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The end of politicians?


Author Brett Hennig talks about his book “The End Of Politicians“, which describes how ordinary people could become decision makers in their own right by way of citizen policy juries.

“It’s about a different way of doing democracy. Instead of relying on elections to select your leaders you do a random selection of ordinary people and give them the power to make the decisions,” Brett said.

“Politicians are constrained by money, by the media, by factions. They aren’t actually as free to implement the things that they say that they’ll implement.”

Brett told Democracy Talk his 10-year dream would be to have national governments no longer chosen by elections but rather by sortition – the random selection of a representative sample from any population being governed.

The book gathers evidence from an array of citizens’ assemblies showing that they work: ordinary people can and do make good, informed, and balanced decisions.  An electronic version is being crowded funded on

More details on sortition in the UK and more generally can be found at The Sortition Foundation.



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Germany and refugees – why so different?

Katja from the French association Playing for Change Occitanie (PFCO) explains what her organisation is trying to do to help Syrian refugees in a rural corner of Southwest France.

PFCO has helped two new arrivals from Syria, recently arrived in France, to make the most of their talent for pottery. They hooked them up with local potters and other people motivated to help their fellow humans, sparking off a dynamic sequence of events.

Their goal is to change the negative image that the media has proffered concerning refugees and show they have a lot to offer.

Katja, a native of Germany, contrasts the tiny number of refugees accepted in France and the UK versus the million plus already taken in by her compatriots.

“I think for Germans it’s more realistic. There are more families that have lost somebody in the war or have been refugees themselves. Even the reunification in the 1990s… It was a kind of refugee situation… you still feel it in Germany.

“All these people that have grown up in East Germany, they have been living with the Communist international solidarity as the main frame of all the education they have lived through. All this reflects the awareness of never fascism again.”

“In Germany, we treat that topic a lot whereas in France, that’s never reflected,” she said.

Katja’s own family became refugees at the end of the Second World War, fleeing ahead of the advancing Russian army from what is today part of Poland.

“If people hadn’t helped them, I wouldn’t been here today.

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Doing democracy differently in Oz

Democracy Talk meets Iain Walker, Executive Director of the Australian charity newDEMOCRACY, which aims to innovate in how we do democracy. Iain goes beyond conventional ideas about why Western representative democracies are suffering a collapse of public trust.

He sees the problem as much deeper than one of money’s outsize influence on elections – it’s the voting itself that’s at fault. Elected officials are in permanent election mode, making thoughtful, long-term decision-making impossible. The solution newDEMOCRACY favours is sortition – randomly selected samples of the public who then ponder a policy question with help from all the evidence they can gather.

This is the first part of a two-part interview.

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Democracy without elections?

What if our democracies didn’t depend on celebrity politics or money-fuelled elections but rather on systems that served the majority of humanity and the planet more widely? That may seem the stuff of dreams for citizens enduring the likes of the US presidential elections yet it isn’t as far fetched as all that. Experiments in governance alternatives are popping up across the planet, their members looking for ways to do democracy better.

Adam Cronkright, co-founder of the Cochabamba, Bolivia group Democracy In Practice, joins me on Democracy Talk to imagine political life beyond the frontiers of elections. DIP has been exploring better ways to do democracy for a couple of years, tackling the frustration many people around the world feel about representative politics.

Adam’s experimentation with random selection in student governments is road testing a technique that first came to light in Ancient Athens and other Greek city states. So what lessons to draw for today’s democracy lovers? Take a listen to find out.

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Patrick Chalmers’, author of Fraudcast News, message to Real Media Gathering

Conflation of media and democracy questions in one event – this I like. As I’ve been saying for a while now – you can’t tackle the problems of our democracies without also transforming our media. Shame I can’t attend the Manchester event of February 28th though I hope to link up with the organisers and their work in due course.

Real Media

Patrick Chalmers, author of Fraudcast News, sends a message of support from France for the Real Media Gathering. You can also follow him on twitter.

