Fetura is the answer to objections to sortition

This post opposing sortition seems to assume direct random selection from the general population, when historical sortition systems have never worked that way. They alternated sortition with a screening stage, a system I call fetura, from the Latin word for breeding, which involves such alternation. The systems of Venice and Florence are examples of this. I have one, as part of a model constitution.
1. Selection of officials is multi-stage, beginning at the most local level (wards), but those selected at random are not limited to selection themselves for the next round.
2. As for policy juries, there would be more than one on any policy, and policies would go through the same kind of fetura, using competing juries that would decide how to present the policy options to one another. Some such juries, which I call inquestries, would function like grand juries to empower prosecutors to propose and defend policies to further juries.
3. Corruption of members would be be inhibited by audits of the members of one jury by another. There would have to be full disclosure of assets and income. That does not prevent payoffs to cronies, but the same process could be used for that. Everything checks and balances everything else.
4. One inhibition to corruption would be that selection is not confined to the selectees of the last random round, so that reputation for integrity would be important. One might call the system reputaracracy (combining Latin and Greek). Everyone would have an incentive to acquire and maintain a good reputation, because not all selection is random. Our modern system of credit scoring is an example of this, although it can be manipulated.
One can describe the system used by political parties in their nominating process as a kind of fetura, although it is vulnerable to dominance by cult leaders.

Venetian system

New regulations for the elections of the doge introduced in 1268 remained in force until the end of the republic in 1797. Their object was to minimize as far as possible the influence of individual great families, and this was effected by a complex elective machinery. Thirty members of the Great Council, chosen by lot, were reduced by lot to nine; the nine chose forty and the forty were reduced by lot to twelve, who chose twenty-five. The twenty-five were reduced by lot to nine and the nine elected forty-five. Then the forty-five were once more reduced by lot to eleven, and the eleven finally chose the forty-one who actually elected the doge. None could be elected but by at least twenty-five votes out of forty-one, nine votes out of eleven or twelve, or seven votes out of nine electors.

Florentine system

Florence was governed by a council called the signoria, which consisted of nine men. The head of the signoria was the gonfaloniere, who was chosen every two months in a lottery, as was his signoria. To be eligible, one had to have sound finances, no arrears or bankruptcies, he had to be older than thirty, had to be a member of Florence’s seven main guilds (merchant traders, bankers, two clothe guilds, and judges). The roster of names in the lottery were replaced every five years.
The main organs of government were known as the the maggiori. They were: the twelve good men, the standard bearers of the gonfaloniere, and the signoria. The first two debated and ratified proposed legislation, but could not introduce it. To hold an elective office, one had to be of a family that had previously held office.

Genoese System

The Republic of Genoa, a communal republic and a state of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1339 until the state's extinction in 1797. Originally elected for life, after 1528 the Doges were elected for terms of two years.[1] In actuality, the Republic (or Dogate) was an oligarchy ruled by a small group of merchant families, from whom the doges were selected.

The first doge ("duke") of Genoa, Simone Boccanegra, whose name is kept alive by Verdi's opera, was appointed by public acclaim in 1339. Initially the Doge of Genoa was elected without restriction and by popular suffrage, holding office for life in the so-called "perpetual dogate"; but after the reform effected by Andrea Doria in 1528 the term of his office was reduced to two years. At the same time plebeians were declared ineligible, and the appointment of the doge was entrusted to the members of the great council, the Gran Consiglio, who employed for this purpose a political system almost as complex as that of the later Venetians.

Of all the "perpetual" doges of Genoa who ruled for their lifetime, only one ruled for more than eight years. Many resigned or were driven out before taking office. Some failed to complete a single day in power. Between 1339 and 1528, only four doges were legally elected. Genoa did not trust its doges; the ruling caste of Genoa tied them to executive committees, kept them on a small budget, and kept them apart from the communal revenues held at the "Casa di San Giorgio". Not surprisingly, the doges of Genoa have been less renowned than the doges of Venice.

