Citizen-jury appointments?

Dear Troppodillians, lend me your critical eye. I ask you to consider the system of citizen-jury appointments I have in mind, and tell me how the vested interests would try to game it, ie why it would not work and whether the system can be improved. Bear with me as I describe what I have in mind.

Suppose that in 10 years time in Australia, there is a citizen-jury-system for appointments for the entire upper layer of the public sector. One jury, one top position. Politicians would still be in charge of policy and Budgets, but juries would appoint all the top people working in the public sector. The system would hold for all large entities receiving significant state funding:

  • Universities
  • large hospitals
  • heads of Government Departments
  • State Media
  • Arts Councils
  • Statistical Agencies
  • etc.

So every year, hundreds of top-positions would be decided upon by juries. Consider how this would go for, saying, the director of the ABC.

20 random adult citizens are selected from the household register. These 20 are given a budget and a time-frame to appoint a new director of the ABC television broadcaster, who would be appointed for 5 years. This is a civic duty for which they are compensated and get time off work. They get together physically.

There are no ‘minders’ to tell the jury how to do their job. The jury composition is kept secret till the decision. All the jury has to come up with is an appointment, a motivation for the appointed candidate, and an explanation for expenses made. The jury makes their own procedures, find their own outside advice, and decide themselves what matters. They deliberate: what do we expect from a State broadcaster? What kind of person could do this? Where should we look for suitable candidates? How are we going to decide?

There is much to say about the pros of this system: independence, randomness, true democracy, strengthening the public sector versus the politicians, etc.

But I am looking for the dangers: big money and powerful beasts will try to find a way to corrupt the system. How would they do it and what could help to safeguard the system?

This entry was posted in Business, Cultural Critique, Democracy, History, Law, Libertarian Musings, Political theory, Politics - national, Social, Society, Sortition and citizens’ juries, Theatre. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
51 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alan
Alan
5 months ago

The Medici subverted the Florentine republic by the practice of embolsamento—they controlled which names went into the silk purses that were used to select the dicasteries*. It would be important not to use computers because it would just be too easy to fiddle the programming.

The Athenians had a mechanical device, the κληρωτήριον (klerotērion) that let them pick large numbers of dikastai at one hit. Before the Medici, most Italian city-republics used an illiterate boy under the age of reason to draw names. The Coptic church picks its pope in 2 stages. First an electoral college of clergy and laity selects three names and then one is drawn from a glass urn by a blindfolded boy who cannot read.

*The word δικαστήριον (dikastērion) meant a body selected by random draw in Ancient Greek. For some reason best known to themselves the Vatican uses it to mean department.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan

thanks, always useful to know!

Alan
Alan
1 month ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Dicastery is a fun word and has the added advantage that it sounds like die cast.

ianl
ianl
5 months ago

To follow the example promulgated by pf (ABC Directorship):

1) who decides the candidates for the jury to decide on, or the number of candidates. Look at the NRMA today – a softbox of directorship candidates drawn from a large reservoir of minor ALP hangers-on. What could a jury do about that ?

2) what “power” would an ABC Director then have, after being selected by some jury and regarded by the employee collective as an outsider threat ? Said jury has no control over any defacto redefinition of the role, despite any legislation. Power is never relinquished voluntarily if there is the slightest chance of holding on.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  ianl

Hi Ianl,

well under the proposal(pf), the jury could decide whom to search and how. So there is no set of candidates given to that jury. Though one can think of extended systems with two sets of jury’s, where one has more expertise and selects a field of candidates, whilst the lay one decides.

The issue of what a ‘top job’ is could indeed come under pressure in such as system. Insiders indeed will try to hold on. It’s got to be something like ‘the person who signs the checks and the appointment forms”. Indeed, that is why the system only makes sense in fairly well-functioning countries. But its definitely an issue worth pondering how one could identify ‘top’ jobs when money starts to game the system.

Patrick Brosnan
Patrick Brosnan
5 months ago

I think that this idea assumes or requires a much more engaged citizenry.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago

why? The criminal jury system does not require an engaged citizenry. They are performing a civic duty. So jury duty makes the citizenry more engaged because it gives them responsibility.
However, the question was how a system that was up and running could be gamed. Any ideas?

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 months ago

I agree with Paul

We have an image of an unengaged citizenry because there’s nothing in it for citizens to be engaged. When they get some time together many people will get engaged. Some won’t but then that’s like most corporate, public and third sector boards!

