Threlkeld: Juries, not referenda

Simon Threlkeld has shared the full text of his 1998 article in Social Policy journal. A PDF version is here.

A Blueprint for Democratic Law­ Making: Give Citizen Juries the Final Say

Simon Threlkeld

threlkeld-photo

Simon Threlkeld is a Canadian lawyer with his own law practice in Toronto; he has been on the steering committees of various social∙ change organizations such as the social justice­ oriented Law Union of Ontario.

In jurisdictions from California to Switzerland, citizens have the right to initiate binding referendum votes by getting enough petition signatures. Unfortunately, referenda are a drastically flawed way to give citizens a final say in law­making. Referenda are ill­-suited for the informed decision-­making necessary for meaningful democracy and are heavily skewed in favor of wealth and power. A different approach is needed.

“Juries” or “jury assemblies” are the most effective and optimal way to give citizens a final say about laws. By a “jury” or “jury assembly,” I mean a group of citizens randomly chosen from the citizenry and convened to make an informed decision. Juries are chosen by random selection because that is the best way to get a representative cross-­section of the citizenry. Each citizen has the same chance and right to be chosen as any other.

A jury is well suited for making an informed decision because the jurors can meet face to face and work full time for the days, weeks, or months needed to become fully informed about the matter at hand. Jurors are paid so they can afford to serve full time.

By combining a capacity to make an informed decision with being a representative cross-­section of the citizens, a jury gives expression to the informed will of the citizenry­ – the highest democratic mandate that a law can have.

Citizen groups can be allowed to bring proposed laws before a jury for a short preliminary hearing of the arguments for and against the law. After the preliminary hearing, the jury decides by majority vote whether to reject the proposed law or to refer it for full in ­depth jury hearings. If a jury approves the law by majority vote after such full hearings, then the law goes into effect.

In this way, laws supported by the informed will of the citizenry can be brought into effect even if opposed or ignored by elected government. This is a giant step forward for citizen sovereignty.

Supporters and opponents of the proposed law can be given a full and equal opportunity to present their views to the jury in face-to­-face meetings. Jurors can ask questions of the presenters and meet with fellow jurors for deliberation.

A special jury commission can fully work out the best possible arrangements and procedures for juries on an ongoing basis. Each member of this commission, can be democratically chosen by a jury for a set term. The Greek democracies of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. were largely run by groups of citizens chosen by lottery. In England, the United States, and other common­ law countries, trial juries have for centuries been made up of citizens chosen by random selection. This basic idea from Classical Greece and the Anglo-­American legal tradition can be adapted to give citizens an effective say in law­making today.

Jury Selection

Juries deciding laws can number, say, 100 to 1,000 citizens so that they will be a highly rep­resentative cross-­section of the citizenry. The larger a random sample, the more accurate a cross section it tends to be.

A jury made up of a random sample of 1,000 citizens has the same portion of citizens with a given characteristic as the citizenry does, within 3%, 19 times out of 20, and within 4%, 99 times out of 100. This is an extremely accurate cross­-section of the citizens. Random samples of 200 and 100 are respectively accurate within 7% and 10%, 19 times out of 20, and within 9% and 13%, 99 times out of 100.

The exact size of juries can itself be decided by juries so that the choice will be based on the informed will of the citizens. Larger juries are more accurate cross­-sections, but smaller juries cost less.

As more and more juries serve over time, the overall number of jurors who serve becomes a more and more accurate cross­-section of the citizens. For example, if over the course of a year, each of 50 proposed laws is decided by a jury of 100 citizens, then overall the fate of these proposed laws will be decided by 5,000 citizens. A random sample of 5,000 is accurate within 1.5%, 19 times out of 20, and within 2%, 99 times out of 100.

Stratification can be used to further increase the representativeness of juries. If, for example, 51% of the citizens are women, then 51% of jurors can be randomly chosen from women and 49% from men. Age, race, and type of residence are among the other characteristics that are easily stratified.

If a jury is larger than a size conducive to group discussion, then the jurors can break into smaller subgroups from time to time to discuss the proposal with other jurors. Presentations to the jury and questions to presenters can be made in plenary.

Sometimes several different citizen groups may propose several conflicting laws on the same topic. Such alternative options can all be considered by the same jury.

There can be fixed deadlines for citizens to submit proposed laws, say two each year, one in the spring and the other in the fall. Proposed laws can be made available at a website, “www.laws.com,” and can be down loaded in hard copy upon request at, say, public libraries. Proponents can be required to provide a brief statement of the case in favor of the law that can appear with the proposed law on the web site. Opponents can be given a set time to file their opposition to the law, including a brief statement of their reasons, all of which can appear at the web site.

The cases for and against the proposed law need to be presented to the jury in the most effective and thorough manner possible so as to facilitate a fully informed decision. To this end, it will be best if the respective cases are each under capable and unified direction.

The opponents of the proposed law can be asked to meet together to decide who will direct the case against the law. If they cannot agree, then the various people or groups who wish to be in charge can appear before a small jury, of 15 or so citizens, for a short hearing. This small jury will decide who will direct the case based on who can do the most thorough and effective job.

If several citizen groups propose the same law, then who will direct the case in favor can be decided in the same way as who directs the case against. If only one citizen group proposes the law, then it will be in charge. Any cases in favor of a law that are still under incompetent direction by the preliminary hearing stage will probably be screened out by the jurors.

The jury commission’s decisions on arrangements and procedures for juries can themselves be subject to jury approval. This will help ensure that the arrangements and procedures are in accord with the informed will of the citizens.

Elected governments should not decide any of the procedures and arrangements for jury hearings, as they have a serious conflict of interest. Nor should elected governments choose members of the jury commission because that is undemocratic and opens the door to patronage and political manipulation.

Juries vs. Referenda

Juries are suitable for deciding all types of laws at all levels of government, from municipal by­laws about smoking to national laws on the environment and taxes.

Referenda, including the initiative, are unsuitable for the informed decision-­making needed for real democracy. Citizens only learn about proposed laws in their spare time as the 30­ second TV ads.

In­-depth jury hearings are an infinitely better basis for an informed decision than a referendum vote. Jurors work full time to become well informed, hold face­-to­-face hearings with the supporters and opponents of the law, and hash out the evidence and arguments with each other.

Further, each jury focuses on one proposed law or on several alternative proposals on the same topic, unlike referenda where many different matters may appear on the ballot.

An effective referendum campaign requires a lot of money to get the message out to the voters. The need for deep pockets can be especially intense when the proposed law is opposed by wealthy interests that can pour millions of dollars into the opposition campaign. Few public interest groups can raise the needed funds.

Appearing before a jury requires only a tiny fraction of the money and people needed for an effective referendum campaign. Citizen groups with little in the bank are on a far more level playing field with the rich and powerful.

Those who vote in referenda may be unrepresentative of the citizenry. A mobilized minority can defeat the interests and preferences of the majority, especially where voter turnout is low. Or, men may tend to vote more than women or the upper middle class more than the poor, and so on. But with juries, random selection and stratification ensure that those who decide are a highly representative cross­-section of the citizenry.

In referenda, the media must be relied on to reach the citizens. What the media emphasize, play down, ignore, and distort can be important to the outcome. With juries, by contrast, jurors meet directly face to face with the sup porters and opponents of the proposed law.

In the initiative and referendum, the number of issues being decided by citizens must be kept small because the more numerous the issues on the ballot, the less the prospect of the citizens becoming well informed about them. Access to the ballot is restricted by means of an onerous requirement to gather a large number of petition signatures within a set time. Those with enough money can buy their way onto the ballot by paying for an army of petition gatherers. Those who cannot afford to buy access can only get an issue onto the ballot if they can mobilize a sufficiently large and effective force of volunteer petition gatherers. This effectively excludes the vast majority of public interest groups from access to the ballot, no matter how good their ideas might be.

With juries, the preliminary stage is not a petition drive, but rather a preliminary hearing. As no great resources are needed to appear at such a hearing, a capable public interest group with no substantial funding is on a par with large and wealthy interests.

Whether a proposed law gets further consideration is decided by jurors on the merits, not by who can purchase or mobilize the vast amount of donkey work needed to meet the signature requirement.

Juries are much better than referenda for expressing the informed will of the citizens and are far freer from the distortions of wealth and power. Referenda may be a step in the right direction, but they pale by comparison to the vastly more democratic and equalitarian possibilities of jury hearings.

In electoral democracy, elected governments are free to impose laws that are contrary to the informed will of the citizens. The democratic way is for the citizens, not the politicians, to have the final say about which laws go into effect.

When the government passes a law, it can go before a jury for a preliminary hearing, where the jury decides whether to allow the law or to refer it for full in ­depth jury hearings. If rejected by a jury after such full hearings, the law does not go into effect. In this way, laws opposed by the informed will of the citizens can be prevented. This is a major advance for popular sovereignty. The informed will of the citizens is, from a democratic point of view, the best authority and mandate a law can have.

Jury hearings are the most effective way to express and measure the citizenry’s informed will. The sooner law­-making is reformed by the introduction of jury hearings, the better.­­

Copyright, Simon Threlkeld, 1998, all rights reserved, posted here (at Equality by Lot) with the permission of the author Simon Threlkeld.

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96 Responses

  1. Hi Simon,

    How long would a jury serve? How many bills would it handle?

    Also, you seem to have no problem with very large juries. To me this is a crucial issue. At what point does a jury become essentially no different from the electorate? It seems to me that once the body grows beyond a few hundred people at most, then the pathologies of a mass body take over and the advantages of sampling are lost.

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  2. Simon,

    The trouble is most statisticians insist that 1,000 is the minimum to create a reasonably accurate sampling (see John Garrie’s argument on this forum) at https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/sortition-and-the-need-for-internal-deliberation/ I’m not sure whether the diachronic argument (p.7 of the pdf version) based on aggregate representativity (50 laws decided by juries of 5,000) is persuasive, as it would be better if each law was decided by a representative sample. As you know my preferred strategy is a sample of around 300 but with strenuous efforts to ensure representativity (quasi-manditory participation, exogenous advocacy, no internal deliberation and a sufficient majority threshold to exceed the standard deviation margin appropriate to the sample size). This would be combined with an earlier filter (public votation) to ensure that every measure considered by the jury would have already benefited from a popular preference test. I’m not convinced by the argument for preliminary juries as either the jury provides considered scrutiny (with balanced advocacy) or it doesn’t, so the decision whether or not to refer the proposal for full scrutiny could be both uninformed and random (in the votation case it would only be uninformed). In short stochation, IMHO, is only applicable to the final decision function.

