Griffiths: Seven potential problems with sortition

Edmund Griffiths has a post about concerns he has regarding sortition. The post is quite interesting in its originality and in avoiding most of the standard anti-sortition talking points.

Griffiths is generally sympathetic to sortition and starts out with a long list of “well known” advantages of the system. The first few of these are:

it is likelier than any other system to produce representative bodies that are sociologically representative of the people;

• it removes the need for any specific positive discrimination;

• it forces political parties, campaign groups, etc., to address themselves to the public as a whole if they want to have any consistent influence on policy;

• it transforms political representation into a genuine public service, carried out by people who would often not have chosen it: a matter of duty, not ambition[.]

In terms of potential problems, Griffiths is much concerned about the validity of the sampling procedure and raises the questions of both deliberate tampering and non-intentional error as well as the question of whether the public will have faith in the procedure.

Griffiths lists four additional potential problems:

  • The small chance of a citizen being sampled into a high powered body, or even knowing someone on such a body. Griffiths believes this may lead the population to become uninterested in politics.
  • The professionals in the political system, including lobbyists, may be the ones really wielding political power.
  • Without party organization, it may be difficult for the allotted body to set its agenda, and this role may in effect be carried out by some elite group.
  • The inapplicability of sortition to organizations where membership is a relatively low commitment affair. In such cases it is unlikely that allotted members would be willing to put in much effort into serving in an allotted body.

These are all interesting points that deserve attention. The one about the professionals in the system wielding power is to some extent discussed here, but surely merits additional discussion.

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41 Responses

  1. Thoughtful comments indeed. A couple of points for further discussion:

    1. The problem of trust

    Griffiths points out the National Lottery as a weak example of an entity where randomness is trusted. Perhaps jury selection would have been a better example. There are additional steps, other than randomness, in that process, but I haven’t seen that particular step being questioned. There are also many examples of Citizen Assemblies that haven’t been questioned in that regard, but one can argue that it would be a lot different if the decisions were equivalent, in scope and power, to current elected bodies.

    A more fundamental response would be that random selection is not necessarily technically opaque. For instance, we could have a public list of all eligible citizens, and sortition would work by successive binary selection (say, coin tosses), to choose the top or bottom half of the list until a single citizen is selected. Such a process wouldn’t be significantly more difficult to scrutinize than ballot boxes, in terms of technical skills of the general public (of course it would be much more complex and costly than if we trusted machines, but here a parallel can be drawn with current suspicion of electronic voting).

    4. The problem of population size

    A possible answer here is isegoria. Regardless of being randomly selected to be in the Assembly, every citizen should have the right to speak before it and have their ideas considered. If that process gains a reputation for being fair, it should be enough to keep every citizen satisfied with their participation.

    5. The problem of advisers

    Maybe I’m optimistic, but I don’t necessarily see a problem here. I would expect lobbies and even organized parties to still exist in a political environment dominated by sortition. I’m not convinced that randomly selected citizens would be easy to manipulate (especially since many opposing lobbies and parties would exist) and it still would represent a division of responsibility. We could argue that today’s representatives don’t even need to be easy to manipulate because they are part of the machinery that manipulates.

    6. The problem of legislative initiative

    This is a complex problem that needs a solution in whatever institutional framework is devised for sortition bodies to work (such as Terry Bouricius’ paper that I’m sure has been mentioned multiple times here, Democracy Through Multi-body Sortition).

    7. The problem of organizations with activists and supporters

    My response to this would be that either people want to participate or they don’t (and both are legitimate). Participation just by voting is part of why sortition systems are proposed, because of rational ignorance. People not randomly selected should still be allowed to speak and be heard (isegoria), so they still have an impact if they have something meaningful to say.

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  2. “The small chance of a citizen being sampled into a high powered body, or even knowing someone on such a body. Griffiths believes this may lead the population to become uninterested in politics.”

    This is actually a very good argument for more and more decentralization. Consider a Canton of 10 or 20 or even 30 thousand population in which Sortition is used extensively. Most people would take part in ruling, legislating, administering the Canton. Most or at least a majority of those who wants to be politically active will get frequent opportunities for being so.

    There is no point in constructing & maintaining larger and larger states and empires (like the EU, for example) in which the above problem outlined by Griffiths will be the norm.

    Swiss like cantons must be the primary political units (with semi sovereignity) and let them associate with each other depending on their needs to create Sovereign political units.

    The sovereign political units will certainly be much smaller than large, unwieldy nation states of today. But they will be much better run with far better democratic control.

    These sovereign political units can negotiate treaties, agreements etc with each other without giving up sovereignty like the European states to some bureaucratic, undemocratic monstrosity like EU.

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  3. The fault of virtually all discussions of sortition is that they suppose that there must be a single governing body that decides the great variety of questions our legislatures face at the moment, as if all of those questions affected everybody equally.

