Paper about sortition and the executive branch

Earlier this year I began a discussion thread about what changes to the executive branch would complement an allotted legislature, since the sortition literature I know of seems to say so little about the executive branch. At the time, Terry Bouricius and I were working on a paper on that subject for an online publication called the Systems Thinking World Journal. The paper was recently published, and is available online at this address – http://stwj.systemswiki.org/?p=1717.

Here is the part of the paper that summarizes the proposal (note: we are assuming that the legislative branch is organized according to Terry’s “multibody sortition” design).

Chief Executive, Department Heads, and Hiring Panels

The Chief Executive. The President, Prime Minister, Governor, Mayor, etc. — would have substantially less power than she or he usually does today. The Chief Executive of a jurisdiction would be primarily an administrator and a policy advisor, not a policy maker – similar to the role of City Manager or City Administrator, used in many U.S. municipalities. The legislative branch would make most policy decisions. The primary tasks of the Chief Executive, and executive branch department heads, would be to manage implementation of policies, to advise about policies from the perspective of implementation, and to propose policy options at the request of the legislative branch. In actual practice the distinction between policy and administration would often be “fuzzy” and contested, but the decisions would be made based on the principle of separating policy from administration.

The Chief Executive would have no power to veto legislation, or to enact “quasi-legislation” (as Presidents do in the U.S. through executive orders, for example). In the same way, department heads could not make policy by unilaterally writing regulations – the legislative branch would be the final decision-maker, unless this power was expressly delegated for a specific purpose and for a defined period, and allowed by the Rules Council. However, the Chief Executive and department heads would play important roles in advising the legislative branch about legislation, and in making proposals for legislation or regulations at the request of the legislative branch.

While Chief Executives and department heads could be removed from office at any time (as described below), there would be no need for term limits. Good executives might serve for decades.

Hiring panels. The Chief Executive would not be elected. Instead, they would be chosen by a Chief Executive Hiring Panel. The panel’s members would be randomly selected from the citizenry. They would serve as long as necessary to make a hiring decision, and then disband. If someone was chosen and didn’t want to serve, they could “opt out” and be replaced by another randomly selected person. This “opt out” feature would result in a body that was more descriptively representative of the people than an “opt in” design that required people to proactively volunteer.

The Chief Executive would hire department heads, but these appointments would require review and confirmation by other randomly selected, one-time Hiring Panels. In most cases the confirmation procedures would likely be pro forma, but the confirmation requirement would act as a check on hiring decisions based on nepotism or cronyism.

Review and Accountability

Performance review panels. In order to hold the Executive Branch accountable, a randomly selected Performance Review Panel would periodically review the performance of the Chief Executive, and similar panels would review the performance of each department head (or group of department heads, depending on the size of the departments). Performance review of middle and lower level executive branch staff would be handled entirely within the executive branch, by the administration and the public employees’ union.

If a Chief Executive were fired, the Performance Review Panel would not have the power to hire their replacement, because this would give the Performance Review Panel an incentive to corruptly fire an incumbent in order to choose a favorite of their own, and perhaps get a corrupt reward. Instead, a separate Hiring Panel would choose the new Chief Executive.
Performance Review panels would review the performance of executives and their organizations, based on goals and constraints in the plan and the budget, and require corrective action as needed. They would also provide feedback to planning bodies about possible changes to plans and budgets. A Review Panel could also initiate a procedure to fire an executive, but a randomly selected Accountability Jury would make the final decision.

Performance Review Panels would be organized along three dimensions. Some of them would review the performance of particular departments. Others would review the performance of the Executive Branch as a whole in terms of outcomes for particular communities (geographic, ethnic, age, etc.). Others would review the performance of the Executive Branch in terms of particular issues, such as public safety, environment, and social justice.

Accountability juries. When a Performance Review Panel initiated a firing procedure, a randomly selected Accountability Jury would hear the arguments, weigh the evidence, and make the final decision. When a Chief Executive fired a department head, that person would have the right to appeal to an Accountability Jury, who could decide to uphold the executive’s decision or to re-instate the fired staff member. Accountability Juries would be much like criminal juries – very descriptively representative, serving for a short time, excused from work, and paid a stipend.

Setting the Rules and Supporting the Process

Rules council. The Rules Council would make the rules for the processes of hiring and firing the Chief Executive, and reviewing the performance of the Executive Branch. This separation of powers would reduce the incentives to make rules “strategically,” in order to increase the chances of particular short-term outcomes. Rules Council members would be randomly selected from among people who had previously served on some other randomly selected body, so that they would have first-hand experience with the current rules. They would serve 3-year terms (with one third of members replaced each year), but they would not be allowed to serve consecutive terms. They would be well compensated. If someone was chosen and didn’t want to serve, they could “opt out” and be replaced by another randomly selected person. Because of the long term and the challenging (and for many people, uninteresting) work, it is likely that many people would decline service, and thus this body would not be as descriptively representative as a short-term policy jury. However, it would be far more descriptively representative than any existing legislature, board or commission.

Oversight council. This body would monitor the processes of executive branch accountability (as described above), to ensure that the rules were followed, and also alert the Rules Council in cases where observation of practice indicated that the rules might need changing. This body would not make rules, hire or fire executives, or review performance. However, they could initiate and refer cases to a Performance Review Panel or Accountability Jury. The Oversight Council’s members would be selected by lot. If someone was chosen and didn’t want to serve, they could “opt out” and be replaced by another randomly selected person. Oversight Council members would serve 3-year terms (with one third of members replaced each year), but they would not be allowed to serve consecutive terms. Oversight Council members would be well compensated.

Support staff. When oversight bodies get their information from staff members of the bodies that they are supposed to oversee, it can hinder their independence and their ability to supervise effectively. Therefore, these oversight bodies would require the assistance of their own professional support staff, organizationally separated from the staff in the executive branch.

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52 Responses

  1. David/Terry,

    That’s an awful lot of allotted panels. Focusing for the moment on the Performance Review Panels, would a bunch of randomly-selected folk have the necessary forensic skills and knowledge to perform the review and, if necessary, fire the chief executive? Bearing in mind these guys would be starting ex nihilo, wouldn’t they just be given the run-around by the administration, or reflect the media agenda? I fully agree the Accountability Jury should be responsible for the final decision, but why not have what is effectively an impeachment started by an Athenian-style graphe? If so, then the obvious people to kick off the process would be a member of Martin’s Advocacy house.

    I don’t understand why Terry and yourself insist on doing everything by randomly-selected panels — I’m much more attracted to Martin’s mixed constitution. In addition, I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of getting such a complex programme adopted — much better to focus on what everyone acknowledges randomly-selected bodies are good at (returning jury-style verdicts). Bear in mind there is minimal evidence that randomly-selected bodies would be good at forensic, appointment and policy generation tasks, this is really little more than wishful thinking (driven by anti-electoral ideology).

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  2. > Good executives might serve for decades.

    This reflects the elitist idea that “good executives” are a rare specimen that are essentially irreplaceable. Hardly. “Good executives” are not only replaceable, they must be replaced. They must serve no longer than allotted delegates do. Ideally, the allotted themselves can take care of that, but there is really no reason not to set strict term limits.

    In fact, a “good executive” would not agree to serve such a long term that his personal knowledge and ideas become a major part of what determines the results of the system. At this point the executive usurps the power of the representative body. A good executive would refuse to do this. Any executive that tries to hang on to power must be removed.

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  3. Yoram,

    Would you apply the same strict term limits to executives in other organisations? If so, given David and Terry’s view that government offices are non-political, why? As a general rule, knowledge and experience are qualities that are highly valued. This would be particularly relevant, given the short-term and amateur status of members of the legislature.

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  4. Yoram,

    We see no need for term limits for executives, given that allotted bodies would set policy (through Terry’s multibody sortition design) and also hire, review, and fire executives (as described in this paper). We’re working on a scheme for executive branch planning that would involve executive branch staff, allotted bodies, and possibly something like Terry’s self-selected “interest panels.”

    Keith, you raised several questions – I’ll reply in a separate post.

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  5. Keith, you brought up several issues, and I’m going to reply one at a time.

    >That’s an awful lot of allotted panels.

    We don’t think that’s a problem per se. We deliberately separated some functions to avoid conflicts of interest – for example, members of an allotted body giving an executive a bad performance review because they have a favored replacement candidate who they think they can get in.

    >Focusing for the moment on the Performance Review Panels, would a bunch of randomly-selected folk have the necessary forensic skills and knowledge to perform the review and, if necessary, fire the chief executive? Bearing in mind these guys would be starting ex nihilo, wouldn’t they just be given the run-around by the administration, or reflect the media agenda?