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  3. > most statisticians insist that 1,000 is the minimum to create a reasonably accurate sampling

    This is pure nonsense. It is literally meaningless.

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  4. I’m not a statistician, I was just quoting John.

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  5. First, I doubt this is true. Please provide a direct quote.

    Second, if are quoting someone or relying on someone’s authority, not making this clear falls somewhere between sloppyness and plagiarism.

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  6. Yoram:

    >Please provide a direct quote.

    “I’d always want an absolute minimum of 1000.” https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/sortition-and-the-need-for-internal-deliberation/#comment-15835

    Although John Garry’s ideal would be a larger number:

    “1000 might fit in which would be fine, but if one wanted to minimise as much as possible the margin of error around any estimate (any % distribution regarding a decision) and hence maximise reproducibility then 2000 might be better.” https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/sortition-and-the-need-for-internal-deliberation/#comment-15831

    >if you are quoting someone or relying on someone’s authority, not making this clear falls somewhere between sloppyness and plagiarism

    EbL is an internet forum designed for the informal exchange of views (often using mobile phones), not a publication of record such as a peer-reviewed journal, so less exacting standard apply.

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  7. Simon,

    This sounds like a reasonable approach. It has many similarities to my own design for multi-body sortition (single-issue juries, a pre-filter jury to select agenda items, a separate jury to adjust such things as the appropriate size of juries, etc.).

    On the value and appropriateness of face-to-face deliberation, briefly mentioned here (and discussed in comments much more on one of your other posts), I want to make a point. The chief benefit of such active deliberation is the ability to pull together diffuse community knowledge and perspectives to craft win-win compromise solutions… in other words, amending and adjusting a proposal to perfect a final optimal form. It is far less helpful for simply helping each individual member in deciding whether to vote yes or no on a fixed proposal. Indeed, the negatives of group-think, go-with-the-flow, influence of high-status members, even intimidation can be introduced by such deliberation style (and, though of less concern to me than to Keith, a potential for the group as a whole to thereby move away from being accurately representative of the whole.) In YOUR design, where each policy jury is only deciding YES or NO, presenting well crafted pro and con arguments, combined with the opportunity for jurors to ask questions of the witnesses might be better than active face-to-face deliberation among jurors. In this case, there may be no need to physically gather at one location at all, but rather relying on electronic communications.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Terry:

    >The chief benefit of such active deliberation is the ability to pull together diffuse community knowledge and perspectives to craft win-win compromise solutions… in other words, amending and adjusting a proposal to perfect a final optimal form.

    True, but I don’t think jury is the appropriate term for such a body. John Burnheim refers to them as demarchic committees, councils and the like. Like him, I doubt whether stochation is the appropriate selection for such a body (he only uses sortition as an impartial mechanism to winnow down the volunteers to a manageable committee size of a dozen or so).

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  9. Sutherland,

    Obviously, the quote you provided is very different from your original claim. As always you are very careless with the facts.

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  10. ? [!]

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  11. Keith,

    Let me help…. You first wrote:
    “most statisticians insist that 1,000 is the minimum to create a reasonably accurate sampling”
    This is not true, and your cited source never said any such thing. He said that HE would want a minimum of 1,000 for a high stakes public policy decision and that “if one wanted to minimise as much as possible the margin of error” that might rise to 2,000. So the controlling variable is how accurate or how wide the range of possible deviation you are comfortable with. Polling firms sometimes shoot for around 1,000 for some polls (e.g. when they want to know if one candidate is a few percentage points ahead of another candidate), and around 400 for others. Samples of less that 400 are useful as well when a assessing a general trend (majority support or not) is the goal. For many purposes statisticians would tell a client not to waste money on a larger survey, since the increased precision simply isn’t needed.

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  12. “What he would want” refers to his status as a statistician, not some subjective whim, and lawmaking would normally qualify as high-stakes public policy. It’s quite simple: if the target population is evenly divided on an issue then a large sample would be required, if there is a clear majority one way or the other, then a small sample will suffice. Lawmaking by proxy isn’t the same thing as surveying public opinion, so the sample size has to safely exceed the margin of error.

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  13. Sutherland,

    So the fact “one statistician says X”, you reported as “most statistician say Y”.

    You are therefore either so stupid as to be unable to tell the difference between these two situations, or a liar, deliberately misreporting the first situation as the second.

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  14. I wasn’t aware that John Garry’s position was a controversial one (your implication), so I guess that makes me stupid (in the ignorant sense). No doubt you will come up with the necessary evidence that Garry’s position is controversial, although I don’t recall you making that claim at the time.

    But I do think you need to either change your medication or go and lie down in a dark room, rather than continuing to throw your toys out the pram. It can only hinder the progress of the debate on the leading forum devoted to the study of sortition. Terry’s thoughtful response deserved a reply (which I gave) but I don’t see how I can respond to what amounts to nothing more than angry histrionics.

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  15. > I guess that makes me stupid

    Well, maybe. But the levels of stupidity involved are so astonishing that I remain suspicious that this is more a matter of mendacity than stupidity.

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  16. The math is not the only factor in choosing a sample size, of course. The issue is that:

    A) There’s always going to be some margin of error.

    B) We don’t currently know what margin of error would be considered acceptable by the public. Smaller is better, of course. Is it possible that *any* margin of error would be considered too high, sinking the whole concept? Maybe. We are trusting that the superiority of the decision making process will make up for the error in the eyes of the public. How much wiggle room does that give us?

    C) We don’t know when rational ignorance will start to creep back in. If it does, the quality of the decision making process will decline, and we may be afforded less wiggle room.

    D) Invariance across samplings is very unlikely to be the case regardless of sample size due to framing effects (see Kahneman and Tversky’s work on the psychology of risky decision making). In that case, perhaps a larger margin of error is not the end of the world.

    E) We probably can’t say exactly how much good stratification would do. Perhaps a reputable polling company would have some idea.

    In any case, a double-vote system with 300 member samplings should be every bit as tight as a single 1000 member sampling. Not that I necessarily have a problem with 1000 member samplings. That could be fine too. I don’t know.

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  17. Naomi,

    >Is it possible that *any* margin of error would be considered too high, sinking the whole concept?

    There needs to be a reciprocal relationship between the margin of error for the sample size and the voting outcome. If the voting is decisive then there isn’t a problem, but if it’s a close call, then this would lead automatically to a re-trial with a larger jury. Perceived legitimacy requires that the disenfranchised be reassured that their presence would have made no difference to the outcome.

    >Invariance across samplings is very unlikely to be the case regardless of sample size due to framing effects.

    Not if the issues were framed, and the advocacy presented, in the same manner across different samples. In other words this problem can be resolved procedurally.

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  18. Keith and Naomi,

    Since we are talking about single-law short service juries (unlike the common sortition proposal for an all-function, all issue allotted legislature that simply is substituted for an elected one), I think a two round scheme is optimal. If a smallish jury (150?) approves a law by a huge margin, it goes into force. If the margin is very close a replacement jury of larger size (1,000?) repeats the process. This has two benefits…firstly the one discussed just above…higher confidence that the jury is accurately representative of the population, but also the one Naomi spoke of previously… Since the issue is close, it may be divisive or the ramifications unclear… so a pause for a few months for general public engagement on the issue (talk shows, demonstrations, academic research, etc.) may improve the quality of information that the second jury gets.

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  19. Terry,

    That sounds like an excellent idea. If the size of the Athenian courts varied depending on the significance of the case, there’s no reason for modern jury sizes not to be varied on the basis of the statistical significance of the verdict (vis a vis the target population). Presumably it’s possible to demonstrate in some kind of objective way what the necessary confidence thresholds are?

    Condorcet (and Habermas) would have loved the opportunity for the hiatus between the nomothetic panels to be filled with rich debate in the public sphere. (Oops, I should have said “extensive” or “widespread” rather than “rich” — bit of a Freudian slip!).

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  20. I could live with that compromise, though I’d feel more confident if the first sampling were a bit bigger.

    We could also get away with fairly long terms in the first sampling. Places where the long-term sampling diverges from the public will be balanced out by the need to pass through an ad-hoc assembly. Hmm. In the larger, single topic sampling, the letter writing system we discussed before would be much more feasible. Most letters would probably get read by a voting member. The general public may be excluded from voting, but every interested citizen could have a hand in framing the issue.

    >Presumably it’s possible to demonstrate in some kind of objective way what the necessary confidence thresholds are?

    There is *always* some chance of an outlier. Even if the sampling were a million strong this would still be the case. The chances would be tiny, but not strictly zero. Deciding on a confidence interval is an inherently subjective thing. It’ll be whatever it needs to be to make people comfortable.

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  21. Good to read the above discussion. I’d have succumbed to the temptation to click “like” a few times, except the way I’m posting here seems not to let me (perhaps just as well).

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  22. A key part of my proposal in “Blueprint” (and elsewhere) is that the procedures and arrangements for legislative juries be decided in the well informed and highly democratic way I outline.

    A commission or directorate overseen by one or more commissioners or directors chosen by juries for a set term is tasked with working out the best possible procedures and arrangements for juries, and then with monitoring and improving on them over time.

    However, the final decisions about procedures and arrangements for juries would be decided by juries (“procedures juries”), after hearing the reports and recommendations from the commission or directorate, and what trade-offs the commission or directorate may think are involved in choosing different options.

    The commission or directorate would have the power to convene a jury for this purpose from time to time. A moderator or facilitator could be chosen for this hearing by a jury (perhaps a random sample from the procedures jury for the hearing), and serve at the pleasure of the procedures jury. The reason for an independent moderator/facilitator being to make sure the procedures jury makes their decisions in an orderly and informed way, and is not something like a rubber stamp for the directorate or commission, nor in any way “under the thumb” of the directorate or commission.

    One of the basic things that makes a method of decision-making democratic is, it seems to me, that the use of that method and its details are rooted in the informed judgement of the people, something which I think can be best done using the commission/directorate and procedures jury approach I outline.

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  23. As well as hearing from the said commission or directorate, a procedures jury could also hear from public interest groups, political parties and perhaps others regarding what the best procedures and arrangements are for jury law-making.

