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issue #72 posted 12/15/2022
Democracy, Citizen Assemblies, and the US Supreme Court
in the news: "Global Democracy Weakens in 2022" says the headline of an November 30th article about a report from the intergovernmental organization, the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). The article says, "Half of democratic governments around the world are in decline, undermined by problems ranging from restrictions on freedom of expression to distrust in the legitimacy of elections... Globally, the number of countries moving toward authoritarianism is more than double the number moving toward democracy." Fortunately a number of very smart peopleincluding Harvard University computer science professor Ariel Pocacciaare working on strengthening democratic practices and institutions. His work developing an algorithm that randomly selects citizens to serve on citizens assemblies is described in a feature article in the November 2022 issue of Scientific American. With members fairly selected to be representative of the larger population, decision-making by such citizen assemblies can be a welcome alternative to the party machinations of legislatures or special interest dominated groups that inspire cynicism and distrust.
commentary and analysis by Stephen P. Cook, Managing Director, project Worldview: Procaccia notes that citizensin contrast to elected officialsare not predominately concerned about getting reelected and serving campaign contributors, but are free to vote their consciences. He writes that in recent years citizen "assemblies have demonstrated an impressive capacity to uncover the will of the people and build consensus." When such assemblies are well-chosen to mirror the population, such descriptive representation can, he writes, lend "legitimacy to the assembly: citizens seem to find decisions more acceptable when they are made by people like themselves."
Random selection of members is typically based on parameters like gender, age, geographic region, education, ethnicity, urban or rural residence, and views on issues. Specifying the first six of these seven parameters would be relatively straight-forwardbut the last one can get into much messier territory. The problem won't be as bad where the citizens assembly is chosen to deliberate on a single issue: like for a "climate assembly" as convened in Scotland, for ways to mitigate hate speech and fake news (as in Canada,) legalizing abortion (Ireland,) etc. Then a handful of questions focused on the particular issue can be used to balance the viewpoints of those selected to be members of the assembly.
But if the citizens assembly is impaneled to sit for an extended period and consider a wide range of issues, the selection process becomes much more complicated. Then members would need to be selected on the basis of what they believe and value in generalthat is, their worldviews. I believe Project Worldview offers the most highly developed, refined, and practical way of quantitatively assessing worldviews. Basically this involves individuals studying the Choices We MakeA Framework for Global Education booklet, where the 104 worldview themes of our version 5.0 theme structure are paired to define 52 choices. (see note #1) After reading the descriptions of each themeand going online to the theme web pages for clarification where neededone then uses the "Choices We Make Worldview Analysis" program found here. (see note #2) To put this in a real world context, consider the following.
In the previous issue of this blog, I wrote, "Recent Supreme Court decisions about gun control, abortion, separation of church and state, climate change, etc. represent views not shared by a majority of Americans." Given the lifetime appointments of the three (relatively young) newest members, many concerned about the integrity of American democracy fear future decisions this Court might make. Rather than seeking redress through Court-packing or other means, I can imagine the creation of something that might be called the "Citizens Court Advisory Group" or CCAG. That is, a citizens assembly picked from a very large pool of those volunteering to servebecause they both care and feel knowledgeable and capable of assuming leadership positions.
From this large group, an average, representative worldview would be determined using something like the worldview analysis program mentioned above. That worldview would be used as a guide in using something like the algorithm mentioned above in selecting members of CCAG. Like the Court itself, CCAG would deliberate on particular cases, concentrating on those where existing law (and ultimately the U.S. Constitution) did not apply in clear-cut fashion. It would then inject a common sense based / people's viewpoint opinion that the Court would need to strongly consider in making its ruling. Justices who consistently ignored that viewpoint would be chastised as "out of touch". They would be prime candidates for impeachment and removal.
In the previous blog (see note #3,) I wrote, "When the U.S. Constitution clearly is not applicable in guiding their decision-making, we expect Supreme Court Justices to use common sense and rule based on best available evidence. And with the expectation that they are helping to steer society toward a positive future." The CCAG would greatly help them fulfill this expectation. Indeed the very nature of the commitment, expected from those who volunteer to be considered for it, suggests it would be composed of those who (in choice #32) value "Service to Others" (theme #21B) and disdain "Cynicism" (theme #36A.)
#1 You can view a smart-phone friendly copy of the Choices We Make A Framework for Global Education booklet by clicking here. For more about the uses this booklet can be put to, click here. It is also available as a .pdf for free download, If you're a teacher with high school age or older students eager to learn, I'll send you a free, colorful, 28 page printed copy of the booklet if you'll send me a comment making that request (see "Your Comments" below) that includes your mailing address.
#2 The Project Worldview website includes other computer-based tools to quantitatively analyze worldviewsfor more info click here.
#3 (And based on it) recall in July I sent each of the nine Supreme Court Justices a copy of Project Worldview's Choices We MakeA Framework for Global Education booklet.
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