    The Performance Review Panels wouldn’t hire or fire. But yes, we think they could evaluate performance competently, with assistance from staff dedicated to the allotted bodies (not the Executive Branch staff). And they wouldn’t have the incentives that elected bodies have to make decisions based on party politics and winning elections, or the incentives that executive branch staff have to keep their boss out of trouble with their boss’s boss.

    >I fully agree the Accountability Jury should be responsible for the final decision, but why not have what is effectively an impeachment started by an Athenian-style graphe? If so, then the obvious people to kick off the process would be a member of Martin’s Advocacy house.

    >I don’t understand why Terry and yourself insist on doing everything by randomly-selected panels — I’m much more attracted to Martin’s mixed constitution.

    Actually, we don’t insist on doing everything by randomly selected panels. Terry’s legislative scheme uses self-selected (volunteer) Interest Panels to develop bills, and this most recent paper has hired staff running departments. There are several reason that we don’t propose elections to select political officials (discussed in the first Systems Thinking World Journal paper, and in Terry’s Journal of Public Deliberation paper). We believe that elected bodies (compared to randomly selected bodies) are less descriptively representative (biased in the direction of whatever groups are most powerful in a society), less diverse, and have far greater incentives to speak and act not based on the facts and their values, but in order to please donors, party leaders, the media, and small groups of swing voters.

    >In addition, I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of getting such a complex programme adopted — much better to focus on what everyone acknowledges randomly-selected bodies are good at (returning jury-style verdicts).

    In terms of strategizing what to try to implement first, I think that’s a promising strategy. But in this paper (as in the previous it refers to), we were creating what Russell Ackoff calls an “idealized design” – a design that (we think) could work, last, and be effectively adapted if it was implemented, but without having to argue how it could be implemented.

    >Bear in mind there is minimal evidence that randomly-selected bodies would be good at forensic, appointment and policy generation tasks, this is really little more than wishful thinking (driven by anti-electoral ideology).

    Do you know of any evidence that randomly-selected bodies are worse at these tasks than elected bodies?

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  6. Keith,

    To be clear, we expect allotted bodies would better recognize their own weaknesses, than would elected bodies… and would use their professional staff to seek out expert advisors with genuine”forensic skills.” The point is that they would have an interest in seeking bona fide experts, unlike elected officials who have an incentive to seek out alleged experts who are actually experts in either public relations, or self-interested lobbyists for various interests who might give campaign donations. In other words allotted bodies would be More likely and BETTER at using genuine expert advice, when compared to elected bodies. Also elected members have a fairly consistent psychological tendency to have an inflated yet false sense of their own competence that randomly selected groups wouldn’t.

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  7. David,

    > We see no need for term limits for executives, given that allotted bodies would set policy (through Terry’s multibody sortition design) and also hire, review, and fire executives

    A senior executive who has many years’ experience within the system would be able to run circles around the allotted delegates. Even if such an executive would not able to work against a consensus within the allotted body, she would be able to tilt the balance of power within it.

    In any case, there is little to gain by allowing long terms. As I wrote above, the idea that “good executives” are hard to find is an elitist myth that fits well within an oligarchical system but should be rejected in a democratic society.

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  8. I agree with Yoram that long-serving executives will be able to run rings around randomly selected conscripts. But if you acknowledge the need for skills and experience, the way to counter this is by treating fire with fire: Martin’s quasi-judicial Advocates would be better equipped with the necessary forensic skills to initiate a graphe prosecution, but the outcome of the trial should be determined by a citizen jury. I also disagree that merely dividing an estate into different chunks (juries for this, juries for that) would ensure independence. Far better to set different estates (administrative, judicial, popular) against each other. Better to separate powers than declare by fiat that there is only one power, and then divide it against itself.

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  9. While I agree with your overall sentiment… power is power. Where we choose to separate it we do so by fiat. The tripart separation of powers would not be so sacrosanct if modern scholarship had not come of age while England had such an arrangement.

    I’ve long believed the fragile nature of the relationship between executive and legislative branches is a result of the dividing line between the two being drawn between the making of policy and the making of the details of policy… a most tenuous distinction. Those who make policy and those who make the details of policy should not be allowed to be at odds with each other.

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  10. Naomi,

    I agree that the three way separation of powers shouldn’t be take for granted.

    How would you change the relationship between executive and legislative branches, in order to keep the two from being at odds with each other? What principle(s) would you use to replace the distinction between policy and administration? (Which can certainly be a very fuzzy and contested line, in practice)

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  11. Yoram,

    You wrote,

    >the idea that “good executives” are hard to find is an elitist myth.

    We didn’t write that good executives are hard to find. We wrote that if they were performing well, allotted bodies might well decide to keep them in their jobs for a long time. Maybe the term “good executive” was unclear. We didn’t mean “someone born with the rare genetic talent to perform well as an executive” – we meant something more like “someone who has consistently performed well, in the judgement of allotted bodies.”

    >A senior executive who has many years’ experience within the system would be able to run circles around the allotted delegates.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “run circles around,” or why the executive would want to do this. In this scheme, executives would not owe favors to powerful people who put them into office, they wouldn’t need to court donors and party leaders for the next election, they’d have no veto power or policy power in general, and they would be subject to review by allotted bodies.

    >there is little to gain by allowing long terms.

    I think that in some cases allotted bodies would decide that they could gain continuity, minimize disruption, enhance institutional memory, and get the benefits of an executive with deep knowledge and experience of their particular job and their particular jurisdiction. In other cases, allotted bodies would no doubt decide that they prefer to hire their executives for shorter periods.

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  12. I wouldn’t replace the distinction between policy and administration so much as make the distinction unimportant. As long as the administrative branch is unambiguously an agent of the policymaking body(ies) it shouldn’t matter too much whether policy is made more on the formal-policymaking side or on the administrative side. Assuming, of course, that the administration does not amass so much significance as bring the stability of the whole system into question. The key thing, I believe, is that the executive should be dismissible by the same mechanism through which policies are set. Or something close to it.

    Take semipresidential systems as a model. They have a powerful president who names a cabinet which then depends on parliamentary confidence. Under the premier-presidentialism varient the ability to dismiss the cabinet is reserved exclusively to the legislature. The cabinet ends up looking a lot like the cabinet might under pure parliamentarianism. Perhaps the president might try to forge a different coalition than would otherwise have formed, but that’s about it. There is certainly pressure on the legislature to avoid cohabitation if at all possible. However, if the legislature would prefer a PM hostile to the president, then, eventually, the president has no choice but to name them. Under the president-parliamentarism variant the cabinet can be dismissed by either the president or parliament. This results in something very close to pure presidentialism in practice. The president can better articulate a do-this-or-you’re-fired message than can a legislature generally. One cannot serve two masters, so the cabinet ends up being a tool of the president.

    Keith is starting to convince me of the advantages of pursuing greater merit in the executive. This would imply appointment by some entity able to judge merit. In any case, as long as the mechanism for dismissing the head of the administrative apparatus is the same as the mechanism for setting policy, the head will have to act in accordance with her interpretation of the expressed (or likely) policy preferences of the policy making body, even if those diverge from the preferences of the appointing body. Or her own.

    I’m not sure how this would fit in with the system proposed the paper. The people on the review panels would be similar to those on the policy making panels. But a review panel necessarily has a more limited perspective on overall policy. The members of the panel are likely to judge based on other factors than adherence to the details of policies that may be outside the scope of their deliberations anyway. This may encourage the executive to act in accordance with the uninformed policy preferences of the average person (which will be reflected in the review board) at the expense of the informed preferences of the individual policymaking panels.

    On a related note, if there is a need for a separate oversight branch, then so be it. I don’t see a need to mix the oversight and administrative roles into one entity.

    I’m excited to see so much discussion about the executive. It’s my favorite topic.

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  13. David,

    > I’m not sure what you mean by “run circles around,” or why the executive would want to do this.

    To explicate a truism: like any person in power, an executive can be expected to use her power to promote policy that is beneficial to herself. A person who is long in power can be expected to develop interests that are distinct from, and possibly antagonistic to, those of the average person. Also, a person who is long in power can be expected to become skillful at exerting that power in ways that would be difficult for people less experienced then her to detect and counteract. The combination of these two effects make it unlikely that long executive terms will benefit the public.

    > I think that in some cases allotted bodies would decide that they could gain continuity, minimize disruption, enhance institutional memory, and get the benefits of an executive with deep knowledge and experience of their particular job and their particular jurisdiction.

    For the reasons laid out above, I think that any allotted body that chooses to allow an executive a term longer than its own is suspect of being controlled by that executive rather than vice versa.