John R Walker
John R Walker
5 months ago

As well as ” who decides the candidates for the jury to decide on”
theres this:
“The jury….find their own outside advice, and decide themselves what matters. ”
That seems a large project to hoist on, 20 randomly selected people.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  John R Walker

I see that as a feature, not a bug. It brings randomness into the decisions.
Besides, I dont think it would be hard to find candidates for a jury. These are top-jobs after all.

John R walker
5 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Suspect that in some areas hung juries would be common, how would you deal with that?
Also assume that these juries would not have all the time in the world to decide who is best for say head of Treasury ?
And what if the candidates they think best for the job, all for whatever reason decline.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  John R walker

sure, there are lots of what ifs and details John, but those are no different for criminal trial juries and not really important. I for instance envisage majority jury-support appointments and I dont think it likely you will get many refusing candidates. After all, the content of the job is set before a jury is even chosen. So those who might want the job can see what it is long before and can use their own channels to find out what it would be like in reality. Indeed, once up and running the organisations have a strong incentive to be very open about what the position would mean.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

My solution to this problem is to prove up a cadre of people who’ve been involved in citizens’ juries previously — they then become an ‘executive’ and custodians of the traditions and culture of citizens’ juries. So this cadre helps each citizens’ jury ‘hit the ground running’ as they say in silly management speak (to say nothing of ‘rolling their sleeves up’.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

I forgot to mention that the way these people are chosen is critical. I would be against elections or other competitive mechanism and in favour of some method that was meritocratic but which sought to actively work against the tendency of such mechanisms to favour the self-assertive — such as this one.

Sonia
4 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

As happens in the Ostbelgien citizens’ assembly…. BTW, the Sortition Foundation has an Australian chapter – we meet monthly online, on the second Thursday of the month.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
4 months ago
Reply to  Sonia

Thanks Sonia,

Can you say more about what you are saying happens in the Ostbelgien assembly. There are a number of comments you’re comment could be responding to.

Sonia
4 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Hi Nicholas – it was in response to the idea of training of a cadre of candidates. The Ostbelgien model has a citizens’ council which – after the first run – will be made up of ‘alumni’ of previous assemblies. It’s their job to set the agenda for the citizens’ assemblies. This article here has a nice diagram.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
4 months ago
Reply to  Sonia

Thanks Sonia

Can you point me to the place where it is specified that “after the first run” the assembly “will be made up of ‘alumni’ of previous assemblies”. I couldn’t find it.

I’d also be interested to know how that selection process from the alumni proceeds.

Sonia
4 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Hi Nicholas – you’re right, that article doesn’t make that clear, it seems to be modelling the current iteration of the Council. There’s an older and more academic article here that discusses it – basically they are chosen at random from previous participants, with a third of the participants being replaced every six months. My understanding – and this just comes from reading around, rather than any direct experience with this process (though my colleague Brett was an advisor) – is that the designers wanted to build in institutional knowledge.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
4 months ago
Reply to  Sonia

Thx

conrad
conrad
5 months ago

“But I am looking for the dangers: big money and powerful beasts will try to find a way to corrupt the system. ”

You might want a weaker claim here: Would it be less corrupt than the current system even with such a problem? The obvious way big money corrupts things is via control of the public discourse, so if they can control that first, then even a randomly selected jury would be biased — but I doubt worse than individually corruptable politicians. In particular, if you look at attitudes of our politicians as a whole, they are often quite divergent from the general public. Look at mining. These guys really know how to corrupt public discourse and spend lots of money doing it, but I doubt the effect is worse than what we get from individual politicians. I imagine the main less global way they will try and corrupt things is via the selection of who the jury can actually appoint, so you would need good methods to get around this.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  conrad

you are making my argument when you say it has to be better than what we have now!
But yes, devils and details most truly. With any population list that has a large proportion of the population on it, one already breaks the cliques so having the whole population or just 40% of it doesnt matter that much for attaining the supposed benefits of this system, I think (though it does affect legitimacy). With many practicalities one can see money trying to worm its way in, agreed. The means of jury-communication, just how and where they congregate, how they advertise and communicate with candidates, the job particulars (powers, responsibilities), etc. As with Ianl says, a big issue might be that insiders start to fiddle with the notion of what a top job is.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 months ago

It seems obvious that the method you propose would be radically less prone to oligarchic corruption of both soft and hard kinds. As juries are. The other thing what you’re proposing does is to influence the culture of deliberation. It would typically be consensual and commonsensical and not careerist — all big plusses over what we have now.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

thanks Nick. Do you spot any dangers?

