In an address called “What is Political Science For?” at the 2013 American Political Science Association’s Annual Meeting, APSA President Jane Mansbridge mentioned sortition as one of the new areas being studied for grounding legitimacy. She referenced Fishkin & Ober in her footnote to the statement. The thrust of her talk is that political scientists (democratic theorists especially) should turn their focus away from preventing tyranny and towards creating “legitimate coercion” because the world is facing rather formidable collective action problems that cannot be solved otherwise. Together with Waldron’s “Political Political Theory” article it leads me to believe that there is some movement in the field towards the questions that we often discuss here on Equality by Lot. Below are some excerpts from the full article found here.
This address advances three ideas. First, political science as a discipline has a mandate to help human beings govern themselves. Second, within this mandate we should be focusing, more than we do now, on creating legitimate coercion. In a world of increasing interdependence we now face an almost infinite number of collective action problems created when something we need or want involves a “free-access good.” We need coercion to solve these collective action problems. The best coercion is normatively legitimate coercion. Democratic theory, however, has focused more on preventing tyranny than on how to legitimate coercion. Finally, our discipline has neglected an important source of legitimate coercion: negotiation to agreement. Recognizing the central role of negotiation in politics would shed a different light on our relatively unexamined democratic commitments to transparency in process and contested elections. This analysis is overall both descriptive and aspirational, arguing that helping human beings to govern themselves has been in the DNA of our profession since its inception.
Compared to our needs, we know very little about how to govern ourselves. We don’t know how to coerce ourselves into giving up what we need to give up in order to stop global warming. We don’t know how to stop nuclear proliferation. We don’t know how to transition from autocracy to democracy without descending into violence.Closer to home, we don’t know how to tax ourselves sufficiently to keep our infrastructure from crumbling or how to pay for the rising medical costs of an aging population. We don’t know how to produce laws in a polarized Congress or how to reduce that polarization. We don’t know how to keep ourselves from drifting into greater and greater inequality. At this moment of great need and relative ignorance, political science is the one academic discipline explicitly organized to study how we make our collective decisions on these matters, and how we can make them legitimately.
[C]ollective action problems have become much more central to human life in the last hundred years. As we increase in number, free-access goods that were earlier supplied by nature (clean air, clean and sufficient water, fish in the sea) require more and more human action to maintain or produce them. As human beings also produce more complex goods and develop more refined demands (like blueberries in the winter), we become more and more interdependent. And as we become more interdependent, we require more free- access goods, such as contract enforcement and certain forms of reliable knowledge. To get these free-access goods, we need more legitimate coercion.
The Best Coercion Is Legitimate Coercion
Many studies have shown that people are more likely to obey a law they consider legitimate. The more legitimate they think the coercion is, the less often sanctions need to be applied. Thus the best coercion is legitimate coercion. Less legitimate coercion throws sand in the cogs, the system begins to grind more slowly and less well, and the product becomes more expensive—sometimes too expensive to compete.
Negotiating to Agreement
We have learned a great deal in the last fifty years about the legitimacy-inducing power and shortcomings of democratic mechanisms such as unanimity and majority rule, deliberation, and many forms of electoral representation. Recently we have even begun to understand better the legitimacy that can be based on representation by lot.22
One legitimating mechanism, however, has been surprisingly neglected both empirically and normatively, namely negotiation to agreement.
All of the subfields in political science are involved in the process of trying to improve the processes by which we govern ourselves. We need to explore the ideals we have—or think we have—about how we should govern ourselves. We need to explore the polity we know most intimately, whether it be the United States of America or another polity, to understand it in greater depth. We need to compare existing governments to one another, to ferret out their greatest strengths and weaknesses. We need to understand better how states and other entities relate to one another and how they can do so more productively.