Can reason be democratic?

What is the point of raising the question in the context of this website?

I suspect that there is a difference of a fundamental sort between me and some of my critics that can be characterised very roughly as this: they are committed to democracy as the will of the people. Not because they think that will is infallible, but because any effort to make it less fallible is going to put too much power in the hands of self-appointed elites that are worse in many ways, even at getting things right. We cannot risk giving power to the elites who claim to be the voice of reason. No more Lenins!

On the other hand, I want to emphasise the supreme importance of getting it right in dealing with the dangerous world we have created. I postulate that this goal can only be achieved by a rational process in which any citizen who wishes to do so may take an active part. One takes an active part in a rational process by putting forward considerations for or against a proposal that others can be expected to recognise as having a certain amount of validity. Mere will or gratuitous assertion do not count.

An obvious objection to this view is that it makes people unequal. Almost anybody can cast a vote, but taking part in a rational discussion of a serious political problem demands a degree of skill in thinking and expressing one’s thoughts that many people do not have. Many also lack the time and energy that the task demands. There is certainly inequality of participation here. But is that any worse than the inequalities that voting almost inevitably inflicts on many people in any situation where the decision is determined by majority voting?

I’m not talking about voting as we have it a present, where the only vote we get is to choose between two alternative bundles of personalities and policies that are both cobbled together by procedures that are inappropriate to producing good decisions. In many cases people are forced to choose what they see as the lesser of two evils. Let us suppose that choosing a legislature has been divorced from struggles for power among individuals and groups by using sortition. Let us further suppose that the major motivation of the representatives is not to get as many advantages as possible for the social groups to which they happen to belong, but to get decisions that are fair to all the various groups affected by their decisions. How are they to decide on each of the numerous issues what constitutes a fair decision?

The answer is clear. They have to arrive at a solution that is acceptable to all the groups that are directly and substantially affected by the matter to be decided. That will normally involve compromise. People will often have to settle for a decision that is not what they would have voted for in order to get an acceptable solution. However, in the long run it should be in the interests of most. The exception is that if there is a permanent majority against a permanent minority it will not be in the selfish interests of the majority to compromise. But if they have an interest in social peace and thee respect of others, as well as their self-respect, they may find that the sacrifices required of them to reach a fair compromise are acceptable. The social costs of policies that end up turning millions into criminals are very real.

Other aspects of many matters where common action is required cannot be reduced to the interests of particular individuals and groups. At the most general level, living in a well-governed society, supported not only by efficient, fair and just institutions, but by a community pride in the attitudes and norms that it exemplifies is a wonderful public good, valuable to everyone, quite independently of any particular benefit one may gain from the absence of conflict.

It is the poor and disadvantaged, those who are not in a position to press their own case, who have most to gain from living in such a society, where there are bound to be many articulate members who place great value on the efficiency, effectiveness and moral worth of its public decisions. Such people will want to see that the needs of the disadvantaged are given due attention. The whole conception of such a society is a dynamic one. Its continually generates new adjustments from below in a way that is analogous to the perpetual development of markets, but bases not on exchange of equivalents, but on the more basic social relationships and practices that markets presuppose.

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66 Responses

  1. >democracy as the will of the people -vs- getting it right

    This is a false dichotomy. The stochastic democracy models championed on this list argue that a well-briefed sample can represent the informed will of all citizens.

    >getting it right . . . can only be achieved by a rational process in which any citizen who wishes to do so may take an active part.

    1. Why privilege rationality over aggregate experience? The best predictors of the ‘right’ answer tend to be information markets and the likes and often the mechanism is more like a hunch. This was certainly the case with Francis Galton’s country fair competition and the other examples in Surowiecki’s book.

    2. The fact that a citizen wishes to take part is no good indication that she has anything valuable to contribute.

    3. For the decision outcome to be democratic, then an egalitarian decision mechanism, like voting, is essential. But the poor epistemic outcomes associated with voting only apply once the rational ignorance threshold has been exceeded.

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  2. *** Among the main issues for the North Atlantic societies since several decades – those who now push the populist movements in these societies – are the open borders for products and money (free trade and finance) and for migrating people .
    *** I would like Burnheim to explain which groups are to be considered « directly and substantially affected » by these two issues.
    *** Such a choice as the choice of free trade by the North Atlantic elites have short range consequences, and far range consequences. Burnheim’s principle would easily lean to consider only short range ones.
    *** About migrations, there a strong moral issue : has any man an absolute right to migrate in any country of his choice ? – in French Left controversies « liberté d’installation ». Its proponents will say that the basic human rights are a matter for every human person.

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  3. For Andre

    > the big issues.

    The short answer is that I believe in leaving the big issues to to look after themselves. I most emphatically do not want any system that decides “what sort of society we want” on the basis of some very general hopes fears, and then proceeds to construct programs on the basis of those generalities.

    It was very striking that in the Brexit referendum, where the big issue was supposed to be migration, the areas with big migrant populations voted stay, while those with hardly any migration voted leave. my interpretation was that the stay people were used to migrants and saw them as useful, whereas those who relied on their imagination were fearful of the unknown. Of course, that is unverifiable.

    More importantly, I know, from a lifetime in political philosophy, how hopeless it is to pursue comprehensive views of what constitutes a good society in very general terms. All the terms are extremely ill-defined in both extension and content, not to speak emotional associations. All one can offer is a few, largely procedural suggestions that seem worth trying, but are certainly not panaceas.

    One suggestion is that we need to replace the old model polity as a personified whole, in which the parts are completely integrated, by the model of an ecosystem in which the constituent bits adapt to each other in specific ways as best they can. That is not the same as the economic model that reduces all interactions to market exchanges, but recognises a wide variety of eyes of interdependence. The model is inadequate in two respects. In biological evolution change comes about largely by blind chance, but in social evolution the changes are often more or less purposive and so much more rapid and sweeping. More importantly, many of the things that we do for particular legitimate purposes have cumulative results that threaten the viability of the whole global ecosystem, unless we deal with those cumulative effects. We are overpopulating the world with potentially disastrous consequences, pouring out greenhouse gases that threaten us in many ways, engaging in an arms race, using money in ways that destroy community and so on. In such matters we must do what needs to be done, not what we would like.

    It seems to me that such problems as these need to be handled on the global scale, not by some all-competent supreme authority but by specialised authorities with very limited scope. I do not think that traditional models of democracy can work at this level. I envisage bodies consisting mainly of experts, chosen by competitive tests, but bound to operate transparently and audited by a committee chosen by sortition. We already have many bodies that operate globally in ways that approximate to the model, except for the absence of the auditors.

    In my view migration needs to be controlled an equitable way in the light of the population problem. There is one sure way of limiting population growth and pressure to migrate, namely to raise the lifestyle of poor countries to that of “advanced ” ones. That can be done surprisingly quickly, but too slowly to counter many of the short-term effects of its progress. Perhaps many of the dislocations can be compensated by targeted investment and similar measures.

    I am postulating that we can overcome the nationalist chauvinism that has dominated the politics of the past few centuries, bringing with it ever more destructive wars. I hope we can come to see the futility of nationalism, not in favour of a standardised cosmopolitanism, but respecting the autonomy of different elements of the ecosystem to go there own ways as far as possible.

    In my book, trying to get people thinking on certain lines, I concentrate on immediate ly possible suggestions, but indicate their limits.

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  4. John,

    >In the Brexit referendum, where the big issue was supposed to be migration, the areas with big migrant populations voted stay, while those with hardly any migration voted leave.

    You are confusing longstanding multicultural areas (London) with other communities that have undergone a recent surge of Eastern European migrants. Lincolnshire, for example, is heavily dependent on EU migrants for seasonal crop picking but recorded the highest leave vote in the country (in Boston the figure was 75%). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36616740 In London, by contrast, many of the voters would have been naturalised immigrants, and rich indigenous voters certainly benefited from cut-price cleaners, nannies, baristas and builders.

    >my interpretation was that the stay people were used to migrants and saw them as useful, whereas those who relied on their imagination were fearful of the unknown.

    In Boston the high street looks more like Warsaw or Cracow and 13% of residents were born in the EU, so the indigenous population would not have needed to rely on their imagination. Unfortunately the great and good who are likely to volunteer for your demarchic councils are likely to share your cosmopolitan prejudices and contempt for populist sensibilities (aka “fear of the unknown”).

