest rotation as a way of implementing descriptive representation, and that this would also, in principle, apply to larger poleis. I think we agree that the sortition mechanism produces a variety of benefits at the same time. The argument in my paper is that these benefits, whilst overlapping, are analytically distinct and irreducible.

    I think you are right also to contrast administrative tasks, (where common sense and consensual outcomes apply) and contested political decisions (where large juries, balanced advocacy and majoritarian outcomes apply). The mistake modern deliberative democrats make is to conflate the two and assume that administrative and political decisions can be made in the same way. Terry acknowledges this, and has argued that the big political decisions should be made before allotted deliberation begins, whereas the Athenian approach was to leave the big decisions in the hands of large allotted juries. But we should respect the fact that the Athenians realised this required constrained court-room style debate, rather than the thorubos of the assembly and, presumably, the council (“presumably”, as there are hardly any records of council debates).

    It’s also true that our job is to make explicit, via statistical theory, the ancient implicit understanding of sampling (yes, the example of the cook stirring the soup and tasting a sample was from a paper of mine). As a conservative, my preference is always to take something that worked in the past and then adjust it for modern circumstances, rather than inventing something de novo (or wilfully and anachronistically misunderstanding ancient practice). So the knowledge that sortition has always enjoyed an element of the blind break, the invisible hand, the wisdom of crowds and (now) the homogenous bulk, is reassuring.

    >There is, as far as I know, no instance where somebody is afraid of a caprice of luck inversing the political majority in a jury of 201 jurors.

    Presumably, then, any subsequent challenges in the People’s Court were that a new law was unconstitutional, not that it was wrong in the political sense?

    >the « descriptive representation » element was . . . an important element, explaining the institutional mutation of the Second Athenian Democracy.

    That’s a strong claim. The reforms are normally described in terms of a wish for stability and the rule of law. But I suppose one could argue that, in a democracy, the verdict of a deliberative sample of the demos is the only way of achieving stability — i.e. that the nomothetai was a delegated committee of the assembly charged with this task, and that presupposes some sort of (descriptive) representative mechanism for the jury. But it also requires active representation — advocacy was limited to the (self-selecting) proponent(s) of the new law and the (assembly-appointed) advocates for the status quo. So the process of nomothesis involved both of Pitkin’s principal varieties of representation.

    >But if we consider the « representative election » in our polyarchies, officially the most important element in the system, we can find a big fuzziness too.

    I think there would be a whole load of political theorists who would dispute that. But then the Athenians did not have university departments who were rewarded on the basis of their research “outputs”.

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  26. Having looked at the exchange between Theseus and the herald, it is interesting to note that while Theseus mentions only the sortition based institutions of democracies, much of the herald’s critique of democracies is focused on characteristics of assemblies – superficiality and ease of manipulation – rather than on shortcomings of sortition-based institutions.

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  27. *** I think Yoram Gat (October 16) is perfectly right. The herald is the « bad guy », but Theseus does not answer many criticisms from him, which is acknowledging that the system of the First Athenian Democracy has many drawbacks. And Theseus mentions sortition as a channel for the dêmos sovereignty – whereas any mention of sortition is conspicuously lacking for instance in the famous Funeral Speech by Pericles (by the Pericles of Thucydides, actually). It seems that in the intellectual circles of the democrat side there was a divergence between two models of dêmokratia, and Theseus is expressing the view of one group whereas apparently defending dêmokratia in general against the bad guy follower of tyranny.
    *** The political mutation between the First and the Second Democracy followed a string of dramatic events, but, as I think any political mutation, was prepared by theoretical reflection in some circles. By chance, because the « Suppliant Women » of Euripides was not lost as so many ancient works, we have a piece of evidence of this reflection, in its popularized form (the theater was the main popularizing medium of intellectual life in 5th century Athens).

