Monbiot: Sortition is “a formula for disaster”

George Monbiot, a Guardian columnist and a regular critic of the status quo, has finally opined about the potential of the use of sortition to address the ills of the established system. He is not too enthusiastic:

There are plenty of proposals to replace representative democracy with either sortition (randomly selecting delegates) or direct democracy (referendums and citizens’ initiatives). Such systems might have worked well in small city states with a limited franchise (sortition was used in ancient Athens and medieval Venice and Florence). But in populations as large and complex as ours, these proposals are a formula for disaster. It’s hard to see how we can escape the need for professional, full-time politicians. (Perhaps, in a fair and accountable system, we could learn to love them.)


Monbiot is not entirely hostile:

Sortition can be seen as political jury service, in which citizens chosen by lot are presented with expert testimony then asked to make a decision. As an advisory tool, it could keep representative politics grounded in the real world. It could be used to create constitutional conventions, at which proposals for better political systems are thrashed out. There might even be some virtue in the idea of a second parliamentary chamber (such as the House of Lords or the US Senate) being chosen by lot.

To Monbiot, however, the possibility of using sortition is some sort of an after-thought to his main agenda. He puts his faith in the standard tonics of campaign finance reforms, voter education and proportional representation, and the familiar reformist mythology about a system that has fallen from some past grace, has been “debased” and can “no longer fulfil [its] democratic potential” pervades his entire narrative.

Monbiot’s analysis is surprisingly formulaic. His uncritical embrace of the most shallow objections to sortition, his inability to let go of the standard electoral reformist fantasies and see the roots of the problem, his lazy conflation of sortition with “direct democracy”, his talk of “no single plan”, “many ideas”, localism and unanimity make his column no more than a useless cliche that could have been written by any member of a pretty large group of loyal oppositionists, of self-described reformers. Rather disappointing.

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25 Responses

  1. Yoram, the link to the Guardian column is not so obvious, so here it is more explicitly: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/25/democracy-broken-distrusted-trump-brexit-political-system

    I found the second paragraph you cited quite reasonable. His objection to Gordon Brown’s experiment with sortition: “Jurors were hand-picked and presented with one-sided evidence” shows how sortition proposals need to be carefully designed if we don’t want to give our project a bad name.

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  2. And it’s better not to dismiss a column by a well-respected author who makes the limited case for sortition as a “useless cliche”.

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  3. Professional politicians are not usually professionally qualified in any particular field of policy. They are professional wheelers and dealers, spin merchants.

    It is indeed desirable that decisions in particular areas of policy be taken by representatives of those most substantially affected favourably or unfavourably by decisions in such matters. If they haven’t the personal knowledge necessary to understand aspects of a problem, they at least have a personal incentive to get the best information and advice.

    I have always argued that this sort of attention to the real advantages and disadvantages is best assured by committees that are statistically representative of such people. The trouble with large assemblies, no matter how they are chosen is that they face too wide range of problems for it to be possible for them all to be well-informed in most aspects of most problems. They are easily seduced into voting on ideological slogans or fashionable flavours rather than on any sound analysis of the matter.

    Specialised committees chosen by sortition can be expected to negotiate an optimal compromises between conflicting considerations. Professional politicians and type pub;oc they represent are apt to make such decisions on ideological and tactical grounds, not on the merits of the case.

    The big problem is to separate the question what is the best policy from struggles for administrative jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous:

    >I have always argued that this sort of attention to the real advantages and disadvantages is best assured by committees that are statistically representative of [those most affected]. The trouble with large assemblies . . .

    This is contradictory as a) such a committee would need to be several hundred strong in order to be a reliable statistical representation and b) the speech acts required for “negotiated compromises” will vary considerably in their illocutionary force, thereby further undermining the stochastic representativity of the sample. I’m sorry to keep repeating this mantra, but will have to until this self-evident truth is accepted by demarchs and deliberative democrats posting on a website devoted to stochastic representation.

    It’s also the case that a) it’s very hard, in a globalised world, to identify who are most substantially affected by particular decisions and b) there is a good (Madisonian) argument to be made that a disinterested decision is better than a cobbled-together compromise between partisans.

    I don’t know who “anonymous” is, but she sounds a lot like John Burnheim c. 1985. It’s worth noting that John has since recanted and now regards the relationship between sortition and demarchic councils as marginal — i.e. sortition is an impartial tool to winnow down the pool of volunteers to a small committee, but has little to do with representation.