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Not of the kind you’re concerned about. I also accept your point that you’re not that fussed about juries not getting the answers 100% right — as if the current system does! My main concern is different though which is that, I’d like to see sortition develop as the other major part of doing democracy — alongside elections. And like the reciprocating internal combustion engine compared with other — perhaps better means of engineering internal combustion engines — electoral democracy has had over a century of institutional development. I want to see that in sortition which is why I argue for the importance of developing the cadre of people who’ve been involved in citizens’ juries and coopting them into the process of institutional development.

To expand with another example, in social policy — for instance in mental health — there are lots of papers comparing the efficacy of peer support with professional support. When I dipped into the literature a stylised fact was that they were roughly equally efficacious (though no doubt that’s very crude and with some mental health issues one would be better than the other). But it’s not a level playing field comparison because in addition to costing a lot more, the professional options also come with a lot of institutional development and organisation. The ideal, I think is to try to build more of that into the peer support stream — but people don’t try much. (Again the idea is prompted by Family by Family).

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

I’d add that, as per our usual neuro-differences, you’re very focused on the classical themes of political theory which is people pursuing their clear interests. Naturally that’s a critical consideration. I think another hugely underdone issue is the culture of the deliberative bodies that constitute our democracy. If you’re model of the world is that people are just focused on their own self-interest then you miss this aspect of it — and are always on the lookout for situations of oppression and domination. But I think a key to our current woes is that the culture of our democracy has been colonised by this very individualistic way of thinking. Now politics – as the Athenians understood — is nothing more nor less than ‘the community’ coming together to make decisions for itself. A critical component of that community is of course individuals self interest within it, but people also have a sense of their membership of an entity which is their city or nation or community so I think this is important in the dramaturgy of deliberative bodies. And currently in electoral democracy the dominant motif is competition and for elections for people to get what they want. The culture that grows in a deliberative body chosen by sortition is quite different — and much more human.

I ran into a quote I like last week which is from Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

John R walker
5 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas I instinctively like the idea of juries. However such juries would need information evidence if you like, so as to arrive at a informed judgment. In trials the jury goes of the evidence judged admissible and simply has to decide, does it meet the burden of proof etc.

How would your jury gather ,and judge the credibility of, the information-evidence needed to judge who is best for say the head of the stats bureau , by googling, by Facebook ?

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  John R walker

Hi John,

well, suppose you and your friends happen to be given the assignment for choosing the head of the stats bureau. You have a month, some resources, a job description, and a place you can deliberate. There would be many job-candidates ‘in the wings’ as it were, knowing about the job and watching what the jury comes up to try and impress it.
How would you go about it? How would your various friends go about it? What would you discuss? How would you search for information?

conrad
conrad
5 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

In some areas in the public service you could probably have random picks and do a better job — for example, many of the top foreign affairs posts simply go to high ranking politicians.

John R walker
5 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

Paul
For myself I’d be asking friends in biz ,engineering, science etc lots of questions .

(As far as head of the Australia council goes id distrust anyone who really wanted the job 😊).

Going off our experience Conrad is probably right that random choice in some areas of the PS would be an improvement.

Seems to me that “some resources, a job description “ and just one month to make a choice, could offer plenty of opportunities for ‘channeling’ of the juries.

rob weymouth
rob weymouth
5 months ago

As a late entry it might be worth thinking of potential attack lines along two routes, I might call Legitimacy and Perversion. Legitimacy is all about corrupting the process through undermining acceptance of its power to make appointments with the goal of eventually destroying it or weakening it. Perversion would be about allowing it to exist but controlling the outcomes to suit the outside interests.