    I have always argued that, while everybody is entitled to be fully informed about and participate in public discussion about the consequences of any proposal about any public good, it is most important, if good creative decisions are to be made on specific matters, that those most substantially affected by decisions in a particular area should have a determining say in those decisions. Too many of our public policies are debated and decided on ideological grounds or as part of packages put together by dubious deals. Our present procedures assume that competing interests are only respected if they can mobilise a lot of money or voting power. We are required to accept decisions that are generally weak compromises, the result of “political” pressures rather than relevant considerations.

    One of the big advantages of sortition is that facilitates the construction of specific bodies that are representative of the various interest involved in a particular area of policy. A complex modern society depends on very many diverse activities and processes that have very specific needs. For example, it needs a well-educated citizenry. To that extent everybody has an interest in good decisions about its various components and dimensions. But good decisions in such matters are not a matter of top-down “planning” but of a lot of experimentation and practical involvement. That is not assured by leaving it to the market, but could be achieved by devolving power to those involved. We have to trust our fellow citizens who have firsthand involvement to work at getting it right. They have much better understanding of those problems than we can hope to get and much stronger motivation to get to grips with the problems and opportunities education creates.

    From this perspective the question raised in the sensible post and comments above above take on a very different aspect. We know that planned economies and multi-business conglomerates fail because the planners at the top know little about the specifics of any particular business.
    It is time to realise that how we deal with public goods needs to heed that lesson.

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  4. @John Burnheim, yes, I could say I often fall prey to that fault of discussing things in the terms of current political bodies. I read your book, Is Democracy Possible?, and one of my favorite features of Demarchy was the division of power in overlapping stakeholder groups. Ajit’s comment does go in that direction, arguing for decentralization.

    One thing that I sometimes wonder is how to reach that goal of specific bodies chosen by sortition, starting from what we currently have. Should the first step be sortition in the existing political bodies, or adapting those political bodies to work more like it is envisaged in Demarchy, within the current paradigm, and only then switch to sortition? Or would it be possible to do both at the same time? And most important, for the few functions of State that might have to remain centralized (say, national defense), a solution akin to the current one would still have to be worked out, so I think this kind of discussion is useful, even if only transitorily.

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  5. Paulo,

    Agree with most of your comments, but:

    >Regardless of being randomly selected to be in the Assembly, every citizen should have the right to speak before it and have their ideas considered.

    Is that realistic? Just as isonomia in large modern states needs to be representative (via sortition), the same can be said for isegoria, and this is a non-trivial problem that will require a number of different mechanisms (including election, direct initiative and competitive commercial media). Speaking and judging were entirely distinct aspects of Athenian democracy and I don’t see how one can be used to counteract deficiencies in the other.

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  6. This post raises so many VERY interesting points, that each probably deserves its own thread… but I will just comment on one right now.

    There are several points to be made about the notion that if few citizens have much chance of being drawn in a sortition system, “this may lead the population to become uninterested in politics.”

    1. In a democracy with a mature and fully developed sortition system it seems plausible that there could be a vast number of single-issue, short duration juries, at the neighborhood, municipal, county, state, national, and international levels….. so that while few citizens might be chosen for a national body, most citizens might end up being drawn multiple times during their lifetime for SOME sort of policy jury.

    2. Even if sortition evolves with a small number of all-purpose bodies (akin to modern all-purpose legislatures) those citizens NOT drawn would have just as much motivation to follow and be interested in politics by helping to draft proposals, giving testimony, writing letters to the editor (though that example is becoming dated), signing petitions, attending rallies, watching the news, etc. as citizens who currently only have the miniscule”power” of casting one vote out of millions. Whether it is a voting or sortition scheme with a small number of citizens elected or selected to make final decisions, there is no reason that sortition would reduce public interest in public policy matters compared to elections.

    3. However, more fundamentally, I want to challenge the assumption that being “uninterested in politics” is necessarily a bad thing. Under our current systems the VAST majority of “interest in politics” as whipped up by candidates and media coverage has to do with the power struggle of personalities and drama of politics, rather than policy. Thus “politics” generally refers to that power struggle rather than the policy, which fades into the background (as a source of raw material to wield in the power struggle). If that “political” drama were gone (because there were no elections), the draw of hero-worship and opposing evil candidates might lower interest … but to what harm? Yes, there would still be political battles … but they would be focused on matters of policy, rather than personalities. Research suggests allotted policy makers might be far more open to new knowledge and fact-based analysis once on a jury if they have NOT already made up their minds on a partisan basis in advance while largely uninformed. It may be that a disinterest in politics while NOT serving would make for better citizenship WHILE serving. I do not get all excited about issues of my solid waste district, nor follow the details, but if selected for a jury to decide about whether to build a trash incinerator or a new landfill, I could learn a lot quickly on that issue. That new kind of “politics” might be routine and boring, but that might be a sign that democracy is working wonderfully.

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  7. Ajit,

    Decentralization is a well known Anarchist idea. It is in fact quite similar to the right-wing idea of “privatization” of society.