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  14. Yoram, Perhaps you are being hyper-cautious about terms for executives. I don’t deny the tendencies you mention, but these would have several countervailing factors… A string of new allotted review bodies would come into existence, each with the option to remove the executive…so the “capture” of the legislative branch by an executive of the majority party is avoided. Since the idea is that the executive would be RECRUITED, rather than having SOUGHT the office (as through election), there would be a diminished likelihood of having ego-maniacs or power-hungry individuals in this position (though I admit the mere HOLDING of the the office can alter these psychological characteristics of an individual). And finally, you seem too dismissive of the benefits of skill and experience that cam come with longevity. Yes, there are dangers that come with longevity as well, but I wold leave it to a series of randomly selected review panels to judge the optimal balance.

    Naomi, You wrote
    >”This may encourage the executive to act in accordance with the uninformed policy preferences of the average person (which will be reflected in the review board) at the expense of the informed preferences of the individual policymaking panels.”

    This is the biggest weakness I’ve heard to my scheme for executive oversight by periodic review panels. The solution might involve a professional staff of skeptical experts that would be recruited from among those who have opposed past executive actions, to act as advisors to the review panels. The panels would need to dig in and learn quite a lot from an agonistic process, much like a traditional trial, hearing pros and cons for retention, so that they could make an INFORMED assessment, rather than merely reflect ill-informed “public opinion.”

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  15. To add to Terry’s last response – none of the randomly selected panels we proposed would be “uninformed.” It would be the job of the members to BECOME informed. They would have the motivation to do it (because it’s their job, and unlike a general election, their decisions could actually affect outcomes). They’d have time to become informed. And they’d have access to staff and outside experts. And unlike members of “all purpose” legislatures, their scope of responsibility would be substantially less, and they wouldn’t need to devote time to campaigning, fund raising, and media relations.

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  16. Naomi,

    You wrote,
    >I’m excited to see so much discussion about the executive. It’s my favorite topic.

    What are the most interesting proposals you know of for the executive branch?

    Martin’s proposal refers to the Swiss “collegial” executive, which is a collective of ministers working together, rather than a single person. Is anybody here familiar with that, and how well it’s worked?

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  17. Aloha from Hawaii,

    I think we should all acknowledge Naomi’s detailed knowledge on the functioning of different forms of executive. I’m particularly taken by her principle that the removal mechanism should be a reciprocal of the policy agenda (Isegoria) mechanism (as it is, in principle, with party elections). Isegoria, imo, in extended states, presupposes the principle of distinction, as preferences and beliefs have to be aggregated, so the same elite agents who were involved in the policy proposal would, of necessity, be involved in ensuring that the executive agents carried out the policy as directed. Terry has allotted proposers, so allotted accountability would be appropriate, but his acknowledgement of the need for sceptical expertise and some sort of agnostic process similar to the trial, with an allotted jury, might suggest that our two different models are beginning to converge.

    As for Yoram’s claim that an executive can be expected to use her power in a way that is beneficial to herself, this may will be a truism to unreconstructed Marxists, but ordinary mortals believe that not all behavior is determined by personal or class interests.

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  18. David,
    Maybe so. The scope of the material they would need to process and deliberate on in detail would be huge. I have my doubts that the average person would be open to challenging their own beliefs and preconceived political notions en masse like that. Even if they had all the time needed to do so. I suspect rational ignorance is easier to overcome than the discomfort of having one’s uninformed views challenged. If the scope of their deliberations is limited, it might not be a problem. However, the scope of an executive’s actions are vast.

    On further consideration, this is criticism against all ad-hoc solutions. Each time a body is called, it will end up being “informed” only on a very narrow range of matters. An informed “big-picture” view will likely elude it. I will have to give this more consideration.

    “Martin’s proposal refers to the Swiss “collegial” executive, which is a collective of ministers working together, rather than a single person.”

    I LOVE Switzerland as a model for hybrid constitutions. I should probably pick up a copy of Martin’s book. I suspect I would agree with a lot of it.

    The Swiss executive committee seems to work well enough. From what I’ve read, the cabinet positions are somewhat bloated as there are only seven “ministers” (the members of the body) who can be assigned portfolios. It obeys strict collegiality. I suspect this is a side effect of the consensus nature of Swiss politics, rather than a feature of the executive itself. Shugart and Carey in Presidents and Assemblies argue that accountability should be poor in a collegial executive if the members are chosen and replaced separately, as is *effectively* the case in Switzerland. No one is responsible for the actions of the body as a whole, only their individual votes. The behaviour of any assembled body is an emergent property of the interactions of the members of the body, and is not something that can be easily controlled by micromanaging individual members. Shugart and Carey favor appointment and dismissal of all members collectively so that lines of action and lines of accountability are fully congruent. Again, Switzerland has a highly consensus-driven political system. Whether a similar executive would still work well under more adversarial conditions remains to be seen. Switzerland hasn’t really faced any existential threats that could not be addressed through diplomacy since the current constitution was adopted in the mid 1800s. So one could make the case that its institutions have not yet been fully stress-tested.

    I’m not completely comfortable with executive committees. I like them in some ways and hate them in others. We just don’t have enough experience with them to say for sure how well they work or what behaviors they encourage. There are only a handful of examples. Uruguay briefly had an executive committee. It was a drop-in replacement for the president and its members did not hold cabinet positions themselves. It only lasted a few years, IIRC. There’s also the French Directory and the little revolutionary satellite states founded on that model. I’ve read almost nothing about them. Parliamentary executives fit the description of a “collective of ministers working together, rather than a single person” when the governing majority is diffuse. The major players in the coalition parties are found in the cabinet. Consensus must be found between them. However, participation in government is limited to willing partners. Such cabinets are often fragile, and to top it off, the ministers usually have considerable leverage over each other in their ability to force an early election if they chose to do so. Thus, such systems are only very poor analogs for proper executive committees.

    “What are the most interesting proposals you know of for the executive branch?”

    Do you mean pure sortition-based options? I can think of very few. I’m a diehard proponent of mixed constitutions, partially out of a desire to give the general public a hand in executive construction. I believe in the need for effective popular leadership in a political system. While one can govern without the consent of the governed, one surely cannot lead without the consent of the led. I want a popularly identifiable figure at the head of the government. However, I can’t seem to go an entire week without changing my mind as to what that should look like. As of two days ago this is what I had in mind:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3EO8e9p9DUUX3NGTS11SW1pWkU/view?usp=sharing

    Making institutional flowcharts helps me keep my thoughts organized. Statistical balloting is used in place of a full ad-hoc allotted assembly for logistical reasons. It occurs to me now that this system has the same basic uninformed agency problem. I will have to give it more thought.

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  19. David,

    I share Naomi’s scepticism regarding the ability and willingness of randomly selected persons to inform themselves in a sufficiently dispassionate manner to hold the executive to account. Bear in mind that accurate statistical representation presupposes a conscript model, otherwise we would end up with the sound of grinding axes. This is why Martin’s model for quasi judicial advocates plus allotted jury is a lot more plausible.

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  20. Naomi,

    Good food for thought! And I appreciate the flowcharts.

    I was indeed asking for proposals about the executive in general, not just pure sortition proposals.

    I don’t think Martin Wilding Davies has a book, but you can find a recent proposal at a site called “Ordinary People,” at http://www.ordinarypeople.org.uk/new_model_democracy

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  21. Keith and Naomi,

    Keith doubts the “ability and willingness of randomly selected persons to inform themselves in a sufficiently dispassionate manner to hold the executive to account.”

    But compare this to the two standard alternatives…by mass election or by political parties in parliament. Both of these have clearly proven far worse. On this Blog I don’t need to recount the long list of reasons that mass elections fail (rational ignorance, manipulation, miss-direction, power of money, etc.). But note that political parties nearly always defend the party leader (who becomes executive) against criticisms…and the criticisms also are hardly “dispassionate.”

    The one possible exception is PR coalition governments where one party can drop out…But this can be due to a whole host of electoral imperatives having nothing to do with the performance of the executive.

    Plenty of research by psychologists has shown that average people coming to a decision-making situation without prior partisan bias are MORE capable of making dispassionate decisions than are stalwart partisans (who dominate electoral decision-making bodies). People who are “in to” politics are generally blind to what they do not know, and have a false sense of certainty in the absolute rightness of their views, while “non-political” people are more open to absorbing new information simply because they know they don’t already know.

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  22. Terry,

    As you week know, I’m in complete agreement that ordinary people are better able at making dispassionate decisions than partisans. The issue at stake is how to provide well balanced information and advocacy, and my preferred model here is the deliberative poll. Exactly how to establish that in a political context is tricky, my preferred approach for opposition advocacy is Martin’s quasi judicial Advocacy, but I’m open to Naomi’s proposal for this all to be provided by political parties. But please don’t conflate the decision and information functions, as neither Naomi or I are arguing for business as usual.

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  23. David,
    Thanks for the link! For some reason I though he had more than that. Oh well.