I’d like to look at some points of attack and possible counters on the Jury of Tribunes in these two routes:
(I just made JoT up to talk about the jury as an institution in shorthand. Full title is “Jury of Tribunes of the Plebs” – only superficial relation to the ancient Roman position)

Legitimacy attack lines:
– “The JoT undermines/duplicates the duly elected representatives of the people” – namely, the existing elected politicians. There are a number of counters to this, including arguments that the JoT is just assisting busy ministers by delegating to a legitimate body; the JoT is just like other independent bodies like the Reserve Bank etc where we want to take ‘politics as usual’ out of it; the JoT is more diverse and demographically representative than you lawyers and unionists…
– “The JoT aren’t representative” – namely, that they weren’t elected through the usual process. This is usually countered through the argument of descriptive representation – which is why you probably need to specify your selection more closely Paul. Stratified random selection is the best guard against this attack. It would then be a matter of: what do you stratify by? Demographics (gender age geography etc) is the bare minimum but you might also want to do it by attitude (eg. like through a Q-Sort). You might also have to be prepared to justify why you are using a 20 person jury instead of a 50 person one…
– “The JoT aren’t qualified” – namely, that they don’t know anything about the area they are selecting in. The main counters to this centre around the design of the process that will give them access to the information and the time and space to deliberate on it. Other obvious counters include ‘What, you think all ministers intimately know their areas?’ and ‘This is not an entirely expertise-based decision and requires values and value judgement’.
– “The JoT is corrupt/ineffective” – namely, there is something generally bad about the process. I think Nicks Evaluator in General might be useful in this instance……….

Next time….Perversion

rob weymouth
rob weymouth
5 months ago

Perversion attack lines.
This is all about perverting the actual the deliberations to create certain outcomes.

These ways might include:

– Influence the Facilitation: generally, humans can conduct quality deliberation spontaneously, but its more systematically produced with facilitation. ‘Getting to’ the facilitator (either the lead, front-of-room facilitator or the small group discussion facilitators) can sway discussions significantly. This is usually countered through professionalism of the facilitator, independence of the facilitator (ideally financially as well) and immediate feedback on the facilitation from JoT members with a mechanism for dealing with this feedback if it is unfavourable.

– Influence the Information: This can happen at many levels and in many ways. Examples might include- providing a pre-set bunch of criteria for assessing candidates, having a constrained list of ‘witnesses’ that testify to the jury as to what is important in selecting the candidates/what the job entails/what the challenges are for the industry etc. This is partially countered by a combination of expert witnesses (eg. ‘impartial’ academics), presentation of different, clearly partisan views (‘witnesses for-and-against’), and letting the JoT requisition its own list of experts or information.

– Influence the Candidates: Shortlisting of candidates to save time narrows the choices for the JoT to those favoured by the nefarious interests. Counters include; allowing the JoT to determine the selection criteria even before the position is advertised. Allowing the JoT to determine the culling processes to get to the final candidates to be ‘interviewed’ by the JoT. Allowing a ‘no-candidate-was-suitable’ return by the JoT if no candidates reach a suitable standard.

– Influence the Agenda: Some sort of process and agenda needs to be in place to guide the JoT deliberations and (even if it allows freedom for the JoT to amend the agenda) this will have a powerful effect on the final outcomes by what gets deliberated on and what doesn’t. Typical counters to this involve getting external specialists to design and justify the agenda and a different independent body (eg. see below) to certify the design as neutral/unbiased. Also allowing the JoT to adjust the process if they are not happy with the quality of their decisions can be a helpful mechanism.

– Influence the Timing: Good deliberation requires good design and techniques but also time to execute the design and techniques – including iteration of the cycle of justification and reflection. Curtailing this time will force the JoT into cognitive shortcuts and preference certain candidates of choice. The obvious counter is just allowing sufficient time. Luckily these positions come up predictably and in unexpected situations I would hope their large organisations should be somewhat able to run for months without degradation.

Often citizen juries have external assessment/validation bodies that monitor and publicly report on these matters. It might be someone like the Evaluator or Auditor General or an academic specialist but often it’s a group of diverse (and often opposing) stakeholders who certify aspects of the process. Their agonist nature can also be used vet the information going to JoT for accuracy and balance.

I would recommend talking to specialists in this stuff. Terry Bouricius comes to mind. I believe he’s a former US legislator who has thought deeply about this and has a practical bent.

Hopefully that’s helpful Paul.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  rob weymouth

thanks for both these contributions, Rob, very helpful.

A lot of your suggested lines of attack have to do with the process. I envisaged there being minimal process and perhaps, over time, as Nick pointed out, a cadre of people experienced in such matters (former jury heads) that can then be used to help other juries or set up other deliberative forums. But as soon as one has more process (stratification, pre-selection, information sessions, minders, facilitators) then of course a lot more opportunity arises for influence. That is precisely why at the start, when the level of corruption is so high, one wants to make that target small, but of course one way to get money and power in the system from the start is to have lots of process.