    In both models, the issue of interaction between the large number of entities (whether individuals, as in the right-wing version, or small communities, as in the Anarchist version) is unresolved and is supposedly handled in some objective, politics-free way.

    Of course, no such way exists. In modern society large scale decisions are ubiquitous and they are political decisions. Unless we have a democratic political mechanism for arriving at large scale decisions, we have really not addressed the problem of democratic government in modern society. Sortition is exactly this mechanism. Through sampling sortition translates the large scale into the small scale while ensuring that the interests and world views applied in decision making are those of the population at large.

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  8. I agree with Terry’s point #3 – it is not a-priori clear that participation is a desirable thing. The desirability of participation is often simply assumed without providing good grounds (and often with an unjustified air of importance and wisdom).

    That said, if participation is of interest, and for those who are interested in participating, avenues of meaningful participation – unlike voting, mass protest, and other familiar forms of electoral participation, which are not much more than formalities – can be devised.

    An important avenue of meaningful participation is democratic mass media.

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  9. Keith,

    About isegoria being realistic, I agree it’s a valid concern and that would have to be researched and monitored. My assumption was that the number of people interested in participating would be low enough for the system to work. I base that assumption on current mechanisms of public consultation (“public notice and comment”, or the amicus brief in courts), which I suppose are manageable.

    In any case, tbouricius made a much more thorough response to this issue and I like all his points. Public consultation would fit somewhere in point 2.

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  10. Paulo: >Public consultation would fit somewhere in point 2.

    OK, but I still don’t agree that isegoria is a valid way of addressing the problem of exclusion by sortition. Regarding your original claim:

    >If [isegoria] gains a reputation for being fair, it should be enough to keep every citizen satisfied with their participation.

    The problem is that the vast majority of citizens will not participate in any way at all (isonomia or isegoria), so the important thing is to ensure that both mechanisms are truly representative, so that it makes no difference whether or not an individual participates herself, the outcome would be the same. Both problems are non-trivial as no single mechanism can ensure representativity. But whether or not an individual participates in person is entirely irrelevant in large-scale modern states that necessarily rely on representation. In this respect Griffiths is right to point out that we are wrong to seek to learn too much directly from the political arrangements of a tiny ancient polis.

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  11. Keith,

    Ok, I see your point about representativity. That is actually a criticism for which I would like to have a better answer than my research has provided me so far. In The Principles of Representative Democracy, Manin argues that direct choice of representatives lends legitimacy to their decisions, in a way that is absent from sortition. My argument there is that sortition is about statistical representation, which is imperfect for a single Assembly but increasingly covers the whole population as time goes by, as long as sortition processes are frequent enough to compensate for population overturn. Of course this needs to be calculated, based on the size of the political body and population, but surely a much lower ratio is needed than they had in Ancient Greece.

    tbouricius’ first point, in the comment above, also addresses this in a different way. If there are many decision bodies, the probability of being picked for one of them, even if not for a central, national one, will be a lot higher. It’s debatable whether that is enough to ensure representativity; decentralization would certainly help because it would grant more power to those individuals selected in local bodies.

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  12. Paulo,

    >Manin argues that direct choice of representatives lends legitimacy to their decisions, in a way that is absent from sortition. My argument there is that sortition is about statistical representation.

    They are completely different types of representation — the active representation of interests (Manin) and descriptive representation (sortition), as theorised by Hanna Pitkin in her 1967 book The Concept of Representation. Both varieties are needed, hence the claims by Bernard Manin and M.H. Hansen that modern “democracies” are in fact mixed constitutions. Kleroterians would argue that an increase in descriptive representation is necessary to fulfil the democratic element, a claim that both these authors are sympathetic to (in Manin’s case only very recently). Terry’s attempt to achieve full democratic representation (and optimal epistemic outcomes) via sortition alone is a valiant endeavour, but it cannot succeed on account of the isonomia/isegoria distinction and the need for different technologies to ensure representativity in each case. Today’s EU referendum result indicates the dangerous consequences of unrepresentative governance.

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  13. Keith,

    I know they are different types of representation, I don’t agree both are needed, as long as people accept that statistical representation is good enough for isonomia. Unless sortition is implemented through violent revolution (which I don’t advocate, to be clear), there will always be a foundational moment that grants it that legitimacy.

    Like I said before, I’m not entirely satisfied with my position on this issue, but I stress the “good enough” from my previous paragraph, because current electoral representation is also far from perfect, both in terms of legitimacy and true representation of the will of the people. Along with what I consider to be a fundamental flaw of electoral representation, rational ignorance, Russell Hardin, in the Free Rider Problem, identified some of the problems:

    «Even this term, “representative,” is gutted by logical fallacy. My representative on some governmental body is apt to work on behalf of my interests some of the time and against them some of the time. Even those for whom I vote often work against my interests; and if they should be said to represent me, they often do a very bad job of it.»

