Power to the People? BBC World Radio

nh-pttp

I was invited to speak on News Hour Extra on BBC World Radio last week, along with Baroness Helena Kennedy, William Galston of the Brookings Institution, and Kenyan journalist John Githongo. The show also interviewed Pia Mancini of DemocracyOS. Highlights include me calling the entire Anglo-American establishment a collection of oligarchs, and a brief foray into sortition in the end. There has been a huge backlash against ‘democracy’ in the wake of Brexit, which I personally find highly concerning (although simultaneously completely predictable), so I was very happy to be able to participate in this conversation.

If anyone wants to listen, the podcast is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0401gd9#play

Advertisements

14 Responses

  1. I listened to the whole thing. The quality of the discussion was much higher than what might be aired in the USA. Although sortition is not the focus of the discussion, the willingness of the participants coming from more traditional political perspectives to consider sortition at the end of the show was heartening.

    Like

  2. Ros: >There has been a huge backlash against ‘democracy’ in the wake of Brexit, which I personally find highly concerning

    Terry: >the willingness of the participants coming from more traditional political perspectives to consider sortition at the end of the show was heartening.

    Given that most of us agree that sortition is the only way of saving democracy [apart from the few who claim there is nothing to save], we should not seek to alienate those coming from a more traditional political perspective. The alternative (aleatorian ideological purity) is akin to the self-destructive behaviour that is the instinctive reaction of the hard left. The reaction to Brexit from the political establishment (and nearly half of all UK voters) provides us with a wonderful opportunity, so let’s not blow it by republishing silly cartoons comparing voting to an electric toaster, with smart-arse Benda/Magritte captions suggesting that choice is “treasonous”. All political systems, without exception, are hybrids, as will be the case when sortition is eventually incorporated into modern democratic polities, so let’s get real and go with the flow rather than shooting ourselves in the foot for the sake of aleatorian dogma.

    Like

  3. >”let’s not blow it by republishing silly cartoons comparing voting to an electric toaster, with smart-arse Benda/Magritte captions suggesting that choice is “treasonous”.”

    You don’t like Yoram’s tee-shirts, fine. Why is it necessary to be offensive?

    >”aleatorian ideological purity”. “aleatorian dogma.”

    Some of us have different views to yours. Why can’t you accept that?

    Like

  4. Campbell, in the real world (as opposed to the fantasies that all of us are subject to from time to time) my views, Yoram’s views and your views are of no significance. What matters is the views of “participants from more traditional political perspectives” as they outnumber us by several orders of magnitude and have actual power — either directly in politics, or indirectly via academia and the media. So why do we want to go out of our way to offend them by posting silly cartoons and dogmatic slogans? We have a wonderful opportunity to make real progress in the introduction of sortition yet, judging from the post on the Guardian article, any compromise with electoralism is dismissed sarcastically by activists on this site as seeking a “to return to that golden age when the masses knew their proper place following their leaders’ lead and adopting their leaders’ priorities.” The result of this will be to miss a golden opportunity as we will be viewed as a bunch of Citizen Smiths, even further to the left than Jeremy Corbyn. I imagine that van Reybrouk must be thinking that with friends like us who needs enemies?

    Like

  5. Campbell,

    Before trying to engage in discussion with Sutherland, it is always useful to keep in mind that he is an obnoxious, habitual liar.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Keith,

    Can’t you imagine that “extreme” sortition advocacy has the side-benefit of making your hybrid proposal seem moderate by comparison? In the late 18th and early 19th centuries many women advocated for full and equal rights with men. This was an “extreme” position, but this did not prevent their winning the vote, and right to own and control property, etc. even though FULL equality was viewed as out of the question by male controlled society.

    Like

  7. “Sutherland is an obnoxious, habitual liar”.

    I can’t imagine that this sort of language (commonplace in inter-factional disputes in leftist cabals) will encourage those of a more traditional political perspective to engage with the kleroterian community. I’m delighted that Terry was “heartened” to see the interest in sortition spreading into the mainstream, so it would appear that Campbell and Yoram are in a dwindling minority of hard-core sortition purists, unwilling to prostituted themselves by sleeping with the “electoralist” enemy. I would recommend, for purely tactical reasons, they consult Leon Trotsky’s manual on how to build an (entryist) Trojan Horse. I’m afraid that until that time I will continue to flag up posts which seem to me to be entirely damaging to the sortition cause (and those that are purely an exercise in sloganising, without anything that would pass for intellectual content).