    >There is one sure way of limiting population growth and pressure to migrate, namely to raise the lifestyle of poor countries to that of “advanced ” ones.

    This is the moral argument for globalisation that has advanced by the progressive left for the last couple of decades and was roundly rejected by fearful and ignorant contemptibles like me in last year’s referenda and elections.

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  5. keith

    I live in a country where 27% of its population was born overseas and a sinilarnumber have at least one parent born overseas. So I don’t have much sympathy for the poor Bostonians, if they insist on wanting to impoverish themselves culturally and economically. Until about 50 years ago Australians were overwhelmingly Xenophobic, and there are still substantial pockets of it, but most of us are now pretty cosmopolitan, loving to travel and live in different communities all over the world. At any one time at least 5% of our working age population is working abroad.
    We have our sins. Our treatment of those who try to crash our borders is disgraceful.

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  6. >I don’t have much sympathy for the poor Bostonians

    I recommend you read David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics to understand how alien (and condescending) your perspective is to us ignorant and benighted members of the basket of deplorables. Goodhart’s research indicates that only some 25% of UK citizens are “anywheres”; the vast majority of us are “somewheres”, but most members of the chattering classes (who would take up your demarchy invitation) are anywheres. So what you suggest is profoundly antidemocratic. Going back to the tile of your first book, (stochastic) democracy is possible but you appear to believe it to be highly undesirable as it would empower the 75%, rather than fellow members of your enlightened cosmopolitan elite.

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  7. Keith

    I do believe that ordinary people cam do a good job of deciding very specific rigorously practical problems on the basis of a thorough and open discussion.

    I don’ believe that anybody can make large decisions about the sort of very general ideological principles that traditional politics has been about imposing from the top down. In the post-Christian West we have largely evicted religion from the role of the governing principle of the nation state. The Muslims have still to catch up. But the ideological dogmas that we have put into the role are not much better. They are, however kept in check to some extent by constitutional constraints on the power of the state. But not enough. We need authorities to regulate many things , but they must not be fused together into an all-competent authority at any level. That , if you like, is my dogma. But I don’t want to impost. Just to get people to try it case by case.

    I have some hope that Brexit may lead to the defeat of the centralist, federating conception of the EU and the development of a number of international functionally specialised authorities to deal with specific matters on their specific merits.

    This is not cosmopolitanism. Nations are fine as non-exclusive cultures, but in the world of instant global communications, trade and mobility, it is ridiculous to think they can be enhanced by a reversion to myopic nationalism, enforced by political power. The present reactionary mood will pass. I should have said I have great sympathy for the people of Boston, given the bad hand they have been dealt.

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  8. >I do believe that ordinary people cam do a good job of deciding very specific rigorously practical problems on the basis of a thorough and open discussion.

    I’m glad that there is something that we can agree on (although I think we would differ on the way of selecting personnel and the deliberative mechanism involved).

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  9. Hi John,

    > It is the poor and disadvantaged, those who are not in a position to press their own case, who have most to gain from living in such a society, where there are bound to be many articulate members who place great value on the efficiency, effectiveness and moral worth of its public decisions. Such people will want to see that the needs of the disadvantaged are given due attention.

    Is this the classical guardianist position, or is there some subtle difference that I missed?

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  10. For John:
    I find “Mere will or gratuitous assertion do not count.” lucid to the extreme and a key principle if we want human progress with right decisions (defined as choosing more likely collective means to achieve the intended goal). Talk is cheap and “Likes” are cheap. Deciding by just these puts us on the road to idiocracy. We need skin in the game, which is still the best criterion for “Betroffenheit” (interest?).

    For Keith:
    1. “Why privilege rationality over aggregate experience?” Simply put because not everybody has experience. We found that if markets aggregate a lack of knowledge they do not produce collective knowledge but collective ignorance.

    2. “The fact that a citizen wishes to take part is no good indication that she has anything valuable to contribute.” Please provide evidence. We observe the opposite every once in a while on Prediki when a consulting-resistant client presses for maximum participation. Forcing people to participate in a prediction market decreases forecast accuracy badly, and decisions based on such forecasts will be worse.

    For Andre:
    I outright reject any argument based on the deplorable fallacy of “human rights”. The only positive matter logically is an explicit list of human obligations. Consider the difference to today’s mess in Europe had the Vienna Declaration of 1993 not resolved …

    …. THE HUMAN RIGHT: “that everyone, without distinction of any kind, is entitled to the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution, as well as the right to return to one’s own country. “

    … BUT THE HUMAN OBLIGATION :“that nobody shall deny any other human being, without distinction of any kind, asylum from persecution.” AND
    “Nobody shall remain in the host country on grounds of asylum after persecution has ended.”

    For Yoram:
    “Is this the classical guardianist position” There is a dialectic misunderstanding. A foresight-weighted demarchy will stratify also the poor and disadvantaged, hence they will discuss deliberate and vode directly as part of the responsible demarchic body.

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  11. for Yoram

    > Is this classical guardianist?

    Not at all. what I understand by classical guardians positions were bases on a vies of the family according to which the proper role of women and children was to be subservient to the head of the family, who had the exclusive right as well as the duty to represent them in public affairs.

    I acknowledge that opening up policy discussion to all citizens gives everybody the formal opportunity of participation actively in constructing policy options, but that is an opportunity that some may in practice be unable to use. If they do not want to do so they suffer no loss, but some will be prevented from participating actively by being isolated, disabled, or lacking the skill or the time to invoke help from others to argue their case. They will have to rely on the compassion of people who recognise their plight an feel obliged to help them.

    Nobody in particular has the right or the duty to represent another, and there will probably be differing views among those who seek to help the disadvantaged on what their interests are.

    More generally, many people have very little interest in public affairs, often because they are wholly devoted to some public good such as science or the arts. They may recognise the importance of public issues, but are quite content to leave that work to others if they are reasonably certain that all the relevant considerations are likely to be adduced and thoroughly debated.

    That seems to me eminently reasonable. In my book I devote a section to attacking what I call a false moralism that insists every citizen has duty to participate in the major decisions. In Australia it is compulsory to be enrolled as a voter in an electorate and to at least go through the motions of voting. It is a nudge, easily avoided and does have a salutary aspect of putting voting in the light oa responsibility to the community, not just a privilege you can suit yourself about. Many people think it improves the quality of electoral discussion, since it is not necessary to dramatise or jazz up voting to get people to turn out.

    Nevertheless, even if that is true, it does not overcome the poverty of the information that voting can handle. A vote conveys little about reasons for voting, much less abut their validity. In Demarchy, public discussion is directed to exploring all the relevant consideration in relation to a particular problem and finding common grounds on which to evaluate them. Itmay not work, but to os worth trying.

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  12. HJH: >“The fact that a citizen wishes to take part is no good indication that she has anything valuable to contribute.” Please provide evidence.

    Because it may just be a sign of extroversion/busybodyness. As for the converse, it’s not just epistemic considerations — democratic equality requires that the jury should be a faithful portrait of the target audience, and that precludes voluntarism (stratified sampling of accurate predictors will not suffice).

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  13. John,

    > what I understand by classical guardians positions were bases on a vies of the family according to which the proper role of women and children was to be subservient to the head of the family, who had the exclusive right as well as the duty to represent them in public affairs.

    Our forefathers were as creative and resourceful as we are and, along with other justifications, justified the superior political position of the “head of the family” along the same lines that you justify your own proposal: children and women would be unable to represent themselves as well as the men would, so it was to their advantage to be represented by others.

    Of course, the same line of argumentation was classically used to justify stratification among men as well: the big and mighty would represent the poor and weak better than they would be able to represent themselves.

    Hamilton provides a typical example in Federalist 35:

    The idea of an actual representation of all classes of the people, by persons of each class, is altogether visionary. Unless it were expressly provided in the Constitution, that each different occupation should send one or more members, the thing would never take place in practice. Mechanics and manufacturers will always be inclined, with few exceptions, to give their votes to merchants, in preference to persons of their own professions or trades. Those discerning citizens are well aware that the mechanic and manufacturing arts furnish the materials of mercantile enterprise and industry. Many of them, indeed, are immediately connected with the operations of commerce. They know that the merchant is their natural patron and friend; and they are aware, that however great the confidence they may justly feel in their own good sense, their interests can be more effectually promoted by the merchant than by themselves. They are sensible that their habits in life have not been such as to give them those acquired endowments, without which, in a deliberative assembly, the greatest natural abilities are for the most part useless; and that the influence and weight, and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal to a contest with any spirit which might happen to infuse itself into the public councils, unfriendly to the manufacturing and trading interests. These considerations, and many others that might be mentioned prove, and experience confirms it, that artisans and manufacturers will commonly be disposed to bestow their votes upon merchants and those whom they recommend. We must therefore consider merchants as the natural representatives of all these classes of the community.

