Paul Rosenfeld: The Extinction of Politics

A post by Paul Rosenfeld.

To readers of this blog the idea that random selection should play a central role in government may seem like common sense, but clearly it’s not. 341 followers (344 at last count!) represent a statistically invisible group on a planet of 7 billion. We aren’t a minority and we aren’t a fringe group (not even a lunatic fringe); from the perspective of politics we simply don’t exist (at least not in the U.S.). Our sense of things is anything but common, it is exceedingly rare. If we ever hope to see this thinking converted into action that will have to change. Somehow we must convince enough people to put our movement on the map. For this, we will need a highly effective argument, because the people we wish to persuade are living under the thrall of a myth.

The average citizen of our globe believes fervently in something which they call “The Democratic Process”. Voting is its central tenet. No matter how often it fails them they rarely waver in their devotion. And like true believers, fundamentalists even, each further obstacle is taken as a sign; the path is righteous but rocky, we must purify our faith and trudge ever onward. When we are finally worthy, the Democratic Process will at last deliver us. The road to true reverence has been long. Following the rise of the Third Estate there came the fall of property qualifications; then the secret ballot; voting by freed slaves; direct election of Senators; the ballot initiative and finally women were included. None of this brought deliverance and so today’s mantra is “corporate cash”. If only we can somehow stay the floodgates of corporate influence which pervert the process of “True” Democracy, then at long long last we will finally enter the promised land.

The origin of this myth is difficult to place. I suspect Christian infused political philosophy from the Enlightenment has played a role. The centuries of demagoguery which followed have probably reinforced this thinking as well. But I also believe it goes deeper than this, or any intellectual history. I think that the faith in “one man, one vote” strikes directly to our core. I believe, quite literally, that it is in our blood. We humans are defined by a set of political behaviors which are transmitted from one generation to the next. The relative importance of genetics vs. culture in this transmission is probably debatable, but either way the behavior is a given (in the short term at least). We’re stuck with it. We may not care for it today but this behavior served our ancestors well for thousands of generations. It won’t change overnight.

The fight for sortition goes against all this. To say we’re engaged in an uphill battle is a profound understatement. We’re at the bottom of an enormous cliff armed only with our wits and our fingernails. In this context we must be extremely creative. To promote our cause as a struggle for good government or social justice may be literally correct, but it falls far short of the mark in my opinion. If we are to have any chance of success at all we must seek to actually demolish the myth of one man, one vote! We will never be able to scale this cliff, but perhaps with the right combination of words we may undermine it to the point of collapse. Long odds no doubt, but I believe it’s the only play we have.

My point is (and I’ll expand in a moment), there’s a definite scientific basis for demonstrating the utter futility of democratic politics (in my opinion). As surely as Copernicus put an end to geocentricity Darwin should have put an end to voting. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet I would attribute to cultural forces every bit as strong as the one’s which forced Galileo to recant heliocentrism before the Pope more than a century after Copernicus. Ideas which are central to the established order do not die easily.

To a limited extent Darwin has helped upend Christian notions about human behavior. Few people today will attempt to smear sexuality as “sin”, and we sometimes rationalize acts of aggression as having a territorial or sexual origin. But our 18th Century models of political behavior are still firmly rooted in pre-Darwinian modes of thinking. If we re-evaluate our institutions in the context of their historic biological development we may be able to demonstrate the absurdity of politics as a tool for governing human society in the 21st Century. We can fight for sortition on the basis of social justice but it would be far more powerful, I think, to argue for sortition as a matter of manifest biological inevitability.

But enough already. Please forgive me, I’m trying desperately to be succinct and I haven’t even gotten to my point yet. So without further yammering here is my “thesis”. I don’t imagine it’s a new idea and I have absolutely no academic credentials to furnish gravitas but I hope you’ll hear me out anyhow…

***

Like other primates, homo sapiens have always competed for resources. The earth’s carrying capacity is finite and each creature must struggle for its share. As a consequence, within any group, individuals are forever maneuvering to achieve dominance; between groups, there is a perpetual conflict over boundaries. Within the group, navigating contradictions between individual and collective priorities is a complex process with plenty of gray area but one thing is crystal clear. The group which manages its internal conflict most efficiently will be best equipped to compete externally with groups inhabiting adjacent domains. This management process is called politics.

To be very blunt, politics is the process of maintaining group hierarchical relationships with a minimum of overt physical violence. Efficient resolution of internal conflict ensures that a maximum of violent potential will be available for external defense of the established domain and (ideally) conquest of neighboring domains. Anarchy and internecine conflict are weaknesses that will be exploited by better organized surrounding groups. This imperative for efficiency leads inevitably to voting. As a matter of biological necessity homo sapiens learned to sublimate their violent tendencies (most of the time) in favor of majority rule. It helps to keep the group strong.

There is nothing moral or ethical about this process. We shouldn’t (as most do) conflate majority rule with the common good. These are two entirely different concepts. Majority rule is a biological survival tactic utilized by many species. Homo sapiens adorn the process with language, culture and even technology, but every creature living in a herd or pack does something vaguely similar. The “common good” is an intellectual abstraction created by humans. It is often identified with another abstraction called social justice.

Majority rule has nothing to do with social justice; quite the opposite in fact. It may seem counterintuitive, but majority rule is actively destructive of social justice. Politics is a process of forming factions and maneuvering for dominance. The result will inevitably be stratification. This is true even for normal species (like Chimpanzees or Wolves), in which all individuals perform the same (interchangeable) function. It is especially true for Homo sapiens, who have complicated their society with a practice known as labor specialization. Agriculture, written language, metal working, the wheel; they’re all impressive developments, but none of these negated humanity’s subservience to the fundamental laws of ecology. The earth’s carrying capacity remained finite, human populations continued to compete for resources and the most successful social organization was that which maximized its military output. This called for peaceful resolution of internal conflicts (whenever possible) and maximum economic exploitation (so that resources could be monopolized by the military).

Majority rule was perfectly consistent with this new lifestyle but there are two caveats which we must bear in mind.

Majority rule represents the the deliberate suppression of violence in favor of political maneuvering. This social truce holds only so long as the various parties each possess a credible threat of violence in the event that politics breaks down. When a faction (such as the peasantry) is disarmed, disorganized, or without military training, they will inevitably lose their political rights and descend to the level of slavery.
The logical end of majority rule is monarchy. The constant political maneuvering of individuals and factions must inevitably trend towards a winner takes all conclusion. Even today, despite all our “democratic” pretensions in the U.S., one might easily imagine a scenario in which President Jeb Bush (following an act of nuclear terrorism) suspends the electoral process, under the pretext that “terrorists” have infiltrated the Democratic party. A perpetual dynasty of Bush leaders would be a plausible outcome. Most people imagine that democracy and monarchy are different animals, but they are actually cousins.

Universal Suffrage was the most substantial development of the modern era; coming on the heels of technological milestones (like firearms and printing) which made peasants and slum dwellers far more dangerous than ever before. Following the general disfranchisement of the Medieval period these newfound political rights were seen as a revolutionary advancement. However, several centuries of mass politics has demonstrated (beyond any reasonable doubt) that the primitive impulses of fear, hatred and greed remain the primary forces motivating voters – forces easily manipulated by the powerful. If reason were the principal factor in politics, universal suffrage would indeed have been a revolutionary step. But that, sadly, was not the case.

***

Majority rule was a necessary adaptation allowing homo sapiens to survive in the pre-industrial era but it is highly unsuitable as a primary mechanism for ordering human society in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, it’s supported by a body of myth as well entrenched as geocentrism in the middle ages. And underneath that myth there may actually be an instinctual bias (something even more powerful than the Pope I fear!). In this context, Kleroterians represent a lone voice in the wilderness; a voice entirely inaudible to most humans. In my opinion, our best hope for actually being heard lies in attacking the mythology of one man, one vote head on.

(The forgoing was condensed from a much longer essay. A version of that original essay may be located here.)

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135 Responses

  1. Paul Rosenfeld is right about the persistence of the tacit assumptions embodied in social and political practice and the difficulty of changing them.
    My view is that most Kleroterians are setting themselves a hopeless task in advocating various constitutional changes to introduce sortition into our political practice. As I’ve argued before in this place, we have to start much more modestly with sortition in specific contexts where elections are too difficult to arrange, and would not be attractive anyway.
    More fundamentally, we have to find ways of changing the imagery or paradigm underlying most political thinking and practice. The image is that of the nation-state as a single organism , like a human being, in which the head or brain is supposed to look after the development and activities of the whole. In the days when nations were pretty self-sufficient, particularly in traditional monarchies professing a single religion, that was not entirely unrealistic.
    When democracies like the US broke away from monarchy they entrusted the headship to elected bodies and attempted to limit the power of the headship. But the old image persisted. There was a contradiction between the role of the state as the guarantor of liberty and its role as embodying and enforcing a shared cultural, military and economic identity.
    In fact, in the emerging global world, the image of the nation as a person is no longer realistic. The appropriate analogy is that of a complex of ecosystems, each with only a relative independent identity, since each exists only in interdependence on wider and ultimately global complexes.
    The health of an ecosystem depends on the health of the organisms in which it consists and their adaptation to the range of factors, local and global, that affect their flourishing. It is necessary to start with the local and work towards finding ways of handling various problems, right up to the global level.
    It is obvious that a world state using the same political procedures as we at present use on the national level would be a nightmare. I hope that using sortition to solve specific problems at the local level may allow us to develop effective ways of dealing with specific problems at the global level. That would eventaually change the role of the nation-state.
    My favourite image of how the old might survive is the British institution of the QUEEN’S SPEECH. The monarch comes to the opening of parliament and gives a speech informing her subjects about what her ministers have decided is good for them. Of course, she had no part in writing the speech, much less in deciding the matters it outlines. She is there at the bidding of the ruling party. It survives, like so many things in our culture as a certain reminder of our history.

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  2. Majoritarian voting is the simplest and most easily understood alternative to armed combat where the outcome is likely to be based on the numbers of troops on each side. Each side has an incentive not to fight. The weaker side will all die and so will the majority of the stronger side. The commanders can meet in parley, look over the opposing forces, agree on what the likely outcome will be, and the weaker yields on the condition that the stronger will not abuse them so much that they would prefer the risks of battle. That is the election contract in a democratic order.

    Of course, the commanders might not reach agreement, or at least not based solely on troop numbers. The less numerous side might be better armed, better trained, and more determined. Conflict often results because the commanders cannot agree upon or accurately assess the relative strengths of each side, or perhaps hope for some miracle..

    Winner-takes-all elections were presumed by the American Founders, but they wrote a Constitution that would permit selection of officials by other procedures, such a sortition, without amending the Constitution, at east for key phases of the process, such as nomination, ballot access, and runoffs. (In the U.S. tie votes in an election are usually settled by flipping a coin, a kind of sortition step.)

    Courts of justice are another arena in which a nonviolent process is substituted for armed conflict. Originally, in the Middle Ages, disputes were settled through trial by combat, where each party could designate a champion to fight for him. Today we call those champions lawyers. (Later combat was replaced by ordeal or compurgation.) Verdict-finding trial juries selected by sortition were adopted because it was unfeasible to submit every case to a referendum of the entire community, and because judges could not be trusted.

    Sortition was not unknown to the American Founders. They used it for trial juries. But using it for selecting political leaders was too abstract for most citizens, and did not provide assurance that the results of random selection would be representative of the community. Partly because they did not trust the selection process to be truly random, and partly because they imagined that voting would be more likely to select the one best candidate to do things like lead them into war, where almost as good was not good enough. Of course, that doesn’t work well n practice, but voting provides citizens with more assurance, and assurance trumps reality until it is too late.

    The strategy for getting sortition used more is incremental. Use it more and more for making less important decisions, then for more important ones, until the public develops confidence in it.

    It is also important to educate people about it from an early age. Public schools should teach more about how to serve on a jury, and how the ancient Greeks and others have used the process successfully in the past. (Of course, any such curriculum should also show how those practices were overthrown and why.) I have done much to influence the ways textbooks are written, and it can be done if one does it right.

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  3. Paul,

    If it’s the case, as you argue, that “electoralism” is grounded in primate biology, then the chances of replacing it with an egalitarian system like sortition are slim. The failure of the grand 20th century project to replace “capitalist” possessive individualism with a more socially just system illustrates the difficulty that you will face. Of course most people on the left deny the existence of “human nature”, looking instead to socio-historical factors that are a lot more malleable.

    By contrast, those of us on the right who do believe that human differences are not just easily-dissolvable social constructs would argue that “aristocratic” impulses to dominate should be acknowledged and quarantined. This leads on to the view that sortition should only be one element in a mixed constitution, as opposed to impossibly grand projects to replace electoralism with selection by lot.

    Jon,

    >Majoritarian voting is the simplest and most easily understood alternative to armed combat where the outcome is likely to be based on the numbers of troops on each side.

    Yes, Sealey’s Athenian Republic is very good on the origins of voting in counting the number of strong right arms of the opposing forces (this is the original meaning of the kratos in demokratia. Ditto with the fact that the opposing parties in the House of Commons are separated by exactly the length of two swords.

    >The strategy for getting sortition used more is incremental. Use it more and more for making less important decisions, then for more important ones, until the public develops confidence in it.

    Absolutely. So let’s end all this prattling about abolishing “electoralism”. It won’t happen and, if Jon Roland and Raphael Sealey are right, it will only end in bloodshed.

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  4. Paul,

    Thanks – a very interesting article. I am not sure that I understand your argument, however. What about majority rule within an allotted chamber? Is that also not considered as leading to the “common good”? If not, how would common good be arrived at?

    In my opinion what we are arguing against is mass voting, not majority rule.

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  5. Jon,

    > But using it for selecting political leaders was too abstract for most citizens […]

    I am not sure what basis your have for any of the various claims in this paragraph. It seems to me that sortition was not used simply because it was democratic. The founders were quite explicit about being careful not to create a democracy and so elections were the natural choice.

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  6. Thanks Yoram

    I’m sure that I wasn’t as clear as I might have been. I think I also may have contradicted myself. So let me try again.

    By “common good” I intend the greatest good for the greatest number. I would equate this with social equality and equitable distribution of resources. “Majority Rule”, with its factions and maneuvering and minorities and intrigue, inevitably leads to social stratification and unequal distribution of resources (the winning coalition divides the spoils among themselves and the losing minority gets trampled).

    Historically (in the pre-industrial world) I believe that this situation was unavoidable. So perhaps in the ancient world the Common Good might actually have been consistent with stratification. But in the modern world stratification and inequality serve no useful purpose and this is why I say that Majority Rule and Common Good are contradictory concepts. It’s definitely counterintuitive but I think it’s also undeniable.

    Still, your analysis of my position is basically correct. My real concern is mass voting. Inevitably there’s going to be a legislative body and how else can this institution function except by voting. The point is to recognize the dangers in this process and do everything possible to minimize the likelihood of legislative outcomes which undermine the common good. Sortition for legislators would go a long ways towards achieving this goal but equally important (in my opinion) are the rules which apply to these legislators. As long as law makers stand to benefit personally from their actions the process will always be corrupt.

    Still, most of this is fairly abstract. I don’t know that it would have any practical effect on anyone’s political views. The bottom line is that I agree with you and everyone else here that sortition deserves a central role in government. There is also inevitably going to be a place for voting. The precise makeup of any particular Constitution is a subject for debate but the real issue (in my opinon) is how the hell we get to a point where some substantial number of our fellow citizens are prepared to accept these ideas and enter into that debate.

    So for me, the real issue is how a handful of people with a heretical view of government may possibly persuade others to join us. And not to be alarmist, but it really seems to me that there’s a tremendous level of urgency about this whole thing. I don’t know that we have very much time.

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  7. Paul,

    >how the hell we get to a point where some substantial number of our fellow citizens are prepared to accept these ideas and enter into that debate.

    Jon Roland has already addressed that issue:

    >The strategy for getting sortition used more is incremental. Use it more and more for making less important decisions, then for more important ones, until the public develops confidence in it.

    And this needs to supplemented by careful analytic work in order to better understand exactly what sortition can and cannot do.

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  8. Yoram:
    “I am not sure what basis your have for any of the various claims in this paragraph. It seems to me that sortition was not used simply because it was democratic.”

    My basis comes from having read almost everything of importance that the Founders wrote or read. That does not include a detailed exposition on the Athenian system. John Adams did briefly mention in the Venetian system in a comment in Vol. 1 of his “Defense of the Constitutions” which was presented to the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention, although we have little evidence that anyone but Madison had read it at that point. (Adams referred to Venice as an “aristocratical republic”, because participation in the sortition process there was limited to the upper class.) So about the only form of sortition that they gave much thought to was that of juries.

    Their thinking about voting and any alternatives to it was dominated by the legacy of the English Parliament, which was carried over for the legislatures of the 13 states in their new constitutions, most adopted in 1776 or 1777, which all used voting. See http://www.constitution.org/cons/early_state_cons.htm . At that time the only system, except Venice, used in any of the republics (and some monarchies with parliaments) was voting.

    When the Founders denigrated “democracy” and referred to ancient Athens, it was not to Athens in the ways they used sortition, but in the ways that all issues were decided by a majority vote of everyone assembled as Ekklesia at Pnyx, and from the way that most of what had come down to them was criticism of the varieties of democracy, especially by Plato and Aristotle, whose criticisms did not focus on sortition, as such, but on the lack of ways to screen for merit.

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  9. Most of the resistance to sortition, then and now, has been and is likely to remain use of it in a simple, one-step process, without merit screening steps between sortition steps.That is why I always advocate a multi-step process, in which sortition alternates with selection by merit.

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  10. Natural evolution provides a model of alternating sortition and merit screening. Meiosis is the sortition step, together with perhaps a few mutations. The adult form is subjected to merit screening to determine which genes survive to produce more genes, through another meiosis step. This process is not an accident, but perhaps the only process that could work.

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  11. Jon,

    >That is why I always advocate a multi-step process, in which sortition alternates with selection by merit.

    The alternative is for sortition to run parallel to selection by merit (the Athenian approach). This has the advantage of reflecting the classical notion of the different virtues of the multitude and persons of distinction (acknowledged by both the democrats and the critics of democracy) and the two forms of equal freedom (isonomia and isegoria). It also allows each body to check and constrain the other synchronically, rather than ending up with all powers concentrated in a single body of citizens.

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  12. >Natural evolution provides a model of alternating sortition and merit screening.

    Nice try Jon, but the vastly different time-scales means this is nothing more than a cute analogy.

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  13. Natural evolution is not just a cute analogy. It represents a strategy in a game that does not depend on time scales. Whether it be microseconds or megayears, similar games will tend to have similar optimal winning strategies. Game theoretic analysis is useful here, especially when combined with simulation models and role-playing games. We should not launch a new system into the field before doing that kind of testing.

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  14. Jon,

    I’m more disposed to your earlier suggestion (to test things out in practice and adopt them on an incremental basis). When it comes to constitutional development we can learn more from history than game theory and I really don’t see the relevance of Darwinian merit selection to voting.

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  15. The public and elites will resist any method that has not been field tested currently or in the recent past. But any field testing carries a cost and risk that most people are not going to want to take with real money at stake. Without working models, and not just small models but models on a scale comparable to that of the system proposed, the tendency will be conservative, sticking to the devil they know. Since testing in the field is too expensive, that leaves simulation testing, which can be role-playing or computer-only.

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_jury_research

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  16. Fishkin’s real-world experiments (on sortition-based deliberative polling) have been ongoing for the last twenty years. All that is needed is for them to assume some kind of policy function, the most likely being the need of the political elite to resolve contentious issues (with no obvious political pay-back) that would normally go out to referendum. If the model is found to work on an ad-hoc basis then it would be easier to implement more generally.

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  17. Jon,

    > My basis comes from having read almost everything of importance that the Founders wrote or read.

    I’d be interested to read any primary source showing evidence for any of your following ideas in the writings of the American founders:

    (1) using it [sortition] for selecting political leaders was too abstract for most citizens,

    (2) [sortition] did not provide assurance that the results of random selection would be representative of the community

    (3) Partly because they [the founders] did not trust the selection process to be truly random,

    (4) and partly because they [the founders] imagined that voting would be more likely [than sortition] to select the one best candidate to do things like lead them into war, where almost as good was not good enough.

    (5) voting provides citizens with more assurance [than sortition]

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  18. To Jon, Keith and all

    >The strategy for getting sortition used more is incremental. Use it more and more for making less important decisions, then for more important ones, until the public develops confidence in it.

    I’m all for the incremental approach if anyone is actually able to do this but I would hope to see a much broader attack on what is clearly a very difficult problem. The success or failure of incremental efforts made in the political sphere will inevitably be affected by established cultural attitudes towards sortition. I would hope to see Kleroterians functioning as a catalyst to transform the existing cultural preconceptions.

    Here are a few examples of the sorts of things which I have in mind;

    Viral Video: A well executed Youtube video might conceivably send thousands of alienated voters into our camp

    Activism: Those of us who feel that voting (in its current configuration) represents a scam should be agitating outside of the poles at every election.

    Academia: Has any respectable journal or institution seriously questioned the existing electoral paradigm? I doubt it. The average person cares little for academic journals, but these cultural gatekeepers determine the bounds of acceptable debate in the public sphere.

    Perhaps all of these subjects have been discussed previously. If so, please excuse my ignorance. However, my initial impression of this blog is that it’s primarily a debating society. This is wonderful, I’m all for it, but meanwhile the clock is ticking. The global situation is dynamic, and there may only be a limited window of opportunity for effecting change in the various governments under which we live. Is it possible for us to multi-task? Can we debate and also act?

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  19. Paul,

    > By “common good” I intend the greatest good for the greatest number. I would equate this with social equality and equitable distribution of resources.

    Personally, I tend to agree with you, but others may not. I think that the only objectively legitimate way to define “common good” is according to the majority of informed and considered opinion.

    > “Majority Rule”, with its factions and maneuvering and minorities and intrigue, inevitably leads to social stratification and unequal distribution of resources (the winning coalition divides the spoils among themselves and the losing minority gets trampled).

    I see the stratification which is the outcome of elections as stemming not from majority rule but from “mass politics” – a situation of nominal equality among a large group which leads inevitably to concentration of power – see here and here.

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  20. And now to the heart of things – action, promotion of sortittion.

    I am overjoyed that you are interested in this. To me this should be the main objective of this blog. To my chagrin we have had little of that happening. In the past I tried organizing some action but didn’t get very far.

    > Perhaps all of these subjects have been discussed previously.

    No – they have not – at least not seriously. You are very welcome to fill this void.

    As for your specific ideas:

    (1) Video: this was suggested before in some form. There was no follow up last time as far as I am aware, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do better now. There is also this.

    (2) Pamphleteering at polling stations: Some sort of flyer distribution was considered. I created this back in 2008, before this blog was created. This flyer has transformed into this. Again, the fact that this didn’t go anywhere at the time doesn’t mean this should not be retried.

    (3) Academia: I think this is where sortition has come farthest, at least as far as the English speaking world is concerned. There are several academics discussing sortition in one way of another. (The French- and Spanish- speaking worlds are farther along in having sortition as part of the political discourse.)

    Another form of activism that I attempted is letter writing campaigns.

    You will not be surprised to know that in my experience the barrier of unfamiliarity/illegitimacy/incredulity is immense.

    I’d be very happy to collaborate on any promising ideas.

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  21. Paul,

    I think far more is happening around the world than you may suspect… both in academia and in pilot implementations of sortition. The journal most interested in sortition is the Journal of Public Deliberation, which typically has at least one or two articles about it in every issue. The places with the most real-world implementations (so far mainly in one-time events, rather than institutionalized) are Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, where dozens of implementations have gone on. Even in the U.S. sortition has been institutionalized in a small way in Oregon (with Arizona and Colorado following suit) with randomly selected citizen review bodies studying and advising the voters on initiative referenda.

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  22. Paul,

    >my initial impression of this blog is that it’s primarily a debating society.

    That’s true, but before you go into action you need to be clear about what you are proposing. There is little in common between those arguing for “pure” sortition (Yoram, Terry, Campbell etc) and those of us advocating something more modest (e.g. Jon, Naomi and myself). In fact the latter group would go so far as to say that pure sortition proposals tarnish the name of sortition and, in the unlikely event that they were implemented, might well lead to bloodshed. Hence the need for the debate — to find some sort of common ground.

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  23. >”Hence the need for the debate — to find some sort of common ground.”

    Right, but I believe there’s fairly broad support for the incremental approach. Perhaps there’s room for consensus on an intermediary form to shoot for? Perhaps something that would make for a great elevator pitch? If the intermediary form is good enough to be an endpoint in its own right, then great. If not, popular support for further reforms will remain and the tools will be there to move forward on them.

    And, barring that, maybe we can find some common ground on what language/arguments to use. We aren’t likely to find more common ground than we already have regarding the “ideal” endpoint, sadly.

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  24. Agreed. Even supposing we can find some common ground on the interim proposal, we also need to agree on the strategic use of language. Are we going to proceed on the basis of seeking to put all politicians out of work (by overthrowing “electoralism”) or are we going to make proposals for a working mixed constitution (albeit while some of us have to hold our noses)? I’d like to agree that there’s “fairly broad support” for all this, but I think the archive of this blog would not bear out that conclusion. If reformers and revolutionaries are going to co-operate I would suggest that the latter group need to modify their language (if only for strategic purposes).