    Keith,
    I missed a few of your posts. Did they get caught in the moderation queue somehow? Anyway, the relationship between the executive and legislature has been my primary area of interest over the last seven years or so, so I really appreciate your shout-out regarding such matters. Thank you. How was Hawaii?

    I’ve given the matter more thought, and I find myself being drawn away from the ad-hoc model. There seem to be many advantages to having the same set of jurors retained over time. They will build an informed “big picture” perspective (one proposal at a time) in a way no ad-hoc body can. For example, an issue that has concerned me for some time is the potential for an ad-hoc body to have an anti-status quo bias. I know if I were forced to fly a thousand miles to participate in the lawmaking process, I’d want to walk away with an accomplishment. Even if a proposal were deeply flawed… voting yes is doing something to address the problem. Voting no might help the lawmaking process, which might lead to a better proposal down the road, or it might not. If everyone agrees that a certain matter absolutely must be addressed… and everyone agrees a deeply flawed proposal addresses the matter… it might be tough to say no.

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  24. Forgive my ellipsis abuse.

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  25. Naomi,

    Could you post reference info/links to some of your writing about the relationship between the executive and legislature?

    You wrote,

    >There seem to be many advantages to having the same set of jurors retained over time. They will build an informed “big picture” perspective (one proposal at a time) in a way no ad-hoc body can.

    I agree. At the same time, ad-hoc juries have two advantages. They can be more descriptively representative, because they can include people who aren’t willing and able to make a longer term commitment; and because there are many more of them, they can increase the portion of the population that experiences meaningful participation in public decision making. That’s why Terry’s legislative proposal, and our joint executive branch accountability proposal, use longer term randomly selected bodies for most things, but ad-hoc juries for final decision making.

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  26. Naomi,

    As to the possible anti-establishment bias of an “ad hoc” (short-term special-purpose) jury…This is not an obvious tendency, and if actual, not an obvious problem. Most people would rather “play it safe” in most cases…and if uncertain about what to do, prefer to maintain the status quo (the devil you know). If there IS an anti-establishment bias, that might be healthy, since the corrupt concentration of power in the executive is probably a bigger danger to society than turn-over of executives.

    The two main problems with a long-term jury for voting on executive retention or removal are the likelihood of it being a less representative group (due to the time commitment)… as David mentioned… but also the tendency for institutional capture. Executives seek to make their associated bodies feel like “part of the same team.” In my own city, each department is overseen by a five member appointed commission (appointed by the city council) which reviews budgets, and performance, etc. (with ultimate authority still resting with the mayor and city council). These commissions generally become cheering squads for their respective departments and department heads. Of course this is largely due to the control of information getting to the commissioners (through the department head)…but the psychology of group loyalty plays a part as well I think.

    p.s. I think heavy use of ellipses better captures my string of related ideas and conversational tone…(similar to parentheses)… so don’t consider it abuse. Carry on.

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  27. Naomi,

    Hawaii was great thanks. I was posting from my cellphone, which meant that most of my comments ended up [appropriately, no doubt] in Yoram’s spam box. Serves me right for being so garrulous.

    Aristophanes’ is good on the unaccountable iconoclasm of ad hoc juries:

    “What creature is there today more happy and enviable, or more pampered, or more to be feared, than a juror? … And for doing all
    this [scrutinizing magistrates] we cannot be called to account – which is true of no other public authority.”Wasps, 548-51; 587.

    So the appointment of jurors on the basis of the harlot’s prerogative (power without responsibility) would need to be compensated by a significant increase in the power of the permanent executive (to maintain the “big picture”). The other option is a longer term of service, but this would still not provide any formal accountability, just a pious hope that the public service ethos would be better instilled in the Honourable Members. My Hawaiian holiday reading was Andy Dobson’s Listening for Democracy and he’s very good on how [jurors] need to learn how to listen in a truly “apophatic” (receptive) manner. But can this be taught and/or is there any evidence that a longer term of office would develop this sort of virtue? I’m doubtful, so, although I agree with your concerns, I would prefer ad hoc jurors and a powerful executive, so that the presumption would be yes, rather than no. This would require a supermajority for a legislative “no” vote; ditto for no confidence/impeachment motions. But then I would prefer this wouldn’t I, given that my preference, like the 4th century reformers, is to privilege the rule of law, rather than the rule of men or harlots. [No sexist message is intended by my use of these archaic terms.]

    Additional accountability (and political responsiveness) would also be provided by adopting your suggestion that the advocates (prosecution and defence) should be provided by elected politicians. So this might well alleviate the fears of those of a progressive disposition that the requirement for supermajoritarian “no” votes would privilege the executive. Whatever the term of office for jurors, a mixed constitution that gave the harlots the final say would require a supermajority, otherwise it would be a case of demos turannos>/em>. So, given David and Terry’s concerns about the dangers of the harlots going native, this would also suggest ad hoc juries.

    I guess the final choice is do you want democracy or politeia? — I’m firmly with Aristotle on this (and most things, for that matter). But, leaving aside my conservative prejudices, I don’t see how anyone who feels that accountability (without recourse to the policeman’s truncheon) is an essential political virtue can argue otherwise. You just can’t get the blood of accountability out of the stones thrown into the kleroterion, so mixed government is unavoidable and, given that the power of the one (appointed executive) and the few (elected aristocracy) is outnumbered by the many (allotted legislature), supermajorities will be required to maintain the balance of power that lies at the heart of the politeia. Subdividing the demos into different samples will still not provide accountability for the vast majority who will have been disenfranchised by the aleatory revolution.

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  28. David,
    Oh, I’m just a chemist. I didn’t mean to suggest I was published in the field. I meant it’s the topic I’ve been studying for personal edification. Nothing more nothing less. I haven’t really written up a succinct summary of my thoughts on the matter. Perhaps I should at some point.

    Terry,
    I’m not so much concerned about an anti-establishment bias so much as a pro-passage-of-proposals bias. If the allotted body is the policy gatekeeper, and its job is to sort out competing proposals, it could be troublesome. I suppose this relates back to my coordination concerns.

    Do you think capture would still be an issue if the body numbered in the hundreds? I mean, it happens in parliaments, kinda by design, but the number of effective actors is made low by efficient party discipline. If the body is hierarchically flat (just a set of 500 or so jurors) it might be tough to assign rewards strategically. After all, the members who don’t receive rewards might react very poorly to being excluded. Likewise, balanced advocacy seems key to all these proposals. If the executive has excessive influence on the flow of information reaching the allotted individuals… we have a serious problem regardless of the ad-hoc vs. fixed term issue.

    Keith,
    Do policy jurors really have power without responsibility? They have to live with the consequences of their actions the same as everyone else. If they implement foolish policies, they, their friends, their children and their children’s children have to deal with the fallout. If they mismanage the budget, they, their friends, their children and their children’s children have to live with the consequences. We are all greatly concerned about long-term issues as well as short-term ones. It seems to me that short-term concerns take priority at present only due to the short-term nature of electoral cycles.

    I’m skeptical of the idea that executive-driven deviation away from the informed preferences of the average juror will generally prove to be deviation in the direction of more sound policy. If protected by a supermajority, the policy preferences and character of the executive will hinge on the details of appointment. If you get the details off, you could find ideals you consider distasteful given permanent supermajority advantage.

    Like

  29. Naomi,

    I’d love to believe that folk live up to your expectations, but I think the problem goes a lot deeper than the electoral cycle. The annual budget deficit in the UK is currently running @ £100,000,000,000, but nobody takes ownership — when it comes down to it we all, in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, want the world and we want it now and sod the consequences for our children and their children. Bear in mind that Aristophanes’ target was allotted juries, not poorly-considered assembly decisions, so I see no good reason to believe that modern allotted jurors, even if serving (say) a 3-year term, carefully trained in apophatic listening and swearing a modern version of the Heliastic Oath, would magically gain the holistic wisdom that you suggest. To the Athenians those who didn’t take an active part in political life were idiotes and everyone had to bear arms to defend the polis, so what hope is there for modern “citizens”– (better described as consumers of public services (preferably without picking up the bill).

    Accountability requires very tangible and personal sticks and carrots, whether in the form of honorary crowns, amour propre or salary/bonus/pension rights. Even the advocates of the sortition-takes-all option (Terry, Yoram etc), acknowledge the need for accountability but it always takes the form of police action (euthynai) — accountability to one’s “constituents” doesn’t work when parliamentary votes are not revealed and there is no need to seek re-election. Apart from the policeman, all you are left with is the republican notion of civic virtue, and Yoram has acknowledged that his model of representation cannot work without this. But the job of those who design constitutions is, as Madison realised, to legislate for fallen man, not angels, hence the need for the careful balancing of powers. Supermajorities have to be large enough to ensure stability of governance but small enough to ensure that the executive still follows the general will. And remember that the aristocracy (politicians) have been elected by the same estate from which the allotted juries are sampled, so the combined powers could easily hold the executive to account. I’m agnostic as to whether confidence motions/impeachments (against the executive) should be initiated by Martin’s quasi-judicial Advocates or elected politicians, or a combination thereof.

