Dutch newspaper reviews book about sortition written by teenager

Submitted by webmaster on Sat, 18-07-2020 - 10:01

On March 15th, Trouw, one of the main Dutch newspapers, reviewed a book in which sortition plays a central role. The book is called Black Box Democracy (De Black Box Democratie) and focuses on what's wrong with the current political system, and what a new democratic system might look like.

The young author, Dilara Bilgiç just finished her secondary education at her gymnasium school, a top-level Dutch school type in which learning Latin, ancient Greek and classical culture plays an important role. Initially she wrote her exam thesis on reinventing democracy, and later on she expanded that into a 112 page book.

Bilgiç' main criticism of the current system is that politicians tend to focus on one piece of the puzzle, losing sight of the big picture, i.e. the structures that are causing the problem. Apart from that, a large group of citizens are structurally ignored by politicians, and there's a big gap in the level of education between the two groups.

The new democratic system that Bilgiç comes up with, elaborates on 'Black Box thinking', conceived by Matthew Syed. Instead of looking for people to blame, the focus should be on learning how to improve the system, like the way this is done after an airplane crash. Bilgiç proposes two chambers: a sortition-based People's Chamber and a Policy Chamber made up of experts. The experts come up with new laws, the alloted people vote on these laws. The experts are not just academics, but can be people who have a lot of experience in a certain field. Interestingly the executive branch of government, the cabinet members, are drafted by lot as well: not from the population as a whole, but from a group of experts. The article is a bit unclear about the role of elections, but voters seem to be able to vote on topics that voters want to see represented by experts in the Policy Chamber, apparently as a means of agenda setting. Bilgiç' system vaguely reminds of the system of multibody sortition conceived by Terrill Bouricious - described in Van Reybrouck's book Against Elections, but contains fewer chambers and preserves elections, although voters could no longer directly elect representatives.

Two and a half years ago, the Dutch Electoral Council launched an essay contest challenging school students to come up with a new democratic system, mentioning sortition as one of the possibilities. The winners of this contest chose to cling to elections and leave out sortition in their solutions. It's unclear whether the young miss Bilgiç participated in this contest, or whether she was even aware of its existence, but she did get an honorable mention at the Dutch Philosphy Olympiad 2019. Trouw's reviewer awarded Bilgiç' book four out of five stars.