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  5. Switzerland is an example of a state claiming to be a direct democracy. And it works relatively (!) well …

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  6. False dichotomy:

    Fetura is the answer to objections to sortition

    https://constitutionalism.blogspot.com/2016/05/answer-to-objections-to-sortition.html

    This post opposing sortition seems to assume direct random selection from the general population, when historical sortition systems have never worked that way. They alternated sortition with a screening stage, a system I call fetura, from the Latin word for breeding, which involves such alternation. The systems of Venice and Florence are examples of this. I have one, as part of a model constitution.
    1. Selection of officials is multi-stage, beginning at the most local level (wards), but those selected at random are not limited to selection themselves for the next round.
    2. As for policy juries, there would be more than one on any policy, and policies would go through the same kind of fetura, using competing juries that would decide how to present the policy options to one another. Some such juries, which I call inquestries, would function like grand juries to empower prosecutors to propose and defend policies to further juries.
    3. Corruption of members would be be inhibited by audits of the members of one jury by another. There would have to be full disclosure of assets and income. That does not prevent payoffs to cronies, but the same process could be used for that. Everything checks and balances everything else.
    4. One inhibition to corruption would be that selection is not confined to the selectees of the last random round, so that reputation for integrity would be important. One might call the system reputaracracy (combining Latin and Greek). Everyone would have an incentive to acquire and maintain a good reputation, because not all selection is random. Our modern system of credit scoring is an example of this, although it can be manipulated.
    One can describe the system used by political parties in their nominating process as a kind of fetura, although it is vulnerable to dominance by cult leaders.

    Venetian system

    New regulations for the elections of the doge introduced in 1268 remained in force until the end of the republic in 1797. Their object was to minimize as far as possible the influence of individual great families, and this was effected by a complex elective machinery. Thirty members of the Great Council, chosen by lot, were reduced by lot to nine; the nine chose forty and the forty were reduced by lot to twelve, who chose twenty-five. The twenty-five were reduced by lot to nine and the nine elected forty-five. Then the forty-five were once more reduced by lot to eleven, and the eleven finally chose the forty-one who actually elected the doge. None could be elected but by at least twenty-five votes out of forty-one, nine votes out of eleven or twelve, or seven votes out of nine electors.

    Florentine system

    Florence was governed by a council called the signoria, which consisted of nine men. The head of the signoria was the gonfaloniere, who was chosen every two months in a lottery, as was his signoria. To be eligible, one had to have sound finances, no arrears or bankruptcies, he had to be older than thirty, had to be a member of Florence’s seven main guilds (merchant traders, bankers, two clothe guilds, and judges). The roster of names in the lottery were replaced every five years.
    The main organs of government were known as the the maggiori. They were: the twelve good men, the standard bearers of the gonfaloniere, and the signoria. The first two debated and ratified proposed legislation, but could not introduce it. To hold an elective office, one had to be of a family that had previously held office.

    Genoese System

    The Republic of Genoa, a communal republic and a state of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1339 until the state’s extinction in 1797. Originally elected for life, after 1528 the Doges were elected for terms of two years.[1] In actuality, the Republic (or Dogate) was an oligarchy ruled by a small group of merchant families, from whom the doges were selected.

    The first doge (“duke”) of Genoa, Simone Boccanegra, whose name is kept alive by Verdi’s opera, was appointed by public acclaim in 1339. Initially the Doge of Genoa was elected without restriction and by popular suffrage, holding office for life in the so-called “perpetual dogate”; but after the reform effected by Andrea Doria in 1528 the term of his office was reduced to two years. At the same time plebeians were declared ineligible, and the appointment of the doge was entrusted to the members of the great council, the Gran Consiglio, who employed for this purpose a political system almost as complex as that of the later Venetians.

    Of all the “perpetual” doges of Genoa who ruled for their lifetime, only one ruled for more than eight years. Many resigned or were driven out before taking office. Some failed to complete a single day in power. Between 1339 and 1528, only four doges were legally elected. Genoa did not trust its doges; the ruling caste of Genoa tied them to executive committees, kept them on a small budget, and kept them apart from the communal revenues held at the “Casa di San Giorgio”. Not surprisingly, the doges of Genoa have been less renowned than the doges of Venice.

