Using elections as an accountability mechanism is like a bank’s board of directors appointing a new bank manager for a 4-year term and telling him that if he steals the depositors’ money then there is some chance that he will not be re-appointed to run the bank for another term (but he will get to keep the money he took). A manager who sees his job as a means for self-enrichment is clearly better off simply taking the money. No matter how many years of service he can secure if he stays honest, his salary will never amount to what he can steal in a single term.
Besides, if the replacement managers are all as greedy as the current manager, what good would replacing the manager do?
In short, seeing elections as providing an effective means of incentivizing a government to promote the interests of the average citizen is hopelessly unrealistic. It is remarkable that this view is standard in both popular discourse and professional political science literature.
12. The training and service experiences would likely cause people to change their minds about various issues and in this way become unrepresentative.
As the allotted delegates study issues it is indeed to be expected that they will adopt views on matters that they were not aware of before, and occasionally will even come to have opinions that contradict previously held ones. In this sense the allotted become unrepresentative – they are better informed and have spent more time and effort considering various matters of policy than the average citizen does.
This, however, is not a problem – it is the entire point of having decisions made by an allotted body rather than by plebiscite. While the latter will yield policy determined by uninformed, unconsidered public opinion responding to an agenda set by elite actors, the former yields policy that reflects informed, considered public opinion and the corresponding agenda.
While the allotted chamber is unrepresentative in its level of understanding of the issues, it continues to be representative of the public’s interests and core values. Those, together with the improved understanding, make it possible for the allotted body to implement policy that serves the citizens rather than serving the electoral elite and its allies.
13. What would be the delegate training course? The organization controlling the training would wield significant political power.
New allotted delegates can be expected to go through some sort of a training course before they assume the responsibility of decision-making. During this course they will become familiar with established procedures of the chamber and with the existing policies in important areas of government activity. The design of the training course does indeed have the potential to have significant impact on the delegates, and through them on policy.
It is therefore important that the training course will be run by a representative agency. It should be the allotted delegates themselves – the newly allotted together with those allotted earlier – who together design and control the training process.
14. Before promoting sortition at the national level, it should be tried out at the municipal level or in other lesser-powered bodies.
It is useful to try out sortition-based government in various settings. However, it is important to consider carefully what are the features of sortition that make it a promising democratic method and to make sure the setting in which it is tried match those features.
A body that deals with matters that are specialized or routine will not garner much public interest. In such a situation it would be hard to recruit motivated people to an allotted body and the body would work with little public scrutiny or appreciation. Under such circumstances it is not likely that representative decision-making would occur. It may be better to have a professional body that is appointed and monitored by and accountable to an allotted body with a wider ranging purview.
For example, instead of applying sortition at the municipal level, where most activity attracts very little attention, it may make sense to use allotted bodies for specific issues that garner a lot of public interest. For example, an allotted body that handles corruption in existing national-level bodies. Or a body that sets policy in major long-term areas, such as taxation, health care or environmental regulations.
It is important, however, to have bodies that are permanent rather than ad-hoc and short-lived, so that they get the chance to develop thoroughgoing solutions and take policy from proposals all the way to implementation, evaluation, and through multiple revision cycles. Ad-hoc, short-lived bodies are easy prey to manipulation by the long-term political players. Such bodies would quickly lose credibility when it is seen that they are ineffective and are no more than a theater of democracy.
15. Democracy is not the unchecked rule of the people. Democracy should involve the people but at the same time limit its caprices – this is the function of the electoral system.
One might as well argue that some high council of religious scholars should be able to check the rule of the people.
Democracy is a situation where all citizens have equal political power. No institutional arrangement can guarantee that democracy will emerge (although some arrangements – such as monarchies and electoral systems – are simply incompatible with democracy). It is true, for example, that it is conceivable that the informed and considered decision of a majority of the people will result in undemocratic policies, such as forcibly suppressing certain ideas and thereby preventing some people from advocating for their views.
However, there is no democratic way to “check” the rule of the people. Any mechanism that restricts the range of feasible policy potentially privileges the opinions and interests of some minority over the opinions and interests of those who support policies that are outside of the allowed range. In particular, the electoral mechanism directly privileges the opinions and interests of the electoral elite and its allies over those of average person. There is no reason to believe that the outcomes of electoral systems are better, in any meaningful sense, than the outcomes of more representative policies.