XR: Sortition, or Basic income?

Extinction Rebellion (XR) demands that we stop trashing the Planet, and sees ‘Sortition’ as an essential  tool. Brett Hennig’s TED talk makes many valid points. Yes, democracy is malfunctioning but that is in my opinion not due to faulty institutions, but the fact that they are operating on out of date assumptions.

Sortition does not aim to replace democracy, but a new format – random selection of individuals who would govern – would, according to Sortition, overcome the perceived failures by governments. Perceived? No, I agree, they are very real. But If those individuals were operating on unchanged assumptions, I do not see why a more constructive debate would emerge.

Sortition will not work unless there is a new mind set. The world is currently on a cusp. We are at the end of a long period when growth, in both population and per capital wealth, seemed natural aims. We are now at a point where we must treat the ecosphere as finite, and vulnerable.

I must repeat here what I have said many times, that there are two forces still preventing a very necessary change. One is the Tragedy of the Commons, whereby attempts to change from policies which take growth opportunities for granted will fail unless they are unanimous and enforceable – world wide, The other force is the hard-wired aversion to short term loss.

I have also repeated many times that I am still waiting for a better idea than the universal, unconditional basic (citizens’) income (UBI) as a component at least making this necessary mind set change possible. This aspect of a UBI is overlooked by those who pore over its more practical ramifications

But if this mind set change does happen, I see no reason why the existing governance structures, evolved over many centuries, would not work. At least we should see how they coped, in preference to an untried novelty. I do not necessarily dismiss the ancient Greek precedent, but surely it would make more sense to change as little as possible at this extremely unpredictable juncture which has created the need for XR, and Greta Thunberg’s school strike. Unlike Sortition, the UBI does now have traction in the mainstream, albeit for very different reasons, some of which frighten me if it is not firmly tied to eco-concerns.

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