    Still, the position of doge stood at the head of state patronage, and the city’s inner group of leading merchant families vied with each other to place their man in the position. Rival elections were known to take place within the building. In 1389, a frustrated candidate made a surprise return from enforced exile accompanied by 7,000 supporters, and after dining amicably with the incumbent, politely but firmly ejected him, thanking him for serving so ably as his deputy during his own “unavoidable absence” from Genoa.

    For generations two powerful families in Genoa all but monopolized the dogate: the Adorno, supporters of imperial power in the Middle Ages, and the Campofregoso or Fregoso, supporters of papal power. Tomaso di Campofregoso became doge three times: in 1415, 1421 and 1437. In 1461, Paolo Fregoso, archbishop of Genoa, enticed the current doge to his own palace, held him hostage and offered him the choice of retiring from the post or being hanged. When Fregoso was in due course himself toppled, he fled to the harbor, commandeered four galleys and launched himself on a whole new career as a pirate. While the doge’s palace in Venice accumulated great furnishings and works of art over the years, in Genoa, each doge was expected to arrive with his own furnishings and, when he left, to strip the palace to its bare walls.

    Genoa’s power peaked early, and it was eclipsed by Venice. In the 16th century the republic enjoyed a dramatic revival under the leadership of the admiral, statesman and patron of the arts Andrea Doria who ruled the state as a virtual dictator but never actually became doge. It was through the Spanish empire in the New World that Genoa became rich again. Doria served the Spanish Habsburgs as admiral-in-chief, and the bankers of Genoa handled Spain’s financial business, which vastly enriched Genoa’s banking oligarchy.

    The Napoleonic Wars put an end to the office of doge at Genoa. In 1797, when Napoleon Bonaparte incorporated Genoa into the newly organized Ligurian Republic, French soldiers and the city’s mob ransacked the doge’s palace.

    “Sortition” should not be conceived as only a cramped. one step random procedure. Yes, the prisoner’s dilemma applies, or at least the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, discussed by Rappoport in The Evolution of Cooperation.

    A better model is provided by genetic (or evolutionary) algorithms, in which random steps (such as reconfiguration) alternate with a fitness screening. That is why I use the term fetura, which is another name for the process.

    Another key concept is self-organizing systems (part of chaos theory). Society is a self-organizing system composed of other self-organizing systems, which in turn are composed of other self-organizing systems, and so forth.

    The argument we should be making is not over just the random step, but over the entire system in which it is just one step of many. A well-designed system is composed of many self-organizing systems composed of other self-organizing systems in which fetura is a key element.

    What we are discussing is how to design a subset of society that serves society as well as society could if it were reduced to a single wise decider, who is himself composed of other systems. In other words a microcosm of society that somehow represents society, and makes decisions for the best interests of society.

    A well-designed system cultivates virtue among its decisionmakers, which can be assessed by other decisionmakers. This relates to one of the three types of morality: deontological (duty based), consequentialist, and aretaic (virtue-oriented). The last depends on reputation and admirable qualities. “We become what we admire.” But admirable qualities are not just a matter of taste, because they have consequences.

    So a well-designed system cultivates good reputations and the perception of such.

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  7. Monbiot makes no real arguments against sortition. He just states an opinion without any evidence. OK let’s be fair one bit of evidence he gives is that all systems are liable to fraud. If all systems are prone to fraud that is not an argument against one system. So he really makes no argument at all. I don’t understand how such stupid people get to be prominent. Even the pathetic teachers I had at my pathetic universities that I attended wouldn’t let me get away with such pathetic reasoning. Every argument against sortition that I have yet seen says sortition isnt perfect therefore its bad but in every case sortition is better than the status quo and that’s the point. As far as I can tell, sortition is not perfect its just the best option and the only real opposition towards the best possible Version of democracy is vested interest or stupidity or both.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Satkhalsa,

    Yes – it is generally the case that the bar of evidence required for supporting the status quo is very low to non-existent. However, I expected Monbiot to have better standards since he is a regular critic of the status quo and does show some passion about addressing the problems of the system. It seems this is not enough to compel a radical, critical and systematic examination of the issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. satkhalsa,

    >stupid people . . . pathetic teachers . . . pathetic universities . . . pathetic reasoning . . . vested interest . . . stupidity

    This is unseemly language for a public forum and is unlikely to gain us many friends beyond the community of the faithful.