    And Hanna Pitkin, quoting an essay by Hélène Landemore (I haven’t read the original reference), «now believes that “representation has supplanted democracy instead of serving it…The representatives act not as agents of the people but simply instead of them” (2004, 339) and concludes that “The arrangements we call ‘representative democracy’ have become a substitute for popular self‐government, not its enactment”». Landemore also claims that Pitkin admitted one of unexamined assumptions in her Concept of Representation was that “it seemed axiomatic idea that under modern conditions only representation can make democracy possible” (that’s also a quote from Pitkin, 2004, Representation and Democracy: Uneasy Alliance).

    https://www.law.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Rousseaus-Mistake_Representation-and-the-Myth-of-Direct-Democracy.pdf

    I also agree that Brexit is, partially, a consequence of unrepresentative governance, but that is a lack of active as well as descriptive representation, so I wouldn’t say it’s an argument in favor of the former.

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  14. Paulo,

    >I know they are different types of representation, I don’t agree both are needed, as long as people accept that statistical representation is good enough for isonomia.

    If you look at the classical sources, the Greeks sometimes took isonomia to be synonymous with democracy and sometimes isegoria. But they would have been horrified to hear that you could have only one element and still call it demokratia. Spartan governance was isonomia-based, but had no isegoria, so could not be characterised as demokratia. Dahl also insists that democratic norms presuppose that the people should have control of democratic agenda-setting and this is simply not possible using sortition.

    I’m familiar with Pitkin’s 2004 essay, having read it a couple of times and cited it in my PhD. I contacted her (no response), suggesting that electoral democracy needed to be supplemented with descriptive representation — she would certainly not agree that it should replace it (and nor would Hélène). It is true, of course that under modern conditions only representation can make democracy possible, but we need both forms (active and descriptive) in order to ensure representative isegoria and isonomia.

    My point about Brexit is that it’s a consequence of the divide between the political class and everyone else, so an indication of the lack of descriptive representation. I published a proposal for a sortition-based public enquiry on EU membership as an alternative to the Brexit referendum: https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/keith-sutherland/brexit-lottery

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  15. > Dahl also insists that democratic norms presuppose that the people should have control of democratic agenda-setting and this is simply not possible using sortition.

    Why is it not possible? In Terry Bouricius’ multi-body sortition proposal, there would be an alotted Agenda Council.

    Regarding Hanna Pitkin and Hélène Landemore, I was just quoting very specific sentences, I have no problem believing you when you say they would not agree with the replacement of electoral democracy. All I’m saying is that my own position is that electoral democracy should be entirely replaced with something else.

    I won’t claim to be a scholar on the issue; I stopped voting in my early twenties, because I intuitively felt it was pointless, and my readings since haven’t changed my mind (for instance, Benny Geys’ 2006 review of Rational Theories of Voter Turnout, or Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter, and Russel Hardin’s essay that I quoted above). Like I said, my main problem is rational ignorance and how to counter it (by the way, I liked your article on the Brexit, where, among many other things, you raise that issue).

    You mentioned before that different technologies would be needed to achieve representativity in the sense of isonomia and isegoria. If you have any suggestions of reading material on that, so I can do some research, I would appreciate it immensely.

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  16. Paulo,

    Rational ignorance is a problem with the electoral mechanism, but it is not the primary problem. The primary problem is its inherent elitist nature (what Manin calls “the principle of distinction”).

    Even if every voter knew everything there is to know about every candidate, this would not prevent elite domination if all the candidates – filtered ahead of time by the effects of the principle of distinction – presented essentially the same elitist agenda.

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  17. Yoram,

    That’s a good point, and that was actually my biggest takeaway from Manin’s book (Principles of Representative Democracy), I guess I got lost in the “rational ignorance” train of thought in this discussion.

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  18. Yes – this insight (which in fact appears to have been conventional wisdom in antiquity) distinguishes Manin’s analysis from the standard “rational choice” analysis (Downs, Arrow, etc.).

    It is an interesting fact that the “rational choice” crowd never made sortition part of their agenda – they didn’t promote sortition as a solution for “rational ignorance”, didn’t even discuss it (AFAIAA).

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  19. Paulo,

    >Why is it not possible? In Terry Bouricius’ multi-body sortition proposal, there would be an allotted Agenda Council.

    Because statistical representation depends on the law of large numbers and is therefore of no relevance to the speech acts of individual persons, which are random in the pejorative sense of the word.

    >Russell Hardin’s essay that I quoted above

    My favourite Hardin quote is “Having the liberty to cast my vote is roughly as valuable as having the liberty to cast a vote on whether the sun will shine tomorrow.”

    >You mentioned before that different technologies would be needed to achieve representativity in the sense of isonomia and isegoria. If you have any suggestions of reading material on that, so I can do some research, I would appreciate it immensely.

    I’d be very happy to send you the chapter of my thesis that deals with this if you let me have your email address.

