Sortition – CMW 217


The topic for this episode is Sortition, an alternative to elections as a method of selecting representatives. In the interests of kicking around new ideas I thought i’d kick this one around. Hope you find it interesting.

Show Notes

  • Sortition at Wikipedia
  • Sortition in Ancient Greece
  • A bunch more readings on the idea
  • Ask your questions or share your feedback

    Please connect with me

    • Mikel Withers

      I see a potential problem with sortition as the means of choosing the government officers. That is: I believe it would lead to a government run by “experts”. The advisers that the newly chosen, but inexperienced officers hire on.
      Now, let us chose a rather benign example. I get my name drawn to be the next President of the US. Terrific! I didn’t expect it (what with 37 million names in the hat) but I am excited. The first thing I do, is call up the people who I want to advise me. One Jason Rennie, of course, as he is one of the political commentators that I respect the most. Now, we have an Australian, chosen by one American only, putting his fingerprints on the center of the US government. He can’t be recalled, he doesn’t face any legal ramifications for bad advice. He is just an adviser. Now, I think we could do alright for the US. However, as I said, that is a benign example. What if a Rush Limbaugh or Richard Dawkins is the choice for chief adviser?
      What if, instead, we used sortition to decide the electoral college? The thousand…(ten thousand?) picked randomly, vote for their choices for offices. That way there is some vetting of the officers, but campaigning is minimal and very specific.

      • jwrennie

        Well I would be flattered. A couple of thoughts. First I was thinking of something like the Australia governmental system which is based on the English Parliamentary system. We don’t have an elected head of state, technically it the queen, but the Head of State is basically just a figure head.

        I was thinking in terms of representatives, much like Congress and the Senate, but probably with more reps to cover smaller populations of people.

        I understand your concern although if the term of service is limited and you have to go back in the draw to get a second go then the damage potential is mitigated to some degree. No system is perfect. I kinda like Rush too. Although I haven’t listened to him recently. To guard myself against the possibility he has gone off the deep end.

        The reason I suggested a democratic recall process was to deal with the problem of reps that aren’t representative at all. They can be recalled and a new representative drawn if a sufficient percentage of the represented group are upset about it.

        You are right about the problem of a government run by experts but i’m not sure how the current system avoids that.
        If nothing else you save a billion or so dollars being spent on the campaign trail.

        I thought the idea was interesting, i’m sure there are kinks to work out, but I suggested to a friend who is ideologically on a very different page to me and he actually liked the idea. It gets rid of campaigning, it has some accountability (which is important) and it might be worth trying. Start at a local government level. If it is a disaster we can always write it off as a bad idea. Not everybody thinks letting the streets run red with blood in revolution to install their great idea is the right way forward.