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  24. In “Blueprint” a preliminary hearing before a jury (a “preliminary jury”) replaces the petition requirement of the ballot initiative and petition referendum. This is, it seems to me, far better and far more democratic, (for the reasons I mentioned in the article).

    Where the initiative is in place, preliminary juries should be introduced as an alternative option to the petition (for the reasons mentioned in the article). Once preliminary juries are in place, the petition can be phased out (because it is, by comparison to preliminary juries, an undemocratic anachronism).

    Note that everywhere the initiative is in place it has overwhelming public support, as shown by opinion polls. The basic idea of citizen initiated law-making, rather than law-making being a monopoly of politicians, enjoys widespread support where it exists, even though the initiative and petition referendum are deeply flawed and not very democratic (very undemocratic compared to a well-designed jury approach to law-making).

    Although simply replacing the initiative vote and petition referendum vote with legislative juries may theoretically be an option, it may be more reasonable and politically more inclusive and smart, in places where the initiative and petition referendum are in place, for legislative juries to be added as an option in addition to initiative and petition referendum votes, rather than instead of them. In this case, whether a measure has been qualified for the ballot by petition or by jury, a preliminary jury can decide whether the final decision about the measure (the proposed law) be made by popular vote or by legislative jury.

    The proposal in Blueprint is, and is designed to be, a very much improved version of the initiative and petition referendum.

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  25. Yoram:
    >How long would a jury serve? How many bills would it handle?

    I think the Athenian example of one year terms should be the upper limit. I think each legislative jury should only decide one law. A preliminary jury could consider several laws and decide which would go forward, and which would be rejected. (In “Blueprint” I suggest preliminary juries be called twice a year to review proposed laws, but it could be they are only called say once every two years. This matter would be for procedures juries to decide, and for the procedures commission to investigate and advise as to what might be best, and what the trade-offs between different options are.)

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  26. Yoram:
    >you seem to have no problem with very large juries. To me this is a crucial issue.

    I don’t. Large juries can break into small sub-groups of say 10 or 15 citizens for deliberation, which can include formulating questions for the advocates appearing before them in plenary.

    The process needs to be orderly and well-designed.

    Possible dangers re “pathologies of a mass body” should be considered by the procedures commission, and the best possible solutions for any such problems found, and then subsequently their findings and recommendations should be presented to a procedures jury with an independent jury-chosen moderator or facilitator overseeing that hearing.

    The Athenians of course did not seem to have a problem with large nomothetai and dikast juries.

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  27. Keith:
    >I’m not convinced by the argument for preliminary juries as either the jury provides considered scrutiny (with balanced advocacy) or it doesn’t

    Think of the difference between a criminal trial and civil trial. In the former the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt” and in the latter it is “on a balance of probabilities.”

    Somewhat similarly, a preliminary jury can simply determine whether the proposed law has a real chance of being passed by legislative jury or not. If it decides it does, it can also decide how large that legislative jury will be. Deciding how large the legislative jury will be can be a pretty important decision that needs to be made at some point along the way (rather than just clumsily and perhaps wastefully making all legislative juries the same size).

    A legislative makes the final decision, after a more thorough consideration.

    Now, as you may have noticed, I’m vague (I don’t mention it) on what the standard should be for the jury at a preliminary hearing. But perhaps the word “preliminary” suggests the standard might be something like the one I just mentioned.

    In the criminal justice system there are also preliminary hearings, one purpose of which is to establish whether there is really enough evidence to set the matter down for trial. I’m not saying that should be the standard for a preliminary jury hearing proposed laws. The point is that we can meaningfully have different standards for a decision about a matter at different stages of a decision-making process (in the criminal justice system the standard of “is there sufficient evidence for this to go to trial” at the prelim is different from the standard at a criminal trial, “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”).

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  28. At this point I will let common sense prevail and head for bed.

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  29. I think all advocates of ‘real’ democracy by multi-sortition bodies, should lie down in a darkened room and let common sense prevail. Given that there are no modern examples of political decision-making by allotted bodies, we should try and agree between us as to what is the most important (and uncontroversial) task they can perform and argue for that. Terry, Naomi, Simon and myself appear to agree (on a good day at least) that the one function that is difficult to argue against is the final decision power of a large allotted jury, voting in secret after listening to balanced advocacy. The kind of veto power involved is not dissimilar to that of an upper house but is considerably more democratic, so we would be pushing at an open door (as nobody really knows what on earth upper houses are for and how they should be constituted). And this procedure could be tested on an ad-hoc basis (i.e. replacing a one-off referendum), before being incorporated into the regular lawmaking process. It has also benefited from a 20-year research programme (on Deliberative Polling), and has the added benefit that elected politicians would still have exactly the same job to do, so there is no reason for them to resist this. In fact I would challenge anyone to come up with a well-argued objection against this sort of modest initiative (other than that it is pandering to liberal constitutionalism, as Dryzek and other old lefties might put it).

    Once that’s up and running then all you purists and utopian visionaries can push for multi-body ‘pure’ allotment, but much better to let common sense prevail and start with something achievable. My own view is that, at this early stage, we shouldn’t even talk about anything else, as this is a public forum (which is pushing gradually towards the 500 mark in terms of followers), so we should be careful not to put anyone off by floating crazy utopian visions of Aleatoria. If the sortition movement wants to be taken seriously then it needs to start behaving in a grown-up responsible manner.

    PS It would be great to hear what the other 400-odd followers of this forum think on this matter.

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  30. Simon wrote
    >”In this case, whether a measure has been qualified for the ballot by petition or by jury, a preliminary jury can decide whether the final decision about the measure (the proposed law) be made by popular vote or by legislative jury.”

    Although I agree with Simon and Yoram that referendums are inherently bad, I agree that in SOME circumstances they may be essential. The key scenario is where whether a law will be effective cannot be determined EXCEPT by knowing whether the poorly-informed general population will accept it, For example, amending a constitution to elevate juries to final decision-making authority is something that a well-informed jury might decide is wise, but if the general public sees it a s stupid, then that law itself would not work. So empowering juries probably requires a referendum. Even when such a system is up and running, a jury might decide that some issues, such as a law legalizing certain drugs or imposing alcohol prohibition can only be effective if the (poorly-informed) public endorses it through referendum.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Naomi:
    >a double-vote system with 300 member samplings should be every bit as tight as a single 1000 member sampling. Not that I necessarily have a problem with 1000 member samplings. That could be fine too. I don’t know.
    Keith:
    >If the voting is decisive then there isn’t a problem, but if it’s a close call, then this would lead automatically to a re-trial with a larger jury. Perceived legitimacy requires that the disenfranchised be reassured that their presence would have made no difference to the outcome.
    Terry:
    >Since we are talking about single-law short service juries (unlike the common sortition proposal for an all-function, all issue allotted legislature that simply is substituted for an elected one), I think a two round scheme is optimal. If a smallish jury (150?) approves a law by a huge margin, it goes into force. If the margin is very close a replacement jury of larger size (1,000?) repeats the process.

    These are very good thoughts/ideas it seems to me. (I, as mentioned before in another thread, do not accept Keith’s use of the term “disenfranchised” in this context, because compared to the alternatives, such as leaving it to politicians and the ballot initiative, citizens are very much enfranchised – but of course I see the point Keith is making, even if I don’t agree with the term he expresses it with.)

    If we have a legislative jury of 300 and the vote on a law is 200 to 100, that might be reasonably seen a decisive and clear resolution of the matter – a very legitimate decision – by more or less everyone.

    However, if instead the vote is 155 to 145, the legitimacy of the decision could perhaps be reasonably debated.

    In the latter case I see three options, of which I like the 3rd best, and 1st second best.

    Option 1: We accept the same standard we typically find for laws in both a legislative assembly and an initiative vote – namely, 50% + 1 carries the day, fully legitimate, end of story. If this is good enough for legislatures and initiative votes, it is hard to see why it is not good enough for a legislative jury of 300. In fact it is reasonably seen as more legitimate for a legislative jury of 300 than in the other cases, because a legislative jury is more representative of the public than either of them, and better reflects or expresses the informed judgement of the public than either. (I’m going to assume this is obvious enough that I do not need to explain why it is so – why a legislative jury is more representative of the public and better reflects/expresses the informed judgement of the people than the other two methods of law-making mentioned.) As long as it has been democratically decided in advance that the standard will be 50% + 1 (decided either by a procedures jury as a general rule, or in the case of the particular law in question, by the preliminary jury that referred that law to the legislative jury of 300) I do not see why a 50% + 1 decision of a legislative jury of 300 should not be accepted as fully legitimate and final (at least until another legislative jury may consider it some time in the future).

    Option 2: We set out in advance that unless the vote (by the 300 member legislative jury) is at least say 55% to 45%, the law being considered will go to a legislative jury of say 1,000 for a final decision by majority vote. (That is, if the vote is at least 55% on one side and not more than 45% on the other the decision of the 300 member legislative jury is final; but if it is say only 54% to 46% then the law goes to legislative jury of 1,000 for a final decision by majority vote.)

    Option 3: Same as option 2 for when the decision on the proposed law by a legislative jury of 300 is final. But if the vote is closer than 55% to 45%, instead of automatically going to a jury of 1,000 for a final decision, the matter is referred back to a preliminary jury to decide what to do. The preliminary jury could let the decision of the 300 stand, or it could refer it to another legislative jury of a size it will determine for a final decision. There might also be other options for how a final decision could be reached. The preliminary jury could take into account such factors as the following: how much does it matter if the the law passes or not? Are there strong feelings on both sides, is it not a matter of great concern either way? Is it a very important matter that we want decided as closely as reasonably possible on the basis of the informed judgement of the people, or by a legislative jury of say 1,000? Is it worth spending more public funds on a larger legislative jury to get a more “accurate” final result?

    A well designed version of option 3 is my preference. It allows the efficient use of resources for legislative juries in a way that is rooted in the informed views of a representative cross-section of the public (namely the informed views of the preliminary jury that decides how the final decision will be made).

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  32. I am of course not attached to the exact numbers in my previous comment (45%, 55%, and so on). They are simply used to illustrate the bigger points being made.

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  33. Keith:
    >Terry, Naomi, Simon and myself appear to agree (on a good day at least) that the one function that is difficult to argue against is the final decision power of a large allotted jury, voting in secret after listening to balanced advocacy.