    >sortition isn’t perfect therefore its bad but in every case sortition is better than the status quo and that’s the point.

    No it isn’t the point. As we are in a position where sortition has not yet been implemented in a serious way it is beholden on sortition advocates to address sensible criticisms and ensure that the product is as perfect as possible prior to implementation. Monbiot’s arguments against the misuse of sortition should be taken very seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I and other sortition advocates are inclined to compare our best design for a sortition democracy with the status quo electoral systems. It might be argued that this is unfair…Opponents might compare an optimally reformed (idealized) electoral system (with “expert” legislators and effective voter accountability, etc.) with a poorly designed sortition scheme, to show why sortition is bad.

    I think a key for good design is to have a top layer sortition body that is removed from public policy and responsible for making changes and improvements to the sortition democracy, and not allow the elected bodies to control the procedures, staffing, etc. of the mini-publics. This is a key distinction because elected bodies have an interest in preserving power to themselves (and their parties), and thus will never seek to optimize the design, while a jury has no incentive to evolve a design for future juries that is sub-optimal. Thus a sortition democracy can evolve positively while a electoral one regularly regresses.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Terry

    > I think a key for good design is to have a top layer sortition body that is removed from public policy and responsible for making changes and improvements to the sortition democracy, and not allow the elected bodies to control the procedures, staffing, etc. of the mini-publics.

    I strongly agree. This is an essential part of minipublic democracy, not an afterthought or optional feature. It is an essential part of democracy, separation of powers, checks and balances and good design in proposals for minipublic democracy.

    > Thus a sortition democracy can evolve positively while a electoral one regularly regresses.

    Having sortition bodies decide electoral law is also an essential democratic aspect of “electoral democracy.” The existing arrangement in which politicians decide electoral law (the rules under which they and their parties are elected) is an undemocratic and corrupt absurdity because public policy decisions (if they are to be reasonably considered fair, democratic and non-corrupt) must not be made by those who have a conflict of interest. There are also other good reasons why elected politicians should not decide electoral law, but this is perhaps the main one, and is a sufficient and very good reason to reject that absurd practice.

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  12. Terry,

    >I think a key for good design is to have a top layer sortition body that is removed from public policy and responsible for making changes and improvements to the sortition democracy.

    I have no problem with such a body having the final say in changes to the system once it is up and running, but I think we both agree that the basic design principles can be arrived at a priori. They will involve a) political theorists reflecting on the nature, remit and limitations of descriptive representation b) statistical evidence on sample sizes and confidence intervals, c) social psychologists discussing the nature of small group deliberation (including the evidence from existing experiments with sortition) and d) political scientists, constitutional lawyers and serving statespersons with experience of how the legislative process works. These are all, unashamedly, elite agencies. I hope we are both opposed to suggestions that we should just appoint an allotted group and leave them to get on with it, without in any way privileging those who actually know what they are talking about.

    I think we should also continue to have a very high bar when comparing proposals for untested constitutional revolutions with existing democratic practices, should not be content with ” anyway it’s better than the existing system” claims, and listen extremely carefully to the serious objections that have been made regarding sortition proposals. We should also not use words like “stupid” and “pathetic” to describe such objections.

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  13. *** « Constitutionalism » wrote (January 28) : « This post opposing sortition seems to assume direct random selection from the general population, when historical sortition systems have never worked that way. They alternated sortition with a screening stage, a system I call fetura, from the Latin word for breeding, which involves such alternation. The systems of Venice and Florence are examples of this. »
    *** Actually in Athens the juries exercizing sovereignty (legislative and judicial) were allotted without any screening stage. There was a screening stage (dokimasia) for « magistracies », generally small and exercizing executive and administrative functions ; and for the Council (Boulê) – this screening being only about morality, civic virtue, loyalty to democracy, not about any specific ability.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I don’t understand why my post appears under “anonymous”. André Sauzeau

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  15. André,

    A valid point. However…Although Athens had no screening for wisdom/competence, etc. we should acknowledge some minimal self quasi-screening… firstly the citizen had to volunteer to be in the pool, which screened out those who did not care about politics or were not civic minded. Secondly (though perhaps token) they needed to be willing to take the Heliastic Oath

    “I will cast my vote in consonance with the laws and with the decrees passed by the Assembly and by the Council, but, if there is no law, in consonance with my sense of what is most just, without favour or enmity. I will vote only on the matters raised in the charge, and I will listen impartially to accusers and defenders alike.”

