Bleg: Hi Brett! So you have a new book/theory coming out. My understanding, at least in gist, is that it argues we should scrap politicians altogether? or that the ever exponentiating calamity & crisis that seems to be engirdling the modern world derives from their constant misrule & malfeasance so their existence/empowerment needs to be seriously questioned/contested. Please elaborate/set-it straight about the book & your ideal/solution to this ghastly emergency that’s shunting us towards extinction or worse.
Brett Hennig: The book, The End of Politicians
(https://unbound.co.uk/books/the-end-of-politicians/) asserts two basic points. The first is that politicians are unable to address the important issues facing society because they are so tightly constrained by the need to please party donors, party factions, and keep the mainstream media onside. Of course politicians are meant to be constrained (or at least accountable), but by the people who they supposedly represent, whereas it seems they must pay more attention to those who hold the purse strings and those who wield the power to influence the opinions of large numbers of people through positive or negative coverage of their words and deeds.
This all seems far removed from what we might call an ideal democracy: one based on informed deliberation between equals in a respectful environment.
The second point is that even if the politicians were freed from the constraints above they would still not arrive at the same decisions that ordinary people would. This is due to the elite nature of elections (elite and elect share the same etymological root for a reason). The group of people who win elections are typically very unrepresentative of the general adult population, for quite obvious reasons. We would not use elections to select a jury in a trial, and it was obvious to the Ancient Athenians (at least) that one shouldn’t use elections to select those proposing the laws. They used lottery, also known as sortition or random selection. And today sortition is back in vogue. In Citizens’ Assemblies, Policy Juries, Constitution Conventions and many other forums random selection is seen as the legitimate way to select a truly representative sample of people to deliberate, investigate, and come to decisions.
In The End of Politicians (https://unbound.co.uk/books/the-end-of-politicians/) it is argued that the use of sortition should again be the cornerstone of democracy, and that such a real democracy would free our representatives to address the multiple crises confronting us. These people would not be politicians. They would not need to fear the consequences of receiving a mauling from the media, and would not need to worry about financial backers withdrawing their support as they would not need funds to run an election campaign. Today, this freedom is what our legislators need.
Bio: Brett Hennig is the author of The End of Politicians
(https://unbound.co.uk/books/the-end-of-politicians/) to be published by Unbound in late 2016.