For all the rhetoric on democracy from our political leaders and eliteclasses generally, the realities are starkly different. Representative democracy, basically the chance to vote for a handful of candidates as our leaders every few years, is a farce. It gives we the people an illusion of influence but no real power. Money, acting via private channels, corporations and financial markets, crowds out the political power vacuum in our absence.

Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the rolling financial crisis of 2007 and since. The financial deregulation begun in earnest under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s grew all the more furious through subsequent administrations “right” and “left” in both Washington and Westminster. Those two centres matter more than…

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Could do better: why we must set young minds free

Wow – wonderful, powerful, insightful writing. Cutting to the quick. Hugely excited to discover Vanessa Spedding and her thinking. Thanks to a Twitter follow – would you believe?


Back to the chalk-faceIn the same week that my 16 year old son began assessing his options for subjects and sixth form colleges for next year, his 11 year old brother made a bold but flawed attempt to bunk off school, managing to duck away from the school bus and secrete himself in the local churchyard with his packed lunch and a plan to sit out the day under a bush.

The closeness of the school community and his older brother’s vigilance meant that his absence was spotted and reported within an hour; to his chagrin he was back in school for second lesson. But there were insights to be taken from this traumatic, if brief experience.

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Kiev or Cairo? Which John Kerry statement matches which protest?

Date: 02/04/2013 Description: Secretary of State John Kerry displays his first diplomatic passport, while delivering welcome remarks to U.S. Department of State employees in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2013.  - State Dept Image

US Secretary of State John Kerry says something funny?


Compare and contrast US diplomacy on people protesting in the streets in the face of violent assaults by the authorities.

Democracy Now! reports on 15th August 2013 after at least 525 people were killed and more than 3,500 people wounded in government raids on protest encampments filled with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo. Police and troops used bulldozers, tear gas and live ammunition to clear out the two sit-ins.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence, but the Obama administration announced no moves to cut aid to the Egyptian military.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “Today’s events are deplorable, and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion and genuine democracy. Egyptians inside and outside of the government need to take a step back. They need to calm the situation and avoid further loss of life. We also strongly oppose a return to a state of emergency law, and we call on the government to respect basic human rights including freedom of peaceful assembly and due process under the law.”

The Guardian reported from Kiev on 11th December 2013 after thousands of riot police carried out a co-ordinated attack on barricades during the dead of night – a determined and unexpected crackdown on protesters who had occupied the centre of Ukraine’s capital for the past fortnight.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, released a strongly worded statement on the events of the night: “The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kiev’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.”

My point?

Kerry’s statements are totally out of whack with events on the ground in the two places.

In Egypt, the military slay hundreds of protesters, wound thousands more and arrest who knows how many and Kerry calls on Egyptians inside and outside the government to take a step back. What?

He also “strongly opposes” a return to emergency law. As if that hadn’t already happened.

In Kiev, the US expresses its “disgust” etc. etc.

Now I’m pretty disgusted at what the authorities have done in Kiev. Yet I fail to see how it’s that much different from the state violence protesters have experienced in recent years in capitals and other major cities around the world, including plenty in the United States and the UK. Egypt was a whole different dimension and yet it provokes mealy-mouthed responses from the States in contrast to its “disgust” for authorities in Kiev.

I don’t pretend this to be any great revelation but it bears pointing out. The big difference is that Egypt’s protesters are the wrong ones protesting against authorities who are useful to Washington while Ukraine’s current ones are useful to US interests in undermining the not-nice-at-all Mr Putin.

Taking away the international politicking, you have human beings on the streets in both instances who are sick and tired of the way they are being governed. Having hypocritical politicians applying blatant double standards in their responses doesn’t help anyone.

Our leaders are not fit to govern, we need alternative structures of governance to moderate how our lives are run. Until we get them, expect more mass protests on the streets and more politicians looking to advance their narrow political interests.



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