Is humanity stupid? Can we collectively make clever decisions? Or is there no hope?
For much of human history decisions were made by powerful leaders who won wars over other powerful leaders, which we might call the “Game of Thrones” approach to decision-making.
The industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism gave rise to a new group of wealthy people who were excluded from political power. So in the late 1700’s, in America and in France, these wealthy men led revolutions that eventually seized decision-making from the monarchs on their thrones. The new decision-makers held elections in which only rich men with property could vote, they elected rich men to legislatures and rich men then made the laws. Both countries called this approach to decision-making a “republic.”
But not-so-rich men weren’t happy about this and struggled to get the right to vote. And they called this approach to decision-making “democracy.” Gradually women and people of color also gained the right to vote. But what’s surprising is that even though 90% of adults in democracies are eligible to vote, the composition of our legislatures hasn’t changed all that much. A hundred years after women won the right to vote, the vast majority of legislators are still rich white men—with a few women and people of color sprinkled into the mix. So perhaps this answers our question: Is humanity stupid? Or is the system by which we select our decision-makers stupid? Are elections stupid?
Who wins elections? Do the clever people win elections or do the cunning people win elections?
Do the honest people win elections or do people who know how to manipulate our fears and anxieties win elections?
Can we do democracy differently? Brett Hennig, founder of the Sortition Foundation and author of The End of Politicians: Time for a Real Democracy not only thinks so, but he is helping to demonstrate how sortition, random selection of representatives from the populace, can improve how we choose our decision-makers and do democracy differently.
Take fourteen minutes and watch this video, the second of his two Tedx Talks. Brett is witty and profound. He’ll get you thinking about new possibilities. I promise.