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  14. Yoram, I think Hamilton is writing more in descriptive mode, similar to Moses Finley’s “the demos never produced spokesmen in the Assembly from their own ranks”. And from a normative perspective there is no intrinsic reason why a spokesperson has to “describe” her constituents in any shape or form, as this is not a requirement of the active representation of interests. Where I disagree with John is over his view that his committee of the great and good should cobble together their own compromise, rather than leaving this to the aggregate judgment of an allotted jury.

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  15. Yoram

    What is the difference?

    It is simple Hamilton was arguing for a syster in which certain groups of people had both the exclusive right and the duty to represent certain other people who were dependent on them in that social regime. i deny that anybody has the right or the duty to represent any body else.

    But all of us from time to time rightly appeal to considerations relating to the well-being of others, both living and unborn. I hope that in a vigorous and comprehensive public debate we will all be interested in understanding the needs others, even they do not succeed in articulating them themselves.

    I insist that nobody is excluded by the procedure from choosing any way of getting their case across. They don’t have to perform in person. But nobody has the right to claim to be their voice living person any more than of a future person.

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  16. John,

    >i deny that anybody has the right or the duty to represent any body else.

    Presumably you don’t deny that right and duty to elected representatives? My impression of your last book was that demarchic councils would supplement, rather than replace, electoral representation.

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  17. Keith

    Are you just baiting me? Where do I advocate a committee of the great and the good? I advocate an open forumin which anybody can participate either in personally or by authorising somebody to post a submission on their behalf. I advocate a a jury drawing a conclusion from the debate in completely public discourse open to comment from all, selected by sortition to represent those most directly affected by the matter.

    Another limitation you have is an addiction to pigeon-holing views, as if they could only be understood in terms of some dubious set of possible positions: The challenge is always, if you are not x or y, what are you? It is a common excuse for ignoring what one actually says by drawing one into endless discussions of the pigeons-holes. I’m not playing..

    The next step in this game is that, having pigeon-holed one, the opponent then tells the poor sod what he really, as an occupant of that hole is committed to thinking, again studiously avoiding what he is actually saying.

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  18. John,

    Your model would suggest that the committee would be effectively composed of persons nominated by the relevant civil society organisations most affected by the relevant issue, winnowed down by sortition (how else do you operationalise the ‘most affected’ selection criterion). Although anyone (in theory) could make a submission to the committee, the recommendation will be from a (relatively) distinguished council, rather than a statistically-representative subset of the demos.

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  19. Keith

    OK. Now we are getting somewhere.
    I certainly do not favour nomination by any organisation to act as a representative of a relevant interest. It is too difficult for a nominee to escape obligations to members of that organisation who supported her over other candidates.
    What I favour is that people nominate themselves for a pool from which the demarchuc committee is to be selected statistically. They would back their self-nomination with statements about the precise ways in which they claim they would be affected by proposals to solve the problem at issue. These could be challenged before a tribunal only on the ground if factual falsity.

    As for your other point, it is true that if a fully representative sample of the population engages in serious debate, it is to be expected( and in myth view, hoped) that they will in many cases change their previous opinions to some extent. It is intended to be a process of self-education. You don’t want that , because you don’t like change. I certainly don’t believe that it is democratic to forbid representatives any opportunity of developing their views. A reasonable constituency would hope that they made the best of the resources available.

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  20. John,

    > I insist that nobody is excluded by the procedure from choosing any way of getting their case across. They don’t have to perform in person. But nobody has the right to claim to be their voice living person any more than of a future person.

    The distinction you draw seems like a formality (at best). Whether or not some people get to claim to represent others, those others are supposedly better off relying on the representation of others who are better qualified, and in fact in the system you propose (as in the electoral system) have no other form of representation.

    This is not a democracy. How could it be, if from the outset you premise your arguments on the supposed existence of an objective measure of “getting it right” which some, if not most, of the people are unwilling to accept?

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  21. Yoram

    > the distinction you make seemsikea formality.

    Why? Surely there is the world of difference between a situation in which the majority of people were deprived of away and pre in which they had aa right to a say that nobody could infringe.

    The only way in which I can see your having reason to deride that as at best a formality is that you think that many people are going to be prevented from using their legal right. I admit that there are inevitably such cases. Two close friends of mine, both former professors, suffer from extreme dementia. They cannot vote. And so on. I assume that you are not denying the existence of cases like that.

    So presumably you are claiming that public discussion will be monopolised by the iniquitous elites and ordinary people will be excluded. I admit that there have been historical situations when that has been the case, but in a modern society where everybody is literate and confronted with arguments there is no such barrier.

    More positively a great deal of contemporary political argument takes place at a high level of generality, like so much of the stuff on this site. Ordinary people are often at at a disadvantage if they are drawn into that arena. In fact they tend to believe it’s a lot of garbage. For good reason, in my view. In any case, it is very clear that there is no prospect of gearing rational agreement at this level of sloppy concepts and tendentious generalisations. Unfortunately in the present systems of top-down governance, in which the only participation we have is in choosing between two ragbags of policy that sort of argument is the guts of political debate. I think this is absurd. It belongs to an era in which all serious issues were decided by force, and the political doctrines were just attempts to put an attractive spin on it.

    The sort of bottom-up polity I am proposing starts with particular problems that require agreed action, and invites any body at all who has a point that they want to make about some aspect of the problem, particularly in terms of concrete effects it has on themselves or others, can make it and expect to get listened to. They will attempt to find common ground with others, not by appeal to dubious generalities, but by arguing that there would agree with them if they were in the same situation. If people are genuinely concerned to get a fair and workable solutions to the problem their inly recourse is to be open to this sort of argument, considering other people’s concerns as well as their own.

    The standard forms by which intellectuals tend to exclude the particular concrete concerns of ordinary people have no grip on such practical discussions. One favourite dodge the excluders is to appeal to principle, arguing that if one says that certain consideration is important in thei case, one is committed to some alleged principle that is clearly nacceptable in the light of the consequences that might be drawn from it in other circumstances. This is both logically fallacious and tendentious.
    That p is deducible from q does not mean that q is deducible from p. It is tendentious because nothing is easier that to invent a host of incompatible general statements from which a particular statement follows. If ir rains the grass gets wet, but the grass may have been hosed. A person may appeal to consideration quite validly in certain circumstances, without in any way being committed to conclusions that others have attempted to draw another circumstances.

    Another favourite dodge used to silence people who focus on a particular effects of a problems to tell them that they are not entitled to insist that they be considered unless they have a clear answer to the question of how to deal with this that and the other aspect of it. The bottom-up approach excludes such demands. And can rightly insist that some consideration be taken seriously without knowing how to del with some very different consideration. the point of constructive discussion is that the search for ways of coordinating different cnsiderations has to be a a cooperative effort. If everybody simply insists on her own point if view in a vain attempt to win, nothing gets done.

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  22. John,

    > Surely there is the world of difference between a situation in which the majority of people were deprived of away and pre in which they had aa right to a say that nobody could infringe.

    Electionism has this same characteristic of providing formal equality (every citizen has the legal right to vote and to be elected), while in fact guaranteeing political inequality.

    Furthermore the political inequality that elections generate have been justified in exactly the same way you justify the inequality you envisage. Liberalism always has justified its elitism as “meritocracy”.

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  23. Yoram

    > the right to vote is not just formal equality

    No! The votes really have effects, sometimes disastrous ones. But voting is limited to choosing between alternatives set by others. It is real but limited. I want people yo have decisive input from the beginning.

    I refuse guilt by association and generalisation. I don’t give damn if others have used premises like mine to draw different conclusions. I’m not playing this game of having to dissociate myself from every alleged stereotype anybody chooses to cook up. O don’t plsu=y ideological games. I look to some problems.

