What is wrong with the current system?

Opinions about Government vary widely.

Sortition Ireland does not offer a view on whether policy implemented by a particular Government is good or bad. Our interest in politics is in changing the system, not public policy.

Our concern is not that our tax system is fair, not that we are attractive location for inward investment, not that we have environmentally-sound policy, not that we have an effective health service.

These are issues that can be addressed by political groupings under whatever system of Government is in place at a given time.

Our concern is that our current system of Government, what we loosely refer to as “democracy”, but which is actually a system of representative government based on elections, is degrading, and that it could collapse, and that if there isn’t a viable alternative, people will surrender their power and freedom to extremists.

This is unlikely in the short term, but history teaches us that every system of Government that is based on the power of an elite (an oligarchy) will ultimately degrade into totalitarianism, usually when an economic shock to the system causes people to transfer their power away from moderate, centrist viewpoints.

This is precisely what happened in Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal in the early part of the 20th century. There is also evidence of the same trend in Europe today. In the backwash of the economic crisis of 2008-2012, several far-right and far-left political groupings have increased their support.

In the United States, the rise in support for a populist candidate like Donald Trump is also evidence of this trend. There are more nationalist, anti-EU MEPs in the European Parliament than ever before. The Fascist party, Golden Dawn, has acquired support of 10% of the electorate in Greece. In the United Kingdom, the anti-EU nationalist party, UKIP, won 13% of the vote in the 2015 General Election. Further and deeper shocks could easily accelerate this process.

It is also the case that participation in the electoral process is declining. In the Irish General Election of 1982, turnout was 72.9%. In the Irish General Election of 2016, turnout was 65.1%. Even in perhaps the most significant General Election ever, in 2011, when the State was effectively being run by the EU Commission and the IMF, less than 7 out of 10 people voted.

This general trend also masks a more worrying trend at local level. While nationwide participation is in decline, participation in areas that experience economic disadvantage is in rapid decline.

In the constituency of Dublin Central, which is home to many voters who depend on Local Authority housing and social welfare, the quota of votes required to be elected (which is a measure of turnout) has fallen from 7,413 in 1982 to just 5,922 in 2016. At that rate of decline, it is likely over the next 10 years that many constituencies will elect representatives even though less than half of eligible voters cast their ballots.

These trends are replicated right across the “democratic” world. Government legitimacy is based on the acceptance that government exists by will of the majority. As participation rates decline, and as the people who represent voters become more and more detached from them (and more and more part of the oligarchy), the easier it becomes morally for voters to detach themselves from the social contract that binds the Government to the people. A vacuum develops into which extremes like Ultra-nationalism and Communism are attracted.

Sortition Ireland exists to ensure that if that day comes to pass, voters will have an alternative that allows them to be governed without surrendering their freedom.

Next: Why is Sortition better than elections?


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