| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
Demarchy is the rule by the randomly selected. Even though no modern country ever adopted this form of government, it should be noted that randomness has been used as part of selecting leaders in the past. Sortition (random selection) was used for a hundred years in ancient Athens to choose members of the legislative council. A similar system is often used to form juries as well. In particular, the electors for the Doge of Venice were selected in the following way:
“”Thirty members of the Great Council, chosen by lot, were reduced by lot to nine; the nine chose forty and the forty were reduced by lot to twelve, who chose twenty-five. The twenty-five were reduced by lot to nine and the nine elected forty-five. Then the forty-five were once more reduced by lot to eleven, and the eleven finally chose the forty-one who actually elected the doge."
Randomness, in this case, was to eliminate the possibilities of great families or politicking polluting the selection, thus ensuring the greatest possible Doge for the city.
Not only the Council of ancient Athens but lay judges (similar to jurors) were also chosen by lot. A special machine was created to insure the lots were truly random and thus couldn't in any way be tampered with. In contrast, the Assembly was made up of any free male citizens who chose to appear (when a quorum was not present, the city watch rounded people up).
Legislative and citizens' panels
Various political theorists have proposed use of legislative panels, groups of randomly selected citizens who study proposed legislation, maybe call witnesses, and vote whether to approve or not. They can be selected by random sampling, possibly with additional measures to ensure diversity. Often these panels are considered as advisors rather than having sole authority to approve or veto legislation. Canada commonly uses non-binding Citizens' Reference Panels to advise on decisions. Edmonton has used Citizen's Panels, selected in a process designed to match community diversity, to assess proposals and advise on various issues. Other local governments have a citizen's panel that is merely a group of people who volunteered and are used for opinion polling, without any attempt at random or representative selection.
- Why not select politicians as randomly as jurists?, Sydney Morning Herald. April 18, 2016, republished on newdemocracy.com.au
- By Popular Demand: Revitalizing Representative Democracy Through Deliberative Elections, John Gastil, University of California Press, 2000
- Citizens' Panel, participationcompass.org
- Citizens’ Panel on Edmonton’s Energy and Climate Challenges, Edmonton City Government web page