    This should take care of the problem of deviation from the informed preferences of the average juror, but the big picture is more to do with a) trading one good off against another equally attractive policy option and b) making sure that it’s affordable. This is down to government departments (the treasury, in particular), and the job of the chief minister (treasury secretary) is to cost all the desiderata of the legislature, present the bill and ask members if they want to increase taxes in order to pay for it (putting it on account for future generations having been made illegal). The government also has the duty to point out when (say) energy policy comes into conflict with environmental policy and politicians and Advocates will also play an active role in this field. To expect randomly-selected conscripts to have this kind of big picture is unrealistic, especially as one man’s big picture will be another’s tunnel vision, so which big picture do we take to be indicative of public preferences? In your proposal, as I understand it, this was down to political parties, and I’ve learned to live with that, but I’m surprised that you now seem to be moving towards an allotted solution for this.

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  30. Naomi,

    You wrote,

    >I didn’t mean to suggest I was published in the field. I meant it’s the topic I’ve been studying for personal edification. Nothing more nothing less. I haven’t really written up a succinct summary of my thoughts on the matter. Perhaps I should at some point.

    How about now? I think it could be useful to all of us here, and would probably help you sort out your own thoughts as well.

    Like

  31. David,
    Sure, I could try to type something up this weekend.

    Keith,
    The administration, oversight, and the policy coordination roles all seem to be highly distinctive. Why conflate them all into the executive? An oversight agency needs autonomy and the freedom to have an antagonistic relationship with both the policymakers and the administrators as needed. The administrative apparatus, as you have emphasized several times in the past, must be subordinate to the policymakers. The policy coordination function should probably be done by an institution with a high degree of democratic legitimacy because it is responsible for the trade-offs that ultimately make up the overall shape of the law. If the budget is your first concern, why not simply have a budgetary court of some sort? If such a mechanism is adequate to protect the rights of minorities, should it not be good enough for budget issues as well?

    Accountability makes sense in a principal-agent framework, but what we’re talking about here seems to me to be more akin to holding someone accountable for their own household budgetary choices. Or the other life choices they might make. They live with those choices. That’s where it necessarily begins and ends. If the allotted house is truly a microcosm of the nation, holding them accountable makes as much sense as holding the whole of the people accountable. We may part ways here, and I respect that, but I absolutely believe the nature and scope of the law (including budgetary issues) should entirely rest with those who must live under it. By all means, we should make sure they are in a position to make the most informed decision possible. Absolutely. Hence, my desire for the allotted members to have the broadest perspective we can give them.

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  32. Naomi,

    Parking, for the moment, the oversight role, it’s not clear how to separate the administration and policy coordination roles in a sortition-based political system. Government officials are in a much better position to highlight potential conflicts between (say) energy and environmental policies and to draw their attention to the (randomly-selected) legislators, who can then decide between different options to resolve the conflict. The aggregate judgment of the legislators is the democratic way to resolve the conflict, but you can hardly expect randomly-selected conscripts to have the knowledge and experience necessary to spot the original problem. Members of the Advocacy and political parties would also have the power to draw the attention of the legislature to potential conflicts and propose solutions. Most of the problems would be budgetary in nature, so the legislative body would be, in effect, a budgetary court (the original function of the English parliament), but it would not bring its own motions and prosecutions, it would merely determine the outcome. The distinction between proposing and disposing is more fundamental than the separation of powers and there is no convincing argument to extend the remit of randomly-selected bodies beyond the latter.

    It would be plain silly for the executive to have oversight over itself — my suggestion was that confidence motions should be proposed by members of the Advocacy and judged by a randomly-selected body. This would likely be a highly agonistic process.

    >I absolutely believe the nature and scope of the law (including budgetary issues) should entirely rest with those who must live under it.

    But that includes the unborn, who have to suffer the consequences of the mistakes of their parents and grandparents — this is the flaw in the liberal doctrine of providing citizens with enough rope to hang themselves. How to ensure the interests of future generations and how best to protect people against their own foolishness is a very tricky area. In the UK, all political parties now accept the need to bind their own hands via a constitutional requirement for balanced budgets over the economic cycle, so that seems a good starting point. Rothbard has argued, persuasively imo, that the “freehold” interest ensured by the hereditary principle is the best way to preserve the rights of the unborn, but if that’s a bridge too far for republicans, then permanent tenure for government ministers (subject to maintaining the confidence of the legislature) might well be an acceptable compromise. Given the transient nature of sortition-based legislatures, something else is required to ensure a longer time frame.

    Like

  33. Keith,
    >In the UK, all political parties now accept the need to bind their own hands via a constitutional requirement for balanced budgets over the economic cycle, so that seems a good starting point.

    As you have said on many occasions, political parties in a majoritarian framework must ultimately follow the median voter’s position. How could they *all* adopt this position if the average person was not greatly concerned about the long term health of their country? What greater imperative can there be than to give one’s children a better future? Such arguments will surely make for a persuasive case in front of the allotted house. I’m not too familiar with Rothbard, and reading his Wikipedia page does not give me a very favorable view. Is the general idea that certain individuals holding wealth and power passed in a hereditary fashion have incentive to make sure this wealth and power will still mean something generations later? The quality of life of one’s descendants (and the state of the country they inherit) means the world to anyone who is not completely depraved. You aren’t going to create an executive (appointed or hereditary) that somehow cares more for the nation’s children and grandchildren than the nation’s own parents. A politician can get away with anything if they can convince the people that it is in the interest of the nation’s children simply because this what the average person (or at least the average parent) cares about more than anything else.

    Regarding the separation of administration and policy coordination, Switzerland again provides a fine model for a mixed constitution. The Swiss legislature has no problem coordinating (through supplementary acts) around acts passed by initiative. And those initiatives are constitutional amendments. I would rather all proposals be the equivalent no matter their origin. So the problem should be less. To be fair, I have no idea how often the initiative would be used. If the elected house were to do a poor job of representing the people’s wishes in drafting legislation, it would be used frequently to compensate. If it were to do well it will be used more sparingly. If the coordination burden on the elected house is reduced by retaining the same allotted individuals over time than that would be nice too. Decreasing the allotted body’s willingness to be at odds with its own decisions is healthy. Everything helps. The main reason to retain allotted individuals would be to ensure continuity of perspective between the policymaking and executive dismissal roles.

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  34. David,
    I have three considerations in the executive: fusion with the legislature, capacity for effective leadership, and competency.

    *Fusion with the legislature*
    My impression is that a balance of power can only ever be metastable. There’s always drift and that drift is rarely predictable. It’s especially true when we start changing selection methods. The use of sortition in modern governments is novel. We can’t predict how a sortition-based balance of powers will evolve in time. Who in 1700 would have predicted the evolution of the British constitution to the present day? Who, armed only with the knowledge of British constitutional history, would have looked at US constitution when it was written and predicted how the relationship of its institutions has evolved or how the Latin American constitutions derived from it would have developed? We can’t look at an untried balance of powers proposal and feel as though we can predict its behavior in a century or two. We can make educated guesses, we can make analogies, but the truth is until we actually try (and wait a century or two) we won’t know. We could easily end up with power coming to rest in a highly undesirable configuration. Much as it has in Latin America where power has shifted to presidents to a distressing degree.

    It seems to me that the only constant is that power likes to concentrate in the fewest hands possible, with delegation flowing out from there. If power is consolidated from the very beginning, it seems most improbable that power will ultimately come to rest too far away from this initial position… just my impression. I could be wrong. So we should have a single arbiter of policy power, with delegation from there when there is a consensus to do so.

    What is an executive but the legislature’s detail worker? If a legislature could pass acts with an extraordinary degree of detail and amend those details with speed enough to compensate for the realities “on the ground,” there would be no need for anything more than a simple civil service. But it can’t. Passing acts takes time. Details are easy to get bogged down in. So there is a need to delegate the detail work to someone with the capacity to handle it — and allowing separation between this detail worker and the legislature is nonsensical. What good could possibly come of it? I’m not opposed to the executive having a great role — so long as revocable consent is given by those formally vested with the underlying powers.

    *Capacity for Effective Leadership*
    I think I may be alone in stressing leadership capacity on this blog. But where would the US be without Lincoln or the UK without Churchill? Look at how quickly the election of Poroshenko stabilized the political situation in Ukraine.

    If we end up with a system that is less able to meet the challenges which ultimately define a people generations later, what’s the point? What has been gained? All the brilliant policy in the world adds up to nothing. Extreme conditions are what I consider first. Could a proposed government fight another American Civil War if such a thing were well and truly needed? Or would it crumble under the strain? The sh*t (pardon my Anglo-Saxon) always hits the fan eventually if you wait long enough. Could it function as a government in exile? What would happen if much of the country were occupied by a foreign force? What if a terrorist nuke goes off in the capital and the senior-most executives are killed? What happens then? Who does what? Does the military have to step in? What about an epidemic? Would Ebola 2.0 cause the system to break down? Would the military have to step in to coordinate the response? How does the government get back on its feet and stabilize the situation in all these cases? These are the questions I find myself dwelling on.

    Anyone who tells you we know how an arbitrary allotted system would behave under such circumstances is full of it. We won’t know for sure until we try. We have a vast amount of experience with elected governments. We won’t understand allotted institutions as well until we have a similar amount of trial-and-error on the books. Problem is… the “error” part of that equation is horrifying. I’m unwilling to gamble my country on such an experiment. These systems may work fine under ordinary circumstances… but until it hits the fan we just won’t know for sure how successful the experiment was. Which is why I’m absolutely unwilling to dispense with an elected assembly. I want something solid to fall back on. Elected assemblies are flawed, but they work. We understand them. I would vastly prefer to have an elected assembly to lean on should the allotted portion of the constitution get brushed away when push comes to shove.

    And if we are to hedge our bets, let us mix principles where each has the most to contribute.

    *competency*
    Eh, I suppose this one is self-explanatory. And I really want to go to bed.

    #####################

    With these requirements in mind, here’s my newest flowchart.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3EO8e9p9DUURDg1TU1hNTFYdnM/view?usp=sharing

    Maybe the name “Forum” is not the best. It doesn’t matter too much to me.

    The presidential candidates are selected by an allotted board with a mix of representatives and non-representative quotas. For example, there’s nothing to be gained by deviating from the usual 50/50 male/female split, or the other demographic quotas for that matter. So keep them. There is something to be gained by setting arbitrary quotas for various fields and degrees. We could, for example, require that a quarter or more of the people drawn into the assembly have a decade or more of experience in the civil service. Such people should know the senior members of the civil service by reputation, if not personally. If tasked with finding candidates to lead the whole civil service on their own initiative, it seems likely they’ll draw upon those they know.

    The top two favored by the citizen’s assembly should both be qualified enough. We could decide between them with a coin toss and I doubt it would make a difference. So why not leave the final decision up to the masses? There are plenty of directly elected presidents who serve a role similar to the British monarch for want of institutional powers. Institutional powers shape voter expectations and without the expectation that victory will give a candidate policymaking power, candidates can’t really run on policy and thus can’t really claim to have won a policy mandate. The president in the flowchart posted above has considerable power, but no leverage to exercise it freely. A president could remain in office for two months or two decades. If voted out by a bare 50%+1 after two months, a president is guaranteed to be gone forever. She should not be able pursue her own agenda while in office. Voter expectations should reflect this just as they do when the office is purely ceremonial. Yet I see no reason she could not function effectively as a leader. She would just need to live within the confines of what the allotted body is willing to tolerate.

    Of course all this could prove to be nonsense. I’d be a fool not to accept as much. Still, I’m surprised how much I like this configuration. It’s the only thing I’ve found that truly meets all my requirements. Plus, it should be agreeable to American audiences. The basic structure of presidential elections and congressional elections in parallel remains. I imagine most people would agree that the method we use to select presidential candidates could do with an overhaul. And giving a statistical sampling of regular people the power to call an early presidential election is something one could argue persuasively enough. Same with giving them the final say on acts of Congress.

    That was a bit rambley. Oh well. I’m sure I’ve said enough to piss off everyone here. I’d like to apologize in advance for that. I acknowledge I could be wrong about everything. This is just the perspective I’ve developed on the matter.

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  35. Naomi,

    The UK party-political consensus on the need for balanced budgets is not a result of the median-voter theorem, it’s because professional politicians are more aware than voters of the disciplines imposed by the bond market (or, as Dennis Healey put it, “the laws of arithmetic”). To the average voter the annual budget deficit (£100,000,000,000) is entirely meaningless. If you examine political speech prior to the 2010 general election, the case for austerity rarely came up, even though all party leaders knew that spending cuts were inevitable. Perhaps it’s different in the US, but in the UK appeals for fiscal rectitude don’t win elections — this is largely the result of the social democratic gerrymandering of the New Labour administration which ensured that as many voters as possible now benefit from permanent government largesse, generally in the form of tax credits (this is a good example of Keith Joseph’s socialist ratchet effect). As a result of this, Labour are on course to win the forthcoming UK election: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/columns/adamboulton/article1502742.ece

    I’m unsurprised that Rothbard’s argument for heredity is repugnant to republican sensibilities (I only mentioned it because I’m scratching my head for a way to address the needs of unborn generations). It’s really a case of argument by analogy — those with a freehold (or long leasehold) interest in their house/apartment tend to look after it better than those who are renting (and especially those whose rent is paid by the government), and its tempting to believe this is motivated by the desire to pass on something of value to one’s offspring. By analogy, the hereditary monarch has the ultimate (albeit nominal) freehold on the nation, therefore she will want to preserve it for her children. Of course all parents share this perspective, but once the responsibility is shared with x million others it’s hard to view it in personal terms, so citizens (sadly) tend to put their own immediate interests before long-term concerns for the general good (the “tragedy of the commons”).
    Decision making by an allotted sample will (assuming good advocacy) be better informed, but we should beware of the delusion that this will automatically turn the consumers of government services into upstanding citizens motivated by republican virtù. It’s better (or at least more prudent) to hope, like Madison, for the best but assume the worst.

    >I would rather all proposals be equivalent no matter their origin.

    Agreed. Arguing from the example of Swiss democracy is problematic, as it would appear to be the exception to the rule. Bear in mind that in my proposal political parties merely have the right to present manifesto proposals, so they have exactly the same status as direct initiatives. There is no elected government and no ruling party coalition to ensure policy coordination, only a mass of conflicting initiatives presented to an unaccountable and transient ad hoc legislature composed of randomly-selected conscripts. This sounds to my ears like a recipe for instability/anarchy/disaster (choose your preferred apocalypse), hence my call for a permanent executive to ensure policy coordination, accountability and fiscal discipline. I guess where I differ from most kleroterians is that I’m acutely aware of the problems introduced by sortition-based governance, hence the need to temper it by other mechanisms. It’s not really a problem for you as you’re still wedded to the notion of governance by elected politicians (albeit switching to a PR-based coalition model), sortition is only of supplementary interest, whereas it’s always been central to my proposal. My first book was entitled The Party’s Over: Blueprint for a Very English Revolution [yes, conservatives can also be revolutionaries], but you and others have convinced me that politicians should continue to play an ongoing advocacy role, but this is a marginal one and certainly cannot provide any form of policy coordination.

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  36. Naomi,

    >I’m not opposed to the executive having a great role — so long as revocable consent is given by those formally vested with the underlying powers.

    Then we are in agreement.

    >I think I may be alone in stressing leadership capacity on this blog. But where would the US be without Lincoln or the UK without Churchill? Look at how quickly the election of Poroshenko stabilized the political situation in Ukraine.

    These examples all refer to times of war and allied crises. As soon as WWII ended Churchill was replaced by the entirely “underwhelming” Attlee. The very notion of political leadership suggests the belief that the state is a purposive enterprise organisation (dedicated to constructing the New Jerusalem, eradicating the Jews/Tutsis, etc etc) as opposed to an arrangement that lets us all get along without colliding with each other too much. Crisis situations will generate the necessary leaders, but better to plan for peace rather than war, as the latter is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I agree with you regarding the vulnerability of sortition-only systems at time of crisis, but appointed executives (subject to parliamentary consent) are quite sufficient. If a crisis develops then the Attlee types would be replaced by their Churchillian counterparts. And the experience of many countries would suggest that leaders elected by popular vote at times of crisis are just as likely to appropriate dictatorial powers (claiming a popular mandate). By contrast, an appointed chief executive who overstepped her powers could be easily removed by a no-confidence vote in an allotted assembly.

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  37. Naomi,

    If your executive is tightly bound to the policy of the legislature (as we all agree on this Blog)…what exactly does the “leadership” of the executive entail? Is it just the psychological father/mother figure role for the society?

    I am probably among the most skeptical of political “leadership” of the traditional form (immersed in fundamental policy, rather than mere details)… seeing it as based largely an illusion or “halo effect” (I recommend the book by that title – though mainly about business leaders). Leadership is merely the byproduct of our herd instinct towards follwership, in which it is easier (more practical) to defer to a trusted leader than do the hard work of thinking things through for ourselves. Thinking policy options through for ourselves is silly if we have only one vote in a vast sea, but can be fruitful if we are selected for a smaller allotted decision-making body. One of my goals of sortition is to overcome rational ignorance (which is the thing that makes leadership necessary).

