‘We spent almost two years sitting on a jury’

There has been some debate on this site regarding the optimal length of service for a political jury.  On the one hand most of those chosen by lot to participate will have had very little political experience, and will need a period of induction and this has led to suggestions for a service period of up to 2 years with overlapping tenure, so that at all times there will be jurors who will have served for at least a year to help guide new inductees. On the other hand others (including myself) argue for short ad hoc juries, allotted for each legislative bill, in order to ensure ongoing representativity (i.e. to combat the risk of jurors ‘going native’).

However the discussion has always been from the perspective of the system rather than the participants who, it is assumed, will go back to their normal lives once their service period has ended. But evidence from a recent fraud trial suggests this may be difficult if the service period is for a year or more. Jurors rarely talk about their court-room experience but four out of the twelve participants in this case have revealed how difficult the transition back to civilian life has been (three of the original 15-strong allotment dropped out, suggesting negative outcomes for nearly one half of the original sequestration). One of the jurors, ‘Julie’

returned to her job in a travel agency when the case finished, but quickly found herself struggling. Julie says: “I went back and did two days training and then I went two days into the shop. I’ve never been back since. I’ve not given it up yet. “I am going through the doctor and trying to get back into it. I’m still struggling. I just felt like I could not even hold a conversation.”

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Greece: School flag-bearers will be chosen by lot, rather than achievement

ekathimerini.com reports:

The government has scrapped a long tradition of honoring top pupils by selecting them to carry the national flag in school parades. From now on flag-bearers will be chosen by lot. Opposition parties criticized this as part of the SYRIZA party’s assault on excellence.

A presidential decree published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday sets out the new procedure for selecting flag-bearers, and those flanking them, in primary school parades. Two pupils in sixth grade (the final year of primary school) will be chosen by lot each year, with one serving from the start of the academic year until January 31 and the other from February 1 to the end of the school year.

This means different pupils will carry the flag in parades to mark Independence Day on March 25 and Oxi Day on October 28, which commemorates Greece’s response to an Italian ultimatum in 1940 and the country’s entry into World War II.
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Public opinion in crisis

A stable democracy depends on a sound public opinion. It is the essential basis of agreement about what is legitimate behaviour on the part of both public institutions and many of the relations of citizens to each other. It is the central common good or communities of most sorts.

The traditional notion of public opinion

Until the advent of continuous polling what was invoked by the phrase “public opinion” was a set of beliefs and attitudes that were assumed to be shared by nearly everybody in the nation concerning the grounds on which choices of public policies were to be judged and the performances of public activities to be assessed. As contexts change, depending on the degree to which different groups approve of those changes, differences emerge in many fringe situations. As long as there is a sense of community people deal with these differences mainly by agreeing to small verbal changes that accommodate certain important new demands without abandoning traditional formulae “I’m not a feminist, but…”

Public opinion in this sense was traditionally invoked by prominent public figures, politicians, journalists and intellectuals often with such phrases as “will not tolerate” or “demands” that a government do this or that. Such public protagonists assumed that their attempts to articulate the tacit understandings on which the society operated would be endorsed by the “general public” if they thought seriously about the matter. So churchmen would assume that as Christians their followers were committed to certain views, labour leaders that justice required a certain treatment of workers and business leaders that the rights of investors be respected. They would each attempt to represent such claims as reflecting a more fundamental agreement on the way the community needed to work of it was to flourish and command loyalty.
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Sortition within cooperatives

I am conducting a research project on sortition in cooperatives, and am wondering whether anybody in this community has come across any research or practice in this domain. The only work I am aware of is Terry Bouricius’s article titled “A Better Co-op Democracy Without Elections?” Thanks in advance!

G!LT Party in Austria to use sortition

This sortition community may be pleased to hear that a new party employing principles of sortition was recently founded by Austrian Comedian Roland Düringer. The new party is called “Meine Stimme GILT” (translates as: “My Vote Counts”) and is now highly likely to get sufficient popular support to run at Austria’s national parliamentary elections in October.

Roland Düringer has puzzled media and pundits by declaring himself not eligible for election, which of course sounds absurd for party system adherents. In fact, however, he is not a candidate and will not accept a mandate. Also, the party has declared that it has absolutely no political program which adds to journalists’ head scratching but is a logical consequence of a commitment to crowdsourcing all future policy proposals and decisions with full neutrality.

Once sufficient supporting signatures have come in from all Austrian federal states, expected to happen at the end of next week, G!LT will allot 50 parliamentary candidates for its election lists from a group of 1,000 vetted volunteers. These volunteers committed to donate most of their salary (anything above 2017 Euros) to social or democratic causes and to represent the General Will in parliament. This will be determined by “Open Democracy“, a multi-stage process mixing elements of several democratic approaches:

  1. Participative democracy — broad public participation during initial opinion and prediction gathering, open for all citizens
  2. Sortition democracy — stratified random sampling for demarchic committees from volunteers vetted by prediction success
  3. Deliberative democracy — demarchic committees will vote after a multi-phase hearing of innovators, the pro and the con side, and deliberation
  4. Anticipatory democracy — all committee decisions will be backed and tracked by falsifiable impact predictions

(Here are the principles of this process in English.)

The party decided to adopt this model for the upcoming elections, over two other competing ones (Liquid Democracy and Sociocracy), after research by a combination of questionnaire and prediction market forecasts drawing on a representative sample of 1,000 Austrians.

Democratic legitimisation will be effected by vote share in general election. Or not, as a 4% hurdle applies.

If there is sufficient interest, I can keep this community posted on new developments and of course on actual election results.

Sortition, Sovereignty and Democracy in Modern Government

I would like to persuade people who are interested in sortition to take more interests in other aspects of public decision-making. I believe it is not enough to think of remedying our means of choosing the personnel of existing authorities. In some respects those authorities have too much power. In others, the problem is that power is not the right means to deal with some vital issues. These issues are not questions of what we would like, but of how to avoid impending catastrophe. It is essential for us to understand what we can and cannot do in these matters. We must think in functional terms and on a global scale, not in terms of what we have the power to do, but of what we must do to survive. Those who want to persuade us to hand over power to them try to trick us into thinking we can have what we want. We have to face the real situation and get it right.


A great deal of the thinking about the potential of sortition to replace voting in existing political institutions is based on the Athenian practice of using a lottery to fill some public offices, thus removing those offices from struggles for power. Some proposals I have made at times have been of this sort, choosing a few people for a particular task. But much of the work done by kleroterians refers to using sortition as the basis for a representative system of government, something the Athenians never considered. It raises problems that have no precedents in their practice. Once you have representative government the question arises of what it is entitled to do. The assembly in Athens could do whatever it wanted, including some atrocious things.

As the Americans discovered in seeking for ways of constructing institutions to replace British rule, the Roman republic offered much more relevant precedents for representative government, but none that involved sortition. In any case, Roman practice was based on stratified and contentious citizen rights. The city-state proved unable to handle the problems of imperial power, which soon abolished any shred of democracy. Citizenship came down to a right to a share in the spoils of conquest. Bread and circuses. Political power rested on control of an army. Out of centuries of chaos the medieval monarchies set up a system of territorial rights that prefigured modern nation-states. Hereditary monarchs emerged to claim authority over a territory, conceived as the property of the monarch. Other occupants of that territory were seen as subjects of the monarch, whose will was law. Such titles to property as they had were enforceable only against each other, not the monarch.
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