6d. Random Democracy
I include a process of democracy here called ‘Sortition’ as it illuminates one of the present problems with our current leaders in both Parliament and Senate. They do not represent our interest and are one the whole, out of touch with ordinary people. It costs a lot of money and time to get elected so it is no wonder that nearly all candidates are representing the interests of money and economics. We have a fiscal oligarchy not a democracy. With Sortition this problem is neatly sidestepped. It is my belief that even a random lottery to fill parliament would serve the people of the UK and US better than the bunch of pirates presently in control. From Wikipedia:
“Athenian democracy developed in the 6th century BC out of what was then called isonomia (equality of law and political rights). Sortition was then the principal way of achieving this fairness. It was utilized to pick most of the magistrates for their governing committees, and for their juries (typically of 501 men). Aristotle relates equality and democracy:
“Democracy arose from the idea that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are alike free, therefore they claim that all are free absolutely… The next is when the democrats, on the grounds that they are all equal, claim equal participation in everything”.
It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election. In Athens, ‘democracy’ (literally meaning rule by the people) was in opposition to those supporting a system of oligarchy (rule by a few). Athenian democracy was characterised by being run by the ‘many’ (the ordinary people) who were allotted to the committees which ran government. The Athenians believed sortition to be more democratic than elections and used complex procedures with purpose-built allotment machines (kleroteria) to avoid the corrupt practices used by oligarchs to buy their way into office.
According to the author Mogens Herman Hansen the citizen’s court was superior to the assembly because the allotted members swore an oath which ordinary citizens in the assembly did not and therefore the court could annul the decisions of the assembly. Both Aristotle and Herodotus (one of the earliest writers on democracy) emphasize selection by lot as a test of democracy,
“The rule of the people has the fairest name of all, equality (isonomia), and does none of the things that a monarch does. The lot determines offices, power is held accountable, and deliberation is conducted in public.”
“Past scholarship maintained that sortition had roots in the use of chance to divine the will of the gods, but this view is no longer common among scholars. In Ancient Greek mythology, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades used sortition to determine who ruled over which domain. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld.
In Athens, to be eligible to be chosen by lot, citizens self-selected themselves into the available pool, then lotteries in the kleroteria machines. The magistracies assigned by lot generally had terms of service of 1 year. A citizen could not hold magistracy more than once in his lifetime, but could hold other magistracies. All male citizens over 30 years of age, who were not disenfranchised by atimia, were eligible. Those selected through lot underwent examination called dokimasia in order to avoid incompetent officials. Rarely were selected citizens discarded. Magistrates, once in place, were subjected to constant monitoring by the Assembly. Magistrates appointed by lot had to render account of their time in office upon their leave, called euthynai. However, any citizen could request the suspension of a magistrate with due reason”.
The process of sortition may be more than just an ancient Athenian dream. One of the conditions asked for by the activist group Extinction Rebellion includes
“By necessity these demands require initiatives and mobilisation of similar size and scope to those enacted in times of war. We do not however, trust our Government to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve this and we do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead we demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.”
A process of sortition may offer more headway in the process of adapting to an out of control climate than our impossibly-slow-to-act systems of government. But a sub-section of government run by sortition would still need its decisions ratified by an elected parliament, which is hopelessly ill-equipped for the work of even a 50% chance of holding climate change to just 1.5 degrees.
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