Still, the position of doge stood at the head of state patronage, and the city's inner group of leading merchant families vied with each other to place their man in the position. Rival elections were known to take place within the building. In 1389, a frustrated candidate made a surprise return from enforced exile accompanied by 7,000 supporters, and after dining amicably with the incumbent, politely but firmly ejected him, thanking him for serving so ably as his deputy during his own "unavoidable absence" from Genoa.

For generations two powerful families in Genoa all but monopolized the dogate: the Adorno, supporters of imperial power in the Middle Ages, and the Campofregoso or Fregoso, supporters of papal power. Tomaso di Campofregoso became doge three times: in 1415, 1421 and 1437. In 1461, Paolo Fregoso, archbishop of Genoa, enticed the current doge to his own palace, held him hostage and offered him the choice of retiring from the post or being hanged. When Fregoso was in due course himself toppled, he fled to the harbor, commandeered four galleys and launched himself on a whole new career as a pirate. While the doge's palace in Venice accumulated great furnishings and works of art over the years, in Genoa, each doge was expected to arrive with his own furnishings and, when he left, to strip the palace to its bare walls.

Genoa's power peaked early, and it was eclipsed by Venice. In the 16th century the republic enjoyed a dramatic revival under the leadership of the admiral, statesman and patron of the arts Andrea Doria who ruled the state as a virtual dictator but never actually became doge. It was through the Spanish empire in the New World that Genoa became rich again. Doria served the Spanish Habsburgs as admiral-in-chief, and the bankers of Genoa handled Spain's financial business, which vastly enriched Genoa's banking oligarchy.

The Napoleonic Wars put an end to the office of doge at Genoa. In 1797, when Napoleon Bonaparte incorporated Genoa into the newly organized Ligurian Republic, French soldiers and the city's mob ransacked the doge's palace.

“Sortition” should not be conceived as only a cramped. one step random procedure. Yes, the prisoner’s dilemma applies, or at least the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, discussed by Rappoport in The Evolution of Cooperation.

A better model is provided by genetic (or evolutionary) algorithms, in which random steps (such as reconfiguration) alternate with a fitness screening. That is why I use the term fetura, which is another name for the process.

Another key concept is self-organizing systems (part of chaos theory). Society is a self-organizing system composed of other self-organizing systems, which in turn are composed of other self-organizing systems, and so forth.

The argument we should be making is not over just the random step, but over the entire system in which it is just one step of many. A well-designed system is composed of many self-organizing systems composed of other self-organizing systems in which fetura is a key element.

What we are discussing is how to design a subset of society that serves society as well as society could if it were reduced to a single wise decider, who is himself composed of other systems. In other words a microcosm of society that somehow represents society, and makes decisions for the best interests of society.

A well-designed system cultivates virtue among its decisionmakers, which can be assessed by other decisionmakers. This relates to one of the three types of morality: deontological (duty based), consequentialist, and aretaic (virtue-oriented). The last depends on reputation and admirable qualities. “We become what we admire.” But admirable qualities are not just a matter of taste, because they have consequences.

So a well-designed system cultivates good reputations and the perception of such.

Fetura is not some radical innovation that would require a coup to establish. Variations on he merit selection phase are already in use in thousands of ways embedded in most governmental systems (including the parties that feed the selections). What is missing is the random selection phase that would precede the merit selection. That is where the opportunity exists to filter out public choice factors.

What is also missing is analysis that identifies these subprocesses and seeks to refine them, and that gives a name to them.

So to introduce sortition rationally we need to find these pre-merit selection phases and insert them there.

It also does not matter if the complete process occurs within a single body. That’s what was done, more or less, in the successful Republic of Venice system from 1268 through 1797.
You cannot have equality if you have representation, and you cannot have deliberation unless you do have representation. The best that can be done is to maintain a rough statistical representivity so that significant factions have a voice. So forget “equality by lot” as the goal. That is one standard out of several.