    The effect of such comparable volunteerism for the jury pool in a modern societies with substantial inequality would likely be to generate significant deviation from descriptive representation. This is why many of us advocate virtual mandatory service for at least the final stage of legislative approval.

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  16. I think voluntarism in classical Athens mainly privileged the old, the poor, the lazy (?) and those who lived in reasonable proximity to the courts. It was also assumed in ancient societies (where every citizen had to bear in arms in defence of the polis) that only idiotes were not interested in politics. The effect of voluntarism under conditions of modern liberty (in Constant’s sense) might be very different. I also think there would be a need for a modern equivalent of the Heliastic Oath and other ways of signalling the vital and honourable role of the political juror. But this has nothing to do with the sort of political competence testing recently advocated by Jon and HJH.

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  17. *** Keith Sutherland wrote : « I think voluntarism in classical Athens mainly privileged the old, the poor, the lazy (?) and those who lived in reasonable proximity to the courts. »
    *** Sure for the last point. About the representativity along socio-economic class, historians as far as I know cannot reach consensus. For the Second Athenian Democracy, we have good information about institutional points, but here it is a sociological point. See Hansen “ The Athenian democracy in the age of Demosthenes “, p 184-185, Jones “Athenian democracy” p 36-37, and Stephen Todd « Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the Attic Orators: The Social Composition of the Athenian Jury » (The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 110, 1990, pp. 146-173). In the age of Demosthenes the pay for jury service was kept at 3 obols / day, not very attractive, whereas for assembly it was six or nine obols (Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, LXII). The anti-democrats like to see jurors as poor people looking for their bread, but it may be ideology, not sociology (there are too many poor persons, because there should be none). The 4th century orators speak to jurors often as to middle class people, but it may be rhetorical.
    *** We have no serious data. But Keith’s hypothesis is not sure. Retired people ; very poor people attracted by the modest three obols ; workers between two works (free workers were not salarymen, and did not want to be such) ; rich people with leisure ; peasants in the seasons of not hard agricultural work and not far from the town; even craftsmen halting for one day their usual activity… Juries were not good sociological samples of the civic body, but maybe not so far as some imagine.
    André Sauzeau

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  18. *** Terry Bouricius reminds that Athenian juries were formed along volunteerism, and with an oath (the Heliastic Oath) and adds « the effect of such comparable volunteerism for the jury pool in a modern societies with substantial inequality would likely be to generate significant deviation from descriptive representation. »
    *** OK ; but we must distinguish between Athens in the time of Demosthenes, after two centuries of dêmokratia, and a modern society where a dêmokratia would be established after two centuries the common citizens were taught they were unable to rule, and had to consider as a great victory to have a say in the choice of the rulers. Moreover the lower classes in many contemporary polyarchic countries have widely « internalized » their lack of power. Volunteerism in ancient Athens could not practically be avoided, for practical reasons, but, if it had drawbacks, they were much lesser than in a beginning modern dêmokratia.

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  19. *** As Keith rightly did underline, in the ancient Greece of warring cities, and in Athens facing the Macedonians, political apathy was difficult when any citizen could be called to arms, and when defeat could mean enslavement. Combination of this feeling with a high sense of the power of the dêmos was a strong factor against political apathy and self-exclusion of the lower classes.
    *** The dêmokratia likewise had an advantage on competing regimes in the warring Greek cities : to allow a huge civic military force.
    *** Most advanced contemporary societies live without the fear of great international wars. I don’t say I regret this state of fact , but we must acknowlege that this situation works against dêmokratia. Fortunately other factors works in its favor.

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  20. Given that we can only speculate on the results of voluntarism on both ancient and modern liberty, all the more reason for quasi-mandatory selection, with a judicious balance of the stick and the carrot. Bear in mind that modern liberty requires representation, so our principal concern has to the freedom of the vast majority of citizens excluded from direct participation (as opposed to the temporary inconvenience of those selected to serve by the political lottery). This will inevitably select a majority of idiotes rather than activists and I suspect this is one reason for the opposition to quasi-mandatory participation of some sortition visionaries.

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  21. The term “volunteerism” is being used here with considerable ambiguity, blurring (possibly deliberately) the line between “without coercion” and “self-sacrifice”.