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  25. I think there are multiple themes that nearly all can agree on for advancing sortition within the foreseeable future …(NO ideal system will be achieved in our lifetimes).

    This isn’t exhaustive, but merely points as they occur to me.
    Some key arguments:
    1. Elections are not the same thing as democracy.
    2. Elections generate unrepresentative and elitist bodies with a powerful tendency towards partisan bickering, electoral grand-standing and corruption.
    3. Sortition was a key part of ancient Greek democracy that was rejected by aristocratic elites of the American and French revolutions, and is all but forgotten and ignored today.
    4. In addition to undercutting the tendency towards corruption, sortition can generate statistically accurate representation and diversity in policy decision-making bodies.

    As for implementations, initial uses should ideally be situations where the allotted groups :
    1. have real authority to make decisions, rather than be merely advisory.
    2. have meaningful independence from elected authorities, and either have independent impartial NGOs or themselves able to shape their agenda and access to information (not be totally controlled by existing governmental authorities).
    3. eventually become institutionalized so they can be self-re-generating rather than have their existence dependent on the approval of their decisions by existing authorities.

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  26. Terry,

    I’m surprised that you didn’t emphasise the epistemic argument: the judgment of a cognitively diverse group can be better than a group of experts and sortition is the best way of establishing cognitive diversity. On argument 2) the “unrepresentativeness” only pertains to descriptive factors. And the case against corruption in (2) and (4) only applies ex-ante — there are good reasons to believe that a full-mandate sortition body would be wide open to ex post corruption by lobbyists on account of the lack of constraints by manifesto commitments and party discipline. And the absence of the need to be re-elected is a mixed blessing in this respect — arguably the lack of direct accountability to the electorate outweighs the need to raise campaign funds (at least everywhere else apart from the US).

    You won’t be surprised to hear that I strongly disagree with implementation point 2, as it’s not at all clear that the agenda set by a small number of randomly-selected persons would accurately mirror the preferences of the whole citizen body. Descriptive representation only applies to aggregate judgment, not individual speech acts.

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  27. Sorry to go missing for a day. Workplace, familly etc…

    Yes there is the difficulty of finding a position acceptable to all but the points listed in the previous entry sound pretty solid to me. The exact place of sortition in the larger scheme of things will undoubtedly remain a significant point of contention but I don’t think this should paralyze us. Each new “convert” will have to think for themself on this matter.
    I would certainly hope to see an ongoing discussion so as to solidify some points of agreement for general promotion.

    If that can be accomplished I would propose that we pool our financial resources and post a prize at some of the art schools (SVA is New York comes to mind) for the best short video to promote the organization. Then we can all vote for our favorite.

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  28. Paul,

    >the points listed in the previous entry sound pretty solid to me.

    Assuming this is a reference to Terry’s post, then you would have to count me out, as I’m not prepared to endorse a proposal that would (arguably) lead to a worse form of governance than we currently have. The only point of the “debating society” is to develop a sortition proposal (and a rhetorical style) that is acceptable to most people on this blog and to date we have made little progress.

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  29. Keith,
    Responses…
    A. I didn’t mention epistemic value of diversity, because some (you for example) don’t want the allotted bodies to debate…which forfeits that benefit (diffuse knowledge and insights are not shared among the group, and thus the group does not benefit). This is not ideal, from my perspective, but sortition can still be better than reliance on elected bodies, even without this benefit.
    B. Real world experience shows the “unrepresentativeness” of elected legislatures is NOT merely “descriptive,” but general (policy preferences, interests, psychological, personality, philosophical, cognitive, etc.).
    C. Corruption can be undercut (if not totally eliminated) through sortition far better than under elections… depending on many details of implementation (in addition to merely eliminating campaign contributions and vote pandering) such as short duration, sequestration, under-cover sting operations to find bribers, post-service monitoring for evidence of all types of bribes, etc.
    D. As for point 2 of implementation….I inserted the option of an independent NGO to structure information and agenda as a gesture to your objection to self-design by the allotted group. My notion is that we want to assure allotted groups are not merely led around by the nose by partisan authorities controlling what they look at (imagine options for Chinese Communist Party uses of sortition). Keith, is there a way you could phrase a short-term implementation design that assures it is real, rather than a fig leaf for current authorities?

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  30. Well perhaps I really have underestimated the level of conflict here. I guess I should take some time to really try and understand the the full nature of the conflict between the two camps. Can anyone point me to the concise (but complete) exposition for each side in this debate?

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  31. Terry,

    A. The literature that I was referring to (from Aristotle to Surowiecki) deals with the value of cognitive diversity in aggregate judgment, based on (silent) deliberation within. This is one of the principal benefits of sortition.

    B. With the exception of policy preferences (incarnated in speech acts), everything else that you list is an aspect of descriptive representation. Someone who fails to “describe” me psychologically or in terms of philosophical outlook could still be an active advocate for my substantive interests.

    C. I note your reliance on police action to minimise corruption in a kleristocracy.

    D. Yes that’s easy. Policy preferences should be set by a combination of the manifesto commitments of elected politicians and direct-democratic initiatives, filtered by public votation. That’s the democratic way to set the agenda.

    Paul,

    The difference is between those who advocate “pure” sortition and those of us who view it as a valuable supplement to our current democratic arrangements. I see no way to bridge this gulf.

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  32. By “pure sortition” does this mean a purely random selection of citizens with no reference to any sort of minimal educational attainments? Also no reference to a minimum age? Then set this body in a room and let them do pretty much whatever they like?

    That’s how I would interpret “pure sortition” but I find it hard to believe that anyone would really advocate for such a thing. But maybe my views are distorted by living in the U.S. The levels of ignorance and illiteracy are probably much higher here than they are elsewhere.

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  33. Paul, Yes that’s pretty much it (with the exception of the minimum age). The definition of “pure” sortition is, as you put it, you put them in a room and let them do pretty much whatever they like (Yoram’s proposal). Terry’s proposal is different in so far as he acknowledges the need for multiple bodies, but they are all selected by lot — no role is retained for preference election, as this is ruled out a priori as elitist.

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  34. Hi Paul,

    Regarding exclusions (minimal educational attainments, a minimum age) see my post here.

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  35. I have just always assumed that legislators chosen by lot would be treated like other “civil servants” and subjected to an appropriate examination. Cops and Firefighters take a test, nobody calls this “elitist”. Surely lawmakers must demonstrate some minimum knowledge of history and economics if nothing else. Personally I wouldn’t want to set the bar too high because I do believe much knowledge and wisdom are impossible to measure; but a room full of the ignorant and illiterate!!

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  36. Paul, this is why I prefer to follow the analogy of the trial jury fairly literally: politicians, civil servants and statespersons would make the proposals and arguments, and the role of randomly-selected citizens is limited to listening to the arguments and deciding which has the most merit — exactly as in a court of law. This is how the legislative process was organised in 4th century Athens, the cradle of democracy.

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  37. I advocate what might be called a “Darwinoid” process, similar to what is done using genetic (or evolutionary) algorithms. Perhaps the best historical example of that was the Venetian system http://www.constitution.org/elec/sortition_knag.htm It could be implemented in many ways. Consider one design:

    1. At the precinct level (using the U.S.model of equipopulous precincts) two equal sized panels are selected by lot. Then they select a pool of candidates to the next level (ward) by each panel voting for the best ten percent of the members of the other panel, and together for an equal number of individuals from outside either panel.
    2. Candidates from the precinct pool are drawn at random to form two equal sized ward panels. The process is repeated to select two equal sized district panels.
    3. The process is repeated to form two equal sized state panels (unless there are political subdivisions in between), and again to form two equal sized national panels.
    4. The process is repeated to select a small number, say nine, candidates for the one national pool, from which a single official is selected at random.

    A similar multi-step process would be used to select legislators, judges, administrators, etc.

    In the judicial track, pairs of grand juries would select members of the next grand or any trial juries, and pose the questions they are to decide, after consulting with witnesses.

    So random selection alternates with fitness election in a way that should enable the best and brightest (who don’t necessarily want the job) to bubble up to the top. Each participant in the process has an incentive to vote for the best rather than just a fellow partisan, because an obvious partisan would be less likely to survive to reach a higher level.

    Voting rules within panels would use supermajority votes, approval voting, or some other alternative to first-past-the-post.

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  38. Well perhaps… But in a court of law the jury delivers a verdict of guilty or not-guilty and the matter is finished. The final power is truly in the hands of the jury. With legislation, however, a “no” vote on the part of a citizen jury would simply mean a continuation of the status quo wouldn’t it? or perhaps a stand-off of some kind? Sounds dangerously like the sort of gridlock which we already have here in the U.S. If the professional politicians present a citizen jury with a series of options they may not have much incentive to offer any options that appeal to the average citizen. I’m not rejecting the idea out of hand but I do have some concerns.

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  39. Paul,

    > I have just always assumed that legislators chosen by lot would be treated like other “civil servants” and subjected to an appropriate examination.

    This seems to be going down the Socratic fallacy path.

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  40. > Well perhaps… But in a court of law the jury delivers a verdict of guilty or not-guilty and the matter is finished. The final power is truly in the hands of the jury. With legislation, however, a “no” vote on the part of a citizen jury would simply mean a continuation of the status quo wouldn’t it? or perhaps a stand-off of some kind? Sounds dangerously like the sort of gridlock which we already have here in the U.S.

    The thing is that, unlike a trial jury, a policy jury is large enough to constitute a statistically significant, representative sampling of the people. So if the sampling can’t stomach a proposal, it is very likely that the people at large cannot either.

    > If the professional politicians present a citizen jury with a series of options they may not have much incentive to offer any options that appeal to the average citizen.

    Right. Which is why it’s important to have a diverse range of inputs to the policy jury. If individual elected politicians can make proposals on their own (rather than constituting a house in their own right) then the use of a highly proportional system would result in a truly great range of proposals making it all the way to the jury.

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  41. Paul,

    >With legislation, however, a “no” vote on the part of a citizen jury would simply mean a continuation of the status quo wouldn’t it?

    And what’s wrong with that, particularly in the light of Naomi’s observations on the statistical representativity of a large sample? Sortition isn’t just for so-called “progressives”.

    > If the professional politicians present a citizen jury with a series of options they may not have much incentive to offer any options that appeal to the average citizen.

    The extensive literature on the median voter theorem would cast doubt of that. Even if the theorem were demonstrated to be false, additional opportunities are available via Naomi’s proposal and/or direct-democratic initiatives.

    Jon,

    The serene (Venetian) republic certainly lasted a long time, but it still strikes me that sortition and preference election should be used to constitute entirely different bodies, each with their own distinctive virtues (that was certainly the ancient wisdom). Sortition in the Venetian case was almost certainly employed to protect the integrity of the appointment process, rather than as a statistical mechanism.

    But I’m delighted (and relieved) to see that this blog is experiencing a rare eruption of moderation and common sense.

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  42. Indeed. If the public favors (begrudgingly or otherwise) the status quo over any other concrete options… the status quo should prevail in a democracy. The US constitution artificially favors the status quo by forcing consensus between multiple policymaking bodies. That is far from the case here.

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  43. Jon,
    It seems to me that the individuals drawn into the panels will be unlikely to know each other well enough at the time of the vote to make an informed decision on who should move on to the next round. Those who hold fringe views need only moderate them briefly. Those who are lazy or corrupt at heart need only put in a little bit of extra effort during the review/voting phase to be competitive. It seems like the multistep process would efficiently select in favor of those who, yes, have excellent credentials, but also those who are most able and willing to adopt the optimal persona for a short time.

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  44. I apologize for the egregious triple post faux pas.

    It is worth emphasizing that any selective process selects in favor of those who can do well in the selection process. It feels a bit pointless to say that. In evolution, the individuals who are better equipped to survive and pass on their genes survive and pass on their genes slightly more often than average over time. Over many generations the population gradually becomes better at surviving and passing on genes. Regarding the selection of an assembly, however, there’s a disconnect because any selection process will be distinct to some extent from the job to be done. A selection/filtration process would remove the illiterate and the idiots from an allotted body, for sure, but this would also counterintuitively decrease the body’s ability to judge proposals. At least if the wisdom of crowds literature is anything to go by.

    A better analogy to evolution in politics would be the development of the body of law. Here, in a system built around a policy jury, the reasoned judgment of the people (through the policy jury) is the selective force. Proposals (and their associated outcomes after real world experience) deemed favorable in the considered judgment of the people are ultimately what will stick. Those that are not will get revised or chucked. The body of law (and associated outcomes) should gradually evolve toward a state that is more favorable in the reasoned judgment of the people.

