[EM] Decision juries - notes and responses

Joe Weinstein jweins123 at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 2 18:06:36 PDT 2002

Josh Narins writes:

"...that's [use of citizen decision juries, presumably]  an interesting and 
likeable idea.  Do you think it is entirely original? ..."

Provocative question, Josh!

Arguably no one's idea is 'entirely' original.  Just before I first posted 
my ideas about five weeks ago in two longish postings to our main Long Beach 
civic reformers' e-list, I checked the internet, and in particular found 
that one site, "Innovations in Democracy", has a number of interesting 

A number of these led to what I learned was a proposal for a 'citizen jury 
process', whose advocates - a Jefferson Institute in Minnesota - claimed to 
have USA-trade-registered the phrase 'Citizen Jury' (cap C, cap J) so that 
its allegedly 'proper' use could only  be for 'their' process.  Their idea - 
implemented apparently in several projects worldwide over the last decade or 
so - has elements in common with mine, except for at least one totally 
crucial difference.  For them, a 'citizen jury' is a kind of randomly chosen 
blue-ribbon investigative committee, whose function is to make credible 
reports to the REAL decision-makers, who remain the same good old elite of 
elected officers.  For me, the essence of the matter is to take decision 
power out of the hands of a special officer elite and distribute it to all 
citizens who are willing and available to help make decisions - and do so in 
a randomizing and ad hoc manner which helps to frustrate abuse of power and 

By 'distribute' power, I mean in a way which promotes deliberative decisions 
and individuals' immediate involvement in and 'ownership' of specific 
decisions, as opposed to remote collective mass-taking of all decisions.  
Only one link from 'Innovations...'  led to a site which advocates what I 
do, namely actual decision power out of the hands of special officers; but 
that site instead opts for techie collectivism:  lots of internet 

Many small-enough communities have practiced credible forms of 'direct 
democracy'.  The challenge is to gain its promise and benefits (both in its 
own right, and as compared with the abuses and corruptions of oligarchy) in 
a large and complex society.

A friend of mine to whom I sent a copy of my EM-posting suggested that 
Jefferson himself would be horrified by the oligarchic stasis into which 
American politics has sunk.  Somewhere in this friend's notes on Jefferson 
is a paraphrased quote to the effect that 'After 20 years, a man should 
sooner wear his boyhood clothes, than a nation should be stuck with its 
initial form of government.'

Have a good weekend!  I'm off to try to hike up Mt. Whitney this year too!

Joe Weinstein
Long Beach CA USA

MSN Photos is the easiest way to share and print your photos: 

For more information about this list (subscribe, unsubscribe, FAQ, etc), 
please see http://www.eskimo.com/~robla/em

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list