Down with Elections! Part 2

DOWN WITH ELECTIONS!

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

PART 2

Direct Democracy

One possible alternative to representative democracy is “direct democracy”. In this, every citizen votes on every decision. This happens in clubs and associations of course, where it works quite well. When members vote on which candidates should fill an office (Honorary President, Secretary etc), they generally know the candidates personally, and so are well able to judge their capabilities, and in any case the responsibilities and powers mandated are very limited, both in scope and in time (annual elections are the rule). Moreover, club members very often vote directly on practical issues, and these are almost always on matters well understood by the members. Further, they are free to propose amendments, and so when the matter comes to the vote, they are voting on the question which they want to decide, and not on some ambiguous question which a party in power can interpret to suit itself. They are also free to put matters on the agenda, and to call for a vote of no-confidence in office-bearers.

Direct democracy also occurs occasionally in representative democracy in the form of a referendum, where its use is often much more dubious. A lot depends on the way in which the choice is framed: a party in power may put it in such a way as to split the opposition. The matter may be technical; often the full ramifications of the choice are not made clear to the public; they cannot propose amendments, or discuss it beforehand on an equal basis, because debate is largely controlled by the media or the government. The referendum in France on the proposed European Constitution in 2007 exemplified these problems: the public was presented with a long and incomprehensible (at least to non-specialists) document whose implications were not at all clear. An irritated public voted against it (mostly in order to spite President Chirac), and in doing so pointed out another defect of referenda: the voters’ verdict is not necessarily given on the question that is officially posed.

Proponents of direct democracy would extend the principle to every decision made by the community, and some of them suggest that only measures passed unanimously should be implemented. To the obvious objection that this is impractical in a large modern state of tens or hundreds of millions, the true believers reply that the state should be abolished, to be replaced by small autonomous communities of a few thousand.

While such communities may have been successful in isolated regions (for instance the Inuit, or small agrarian tribes, perhaps even the Zapatistas), it is not obvious how they could co-exist with large states which have so clearly demonstrated their predatory tendencies in history, nor how they would successfully interact with large multi-national companies, which are no less rapacious.

How would they deal with issues involving many communities? How would one split up Tokyo, say, with its thirty-five million people, and all the services of a modern city: electricity, water and sewerage, telecommunications, roads, drains, waste collection, public transport, etc ? or operate large infrastructures spanning a whole country: the German rail network, for example? or the French electrical grid with its nuclear power stations and its waste storage problems?

The need in modern societies to make decisions on highly technical matters also poses a problem. It is quite impossible for every person to devote enough time to acquiring sufficient knowledge and expertise to make intelligent, informed decisions on all matters, and still do all the other things one has to do. There are simply not enough hours in the day.

For these reasons most people consider direct democracy to be an attractive but utopian dream.

Sortition, or Choice by Lot

We have established that the current electoral form of representation is unsatisfactory, and we have rejected direct democracy as impractical except for small clubs and societies.

What is needed is to find a form of representation which does not suffer from the defects which we have set out above. In doing this, we must not forget the principle that an adult is the best judge of his or her interests.

As Robert Dahl puts it:

“each adult ought to be treated – for purposes of making decisions, as the proper judge of his or her own interests”i

This is fundamental to democracy. If we deny it we are in effect advocating “guardianship”, that is to say rule by some sort of aristocracy of merit, which is supposed – somehow – to know our interests better than we do.

For that reason, each adult has an equal right to be counted in making decisions. Yet it is not practical for everyone to be counted individually. The most satisfactory way out of this impasse is the use of sortition.ii

There are two fundamental aspects to sortition. One is that choice by lot is inherently fair, as the process is not influenced by human decisions or preferences, and the chance of being selected is equal for any member of the population.

The other aspect is that a sufficiently large sample chosen at random will in its composition accurately represent (in the sense “stand for“) the adult population, and that it may therefore reasonably act for it in making decisions.

If one takes a fair coin, and tosses it, and records whether it falls “heads” or “tails”, after a large number of tosses, the ratio of heads to tails will tend to approach more and more closely to 50:50. Similarly, taking a sample of a population, as the sample size increases, the ratio of men to women in the sample will tend to approach 50:50 (if the number of men equals the number of women in the population). If there are 10% of left-handers in a population, then with a sufficiently large sample, the proportion of left-handers in the sample will closely approach 10%; and similarly for any other trait or distinguishing feature, such as political opinions, cultural values, personal fortune, etc. The larger the assembly, the more closely its composition will resemble that of the population. An assembly of five hundred will give a close approximation; a larger body would probably be too unwieldy in practice.

An analogy (given by Callenbach and Phillipsiii) is that of a cook preparing a soup. To know if a soup is good, the cook stirs it well, and tastes a spoonful. The stirring ensures that the sample (the spoonful) is random, ie accurately represents the whole soup, so the cook knows that the whole soup will have exactly the same taste as the spoonful did, the same spiciness, saltiness, etc. In just the same way, the random sample of citizens will have the same composition as the whole population, with the proviso that because the numbers in any practical body (a few hundred) will be smaller than the millions of millions of molecules in the cook’s spoon, the representation will be slightly less perfect, though not much.

It is important to note that it is the Assembly as a whole that represents the population. It is a mistake to think of individual members as representatives. They cannot be thought of as representing anyone other than themselves, any more than a single particle of tomato or garlic or pepper in the spoon can be taken as representing the whole soup.

Suppose then that we use sortition and choose at random, from the whole adult population, an Assembly or Parliament of several hundred members (MPs) to govern. What advantages could there be?

  • The most important advantage is that the composition of the Assembly would closely represent that of the public. It would be very close to the “exact portrait, in miniature, of the people at large”iv that John Adams called for, and will act and vote as the entire population would if it had all available relevant information at its disposal, and the time to consider that information.So women and minority groups would automatically be present in the correct proportion. So would different political tendencies. The more members, the more faithfully the Assembly will represent the general public.Once again, this representation is a close approximation that will not be quite perfect.
  • Since the whole process of choosing by lot can be done openly, in front of anyone who wishes to be present, there can be no election-rigging, and there should be no accusations of fraud, no riots, and no tear gas.
  • Sortition avoids the philosophical paradoxes inherent in elections and elected bodies. Although the Assembly represents the community (more accurately than any elected one!), individual members stand for no-one but themselves. On any issue they may – indeed should – speak and vote as they see fit. This may mean in their own narrow personal interest, or it may include the interests of those who are dear to them: their family, their district, tribe, or political leaning, or the country as a whole; whichever seems best to them at the time. The aggregate of their votes will represent the interest of the population, as the population sees it.So the Assembly as a whole represents the people as a whole, or more accurately, what the people would do and be and decide if they had time to consider all the information available.
  • The members of the Assembly, owing their position to no-one, and knowing that they could not be re-elected, would not have the temptation – or the need – to favour particular interest groups at the expense of the public. Lobbies might still exist, and might try to influence members by publicity or bribes, but could not threaten to withdraw support at elections, since there would be none. If the vote in the Assembly is secret, as it should be, it will be impossible to know if a bribe has had any effect. As the voting intentions of members will not always be known, to be sure of changing the result of a vote, it would be necessary to attempt to bribe a lot of members, which would be very risky. So corruption would be reduced or eliminated.
  • Political parties could still exist, and put forward policies, or march in the streets waving banners, but their influence would be moral, not coercive. To threaten members with removal of party endorsement or expulsion from a party would be meaningless. Furthermore, it is likely that their influence would decline, and that there would be less polarisation of the public (since no-one would profit from it).
  • A political “caste” with interests different from those of the public could not arise. There would be no “jobs for the boys” or nepotism.
  • There would be a huge saving in cost and public inconvenience. The random choice could be made at almost no cost by a very modest computer or by a device such as is used for lotteries and football pools. Contrast this with the large sums spent on elections, particularly in the US.v
  • Democracy cannot flourish if the mass of people is not educated and well informed. However, an elected government can misuse government media and schools to influence the public to suit its own political ends. (§11) One great advantage of sortition is that members of the Assembly, since they could not be re-elected, would have nothing to gain politically or personally from trying to influence the media. Consequently there can be no reasonable objection to public news services, and much to gain, since public media, free from the need to please advertisers, or to sensationalise events to increase their public, could present a more balanced coverage than private media do at present.Similarly members would have nothing to gain financially from influencing school curricula. The nature of the bodies chosen by lot, which represent the views of the whole community, should thwart attempts to influence school boards and curricula in a sectarian way.
  • A chamber chosen by lot could also use the “wisdom of the crowd” (for instance to estimate budget allocations: the median of the members’ estimates would serve as the allocation for the following year, as illustrated in in Example 5 below). This quick, efficient and fair method is not feasible in an elected chamber whose members vote in accordance with party dictates, ideology, or to score political points.
  • Senior public servants would not change with a change of government, as happens now in some countries, for the simple reason that there will be no change of government. Thus the day-to-day running of the country could continue smoothly at all times.There is one qualification which we must make here. We have spoken of drawing an Assembly by lot from the whole population. Unfortunately, it is impossible to include everyone in the population from which the sample is drawn. The largest and most obvious group exclusion is that of children. This is unfair, since children are affected by all decisions taken by a government, and more affected than adults, one could argue, since they will pass more years subject to any laws decided than their elders. Nevertheless, it is clearly impossible to include young children.At what age should a citizen become eligible to be selected? What is the age of reason? This is a question best left to the Assembly to decide, (after hearing expert advice, obviously), perhaps 18 years or perhaps a year or two younger, certainly no oldervi.
    What about criminals and the insane? There is surely no reason to exclude anyone convicted of a crime, however serious, who has completed his or her punishment. However, for practical (not “moral”) reasons those who are in gaol or confined to an institution for the insane will necessarily be excluded from the Assembly. Clearly someone behind bars cannot participate in a normal fashion in discussions in the Assembly, in spite of all our new technologies, and the release of a prisoner simply because he has been chosen by lot would be unmerited: why should not a cell-mate who has not been selected by lot also be released?

The Structure Proposed for a Government Based on Sortition

What follows here is only one proposal. Many variations are possible. My intention is not to set out a rigid blueprint, but rather to show how such a government might be formed. In practice, the Assembly itself would decide the details.

