Populating the government

In Democracy

This is where we use the thinking on voting and sortition to put together a structure of government. This involves initially putting citizens assemblies in places where representation is key. We need to ensure that there are checks and balances to counteract possible problems such as group thinking, undue influence and overly reactive responses. This clearly applies to the legislature, but we can also see that it doesn't work for the Cabinet. If we want a separation of powers we have to understand that Cabinet members are basically administrators. They have a number of constraints on what they can and can't do, so all we need to do is to appoint suitable individuals who have the appropriate skills in strategic and tactical planing. This is primarily a recruitment job, but the recruitment decision is made by Citizens Panel. Ministers are hired and fired according to clear rules, and the details of the arrangement make sure that one person cannot be fired in favour of another.

You'll notice that I've proposed a number of different assemblies and panels, one of which is permanently set up and has a rotating membership, and others that are set up for a single job and may exist for only a few days. Running the sortition process for all of these groups is clearly an ongoing task. I see this as part of a secretariat dedicated to managing the groups, dealing with sourcing of information, mentoring group members, moderating meetings, producing reports and so on and so on. Setting this up is part of a transition process that I will deal with later, but, once going, the Secretariat will learn very fast and will set up effective processes for group creation.

Equally, the number of groups requires a constant turn-over of citizens willing to to be members. We will need to keep groups clean from entrenched ideas, so there will need to be a rule that anyone being a member of any one group cannot be a member of the same or any group thereafter.

These ideas, and much of the terminology, are largely based on the work of Terry Bouricius and David Schecter12 and form a basic idealised design that fits well with the separation of powers. I'll look at some of the parts that are missing later on.

The main elements of the legislature are:

  • Agenda Council: A large permanent group, say 600? Chosen by sortition. Paid well. Membership expires after 3 years. New members, one third of the total, come in every year to replace the members being retired. This group decides the areas of interest and the targets to be achieved for new laws or changes to existing laws. The work of drafting new or changed laws is done by an Interest Panel.
  • Interest Panels: Small groups, each convened for a single agenda item. Meets as needed to draft the required bill. The members of the panel are volunteers, self-selecting for their interest in the matter to be dealt with. The panel will draft the bill, presumably with the help of drafting experts from the secretariat. A panel may propose adjustments to the focus or goals of the agenda item, and these will be reviewed later.
  • Review Panels: Each is a permanent group assigned to a specific issue area. Members are chosen by lot from a pool of volunteers, though the volunteers do not know beforehand which issue area they will work on. Paid well. Membership expires after one year. New members come in every few months, with the cycle chosen to maximise transfer of knowledge about the issue are. These panels review draft bills from Interest Panels, possibly combining and amending as needed.
  • Policy Juries: Medium group, chosen by sortition. Paid largely to cover expenses. Each group convenes for a week, say, to hear representations, pro and con, on a single bill, to seek evidence, and, without discussion, vote in a secret ballot. If the vote is favourable, the bill is passed into law. Bouricius & Schecter do not speculate on what might happen if the bill is rejected.
  • Rules Council: Medium group. Chosen by lot from a pool of volunteers. Paid well. Membership expires after 3 years. This group reviews the detail of the law-making process: the effectiveness of the panels; membership conditions; length of service; and generally the way of working of the system.
  • Oversight Council: Medium group. Chosen by lot from a pool of volunteers. Paid well. Membership expires after three years. This is the management group for the process, with oversight of the law making process described above, and of the implementation process, below, as well as management of the secretariat.

This law making structure is designed to minimise problems with group-think and influence by high status individuals. By keeping group membership to a minimum for any individual it also reduces the ambition generating opportunities. And, of course, it is designed to reinforce legitimacy by making representation as comprehensive, and transparent, as possible.

Clearly, the lack of Members of Parliament makes the current method for selecting the Executive impossible. However, as I mentioned above, the executive is essentially administrative. Its job is to implement the law. Of course, administrators have close contact with the nature of that task and would be well placed to advise the Agenda Council, and possibly to propose policy. They do not, however, have anything like the power currently wielded by our Cabinet. On this basis, the administrators are full time employed to do their job. The task for the model, then is hiring, performance review and firing. Each of these tasks is undertaken by a panel selected by lot from the general population. There are also a Rules Council and an Oversight Council. Bouricius & Schecter propose that the process hires a Chief Executive and the Chief Executive hires Department Heads, with appointment review for each hire. I did wonder if Department Heads might be better hired directly by Hiring panels, but, really, that's a matter for the Rules Council.

  1. Bouricius, Terry and Schecter, David. (2013). An Idealized Design for the Legislative Branch of government. Systems Thinking World Journal: Reflection in Action. [Online Journal]. 2(1). [Referred 2013-01-22]. ISSN-L 2242-8577 ISSN 2242-8577 

  2. Bouricius, Terry and Schecter, David. (2014). An Idealized Design for Government. Part 2: Executive Branch Accountability. Systems Thinking World Journal: Reflection in Action. [Online Journal]. 2. [Referred 2014-11-5]. ISSN-L 2242-8577 ISSN 2242-8577