Down with Elections! Part 3

DOWN WITH ELECTIONS!

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

PART 3

Examples of the Legislation in Action

How might all this work in practice? Let us consider some examples.

Example 1: The Passage of a Proposal by a Private Citizen

Suppose Bill Brown decides that Watchamacallit Bay is over-fished. He writes a letter to the Assembly:

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Watchamacallit Bay is hopelessly overfished, when I was a kid there was fish everywhere, now its DEAD!!! Theres no fish left!

Fishing should be banned in Watchamacallit Bay.

Yours etc, Bill Brown

He receives a reply in warm, friendly, bureaucratic style from the Proposals Committee:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Proposal to ban fishing in Watchamacallit Bay.

The Proposals Committee has received your proposal, and thanks you for it.

Proposal Number: 2050/456789 (please quote this reference in correspondence)

Status of proposal: Pending. (You will be informed of changes to the status.)

Current Regulations in force concerning this matter, or which may be affected:

This list may not be exhaustive. You are advised to check with regional and local government authorities for regulations and by-laws which may affect or be affected by your proposal.

Notes:

  • Clarification required:
  1. Please advise if the proposal concerns all marine animal species, including teleosts, cartilaginous fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
  2. Please advise the exact geographical limits proposed.
  3. Please advise if both commercial and recreational fishing are affected, and which fishing methods are affected.
  4. Please advise if the proposed restriction is to be permanent, temporary, or seasonal, and the proposed time limits.
  • Supporting information.

It is suggested that you send to the Proposals Committee any information or evidence which you have regarding the desirability of implementing this proposal.

Yours faithfully, etc

(Alternatively, if this is a matter for a state or regional government the Proposals Committee might refer Bill Brown to the Proposals Committee of that government.)

It may be that Bill Brown will take fright at this, and that nothing further is heard from him, in which case his proposal will languish as “pending” for ever. However, if Bill is serious, he will go away and do his homework. Perhaps there is a proposal pending or under review which includes or could include his idea, and he may choose to transfer his attention to this proposal.

If not, and he can produce evidence that his proposal is desirable and popular, (for example, studies of fish populations, simulations comparing the ecological and economic effects of his proposal with “business as usual” and a petition with a large number of signatures), and if he refines it to be more precise, then the Proposals Committee would send it to the legal draftsmen to be put in proper form.

Both the Proposals Committee and the professional draftsmen would check for incompatibility with or duplication of existing regulations or proposals at all levels of government. The first draft would be sent to Bill Brown, and published for all to see. The Proposals Committee would also forward it to the Agenda Committee with a list of any regulations or proposals which would need to be modified in order to implement Bill Brown’s proposal and a recommendation for the priority to be assigned to it.

In rare cases of urgency, the Agenda Committee might put the proposal on the agenda for immediate consideration by the Assembly. It might also send it back to the Proposals Committee for re-drafting if it judges that the proposal is not sufficiently clear or well-framed for intelligent consideration.

More often it would put on the agenda a motion to set up a Single-Issue Policy Committee (assuming that there is no existing Policy Committee whose mandate covers the issue) to study and report on the proposal within a given time. The SIPC would call for submissions from the general public, from recognised experts, and from government Ministries. After examining the submissions, the SIPC would refer it back to the Agenda Committee with its recommendations and its reasons for making them. These recommendations would include minority recommendations, and would take such forms as “in favour”, “against”, “amendment proposed” and “revision of wording necessary”. If the Agenda Committee, on the advice of the SIPC, considered amendment or re-wording to be necessary the proposal would go back to the Proposals Committee and the draftsmen. If the Agenda Committee considered the proposal sufficiently well-drafted it would then put it on the agenda to go before the Assembly, which could approve it (with or without amendments), reject it, or refer it back to the SIPC for further consideration or clarification.

If there is a unicameral Assembly, and if the proposal is passed, it now becomes law. If there is a second House or “Review Chamber” the proposal would pass to this chamber which could approve it, or return it to the first chamber for re-consideration, with proposed amendments. (The Review Chamber could not reject the proposal outright, nor refer it back more than twice.)

At all stages of this process the text of the proposal, with the various changes made or suggested would be available to the public on the government web site, and perhaps by printed media. This ensures that the actions of the Agenda Committee and the Proposals Committee would always be subject to scrutiny by the Assembly and the public.

Members of the Assembly would be free to propose a motion that a proposal be given immediate consideration, or that it be referred back to the SIPC, or if an SIPC does not exist, that one be constituted to study the proposal and report back with its recommendations.

In this example, it is likely that the proposal could be implemented by a minor change to an existing Act; perhaps by adding something like the words:

“Watchamacallit Bay east of a line from Lottery Point to Cape Kleros”

to an existing list of prohibited fishing zones. This would not alter the process of review, deliberation and voting.

Example 2: The Budget

It has been suggested above that “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)” In connection with this, it is worth quoting the Wikipedia article on Francis Galton:

Galton was a keen observer. In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal’s weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, but not one person hit the exact mark: 1,198 pounds. Galton stated that “the middle most estimate expresses the vox populi, every other estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the voters”, and calculated this value [in modern terminology, the median] as 1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight measured by the judges. Soon afterwards, he acknowledged that the mean of the guesses, at 1,197 pounds, was even more accurate.i

Well before the budget date, the various Departments, Boards, and other administrative bodies would prepare their estimates. A month or so before the budget was due to be discussed, a printed table would be supplied to all members (and made public on the government web site). This table would list, for each body, its requested allocation, the allocation made for it and the money actually spent in the latest year for which figures are available, and a blank space for the member to insert his or her estimate of what the allocation should be for the coming year. Also printed on the same table would be the past inflation rate and estimated inflation for the coming year, and the total budget sum requested by Treasury, and Treasury’s preferred surplus or deficit.

A complementary table would show the revenue raised in preceding years from each source, and the estimated revenue for the coming year if no changes were made to the existing methods of raising income, and of course, a blank space for the member’s proposed figure.

Time would be set aside on the Agenda for the discussion of the various items, and for members to question the Oversight Committees and if necessary the heads of Ministries on their projected needs and past expenditure.

Finally, each member would submit his or her tables with the blanks filled in, and the median value for each allocation and revenue proposal would be calculated.

The following tables are examples only. (The figures in the columns “Your Estimate” represent what a hypothetical member might propose.) Obviously there would be many more items than are shown here.

In practice, both the Members and the clerks of the Assembly charged with calculating the median of each estimate would probably use spreadsheets; the paper tables, however, would be submitted as a vote, and would provide a hard copy that could be used for checking.

budget_sht_1

budget_sht_2

For each budget item the median value of the members’ proposed figures would be taken. (The median value is the “middle-most” value if there is an odd number of estimates, and the mean of the two middle-most values if there is an even number of estimates.)

It is important that it should be the median, and not the mean. If all members were sincerely trying to guess a reasonable figure, the mean might give a slightly “better” estimate, as Galton observed in the case of the ox. However, if the mean value is used, an eccentric or extremist member could disproportionately influence the final value by nominating outrageous figures.

For example, suppose that in our example 499 members make an honest attempt to choose a reasonable figure for Conservation and Defence, and that the mean of their proposals is 200 million Sortitian Dollars for Conservation, and 900 million for Defence, and that most estimates are fairly closely clustered around those two figures.

One member, a fanatical pacifist/ecologist might propose the absurd figures of 1 trillion (1 million million) for the Conservation budget, and 0 for every other budget item including Defence. The final mean budgets would be:

Conservation . . . 2 199.6 million

Defence . . . 898.2 million

The effect on Defence is slight (0.2%), but the effect on Conservation is huge, (the budget would be 11 times the mean estimate of the other members), which is clearly against the intentions of the majority of members, and consequently against the aggregate of the wishes of the public.

However, if the median figure is used, the effect of a few unreasonable estimates will be very slight. If, as is likely, the estimates (of the other 499 members) for Conservation nearest to the median are closely grouped, and look something like:

. . . 199.5, 200, 200, 200 (median), 200, 201, 201.5, 202 . . .

(ie several members are very close to, and some actually hit the median) then one absurdly high estimate will have the effect of moving the median one place to the right, in our example from 200 million to . . . 200 million.

Although in most cases the estimates will tend to be clustered about the median, even if they are not it would take quite a weird distribution of estimates for one “outlier” to have a very great effect, since in any case the median cannot move beyond the next highest estimation. Another plausible, though less likely, distribution – much less clustered about the median – might be:

. . . 180, 190, 195, 200 (median), 208, 210, 212, 215 . . .

Even in this case our fanatic would succeed only in moving the median value from 200 to 204 (half-way between 200 and 208), a change of 2%. This is hardly likely to do much damage, and we note incidentally that he could have achieved the same effect with the much more reasonable estimate of 208 million.

Fixing the budget estimates is probably the most important exercise of the legislature, for it fixes the emphasis placed on all aspects of the administration. At present with our elected governments the process is highly political, driven by ideology and interest groups. It is one area where a government chosen by lot could really shine by intelligent apportionment of resources, and by fairness in raising revenue.

Example 3: Abusive use of Proposals by Minorities or Individuals

Suppose a minority group wishes to impose its moral code on the public.

For instance, suppose a group of earnest vegan/animal-rights enthusiasts wishes to abolish all eating of animals, the eating of eggs, all killing of animals for meat, fur, feathers, or whatever; all keeping of animals in captivity, all experiments on animals, and of course all fishing and collection of shellfish.

It makes a proposal to this effect, and after the appropriate steps described in Example 1, the bill is presented to the Assembly, which after debate rejects it by a large majority.

The animal rights group then proposes the same measure again, without amendment, and publicly states that it will do this every day until the bill is passed.

If significant changes had been made to the bill, we might believe that the group was acting in good faith, and that the revised bill should be re-examined, meaning that it should go back to the SIPC, new submissions called for, new debates and recommendations made by the SIPC, and finally, new debate and a vote in the Assembly.

However, in this example, no significant changes have been made, so this is clearly an attempt to impose a minority view on the majority.

What should be done? It would be possible for either the Proposals Committee to refuse to forward it to the Agenda Committee or for the latter to refuse to put the bill on the agenda, for a given period or until an amended version was proposed.

A more democratic solution would be to put it on the agenda for immediate vote in the Assembly, perhaps as the first bill of the next day. Of course it would be rejected again, without delay, as no further discussion would be necessary. If other groups or individuals acted in a similar way, one might imagine dozens – or more – bills being re-proposed frivolously every day. However, this need not be a problem. If all cases were as clearly abusive, the Assembly might vote every morning to reject the whole lot en bloc in a few minutes.

Alternatively, it might pass a measure to the effect that no rejected bill might be re-presented without amendment (not just the form, but the substance) for a given period: three years, for instance. Or it might pass a measure authorising the Proposals Committee to use its judgement to eliminate such proposals.

Whatever the solution chosen, it should be the Assembly that makes the decision.

Example 4: Very Close Votes in the Assembly

It is unlikely that very close votes will happen often. In practice, when the public and the Assembly are nearly equally divided on an issue, it is probable that an amendment or a “third way” would be found that would find favour with a greater majority.

Why is this likely? Because it would be in the interest of everyone to find such an amendment or alternative. Those in favour of the bill would have a greater chance of seeing it passed by removing unpopular elements. Those who were opposed would of course seek a more palatable alternative, and those who had such strong reservations that they were unable to decide, would surely seek to ameliorate a doubtful measure, by removing provisions which they objected to.

How might the Assembly deal with close votes if they do occur? One good way would be for the Assembly to decide that any measure passed or rejected by less than a given majority should be re-considered by the Assembly after a fixed period.

Suppose that an animal welfare group (perhaps after the previous example) puts forward a proposal to limit cruelty to animals in farms, abattoirs, and laboratories, and that this more moderate bill is approved by a majority of eight votes. The Assembly has decided that bills approved by fewer than ten votes will be automatically on the agenda for reconsideration after five years. Now suppose that when the bill comes up again, industry and farmers have learned to live with its provisions, public attitudes have changed so that more people have come to think that animal suffering should be reduced as much as possible, and the bill is passed with a reasonably large majority.

On the other hand, if, in the light of experience, the bill was found to be unsatisfactory, it could be repealed or amended until acceptable to a larger majority.

What about tied votes? The issue could be resolved by the casting vote of the Speaker, if he or she does not normally vote, as happens in elected parliaments. This is not really satisfactory: such close votes mean that about half the population – in some cases more – will be dissatisfied. It would be better for proposals which receive a majority of less than, say, 5 votes to be referred back to the Policy Committee or SIPC with suggestions for amendment, and then re-presented to the Assembly. This is equivalent to the suggestion above, with the “fixed period” reduced to zero.

In the case of bills rejected by a small majority (or indeed any majority), those in favour of them would of course be able to modify them and propose them again.

Example 5: A Proposal Originating in a Policy Committee

Suppose that at present, there is a subsidy for the construction of wind-powered generators, and that electricity generated by solar panels receives a guaranteed price. The (permanent) Policy Committee on Energy, taking into consideration advice from its subcommittees, submissions from experts, and its own continuous reviewing of the scientific and technical literature, decides that it would be better to abandon the construction subsidy and the fixed price altogether, and instead to subsidise all electricity on a sliding scale, based on the environmental costs of new installation, the environmental cost per unit generated, and the degree to which the supply curve of electricity generated matched the demand curve. In this scheme a particularly polluting or inefficient method of generating electricity would then have a “negative subsidy”, that is, it would be taxed.

The Policy Committee submits its proposal to the Proposals Committee, which acknowledges receipt on the government website, notifies the Agenda Committee, and refers it to the parliamentary draftsmen, to be put in proper form. After checking for incompatibility and duplication, the draft is returned to the Energy Policy Committee, and published.

Since the Energy Committee is a standing Policy Committee, there is no need to form an SIPC. The Energy Committee would call for submissions on the proposal as drafted. One might expect in this case a number of opposing submissions from makers of wind-power devices and operators of coal-fired stations, and no doubt some in favour from makers of newer forms of power generation, perhaps also some requesting higher subsidies for an initial period.

The Energy Committee and its various sub-committees would debate all this, and might amend its proposal in the light of the new submissions, in which case the bill would again go to the draftsmen, and back to the Energy Committee before going to the Agenda Committee to be submitted to the Assembly for debate and voting.

At all times the draft would be available to the public, as would the submissions and the recommendations of the Energy Committee and subcommittees.

Sortition and Criteria for Democracy

Let us now consider how the proposed sortition-based government compares with the criteria for democracy given above.

Comparison with the Criteria of Fishkin

Political Equality

If the Assembly is chosen fairly, at random, from the entire adult population, then in effect, the whole adult population participates when the members of the Assembly debate and vote. So “formal political equality” is achieved, at least as far as adults are concerned.

The absence of re-election removes the major source of corruption. The secrecy surrounding each member’s vote, both before and after it is cast, will make it very difficult to either bribe or threaten a member. There will be no way of knowing how many members, and which, to target in order to change a decision, and no way of knowing whether the bribes or threats had any effect. The danger of being denounced would be very high. So we can say that the requirement of “insulation” is met.

The function of the SIPCs is to permit the full range of views to be heard and discussed, to study them, and to present them to the Assembly with the recommendations of the SIPC members. This should provide very “effective hearing”.

Theoretically, at least, political equality is achieved.

But what is the likelihood of de facto inequality arising from undue influence being wielded by experts who have an axe to grind? Moreover, one cannot entirely exclude the possibility of experts who have an entirely erroneous opinion swaying the vote in the Assembly. Expert evidence has after all misled courts and led to miscarriages of justice. The safeguards against error and bias in the expert opinion are:

1. The right of any member of the public, expert or not, to make a submission to the SIPC, and thus to oppose a submission or opinion already expressed.

2. The right, or rather the duty, of members of the SIPC to call for opposing opinions.

3. The right of members of the SIPC, the Assembly, and the Review Chamber to ask for detailed, rational justification of an opinion, or to disregard any opinion they consider unbalanced or unsupported by the facts and logical argument.

It is thus very unlikely that a blatantly biased or erroneous “expert” opinion would go unchallenged by other experts. If the experts disagree, there should be a lively debate, and the Assembly and the public will be able to judge between the arguments advanced to support the opposing opinions.

(Of course, it is possible for the all the experts to agree and for all to be wrong. There is nothing sortition or any other political system can do to fix this; but then this has nothing to do with political equality.)

Non-tyranny

It is impossible under any system to give a cast-iron guarantee that there will never be tyranny.

Since we are not at present discussing tyranny imposed from the outside (for instance, by a foreign power), or despotic or oligarchic regimes, where tyranny is “built-in”, we need only consider two types of tyranny here: tyranny by minorities, and tyranny by majorities.

Tyranny by Minorities

Majority rule, together with random selection from the whole adult population should guarantee that minorities do not tyrannise majorities. However, we should look at the possibilities for failure of the system.

The first possibility is that a lack of formal political equality could permit a minority to get its way unjustly. This possibility has in effect already been considered above in discussing political equality.

We should note a second possibility: suppose a bill is narrowly passed, say by 250 votes to 249, when in fact 50.1% (say) of the population is opposed. This is just possible, since the representation of the population by the Assembly cannot be more than a close approximation.

In Example 4 we noted that such close votes are improbable, and suggested ways of dealing with them. Assume, though, that the bill is passed by this slender majority, and that there is no automatic reconsideration. It is not hard to see that sooner or later, with the regular change in membership, an Assembly would come that opposed the measure by a slight majority and presumably would revoke or amend it. If this did not happen, it would mean that public opinion had changed, and that experience had shown that the measure was satisfactory to the majority.

A third possible form of tyranny is that members of the Assembly might be bribed or coerced. This is much less likely with sortition than with elections.

Since members cannot be re-elected, and no-one can know who will be chosen by lot in the next draw, we have eliminated the possibility of members being promised support – whether money or favourable publicity for their election campaign – and also the possible threat of withdrawal of such support.

