SORTITION WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR A GREAT LEADER WHO WILL RENEGE THE BALLOT DEMOCRACY

Choosing the Head of State in a parliamentary republic is a contradictory endeavour. Said kind of republic stays in a smallish number of countries. Yes, it flourishes in such an important system as Germany, with the ancillary context of Austria, then in some fifteen nations of Europe. Most Latin-American systems are modelled after the United States, the foremost among presidential republics; there the head of state leads the government too. So in non-parliamentary systems the popular vote elects a very relevant officer, who fully heads the Executive branch of government.

In a parliamentary republic the President (First Citizen) is the adjourned version of a constitutional (non-absolute) monarch, the one who reigns but doesn’t govern. He is a hybrid statesman who is not supposed to lead the majority party or coalition, so he can counterbalance the head of government (in case of need even topple him). Usually he is a high ranking but not dominant politician, who is prestigious enough as to be elected, however not in control of the political scene. The present First Citizen of Italy (Giorgio Napolitano) is exceptionally influential because of special circumstances. At 88, he will probably leave in a few months -this being the reason why here we deal with his office.

Not to have to choose this kind of president (i.e. a republican term-monarch) is one of the reasons why so many modern and advanced nations such as Japan, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Danemark, Netherland, Belgium, Luxemburg stick to the hereditary monarchy. Nowaday such hereditary monarchy is of course a perfectly illogical istitution, in view of the inferior quality of so many kings and queens of history. But those countries detest elected presidents.

In parliamentary Italy the perfect preconditions are given, theoretically, so that sortition should prevail as the way to choose a First Citizen:

a) our republic is demonstrably the worst political mechanism in the Western world. Changing it is imperative -most oligarchic politicians admit, or pretend to admit, this;

b) Italy is presently governed by a very brilliant, young (39) “turboPremier”, named Matteo Renzi. He has already proved to possess the will and the capability to radically renovate, even revolutionize the institutions. He undertook to abolish the Senate as a true chamber of Parliament.

We should reconsider the political role of great personalities against, say, the role of the collective will or of the Zeitgeist. Prophet Mohammed was able to invert history alone -his Islam transformed the disconnected, primitive, predatory tribes of Arabia into an imperial nation and into a great civilization. In our time a strongwilled Italian statesman could make the difference for sortition, should he decide to renege representative democracy. The combination on said preconditions might convince the Italian oligarchs to let a domineering Premier to introduce sortition, if only to select a First Citizen. Otherwise, in the absence of somebody resembling Mohammed, many decades will be needed for sortition to win.

Perfect parity among citizens to be sorted is impossible, given the chance that the lot chooses a simpleton or a criminal, or an otherly unqualified person. Therefore sortition should inevitably involve a restricted number of first-class citizens. For instance, if all of them were university principals, high judges or top administrators, nobody could oppose that the president choosen by lot were an ignorant.

However, we are dreaming. The chances are minimal that prime minister Renzi will decide to break the rules concerning the choice of the head of state. Other priorities will prevail. Sortition can only follow the utter discredit of entrenched habits, institutions, political climate and culture. Robber oligarchs must decide to accept the cancellation of representative democracy. Up to that moment their caste will go on bargaining the choice of heads of state who either are professional politicians or are coopted in the caste. Going to sortition can only be a Copernican revolution.

A.M.Calderazzi and Associates of www. Internauta online

ARGUMENTS TO WIN MINDS AND HEARTS TO SEMIDIRECT DEMOCRACY BY SORTITION

The hard truth is: in those advanced societies whose parliamentary/electoral mechanisms are long established , the immediate prospects of sortition are either next to nihil ,or very slight. The consensus still goes to passing sovereignty to elected, professional representatives. The technology to cancel such delegation to politicians is now available. It’s public psychology that lags.

Instead semi-direct democracy, either selective or not, is the intuitive alternative to both electoralism and autoritarian rule in countries that, in a definition of Oliver Dowlen, are “modern cases of extreme democratic breakdown”. If democratic breakdown is meant in a symbolic rather than strict way, then nations such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Argentina, many additional Latin American republics are places where sortition has some mid-term opportunities.

In these cases, the proponents of change should assign first priority to showing the failures of electoral democracy rather than to defending the superiority of any particular version of direct democracy. Sectarian infighting among advocates of sortition is worse than wrong, is self-defeating. So it’s perhaps pertinent that we list a number of common argumentations on the senility of the electoral process and philosophy.

