Initiatives v Oligarchy

Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

How is the IQA a Deliberative Assembly?

All national assemblies deliberate to some degree and they each therefore can be called a deliberative assembly. What is special here is that randomly selected voters are generally not familiar with the process and need well-defined procedures to come up-to-speed quickly. These procedures will evolve with experience.Briefly, the starting procedure used in this plan is:

  1. The entire IQA meets to determine the information and presentations it wants to receive about a subject such as a proposed Initiative.
  2. The entire IQA meets and is briefed on the facts.
  3. The IQA divides into randomly selected groups of about 15 Members, who debate the subject for several hours and generate a limited number of questions.
  4. The entire IQA meets and each group raises questions (if they have not been raised by a previous group). Where appropriate they are debated and/or sources of additional information are identified.
  5. The IQA later receives answers or additional information relating to unanswered questions.
  6. Steps 3 to 5 are repeated until the IQA is satisfied that it has all the information it needs. This may be followed by a vote on the subject.

The deliberative process of randomly selected citizens has been extensively studied and tried in many countries over the last 20 years. After the deliberative process, participants have more thoughtful, wiser, and often modified views (BCCA, PBS, Fishkin, Rough, McCombs & Reynolds, Jefferson Center, Cohen and Sabel, Ackerman and Fishkin, et al). This process is adapted for use in the IQA.

Basic rules, guidelines and techniques are established for the Members’ deliberation. These are taught to all Members in the month before they start to participate in the IQA’s meetings. Outside teachers and facilitators will participate in the training, but when the IQA meets, its members will fulfill all functions without outside help. Members may eventually participate as trainers. After a while, the IQA will develop its own culture. It is expected that the culture will include, for example:

  1. Each Member is equal and worthy of equal consideration from other Members.
  2. At each small-group meeting, a Member is selected as its Moderator to control the process but not the content. Moderators make possible the participation of all Members and do not vigorously promote their own views.
  3. Debate and logical persuasion are permitted; power politics, negotiation, intimidation, and vote trading are not.
  4. Since every Member knows they are part of one minority or another, they can empathize with minority issues and assure minority views are given fair consideration.
  5. Techniques of group dynamics are applied, such as how to make participation easy and to support anyone offended by a debate.
  6. Time limits are set for the groups to meet (usually about three hours) and for each Member to speak while others want the floor.
  7. The number of questions that each group can forward to the IQA is usually limited to one.

At the end of the process, the IQA Members will have become well informed on the subject and able to make good decisions—perhaps better than most national legislatures whose members sometimes vote on legislation whose debate they have not attended and whose text they have never read.

The purpose of the IQA is to deliberate to find the best solutions to problems. A related process called a Deliberative Poll®* is a survey of a random sample of citizens before and after the group has had a chance to deliberate seriously on the issue (Ackerman and Fishkin p4, PBS). In essence, the IQA’s function is prescriptive while a Poll’s function is predictive. The two processes have much in common and can benefit from shared experiences. Moreover, reliable Deliberative Polls will often be an important source of information (and possibly of performance feedback) for the IQA.

When the IQA places a Candidate Initiative on the ballot, their views will be attached. The Electorate will find their views to be well considered, and will generally pay them close attention, substantially offsetting much of the hysteria raised in the Media.

*Deliberative Polling® is a trademark of James S. Fishkin.