Can sortition facilitate stronger executive power? I think it can, and in a way that results in more effective implementation of left public policymaking.
The traditional Marxist literature refers to the combination of legislative and executive power as a means of facilitating worker-class rule or broader popular rule, yet has not taken into account a key development in executive power itself in the 20th century: the war cabinet.
It is this particular form of government that poses strategic questions of power, not traditional legislatures, not town hall meetings, and not strike committees. Its contemporary application is diverse, from the early and wartime Soviet governments, to the early government of the People’s Republic of China, to the first seventeen years of Cuba’s government after the Cuban Revolution, to Churchill’s wartime cabinet.
The initial approach to all this government stuff is this: redefine the relationship between (a) public policymaking, (b) legislative power, (c) governmental executive power, (d), ceremonial and other prerogative power, (e) civil administration, and (f) “legislating from the bench” (judicial review regarding constitutional law) on the basis of random sortition. Drilling down, I will focus on the combination of (b), (c), (d), and at least part of (f) in either one unified organ or parallel organs.
(For the purposes of this discussion, I’ve broken down the conventional view of “executive power” into its three functional components: (c), (d), and (e).)
Combining legislative power, governmental executive power, ceremonial and other prerogative power, and at least political oversight over “legislating from the bench” has proven time and again to be the basis of effective implementation of substantive left public policymaking. A partial combination of the first two is seen in Westminster systems, whereby most bills passed into law are government bills and not private member bills. Political oversight over “legislating from the bench” is based on the recognition that all judicial review regarding constitutional law is political and, as such, needs to be politically accountable (even to the point of “court packing” and “court sacking”).
Before moving to the proposal itself, I mentioned the possibility of parallel organs. Varied individuals have argued for the creation of a separate economic parliament for economic affairs, ranging from social reformists Sidney and Beatrice Webb to Winston Churchill himself to fascists and other corporatists in continental Europe (Hitler himself mentioned an economic parliament, but only in passing). There is separation of powers the wrong way (i.e., separating (b), (c), and (f)), and there is separation of powers the right, progressive way, like this historic advocacy. The forthcoming proposal envisions the realization of such advocacy, but in a different manner.
Making this combination statistically representative and even more democratic would require that the cabinet members themselves are appointed on the basis of random sortition. Therefore, the full proposal is as follows:
- The cabinet, whether called a “class war cabinet” or something else, should mimic the power dynamics of a city council, only at the highest levels of the sovereign polity (whether it is “the state” or otherwise). It should combine legislative power, governmental executive power, and ceremonial and other prerogative power, and be “enabled” (a la enabling acts) to rule by decree and edict.
- The broader system should separate the constitutional court(s) from courts of appeal, and “enable” (a la enabling acts) this cabinet to appoint and dismiss members of the former for any reason.
- The cabinet should meet in continuous session, in order to continuously hold subordinate bodies to account.
- The official cabinet should have no rival bodies, certainly not ones that are not politically accountable. Here, I’m referring to the problem of “imperial presidencies” and “kitchen cabinets”: unaccountable chanceries / executive offices / prime minister’s offices that compete with the official cabinet for power, prestige, patronage, etc.
- For the sake of public policy priorities, the cabinet should be able to divide itself into a crucial inner cabinet and an outer cabinet.
- There should be established separate popular appointment processes for individual members of the cabinet. These popular processes themselves should be random sortition or even random balloting. In today’s US political environment, governors and secretaries of state are elected separately in state elections. This specific part of the full proposal replaces those elections with random sortition or random balloting. In a unified cabinet, a finance minister would be randomly selected separately from a foreign minister.
- The full proposal thus far has assumed one unified organ, but separation of powers the right way means parallel organs. There’s no reason why 1-6 above should apply to only one cabinet. A defense-security cabinet could exist alongside a separate economic cabinet and a separate social cabinet, mirroring the three main dimensions of political thinking (economic from right-to-left, social from top-to-bottom, and foreign along a third dimension).
- Intermediate bodies that form the cabinet(s) above would merely combine the functions of an “electoral college” (though appointing via random balloting or random sortition) and a political consultative conference.