The Assembly or Parliament

  • A list of the names of the whole adult population would be kept on a database with public read-only access, so that anyone might check that his or her name had not been omitted. A chamber of, say, 500 members of parliament would be chosen at random from this list to serve for five yearsvii. Rather than changing them all at once, 10% of them would be replaced every six months. This would give continuity of government and allow time for newcomers to become familiar with procedures. In the event of inability or refusal to serve, a replacement would be chosen at random.The random choice could be made by mechanical means or by a few lines of publicly available open-source computer code which could be easily checked for fairness.
  • An Agenda Committee of about ten members would set the agenda for issues to be discussed and voted in the Assembly. The composition of this Agenda Committee is discussed below.
  • The important office of Speaker would be filled, for a period of one day in rotation, by the most senior members of the Assembly (see below). The Speaker’s job would be to see that any member wishing to speak on a proposal would get a reasonable hearing, and that no member would be able to monopolise debate, and prevent other views being expressed by filibustering. He or she would have the power to order a member to finish speaking, to eject the member if necessary; but this decision would only be valid for the day on which that Speaker held office, and could be appealed the next day, with a different Speaker.
  • Proposals for law would be considered by the Proposals Committee. This body would be set up by the Assembly as a special standing Policy Committee (see below). On receiving a proposal from a member of the public, it would acknowledge receipt, inform the Agenda Committee, and the public by means of government publications (gazette, website). It would seek any clarification necessary from the proposer. It would check for any incoherence, lack of realism, and conflicts with or duplication of existing legislation.
  • Those proposals which passed the above checks would be referred to the professional parliamentary draftsmen, who would again check their effect on existing legislation, and would prepare a first draft. This draft would be returned to the Proposals Committee, and from it would pass to the Agenda Committee, which would place the matter on the Agenda for the Assembly. Exceptionally, in matters of urgency, or where the proposal originated in a Policy Committee, and was accompanied by the Policy Committee’s recommendations, the Assembly might debate and vote on the proposal immediately. More often, the Assembly would either refer the proposal to a standing Policy Committee, or would set up a Single-issue Policy Committee to study it (see below). It might also return the proposal to the Proposals Committee with instructions to have it re-drafted.
  • Any member of the public would have the right to submit a proposal for law. This includes civil servants and members of the Assembly and committees.
  • The Assembly would have the authority to make all decisions except fixing members’ own pay and conditions, and the appointment of individual judges.
  • Voting in parliament would be by secret ballot, to prevent any possibility of members being threatened with reprisals if they do not vote in a particular way. This would also mean that anyone attempting to bribe a member would have no way of knowing that the bribe had caused the member to vote in a particular way. Members would not have the right to reveal how they voted on any issue, until their term of office expired, and it would be an offence to attempt to obtain this information from a member. Speeches would be published on the Assembly website without any information permitting the identification of the member speaking.
  • There would not be a President with executive powers, since one person cannot be representative of the whole nation, whether chosen by lot or elected. It would be possible to have a president with purely symbolic and ceremonial functions, even chosen by popular vote, as long as he or she has no political power. However, a better solution is proposed below.
  • A smaller number of members than 500 might be chosen, but it would be a false economy to make the number too small. It should be noted, though, that with new members coming every six months, a relatively small number will give reasonable fairness since even if the representation is a bit skewed at any one moment, over a period of time things will even out. 200 might be a reasonable lower limit.In order to permit a larger proportion of the public to be involved in government, it would be possible to have two or more chambers, voting and debating the same issues separately and simultaneously, with the aggregate vote being used to decide the issue. Although cumbersome, this would be more practical than a single large chamber. It would increase the “sample size”, and might be useful in very large and populous states, if popular opinion called for it.
  • It would be possible, and perhaps desirable in some cases, to have an Upper House or Senate as a “House of Review” with powers limited to referring legislation back to the lower house with proposed amendments. The Review Chamber would not have the authority to reject a proposal outright, nor to refer it back more than twice.
  • In most countries, members of parliament or their equivalents fix their own salaries and conditions. With an elected parliament, there is at least some incentive (public hostility and the need to be re-elected) to keep salaries at a reasonable level. That restraint disappears when members are chosen by lot and cannot seek re-election.For this reason members’ salaries should be fixed by an independent Salaries Board. This would be chosen by lot, and, as with the Assembly, its members would be replaced regularly: 20% every year would be appropriate. It should have sufficient members – perhaps 100 – to ensure that it reflects at least roughly the community as a whole, and to ensure that there is a reasonable number of competent people in it. It should meet once a year, for a period no longer than is necessary for its work, thus it should not be necessary for its members to leave their other occupations.In addition to fixing salaries, the Salaries Board would be responsible for setting expense allowances, retirement benefits, and work conditions for members of the Assembly and members of Policy Committees and Oversight Committees (see below).
  • No-one should be forced to sit as an Assembly member. In order not to systematically weed out competent and intelligent people, members’ pay should be generous. Members must leave their occupation for their term of service, and, in addition to the immediate financial loss there is the loss of seniority, experience and knowledge in their field, and reputation. These are considerable sacrifices for many people: employees in large organisations, people in business or the liberal professions, academics, pop stars, professional sportsmen . . . Even tradesmen or shopkeepers working on their own might find it hard to build up their business again after five years’ absence. It would not be unreasonable for members to continue to receive their salary for two or three years after their term finishes.
  • Members will have roughly similar requirements for staff, office space, research assistants, travel, re-location expenses and so forth as elected MPs, with the great difference that they will not need the large sums that standing for election requires.
  • Attendance at sessions, and voting on all measures should be obligatory, but a null vote, equivalent to an abstention, should be permitted. The insistence on full attendance might seem petty and narrow-minded, but it is important when a randomly selected parliament votes, in order to preserve the accurate representation of the public. Members’ pay would be docked for absence, except for illness or pregnancy. Members who become pregnant should be allowed maternity leave, and to finish their term of office later. Permanent incapacity to attend should lead to retirement, but not to any financial penalty.

The Agenda Committee and the Speaker

Both the Speaker and the members of the Agenda Committee would require some experience and knowledge of procedure. Rather than simply choosing them by lot, as proposed for all the other bodies proposed here, it would be better if they came from the most competent of those members who were in the last six months of their term of office as members.

Assuming that they are fifty in number, they would each select the forty they considered most competent. The forty who received the most votes would be declared elected. From this group the Agenda Committee (not more than ten) would be chosen by lot; the others would serve in rotation for one day as Speaker of the Assembly. The Speaker would not give his or her views in the discussions while holding that office, and would not vote.

Alternatively, the members selected might serve after their normal term as members.

An explanation is given below of the reasons for preferring an election for the Agenda Committee, and for the group from which the Speaker is drawn.

The agenda set by the Agenda Committee should be subject to modification by the Assembly. One convenient way to allow for this would be to set aside the last few minutes of each day’s proceedings to proposals to modify the next day’s agenda. This would usually not take much time as such proposals would probably be rare.

The Assembly and the Courts

Assembly members would have no immunity from prosecution, except from actions brought for libel over the content of speeches made in the parliament.

The Assembly would fix the manner of selecting judges, and the terms of their appointment, but would not appoint individual judges. Judges would serve for a limited period and would be replaced by rotation.

The Assembly would fix the limits of jurisdiction (scope and powers) of the various courts.

The ultimate authority on the interpretation of laws would be the Assembly, not the courts. The courts would not have the authority to strike down a law as “unconstitutional”.

The Civil Service and Oversight Committees

The executive functions of government would be performed by the Civil Service. The Assembly would decide on the number of Departments (Ministries) and other bodies (“Board”, “Authority” “Commission” etc), and their responsibilities. Each Department or body, under its permanent head, would be overseen by an “Oversight Committee” of citizens, again chosen by lot. In each case the Assembly would decide on the size of the committee. (These committees would not, of course, be representative; that is not their function. They need to be big enough to ensure that there are sufficient competent members, but not so big as to be cumbersome). The Oversight Committees would report to the Assembly, and would make recommendations about the Ministry, its staffing, functions, and budget. Like Assembly members, committee members would serve for a limited period, say five years, and be replaced, in turn, every six months. The Assembly would have the authority to dismiss an Oversight Committee.

The Civil Service would be staffed by permanent employees, and Heads of Departments would not, of course, be political appointees. All vacant positions in the Civil Service would be advertised. A panel of persons with suitable qualifications would be appointed, under the supervision of the Oversight Committee, for the purpose of evaluating applicants. Unsuccessful candidates would be free to appeal to the Oversight Committee. Heads of Departments whose performance was considered unsatisfactory by the Oversight Committee could be replaced by that body subject to the approval of the Assembly.

Apart from the presumably rare occasions when the sacking of a Head of Department was proposed, the involvement of the Assembly in the of the Civil Service would be limited to deciding what bodies were necessary, and what would be their scope.

Public Information

Organs of public information (Radio, TV, websites on the World-Wide Web, and perhaps printed media) would be established, similar to public radio and TV services in the UK, France, Australia and other countries.

They would broadcast news and general interest programs, as well as providing a summary of questions being debated in the Assembly. The management would operate under an Oversight Committee, since it would be dealing with public money, but would have autonomy with regard to programs.

Policy Committees and “Single-Issue” Committees

Many issues of policy are complex and require detailed investigation of a depth which the Assembly will not have time for. To deal with these, the Assembly would set up committees, chosen by lot from the general public. These committees would call for for submissions from the public and from known experts in the field, and would produce a report to be tabled in parliament, and voted upon after discussion. Some complex topics might best be dealt with by a hierarchy of committees in a “tree” structure, for instance, energy policy might have a general committee, and sub-committees for different aspects of energy policy, as shown below:

Each subcommittee would produce its report and recommendations to the committee above it.

Some committees would be more or less permanent, and would deal with issues which are always important to a government. Energy policy, mentioned above, is one example. Others would deal with foreign policy, land management, defence and so on. Some committees might sit perhaps two or three times per year, others more often. Members would serve for a limited term and be replaced by rotation, just like members of the Assembly.

Other committees (Single Issue Policy Committeesviii or SIPCs) would be formed to study a single issue (typically the issue raised by a proposal for a law), and once that issue is settled, would be disbanded. These committees would not be required to produce a single recommendation, but would usually produce a majority recommendation and one or more minority recommendations, as they see fit.

Although the Assembly would be free to disregard the views of an SIPC, it would be unlikely to do so if the SIPC produced a unanimous recommendation, or a recommendation supported by a large majority, unless that recommendation conflicted with that of another policy committee.

Creating policy committees, dissolving them, setting the number of members, and setting the terms of reference would be at the discretion of the Assembly, as would deciding what action should be taken on their reports.

Sitting on a policy committee would be another opportunity for ordinary citizens to be involved in government. Payment for it, like Assembly members’ salaries, should be fixed by the Salaries Board, and should be generous, to encourage participation.

It is possible that, in time, the greater part of the legislative side of government would come to be dealt with by these committees, and that the role of the Assembly would be largely to review and either to approve policies already hammered out in the committees, or to send proposals back to be reconsidered in committee, with only the occasional debate on the substance of a proposal.

Federations, Regional and Local Government

If one were setting up the government of a new state using sortition there would be no need for a federal system. However, federations are common in practice, and there should be no objection to converting one to sortition. The state parliaments, in this case, might be thought of as policy committees with limited legislative powers.

In general, regional and local governments would follow the pattern proposed for the nation, though of course with limited powers. Different countries have different needs: a small island or city state might need only two tiers of government, national and local; three might be suitable for most medium-sized countries, and perhaps more for vast or populous nations. The decision on what is appropriate might be made initially by the Assembly of each country, though local and regional governments should be free to amalgamate or to split into smaller communities. Disputes between regions should be settled preferably by a joint sitting of the parliaments; if that proved impossible, then by the courts, in the case of legal matters. In the case of political differences, an issue that could not be resolved by a joint sitting of the bodies concerned, could be settled by the next higher level of government.

Head of State and Relations with Foreign Governments

There is probably a need in every nation for a dignified figure who can welcome visiting Heads of State and walk down the red carpet with them, and also pay courtesy visits to foreign nations. This is usually done by a President or a Prime Minister who combines this function with some executive powers. In the model of government proposed there is no (executive) Head of State, so an alternative must be found.

Foreign relations would no doubt be the subject of a ministry or department, which would appoint ambassadors to those countries deemed sufficiently important to warrant a full Embassy. The easiest solution to the ceremonial and social functions of the Head of State would be to appoint, from the ranks of senior civil servants in the Foreign Ministry, a sort of “ambassador at large” (who might go by some such title as “Chancellor”). This Chancellor would, of course, be expected to act only on instructions from the Assembly, and would be liable to dismissal for exceeding or not fulfilling his functions.

Summary of the Structure of the Proposed Government

The core features (what we might consider essential to form a constitution) of this proposal are:

  1. The use of sortition to choose an Assembly from the whole adult population.
  2. Rotation of members of the Assembly, part retiring and being replaced at fixed intervals.
  3. An independent Salaries Board.
  4. The right of any member of the public to propose a law.
  5. The overriding authority of the Assembly, except in fixing members’ salaries and perquisites.
  6. No judicial review of Assembly decisions.
  7. The relative independence of the judiciary from the Assembly.
  8. The Civil Service of permanent employees, subject to the control of the Oversight Committees, but relatively insulated from the Assembly.
  9. Openness: as much information as possible made freely available to the public at all times.
  10. Regional and local government on a similar pattern to that of the national government, mutatis mutandis.

The features that are not essential in principle, but which would be necessary or desirable for an effective government:

  1. The Agenda Committee.
  2. The daily rotation of the office of Speaker.
  3. Oversight Committees, to ensure fair and efficient operation of the bureaucracy.
  4. Policy Committees to study and make recommendations on policy topics of permanent concern.
  5. Single-Issue Policy Committees to fully investigate issues as they arise and to report to the Assembly.
  6. A public news service.
  7. An appointed Chancellor with ceremonial diplomatic and courtesy functions, under the authority of the Assembly.

The features that might be appropriate in some cases only:

  1. A House of Review, with limited powers.
  2. An additional chamber or chambers, acting “in parallel” to the first.

Suggested Sizes for the Bodies Proposed

Note: The sizes and the periods of service for these bodies would be decided by the Assembly, the following is intended merely to give the reader a feel for the proposal.

The Assembly would also decide which Policy Committees, Sub-committees, and SIPCs were required.