The scope for bribing members will be much reduced from the possibilities available under electoral democracy. In the absence of clear political loyalties, it will be less obvious how members are likely to vote on a particular measure at least until they speak, and so less obvious to whom a bribe should be offered, and how many members would have to be bribed. Any member tempted to accept a bribe would know that for the bribery to be likely to succeed it would be necessary to bribe several members. Any one of these could spill the beans, so the risk of accepting a bribe would be high, and so the risk of offering one would also be high. Finally, since voting in the Assembly would be secret, there would be no way of knowing whether a bribe was effective: a corrupt member could simply pocket the bribe, and then cast his vote any way he wished.

Bribing a member to propose a measure would make no sense, since any member of the public could do that, including the person who considers offering the bribe.

Consequently, anyone wishing to influence the vote would almost certainly get more “bang for the buck” – with no risk – by mounting an advertising campaign, by making submissions to the SIPCs or by offering money to disc jockeys or other public figures to express opinions in the sense desired.

This brings us to a fourth possibility, that wealthy interests could influence public opinion, and hence the opinion of the Assembly by dishonest advertising campaigns, biased reporting in the media, and so forth.

The danger of this cannot be denied. It certainly happens at present in “representative democracy”

With sortition, it probably cannot be entirely eliminated. However, it will be mitigated by:

  1. The process of deliberation in the SIPCs and the Assembly, meaning the ability to express opinions, questions and answers free of the necessity to score political points against opponents, and free of the fear of political embarrassment.
  2. The freedom of the public, including recognised experts, to make submissions to the SIPCs.
  3. The fact that each SIPC will have the time and resources to examine its single issue thoroughly and to acquaint itself with the facts. The Assembly, too, although its time will be split over a large number of issues, will still have more time to honestly consider issues than elected politicians whose minds are set on re-election, and whose speeches are aimed at countering their political opponents.
  4. The public information services, financed by the state, but not beholden to any political party or individual, would present a more balanced coverage of news and opinion than news services run by large corporations.

Tyranny by the Majority

This seems to concern Americans much more than other people, probably because of the use of the expression by John Calhoun, who campaigned vigorously and eloquently in the first half of the 19th century against the “tyranny” of the majority (the northern states) which sought to outlaw slavery, against the wishes of the “oppressed” minority (the southern slave-owners).

In spite of this unsavoury connection, the possibility of tyranny by the majority must be considered. It certainly happens in “representative democracy”: one has only to consider the historical treatment of homosexuals.

The measures proposed or instituted to prevent majority tyranny, such as “super-majorities”, the possibility of appeal to a Court with constitutional powers, or a Senate formed as in the US and Australia, where each state has equal number of votes, only tend to bring about a tyranny by minorities. The reader who doubts this is referred to Robert Dahlii who has examined the question in detail.

Majority tyranny could also happen with sortition. As an extreme example, with no children in the Assembly, in theory there would be nothing to stop the adults deciding (on the principle of “spare the rod, spoil the child”) that every person under 16 should receive a caning every day as a prophylactic measure. Not being present in the Assembly, children could do nothing to prevent this.

The safeguards against majority tyranny are:

  1. A high level of public education and public information.
  2. The general sense of fairness of most people.
  3. The consideration in each citizen’s mind that an injustice done to one minority today could be done to another tomorrow, and that everyone is a member of some minority at some time.

We must conclude that no guarantee can be given against the tyranny of the majority with sortition. Would it be less likely than at present with elected governments? There are some reasons for hope:

  • Minorities would be represented in the Assembly, where they can make their views known. They may be completely excluded from an elected parliament.
  • All citizens, including members of minorities would be free to make proposals on matters important to them. Even when rejected by the Assembly, such proposals would make the majority aware of the minority’s concerns, and would no doubt attract some sympathy, perhaps leading in time to a proposal that is accepted by the Assembly.
  • The perverse effect of the subsidising of campaign costs by the state (which reinforces the larger parties) would be absent. (see §5 above)
  • The problem of ignorance (rational or otherwise) when voting on a measure will be greatly reduced if not eliminated in the SIPCs, which will have the time to study their single issues in depth. If a proposal tends to disadvantage a minority, that minority will be able to object, and the SIPC will be able to take the objections into account.
  • The need for parties disappears with sortition, so the polarisation of views, the mindless chanting of slogans, the singling-out of scapegoats, and the slurs and denigration that go with elections will be unnecessary.
  • Non-partisan state-financed news services would give a more balanced and less superficial treatment of news than commercial media.
  • One could expect inequalities in education to be reduced or eliminated in a true democracy.

It is true that the expression “general sense of fairness” may not inspire much confidence in those whose opinions or culture are beyond the pale of tolerance for the majority, such as (today): those who wish to practise ritual cannibalism, incest, or bestiality, or to eat pork or beef in certain countries; or (in former times): atheists, homosexuals, transsexuals, heretics, and those guilty of dancing on Sundays.

On the other hand, daily caning of children for no reason is not common, so presumably some “general sense of fairness” must exist.

Deliberation

In its passage from bright idea in Bill Brown’s head to becoming law, the proposal of Example 1 has been examined by the Proposals Committee, by the professional draftsmen, by the Agenda Committee, by the Single Issue Policy Committee and the experts it called, by any Ministries affected, by anyone who made a submission to the SIPC, by the Agenda Committee again, by the Assembly, and if it exists, by the Review Chamber. If amendments are proposed, it may pass by these bodies several times. It has been debated (in the sense of arguments for and against it being advanced) before the SIPC and in the Assembly and (if there is one) in the Review Chamber.

We may conclude that Fishkin’s requirement of “deliberation” has been fulfilled.

Comparison with the Criteria of Dahl

Effective Participation

If we accept that the bodies chosen by lot, the Assembly and the SIPC, in their composition accurately represent (“stand for”) the adult population, then it is clear that they may represent (“act for”) them in making decisions. Thus when these bodies debate and vote the effect is the same as if the whole population debated and voted. To be sure, the SIPC, having fewer members, will less accurately reflect the public than the Assembly, but it is the Assembly that has the final say, not the SIPC.

It is also possible for the ordinary citizen to make a submission to the SIPC supporting, opposing, or suggesting a modification to any proposal.

Thus this requirement is met.

Voting Equality at the Decisive Stage

The decisive stage for all measures will be the vote in the Assembly. Voting here is strictly equal between members, and the members are free to vote without fear or favour. Again we invoke the principle that a sufficiently large body chosen by lot 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. Consequently the choices of the citizens, all the choices, and only those choices will be taken into account.

Enlightened Understanding

Since all information will be publicly available, it is possible for anyone to inform himself or herself on any proposal at any time after it is made.

However, since in practice we do not have enough time to investigate every topic, and we cannot all become experts on everything, under any political system we must in effect delegate our right and our duty to inform ourselves, at least on those topics which are of lesser interest to us. This delegation is not “alienation” since we do not give up our right to inform ourselves on any matter.

The delegation is surely best made to someone whose views on the matter in question resemble ours, and the best way to achieve this, for the whole population, is by means of a random sample.

The proposed system satisfies the requirement of enlightened understanding within the limits of what is possible.

Control of the Agenda

Dahl’s expression is “The demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda of matters that are to be decided by means of the democratic process.”iii

Since the agenda is proposed by the Agenda Committee, which is not truly representative, it might seem at first glance that this requirement is not fulfilled. However, the Assembly has the final say on agenda matters as on all others, so is quite free to modify the agenda, every day if it sees fit, though this seems highly unlikely.

Certainly, control has been delegated, and more than once: from the population to the Assembly, and from the Assembly to the Agenda committee, and to the SIPC. The second delegation is eminently revocable, as just explained. So, too, is the third. The first (and to a great extent the third) is a delegation to a group whose views are ours, and will act as we would.

Any danger to democracy would come not from placing unpopular or undesirable matters on the agenda (they would quickly be voted down), but from a refusal to put a matter on the agenda which ought reasonably to be there.

While the Agenda Committee might have reservations about, or be prejudiced against a proposal, every citizen has the right not only to make proposals, but also to campaign for them to be considered. Also, the SIPC members could be expected to push for “their” issue to be heard. The Assembly can at any time modify the agenda in order to consider proposal immediately. So it is hard to see how the Agenda Committee could delay a proposal without good reason. In any case, the Agenda Committee is replaced every six months.

The conclusion must be that this criterion is met.

Inclusion

All adult citizens who are able to participate are included in the draw for all bodies chosen by lot. Those chosen must formally refuse if they do not wish to serve.

This condition is met within the limits of what is possible.

Tabular Comparison of Elective Government and Sortition, using the Criteria of Fishkin and Dahl

Criterion Elective Government Sortition
Fishkin
Pol. Equality: Formal Not met Met
Pol. Equality: Insulation Ineffective Effective
Pol. Equality: Effective hearing Not met Met
Non-Tyranny Not met. Tyranny occurs, both by majority and minority Tyranny by minority very difficult; by majority possible, but less likely than with elections
Deliberation Unsatisfactory both on issues and on candidates Unlimited except by time
Dahl
Effective Participation Very limited Met
Voting Equality Not met Met
Enlightened Understanding Not Met Met
Control of agenda Not met Met
Inclusion Met in the better states Met

i http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Galton The concept has been popularised by James Surowiecki. The Wisdom of Crowds, 2005, Anchor Books, New York.
ii Dahl, Robert A, Democracy and its Critics, 1989, Yale University, pp 135-162.
iii Idem, p 113.
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105 Responses

  1. Campbell,

    I forget how many allotted members you allocated to the Proposals Committee, was it ten? The current count for UK Government E-petitions is 59,548 and this is despite the fact that all petitioners stand to gain is the possibility of a parliamentary debate (which will have even less efficacy than a Private Member’s Bill) iff they manage to attract 100,000 online signatures. Given that all Bill Brown has to do is fire off an email or letter, this figure will clearly increase by several orders of magnitude, so these 10 random citizens are going to be pretty busy. The sheer number of individual acts of isegoria in large modern states is the reason why a representative filter has to be applied right from the start, so that the allotted members only have to consider those proposals that have already gained a reasonable measure of public support. The numbers suggested here indicate how it would be extremely cost-effective for lobbyists to bribe members to introduce policies direct to the Assembly. Corruption in allotted assemblies can only be avoided if their role is limited to determining the outcome of a debate via a secret ballot.

    Thank you for confirming that the Galton project recorded the guesses of villagers, many of whom (especially those who paid to enter the competition with a hope of winning the prize) would have had some dealing with livestock (or deadstock). Not so in your example (setting a multi-billion pound budget by pure guesswork). As I pointed out earlier, you are conflating the wisdom of crowds and the law of large numbers.

    >If we accept that the bodies chosen by lot, the Assembly and the SIPC, in their composition accurately represent (“stand for”) the adult population, then it is clear that they may represent (“act for”) them in making decisions.

    I couldn’t agree more. Note that “making decisions” does not require a single speech act — all you do is tick the ballot paper.

    >the Assembly has the final say on agenda matters as on all others, so is quite free to modify the agenda, every day if it sees fit, though this seems highly unlikely [my emphasis].

    Exactly, as the choices of the assembly will be limited to those presented to it by the oligarchic Agenda Committee, so it’s freedom is severely constrained. This is a clear breach of Dahl’s requirement that the demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda. At least our current arrangements allow all voters to choose between competing oligarchies (polyarchies, in Dahl’s terminology), whereas the poor sots in your Assembly are restricted to what is served up to them by a purely aleatory process (in the disparaging sense of the word).

    I’ll leave the final word on your project so far to John McEnroe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY

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  2. Campbell,

    More good stuff here. Many of the details I would favor amending, but ultimately experience would tell. Indeed, in many respects this mirrors my own multi-body sortition model. I strongly agree that it is important that different bodies of people have responsibility for different tasks along the way of law-making, both to allow focused attention, but also as a check on one another.

    One element I think is intriguing but probably should be left out of the final version of this essay is the median setting of budgets. There could well be times when this would work well, but others when it would fall down badly. I am not concerned about their lack of knowledge, which Keith raises, since they are basing their picks on expert-prepared proposals. My concern is for budget options that do not have a neat linearity. For example, a department’s base budget might be 70 million dollars, and they could incorporate the additional project X in the annual budget for an additional 10 million. If some Assembly members favor X and some don’t the median might be 64 million…not enough to do a decent job with project X, but a wasteful excess if project X is abandoned. In other words, some budgets are inevitably formed with steps, rather than a smooth gradation. Yes, there might be some way to deal with this, within your median scheme, but since it really is NOT inherent in a sortition proposal (an elected legislature could decide to use this median budget setting system if they wished), I would suggest deleting it as a distraction.

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  3. @ Keith
    >”I forget how many allotted members you allocated to the Proposals Committee, was it ten? The current count for UK Government E-petitions is 59,548 and this is despite the fact that all petitioners stand to gain is the possibility of a parliamentary debate (which will have even less efficacy than a Private Member’s Bill) iff they manage to attract 100,000 online signatures. Given that all Bill Brown has to do is fire off an email or letter, this figure will clearly increase by several orders of magnitude, so these 10 random citizens are going to be pretty busy.”
    Not a problem. If we need more members, or a number of sub-committees, the mechanism is there for the Assembly to make the necessary adjustments.

    >”The numbers suggested here indicate how it would be extremely cost-effective for lobbyists to bribe members to introduce policies direct to the Assembly.”
    I don’t know why you think it is possible for a member to introduce a policy directly. A member of the Assembly, being a citizen, can propose a measure, and it will pass through the same process as Bill Brown’s.
    A lobbyist can also do this. So to bribe a member to make a proposal would be utterly pointless.

    >”Corruption in allotted assemblies can only be avoided if their role is limited to determining the outcome of a debate via a secret ballot.”
    A secret ballot is an essential part of this proposal.

    >” the Galton project recorded the guesses of villagers, many of whom (especially those who paid to enter the competition with a hope of winning the prize) would have had some dealing with livestock (or deadstock). Not so in your example (setting a multi-billion pound budget by pure guesswork)”
    Using the words “pure guesswork” here is (pure) nonsense.
    In fact, the members will have quite a lot of information available. They will know the more important economic figures, eg revenue and expenditure and surplus/deficit for preceding years, public debt, inflation, unemployment etc, and the views of Policy Committees on economic topics.
    For each budget expenditure item they will have:
    1 The estimate from last year.
    2 The estimate for the current year (I omitted this in the table, but clearly it will be available)
    3 The amount actually spent last year.
    4 The estimate if they adopt a “steady as she goes” approach (actual expenditure corrected for inflation)
    5 The allocation requested by the department or board in question.
    6 The department’s justification of this request, including a break-down of all projected expenses.
    7 The views of the Oversight Committee members (This is an omission in the text, I shall fix it)
    8 The views of any relevant Policy Committees.
    9 Their own priorities. The member used as an example clearly wants to spend more on conservation and education, and less on defence.
    (Yes, for reasons of space items 2 and 4 don’t appear in the table.)

    For revenue, they have for each item:
    1 Last year’s estimated revenue.
    2 Last year’s actual revenue.
    3 The current year’s estimate.
    4 The “steady as she goes” figure calculated from estimated inflation.
    5 The views of relevant Policy Committees.
    5 Their own opinion of a fair way to share the costs. The member used as an example thinks property owners should pay more, and that alcohol should be taxed quite severely.

    If five-year terms are used, four-fifths of the Assembly will have already been through the exercise, and seen the results of their choices, so all of that information is available to them. Even if three year terms are used, there is a majority of experienced members. So the estimate that each member reaches will be an informed estimate. You might argue that there is too much information available. However, there is a “safe” option for those who feel they don’t completely understand the ins and outs of a particular item; that is, of course, the “steady as she goes” estimate. And using the median means that a few wild estimates will not have much effect.

    >”the choices of the assembly will be limited to those presented to it by the oligarchic Agenda Committee, so it’s freedom is severely constrained. This is a clear breach of Dahl’s requirement”
    This is simply false, Keith. The Assembly has the final say. What could be more clear?

    >>” it is clear that they may represent (“act for”) them in making decisions.”

    >”I couldn’t agree more.”
    I’m a little surprised, I thought it was here that you had discovered my lunacy. I come to speeches later.

    @Terry
    >” Indeed, in many respects this mirrors my own multi-body sortition model”
    That is no accident, Terry. I have been much influenced by your ideas, and by those of Alex Guerrero and John Burnheim, and I’m grateful to you.

    >” I think is intriguing but probably should be left out of the final version of this essay is the median setting of budgets. . . My concern is for budget options that do not have a neat linearity. For example, a department’s base budget might be 70 million dollars, and they could incorporate the additional project X in the annual budget for an additional 10 million. If some Assembly members favor X and some don’t the median might be 64 million…not enough to do a decent job with project X, but a wasteful excess if project X is abandoned. In other words, some budgets are inevitably formed with steps, rather than a smooth gradation.”

    Terry, I think the danger of one fanatic throwing a spanner in the works is too great to be ignored if the mean were used. If I say nothing, it’s an easy target for a malicious critic (there just may be some out there, somewhere).
    I take your point about stepwise budgets, but if project X is marginal, in the sense that all other projects and expenses are either more important or cannot be avoided, then it seems (to me) best to shelve project X, and if all the projected numbers turn out to be right, there will be 4 million left over. Would that be a catastrophe?
    More likely, though, the estimates will be a bit out (I would guess most often too low), so that even if the allocation exactly matched the requested one, there would be some project left short of money. If it’s project X, and the Assembly has legislated that project X must go through, then project X is not marginal, reality will strike, and there will be a blow-out of the budget – just as happens now.
    I’ll reply to your comment on the length of terms of service on the other page.

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  4. Campbell,

    >A member of the Assembly, being a citizen, can propose a measure, and it will pass through the same process as Bill Brown’s. A lobbyist can also do this. So to bribe a member to make a proposal would be utterly pointless.

    Because as a fellow oligarch, the committee is likely to privilege her proposal over the 100,000+ coming from the likes of Bill Brown. Or do you propose introducing a double-blind review process?

    >A secret ballot is an essential part of [my] proposal.