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  24. John,

    >I certainly do not favour nomination by any organisation . . . What I favour is that people nominate themselves for a pool from which the demarchic committee is to be selected statistically.

    What would prevent a faction flooding the selection pool with its own supporters? This is the standard Trotskyist entryist tactic and it works extremely well (just ask Neil Kinnock). Although the selection method (sortition) may be impartial, if the pool is heavily weighted then the resulting committee will not properly represent the interests of those most affected.

    >if a fully representative sample of the population engages in serious debate, it is to be expected( and in myth view, hoped) that they will in many cases change their previous opinions to some extent. It is intended to be a process of self-education. You don’t want that , because you don’t like change.

    Huh? My model is the deliberative poll which is designed to measure the difference in opinions before and after deliberation. But the model chosen for “serious debate” is the law courts, because representativity requires that each sample should modify its aggregate opinion to “what everyone would think under good conditions”. Otherwise the decision outcome has no democratic legitimacy (epistemic outcome legitimacy has nothing to do with democracy).

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  25. Keith

    >what would prevent swamping

    Nothing. Entrants have to establish that they are affected, as I said earlier, but lies nay go undetected. But if it was effective in slanting the outcome in a tendentious way, that would discredit that conclusion. It would lose any claim to validity. Remember that all the proceedings are on line, open to scrutiny and comment at every stage. It would be very hard to hide an organised invasion. The Trots were dealing with a very different situation.

    Your conversion to deliberative polling is a welcome advance on your previous rejection of deliberation as damaging representativity. But DP functions just as a form of consultation. The policy initiative lies with the powers that be.

    I think strict represntativity is unachievable and not all that desirable. What I settle for is a fairly general agreement that the solution turned up by the process is worth trying. Many people n a practical situation may accept that, even though they are inclined to prefer a different proposal.
    Practical decisions are always a gamble, but at least a thorough scrutiny is likely to avoid irreparable mistakes.

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  26. >Your conversion to deliberative polling is a welcome advance on your previous rejection of deliberation as damaging representativity. But DP functions just as a form of consultation. The policy initiative lies with the powers that be.

    I’ve been a strong advocate of the DP for over ten years — my two books on sortition are based on the DP, as is my PhD. The thesis extends the DP procedure beyond consultation to that of a policy jury and includes a long chapter on representative mechanisms for policy initiative, that extend far beyond the powers that be. It also includes a chapter on the two different forms of deliberation — deliberative Stimme and weighing competing arguments — the DP relying primarily on the latter.

    >I think strict representativity is unachievable and not all that desirable.

    So your answer to the rhetorical question raised by the title of your first book is “No” (and neither is it desirable). Purely epistemic criteria are all well and good, but have no democratic legitimacy. (Of course you now acknowledge that demarchic committees are purely consultative — the decision and implementation right remains with the powers that be).

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  27. John,

    > But voting is limited to choosing between alternatives set by others.

    But why is that? Doesn’t everybody have the formal right to be elected as well?

    > I refuse guilt by association and generalisation. I don’t give damn if others have used premises like mine to draw different conclusions.

    But your conclusions are not different. You are advocating much the same ideas that have been advocated by those others. Having an online discussion platform is supposed to makes a material difference?

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  28. Keith

    You fooled me.

    I understood you as rejecting deliberation because it destroyed strict representativity. I welcome your embrace of deliberation and apologise for my failing to noticed the change.

    The remark you quoted was a rejection of strict represntativity in the sense that excludes deliberation among the selected reps, certainly not against all considerations of representation.

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  29. Yoram

    The dispute about voting is a red herring, nothing to do with your accusations of taking over from its owners the right to represent them.

    However, what you say about the right to vote being a mere formality is not only false, but very bad tactics. There are millions of democrats out there who need to be converted to the value of sortition if we are to get anywhere. They quite rightly see universal suffrage as a great achievement, even if it has limitations or defects. If you try to tell them it is a worthless formality, they are not likely to listen to you and the rest of us advocates of sortition are likely to suffer by association. You are not the only one addicted to that kind of argument.

    It is not only a question of tactics. In order to think clearly about what needs to be changed, one needs to analyse carefully precisely what is wrong with the present system, not just doing abuse at it.

    As for your claim that I hold much the same view as Hamilton, you simply ignore the fundamental differences I pointed out. You may have mistaken my meaning when I said, what is obviously true, that even though a baby or an Alzheimer victim cannot speak for herself, we must strive to take account of her needs as best we can. It is an obligation, not a right to speak for them, lest they be ignored. For most of our history Aboriginal people in Australia had no tight to vote. They needed white advocates in political institutions to speak up for them until they were granted full citizenship. It was not demeaning them but arguing against those in power who refused them the right to vote.

    In general I distrust all these adversarial constructs so many people go in for consigning adversaries to positions that are easily dismissed and failing to come to grips with what they are saying. What I offer are suggestions that can perhaps improve things, without taking anything away from many other proposals. I warmly support DP as a proven advance that probably can be developed to get beyond the limitations I see in its present instances, and I’m open to other suggestions.

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  30. John,

    >I understood you as rejecting deliberation because it destroyed strict representativity. I welcome your embrace of deliberation and apologise for my failing to noticed the change.

    There has been no change, only an ongoing misunderstanding. I’m opposed to speech acts by allotted persons, but this doesn’t prevent the assembly from being deliberative. In my (Harringtonian) model speech acts are the right of elected/appointed advocates whereas allotted members weigh the arguments via silent deliberation within. According to Goodin and Niemeyer, most of the opinion formation and change in the DP is at the discursive information stage, not the small group exchanges.

    >There are millions of democrats out there who need to be converted to the value of sortition if we are to get anywhere. They quite rightly see universal suffrage as a great achievement, even if it has limitations or defects. If you try to tell them it is a worthless formality, they are not likely to listen to you and the rest of us advocates of sortition are likely to suffer by association.

    Hear Hear! Much of the polemic delivered on this forum — in particular the arrogant dismissal of elections and people working in political science departments — will only alienate those who we need to recruit to the sortition movement.

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  31. Keith

    > silent deliberation

    Silent deliberation is no doubt indispensable, but to count it must be expressed publicly. Anybody must be able to understand and comment on the reasons for which reps take the view that do. Otherwise it is just another of the myriad committees that meet behind closed doors and issue decisions on the sketchiest of justifications. Are my earlier post: Sortition is not enough.

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  32. John,

    >Anybody must be able to understand and comment on the reasons for which reps take the view that do.

    This is a misunderstanding on the nature of statistical representation. In my proposal the deliberation of the advocates is expressed publicly, on the record, but the voting is Rousseauvian. This is because the representative claim of the jury is similar to that of a (well-informed) opinion poll — statisticians are not interested in the reason why individuals opined in the way that they did, only that the aggregate verdict should match what everyone would think under good conditions. This will also mean that the deliberative style of the advocates will be, as Ian Budge puts it, “forensic”, as opposed to the “university seminar” style beloved of demarchists and deliberative democrats. The biggest mistake sortinistas make is thinking that sortition reps are the same as elected reps, merely selected by a different balloting method. “Descriptive Representative” is one of a rare group of substantives that only exist in plural form — individual reps are in fact “only a statistic”.

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  33. Keith

    > This is a misunderstanding of the nature of statistical representation.

    I am we’ll aware of your view of this matter and, up to a point, share it. What I am proposing is not holding individual reps responsible to some constituency, but holding a decision up to scrutiny. The point of that in relation to your model is that the decision, although reflecting the considered view of the demos, and so legally binding, may be unjust, because of the widely shared prejudices in the demos. For most of our history in Australia only a tiny minority of the population had a defensible view one indigenous people. The great majority, comprising even people with a benevolent attitude to Aboriginals, thought they should be treated as children, not as adults. It is very desirable that such prejudices should be made explicit in the hope that subsequent criticism may remove them.

    In the case of my proposals which, recognising the plurality of mini publics, advocate giving the decision in some matters to reps of such mini publics, it is obviously even more important that the general public be able to scrutinise the grounds on which those decisions are taken.

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  34. John,

    >What I am proposing is . . . holding a decision up to scrutiny. The decision, although reflecting the considered view of the demos, and so legally binding, may be unjust, because of the widely shared prejudices in the demos. . . . It is very desirable that prejudices should be made explicit in the hope that subsequent criticism may remove them.