The legitimacy thing, yes, my answers are pretty much the same as yours. If we can’t trust random people to choose leaders, why have elections for top-politicians then?

Thanks for the HT of Terry Bouricius!

rob weymouth
rob weymouth
5 months ago

As you’ve quite correctly picked one of the issues the deliberative democracy ‘movement’ is struggling with at the moment in an attempt to scale itself beyond small experiments and be more institutionalized.
Its a fear of being used as a legitimating mechanism to reinforce the existing power structures – replacing one set of elites with a another, manipulated set.

Their current thinking is less about making the target small but more about hardening it (to extend the military analogy) through ‘quality’ process, assuming it will be attacked and then adapting (ala’ Nicks proposal) as appropriate.

I should clarify there are many others beyond Terry who can help if you want further input – and probably closer to you in the EU. A lot of the citizen jury action there is based on climate issues currently but its varied. I’m part of a democracy research and development forum – if you really wanted to pursue this I could put you in contact with them or at least put it to the group.

paul frijters
paul frijters
5 months ago
Reply to  rob weymouth

Hi Rob,

yes, I know there are many participatory democracy initiatives in the EU, usually with consultative juries. Some of that works well at the local level, but when advisory juries scaled up existing (inter)national politicians find they can easily ignore them.

I find the whole notion of a quality process dangerous for this movement. It basically needs a lot of trust in some administrating group, and that is exactly what the problem is at present. If there are large administrative groups one can trust, one doesn’t have much of a problem to begin with. We need institutions that can work with minimal administration. Even stratified sampling is something I am uncomfortable with on that basis. I fear that adding lots of ‘quality control’ ends up with letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, particularly at the start. In my neck of the woods ‘quality control’ nearly always means the opposite.

What I like about this job-selection jury idea is that it is simple, easy for people to understand, hard to game, and tackles very clear problems. Also politically they have great precision: they take away the power of insiders and give them to the population. Corrupt politicians will be against them because it takes away a major honey pot they are used to giving away. Non-corrupt politicians wont have much of a problem with them, so they nicely differentiate between the two. So as a kind of spearhead application, I think this one is very suitable for the participatory democracy crowd: it alienates exactly the right people.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
4 months ago

Thanks Rob

It turns out that Paul and I think very similarly on this — which is a turn up for the books ;)

And differently to much of the sortition ‘establishment’ (I use that as labelling shorthand and not to convey any disrespect). I’m not sure that the ‘establishment’ is trying to ‘battle harden’ citizens’ juries, but as far as I can see, they do have a vision of them as a ‘thing’ — as a practice and an institution which they want to see more of. Of course I want to see more of sortition too, but think things are fairly stuck.

Some reasons I think they’re stuck (and apologies for repetition of others’ points) are
* They see the citizens’ jury as a discrete institution.
* They’re not cheap to run so they generally need governments of one sort or another to support them.
* This then makes those seeking to run them mendicants to government.
* This draws them into the logic of making themselves useful to government.
* This means that the topics they deliberate on tend to be fairly ‘safe’ for governments and also issues on which governments are somehow ‘stuck’. Think “Keeping Adelaide’s nightlife safe and vibrant”, “getting drivers and bicyclists to get along better” and working out what to do about various issues to do with compulsory third party car person insurance. (As I understand it the ACT Government had issues to do with lawyers backing common law claims and thought a citizens’ jury would give them a way through.)
* When they get more ambitious, it’s often not possible for citizens’ juries to be too prescriptive. Even if they are, as Paul has said, it’s generally not that hard for politicians to ignore them, and if they’re not prescriptive it’s even easier.

I think that sortition is simply ‘the other way of representing the people’. As such it represents a whole repertoire of possibilities and institutions all of which would have their own culture which would be very different to the prevailing culture we get from the dominant way of representing the people.

I think of sortition as a fundamental principle which we should be injecting strategically and seeking to develop in all manner of situations. For instance one can ask this question. “If the TV format of Q&A (or on the BBC Question Time) is an institution in the image of electoral democracy (note that the performing ‘talking heads’ are the show and the audience is — well just the audience) what would the same kind of show look like if it were in the spirit of sortition?” I’ve cooked up one plausible answer to that question.