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  45. Trial jurors don’t know the judge, the lawyers, or the parties, when a trial begins. They would not be allowed to serve if they did. The job of a panel would be to get to know the opposite panelists in a similar way, through investigation and interrogation, including into their reputations. Any merit screening depends on people having reputations of some kind. No way to avoid that. But it is a solvable problem, given enough time and focus.

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  46. Jurisprudence, with a body of predictable custom, policy, and practice, is a needed institutional memory, and one of the objectives of sound constitutional design is to enable needed changes in that system, but not too fast or too carelessly. That mostly means incremental changes rather than sweeping ones, although we are discussing a sweeping one to get out of the cul-de-sac in which we seem to find ourselves.

    One of my motives in making such proposals for Darwinian decisionmaking is that in most countries, and especially the U.S., our jurisprudence has become corrupt and dysfunctional. The present design has not been working very well, and elections are a large part of that. Perhaps we can find a better one, using evolutionary processes as models. Obviously, biological evolution is very different in many ways, but there is more commonality than most students of the subject now seem to realize.

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  47. By the way, I am using the Twitter hashtags #sortition , #election , and #corruption . Can anyone suggest better ones?

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  48. John,

    The role of the trial jury is to listen to the evidence and determine the outcome, not to get to know the various parties involved. The trial jury is the only longstanding working example of the use of random selection to establish a group with a binding decision function, and that’s why it should be at the heart of any modern proposal for incremental change. If we accept the verdict of the trial jury as representative of what all citizens would think under good conditions then it is a very small step to extend this principle to the high court of Parliament. And the jury analogy presupposes an ongoing role for expertise and partisan advocacy, so is unlikely to be opposed by existing political elites (a prerequisite for incremental change). And, of course, we have the precedent of 4th century Athenian practice. I acknowledge that the Venetian republic had a much longer life, but it had no democratic claims, sortition being used only for its prophylactic function.

    Naomi,

    I agree with your perspective on the limited relevance of the evolutionary analogy to democratic politics. In knowledge domains we can learn a lot more from Thomas Bayes than Charles Darwin.

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  49. Members of a trial jury definitely have to get to know the parties before them, ar at least certain attributes of them: the credibility of witnesses, the honesty and competence of the attorneys, and the fairness and competence of the judge. All these assessments weigh into their verdict. In most criminal cases they may have to only decide whether the accused is guilty, but there are often multiple charges, and they may have to also determine the sentence. In civil cases they have to decide who gets how much of what relief is being sought, and that can involve very subtle assessments of the parties before them.

    The Darwinian process I suggested is to select policy deciders, not policy positions, except insofar as the deciders represent certain policy preferences. Once a decisionmaking body is selected, they can’t be prevented from debating and negotiating among one another if there is enough time to do so, and they will tend to take as much time as they need to settle on their decision. Of course, the decision rule they use need not be a simple majority. They can have rules that require supermajorities, at least for more important decisions.

    I have not seen a process as elaborate as the one in my proposal, but I have observed or been involved in simpler but somewhat similar versions of such a process, especially large private organizations, such as the two major U.S. political parties nominating candidates and developing a platform at national conventions. My experience with those was in Texas, for which a primary election is the starting point of a delegate selection process.The rules for those two parties are a lot more complicated than my proposal, although the only role in them for randomness is a coin toss to decide ties. They get to know one another by conversations and speeches at the conventions at each level. Some such process inevitably seems to arise when a large body of members have to arrive at a small, roughly representative, number of those that make a final decision. But there is deliberation at every level, albeit not always very thorough.

    How about examining the merits of the details of my proposal, and perhaps coming up with other proposals with comparable detail. We need to descend from the heights of abstraction down to specific procedures that might be tested in some willing organization.

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  50. Regarding citizen juries, the status quo, the Venetian Republic and “pure” sortition

    Context is everything. I imagine a citizen jury in Washington DC and it just sounds like an extra level of complexity in an already non-functioning system. But, of course, if the citizen jury is presented with reasonable legislative options then I have faith that they will make good choices. That is of course a huge “if”. But if the legislative process is opened up so that pretty much anyone can make proposals then I would certainly endorse it.

    I also agree that the status quo is worth protecting (IF you live in a stable, healthy, sustainable society!!). Sadly, I haven’t seen too many of these lately. At the current moment, the status quo is tremendously unpopular and unlikely to be sustainable.

    Jon’s idea is very interesting but I’m wary of proposals which break so dramatically from the existing system. Not that I wouldn’t love to start with a blank sheet of paper but what are the chances of every bringing such a project to fruition? I appreciate Keith’s comments on the elite role in the jury process. This does sound much closer to being something that’s doable.

    I’m a revolutionary at heart, but my head says reform. The trick is to design reform that’s functional and not just ornamental. Several centuries of electoral reform in the U.S. have done little to create a just society but few people are willing to part with electoralism just yet. We need a judicious admixture of sortition to finally tip the balance in favor of the people I think.

    Citizen juries are one possible solution. Another thought might be to treat legislators like all other civil servants; subjecting candidates to an examination and lottery before the election. I see this as another pragmatic proposal. It’s not my ideal choice, but I think it’s close enough to the existing system that people might find it palatable.

    I’m sure there’s more than one “solution” to the current state of political dysfunction. I might even favor Yoram’s plan (with some additions). I’m willing to believe that a statistically representative “non elite” legislative body could work. I just don’t believe they can be given a blank check (so to speak). There have to be definite conditions concerning their working arrangements.

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  51. Paul,

    > The trick is to design reform that’s functional and not just ornamental.

    Yes – I agree very much. Ornamental reforms are often worse than the status quo since they sap and misdirect the force of discontent. This fact is of course very well understood and exploited by those in power.

    > I might even favor Yoram’s plan (with some additions). I’m willing to believe that a statistically representative “non elite” legislative body could work. I just don’t believe they can be given a blank check (so to speak). There have to be definite conditions concerning their working arrangements.

    It might be more accurate to call the allotted legislature proposal “Callenbach and Phillips’s plan” – this is what they called back in 1985 A Citizen Legislature.

    Regarding setting conditions, what do you have in mind? I have argued against limiting the powers of an allotted chamber.

    As for the way to proceed – I had this to offer.

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  52. Jon,

    I think we have to be clear what the purpose of sortition is in any particular case. In the Venetian example it appears to be to introduce (ex ante) impartiality and prevent the domination of the political process by factions. Most modern proposals, by contrast, are designed to set up a statistically-representative microcosm of the entire citizen body, in order to discover what everyone would think under good conditions. If that is the intention, then this will be undermined by combining it with election (on account of the principle of distinction), hence my argument that the two mechanisms (sortition and election) should be isolated and used to independently achieve the two key forms of political representation (descriptive and substantive). Although this is an abstract argument, the entailments are entirely concrete.

    >Once a decisionmaking body is selected, they can’t be prevented from debating and negotiating among one another if there is enough time to do so.

    The decision rule could specify silent deliberation followed by a secret vote. Trial juries only deliberate actively on account of the requirement for unanimity.

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  53. I submit that a well-designed constitution should be able to combine many processes with many advantages, including both impartiality and prevention of the domination of the political process by factions, and also a statistically-representative microcosm of the entire citizen body, in order to discover what everyone would think under good conditions. There is no fundamental reason why those elected under some “principle of distinction” must be or become unrepresentative, if it is done in the right way. Having two legislative houses, one selected by sortition and the other by election, might be one way to do that, but we also need processes for executive and judicial questions. I have proposed such solutions at http://www.constitution.org/reform/us/con_amend.htm .

    Concerning the Republic of Venice see
    http://www.rangevoting.org/VenHist.html
    http://www.uni-mannheim.de/mateo/camenaref/cmh/cmh108.html#275

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  54. Constitutionalism,

    The key point is that you are advocating a guardian system (finding the BEST who should rule. I think this strategy is fundamentally flawed. There ARE NO BEST rulers. It is the representativeness and diversity of the decision-makers that is key.

    The main factor in using a series of alternating lotteries and elections is the voting method…Most common systems…majoritarian or block plurality, etc. … with a criterion focused on “competence” rather than policy preferences would tend to end up with an all male square-jawed respectable group, with no obvious reason to share any of the interests of the general population. If some creative / proportional voting method were used, this might be partially alleviated, but I doubt deep diversity would be achieved.

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  55. I am not arguing there is a uniquely “best” choice, but there are certainly some that are better than others. The most important decisions that a polity must make are not just matters of taste or fair distribution, but of survival, that is , fitness. There can be more than one way to survive, perhaps giving rise to a fork in evolution, into two or more different lines, but most of the possible decisions lead to extinction. To build on the Platonic analogy, a captain may take his ship safely to any of several favorable ports, if more than one exists, but only one may be within range, and unless he is not very, very good at sailing, he may also take it to the bottom of the sea. Navigation is more a matter of skill, not of luck, taste, or fairness.

    An earlier reference was made to the utilitarian rule of “the greatest good for the greatest number”, but that is too simple. It is the greatest good for the greatest number that is not too inequitable and that does not risk survival. (There is always some risk with any choice, but an optimal strategy improves the odds.)

    Representivity is a value, for decisions about taste or distribution (justice), but not the uniquely highest values, which are honor, liberty, and aggregate prosperity, which are always at risk, even if it seems only taste or distribution are at stake.

    The Universe is not organized for our comfort or convenience. It allows us to survive, sometimes, for a while, but survival is always nmarginal, and most decisions are a course along the edge of survival, trying to hang on as long as we can. We live in a unique period of easy prosperity when it seems good times will go on forever, however foolish our decisions might be. But that time is not forever, and we can easily bring it to an end sooner than necessary.

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  56. Jon,

    >There is no fundamental reason why those elected under some “principle of distinction” must be or become unrepresentative

    They would, by definition, be atypical, otherwise they would not be selected by a process that seeks to find the most distinctive. I entirely agree with your concerns for the survival of the polity, and I think that is a reason why your proposals would be unlikely to gain support from either the political elite or the general public. If there is a demand for descriptive representation, it makes no sense to water it down so that the resulting body loses its only claim to legitimacy. To my mind your concerns for the survival of the polity are best addressed by a trinitarian system of government (advocacy, judgment and execution), in which the descriptively-representative chamber is only one element. The other two would be subject to entirely different selection methods. If you seek to combine these functions in a “single body of men”, this will inevitably lead to corruption (Federalist 10).

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  57. There is no reason to think those distinctive in knowledge or judgment, either because of their personal attributes or from hearing evidence or argument and deliberating on it, must make decisions differently than the general public from whom they are drawn would make or would want made if they had similar advantages, beyond general public discourse. The purpose of any kind of representative government is to enable better decisions than the public would make by conducting daily plebiscites. If one really wants to avoid distinction of that kind, then one might as well go to direct democracy and let everyone vote on everything. I consider the people I vote for to be unrepresentative of me if they don’t distinguish themselves in such ways, because I would distinguish myself in that way if I were selected. I just don’t want them to corruptly represent someone else.

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  58. Jon,

    >The purpose of any kind of representative government is to enable better decisions than the public would make by conducting daily plebiscites.

    Exactly, and that is the operating principle for Fishkin’s Deliberative Polling experiments, which provide some evidence supporting the view that a random sample of ordinary people are just as capable of measured judgment as experts. But they need to be well informed (i.e. “knowledgeable”), hence Fishkin’s reliance on balanced and high-quality advocacy and information. My own proposal for sortition is based on Fishkin’s separation of advocacy and judgment, whereas yours conflates these two very different functions. For a good defence of the “democractic diarchy” underlying this distinction, I recommend Nadia Urbinati’s new book, Democracy Disfigured.

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  59. It is virtually impossible to separate advocacy from judgment. We try to do that in court trials, but such separation is more in appearance than reality. The most we can do is to try to separate the functions before the assembly of the players. Once they are assembled there is no way to prevent them from performing both roles. I have observed, or been involved, in many court cases, and in most of them the judges or jurors evolve from judgment toward advocacy during the course of the proceeding.

    And of course, advocates have to exercise judgment in deciding what and how to advocate.

    It is difficult enough to conduct a brainstorming session in which the participants are asked to defer judgment until all the proposals are presented. All one can do is prevent them from announcing judgments to the body before the session is ready for them. Of course they are going to make judgments in their own minds before that.

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  60. Most proposals for some kind of diarchy neglect to consider that if elites control who may advocate what and how, who may judge, and how the deliberations may be structured or conducted, and what procedures are to be used, then those elites may still steer the “judges” to get any outcome they want.

    My proposal does not conflate the functions, but divides them into balanced bodies, and allows darwinian-selected bodies to decide not only judgments but also the questions, structure, and procedures, for themselves and other bodies. There is no one single decisionmaking body, but a complex system of bodies that check and balance one another, while moving decisions to a final stage and to implementation.

