What are some reasons against sortitional selection of decision-making bodies?

These issues have been raised:

  1. Fear of incompetence
  2. Loss of institutional memory
  3. Tyranny of the majority
  4. Lack of accountability
  5. The seeming end of constituencies
  6. Potential for corruption
  7. No coherent programs or platforms

Our responses to these are as follows:

  1. Agreed, that a basic understanding of civics is required. Therefore the proposal calls for a qualifying written test (no more difficult than that for a driver’s license in the USA). Both driving and serving on a jury involve life-and-death matters. With deliberative time assured and compensated the average citizen is quite capable of making wise decisions.
  2. In the case of an institution that includes all of us, institutional memory is the responsibility of us all. The Fourth Estate in all its forms plays an important role in assuring this.
  3. Since a sortitionally-chosen legislature would vote on the proposals initiated by or brought to it, majoritarianism will remain the danger to democracy that it has always been — just as identified by de Tocqueville. Besides the existing constitutional checks and balances of the judicial and executive branches, the fact that minorities will be proportionally represented within the legislative debates should assure that tyrannies of the majority (such as those of land theft, enslavement, restricted suffrage, blacklisting, etc.) would occur less frequently than they have.
  4. With a decision-making body most closely representing ‘all the people’ the issue of ‘lack of accountability’ is tautological. That is: how can ‘all the people’ not be accountable to itself?
  5. There will be constituencies, though not ones with the clout of political manipulation. There will be like-minded representatives who, by ‘being true to their own selves’, will represent many more ‘constituencies’ than at present … since the full panoply of personalities and ideologies will be represented.
  6. The great majority of the general populace is hard-working and honest. For the few who are not, the existing controls will be adequate (or found not to be, in which case improvements through existing mechanisms can be made).
  7. Sortition was first used to prevent factions – or more often in today’s parlance, ‘interests’ – from undue influence. Political parties would no longer control candidates or representatives. But they – and many other citizen groups – would propose programs and platforms. Citizen legislators would act as a jury, choosing the programs most beneficial to all.

About Common Lot Sortitionist

Former public television producer-director; initiating culminating career, Common Lot Productions, towards policy-making bodies that are of, BY and for the people.
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