 

Traditional democracies cannot be participatory. Active participation requires the trust that participating is likely to produce results. Over time democracy has been degraded to rule by career politicians. They do what they want and hold the people in irrelevance. The government has become so arrogant and overwhelming that we lack real liberty. People have literally nothing to say about public affairs.

It is now possible to contact and involve huge numbers of citizens who do not have access to the communication resources traditionally possessed by the established mass parties. The high likelihood of interactive links in all homes in the Western societies enhances the prospects of some kind of direct democracy. Sortition promises to be a very efficient mechanism for the selection of deliberators and of operational officers.

It’s not logical nor admissible that, 14 years into the Third Millennium, the political process stays unchanged as it was in the18th century. When Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States the trip from Monticello, his estate in Virginia, to the White House took three days on horseback. In 1831 the federal employees were in the U.S. 11,491; today they are several millions. And Internet is able to turn any giant nation into the cyber-equivalent of the Greek city-state. Rather than propping up tyrants, Internet can totally empower the citizens.

Direct democracy should be each citizen personally controlling the government from his home through a secure interactive network. Instead partisan politics, special interests and money behind them and behind candidates excavate beneath popular sovereignty. It empties it. In fact, direct (also semi-direct) democracy should be eliminating professional politicians, partisan politics, corruption and the role of money.

The enemies of change are used to warn that direct democracy is a highway to despotism. But history and political science suggest that common man, given the right circumstances, can be rational and discerning enough.

A geological change has happened in Western politics- the dramatic obsolence of the traditional institutions: political parties, establishment media, parliaments, lesser assemblies. Technology makes it possible to bypass them. Traditional mechanisms were deliberately designed three centuries ago so that popular passions were filtered before they could become legislation. Additional filters were added. Most filters are now superannuated. The parties are moribund, Parliaments are ponds of stagnant water.

 

The Fishkin theory

In 1992 James S.Fishkin, professor, Univ. of Texas, offered a scheme whereby randomly chosen citizens would be given the opportunity to deliberate. Fishkin proposed “a full-scale national random sample of 600 people gathered to a single site where they could question the presidential candidates”. In his opinion, that random sample would be a scientifically representative microcosm of citizens deliberating on issues. The precondition would of course be that a small group can be an accurate barometer of the public sentiment. Such a completely new form of semi-direct democracy supported by information technology would have randomly chosen average citizens doing the hard work of democracy that most of us don’t have the time, or will, or knowledge to do. It’s the way the jury system works. The 600 people could be described as a macro-jury, but the macrojury could be much larger, could be f.i. 600 thousand.

Twenty years ago, more or less, the American business magazine “Forbes” recapitulated: “Technology has rendered totally out of date the idea that authorities can control morality and culture. Politicians may still give speeches about everything noble, bur everyone knows that the talk is just reactionary gabble. The old political carnival, the old game of big promises on election day, soon forgotten in the enjoyment of power, is over”.

Futurologists Alvin and Heidi Toffler argued that “spectacular advances in communication technology open, for the first time, a mind-boggling array of possibilities for direct citizen participation in political decision-making. We the people must begin to shift from depending on representatives to representing ourselves”.

In conclusion, with most homes in advanced countries having a modem, the decline of the polling place is at hand. And when we can vote from home, it’s hard to believe that choosing candidates won’t be expanded to choosing politics.

A.M.Calderazzi and Associates of www.Internauta online 

ROSS PEROT UNINTENTIONAL PROGENITOR OF E-DEMOCRACY AND SORTITION

If we can envisage the day when democracy will go from representative to deliberative, i.e. the day when sortition will substitute elections, it’s because in the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign an independent serious candidate named Ross Perot advanced the bold challenge to tradition: if  elected, I will not govern with Congress, but with you the American people. On all outstanding issues I, or the members of my Cabinet, will address the Nation through Tv and all available media, detailing terms of problems and prospective solutions: you the citizens, as the Owners of America, will let me know your choice via phone, mail, interactive Tv, any other legal mean. Abolishing Congress it’s too difficult, also cumbersome and controversial. However Senators and Representatives will not dare to disregard the will of the Nation, out of fear of not getting re-elected. Not a sophisticated scheme, but a revolutionary one. Revolutions are never sophisticated.