    So, for example, I have grand juries supervise the selection of trial juries and successor grand juries, rather than leaving that to professionals like judges or prosecutors. Grand juries would not just decide whether to indict, but appoint the prosecutor (who could be a private citizen). Jurors would hear all the arguments made to the judge in a trial or hearing, so that they could condition their verdict on what they observed.

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  61. Need a name for what I am proposing. I am considering “darwinition”, to include both random selection (sortition) and merit screening (election), in a multistage process that involves multiple bodies that check and balance one another.

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  62. Constitutionalism,

    Keith (and to some extent I) have a rather fool-proof method of separating them….One group of people do all the talking, deliberating and advocacy, while a separate group listen in silence, and without any talking decide by secret vote. Those who judge can play NO role in advocacy….while those who advocate, do indeed obviously shape the judging process, but do not ultimately judge.

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  63. The only way one could keep the judges to their role would be to isolate them from one another. They couldn’t be brought into the same room, which would at the least present logistical problems. Perhaps they could all view the proceedings on closed circuit TV. But if they are thus isolated, it becomes difficult to get them to pay attention at all. One of the key functions of bringing them together is to get them to take their role as judges seriously, by subjecting them to pressure from the others to do so. Otherwise they could spend the entire proceeding asleep.

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  64. By the way, “constitutionalism” = Jon Roland.

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  65. Yoram

    I would certainly not wish to see the authority of an alloted legislature subverted or subordinated in any way. This clearly defeats the purpose. I’m even prepared to entertain the notion that such a body might stand on its own (without any executive) as the supreme authority. But I also would never wish to see the internal working of such as body left to chance. Following are some brief thoughts on the internal working of an alloted law making body…

    The phrase “statistically accurate representation” appears frequently on this blog. This is understandable, I am in complete agreement that a representative body should include, as fully as possible, all of the economic, social, sexual, racial, ethnic, occupational, geographic and religious variation which exists in the population at large. However, a statistically accurate representation of the population at large is no guarantee that the laws enacted will correspond with the “popular will” (if such an abstraction may be said to exist). Each lawmaker will have their vote, this is a given, but voting is only the final step in the legislative process; the initiation of debate, its shaping and control, the precise crafting of statute and management of the legislative agenda are all important areas where the nominal equality of statistical accuracy may easily be subverted.

    It is important to acknowledge our many differences (our statistical variation), but it is equally important that we account for the ways in which we are all the same. There is such a thing as “human nature”; culture, education and individual choice are all important but, on average, every large group of homo sapiens displays similar types of behavior. Much of this behavior will pose obstacles to our body reaching a consensus that is either well considered or statistically representative. Definite rules are required for our body to circumvent these obstacles. We might trust the members to make their own rules but there is a huge risk in this. Their self-interest, passions or ignorance could prevent them from making appropriate rules. It is only prudent that we address the subject in advance and incorporate these rules into the Constitution of our Republic. For the sake of convenience, let’s consider first those obstacles which may undermine the nominal equality of “statistical accuracy”. Then let’s face the issue of “informed and considered opinion”.

    It is fundamental to the nature of all primates that they establish relationships of dominance & submission, and erect hierarchical social structures which grade the entire population on the basis of individual status. Humans are no different. Unless there are rules to counteract this process it is a virtual certainty that most of the actual power will very quickly reside in a small number of hands. Statistical accuracy will mean very little at this point. There are probably many ways that one might remedy this situation and I won’t attempt to consider all of the potential solutions here. Perhaps the most obvious (and least practical) approach would be to have all of our legislators wear masks and use some sort of voice scrambler to hide their actual identities. Another, less dramatic, would be to require that all of the distinct positions within the legislature be filled by sortition. I’m open to just about anything here, but there must be some controls to prevent (or at least moderate) the accumulation of power.

    As to the matter of informed and considered opinion, homo sapiens only behave rationally on occasion. The rest of the time we are governed by greed, fear, hatred, lust and considerations of status (see above). I won’t presume to treat these concerns in any coherent manner but will make several suggestions:

    1.) Vote by secret ballot; this contradicts contemporary notions regarding “transparency and accountability” but I think it makes sense. Bribery would be much more difficult and the herd instinct would be greatly tempered (consider for example; would the U.S. Congress have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Iraq invasion if their votes had been secret?)

    2.) Incorporate delays; when we are emotional we become hasty, specify a minimum time for debate and reflection

    3.) Always consider the pro’s and con’s; perhaps the example of a law court (with attorneys for prosecution and defense) should provide a model for the legislative process. Even popular ideas should receive critical debate.

    4.) Make corruption (almost) impossible; retired lawmakers should live on a pension and be forbidden to receive any salary or compensation beyond that.

    The above are some immediate thoughts on the organization of an alloted legislature. Given time I might have other ideas on the subject. But the more I think about it the more unlikely it all seems. Like you, I too have been endorsing the concept of an alloted legislature. The theoretical simplicity and purity of the approach is seductive. But there is, I think, an important flaw in proposals like this; they leave no voice for the elite (or at least no statistically significant voice)! I know that’s rather the point. I despise the elites as much as the next proletarian (self disclosure; I’m 52 years old and have been a laborer my entire life). But if we’re going to be realistic and pragmatic I think we need to acknowledge the absolute life or death stranglehold which these individuals hold on global civilization.

    You remember when Saddam Hussein torched all of his oil wells as the American troops advanced? This is my best analogy for the likely consequence of the elite truly being subverted. They will not go quietly. Using all of the considerable tools at their disposal the elites will do everything in their power to destroy a government of the kind we are talking about. The end result would almost certainly be a military government with elite advisors (only a little different from the current predicament). To avoid a fate like this we must allow them some significant voice in the legislative process. To that end, I rather like the idea of Keith’s citizen juries (provided, of course, that these juries have access to a wide range of proposals).

    Some people might regard this as capitulation, but I see it simply as self preservation. Rather than crushing or expelling the elite, the most we can probably hope for is to slowly herd them towards a comfortable exit. At least that’s my sense of things. What do you think?

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  66. Jon,

    >The most we can do is to try to separate the functions before the assembly of the players.

    That’s all I’m seeking to do, as per the original Athenian diarchy.

    >in most of them the judges or jurors evolve from judgment toward advocacy during the course of the proceeding.

    That would only present a representativity problem if the jurors had a mandate for active deliberation (as opposed to deliberation within, followed by the secret vote). Terry has outlined the advocacy/judgment division of labour with great clarity above. Informal conversations between jurors would not be proscribed as this would be more akin to background noise than a deliberate attempt to sway the verdict one way or the other. The reason for keeping the size of the group small is in order for each juror to feel that her own vote was truly significant, and this would have to be combined with other measures to ensure that the role was taken as an honourable civic duty (including ceremonial flummery and the modern equivalent of the Heliastic Oath). Us Brits are quite good at manufacturing this sort of decorum.

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  67. Paul,

    >the initiation of debate, its shaping and control, the precise crafting of statute and management of the legislative agenda are all important areas where the nominal equality of statistical accuracy may easily be subverted.

    Exactly. Statistical representative (aka the law of large numbers) does not apply to any of these factors, hence the impossibility of “pure” sortition.

    >Rather than crushing or expelling the elite, the most we can probably hope for is to slowly herd them towards a comfortable exit.

    Agreed, though my preferred approach is to quarantine their behaviour as you suggest below:

    >Always consider the pro’s and con’s; perhaps the example of a law court (with attorneys for prosecution and defense) should provide a model for the legislative process.

    The “attorneys” would inevitably be drawn from the political and knowledge elite (as was the case with the Athenian template we are using). Your acceptance of certain inalienable factors of our primate nature (dominance, status hierarchy etc), demonstrates the impossibility of banishing such qualities; the best we can hope for is to quarantine them by ensuring that they have no direct role in the final decision. Attorneys don’t get to vote, that’s the role of the jury.

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  68. Paul,

    Regarding not frightening the elites into an Armageddon: Of course, the elites will (and do) fight democracy with all their might. The chance, however, that at any point they will perceive their situation as so dire that they would rather destroy the Earth rather than face the consequences of democracy is vanishingly small. In any case, our position at this point is far too weak to be concerned about what the elites would do if democracy prevails. Instead we should be concerned about how elites would act in order to derail any attempt at meaningful democratic reform.

    Regarding “leaving the working of an allotted legislature to chance”: the question is not whether the procedures of such a body should be left to chance but whether they are better decided upon by a representative body (the allotted legislature itself, or a different allotted body) or should be dictated by some elite (non-representative) body. I think democracy clearly requires the former.

    Regarding secret voting – I think that the conventional wisdom on this matter – that secrecy breeds corruption – is valid.

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  69. I am also considering the word “eduction” for evolutionary processes alternating randomness with fitness screening, for those who may not like “darwinition”.

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  70. I am also considering “winnowing” but this seems too tied to agricultural methods.

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  71. Jon,
    > “Most proposals for some kind of diarchy neglect to consider that if elites control who may advocate what and how, who may judge, and how the deliberations may be structured or conducted, and what procedures are to be used, then those elites may still steer the “judges” to get any outcome they want.”

    This is exactly why I’ve stressed the need for representivity in the advocacy step, with my preferred option being election. It’s not a popular opinion on this blog, but I believe elections can do a fine job of representing the policy-preference diversity of the electorate.

    The selective process you’ve discussed is distinct from the task to be performed, so it is akin to selective breeding (random mutations followed by conscious selection of desirable mutations for some reason) and not Darwinian natural selection.

    Another simple way of keeping the jurors separate would be to use a postal balloting process. I’ve toyed around with the thought for a while. Instead of assembling a several hundred member policy jury in a single room in the capitol, you could send out a few hundred postal ballots to people selected at random. The independence of the individuals in the sample would be maximized. Not only would they be unable to influence each other, they’d have to pursue their own sources of information. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like this would maximize the applicability of Condorcet’s Theorem.

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  72. Or just “winition”, dropping the “dar”, suggested by “winnowing”.

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  73. Postal balloting is a good way to enable votebuying. People will soon discover there is a market for their votes and sell to the highest bidder. Better is electronic, with some kind of biometric identification to make it less likely the vote might get hacked.

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  74. It would be necessary to lock them in the same building but in separate cells, to prevent communication with outsiders. Otherwise the votes would likely be corrupted.

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  75. > “It would be necessary to lock them in the same building but in separate cells, to prevent communication with outsiders.”

    I know you’re making a joke, but we don’t need perfection. If separating advocacy from judgment is ideal, then mostly separating the two is better than not separating them at all. Unless there’s some sort of local extrema in the relationship and I don’t see why that would be the case.

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  76. Paul,
    >”To avoid a fate like this we must allow them some significant voice in the legislative process. To that end, I rather like the idea of Keith’s citizen juries (provided, of course, that these juries have access to a wide range of proposals).”

    Agreed. I also agree on all four of your suggestions. As far as ensuring a wide range of proposals… there are broadly three schools of thinking on this blog regarding proposal introduction:

    1) Aggregation: Mass voting on organizations and individuals who already have some measure of popular attention. The winners can make proposals.

    2) Chance: Equal *chance* of participation replaces equal right of participation. The lottery winners can make proposals.

    3) Reduction: Everyone can make proposals. The vast number of proposals is then reduced to a more manageable number through an iterative process.

    I definitely fall into the aggregation camp. I don’t believe it is too difficult to get a truly wide range of proposals using election. Say you have a hundred seats divided proportionally with no threshold. In the US, to win a seat, and be able to make whatever proposals you’d like you’d only need about a million votes, nationwide. Or, instread of a fixed set of seats assigned proportionally you could set a threshold (say ¼ million) and give every party/organization to clear that threshold a seat, perhaps with extra seats for clearing higher thresholds or a fixed set of additional seats to be divided up proportionally on top of the first seat. If overall control is not determined by the results of the election, we can do a lot of fun stuff. We just need to make sure that all perspectives held by a decent portion of the population find adequate representation.

    This is actually what is drawing me to the unicameral approach of having a single assembly with a mix of voting members and proposing members. Without the need to build a majority, we would have a *true* electoral market. Even when you have a large number of parties, conventionally, they must frame things in a fashion that would allow them to actually form a governing majority and implement them. But here, there’s no need to come together. We can let a million flowers bloom. Even minor parties can deliver policy proposals/advocacy in return for votes and be punished for failing to do so. The number of ways in which policy is framed publicly can grow hugely compared with the present situation.

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  77. Naomi,
    > there are broadly three schools of thinking on this blog regarding proposal introduction:
    1) Aggregation: Mass voting on organizations and individuals who already have some measure of popular attention. The winners can make proposals.
    2) Chance: Equal *chance* of participation replaces equal right of participation. The lottery winners can make proposals.
    3) Reduction: Everyone can make proposals. The vast number of proposals is then reduced to a more manageable number through an iterative process.