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  38. Keith,
    >Of course all parents share this perspective, but once the responsibility is shared with x million others it’s hard to view it in personal terms, so citizens (sadly) tend to put their own immediate interests before long-term concerns for the general good (the “tragedy of the commons”).

    Any personal gain will be spread-out *exactly* as diffusely. The economic conditions faced by ones children are quite easy to view in personal terms. And, of course, rational ignorance is no excuse here. If your position is the “right” one, and you have sufficient evidence to know your position is true and not merely a matter of opinion – or a position arrived at for ideological reasons or due to a difference in fundamental goals – then you should be able to make a killer case for it in the advocacy process. If your position is an opinion, and not the sort of thing you can prove… you may have more trouble. I’m not an economist, so I am loath to dive into this, and it’s probably not appropriate for this blog, but the appropriate level of deficit spending under various conditions is the sort of thing extraordinarily capable economists disagree on. Perhaps people can disagree on such matters without it demonstrating a general willingness to sellout future generations. Perhaps different people (and their children) have different needs and are affected differently by both the long and short-term consequences of different economic paths and can *vote for a party you disagree with* without demonstrating a general willingness to sellout future generations.

    Terry,
    The way I see it, the senior administrator is going to wield significant powers no matter how tightly bound with the legislature she may be. I suspect making the office tightly bound to the legislature will invite the delegation of lawmaking power simply because the potential for agency-loss is negligible. But I also see a need for a public-facing, PR role where policies (and bitter pills) are pushed to the general public by a relatable, and to some extent, unifying, public figure, instead of the impersonal machinery of government. We could split the roles, but then we’d have two heads, one with ceremonial significance, and one with functional significance. It seems to me that fusing both roles, if we can, would be helpful to both. But I could be wrong about that.

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  39. Naomi,

    >Any personal gain will be spread-out *exactly* as diffusely.

    You appear to be denying the tragedy of the commons. The problem is analogous to rational ignorance — if ownership of a public good is so diffuse that my putting my own short-term interests ahead of the general good will make no difference, so why should I make the sacrifice? Principles that apply to the conservation of my back garden or village green don’t scale up that well. A good example is attitudes to taxation — our village school has just built, at considerable expense, a “sensory” room, for the benefit of one part-time disabled student who will be leaving soon. When I questioned the cost/benefit of this to one of the parents, the reply was “it doesn’t matter, the money comes from [central] government”. In other words it comes from common funds to which each local parent only makes a microscopic contribution — the reaction would have been very different if it had been added on to the parish precept.

    >the appropriate level of deficit spending under various conditions is the sort of thing extraordinarily capable economists disagree on.

    It’s true that some practitioners of the dismal science (including the odd Nobel laureate) claim that the Mr. Micawber’s dictum doesn’t apply to the budgetary affairs of the nation state, but they’re the ones who got us into this fine mess in the first place. Fortunately politicians are now learning to resist their siren calls.

    >But I also see a need for a public-facing, PR role where policies (and bitter pills) are pushed to the general public by a relatable, and to some extent, unifying, public figure.

    If a) the bitter-pill policies are made by a statistical sample of the general public and b) it can be demonstrated that different samples would have returned the same policies then there is no need to have someone to, in effect, sell it to ourselves. We have chosen the laws under which we are governed so there is no need for the man from Madison Avenue.

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  40. Keith,
    > You appear to be denying the tragedy of the commons.

    I don’t see how it applies here. The budget will be managed centrally, not one parish at a time. The balance between taxation, spending, and the money supply will be handled centrally. Maybe this is an argument against ad-hoc options.

    > It’s true that some practitioners of the dismal science…

    I love how you dismiss almost all of modern economics with just a wave of your hand.

    > there is no need to have someone to, in effect, sell it to ourselves.

    Iff the elimination of rational ignorance had no bearing on the passage of the bitter-pill, and maybe not even then. Under your proposal (and other pure and near-pure sortition systems) the average person would have absolutely no say on the matter whatsoever. Not even one vote out of millions. The average person loses nothing at all by taking the far more satisfying route of just being pissed off at the things they cannot change. And why shouldn’t they be pissed off? No one asked them. And they still have to live with the consequences.

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  41. Keith,

    I think you are miss-applying, over-simplifying the analogy of the tragedy of the commons…Individual atomized decision makers can degrade a common resource. True. There are two solutions… dividing and fencing to privatize the commons, or deliberate informed community decision-making (democratic government). Those same farmers who would overgraze the commons if there is no coordination will easily agree to limit grazing by all to preserve the land for the next generation (including their children) in a collective decision. The tragedy only occurs when PRIVATE decisions are made about COMMON resources.

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  42. Naomi,

    >The balance between taxation, spending, and the money supply will be handled centrally.

    That’s precisely the problem. Folk in my village don’t give a damn when it comes to taking £100,000 from central government funds to build a white elephant, but have sleepless nights if the village hall fund has a £10 overdraft. It’s nothing to do with ad hoc-ery, it’s just a question of scale — the national deficit figure (£100,000,000,000) is so far removed from the scale at which people live their lives as to be entirely meaningless, as their own contribution to it is massively diluted — hence the parallel with the problem of rational ignorance.

    Regarding the dismal science, my argument is against a minority of left-leaning economists (Stiglitz, Blanchflower etc) who still deny Mr. Micawber’s dictum. When Thatcher drew a parallel between the nation’s expenditure and the housewife’s weekly shopping budget, she was sneeringly dismissed as an ignorant grocer’s daughter who knew nothing about economics (actually she was a Cambridge-educated research chemist). I remember hearing with astonishment ten or so years ago an eminent practitioner of the dismal science explaining that the global economy was just fine and dandy as their was a division of labour between “producer” and “consumer” nations. The burgeoning current account deficit of consumer nations was of no relevance.

    >Under your proposal (and other pure and near-pure sortition systems) the average person would have absolutely no say on the matter whatsoever.

    Quite, that’s why I’m so vehement regarding the need to demonstrate that any number of statistical samples, deliberating in parallel with the same information/advocacy input, would come to the same decision, so that it literally makes no difference which empirical individuals are included in the allotted assembly. As I have said before (repeatedly), this imposes very serious limitations on the mandate of the allotted chamber, so my proposal (unlike many others floated on this blog) is a long way removed from a “near-pure sortition system”. More precisely, popular legitimacy for sortition-based decisions requires a) experimental replicability (as described above), b) epistemic outcomes no worse than current arrangements, and c) a modest level of public understanding of the theory of statistical representation. Otherwise the decision of the allotted assembly will have no public legitimacy, irrespective of how many spin doctors or charismatic leaders you recruit to sell it to the huddled masses.

    Terry,

    I’m aware of the socialist argument against the enclosure movement and its modern equivalent (privatisation), but would respond that there is no evidence that democratic decisions on the public management of the local common scale up to the national level. The problem of scale applies, irrespective of the representation mechanism (election, sortition or whatever).

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  43. I don’t think populist anger is quite so rational. Psychologically, there’s a world of difference between asking someone what they want to do, and telling them what they would say they want to do had they actually been asked… and if weren’t quite so ignorant about the things that matter to them of course. The people lose literally nothing by embracing a satisfying and irrational anger and gain nothing by challenging their preexisting notions and becoming informed. Everyone is going to feel slighted from time to time. Those are the times people remember. There’s no relief valve, nothing to draw the passions of the day away and keep them from building against the institutions themselves. Handing someone a paper showing them that their anger in misplaced is not the sort of thing that would calm anyone down. If your design goal is to have a tremendously powerful executive that can freely exist in perpetual disequilibrium with the people regarding fundamental goals for the nation… the need for a release valve to direct anger away from the institutions is made all the more acute.

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  44. >If your design goal is to have a tremendously powerful executive that can freely exist in perpetual disequilibrium with the people regarding fundamental goals for the nation . . .

    That’s quite some straw man. As you well know in my proposal the executive is a purely delegated function, with policy decided by a randomly-selected sample(s) of the people. The potential for disequilibrium is when the executive point out to the people the fiscal and other consequences of their own policy preferences, but they can hardly be blamed for the laws of arithmetic/physics/chemistry etc. Note that it’s entirely up to the people as to what course of action they choose in order to restore equilibrium (drop the policy, drop some other policy, fire half the workforce, put up taxes etc).

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  45. If the executive is protected from dismissal by a supermajority the views of those in charge of the hitherto unspecified appointment process are what will be reflected in the executive NOT those of the average person unless the views of the average person are reflected in the appointment process.