Agenda Committee106 months, either during last 6 months of, or immediately following service in AssemblyElected from senior members of AssemblySalaries Board100About a week each year for 5 years, 20% retire each year Proposals Committee15 minimum, not fewer than 5 per active proposal5 years, 10% retire each six months Standing Policy Committees7 – 15, plus members of sub-committees5 years, 10% retire each six monthsJoint sitting with sub-committees as necessary.Standing Policy Sub-committees7 – 155 years, 10% retire each six months Single-issue Policy Committees15 – 30As required, but not more than 1 year without rotation Oversight Committees105 years, 10% retire each six months House of Review50 – 2005 years, 10% retire each six monthsIf instituted.

Body No of Members Period of Service Other
Assembly 200 – 500 5 years, 10% retire each six months

i Dahl 1989 p. 100.
iii Callenbach, E, and Philips, M, A Citizen Legislature 1985 Banyan Tree Books, p 15.
iv John Adams, “Letter to John Penn” in Works IV, 205 available at http://oll.libertyfund.org.
v See Note 1 above.
vi For a discussion of voting age see Laurence Steinberg’s article “Thinking outside the box” in New Scientist, 11 October, 2014, p 30.
vii The period of five years is not graven in marble, nor is the number 500. Both figures are probably a reasonable maximum.
viii The inspiration which led to this proposal came from Alexander Guerrero. In “Against Elections,” available: http://www.alexguerrero.org/storage/PAPA_Against_Elections_Final_Web.pdf he suggests “Single-issue Lottery-selected Legislature s” or SILLs. In Guerrero’s proposal these independent bodies would make the law; there is no central authority such as the Assembly proposed here. A similar proposal to Guerrero’s was made by John Burnheim for “Citizen Juries” in “Is Democracy Possible?” available: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/democracy/.
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78 Responses

  1. Campbell,

    Nicely written, as always, and your hatchet job of direct democracy is very persuasive, ditto with your presentation of descriptive representation (although the “ought” in the Dahl quote indicates that he was referring more to the [normative] liberal creed than democracy [a system of government]). In fact everything goes swimmingly until the first bullet point of the sortition proposal, when you introduce, without explanation, an entirely unwarranted assertion [my emphasis]:

    “The Assembly . . . will act and vote as the entire population would if it had all available relevant information at its disposal, and the time to consider that information.”

    Peter Stone has demonstrated the flaw in this claim in his introduction to the second edition of Callenbach and Phillips (2008, pp. 14-15). Putting it slightly differently to Peter, the remit of legislative assemblies consists of a) speech acts and b) voting. Descriptive representation (‘standing for’) works in the latter case because, as you rightly point out, it only applies at the aggregate level and all votes are equal. So an allotted sample will evaluate the discursive input it is presented with and vote in a manner that accurately reflects how the entire population would vote under the same circumstances.

    But the nigger in the woodpile (excuse my French) is the “discursive input” bit. Speech acts are anything other than equal and there is no reason at all to believe that randomly-selected citizens will uncover and present “all the available relevant information” in an even-handed manner (this point is also relevant to your faith in “public” (i.e. non-commercial) news services, such as the BBC). When I register my vote in an election I am (in theory) making a choice between the speech acts of those who offer up competing representative claims, but no such principle applies to the representativity of the speech acts of randomly-selected persons, which will fluctuate wildly in their persuasive power (and information content). This will, naturally, affect the way the assembly votes, leading to the breakdown of your claim regarding the representative potential of sortition.

    Although you (rightly) claim that statistical representativity applies at the aggregate level of a group several hundred strong, you then propose splitting the allotted assembly into sub-committees of only ten or so, and proposing that these entirely unrepresentative bodies (Agenda Committee, Proposal Committee etc) should be the gatekeepers for legislative proposals. The Athenians would have rightly dismissed this as a form of oligarchy, especially given your stated preference for the “most competent” members.

    There are many other flaws with the proposal but they pale into insignificance compared to the basic conflation of the two forms of representation (standing for and acting for), so I won’t even bother to bring them up until you’ve addressed this problem at the heart of your proposal.

    Like

  2. Campbell,

    A very thorough going proposal. Congratulations.

    I think five years of service can too easily result in the concentration and abuse of power you are trying to escape. Rotation in office is a key element in any proposal destined to truly democratize our government. I understand that there is a 20% turnover every year. I think this results in a core of 100 serving for five years. But I would suggest one year and out, a constant turnover, and a continual appearance of new faces and new ideas. The stability of government would be anchored in the process itself and the bureaucracy behind it, not in the prevailing personalities.

    Arthur D. Robbins

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  3. Thanks for all the comments. I shall chew them over.

    >” your hatchet job of direct democracy is very persuasive”
    Do you think I’ve been unfair?

    >”Peter Stone has demonstrated the flaw in this claim in his introduction to the second edition of Callenbach and Phillips (2008, pp. 14-15″
    I’ve only read the on-line pdf of C & P.
    “Speech acts are anything other than equal”
    Certainly. Especially when they are made by “experts”.
    I deal with the problem in Part 4, though I avoid the jargon. As you know, I disagree with you, and apparently with Peter Stone on this. I’m not the only one, Hawthorne talks about it in the context of independence and the jury theorems (Voting in Search of the Public Good: the Probabilistic Logic of Majority Judgments), section 3.4.)

    >” you then propose splitting the allotted assembly into sub-committees of only ten or so”
    No. Not at all. All bodies other than the Agenda Committee are chosen by lot from the public at large.

    >” and proposing that these entirely unrepresentative bodies (Agenda Committee, Proposal Committee etc) should be the gatekeepers for legislative proposals.”
    “gatekeepers” is too vague a term to answer. They are subject to the Assembly.
    I talk about the Agenda Committee in Part 4, and show the Proposals Committee in action in examples in Part 3. I think your objection is answered in these parts.

    >”there is no reason at all to believe that randomly-selected citizens will uncover and present “all the available relevant information” in an even-handed manner”
    Once again, this is dealt with later.

    >” your faith in “public” (i.e. non-commercial) news services, such as the BBC).”
    I can assure you that it is a faith which is quite relative. The worst of the commercial services are very much worse, the best are sometimes a little better, but on the whole, in the countries where I’ve watched or listened to them, on average, they are more reliable than commercial. My opinion, of course. Part of the problem is the pressure (notably financial) that the public news services face from the elected politicians.

    >”There are many other flaws with the proposal but they pale into insignificance compared to the basic conflation of the two forms of representation (standing for and acting for)”
    I don’t conflate them, I’m well aware of the difference. I say that the one authorises the other. I know well that you disagree, we have been over this before. As you will see later (Part 4), I have considered your arguments, but I remain unconvinced.

    >” I won’t even bother to bring them up until you’ve addressed this problem at the heart of your proposal.”
    I hope you’ll at least read to the end, because I mention your name, and I hope I haven’t mis-represented your views. If I have, my apologies. I’m sure you’ll let me know.

    >”I think five years of service can too easily result in the concentration and abuse of power you are trying to escape. Rotation in office is a key element in any proposal destined to truly democratize our government. I understand that there is a 20% turnover every year. I think this results in a core of 100 serving for five years.”
    Not quite. As I have proposed things, 10% retire every six months, but all members would serve 5 years (well, unless they die or decide to retire).
    I quite agree on the importance of rotation, it is essential. I picked 5 years in order to give the senior members time to get the “experience” that apologists for elections say is necessary, but I would be quite happy with shorter terms. Just how long they should be is something that will be found out by trial and error, I think.

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  4. Campbell,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    Arthur

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  5. Campbell,
    “I picked 5 years in order to give the senior members time to get the “experience” that apologists for elections say is necessary, but I would be quite happy with shorter terms.”

    Perhaps an alternative would be to have a higher rate of turnover, but to choose which members to replace by lot, in place of fixed terms. That way a very small potion could become very experienced.

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  6. I have dozens of points I could make, but here are a few that a simple to type out…
    1. Your critique of direct democracy seems off the mark”’attacking a virtual straw man of a unanimity demand by a handful of anarchists…this hardly needs dealing with…better to stress the lack of deliberation in direct referenda, even if it is only a few items per election cycle, and the unrepresentative self-selection that would occur if the number of referenda were too large (only special interests would turn out in large numbers for arcane issues).

    2. You write “For that reason, each adult has an equal right to be counted in making decisions. Yet it is not practical for everyone to be counted individually.” This will be misleading to most readers. You mean impractical to have their informed opinion incorporated into the decision-making…because mere “counting” everyone’s uniformed opinion individually is very “practical” – it is an election.

    3. As for terms and turn-over…I agree that five years is too long…also there will likely be a natural ratcheting UP of term length (as serving members will feel that THEY could do better by staying longer as they are naturally blind to their own slow “corruption” or “going native.” It is unlikely any body will ever decide to SHORTEN the terms…This is not a self-correcting dynamic, but probably one-way.

    4. As for whether there should be 10% leaving and coming in each six months, or a constant stream of new faces, or a wholesale replacement of 100% at once…One psychological consideration is that if people join a body in small numbers (constant flow or 10% at a time), this could promote their feeling the need to just go along and join the culture that is prevalent in the body. Small numbers will feel out of place and naturally defer to those with more experience. While this may be okay, it also allows for the transmission of corrupt practices to each new 10% group (“that’s just the way we do things here.”). I think that there needs to be a certain critical mass of NEW members who have a class spirit (as in freshmen, not Marxist class), which gives them the courage to question the way things have been done. For this reason, I prefer to have at least 1/3 of the body replaced in a single batch.

    5. I think the Agenda committee is among the most powerful and important bodies, and needs full descriptive representation (at least 150 members). They should not be selected from the senior members of the Assembly (I think that’s how you had it). If there were some internal election process (such as the approval voting system you propose), this could generate a very UNrepresentative body. Gypsies, Jews, Blacks, or whomever is in disfavor (and small in numbers) could easily be shut out completely.

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  7. Campbell,

    Thank you for drawing our attention to the Hawthorne article, which includes this delightful understatement: “Although the interaction among pennies in the bent-penny model is not precisely analogous to voter interactions” (m/s p. 24). Seriously though, considerations of probabilistic independence in the jury theorem may well be true, but they apply to “public discussion” (p.22) and the “exchange of views among members of the group” (p. 23). Whilst this is problematic if the verdict of the group is held to be binding on all those disenfranchised by the aleatorian coup, my overriding objection to your “pure sortition” proposal has nothing to do with informal deliberations between members and within the wider public, it is the process whereby the legislative agenda is set and balanced information is provided. These functions pertain strictly to the ‘acting for’ element of the democratic diarchy, whereas Hawthorne’s paper is considering only the variants of behaviour permissible in jury voting. His specific focus is on “independence” — i.e. the need for voters to be ignorant of how others have cast their lot — and this is ensured in all sortition-based models by the secret ballot. (This is the only speech act that is mathematically equal, as X informing others how she will cast her vote is of the same value as Y doing the same. Such information can be easily aggregated, as the only thing that separates it from the actual tally of votes is the dimension of time.)

    Note also that the concerns of jury theorem are purely epistemic — getting the “right” answer: “The legitimate purpose of the public debate is to help voters perceive more clearly the relative merits of policy options so that their individual propensities for selecting the better policy may improve. In that spirit it is perfectly legitimate for voters to attempt to influence one another, to get each other to recognize the perceived merits and defects of proposals.” (p.25). Quite so, but that’s fine so long as everyone gets to vote; not so if the vast majority of citizens have been disenfranchised by the aleatorian coup. Whilst these unfortunate citizens will be concerned with epistemic outcomes, their primary concern is that their views are properly represented (however suboptimal they may appear in the eyes of the epistocracy). As the unfortunate UKIP spokesman put it recently, “even the bigoted need representation”.

    So the Hawthorne paper doesn’t really help your case for “pure” sortition. I understand that you will be demonstrating the irrelevance of the standing for/acting for issue in part 4 of your paper and await that with interest — noting, in the meantime, that you simply “don’t agree” with the overwhelming majority of political theorists who you dismiss as so called “experts” (your scare quotes). In the meantime I’ll dutifully plough through the rest of part 2.

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  8. Campbell,

    I read the second half of your piece and, like Terry, have multiple issues to raise, but they all pale into insignificance compared to the central conflation (standing for/acting for), so will await part 4 for your rejoinder. But two proposals are so bonkers that they cannot be overlooked:

    >Speeches would be published on the Assembly website without any information permitting the identification of the member speaking.