Trial juries (especially in criminal cases) are considered to represent the will of the people because of the way the process is conducted. They have little to do with being “representative”. But statistical studies suggest that verdicts are not internally consistent, but tend to fall in a statistical distribution, which for criminal trials are bimodal. If 75% Of criminal trial juries find “guilty” and 25% “not guilty” (which is typical, ignoring hung juries), what do we consider an aggregate verdict to be? A statistical mean would be “guilty”, but 25% suggests “reasonable doubt”. See Jury size matters at http://constitutionalism.blogspot.com/2007/08/jury-size-matters.html

So no, consistent results are not required for such verdicts to be “acceptable”. It is enough that they decide an issue one way or another, because the public is more interested in getting some verdict than in getting the “right” verdict. Members of the public, including legal reformers, may argue about whether the jury "got it right", but that may be a matter for future trials.


Fate of technologically obsolete humans

Trump has proposed several policies he doesn't understand well. The first is to create enough "good-paying jobs for everyone now unemployed or underemployed. That's 92 million jobs paying more than $50,000 a year. That isn't going to happen, no matter what anyone might try  to do. The good-paying jobs of the post WW II period were the result of a unique situation of the U.S. during that period, when capital invested in the U.S. because that was the safest place to do it. That is no longer our situation.

Those jobs also depended on an industrial base the greatest the world had ever seen, supported by resources the U.S. was uniquely positioned to acquire. That is also no longer the situation.

Yes, we can create some good-paying jobs, but not 92 million of them, even it we tore down every highway and bridge and rebuilt them all. Much of that work is now done by machines. The high-paying jobs in the tech companies are few and require special training most underemployed persons today do not have the talent to do. Even the high-paying tech jobs are increasingly being done by machines.

The good news is all that off-shored work is coming back. The bad news is that when it does it won't be creating high-paying jobs. The work will be done by machines. Start your own personal factory in your garage, using 3-D additive tools? Some will be able to do that, but most will not be able to.

The other flawed Trump proposal is to negotiate a partial payoff of creditors for our national debt. He seems to think there aren't very many of them, as though it was a bankruptcy negotiation. Contrary to popular misconception, it not mostly a few countries. It is millions of individual bondholders, most of them American, either directly or though their investment funds. If they were paid off 20 cents on the dollar they would be wiped out. And so would the world financial system.

There would be a domino effect, just as there was when the International monetary system collapsed in 1931, which caused the Great Depression. The process began with the collapse of one bank in Austria, Creditanstalt. That spread to a loss of confidence in the entire international monetary system, which ultimately depended on a gentleman's agreement among major banks. No one would accept anyone else's currency at face value, which dropped to zero for some countries (Weimar Germany), and near-zero for others, including the U.S., or borrow or loan money.

Most international commerce depends on debt. If producers and distributors can't finance their operations, those operations cease.

Anything that shakes confidence in the international monetary system, even off-hand remarks, will likely trigger another Great Depression, but far worse. Never before in history has the system been more fragile, and all the measures that have been tried to manage it are no longer available.

The most likely mid-term scenario is the paying of a "basic income" to everyone, to support consumption, and turn production and distribution over to machines. It would have to be paid for by nationalizing dividends and capital gains. But from the standpoint of the still competitive machines, that would be a cost that they would compete to reduce, resulting in the payments becoming worthless. Remaining consumption, as well as production and distribution, would be done by machines, not by humans, who would descend to the status of just another form of wildlife, which the machines would not be motivated to serve or protect. No "war" with the machines. Just extinction by (not so) benign neglect.

Humans will become unable to make a living in cities. The few that survive will have to leave and live in the wilderness, at a 19th century level of technology. The future for mankind is to all become preppers.


I do not expect a war between men and machines. More likely they will just lay us all off to try to subsist in the wilderness. I would expect the machines to move underground, abandoning the surface to what remains of humans, who will then probably reduce the planet to a desert, and war with one another, eventually dividing into two main groups that fight until one exterminates the other. They might divide into the "Muz", who believe in enslaving women, and the "Gentz", who don't. After the first war ends, more would probably ensue.

In Forbidden Planet the Krell wiped themselves out by failing to insulate the more dangerous parts of their minds from their new power to will transformations of matter, thus turning that power against each other. We need to explore how we might accomplish such insulation. In essence, internal firewalls between parts of our brains. We also need firewalls protecting our brains from external influences. It is not “human intelligence” unless we can cabin functions within proper bounds.


  1. How Great Depression started. http://www.federalreservehistory.org/Events/DetailView/21


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