The other point of view of the debate at La Croix

The French newspaper La Croix has recently published two pieces under the title “Of what use is the senate?”. A translation of one of those pieces is here. Below is a translation of the opposing view.

Jean-Philippe Derosier: “The senate is in the DNA of our institutions”

Jean-Philippe Derosier is a professor of public law at Lille 2 university and the author of the blog “The constitution decoded”.

Personally, I do not dispute the utility of the senate, even if some changes could surely be considered. There are three reasons for the utility of a second chamber. First of all, a logical reason. The parliament represents the nation, and the nation is the people but also something else. The people are represented by the assembly and other thing, in our system, is the regions (territories). In countries which made the choice of bicameralism, this other thing can be different, for example in England the history of the British nobility is incarnated in the House of Lords, or the civil society in Ireland.

The second reason is biological: there are always more ideas in two heads than in one and the second chamber completes the role of the first through a permanent dialog instituted between the two assemblies.
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Welsh Assembly Member proposes Citizens Juries

From the BBC News:

Compulsory Welsh citizen ‘democratic duty’ call

Welsh citizens should be called-up for compulsory democratic service in the same way as “jury duty”, an AM has said.

Conservative David Melding said a second chamber of the assembly should be created for residents to influence decisions and laws.

Mr Melding said introducing a “citizens service” in Wales would help narrow the gap between politicians and the public.

He said it would help keep politicians and officials “rooted”.

The AM for South Wales Central said the growing distance between politicians and the public, and the lack of engagement was “very damaging”.

Speaking on BBC Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme Mr Melding said a “citizens’ service” should be introduced, in a similar way to jury duty, with residents randomly selected to sit on panels, including local health boards to look at how hospitals and GP services are run, and local town and county councils to have their say on new leisure facilities and bin collection changes.
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Debate at La Croix: Of what use is the senate?

La Croix has recently had an interview with Loïc Blondiaux about the idea of an allotted senate. A few days later, La Croix published two more pieces on this subject, one supporting the idea and one opposing it, under the title “Of what use is the senate?”.

Here is a translation of the ‘in-favor’ side of the debate. A translation of the ‘against’ side will be published in the upcoming days.

Fatou Tall : “The time has come for a citizen senate”.

Fatou Tall is a lawyer and a member of the Citizen senate collective.

What is useful is the bicameralism which divides Parliament into two distinct chambers. Within this framework we consider the way to respond to what appears to be currently a real emergency: revitalising our democracy, “radicalizing democracy”, to use the words of the constitutional scholar Dominique Rousseau. The senate seems to be the appropriate tool for introducing a citizen assembly and the mechanism of sortition at a time when many are questioning the appointment of senators via indirect elections. The idea is therefore to make the senate a chamber of allotted citizens which would be charged with co-creation of the law in concert with the National assembly, as is now the case.
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Threlkeld’s reply to Paul Lucardie

This is my reply to Paul Lucardie’s 2014 book Democratic Extremism in Theory and Practice: All Power to the People, regarding his questions, objections and comments about my 1998 proposal for democratic lawmaking.

In my reply I explain why Lucardie’s alleged category of “democratic extremism” is illogical and should be rejected.

I do not find the book’s objections to what I propose to be convincing, but I do find them and Lucardie’s questions interesting and worth replying to. For example, he suggests that compared to popular election, citizen juries waste political talent. I explain, in response, why popular election massively wastes political talent compared to the citizen jury proposals I have made.

In the course of replying, I outline much of my position on citizen juries, including details I have not published before, such as some further details about why the final say in lawmaking needs to be transferred to legislative juries, and about juries deciding how public decision-makers are chosen.

