In this class we review the history of democracy from its ancient roots in a lottery-based system to the emergence and dominance of modern electoral democracies. We then approach the emerging movement to include lottery-based citizens’ assemblies as well as other democratic innovations such as participatory budgeting in Brazil, and “digital” democracy in Taiwan. We will study recent assemblies in France, Ireland, Colombia, and Canada. We will look at the newly established permanent citizen assembly in Paris. And we will ask: can lottery based assemblies help decrease polarization? Do they have an effect on government policy? Are these innovations conducive to certain policy issues but ineffective at solving others?
“Representative government is in crisis today, partly because it has lost, in the course of time, all institutions that permitted the citizens’ actual participation, and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party system suffers: bureaucratization and the two parties’ tendency to represent nobody except the party machines.”
— Hannah Arendt, 1970