    Yes, I think we are all on the same sortition page more or less, and Yoram too. It is just a matter of working out reasonable details for a far better and far more democratic approach to law-making (and other things) than what exists now, and than what is in the contemplation and awareness of most people.

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  34. Simon,

    My preference, naturally, is for Option 2, subject to confirmation of the numbers by suitably-qualified statisticians. My hunch (it’s nothing more than that) is that 300 would require something akin to 40/60 in order for the decision to be a representative one (i.e. invariant across samples). Saying the allotted sample is “more” representative than elections because the group is made up of ordinary people rather than those chosen (by everybody) doesn’t really cut the mustard, irrespective of how well informed the group is (the latter is an epistemic argument, and has nothing to do with the case for democracy). If a different group of ordinary people came to a different decision there would be no way of telling which was the representative one, hence the need for supermajorities, depending on the size of the sample. And saying it would be OK so long as the original decision was democratically mandated is a foundational argument that would be just as applicable to the endorsement of the rule of Napoleon, Hitler etc. It has nothing to do with democracy, which presupposes the ongoing equality of all citizens (i.e. this is an equal freedom that cannot be alienated).

    >Yes, I think we are all on the same sortition page more or less, and Yoram too.

    If only. Yoram has in the past opined that juries with veto rights are a very weak use of stochation.

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  35. Simon,

    A problem with your option 3 is that the “preliminary jury” members will have tendency to decide whether to potentially kill (at least postpone) a colse vote bill and give a larger jury another shot at it based on whether they happen to like the decision, rather than on the higher-minded concerns you mention (how crucial, how controversial, etc. is the issue). All humans have tendency to interpret the world in line with what we prefer…for example in the U.S. when the Supreme Court hands down a conservative ruling the liberals bemoan the undemocratic nature of nine life-appointed people over-ruling the elected process, while the conservatives defend it, but when the court hands down a liberal decision exactly the opposite arguments are made by each side.

    In short, the preliminary jury will tend to simply make a decision based on the policy at hand though it hasn’t gone through all the testimony the voting jury did, and will be somewhat poorly informed. This is why I think some sort of rule needs to exist in advance of the vote. This could be an arbitrary standard threshold or MIGHT be established by the preliminary jury BEFORE the matter goes to a voting jury (on a case by case basis based on the criteria you mentioned), but doing so AFTER the vote is problematic.

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  36. Agree with Terry, but don’t see why the threshold would need to be arbitrary. Surely there would be agreement among statisticians as to what the necessary confidence level (vis a vis the target population) would be for a voting group of 300? And this could easily be demonstrated empirically. The decision rule should be based on science, not just hand-waving.

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  37. >Yes, I think we are all on the same sortition page more or less, and Yoram too.

    Actually, Yoram has expressed opposition to secret ballots in allotted assemblies. I’m not sure why. It seems to be the only reason any of this would work at all.

    Keith,
    >Surely there would be agreement among statisticians as to what the necessary confidence level (vis a vis the target population) would be for a voting group of 300?

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean. The confidence level is just a clumsy (for our purposes) way of verbally couching the sharpness of the probability bell curve around the population-level support. Remember what we’re talking about is the probability of a proposal entering into force due to randomness in the sampling. Is the right level 1%? 5%? 0.01%? Perhaps a consensus could be found among statisticians regarding an acceptable level of randomness. But it’s the level of randomness that the public is willing to accept that matters. Different people are going to be willing to live with different levels and I strongly suspect statisticians will be willing to live with a higher level of randomness than the average citizen. Things are less scary when you understand them well.

    Perhaps it would be better to consider how close the population support for a particular proposal has to be to 50% before randomness starts to become visible. Is it okay to have proposals that come in around the 49%-to-51% range be a coin-toss? How different from a coin-toss should 48%-to-52% be? 45%-to-55%? What will prove to be acceptable?

    Also, if the advocacy is identical in all test samplings there’s no need for empirical tests. Some portion of the population will support an act after watching the arguments. Some portion will be opposed. This is a simple population characteristic. It’s no different from any other population characteristic. Statistical samplings have been studied exhaustively. For a given level of post-advocacy support and sampling size, there will be some probability bell-curve around the actual population-level support (or what other would be, given universal participation). The only real questions are in the sampling methodology and the advocacy process. In actual practice, samplings will vote to contradict each other often enough, because the advocacy process will not be identical from one sampling to the next. I haven’t decided if I see this as a problem yet.

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  38. Naomi:
    >But it’s the level of randomness that the public is willing to accept that matters.

    Agree, or more importantly to me, the level of randomness an informed cross-section of the public (a citizen jury) is willing to accept.

    Naomi:
    >Is it okay to have proposals that come in around the 49%-to-51% range be a coin-toss? How different from a coin-toss should 48%-to-52% be?

    I think the public, and more particularly the informed public opinion a citizen jury can express, will be fine with a bit of chance when it is so close the decision is almost a coin toss in any case. How much chance is in my proposal something for a “procedures commission” (overseen by one or more jury-chosen commissioners) to consider and report on, and for a jury (a “procedures jury”) to decide.

    Terry:
    >A problem with your option 3 is that the “preliminary jury” members will have tendency to decide whether to potentially kill (at least postpone) a colse vote bill and give a larger jury another shot at it based on whether they happen to like the decision, rather than on the higher-minded concerns you mention

    Terry, have you so little faith in your fellow humans (kidding)? I think if the jurors are asked to state how important the proposed law is, and how important it is to them which way it is decided, the jury will give a fairly accurate result. If they decide it should go to a larger jury, then with regard to deciding how large it will be, they perhaps all have pretty much the same interest or a similar interest in that jury providing an “accurate” result. (I’m not saying the concern you raise is not a concern, and I think it should be borne in mind in designing the procedures for preliminary juries.)

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  39. Simon,

    I think all the parameter choices you make – large groups, short terms, pre-defined agenda and limited scope – are problematic and tend to diminish the democratic nature of the allotted body. See my posts about this matter, here and here.

    As for Athens – yes, due to the effects discussed in the posts I linked to, it seems that it was the Boule that was the main democratic element in the system. The other allotted bodies played a supporting role.

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  40. Naomi,

    See a discussion of the effects of secrecy in the comments thread here.

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  41. Keith:
    >saying it would be OK so long as the original decision was democratically mandated is a foundational argument that would be just as applicable to the endorsement of the rule of Napoleon, Hitler etc. It has nothing to do with democracy, which presupposes the ongoing equality of all citizens (i.e. this is an equal freedom that cannot be alienated).

    The first difference between what I am proposing and the hypothetical of an informed citizen jury voting to permanently hand over all power to Napoleon or Hitler, is that in what I am proposing the public remains sovereign (I agree that political equality, and popular sovereignty, are inalienable). The second is that a hand-over of power to a dictator is not being considered in my proposal, but rather what is being considered is details about the method by which rule by the people will be exercised. (I do not regard the right of the people to exercise rule as being absolute – but instead believe there are certain rights and freedoms no one has the right to over-ride, not even a majority of the people, informed or otherwise. Among those rights are, for me, the right of citizens to political equality, to exercise rule on a basis of political equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest, rule of law, right to a fair trial, freedom of speech.)

    Whether or not a method of rule by the people is democratically mandated affects its legitimacy, it seems to me. More than that, I think the methods of rule by the people that are used ought to be democratically mandated (decided). If for example most of the British public support Britain’s first past the post (single member plurality) electoral system that gives it legitimacy (even though it means the party in power often owes that power to a minority of the vote, or to younger citizens and others being under-represented among those who went to the polls, and so on). If on the other hand a majority of the British public prefer PR, then PR should be used (for me, more specifically, it should be used if that is the informed view of most British citizens as expressed by, say, a large citizen jury).

    Unfortunately although it is widely agreed that the people are sovereign or are the rulers, and are the highest and most legitimate authority (at least, and for me specifically, when they are well informed on the matter at hand), the public in modern societies are denied the basic democratic right (a very important basic democratic right in my view) of deciding how rule by the people will be exercised – first past the post or PR, if PR what kind of PR, ballot initiative, a citizen jury approach to law-making,…? All of this in a democracy should decided on the basis of the informed judgement of the people, in my view.

    Someone has to decide on the methods of rule by the people that are used, and on the details of those methods. My view is that the most democratic, appropriate, and best way is for such decisions to be made on the basis of the informed judgement of the public, something which citizen juries are uniquely well-suited for expressing.

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  42. Yoram:
    >I think all the parameter choices you make – large groups, short terms, pre-defined agenda and limited scope – are problematic and tend to diminish the democratic nature of the allotted body

    O.k., I’ll look at your posts which you mention. (Just looked at them briefly, not ready to respond yet.)

    Are you saying (it seems so, but just to be sure) you prefer the opposite of what you say diminishes the “democratic nature” of the allotted body, namely small groups, long terms, open agenda?

    I am also in favour of citizen juries for purposes beyond which I mention in published articles. For example I think it can be useful for citizen juries to formulate legislation on a particular topic, as was done in Canada in the previous decade by the British Columbia and Ontario citizens’ assemblies on electoral reform, with regard to how the legislatures in those two provinces are chosen.

    With regard to citizen juries choosing public sector decision-makers and the Canadian senate, I do not think such citizen juries need to be especially large (I think though that you are talking mostly about what I say regarding “legislative juries” which I do think need to be large, perhaps 200 to 1,000 or more).

    Long terms and open agenda sounds to me more like a legislative assembly or a city council, than what I envisage for citizen juries (for which I think terms should not be more than about one year, as mentioned).

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  43. Naomi:

    >The only real questions are in the sampling methodology and the advocacy process.

    And the sample size. The need for representative, balanced and informed advocacy is a separate issue, but both factors (sampling and advocacy) have to be consistent if the process is to be a proxy for what everyone would think under good conditions. Otherwise there is no way that those who do not participate will perceive the decision process as legitimate.

    Simon:

    We need to distinguish between the legitimacy of the original social contract (referendum required) and the ongoing democratic legitimacy of the resulting constitution. The ongoing democratic legitimacy of decision making by an allotted microcosm only pertains under certain conditions (as discussed by Naomi and I above).

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  44. Keith,

    The effect of sample size is given *exactly* by the math. There is no ambiguity here. Variance in the sampling above what is predicted by the math means there is a problem in the process somewhere else.