Excerpt:

Lucardie observes that: “Obviously, it is rather inconvenient if one wants to write about a phenomenon [democratic extremism] that by definition cannot exist [because it is a contradiction in terms].” (14.) Lucardie then tries to define “democratic extremism” in a way that is not a contradiction in terms, but he does not succeed.
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Legislature by Lot

[Note: this has been adapted from an orginial blog post here: http://www.bretthennig.com/legislature_by_lot]

legislature

From Friday to Sunday this weekend (September 15-17) the co-founder and director of the Sortition Foundation, Brett Hennig, will be joining a group of academics, researchers and activists gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to discuss the pros and cons of a “Legislature by Lot” – a parliament, senate or congress selected by sortition.

The workshop is being organised by Professor John Gastil (Penn State) and Professor Erik Olin Wright (University of Wisconsin-Madison) who have drafted the principal proposal that attendees are responding to. Their proposal is for a bicameral legislature where one chamber is elected and one is selected using sortition.

Deepening Democracy CoverThe intended outcome of the workshop will be a book whose prospective title is “Legislature by Lot: An Alternative Design for Deliberative Governance”, to be published by Verso as part of of the Real Utopias series.

The workshop will be attended by many well know academics and practitioners in the field of deliberative and participatory democracy, including Lyn CarsonNed CrosbyJim FishkinArchon FungJane MansbridgeYves SintomerGraham Smith and many others.

Workshop session titles include “Legislatures by lot in the context of major democratic reforms”, “From deliberative to radical democracy? Sortition and politics in the 21st century”, “On democratic representation and accountability” and “Random assemblies for law-making? Prospects and limits”.

It promises to be an interesting and stimulating weekend of discussion about if and how sortition should be introduced into the legislative branch of government – and the resulting book (probably appearing in late 2018) should make a major contribution to the debate about radical but achievable changes that could be made to better our democracies.

Ranciere: What times are we living in?, part 1

What to save from the drifting French political system? The philosopher Jacques Ranciere was the guest of Aude Lancelin in “The war of ideas” of June 20th, 2017. Here is the transcript of this interview. [My translation, corrections welcome. -YG]

01. There is always this confusion between democracy as the power of all and a representative system.

Aude Lancelin: Jacques Rancière, welcome. I thank you, a great political philosopher, for coming to help us understand what is happening in a democratic country where full power is obtained with the support of less than 11% of the electorate. One of the very cruel lessons of your new book “In what times are we living?”, which is a dialog with the editor Eric Hazan, is that despite the mass abstention, despite the dysfunction of the representative system, someone holds power. Moreover, power becomes more and more oligarchical in our societies, without meeting any serious obstacle. It is not enough to turn our backs on the electoral system for it to collapse by itself. It continues to function without the popular classes, without the left… until when?

Jacques Ranciere: As I see things, the representative system is made to function with the support of a minority. There is always this confusion between democracy as the power of all and a representative system. The electoral system is made as a conflation of the two but fundamentally the representative system is in its essence an oligarchical system. In the 17th century the representative system was therefore made for a small part of the population that was supposed to be “enlightened”, representative and conscious of the general interests of society, to be able to govern with as few obstacles as possible. At the time of the revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries a belief in the power of people emerged, which could express itself through the electoral system and representation. Today we realize again that in different ways power is always with a small minority. In the past it was a social class, now it is difficult to say what social class can really govern the country, even if we know what interests the system serves. In consequence, we professionalization occurred which produced an interaction between a left and a right which fundamentally thought and did the same thing. And at the same time, they saw themselves as representatives and called for a non-establishment system or an “anti-system”. That is, the system itself produced its anti-system. What we see with Macron, with En Marche [Macron’s party], is a new and unexpected way in which the system produces its “anti-system”. I mean that the representative system carries within it the potential for several possibilities. There is the Le Pen style alternative, that is the people of the depths who are going to sweep away all the people of the system, and then there is of course the Macron alternative, which is a more subtle form because it replaces the system by the system itself. Fundamentally, what is the great novelty about under the banner of En Marche? These are alliances which are already known in other European countries (Germany, for example), with the difference that the parties keep their autonomy, while keeping the same politics, sometimes as adversaries and sometimes as allies.
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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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