    If there is separation between the preferences of the executive and the legislature the extent of the powers the legislature will be willing to delegate will necessarily be limited. If someone else gave appointed your lawyer for you, and chose someone with clearly conflicting preferences… would you give them power of attorney?

    If your OPINIONS on economics were laws you’d be able to demonstrate them plainly. But you can’t. If you could they would they would be orthodox views and you’d win a Nobel Prize. Mathematics is the only field where things can be proven, instead of simply demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. “Laws of arithmetic” can be can be derived and proven with ABSOLUTE certainty from nothing but first principles. If you insist on using the term… you are suggesting economics (and related human behaviors) can be reduced to such certainties.

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  46. Naomi,

    Why do you allocate such significance to policy preferences for those undertaking an administrative role? Perhaps this is because Americans are so accustomed to a politicised executive and a winner-takes-all administrative spoils system, that they can’t imagine any other alternative. But UK civil servants have a good record for re-adjusting their behaviour to the preferences of a new administration, even when it involves dismantling a scheme that they’ve only just set up under the previous administration. My perspective on government ministers appointed on merit is that they are little more than the accountable face of the civil service. If they are incompetent, or seek to impose their own preferences they will be removed by parliament; my (tentative) case for supermajorities is based on the need to ensure that stability of governance will not be derailed by the constant rise and fall of the guillotine blade (given the ad hoc and unaccountable nature of legislation by randomly-selected conscripts). Perhaps there are better ways of doing this — your suggestions would be appreciated.

    >unless the views of the average person are reflected in the appointment process [for government executives].

    They will be, as it’s down to the allotted parliament to approve the candidate (or make a choice from a shortlist). Given that the choice options will including “none of the above”, the head-hunters will be obliged to seek candidates that they anticipate will gain public approval.

    >If someone else appointed your lawyer for you, and chose someone with clearly conflicting preferences… would you give them power of attorney?

    Another straw man. Power of attorney applies when the principal is unable to make her own policy choices — in contrast to the allotted assembly, where all the choices (other than administrative details) are in the hands of the principal. Lawyers are obliged, both on the basis of commercial contract and professional ethics, to further the interests of their principal, and essentially act in an advisory and/or delegated executive capacity. Note that, in ordinary language, instructing another person to execute my wishes (go and pick up my dry-cleaning etc) is a principal-servant relationship. If the delegated executive fails to act as instructed (as she doesn’t approve of my sartorial taste), then I’ll fire her and hire someone else. The “chief” executive is in charge of the other servants, not the principal; the problem with the US presidency is that it was forged in the heat of war, hence the emphasis on commander in chief (Washington), and your attraction to the likes of Lincoln and Churchill. Unfortunately prerogatives gained in times of emergency always carry over into peace, hence the mistaken view of the chief executive as the one who gives orders rather than merely executing the orders of the sovereign people. To use another common language example the executioner doesn’t decide whose head to cut off, he just obeys the orders of his sovereign. If he did take it on himself to decide, then his own head would end up on the chopping block as this would be an act of treason.

    >“Laws of arithmetic” can be can be derived and proven with ABSOLUTE certainty from nothing but first principles. If you insist on using the term… you are suggesting economics (and related human behaviors) can be reduced to such certainties.

    In the long run yes, Micawber’s dictum applies universally. The only difference between sovereign states and households is that the former has greater collateral so can borrow more cheaply (until the bond markets lose confidence) and leave it to future generations to pick up the tab. This is not seeking to deny the economic cycle and the need for investment in infrastructure, but in most cases “investment” is a terminological inexactitude that politicians like to use as it makes spending sound more prudent to a gullible public, who fail to appreciate that the household silver has just been deposited at the pawnbroker.

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  47. > Why do you allocate such significance to policy preferences for those undertaking an administrative role …. in contrast to the allotted assembly, where all the choices (other than administrative details) are in the hands of the principal.

    A chief executive entrusted with the policy coordination role has tremendous power over policy. Whether two acts are in conflict is very much a matter of opinion. Perhaps less in budgetary issues than elsewhere. What happens when she, in her great wisdom, decides such a conflict exists? Does she have the power to veto the conflicting act? Does she just make proposals in the hopes of getting something that will resolve the conflict? If made the the only officer able to make arbitrary proposals (the hands of the elected officials are tied to their platforms, after all) she is likely to be the single most significant generator of policy proposals. Simply restricting her to making counter proposals is no limitation. The US Senate is forbidden from introducing spending bills. So they take an insignificant money bill originally proposed in the house and gut it down and start over. Standard operating procedure.

    I have a feeling you would not entrust one of those Nobel laureates with the job despite their unambiguous merit in the field of economics. The degree to which an agent is free to act in accordance with their own preferences against those of the principal where they collide is determined by the degree to which they are insulated against replacement. If insulated, you are relying on trust. Trust that they will remain a neutral party despite the potential for great policy significance. Trust that they will act in accordance with your own preferences.

    > The only difference between sovereign states and households is that the former has greater collateral so can borrow more cheaply (until the bond markets lose confidence) and leave it to future generations to pick up the tab.

    You are completely discounting currency effects. A hundred years ago, such arguments were reasonable. Deficit spending in a country that controls its own currency is a de facto tax on the holding of currency. It takes a sliver of value off each dollar or pound in circulation. Such a thing may or may not be prudent, given circumstances, but it is most certainly not borrowing against future generations. While inflation is important, the marginal value of the currency unit is of no consequence.

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  48. Naomi,

    >What happens when she, in her great wisdom, decides such a conflict exists? Does she have the power to veto the conflicting act?

    Certainly not, merely to point out that (for example) cheap coal-fired energy is incompatible with global-warming targets. It’s for the legislature to decide whether to pay more for clean energy, abandon or modify the carbon reduction target or plump for a compromise like shale gas. Someone has to coordinate policy — this is isn’t a problem for you, as you are still wedded to electoral accountability, but is a very serious problem for those of us who advocate ad hoc policy making by allotted conscripts. I agree that insulation against replacement reduces accountability, but there is a trade off between democratic reflexivity and the (arguably more important) need for stability in the political system, as the unfortunate inhabitants of Libya, Iraq and Syria will confirm. Kleroterians tend to take political stability as a given (once “real” democracy is established), but I’m inclined to see it as a lot more fragile, so better to err on the side of caution.

    >If [the chief executive was] the the only officer able to make arbitrary proposals.

    Members of the Advocacy would be able to make counter-proposals during the parliamentary debate, and all citizens are free to make policy proposals by online petition. In addition the media are unlikely to just sit on their hands.

    >Deficit spending in a country that controls its own currency is a de facto tax on the holding of currency.

    Once again you are speaking from an American perspective — you guys own the international reserve currency, so that enables you to buy a lot of time (and sell a lot of greenbacks) before the renminbi takes over. However I don’t think this is the forum to debate macroeconomic policy, so would limit myself to the observation that the requirement for balanced budgets is now the received wisdom of all major UK political parties, and that Danny Blanchflower’s call for increased deficit spending is just a voice crying in the wilderness.

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  49. > but there is a trade off between democratic reflexivity and the (arguably more important) need for stability in the political system … I don’t think this is the forum to debate macroeconomic policy

    I could not agree more strongly on both points.

    In any case there are alternatives to a supermajority requirement. A constitutional amendment mechanism used in a few countries is to have identical texts passed by ordinary lawmaking procedure in two consecutive legislative sessions go into force without needing a referendum or a supermajority of some sort. We could do something similar. If a dismissal proposal is passed, a second dismissal vote would automatically be held after some delay (a few months, perhaps). If the second vote is also in favor of dismissal, then it goes into effect. Otherwise the process is reset. The executive could not be in a state if disequilibrium with the wishes of the average person (on average over some length of time) and thus the average person would have little to fear by trusting them with a broader delegation of power.

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  50. This general approach for relatively high stakes decisions makes sense. A vote for removal by two different sequential (or possibly simultaneous) allotted review bodies. This is an improvement on how the U.S. House can impeach, and then the Senate must conduct a separate trial — since in that case, due to party loyalties, the two bodies are not genuinely distinct from each other… and also that impeachment process includes a super-majority requirement as well.

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  51. Perfect solution, fits in well with Condorcet’s requirement for gaps in the legislative process to be filled by public deliberation. I wonder if there is a case for certain types of primary legislation to take a similar path?

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  52. P.S. Terry’s analogy to House impeachment proceedings shows why the process would need to include a time delay, as the juries in two simultaneous trials would both be affected by the same passions. While the judicial process was running, the officer in question would be suspended on full pay, and the Under-Secretary would assume control.The latter would be keen to impress the sovereign as she would want her temporary tenure to become permanent, so this would improve reflexivity.

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