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  45. Simon,

    > Are you saying (it seems so, but just to be sure) you prefer the opposite of what you say diminishes the “democratic nature” of the allotted body, namely small groups, long terms, open agenda?

    Yes. There could of course be different parameter values for different bodies in different situations, but the general trend should be toward empowering allotted bodies by having them small enough so that all-to-all communication can take place, giving them enough time to reach informed and considered decisions and allowing them to make their decision freely rather then merely choosing from a set of options pre-defined exrernally.

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  46. We would all go along with Yoram’s desiderata in that everyone would choose motherhood and apple pie, if there was some way of ensuring the decision output would be what everyone would think under good conditions. Unfortunately there isn’t, as the world doesn’t operate by logical syllogism.

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  47. *** Naomi said (Nov 9) « Deciding on a confidence interval is an inherently subjective thing. It’ll be whatever it needs to be to make people comfortable. » and nov 12 « Different people are going to be willing to live with different levels and I strongly suspect statisticians will be willing to live with a higher level of randomness than the average citizen. Things are less scary when you understand them well. »
    *** I agree. And I conclude first that a modern democracy-through-minipublics will do much to heighten the « statistical literacy » of ordinary citizens, so their scariness with randomness will diminish.
    *** Second conclusion : the supporters of minipublics should work to heighten the public consciousness of the randomness included in any process, including the electoral ones (hence the choice of « good election dates »).
    *** The more and more common use of statistics in life will help ; more and more persons ask for understanding the « non-pathological ranges » in medical analysis results, for understanding the medical risks, for knowing the safety margin in opinion polls. The level of « statistical literacy » is low, but it is increasing.

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  48. *** Simon Threlkeld wrote « The Greek democracies of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. were largely run by groups of citizens chosen by lottery. »
    *** It is dangerous to make so sweeping statements, open to historian criticisms. This is true only for the Second Athenian Democracy, for the Athens of Demosthenes, not for the Athens of Pericles. And we have no serious data for most of the other Greek democracies. Sortition may have had a huge role in the late Rhodian democracy, for instance, but we have serious and detailed knowledge only about Athens

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  49. *** Simon Threlkeld wrote (November 12, 7 :18) « I do not regard the right of the people to exercise rule as being absolute – but instead believe there are certain rights and freedoms no one has the right to over-ride, not even a majority of the people, informed or otherwise. Among those rights are, for me, the right of citizens to political equality, to exercise rule on a basis of political equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest, rule of law, right to a fair trial, freedom of speech. »
    *** These rights are necessary elements of a democracy. What Simon Threlkeld says amounts to say that a democracy has no right to abdicate. If for instance a sovereign people curtails the right of anybody to speak politically to the citizens, he curtails the right of the sovereign, composed by the whole citizenry, to hear any information or argument, and curtails strongly sovereignty itself. And if the sovereign curtails the personal safety, the chilling effects curtail the right to speak. Etc.
    *** Nobody can prevent a conscious and informed abdication. But if the dêmos curtails basic democratic rights without consciously abdicating the sovereignty, that means there was bad deliberation. The Second Athenian Democracy invented specific procedures with appeal from the assembly or the legislative juries to judicial juries, which were able to crush illegal decrees or laws contrary to democratic principles. Probably it did not work always well (which system works always well ?) but seems to have been generally able to protect the democratic principles.
    *** In a modern democracy I think it is good to have some permanent advisers to the dêmos (always free to hear others). And some permanent advisers could be specialized to monitor the risks for the democratic liberties. But the last word must always belong to judicial juries.

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  50. André,

    Why have “permanent advisers?!?” and how would they be selected?

    Liked by 1 person

  51. > And I conclude first that a modern democracy-through-minipublics will do much to heighten the « statistical literacy » of ordinary citizens, so their scariness with randomness will diminish.

    There is a danger of conflating two entirely distinct senses of randomness:

    1. Benign randomness — the invisible hand of the law of large numbers.
    ======================================================
    The participants in the Good Society symposium on Fishkin’s last book spoke of the need to enhance the perceived legitimacy of representation by large randomly-selected juries and how this will involve a degree on public education in statistics — i.e. the law of large numbers as a mechanism to enable a sample to mirror the properties of the target population with a calculable level of fidelity.

    2. Malign randomness — deviation from representative accuracy.
    =================================================
    I see no reason to believe that citizens would, or should, be persuaded to accept decisions arrived at by random — i.e. one jury returning one decision and another jury returning a different decision on the same topic. I, for one, would not consider this to be a legitimate system of democratic representation, irrespective of the degree to which both decision-making bodies happened to “look like America”, as Bill Clinton put it. As I’m not a statistician I’m probably using the wrong terminology, but it seems to me that there would be a necessary relationship between the standard deviation pertaining to a particular sample size and the majority threshold required for a democratically legitimate decision. (If the yes/no ratio of the 300 group was insufficient for the SD, then a larger sample would be required at the retrial.) This would require an increase in statistical literacy but the only education in randomness would be that “stochastic determinism” is not entirely oxymoronic. But if the calculation for the SD/sample size coefficient was performed with a reasonable margin of error, citizens would be confident (with 99.99999% certainty) that it would make no difference whether or not they happened to be included in the sample, the decision outcome would be the same. I would accept this as a democratically legitimate form of decision making as it would not require accepting randomness in the malign sense of the word (as in “post code lottery”). Randomness in the sense of making decisions by tossing a coin is extremely scary, even if those tossing the coin happen to resemble us more closely than the male white lawyers who we have elected to do this task.

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  52. I think Peter Stone described the dual characteristic of randomness well…complete uncertainty (freedom from nefarious manipulation) in individual draws on one hand… and virtual total certainty (through the law of large numbers) when done repeatedly, on the other hand.

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  53. Terry,

    Agreed — the blind break (sortition) and the invisible hand (stochation) are the two different benign qualities of random selection and these merit public education. What the public will not accept (and there is no reason why they should do) is randomness per se, as in post-code lotteries. This is a malign effect and it’s beholden on those proposing stochation to do everything possible to minimise it. We need to aim for the “virtual total certainty” of accurate stochastic representation and this involves, IMO, serious constraints on the operating mandate of randomly-selected juries (along the lines of 4th century Athenian practice).

    PS the epistemic benefits resulting from the cognitive diversity of a randomly-selected group are an additional function, although I’m inclined to think there are better ways of generating it. I think Terry might well agree because voluntarism, not sortition, is the selection method for his panels generating policy proposals. This is also true of most of the examples in Helene Landemore’s book and it’s also true for John Burnheim’s work — he only uses sortition as an impartial procedure (“free from nefarious manipulation”) of reducing the number of volunteers to a manageable committee.

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  54. *** Keith Sutherland says that randomness in decision-making is a defect and « it’s beholden on those proposing stochation to do everything possible to minimise it »
    *** I agree strongly with Keith, we must minimize it, and I am interested by the different proposals.
    *** But we know there will be always a residual randomness, and I am afraid that many citizens will be more afraid of this kind of randomness than of all the other kinds in political processes, because this one can be measured.
    *** I heard (truth or legend ?) that in some trials scientific evidence was handicapped in front of, for instance, testimonies, because the scientists gave a measure of the possible error, whereas there was no measure of the risk corresponding to the trust in the witnesses. It is that effect I am fearing, and which I hope to subside.

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  55. *** Terry Bouricius asks : « Why have “permanent advisers?” and how would they be selected? »
    *** I was considering the case of democratic liberties, necessary to a democratic system. If the dêmos is not democrat (if he is theocratic for instance), democracy is dead. But even a democrat dêmos could be driven to dangerous decisions from fear and anger, for instance after terrorist attacks. It is good that in such cases he has to hear advisers who are not only those chosen on the spot. Actually it is good in any case. This is true for any sovereign.
    *** How to choose permanent advisers ? by vote of a citizen jury, but for a given time. And for the board of permanent advisers for a specific field (ex : democratic liberties) the vote could be made by various very small juries, creating randomness and electing some advisers different from the majoritarian sensitivities. That would be undemocratic if the board should take a decision, or even give a collective advice, but I consider only a board of advisers with individual advices.
    *** Clearly the jury in charge, for instance the judicial jury in charge of democratic liberties, could hear whoever he wants. But he should have to hear the permanent advisers.

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  56. Andre,

    But if the advisors are selected by a small jury, how is this different from letting allotted decision makers choose their own advocates? And why the permanence?

    To me it seems that the reasonable procedure is to allow each member of the allotted body to decide who he or she want to listen to and who he or she wants to call for testimony before the other members.

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  57. Yoram:

    >To me it seems that the reasonable procedure is to allow each member of the allotted body to decide who he or she want to listen to and who he or she wants to call for testimony before the other members.

    And what if he or she (who are unlikely to have any particular knowledge and experience in the relevant domain), has no idea who to call? No doubt such persons would be subject to concerted lobbying and inducements, so why do you conclude that this would be a democratic mechanism? It sounds to me more like a charter for snake-oil salesmen.

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  58. Andre>

    >But we know there will be always a residual randomness, and I am afraid that many citizens will be more afraid of this kind of randomness than of all the other kinds in political processes, because this one can be measured.

    Iff the deliberative mandate is constrained in such a way as to minimise variation and the supermajority threshold calculated in respect to the SD of the sample size then the randomness could be reduced to insignificant levels (below one percentage point). Why should anyone be afraid of that? (especially if it can be demonstrated by experiment that parallel juries return the same verdict). I clearly have greater confidence than you in the ability of my fellow citizens for rational understanding.

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  59. Yes, yes, Sutherland. You have many times explained that you are willing (in fact you insist!) to unburden the confused allotted member from having to figure out for herself who to ask by forcing her to ask those you consider as being the right people to ask. How considerate of you.

    Equality-by-Lot readers must all be truly impressed by your magnanimity, not to mention your responsibility, self-importance, and ability to endlessly repeat the most transparently flawed arguments with the utmost confidence and pomposity.

    Liked by 1 person

  60. Yoram, you might find it less time consuming (and the 416 followers of this blog might find it more informative) if you just answered the question. As you seem to have run out of fresh insults you’re starting to repeat yourself. As for who should determine the appropriate experts to consult, this would involve a combination of peer review, election, appointment, competitive examination, membership of professional bodies and other mechanisms that have nothing whatsoever to do with my own personal preferences. As to why this argument is “transparently flawed” we remain none the wiser. BTW I certainly state my case with confidence but what exactly is “pompous” about the following?

