That is because I don’t think equality of power is the supreme objective or that sortition alone is sufficient to achieve it, or many other important objectives.
If we go back to my 1985 book, most of it was devoted to exploring many problems which have only tenuous links with sortition. All that other stuff was ignored, fair enough, and a group formed with “a passionate belief in sortition” as its bond. I, in the other hand have always emphasised that having good people in positions of power is not enough to ensure good outcomes. Everything depends on the procedures and processes by which those outcomes are produced. In particular, where collective decisions are arrived at by following certain procedures, the logic and dynamics of those procedures are just as important to the outcome as the input fed into them.
Moreover, I want to insist that while we can best understand the logic of such procedures, by studying simple models, the dynamics are always a matter of what works under what conditions and on what scale. For instance decision procedures depend on information flows, which depend on technologies of recording, storing, retrieving and circulating relevant information rapidly enough and in such quantities as the time available demands. What “ought to work” often doesn’t, as we all know.
Even in the best logical models, there may be hidden assumptions and omissions. There are rarely decisive arguments in such matters. Where I part company with the kleroterians is that I think that in many cases they ignore the critical problem of what decision-procedure a representative body is to follow, or, in other cases, propose unsatisfactory procedures. They seem to me to neglect certain important considerations, mainly because they are insufficiently critical of some aspects of current democratic practice.
In particular, the widely shared assumption is that when it comes down to practical decisions on complex matters requiring collective action, the rational procedure is to accept a majority vote. Everybody recognises that where the social dynamics of a community are such that almost every issue is framed in terms of religious, racial, geographical, and economic or other such considerations, majority rule is a recipe for majority tyranny, and often civil war.
On the other hand, it can work peacefully and more or less satisfactorily where the community is made up of many minorities and the majorities that rule from time to time by joining temporary coalitions with others that change in response to changing circumstances. Democratic communities that manage this feat undoubtedly have a more satisfactory form of decision-making than any of their predecessors. But it does have a basic flaw. It works satisfactorily only where getting a good decision on most matters is less important than just getting some acceptable decision expeditiously. That may often be the case where the matters requiring collective decision are largely agreed or don’t matter very much.
A lot of decisions are made because of the ways in which various coalitions happen to come about, not because of any serious assessment of the merits of the case. It suits a polity in which there is little scope for deliberately chosen public goods and people accept that politics is just a matter of “who gets what”. As powerful groups exploit the system ever more ruthlessly, those assumptions are overturned and the political order comes under extreme pressure.
When it comes to decisions that have massive consequences there is no substitute for near unanimity. A genuine public good needs to be seen as good by nearly everybody, and when it comes to imposing burdens or restrictions on every body, near unanimity about their acceptability is necessary if they are to be obeyed. In the context of adversarial politics this near unanimity is usually unattainable, even on matters of great importance. Our present party systems, based on electoral politics have certainly generated such a situation, not because of the faults of politicians, but because of the logic of the struggle for power. Everybody has to engage in the power struggle if they are to have any influence on the outcome.
Undoubtedly the kleroterians are right in thinking that substituting choice by lot for legislative office would remove the worst of these pressures. But I have come to think that as long as majority rule is the framework in which important policy decisions are made, the same problems will emerge, even in the absence of political parties and careers. There will still be a strong temptation for “right-thinking” people to gather together to get sufficient votes to beat the rest, without any serious engagement with their various concerns. The dynamics of majority voting are, I think, very strong. But, of course I may be proved wrong in practice. There is no empirical evidence.
My other misgiving is that even if I am wrong, similar doubts may occur to others. More importantly the symbolism of the vote is very deeply entrenched in democratic theory and practice. People are very reluctant to give up their vote to randomly chosen fellow citizens. Introducing sortition as a practical proposal will require a long familiarisation process in which it is shown to be effective in small doses.
More radically, I want to remove the process of policy discussion and opinion formation from counting heads or any other procedure based on power to decide. In stead I look to institutionalise fully public debate in depth, the outcome of which may be a near unanimous public opinion on some particular question.