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  28. *** « dêmos d’anassei diadokhaisin en merei eniausiaisin”, “the people rules by turns through annual successions”. Keith Sutherland writes (October 16) « assuming Euripides was not just being careless with his syntax this does indicate the dêmos as a singularity. For it to be equivalent to Aristotle’s corresponding phrase would require “the people [citizens] rule” (rather than “the people rules”). »
    *** « Euripides careless about his syntax » ? And about such an object, in a time of very strong ideological dispute ? And using (carelessly) a verb « anassein » linking the People’s rule to the Archaic monarch’s rule ? I doubt.
    *** Keith is right, the Aristotelian view of democratic theory, although not really opposing the « Theseus » theory, seems to give a more individualistic color. We can think that reflects a well known anti-democrat ideological theme, the criticism of democracy as individualistic, which we find in extreme form in Plato – that gave us an extraordinary description of democratic freedom as anarchy in Republic 8, 562c-563b (a very good piece, indeed, culminating in the fantastic description of the horses and donkeys intoxicated by democratic freedom).
    *** The ideological struggle along this line may explain the 4th century tendency to an iconographic personification of « Dêmos » : statues , which are lost, reliefs – we have some (a mature male figure, bearded, with high dignity – a representation modeled on Zeus it seems), and paintings – the most famous being a painting by Euphranor mentioned by Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1, 3, 3, describing probably the goddess Dêmokratia crowning Dêmos in presence of Theseus, mythical founder of the Athenian democracy.
    *** We could think likewise that in a new system where the rule of the dêmos was very often through the « abstract » channel of an alloted jury it was more useful to use an iconographic representation of the dêmos as a « singular person », whereas in the ekklêsia the dêmos was here, bodily present as a whole (theorically).

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  29. Andre,

    >We could think likewise that in a new system where the rule of the dêmos was very often through the « abstract » channel of an alloted jury it was more useful to use an iconographic representation of the dêmos as a « singular person »

    I agree — that’s why it’s so important that the mandate of the allotted body should disallow the speech acts of individuals (although we may not go so far as Harrington’s suggestion that the perpetrator should be hanged without trial). If the demos is singular, then the corollary is that “allotted representatives” exist in plural form only. The notion of a single allotted representative moves you into Platonic/Aristotelian territory. If the fourth-century Athenians did not permit speech acts from allotted jurors it would have been in order to avoid the thorubos of the Assembly.

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  30. *** I wrote « There is, as far as I know, no instance where somebody is afraid of a caprice of luck inversing the political majority in a jury of 201 jurors. » Keith Sutherland replies (October 16) : « Presumably, then, any subsequent challenges in the People’s Court were that a new law was unconstitutional, not that it was wrong in the political sense? »
    *** The procedure of judicial challenge for a law voted by a legislative jury was, in the Second Athenian Democracy, the « Graphê nomon mê epitêdeion theinai » « procedure about the introduction of an unfit bill of law ». A famous example is given by Demosthenes speech « Against the Law of Leptines » – a law which canceled exemptions from public charges. It appears that the basis of the challenge could be illegality in the legislative process, infringement upon the principles of democracy (of the « constitution », but there was no formal text), or noxiousness for the long range interests of the City. The judicial jury held concurrently the functions of a contemporary Constitutional Court and of a Second House of a Parliament – which have distinct functions in our systems (but are really rulings by the US Supreme Court or the French Constitutional Council always totally disconnected of the long range social consequences ?). The idea was that the Legislators, facing a pressing practical problem (in the case of the Law of Leptines, getting money), could sometimes overlook considerations of formality, of principles, of long range interests – and therefore it was necessary of a review by an another alloted body who by function had to concentrate on these sides.
    *** Clearly it could be an opportunity for a gifted orator, challenging the law, to use his oratory skills he could not use in front of the legislative jury because he was not among the orators.
    *** It is quite possible that sometimes a law could be crushed by a « caprice of luck », when the public feeling was not far from 50%-50%. But I don’t know of any idea of this kind among the Ancients. I lean to think that the ancient Athenians, as most contemporary Western people, underestimated the randomness factor in alloted juries.

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  31. > I lean to think that the ancient Athenians, as most contemporary Western people, underestimated the randomness factor in alloted juries.

    My feeling is the opposite – people tend to overestimate the risk of chance variation. I am guessing that the Athenians quite sensibly figured that in any body that numbers in the hundreds sampling variation is not a major source of potential unrepresentativity.

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  32. Given that the decision is binary then if public opinion is split 50/50 the decision outcome will very often be arbitrary (as there are an odd number of jurors). But the variability would hugely increased if jurors had speech rights, hence their proscription in Athenian juries. The only difference between decision by plebiscite and allotted juries is that in the latter case the decision is better informed, hence my puzzle as to why Yoram chose to bring this to our attention, as he has always denied the argument from rational ignorance (insisting rather that it is simply the conflicting interests of the elite and the masses).

