Political reform: sortition and policy juries

In one of his comments DV82XL recommended two proposed enhancements to the structure of representative government. Like Charter Cities, both of these proposals have powerful appeal:

I’ve always thought that sortition, from a pool of pre-qualified candidates would be the best way to select representatives. I would also see the use of policy juries, where the pros and cons of a particular piece of legislation would be examined by adversarial debate among the interested parties, with the jury (again randomly selected) deciding if the bill was passed or killed.

However it is unlikely that any real overhaul of government will occur in my lifetime. Good enough is always the enemy of better.

The Czech Citizen Commissions are a relative of the policy jury concept (see the draft 2002 Citizens Constitution of Czech Republic, where regular and ad hoc citizens commissions were proposed). One of the endearing features of that Czech draft constitution was the method for setting compensation of politicians by citizen commission:

Chief Principles: The Citizion Commissions´ function is only advisory. Decisions are made in representative bodies and referenda. The only exception are Administrative Citizen Commissions organized once a year, to make irrevocable decisions concerning salaries and other prerogatives of politicians and high civil servants on all levels. Both politicians and civil servants are the citizens´ employees. Their salaries are paid by the citizens through taxes. In all other situations, it is the employers who decide salaries, even if mostly after negotiations with unions. It is inadmissible that politicians, as the only employees in existence, are allowed to use taxes for deciding the level of their own salaries and prerogatives. This right must be reserved for the citizens as taxpayers, through the intermediary of regularly organized Citizen Commissions.

A democracy that switched to selection by sortition would be called a demachy . Sortition has been proposed for selection of representatives from the general voting-qualified population (resources). I.e., a draft for MPs or congresspersons. I’ve always liked the abstract idea but have not thought about it in many years. Possibly more to follow… Back to the DV82XL comments on sortition

from a pool of pre-qualified candidates

What is the qualification procedure? And what is the selection pool and selection context? E.g., for the legislature, I have stumped for a return to part-time and very term-limited service, which means that the representatives must have a function in society other than spending other people’s money. An obvious consequence of a part-time legislature is that for society’s productive people, service is more feasible if one knows that the piece of your life sacrificed is small, for discussion let’s say two six-month terms over two years. Of those terms perhaps only half of the time requires physical presence, as in a fully-transparent process most of the real work is best done virtually.

Though short, the economic consequences of service are still severe, so I would expect a need for the equivalent of maternity benefits to compensate for some of the loss (women are rarely able to recover their economic loss over their lifetime).

The qualification procedure is probably less sensitive given a pool of self-selected part-time candidates. Even so, the consequences of government are so profound for resource allocation and economic development that I strongly favor basic competence criteria for critical thinking, economics, risk/reward analysis, and life-cycle-analysis (understanding, not necessarily the skills to do LCA).

STV: Single Transferable Vote was brought up in the comments. Here are resources at Accurate Democracy, and a well-done page at Wikipedia.