What if there was a way to meaningfully reform our democracies?

The 400 words on this page provide a sketch of the main proposals found in the book Rebooting Democracy: A Citizen's Guide to Reinventing Politics. If you are curious to know more, we invite you to read it. It is a short, light read based on real-world examples that has received endorsements all the way from leading political scientists to Hollywood celebrities. (Click here to learn more.)

A citizens' assembly would periodically gather to review and upgrade the way our democracies work.

This citizens' assembly would not formulate policy: instead, it would focus on improving our governance mechanisms. It would ensure that the right rules and incentives are in place so that the politicians we elect truly represent the public interest. It would explore ways to involve ordinary citizens in reasoned, informed policy-making. It would level the playing field so that citizens and their advocates—and not just powerful corporations and lobbies—are properly heard in the hallways of power. It would, in short, strive to upgrade our way of doing politics.

Similarly to what has happened in Iceland, British Columbia and the Netherlands, the citizens' assembly would be composed of voting-age citizens drawn at random from electoral rolls. To the surprise of many, experience has confirmed over and over again that, in the right institutional setting, such groups of ordinary citizens are perfectly able to deliberate and decide on complex matters. (Skeptical?)

The citizens' assembly would conclude its work by proposing a set of reforms to the general public. If approved in a referendum, they would be implemented.

Why should this citizens' assembly meet periodically? Because, like all life forms, professional politicians and special interest groups adapt and learn, over time, how to circumvent the rules with which we try to constrain their power. At the same time, citizens and their advocates find that even merely getting a shot at meaningful, structural change is extraordinarily difficult (cf. the recent Scottish independence referendum). By establishing that a citizens' assembly would convene every (e.g.) 10 years, we would leave the door open for future reforms.

Which kind of reforms might such a citizens' assembly propose? There is no lack of options. From curbing the influence of money in professional politics to subjecting more policy decisions to public scrutiny to involving ordinary citizens in policy-making (eg, similarly to the way the citizens' assembly itself would operate), much can be done. Several such ideas are discussed (using real-world examples) in Rebooting Democracy.

By periodically giving citizens an opportunity to revise and improve how political decisions are made, our societies will at last become more truly democratic. To stay in the loop, be sure to sign up for our low-traffic mailing list.