    “And what if he or she (who are unlikely to have any particular knowledge and experience in the relevant domain), has no idea who to call? No doubt such persons would be subject to concerted lobbying and inducements, so why do you conclude that this would be a democratic mechanism? It sounds to me more like a charter for snake-oil salesmen.”

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  61. Sorry, it’s now 422 followers — all the more reason to stop all this childish name-calling.

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  62. > we remain none the wiser.

    If by “we” you mean your humble self, then I would guess you are correct. In all the discussions (and I use this word very loosely) you have carried out on this blog with very many people (my humble self included) I have never seen any indication that you became any wiser. I would ask you however not to imply that this lack of intellectual progress extends widely.

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  63. Keith,

    >99.99999% certainty

    I’m assuming this was an exaggeration. Even getting the chances of the vote going the wrong way down to 1% is exceedingly hard to do, unless there is strong support/opposition.

    Now, if the ideal, post-deliberation support for a proposal in the population is greater than 50%, then we need to know the odds that support in the sampling will be greater than 50%. If population support is 56% and the sampling’s support is 54% or 57% or 53% it doesn’t matter. Greater than 50% is greater then 50%. We need to know the odds that support will come out above whatever the threshold is. Or below, in the opposite case. So we have two factors to consider: sampling size and population support. But not statistical margin of error, which doesn’t really tell us much about the odds of the vote going the wrong way. The role of sample size is self-evident. The population support gives the odds that any particular member of the sampling will support the proposal. If the population-level support were 60%, and you had a sample size of 1, the odds of passage would be 60%, of course. These are the two factors we have to keep in mind.

    According to my extremely crude and unreliable calculations (don’t quote me on this), the odds of a proposal with an ideal post-deliberation population support of 48% getting 50%+1 support in a 900 person sampling (about where my spreadsheet stops working) are around 10%. For a 300 person sampling you’re looking at around 22%. If the population support is 45%, then you are looking at about 0.1% and 4% for the two sample sizes respectively. In a double-vote system the odds of passage are the odds of single-vote passage squared. So 1%, 5%, 0.0001%, and 0.16%, with noticeable reductions in the odds of passage of proposals with greater than 50% support due to there being two opportunities for randomness to kill them. I’m okay with that trade-off, even though it does mean a significant amount of randomness in the passage or defeat of proposals with slim majority support. All this assumes my spreadsheet works properly, and I already know there are a few problems with it. Most them them stem from the number size limitation in Excel. I have a 9 day Thanksgiving vacation coming up so maybe I’ll take an afternoon to rewrite it. That said, this very much outside my area of expertise. Assistance from the more mathematically inclined would be most welcome.

    In any case, there will be a some level of population support where matters are effectively decided by little better than a coin-toss. It is necessary to make a decision on where this is okay. Getting the resolution of the system up to where it could reliably represent a population-support in the 49%-51% range would require extraordinarily large samplings. We could perhaps do it in one direction—blocking proposals without majority support using a double-vote—but it’s not going to happen in both directions. Even going in one direction would very likely require unacceptably large samplings.

    I’m perfectly happy with two sequential 300-500 person samplings, preferably in the form of two sessions the same permanent legislative body.

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  64. In fact, I would go one step further and suggest that eliminating both randomness and rational ignorance are two mutually exclusive goals. To eliminate rational ignorance one must make it possible for the results to occasionally rest on the decision of a single member. The odds of the results depending on one person determines the degree of motivation to participate. Elections are much the same way. It sometimes happens in local elections that a single ballot decides the results. If this were the norm in national elections there would be no rational ignorance problem.

    If one person’s exclusion from the sampling makes no difference, another person’s inclusion must, by extension, make no difference. If an individual member of a sampling knows their—hypothetical—exclusion would have had no effect on the results, they know their non-participation would necessarily have no effect on the results. The results—the law of the land—must effectively fall to a coin-toss often enough to encourage attentive consideration.

    With a double-vote system we have comparatively little randomness on the <50% side of things. If a proposal should come in under 50%, the odds of defeat are great. If a proposal should come in over 50%, the odds of passage are a little more questionable. Quarantining the randomness on one side is a fine compromise.

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  65. *** Keith Sutherland asks for « 99.99999% certainty ». As private individual, does he asks for such certainty ? In my private life, for instance about medical choices, I ask for less. It would be an interesting novel subject : « the man who wants to live with 99.99999% certainty».
    *** As far as I know, psychologists have studied the psychology of choice under uncertainty, and the results are complex. These studies were about private choices. We do not know what would be the results for sovereignty choices

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  66. *** Yoram Gat asks, about « permanent advisers » : why not let allotted decision makers choose their own advocates? And why the permanence?
    *** Clearly an allotted jury is entitled to hear anybody he thinks useful. I say that, in addition, he must hear some advisers chosen before, to avoid an emotional discarding of some useful advisers.
    *** The king in ancient French absolute monarchy had to hear possible disagreement by the High Judges (« Parlementaires ») about new laws (« remontrances »). He had the last word, but the procedure added rationality to the king’s sovereignty. Louis XIV discarded it, but it was not a good move for monarchy. The High Judges later used this procedure for oligarchizing aims, and that reminds us that in a democracy we should establish for the nomination of permanent advisers procedures able to avoid this risk.
    *** In ancient democracies, with the « isêgoria », everybody was theorically a permanent adviser, and practically the few citizens able to act as orators without being ridiculous (and shouted down). In a modern dêmokratia with maybe millions of citizens, the situation is different.
    *** Nomination of permanent advisers by several small juries (with inherent randomness) would decrease the risk of « majoritarian homogeneity » while avoiding the risk of infiltration by anti-democrat circles. We could imagine likewise a habilitation procedure as the Athenian one (« dokimasia »).

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  67. It would be great if John Garry would comment on the relationship between sample size and decision threshold — I’ll email him. I know nothing about statistics, but would insist on the principle of consistency, so that the disenfranchised can be confident regarding the representative fidelity of their proxy. But we need to flesh it out with some sensible numbers (my request for 99.99999% certainty was hyperbolic). There were two other statisticians who weighed in on the Gilens debate — it would be great if they also chose to comment.

    >In ancient democracies, with the « isêgoria », everybody was theorically a permanent adviser, and practically the few citizens able to act as orators without being ridiculous (and shouted down). In a modern dêmokratia with maybe millions of citizens, the situation is different.

    Exactly — isegoria in large states needs to be representative, and that doesn’t mean the random whims of a tiny number of citizens (the law of large numbers would not ensure the representativity of such choices, given the lack of domain-specific knowledge of the allotted conscripts). They would also be subject to overwhelming pressure by lobbyists.

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  68. Keith,

    I know you are attached to your notion of “representative isegoria”… but that is a self-contradictory concept…(nonsensical). In Athens all citizens had the right to speak and propose…. but that doesn’t mean their speech received much serious attention if it was nonsensical. The right is the right to OFFER, not the right to achieve influence. There is no reason this same principle cannot apply to modern mass society, thanks to modern Internet communications and collaboration tools. Any citizens can still submit testimony and offer proposals, and these can work their way up through a process of random peer review and proportional scoring, such that ideas that seem valuable to a defined threshold of readers will advance and poor ideas that almost nobody thinks are worth much will be merely archived.

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  69. >In Athens all citizens had the right to speak and propose

    And all citizens (rather than an allotted subset) made the initial decision as to whether or not the speech acts merited in-depth consideration. Why do you seek to deny modern citizens such a right? I suppose it’s inevitable that a sortition-only theorist should consider allowing all citizens some say in the laws that govern them to be “nonsensical”, so all I can do is try to repeat my appeal to the residual pragmatist in you — given that a utopian all-sortition solution is not going to get off the ground any time soon, then let’s focus on the one thing we all (apart from Yoram) agree on (the final up-down verdict of a stochation jury).

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  70. Naomi,

    >To eliminate rational ignorance one must make it possible for the results to occasionally rest on the decision of a single member.

    In order for people to be sufficiently motivated to stay awake it is only necessary for them to believe that their own vote will make a significant difference to the outcome. In mass democracy this clearly isn’t the case, but it would be in a group of (say) 300, especially if they were motivated in other ways (paid to attend and afforded the status that goes with the grave responsibility of being a legislator). Once you approach the figure of (say) 1,001 then the principle of rational ignorance starts to kick in, but this would be offset by the closeness of the original decision that led to the larger jury (it might well be the case that a single casting vote determined the outcome of the larger jury). So if we go for the two-track approach (small initial juries and then larger ones if the initial vote is close), then the onset of rational ignorance would be curtailed. The Athenians clearly felt that this could even work in a jury as large as 5,001 Note that my initial 300 (or even 500) is a round number as a simple majority could not apply to such a small sample — but the Greeks were not aware of the relevant math leading to such a distinction.

    Hopefully we agree on the principle involved, all we need now is a statistician to operationalise it.

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  71. Keith,
    The notion of incorporating popular referenda is not nonsensical (and I didn’t suggest that it was). I don’t favor it (other than as part of a transition to sortitional democracy) because it re-inserts poorly informed rational ignorance, harming the epistemic quality of decision-making on behalf of all people. With its long tradition, although it may be a bad idea, it isn’t nonsensical. The thing I said IS nonsensical is your trying to claim the mantle of isegoria for some media-subscription scheme. That is in no way isegoria. Instead, we need a system that allows ANYONE who wishes to make concrete proposals and offer specific testimony… and, as I explained, this can be done, even in a modern mass society. The value of isegoria is not just as an individual right but also the RIGHT OF THE POLIS to benefit from the knowledge and insight of ANY citizen (not just those in the legislative body). One citizen who is not allowed to VOTE in a mass election will hardly harm the polis, but one citizen with a key piece of information to offer, who is not allowed to contribute that information, CAN harm the polis.