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  33. Andre,

    You use the term “Second Athenian Democracy” to refer to the system after the after the overthrow of the 30 tyrants, where nomothetai replaced the ekklesia for the adoption of laws, etc. Is this a standard terminology among French scholars, because it is completely absent in English. I think it is a useful framework, but am wondering if I should adopt it in the book I am writing.

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  34. Answer to Terry Bouricius.
    *** « Second Athenian Democracy » is not a standard terminology among French historians. Usually they speak of « Fifth century democracy » and « « Fourth century democracy ». But I think this way of speaking can mislead the non-historian public either to forget the dramatic events of defeat, tyranny and civil war which divided the old democracy and the new one, or to neglect the political mutation between the political system in the time of Pericles and the political system in the time of Demosthenes.
    *** I don’t see which epistemological objection could be raised against the use of « Second Athenian Democracy ».

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  35. Andre,

    Does 4th C. Athenian writing suggest that the Athenians thought that the 4th C. system was fundamentally different from the late 5th C. system?

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  36. *** Yoram Gat asked on October 24, 2014: “Does 4th C. Athenian writing suggest that the Athenians thought that the 4th C. system was fundamentally different from the late 5th C. system?”
    *** My answer (a late one, I was off line) is: NO (taking into account that we lost much of the relevant material)
    *** From the anti-democrat thinkers, as Aristotle or Plato, this is not strange: what they despised and hated in dêmokratia was basically the political weight of the lower classes (farmers, craftsmen, shopkeepers, sailors, labourers, as listed by Aristotle Politics IV, 1291b), and their preponderance resulting mechanically from the isonomia of citizens and the class statistics. This preponderance of lower classes was present in the two systems, therefore the difference was not really relevant. As the new model corrected many defects of the dêmokratia, Aristotle actually preferred not to see the mutation. He did not consider seriously the graphê para nomon as a mean of establishing the “rule of law”, and he went so far as ignoring totally the institution of legislative juries – we know it from the orators speeches.
    *** From the democrat side, we have for the 4th century only speeches – we have them due to the cultural prestige of Athenian oratory through the classical Antiquity, even in elites which disliked strongly dêmokratia. The orators don’t insist on the mutation of dêmokratia. First because this subject was usually not relevant to their speeches. Second because their public of common citizens, and to some extent the orators themselves, were deeply “anhistoricist”. They lived in a cyclical – mythical world, where the Athenian democracy was founded in the Age of Heroes by Theseus, and by turns cancelled or restored. The Athenians could see in the Agora paintings or sculptures of the kind “Goddess Dêmokratia crowning Dêmos in presence of Theseus”, this was the established democrat ideology. In this mental world Clisthenes was practically unknown – Solon was a living memory, but because he was a poet, whose works were included in the oral tradition (therefore an old law, or maybe not so old, became easily a “Law of Solo”). For the democrats, dêmokratia was the “constitution of ancestors” and it would have been unwise for the orators to insist on the mutations of dêmokratia (even if, as intellectuals, they knew somewhat better about the historical processes).
    *** General assembly and popular juries were elements of dêmokratia from the beginning; the mutation was only a slipping of power from the first institution to the second. The Athenian common citizens in their above described worldview preferred think of continuities (with restorations) and it would have been unwise for the orators to contradict this mood. They preferred consider institutions of their time as deriving of practical adjustments of an eternal dêmokratia; they could stress their usefulness but had no idea of presenting them as a new historical stage.
    *** The General Assembly was not powerless in the Athens of Demosthenes, as it kept the power about foreign affairs, war and decrees (more or less the powers of a contemporary US president). But the loss of judiciary (including “judicial review”) and legislative powers was really a big mutation of dêmokratia”, which was carried through various legal reforms; it could only have been the result of institutional reflection in intellectual democrat circles, even if we have no direct information about it. We have only by pure luck the “Suppliant Women” of Euripides which gives us an explicit formula of “democracy-through-sortition”, probably from an intellectual circle preparing this mutation – the formula being put in the mouth of Theseus …

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  37. That’s very interesting Andre — is it the case that Hansen seems to be more or less alone amongst historians in insisting that the second demokratia was an improvement on the first?