    Yoram,

    >It is an interesting fact that the “rational choice” crowd never made sortition part of their agenda.

    Sortition would not fit in with their methodological individualism and no choices are involved.

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  20. Paulo,

    >All I’m saying is that my own position is that electoral democracy should be entirely replaced with something else.

    “Perhaps the greatest error in thinking about democratic authority is to believe that ideas about democracy and authority are simple and must lead to simple prescriptions . . . if you think there are simple prescriptions, then we cannot hope to understand one another.” (Dahl, 1990, p. 73)

    This is particularly true in the case of electoral democracy as it is no single thing, rather (as both Manin and Hansen insist), it’s a mixture of democratic, aristocratic and monarchical (sic) elements.

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  21. Keith,

    My e-mail is paulo.david.almeida@gmail.com . And thanks a lot, I appreciate it.

    I see your point about agenda setting. I suppose it goes back to the consent/legitimacy conferred by votes, which is absent in sortition.

    Regarding your quote about simple prescriptions, I acknowledge the system is complex, but that doesn’t mean one can’t exclude any feature. I’m talking about replacing a complex system with a different complex system, and I’m not saying it can (or should) be done at once. Also, real people have to make simple decisions (e.g. whether to vote) and that’s where I’m coming from when I say that. Of course they don’t have to all make the same decision, I can see room for complexity there. I’ve always thought we would have to be ready for the day when almost everyone decides not to vote, but it’s true that day may never come. In any case, I’ll probably understand your position better if I read the material you mentioned, so thanks again.

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  22. Yes, democratic agenda setting is key. Along with rational ignorance it is one of the fatal flaws of electoralism. No electoral scheme has done a good job on this front. Sortition offers a solution through an agenda setting body (that does not actually draft proposals, but decides what societal problems need addressing at the current time.)

    While I dispute Keith’s notion that speech acts by individual representatives invalidate the representativity of an allotted body any more than speech acts invalidate democracy in an elected body — In both cases SOME representatives will be more persuasive than others and voters get essentially no control over the matter (I am presented with nominated, fixed point candidate options. I can’ blend the humans into what I ideally want. I don’t get to mix the passion of candidate Mary, the policy positions of candidate John, the connections and experience of candidate Jane and the eloquence of candidate Ahmed…. I get a representative who I may well have voted against, and if I voted for, is certainly lacking (while you may happen to get a much better one, also beyond your control). So arguing that because my representative was elected, she has more democratic permission to engage in speech acts than an allotted representative is nonsensical.

    BUT, setting that long argument we have had over and over aside…Even MEETING your insistence that allotted representatives should not speak, a mini-public could STILL serve as an agenda setting body by filtering a vast array of proposals proposed by citizens through silent voting to reduce the number to a manageable number and then hearing pro-con presentations and selecting which to place on a final agenda for staff drafting. This isn’t the optimal way, in my opinion, but would be far more democratic than Keith’s elected advocates as agenda setters scheme, while also meeting Keith’s mute representatives criterion.

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  23. Sutherland is explicitly proposing a non-democratic system. The mechanisms he proposes (in their various versions and with the various rationalizations) are all aimed at keeping the unwashed away from the levers of power. This objective is not uncommon among sortition-promoters.

    > Sortition would not fit in with their methodological individualism and no choices are involved.

    That’s not a convincing argument. The citizens, as individuals, could arrive at the conclusion that a sortition-based system serves them best.

    The real reason “rational choice” literature doesn’t discuss sortition is the same one that motivated Socrates and Plato to argue against sortition – elitist interests and worldview.

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  24. tbouricius, Yoram,

    I am more sympathetic to your positions than Keith’s, as you can probably tell from what I wrote previously. This is the first time I comment, but I can imagine that for you this is rehashing old arguments.

    Going back to my original response to Griffiths’ text, I think at the end of the day, important though theories undoubtedly are (and that’s why I read about them), the proof of the pudding is in the eating. As I said before, I’m not completely happy with my answer about the legitimacy of sortition, but I’m also far from satisfied with the legitimacy of electoral representation (because of what tbouricius wrote in his latest comment and what I had written myself, namely from Russel Hardin). If sortition is implemented and people accept it, that’s a good indication of its legitimacy.

    Acceptance can take different forms in different societies. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about China, and I was particularly struck by an example from Wei Zhou’s In Search of Deliberative Democracy in China. He describes how the Shanghai population overwhelmingly opposed government plans to build a Maglev line, and demanded public hearings, which eventually blocked the project. What I found striking was that it was similar to what happened a few years ago in my own country (Portugal, a Western democracy), when the government, with the current crisis already looming, proposed expensive public projects, like a new airport and high-speed train. At the time, Portugal’s elites seemed surprised by the public outcry that ensued, and also postponed the projects indefinitely. Similar processes can take place in electoral democracies, dominated by elites, and in authoritarian and repressive China. In the West, precisely because we already have democracies, it may be harder to argue that there is a better way, and make deliberative democracy more common (Keith alerted to this in the Brexit article). That’s something Manin also wrote in the Principles. The baseline were past authoritarian regimes, so it was difficult to contrast sortition and elections in the American Constitutional Convention, as it seemed obvious their results would be similar, in terms of representing the will of the people. Now, after a few centuries, it’s not so obvious anymore.