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  72. Terry, as you know media subscription is only one element of my proposal for representative isegoria and is quarantined to the informal public sphere, alongside deliberative/discursive/democracy, demarchic councils and agenda panels (I hope you don’t view these as equally nonsensical, especially as you are the author of one of them!). My proposals for formal representative isegoria include election, single-issue advocacy and direct-democratic initiatives, so I completely agree that ho boulomenos should be entitled to “make concrete proposals and offer specific testimony”. Where we differ is that I, following the example of Athenian practice, insist that everybody should have a role in deciding which initiatives should be taken further for deliberative scrutiny by an allotted jury, whereas you are determined to follow Madison’s project to totally exclude the people in their collective capacity from having any say in the laws that govern them.** Whilst this may or may not be epistemically beneficial, it is entirely undemocratic and without historical precedent — Urbinati would condemn it as one of the epistemic disfigurations of democracy that she campaigns against in her latest book.

    ** I apologise again for using this strident expression but if that’s the way it looks to a sortition advocate like myself, you can only imagine how your sortition-only proposals would look to ordinary mortals. Madison described his proposal as “republican” (certainly not democratic) and that is the flavour of the language that you also employ — “the RIGHT OF THE POLIS to benefit from the knowledge and insight of ANY citizen” etc. Once again I appeal to sortition advocates to focus on the proposal that we can all (apart from Yoram) agree on as opposed to pursuing the utopian ideal, even though this involves the (temporary?) sacrifice of doctrinal purity.

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  73. Sorry, I meant “deliberative/discursive/associational democracy”

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  74. Keith,
    I fixed my spreadsheet last night. It turns out there’s a built-in function in excel to perform this calculation, so there’s no need to put the formula into a cell and iterate as I did before. I’m an idiot.

    In a 300 person sampling the results will hinge on the votes of one or two individual members often enough. At a support level of 49%, roughly 1/3 of samplings will vote in favor. At that support level roughly 1/4 of 1000 person samplings and 1/13 of 5000 person samplings will vote in favor. How invariant do the samplings need to be at any particular population support level?

    If the samplings are invariant, then adding on a few more yes or no votes will not change the outcome. By sheer random chance they will vary by that much. It follows then that a single individual’s decision is *not* going to change the outcome in this case. Of course there will always be some support level where invariance breaks down. Sample size determines what percentage of proposals will be effectively invariant over multiple samplings.

    Terry,
    That person with the critical piece of information will only need to get a modicum of popular support to be able to participate. Maybe 1% of the vote or a modest number of signatures. That’s not so hard.

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  75. Naomi,

    I don’t even know how to work Excel (I always have to ask my children). This is my email to John Garry:

    =========

    Dear John

    We are currently having a discussion on the EbL forum regarding the connection between sample size and supermajority threshold if the decision of the sortition-based sample were to be taken to represent the informed judgment of the target population. I know you argue for a minimum sample size of 1,000, but the suggestion that is being pursued is for an initial sample of only 300 but a correspondingly high supermajority threshold. If the mandate of such a small sample were to listen in silence to balanced information and advocacy and then vote in secret, what would be the confidence level in such a decision — e.g. would you need (say) a 60/40 split or even higher? The assumption would be that if the vote was only (say) 45/55 then this would lead to a “retrial” with a jury of (say) 1,001. What would be the confidence at this level? One could even imagine a further retrial of 5,001 (the maximum size for a classical Athenian jury).

    As a political theorist I’ve no idea of the numbers involved or even if I’m using the correct terminology (confidence, standard deviation etc.), so would gratefully appreciate it if you could put me right, ideally with a comment direct at https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/threlkeld-juries-not-referenda/

    There are various comments on this thread that probably express the issues involved better than I have done in this email if you had time to take a look at them.

    =========

    What I’m seeking to learn is really simple. Assuming a) random selection b) identical information/advocacy and c) listen in silence before voting in secret, what would the supermajority figures be in order for the decision output of the sample to “safely” match that of the target population:

    300: ?/? %
    1,001: ?/? %
    5,001: ?/? %

    Plucking figures out of thin air, it might be (say):

    300: 60/40
    1,001: 55/45
    5,001: 51/49

    I’m assuming (hoping?) that statisticians can calculate these numbers. I don’t think it could be done purely on the basis of Excel as it would involve some knowledge of actual sampling error etc. I’m assuming that scientific public opinion sampling is an empirical discipline with a strong mathematical foundation. I believe this is John’s area of expertise.

    If the figures can be calculated then the legislative process would involve between 1 and 3 iterations, depending on the result of the first (and second) votes and the vast mass of the disenfranchised could sleep soundly at night in the knowledge that their own presence in the decision-making body would have made no difference whatsoever.

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  76. Naomi,

    The other factor that we need to recognize (obviously) is how often will an issue coming before a jury have an underlying idealized split in the population of 49/51? If a smallish sample give the “wrong” decision 1/3 of the time, but such splits occur in less than 1% of issues, the net impact on society may be deminimis.

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  77. Let’s hope John chimes in.

    The only assumption needed to do it in Excel at this point is that the sampling is truly random so that the odds of drawing someone who would favor passage after listening to the advocates matches the frequency of people in the whole population who would favor passage after listening to the advocates. From there it’s pure math. A binomial distribution, unless I’m mistaken.

    Supermajority requirements and multiple sequential votes shift where the randomness is seen, they don’t eliminate it. You would know that proposals which pass are almost definitely supported by the population, but you could not say that defeated proposals are definitely opposed by the population.

    Terry,
    I agree 100%, which is why two 300 samplings is perfectly fine with me.

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  78. Andre,

    First, I think the idea of permanence is inherently undemocratic. Why should someone get a permanent privileged position instead of allowing many people a share in this privilege?

    As for “majoritarian homogeneity”, I think that allowing any allotted representative to bring in advocates as she sees fit is a much better tool to encourage diversity than privileging some nearly-arbitrary minority (i.e., people whom some small jury appointed decades earlier).

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  79. I agree that the notion of permanence (whether for voting representatives or advisors) is undemocratic. However, I DO agree with your (and Madison’s) concern about the risk of quick over-reacting and passing popular sentiment. (Note that this identical dynamic has infected elected bodies repeatedly throughout history — so this isn’t new to sortition). I think the solution is some sort of built-in time lag and overlap of service. Once an advisor is selected by some jury, they might serve for a period of years (whether two, five or fifteen, I cannot say… but a future procedures jury can decide based on experience) before being replaced.

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  80. Yoram and Terry

    Your run the risk of letting election in by the back door — although advisors may be proposed at the whim of any member of the allotted group, their appointment will (presumably) involve a majority vote. As the will of the allotted group, ex hypothesi, reflects the will of the target population, the new breed of rhetores will have been elected by the whole population (but without the constraints of party discipline and manifesto commitments). And there will be no shortage of wannabe rhetores knocking on the assembly door, and the better resourced (in financial, media and rhetorical assets) will be the most successful candidates.

    The experience of classical-era Athens is of relevance. During the imperial era (5th century) — when military skills were of greatest importance — the principal advisors were the generals. As most Athenian citizens would have had military experience they had the necessary skills to select the best advisors. During the post-imperial era (4th century), military skills were less important, hence the division of labour between the strategoi and the rhetores, the latter being selected (as the name indicates) purely on the basis of their rhetorical and demagogic abilities.

    Given the huge range of skills required in the governance of large modern states, most ordinary citizens will have no knowledge as to who best to appoint as expert advisers. The skills required are of an elite nature (as with sportsmen, scientists, flute players, pilots . . .) and different appointment mechanisms apply (peer review, nomination, competitive examination, crowd sourcing, knowledge markets etc.) Leaving everything to the whim of a small group of allotted conscripts is a recipe for rule by demagogues.

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  81. Keith,
    You wrote of advisors that:
    >” their appointment will (presumably) involve a majority vote.”

    Neither Yoram nor I have suggested any votes for advisors. Yoram favors each member selecting advisors as they wish. I favor a professional staff managed by an allotted body that recruits advisors for juries in the manner the informed oversight panel thinks is best. Common sense and research on decision-making suggests that maintaining a diversity of advisors with conflicting opinions is optimal, and I expect this is the sort of advisory group that would be assembled on each issue area. Of course NON-selected advisors (and any citizen) could also submit their two cents, but their input might be less regarded.

    Liked by 1 person

  82. Terry:

    >Common sense and research on decision-making suggests that maintaining a diversity of advisors with conflicting opinions is optimal, and I expect this is the sort of advisory group that would be assembled on each issue area.

    A diverse and conflicting advisory body would indeed be optimal, but if it is to be recruited by a professional bureaucracy overseen by by an allotted body with no prior knowledge of the issue areas it is more likely to be monolithic and hegemonic — i.e. it will reflect the groupthink of the bureaucracy. If you want conflict then the selection method needs to be agonistic.

    >Yoram favors each member selecting advisors as they wish.

    Hopefully Yoram will clarify what he means by this. Are these ad hoc advisors meant to address the whole assembly or are they more along the lines of personal trainers? If the former, then some sort of voting mechanism would be required in order to achieve a manageable quota. As to whether or not the advisors would be “diverse and conflicting” remains to be seen, but there is a distinct danger that they will be a combination of shock jocks and tabloid hacks, Russell Brands and so-and-so’s brother-in-law, along with sundry other people who have no in-depth knowledge of the subject that they are recruited to advise on. And that’s without the problem of the lobbyists who will be hammering on the assembly door to offer their “expert” services. Frankly the idea is so silly, that I’m embarrassed we are providing it with the oxygen of publicity.

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  83. The QUB statistician John Garry has just got back to me with his comments (reproduced below) on the confidence interval for a randomly-sampled legislative jury of 300 whose mandate was restricted to listening to the debate between the advocates and then voting in secret:
    ————————————————————————————————–
    “I would calculate that for a sample of 300 you would need a decision making threshold of 56%. So, if 168 of the 300 vote Yes this means (given a confidence interval of 5.6% for a decision of 56% in a sample of 300) that 95% of the time the ‘true’ Yes vote in the total population would lie between 56% plus or minus 5.6% (i.e. between 50.4% and 61.6%).

    I like the following web link which allows for a sense of what is going on in the calculation of confidence intervals.

    http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-determine-the-confidence-interval-for-a-pop.htmlhttp://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-determine-the-confidence-interval-for-a-pop.html
    ————————————————————————————————-
    This is encouraging for all those of us who are disposed towards 300 or thereabouts as the size for our initial nomothetic jury as it would indicate that only verdicts that fell below this threshold would require a “retrial” in front of a larger jury (say 1,001) where a simple majority might suffice.