    Like

  8. Terry,

    The historical examples that you provide were certainly viewed as extreme at the time, but not revolutionary. Yoram and Campbell’s proposal is to overthrow electoralism and replace it with sortition (the parallel between this and the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by communism is an exact one). Radical proposals to extend the franchise were entirely compatible with electoralism — just take a look at the Putney debates, where the argument was simply how far to extend the franchise, not to overthrow the political system. Yoram, Campbell and Brett from the Sortition Foundation are committed to putting politicians out of a job, so this would be a case of turkeys voting for Christmas. Even leaving aside self-interest, the suggestion is to replace a system of politics with one that is completely without historical precedent (yes, including 4th century Athens) and untested — why would anyone want to take that risk, given that the arguments in favour of pure sortition are no more than a logical syllogism? In short it’s cloud-cuckoo land, and we shouldn’t give it the time of day on this blog, which aspires to be the leading public forum on sortition, especially now that we are beginning to gain some purchase on mainstream debate.

    Like

  9. >”why do we want to go out of our way to offend them by posting silly cartoons and dogmatic slogans?”

    >”Before trying to engage in discussion with Sutherland, it is always useful to keep in mind that he is an obnoxious, habitual liar.”

    Why alienate people by squabbling all the time?

    >”I will continue to flag up posts which seem to me to be entirely damaging to the sortition cause…”

    I can’t think of anything more damaging than the constant exchange of insults…

    >”In short it’s cloud-cuckoo land, and we shouldn’t give it the time of day on this blog…”

    except perhaps the attempts to suppress other people’s views using sneers and misrepresentation. It ought to be possible to air all opinions here, without resorting to insulting language.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t think it is mis-representation, I consider the very idea of “pure” sortition as a workable political system to be insane. There appears to be only around three people in the world who advocate it, and they all choose to post on this forum. The only sneering was Yoram’s sarcastic commentary on David’s Guardian piece, so you should direct your homily towards him (and he is also the source of the ad hominem insults cast in my direction).

    Like

  11. In any case, Roslyn is to be congratulated on getting the time on air. This is a very useful thing. Anything that makes people think about the system, rather than just the politics, must help.

    Like

  12. Campbell, I certainly agree with that. Judging from Roslyn’s concerns about the post-Brexit backlash, her wish is to radically improve the system rather than replace electoralism (‘democracy’) with sortition (democracy). Revolutionaries (those who seek to overthrow the system) would welcome the backlash as an essential stage in the historical dialectic.

    Like

  13. So, first of all, thanks Campbell for your kind comments!

    To weigh in on a few things that have been said:

    a) I agree with Yoram’s criticism of van Reybrouck’s article. I think that using sortition to legitimate what the upper caste views as the ‘only’ right decisions would be the worst possible thing that could happen to us. And that was precisely what van Reybrouck proposed to do.

    b) I would definitely replace electoralism eventually, although not with pure sortition. I agree with Keith that there is no known previous example of a pure sortition society. Even during the nomothetai period in Athens, most measures were passed as psephismata with comparatively few nomoi and all nomoi had to get the approval of the Assembly and possibly graphe paranomen at some stage. This is to the best of my knowledge, as per the work of Mogens Herman Hansen. I think that a pure sortition society would be a big mistake, for the reasons I outlined during the interview: a small number of people will always be easy to bribe or otherwise influence and there would be a huge legitimacy gap, particularly in cases of controversial issues.

    c) All this notwithstanding, I do see sortition playing some role in the democracy of the future – either in a capacity similar to that enjoyed by the nomothetai or archai in Athens. I think we all have a fair bit in common on this point and should not exclusively focus on the points that divide us, especially since we all already know where everyone stands. No one can tell the future and there are many differences in modern society vis-a-vis Athens, so I am open to experimentation. Very, very large sortition bodies might be more workable, for example.

    d) Regarding Keith’s comment: “Revolutionaries (those who seek to overthrow the system) would welcome the backlash as an essential stage in the historical dialectic.”

    I’d say this is more the stance of the armchair revolutionary.

    My grandparents left Spain during the Franco years and Argentina shortly before junta time and ‘I welcome this backlash as an essential stage in the historical dialectic’ is not a phrase I ever heard them use.
    Just FYI there.
    Something might be predictable, even inevitable, but still very unpleasant to actually live through with no guarantee of a happy outcome in your lifetime.

    Like

  14. Roslyn,

    >all nomoi had to get the approval of the Assembly and possibly graphe paranomen at some stage

    Yes. Proposals for changes to the law (albeit filtered via a sortition-based council) came from ho boulomenos (individual initiatives), and defenders of the existing laws were elected by the assembly. This is pretty much as mixed as it gets. It strikes me as sensible to develop a modern version of such a system (making allowance for the vast difference of scale and complexity).

    >I think we . . . should not exclusively focus on the points that divide us

    We need to be equally aware of points that divide kleroterians from those coming from more traditional political perspectives. That’s why I’m vehemently opposed to the publication on this forum of revolutionary slogans and cartoons calling for the abolition of elections and politicians.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: