2015 review – sortition-related events

This is a review of notable sortition-related events of the year 2015.

Brett Hennig wrote to mention citizens’ assembly pilots and the Irish constitutional assembly which led to the marriage equality vote.

In my mind the two most notable sortition-related events of 2015 were:

  • In Mexico, the Morena party allotted of some of its congressional candidates among the party rank-and-file. This was covered on Equality-by-Lot here (English version), here and here.
  • Leading Belgian politicians from various parties proposed changing the selection method of the Belgian upper house to sortition. This is the most high-profile proposal of its kind of the modern age.

Continuing the trend of previous years, those developments happened in the non-English speaking world. However, they are a reflection of a wide-spread disillusionment with elections – a sentiment that is as common in the English-speaking world as it is outside of it.

In the US this sentiment found an electoral outlet in the surprise strength of the campaigns of two presidential candidates which are perceived as being outside of the electoral establishment – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. This fact was observed in a relatively well-noticed academic paper in Science journal by Fisman and Markovits about the way class affects policy choices. The authors drew from their work some conclusions that come close to an indictment of the electoral method.

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8 Responses

  1. Agree on the importance of the Belgian upper house proposal, but don’t see the relevance of Trump/Sanders to a forum on sortition.

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  2. Why is it assumed that the marriage equality vote is something that everyone who favors sortition views as a positive development? I think marriage equality is cultural appropriation of marriage from those who believe in marriage that is religious people by those who are not religious.

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  3. Satkalsa,

    That’s a fair point — and an indication of the extent to which such bodies tend to attract those of a “progressive” disposition that may not accurately reflect the preferences of the silent majority. This is why participation in such bodies needs to be quasi-mandatory, as in other kinds of jury service. A stochastic sample of a conservative population will deliver conservative judgments.

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  4. satkhalsa,

    > Why is it assumed that the marriage equality vote is something that everyone who favors sortition views as a positive development?

    As I understand things the point here was not that the policy outcome was positive but rather that the policy outcome was democratic. That is, that through the application of sortition, policy was aligned with the informed and considered opinion of the people.

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  5. Yoram: >through the application of sortition, policy was aligned with the informed and considered opinion of the people.

    Not so if the sortition pool is voluntary. Volunteers are atypical in that activists and enthusiasts for change are overrepresented. Election is democratic iff there is a) genuine competition and b) a low entry-level for candidates — at least citizens get to choose who represents them, rather than submitting to the unrepresentative will of activists and political anoraks. This is textbook empirical political science and cannot be refuted by appeal to Aristotle, Montesquieu and Manin on the principle of distinction or other definitional maxims.

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  6. Maybe a missing stuff: a very well rated French documentary about society’s problems, directed by Melanie Laurent (famous French actress, played Shoshanna in Iglorious Basterds), which purposes as a solution the creation of an assembly of citizen filled by lot. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=897804630304625&substory_index=0&id=183950378356724

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  7. Thanks – I was not aware of this. The website has “Créer une 2ème chambre (type sénat) avec des citoyens tirés au sort” as one of the “actions politiques” it proposes.

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  8. […] previous years’ summaries see: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, […]

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