And for some time I’ve been impressed by the way in which sortition might come to the rescue in our ailing democracies which are suffering from a collapse of the middle. This is noticeable with the right careening around adopting crazy policies motivated by the logic of electoral competition and culture war rather than social benefit. The way we’re going as Yeats warned in 1919 “the centre cannot hold”.

In that regard, I think I’m right in saying that some of the redistricting commissions in the US have sortition based elements to them — which strikes me as very promising. And like Paul, I’ve been thinking of ways of using sortition to bolster the independence of institutions on which democracy depends but which is slowly being flushed down the toilet. The independence of officials is one of those things as we’re seeing only too well in the US as the Republicans seek to elect a new people.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
4 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

yes, we do agree on much of this. The basic mindset is identical in that we are looking at these things from the perspective of a plumber: what can I do with these tubes and spanners that might help with the problems we are seeing.

Whilst there currently seem to be a lot of timidity in the sortition movement, it has great potential for radicalism and becoming the spearpoints of political movements. They undersell themselves. They are also, as you say, too oriented towards authority and the high-end of town. That can change quickly though.

Paul Vittles
Paul Vittles
4 months ago

Arguments for sortition-based selection processes often start with the theoretical ‘everyone having an equal chance of selection’ in order to claim democratic legitimacy, then bring out the qualifier of designing for a ‘representative sample’ via quotas and stratified sampling – and there’s an ongoing debate about whether randomness or representativeness is more important.

Meanwhile, practical processes have been applied to try and achieve ‘a randomly-selected, representative sample’ even though the real pragmatists (including those drawing from the court jury system) would settle for a ‘diverse group of non-activist citizens’ and trust the process without randomness or representativeness. But when scrutinised and challenged, citizens’ jury advocates feel they need to have ‘a representative sample’ unlike the court jury system. Otherwise, why give power to such a group?

Practical problems then rear their head. Typically, only 3-4% of those randomly invited to be a member of a citizens’ jury accept the offer, so citizens’ juries usually go ahead with a sample that is not representative, just massaged with demographic quotas to appear representative. If appointment panels were selected by inviting people who had previously served on citizens’ juries, it’s likely that some would find this appealing and some not. It’s likely that the resulting group, even if invited at random, would be neither random nor representative. It would be a self-selecting group to some extent from an initial self-selecting pool, attracting particular types of people – not necessarily demographically but psychographically, behaviourally, personality types, etc.

Does this matter? Maybe, maybe not. From a potential corruption or distortion perspective, there is some evidence of climate assemblies in Europe creating ‘celebrity participants’ who go on to do lots of media interviews, speak at events, etc, some becoming celebrities during the process. In theory, you could say ‘keep appointment panel members secret’ but could you do this in practice?

Many believe that if ever citizens’ assemblies or citizens’ juries were given real power, the first thing that would happen is they would be targeted by those wanting to abuse power (e.g. invited to dinner with Rupert Murdoch!). Having the power to appoint the heads of key institutions would clearly attract power abusers.

Some might say we need to only appoint those who we’re confident can stay anonymous or be resilient or who have not become ‘celebrity citizens’ but this, of course, means they would no longer be ‘random, representative samples’ and raises other questions about those who have the authority to decide who is invited, who is excluded, who is selected.

And it certainly isn’t as simple as the ‘sortition lobby’ or the ‘citizens’ assembly’ lobby make out in their PR when they say ‘just select by lot and give ordinary citizens a go’.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul Vittles

Hi Paul V,

thanks.

Note that the proposal is to make service on the jury a civic duty. As far as I am concerned, refusal should minimally incur a hefty fine. These juries are not for their amusement.

The notion of media-targeting of jury members, either before or after, is less worrisome with this proposal than with the large assemblies on huge issues: if there are hundreds of these things each year, and hence thousands of jury members each year, the individual glory is very limited.

Also, the influence of the individual jury member is limited: they are only one of 20 or so who make one appointment that is by itself not a huge hill of beans. Would say, Jill of Paramatta truly get much attention or stick for her role in electing, say, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Tasmania? Seems a bit far-fetched. The small individual targets make influence via media hard. It also makes it a bit irrelevant whether the members out themselves afterwards (note how the post speaks of ’till the decision’).