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  25. Paulo,

    >I’m talking about replacing a complex system with a different complex system.

    The critical variable is not complexity but that there should be a diversity of mechanisms involved — democratic, aristocratic and monarchic (sic). Terry’s proposal is byzantine in its complexity but based on a single mechanism (sortition).

    >In the West, precisely because we already have democracies, it may be harder to argue that there is a better way, and make deliberative democracy more common.

    Yes indeed, the only DP to have its conclusions converted immediately into public policy was in China, as the CP is desperately a seeking a form of public consultation that does not undermine its own monopoly of (monarchic) power.

    Terry,

    >So arguing that because my representative was elected, she has more democratic permission to engage in speech acts than an allotted representative is nonsensical.

    The representation may not be perfect but she was selected by a plurality of voters in a competitive election (some political systems being more competitive than others) whereas the speech acts of allotted persons are just random.

    >a mini-public could STILL serve as an agenda setting body by filtering a vast array of proposals proposed by citizens through silent voting to reduce the number to a manageable number.

    Yes indeed, I imagine this is how the Athenian council worked in practice in its primary role as the assembly secretariat. I would be open to persuasion that this could be a better mechanism than Swiss-style votation.

    >[this] would be far more democratic than Keith’s elected advocates as agenda setters scheme

    In my proposal elected advocates are only one mechanism for representative isegoria (alongside direct-democratic initiatives, competitive commercial media, information markets, public competitions and a variety of other mechanisms). All I dispute is that sortition could have a role to play in agenda setting. A statistical mandate cannot apply to the speech acts of individual persons as the law of large numbers does not apply (I’m a little puzzled that I need to keep making this rather obvious point).

    Yoram:

    >The citizens, as individuals, could arrive at the conclusion that a sortition-based system serves them best.

    The paradox, of course, being that if citizens were deciding “as individuals” then a referendum would be required, which is subject to rational ignorance, as UK citizens are all too painfully aware. Most commentators have concluded that the Brexit decision was swung by the choices of “the unwashed”, as you put it. I was amused by a TV interview with a voter from Barnsley who opined that he voted for Brexit on account of immigration, but then said words to the effect of “I don’t mind the Europeans, it’s the Islamics I don’t like”. If my proposal for a public enquiry in front of a large randomly-selected jury had been taken up, then the decision-making would have been much better informed, even if the advocates were all drawn from the political elite.

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  26. Keith wrote:
    >”The [elected] representation may not be perfect but she was selected by a plurality of voters in a competitive election (some political systems being more competitive than others) whereas the speech acts of allotted persons are just random.”

    I can respect an argument that the elected representative has more legitimacy to engage is speech acts simply due to hundreds of years of built up custom, but not based on any reasoned logic. Your sentence could be easily reversed…

    “The [randomly selected] representation may not be perfect but she was selected by chance from among all citizens having an equal chance, whereas the speech acts of elected persons are just self-selected nominees promoted through the principle of distinction in a system that almost invariably over-represents the privileged and elite.”

    When debate (speech acts) are helpful for decision making (and I think they generally, though not always, are), there are compelling reasons to have a smaller group than the entire society involved. That subset should be representative of the population. Within that subset (whether selected by election or sortition) there will always be more and less persuasive individuals. Just as no INDIVIDUAL member of a randomly selected representative body can be said to “represent” the entire society, no INDIVIDUAL member of an ELECTED chamber represents all of society. There is no logical reason to privilege speech acts of members selected through an election process that favors the elite, over members selected at random, with no built-in favoritism, but rather a foundation in political equality.

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  27. Terry,

    In Pitkin’s terminology representatives appointed by preference election act for their principals, whereas an allotted body stands for its target population. These two forms of representation are as different as chalk and cheese and it’s a conceptual error to think that a change of electoral technology will replace one with the other on a like-for-like basis. In fact the term “allotted representatives” is a rare example of a substantive that only exists in plural form — there is no such thing as a single allotted representative, as she would only stand for herself and would, therefore, cease to be representative. This is not the case with an individual elected representatives, who acts for the people who voted her in.

    >no INDIVIDUAL member of an ELECTED chamber represents all of society.

    Elected politicians are partisans who (absent Burkeian posturing) act for their principals. If you vote for a Tea-Party Republican you are right to be pissed off if she subsequently introduces or votes for a bill that leads to an increase in the role of the Federal government. This may be unattractive from an epistemic perspective, but that has nothing to do with the democratic credentials of the electoral process (viz. your concerns regarding political equality). In large-scale polities, political equality is ensured by representation, not by the chances that an individual persons will be selected by lot. Given that the overwhelmingly vast majority will not be selected, I fail to understand why political egalitarians view this as of any significance — perhaps they believe allotted persons are selected by an omniscient deity?