    It is taken for granted in our society that only an eccentric minority shuns wealth and power. Does it make sense to call the members of the majority who would take up an offer for both “volunteers”?

    It seems that framing the discussion in those terms is an attempt to set up a situation where the offer to serve in an allotted body is not in fact an offer of wealth and power, but, just like service in a modern day jury, involves little power and, for some, significant material sacrifice.

    The notion is that forcing people to “participate” is democratic is absurd. Representativity is not merely a matter of people showing up for votes or attending discussions – quite the contrary. There is good reason to believe that mandatory service would reduce representativity – possibly drastically and disastrously so. In this sense (and possibly others) the proposal of forced service fits well with two other “democratic” proposals offered here by much the same people: secrecy and delegate isolation.

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  22. Yoram,

    >It is taken for granted in our society that only an eccentric minority shuns wealth and power.

    If that is the case then there would be no need for compulsion, but it all hangs on what you mean by “wealth and power” — if jurors were offered, say, $1,000,000 for a relatively short term there would be few who would be unlikely to take up the offer. I have always advocated a balance of the stick and the carrot, placing equal emphasis on civic duty and generous incentives. From a republican perspective the notion of civic responsibility is a valuable norm, so I don’t share the perspective where self-interest is a sufficient reason to participate.

    >There is good reason to believe that mandatory service would reduce representativity – possibly drastically and disastrously so.

    That’s an eccentric claim that would require some sort of justification. If the desideratum is accurate statistical representation, then ensuring that the microcosm adequately “describes” the target population is the principal goal and a good size sample (c. 1,000) plus mandatory participation would clearly suffice. But I’ve never really understood what you mean by representation, so perhaps you could clarify why mandatory participation would “drastically and disastrously” reduce representativity.

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  23. Some of my difference with Yoram perhaps arises from a different view of the procedures and powers of an allotted assembly. Yoram advocates a “full-charge” legislature, essentially like existing elected legislatures with the one huge difference being the selection process (and the concomitant transformations lottery selection causes). Unlike a typical criminal jury, (listening, voting and being discharged) , the task of such legislators WOULD be very challenging, ans I see why Yoram objects to trying to compel people to tackle such daunting work. I think Yoram’s idea might possibly be better than the status quo, but also possibly worse. Yoram suggests such an assembly should decide its own rules, methods of informing itself, drafting bills, etc. With such difficult work, only those eager to participate would be appropriate (volunteers). My concern is this: rather than being an improved democracy, that is an improved oligarchy. This assembly could quickly be emboldened by its power. They might first reason that they need multi-million dollar remuneration packages “to defend against bribery.” Then they might decide they should extend their term of service for a year, and then ten years as they are now getting good at legislating and it would be a shame to have new people starting over. They decide they need a special paramilitary police force, or whatever… The point is that power must never be concentrated into one set of hands. They become the new RULERS, rather than a piece of a democratic system. Democracy needs representative samples serving relatively short terms, and their procedures and pay etc. must be set by a separate mini-public as a check on the legislating mini-public. There are SOME tasks (like drafting legislation) that many people would not feel competent to do, so there should be SOME bodies that would have to rely on members willing and able to really work hard (volunteers)… but the final decision-making mini-public that says yes or no to a bill must be as fully representative as possible (meaning very short duration, and quasi-mandatory service). Keith and I fundamentally disagree about how to constitute the body that drafts and advocates for bills (he by election, I by sortition of volunteers), but mostly agree about the final step… short duration descriptively representative mini-publics.

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  24. Terry,

    That makes a lot of sense, but I think it would help if Yoram could explain exactly what he means by the word “representation”. The sort of responsible and demanding tasks that you outline would normally fall under the rubric of “trustee” representation, and the notion of an unwilling/conscripted trustee is contradictory. If so then we should bear in mind that this is the mandate that elected representatives have traditionally claimed (at least during Manin’s “parliamentary” stage of representative government). Of course one could argue that the principle of distinction means that such persons are not capable of representing the interests of those that they (fail to) describe, but you are right to point out the potential dangers of an aleatory oligarchy. This is potentially worse than elected oligarchs as a) nobody has chosen them and b) there is no way of removing them.

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  25. […] whether participation in sortition-based assemblies should be mandatory or voluntary — see, for example. Those of us advocating legislative juries based on Athenian nomothetic panels advocate […]

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