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  38. I have wondered if the transfer of the law-making authority to the Nomothetai might have had age as a consideration. It may have made practical sense to keep the 18 – 30 year-olds in decisions about war and peace through the Assembly (since the eagerness/willingness of this cohort might be decisive in the outcome of any war)… but was there some “wisdom of maturity” rather than “rule of law” concern that prompted the move of law-making to the nomothetai which had a 30 year-old age threshold. I have never seen any evidence of this… just wonder.

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  39. Hansen also argues that swearing the Heliastic Oath was an important element in ensuring well-considered legislative outcomes by allotted juries. Swearing oaths to the gods was an important constraint in ancient regimes, which us moderns tend to overlook. The oath and the age criterion would have certainly increased the stability of the laws in the second demokratia.

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  40. *** I agree with the idea of Terry Bouricius: given the age ceiling for jurors, it was impossible in 4th century Athens to give to juries the power about war, and about the related field of foreign affairs. The Assembly alone could decide, as it coincided with the civic army (except the small age class of sixty and more, who were free of military duties, and the young ephebes 18-20 who could not practically attend the Assembly). Therefore the pure model of democracy-through-sortition was not possible, if the age limit was not cancelled.
    *** The idea of “wisdom of maturity” was very strong in classical Greece and that may explain that democratic Athens kept the age limit, even if it could appear contrary with isonomia. It could be justified by the idea that the young will be become older, and mature, therefore equality was not broken, it could be seen as a way of “ruling by turns” (the idea is explicit somewhere in Aristotle).
    *** I acknowledge I don’t remind any discussion among the Ancients about the implicit contradiction between this age discrimination and the democratic principles. But, likewise, I did not hear anybody in contemporary France about a strange fact: youths between 18 and 23 are citizens, have the right of vote, but cannot be jurors in a court (Code de procédure pénale, article 255) – a discrimination which could be challenged on constitutional grounds, but which actually seems not criticized by anybody.
    *** The potential contradiction between the political sensitivity of the Athenian Assembly and the one of the juries because of the age dimension is, as far as I remember, nowhere mentioned in extant ancient texts.
    *** The Athenian juries were not representative of the dêmos along one dimension, age, as the jurors had to be over thirty. Modern supporters of democracy-through-sortition usually do not advocate this restriction, and I think they are right; especially considering a modern model where general vote disappears, or becomes an exception. Anyway in modern societies after the demographic transition the proportion of youthful citizens would be low enough as to wipe out any fear of youthful overenthusiasm or overagressivity.

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  41. *** Keith Sutherland mentions Hansen’s argument about the importance of the Heliastic Oath. It is difficult to know the exact weight of this oath among the Athenian jurors. Hansen may be right that it was important. We must consider likewise the decorum of the Courts procedures, which may have induced a greater sense of moral responsibility that the Assembly procedures.
    *** Note that in the French criminal courts which include common citizens as jurors, they vote with a form where is written “sur mon honneur et en ma conscience, ma déclaration est …”. Honor, conscience … Nothing is asked like that when the same citizen votes in an election.
    *** But maybe more important are the concentration of responsibility in the jurors about a precise subject with direct consequences.

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  42. Tangential trivia about oaths … My home state of Vermont in the U.S. is the only state that has a “Voter’s Oath” (called the “Freemen’s Oath” until the 2002 constitutional amendment). Voters must take the oath when they register to vote for the first time (only once in a lifetime).

    It goes:
    “You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.”

    The word “person” at the end replaced the word “man” in 2002… otherwise the same language since 1777 when Vermont became an independent republic.

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  43. Andre,

    Looking at The Athenian Constitution part 41, it seems the author does present a history of democratic progression, with the 4th C. system being the culmination of this process.

    Indeed, it stands to reason that those who wrote or spoke about the political system of Athens would have had to come up with some explanation for the differences between the 4th and 5th century systems.

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  44. *** Keith Sutherland says (November 18) that “Hansen seems to be more or less alone amongst historians in insisting that the second demokratia was an improvement on the first”
    *** That the dêmokratia” in the time of Demosthenes was working along a system much more sophisticated, advanced, that in the time of Pericles, a system more able to establish some kind of “rule of law”, and more adequate to provide good deliberation, it seems to me not really questionable. My historian references are maybe old and mainly French, but do really some historians dispute this point? My feeling is rather they are not very interested by it. Often they lean to consider the “Athenian democratic system”, without distinction; and here I think Hansen’s historical work was useful to question this established idea – which, I think, was partly a product of the “anhistoricist” mind of the Athenians themselves. We can see that in school textbooks, which may speak about “the institutions of the Athenian democracy”, without differentiation – often presenting as a basic democratic the institution the ostracism, which actually fell out of use in the Second Democracy, and overlooking the graphê para nomon.
    *** It may be likewise that historians often consider the Athenian democracy of 4th century as globally inferior to the 5th century one, and speak of “decline”. Because in this 4th century Athens was less powerful, less rich, less bright that in the famed “Age of Pericles”. Because the democracy appeared stable – until the defeat against the superior Macedonian strength, but without the spirit of the previous century. Because there were no more any Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes – and the literary genius of the century, Plato, was a staunch foe of democracy. Because the civic spirit can be seen in decline, as testifies the increased use of mercenaries – and the complaints of Demosthenes helped to feed this feeling.
    *** Whatever the value of this idea of “decline” about 4th century Athenian democracy, we modern kleroterians are interested by the systemic point of view, and therefore are specially interested by Hansen’s strong differentiation between the two models. The “decline” is not our problem – unless it could be attributed to the institutional mutation, theory I have not seen supported by any historian.

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  45. Regarding “decline”, I would suspect that this idea reflects standard elitism among its proponents. The lack of clear Pericles-like “leaders” in the 4th century is considered clear evidence that Athens has lost its greatness and vigor. For those historians (and people with similar ideology) a well functioning democracy requires the existence of popular high-profile figures setting policy. Real political equality is almost by definition considered a malaise.

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  46. Agree with the above, none of which was helped by Aristotle’s unwillingness to acknowledge any distinction between the first and second demokratia (Hoekstra claims that most of his criticisms are aimed at Periclean democracy). If Aristotle was not interested in the distinction then it’s understandable that modern historians have followed his example. But the Athenian Constitution is generally viewed as “Aristotelian”, so it’s interesting to hear that it does take a more historical approach.

    Arthur has been a strong defender of 5th century democracy, so it would be interesting to hear his views. My claim of “Periclean dictatorship” was disputed on the other thread — can’t remember where I sourced this from (but I certainly didn’t make it up!). It’s putting the case rather strongly (Pericles was, formally speaking, only an advisor to the assembly), but there is no disputing his de facto role as leading citizen for a considerable period of time. There is no comparable figure in the fourth century, so that would certainly make it more democratic in the light of Yoram’s criteria.

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  47. Part 49:

    >Formerly the Council used to decide on the plans for public buildings and the contract for making the robe of Athena; but now this work is done by a jury in the law-courts appointed by lot, since the Council was considered to have shown favouritism in its decisions.

    I wonder why this should be, seeing as both bodies were appointed by lot? Possibly because the councillors were easily identifiable (they served for a year), voting was public (?) and there was no random allocation of jurors to cases as in the courts (described in detail in parts 63-69). Appellants would have been able to identify (and bribe) councillors, but would have no idea who were to be the jurors on their case until the day of the trial. This would support the argument for ad hoc legislative juries in the modern parallel, rather than a longer term of service for members of a legislative assembly, owing to the risk of “favouritism”. Whilst secret voting would help to disinfect the process, members would still be susceptible to lobbying to speak on the part of interested parties.

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  48. *** Yoram Gat (November 20) said “Looking at The Athenian Constitution part 41, it seems the author does present a history of democratic progression, with the 4th C. system being the culmination of this process. Indeed, it stands to reason that those who wrote or spoke about the political system of Athens would have had to come up with some explanation for the differences between the 4th and 5th century systems”
    *** Yes, Aristotle was historically minded and yes he saw in Athenian history a democratic progression culminating in his time in a “perfect” form of dêmokratia – i.e. its worst form; but the 4th century difference for him was not the systemic difference highlighted by Hansen and interesting modern kleroterians. Aristotle was a “Marxist of the right”, with a strong tendency towards “unilateral” thought; for him the basic point was the distribution of power between the social classes. Let’s look to the changes which are relevant to him.
    *** First a lessening of the powers of the Council; it is commonly thought that in the Council there was some statistical bias favoring the classes with leisure, the richest ones, as Councillor function was time-expensive and the poorest citizens were deterred, except the (not so numerous) retirees.
    *** Second point : the payment for the attendance at the Assembly. The payment was small, and without interest for the richest, but with some interest for the poorest. It helped for instance a laborer to go to the Assembly when there was one, instead of looking for a manual work this day (laborers were not usually salarymen working for a permanent boss). The payment increased political participation for the poorest, and this was anathema for Aristotle.
    *** Aristotle was not interested by the systemic changes, actually he did not want to see them (we don’t know them from Aristotelian writings, we deduce them from speeches by orators). The Athenian statesmen who pushed for the different reforms which led to the “Second Athenian Democracy” model were interested by them, clearly, but we have no text written by them, nothing like the “Federalist Papers” for the US Constitution; their eventual leaflets are lost, their speeches are lost, don’t forget we lost the bulk of ancient literature, including ancient democrat literature. We have speeches of the later “Golden Age of Attic oratory”, which were included in the classical tradition, but it was after the reforms and, as I said, these orators were not historically-minded