    Right, so all deliberations take place in camera. Not only would citizens lose their hard-won vote, but they would not even be able to scrutinize the behaviour of their own representative forum — which would be viewed as the province of a secret and unelected oligarchy, or a black box from which random decrees emerged in an entirely mysterious fashion. It’s hard to think of a better way to alienate the public from the principle of sortition. Needless to say lobbyists would have no difficulty finding a way to identify individual speakers, in order to make sure they were getting a suitable return on their investment.

    >A chamber chosen by lot could also use the “wisdom of the crowd” (for instance to estimate budget allocations: the median of the members’ estimates would serve as the allocation for the following year.

    Now there’s an interesting idea, no need for the IFS, OBR, IEA etc. But if you check out chapter 1 of Surowiecki’s book, the reason for the convergence of estimates on the correct weight of the ox was because most of those participating in the country fair could bring their own relevant experience (as farmers, butchers, cooks, housewives) to bear. How many citizens have any direct experience of budgets running into hundreds of billions of pounds/dollars? Working out the figures requires serious actuarial skills, but deciding whether the budget is acceptable (in terms of the trade-off between taxation and spending) is the role of the aggregate judgment of the demos. The distinction, as always, is between acting for and standing for, professional expertise being a prerequisite for the former role only. But you reject the distinction (along with the scare-quoting of “expertise”).

    You mentioned that the second half included a discussion of my work, and you asked me to verify it’s accuracy, but I couldn’t find it. However your footnoted claim that the proposals of Alex Guerrero and John Burnheim are “similar” is simply false, so I shudder to think what you’ve made of my own published contributions. The sad fact is that your depiction of the problems of electoralism and direct democracy and your case for descriptive representation are so well argued that it’s a real shame the rest of the work does not continue in the same fashion. I really enjoyed it at first (and even considered offering to publish it as part of the Imprint Academic Sortition and Public Policy series), and am disappointed that we have reverted to trading insults.

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  9. Keith,

    I think you are over-reacting and using hyperbolic language…You wrote: “Not only would citizens lose their hard-won vote, but they would not even be able to scrutinize the behaviour of their own representative forum — which would be viewed as the province of a secret and unelected oligarchy, or a black box from which random decrees emerged in an entirely mysterious fashion.” But this is in reaction to the proposal that a word for word transcript of everything said by the members of the allotted body in debate be printed for anyone to read (with only personal identifying information removed for the protection of members from corruption … bribery or threats).

    I think the brought brush strokes of the proposal are positive, with many details obviously needing refinement, revision or replacement.

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  10. Terry,

    I plead guilty to hyperbole (Campbell has previous in this area as well), but do you agree with him that the legislative assembly should deliberate in camera? Bearing in mind that one of the key values of the assembly is that it “looks like America” this sounds to me like a recipe for disaster in terms of perceived legitimacy. Either allotted reps get to make speeches or they act purely a jury — if the former then this has to be in the public domain (thereby opening the floodgates of corruption and destroying the descriptive representativity of the assembly).

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  11. It depends on the details of the system…. but in general I think policy juries should deliberate in private, and vote secretly with only transcripts released (removing identifying information) after they make their final vote. There is no appropriate “holding to account” to any particular constituency of what any particular representative says or does other than protecting against external corruption…Each member is accountable to his/her conscience, so that the body AS A WHOLE reflects what the society as a whole would likely do given the information, motivation and time to deliberate (though I disagree with your demanded level of reproducibility for this to be legitimate).

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  12. Terry,

    That may be theoretically consistent but I’m 100% sceptical that the general public, accustomed to democratic politics in the public domain, would accept the legitimacy of secretive in-camera deliberations. In my proposal advocates nail their colours firmly to the mast, the only secrecy being how individual jurors voted (that would be between them and their conscience). This would benefit from the ancient and modern precedents of 4th century practice, modern trial juries and noisy political debate. Your (and Campbell’s) proposal is without precedent and is highly unlikely to be perceived as legitimate, irrespective of theoretical justifications regarding accountability etc.

    On a pragmatic level, why should anyone trust the transcription? And why bother publishing it anyway, given that we don’t know who spoke and/or if anybody was listening? Given that many (most?) of the speakers will have no prior knowledge of (and interest in) the issues under debate, it would be easy for media satirists to lampoon the speeches as ignorant babbling. And lobbyists would get round the anonymity by simply instructing those whose voices they have purchased to insert hidden code words in their speeches, thereby ensuring they are getting their money’s worth.

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  13. Campbell,

    Skimmed the rest of the Hawthorne article and it has nothing to do with juries that are intended to perform a representative function. Its concern is with the ability of voters in a democracy (ie all citizens) to identify the public good. So it is entirely epistemic and has no interest in procedural or representative issues. I take the fact that you rely on this sort of work to defend your own thesis to indicate that you are, likewise, only concerned with epistemic outcomes. This puts you in the company of Plato, even though the epistemic mechanism you rely on is the wisdom of crowds rather than the wisdom of philosopher kings. My concerns are intrinsic (procedural) in that I’m just as keen to give voice to the “hundreds and thousands of bigots” that the UKIP party secretary identified as his core constituency. This is what we mean by “democracy”, however distasteful that might be to epistocrats like Plato and yourself. If bigots are in the majority then they will rule in a democracy, the key being to ensure that their bigotry is, at minimum, well-informed or even challenged.** The civil rights of anyone who might be adversely affected by their bigotry will need to be protected by extra-democratic means.

    Perhaps this explains why we continue to talk past each other.

    ** Needless to say this is at the core of the argument for externally-supplied balanced advocacy, because bigots will naturally seek out information and advocacy that supports their own prejudices.

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  14. @Terry
    >”1. Your critique of direct democracy seems off the mark”’attacking a virtual straw man of a unanimity demand by a handful of anarchists…this hardly needs dealing with”

    I had a discussion with one such anarchist a few weeks ago, which may have coloured my thinking!
    Yes, you have a point here. I cannot claim to have a great knowledge of DD proposals and theory. The section is in there, I admit, because DD ought to be acknowledged, though I am not convinced by it. I did not mean to be unfair.

    >”…better to stress the lack of deliberation in direct referenda, even if it is only a few items per election cycle, and the unrepresentative self-selection that would occur if the number of referenda were too large (only special interests would turn out in large numbers for arcane issues).”

    >”You mean impractical to have their informed opinion incorporated into the decision-making…because mere “counting” everyone’s uniformed opinion individually is very “practical” – it is an election.”
    Good point.

    3 and 4. I would be happy with a shorter term for Assembly members, 5 years is perhaps a maximum. I would not want to lay down the law on terms and turnover, nor on the sizes of the various bodies. In my eyes that is for the Assembly. I think replacing 100% at a time would be a mistake.

    I talk more about the Agenda Committee later. In this proposal, its actions are subject to the Assembly.

    @Keith

    I touch on the jury theorems later. Yes, of course they are concerned with the epistemic value of group decisions, as I say later.

    >”I understand that you will be demonstrating the irrelevance of the standing for/acting for issue in part 4 ”

    How fond you seem to be of distorting what other people say! As for “ploughing through it” the reason I would like you to do so is to be sure that I am not distorting what you say.

    Regarding your earlier misapprehension that the Assembly was to be divided up into sub-committees. I find with dismay that I have not made crystal-clear that all bodies except the Agenda Committee are drawn from the general public. This is a huge blunder, so I’m glad you have drawn my attention to it. Thank you.

    >”two proposals are so bonkers that they cannot be overlooked”
    Only two? Oh, well, give me time.

    >”Right, so all deliberations take place in camera. Not only would citizens lose their hard-won vote, but they would not even be able to scrutinize the behaviour of their own representative forum ”
    Is this distortion deliberate? In my view, every word spoken in the Assembly should be available to the public. The public does not need to know who said what, or how any particular member votes.

    >” Needless to say lobbyists would have no difficulty finding a way to identify individual speakers, in order to make sure they were getting a suitable return on their investment.”
    Pure (you like that word!) speculation, Keith. Again, I come to it later.

    > “But if you check out chapter 1 of Surowiecki’s book, the reason for the convergence of estimates on the correct weight of the ox was because most of those participating in the country fair could bring their own relevant experience (as farmers, butchers, cooks, housewives) to bear.”

    Someone I’ve read recently (Hawthorne? Surowiecki?) said the exact opposite, that many or most of the people were townsfolk and that they had no special knowledge. I don’t know how anyone can make a claim either way more than 100 years later, unless Galton interviewed them all, which seems unlikely. In fact, it’s irrelevant.

    >”How many citizens have any direct experience of budgets running into hundreds of billions of pounds/dollars? Working out the figures requires serious actuarial skills, but deciding whether the budget is acceptable (in terms of the trade-off between taxation and spending) is the role of the aggregate judgment of the demos.”
    You’re missing one important point, that it’s not just the trade-off between revenue and spending, there is also a trade-off between each individual budget item and the others. If we nudge education spending up, we have to nudge something else down, or else increase revenue or lower the surplus/deficit. All of these considerations are fair game for the Assembly.

    >”You mentioned that the second half included a discussion of my work, and you asked me to verify it’s accuracy, but I couldn’t find it.”
    Your stage call comes later, in part 4. There are six parts in all.

    >” your footnoted claim that the proposals of Alex Guerrero and John Burnheim are “similar” is simply false.
    I hope at the least that I have not offended either of them. Neither has commented so far. If the footnote needs changing in their opinion, I shall change it.

    >” I really enjoyed it at first (and even considered offering to publish it as part of the Imprint Academic Sortition and Public Policy series), and am disappointed that we have reverted to trading insults.”
    Have I insulted you? I hope not. Please say where.

    It’s unfortunate that we’re discussing so many details before the other parts are posted.

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  15. Keith,

    My concerns are “procedural”, too. I see no reason why that should disqualify me from pointing out an epistemic advantage.

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  16. Campbell,

    >As for “ploughing through it” the reason I would like you to do so is to be sure that I am not distorting what you say.

    I couldn’t find any references to my work in your post to check for distortions.

    >The public does not need to know who said what

    Thank you for confirming that the assembly sessions will take place in camera and the public will be served up a redacted transcript (on a “need to know” basis).

    >many or most of the people were townsfolk and that they had no special knowledge.

    So you would set multi billion dollar budgets on the basis of the average of uninformed guesses? Why not just consult the Delphic Oracle or examine the intestines of a chicken? You appear to be confusing the wisdom of crowds and the law of large numbers. These are two overlapping by distinct principles (the former requires the latter, but the latter alone merely generates averages that have no inherent epistemic merit).

    >there is also a trade-off between each individual budget item and the others. If we nudge education spending up, we have to nudge something else down, or else increase revenue or lower the surplus/deficit. All of these considerations are fair game for the Assembly.

    I agree entirely that the allotted assembly should have the final vote on spending priorities (as in Fishkin’s Zegaou DP). Where we differ is over who should draw up the figures and present the alternatives (people who have the relevant professional skills, people who have a democratic mandate, or small vocal subset of a random bunch of people who don’t know what they are talking about).

    >My concerns are “procedural”, too. I see no reason why that should disqualify me from pointing out an epistemic advantage.

    My objection was to your citation of a paper on the epistemic quality of voting to support an entirely unrelated argument.

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  17. >”I swear, you are being purposely obtuse.”
    “Madam, I swear I use no art at all”

    >” You listed these items as flaws that are inherent in the use of elections to constitute a government. Both the CHOICE of an electoral system vulnerable to gerrymandering and the CHOICE of malapportionment to give disproportionate representation to regions with relatively few people (typically as part of a federal system where subunits have some measure of sovereignty independent of their population – giving them political significance not necessarily in proportion to their population) are design choices. Period. They are problems that can, to borrow your own words, “be fixed by tweaking the system.”

    On the one hand, you tell me that because people are inherently corrupt, the Assembly members will be inherently corrupt (regardless of the incentive or opportunity to be corrupt which is presented to them).
    On the other, gerrymandering, which is a form of corruption doesn’t matter, because it is a design choice, and can be tweaked.
    Can you tweak it out of the system? If you can, I wish you would. There are probably hundreds of governments to tweak.
    I feel, though, that gerrymandering, which does exist, will continue to exist because politicians (some of whom, dare I say it, are corrupt) have both the opportunity and the temptation to create or maintain it, and that there’s nothing we can do about it while we have elected politicians. That is why I consider it inherent in elections. In the real world, I mean.
    So too for malapportionment in Senates. It’s built into the US constitution, I understand. And the Australian one. Please tweak – if you can.
    Calling these things design choices, and suggesting that they have been fixed in the perfect electoral world of theory or your dreams, doesn’t solve anything.
    However with the sortition model I present, there are no electoral boundaries, so there can be no malapportionment or gerrymander.

    @Keith:
    >”and am disappointed that we have reverted to trading insults.” -from Part 1, of course.
    >”hence the need to distance ourselves from the calls for “pure” sortition offered to us by the lunatic fringe.”

    A comment on this would be superfluous.

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  18. *sigh*
    Campbell, these are the sorts of arguments which cause a person to lose all credibility. You are more interested in winning an argument than the actual truthfulness of your positions. You know I said that some “portion” of the Assembly will be corrupt because some “portion” of the people are corrupt. You know full well this statement is true. The fact that there are a great many elected governments with modern electoral systems and no malapportionment demonstrates plainly that these things are not inherent in elections. This is not theory. Or my dreams. This is extremely common in the real world. Pointing out institutional inertia changes nothing. It’s something your proposal will need to overcome as well. Switching electoral systems is trivial compared to the difficulty of switching the fundamental legitimizing principle under which a government is constituted. Furthermore, there are many examples of elected governments overcoming instutional inertia on these very issues. The most recent one is Chile, which passed an electoral reform proposal two weeks ago. Previously they used a unique system where each district returned exactly two seats, with open lists and the D’Hondt allocation method. Of course this resulted in the top two parties/coalitions wining one seat each in most districts every election, even in the face of HUGE vote shifts. This was far more egregious than even the worst gerrymandering. The new average district magnitude will be 5.5 (http://www.senado.cl/fin-al-binominal-en-ardua-y-extensa-sesion-despachan-nueva-composicion-del-congreso-y-sistema-electoral-proporcional/prontus_senado/2015-01-13/101536.html). I can give you a list of examples as long as my arm. But it would make no difference.

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  19. Naomi,

    >Campbell, these are the sorts of arguments which cause a person to lose all credibility.

    And utopian proposals like Campbell’s will cause the sortition project to lose all credibility.

    >Switching electoral systems is trivial compared to the difficulty of switching the fundamental legitimizing principle under which a government is constituted.

    Absolutely, that’s why we need to abandon all appeals for “pure” sortition and focus on what most people agree randomly-selected juries are good at (judging between opposing arguments).

    >I can give you a list of examples as long as my arm. But it would make no difference.

    Yes, that has been my experience on this forum for the last five years or so. But I persevere as I don’t know of anywhere else discussing these issues on a regular basis. Most other reasonable commentators have been scared off by the Sortition Taliban, and I can’t say how relieved I am that Naomi has (so far) stuck with it.

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  20. >”You are more interested in winning an argument than the actual truthfulness of your positions.”
    I don’t think that is fair.

    >”You know I said that some “portion” of the Assembly will be corrupt because some “portion” of the people are corrupt. You know full well this statement is true.”
    “Corruptible” would be a better choice of words. To be corrupt you have to commit an act of corruption. (IMHO) No doubt many of us have, so I don’t dispute your statement. But whether corruption happens depends also on the temptation, the opportunity and the risk involved.
    I’d prefer to discuss this when you’ve read the whole six parts oof the essay.

    >”The fact that there are a great many elected governments with modern electoral systems and no malapportionment demonstrates plainly that these things are not inherent in elections. This is not theory. Or my dreams. This is extremely common in the real world. . . . I can give you a list of examples as long as my arm. But it would make no difference.”
    It would make a great difference. It would mean you were talking about something concrete, instead of arm-waving, and casting aspersions on my honesty.

    >”Previously they used a unique system where each district returned exactly two seats,”
    Yes, of course this is absurd.
    Thank you for the link, I’ll go there now.

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  21. @Naomi,
    That’s rather a large site for someone whose Spanish is decidedly rusty.
    However:

    “Redistritaje en la Cámara de Diputados: se despachó la norma que establece que para la elección de los 155 miembros de la Cámara de Diputados habrá 28 distritos electorales y sus respectivos número de diputados que van entre 3 y 8, de acuerdo la distribución descrita en el artículo 179 detallado por comunas.”

    I take this to mean that 155 members of the Lower House will be elected by 28 districts, with the number of MPs in the districts varying between 3 and 8.
    No doubt this is a great improvement on the old system, but those districts with only three seats can hardly be very representative.

    ” los legisladores de la Nueva Mayoría refutaron las críticas y los cargos de sus pares precisando que, en la actualidad la proporcionalidad en el sistema electoral binominal también es desastrosa y valoraron el acuerdo político que permite después de 25 años terminar con el actual sistema calificando este trámite como “un amanecer de la democracia”.”
    Hmm. The dawn of democracy? First glimmer of light perhaps.

    In the Senate:
    ” – 1a circunscripción, constituida por la XV Región de Arica y Parinacota, 2 senadores.
    – 2a circunscripción, constituida por la I Región de Tarapacá, 2 senadores.
    – 3a circunscripción, constituida por la II Región de Antofagasta, 3 senadores.
    – 4a circunscripción, constituida por la III Región de Atacama, 2 senadores.
    – 5a circunscripción, constituida por la IV Región de Coquimbo, 3 senadores.
    – 6a circunscripción, constituida por la V Región de Valparaíso, 5 senadores.
    – 7a circunscripción, constituida por la Región Metropolitana de Santiago, 5 senadores.
    – 8a circunscripción, constituida por la VI Región de O´Higgins, 3 senadores.
    – 9a circunscripción, constituida por la VII Región del Maule, 5 senadores.
    – 10a circunscripción, constituida por la VIII Región del Bío Bío, 5 senadores.
    – 11a circunscripción, constituida por la IX Región de La Araucanía, 5 senadores.
    – 12a circunscripción, constituida por la XIV Región de Los Ríos, 3 senadores.
    – 13a circunscripción, constituida por la X Región de Los Lagos, 3 senadores.
    – 14a circunscripción, constituida por la XI Región de Aisén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, 2 senadores.
    – 15a circunscripción, constituida por la XII Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena, 2 senadores.”

    5 districts with 5 senators, 5 with 3, 5 with 2.
    Definitely better than Pinochet, and the sistema binominal in all districts (if that’s what they had) but hardly ideal.

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  22. Keith,
    Thanks. It’s good to be on the same side of a discussion again.

    Campbell,
    Agreed. A larger minimum district size or a national compensation mechanism (such as leveling seats or the use of a biproportional apportionment algorithm) would be more ideal. Still it’s a huge improvement. Of course, the use of small districts does not necessarily imply the existence of gerrymandering. Take a look at Australia’s single-seat IRV districts. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_IbMiYpowx0A/THMKVS1kbaI/AAAAAAAAAWE/F9tJmUOPS3w/s1600/aec-boundary-map-june-2010.png

    The Australian redistricting process: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redistribution_(Australia)

    New Zealand is a great example of both gerrymandering/malapportionment-free elections and instutional reform. For the first half of the 20th century the political and instutional structure of New Zealand was very similar to that of Canada with the lack of federalism being the one big exception. The lower house was elected by FPTP, the upper house was appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the PM. The upper house was abolished in 1951 (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Legislative_Council) and voters decided on a switch to MMP (with a 40+% national-level compensation tier) in 1993 (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_reform_in_New_Zealand). Significant national-level compensation makes it quite impossible to gain any partisan advantage from either malapportionment or gerrymandering of individual districts.

    Germany uses the same basic electoral system but with compensation seats assigned on a state-level (IIRC). Leveling seats (like MMP, but only a few seats, as the underlying system is already proportional) are popular in northern Europe. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leveling_seat

    Not to belabor the point, but gerrymandering is not inherent in elections. From an institutional design perspective the problem was solved a very long time ago. I can provide as many examples of both successful electoral reform and the absence of gerrymandering as you’d like, if this is not enough.

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  23. I guess I put too many links in that last post, as it got dropped into the moderation queue.

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  24. @Naomi
    I’ll look at your links soon.
    As for gerrymandering in Australia, there was an article fairly recently on the ABC (http://www.abc.net.au, but I don’t have a link to the exact page) where the Western Australian Premier said he had no intention of changing the boundaries. Needless to say they favour his party.

    >”Not to belabor the point, but gerrymandering is not inherent in elections”
    The _possibility_ of gerrymandering is, as long as politicians can alter the mechanism for determining boundaries.
    At the end of the day, this possibility is always there – constitutions can always be changed, though sometimes it’s difficult.
    In the interests of precision, I’ll look at changing the wording.
    It doesn’t alter much, though. I have not claimed that _all_ the defects of elections are _always_ present in _every_ case of an elected government. Take §1 and §11, for instance. It is not necessarily true that all elections are conducted in a fraudulent manner, and politicians do not necessarily _intentionally_ fiddle with school curricula. But both of these things do occur, and are at least facilitated by the use of elections (the temptation is there, and the opportunity often is too).

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  25. >”I couldn’t find any references to my work in your post to check for distortions.”
    It’s in Part 4. Not posted yet. (as I have said before.)
    (I would have answered immediately, butI missed this comment.)

    >”Thank you for confirming that the assembly sessions will take place in camera and the public will be served up a redacted transcript (on a “need to know” basis).”
    You invented “redacted”, and you invented “need to know basis”.
    NO! The public should have full content of all speeches (and interjections and non-lexical noises).
    Keith, you are again deliberately distorting what I say.

    >”You appear to be confusing the wisdom of crowds and the law of large numbers.”
    NO.

    >”Where we differ is over who should draw up the figures and present the alternatives”
    You haven’t seen the end of my essay yet, so how you think you can say this is beyond me.

    >”My objection was to your citation of a paper on the epistemic quality of voting to support an entirely unrelated argument.”
    Once again, a distortion.
    I think an academic of your high merit ought to set himself a higher standard.

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  26. Campbell,

    >You invented “redacted”, and you invented “need to know basis”.

    “Need to know” was lifted straight from your text (that’s why it was in quotes). Granted that “anonymised” would be more accurate than “redacted”, why should anyone trust the anonymised and unaudited transcript of a debate they can neither see nor hear? You might as well reproduce pages of the phone book or À la recherche du temps perdu. From the public’s perspective (who apparently don’t need to know who said what) the assembly would just be a black box issuing random edicts. I’m surprised that nobody else seems to find this objectionable, but maybe I’m the only one who’s bothered to read it.

    >”NO!”; “NO”; “Once again, a distortion”

    These are normally preludes to an argument, but seeing as I couldn’t find any of the latter, there is nothing to which I can respond (or distort).

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  27. Keith
    >”“Need to know” was lifted straight from your text (that’s why it was in quotes).”
    I said:
    “The public does not need to know who said what, or how any particular member votes”
    Your statement:
    “the public will be served up a redacted transcript (on a “need to know” basis)”
    is a blatant distortion.

    >”why should anyone trust the anonymised and unaudited transcript of a debate they can neither see nor hear? You might as well reproduce pages of the phone book or À la recherche du temps perdu.”

    It should be pretty obvious that the members of the Assembly will know what they said, so a distorted version will be picked up as quickly as I’ve picked up your distortions.
    I notice that you don’t give either a motive for such a distortion, or a mechanism by which it might be carried out unnoticed.

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  28. Campbell,

    >a blatant distortion.

    Replace “redacted” with “anonymised” and there is no distortion. Most people would agree that removing the names of the participants in a debate is a form of redaction (this is what usually happens when the security services redact a document for publication).

    The point is it doesn’t matter anyway, it’s just a bunch of unattributed words, only of interest to those who uttered them. There is no obvious way of connecting the legislative output of the assembly to these words (you can’t measure illocutionary force), there is no way of testing the representativity of the speech acts involved, or identifying the (ultimate) agent behind the policy proposals. So why bother to publish them at all? The assembly will be rightly viewed as a black box that produces legally-binding edicts on an entirely random basis. I’m astonished that anybody can believe this has anything to do with democracy — the Athenians would have executed without trial anyone who came up with such a proposal to overthrow their beloved demokratia. So you’d better watch your back.