    In my model the advocacy is of a binary nature and the decision would follow one or the other perspective (Aboriginals are children/Aboriginals are adults). So the advocacy, rather than the choices of individual jurors, would be open to public scrutiny. It’s much easier to scrutinise one “discourse” than the muddled reasoning of 300 randomly-selected persons. Your safeguard (“subsequent” criticism) shuts the stable door long after the horse has bolted, whereas in my model the “Adult” advocates would have the chance to persuade the jurors not to follow their own prejudices (aided by the secret vote).

    >it is obviously even more important that the general public be able to scrutinise the grounds on which those decisions are taken.

    But this won’t work if the prejudice is shared by the general public. From a liberal perspective, minority rights are better safeguarded by constitutional checks and balances, hence the hybrid that we call Liberal Democracy.

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  35. keith

    < in my mopde ladvocacy is of a binary nature…..

    That is one of the things I object to. You offer people choices that are preset without their having any say, or more importantly, without critical discussion, in the way they are set up. That suits your conservatism. The sort of choices people will be offered will framed within a narrow range. Neither of the teams that are called on to set up the binary choice is going to challenge entrenched beliefs. Your proposals are all directed at deciding minor differences of policy. ˆn a society that faces no really fundamental decisions and thinks in terms of top-down politics, that is a remedy for disaster. It will focus on narrow perspectives that preclude consideration of the most important problems that escape all ou nation-based authorities.

    I, on the contrary believe we are indulging in potentially disastrous practices in many of the most important aspects of our ways of life. At a certain scale they seem innocent enough, but on a global scale their cumulative ramifications are disastrous. Bit, unlike most people who have similar misgivings, I do not believe that the remedy for our troubles lies in vasive changes of policy imposed from the top on the basis of comprehensive planning, which is a recipe for getting most things wrong, whether or not the demos supports the planning, and no matter how thoroughly it is debated.

    On the contrary, I believe in taking particular problems one by one and having completely open debate of every aspect of that problem, with a view to clarifying the considerations that need to be taken into account in any adequate solution of them. I hope that the sortition-chosen committee of those substantially affected will be able to distill from such a discussion a sound practical solution to that particular problem. Emerging from these low-level changes various interest will adapt to other changes in their environment in a way analogous to both markets and ecosystems evolve order in the absence of design.

    In fact, of course most aspects of our societies do evolve in unplanned ways, despite the efforts of political top-down systems of all sorts to control them. But if we are careful to get the little adaptations right, we may do a lot better than the blind trial and error of natural selection.

    I hope that from a host of small but significant changes that affect such big issues as unsustainable popular;ation growth, recourse to war and repression, global warming, concentration of economic power and so on will emerge. It is an approach that can be tried in a quite small way, without the destructiveness of revolution or the need to get prior agreement to it, as I have argued. It just might work. The world is full of things that are very surprising/

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  36. John,

    >You offer people choices that are preset without their having any say, or more importantly, without critical discussion, in the way they are set up.

    Not so. The isegoria chapter of my thesis includes a variety of mechanisms for policy proposal and advocacy that involve a combination of ho boulomenos and democratic filters. The basis for my isegoria model is Dahl’s fourth criterion for democratic equality:

    The demos must have the exclusive opportunity to decide how matters are to be placed on the agenda of matters that are to be decided by means of the democratic process. (Dahl, 1989, p. 113)

    Whatever the flaws of this chapter, conservatism is not one of them. What I object to in your proposal is that “people” cashes out as a tiny number of self-selected busybodies, an approach that you share with most deliberative “democrats”.

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  37. Keith

    <a tiny collection of busybodies

    It is of the greatest importance to good discussion that the tiny collection of busybodies get a fair hearing and not be dismissed simply because they are few in number. Every important rectification of the many that have been achieved over the past two hundred years started with people who were dismissed in this way. There is no chance in an open forum for popular concerns to be dismissed. anybody can speak for them and be assured of a welcome.

    Until I see your thesis I have no way of knowing what are the various procedures you consider for setting the agenda to be decided. I of course agree completely with Dahl's point.

    Binary decision processes are typically very unsatisfactory. They almost inevitably pitch a precise proposal against a ragbag of alternatives. For example one may pose the question : should we build a bridge in this position or not? Put to a vote that leads everybody who favours one or other of a number of alternatives to vote against the bridge. But if the bridge were posed as the alternative to each of those other proposals (say a bridge elsewhere, a tunnel, a ferry, or no change ), it would defeat every one of them.

    That's only one aspect of it. Sequential binary decisions are inherently dependent on the order in which the binary alternatives are put. Binary alternatives suit simple voting systems, but suffer from the extreme poverty of the information that binary voting can handle, by contrast, for example, with a free market.

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  38. John,

    I’ve got no problem with your self-appointed busybodies chattering away so long as it’s quarantined to the voluntary civil society sphere, as outlined in The Demarchy Manifesto. Demarchic councils in a liberal state are perfectly entitled to bring pressure on elected politicians via influencing public opinion. The public sphere section of my isegoria chapter includes a long (and approbatory) section on demarchic councils (which you mostly wrote).

    My own focus is on the point at which public opinion is converted into positive law, and lawmaking always involves a binary choice (the House of Commons only has two voting lobbies). Demarchic councils can only help to ensure that this act of will is well-informed but you need to make sure you don’t conflate these two very different stages. Dryzek’s principal criticism of Habermas’s later work is that he is guilty of the same crime.

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  39. Keith

    Thanks for the endorsement.

    I still want to query your addiction to binary choices framing of decisions in legislatures. All legislatures that have democratic pretentions allow amendments to legislative proposals. The legislators are not limited to a yes-no choice, as they are in dictatorships.

    I think our present practices of political decision-malomg are defective, but I think that elaborate schemes for changing them are premature. If people like us succeed in convincing public opinion that significant change is needed, I think it isneitherr likely nor desirable that it take the form os such programs. In anywise, many other competing proposals will spring up that make a binary choice impossible. Think again about your gate in some sequence of binary choices.

    I would hope to persuade people to give more power, in the light of experience, to demarchic councils on specific matters, leading in the direction of the idealised model sketch in IDP? so very long ago. I am ore than ever convinced of the knees for bottom-up authorities to replace top-down ones bit by bit. The state gets its omni-competency from the alleged need need for war.

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  40. A corrected text of the above, with apologies/

    Keith
    Thanks for the endorsement.
    I still want to query your addiction to binary choices framing of decisions in legislatures. All legislatures that have democratic pretentions allow amendments to legislative proposals. The legislators are not limited to a yes-no choice, as they are in dictatorships.
    I think our present practices of political decision-malomg are defective, but I think that elaborate schemes for changing them are premature. If people like us succeed in convincing public opinion that significant change is needed, I think it isneitherr likely nor desirable that it take the form os such programs. In anywise, many other competing proposals will spring up that make a binary choice impossible. Think again about your gate in some sequence of binary choices.
    I would hope to persuade people to give more power, in the light of experience, to demarchic councils on specific matters, leading in the direction of the idealised model sketch in IDP? so very long ago. I am ore than ever convinced of the knees for bottom-up authorities to replace top-down ones bit by bit. The state gets its omni-competency from the alleged need need for war.
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  41. John,

    My up/down model is augmented by three factors:

    1. The proposers will be constrained to introduce measures that they anticipate being acceptable to the disposers, for reasons that Harrington outlined in his analogy of the two girls dividing a cake equitably (“you divide and I’ll choose which slice” or v.v.)

    2. The disposers can vote to revise and resubmit

    3. The committee stage of the parliamentary bill will generate revisions

    Nevertheless the final yes/no majority decision is via the secret vote of the minidemos.

    >I am more than ever convinced of the need for bottom-up authorities to replace top-down ones bit by bit. The state gets its omni-competency from the alleged need for war.

    That’s standard utopian-anarchist discourse. IMO we would be better to focus on incremental changes to our existing (statal) political arrangements.

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  42. Keith

    >anarchist rhetoric

    Of course, “bottom-up” is just a slogan and slogans are dangerous.
    But the point I want to make is both theoretical and practical. It is a matter of getting the relevant information for a decision and the relevant procedures for processing it.

    Let me illustrate the point. Suppose I am an entrepreneur intending to market a new car. I have two perspectives, one focussed on deciding what sort of car is likely to sell. That involves detailed information about what people are likely to want in a car rather than my prescript ion of what they need. As HJH will tell you, relying on what people say, unprompted, that they want is not very reliable, because it reflects past habits. The predictions of skilled predictors are more useful. But best of all is to involve potential customers in a resourceful debate about what is possible.

