G1000 Kick Off in the UK – Cambridge, September 24th

against-elections.jpgIf Brexit proved anything, it proved that what Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels say in Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government is true. People do not vote after careful consideration of facts and options, they vote to affirm their membership of various social groups and express agreement with the opinions of those groups, which may have little or nothing to do with the issue at hand being voted upon.

As David Van Reybrouck expressed so eloquently in his article, Why elections are bad for democracy (an extract from his book Against Elections) there is something very wrong with voting and elections and there is a much better way to do democracy: select a representative random sample of ordinary people, provide them with balanced information, and let them deliberate together to find out not what people do think, but what they would think, if given the time and information together with a good deliberative process.

From 11am to 4pm on September 24th, in Cambridge at the Six Bells Pub, a group of volunteers will meet to kick-off the process of bringing Van Reybrouck’s brainchild – a G1000 – to the UK for the first time. The dream is to bring a randomly selected group of 1000 residents together for one day in early 2017, to deliberate and decide together what is best for Cambridge.

But we need your help to make it a reality. We need people to donate their time and their energy to help organise such an event. We will need fundraisers, social media ambassadors, technicians, volunteers, cooks and a whole host of other help. Can you be one of these people? If so please join us, get in touch or come along to the G1000 Kick-off in Cambridge on September 24th.

[This post is from the Sortition Foundation blog: http://www.sortitionfoundation.org/g1000_kick_off_in_the_uk_cambridge_september_24th]

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8 Responses

  1. “People do not vote after careful consideration of facts and options, they vote to affirm their membership of various social groups and express agreement with the opinions of those groups.”

    Why do you think a deliberative minipublic would be immune from this sort of pathology?

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  2. >Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

    That may or may not be true regarding elections, but referenda certainly do produce responsive governments in that the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor are currently seeking to fulfil the popular will to implement Brexit even though they both counselled against it. Brexit proved the opposite of the authors’ claims — note that the relevant adjective is “responsive” not “responsible”.

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  3. Brett,

    > People do not vote after careful consideration of facts and options, they vote to affirm their membership of various social groups and express agreement with the opinions of those groups

    The negative claim is obvious – there is simply too much to consider and nothing to justify the effort. The second claim seems paternalistic and unjustified by the evidence. Even if people vote according to membership in various groups, how do we know their objective is affirmation of the membership rather than a reflection of conventional wisdom within those groups? How is the Brexit vote evidence for the claim?

    > provide them with balanced information

    What does this even mean? What is “balanced information” about “what is best for Cambridge”? (Even on much more specific topics it seems there is no way to decide in a neutral way what is “balanced information”.)

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  4. > provide them with balanced information

    In the Brexit example this would be the product of the dialectic between the In and Out campaign groups. I accept that these are both functions of the political elite, but the provision of information and advocacy has always been an elite function, even in the Athenian demokratia. It was certainly true of the defence advocates in the legislative courts — they were elected by the assembly. Balance is a function of the poly in polyarchy. Sortition has no role to play in the provision of balanced information as the result would be just . . . random.

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  5. *** Keith Sutherland writes: “the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor are currently seeking to fulfil the popular will to implement Brexit even though they both counselled against it”
    *** Let’s be optimist about the moral level of these persons; they counselled against Brexit because really they thought it bad. So, they will have to enforce a policy they think bad. I have some doubts they can be wholly trusted. In a democracy, I think the dêmos, after choosing a policy, would choose, to implement it, managers among the statepersons who agreed with the chosen policy.
    *** I read that the Brexiters wanted to take back sovereignty to the persons they elected. But, if I don’t err, most Members of the British Parliament were against Brexit. Therefore the Brexiters voted to give back sovereignty to a body whose political sensitivities distribution is very different of the general public. Strange way for the British people of “taking back his sovereignty”.

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  6. Andre,

    >I think the dêmos, after choosing a policy, would choose, to implement it, managers among the statepersons who agreed with the chosen policy.

    Unfortunately that’s not really an option as there were so few elected politicians in favour of Brexit (also the choice of party leader was, effectively, in the hands of MPs who voted against the policy). I think there are two points:

    1. The separation of executive and sovereign functions is not just analytical (as in Rousseau and Montesquieu), it can also be realized in praxis.

    2. Election may well not be the best way of selecting competent political executives. It’s worth bearing in mind that more Labour voters believe Theresa May to be a competent PM than their own party leader.

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  7. Sorry for the delayed replies here.

    > Why do you think a deliberative minipublic would be immune from this sort of pathology?

    Because of the informed and deliberative nature of the event. Deliberation and information can change opinions, or at least some of them.

    > referenda certainly do produce responsive governments… Brexit proved the opposite of the authors’ claims

    Of course in a very simple sense so do elections: those that get the most votes get the power. I guess I am looking forward to them being responsive to *considered* needs. The claim made by Achen and Bartels is that it is not what is on the ballot that matters most – voting is influenced primarily by social identity, and I believe that was very evident in the Brexit vote.

    > balanced information… What does this even mean?

    I agree that the kind of info in Deliberative Polling can be balanced, and although I understand that this is a difficult (impossible?) thing to achieve perfectly, it is something that we can strive for. Wikipedia content policy does a very impressive job of presenting neutral, balanced information in my opinion.

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  8. Brett:> [immunity from group interaction pathology results from] the informed and deliberative nature of the event. Deliberation and information can change opinions, or at least some of them.

    But there’s a wealth of evidence from social psychology showing that small groups are highly vulnerable to influences that are dysfunctional from an epistemic perspective. “Deliberative democracy” is little more than a set of procedural norms to try and overcome these influences.

    >voting is influenced primarily by social identity, and I believe that was very evident in the Brexit vote.

    There is some truth in that, but you shouldn’t underplay that people voted in a way that they perceived as rational, especially those who felt their interests had been adversely affected by de-industrialisation, globalisation and high levels of immigration. To suggest that Brexiters [including myself] were just following the herd is patronising.

    >Wikipedia content policy does a very impressive job of presenting neutral, balanced information in my opinion.

    Agreed, but that is the result of an unseen dialectic (that would be revealed if the amendment history of a thread were studied). “Neutrality” is the result of an agonistic process — the appearance of consensus is purely a statistical artefact.

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