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  29. @Terry
    >”As for terms and turn-over…I agree that five years is too long…also there will likely be a natural ratcheting UP of term length (as serving members will feel that THEY could do better by staying longer as they are naturally blind to their own slow “corruption” or “going native.” It is unlikely any body will ever decide to SHORTEN the terms…This is not a self-correcting dynamic, but probably one-way.”
    This is something which I had not thought of, and yes, it could be a problem.
    I think the answer is for the terms and turn-over to be fixed by the Salaries Board. The Assembly would be able to ask for more soup or longer periods, but the Salaries Board would decide, without appeal, at least until the next year.
    And if the Salaries Board for 2090 fixes terms that are too long, a later Salaries Board could cut them back. How does that sound?

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  30. @Keith
    >”The point is it doesn’t matter anyway, it’s just a bunch of unattributed words, only of interest to those who uttered them. There is no obvious way of connecting the legislative output of the assembly to these words (you can’t measure illocutionary force), there is no way of testing the representativity of the speech acts involved, or identifying the (ultimate) agent behind the policy proposals. So why bother to publish them at all? The assembly will be rightly viewed as a black box that produces legally-binding edicts on an entirely random basis.”

    All proposals would be available to the public, in their original form, with author’s name, and also as modified at various stages, and as finally presented to the Assembly. Also available would be the minutes and recommendations of Policy Committees and SIPCs, and the Agenda of the day.
    So the public will know all there is to know about current and pending proposals, except the votes of individual members, and the names of those speaking on a proposal. This is hardly a black box producing edicts on a random basis.

    You have agreed that voting should be by secret ballot to prevent corruption. Anonymity of speakers is necessary to prevent intimidation, vengeance and the fear of vengeance. On the one hand you have accused me (some time ago) of “throwing open the floodgates of corruption”, on the other, you object to measures that are necessary to prevent corruption.

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  31. Campbell,

    >All proposals would be available to the public, in their original form with author’s name.

    This is going to be an extremely long list, and stating the “author’s” name tells us nothing about the beneficial owner. In the Athenian democracy, politicians very often used hired hands to make their proposals, as they would not then be subject to prosecution.

    >This is hardly a black box producing edicts on a random basis.

    Given that a) only an infinitesimally tiny number of proposals (those selected by the oligarchs) will lead to legislation and b) all exchanges between the oligarchs take place in camera (the only evidence of any deliberation having taken place being an anonymised transcript), the relationship between inputs (proposals) and outputs (laws) is entirely random. Your assembly is just an oligarchic edict-generating machine.

    >Anonymity of speakers is necessary to prevent intimidation, vengeance and the fear of vengeance.

    Isegoria in Athens required all speakers to nail their colours firmly to the mast (and to suffer prosecution if their speech acts were found to be corrupted). So it was a dangerous business (Hansen laments the fact that when the Athenian system was handed down to modernity by Aquinas he ignored this important constraint). Isegoria in large extended states requires an entirely different representative mechanism to isonomia (voting). Your problem is that you are using the same representative mechanism to achieve two entirely different kinds of equal freedom. As I mentioned before, this is a) theoretically indefensible, b) without historical precedent and c) impossible to implement.

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  32. >”this is a) theoretically indefensible, b) without historical precedent and c) impossible to implement.”

    Needless to say, I disagree with a and c.
    As for b, I don’t believe we should always do what our grandfathers did. We’d still be living in the trees if we had adopted this notion.

    Keith, I think it’s time to agree to disagree on this part, and move on.

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  33. Campbell,

    Yes indeed, we have already wasted a lot of time on this exchange. Once you’ve got your head firmly buried in the sand, it’s difficult to remove it. My experiences on this forum have made me even more sceptical about the value of discursive deliberation between parties that have strong attachments to a particular perspective — politics would appear to be a world of agonistic differences that are entirely immune to rational argumentation. But I’m relieved that you do not dispute the historical record, some kleroterians choosing to believe that their “pure” sortition schemes have a precedent in fourth-century Athenian practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only territory where such projects are likely to germinate is in cloud cuckoo land.

    Look forward to reading part 4 in due course.

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  34. Keith wrote: “some kleroterians choosing to believe that their “pure” sortition schemes have a precedent in fourth-century Athenian practice. Nothing could be further from the truth.The only territory where such projects are likely to germinate is in cloud cuckoo land.”

    As a resident of cloud cuckoo land, let me explain the historical precedent of 4th Century Athens… I suspect you are referring to a system in which EVERY DECISION along the law-making process is made by an allotted body. But that is not the only meaning of “pure.” The “purity” in CLASSICAL GREECE was not that ONLY allotted bodies made all legislative decisions…The Assembly (not selected by lot) had to refer items to the nomothetai (legislative juries), and could adopt certain decrees and declare war, etc. without ANY jury. The “purity” I am drawing attention to is the complete absence of ANY electoral role in legislation. Elections were ONLY used for selecting generals and a few finance magistrates, with NO ROLE in law-making.

    My own multi-body sortition scheme allows groups NOT selected by lot (such as interest panels, and hired professional staff, etc.) to play a vital role in the legislative process, but excludes any electoral element. Campbells’ design is more reliant on lottery than my design, but both are “pure” in the sense of excluding elections from the legislative process THE SAME AS IN CLASSICAL ATHENS.

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  35. Terry,

    >The Assembly (not selected by lot) had to refer items to the nomothetai (legislative juries).

    Agreed — all citizens were entitled to attend and vote directly in the assembly on whether to appoint a nomothetic panel. This is not possible in large and highly-populated states, hence the need for a representative mechanism for isegoria as well as isonomia. Election is one such mechanism (another one is direct initiative c/w votation). Multi-body sortition is an oligarchic solution, unless all citizens participate directly and on a mathematically equal basis (a clear impossibility).

    PS the distinction between election and sortition that you constantly reference is anachronistic in that it is derived from the political practices of a small polis 2,500 years ago. This is why we need to focus on the organising principles (isegoria and isonomia) and to find ways to ensure that the principles are reincarnated in an appropriate way for modern societies. I get a bit fed up with the parroting of decontextualised slogans derived from Aristotle, Montesquieu, Rousseau etc. as if they contain some timeless truth, as opposed to observations on highly contingent historical and demographic realities.

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  36. I just finished reading your post. Two things. Athens had an Archon and a Boule. I believe the Archon transformed into a type of judicial court securing a separation of powers. You seem to have all powers vested in the sorted body. I think that can be dangerous, too much power in the hands of one pool of people. The US has checks and balances with the 3 branches. I would think a drafted bill of rights that requires a 2/3rd majority to be in order otherwise the flavor of govt will change with time, there would be no sense of continuity if in 10 years the legislative body could turn on a dime (51%).
    Also, keeping votes in secret sounds good, but a coup could happen by a rich family (a mini Caesar) before anyone would know about it. Another reason that a court should be setup to determine if laws are unconstitutional
    Tbh I’ve never been a fan of a plurally elected executive. However I do think an executive authority could be elected in a similar manner as the Agenda committee. I think at the root, sortition solves two fundamental issues. Inactive electorate and uninformed electorate. An executive republic could work if they were elected by the allotted members. That way the best person for the job could hold a position leading the nation vs having to rely on a legislative body to make decisions. Which may not be the best in war.

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  37. Joshua Laferriere,

    >sortition solves two fundamental issues. Inactive electorate and uninformed electorate.

    Absolutely. However the primary concern of left-inspired sortition proposals is removing the institutional factors that establish and/or reflect the political inequality of the 1% and the 99%. Yoram, in fact, goes so far as to deny the existence of rational ignorance, arguing that the problem is merely the need to accurately reflect the pre-existing “interests” of these two primordial groups. Sortition certainly addresses the problem of ex-ante inequalities, but “pure” sortition theories fail to adequately address the need to ensure the ongoing preservation of this statistically representational equality (vis a vis the vast majority of former citizens) once the allotted sample has assumed absolute powers. This means that the problem of ongoing representativity should trump all other considerations, otherwise all you end up with is the rule of a tiny group of active, informed and mathematically equal oligarchs, with the masses reduced to abject servility. Why bother to inform yourself and be politically active if you are the powerless subject (sic) of an oligarchic council? To the likes of Yoram, this simply doesn’t matter, as the interests of the masses will predominate automatically (via the sampling process), so we can all cheerfully go about our daily business, confident that our comrades in the assembly will look after us (as we are all [at least all of the 99%] cut from the same cloth). Who knows, once the assembly has been in power for several generations, the resulting political equality might even put an end to the economic gulf and then the New Jerusalem will have been constructed and the assembly can abolish itself.

    As the Eurythmics might have put it, there’s a fine line between Utopia and 1984. Naturally I agree with you on the necessity for constitutional checks and balances, ruled out by pure sortition theorists as undemocratic impediments to popular sovereignty.

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  38. Hi Joshua,

    > Inactive electorate and uninformed electorate.

    See my take on these issues here.

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  39. Yoram prides himself in the fact that his “take” is carved in stone, and not subject to modification as a result of the deliberative exchange. Rather than respond creatively to new comments critical of his views he simply cites his own position as previously stated (generally arrived at by a process of formalistic logic). Reminds me of a politician who refuses to answer the question, just refers to the party catechism. I would certainly hope that if I revisited most of my past musings on sortition that my position would have been modified by the conversation on this blog. I certainly view my two books on the topic as juvenilia, and find myself embarrassed when anyone refers to them. If all we do is refer to our “take” (as in partisan parliamentary exchanges) then what’s the point of the deliberative exchange?

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  40. > Yoram prides himself in the fact that his “take” is carved in stone, and not subject to modification as a result of the deliberative exchange.

    Such lies are standard modus operandi for Sutherland.

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  41. While i do agree with some stuff off of Yorams link, but I do believe an uninformed vote is a bad vote. There isn’t some magical amount of time that is needed, but earnest discussion and analysis of the issues is important, something I don’t think voters have an opportunity to do. At least in Athens they had speakers who did the debates, albeit they were subject to sophism. We only have voter pamphlets in then US. I’m thinking if it were treated like jury duty, am adequate amount of time would be allotted. Beyond a certain amount of time you get diminishing returns.

    I’ll quote Pericles :)

    “We do believe that what is damaging is to go into action in a crucial situation before the people have been fully instructed in debate.”

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  42. @Keith
    >”some kleroterians choosing to believe that their “pure” sortition schemes have a precedent in fourth-century Athenian practice.”
    I quote myself:
    “There is no attempt here to reproduce or imitate the Athenian democracy”
    Can I put it any more clearly than this?

    >”“pure” sortition theories fail to adequately address the need to ensure the ongoing preservation of this statistically representational equality”
    Rotation.

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  43. Campbell,

    The ancient use of rotation (ensuring that everyone rules and is ruled in turn) clearly doesn’t apply; the modern use (ongoing representativity via refreshing personnel) only applies if the group is statistically representative in real time. This is not so if a group of several hundred is divided into sub-committees and assumes roles other than aggregate functions. The only residual role that leaves rotation is preventing people going native, and that requires significantly shorter time spans than you are proposing. Rotation is no magic bullet for the representativity problem.

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  44. >”This is not so if a group of several hundred is divided into sub-committees”
    I have already told you this is not the case.

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  45. Campbell,

    >I have already told you this is not the case.

    You’ve told us so many things that, I confess, I’ve completely lost track. But your ability to extract subcommittees (Policy, Agenda, SIIP etc — some comprising as few as ten persons) from a single representative sample without dividing or otherwise adversely affecting the representativity of the original sample is nothing short of a miracle. I’m reminded of the parable of the loaves and fishes, so perhaps this is where your true vocation lies. The only area in which this principle does work is holography, however human agents bear no resemblance to pieces of holographic film (each one being a lower-resolution replica of the whole). Perhaps homeopathy (and associated voodoo sciences) work on a similar principle?

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  46. @Keith,
    >”Campbell,

    >>I have already told you this is not the case.

    You’ve told us so many things that, I confess, I’ve completely lost track. But your ability to extract subcommittees (Policy, Agenda, SIIP etc — some comprising as few as ten persons) from a single representative sample without dividing or otherwise adversely affecting the representativity of the original sample is nothing short of a miracle.”
    Yes, it’s quite clear that you’ve lost track, and perhaps not just of what I have said.
    To refresh your memory:
    (You) >” you then propose splitting the allotted assembly into sub-committees of only ten or so”
    (My reply) “No. Not at all. All bodies other than the Agenda Committee are chosen by lot from the public at large.”
    Scroll up this page and you’ll find it.
    I have already agreed that this should be made more clear in the essay, and I shall do so.

