New Democratic Seeds / Gentils Virus Manifesto

The Chouardists are at it, this time with a new site (in five languages) calling for an allotted constitutional assembly. They explain their project in six “chapters” that you can see along with a visitor count on the left margin. Here is the main page followed by the first part. They have also included what appears to be an endless number of videos of Chouard and some other resources.

It is the explicit proposal which should rally the millions of citizens whose political impotency is programmed in the constitution.

Because it is not the role of the people in power to write the rules of their own power

“We want a democratic Constitutional Assembly, therefore randomly drawn.”

By reading the 6 chapters of this website, you will understand that if you want to change anything in the mechanisms of our current society, you will have to make this message your one and only claim: from its application the rest will follow. To understand the strength of this message, please take a few minutes to read through the six chapters of the website, they are very short.

The chapters go to the heart of the issue and at the bottom of every page; you will find audio content, videos, documents so that you may dig deeper on every topic.

Discover now what is a real democracy.

Chapter 1: The acknowledgment of the people’s impotency
Chapter 2: Are France and other countries around the world democracies?
Chapter 3: Election is not synonym of democracy
Chapter 4: Our constitution at the core of the problem
Chapter 5: Writing a better constitution
Chapter 6: Conclusion

1 – The acknowledgment of the people’s impotency

  1. Political power serves the interest of an ultra-rich minority against the greater good / common interest(cf. the links found under concerning the central issue of monetary creation left to private banks)
  2. To use the power given by the people against the greater good is an abuse of power
  3. A democratic regime should above all protect the people against abuse of power
  4. The Constitution does not organise a single counter-power, the people are left unprotected and the situation can only become worse

Our current regime is in theory the protector of people, however the people are clearly no longer protected. How is it possible to have reached such a situation in a democracy?

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12 Responses

  1. The idea of using sortition for constitutional conventions has always puzzled me. Whilst the wisdom of crowds literature would certainly indicate that quotidian political decisions (the price of bread, educational priorities, cheap energy or the environment etc) should be in the hands of a statistically-representative deliberative forum, why do sortinistas believe that people’s everyday experience has much to contribute to highly arcane topics like constitutional design? Presumably this is because the Chouardists (and their leftist allies on this forum) believe there is an inherent conflict of interests (in the Machiavellian sense) between the grandi and the popolo — with the political class designing the institutions of state in such a way as to grind the faces of the poor, hence the need to seize power in a revolutionary moment. Given that they have a long and chequered history of constitutional design (I’ve lost count of which Republic they are currently up to), I wouldn’t give much credence to the views of a Frenchman on such matters. Us Rosbifs of course know much better — constitutions are the result of contingent and evolutionary factors and merely require tweaking to better adapt them to current needs.

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  2. In a democracy, any position with political power should be handled by a representative body. If that representative body feels that they want to consult with, or adopt the recommendations of, a certain group of Sutherland-approved “experts”, that is fine. Those who feel that is the right thing to do should feel free to address themselves to the population from whom the delegates are going to be allotted.

    If however the delegates choose to ignore such worthy recommendations and rely on their own humble uncredentialed selves, then that is the democratic way, even if some feel that is no more than the folly of the unworthy who refuse to take the advice, or instructions, of their betters.

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  3. Yoram,

    >If however the delegates choose to ignore such worthy recommendations and rely on their own humble uncredentialed selves, then that is the democratic way.

    Absolutely, that’s representative isonomia in action (that’s why Plato and Aristotle hated juries), but large-scale poleis also require a representative mechanism for isegoria (otherwise the provision of balanced information will be purely at the mercy of chance). Just as there is good and bad cholesterol in medical science, there is good and bad randomness in political science. The deliberative judgment of a large randomly-selected body will act as a proxy for the informed judgment of the whole political community, but deliberators still need to be informed in a well-balanced manner. There is no reason at all to believe that this can be guaranteed by chance, seeing as most randomly-selected citizens will have no prior knowledge or experience of the issues under consideration.** And if a small number of them did happen by chance to know something about the issue (and/or were strongly opinionated) and possessed good persuasive skills then the isegoria process will be entirely unrepresentative. I’m puzzled as to why you are so insistent on accurate statistical representation for isonomia but refuse to apply the same demanding standard to isegoria.

    BTW, at the risk of repeating myself, allotted persons are not delegates and the standards for the approval of expert information and advocacy have nothing to do with “Sutherland”.

    ** This would not be the case with John Burnheim’s demarchic committees as the sortition is performed on a volunteer population with knowledge of and interest in the field under consideration. But the isonomia of demarchic committees is oligarchic with respect to the rest of the population. Isonomia and isegoria require entirely different forms of representation.

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  4. I believe my opening was “The Chouardists are at It again…”

    Does anyone know who’s behind this new initiative? http://www.occupydemocracy.net/

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  5. Ahmed – the creator this website wrote to me. I invited him to post an announcement about the website and its goals.

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  6. > isegoria.

    As is usual I find you ideas so incoherent that there is little point trying to engage with them substantively. If by this term you refer to democratic media, then my proposal about that is here and here.

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  7. Yoram,

    Isegoria is a Greek term that means “equal speech”. In the same way that isonomia (equal political right) in large states requires a representative mechanism, the same is true for isegoria. Public media (democratic or competitive) are only one part of the process. It can be hard work understanding ideas that challenge our core beliefs, but if you would explain what aspect of my post is incoherent I will be happy to clarify. As I explained before, I’m not impressed by citing old arguments, as I like to believe we can all move forward as a consequence of the exchange of views on this blog.

