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I'm not convinced by sortition because it seems to hand power to those who offer advice to the randomly selected representatives of the people.

The problem is that national level legislation is often large-span, complex, full of detail and technical wording.

In countries with a strongly technocratic civil service, this may not be so bad, just undemocratic. But in countries with a weaker civil service, legislation will be written by "helpful" lobbyists.

Some legislation could of course be simplified, but it should be noted that simplicity is often the ally of a shrunk state conservatism.

Why do I think it will be worse than now? Especially when I'd be the first to admit that it's very bad right now?

Because as bad as they are, parties remain organisations capable of drafting legislation for political objectives. And those political objectives provide a way for alternatives views to be incorporated, beyond technocracy and the lobbyists.

Of course, the worst thing about my view of the world is that progress only comes through either reclaiming parties of the left, or setting up alternatives like Syriza who only gain an opportunity at moments of great crisis.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 06:32:05 AM EST
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But in countries with a weaker civil service, legislation will be written by "helpful" lobbyists.

Legislation is being written by "helpful" lobbyists NOW.

There could still be parties arguing their cause, by the way. They would supply the advisors.

by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 06:54:42 AM EST
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Because as bad as they are, parties remain organisations capable of drafting legislation for political objectives. And those political objectives provide a way for alternatives views to be incorporated, beyond technocracy and the lobbyists.
The way I see it, parties would morph into lobbies or think tanks. Already the parts of the organization capable of drafting documents from political parspectives are increasingly outsourced to party "foundations", or directly to think tanks. Lobbies lobby not only the legislators directly but the party apparatus and the foundations.

In most European parliamentary systems the government, through the upper tiers of the civil service, drafts legislation. It's not like in the US where legislation is introduced by parlamentarians. The function of parliament is increasingly limited to demanding accountability from the civil service. So that function would remain. And the parlamentarians would seek advice from think tanks, foundations or "parties" just like current parlamentarians now seek advice from their party apparatus or the party itself writes the legislation that the parlamentarians introduce.

With party parliamentary discipline as currently practised in many parliamentary democracies, especially when party-list proportional representation is used, individual parlamentarians have little initiative and are basically there to contribute to party votes.

Finally, parlamentarians selected by sortition would be less vulnerable to corruption. Not only they don't owe any favours to external interests for their access to the parliament, but as they are not part of a party apparatus they are less likely to exchange favours after leaving the parliament.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 07:08:33 AM EST
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Finally, parlamentarians selected by sortition would be less vulnerable to corruption.

Not so sure about that. If you're a billionaire it's possibly not so hard to buy off a few hundred people who are used to an average income - even if they're on an MP pay scale. (Especially if they're civil servants.)

And you still have other issues. The problem is not just about votes in parliament, but about public influence in general. That includes media monopolies (q.v. Murdoch), universities (q.v. Chicago school) and think tanks (q.v. pretty much everyone and everything in the US.)

Put simply, you need to change or remove entire technologies of persuasion and political distortion to get a useful result.

Votes are the end of the persuasion process, not the root cause.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 07:20:48 AM EST
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Migeru:
The way I see it, parties would morph into lobbies or think tanks.

The problem would be that parties would have no democratic legitimacy, and in particular, no obvious basis for public funding. i.e. the think tanks would be dominated by moneyed interests.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 08:24:58 AM EST
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Maybe candidates running for single seats under preferential or transferable voting have democratic legitimacy. I'm not so sure about parlamentarians elected in first-past-the-post, let alone party-list systems.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:30:23 AM EST
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Are we talking about the legitimacy of candidates, or of parties?

Currently, (mileage may vary in your jurisdiction) a party which gets 10% in elections at a particular level of government is entitled to (say) 10% of the available public funding. The party is resourced, not only for its electoral action, but as lobbyist or think tank, in function of its democratic legitimacy. This is why we have public financing, without which the left is completely kneecapped (absent mass movements of the working class).

Where does that leave parties in your sortition system? De-financed and de-legitimized.

Just because we don't like any of the parties much, it doesn't mean they don't have a useful function as mediators of the political system. Probably they need to be regulated more (transparency and democracy in their internal functioning would be a good start!)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:48:09 AM EST
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One could solve that problem by a two chamber system, one elected, the other appointed by sortition.
by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:57:27 AM EST
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Upper house elected, lower house appointed by sortition.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:00:21 AM EST
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Would Germany need a 3-chamber system, to accommodate the Bundesrat?

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:01:28 AM EST
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I suggest we start getting a majority for our plans first and think that one out later.
by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:40:03 AM EST
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In Spain, if 97% of the population voted 'blank' out of disgust, and the remaining 3% voted for just one party, they would get 100% of available public funding, and according to you all the democratic legitimacy, too.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 09:59:41 AM EST
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A failure of political offer in democracy is, in principle, a transitory condition. Unless someone is actively preventing people from forming new parties.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:22:01 AM EST
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How do you interpret the current situation of decreasing voter turnout then? People are fed up with the factual one party system of neoliberals painted black, red, and green. Our media have taken on the role of actively preventing people from forming new parties.
by Katrin on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 10:43:00 AM EST
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and Los Piraten have shown us how hard that is in reality, even if nerds have a better understanding of of the technology of a future society.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 01:03:51 PM EST
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Is 'Los Piraten' an intentional pun about the pirate party going astray?

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:20:57 AM EST
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In practice, elections are inherently oligarchic, as argued by Aristotle on a theoretical level and demonstrated by the Romans on a practical one.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 6th, 2012 at 11:14:15 AM EST
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elections are inherently oligarchic

Two possibilities :

  1. They reflect the (existing or latent) oligarchy in an already oligarchic society
  2. even in a non-oligarchic society, they favour the emergence of an oligarchy.

At best, elected representatives are a self-selecting sample of people who believe they know better than the rest of their fellow citizens.

The essence of democracy is government by consent. This does not require the active involvement of every citizen; and clearly it's too much to ask of most people. Sortition may be asking too much.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:40:52 AM EST
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Sortition may be asking too much

Are you against jury duty or drawing lots for manning polling stations?

It's not a favour being asked, it's a civic duty. Plus, it would be remunerated as a full-time job. Possibly at a couple multiples of median income so as not to make it an overly onerous duty.

Military service or mandatory civic service are other examples of civic duty.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:49:57 AM EST
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3. They allow oligarchic groups to gain disproportionate political influence.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 7th, 2012 at 03:51:02 AM EST
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