The Sortition Foundation‘s take on what is sortition, how it might work, and why they like it – all in a very short video!
That makes the second Spitz (for outstanding work in democratic theory) to a Sortinista in three years, following John McCormick’s Machiavellian Democracy in 2013.
This is a repost from the Sortition Foundation blog.
Sortition is coming soon to the UK!
Or at least three citizens’ assemblies and one forum presenting aspects of sortition are happening in the coming months:
- A 200-member Citizens’ Assembly, as part of the NHS Citizen project, will occur on Wednesday 25 November in London.
- Two 45-member Citizens’ Assembly Pilot Projects will each be held over two weekends, in Sheffield on 17-18 October and 7-8 November, and in Southampton on 24-25 October and 14-15 November.
- The Policy Network, who recently published a report that included a call for the House of Lords to be replaced with a Citizens’ Assembly, are organising a forum on 15 October in London, “Contact Democracy in the modern world: An Australian perspective on democratic renewal.”
- Jon Trickett MP, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, has promised that “Labour will organise a series of citizens’ assemblies across the country.” It is unclear at this point if these will use sortition or not.
Imagine that the Fed were to announce that, a year from today, it would pick a digit from zero to 9 out of a hat. All currency with a serial number ending in that digit would no longer be legal tender. Suddenly, the expected return to holding currency would become negative 10 percent.
This, was the suggestion put forward in 2009 by the economist N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, to overcome the ‘problem’ that the dollar/pound/euro in your pocket could not be taxed when inflation falls below zero.
Ray Fisman, a Boston University economist, and Daniel Markovits from Yale Law School write in Slate about “The distributional preferences of an elite”, a study they recently published in Science magazine. In the final paragraphs they say:
Elites’ preferences matter. The American elite overwhelmingly dominates both campaign finance and political lobbying, and American policymakers themselves come overwhelmingly from elite circles—the powerbroker Yale Law alumni mentioned above represent just the tip of a vast iceberg.
Our results thus shine a revealing light on American politics and policy. They suggest that the policy response to rising economic inequality lags so far behind the preferences of ordinary Americans for the simple reason that the elites who make policy—regardless of political party—just don’t care much about equality. Hemingway’s illusory but widely shared view that the only thing that separates the rich from the rest is their money thus disguises a central pathology of American public life. When American government undemocratically underdelivers economic equality, the cause is less party than caste.
Democracy gives the mass of citizens a path for protest when the gap between ordinary views and a closed rank of elite opinion grows too great. The populist insurgencies that increasingly dominate the contests to select both the Republican and Democratic candidates in the upcoming presidential election show the protest path in action. Elites—in both parties—remain baffled by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ appeal; and they prayerfully insist that both campaigns will soon fade away. Our study suggests a different interpretation, however. These bipartisan disruptions of elite political control are no flash in the pan, or flings born of summer silliness. They are early skirmishes in a coming class war.
This topic came up recently. Here is the most thorough discussion of this matter in the primary sources that I am aware of. Aristotle is describing here (Politics, 1317a-1318a) what he considers as the conventional wisdom of his time:
And for this inquiry we must take into view all the features that are popular and that are thought to go with democracies; for it comes about from combinations of these that the kinds of democracy are formed, and that there are different democracies and more than one sort. In fact there are two causes for there being several kinds of democracy, first the one stated before, the fact that the populations are different （for we find one multitude engaged in agriculture and another consisting of handicraftsmen and day-laborers, and when the first of these is added to the second and again the third to both of them it not only makes a difference in that the quality of the democracy becomes better or worse but also by its becoming different in kind）; and the second cause is the one about which we now speak. For the institutions that go with democracies and seem to be appropriate to this form of constitution make the democracies different by their combinations; for one form of democracy will be accompanied by fewer, another by more, and another by all of them. And it is serviceable to ascertain each of them both for the purpose of instituting whichever of these kinds of democracy one happens to wish and for the purpose of amending existing ones. For people setting up constitutions seek to collect together all the features appropriate to their fundamental principle, but in so doing they make a mistake, as has been said before in the passage dealing with the causes of the destruction and the preservation of constitutions. And now let us state the postulates, the ethical characters and the aims of the various forms of democracy.