Article by Martin Wolf: “…our democratic processes do not work very well. Adding referendums to elections does not solve the problem. But adding citizens’ assemblies might.
In his farewell address, George Washington warned against the spirit of faction. He argued that the “alternate domination of one faction over another . . . is itself a frightful despotism. But . . . The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual”. If one looks at the US today, that peril is evident. In current electoral politics, manipulation of the emotions of a rationally ill-informed electorate is the path to power. The outcome is likely to be rule by those with the greatest talent for demagogy.
Elections are necessary. But unbridled majoritarianism is a disaster. A successful liberal democracy requires constraining institutions: independent oversight over elections, an independent judiciary and an independent bureaucracy. But are they enough? No. In my book, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, I follow the Australian economist Nicholas Gruen in arguing for the addition of citizens’ assemblies or citizens’ juries. These would insert an important element of ancient Greek democracy into the parliamentary tradition.
There are two arguments for introducing sortition (lottery) into the political process. First, these assemblies would be more representative than professional politicians can ever be. Second, it would temper the impact of political campaigning, nowadays made more distorting by the arts of advertising and the algorithms of social media…(More)”.