    >There is no logical reason to privilege speech acts of members selected through an election process that favors the elite.

    Whilst some political systems privilege the election of rich white male lawyers more than others, Manin’s case for the principle of distinction is more general — voters simply return candidates that stand out according to whatever criteria they view as pertinent. Even if the process returns an above-average number of wealthy people (not true in the case of British MPs), there is no reason to believe (unless you still adhere to Marxian determinism) that such persons will of necessity promote policies that favour the interests of the rich. The fastest-growing political party in England (sic) is UKIP, which is led by a wealthy former stockbroker, but the party has hoovered up votes from disaffected Labour voters and this week engineered a referendum result that was resolutely opposed by elite interests from the left and the right. Although Donald Trump is a rich white male, his policies are also opposed by the political elite on both the left and the right, so you need to be a little more nuanced regarding the association between elections and elite interests.

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  28. > The paradox, of course, being that if citizens were deciding “as individuals” then a referendum would be required, which is subject to rational ignorance

    Is this still supposed to be a reason for “rational choice” theory ignoring sortition? The question of bootstrapping any decision making mechanism (which of course applies to elections, or monarchy just as much as it applies to sortition) should be central to “rational decision” theory.

    Substantively: first, as I wrote, rational ignorance is not really the main problem with elections or with referenda, the main problem being agenda setting. Second, in the fundamental context of bootstrapping a decision-making mechanism I think both problems are relatively benign. The agenda is largely set by the context itself, and the alternatives are abstract enough so that specific and detailed expert knowledge is not required. (This of course applies to making broad decisions about the general nature and principles of the government, rather than to detailed proposals.)

    Therefore, there is nothing paradoxical about having a referendum for the elections-vs-sortition question. (Of course, one could go meta and ask how the bootstrapping referenda would be bootstrapped, but that is a different matter.)

    > Most commentators

    Regardless of the merits of your position, if your basis for its validity is citing “most commentators”, then you clearly have no case to make.

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  29. Yoram,

    The concern of rational choice theorists is why human agents behave in a certain manner, rather than foundational constitutional principles such as legitimacy, consent etc. They are economists, not normative political theorists (that’s why the latter resent the intrusion into their own discipline). As to whether rational ignorance or agenda setting is the most important problem of electoral politics we will just have to agree to differ. Your view on the lack of need for expert knowledge on abstract constitutional issues suggests that you are a Rousseauian as you view rational ignorance and agenda setting to be “benign” in the context of such an important decision. Is this because you believe citizens can answer such an abstract question via their innate moral sensibilities? Or will they be nudged towards giving the right answer as a result of exposure to simplistic slogans on T-shirts and internet forums?

    I’m glad, however, that you are finally prepared to acknowledge that there are valid forms of democratic decision-making other than appointing an allotted body and leaving everything down to its participants — even though this contradicts everything you have ever said on the nature of democracy!

    >Most commentators . . . the unwashed.

    So what is your view on the reason that the plurality of UK citizens voted to leave the EU? I should mention that, having voted for Brexit, I consider myself one of the unwashed, as I’m a political theorist (not an expert on economics or governance systems).

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  30. Sutherland,

    > this contradicts everything you have ever said on the nature of democracy

    Of course you will be unable to provide any evidence for your claims about my positions. You are again demonstrating that you are a habitual despicable liar. Why would anyone try to have a conversation with such a person?

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  31. Yoram,

    On this forum you have consistently defined democracy as the considered judgment of a statistical microcosm and have, by contrast, described election, referenda and other aspects of mass democracy as oligarchic (on account of elite manipulation). Yet you claim that the plebiscite that you are proposing in this case would not be subject to your Iron Law of Oligarchy on account of unspecified “contextual” and “abstract” considerations. However, if mass democracy is (paradoxically) oligarchical then this would surely apply to all decisions taken, irrespective of whether or not the decision is of a bootstrapping nature. If you can provide evidence of other similar observations from yourself on this forum, then I would be happy to retract my claim that you are being contradictory.

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  32. > On this forum you have consistently defined democracy as the considered judgment of a statistical microcosm

    Nonsense. Can you provide even a single example where I offered such a definition (let alone a consistent record)?

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  33. Yoram,

    I don’t have the time to trawl the archive — it would be much better if you were to provide your own operationalised** definition of democracy. I sincerely believe(d) that “the considered judgment of a statistical microcosm” was your definition so, if this is wrong, please accept my apologies and tell us what your definition is.

    **note the crucial adjective — an abstract definition like “government in the interests of the people” will not suffice.

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  34. > I don’t have the time to trawl the archive

    So you feel that you can make assertions about what other people say without having any responsibility regarding the truthfulness of your assertions. Thank you for clarifying that you are a habitual liar.