As to representativeness etc., I think your key quote is “citizens’ jury advocates feel they need to have ‘a representative sample’ unlike the court jury system. Otherwise, why give power to such a group?”

Sounds like a damning indictment of the citizens jury advocates to me. They seem to have lost sight of what democratic initiatives should be about. The point of a citizens jury in appointment is not to do ‘representative sample’ but to solve a major problem in society.

The element of greatest importance in the system envisaged above is that the jury is not made up of the small cliques that now exist around each top position. Those cliques are so small that there is virtually no chance of having one of those in the juries involved in the appointment of the head in their own organisation in almost any system of choosing the jury members. Given the current level of corruption in Australia, almost any reason members want to serve is better than the current reasons of those cliques to influence the positions.

For me, the main reason why one wants representativeness is that this forces the selection system to choose randomly from a huge list of people with a small individual stake in the decision (namely to have a well functioning society). Secondary reasons are to ‘give everyone a chance’ but then as in ‘chance to be forced to serve’. Tertiary reasons are the soundbites.

John R walker
4 months ago

Paul
Perhaps you could get a random selection jury to evaluate what they feel about your ideas?

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
4 months ago
Reply to  John R walker

hahaha. Isn’t that exactly what I am doing right here?

John R walker
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul Frijters

Troppo is a random selection??

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 months ago
Reply to  John R walker

some of us are more random than others, but we are all very select :-)

John R walker
4 months ago
Reply to  paul frijters

🙂

John R walker
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul Frijters

Paul next time I’m in the bar at the Blinman Hotel ( Blinman
https://goo.gl/maps/6YeZSvK8uJVF3zTY8 ) I must ask them what they think about Club Troppo.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
4 months ago

This writeup of the Car Pork Scandal (posted temporarily) gives you a good snapshot of how the independence of the public service is disastrously compromised.

rob weymouth
rob weymouth
4 months ago

Whoa. Well, I feel like I went out for toilet at the pub and boy has the conversation had moved on. Both here and Equality by Lot.
It would be great to engage where I left off but probably not very efficient now so I’ll confine myself to scattered responses.

Nick – can you clarify who you are talking about when you refer to the ‘sortition establishment’? I tend to think of them as those who support the pivotal role of random selection in governance (Equality by Lot where you cross posted is my easy proxy for that perspective). I distinguish them from the deliberative democrats who are more focused on the deliberation and use the random selection to both support the deliberation but also create the representation necessary for democracy.

Nick – can you elaborate more on what the downsides of having citizen juries (CJ’s) focus on ‘stuck’ issues are? This probably goes to the question of when citizen juries should be deployed – which I think is an underlying part of Pauls proposal. ie. one way of approaching his proposal is to ask “When should the CJ’s be deployed and does Pauls proposal fit those criteria?”

Paul F – At least amongst the deliberative democrats there is a split on whether their work represents evolution or revolution. Its probably fair to say its more seen as an enhancement to the existing system currently. The field generally favours the ‘deliberative system’ – a series of interlocking institutions and one-offs that generally improve deliberation and descriptive representatives across the board. Rather than complete reform.

Paul V – I would disagree with the characterisation of “…go ahead with a sample that is not representative, just massaged with demographic quotas to appear representative.” It is true that unless you compel attendance the sample is of a group of people that differ from the population in that they have elected to put themselves forward but is this a difference with a distinction? As you say it may or may not matter. Part of the job of jurists is the represent the attitudes and values of their demographic on the issue at hand. Are you sure this sample can’t do that? BTW – some theorists like John Dryzek would probably argue that representing the ‘discourses’ or stories about an issue is the most important thing and that’s what needs to be chased – not the demographics. Interesting.

Paul F – this previous does go against your position on random selection. There are definitely different perspectives on the value of this. For example the use of randomly selected juries in participatory budgets in south america seems to be mostly driven by anti-corruption mechanisms. From a practical point of view good representation would seem to be a natural counter to the ‘legitimacy attacks’ a mentioned above so it seems to have value to me.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
4 months ago
Reply to  rob weymouth

Whoa. Well, I feel like I went out for toilet at the pub and boy has the conversation had moved on.

This is ClubTroppo — where we get to the bottom of things at warp speed.

Nick – can you clarify who you are talking about when you refer to the ‘sortition establishment’? I tend to think of them as those who support the pivotal role of random selection in governance (Equality by Lot where you cross posted is my easy proxy for that perspective). I distinguish them from the deliberative democrats who are more focused on the deliberation and use the random selection to both support the deliberation but also create the representation necessary for democracy.