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  47. […] 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part […]

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  48. […] 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part […]

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  49. Although Part 2 attracted a lot of flak, it was on a very limited number of subjects; there are quite a few things that received no attention at all.
    1 What about the Speakers and the election by their peers?
    2 The relation between the Assembly and the courts? The absence of judicial review?
    3 The relationships between federal, regional, and local government?
    4 The “Chancellor”?
    5 Any thoughts on the subject of a “House of Review”?
    6 Any thoughts on the idea of a second house voting in parallel, if public opinion wanted more than 500 allotted members? (not my preferred schema, but still a possibility).
    7 And while we’re on the topic, what is the maximum workable size for an Assembly where speech is permitted? (I am NOT asking whether it should be permitted.)

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  50. >And while we’re on the topic, what is the maximum workable size for an Assembly where speech is permitted?

    The maximum effective size for “active” group deliberation is between 12 and 24 (Coote and Lenaghan, 1997)

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  51. >”The maximum effective size for “active” group deliberation is between 12 and 24 (Coote and Lenaghan, 1997)”
    Thank you, Keith.
    Shades of Parkinson’s “Coefficient of Inefficiency”.
    I wonder if Naomi agrees with you? Elected parliaments tend to be larger.

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  52. Ask a silly question . . . of course I forgot the ekklesia.

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  53. As to size, it depends on how you expect them to function. EXISTING legislatures are not a useful reference point. Actual deliberation rarely, if ever, takes place in full legislative bodies. What happens there is a show to demonize the other parties and/or a pep rally. Deliberation occasionally happens in legislative COMMITTEES which almost always have fewer than 24 members. But even that is often for show. ACTUAL deliberation occurs out of sight and informally in small groups of legislators, their staff and lobbyists.

    You want to know what is the maximum size for meaningful face to face deliberation where the intent of MOST members is to learn, share, persuade and perhaps seek common ground. You would need to look to non-governmental assemblies to find such models.

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  54. Campbell,

    >Elected parliaments tend to be larger.

    Parliamentiary chambers ceased to be deliberative assembles around 150 years ago, Bagehot remarking that the only serious deliberation took place in secretive cabinet committees.

    >I forgot the ekklesia

    Only a tiny number of orators deliberated in the assembly, most citizens merely listened and then voted. Unfortunately there is very little information regarding the deliberative style of the council, though it’s hard to imagine how a body that size would function in a Habermasian style. Given that the Athenians had some direct experience of these matters why do you think it is that they didn’t pursue the sort of model that Terry and yourself have suggested when they instituted the 4th century reforms?

    Terry,

    >the intent of MOST members is to learn, share, persuade and perhaps seek common ground

    What makes you think that the allotment process would lead to this sort of deliberative body? (I note in particular the use of the word “intent”)

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  55. >”Actual deliberation rarely, if ever, takes place in full legislative bodies”
    >”Parliamentiary chambers ceased to be deliberative assembles around 150 years ago,”
    >”Only a tiny number of orators deliberated in the assembly, most citizens merely listened and then voted.”
    Certainly. Which would no doubt happen in any large assembly.
    So it really was a silly question.

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  56. Campbell,

    >So it really was a silly question.

    Yes indeed (although I would not have presumed to say so). That’s why the aggregate representativity of a large randomly-selected assembly does not apply at the level of individual speech acts, as there is no way of knowing if the small number who choose to speak properly represent the views of the silent majority. The only speakers who can claim to act for the electorate are those chosen by them. I’m glad that the distinction between acting for and standing for is now better understood.

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  57. Keith asked:
    >”What makes you think that the allotment process would lead to this sort of deliberative body?”

    This has absolutely been the experience of all recent-day trials with allotted bodies (Crosby’s Citizens’ Juries, BC Citizens’ Assembly, Fiskin’s Deliberative Polls, Oregon Initiative Review panels, etc.) Unlike elected bodies made up of people who SEEK office, most average people selected by lot don’t assume they already know the answers, and if they happen to feel they have answers, they don’t have reason to assume the other members already have their minds made up, and instead assume they are open to persuasion. Everything about the psychology of an allotted body is different than that of an elected one. An allotted body is naturally deliberative, and an elected body is naturally non-deliberative.

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  58. Campbell,
    > “2 The relation between the Assembly and the courts? The absence of judicial review?”

    The absence of judicial review does make me a bit uncomfortable, probably without good cause. There are quite a few countries that have codified constitutions without judicial review without much trouble. I’m a bit wary of putting restrictions on what the Assembly can do (like raise their own pay) without there being some mechanism to enforce such rules. I’ve always considered judicial review to be one of the nicer things about modern liberal democracy. The biggest problem with it always seemed to be an excess of politicization. And that’s something sortition could absolutely help with. In some ways it’s a bit amazing the world’s constitutional courts aren’t more politicized, give that they’re generally composed of people appointed by career politicians.

    > “6 Any thoughts on the idea of a second house voting in parallel, if public opinion wanted more than 500 allotted members? (not my preferred schema, but still a possibility). 7 And while we’re on the topic, what is the maximum workable size for an Assembly where speech is permitted? (I am NOT asking whether it should be permitted.)”

    There’s not a whole lot of difference between 500 and a few thousand members, at least regarding active deliberation, that is. Once you get into the hundreds of members you really need some structured way of deciding who gets to speak and when. The main reason to keep it small would be to minimize rational ignorance. But, truth be told, if you are going to have a full mandate allotted assembly you might be better off with a few thousand. You’d take a big hit on the rational ignorance front but at least there would be a statistically significant number of active members. And the various subdivisions of the people would be represented by a statistically significant number of members.

    Terry,
    “This has absolutely been the experience of all recent-day trials with allotted bodies”

    …all of which were very limited in their power. I knew some the members of my elected student government quite well. They were great people. And still are, I’m sure. Having a 4 trillion dollar budget on the line changes things. It changes people.

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  59. Naomi,

    >if you are going to have a full mandate allotted assembly you might be better off with a few thousand.

    It’s beholden on those who propose such an arrangement to confront the fact that the Athenians concluded that this was a defective legislative model. The fourth-century reforms a) reduced dramatically the numbers attending from several thousand to several hundred and b) removed the speech-act mandate.

    > [with an assembly of several thousand members] at least there would be a statistically significant number of active members.

    Not so, at least if the historical record is anything to go by. The speakers at the Athenian assembly were, for the most part, drawn from the ranks of a tiny, and unrepresentative, group of orators.

    >Having a 4 trillion dollar budget on the line changes things. It changes people.

    Agreed. Antagonism is the product of power, not elections (which merely seek to contain it within civilised boundaries, to convert antagonism into agonism). None of the bodies that Terry referred to had any ultimate power.

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  60. @Keith
    >” The only speakers who can claim to act for the electorate are those chosen by them”
    The members who choose to speak would speak, as they would vote, on their own behalf, and would not need to (could not) pretend to represent “the people” or anyone other than themselves.

    I do not claim, do not think, and have not said that the “aggregate of speeches” would be mathematically representative in the same way as the aggregate of votes (ok, the aggregate of votes without speeches, if you insist). On the other hand, I think that (particularly in a body of several hundred) the more egregious speeches would be countered, so that differing views would be presented in a *roughly* even fashion, the more so since the policy committee reports will contain the differing strands of their opinions, and the expert and non-expert submissions which led to their holding those opinions. Those opposing illogical or eccentric views will have arguments available to them. So I think in practice the amount of bias in speaking would be slight. I’m well aware that you don’t agree, and I’ve heard why more than once.

    @Naomi
    >”The absence of judicial review does make me a bit uncomfortable, probably without good cause.”
    Dahl makes the case against it better than I can, as you know.

    >”I’m a bit wary of putting restrictions on what the Assembly can do (like raise their own pay) without there being some mechanism to enforce such rules.”
    The only mechanism to enforce these things is public opinion. It would be a clear conflict of interest, and would presumably raise a howl.
    Where you could attack me – I’m surprised no-one has – is on the question of the Salaries Board’s pay, which I have omitted to specify. Obviously they can’t be allowed to set it themselves, and letting the Assembly do it could mean a nice little “gentlemen’s agreement” to ratchet up each other’s pay. The only way I can see out of this is to bolt the Salaries Board’s pay to something so large and heavy that that it can’t be slyly raised without breaking everything. That something might be the mean civil servant’s pay, or the mean salary in public and private sectors combined. Pay rises could also be made not effective until present members had retired. This is a TODO.

    >”Having a 4 trillion dollar budget on the line changes things.”
    Grumbles about the budget-setting will be welcome on Part 3.

    @Keith
    >” The speakers at the Athenian assembly were, for the most part, drawn from the ranks of a tiny, and unrepresentative, group of orators.”
    Hansen says this was because “To make a speech demanded some eloquence and rhetorical training, which not every citizen possessed” (p144)
    Yet in the paragraph above he mentions a very good reason for not wanting to speak: the risk of prosecution by eisangelia or graphe. One may also surmise that these procedures provided a way for the professionals to keep amateurs off the speakers’ platform; being a speaker was perhaps a “nice little earner” if you knew how to avoid the dangers. Keeping the masses out by the use of these would be in the professionals’ interest, and the professionals would know just when a speaker had put a foot wrong and it was safe to pounce. The danger would let them charge a high fee for speaking. Pure conjecture, of course.
    Curiously, I’ve been accused of “contempt for history” for not wanting to repeat these mistakes.

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  61. Campbell,

    >So I think in practice the amount of bias in speaking would be slight. I’m well aware that you don’t agree, and I’ve heard why more than once.

    OK but, now you’re showing some interest in history, why do you think it is that the fourth century reforms deliberately limited speech acts to a) the proposing parties and b) the elected representatives of the assembly? They also insisted on numerical equality and timed the presentations with a water clock. Although Athenian society was characterised by a high degree of homonoia (same mindedness) they clearly didn’t share your optimistic view that the process would roughly balance out (and the tiny number of persons involved is a long way removed from the domain of the law of large numbers).

    >Where you could attack me – I’m surprised no-one has –

    Given the inordinate amount of detail in your project, why does this surprise you?

    >Yet in the paragraph above [Hansen] mentions a very good reason for not wanting to speak: the risk of prosecution by eisangelia or graphe.

    I don’t have the book in front of me, but the principal danger was risk of prosecution over introducing an illegal proposal (rather than just speaking for or against somebody else’s proposal. There is no agreement amongst historians as to when isegoria was extended beyond a small elite to ho boulomenos. Some attribute it to the reforms of Cleisthenes, others to Ephialtes, some even to Solon, and there are even suggestions that it may have obtained in archaic times and was just a matter of restrictive convention being overcome by the growing social confidence of the demos. But in any event isegoria was never practiced by more than a tiny minority.

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  62. Campbell,
    >”Where you could attack me – I’m surprised no-one has – is on the question of the Salaries Board’s pay, which I have omitted to specify.”

    Well, the simplest thing to do would be to chuck the Salaries Board altogether and let the Assembly set its own pay… with a 5 year delay for any changes to come into effect.

    I certainly agree with Keith that the active subset of a 500 person Assembly would be very unrepresentative. I’m not convinced this would be the case for a very large body. After all, sitting in the Assembly and voting on proposals would be a full-time job. I imagine there would be enough bored people with ideas to make the problem of managing speaking time in a fair way nontrivial. If you beefed up the Agenda Committee, and allowed individual members to sponsor speakers it might be more workable. This is just a clumsy way of getting representative advocates/active members. The simpler — and more plausible — option would be to just let the general public elect a pool of advocates/active members. There’s no reason you can’t set strict demographic quotas if you are worried such a pool would not be very representative. As long as they are sufficiently diverse and don’t hold voting power themselves… what’s the problem?

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  63. @Keith,
    >”Given the inordinate amount of detail in your project”
    The author of any such project should define it clearly. Without the detail it would be mere arm-waving. Your “The Party’s Over” left me distinctly puzzled because you didn’t spell out exactly what you mean.
    Even with the detail, you have misunderstood my proposal.