In 1992 America and the world were impressed. Opinion makers either sounded the grave alarm or applauded. For first time in history, Man in the street was confronted with the choice, experimenting new ways or going along as usual. The latter prevailed of course. Ross Perot, a very successful businessman, was not elected (while winning the same number of votes, more or less, of incumbent president George Bush the Elder -as we said, Perot was a serious candidate. No maverick). However at that time Vice-President Al Gore uttered historic words, better noises, about “forging a new Athenian age of Democracy”. In fact ancient Athens did become the queen of the debate. In the days of Pericles the society that was the Intelligence of the West did practice direct democracy.

The main argument against going back to Athens was that common man, if politically empowered, would not be responsible enough as to resist the influence and propaganda of pressure groups, media, other powers; that man in the street would not be as capable of wisdom as the politicians are. Thus Ross Perot was depicted as a prospective Big Brother exercising control and suasion from the White House. At that time the Big Brother contention supported the predominant theses against deliberative, partially electronic participation. To day, twentytwo years and giant leaps of the technology later, the Big Brother argument is almost dead. Nobody seriously believes any more in the omnipotence of the media masters. Today the consensus, and the evidence, are that the true enemies of direct democracy are tradition, i.e. entrenchment of old habits, and simple inertia. Man in the street doesn’t trust himself enough.

“The Economist” against the old ways

In that context the London weekly Economist started carrying articles and “specials” which frontally  opposed the distrust in common man:

“The overdue change is a shift from representative democracy to direct democracy. In the intervals between elections it is representatives who take all decisions. There are three reasons for thinking that this is going to change. One is the growing inadequacy of representative democracy. The voter will be increasingly angry when he discovers how much influence the special-intererst propagandists are now able to wield over parlamentarians. The voter is liable to conclude that direct democracy is better.
“The second reason for thinking there is going to be a change in the way democracy works, is:  there is: no longer so much difference, in wealth and education, between voters and their elected representatives. People are better equipped for direct democracy. Third reason: the disappearance of ideology weakens the chief source of opposition to the new sort of democracy- the political parties, who have most to lose.
“Direct democracy works. If democrats have spent much of the 20th Century telling fascists and communists that they ought to trust the people, can they, the democrats, now tell the people themselves that this trust operates only every few years (at elections)?
(…) The question arises: why having elected representatives at all? Will representative democracy prove to be merely intermediate technology, a bridge between the direct voting of ancient Greece and the electronic voting?”.

Back to the dawn of the public discourse on changing democracy. For the rest of the Nineties the emphasis was on the civic use of electronics, in view of the day when the entire population would join the political process. So the key words were “digital politics, cyberpolitics, politics in cyberspace, cyberpower, technology and change, e-democracy”, and, why not, “total overhaul of politics”. As candidate Perot had proposed the phone, the Tv and the computer as instruments of communication between citizens and government, “telephone democracy, call-in Presidency, teledemocracy, democracy on-line, hyperdemocracy”  became bywords too. Sortition was not a subject at that time, simply because the distant prospect appeared to be the involvement in government of entire citizenships. Consequently, first priority was not given to the quality of deliberation. Today such quality is paramount, this being the reason why the real dichotomy  appears to be elections vs/ sortition.

“The Economist” again: “What’s gone wrong with democracy?”

The first March 2014 issue of the British-American weekly included an additional essay on the malaise of the Western political society. While recommending that the Economist theses are read in their entirety, we shall simply list hereinafter the main formulations.

“Flaws in the system have become worrying visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Democracy’s advance has come to a halt and may even have gone into reverse. Many nominal democracies have slid towards autocracy. Democracy has too often become associated with debt and dysfunction.
“The Internet makes it easier to organise and agitate; in a world where people can participate in reality-Tv votes every week, the machinery and institutions of parliamentary democracy look increasingly anachronistic.
“Cynicism towards politics (is) growing. Party membership is declining: only 1% of Britons are members of political parties, compared with 20% in 1950. A survey of seven European countries in 2012 found that more than half of voters “had no trust in government” whatsoever. A YouGov opinion poll agreed that “politicians tell lies all the time”. Political systems have been captured by interest groups.
“In the mid-1970s Willy Brandt, the former German chancellor, pronounced that “Western Europe has only 20 or 30 more years of democracy left in it”. The combination of globalization and digital revolution has made some of democracy’s most cherished institutions look outdated. Established democracies need to update their own political systems.
“An online hyperdemocracy where everything is put on an endless series of public  votes would play to the hand of special-interest groups. But technocracy  and direct democracy can keep each other in check. California’s system of direct democracy allows its citizens to vote. Similarly the Finnish government is trying to harness  e-democracy. Many more such experiments are needed  -combining technocracy with direct democracy”.

