How will we make decisions when societies grow increasingly displeased with their elected representatives?
These are just some of the serious questions facing us during the course of this century. There seems to be two ways of answering these:
- We can plan on the basis of “what to do when…”
- Or, we can answer them with another question; how do we prevent this happening in the first place?
What’s the chance of that? Very little according to some commentators (e.g Jorgen Randers1).
Randers and others suggest that the only countries that will be able to take a long-term approach to decision-making and policy formation are those with highly centralised or autocratic political systems – China, for instance.
Democracies, they claim, are just not capable because they are short-term focused. Most Western, rich nation democracies operate on 3 or 4 year election cycles. Politicians concentrate on the short-term, thinking from election to election.
That’s crazy. Our public decision-making should be to provide us with public well-being, not just for now but also into our old age and into our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.
Short-termism is not good democracy – it’s (demo)crazy.
But it need not be. There is a form of democracy that overcomes the impediment of short-termism.
Selecting our public decision-makers by random selection (known as sortition) removes the focus on short-term thinking because there is no possibility of career politicians attempting to gain votes based on what they will do in the next 3 or 4 years. Randomly selected decision-makers can afford to be thinking long-term (and therefore, sustainably) because their careers and parliamentary seat are not at stake.
Sortition provides a number of other benefits for sound, long-term, solutions based, decision-making:
- It reduces significantly the influence of vested interest lobby groups,
- It thwarts individuals and organisations with money buying political favours,
- It removes the adversarial nature of much of parliamentary debate,
- It widens the background and experience of those selected as decision-makers.
1. Jorgen Randers, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012. Randers was one of the original authors of Limits to Growth (1972).