    >” the principal danger was risk of prosecution over introducing an illegal proposal”
    Quite so. It’s my guess that it wasn’t so simple to be sure that someone couldn’t hang this on you after the act.
    The problem lies with the word “paranomon”.
    “Nomos”, as I pointed out before, means many things: “share or”division”, “land” and hence “pasture” hence “food”, “abode or dwelling-place”, “region”, “musical mode”; and the meanings that concern us: “custom” and “law”. “paranomos” is translated by L & S as “against the law”, but “nomoi” (dative) by “custom”, “kata nomon”, (the opposite of para nomon) “according to custom”. At Athens, L & S say, “hoi nomoi” were the laws of Solon. But the Athenians also had the ordinary Greek usage where “nomos” means custom: “gynaikeios nomos” the custom of women (Aeschylus) “nomos panton basileus” (Pindar acc to Herodotus) “custom is lord of all”.
    Bailly gives “usage or custom, by extension, general opinion, hence rule of conduct”, as well as “custom having the force of law” and “law”.
    The point is that exactly what was “kata nomon” and what was “para nomon” was surely open to dispute, since customs are pretty much by definition ill-defined. With the severe penalties, proposing a law must have been perilous indeed for the non-specialist.

    @Naomi
    >” the simplest thing to do would be to chuck the Salaries Board altogether and let the Assembly set its own pay… with a 5 year delay for any changes to come into effect.”
    One problem with that is (unknown) inflation. And who sets the pay for the Assembly at the dawning of the new age?
    Moreover, if there is some sort of superannuation or pension, setting the salaries for five years ahead would be tantamount to fixing their own entitlement.

    >”I certainly agree with Keith that the active subset of a 500 person Assembly would be very unrepresentative”
    >”This is just a clumsy way of getting representative advocates/active members. The simpler — and more plausible — option would be to just let the general public elect a pool of advocates/active members.”

    In fact the real advocacy, if you care to call it that, happens when the SIPC or policy committee calls for submissions on a proposal. Then anyone can make a submission. And before you say it, if the SIPC finds it has its hands over-full, there are a number of ways of dealing with it: One is to give them more secretarial aid. Another is to increase the size of the committee. Another is to create subcommittees to deal with aspects of the problem. Another is to just plod on, and take more time.

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  64. Campbell,

    >Your “The Party’s Over” left me distinctly puzzled because you didn’t spell out exactly what you mean.

    That was entirely deliberate. The best we can do at this early stage of research into sortition is to do the rigorous theory work necessary to analyse the sort of political roles sortition could possibly play (and the ones that it couldn’t) and then consult with colleagues in history and political science to see how past experiments shaped up. Once we’ve done that we can tentatively suggest how to move forward. Fully worked out proposals are little more than nonsense on stilts. I’m struggling to think of other examples of constructing entire constitutional proposals ex nihilo, based on nothing more than deductions and extrapolations from a couple of statements from ancient philosophers taken entirely out of context (whilst, at the same time, claiming to have no interest whatsoever in past political practice). The only word that comes to mind is hubris.

    The evolution of the word nomos is an interesting story. Its political meaning evolved from (natural) “order” (6th century) to “statute” (5th century). The fourth century witnessed a strict separation between laws and decrees, and the wish was that nomoi should return to how they were originally viewed in the patrios politeia, i.e. the work of nature rather than man. I’m rather taken by Demosthenes’ praise for the Lokrian practice, whereby anyone proposing a new law did so with a noose round his neck, which was tightened if he lost the vote. Needless to say this is the polar opposite of your suggestion for every man and his dog to write in proposing a new law at zero cost to himself and without needing to indicate that the proposal has any support whatsoever from his fellow citizens. The best one can say is that the vast secretarial enterprise that would be required to implement such a hair-brained scheme might help to keep down the unemployment figures.

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  65. @Keith,
    >” your suggestion for every man and his dog to write in proposing a new law at zero cost to himself and without needing to indicate that the proposal has any support whatsoever from his fellow citizens”

    Another of your distortions, Keith. He and the dog will get exactly nowhere if they do this.

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  66. Keith,
    I can see value in worked examples, so long as we take them as thought experiments and not constitutions to be sent for ratification.

    I’m a bit wary of a theory-first approach. I don’t necessarily think theory is any more or less likely to be wrong than a particular untried institutional detail. Both may seem very reasonable. Until tested rigorously we can’t really say if either will hold up. Take something as sacrosanct as the traditional separation of powers. Where has it actually yielded better outcomes in practice? On the contrary, poking ever more holes in the principle has had tangible benefits. The recent embrace of constitutional courts (with sweeping powers) across much of Europe is a fine example. History, Political Theory, and Political Science should go hand-in-hand throughout the process, start to finish, with worked examples serving as thought experiments to gauge the practicality of theoretical models by drawing analogy with conventional practice to guide the overall process forward in an iterative fashion.

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  67. Naomi,

    >I’m a bit wary of a theory-first approach. I don’t necessarily think theory is any more or less likely to be wrong than a particular untried institutional detail.

    I’ve certainly nothing against incremental improvements to our political institutions, what I’m opposed to is bad political theory — i.e. deducing elaborate constitutional systems based on misunderstanding the words of an archaic philosopher, and abstracted from its original political context. Or ditto, based on nothing more than a logical syllogism regarding the representation of “interests” (Yoram’s approach).

    The approach that I prefer is, broadly speaking, that of Aristotle, who “adumbrated” his theory from political practice. His tripartite model (monarchy, oligarchy and democracy) was abstracted from historical examples and the technologies that underpinned them (election and sortition) were likewise taken from actual practice. But if we are going to use these technologies then we have to do some serious work in order to understand the possible roles of election and sortition in large modern states that bear scant resemblance to their ancient counterparts. This leads us (inter alia) to ask the following question: What would be the role of sortition in the modern world? The ancients appeared to use it for three reasons:

    1. As an anti-corruption device
    2. To enable all to rule and be ruled in turn
    3. To establish descriptively-representative juries

    1) clearly works ex-ante, but many sortition advocates seem to view this as a magic bullet to end corruption; when they realise their error they resort to police action (having ruled out structural solutions).

    2) clearly cannot apply in large modern states, purely on account of the difference between the number of magistracies and the number of citizens.

    So we are left with 3) only. If so then why is it that the ancients used this for juries only (the council was a magistracy), whose role was purely to vote? (Campbell and Terry refuse to answer this question). Why did the ancient democrats seek to curtail exactly the sort of isegoria that they are proposing, and no-one argue that this was undermining the democracy? This leads to an enquiry about the nature of speech acts, statistical representation etc. etc. That’s what I mean by a “theory-first approach”: clarifying what words (like “statistical representation”) mean and the aims and scope of the institutions that we design to put the meaning into practice.

    >History, Political Theory, and Political Science should go hand-in-hand throughout the process, start to finish.

    I agree with you 100% on this point.

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  68. @Keith
    >”That was entirely deliberate. . . . Fully worked out proposals are little more than nonsense on stilts.”
    So for you, making a proposal for a political system which is so vague that it can’t be criticised, without going to the trouble of showing how it might work, how its institutions might fit together, is a scholarly approach?
    I think it’s the height of irresponsibility. It’s like a theory in the physical sciences that cannot be falsified. It’s nonsense.

    I suppose it’s my engineering background that makes me want to think things through, including some detail, not all, but enough to show that it could work, and how it could work. Of course, that leaves it open to criticism. I’m perfectly content for it to be criticised, that’s why I have posted it here. I wish there were more people criticising it, and, especially, more competent people, and people who did not continually distort what I say, but were content to find the flaws in what I have said.

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  69. >”why is it that the ancients used this for juries only (the council was a magistracy), whose role was purely to vote? (Campbell and Terry refuse to answer this question).”
    Well, then answer it yourself. I don’t pretend to be an authority on ancient Athens. I do refuse to adopt the idea that nothing must ever be suggested that wasn’t done by the Athenians.

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  70. >So for you, making a proposal for a political system which is so vague that it can’t be criticised, without going to the trouble of showing how it might work, how its institutions might fit together, is a scholarly approach?

    As Clint Eastwood put it, “a man’s got to know his limitations”. I’m not an engineer, I’m a printer by trade who has recently taken up political theory on an amateur basis. My speculations regarding fitting institutions together (election, direct democracy, sortition, appointment, heredity) are purely on the level of their organising principles, but with due respect for historical instances where they have been put into practice.

    >Well, then answer it yourself.

    I have (frequently), but anyone who is proposing full-mandate sortition should ask why it was not considered in the past, especially at a time when demokratia was the predominant ideology.

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  71. Keith,
    We can’t know the set of reasons (as there was probably more than one) that Athens did not use free-for-all debate in the nomothetai (legislative juries), but I doubt it has anything to do with your arguments for why you prefer that feature in a modern system. My guess is that the reasons included these…
    They simply used the model already in place for trials of individuals in which a prosecution and defense were the only entities well enough informed to have information useful to the jurors about the facts of the guilt or innocence of the person on trial, and simply brought the system in its entirety over to the law-making trials. They may also have decided that handling a bill in a single day was crucial (since some jurors might not return a second day… and replacements wouldn’t be informed enough) so as a simple matter of time efficiency they concentrated deliberation into two teams (pro and con) so deliberation wouldn’t drag on. Since the Athenians were fine with open deliberation within the Council of 500 (and it was randomly selected), it seems clear that your concern about the unrepresentativeness of speech acts was not their concern.

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  72. Terry,

    Yes, we can only conjecture, but the fourth-century orators are adamant that the reason for the reforms was to return to the rule of law (as opposed to the rule of men), so it was a principled reform (as opposed to being motivated by purely pragmatic issues like time efficiency). Moving from open ho boulomenos debate to the highly-restricted isegoria of the trial model was a radical constraint and thorubos was strongly disapproved of, so although we can’t know the reasons of the ancients, they must have been powerful ones. It’s not at all obvious why the criminal trial model was adopted for the passage of new laws — I’m not aware of any precedent — so I think they must have had powerful reasons (isegoria still being viewed as an essential component of the demokratia). My view is that, as with isonomia, they required some sort of representative mechanism for speech acts (and this is even more necessary in large modern states), so why do you insist on combining 4th century (representative) isonomia with 5th century (unrepresentative) isegoria? Given that the Athenians decided only to refer proposals that had secured popular support for nomothesia, and to elect the speakers (against the proposal), why are you so opposed to it?

    >Since the Athenians were fine with open deliberation within the Council of 500 (and it was randomly selected), it seems clear that your concern about the unrepresentativeness of speech acts was not their concern.

    The council was a collegial magistracy (the secretariat for the assembly), and magistrates need to talk to each other. It was not a law-making body, so statistical representation was not necessary.

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  73. Keith,

    Saying that the Council of 500 was “not a law-making body, so statistical representation was not necessary” is not completely valid. As far as we know the Council probably worked out the wording of decrees and laws (in the 5th Century BCE) in preparation of material for the Assembly… So while not having power to make the final decision, the members were clearly a part of the law making process. The Athenians established the overall makeup of the Council to be roughly representative in some sense… The number of seats on the Council for each Deme (neighborhood or village) was set in rough proportion to the population of each Deme. They also had 50 members from each Tribe on the Council, further assuring representivity. thus they DID care a representivity in this body that played a key role in law-making, but did not restrict their right to engage in “speech acts.”

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  74. Terry,

    I agree that the council worked out the wording of decrees and laws — that’s exactly what you would expect a collegial secretariat to do (in modern democracies, this is the role of the civil service). Most scholars argue that the deme-based appointment structure was to prevent the takeover of the council by aristocratic factions (this was the prime goal of the Cleisthenic reforms), thereby protecting the sovereignty of the assembly. I’m not aware of any scholar arguing that the council was intended to be some kind of statistically-representative body (although Oswald and Blackwell, for example, do make this case for the legislative courts, as they were, in effect, delegated sub-committees of the sovereign assembly). Unfortunately there are very few extant records of council proceedings (unlike the courts), but this very absence would tend to support the argument that the council was primarily an administrative body.

    So I’m afraid the outstanding question is still why the fourth-century reformers chose to limit isegoria in the legislative process to those with a representative mandate, approved by the votes of all the people (the parallel that I’m drawing here with our modern arrangements is intentional). I don’t find your argument for efficiency savings persuasive for reasons that I’ve already given. If we have any regard for historical precedent (i.e. something that works in practice), then all we should do is to add the missing ingredient (the randomly-selected jury). Otherwise we risk re-creating some of the flaws of fifth-century legislative practice (thorubos) whilst, at the same time, limiting isegoria to a tiny group of oligarchs — an arrangement that the Athenians would have regarded as entirely undemocratic. If the citizens of a tiny homogeneous polis required representation in isonomia and isegoria, then why would we choose to limit it to the former?

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  75. Terry, I do hope we can resolve our disagreement on this issue, as we both appear to believe there are lessons to be learned from history.

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