    Yes but, from an anti-corruption perspective, it should be the only role of allotted members. Open it up to speech acts and corruption is highly probable, if not inevitable.

    Hopefully Terry’s wise counsel will prompt you to drop your proposal for budget setting by median guesswork, so I don’t need to labour that point.

    >This is simply false, Keith. The Assembly has the final say. What could be more clear?

    Dahl’s requirement (your citation) is that the demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda. This is denied to them by your oligarchic vetting committees.

    >>” it is clear that [allotted members] may represent (“act for”) [all citizens] in making decisions.”

    I’ve consistently argued that a statistically-representative sample of all citizens is the democratic forum for making decisions (voting), so why would I find such a proposal “lunatic”?

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  5. Hi Campbell,

    In my mind the problem with the agenda setting process you are proposing is that it is yet another masspolitical arrangement. That, it is a situation in which very many people are nominally on an equal footing. Each citizen is nominally able to make proposals and to “do his homework” and thus get his proposal considered by the representative committee.

    In reality, however, any such process would tend to become dominated by an organized elite. A set of people and institutions with resources and experience would be in a much better situation to navigate through the process – hiring professionals to write up supporting opinions, collecting signatures for petitions, and overcoming any other hurdles.

    In practice, there would be a stratification of proposals, where the proposal of the average person gets lost in a mountain of other proposals, while the proposals that are backed by elite powers get a good chance of becoming part of the agenda.

    Here, as always, the dynamics of “mass politics” have to be kept clearly in mind when attempting to design a system that is really democratic rather than merely nominally “equal”.

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  6. Agree with Yoram’s observations on the stratification of proposals (the only exception being the pet projects of the aleatocratic oligarchs). How to establish isegoria in extended and densely-populated states is a non-trivial problem.

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  7. Just in case this isn’t clear – it is exactly the proposals of the allotted that should be getting the preferred treatment. Those proposals are representative of the population. What I find prolebmatic is that the allotted would not be able to promote their agenda due to the constraints of the proposed mass-political process.

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  8. Yoram,

    Thanks for confirming your preference for aleatocratic oligarchy, in which the vast bulk of citizens lose their right of isegoria, viewed by most scholars to be the quintessence of the Athenian democracy. Both Campbell and Terry at least attempt to retain this right, even though their proposals are flawed as they replace a democratic filter with an oligarchic one.

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  9. Keith, (I forgot to post this) Wrt:
    >”The current count for UK Government E-petitions is 59,548 and this is despite the fact that all petitioners stand to gain is the possibility of a parliamentary debate”

    I’m not a UK citizen, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I would guess the obvious reason is that they are email petitions. Petitioners may have little to gain (you’ve left out kudos amongst the peer group), but it costs them nothing, so there’s no disincentive to frivolous petitions.
    This is a minor practical problem. (The Assembly might require that proposals should be in letter form – they can be scanned – and include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Ah, nostalgia! They could be really nasty, and require a hand-written copy as well as a printed one to discourage the schoolkids!) If the public is aware that something a bit more serious than Bill Brown’s effort is required, there will probably be a lot fewer proposals. If the Assembly considered that there were too many frivolous proposals, I suppose it could set a small fee; I wouldn’t like to see a high one.
    Still, you’re almost certainly right in thinking that one Proposals Committee is too little for a country the size of the UK, though in Nauru or Antigua they could probably spend every second day fishing (if fishing is still permitted). I think I’ll change my text to spell out that there will be sub-committees as required.

    @Yoram and Keith
    >”In practice, there would be a stratification of proposals, where the proposal of the average person gets lost in a mountain of other proposals, while the proposals that are backed by elite powers get a good chance of becoming part of the agenda.”

    No doubt there would be a stratification of proposals, though not necessarily along the lines that you and Keith suggest.
    I would expect that the Proposals Committee would favour proposals which are
    1 clearly expressed,
    2 set out precisely what the intended effects are of the new measures proposed,
    3 produce evidence to justify the intent of these measures,
    4 produce evidence that the measures will produce these effects and no other undesirable ones,
    5 produce evidence that the measures are supported by a significant number of people.
    (This is a minimum. Maybe the Proposals Committee would find other criteria after some years experience.) The question is really “Can this bill be voted on in the Assembly after minimal changes to wording by the draftsmen? If so, speed it on its way, if not send it back with a note saying why.”

    Bill Brown’s proposal meets none of these criteria, and in addition has a glaring logical blunder: if there really are *no* fish in Watchamacallit Bay, then forbidding fishing there won’t make a scrap of difference.
    I would expect any proposal that was as badly-presented as Bill Brown’s to be sent back for more info, as happens in the example.

    Now certainly meeting those five criteria would mean work, some intelligence, and often specialised knowledge.
    And clearly it will be easier for groups such as Policy Committees which have been studying a field for years, or an industry group with large resources to produce polished proposals that meet at least the first four of those criteria.
    But does democracy require that vague, ambiguous, illogical proposals with no evidence of their desirability, feasibility, and popular support be treated equally with clear proposals with good supporting evidence? Surely not. That would be like claiming that creationism and evolution should be treated equally.

    All is not lost for Bill, of course. If Watchamacallit Bay really is over-fished, and not a poisoned desert, and if a simple ban on fishing will allow stocks to recover, there are probably lots of people who would eagerly get to work and help him, if they are not already out there preparing their own proposal. And he may be able to do some research himself.

    >”it is exactly the proposals of the allotted that should be getting the preferred treatment.”
    >”as a fellow oligarch, the committee is likely to privilege her proposal over the 100,000+ coming from the likes of Bill Brown”

    I disagree with both of you. I worked in the public service for a couple of years in a service that received proposals both from specialists and the general public. Trying to evaluate incomplete and poorly presented ones takes a lot more time and irritates staff, so they get sent back until they are presented in a comprehensible form. I think this will happen with the Proposals Committee, and that strikes me as reasonable.

    Keith, “aleatocratic oligarchy” is a mere cheap sneer, and doesn’t help your case. All bodies in my proposal are subject to rotation.

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  10. Campbell,

    I agree that well-constructed proposals (that privilege the educated middle classes and well-resourced lobby groups) will be more successful than poor old Bill Brown. But you are consistently ignoring the elephant in the room — the huge volume of proposals, once you’ve removed the existing democratic filters. Having said that, the torrent will dry into a trickle once people realise that the chance of their proposal getting a hearing are on a par with the one in a million chance of winning the jackpot in the National Lottery and that the process is just as random. The only exception will be the pet projects of fellow oligarchs.

    >“aleatocratic oligarchy” is a mere cheap sneer.

    Not at all. The fact that the oligarchs choose to rotate jobs does nothing to achieve Aristotle’s injunction that all should rule and be ruled in turn. This is impossible in large modern states, hence my description of active political functions (other than voting) as oligarchic.

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  11. Campbell,

    > Trying to evaluate incomplete and poorly presented ones takes a lot more time and irritates staff, so they get sent back until they are presented in a comprehensible form. I think this will happen with the Proposals Committee, and that strikes me as reasonable.

    It is indeed reasonable, which is why the arrangement you are proposing is only nominally equalitarian. It is in fact anti-democratic.

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  12. Keith,

    Your invention and use of the term “aleatocratic oligarchy” is not informative nor helpful for discussion. Oligarchy is generally understood to be based in some sort of class/power/wealth/heredity which perseveres over time… not a jury that is fairly chosen, serves briefly and cannot extend their time, nor select their replacements. Here is what the Merriam Webster concise encyclopedia says about the term:

    “Rule by the few, often seen as having self-serving ends. Aristotle used the term pejoratively for unjust rule by bad men, contrasting oligarchy with rule by an aristocracy. Most classic oligarchies have resulted when governing elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling class, which tends to exercise power in its own interest. The term is considered outmoded today because “few” conveys no information about the nature of the ruling group.”

    This is absolutely NOT what an allotted system of government would be.

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  13. > oligarchic

    An oligarchy is a group which holds power on a permanent basis.

    As always Sutherland is able to fail to understand any term or statement no matter how clear or simple.

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  14. Terry,

    Oligarchy simply means “the rule of the few” or “a small group of people having control of a country or organization”. All the other factors (permanence, self-serving, ruling class, bad men etc) are entirely contingent, although I note with interest your implication that random selection from the ranks of the many will be less likely to introduce any of the malign factors (bad men, self-serving etc) than selection from an (aristocratic) pool of the rich ‘n powerful.

    >Oligarchy is … not a jury that is fairly chosen, serves briefly and cannot extend their time, nor select their replacements.

    Absolutely, that’s why I propose sortition for the selection of political juries. My objection is to Campbell’s (oligarchic) proposal to use sortition to select officials who serve an active political function. This has nothing to do with juries as we normally understand the term. Although the term “aleatocratic oligarchy” does have some added rhetorical purchase, I stand by it as an accurate description of this aspect of Campbell’s project, due to his failure to adequately distinguish between standing for and acting for — a distinction which you (unlike Yoram) have hitherto accepted.

    Yoram,

    >An oligarchy is a group which holds power on a permanent basis.

    What is the provenance of this definition? It’s clearly false etymologically and also untrue historically. Both of the Athenian oligarchies lasted for less than a year. Note that it would also apply to a democracy, where the demos could be said to rule on a permanent basis (although there would be rotation among its representative proxies, whether elected or allotted). In your proposal would it be the allotted group that rules (albeit on a temporary basis)? If so that would clearly not live up to Aristotle’s definition of democracy as (everyone) ruling and being ruled in turn. In my proposal for rule by allotted jury the demos rules permanently as it would not make any difference who was in the group — the outcome would be the same. So is the permanent rule of the demos a variant of oligarchy? I do think we need to be a little more precise in our terminology.

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  15. >>An oligarchy is a group which holds power on a permanent basis.
    > What is the provenance of this definition?

    This is not only standard usage but logically necessary. If any rule by a small group would be considered an oligarchy then any government would be an oligarchy and the term would lose its distinct meaning.

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  16. Yoram,

    > If any rule by a small group would be considered an oligarchy then any government would be an oligarchy.

    The only exception being when the group acts as a direct proxy for the demos. This is an exacting requirement that imposes severe constraints on the operational mandate of the group, but it can be demonstrated to be true or false in practice (by testing if different concurrent samples of the demos return near-identical decisions). Political science is an empirical discipline, not a branch of deductive logic.

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  17. > Political science is an empirical discipline, not a branch of deductive logic.

    Yes – we certainly don’t want trivialities like logical contradictions stand in the way of scientific progress.

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  18. from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies
    Etymological fallacy – which reasons that the original or historical meaning of a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day usage.[31]

    Of course the meanings of words change. As an aside, one could make a case that the meaning of isonomia changed between the late 6th century poem attributed to Callimachus. C Trypanis translates “isonomous [adjective] t’Athenas epoiesatan” as “made Athens a city of just laws”, which is not at all the meaning given by Hansen (equality of rights) or Liddell and Scott. Trypanis is/was Professor of Classics at Chicago, so he has some weight. Bailly gives “répartition égale”, equality of distribution, which is closer to the verb nemo “I distribute” from which it derives.
    This sort of thing, together with the disagreements between historians about what actually went on in Athens, is another argument to leave Athens out of the equation. Appealing to it as an authority, in the way the scholastics backed up their arguments by referring to Augustine or Origen or whoever, seems futile to me.
    If you want me to look up oligarchy, there will be a small fee.

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  19. Keith,
    In response to Yoram’s objection that your meaning of “oligarchy” would encompass ALL governments (since only a few people are intimately involved at any one time), you wrote “The only exception being when the group acts as a direct proxy for the demos” which you seem to mean a body that does not debate and so statistically it would make no difference who was included…in other words Every government that ever has or will exist is an oligarchy EXCEPT the one specific variant designed by you. Nobody but you uses the word “oligarchy” that way.

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  20. Campbell,

    Good point. I agree that etymology doesn’t contribute anything to the understanding of how words change their meaning over time. I’ve just completed the first draft of the isonomia chapter in my thesis and argue that a semantic (meaning-in-context) approach is more helpful. But oligarchy, unlike isonomia, is an uncontested concept, as it has always meant the same thing (the rule of the few). The factors that Terry mentioned are entirely contingent and Yoram’s claim that oligarchies are permanent is just plain wrong (they usually only last for a short period of time).

    > . . . leave Athens out of the equation. Appealing to it as an authority, in the way the scholastics backed up their arguments

    The fourth-century Athenian nomothetai is the only working example we have of legislation by allotted jury, hence the fact that many modern sortition advocates use this as a template for their own proposals. At least we know this system worked tolerably well — that’s why I’d rather base my model on this, rather than resort to deductive syllogisms (Yoram’s preference) or armchair thought experiments.

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  21. Terry,

    >Every government that ever has or will exist is an oligarchy EXCEPT the one specific variant designed by you. Nobody but you uses the word “oligarchy” that way.

    Fourth-century Athenian practice (from which my model is derived) was clearly not oligarchical. Most people would claim the same about fifth-century direct democracy, but I’m sympathetic to the arguments of Yoram and yourself that it was oligarchic in the sense that the assembly was a puppet of the demagogues. As for modern electoral democracy, this is plainly oligarchic when viewed from a synchronic perspective (Lord Hailsham agreed with Rousseau that the English constitution was an “elective dictatorship”), but viewed diachronically it is a polyarchy (of rotating elites). It’s only possible to view electoral democracy as oligarchical when viewed over time if you agree with Marx that all the party leaders are covert members of a single committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie (this appears to be the view of Gilens et al.). I’m inclined to agree with Schumpeter and Dahl that electoral democracy would be better described as a polyarchic rotation of elites. Monarchy is clearly oligarchical as no single person can rule alone, so yes, I do claim that anything other than 4th-century style governance is oligarchic, at least from a synchronic perspective. Note that allotted assemblies start to act in an oligarchic manner as soon as they move beyond an aggregate judgment role, that’s why I view the proposals of Campbell and yourself as democratically illegitimate.

    How does this analysis fit with your own understanding of oligarchy (the rule of the few)?

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  22. […] Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 […]

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  23. Yoram,
    >”It is indeed reasonable, which is why the arrangement you are proposing is only nominally equalitarian. It is in fact anti-democratic.”
    I think you’re a bit harsh with “anti-democratic”.
    It would be a waste of the Assembly’s time to vote on proposals which do not meet the criteria above.
    As it stands Bill’s proposal is so vague members would interpret it differently, so a vote would be meaningless.
    Some minimum standard must be reached, as with driving a car.
    It’s certainly true that some people will be at a disadvantage compared with others. A group of biology/zoology/ecology PhDs would do a much better job of it than Bill has so far. But Bill is not the worst off. It would probably be harder for a group of Amazon Indians who speak little or no Portuguese to defend their forest, but even they could get help from anthropologists, ecologists and the rest. Harder again for the Nicobar islanders; last I heard they negotiated with arrows and spears. Hardest of all for people with locked-in syndrome and a worthwhile proposal in their heads. I can’t fix that.
    Don’t forget that only proposals which have significant support will ever get approved in the final vote of the Assembly. Such proposals by definition will have a large group in the community in support, many of whom will have abilities and resources that Bill hasn’t. There’s any number of inexpensive ways Bill could start the ball rolling, maybe even talking to people at his local pub would do.

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  24. Campbell,

    > It’s certainly true that some people will be at a disadvantage compared with others.

    I am not concerned about the natural variation between people. I am concerned about the inevitable gap between the large majority of the population and an organized elite which controls an apparatus that both can recruit professionals to buttress its proposals and can afford signature gathering operations.

    > Don’t forget that only proposals which have significant support will ever get approved in the final vote of the Assembly.

    If we trust the members of the Assembly to do the heavy democratic lifting, then, why don’t we trust them to do set the agenda as well? Why must they be dependent on an anti-democratic process – which has a built in advantage for the elite – to set the agenda for them?

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  25. Yoram,

    >If we trust the members of the Assembly to do the heavy democratic lifting, then, why don’t we trust them to do set the agenda as well?

    We don’t place our trust in the individual members, we place it in the aggregate vote of the whole assembly, as this is the only level at which the laws of statistical representativity apply. Setting the agenda is the province of individual speech acts and there are no mathematical theorems available to demonstrate the statistical representativity of individual speech acts. This is why your proposal is anti-democratic.

    >a built in advantage for the elite – to set the agenda

    That would be true if there was a single homogeneous elite. Not so, as modern “democratic” societies are better described as competitive polyarchies.

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  26. I think I fit somewhere between Campbell and Yoram on this point. Most average people will be vastly out-gunned in the realm of making proposals in a system where those who are already best prepared and funded can produce ready-to-go proposals. Yoram prefers to let the random assembly members with professional staff generate their own proposals (like traditional elected legislators).

    I prefer the idea of an ACTIVE Agenda Council (large and representative – chosen by lot) that will create an agenda for the random assembly and issue requests for proposals to accomplish certain tasks, that the Agenda Council has concluded need addressing (after wide-ranging consultation with experts, interest groups, opinion polls, professional staff, etc.), rather than relying on what proposals happen to float to the top as ready-for-consideration (mostly from well-funded special interest sources).

    With Campbell’s design the Agenda Committee is essentially a readiness determining body, in which representativeness is less critical. They are sort of fulfilling a mere ministerial function. While my Agenda Council is establishing a direction for government consideration, though not any details, and not making any final decisions on laws. thus this Council. But unlike Yoram, I agree with those who think the agenda setting process, and the proposal development process should each be carried out by bodies distinct from the process of evaluating (passing) laws.

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  27. Terry,

    > But unlike Yoram, I agree with those who think the agenda setting process, and the proposal development process should each be carried out by bodies distinct from the process of evaluating (passing) laws.

    The question of whether there should be a single body or multiple bodies is secondary and I don’t have a strong opinion on this matter – there are valid arguments both ways.

    What is crucial is that any agenda setting body, like any other body with political power, is representative – i.e., in particular, is allotted from the entire population.