A fair distinction — the folks at Equality by Lot are much more cerebral and focused on political theory. But I’d apply my general comments to both groups as I think neither group thinks of themselves as political activists, and if one isn’t doing that, then unless one is some towering intellectual figure who can hand us some tablets, I don’t think one is really turning up. (To be an ‘activist’ I’m not requiring you to march in the street or necessarily adopt slogans or anything like that, but it seems to me that the Equality by Lot crowd are much more focused on the theory of democracy and don’t spend much time thinking hard about how to bring about the kind of world they envisage. The ‘deliberation’ likewise find themselves drawn into the logic of engaging with governments and, despite the best intentions of the sortition advocates, that constrains what is achievable.

Nick – can you elaborate more on what the downsides of having citizen juries (CJ’s) focus on ‘stuck’ issues are? This probably goes to the question of when citizen juries should be deployed – which I think is an underlying part of Pauls proposal. ie. one way of approaching his proposal is to ask “When should the CJ’s be deployed and does Pauls proposal fit those criteria?”

Perhaps someone can persuade me otherwise, but as I reflected on your question, I realised that I can’t think of any model of specific purpose citizens’ juries that I think will achieve much in the current circumstances. The reason is that governments remain in charge. So they have an inordinate influence on
* What topics are covered
* According to what terms of reference and
* How the response to the report, if there is one, is crafted.

So I doubt much can be done outside of developing institutions that aspire to having an ongoing presence. (I don’t even mind if they start having no formal power.) Thus the Ostbelgien model is easily the most promising I’ve seen. And in the context of that model, individual citizens’ juries could be very useful as they’re established independently of government and acquire a champion in the ongoing assembly even though it has only advisory power.

My ideal is something like Ostbelgien. And our experience with such bodies would help us both work out whether extending their power would be a good idea and if so how as well as building public understanding and support for doing so. And smaller steps are also worthwhile and can be ongoing. So I think a plutocrat initiated and thence crowd funded ‘wildcat’ standing citizens’ assembly sitting entirely outside the existing constitution could be very worthwhile.

Likewise the mechanisms for having citizens’ juries ‘predigest’ citizen initiated referendums in US states which was begun in Oregon and is spreading, are useful, though obviously of much more minor significance.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 months ago
Reply to  rob weymouth

Hi Rob,

I agree with Nick that if you are not an activist in this field, you are basically not involved. So there is part revolution, but the question is to what degree and to what aim: total overthrow or a model-upgrade on what we have. I am in the second camp.

On being representative, I do agree its a nice thing to have, but no election is truly completely representative, nor any jury or field of candidates. Moreover, we are here not talking about juries that decide on issues, but that decide on people. It would already be a huge improvement if we get away from the cliques. The gain in terms of better governance from a high degree of representativeness of the population is not clear to me. Indeed, not clear to me the population would be worried about that either as many would be happy to free-ride off the efforts of those willing to serve. Still, the principle that this is a civic duty is important as we want different skills in those juries, not just the fame-hunters who all have the same skill. I find the discussions of the purists on this kind of thing boring.

I dont know what previous thoughts of mine you are thinking of on sortition. I do recall being sceptical about the use of juries or citizen parliaments for deciding complex policies (I still am), and being sceptical about juries that decide on policies and people ex post (I still am). But maybe I said something earlier I know disagree with. Quite possible. Thoughts evolve.

KT2
KT2
4 months ago

From Tom Atlee, who said “Everything is getting better & better, worse & worse, faster & faster”.

“My Growing Taboo Awareness (…for Wise Democracy)

“But when we confront how it FEELS to really consider “the other side” in a highly charged controversial issue, we realize just how hard that can be. However, we really need to meet that challenge in order to effectively move towards a wise democracy.

“So I suggest it would be very wise to convene inclusive expert/stakeholder deliberations for every major polarized issue, complemented by … citizen deliberative councils that voice the coherent, informed views and values of the population, as well. This combination has the potential to generate real collective wisdom to guide us – so different from the political incoherence and co-stupidity we see today.”
http://www.tomatleeblog.com/archives/175328484

trackback

[…] independence. I reproduce it for readers’ interest here, though there are over twenty comments on his post at ClubTroppo which may be of […]