Legislature by Lot: Transformative Designs for Deliberative Governance has just been published by Verso a few days ago. I contributed a chapter, "Who Needs Elections? Accountability, Equality, and Legitimacy Under Sortition" that questions the premise of the opening chapter of the book: that sortition should only accompany an elected chamber.
However, even as I'm excited by the publication of this new book, I'm thinking today about Erik Olin Wright, who conceived of the "Real Utopias" series and brought so many challenging and brilliant insights to this and his many other works, but sadly passed away recently. It was another book in this series, Deepening Democracy, which he co-edited as well, that started me down the path I'm now on. It was such an honour to meet him and get to know him - and to sing "Bella Ciao" together with him at his house a few short years ago.
So it's been a busy and exciting few months! Here's a list of recent (and upcoming) speaking engagements:
- December 5, 2018: "Looking to the future of Citizens' Assemblies" - panel at the workshop "Citizens' Assemblies: Time to Renew European Democracy". I'll be talking about "How to get from elections to sortition."
- October 13, 2018: My US National Public Radio (NPR) interview went to air: "Should we replace politicians with randomly selected citizens?"
- October 11, 2018: "People, Parliaments, Possibilities?" - I spoke on this panel at the Scottish Festival of Politics.
- August 28, 2018: I was interviewed by the English-language Spanish Radio Station "Talk Radio Europe."
- August 25, 2018: I was on the panel "Adventures in Democracy" talking up sortition at the Byline Festival. I also ran a workshop the day before.
The word spreads!
If you think democracy is broken, here's an idea: let's replace politicians with randomly selected people. Author and activist Brett Hennig presents a compelling case for sortition democracy, or random selection of government officials -- a system with roots in ancient Athens that taps into the wisdom of the crowd and entrusts ordinary people with making balanced decisions for the greater good of everyone. Sound crazy? Learn more about how it could work to create a world free of partisan politics.
How can we fix our broken democracies? What lessons can we learn from the past and what bold new democratic experiments are happening right now? On Sunday March 11, at Conway Hall's Thinking on Sunday talks, and together with London Futurists and GlobalNet21, we'll go on a ride through history before jumping back to the future to see how a real democracy of, by and for the people could work.
Tickets now available at http://buytickets.at/conwayhallethicalsociety/138492
From Friday to Sunday this weekend (September 15-17) I will be joining a group of academics, researchers and activists gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to discuss the pros and cons of a "Legislature by Lot" - a parliament, senate or congress selected by sortition.
The workshop is being organised by Professor John Gastil (Penn State) and Professor Erik Olin Wright (University of Wisconsin-Madison) who have drafted the principal proposal that attendees are responding to. Their proposal is for a bicameral legislature where one chamber is elected and one is selected using sortition.Read more
The first step towards the end of politicians is probably establishing second chambers in parliaments composed of a representative, random sample of people.
But how would it be implemented in practice? What powers would these people initially have?
My new paper proposes such a second chamber for the Scottish Parliament and has been published by the Sortition Foundation in collaboration with Common Weal Scotland and the newDemocracy Foundation. It discusses various options for levels of empowerment and gives a detailed answer to the question of implementation.
Initial (somewhat inaccurate) press coverage by The National was okay, except for the unhelpful headline which focused on the proposed salary and called assembly members Scottish 'Lords'.
I will be on the panel of a (sold out) talk at Edinburgh University that will discuss the merits of the proposal.
I was chuffed to find out that my letter to the editor, Time to get rid of elections, was printed in the Guardian Weekly in the same edition that Trump's win was put on the front cover (November 11 Special Edition).
It was perfect timing, and occurred only because I'm a little old fashioned.
I subscribe to the physical print edition of the Guardian Weekly and get it delivered by (snail) mail so I can carry it around, folded up in my pocket, and read and scribble on it when and where I like (and yes, I even cut out clippings and put them in a folder). But this means I get much of my news a few weeks after the rest of the planet, and when I replied to a George Monbiot article (Lies, fearmongering and fables: that’s our democracy) printed in the October 14 edition, I had no idea that serendipity would have it printed just after the US election.
Unfortunately, now I also know who won the US presidential election.