In an age when mankind is planning to colonize Mars, or to mine asteroids for metals, it will probably become clear the silliness of electing representatives (in fact lifetime career politicians)  the same way the British colonists did three centuries  ago in America.

A.M.Calderazzi and Associates of  www. Internauta online.com

AN ITALIAN ROAD TO RANDOMCRACY

If some ‘laws of History’ could be taken seriously, in Italy we  should feel predestinated to be first in conceiving a better democracy. Not because of the glories of our remote past, rather for the simple fact that our democracy is more disfunctional than other ones  in the West.

The tribes of our peninsula did invent things that resulted very important, both good and evil -the Roman empire, the medieval city-states, the Renaissance, the Antichristian popes of said Renaissance,  Grand Opera, Gabriele d’Annunzio, Fascism, et cet. Today we are forced to change dramatically.

The most relevant among possible changes is demolishing our political system, based on domineering parties and on lifetime careers of lousy politicians. The way to achieve their annihilation is shifting from elections to sortition.

Elections were and are for oligarchy. Sortition shall be again the ultimate way to enfranchise the people, as it was in the city-states of the Athenian system.

We, a  Milan small group called Research Unit on Direct Democracy, were first in Italy to develop a tentative scheme for Randomcracy in a country such ours. In the year 2000 the scheme was outlined in a report by the title Il Pericle elettronico (http://www.internauta-online.com/2011/03/pericle-elettronico/). As for sortition, we value and fully accept the findings of the Kleroterian scholars Stone, Dowlen and Delannoi, the authors of the report The Lottery as a Democratic Institution.

As Western representative democracy is a joint venture between plutocracy and political professionalism, i.e. between money and career,

man in the street is a non-entity. The average citizen has no more say on how his or her government should govern than a dog has in making requests to his master. The electoral mechanism is fully responsible for the usurpation by an oligarchy of lifelong politicians who are normally corrupt, or corruptible.

The radical alternative to pluto-klepto-democracy should be (in due time will be) direct democracy, i.e, going back to Athens. However the Athenian direct democracy implied very small numbers of full, male citizens. In colossal countries of today the right thing to do is canceling the electoral process (voting should stay in referenda only) and reducing the sovereign citizens to a “macro-jury” made of a small percentage of the entire population. Such percentage should be selected by sortition and should rotate permanently, say every six months.

Hereinafter we offer a  few additional remarks as to the possible operational ways of a system based onsortition.

We insist that the right formula for sortition would not be a lottery in the general population. In ancient Athens as in modern Switzerland, direct democracy asks for small numbers. The median qualifications of the entire population are too low everywhere. The future Polis, i.e. the political body, should consist of approximately half a million, rotating, term hypercitizens, randomly selected for six months out of the better qualified part of the population: out of the persons who are more educated, or more work-experienced, or more motivated and aware, or more civic/humanitarian-minded than the average. Anybody should be included who can prove by exams to be fit to act as “term sovereign citizen”. A high body of the judiciary should decide whether persons  not possessing factually demonstrable qualifications should, on application and exam, be included in the roll of rotating hypercitizens. In a nation of 60 million, a rough half would possibly be the right section from which to draw the basic class of  half-million hypercitizens.

The six month term of moderately paid “political service” would be renewable only once or twice.

Two or more successive random selections might be held  among the hypercitizens, so the political body would result as made up by three, four or more classes, each of whom providing ascending levels of random selected officials. Members of parliament would be drawn in the intermediate class or order. Ministers of the central  government would be drawn in the top class: f.i. a Treasury secretary should be found in a very small number of top bankers, economists, heads of large corporations, outstanding thinkers, other highly successful individuals. For the office of mayor or councilperson in a small town, a member of the bottom class would be adequate.

A. Massimo Calderazzi and the team of Internauta