    The other perspective is to design a car that is better than its competitors in relevant respects. The vague possibilities and desiderata are totally inadequate to be of any use here. I need the electrical experts to tell me what is possible in that area and at what cost, structural engineers to assemble similar information on body shapes and materials, and so on for cooling, lubricating, transmission, suspension, steering, seating and so on. When I have all that information I can the initiate a process of considering what improvements in what departments are likely to be most efficient and most affordable.

    I hope that my competitor is a top-down planner who sets her priorities and then commissions her advisors to design to maximise those priorities. The result is almost certainly going to be an uneconomic design that ‘spares no expense” to achieve its priority, say acceleration or carrying capacity. She may get a niche market of hoons or large families, but I’ll get the lion’s share of the market.

    That is a parable intended to illustrate the importance of a decision process being capable of identifying, articulating and processing appropriately the information that is relevant to a sound decision. I am not suggesting that the information we need in most political decisions must be derived from experts or that monetary cost is the supreme measure of value, but no doubt I will be taken to say both the things.

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  43. John,

    Interesting parable (old habits . . .), but my point is that we should fight one battle at at time. Introducing allotted juries for the upper house of parliament is relatively unproblematic, as are voluntary demarchic committees in the public sphere. But your critique of statal governance is a bridge too far for those of us who don’t share your anarchist sensibilities. From a tactical perspective it’s counterproductive if sortition advocacy gets mixed up with other more radical agendas.

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  44. Keith,
    I agree with John that a variety of bottom-up “baby step” strategies make more sense. I am just finishing up a paper for a conference at the university of Wisconsin at Madison, arguing that a hybrid bicameral system with one chamber selected by lot is a poor strategy. I could go on at length about how it would short-circuit the hoped for benefits of sortition (largely due to a tendency for the allotted members to defer to the charismatic, confident and skilled public relations experts in the elected chamber). Would the sortition chamber act primarily as a rubber stamp (or divide into partisan factions mirroring the elected chamber )?
    But suppose the allotted chamber was able to resist the influence of the elected chamber and took a contrary position on an important bill. What would the reaction of the “leaders” in the elected chamber? Wouldn’t they have an overwhelming interest in delegitimizing the sortition chamber (both to get their way on that bill, but more importantly, to shore up their position of power)? The members of the sortition chamber have no political careers to defend, and will have only average skills of persuasion, while the elected politicians would be among the most skilled people in the country at vilifying opponents. In short the elected chamber would have the skills and motivation to delegitimize the the sortition chamber while the sortition chamber would have little of either. It is easy to imagine the attacks… “This random gaggle of taxi drivers and hairdressers don’t know what they are doing and will lead the nation to ruin. They aren’t accountable to you the people because they never have to face you in an election.” The elected officials will cling to the aristocratic principle of distinction (“rule by the best”) which is in fundamental conflict with the basis for legitimacy of sortition.

    A better strategy is to try to peel away one issue area at a time, and vest decisions on that particular subject in a mini-public system,,, the key being that the elected officials will no longer deal with those sorts of bills.

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  45. Keith

    > fighting battles one by one

    The metaphor is significant. You see politics as essentially adversarial, and you slant on advocacy assumes that matrix. The binary frame delivers winners and losers. This frame makes it mandatory to cobble together disparate interest into teams that can win. Tactics dictate policy. Sortition alone does not suffice to cure this defect.

    Even contests like Wimbledon that are essentially binary have to use the “seed” system to get the binary eliminative process to deliver a fair outcome. You studiously ignore the logic and mathematics of that kind of process.

    By contrast, I insist that the desirable form of decision-making in regard to public goods, as in many other matters, is a process that tends to produce solutions to conflicts that are accepted by most of the different players as a fair compromise between divergent interests. In practice, even in win-lose system, the winners feel constrained to give more than mere li-service to the ideal of fairness, if in very inadequate ways.

    I suggest that it is time to experiment with negotiation based on common respect for the legitimate concerns of all those affected by a decision. Clearly, it is unrealistic to hope that in societies divided by ideologies, class stratification and regional barriers one can hope to find sufficient common ground to reach agreement on th “big issues”. In any case, as my parable of the car manufacturer was intended to show, attempts at planning based on top-down decision procedures inevitably fail to take account of many relevant considerations, resulting insub-optomal decisions.

    What I hope is that people will deal with specific problems in terms of what is directly relevant to their concrete effects, and that a sound pattern of agreements will emerge. Both ecosystems and market produce very stable and desirable results by a process of particular interests adapting to their situation, at least within certain limits. Neither provides a workable model for constructing public goods, but there are way of doing that’s I have tried to show.

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  46. Terry

    I was delighted to see that you have come to see how unlikely it is that a sortition house of review could be effective in producing better decisions. It is a difficult case to argue , since there are so many different possibilities depending on the powers given to the two chambers and the wider context of what is expected of them. Attempts to ensure the independence of an upper house either result in it having power to override the lower house or result in its just having the power to delay legislation by referring it back. Referral back can sometimes result in marginal improvements, but has little effect on most issues.
    Power to override the lower house results in stalled legislation, even where it is important that a decision be made.

    I want people to have the initiative in deciding what they want in specific matters and the legislators and administrators to be under strong pressure to accept the decisions of a public discussion on those specific matters, as servants of public opinion. Whether my suggestions about how this might be brought about would work is certainly debatable. You might like to comment on some of the points raised in my recent exchanges with Keith.

    I reiterate that these proposals are not intended as accomplishing any ultimate goal but merely as first steps in unknown territory, which we can describe only from a great height. What we will encounter as we push into it is bound to produce many surprises. The concepts in terms of which we discuss these matters are very probably deeply inadequate. Nobody, in my view has any understanding of how the means of collecting, analysing and using information that are now available will affect our theoretical understanding of and practical applications of our new powers.

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  47. Terry,

    > charismatic, confident and skilled public relations experts in the elected chamber

    Are we talking about those same charismatic, confident and skilled public relations experts whose approval ratings are among the lowest of any institution in society?

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  48. Terry,

    I don’t see much in common between your two proposals. Voluntary Demarchic committees are part of civil society and have no legislative rights; all they can do is make recommendations which then have to pass through two democratic filters — i.e. influencing elected politicians via the medium of mass public opinion. In Terry’s example the vast mass of citizens would be excluded from any direct involvement in the decision-making process, thereby lacking democratic legitimacy.

    John,

    >Even contests like Wimbledon that are essentially binary have to use the “seed” system to get the binary eliminative process to deliver a fair outcome

    My proposal for direct citizen initiatives is the political equivalent of the Wimbledon seed system.

    >You see politics as essentially adversarial, and your slant on advocacy assumes that matrix.

    True, and I think this is historically accurate, in that it was less costly and more predictable to count the strong right arms that would otherwise be wielding swords. And the secret vote made it possible to switch sides without being accused of treason. It is a mistake to believe, as some do on this forum, that agonistic politics is the product of “electoralism”.

    >I suggest that it is time to experiment with negotiation based on common respect.

    A fine normative goal, unfortunately it is based on the (discredited) theory that the role of deliberation and reasoning is to update personal beliefs. Mercier and Landemore have demonstrated that there are two competing cognitive mechanisms involved in what we call “reasoning” — a) seeking to persuade others and b) judging these claims. This would lend itself to the binary separation of the advocacy and judgment roles and the forensic model of oratory, rather than the university seminar mode beloved of demarchists and deliberative democrats. If we want our constitutional proposals to work they need to be based on how people think, not how we would wish them to in an ideal world.

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  49. Keith

    > advocacy and judgement

    Of course they are different and clearly differentiated in my proposed arrangements for a forum open to all and a demarchic committee to reach a decision. If the result of those efforts is a partisan win, they have wasted their time. The only ground on which this process can claim to represent considered public opinion is that it is generally accepted by the public as fair to all substantial interests involved. We are talking about public goods.

    In the discussion phase advocates can only hope to reach agreement or expect others to accord validity to their claims if those others are constrained to recognise that the grounds of the claim are legitimate. Those grounds will be of two sorts in matters of public goods: First the social desirability of the public good in question and second the fairness to various private interests of positive or negative consequences it may have for them. These are the considerations, often recognised generally by nearly everybody, but with varying weight ing, that the committee will have to adjudicate.