    John added the following to explain why he did not choose to comment direct on the forum:
    ————————————————————————————————–
    “I did have a look at the thread. While it’s certainly interesting some of the comments are quite personalised and I fear that they would get in the way of a proper discussion.”
    ————————————————————————————————–
    So I think if we want to extend the discussion on this forum beyond the usual suspects we should all observe a strict embargo on ad hominem remarks and be more charitable in our reception of the views of others who we disagree with.

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  84. What I’m interested in is not so much the confidence interval, but the odds of passage given a certain population support level and sample size. That way we can get a feel for where the randomness starts to become visible.

    I’d be interested to get John’s take on my updated spreadsheet. This one is so much better than the last one.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-fSJDYbOIMuYUtTMDY2RzBOZDg/view?usp=sharing

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  85. Naomi,

    I’ve forwarded it to John for his comments. BTW what’s your email address? I’m keith[AT]imprint.co.uk

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  86. Thanks, Keith. My address is naomi3955 at gmail.com.

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  87. Keith, your comments on a jury of 300 needing a supermajority to decide one way or the other, failing which there is a retrial by a jury of 1,001, seems sensible. Alternatively, the re-trial of the law could be by a jury of 701, with the decision being based on the aggregate majority vote of the two juries (that is, by a majority vote of 1,001 jurors, the 300 from the first jury, and the 701 from the second).

    Decisions about trade-offs between costs and “accuracy” should be made, it seems to me, as you know, by juries, in, as always, the context of arrangements well designed to ensure informed decisions.

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  88. Andre:
    >*** Simon Threlkeld wrote « The Greek democracies of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. were largely run by groups of citizens chosen by lottery. »
    *** It is dangerous to make so sweeping statements, open to historian criticisms. This is true only for the Second Athenian Democracy, for the Athens of Demosthenes, not for the Athens of Pericles. And we have no serious data for most of the other Greek democracies. Sortition may have had a huge role in the late Rhodian democracy, for instance, but we have serious and detailed knowledge only about Athens

    Hmm. In the Athens of Pericles the jury courts, most panels of officials, and the council, were chosen by lottery. I think it fair to say that these groups of citizens did largely run Athens. Not entirely of course, as in particular, there was the assembly, but to a large extent. Or at any rate they played a major role in the Athens of Pericles.

    When Aristotle speaks about democracy he makes it clear that sortition is an important part of it. He is speaking of Greek democracy in general, across the Greek world from Sicily to the coast of Libya and so on. Were he speaking only of Athens he would presumably have said so.

    Eric Robinson in his book Democracy Beyond Athens (2011) looks at the evidence about the many other Greek democracies. While he acknowledges the surviving evidence is scanty, he does draw what seem to be reasonable evidence-based conclusions. For example, he says:
    “… the argument for a uniquely “true” democracy at Athens lacks support from ancient authors. Classical sources, Athenian or otherwise, never claim that Athens was the sole true democracy in Greece, or even that it was the most radical one.” (p 220)
    “The courts were another venue for the supremacy of the demos in non-Athenian as well as Athenian democracy. Popular juries could wield enormous, typically irreversible authority, with many cases involving politicians or otherwise having political dimensions.” (p 225)
    “Use of the lot in choosing officials was probably commonplace, though it is directly attested only occasionally…” (p 227)

    I think it is accurate to say that lottery/sortition chosen bodies played a major role in the Greek democracies in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. There is no evidence that this was so only in Athens, instead the limited available evidence points to this being typical of Greek democracies in general.

    Maybe, in light of your comment, it would be more accurate or less contentious to say sortition/lottery chosen groups of citizens played a major role in the Greek democracies, rather than saying they largely ran those democracies.

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  89. Simon:> In the Athens of Pericles the jury courts, most panels of officials, and the council, were chosen by lottery. I think it fair to say that these groups of citizens did largely run Athens.

    Thucydides: “Athens was in name a democracy but, in fact, governed by its first citizen [Pericles].”

    Simon:> When Aristotle speaks about democracy he makes it clear that sortition is an important part of it.

    Aristotle’s reference was to the courts, not the boards of magistrates or the council. The Athenians only used sortition for the appointment of minor officials. Jurors were not office-holders and did not “run” anything.

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  90. Keith,
    Some particular quote of Aristotle may be about the use of lottery for the courts, but Aristotle wrote about the importance of lot generally, not just the court. In Book IV of Aristotle’s Politics, we read that “the appointment of magistrates by lot is thought to be democratic, and the election of them oligarchical.”

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  91. Terry,

    That’s undeniably true, but Aristotle’s principal objection to democracy was the widespread use of juries (appointed by lot). Daniela’s thesis is particularly enlightening on this, and it’s the only plausible reason why Aristotle viewed 4th century democracy as even more “extreme” than its 5th century counterpart. As Yoram and yourself have pointed out, it’s a lot easier to manipulate a mass assembly than a jury.

    As a general principle I think it’s important not to conflate the use of sortition for magistracies and juries, as two distinct principles are involved — at least in the modern case. In the former it’s the blind break, but in the latter it’s the invisible hand.

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  92. Keith:
    >In the former it’s the blind break, but in the latter it’s the invisible hand.

    Keith, I don’t understand why you say one is “blind break” and the other “invisible hand.” (Maybe it is reasonable, I just don’t know what you are saying.)

    Keith:
    >Jurors were not office-holders and did not “run” anything.

    The jury courts partly ran Athens, and other Greek democracies, unless we define “run” in some very narrow way.

    When we say that the house of commons partly runs Britain we mean, for example, that it makes the laws. When we say judges and juries partly run Britain, we mean they decide the results of trials, and, perhaps especially in the case of judges, interpret and develop the law. Similarly, if someone says the jury courts partly ran Athens it means they decided the results of trials, including political trials, and that they decided how the law was interpreted and applied.

    Keith, If we were to call Socrates back from the dead, and to call back from the dead the Athenian politicians who fared very badly before the jury courts, we might find that they do not share your view that the jury courts were not among the institutions that ran Athens.

    A juror, like a judge, is an office-holder, even though a juror is only one for a short while. Being a juror is a public office with public responsibilities, ditto re being a judge.

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  93. Simon,

    People who “run” things are generally accountable for their actions — company executives to their shareholders, elected politicians to their constituents etc. That was certainly the view of the Athenians — magistrates had to account for their actions at the end of their annual term (and advisers were always subject to prosecution), whereas jurors were accountable to nobody — a position that was frequently lampooned by the comic playwrights. Juries were a sub-set of the assembly and neither body was accountable for its actions, so I do think we need to maintain this distinction. As for whether Pericles or the assembly “ran” Athens, Thucydides opted for the former.

    The blind break/invisible hand distinction is fleshed out here: https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/the-blind-break-the-invisible-hand-and-the-wisdom-of-crowds-the-political-potential-of-sortition/

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  94. *** Simon Threlkeld writes: « In the Athens of Pericles the jury courts, most panels of officials, and the council, were chosen by lottery. I think it fair to say that these groups of citizens did largely run Athens. Not entirely of course, as in particular, there was the assembly, but to a large extent. Or at any rate they played a major role in the Athens of Pericles. »
    *** OK, but only the juries had a sovereignty role, only the juries « had the last word ». And the juries role was lesser in Pericles’Athens than in Demosthenes’Athens, because in the second system there were legislative juries, and because the Assembly lost the possibility to judge, judicial juries alone had the last word in judiciary matters, including crushing decrees and laws through judicial review.
    *** Simon Threlkeld writes « Maybe, in light of your comment, it would be more accurate or less contentious to say sortition/lottery chosen groups of citizens played a major role in the Greek democracies, rather than saying they largely ran those democracies. ».
    *** Yes, I prefer a less contentious statement, to avoid leaving room to historian criticisms, including those actually motivated by antipathy against sortition.
    *** And I think good to insist on the evolution from the Pericles’ system to the Demosthenes’ system, because the supporters of a modern democracy-through-minipublics may be described as extrapolating the Athenian evolution a step further.
    ** That said, I agree with Threlkeld that a strong element of sortition was linked to ancient Greek democracy, from the beginning, as it is clear in the small democrat theoretical corpus we got.

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  95. *** Keith Sutherland writes : « As a general principle I think it’s important not to conflate the use of sortition for magistracies and juries, as two distinct principles are involved — at least in the modern case. In the former it’s the blind break, but in the latter it’s the invisible hand. » And he adds « that in Athens « magistrates had to account for their actions at the end of their annual term (and advisers were always subject to prosecution), whereas jurors were accountable to nobody ».
    *** He could have added that « magistrates » (elected or allotted) had to undergo some kind of checking, « dokimasia », which could lead for instance to exclusion of known anti-democrats, whereas there was nothing like that for jurors.
    *** Note that the Council was a kind of magistracy, with dokimasia. See the speech by Lysias 16 « For Mantitheus ».
    *** I agree with Sutherland’s dichotomy. But we must not consider the democratic allotment of « magistracies » as motivated only by considerations like fear of corruption. Allotment of collective magistracies gave a reasonable guarantee (increased by dokimasia) that the administrative institutions were dominated by people not to far of the sensitivities of the average citizens, loyal to democracy, and likely to enforce loyally the sovereign dêmos’ decisions. In a modern state the administrative institutions cannot be wholly allotted; which implies a modern dêmokratia will have to establish a system of monitoring and auditing, with systems like ISO9000 standards, to avoid oligarchizing drifts in the administrative apparatus.

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  96. Andre,

    >In a modern state the administrative institutions cannot be wholly allotted; which implies a modern dêmokratia will have to establish a system of monitoring and auditing, with systems like ISO9000 standards, to avoid oligarchizing drifts in the administrative apparatus.

    That’s an interesting idea. Most of the suggestions on this forum have focused on the need for administrators to be accountable to allotted bodies, but what you seem to be suggesting is a formal standard. How would that work out — would it provide some sort of guidance document for the allotted group or is it intended to be self-sufficient? The idea of allotted scrutiny sounds attractive, but I’m not sure how effective randomly-selected persons would be in monitoring an activity of which they have no experience, so they would certainly benefit from some kind of template or standard against which to judge the performance of the administrators. In the UK, government whips always try to exclude backbench MPs with any experience in the particular domain from departmental select committees (set up by Margaret Thatcher to hold ministers to account), so there is a danger of allotted scrutiny becoming little more than a nominal box-ticking exercise as hardly any randomly-selected members of the public will have any experience of their allotted domain.

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