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  35. Yoram,

    This exchange of insults is both tedious and unseemly. I clearly don’t understand your view of democracy and genuinely seek clarification as I appear to have misrepresented your position. For the sake of reciprocity here’s my view:

    From a normative perspective democracy is a hybrid of isonomia and isegoria. In large poleis this can only be achieved via representation. Operationally speaking, the 4th-century reforms instituted representative isonomia (equal decision-making via statistically-representative proxies) but included only a small step towards representative isegoria (the election of defence advocates for the nomothetai by the general assembly). Large modern states require a number of institutional and cultural artefacts (details on request) in order to establish representative isegoria.

    So that’s my position, from both a normative and operational perspective. Where do you stand — I’m genuinely puzzled?

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  36. Sutherland,

    What’s unseemly is you lying shamelessly and repeatedly. I am disappointed that other commenters on this blog are somehow willing to ignore this, but I am not going to ignore this and I am going to keep pointing this out. Saying you are lying is not an insult – it is stating a fact. If you find this fact being mentioned inconvenient, you should stop lying.

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  37. Yoram, if I have misunderstood your position then I apologise. Unfortunately until you state your view unambiguously I have no way of knowing and I’m disappointed that you insist on attributing intellectual differences to moral failings in your interlocutors. Until you re-state your position I will continue in my (false) belief that your operationalised definition of democracy is the considered judgment of a statistical microcosm of the demos. If this is a lie, then how do you define democracy in operational terms? Even if you don’t feel obliged to clarify this for my sake, then how about the other 475 Kleroterians, who may well be just as bemused as myself?

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  38. Yoram,

    While I agree that Keith has a tendency to ascribe beliefs to you and others, seemingly as either a straw man to knock down or to be dismissive of different analyses… AND I think calling him on those is fine… I don’t generally view his statements to be intentional lies worthy of condemning. I suspect that he (like me and all other people) is simply interpreting the arguments of others through his own personal filter… communication is always imperfect and we rarely really fully “get” each other. All that being said… while your view of democracy may not have the DEFINITION Keith gave… it doesn’t seem far from the mark to me either… democracy is where the people as a whole govern in their own interest, and since any mass-based procedure (elections or referendums) are subject to elite manipulation the only way to achieve a semblance of democracy iw through a representative system selected by random sampling.

    On a second note…. Keith, don’t you think your definition is rather oddly specific so that ONLY a mixed design like yours (that incorporates “monarchic” and aristocratic elements) meets the definition? Doesn’t it seem more appropriate to let “democracy” stand as being defined without those aristocratic elements, and then argue that pure democracy is flawed, since you favor a mixed constitution, rather than DEFINE your mixed system as BEING democracy?

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  39. Keith,
    I seem to remember Yoram posting a formal working definition of democracy that you, Terry and I criticised him for in part because it was totally agnostic with respect to selection method. I recall derisively referring to a state meeting the criteria as a “Gatist” state rather than a democratic one because even authoritarian regimes could conceivably meet the requirements to be a Gatist state.

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  40. Terry,

    The question of whether Sutherland deliberately fabricates his claims or merely doesn’t care whether those claims are true or not is a question about an unknowable state of his mind. The observable fact is that he repeatedly makes false claims that he freely admits he has no evidence for. This is far from an honest misunderstanding. This is habitual, shameless lying. Tolerating this behavior legitimizes it.

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  41. Terry,

    Thanks, as always, for your measured and charitable commentary.

    >don’t you think your definition is rather oddly specific so that ONLY a mixed design like yours (that incorporates “monarchic” and aristocratic elements) meets the definition?

    Oops, did I say that — I certainly didn’t mean to (but I won’t accuse you of lying!). My intention was to define democracy in terms of two egalitarian norms (isonomia and isegoria) and argue that both forms of equality required representation in order to be operationalised in large modern states. This has nothing to do with my other claim, which is merely a restatement of the views of Hansen and Manin that modern “democracies” are in fact mixed systems of governance that incorporate democratic, aristocratic and “monarchic” elements and that pure democracy is an unworkable ideal type.

    Yoram:
    > false claims that [Sutherland] freely admits he has no evidence for.

    What I said was that I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to rummage through years of commentary to find the evidence and that it would be a better use of all of our time for you to come up with your own definition, rather than for others to seek to divine it (with or without deliberate mendacity). Terry’s interpretation of your views seems pretty accurate to me and I hope you won’t attack him for deliberate misrepresentation.

    Naomi:
    > even authoritarian regimes could conceivably meet the requirements to be a Gatist state.

    Yes I think this was probably Yoram’s formal definition of democracy (a regime that rules in the interests of the people). My concern was, in this instance, for an operational definition and, if my memory serves me correctly, this has generally taken the form of democracy as the considered judgment of a statistical microcosm of the demos. Hopefully, now that others have entered into this conversation, Yoram will confirm whether or not this is the case.

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