    All forms of democratic polities depend on such a background of share assumptions and all democratic authorities appeal to those assumptions to a large extent. In successful democracies the differences between parties are seen by many voters se mainly a matter of emphasis. It is this underlying consensus that makes regular rotation between major parties compatible with social stability, while at the same time assuring that the incumbent government can be thrown out easily enough, because an acceptable substitute is available

    Unfortunately, as people have become increasingly disillusioned by the ways in which factional wheeling and dealing and ideological spin have operated in politics, they have become increasingly hostile to the political elite and responsive to authoritarian populism. If given the chance, I think that they would welcome a process that formulated fair and practical policies and be disposed to insist that the legislators and administrators accept those results.

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  50. John,

    >generally accepted by the public as fair to all substantial interests involved

    How on earth do you operationalise that?

    >Unfortunately, as people have become increasingly disillusioned by the ways in which factional wheeling and dealing and ideological spin have operated in politics, they have become increasingly hostile to the political elite and responsive to authoritarian populism.

    I doubt if many political scientists would agree. One of the principal critiques of UK politics is that the Blairite move to the centre ground has left little scope for choice — as Geoffrey Howe put it to me a few years ago, it’s more a case of Tesco or Sainsburys. The US is slightly different but the Tea Party and Trumpism could be described as a reaction against the triangulation brought in during the Clinton era along with the (non-factional, non-ideological) phenomenon that Manin has called “audience democracy”.

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  51. Keith

    Tesco v Sansbury’s

    The fact that often political scientists, journalists and others find there to be little to choose between political parties does show the power of the underlying widely shared opinions.

    It is certainly better yo have a choice between Tesco and Sainsbury’s than no choice at all. However, I certainly would object to be boud for four years to buy exclusively at one of them.

    What my proposals do is give people the chance to look at each item in terms its particular merits, instead lining up to buy on dubious brand names.

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  52. >What my proposals do is give people the chance to look at each item in terms its particular merits, instead lining up to buy on dubious brand names.

    OK, but you need to make your mind up whether the place of demarchic councils is in the voluntary public sphere or whether you are trying to usurp the “dubious brand names”. I support you 100% in the former, but the latter belongs to the “end of politics” discourse and (fortunately) does not feature in your new book. If you believe that, over time, the brand names will end up as part of the “dignified” part of the constitution, with efficient power vested in the demarchic councils then you don’t need to mention that, especially as all it will do is frighten the horses.

    PS my proposal also allows (a representative sample of) the people the chance to look at each item in terms of its particular merits, as the decision juries are allotted on an ad hoc basis. My proposal is less likely to be a victim of rational ignorance — I think your belief that voters will take the time to study the online debate of the demarchic councils before pressurising the government to adopt their policies is unrealistic.

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  53. Keith

    < OK, but you meed tomato up your mind….

    Why? In our present situation I am just suggesting a place for demarchic councils on the "civic" side of the line you draw. But certainly I think it both desirable and likely that in some matters legally binding regulation will be devolved to demarchic councils, and perhaps to other kinds of bodies, subject to auditing by demarchic councils.

    The legal status of each body needs to be clear at any given time, but maybe change by whatever is the approriate process in a particular legal system. In any case, real power and legal status are two different things. Some bodies have enormous power without having any legal authority to back their decisions. Think of professional, sporting , academic and business organisations, national and international. In very many casesI think it desirable that the operations of such bodies should be more transparent than they are and subject to auditing by suitable committees. Whether that is sufficient popular control remains to be seen, case by case. Auditing would be fairly easy to arrange in many instances. Evolution, not revolution.

    The conventions that embody accepted conceptions of the roles of various institutions such as professions and the appropriate ways of evaluating their performance are much more important than legal ordinances, which depend on conventions for its justification and interpretation.

    It is true that there are individualists who claim that if an action is not legally forbidden, they are entitled to do it, but no society can function on that basis. Our accepted understandings on what is acceptable behaviour are neither as rigid as law nor as insensitive or punitive. Conventions can change very rapidly as popular awareness of changed circumstances and possibilities change. The essence of authoritarianism is to attempt yo control the decentralised movements of convention by legislation, which is essentially top-down, even when it claims democratic authorisation.

    Laws are sometimes necessary ignorer to give precise shape to certain rights and duties, enabling laws. Punitive laws are called for where protection is important, especially to deal with fraud an violence where there are strong incentives to use them in certain cases. Bodily health is not just a matter of fighting diseases, but of good habitual practices. The same is true of social organisms.

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  54. Keith

    >generally accepted by the public as fair to all substantial interests involved
    How on earth do you operationalise that?

    At first I dismissed this demand. People usually make judgments of this sort for themselves, based on their won reactions and conversation with acquaintances, using what knowledge they have of the issues involved and what they take to be accepted standards of fairness. They will continue to do so.

    However they are assisted by The Fourth Estate (journalists) and perhaps even the “social media”. The acid test is how many people demand that the politicians commit to the proposal in question, for fear of losing the swinging voters.

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  55. John,

    The one thing I agree with John Dryzek is over his claim that the rightful place for discursive democracy is in the voluntary public sphere. He is critical of the later Habermas for his shift of focus to institutional deliberation. My concern, however, is not that of the critical theorist (“sellout to liberal constitutionalism”) but because, from a democratic perspective, very different standards of legitimacy apply to voluntary bodies seeking to influence public opinion and those with a formal lawmaking role. That’s why I think you are wrong to try and have your cake and eat it. Note that I’m not opposed to efficient power shifting to your demarchic councils with politicians assuming more of a dignified role (although I think it’s highly unlikely), but you are stepping over the line when you claim that “in some matters legally binding regulation will be devolved to demarchic councils”. Fortunately this is not a claim that you make in your recent book.

    >The acid test is how many people demand that the politicians commit to the proposal in question, for fear of losing the swinging voters.

    Agreed — that’s just fine and dandy. But I think your pious hope that the wise counsel of your demarchs will have a significant effect on public opinion indicates that you have spent most of your life attending university philosophy department seminars. Research in media studies shows an alarming trend away from even the moderately wise counsel of the commentariat towards the kind of false news that circulates on social media sites of all colours. People would much rather read stuff that confirms their own prejudices than be confronted with attempts to arrive at wise outcomes. Pardon the expression, but you’re just pissing into the wind.

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  56. < OK, but you meed tomato up your mind….

    PS I thought this was a lovely allusion to the 50th anniversary of the summer of love. Unlike some of the juviniles on this blog, we remember the real thing (although Dylan put it as "scrambled up your mind"). Sorry, slight misremembering (but if you remember the '60s you weren't there):

    Now the rainman gave me two cures
    Then he said, “Jump right in”
    The one was Texas medicine
    The other was just railroad gin
    An’ like a fool I mixed them
    An’ it strangled up my mind
    An’ now people just get uglier
    An’ I have no sense of time
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again

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  57. A couple of points…
    1. Though I don’t think John’s idea of constituent pressure on elected officials about a good idea emerging from a demarchic body is very viable (for many reasons), I will give you ONE piece of evidence in support from my time as a legislator. On a few occasions the committee I was serving on would hear strong contradictory testimony from competing sides on a bill, and the two warring lobbyist factions would later hole up in some room and come out a day later with a compromise that both sides could support, and the legislators would heave a sigh of relief and unanimously adopt that lobbyist compromise amendment. But this was always on complex issues that the legislators didn’t really understand, and had no ideological position nor “motivated reasoning” in play.

    2. Keith and John imply that the choice is between a) an agonistic battle of arguments ending in a binary yes no vote, or b) a negotiated settlement that may even find consensus. I don’t like either of these. Negotiation almost always is a manifestation of relative power of the factions, not of justice or fairness. What about a system of binding arbitration. Every interested party is free to draft a proposed decision that then all go before a jury (I would favor a large descriptively representative mini-public – not a sortition body of those connected to the issue, as in demarchy) to pick the fairest decision. Each special interest has an incentive to draft a fair proposal, knowing that an extremist proposal that is their dream conclusion won’t have a chance. Thus all serious proposers will likely seek to draft a winnable compromise. There would of course then be a stage of agonistic argument by the proposers in front of the jury (Keith’s idea), but it needn’t be a mere head count nor a negotiation. As with criminal juries, the jurors do not see themselves as advocates of a particular side (as is the case in elected legislative bodies or negotiating teams), but generally DO seek justice (even if they fail – they genuinely seek it as a general rule).

