Norgrove: Why Britain Should Scrap Democracy in Favour of Sortition

Oliver Norgrove writes in The Huffington Post:

Horse-shoeing my way round the English coastline, setting up stools, handing out thousands of leaflets and talking to many passers-by certainly has come with its frustrations. As I wrote on my blog a few days ago, my patience for democracy and its input of all has now pretty much whittled away.

Without meaning to sound too contemptuous, I cannot bring myself to trust various sects of the population with a say on how the country is governed. Inevitably, polling day becomes Groundhog Day, in which the clueless, easily-manipulated and generationally tribal congregate like farm animals in a bid to shape the country’s government according to their own inaccurate, dogmatic or bigoted predispositions. […]

Problem is, of course, that nothing is preferable to democracy. Nothing beats the hot fury of election night, or the excitement of those voting for the same party they’ve always selected (rarely through genuine political passion and generally for the comfort of brave, tribal voting) and constantly wonder why things never seem to get any better.

Enter sortition.

An alternative to stale western formats; sortition is a system that advocates selection by random sample; one that, statistically speaking, will generate a more socially and demographically reflective government; and one that curbs partisan participation in favour of equality through neutrality. Today, sortition is used only when drafting juries into court, but for the sake of the country, a qualification system could be introduced in order to gauge who is committed, interested and passionate. […]

In his hugely informative book Sortition: Theory and Practice, Oliver Dowlen notes that sortition “promises to bring something new to today’s political climate, something of potentially world-changing significance. For those in the west who are aware of the deficiencies of the current liberal government, it offers to make up for perceived deficits in democracy”.

Oddly enough, sortition is more democratic than democracy itself. By selecting by random sample, promoted participants are forced to put aside tribal agendas and concentrate on common affairs in a cohesive manner. Since general elections are so often centred on image, media influence and personality, politicians can easily be accused of acting in a manner that will earn those votes, rather than based upon principles and beliefs.

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3 Responses

  1. I don’t like reading passages such as this:
    “in which the clueless, easily-manipulated and generationally tribal congregate like farm animals in a bid to shape the country’s government according to their own inaccurate, dogmatic or bigoted predispositions”…

    Or this: “rarely through genuine political passion and generally for the comfort of brave, tribal voting”

    Political writers who fire off blanket insults at large sections of their fellow citizens do their cases, and probably also those of other would-be reformers, no end of harm.

    One of the major challenges of moving towards more truly democratic modes of government is for people to accept the legitmacy of fellow citizens’ perspectives, even when they don’t share them. Slagging off people en masse is a disastrous, self-defeating tactic.

    I am not drawn to read this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patrick,

    I think such statements can reflect one of two different ideas (or a combination of both). The first is the familiar elitist notion that most people are stupid and should best be kept away from the levers of power. The other is that the electoral system is a scam which, among other things deceptions, manipulates people into believing their uninformed and unconsidered opinions are a good basis for decision making.

    I think the fact that Norgrove advocates sortition indicates that his statements reflect the latter idea rather than the former. That said, I agree that referring to people as “farm animals” is counter-productive.

    By the way, Dowlen’s book has nothing to do with such statements.

    (Also by the way, just to be clear, I often make posts about sortition-related pieces that I disagree with in various ways, so the fact that I quote someone or link to them should not be seen as an endorsement.)

    Liked by 1 person

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