Charles Chamberlain

Sortition Governance


Elected officials have different incentives than the general public. Most obviously, they can be bribed to do things that hurt the public. But they also care about their own reelection. Many would argue this keeps them accountable to the public. In reality, these incentives mean politicians end up taking lobbying money to finance their campaigns in exchange for compromising their mandate of power; they do not represent the people. Also troublesome, politicians have incentives to work within their party rather than do what they think is best for the general public, leading to stagnant governments where representatives fight over power instead of enacting policies a majority agree with. In short, our representative democracy does not follow the will of the people.

There is an alternative, not to democracy, but to elected officials in general. Sortition (wikipedia) is when political representatives are selected at random from the voting pool. Given a large enough voting pool and a large enough selection, you end up with a proportionally accurate slice of the general public. What does this mean? Without parties, elections, and the incentives that go along with them, we don't have to worry about the government acting against the interests of its people. Statistically, a sortition-based government is its people.

"But Charles," you might say, "isn't this worrisome? Aren't the people dumb? Won't they make bad decisions?" Of course we are dumb! Yes we will make bad decisions. But look around. The people are already in charge of the (US) government. We already make bad decisions. One of those bad decisions is choosing to elect representatives who do not have their incentives aligned with the general public. We can change that. Without misaligned politicians at the forefront of decision making, the only thing standing between us and a better future is our own ability to govern.