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  49. *** Yoram Gat suspects that the idea of the decline of Athens in 4th century “reflects standard elitism among its proponents. The lack of clear Pericles-like “leaders” in the 4th century is considered clear evidence that Athens has lost its greatness and vigor.”
    *** Such a factor may exist; but the main reasons are elsewhere. 5th century Athens had conquered an Empire, and extracted from it fame, confidence, power – and money. For modern peoples, war is something abnormal, and usually to lead them to begin a war their rulers have to use various kinds of lie and trickery (or provocation). In the highly antagonistic world of the ancient Greek Cities, war was a normal aspect of international competition, and military hegemony the prize of the best. But in the Age of Pericles clearly the Athenian sovereign dêmos, as so many Emperors before him and after him, was overtaken by hybris. That led Athens into the Peloponnesian War, the World War of the ancient Greek world, which ended with disaster for Athens. The defeat, the destructions of the war, the loss of the Empire, the huge human losses through the war (and the Great Plague of Athens) led to a City much less numerous, less rich, less confident. More reasonable, maybe, and that could have helped to undertake institutional reforms.

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  50. Andre,

    The differences between Athens of 5th century Athens and 4th century Athens do not have to be interpreted as reflecting political decline any more than, say, the disintegration of the British empire, has to be interpreted in this way. It seems to me that the modern tendency to see the 5th century system as superior is that its dependency on a political elite is reminiscent of the dominance of the political elite in the modern electoralist system.

    Along the same lines, it is interesting to see how the authors of the Federalist Papers, for example, described both 5th and 4th centuries of Athenian history as a mess caused by the dreaded democratic system. Each generation can, without much trouble, project its own prejudices on Athens, no matter how flimsy the evidence for its view is.

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  51. Andre,

    >But in the Age of Pericles clearly the Athenian sovereign dêmos, as so many Emperors before him and after him, was overtaken by h[u]bris. . . The defeat . . . could have helped to undertake institutional reforms.

    Yes, and the reforms led to a more moderate form of democracy, with an increase in sortition and election. That’s why it’s puzzling that the ‘historically minded’ Aristotle failed to acknowledge it, but I suppose for a Marxist of the right, considered rule of the poor via allotted juries was worse than the poorly-considered assembly version, as it undermined the power of leading citizens. Marxists always reduce epistemic factors to interests, so rule by (paid) jurors will always be rule in the interest of the poor.

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  52. Yes, Keith is right, Aristotle’s failing to acknowledge the systemic change in Athenian democracy is puzzling. It is the result of unilateral thought of a “Marxist of the right” combined, I am afraid, with a high level of bad faith. Note that Marx writings about French history, as “18 Brumaire”, even if dominated by unilateral thinking, are not written in bad faith as Aristotle’s historical comments. It seems that the anti-democrat philosophers of 4th century Athens were overwhelmed by an unhappy combination of deep hostility to a dêmokratia they hated and a feeling of powerlessness in front of a system which seemed to be now stable and well entrenched. And that led Aristotle to poor intellectual behaviour – whereas Plato chose the way of the high utopia (“The Republic”).