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  28. >”If we trust the members of the Assembly to do the heavy democratic lifting, then, why don’t we trust them to do set the agenda as well? Why must they be dependent on an anti-democratic process – which has a built in advantage for the elite – to set the agenda for them?”
    >”With Campbell’s design the Agenda Committee is essentially a readiness determining body, in which representativeness is less critical. They are sort of fulfilling a mere ministerial function.”

    I’m afraid I’m going to dig in here and defend my position.
    I think we may be arguing over semantic differences . Terry is quite right, there is a big difference between his Agenda Council and my Agenda Committee. In fact, since they (my AC) have no real authority, it’s a function that could probably be performed by civil servants.
    In effect, in my proposal it is the entire citizen body that sets the agenda, in the sense of nominating matters of concern. Surely nothing could be more democratic than that: on the agenda side, we’re in direct democracy.

    >”What is crucial is that any agenda setting body, like any other body with political power, is representative – i.e., in particular, is allotted from the entire population.”
    I’ve gone one better, the agenda setting body IS the entire population.

    As I pointed out, though, proposals for law must meet a certain standard, otherwise they are ambiguous and cannot reasonably be voted on. It is the function of the Proposals Committee (not the Agenda Committee) to refer unclear, nebulous proposals back to their authors for clarification. This is *not* outright rejection.
    Whether Bill Brown is just another battler, or whether he has 50 billion in the bank, a dozen PhDs, and a thousand secretaries with legal training, if he is the only one in favour of his proposal, it won’t be passed. If it is a measure that will finally be passed (when all the evidence is produced and the arguments are advanced, dissected, and chewed over), then before that stage it will already have a large body of citizens in favour of it. Amongst those citizens will be people capable of putting it into reasonable form – at no cost to Bill – they are already on board. So although it might take a little longer, if Bill’s bright idea really is a good one, it will go through.

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  29. >In effect, in my proposal it is the entire citizen body that sets the agenda, in the sense of nominating matters of concern. Surely nothing could be more democratic than that: on the agenda side, we’re in direct democracy.

    The one thing that Yoram and myself agree on (albeit for entirely different reasons) is that direct democracy does not work in large and populous states. When are you going to acknowledge that the inevitably vast number of submissions creates a problem where somebody has to narrow it down to a manageable number and that this should be a truly democratic process? Judging by your vision of patient backwards and forwards exchange between the Proposals Committee and Bill Brown you’ve never been in the role of editor of a scholarly journal or magazine having to manage unsolicited article submissions.

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  30. Campbell,

    You wrote:
    >”In effect, in my proposal it is the entire citizen body that sets the agenda, in the sense of nominating matters of concern. Surely nothing could be more democratic than that: on the agenda side, we’re in direct democracy.”

    I (and I’m sure Yoram) disagree. When agenda setting is left to the “entire citizen body” it is elites who define what issues will be taken up through media and other means. Agenda setting is a FUNDAMENTAL POLICY matter. A society shouldn’t focus on those issues that get to the head of the line through appeals to rationally ignorant population as a whole. A smaller (ideally random) group of citizens need to weight the relative priority of issues, because the can’t ALL be taken up in a timely manner.

    Agenda setting is a POLITICAL decision-making process, not merely logistical.

    It is obvious why special interests with lots of money at stake will have proposals ready to go. But it is harder to say why certain issues that don’t appear to be based in a special interest make to to the top of the public awareness (and thus would generate plenty of thoughtful proposals). Partisans in elections ride both of these agenda setting horses. 1.they generate proposals that will satisfy their supporters (often wealthy, but also merely focused special interests with numbers rather than wealth), and 2. they generate issues for the agenda that they want to campaign on (rather than worry about passing).

    Agenda setting is not rational (from society’s perspective) in an electoral system, We need a democratic (descriptively representative) body to decide what issues will be tackled in the current time frame, not only what the specific statute language will say.

    As an interesting anecdote on agenda setting…In the 1830’s in the U.S. there was a lot of suspicion of secret societies, the Free Masons in particular, as being dangerous to democracy and freedom. A political party formed around this agenda item…called the Anti-Masonic Party. Few people know about it today, but in my own state of Vermont, the Anti-Masonic Party, riding a wave of conspiracy theories elected the governor and a majority of the legislature, and even gave the state’s electoral college votes to the Anti-Masonic Party candidate for President. The party lasted only a few years, and that agenda item has never resurfaced.

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  31. Terry,

    >When agenda setting is left to the “entire citizen body” it is elites who define what issues will be taken up through media and other means.

    Yes, the sheer scale of modern states means that only the policies that gain media support will make it through to the legislature (Campbell insists on digging his head in the sand regarding the likely number of interjections from the public). That’s why we need a vibrant and competitive media, where publications compete with each other to gain the most public support (the etymology of “publication” indicates that this is part of the solution, not the problem). Policy proposals that receive the most backing rightly deserve to go through to the representative assembly for deliberative scrutiny.

    >Agenda setting is not rational (from society’s perspective) in an electoral system.

    That’s a bit harsh, your Masonic Party is the exception rather than the rule (they didn’t last very long). Political parties need to secure a plurality of votes (there aren’t enough activists) and media outlets need to attract customers. For a refutation of the top-down argument on media and political advertising, take a look at Sam Delaney’s new book Mad Men and Bad Men: “Advertising only works to reinforce what voters already believe. It cannot change their minds; it merely sharpens their existing suspicions”. The view that the media brainwash people into accepting the hegemonic perspective of the establishment/ruling class is a convenient myth whereby the losers in an election seek to shift the blame away from their own policy and leadership defects.

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  32. Campbell,

    To move the discussion forward, could you describe the dynamics of the process as you image it. In a population of, say, 50 million, how many people would submit a proposal every year. How many would overcome the initial hurdles?

    Also, what happens if a proposal reaches the voting stage and some of the allotted delegates like it in general but want to change some of the details? Would they be allowed to do that, or would it be a take-it-or-leave-it situation?

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  33. @Keith
    >”When are you going to acknowledge that the inevitably vast number of submissions creates a problem where somebody has to narrow it down to a manageable number and that this should be a truly democratic process?”
    That’s what the Proposals committee (and as many sub-committees as necessary) is for. The first hurdle, as I said, will be putting the proposal in a clear, unambiguous format, providing scientific evidence of its desirability, and providing evidence of popular support. This will not be a negligeable task, and will winnow out the least serious ones.
    Since the Proposals Committee (by your opinion) will have a list a mile long of other proposals, it would help all concerned if it suggested to Bill that he check other proposals. In the example, since we are clearly near a large city, it is very probable that Watchamacallit Bay’s problems are far more complicated than Bill seems to think, and almost certainly, local scientists will be studying it, and probably are preparing a much better-thought out proposal, with better evidence and more popular backing. Is it undemocratic if this gets priority over Bill’s? As I said to Yoram, I don’t believe so. And if the “better” proposal is approved by the Assembly, either Bill or those who back him will lose interest and Bill’s idea will die a *natural* death, by which I mean that it will not be killed off arbitrarily.

    >”Policy proposals that receive the most backing rightly deserve to go through to the representative assembly for deliberative scrutiny.
    Did I not say that the Proposals Committee would ask for evidence of popular support? If Bill Brown has ten people in favour of his proposal, and someone else has 10 000 000, who would the Agenda Committee and the Assembly give priority to?

    >” When agenda setting is left to the “entire citizen body” it is elites who define what issues will be taken up through media and other means.
    I think to some extent,this is inevitable, but what do we mean when we talk of an “elite”?
    Is Greenpeace an elite? or the WWF? If I’m not wrong, these are essentially grass-roots organisations that through large membership have a lot of resources, and are adept at getting things on to the front page? They would also be very capable of providing an army of scientists to back their position before an SIPC. These two are ecological, but other large grass-roots organisations exist or could spring up. Occupy, for instance, or free open software advocates. Anywhere there’s genuine indignation with the status quo you will get these organisations.

    @Terry
    >”We need a democratic (descriptively representative) body to decide what issues will be tackled”
    I doubt if *deciding* will be as fair and democratic as letting them compete in the manner I have described.

    @Yoram
    Excellent question, I’m working on the reply.

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  34. Campbell,

    Your Proposals Committee is going to be extremely busy — frankly I’m astonished that you think they will have the time and inclination to provide the sort of helpful feedback that you are proposing. This is simply not feasible — especially for 10 randomly-selected oligarchs with no prior experience with the peer review process.

    Where I am in agreement with you is your call for competition in the field of representative isegoria. But how do you square this with your contempt for media competition and online petitions with a threshold of a minimum number of signatures? Numbers (like votes) have the obvious advantage of standing above the views and prejudices of human agents (such as the 10 members of your entirely unrepresentative Proposals Committee). Doesn’t it occur to you that this tiny group of oligarchs might be inclined to put forward proposals that they find personally agreeable (or fit the agenda of the lobbyists who have purchased their favours)?

    What you appear to be saying is that it’s OK for what are mostly middle-class groups with an eco- or leftist agenda (“Greenpeace”, “WWF”, “Occupy”, “free open software advocates” etc) to compete for isegoria, but you would deny the same freedom to the great unwashed and their chosen newspapers, as they are associated with the “status quo” (all quotes refer to extracts from your original text). As a result advocates for change are privileged, and conservatives penalised, so it sounds as if your constitution is designed to promote your own partisan views. This is why I made the earlier observation on the connection between “pure sortition” and post-Marxian theorists (note the “post” and “Marxian” (not Marxist)). This group of theorists view the conservative hegemony (status quo) as the result of indoctrination by the organs of the establishment (including the media and the popular press), whereas other theorists (including myself) view it as the underlying preference of most human beings for peace, familiarity and a quiet life (see, for example, Oakeshott’s essay on the conservative disposition).

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  35. PS comments are “off” on your latest post (I’ve informed Yoram).

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  36. Comments are off?

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  37. @Yoram
    >”To move the discussion forward, could you describe the dynamics of the process as you image it. In a population of, say, 50 million, how many people would submit a proposal every year. How many would overcome the initial hurdles?

    Also, what happens if a proposal reaches the voting stage and some of the allotted delegates like it in general but want to change some of the details? Would they be allowed to do that, or would it be a take-it-or-leave-it situation?”

    1 Very hard to put numbers on this sort of thing.
    Keith mentioned 50 000+ email petitions.
    I think it will be fewer with written proposals, and very much fewer once the five requirements that I suggested are met. Keith thinks a trickle with the common-sense filtering that I suggest. So somewhere between “a trickle” and 50 000, I guess.
    Sending out that first form letter responding to the initial letter should not cost much. More money could be saved by providing a guide to would-be lawmakers.
    Inevitably a lot of proposals will touch on the same matters. It would be desirable for the Proposals Committee to mention other proposals which touch on the same matters in their reply to proposers. This would permit proposers to put their heads together and produce something better than two or more half-thought-out proposals that have conflicts, at the same time reducing the numbers.

    2 This is something of a trick question. Procedure would have to be studied (perhaps by its own policy committee) and decided by the Assembly, not by me! The following are my thoughts only.
    A proposal that reaches the voting stage would have passed through the hands of either a standing PC or an SIPC.
    An Assembly member would be quite free to say: “While I agree with the general thrust of this, I cannot support paragraphs 5 and 8 of the proposed measure (for the following reasons . . .)”
    He might add “I move that it be put to the vote with these paragraphs deleted (or amended as follows . . .)”
    Another member might say “While I agree with the last speaker about those two paragraphs, I move that it be referred back to the Policy Committee for their views on the practicality of the amendment”
    This would perhaps be more courteous to the original proposer.
    If the first member agrees with the amendment to his motion, it could be put to the vote.
    If not, the motion to vote on the proposal with the two paragraphs removed or amended would stand. The Assembly could then agree to vote on it it in this form.
    If the proposal is returned to the policy committee presumably the original proposer would be free to amend the amendment, and resubmit it to the proposals committee, and the dance continues.

    If the proposal is not returned to the policy committee but is voted on in its amended form, and rejected, I don’t see why the original proposer could not resubmit it the original version. And if the amended version is approved, I don’t see why he should not propose an amendment to restore it to its original form.

    In general, what happens probably depends very much on the nature of the proposal.
    Suppose Bill has re-worded his proposal to make it more precise, and found a few thousand people to sign a petition (for instance), and between them they have collected old photos of fishing boats in W. Bay, old newspaper articles with details of the annual fishing competition and the sizes of the fish caught, etc, etc. It might be sketchy, but it’s evidence of a sort, so let’s say his proposal meets the standard necessary to go to the Agenda Committee, who find a slot for it in the proposals to be considered.

    It appears on the tentative agenda the day before it is to be discussed (for the first time). Nobody objects, so the next day the proposal is read. (For some proposals probably the abstract would be read, however Bill’s is pretty short):”That the words “In Watchamacallit Bay east of a line between Lottery Point and Cape Kleros” be added to Schedule 3 of the Fisheries Protection Act, 2038-2046″, and for the information of members the Proposals Committee has noted that schedule 3 is a list of zones where the taking of all bony and cartilaginous fish, all crustaceans and all shellfish is permanently banned. The Proposals Committee has also noted that there is a standing Policy Committee on Fishing, and another standing PC on Watchamacallit Bay.

    At this stage a member might rise and say “Madam Speaker, since there are already two standing PCs which appear to have competence in the matter, I suggest that it is unnecessary to form an SIPC, and I therefore move that the proposal be referred to these two PCs, with a preliminary report to be presesnted to this House within one month”
    Since both PCs are standing PCs, they probably are pretty much aware of the state of affairs in W.Bay, so instead of a report which suggests more time is needed to evaluate it, we might get something like:
    (From the Fisheries PC)
    “There is no longer any commercial fishing activity in W Bay except along the extreme seaward edge of the proposed exclusion zone. There appears to be very little recreational fishing in the bay except for the vicinity of Lottery Point. The Committee considers that the proposed ban will have very little effect, unless implemented together with other measures to encourage the re-establishment of fish stocks. Twelve committee members recommend against the immediate approval of the measure, three are in favour.”

    (From the Watchamacallit Bay PC)
    “If adopted, the proposal will have no benefits unless a comprehensive packet of measures is implemented. Studies are being conducted into pollution in W Bay, and into the effects of land use in the area that drains into the bay. The following proposals have been made or are being drafted . . . . . . The majority view is that the proposal should be postponed until these other proposals have been drafted, and then included with them, with the reservation that the ban should be reviewed in ten years time. Nine committee members recommend following the above course, six recommend its immediate adoption as a cheap measure that can do no harm, and one member opposes the proposal.”

    The Assembly would probably vote to postpone consideration of it until the other proposals were ready.
    Sorry for the long post.

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  38. Keith only thinks it will become a trickle on account of the rational response of the public to the grotesque chaos ushered in by your coup. It will very quickly become evident that which proposals pass through the gatekeepers depends on entirely random factors. But by then the people will have risen up to depose the random dictators, so the issue of numbers will be entirely academic.

    Have you considered a new career as a science fiction writer or stand-up comic? You might do quite well.

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  39. > Have you considered a new career as a science fiction writer or stand-up comic? You might do quite well.

    While I agree with you regarding the substance and plausibility of the proposal, comments like this aren’t terribly helpful, to say the least.

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  40. Naomi,

    If, as John McEnroe put it, you “cannot be serious” you can at least have a laugh — we need some compensation for having to wade through all this stuff. Can you take it seriously?

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  41. Sutherland,

    You have long been an obnoxious bore, but you have managed to set a new low.

    Campbell,

    Wouldn’t yo agree that my view of Sutherland was amply vindicated by his latest comments?

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  42. It’s water off a duck’s back, now. If we ever get our ideas out into the world, we can expect a lot of thoughtless scoffing and malicious distortion, so we might as well get used to it. That said, I don’t think the ad hominem element helps Keith’s case.

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  43. Yoram (to Campbell),

    >Wouldn’t yo agree that my view of Sutherland was amply vindicated by his latest comments?

    Of more relevance is the view of the 300+ silent witnesses on our blog. But how are we to find out? I know Campbell has no regard for historical precedents, but we could follow 5th century practice and have an ostracism — if 100 of my peers decided that they wanted no more from an obnoxious bore like “Sutherland” then he would be obliged to gird up his loins, shake the dust off his feet and depart forthwith. Or we could follow the 4th century example and have a political trial — Yoram would make a great prosecutor (no doubt, if found guilty, he would demand the death sentence) and I’m sure “Sutherland” would not be lost for words in defending himself before a randomly-selected group of all citizens.

    I’m driven to rhetorical excesses by two things: 1. Frustration — I’ve spent hours reading through the interminable details of Campbell’s proposal but he refuses to explain how a small group, randomly selected from the whole population (thank you for the clarification) can possibly deal with the huge volume of proposals that are likely to come in, in a fashion that is not just … random … How big is the group? (to be representative it would need to be several hundred strong) and what would be their modus operandi? Given that they would probably have to deal with several hundred proposals a day and that they have been (effectively) conscripted to the task (otherwise they would not be representative), and will know (or care) very little about the issues under consideration, how can they be persuaded to stay awake? And Campbell also refuses to understand a simple distinction — proposers (advocates) [claim to] act for the public; disposers (allotted jurors) stand for the public. It’s that simple.

    The other reason for my rhetorical excesses is because I’m genuinely worried that simple and moderate proposals for sortition will be damaged by association with all-embracing proposals (of byzantine complexity) for “pure” sortition from the loony left. The very fact that Campbell’s proposal requires six extremely long posts to describe it, shows the appropriateness of the adjective “byzantine”. This being the case I would ask Campbell to kindly remove any reference to my work from this proposal, if it ever sees the light of day beyond the cloistered confines of this blog.

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  44. Campbell,

    > It’s water off a duck’s back. If we ever get our ideas out into the world, we can expect a lot of thoughtless scoffing and malicious distortion

    Sure. But such behavior and such people should be exposed for what they are, not dignified with substantive responses. Trying to engage with such people is worse than useless: qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent.

