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Home | Wire | Forget Electoral Democracy — Give "Demarchy" a Chance

Forget Electoral Democracy — Give "Demarchy" a Chance

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Tags World HistoryPolitical Theory

Demarchy — also called sortition — is a form of governance that selects the representatives of the people as a random sample from a pool of candidates. Such a governance by selecting the people's representatives by lottery instead of elections can look back on a venerable history.

For Aristotle, to select the people's political representatives by lot instead of voting distinguishes the democracy from oligarchical rule: ‘So it is ... democratic to occupy the offices by lot, and for the oligarchy by vote’ (Aristotle, Politics, IV, 9, 1294b 7-9). Likewise, for Montesquieu in "The Spirit of the Laws," the lottery procedure corresponds to "the nature of democracy."

In the ancient Greek polis, for the "Great Council of the 500," as well as for judges and for some state officials, selection took place by the lot — as it is still partly the case in Switzerland.

In the Republic of Venice, the selection procedure for the government and its members used the lottery in many ways. Until the 17th century, England also practiced the lottery system. Today, modern technology offers the possibility to apply random selection procedures to large populations.

The following advantages of demarchy are evident:

  • High degree of popular legitimacy
  • Independence of the representatives
  • Absence of corruption
  • No political parties
  • Representation by normal people instead by political power seekers
  • Elimination of the costs of the election campaigns
  • Reduction of the overall cost of the political apparatus
  • Comprehensible laws
  • End of the inflation of laws, rules, and regulations
  • Minimization of the state (less government spending, lower taxes).

Critics of demarchy claim that a parliament, whose members are selected by chance, has less expertise than an elected parliament, and that this would increase the power of the bureaucracy. The truth, however, is that the specific knowledge that is now present in the assemblies, exists in knowing how to gain and to exert power, and non-political competence is missing. Even more so, the current system of party politics has led to a huge bureaucracy and a massive build-up of the power of the state apparatus. The political parties and the bureaucracy cooperate to maximize their power which they achieve by having more state, not less.

The libertarian revolution is a soft revolution without violence. This is and will make the big difference between the anarcho-capitalist order and all other forms of governance. For the libertarian revolution to succeed, one must not ‘"take power," but conquer the public opinion by persuasion.

With the support of the public to change the structure of the party democracy, the first step would be to complement the present system with an additional chamber. In this chamber — a kind of "Senate" or "Upper House" — members chosen by lot would possess veto rights over the decisions taken by the parliament (Congress) and government (Presidency) including the judiciary (Supreme Court). Such a "fourth power" is the "voice of the people.". Although it is not yet a government and not yet the lawgiver, the ‘Senate’ composed by members chosen by lot has the right to stop the encroachments of government and of the state bureaucracy because of the veto power it holds. 

The next step would be to create a "General Assembly" to serve as the prime law-giving body. The Assembly must be large enough to represent the people. For that purpose, it must comprise persons who are selected randomly among the constituency. Establishing the General Assembly requires a reform of the election laws. In order to achieve this, the libertarians must get a majority in the existing parliament (Congress). The final step in the reform of the state structure is to add a supervisory body and an executive branch of the Assembly. 

The resulting institutional setting would include three organs: The General Assembly as the representative of the people and the prime law-giver, the Supervisory Body as a special committee to supervise the Executive branch that manages the current affairs of the polity. The last step would be the outsourcing of the governmental function to a private government management company under the supervision of the General Assembly.

Antony P. Mueller is a German professor of economics who currently teaches in Brazil. See his website www.capitalstudies.org or send e-mail to: antonymueller@gmx.com.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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