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  53. *** Keith Sutherland idea of “Periclean dictatorship” looks strange. Usually dictatorship displays two characters: persecution of ideological opponents, and institutional impossibility to get a peaceful change in the leadership. There was no ideological persecution of anti-Pericles citizens (if there was a temptation of ideological persecution, it was by opponents to Pericles, accusing intellectuals of his circle of impiety). And Pericles was only an informal leader, any important decision being taken by the Assembly. Maybe the external policy of USA for a long time followed the ideas of Henry Kissinger, but only because the USA President followed Kissinger’s advice during this time. If Pericles was so long a leader, it was not as a dictator, but as a statesman exceptionally able to convince the sovereign Athenian dêmos, and maybe to sense the political propensities of this dêmos – including the dangerous ones. Actually it can be argued that he led the Athenian dêmos into the road of hybristic imperialism which terminated in disaster (and the end of the First Athenian Democracy). Maybe too bright statesmen are dangerous for a sovereign dêmos, but we cannot say that a strong influence of a statesman on a dêmos is proof of “dictatorship”, as says Keith, or of “lack of real equality” as says Yoram.
    *** When a statesman has durably an overwhelming influence on a sovereign king, as for Richelieu and Louis XIII in 17th century France, it can be due to a personal interaction between a very bright statesman and a suggestible sovereign king, in a kind of “seduction”. The Pericles case is more difficult to explain, as the sovereign was a collective one. I would lean towards a – speculative – explanation. The 5th century Greece is sometimes said to be “the Age of Enlightenment of the Greek world”, with the “intellectual revolution” of a rationalist thought, a critical and very bold one – let’s consider such personalities as Xenophanes and Protagoras. It did not specifically origin in Athens but could find here the freedom of thought and speech (parrhêsia) linked to dêmokratia. That led to a very exceptional interaction between an ultra-rationalistic thought and a traditional society, with the results of shock, bewilderment, rejection and seduction which can be guessed. Pericles must have been the blend of bright intellectual and gifted demagogue able to take advantage of this situation to “seduce” the Athenian sovereign dêmos. I doubt anything like this situation can be expected in 21th century modern societies, and therefore I think the Pericles case is not much relevant for contemporary reflection about democracy-through-sortition.

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  54. Thanks for the clarification Andre, I was using the word “dictatorship” far too loosely. But I think the point still stands that a legislative system that demands balanced advocacy and leaves the final decision to the considered verdict of an allotted microcosm (voting in secret) is less likely to be seduced by a dominant statesman than assembly democracy. I also think modern mass democracy is vulnerable to seducers, it’s just that the seduction is generally term-limited.

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  55. *** Yoram Gat said (November 23): “It is interesting to see how the authors of the Federalist Papers, for example, described both 5th and 4th centuries of Athenian history as a mess caused by the dreaded democratic system. Each generation can, without much trouble, project its own prejudices on Athens, no matter how flimsy the evidence for its view is”.
    *** The authors of the Federalist Papers disliked the dêmokratia idea, but I don’t believe they studied evidence about the Athenian democracy with a bias; rather they followed the biased view dominating the classical tradition. They did not have strong knowledge of the Athenian model, or models. In Federalist 63, ”Publius” (here Madison) described in a strange way the Athenian Council: “an assembly, first of four, and afterwards of six hundred members, annually ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE; and PARTIALLY representing them in their LEGISLATIVE capacity, since they were not only associated with the people in the function of making laws, but had the exclusive right of originating legislative propositions to the people”. We see here Madison explaining that in Athens the Council was “annually elected by the people” and highlighting that as an argument for electoral representation! I think it was ignorance, not bad faith.
    *** More generally, the Atlantic revolutionaries (of different brands) of the late 18th century were not studying carefully the ancient models, because they were undertaking to establish new models of “representative constitutional government” which were practically without ancient reference.
    *** They had much use of Antiquity (usually Rome and Sparta) but that was mythic use; which was necessary with societies who were for a big part still in the World of Tradition. A deliberate political mutation could not succeed without a strong reference to a mythical past. Hence for instance the US “Senate”, the Capitol, or the name “Publius” for the collective author of the Federalist Papers; and many names and rhetorics of the First French Republic.
    *** We are now out of the World of Tradition, and in modern, future-oriented societies, the proposal of democracy-through-sortition does not need mythic references. The fame of Athens is needed only to remind that sortition is not a science-fiction idea, that it was a wide practice in real societies.
    *** But, for all the differences between ancient Greek Cities and modern States, that we must not forget, the ancient Athens, as a relatively known example of a society leaning to democracy-through-sortition, must be of interest for the modern reflection about the subject. Especially before living examples exist in the modern world.

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