    Here is another school:
    4) Proposals may come from anywhere and have their merits evaluated, then the most meritorious moved forward, which is the way it works in real legislatures today.

    Actual legislation comparable to what is now done involves a great deal of subtle detail, and each of those details would be a separate proposal. Any aggregation would have to be of many details into one large proposal. Otherwise one gets an administrative state in which the details are delegated to administrators to write, what in the U.S. we call “regulations”, but which assume the status of statutes, except from unelected and unsorted bureaucrats. It would not work if all of those details had to garner a large number of supporters.

    Some of this filtering now occurs in each congressional office in which it now takes, say, 100 letters from constituents to get the attention of a member, unless the proposal comes from one submitter in which the member has developed confidence (or gotten a large donations from it). But it is still possible for a single individual to submit a meritorious proposal that makes it past staff to the member who understands and appreciates the importance of it, but such proposals can be extremely subtle and technical, beyond what any member can understand, but can accept it because of who it comes from. Remember Einstein’s letter to Franklin Roosevelt about the need for developing nuclear weapons, something that would not be well enough understood or supported in the process you seem to envision. Or the space program, back in the days when few people, other than a few science fiction fans, had any notion of it.

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  78. I have actually participated in such proposal filtering, as a volunteer in several congressional offices in the 1967-70 timeframe. I was evaluating detailed proposals, some of them my own, that were way beyond the comprehension of members or their staffers. Some of them found their way into legislation because I was a one-eyed man in the land of the blind.

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  79. Further, during this session of the Texas Legislature, I am busy testifying before committees evaluating proposed bills. It is too late to introduce any new ones, but new ideas can be introduced as amendments or substitutions. I don’t just submit arguments and evidence for or against bills, but almost always submit detailed amendments. By this time I am a familiar face with a reputation for making constructive suggestions on many topics. That also gives me more clout when I ask a member not from my own district to do something, because my reputation is as an expert on many subjects without representing a special interest or being a one-issue lobbyist.

    Proposals for reform need the perspective of those who have actually done the work.

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  80. Another word for what I am proposing: fetura, Latin for breeding.

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  81. Yoram,

    >Regarding “leaving the working of an allotted legislature to chance”: the question is not whether the procedures of such a body should be left to chance but whether they are better decided upon by a representative body (the allotted legislature itself, or a different allotted body).

    And what if (as is highly likely) this representative body decides that it did not want to leave the fate of the country in the hands of a group of randomly-selected persons with dictatorial powers? No doubt this is a classic case of false consciousness, so the process would need to be repeated until you found a group of people that came up with the right answer.

    Naomi,

    >This is exactly why I’ve stressed the need for representivity in the advocacy step, with my preferred option being election. It’s not a popular opinion on this blog, but I believe elections can do a fine job of representing the policy-preference diversity of the electorate.

    Absolutely, especially if supplemented by some kind of direct-democratic initiative mechanism.

    >If separating advocacy from judgment is ideal, then mostly separating the two is better than not separating them at all.

    Exactly so.

    >I definitely fall into the aggregation camp [on proposing rights].

    Agreed. Isegoria in large modern states has to be a representative process, otherwise we end up with little more than random mutations.

    >This is actually what is drawing me to the unicameral approach of having a single assembly with a mix of voting members and proposing members.

    This is getting really interesting. The sort of PR mechanism you are suggesting could be a bit improvement on direct-democratic initiatives, as these are very easy to corrupt by pressure groups.

    Jon,

    >4) Proposals may come from anywhere and have their merits evaluated, then the most meritorious moved forward, which is the way it works in real legislatures today.

    But the number of proposals will be huge and who (in a sortition-based system) gets to do the evaluating? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I’m all for people like yourself providing expert scrutiny and advocacy, but there’s nothing remotely democratic about such a process.

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  82. Vetting proposals for merit is not a democratic process, nor should it be. I can’t say that many of my proposals found their way into adopted legislation, but I’m fairly sure I contributed to stopping some really bad ones. If most people knew how bad were most of the proposals, even from ostensible experts, they would be alarmed.

    Most members of Congress are only expert in getting elected, although a few of them acquire some limited expertise in a few subjects after 20 years or so. For the first 4-6 years they are largely useless. Their staffers are only marginally better, and the Congressional Research Service (that drafts most legislation for the members) is a joke among expert lobbyists. I have often had to clean up their malarkey (and sometimes that of the expert lobbyists as well — it is amazing how poor is the understanding of economics among most “economists”).

    One of the main ways lobbyists get clout is by contributing their expertise to developing legislation a member wants. Not necessarily on an issue for which the lobbyist is employed. But by helping a member on his issues, they get more access for their issues. That is what I was doing for two years on Capitol Hill in the 1970-73 timeframe, although I was self-financed.

    I went to Washington to find out who was in charge, and discovered no one is in charge. Some people delude themselves into thinking they are, and many want to be, but their grasp of the complex systems involved is so far short of what management of those systems requires that it is amazing we haven’t already gone extinct.

    See http://constitution.org/ps/cbss.pdf

    “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while parliament is in session.”

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  83. Epitaph for humanity:
    “They were smart enough to create problems for themselves they weren’t smart enough to solve.”

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  84. Jon,
    Of course everyone with proposal power will be listening to those who have (or can get) their ear. The question is ‘what sort of proposals get to go for a vote.’ ‘Merit’ alone is not sufficient. Goals and values are matters of opinion, not objective truths to be found. If we disagree on such things we will disagree on what constitutes a proposal with ‘merit’. Politics is all about resolving such conflicts. It’s about coming up with a path forward when the things that are good for you are in conflict with the things that are good for me. If we all had the same detailed set of goals, then all we’d need is a panel of competent people who could draw up and implement laws accordingly. But since we don’t, such people will end up being in a position to decide what goals and values are advanced.

    The resolution of conflict should begin with the (separate) representation of the conflicting interests so that negotiations can place. A panel consisting of reasonably well-off, ideologically homogeneous white men can only serve as a substitute to the extent that they are able to distinguish between what is good for reasonably well-off white men who share their idological leanings and what is good in a general sense and act accordingly even when it is what is bad for them. But the truth is a homogenous group is not a smart group. Even when it’s made up of smart members. And what gives them the right to compromise on my behalf anyway? I didn’t give them the go ahead. The legitimacy of such decisions rests on somewhat shakier footing. Such things matter, especially in diverse developing states where the continued survival of both the state and the political process is not a given. In more homogeneous states, the problem is not so serious. But it still exists.

    I would also caution against conflating the existence of a consensus with the discovery of an objective good.

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  85. Jon,

    >Vetting proposals for merit is not a democratic process, nor should it be . . . Most members of Congress are only expert in getting elected, although a few of them acquire some limited expertise in a few subjects after 20 years or so.

    No-one on this blog is seeking to defend our existing political arrangements. Naomi, Terry and myself have long been insistent regarding the distinction between expert (or “expert”) advocacy and democratic judgment and are seeking to develop a system that respects the distinct virtues of each. People with your skills are an essential part of the information/advocacy process, but the decision as to whether or not a proposal should go through for deliberative scrutiny has to be a democratic one.

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  86. Naomi,

    I only wish I could put it as well as you do!

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  87. The generation of proposals:
    Jon’s method 4 is just a specific variant of Naomi’s option 3. I definitely favor this third method … Proposals can come from anyone, and through some (I would argue democratic AND expert) process get narrowed to a manageable set of possibly good and viable options to be voted on by an allotted body. While Naomi’s proportional representation election sourcing of proposals would be better than existing winner-take-all election method of sourcing, that system still would suffer from the reality that (as Jon notes) “Most members of Congress are only expert in getting elected.” Party platforms/manifestos can only ever touch on a tiny fraction of issues that will be addressed in legislation, and parties always have to clump together positions that voters might prefer to consider a la carte. If there is some over-riding policy issue (like war or peace) voters will select parties based primarily on this issue, and get stuck with whatever proposals the elected parties have on transportation, education and pollution.

    That process of winnowing proposals to a manageable number is described in my paper as being handled by separate randomly selected bodies with full deliberation and substantial professional staff support. Such review bodies can benefit from the diversity Naomi mentions (“But the truth is a homogenous group is not a smart group. Even when it’s made up of smart members”), which party-generated proposals will lack. But as Keith notes repeatedly this active deliberation can lead to proposals that the whole citizenry might not accept if they could somehow all spend the time to learn and think them through, so the final decision goes to a separate allotted body of the sort Keith favors.

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  88. Yoram

    >Regarding “leaving the working of an allotted legislature to chance”: the question is not whether the procedures of such a body should be left to chance but whether they are better decided upon by a representative body (the allotted legislature itself, or a different allotted body) or should be dictated by some elite (non-representative) body. I think democracy clearly requires the former.

    If we’re talking about legitimacy here, the whole enterprise should ultimately hinge on a plebiscite. The internal working of the government is just as important as the method of its selection (probably more so in my opinion). The entire system should be spelled out in the Constitution and referred to the people.

    If the legislature determines its own rules and is free to change them at will, this (in my book) is chance. Each new crop of lawmakers may possibly come up with something different. Do they have a moral authority to do this? Yes, if we acquiese by not specifiying something better in the Constitution. But I think we would be very foolish to permit our lawmakers that much freedom.

    > Instead we should be concerned about how elites would act in order to derail any attempt at meaningful democratic reform.

    This is exactly my concern. I want our proposals to have a chance. I’m not overly concerned with the elite endgame for crushing an accomplished revolution, but knowing that they will fight us every inch of the way we need to come up with proposals that leave them some voice and some maneuvering room. I’m saying that I don’t think any proposal will ever get off the ground unless we accommodate the elite at least slightly. And if we do hold out at least a small olive branch (or twig) perhaps we may even find some friends within the elite. Surely there are members of this class who recognize that the long term situation is not tenable. If we ever hope to move beyond ideas and into some sort of meaningful action, money will be required. Where is it going to come from?

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  89. Terry,

    >active deliberation can lead to proposals that the whole citizenry might not accept if they could somehow all spend the time to learn and think them through, so the final decision goes to a separate allotted body.

    But, even allowing for the practical difficulty of reducing what could be a huge number of proposals, they would still be deciding on a subset that would be heavily affected by random factors (the idiosyncrasies of the dominant members of the committee). The alternative (reducing by open public votation proposals that had achieved the 100,000 vote petition threshold) has the merit of allowing everybody a say in what should be on the agenda. This is far more likely to be viewed as a democratically-legitimate form of winnowing down (even though it will be subject to manipulation by elites).

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  90. Thanks, Keith. The reason I favor an initiative process in a bicameral system is to undermine the ability of the elected house to decide policy on its own. If polices can *only* be introduced through the elected house, then the governing majority in the elected house has enough leverage over the process to get its way in the end. With an initiative, a more Swiss-style result seems likely. In the unicameral approach, I would much rather stick to pure electoralism. If nothing else, the advocacy for a proposal does not necessarily end with its passage. It might make sense to have someone in position to defend it throughout the session just in case others make proposals seeking to undermine it. And one mechanism is simpler (and more likely to be enacted) than two.

    Terry,
    > “Party platforms/manifestos can only ever touch on a tiny fraction of issues that will be addressed in legislation, and parties always have to clump together positions that voters might prefer to consider a la carte. If there is some over-riding policy issue (like war or peace) voters will select parties based primarily on this issue, and get stuck with whatever proposals the elected parties have on transportation, education and pollution.”

    Which is why you don’t leave the final decision up to the elected officials. You only need for the goal-and-value diversity of the electorate to be represented in the pool of advocates. The need to get the ratios exactly right is gone. Also, there’s no reason people can’t have multiple votes. They could have several so that they could express their support for multiple single issue parties as well as general-interest parties at the same time.

    As Jon said, the elected officials do listen to their constituents and their constituents make a diverse range of suggestions. The way I see it, as long as the diversity of values and goals are represented (in the same way lawyers represent their clients), there should be no problem, even if the advocates themselves are more alike than is ideal. Let’s consider the market analogy. Most companies aren’t exactly run by the most diverse group of people. Would a given company do better if it were? Yes, very likely. But would a market *as a whole* be healthier if all the companies competing in it were led by a diverse range of people? That’s a much more challenging question. In the case of the “perfect market,” with “perfect competition,” I’d doubt it. If we can sanitize the electoral market, move it toward the “perfect market” ideal, we’ll do well. Or so I believe.

