Is Sortition Having a Random Moment?

Generated image of some random politicians with good hair.

I have long been a proponent of Legislative Service, a specific flavor of sortition where the upper chamber in a bicameral system is replaced by a randomly selected 'jury' on a per-bill basis. You'd serve for a couple of weeks and act as a check and balance on professional politicians who propose the legislation. It might also work well if you find your country in need of a revising body (Bibi, call me). The British government didn't bite, and the concept rarely gets much press, until this week.

In the New York Times, Adam Grant suggests sortition to randomly select politicians:

"In ancient Athens, people had a choice about whether to participate in the lottery. They also had to pass an examination of their capacity to exercise public rights and duties. In America, imagine that anyone who wants to enter the pool has to pass a civics test — the same standard as immigrants applying for citizenship. We might wind up with leaders who understand the Constitution."

Having aced the US citizenship test I'm not sure it's a particularly high bar. I do take the point that we couldn't do much worse than we are now, at least for the top job, but I think there is still a role for professional representation.

Bruce Schneier organized a conference on rethinking democracy. The whole debrief is worth a read, here's the section on sortition:

"Sortition is a system of choosing political officials randomly to deliberate on a particular issue. We use it today when we pick juries, but both the ancient Greeks and some cities in Renaissance Italy used it to select major political officials. Today, several countries—largely in Europe—are using sortition for some policy decisions. We might randomly choose a few hundred people, representative of the population, to spend a few weeks being briefed by experts and debating the problem—and then decide on environmental regulations, or a budget, or pretty much anything."

Much closer to my vision, including having a system of briefing people on the issue. I'd make this adversarial, like a jury trial.

But before this in the US: demolish the electoral college, and then diversify our choice of politicians - either by ranked choice voting or like this.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: Is Sortition Having a Random Moment? #politics #politicalreform #democracy #legislativeservice #sortition Reform democracy via lottery: Sortition covered by Schneier, NYT, Legislative Service. )

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