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  45. Perhaps that’s my problem after all as I do tend to sit on the sofa alongside the family dog. Now when was the last time I heard someone describing his intellectual opponents as dogs? I can’t quite remember.

    Seriously though, I believe fair-minded readers will find my questions and observations substantive in nature, albeit phrased in a forthright manner, but I suppose that if I describe a proposal as “clearly bonkers” then I run the risk that this might be misconstrued as an observation on the person proposing it. But I have praised Campbell for his clear presentation of the problems with our existing political arrangements and suggested to him that he go back to university to hone his own proposal into a form that is both intellectually coherent and capable of practical implementation. So I’m attacking the argument, (not the man) and suggesting ways of improving it. Why, otherwise, would I go to the considerable trouble of reading it?

    If we choose to write off people we disagree with as dogs, then I think we are moving into dangerous territory. Every week I get 2 or 3 messages from academia.edu informing me that people have come to read my profile or download my papers and the sources are either google searches or references by EbL. I assumed this indicated that some people were interested in my work, but perhaps it’s just Mossad agents looking for my address, so that they can put down the dangerous dog.

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  46. >”I’ve spent hours reading through the interminable details of Campbell’s proposal but he refuses to explain how a small group, randomly selected from the whole population (thank you for the clarification) can possibly deal with the huge volume of proposals that are likely to come in, in a fashion that is not just … random … How big is the group? (to be representative it would need to be several hundred strong) and what would be their modus operandi? Given that they would probably have to deal with several hundred proposals a day and that they have been (effectively) conscripted to the task (otherwise they would not be representative) . . . .”
    1 If you don’t want to read it, don’t.
    2 If you want to comment, it would be a good idea to read it carefully first.
    3 I have answered all this. One point I had to answer twice because you presumably didn’t read the first answer.

    >”This being the case I would ask Campbell to kindly remove any reference to my work from this proposal, if it ever sees the light of day beyond the cloistered confines of this blog.”
    I consider that my references constitute fair dealing, particularly as I have invited your comments. I see no reason to remove these references, they are now a matter of public record.

    >”Campbell also refuses to understand a simple distinction . . . ”
    I don’t think this is true.

    >”qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent.”
    Fleas or flaws, I did say I was looking for the bugs in it. On this subject, there are quite a few topics which worry me slightly, and which have not been commented on by anyone, which surprises me. I think I’ll wait till part 6 has been flamed before asking.

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

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  48. Campbell, you have written so many words and there are only so many hours in the day. If you would kindly hyperlink the relevant responses, then I’ll read them again more carefully.

    >I don’t think this is true.

    That doesn’t sound much like an argument to me (I would not be allowed to get away with such a blank assertion in my politics department).

    >I consider that my references constitute fair dealing, particularly as I have invited your comments. I see no reason to remove these references, they are now a matter of public record.

    Yes you have dealt with my work fairly, I just don’t want the serious study of sortition to be dismissed on account of guilt by association with crazy projects. I’m relieved that so far the public impact is (judging by the number of respondents) limited.

    >have not been commented on by anyone, which surprises me.

    As I mentioned before, there are only so many hours in the day. Given that, IMO, “pure” sortition proposals are both theoretically indefensible and unimplementable, it’s hard to get motivated to focus on subsidiary issues.

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  49. PS will you be responding to my measured comments on Part 5, or does that constitute “lying with dogs”?

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  50. @Keith,
    >” you have written so many words and there are only so many hours in the day. If you would kindly hyperlink the relevant responses, then I’ll read them again more carefully.”
    There’s a simpler way. Just search for “@Keith” using “find” in your browser.
    If you are short of time, sticking to the point would help.

    >”>I don’t think this is true.

    >”That doesn’t sound much like an argument to me”
    I wrote this in reply to your:
    “Campbell also refuses to understand . . .”
    which is a slur: you are accusing me of bad faith. Most people would be offended. I don’t particularly care what your opinion of me personally is.
    Writing a detailed justification would be accepting your right to be both accuser and judge.
    Come off it, Keith.

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  51. >Writing a detailed justification would be accepting your right to be both accuser and judge.

    Those of us working in the field of political theory would claim that arguments can be evaluated by objective criteria (such as the rule not to conflate two distinct concepts), but the ultimate judge of your justification would be the silent witnesses on this blog, not me. (Note that in this particular context the conflation was spotted by Peter Stone, based on an argument from Hanna Pitkin, so has little to do with flea-bitten dogs like “Sutherland”.) If you’re not prepared to justify your argument then why initiate the debate in the first place? I’ve made quite a few posts on this site and have never (to the best of my knowledge) left an important question unanswered.

    Look forward to your response to my comments on part 5.

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  52. I don’t think Pitkin should be elevated to the role of final arbiter of representation. Her definitions of “standing for” and “acting for” are reasonable, but not universal. I would suggest that Campbell jettison the argument that “standing for” logically authorizes “acting for.” You just open yourself to philosophical nit picking. (It would be theoretically possible to hand-pick a group that exactly matched the population on dozens of demographic and other variables (descriptively representative and “standing for”), but who were selected because they all favored abolishing public education.

    It is the impartiality and statistical closeness generated by randomness that makes a sortition body a good analog for the people as a whole, and may give them authority to legislate for the people.

    A key point of Pitkin’s is that
    “The crucial test of political representation is the existential one: Is the representative believed in?” [p. 102]

    If the population generally trusts and accepts a series of allotted bodies making legislative decisions on their behalf, then it has gained legitimacy…in addition to being epistemically good.

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  53. Terry,

    >If the population generally trusts and accepts a series of allotted bodies making legislative decisions on their behalf, then it has gained legitimacy…in addition to being epistemically good.

    That’s certainly true (in the tautological sense that people will view something they “accept” as “legitimate”), but why do you think that a “pure” sortition system (especially one like Campbell’s that deliberates in camera) would lead to this benign outcome? The theoretical example that you provide refers to aggregate judgment (standing for), as all members of such a sample would vote to abolish public education. “Acting for” is concerned with which issues are selected for the legislative debate and how convincing the arguments are, and this is an entirely different function to “standing for” (voting). It would be perfectly possible for a random sample of 300 to contain only one person who believed passionately in the abolition of public education and who managed, through the sheer force of her oratory, to persuade all the members of the assembly to vote in her bill. Another random sample might contain just one person who believed passionately in the abolition of private education and [ditto]. Which of these two legislative outcomes would be the representative one? I acknowledge, of course, that the balanced judgment of the impartial and representative jury could overturn the unbalanced advocacy, but we really can’t assume that, so need to ensure that those who seek to act for the people (by making a representative claim) also carry a democratic mandate (provided by a different representative mechanism). Unfortunately Campbell, Yoram and yourself are so virulently opposed to electoral and direct-democratic filters, that I can’t imagine you will ever accept the need for different representative mechanisms to match these entirely different representative functions (acting for and standing for).

    I appreciate that these two cases are as extreme as your own hypothetical example, but I only use them to illustrate that “acting for” and “standing for” are fundamentally different forms of representation. Only the latter form is amenable to statistical representation and your example conflates the two forms in the same way as does Campbell. PS this isn’t just a quirk of Pitkin, you’ll find it in Pettit, in Peter Stone’s introduction to C&P and, in fact, in any political theorist who does not have a pre-theoretical commitment to pure sortition (i.e. just about everybody). This isn’t “philosophical nit-picking”, it’s just plain obvious! Given our predilection for the 99% over the 1% in political matters, shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to political theorists?

    I really would like to be able to establish this key distinction in a way that we can all acknowledge, but I’m struggling to find a way of making it clearer. When I put it to someone without a pre-theoretical commitment to pure sortition, they get the point immediately, so I would suggest the problem has to do with the mind-set of people on this forum. It’s clearly leading to a lot of anguish and intemperate language, so I think we do need to resolve it, as there are so few of us working in this field that we really can’t afford to fall out and badmouth each other as flea-bitten dogs etc.

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  54. […] 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part […]

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  55. @Keith, and in part Terry,
    >”Those of us working in the field of political theory would claim that arguments can be evaluated by objective criteria (such as the rule not to conflate two distinct concepts)”
    Indeed. There are two distinct concepts here.
    One is “standing for” vis a vis “acting for”.
    The other is your statement “Campbell also refuses to understand . . .”
    This latter is a clear accusation of bad faith.
    As the accuser, the onus of proof is on you.
    Since you cannot look inside my head, and since you have no statement by me to a third party along the lines of “Keith is right, but I won’t admit it” (I have made no such statement),
    Then my (unduly) mild statement “I don’t think this is true” is quite sufficient denial. You have no right to demand more.
    Incidentally, from where I stand, your good faith *appears* doubtful, but I do not make this accusation, I have no way of being sure.
    As for the “standing for/acting for” business. I shall (again) examine this.
    It is possible, since we are both convinced that we are right, that there is some semantic problem.
    Do not expect anything further on this for a week or possibly more, thinking takes time.
    In the meantime, I shall not withdraw a jot or a tittle of what I have written until I am persuaded that I am wrong.

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  56. Campbell,

    Fair point, and take as long as you need to give a considered response. Might I suggest you focus on Terry’s last comment on the standing/acting for issue:

    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/down-with-elections-part-3/#comment-15351

    c/w my response, as I think this exchange captures the problem well. I’m eagerly awaiting Terry’s response.

    I agree that “Campbell refuses to understand” might be taken to mean that you are being deliberately obtuse. Remember that I’ve been making this argument over and over for nearly five years, so I admit to a certain frustration. What I should have said is that you “find it impossible to accept on account of your pre-theoretical commitment to pure sortition”. My preferred strategy is the opposite — do the necessary analytic work first and then outline the sort of of institutions that might be needed to fit the bill. This involves being very precise about what we mean by concepts like representation.

    What worries me is that accepting the diarchical nature of the concept of representation means that there can be no single solution, so I can’t see how advocates of pure sortition can ever accept it, irrespective of how well the case is argued. Hence my claim that you are denying it for pre-theoretical reasons, as opposed to finding specific flaws with the argument. I can honestly say that the only opposition I ever find to this distinction is with either pure sortitionists or (some) deliberative theorists (who acknowledge, when pushed, that they are not really democrats and have no interest in representation).

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  57. Keith,

    I guess I just don’t understand certain concepts you have assigned particular terms to…

    Am I correct that “standing for” in your mind allows the kind of representation of only voting (make a final decision enacting a law) without “speech acts” and that this final decision-making you do not consider to be “acting for.” And That talking in order to persuade, WITHOUT actually making any decision affecting law you call “acting for?” This sort of seems the reverse of every day usage. While Pitkin spends some time distinguishing between “standing for” and “symbolizing”… it seems that in normal usage a FLAG can “stand for” a people, and that “standing for” is essentially a matter of psychology (in a person’s mind the one “stands for” the other.) And that any agent (including an allotted body or a dictator) could be authorized to “act for” the people, if the people consent. I’m just not sure the two terms are particularly useful to furthering our understanding.

    And the right to speak and propose legislation in the Greek Assembly, known as Isegoria (often translated as equal freedom of speech), you think can be analogous to modern day citizens choosing which media source to subscribe to…with the elite editors of the chosen media effectively doing the speaking for the citizens who subscribe? And this equals free speech (isegoria)?

    IF I am correct about your usage, you can see how difficult it is to discuss these things because they don’t seem to make any sense.

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  58. Terry,

    When something stands for something else it acts as a surrogate or proxy in the sense that if you replace the one with the other it will make no difference. So, unlike a flag or photograph, a sample of sufficient size can stand for the body being sampled, as it has the relevant properties. What properties are relevant to political bodies? Mass is clearly irrelevant (300 people weigh less than 60 million), what matters instead is that the sample should behave in the same way as the original body. What activities this covers can only be determined empirically — voting is clearly applicable, as each vote is exactly equal, so if the original sample were large enough you could subdivide it without significantly affecting the outcome.

    But what about speech acts? These clearly pertain to individual persons, and are (unlike votes) in no sense equal, so subdividing the original sample would produce two different bodies. Which sample would be the one that stands for the larger body?

    I’m replying on my phone, so will come back separately on your Isegoria point.

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  59. Terry,

    Large political communities require some form of representation; and we agree that the principle of isonomia (equal political right) can be achieved by representation via an allotted sample. Modern day Isegoria also requires representation, and competitive media can play a part, along with election and direct initiative (backed with sufficient signatures to ensure that the claim represents the views of a significant minority.)

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  60. Terry,

    PS: I’ve been puzzling as to why Pure Sortitionists and Ordinary Mortals continue to talk past each other — this is particularly galling in the case of you and me, as we do make huge efforts to understand each other’s position, but to precious little avail. For example a distinction which I view as a) vitally important and b) plain obvious, you dismiss as “philosophical nit-picking” and “not making any sense”. Even though we both speak the same language, we appear to come from two different planets. Why should this be?

    At the risk of over-simplification, I think our methodologies are entirely different. Pure sortitionists (necessarily) believe that The Only Way is Sortition (hence the adjective “pure”) and this is their starting point (although they may prelude their case with an analysis of the pathologies of “electoralism” and direct democracy). So when a couple of books are published indicating the prophylactic potential of sortition, they immediately say that this is the way to cure political corruption. When the authors of the books in question (Dowlen, Stone etc) point out that this only applies ex ante, they then generate highly complex (and frankly bonkers) “patches” to fix the pure sortition program — such as debating in camera and providing only a redacted (sorry, anonymised) transcript for public consumption, as that’s “all they need to know”. At least Chouard is honest enough to admit that sortition cannot fix ex post corruption, hence allocating an essential role for the police.

    Speaking as an Ordinary Mortal, my approach is entirely different. In 1997 I was persuaded (by the fact that the UK general election of that year appeared to have been won by smoke and mirrors) that there were some serious flaws in representative democracy and set about to think seriously about the problems and possible solutions (without prior commitment to any particular analysis or fix). My initial work was on the need to better separate the executive and legislative functions, sortition came along only a few years later as a tool to help put this into practice. I was then persuaded that election had an ongoing role, for reasons that I have explained before, and enhanced by conversations with Naomi on this blog. Ordinary Mortals tend to work in a pragmatic way and without any pre-commitments — if someone could convince me that sortition could enable representative speech acts, then I would be entirely happy to drop my argument for the ongoing need for election.

    If I’m even half right about these two entirely different methodologies, then we should be pessimistic about the likelihood of ever resolving our differences.

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  61. Keith,
    I suspect it has more to do with a difference of opinion regarding the fundamental problem to be addressed. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but it seems Terry sees the politicians themselves and their willingness to divide people and harness the followership instinct to their own advantage as the underlying problem to be solved. So no system where politicians are retained will be acceptable. Yoram is similar, but he extends this to ‘elites’ in general. No system that keeps them can ever be acceptable regardless of the magnitude of the practical and theoretical pros and cons. Sortition is nothing more than a means to that end. If the existence of elites and career politicians is not a deal-breaker then one has more freedom to worry about the sorts of matters you and I are concerned with.

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  62. Naomi,

    >it seems Terry sees the politicians themselves and their willingness to divide people and harness the followership instinct to their own advantage as the underlying problem to be solved.

    Yes, but that’s prejudging the issue, as it’s equally possible to see political parties as domesticating existing cleavages (jaw-jaw, not war-war). My concerns in 1997 were a lot more fundamental — why is it that the process of representation had become inverted? Political parties have their origin in pre-existing group cleavages (in the UK the long tail of the civil war) and/or the organisation and re-presentation of interests and ideologies. The role of the party in an electoral democracy is to package these together into a representative claim that is then offered to the voting public. In 1997 this was all reversed as the Labour Party realised that the only way to gain victory was to say whatever its focus groups told them people wanted to hear. I guess one might call that the postmodern turn in electoral democracy. (This is what led me to write a book called The Party’s Over, but then scholars I respect (including yourself) convinced me that this was throwing out the baby with the bathwater.) If there was any substance to their policy it was to unite people in the middle ground, rather than establish cleavages — hence Blair’s neo-fascist claim that New Labour provided the political representation of the whole people.

    So that leaves an open question, and the role of the concerned citizen is to seek a solution, without pre-commitment. Given that there has never been a single historical example of a “pure” system of government (tyrannies and dictatorships are in fact hidden oligarchies, and generally have strong support from the demos), why then is anybody seriously advocating such a solution? (There are also no historical examples of societies without politicians and elites.) To my mind the only answer to this question is that Terry, Campbell, Yoram etc are starting with the solution (sortition, aka “real” democracy) and then seeking problems that it might resolve. I think this is putting the cart before the horse. As the problem is defined purely in terms of your opening statement, and can only be abolished by pure sortition, I don’t see how there can ever be a meeting of minds.

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  63. >”That old conflation again. . . .”
    (I’ve moved this from the Part 5 comments where it doesn’t really belong.)
    Representation:
    1 “Stands for”: You have just said “a sample of sufficient size can stand for the body being sampled”, so I think we agree that the 500 members chosen by lot “stand for” the community, in the sense that they are a (reasonably accurate) “portrait in miniature . . . etc”. I point out that the resemblance will not be perfect.

    2 “Acts for”: Take the example of a Governor of a British colony, for instance New South Wales in the beginning. When Arthur Philip arrived in Botany Bay in 1788 he became the representative of the British Crown (ie the King and Parliament) the moment he stepped ashore (a “beach act”, if you like). Within the limits of his orders, he had the Crown’s full powers over every human being on the continent east of a certain meridian. He decided what work should be undertaken, where the town should be built, who would get what as a land grant. I think we agree that he represented the Crown in the sense “acts for”, do we not?

    Please be assured that I am perfectly aware that these are two quite different uses of the word “represent”, which I do not conflate [“To fail to properly distinguish or keep separate; to treat as equivalent.”].
    It is no longer 1788, and the people of NSW, Australia and elsewhere now expect to live under laws of their own making. Since direct democracy is not practical for all matters on such a large scale (I think you agree), we need representation.