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  58. Terry,

    Very interesting. In the first case of course there is no intermediation from the public — legislators just accept the compromise the lobbyists have stitched up between them, so it’s hard to see its democratic merit (other than that the legislators have been elected). The second case is more interesting as what you’re suggesting is several competing laws being adjudicated by an allotted minipublic. I don’t have any principled objections as there’s nothing special about the numbers one or two, but I wonder if it’s a) practicable (there’s no way of winnowing down the numbers of competing proposals) and b) open to abuse by factions and lobbies who could flood the process with their pet solutions. My preference is to winnow down the ho boulomenos earlier on via a) minimum 100,000 threshold for citizen initiatives and b) public votation to pick the best. I think it’s a mistake to exclude the general public totally from the political process (as would be the case in both your examples).

    >There would of course then be a stage of agonistic argument by the proposers in front of the jury, but it needn’t be a mere head count nor a negotiation. As with criminal juries, the jurors . . . generally DO seek justice.

    The nice thing about this approach is that it’s agnostic as to whether the final vote reflects the general good or aggregate interests (the will of all), so is open to both liberal and republican interpretations. This would be true in both the up/down and multiple choice case. It would be determined by a head count but not a “mere” head count.

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  59. Keith

    > I agree with John Dryzek..

    Well we do make progress. I am glad you agree with me and Dryzek that he place for discussion is in the voluntary sphere. You used to argue insistently that such discussions would have no effect since they had no means of enforcing their decisions, no power. That seemed to me to imply that serious discussions could take place only in the legislature, as against my contention that where discussion is entangled with struggles for power, the issues are inevitably distorted.

    But perhaps you were merely acting as Devil’s Advocate, (a role in the sanctification process as mythical the devil himself.) I am not rigid essentialist. So I indicated that in another regime than the sort we have, for example in a regime where sortition had eliminated struggle for power, it might be possible to integrate demarchic deliberation into the legislative process. while still preserving what the separation preserves.
    There is no inconsistency here. It is just another instance of your attempts to neglect twhat one actually says by imputing to one more essentialist grounds that those in which one is relying.

    Your second point is,of course well taken. The success of the deliberation process in influencing public opinion and acquiring the reputation of representing public opinion will depend to a large extent on the wain which there conclusions are presented in the media. I hope that sufficient numbers of people would taken active part in those discussions for it to be difficult for misrepresentations of them to gain any credibility. Whether that hope is justified remains to be seen.

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  60. Terry

    arbitration etc

    In one respect, I think you misunderstand both Keith and me. We both emphasise that people chosen by sortition are not to see themselves as delegates of interest groups , but as representing the community interest in getting fair and practical solutions to problems. As far as i’m concerned, when I speak of negotiation in this context, I want to emphasise that there is no power in play in the process. My open discussion is intended to arrive at general agreement about the considerations that are relevant to a sound solution, but I recognise that people will put different weight on those considerations. So it often happens that two parties agree that certain proposals are all desirable, but differ on the amount of available resources to be devoted to each in the circumstances. In a friend search for the best solution they often take up the task of representing different points of view, trying to offer attractive solutions to each other at minimum cost to the interest they represent. Such negotiations can end up with win-win solutions where hostile negotiations, based on power normally end in win-lose outcomes.

    Why should we expect the sortition-chosen reps to engage in that way? In my scenario, because unless the process is clearly fair and practical, the outcome will not be generally accepted. Of course it is possible that their efforts may end in a deadlock. In that case we have to have resort to arbitration as the last resort.

    Why is it a last resort? Because the impartiality of the arbitrators is assured by making sure that none of them has an interest in the matters at issue. So they have no first hand experience of what it is in to have those interests, by contrast with people who know frmo personal experience just what matters most in practice. It is one of the defects of abstractly impartial legal proceedings and of most theorising about such matters that they fail to understand just what is at issue for those most directly affected. How often do people say: I can’t understand why those others don’t….., thus in effect dismissing the concerns of those others, while thinking themselves perfectly impartial

    More fundamentally, a society of flourishing diversity must rest on positive sense of valuing that diversity and willingness to accomodate the concerns of others by mutually agreed adaptations. Our societies are too prone to rest every issue as a win-loose parern. That leads to war.
    We have to change. There is no question of changing human nature, but we can change the procedures in terms of which motivations are generated and behaviour rewarded or censured.

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  61. John,

    I’m not acting as devil’s advocate, merely pointing out that the criteria for the democratic legitimacy of speech acts are far more exacting in the legislature than in the informal public sphere.

    >a regime where sortition had eliminated struggle for power.

    Now we’re back in John Lennon’s La La Land. Jesus and Marx might have phrased it differently, but the eschatology is the same.

    >We both emphasise that people chosen by sortition are not to see themselves as delegates of interest groups , but as representing the community interest in getting fair and practical solutions to problems.

    The DP methodology is agnostic as to whether allotted person are seeking the common good or representing the interests of their (virtual) constituencies. In practice I imagine it would be a bit of both. I would certainly not want to argue that this is a form of impartial arbitration.

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  62. keith

    a regime where sortition had eliminated struggle for power.

    Now we’re back in John Lennon’s La La Land. Jesus and Marx might have phrased it differently, but the eschatology is the same.

    It is completely uncontroversial that where sortion is applied it removes struggles for power. Of course, people who love fight may hate it, but there is nothing they can do to influence the selection process. The fight lovers may also find allies against sortition in those who see it asa recipe for mediocrity where it is applied. That is a more serious objection that I have addressed with my advocacy to a completely open forum as a precaution against “group think”, among other good features. But it may not work in practice.

    If the sortition process is used only to assemble a large group that exercises ;legislative power in a binary pattern, deciding by majority vote in that body, It leaves the way open to power struggles of the sort we are familiar with. If we are landed with such a body I would suggest that it should adopt a different pattern decision-making, based on devoting decision on specific matters to suitable sortition-based specialised committees, working not on a binary win-lose model, but on aiming to get win-wincompromises. Again that mightn’t work.

    I have always emphasised that my suggestions are just that. Whether they can work is something that can be settled only by genuine experiment. It is even possible that such experiments might do more harm than good,

    There is no ground whatever in anything I have said to impute to me a belief that I can read where the world is heading, muchness that it is a desirable end. The one thing we know about the evolutionary process is that it creates unforeseen changes, frequently mass extinctions.

    Marx once said that humanity only poses for itself problems that it can solve. I’m very much afraid that we have already posed for ourselves a mumer of problems that we are unlikely to be able to solve, but I’m sufficiently moralistic to think we still ought to try to solve them.

    Of course you may be right that what I say rests on some deeply hidden self-deception that your superior understanding of human psychology enables you to diagnose. Obviously I’m not in a position to contest that. But perhaps there is still some interest in discussion g what I actually say, even if it is not what I deeply believe. I have often, in my superficial discourse, learned more from adversaries then friends.
    People often are right for the wrong reasons.

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  63. John,

    >It is completely uncontroversial that where sortion is applied it removes struggles for power.

    That is tautologically true in the ex-ante sense, but once a randomly-selected person has attained office then life reverts to the usual dynamics. Everyone has interests and there is no reason at all to believe that a mere change in the balloting method will have any significant effect on the workings of a deliberative body if it has legislative power. That’s why I think Dryzek is right — you should quarantine your demarchic councils to the informal public sphere. Whether or not the win-win compromises they come up with will have a significant influence on public opinion in the current media ecosphere is another matter.

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  64. John,

    I thought John MacCormick’s dismissal of Urbinati’s project to revitalise democracy as motherhood and apple pie is of relevance:

    an idealized version of some amalgam of Arendtian pluralism and Millian deliberative democracy; a model in which robustly representative public opinion emerges from interaction between society and government in a way that incorporates all citizens as actors and not as mere spectators. I would like to live in such a democracy. (McCormick, 2015, p. 171)

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  65. Keith

    > That is tautologically true…but…

    I agree with your substantive point . But there is a big underlying difference that is important enough to call for a separate post, on which I am working, on Sortition , sovereignty and democracy.

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  66. look forward to it!

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