Simple answers to common questions

The most immediate bar to acceptance of Sortition as a viable alternative to elections is the fear engendered by the random nature of lotteries.

chaos
Chaos? Really?

Simply put, people cannot accept the idea that a random person should be given a role in the process of law making. They fear chaos.

In promoting Sortition, it is vital that this concern can be immediately and comprehensively addressed. Here are some simple responses that can be offered in response to that concern.

(The common theme is that the concerns people have about Sortition are also concerns they should have about elections.)

In any assembly, established by lottery or elections, power does rest with the individual, but with the assembly itself. A single person, or even a group of people, does not have the ability to unduly influence the process.
The lottery process is only partially random. Members are not chosen from the population at large, but from a list of people who have volunteered to serve. Entry on to the list can be limited. For instance, a person may have to make a donation to a registered charity, or complete community service. A person convicted of a criminal offence, or tax evasion, would not be eligible.
The membership of the list of potential assembly members is available for public review. Any member of the public can review the list and take a view as to what type of assembly it will produce. They can then add their name to the list, or encourage others to do the same. Essentially, the composition of the list is within the control of the wider population.
Statistically, the probability of the assembly membership including a disproportionate number of undesirable people is extremely low, provided the number of members of the assembly is sufficiently large, and that they are drawn from a list of candidates that is sufficiently large.
An assembly chosen by Sortition will always retain the power the regulate its membership based on a super majority (eg 90%) of its members.
An assembly chosen by Sortition would be governed by rules. Members would have to demonstrate participation and not break laws. Members who breached those rules would be required to surrender their position to another candidate from the list.
Our current system of elections does not prevent undesirables from participating in the process of law making. Parliaments throughout the world have members who have been convicted of crimes, tax evasion, fraud, corruption and who do not participate in the actual process of law making.
While there is a remote possibility that Sortition may produce an assembly that is not representative of the population, our current system is almost guaranteed to produce a non-representative assembly. Participation in the law making process is generally only available to people who are wealthy, who are in certain professions, and who are members of political parties, who are involved in community activism, and, most particularly, who are men. And because participation in elections is declining, it is not possible to say that assemblies chosen by elections accurately represent the wider population.
Someone who is undesirable to one person may be desirable to another. We live in a diverse society. Everyone is entitled to representation.

Another frequently expressed concern is that ordinary people, who do not have the support of established political parties, will not have the necessary expertise to perform the function of law making.

To offer this as a barrier to Sortition is a rejection of the most basic principle of democracy, that Government is of the people, by the people for the people. To state that the responsibility of law making can only rest with an elite is fundamentally undemocratic. It is an admission that we do not live in a democracy.
Elections do not guarantee that members of the assembly have sufficient expertise to carry out the function of law making. The election of a member to an assembly is a measure of their popularity, not their ability.
The process of law making, in a system where assembly members are chosen by elections or by Sortition, is dependent on the existence of a competent and experienced civil service, who can provide advice, data and context to the members of the assembly in their deliberations over a particular decision. There is no difference in elections and Sortition in this regard.

People who doubt the viability of Sortition will argue that political parties are necessary to provide long term vision and to frame the direction of legislation, and that this would not exist if members of the assembly were chosen by lottery.

Sortition does not bar or remove the need for political parties. Political parties would still exist in a system where the assembly was chosen by lottery. They would be able to formulate their long term vision and policies and present that to the assembly members for support. If a majority of the assembly members thought that a particular legislative proposal was worthy, they would be able to vote to pass it. Similarly, other groups or political parties would be able to appeal to the assembly not to pass a particular piece of legislation.
In theory, political parties offer a vision based on a particular ideology, but in practice they more frequently react to public opinion and media commentary. The ability to implement long term change is also limited by their requirement to seek a new mandate a regular intervals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *