Common Lot Productions creates print and video materials which educate about, and advocate for, the next step for democracy. Policy-making bodies, from local to national, should be composed of willing and able citizens proportional to the population they serve. The use of sortition, random selection, is the only way to insure this.
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There is no mention of sortition in this NY Times opinion piece. And it only muses on what a more equitably representative legislature might accomplish.But … it is still another little step into the mainstream.
This newly published document from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development draws on data collected from nearly 300 case studies from 1986 to October 2019. Its 200 pages cover randomly selected Citizens’ Assemblies, Juries, Panels and ‘other representative deliberative processes …. This research and proposals for action fit within the organisation’s work on innovative citizen participation, which seeks to guide countries on the implementation … of the 2017 Recommendation on Open Government.’
“Their counterintuitive conclusion is that randomly selected legislators always improves the performance of parliament and that it is possible to determine the optimal number of independents at which a parliament works best.”
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RANDOM TAKES BALTIMORE
Hoping to be a forerunner of the Next Step For Democracy, Baltimore chooses its city council by random selection. The fifteen new council members must struggle to maintain this Peoples Platform against an uprising from the former powers-that-be.
This is a municipal version of my “Random Takes Off” screenplay.
RANDOM TAKES BALTIMORE imagines a political option for the not-too-distant future.
Hoping to be a forerunner in assuring that its city council be as statistically representative of the population as possible, the city of Baltimore chooses its city council by random selection.
The fifteen new council members — untested ‘ordinary citizens’ — must struggle to maintain this Peoples Platform against an uprising from the former powers-that-be. The council faces bribery attempts, a smear campaign and eventually a full-blown attempt to cut the city off from the rest of the state.
“Random Takes Baltimore” is a municipal version of my “Random Takes Off” (which considers using sortition on a national level). Although spiced by elements of absurdist satire and purposefully stretched to the limits of plausibility, the fact is that the use of sortition is more likely to spread in a piecemeal and local progression as provoked in “Random Takes Baltimore”
The first randomly-selected representatives of the Citizen House convenes. But just because it is proportionally representative of all willing and able citizens does not mean that these new representatives are well-suited.
The only reason that Cathy Gresham has accepted her selection is because her politically engaged aunt pushed her into it. If it were up to Cathy she’d be spending all her time at home in her garden.
On the other end of the apolitical spectrum is Turk. Just having been released from a mental institution, he’s a wild card worst case scenario. The only way he survives as a legislator is thanks to McKnight, a former newspaper vendor and smart old guy originally from Flatbush.
Whether Cathy and Turk are up to the task is the question. Can people like them successfully legislate?
Former power players with private militias hook up with strange bedfellow religionists in an attempt to scuttle this new Citizen House. It looks likely that whatever victory the newly minted representatives might achieve will only be pyrrhic.
Whatever the outcome, this legislature of everyday citizenry no longer has anyone but itself to blame.
Representative democracy is in crisis. Legislatures do not accurately reflect all sectors of society. Ordinary citizens should have more say than merely pulling a ballot lever once every few years. A government that is merely ‘for’ the people is not any longer good enough. It is time to institute a government that is also ‘by’ and ‘of’ the people.
The original Athenian democracy used a method altogether different than elections to select its officials. They used the system now used to select citizens for jury duty — sortition. This essay reflects upon how the lessons from that first democracy might be used to develop a ‘legislative jury’ capable of representing all citizens without regard to party affiliation, financial status or any ideology other than fair play.
This annotated essay includes appendices with links, bibliography, how to hold a workshop and access to other goods and services.