    3 Now comes the part where we differ. I have said: “If we accept that the bodies chosen by lot, the Assembly and the SIPC*, in their composition accurately represent (“stand for”) the adult population, then it is clear that they may represent (“act for”) them in making decisions.” [*The SIPC does not vote, of course, it merely collects and collates information. I may alter the wording here to leave it out.]

    IF I understand you correctly, you cry foul at this point because the “speech acts” which are permitted – encouraged rather – under my model will transform the Assembly so that it is no longer representative (“stands for”) the community. Consequently, in your eyes, my whole house of cards falls to the ground.

    Now I don’t dispute that a speech *may* change the opinions of those who hear it; that is surely the intention of the speaker. So I agree that notionally the Assembly pre-speech and the Assembly post-speech are two different bodies.
    But consider all the other sources of change in the Assembly. In the first place, like Mr Smith in my fable, some members may be undecided, or change their minds between two sessions. Some may die and be replaced. 10% of them will be replaced every six months. We are told that judges sentence more leniently after a good dinner; the Assembly may well be different in the afternoon from its grumpy morning self. An outbreak of gastric flu could stop many members from voting. A spouse might say “Darling, I heard that you’re voting on the XYZ bill today, promise that you won’t vote in favour”. A terrorist act might so shake the members that they make a very different decision to what they would otherwise. (§18, yes, but here the vote is not on candidates, but on an issue, and can probably be reconsidered if calm reflection suggests it). These “perturbations of opinion”, if I may call them that, will also apply to a mute moot such as you propose. As I say in the essay “it is impossible to isolate members of an Assembly (whether elected or chosen by lot) from discussion and comment outside the assembly. Media campaigns, TV discussion forums, editorials in journals, the neighbour over the back fence, pub pundits, husband or wife . . . all can influence members. Social media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos and the like also may have enormous influence. To pretend that by preventing discussion in the assembly one can isolate members from being influenced is quite absurd.” Of course, all these sources of opinion have their place, but you can hardly say that they are balanced.

    I tried to make clear with the aid of Mr Smith that you are demanding an impossibly high standard for the accuracy of the representation (“standing for”). After any of the perturbations above the Assembly will be different, of course. So it will, theoretically, after a member’s speech. The question is whether the difference is enough to invalidate the “stand for” representation. You say yes; I say that at the very worst it is far better than what we have at present with elections in any country, and not much different from the representation with a non-speaking (pure!) Assembly.

    > “But what about speech acts? These clearly pertain to individual persons, and are (unlike votes) in no sense equal”. Fair enough, but remember that at this stage the members will have the evidence and the opinions of the policy committee(s) before them, with the opinions of whichever experts have weighed in, so on hearing a speech members will be in a very good position to decide if the speaker is talking nonsense, trying to pull the wool over their eyes, etc. And probably any speech that is far from the general feeling – eccentric – will be countered by other speeches pulling things back towards the centre. Your argument neglects the role that members’ speeches can have in finding the truth. If I stand up and say something foolish, the rest of you will leap to your feet with sheer joy at the opportunity to point out my stupidity.

    As for the imbalance caused by speech acts, your mute moot only pushes the problem further back, to the experts, where it is much more dangerous.
    “Hi George. Off to testify to the Assembly? I hear you’ve applied for the new chair of nonimportology at Black Stump University. Hope you get it, you’re just the right man for it. But you’d better not talk too much about your ideas on xxxx, old Robinson is on the selection committee, and he’s dead against you on this. Better to say nothing.” And so George goes off and gives an opinion which he doesn’t truly believe, and the balance flies out the window. Or, worse, XYZ corporation dangles the lure of an attractive research lab and a fat salary, “but of course we won’t be able to proceed if yyyy goes ahead.” Since in your Assembly members do not have the right to speak, they will be much more at the mercy of the experts than in mine.

    I have no clear idea of how you select your experts. (Do you?) If they are not, as in my proposal, all those who wish to contribute, then there is some selection process. What is it? Who decides? That person or persons will have far more power to distort things than a speech from a mere Assembly member.
    As for members “being presented opposing viewpoints in a balanced way” (I think you use this phrase) there is no objective criterion for “balance”, so some fallible human is going to have to decide, and again, that person will also have more power to distort things than a member.

    Then there is the psychological problem. Without the right to speak, your members will not feel involved. I’m not trying to be funny when I suggest they will all fall asleep; there is a real danger that boredom or resentment will make them lose all interest and vote in silly ways: always “yes” on Mondays, always “no” on every other day, or some such. We’re talking about human animals, not computers, and humans have emotions as well as reason.

    To sum up, in my view your concept of a voting-only Assembly poses more problems than it solves. I don’t expect to convert you, of course; from my corner it appears that you are entrenched in an ideology that prevents you from examining this fairly, which is exactly what you accuse me of. I do think you could stop saying that this proposal is indefensible, and perhaps even go as far as to admit that I have thought about it, though you disagree with my conclusions.

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  64. >”If I stand up and say something foolish, the rest of you will leap to your feet with sheer joy at the opportunity to point out my stupidity.”
    Keith, what a field day you’ve had with the word “pure”! I have already pointed out that I used it merely as rough, not very accurate description, a sort of aid to mental cataloguing. You’ve seized on it as though I had stitched it like a red cross on my breast. Oh well, enjoy it while you can. It doesn’t have much to do with serious discussion, though.

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  65. Campbell,

    The stands for/acts for distinction refers to the division of labour within the legislature, not (as in your example) the contrast between a democratic legislature and a representative of the executive. In traditional parlance the crown is the “magistrate” that implements the laws, whereas parliament is the organ that makes the laws, and Pitkin’s argument refers to the latter only.

    The “perturbations of opinion” that you mention are unproblematic because, if the sample is large enough, then they will largely cancel out. If, say it’s a sample of 1,000 that decides the outcome by voting, then there is good reason to believe that if you divided it randomly in two and counted the votes of each half separately, that the outcome would be the same (within an acceptable margin of error). This would not be the case if speech acts were part of its mandate and sample a) was swayed by orator Smith and sample b) by orator Jones. If they were equally persuasive (but of opposite views) then we would expect a significant difference in the votes of the two samples. So which one would be the representative one?

    >Social media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos and the like also may have enormous influence. To pretend that by preventing discussion in the assembly one can isolate members from being influenced is quite absurd.

    I have no wish to isolate members from being influenced, merely to ensure that they are all influenced in a consistent way.

    >Of course, all these sources of opinion have their place, but you can hardly say that they are balanced.

    The only balance that can be guaranteed by the legislative system is in the direct information/advocacy input to the assembly. I’m in favour of balanced opinion/information in the target population as well, but the best we can really hope for is that a genuinely competitive media will ensure that the isegoria of the whole population is ensured. But if the national mood swings in a particular direction then this perspective will dominate the media and influence the allotted assembly. However the balanced information/advocacy provided to the assembly should ensure that the national mood will be subject to deliberative analysis (impossible in the case of the whole population). Although this will introduce a difference between the view of the assembly and the view of the population, the difference will be the same irrespective of which concrete individuals are included in the sample, so it will still be a representative decision (what everyone would think under good conditions).

    >the members will have the evidence and the opinions of the policy committee(s) before them, with the opinions of whichever experts have weighed in.

    That’s exactly the problem, this is entirely random (depending on who chanced to dominate the policy committee and who their pet experts happened to be.

    >I have no clear idea of how you select your experts. (Do you?)

    The experts for the legislative proposal would be selected by the proposer(s). My original model for the defence experts was volunteers from a permanent Advocacy house (Martin Davis’s term), but I’m beginning to be persuaded by Naomi’s argument to politicise this function — i.e. Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The guiding principle is that advocates and experts are chosen by the opposing parties to the debate.

    >That person or persons will have far more power to distort things than a speech from a mere Assembly member.

    Absolutely, but balance is ensured by the dialectical and confrontational nature of the process, not by the attempt of Professor George to be “impartial”.

    >Without the right to speak, your members will not feel involved.

    Remember that my model is the ad hoc trial jury. I recently served on a jury and I don’t recall any of my colleagues nodding off. The only reason for jury room deliberation is the need for unanimity (not required for a legislative jury). I felt very involved all the time — after all the fate of the unfortunate man on trial was entirely in our hands, and this would also be the case with the passage of the law.

    >you are entrenched in an ideology that prevents you from examining this fairly.

    What is this ideology? I have no particular commitment to election, appointment, sortition, or heredity: I’m merely looking for the appropriate mechanism to perform different functions (see my recent responses to Terry and Naomi). So in what sense is this ideological?

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  66. Campbell,

    >Keith, what a field day you’ve had with the word “pure”!

    But it is pure, in the sense that you only allow a single mechanism (sortition) as opposed to a mixed system of government (a bit of this and a bit of that). So it’s pure in the sense of undiluted. I didn’t mean this in a disparaging sense (other than by pointing out that there has never been a pure democracy, for reasons that Rousseau argued a long time ago).

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  67. Campbell,
    The way I see it, the danger of allowing members to “nail their colors to the mast” by making a proposal or just a speech is that the other members who agree (at least in principle) will come out of the woodwork with support and suggestions. All of the sudden you have the makings of a network capable of effecting a nonrepresentative shift in voting power. Every member should be as ignorant of the preferences of their neighbors as possible.

    > “Then there is the psychological problem. Without the right to speak, your members will not feel involved. I’m not trying to be funny when I suggest they will all fall asleep; there is a real danger that boredom or resentment will make them lose all interest”

    This is a concern. Hmm. On the other hand, I doubt more than a handful would make speeches on a regular basis so I’m not entirely sure how much this helps. I suppose the understanding that one could chime in if they felt the need to could inspire more attentive participation.

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  68. Campbell,

    I think your explanation about the perturbations of opinion are well argued (as to why speech acts by an allotted body are not “indefensible.”) While my own design has mute short-duration one issue juries (the kind Keith likes), I agree that such bodies forfeit the benefits of sharing knowledge, and finding common ground, etc. (My design has a separate allotted body satisfy that function in the final drafting of proposals for the jury). That being said, I agree that in comparing Campbell’s design with any EXISTING elected legislature, Campbell’s would probably be superior.

    Keith,
    I don’t advocate sortition a priori as an ideological must… I spent two decades experiencing the failures of electoralism on the inside as an elected official. I then spent over a decade working for a national organization (FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy) on election reform proposals such as proportional representation (PR) and the Alternative Vote (IRV in the U.S.) and even helped get ireform adopted in a number of jurisdictions here. It is only the continued FAILURE of electoralism including PR that made me search for alternative democratic tools like sortition. I know first hand that elections don’t allow for the will of the people to win out, and I know that direct democracy (due to rational ignorance, etc.) can’t make reliably competent democratic decisions. That leaves sortition.

    My ideology, I guess, is that I am a committed democrat (as opposed to favoring a hypothetical system of guardians, aristocracy, or monarchy). Keith, you favor including democratic elements, but like the 18th Century republican theorists, you believe that a mixed system that incorporates democratic and aristocratic elements is better. That is your ideology – traditional republicanism.

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  69. Terry,

    Your own case is the old story of the gamekeeper turned poacher — having toiled for three decades in vain you undergo a Pauline μετάνοια from “electoralism” to the sortitionist creed.

    Can republicanism be described as a competing ideology? Etymologically speaking republicanism is simply a distinction between the public sphere and res privata. It is ideological in the vernacular sense in (say) Australia, where it refers to the replacement of a hereditary monarch with an elected president. Modern neo-republicans (Pocock, Skinner, Pettit etc), whilst going along with this, have a much more nuanced approach, arguing only for republican freedom as “non-domination” by an active citizen body. In practice this boils down to little more than a combination of electoral institutions and juridical safeguards. Note also that Pocock has described the response of the divine-right monarch Charles I to the nineteen propositions of the “democratical gentlemen” of parliament as the first modern republican treatise, so republicanism is beginning to sound like a highly inclusive and syncretic ideology. As for my own position, I’m no fan of 18th century republicanism as this is the movement that rejected Athenian-style sortition, a key part of my own proposal for hybrid government. If anything my republicanism is, like Hansen’s 2010 article on the mixed constitution, Polybian, in that it involves a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and (sortition-based) democracy. As to where the demarcation points lie, this is entirely down to a combination of trial and error, mix and match, make-do and mend and the lessons of history. Does this sort of open-ended pragmatism count as an ideology? I’ve always said that if it can be demonstrated that speech acts by allotted members do not undermine statistical representativity then I’ve got no problem with it, whereas Campbell, Yoram and yourself hold a principled (ideological) commitment to sortition as the only form of “real democracy”. That’s why I believe we will never be able to resolve our differences, as this would involve an act of apostasy on the part of the Pure Sortitionists (whereas us republicans just need to bend with the wind).

    Looking forward to your response to https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/down-with-elections-part-3/#comment-15373
    and
    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/down-with-elections-part-3/#comment-15374

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  70. PS:

    >I know first hand that elections don’t allow for the will of the people to win out, and I know that direct democracy (due to rational ignorance, etc.) can’t make reliably competent democratic decisions. That leaves sortition.

    Why do all three mechanisms have to be mutually exclusive? Your insistence on either-or-or is why I refer to your approach as ideological. My approach involves a mixture of all three (plus a large dollop of meritocracy and a pinch of heredity). If that’s an ideology then it’s the ideology of the Church of England, whose (predominately agnostic) members believe in whatever it takes for us all to muddle along together. I used to attend an Anglican church positioned towards the high end of the candle and we all had our fingers firmly crossed behind our backs as we sang the Angelus (to a Russian Orthodox setting) in front of a very catholic-looking lump of painted wood before sitting down to listen to the sermon of a self-confessed Christian humanist priest, whose only faith was in the later writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

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  71. Keith,
    In response to your hypothetical about two allotted bodies making different decisions on the same issue…I think the perturbations of opinion described by Campbell handles this. Run your identical thought experiment on two ELECTED legislative bodies (where it depends which candidates with varying attitudes and persuasion skills chose to stand for election to each) and the two ELECTED bodies can come to different decisions (and indeed in bicameral systems often do). OR if the same elected body took votes on a matter on two different days (or before and after lunch) they could come to different decisions. OR if the entire population were somehow able and motivated to learn about an issue and then all vote in a referendum, the decision could be different if taken just an hour later. The key is that a democratic process is self-correcting…the scale swinging this way and that with a regression to the mean. While an undemocratic process keeps a finger on the scale so decisions continually fail to satisfy the people.

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  72. Terry,

    The difference between elected and allotted assemblies is that in the former instance citizens choose their advocates at the polls. If they choose someone with poor persuasive skills (who cannot argue their case effectively), then they have only themselves to blame. It’s no coincidence that training at the bar or the Oxford Union is viewed as a passport to being an effective political representative. In the case of an allotted assembly of c.300 members, none of whom chose to be there, there is a high probability that only a small proportion of them will be possessed of these skills and be predisposed to use them to favour their own partisan cause. This distribution is likely to be so small that, unlike Campbell’s “perturbations” (which might well affect every member and thereby cancel out) there is no good reason to think that it will be a self-correcting mechanism, as it is a long way removed from the law of large numbers. I am not concerned about random perturbations over time (before and after lunch), only the danger of chance factors (the presence or absence of a persuasive partisan advocate) being amplified by the deliberative process (and thereby skewing the decision outcome). As per my challenge to Campbell:

    “If, say it’s a sample of 1,000 that decides the outcome by voting, then there is good reason to believe that if you divided it randomly in two and counted the votes of each half separately, that the outcome would be the same (within an acceptable margin of error). This would not be the case if speech acts were part of its mandate and sample a) was swayed by orator Smith and sample b) by orator Jones. If they were equally persuasive (but of opposite views) then we would expect a significant difference in the votes of the two samples. So which one would be the representative one?”

    My puzzlement over the need to make this point over and over again to an extremely intelligent and otherwise sympathetic co-respondent, is what fuels my claim that you have a pre-theoretical commitment to pure sortition, which no amount of argument can possibly overcome.

    >I don’t see a question for me at [my response to your earlier misrepresentation of my view on modern isegoria]

    Good, then I’m glad you accept the clarification of my view.

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  73. Keith,

    So your defense of the legitimacy of two elected bodies with the right of debate being just as likely to split on a some decision as two allotted bodies seems to be that “If they [voters] choose someone with poor persuasive skills (who cannot argue their case effectively), then they have only themselves to blame.”

    I don’t think this argument has any validity. You are blaming the victim here. As you well know, many (and I would say MOST) voters are not presented with ANY candidate in an election that matches their preferences and interests, and are often left to vote for the lesser of two evils. And if one candidate does closely match a voter’s preferences and interests, that is no assurance that person is skilled at persuading other legislators (should the voter then vote for the skilled representative who is committed to working against the voter’s interests instead?). And if a candidate is both a good match and skilled, a large portion of voters will see that preferred candidate defeated by some opponent. And finally, as you know, due to rational ignorance most voters don’t really know how any candidate will vote on some issue in the future, nor how they voted in the past, nor if they are a skilled debater. So saying voters have only themselves to blame is beyond unfair.

    The simple fact is that deliberation in the crafting of legislation is essential at SOME point in the process, right? Whether by the final voting body, or some prior body. And at THAT stage ANY two extremely representative bodies may well come to different conclusions, REGARDLESS of the selection method (election, sortition, appointment, etc.). So faulting SORTITION for this inevitable reality is not meaningful….since ANY representative system will have this trait. You try to isolate this reality by separating out the final vote from the deliberative stage… but that is merely a distraction. In your design you want to focus on the repeatability of the final vote of the allotted body, and not the complete non-repeatability of the body that drafted the bill). The bill the jury is presented will have been shaped by the identical factor (more and less persuasive individuals in any group) you complain about in the case of a full mandate sortition body.

    Although I actually AGREE with you that a mute voting jury is desirable, it is for completely different reasons…I believe epistemically superior decisions can be adopted by using both the wisdom of crowds where each member is exercising INDEPENDENT judgment (no give and take debate), and the wisdom of crowds (in a separate body) where members share their personal knowledge and insight through give and take deliberation.

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  74. While I agree with Keith in principle, I don’t think the problem he raises is too terribly difficult to solve with instutional patches. For example, it might be straightforward (if clumsy) to allow members to sponsor professional 3rd party orators if they do not feel up to the task themselves. That said, I certainly prefer a mute body for both the reason Terry mentioned and the reasons I have discussed previously. And I even more strongly support keeping elections as a part of the institutional framework for the other reasons the I’ve already touched on.

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  75. Terry,

    A competitive marketplace, in theory, seeks to match supply and demand. If you want to buy a new car then vigorous market competition will generate a reasonable match to your preferences, so long as they are not too far removed from those of a significant number of other potential purchasers (Homer Simpson’s ideosyncratic design for his ideal car shows that the market will only reflect aggregate preferences). Competitive markets are far from perfect in practice, but your preferences will be matched better than, say, those of a car purchaser in the GDR during the 1980s.

    The electoral system attempts to apply the same free market principles to the selection of political representatives. I agree that actual practice diverges even more from theoretical expectations, but there are many ways that it can be improved (not my speciality, but Naomi’s input on this has been invaluable). However that’s not a good reason to jettison the system in favour of one that is completely untried, as you run the risk of something akin to the above GDR example. The comparison is apposite, seeing as the system of soviets (people’s councils) was originally designed, according to Lenin, as “a higher form of democracy” which “offered to the masses the opportunity to participate actively in the free construction of a new society”. We all know how that ended up, so the lessons of history would recommend caution in imposing untested forms of radical democracy.

    My proposal, however, does not rely purely on a well-functioning electoral marketplace, as citizens would be able to choose other methods for representative isegoria. Anyone (or any group) could make an online proposal and if it receives sufficient support, the proposal will appear on the legislative agenda. No doubt proposers will ensure that the member(s) of their group with the best persuasive skills present their proposal in the legislative court (this is why New Labour chose Tony Blair, rather than Gordon Brown as the talking head for their own representative claim). In addition to this, citizens can exercise their collective isegoria by subscribing to their preferred media and can anticipate that their preferences will be represented in proportion to their numerical strength. That’s what we mean by (majoritarian) democracy.

    >The simple fact is that deliberation in the crafting of legislation is essential at SOME point in the process, right?

    Yes indeed, that’s why we need to take every step to ensure the isegoria (opinion forming) process is as democratic as the isonomia (decision making) process. In large modern states both processes require a representative mechanism and my preference in the former case is for a mixture of market-based solutions (see above paragraph).

    >In your design you want to focus on the repeatability of the final vote of the allotted body, and not the complete non-repeatability of the body that drafted the bill.

    Not so, otherwise I would not be so insistent on robustly representative mechanisms for isegoria. Needless to say the repeatability that we are both referring to here is synchronic, as both opinion and judgment will change over time.

    No doubt my argument will be dismissed by some as neo-liberal ideology, but we can all understand how markets work in principle, even if the practice falls far short of the ideal. By contrast it is hard to think of a principled defence for your proposal to restrict isegoria to purely aleatory mechanisms (the whims of a tiny group of randomly-selected oligarchs). The best that you can come up with is speculation on benign epistemic outcomes and reliance on (yet another) social contract whereby citizens will apparently choose to abandon their hard-won vote in favour of this new oligarchy. This is, indeed, what the Athenians chose to do in 411 and 404, but it all ended in tears.

    >I believe epistemically superior decisions can be adopted by using both the wisdom of crowds where each member is exercising INDEPENDENT judgment (no give and take debate), and the wisdom of crowds (in a separate body) where members share their personal knowledge and insight through give and take deliberation.

    I think we should respect Helene Landemore’s distinction between the aggregate wisdom of crowds (your first example) and the need for cognitive diversity in deliberative exchange (second example). It’s up to you epistocrats to come up with a buzz-word for the latter but wisdom of crowds doesn’t really work (Helene is not a fan of Surowiecki’s book). That way we’re less likely to conflate these two very different functions.

    Naomi,

    >it might be straightforward (if clumsy) to allow members to sponsor professional 3rd party orators if they do not feel up to the task themselves.

    Sadly that wouldn’t remove the sheer randomness of the process. Few, out of a group of 300 allotted conscripted citizens, would wish to make proposals for new laws, so the agenda of the assembly would still be the equivalent of sticking a pin in the phone book (were it not for the fact that sinister interests would have already skewed the process in their favour by purchasing the services of the most eloquent voices).

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  76. Sorry for the late reply, I’m getting behind in this.
    >”Given that there has never been a single historical example of a “pure” system of government . . . why then is anybody seriously advocating such a solution? ”
    Not an argument. Go back to the 19th century and replace “pure system of government” with “computer”. Or to the 14th and use “three-masted ship”. Or to whenever and try “cooking food with fire”.

    On ideology and my “pre-theoretical commitment to pure sortition”.
    It’s perfectly true that I started on this with sortition in mind. I say as much: “Suppose we use sortition . . . what advantages could there be?” I feel there are a lot of advantages, and – so far – I remain sceptical about the supposed dangers. If I were looking at the possibilities of papier-maché as a house-building material, does it follow that I have an ideological commitment to making houses out of papier-maché? Or that I want existing houses replaced with ones of papier-maché? Note that I see no reason why you shouldn’t pursue your ideas.

    Media, social media:
    >”I have no wish to isolate members from being influenced, merely to ensure that they are all influenced in a consistent way.”
    I thought it was “balanced”. If you only want “consistent” . . .
    Suppose there’s some measure to limit smoking being considered. The usual villains mount a massive campaign to the effect that:
    1 Smoking doesn’t really hurt you, look at Tom Chimbley, still a keen smoker at 104 years.
    2 Even if it did, it can only hurt those who want to smoke, and they have the right to die of the disease of their choice.
    3 It only costs the public money in countries that have socialist governments.
    4 The measure proposed [plain packaging for instance] isn’t effective. Cigarettes in our packaging are just as safe as cigarettes in plain packaging.
    5 The experts chosen by the proposers of the bill are all biased against smoking. (Lots of stress on this)
    6 As proof of our honesty we’re giving away a carton of cigarettes to the first thousand people in every supermarket in the country on the 29th and 30th. Send your kids along if you can’t be there yourself.
    5 – infinity Etc, etc, etc etc.
    Letter drop in every letterbox in the country, adverts every 15 minutes on the TV, T-shirts (“Smoke the rats out! Light up for freedom!”), Facebook, Twitter etc.
    All the members would be reached by the campaign, so it would be consistent influence. Balance? And would it help reach a sensible decision?

    >>”the members will have the evidence and the opinions of the policy committee(s) before them, with the opinions of whichever experts have weighed in.”
    >”That’s exactly the problem, this is entirely random (depending on who chanced to dominate the policy committee and who their pet experts happened to be.”
    I don’t think this is so. I call for minority opinions to be presented too. And the experts won’t be “pet”, they are not chosen.

    >”it is pure, in the sense that you only allow a single mechanism (sortition) as opposed to a mixed system of government”
    Fine. That’s all I meant.

    @Naomi
    >”The way I see it, the danger of allowing members to “nail their colors to the mast” by making a proposal or just a speech is that the other members who agree (at least in principle) will come out of the woodwork with support and suggestions. . . .”
    Possible, certainly. Probable even, in some cases.

    >”All of the sudden you have the makings of a network capable of effecting a nonrepresentative shift in voting power.”
    I don’t see what you’re afraid of here. Is it that like-minded members might go off and plan some strategy together? That clubs or proto-parties might form: Girondins, Montagnards, etc? Could you say just what you mean by “shift in voting power”. Do you mean by rhetoric only, or are you suggesting some form of pressure? I don’t see that this will be much of a problem in practice.
    Suppose, in the hypothetical anti-smoking proposal above, a number of anti-smoking members get together and exchange ideas. Do you really think this will do anything more than restore a bit of balance? And there may be pro-smoking members who also get together. So what?

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  77. Campbell,

    >Go back to the 19th century and replace “pure system of government” with “computer”. Or to the 14th and use “three-masted ship”.

    Well, the earliest computers (tally sticks) were used some 20,000 years ago, the term “computer” came into use in 1613 and was transferred to machines at the end of the 19th century. And if a ship has one mast, it’s quite easy to imagine two, three, four . . .

    >It’s perfectly true that I started on this with sortition in mind. I say as much: “Suppose we use sortition . . . what advantages could there be?”

    Actually you started off by (very effectively) demolishing the case for “electoralism” and direct democracy. Assuming you have no time for monarchy, tyranny, timocracy, military dictatorship, epistocracy etc. then all you have left is sortition. This being the case, any fundamental criticism of your position will have to be rejected, otherwise you have wasted your time. Ordinary Mortals (pragmatists) like Naomi and myself can put the case for a mixture of election, appointment and sortition in a fairly agnostic way, as we’re open to persuasion that the balance or distribution of functions could be pushed more one way or the other. This doesn’t undermine our fundamental position, that’s why I reject Terry’s claim that the “republicanism” that we espouse is ideological. If you want to rejoin the land of Ordinary Mortals all you need to do is to drop the word “pure” and accept that sortition could only ever be part of a mixed system of government.

    >If I were looking at the possibilities of papier-maché as a house-building material, does it follow that I have an ideological commitment to making houses out of papier-maché?

    The problem is that you have already rejected the use of other construction materials (see above). Note, BTW, that “brick”, “concrete”, “timber” or “cob” houses always contain a complex mix of materials, so the analogy is an unfortunate one, especially as houses made entirely of one substance (say, cards or straw) can be blown down with just a huff and a puff.

    >I thought it was “balanced”. If you only want “consistent” . . .

    Balanced advocacy is the requirement for the information supplied direct to the deliberative assembly. In a free country external advocacy (via all media sources) is not subject to state control — although sensible measures can be adopted to encourage diversity (there are plenty of advocacy groups campaigning against smoking in the UK). I’m not entirely sure what your point is here — are you arguing for some sort of statutory constraint on public isegoria?

    >I call for minority opinions to be presented too.

    Now I’m really puzzled. What if the tiny group of random dictators doesn’t include the relevant minorities — how can “you” [Cambell?] ensure that minority opinions are presented?

    >And the experts won’t be “pet”, they are not chosen.

    If the experts aren’t chosen, then what is the selection mechanism?

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  78. Campbell,
    The ability of a subset of an assembly to effect their desired outcomes depends not only on the number of voting members in the subset but also on their degree of cohesion due to the potential for strategic behavior (“pressure” trade, etc). The situation is analogous to a union. And if only certain departments in a facility unionize, and there is a fixed amount of pay and benefits that can be handed out all total, you can bet the unionized departments are going to end up with a disproportionate share.

    Any organization between members introduces *some* deviation from representivity. I’m not saying it would necessarily be a big deal in practice. I have no idea. But as a potential source of nonrepresentativity my immediate impulse is to discourage it with extreme prejudice. Anyway, simple solution within your framework would be to have a second chamber with a shorter term and no speech rights. Any nonrepresentative outcomes in the first house would be blocked in the second. That’s basically what I’ve been arguing for on this blog for a while, but with an elected first house. Admittedly, I’ve been mulling over the possibility of a unicameral alternative. I don’t know.

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  79. >” I know first hand that elections don’t allow for the will of the people to win out, and I know that direct democracy (due to rational ignorance, etc.) can’t make reliably competent democratic decisions. That leaves sortition.”
    That pretty much sums up my argument.

    >”a Pauline μετάνοια ”
    τέκνον ἐμόν, ποῖόν σε ἔπος φύγεν ἔρκος όδόντων;
    Really, Keith, couldn’t we leave it in English?
    And since Paul of Tarsus clearly had serious mental problems, this is a bit insulting. Terry has looked at the evidence, and drawn his own conclusions without hallucinations (or so I imagine).

    >” in (say) Australia, where it refers to the replacement of a hereditary monarch with an elected president”
    Not quite. It referred to getting rid of the “monarch”. Some wanted a president, but not necessarily elected, and not with any executive powers, for most supporters. Others wanted a Governor-General, with almost purely ceremonial functions, and no theoretical tie to the “monarch”. Quotes because of the absurdity of the term.

    >”Campbell, Yoram and yourself hold a principled (ideological) commitment to sortition as the only form of “real democracy”. ”
    You go a bit far when you claim to know our minds better than we know them ourselves! Terry’s statement which I quoted above proves you wrong in his case, and in mine too.
    If someone comes up with a better (more just) idea than sortition, I will embrace it, when I am convinced it really is better. In the meantime persisting with elections, in spite of all the evidence against them, is like repeatedly diving into an empty swimming pool.

    >”Why do all three mechanisms have to be mutually exclusive? Your insistence on either-or-or is why I refer to your approach as ideological.”
    I can’t answer for Terry, but I’m pretty happy with direct democracy mixed with representation (Honorary President, Hon Secretary, etc) in small bodies like clubs.
    Combining elections with sortition, in my view, has the disadvantage that the elected politicians, being for the most part ambitious, would work (deliberately or unconsciously) to increase their power, and would find plenty of support from the media. The danger is too great to be ignored.

    >”The key is that a democratic process is self-correcting…the scale swinging this way and that with a regression to the mean.”
    Stability in the physical sense.

    > “If they choose someone with poor persuasive skills (who cannot argue their case effectively), then they have only themselves to blame.”
    I don’t see how you can agree with my Part 1 and then make a statement like this. The voters get lumbered with the candidate that the party machinery throws up.

    >” It’s no coincidence that training at the bar or the Oxford Union is viewed as a passport to being an effective political representative. ”
    And what could be more democratic!

    >” there is a high probability that only a small proportion of them will be possessed of these skills and be predisposed to use them to favour their own partisan cause.”
    I notice you put “cause” in the singular. One cause only. Which cause, Keith?

    >”My puzzlement over the need to make this point over and over again to an extremely intelligent and otherwise sympathetic co-respondent, is what fuels my claim that you have a pre-theoretical commitment to pure sortition, which no amount of argument can possibly overcome.”
    A less indulgent view would be that either your argument lacks merit, or that you have “poor persuasive skills”, or both.

    >”While I agree with Keith in principle, I don’t think the problem he raises is too terribly difficult to solve with instutional patches. For example, it might be straightforward (if clumsy) to allow members to sponsor professional 3rd party orators if they do not feel up to the task themselves”
    Or perhaps “other members who agree (at least in principle) will come out of the woodwork with support and suggestions” or make the speech in place of the member who does not feel competent. So the “danger” in my proposal becomes an advantage.
    Your suggestion would definitely be useful to those with speech impediments, for instance. Good point.

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  80. @Keith
    >”Anyway, simple solution within your framework would be to have a second chamber with a shorter term and no speech rights. Any nonrepresentative outcomes in the first house would be blocked in the second. That’s basically what I’ve been arguing for on this blog for a while, but with an elected first house. Admittedly, I’ve been mulling over the possibility of a unicameral alternative. I don’t know.”

    I have considered this, and I’m not completely opposed to it. The problem that comes to my mind is that there is no way for the second chamber, which is now the one that decides, to say “We don’t want to make a decision on this point without including xyz” for instance. or “We would like to see an amendment, please consider changing pqr”. Certainly it would be *very* much better than current systems.

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  81. Naomi wrote:
    >”Anyway, simple solution within your framework would be to have a second chamber with a shorter term and no speech rights. Any nonrepresentative outcomes in the first house would be blocked in the second.”

    This is exactly the design I set out in this Journal article:
    http://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol9/iss1/art11/

    My notion is that a randomly selected body whose members serve for three years would have a relatively high opt-out rate, and thus be less descriptively representative (though probably more committed to attentive work), and so only PRPOSES, while a series of one-issue juries would be called to pass or reject each bill proposed.

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  82. @Naomi
    OOPS! Sorry, I misread your comment as being one of Keith’s.

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  83. Cambell,

    >If someone comes up with a better (more just) idea than sortition, I will embrace it, when I am convinced it really is better.

    I guess that makes you a serial monotheist who is open to apostasy (as opposed to unprincipled polytheists like Naomi and myself). Exclusive appeals to normative ideals such as “justice” are also indications of an ideological mindset, whereas Ordinary Mortals like us prefer “better” in the Aristotelian sense of enabling human flourishing.

    >politicians, being for the most part ambitious, would work (deliberately or unconsciously) to increase their power, and would find plenty of support from the media. The danger is too great to be ignored.

    That’s undeniably true — whether its golden crowns (filthy lucre), knighthoods or other forms of kudos that they are seeking. The Athenians were only too aware of this, but they didn’t try to abolish politicians, they simply quarantined them to an advisory role and instituted draconian punishments for those who misled the people. [Sorry, I forgot that you have no interest in historical precedent.]

    >I don’t see how you can agree with my Part 1 and then make a statement like [voters have only themselves to blame for picking an unsuitable candidate].

    Because the party is motivated to offer candidates that will appeal to the largest number of voters (i.e. Blair, not Brown). Whilst Dr. Campbell’s diagnosis of the maladies of the body politic is second to none, his prescription is a tad severe. Amputation should only be resorted to once all the other remedies (antibiotics, leeching, rebalancing the “humours”, etc.) have been tried. The only polis that tried such an approach is the second Anthenian demokratia and (according to Hansen, Ostwald and Sealey [and Sauzeau and Sutherland]) it was showing tentative signs of success (until snuffed out by the Macedonian invasion). [Oops, another appeal to historical precedent.]

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  84. @Naomi and Terry
    I was half-persuaded to include something along the lines of this suggestion as a sort of option.
    I’m far from being convinced that it’s necessary, and I’m not sure that it’s even desirable. However, I thought, it probably wouldn’t break the model, so maybe it could be proposed as a bolt-on extra.
    Further thought found two difficulties. One I will have to solve for myself.

    The other is one which I think those in favour of the “mute moot” ought to be capable of clearing up. It is one thing to say members will not make speech acts, but how do you stop it? How do you stop them talking amongst themselves?