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  8. Yoram,

    On the topic of democratic media, one of our authors recently launched an attempt to purchase the (London) Times by crowd-funding. It failed, but if it had succeeded and you ended up with x million beneficial owners, presumably this would have converted (arguably) the most famous newspaper in the world into a democratic medium? But what happens from then onwards? Newspapers are complex organisations, decisions have to be made, staff have to be hired and bills have to be paid. I suppose the new owners could appoint a management committee by lot and subject this to frequent rotation. But would folk who casually donated a spare $ want to get that involved and would we not end up with the tragedy of the commons? Chances are they might well choose to appoint the person who originated the crowd-funding takeover as chief executive, after all it was his idea and he is clearly very much committed to the idea of democratic media. But the man in question has a double first from Cambridge in economics, has worked most of his life in investment banking and ended up vice-president of Citigroup, so how would that make him different from, say, Rupert Murdoch?

    More importantly, the newspaper would have to survive in the intensively competitive world of declining circulations/advertising and price wars that has characterised the UK media recently. The response of most proprietors (Murdoch in particular) is to seek to provide their chosen market sector with what they want, including pandering to their own political prejudices (although more idealistic proprietors/editors may also seek to educate, inform or even [carefully] challenge these prejudices). Advertisers chase the circulation figures, and this underwrites the commercial strategy adopted. This is why I describe commercial media, under a genuinely competitive market, as an essential component in modern-day isegoria.

    If the new crowd-sourced owners want to protect their investment then they will pursue a similar market-based strategy, so there would be no change in editorial policy resulting from the change of ownership. This also applies to deciding which writers to publish (the other consideration for democratic media). The principal reason that I subscribe to the Sunday Times is that I like its columnists — if they were replaced by a random selection of authors, then I (along with most other readers) would simply cancel my subscription and the ST would no longer be a valuable organ of modern-day isegoria. It’s all very well allowing everybody to publish, but what’s the point if nobody reads their output? A thousand (or, more likely, x million) flowers will thereby bloom but this will be of no assistance in securing a reliable mechanism for isegoria. Isegoria in large-scale societies has (just like isonomia) to be statistically representative and commercial media have an important role to play (the views of a newspaper with a large circulation should have more impact than one catering for a minority). If isonomia requires aggregating preferences (via voting) then the same thing applies to isegoria — anything less is entirely undemocratic, as which of the x million flowers will be allowed to bloom will be entirely random.

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  9. > Isegoria is a Greek term that means “equal speech”.

    I have yet to see any idea coming from you that is compatible with equal speech.

    > presumably this would have converted (arguably) the most famous newspaper in the world into a democratic medium?

    That would depend on the control structure of the organization. Nominally, Western states are owned by their citizens, and yet they are not at all democratic.

    (As for the Times being famous, this is another indication that you are mentally inhabiting some long gone era. I cannot remember the last time I read anything from or about the Times before you mentioned it.)

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  10. Yoram,

    Newspapers are essentially parochial in that they address a national audience, but my understanding was that the Old Thunderer was a well-known title, that’s why I used the word “famous”, as opposed to “widely-read in California/Israel”. In the UK the Times is only second to the Telegraph (and the Sunday Times is the clear leader) for broadsheet sales, well ahead of the Guardian and Independent. Do you not agree that sales figures are of some democratic significance, or would you claim that the isegoria of low-circulation newspapers should be viewed on a par with those that sell millions of copies? I note in the meantime that you haven’t responded to any of my substantive points, no doubt on account of their “incoherence”.

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  11. >There is no reason at all to believe that this can be guaranteed by chance, seeing as most randomly-selected citizens will have no prior knowledge or experience of the issues under consideration.

    There’s actually some reasons (good or bad) to believe exactly that:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/101/46/16385.full

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  12. Yuuki,

    If you look at the antecedent sentence, what I said was:

    “deliberators still need to be informed in a well-balanced manner. There is no reason at all to believe that this can be guaranteed by chance”

    “This” refers to the provision of balanced information, which will not be guaranteed by pure chance, as it’s just . . . random.

    Regarding your reference, I’m fully aware of the extensive literature demonstrating that “a random group of intelligent problem solvers will outperform a group of the best problem solvers”. But I don’t see the relevance of the fact that cognitive diversity trumps ability to this issue. Hong and Page open with a discussion of how an organisation can decide which of 1,000 applicants to hire to solve a “hard problem”. Note that “applicants” are, by definition, self-selecting — each one of them will consider herself a problem-solver. Unfortunately the descriptive-representation mandate that drives the democratic case for random selection in politics rules out the application process (as self-selection will generate a highly atypical sample). It may well be the case that a random selection from a pool of self-selecting, soi-disant problem solvers would generate a solution with better epistemic outcomes, but that would fall a long way short of democratic legitimacy, even if it undermines Plato’s case for an epistemic elite.

    The best that one can say (from both a democratic and an epistemic perspective) is that a random sample (of a sufficient size) taken from the whole electorate would adjudicate between competing solutions in a way that would mirror what everyone would think under good conditions (i.e. the solutions would be backed up with arguments for and against). No prior knowledge or experience would be required to exercise such a judgment, presupposing that the information and arguments are presented in a way that is comprehensible to the ordinary citizen (note that I drop Hong and Page’s stipulation for “intelligent” problem solvers). But if the provision of information were to be entirely random (the problem that I was originally referring to) then there is no reason to believe that the aggregate judgment of the sample would corresponding to what everyone would think under good conditions.

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