Discusses how traditional direct democracy systems can be substantially improved by using a Citizens Assembly to select the best initiatives based on merit rather than requiring a huge number of
Discusses how traditional direct democracy systems can be substantially improved by using a Citizens Assembly to select the best initiatives based on merit rather than requiring a huge number of signatures to be collected.
1. Citizens’ Assembly Enhanced Direct Demcracy New Directions for Democratic Reform
2. Traditional Direct Democracy Systems have Many Problems: <ul><li>High signature threshold. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most initiatives come from the rich. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Too many initiatives on each ballot! </li></ul><ul><li>Much spin, little good debate prior to voting. </li></ul>
3. Confused by spin and overwhelmed by too many initiatives, v oters Often make poor voting choices . Many initiatives are poorly crafted by those with limited expertise in writing legislation. Proponents Organize Collect Many Signatures ($$$) Huge Spin Campaigns for and against numerous Initiatives. A Typical Large-Scale Direct Democracy System Referendum The process is accessible only to rich groups and individuals , who can pay for signature collection. START
4. Citizens’ Assemblies Can Fix All This!
5. A low, easily attainable threshold Proponents Organize Citizens’ Assembly Citizens’ Assembly Led Debate A max of 4 are chosen Citizens' Assembly-Enhanced Direct Democracy Collect 10 000 Signatures The Citizens' Assembly fine-tunes initiatives (With help/input from experts and politicians). Referendum Citizens’ Assemblies are highly trusted, making them ideal for leading a low-spin debate. Only a manageable number of initiatives are put to referendum each time, and they are selected based on merit ! Rejected START
6. Additional Notes on Citizens’ Assembly-Enhanced Direct Democracy. <ul><li>Retroactive effects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>MPs would behave much better. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Other benefits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The electorate will become more informed due to frequent informed debates prior to referenda. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There are a couple of initiatives in the US to implement such a system or elements of it. </li></ul>
7. Recommended Reading <ul><li>Deliberation Day by Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin (Skim the first half of the book) </li></ul><ul><li>The Citizens Initiative Review proposal for Washington State: http://www.cirwa.org/ </li></ul><ul><li>http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dkjkdjc_120dk8cxnmn - My vision for a direct democracy system that uses a citizens' assembly. </li></ul><ul><li>www.cusdi.org – A US organization's vision for the same thing. </li></ul><ul><li>http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dkjkdjc_135csw258hc lots of other related links. </li></ul>
9. <ul><li>Might one charismatic individual sway the entire assembly to a certain point of view? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The research has shown that if you put a group of individuals together with one strong proponent of a certain viewpoint, that individual will often sway the entire group towards his/her own (extreme) viewpoint. However, if you recruit strong proponents for all different viewpoints, discussion will actually engage the group in a balanced learning process. In contrast, through reading and listening, individuals learn primarily those facts and arguments that support their pre-existing viewpoints. </li></ul></ul>
10. <ul><li>How do you ensure that a Citizens’ Assembly is exposed to a diversity of views? </li></ul><ul><li>This is of critical importance to ensure a balanced learning process, and can be achieved in many ways, including: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify and invite representatives from the 'for' and 'against' sides for a particular issue. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In countries with proportional representation, by involving all major political parties you can ensure a diversity of views. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A Citizens’ Assembly can elect its own 'advisors' using a proportional voting system. </li></ul></ul>
11. <ul><li>Is it OK to pay Citizens’ Assembly members? </li></ul><ul><li>The Assembly is providing a valuable service, so it is certainly reasonable to pay its members. However, a better criterion is what will best serve democracy. </li></ul><ul><li>The research shows that payment is crucial to ensure high turnout, which is necessary to ensure the assembly is statistically representative. Payment helps insure high turnout because of the monetary incentive, but perhaps more importantly because it serves as a signal to participants that their views will truly be taken seriously. </li></ul><ul><li>Assuming that the Assembly's members are paid, it would be crucial to guarantee its funding and set up an independent body to run it (so that threatening to withhold funds can't be used as a way to influence the Assembly). </li></ul><ul><li>The cost of running a Citizens’ Assembly is far less than than that which is regularly spent on elections. </li></ul>
12. <ul><li>Why not just use opinion polls? </li></ul><ul><li> Opinion polls can be very valuable for issues that people understand well, however, when people are less familiar with an issue, their views often fail to correlate strongly with their values until they go through a learning process as in a Citizens' Assembly. </li></ul>