    I’m also skeptical of using small allotted panels to winnow down proposals. If the groups are volunteer-based, then the group with the most radical fringe will do the best… and different ideologies will have incentive to generate the greatest number of radical-fringe members possible. If 2 or 3 percent of people believe the survival of the country depends on their volunteering at every opportunity they will dominate the debate. Even if the groups are proportional, proposals which approach a problem in a way that offends the ideological sensibilities of the average person are likely to get shut down long before they ever reach a full vote, even if they are outstanding proposals. If we want proposal-diversity in the final step (the *representative* step), and we use a winnowing option, the winnowing would somehow have to allow minority views to be propagated. I don’t see a way of doing that.

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  91. Paul,

    > But I think we would be very foolish to permit our lawmakers that much freedom.

    Who is this “we” you are talking of?

    The allotted have a much better claim to being “we” than any other group – certainly more than the elite groups of self-appointed rule writers who would write up various rule proposals for the masses to select from. But also a better claim than the the voters themselves who are in no position to know which rules would serve their interests. In general, plebiscites are a very blunt tool that can only be considered democratic in very special situations.

    Besides, even if the rules as set in the constitution were ideal at the time they were written, the inflexibility inherent in making the rules part of the constitution is problematic – it would prevent the legislature from evolving the rules as the need arises.

    Finally, if there are rules that the legislature must follow even when it considers them inappropriate, then who would monitor compliance and enforce the rules?

    > If we ever hope to move beyond ideas and into some sort of meaningful action, money will be required. Where is it going to come from?

    I think such concerns are premature. The difficult part, I think, is pushing sortition into the mainstream of political discussion as a democratic alternative to election. I suspect that once there is popular awareness there will be some non-negligible popular support, and then money should not be much of an issue. Funds could be raised via small regular contributions from the supporters of the cause.

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  92. I had a hunch that my use of the word “we” would get a reaction from you.

    Call me an elitist if you like but my hands are dirty, I live from paycheck to paycheck and I never went to college. My proletarian credentials are firmly intact. But I do not believe there is a snowball’s chance in hell that a large group of humans (however you select them) is capable of managing itself in a manner consistent with social justice or even rational self preservation UNLESS there are definite conditions laid out in advance for the management of this body. Otherwise, Nature will take its course; I don’t care if the group is composed of janitors, college professors or even a “statistically accurate” cross-section of the population at large. I am certain that it will end badly.

    Someday perhaps, if our culture evolves, things might be different. But today this is what we’re stuck with. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. There are certainly many more people in your camp than there are in mine. Therefore, presumably, you must be right.

    There was an opinion piece in The New York Times recently in which an astrophysicist speculated that the reason why we’ve never found any “intelligent life” in the Universe is because self-extinction is very possibly the normal outcome for a species which discovers technology.
    I liked Jon’s “epitaph for humanity” the other day but I would suggest a variant on his take;

    Homo Sapiens, a most narcissistic species which perished (paradoxically) because they were unable to look in a mirror.

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  93. I agree with Paul that rules should be established in advance by a separate (allotted) body, because any group that becomes aware of a majority interest within its ranks will tend to corrupt the rules to support a desired outcome, The rules must be above the policy goal at hand. Yoram wrote:
    >”Finally, if there are rules that the legislature must follow even when it considers them inappropriate, then who would monitor compliance and enforce the rules?”
    As in Athens, a complaint could be brought to an allotted court with the poser to overturn a law because it was adopted contrary to law or because it was unconstitutional. As in Athens, as a disincentive for trivial cases, a complainant that achieved less than one fifth of the vote by the jury would be subject to punishment (legal fees, etc.)

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  94. This is something of an addendum to my last post.

    If there is a systematic disconnect between the winnowing process and what the average person would want, then you end up with US-style gridlock. Opt-out beats opt-in but is no guarantee of broad participation. Wasn’t the participation rate for the BC citizen’s assembly abysmal? Even if you get a high participation rate, more passionate groups will be disproportionately represented. In the US, the Tea Party would be better represented in the review process because they are angrier than average and disproportionately consist of pensioners with nothing better to do. Though I suppose the pensioner aspect could be delt with through sample stratification.

    Likewise, angrier groups will almost certainly have more members who are willing to participate in debate and generally take on an active role, exacerbating all the concerns Keith has expressed.

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  95. Terry,

    My argument is against (1) setting procedures by plebiscite from a set of options written by elite groups, and (2) making procedures difficult to change. Having a separate allotted in charge of legislative procedures is not problematic in my opinion.

    > As in Athens, a complaint could be brought to an allotted court

    Again, as long as the monitoring and enforcement is by a representative body, there is no problem.

    The difference between Paul and me, as far as I understand, is not an issue of many allotted bodies vs. a single allotted body but that Paul wants to somehow limit the power of allotted bodies altogether and have some sort of rules that are imposed on all allotted bodies by a separate authority (a plebiscite as he sees things, but really a plebiscite can do no more than endorse a set of rules written by an elite body of some sort).

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  96. Paul,

    > My proletarian credentials are firmly intact.

    I am not doubting your credentials or your objectives. We are discussing methods, not objectives, as far as I understand.

    > I do not believe there is a snowball’s chance in hell that a large group of humans (however you select them) is capable of managing itself in a manner consistent with social justice or even rational self preservation UNLESS there are definite conditions laid out in advance for the management of this body.

    Yes – there problem of democratic government is a problem of scale. It is exactly the function of sortition to map a large-group situation to a small-group situation.

    However, if you believe that the rule-setting function requires a smaller group than other functions of parliament then the natural democratic solution seems to be to allot a smaller group to serve as a rule setting committee. Why not do that?

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  97. Yoram,
    > It is exactly the function of sortition to map a large-group situation to a small-group situation.

    The problem is the small-group situation shifts into the large group dynamic at statistically insignificant numbers. Isn’t the limit around two dozen? If you have a few hundred, then social stratification problems reemerge.

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  98. Naomi,

    The number at which all-to-all communication breaks down depends greatly on the circumstances. In a high-stakes, high resources situation such as the one of a nation’s legislature, the number is certainly much higher than two dozen. Intuitively it seems to me that the number would be somewhere around 300. This is in the same ballpark as “Dunbar’s number”.

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  99. Naomi,

    Isn’t your concern about potential bias of an opt-out sortition sample (“Even if you get a high participation rate, more passionate groups will be disproportionately represented”) far WORSE in an elective system? Who chooses to run for office if not the more “extreme” or ego-driven? Also allowing political parties (facing the electoral imperative) to shape the agenda is fraught with many other negatives. Winning an election (getting the needed proportional quota in PR system) often encourages the promotion of ethnic/religious /partisan rivalries (us vs. them). The “mood”of society is warped by such campaign rhetoric. That kind of “debate” helps win elections but hurts society. The issues that “naturally” rise on the agenda (in an electoral environment) are often those that pit one group against another, rather than boring issues such as infrastructure maintenance, or water quality.

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  100. Terry,
    > “Isn’t your concern about potential bias of an opt-out sortition sample far WORSE in an elective system?”

    Every single national-level interest/goal/value that could possibly get legislation passed through the policy jury will be represented if it can gain representation off 0.25% of the vote. If you do need to adopt a divisive stance to clear that threshold… you won’t be dividing very many people in the process.

    > “Who chooses to run for office if not the more “extreme” or ego-driven?”

    Like… you, you mean? No offense intended, I promise.

    Parties and politicians are rational actors. They warp the debate because doing so gives them an advantage. Take away the advantage and you take away the warping. If there’s almost no practical difference between winning 20% of the vote and 40%, then what incentive is there in warping the debate? Everyone hates negative politics, except maybe the most diehard partisans. In the long run wouldn’t it make more sense for parties to work on building a positive brand image? If a party/organization knows it will comfortably win enough representation to make and defend it’s policy proposals, why would they put up ego-driven extremists? Where is the motivation for doing so? If you were running an organization, and you knew your organization would clear the threshold (but not come anywhere near winning another seat) why in the world would you make the conscious choice to put up an ego-driven extremist? It’d be nuts. It would hurt your chances. No one likes people like that.

    On the other hand, if you can prevent legislation you dislike from ever getting to a full vote by radicalizing a subset of the masses, it would be strategically wise for media personalities with policy preferences to adopt an irrationally radical stance. Any sort of winnowing process will almost certainly squelch proposal diversity in favor of the least common denominator as represented in the winnowing panels. In a sectarian context only the proposals favored by the largest sect will go to a vote to the exclusion of all others.

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  101. What’s more, trying to adopt a divisive stance sounds kinda silly. “People like you will vote for proposals that destroy the country if I’m not in position to argue against them!” I mean really. Given the nature of the offices we are talking about, how could trying to divide the people give politicians any real advantage?

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  102. Naomi,

    I guess the difficulty is that both my sortition scheme and your elective scheme for narrowing proposals to present are untested in the real world… What would a party morph into if it only had the power to propose AND it was elected by PR with an extremely low threshold for inclusion?…On my side, how would an allotted (opt-out) group behave in a culture with or without an environment that included partisan election rhetoric? Since neither scenario has ever existed it is tricky to calculate… As a starting point perhaps the closest to your scheme is the parties of Switzerland (which I confess I know little about). Perhaps you can give a link to a brief summary of Swiss parties???

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  103. Naomi,
    p.s. Yes, by American standards my political ideology is extreme. But like many or most extremists, I have the belief that if I could only fully explain my reasoning and facts to average people, they would agree with me. This is one of the appeals of sortition…supporters of Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and the moderate middle share a disdain for status quo politicians, and could agree to let average people make the decisions after hearing all the arguments and full information.

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  104. This PDF has a reasonable discussion of parties in Switzerland: http://sotomo-ve.geo.uzh.ch/sotomo/pps/lit/ladner_07.pdf

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  105. Yoram

    What I’m primarily saying is simply that the legislators cannot be trusted to write their own rules. Their self-interest may corrupt the process. The rules must be set by a group which has no stake in the outcome.

    Presumably the rule setting group would be some sort of randomly selected Constitutional Convention. I say this because I think it’s what you would approve of as being Democratic. I imagine that something like this might work but I still remain skeptical. I expect that a random body will write rules which are weak and favor electoral mechanisms (within the legislative body). In the end I fear the alloted legislature will be dominated by a few ruthless individuals.

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  106. > The rules must be set by a group which has no stake in the outcome.

    It seems unlikely that any group would have not stake in the outcome, and certainly elite groups have a great stake – they wish to weaken the allotted body in order to maintain their own power.

    To the extent that the rule-writing group is representative, its stake is the same as that of the public at large and therefore it can be expected to set the rules in a way that would further the interests of the public.

    > I expect that a random body will write rules which are weak and favor electoral mechanisms (within the legislative body). In the end I fear the alloted legislature will be dominated by a few ruthless individuals.

    Again, I would expect rule-writers to try to write the rules in a way that best represents their own interests, and if the rule-writers are allotted then their own interests should align with those of the population from which they are drawn.

    Unless we are pre-assuming that the rule writers cannot represent their own interests then I see no reason why they would allow themselves to be manipulated into ceding power to a minority.

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  107. Yoram

    Yes, everyone has a stake in the outcome but once the legislative body has been formed don’t the lawmakers represent a unique minority which stands to gain from their special position? Hypothetically, if there were no rules at all governing their actions (beyond the requirements of majority consensus) they might even divide the nation’s treasury amongst themselves.

    By contrast, a group that will not be inhabiting the legislature has very different interests. And if this group is statistically representative presumably their judgment will reflect the broad interest of society at large. With a little luck, they may even have the wisdom to create rules which truly protect that interest.

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  108. Paul,

    As I wrote above, if your position is that the procedures of the parliament should be written by a separate representative body, then I don’t think there is a fundamental problem with that, as long as the body is representative (i.e., allotted from the entire population). The issue of division of authority between different allotted bodies is secondary to the fundamental point which is that all political power should reside within allotted bodies.

    > once the legislative body has been formed don’t the lawmakers represent a unique minority which stands to gain from their special position?

    Yes. If the society is in such a degraded state that an average group of citizens given any political power would quickly form a special interest group and exploit this power for personal gain then sortition cannot be expected to produce good government. Here I called this situation “a background state of low representativity”. It appears to me that in a society that has reached this degraded state, all is lost and good government is not a likely outcome under any institutional arrangement. Separating powers to different bodies would not help since the bodies could simply collaborate to serve the special interests of the members of the bodies.

    While this situation could theoretically occur luckily this doesn’t appear to be the case in the societies I am familiar with.

    (Note, by the way, that this argument is different from the one you raised before. Earlier you were concerned that a group would be manipulated by a minority within it and would act against its own interests. Now you are concerned that the interests of the body would be different from those of the population at large.)

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  109. Yoram,

    >To the extent that the rule-writing group is representative, its stake is the same as that of the public at large and therefore it can be expected to set the rules in a way that would further the interests of the public.

    For a refutation of this claim (which has no more substantive foundation than a logical syllogism) see Peter Stone’s introduction to the reprint of A Citizen Legislature.