    Many laws are both long and complex. Some proposals will take hours of exposition. A proposal as long as this essay for instance, would take two hours just to read through. Explaining its merits would take at least twice that, explaining its demerits about the same. So we have a minimum time of ten hours for a proposal that would be very short compared with some existing laws. This excludes any time taken in asking and answering questions, if that is allowed.
    Obviously there will have to be breaks for refreshment, for going to the toilet, and if we want an intelligent decision, time to reflect on what has been said.

    I started to think about how much can we pack into one day. Given that our attention span is generally considered to be no more than 20 minutes, it seemed logical to cut proceedings into 20 minute periods, with a minimum of 5 minutes break between them. There will need to be coffee or tea breaks morning and afternoon, and a decent long break for lunch in the middle of the day. This led me to a daily timetable of fourteen 20 minute sessions, ten 5 minute “reflection” periods (just enough to slip off to the WCs if they aren’t too far away) two 15 minute coffee breaks, and two hours for lunch. This gives 280 minutes of exposition per day, (and quite frankly I think it’s a rather punishing day).

    So a smallish law proposal will take two full days and run over into the third. That’s assuming that no-one asks questions, or asks for things to be repeated that they didn’t hear. And it’s an absolute minimal treatment, to go over something once only. In real life I would expect more time would be required. Even with this, however, members will have two lunch breaks, four coffee breaks, and twenty-one 5 minute breaks, and two opportunities to have dinner together and discuss the day’s woes over a bottle of wine.

    How do you stop them talking? If the answer involves armed guards, I don’t want any part of it.

    I suppose you might suggest that proposals be split up into smaller chunks, each requiring less than about 80 minutes for exposition, and each chunk voted on separately. The trouble with this approach, in my lunatic fringe opinion, is that each small chunk will usually be meaningless without the others.
    Example: “Should we increase personal income tax?” The question is meaningless on its own if we don’t know whether the chunks which follow call for other changes to the tax structure. (Not to mention the rest of the budget.)

    So what’s the answer?

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  85. Campbell,

    >It is one thing to say members will not make speech acts, but how do you stop it? How do you stop them talking amongst themselves?

    What people get up to in their lunch break is entirely their own affair, and there is no difference between having a chat with a fellow juror than there is reading an article in the newspaper on the issue under debate. “Speech acts” refers to a) the introduction of legislative proposals and b) formal advocacy in favour or against a proposal. So if a juror decided to call a meeting of fellow jurors in order to harangue them that would (unlike a conversation in the pub) not be acceptable. The guiding principle is whether these informal verbal exchanges are sufficiently random to (more or less) cancel each other out — i.e. what you have referred to as “perturbations”.

    As to the legislative timetable, existing practice in the judicial courts would provide a workable guide.

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  86. Campbell,

    Just in case that you are not aware of my opinion and in case that it matters, I’ll say that I think that the idea that secrecy is a way to fight corruption flies in the face of both experience and common sense. It is a truism that secrecy fosters corruption and the best way to fight corruption is through transparency.

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  87. @Keith
    >”What people get up to in their lunch break is entirely their own affair, and there is no difference between having a chat with a fellow juror than there is reading an article in the newspaper on the issue under debate. ”
    Great. So:
    “Let’s organise a meeting tonight to push our program on ****. Tomorrow night we’ll invite as many non-committed members as possible, wine them and dine them, and push our line. The vote’s the next day, so pull out all the stops.”
    Glad this can’t have any effect.
    Incidentally, I thought jurors were supposed to avoid contaminating themselves with media reports.
    >”As to the legislative timetable, existing practice in the judicial courts would provide a workable guide.”
    Yes, but I don’t have a court timetable here, and anyway, it’s only a rough estimate.

    @Yoram,
    >” I think that the idea that secrecy is a way to fight corruption flies in the face of both experience and common sense. It is a truism that secrecy fosters corruption and the best way to fight corruption is through transparency.”
    I think secrecy is necessary in voting and in speaking for the members to be able to speak and vote without fear or favour.
    Elsewhere things should be as open as possible.

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  88. > I think secrecy is necessary in voting and in speaking for the members to be able to speak and vote without fear or favour.

    This is the kind of excuses that are always made for secrecy.

    A country which has to rely on secrecy in order to protect its decision makers from retribution or in order to decrease the visibility of bribers into decision making is in dire straights. For a normally functioning country such measures are highly corruption-inducing.

    Any kind of illegal activity – such as retribution or bribery of decision makers – should be fought by facing it head on with maximum openness.

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  89. Cambell,

    >“Let’s organise a meeting tonight to push our program on ****. Tomorrow night we’ll invite as many non-committed members as possible, wine them and dine them, and push our line. The vote’s the next day, so pull out all the stops.”

    That’s exactly the kind of organised intervention that would not be permitted — note though that the secret vote would mean that the lobbyists’ influence would be limited to persuasion.

    >Incidentally, I thought jurors were supposed to avoid contaminating themselves with media reports.

    It’s true that trial jurors are prohibited from consulting external sources on the particular case, and contempt of court applies. However this would simply be impossible in the case of the legislative process, hence the need to ensure that media coverage is as diverse as possible — to cover a wide range of opinions.

    Given that the secret ballot was introduced purely in order to reduce corruption, Yoram would appear to have even less respect for historical precedent than yourself. Whilst the secret ballot may well indicate a country that is in “dire straits” it’s better to start with the world as it is, rather than how we would wish it to be.

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  90. Campbell,

    There are countless ways a short-duration, highly descriptively representative policy jury might function. Experience should guide the evolution of this, but here is my current thinking on a starting point. Once a polished final draft bill has been prepared by an allotted SIPC or the like, a jury is empanelled (the size might vary depending on importance). They would meet daily for a week or two — having an education phase and hearing pro and con presentations. They would all be allowed to submit questions (in writing) for the advocates, or staff, or outside experts to respond to, and finally vote to adopt, reject, or refer back for revision. Unlike members of a body with multi-year terms, if the issue was highly controversial a short-duration policy jury might be sequestered and have no media exposure during that one or two weeks. Informal conversations among jurors would be inevitable, but these would be one-on-one, or small cafeteria table sorts of conversations.

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  91. Campbell,
    Ideally, I would prefer unicameraliam because I consider simplicity to be a great virtue in instutional design. But we are dealing with far too much power to trust in the honor of those drawn into the body. The time-tested schoolyard practice of having one child cut and the other choose is probably the way to go.

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  92. Terry’s model for policy juries looks eminently workable. This is the sort of task that an allotted sample of the whole citizen body is well qualified to do and jurors asking questions does not qualify as “speech acts” in the sense that we have discussed them (especially if submitted in writing). During my recent stint of jury service we had to send a written note to the judge twice to seek clarification on a number of issues. Sequestering obviously has precedent in terms of judicial practice. Agree also that the details of this would have to be resolved through experience. I’m relieved that there appears to be one aspect of this process that we can all (with the possible exception of Yoram) agree on.

    Naomi,

    >The time-tested schoolyard practice of having one child cut and the other choose is probably the way to go.

    Yes, and the way that republicans (from the Romans to Harrington) have realised this in practice is to assign the tasks not just to two different samples but to two different social groups. The active role (cutting) is assigned to the aristocratic senate, composed of the “best”. In ancient times this would have been those who had the resources required for education and the free time to devote to res publica; in modern times, where these constraints no longer apply, the “best” are selected by election. But the judjment role (choosing) is, for republicans, the prerogative of the people (or an allotted sample thereof). One of the aberrations of modern constitutions is that the roles of the senate and the popular house have been reversed; the aberration of radical democrats is to deny the wisdom of the schoolyard and to think that parties can be judges in their own case. This latter concern is why Madison regarded himself as a republican, not a democrat.

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  93. Keith wrote:
    >” the aberration of radical democrats is to deny the wisdom of the schoolyard and to think that parties can be judges in their own case.”

    Maybe some, but not this radical democrat. Note that the cake cutting analogy has two children of the same class perform the procedure, rather than having a teacher (aristocrat) cut and the children choose. I think having a second body of some sort is wise. I prefer that it also be formed using sortition. The key factor for MAdison and most other republicans was their perception that there needed to be an institutionally elevated position for those with a large amount of property for fear that democracy would ultimately strip the property from the rich. Madison and other republicans of the time were absolutely clear about this class basis for their opposition to democracy.

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  94. Terry,

    I’ve acknowledged the historical connection between aristocracy and property (only those with sufficient material resources, in pre-modern societies, had the necessary education and leisure time to play an active political role). But whatever the contingent associations, the word means “the best” and in modern societies (where everyone is educated and politicians are paid by the public purse) it’s up to voters to choose what the relevant criteria of excellence are. Radical democrats deny that there are any particular characteristics necessary to play an active political role, and that’s why you see no ongoing role for election. That’s why I describe my position as radical republicanism and argue for a combination of aristocracy and radical (allotted) democracy. Radical democrats and radical republicans are unlikely to find any middle ground on this issue.

    I also think you are viewing Madison through the eyes of Charles Beard. A more charitable explanation is that, like most educated people of his time, Madison believed in an ascending hierarchy of human faculties — from the passions, through reason, to disinterested judgment. The latter was the province of only a few souls and election in large constituencies was one way of uncovering the elect (in Calvin’s sense of the word). From an empirical perspective he believed that such dispassionate souls were more likely to be found in the professions (law, medicine etc) than in landowners or businessmen. I’m not seeking to endorse his view, only pointing out that Beard’s Economic Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution has been widely discredited (outside the circle of radical democrats).

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  95. >”That’s exactly the kind of organised intervention that would not be permitted — note though that the secret vote would mean that the lobbyists’ influence would be limited to persuasion.”
    I take it you mean that it would be outlawed and prosecution by the police would follow if it occurred? Then it hasn’t been eliminated it by design, which would be nice, though maybe impossible.

    >”There are countless ways a short-duration, highly descriptively representative policy jury might function.”
    ” if the issue was highly controversial a short-duration policy jury might be sequestered and have no media exposure during that one or two weeks. Informal conversations among jurors would be inevitable, but these would be one-on-one, or small cafeteria table sorts of conversations.”

    Terry, you have experience in legislation that I don’t, but surely there are some bills which are not amenable to short-duration consideration. Tax law came to my mind because my accountant has two volumes of about a thousand pages each on his shelf. There must be others just as long or nearly, and I would have thought that doing such things piecemeal is not the best way. Even though a proposal should come (from the SIPC via the proposals committee and its professional draftsmen) in a polished and final form, it will still take a fair time for a body of raw recruits to get their heads around it; perhaps more so because of the polishing.

    @Naomi
    >”Ideally, I would prefer unicameraliam because I consider simplicity to be a great virtue in instutional design. But we are dealing with far too much power to trust in the honor of those drawn into the body.”

    I really don’t think my model relies on the honour of anyone. In preferring unicameralism, I take it that this applies also to a “House of Review”?

    This last bunch of comments is interesting. As for Keith’s
    >” I’m relieved that there appears to be one aspect of this process that we can all (with the possible exception of Yoram) agree on.”
    I’m still not certain that this extra body is necessary or desirable. On the other hand, I’m not implacably opposed. Not even ideologically.
    For the moment, colour me undecided.

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  96. Campbell,

    >I take it you mean that it would be outlawed and prosecution by the police would follow if it occurred? Then it hasn’t been eliminated it by design, which would be nice, though maybe impossible.

    Yes; the only way to eliminate it by design would be sequestration — a useful tool for controversial bills, if they can be decided relatively quickly.

    >I’m still not certain that this extra body is necessary or desirable.

    From my perspective (garnered from the only historical example of legislation by allotted juries), this is the central institution, rather than a bolted-on accessory. Terry and I certainly agree (along with the 4th century Athenians) that this is the only way of ensuring that the final decision is left in the hands of a descriptively-representative sample of the demos.

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  97. Keith… two separate points…
    1. you wrote “I also think you are viewing Madison through the eyes of Charles Beard.”

    I don’t think so. Remember, the Federalist Papers were extolling the virtues of a draft constitution, and intended to help win its passage. We can’t know which arguments were sincere, and which were merely propaganda. However, in the notes by Robert Yates of the secret debates at the Convention, Madison is quoted as saying:

    “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.”

    2. you wrote: “Terry and I certainly agree (along with the 4th century Athenians) that this is the only way of ensuring that the final decision is left in the hands of a descriptively-representative sample of the demos.”

    You overstate my position as the same as yours. I think having a separate short duration body is a good method, but probably not the only one. I also think that a single multi-function assembly Campbell proposes would likely be superior to any existing elected legislature.

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  98. No-one has commented on Example 3 (Abusive use of proposals) and Example 4 (Very close votes)
    I thought this latter might have received a bit of flak.
    Nor has there been a comment on the section on tyranny, particularly the bit on tyranny by the majority.

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  99. Terry,

    Thanks for the clarification. The context of Madison’s argument seems to be the need for an aristocratic senate to balance the power of the popular house. Gordon Wood’s book on the American foundation (the leading republican critique of Beard’s economic interpretation) has an interesting section describing the difficulty the framers had in establishing a mixed system of government (the republican ideal) using only a single mechanism (election).

    I certainly would not claim that your proposal was the same as mine, only that I thought we both believed that the final up/down decision should be in the hands of a statistically-representative assembly with a restricted mandate (voting). I know of course that your full proposal is more similar to Campbell’s than my own mixture of sortition, election and appointment.

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  100. On close votes I think use of a single body is always problematic. Close votes are tricky for several reasons… Firstly, the accuracy of the represenativeness, as you note, will always be approximate, and a close majority may reflect an aberration. Also, a close vote may reveal that a synthesis of competing ideas that might have discovered a win/win or compromise option may have been overlooked. Simply requiring a super-majority is not democratic as it allows the minority to rule. My preferred solution is rather than triggering a reconsideration in a certain number of years, is to have a second body take up the matter immediately. If this second body ALSO passes the law, even if both are by a narrow majority, it should go into effect. This option is not available in your system because the assembly serves for five years, and the law may have a time imperative. Having largely the same group of people vote again (even after further deliberation) can taint the deliberation process. Waiting for sufficient turn-over of the body may be too long of a delay. This is one of the many reasons I favor short duration single-issue juries to pass or reject final proposals from a deliberative body. If a jury fails to achieve a strong enough majority a new jury is immediately called.

    As for your question about whether some laws are simply too complex to be absorbed in a couple of weeks…That is far more time (in terms of ACTUAL consideration) than existing legislatures give any bill. Remember elected legislatures are dealing wit dozens or hundreds of different bills simultaneously, whereas a jury is focusing on ONE issue intensively with an array of expert witnesses, staff and presentations. Existing complex tax laws (the example you mention) are a reflection of lobbyists managing to get favors inserted into statutes, etc., rather than the natural complexity of raising revenue. In other words the complexity of existing law is generally an artifact of a bad system, rather than inevitable. Yet SOME good laws simply WILL be long and complex. But a short duration jury will still be better informed and be able to give more actual time to consideration than elected legislators ever are.

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  101. @Terry
    >”My preferred solution is rather than triggering a reconsideration in a certain number of years, is to have a second body take up the matter immediately. ”
    I rather like this.
    >”If this second body ALSO passes the law, even if both are by a narrow majority, it should go into effect. This option is not available in your system”
    It *could* be available. Why not?

    A close majority of fewer than x votes could trigger the setting up of a Temporary Second Assembly of the same size as the Assembly, to vote on this issue only. It would take a little longer, because the newcomers would need time to study the issue, but better that than getting things wrong. (Usually). I’d go so far as to accept a voting-only mute moot here, since we’ve already had the advantages of discussion in the Assembly. Moreover, if the mute moot (MM) voted for or against by a significant majority, then I think that vote ought to win out, even if opposed to the Assembly’s vote.
    The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to adopt this.

    Should this rule out reconsidering issues approved by a close vote?
    I think immediately sending the proposal back via the SIPC or the PC to the original with suggestions could be valuable. The original proposer could opt to amend the proposal, or let it stand. If removing some provisions meant that a good majority approved it, surely that’s a win. If this didn’t work (nothing could be cut out of it without denaturing it completely, or the amended proposal is still borderline), then go with the MM.

    Reconsidering after a period:
    On the one hand, circumstances and community attitudes change. A measure approved by one vote in each body could well be unpopular in five years time, or even before. True, a proposal could be made in the normal way to simply repeal it, but I would expect the Proposals Committee, the Agenda Committee, and the Assembly would all have a tendency to consider the matter settled, and to give it a low priority.

    But reconsidering is not without problems: measure A is approved by one vote in the Assembly, goes to an MM, is approved by one vote, and becomes law. Five years later, it goes to the Assembly, is rejected by one vote, goes to a (new) MM, is approved by one vote. What now? Is A still the law, or is it annulled? Presumably the latter.
    Or again, suppose measure B is approved by four votes in the Assembly. The limit is five votes, so it goes to an MM, which approves it, again by four votes. After five years it automatically goes back to the Assembly, and is rejected by one vote, and approved by one or two votes in the MM. So B is no longer law, although it has received a majority in three of the four votes, and in the aggregate of the four votes.
    And with a time lag we may not be able to dodge the problem by sending it back: the original proposer may well be dead.
    As you say, close votes are tricky.

    As for your comments about consideration times and complexity of legislation, you’ve pretty much confirmed what I thought. Thanks for this, but especially thanks for the first suggestion, which I think is a breakthrough.

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  102. Terry, Campbell,

    >”My preferred solution is rather than triggering a reconsideration in a certain number of years, is to have a second body take up the matter immediately. ”

    I was tempted to say that if this approach were adopted (at least initially), on all legislation, and if all bodies returned the same verdict, that this would vindicate your approach. But what if the whole population was gripped by a common prejudice — for example that a Jewish conspiracy was at the root of all the nation’s problems — then what guarantees would there be for balanced information and advocacy? Although this is an extreme example, the point still stands as a critique of your argument that the information/advocacy process should not have any exogenous constraints. No doubt your approach is flawlessly democratic, but other (liberal) standards are equally important. In sum, how can you be sure that widespread (but dangerous) ideas are challenged if there is no structural process to ensure balanced information and advocacy?

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