    >If the society is in such a degraded state that an average group of citizens given any political power would quickly form a special interest group and exploit this power for personal gain then sortition cannot be expected to produce good government.

    If so, then the precautionary principle would suggest the sort of structural constraints imposed by a mixed constitution that required a substantial supermajority to change. Anyone with a modicum of respect for history would understand the functional role of the myth of the ancestral lawgiver. The other obvious argument against leaving constitutional design to a small all-powerful group of randomly-selected persons is that the vast majority of them would have no experience whatsoever of the governance requirements of large complex states or understanding of political and moral philosophy. But of course that wouldn’t matter as we are all (supposedly) creatures who blindly follow our own interests (or, more accurately, the interests of the socio-economic class of which we are a member) and political philosophy is nothing more than epiphenomenal flim-flam, constructed to justify the interests of the ruling hegemony (the 1%). Given that the interests of the 99% are homogeneous and this group will dominate the allotted assembly that’s all that’s necessary (assuming the minimal precondition that members will put class interests above their own personal interests). Of course this is nothing more than Marxoid claptrap and I don’t know why we have to waste so much time refuting it, particularly when the principal advocate of it on this forum is entirely immune to argumentation and repeats the same old fallacy over and over again.

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  110. Ouch!!!

    It’s my belief that Marx did a great service by pointing out the connection between social structure and economics. I only wish that the conversation hadn’t seemingly stalled at that point. If cultural attitudes on the subject of government can ever advance to the point of including biology as well then I might actually become an optimist

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  111. Agreed, the problem is when an explanatory model becomes the only show in town — individual persons being seen as interchangeable tokens for the collective interests that they represent. When persons pursue their own interests (and opt to go shopping rather than manning the barricades) this is viewed as a form of corruption (or false consciousness engendered by the hegemonic elite). Of course Marxists and fellow-travellers tend to be the most hostile to the intrusion of biology into the understanding of human behaviour (although the growing interest in Marx’s early works does reveal a different perspective, via the notion of species being).

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  112. An analogy I use to explain a person or group’s interest in one circumstance (while part of a decision-making body) and in a different circumstance (such as observing from the outside), is that of low-level bribery. Most members of society have a general interest in eliminating the corruption of bribery (like paying a government official so one’s application for some required permit doesn’t get “lost.”) However, when actually applying for the permit (in an ACTIVE state), one has an interest in seeing the bribe work effectively… bribing the petty official so your application gets quickly to the top of the pile. Depending on where you are (active or passive), your interest changes. We don’t want those in the active stage setting the rules, but rather those who are somewhat removed who can more easily take the long view.

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  113. Paul,

    FYI, I generally no longer read Sutherland’s comments. Having spent a long time trying in vain to either learn something from him or to have him learn something from me, I gave up. If you find any of his arguments worthwhile, please let me know.

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  114. Terry,

    The problem is more fundamental than that. This is Yoram’s claim:

    >To the extent that the rule-writing group is representative, its stake is the same as that of the public at large and therefore it can be expected to set the rules in a way that would further the interests of the public.

    There are no particular reasons (other than Yoram’s deductive syllogism) to believe that a group of randomly selected persons would automatically devise rules favouring the interests of the public in a domain for which they have no particular relevant experience. I asked Yoram earlier what would happen if the group decided to (effectively) abolish itself (as did the Athenian assembly at the end of the 5th century), by instituting a non-sortive form of government and he responded that the experiment would need to be repeated until they came up with the right answer.

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  115. Paul,

    Yoram boasted to me once that, despite having spent hundreds of hours debating sortition on this blog, he had not changed his basic views one jot or whittle. Whilst most of us view the blog as an educational medium in which we learn from each other, to Yoram it is just a medium for evangelisation, to convert the masses to the truth about “real democracy” so that they rise up and overthrow their oppressors. As the only tool that is required to arrive at the truth is deductive reasoning it’s unfair to describe this as Marxist, or Marxian, hence my term “Marxoid” (indicating a deterministic, collectivist mindset).

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  116. Paul,

    > Yoram boasted to me once that, despite having spent hundreds of hours debating sortition on this blog, he had not changed his basic views one jot or whittle.

    Among several other failures of character, Sutherland is a habitual liar and this is an example. If you ask him to provide a citation for this claim he will be unable to do so. At that point he may even retract his claim, but he will continue making this false claim and others in the future.

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  117. It was a few years ago Yoram. Perhaps you would like to tell us in what sense your fundamental views on sortition have changed as a result of the exchanges on this blog.

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  118. Paul,

    Note how Sutherland is not able – not even trying – to substantiate his false claim. He is simply a remorseless liar.

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  119. Paul, Terry,

    If the issue of setting the parliamentary procedures to serve those in power is so problematic, then why doesn’t this issue manifest itself as one of the main problems with electorally selected parliaments? Why would elected officials be free from this vice?

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  120. Yoram, it was one among a long string of email exchanges between us a few years ago, and I don’t have the time to dredge through them all. Look forward to your telling us in what respect your views on sortition have changed fundamentally over the last few years.

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  121. In other words: you are a liar.

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  122. Yoram asked:
    >If the issue of setting the parliamentary procedures to serve those in power is so problematic, then why doesn’t this issue manifest itself as one of the main problems with electorally selected parliaments? Why would elected officials be free from this vice?

    It IS a failing of parliamentary process where legislatures write their own rules. They tend to inflate the power of longevity, and of central powers (Speaker of the House, committe chairs, etc.). I recall while serving in the Vermont House of Representatives, I proposed using a lottery to set the order in which members wold choose their own committee assignments and elect their own chair, rather than having the Speaker have all of the power of appointment. That resolution was referred to the Rules Committee that the Speaker dominated, where it never even received a hearing.

    The point is not that sortition bodies would UNIQUELY have this problem, but that all bodies able to modify their rules on the fly will have occasion to abuse that power.

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  123. Terry,

    First, note that the problem as you describe it in the example you gave is a matter of unequal power within the legislature rather than a matter of the legislators using their power at the expense of society as a whole.

    In any case, this does not seem like one of the top issues causing problems for the citizens. To the extent that it is a problem of the current system, it may be more an issue of the electoral system and the professionalism that it promotes than an issue inherent in rule setting.

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  124. Keith

    What works by Marx should I refer to? I’m hardly familiar with him. I struggled through the Manifesto once and I think that’s about as far as I got.

    Terry

    Liked your story about the Vermont legislature. Even in Vermont, which we all love to idealize, power does like to maintain its hold. BTW what part of the state do you live in? My folks retired to Charlotte about twenty years ago. Occasionally I visit them or (more frequently) my wife and I will spend a few days in Rochester.

    Yoram

    I would like to suggest an intellectual exercise; imagine a room with five hundred newly elected lawmakers (a perfect statistical representation of their State). In the absence of any Constitutional provisions for the conduct of this new legislature how do you see the first days and weeks of this experiment playing out? It’s purely an exercise in fiction but sometimes that’s the best we can do (given the actual difficulty of creating such a situation). If you can describe this situation in a manner that sounds plausible and ends well I will be tremendously impressed.

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  125. Paul,

    I live in Burlington, but lived in East Charlotte for a couple of years in the late 1970’s.

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  126. Paul,

    I see no reason that the allotted would have this start-from-scratch situation that you are describing any more than this is the situation in a newly elected parliament.

    Some sort of continuity is expected. For example, it makes sense that there would a shadowing period for incoming allotted delegates in which they follow incumbents and learn existing parliamentary procedures. It may also make sense to stagger the terms so that, say, one quarter of the delegates get replaced every year.

    That said, I’ll repeat that I don’t see any fundamental problem with allotting some sort of meta-body in charge of rule-making, a body which may be smaller than the legislature.

    I would also add that even if a start-from-scratch situation as you describe does occur, I would not take a bad outcome as being inevitable. The large group may very well decide to allot a small subgroup to set procedures before proceeding with its business.

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  127. Yoram,

    >I would also add that even if a start-from-scratch situation as you describe does occur, I would not take a bad outcome as being inevitable. The large group may very well decide to allot a small subgroup to set procedures before proceeding with its business.

    If so then the rule making body would be statistically unrepresentative, so what would be its legitimating principle? And what if it decided that the last thing it wanted was a full-mandate sortition form of government? It might even decide that all citizens should have the right to elect their preferred representatives.

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  128. Paul,

    The 1844 Manuscripts are the primary source but Norman Geras’s Marx and Human Nature would be the best introduction to the view that Marx, or at least the early Marx, was not just an economic determinist.

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  129. Terry

    What would actually be required to put a sortition candidate on the ballot in Vermont? I assume you’d have to create a sortition “Party” and collect a threshold number of signatures. Is that basically it or are there some sort of legal obstacles that would prevent such a thing?

    I’m sure you must have thought about this

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  130. A new party is too much of a hurtle. Getting support from an existing party would be more feasible. The Libertarian Party is a good prospect. I have almost gotten it to add sortition to its platform. Of course, each party would prefer that the only candidates in the selection pool be their fellow partisans.

    Another approach would be to get influential think tanks to recommend it.

    I think adoption is unlikely unless or until we undergo a traumatic event that is blamed on the electoral process. (Although one might think we are already in the midst of such.)

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  131. Jon,

    >I think adoption is unlikely unless or until we undergo a traumatic event that is blamed on the electoral process.

    The trouble is that sortition would more than likely be viewed as making the problem worse and would lead to a demand for government by unelected technocrats (if the people are so stupid as to be misled by demagogues then they are too stupid to govern). Rather than waiting for the apocalypse we would be better off adopting a more conciliatory approach towards the existing power elites. (Those who find this distasteful could always view it as the thin end of the wedge or a Trojan Horse.) I agree that a powerful think tank would be a great ally, but the same argument would apply, as these are elite institutions.

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  132. > Of course, each party would prefer that the only candidates in the selection pool be their fellow partisans.

    That sounds quite reasonable. The Morena case is almost like that, except that they have an early election round for forming the pool of candidates.

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  133. Nothing is going to happen unless or until we have a lot of successful exercises of it at the local and private levels. Morena provides an example of that. Election itself was not adopted until it had been successfully tried in many exercises over decades or centuries.

    A good place to start would be in public and private schools. That is where most of us first learned at least a simplified version of Robert’s Rules of Order, but that started with the election of class officers, so the indoctrination began early. I can imagine that using a kind of Venetian system might be popular among students.

    So it might take a generation or two, and we may not have that long, but we do what we can.

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  134. >Nothing is going to happen unless or until we have a lot of successful exercises of it at the local and private levels…So it might take a generation or two

    I sincerely hope you’re wrong as I can scarcely imagine there’ll be much left worth salvaging by then. I realize it’s unusual for major changes to happen rapidly but I like to believe that a lot could happen fast if some significant faction of the elite were supporting it. But even when I’m being optimistic it’s tough to imagine the Constitution will be amended anytime soon. So the question in my mind is what sort of innovation, short of this, could insert a sortional “check” on the dysfunction of elective government.

    I think of the House Republicans throwing up their various “roadblocks” and then I imagine a more rational alloted group exercising that same negative function. Scarcely anyone’s idea of good government, but maybe something to slow our descent into the abyss…

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  135. There are several ways sortition could be done in the U.S. without amending the Constitution, although after it was working for a while we might want to amend the Constitution to entrench it:

    (1) Selecting the electors of the Electoral College. The method we use now is prescribed by statue in every state. No reason those have to be selected by a popular vote for slates of electors, but might need to begin by changing the law to require electors be elected individually and separately rather than by slate. That might prepare the public for a better way.
    (2) Selecting the nominees for U.S. Senate. The 17th amendment now requires a popular election, but says nothing about nomination. Sortition (or more precisely, fetura/eduction/winition — a Venetian-like method) could be used to narrow the alternatives to two, although write-ins would have to be allowed.
    (3) Selecting the members, or at least the nominees, for U.S. House of representatives. Even if the statute requiring single-member districts were not repealed, this could be done in each district. Perhaps just for nomination, with election for the last two.
    (4) Appointing federal judges not to a particular court, but to a general pool from which they would be randomly assigned to courts for one term, and to cases until the case is decided, including the Supreme Court.
    (5) Use eduction for appointing and assigning civil servants, leaving them in one assignment long enough to learn their jobs, but not long enough to “build an empire” there. (This is now done for military personnel.)
    (6) Use fetura to appoint and assign most congressional staffers to members, to avoid having them becoming the real power in each house.
    (7) Use winition to appoint members of all kinds of boards and commissions.
    (8) Require all states to use sortition to select members of grand juries.
    (9) Use sortition to select a successor to the president and vice-president in case they both leave office prematurely.

    Every one of these appointments is now done according to statute and could be done differently without constitutional amendment.

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