Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Practical Democracy Recap

Over two hundred years experience with party politics informs us that, when politics is based on partisanship, the partisans form oligarchic power blocs[1] that become an end in themselves and ultimately transcend the will of the people.

Partisanship is a potent tool for those with a thirst for power but it does not foster government by the people. It disenfranchises the non-partisans in the electorate and results in government by a small fraction of the people. For the people as a whole, the flaws in party politics are devastating. Their cumulative effect victimizes the public by the most basic and effective strategy of domination --- divide and conquer.

Parties are important for the principals: the party leaders, financiers, candidates and elected officials, but the significance diminishes rapidly as the distance from the center of power grows. Most people are on the periphery, remote from the centers of power. As outsiders, they have little incentive to participate in the political process.

The challenge of representative democracy is not to divide the public into blocs but to find the best advocates of the common interest and raise them to positions of leadership. To meet that challenge, given the range of public issues and the way each individual's interest in political matters varies over time, an effective electoral process must examine the entire electorate during each election cycle, seeking the people's best advocates. It must let every voter influence the outcome of each election to the best of their desire and ability, and it must ensure that those selected as representatives are disposed to serve the public interest.

Support For A More Democratic Political Process

The following citations step outside the common assumption that our political system is adequately democratic and offer critical analysis and justification for considering an alternative that will better serve society. They

* provide a philosophical rationale for understanding that the Practical Democracy process will have a significant impact on those who participate;

* offer academic support for exercising care in the selection of candidates for public office;

* show that political parties, themselves, recognize their inability to represent the people; and

* describe the oligarchical nature of political parties.

1) Edward Clayton, "Alasdair MacIntyre", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy[2]

* Human beings, as the kind of creatures we are, need the internal goods/goods of excellence that can only be acquired through participation in politics if we are to flourish. Therefore, everyone must be allowed to have access to the political decision-making process. The matters to be discussed and decided on will not be limited as they are now; they will extend to questions about what the good life is for the community and those who make it up. Politics will be especially concerned with the virtues of justice and generosity, ensuring that citizens get what they deserve and what they need. And it is an important requirement of this new politics that everyone must "have a voice in communal deliberation about what these norms of justice require" (Dependent Rational Animals 129-130). This kind of deliberation requires small communities; although not every kind of small community is healthy, a healthy politics can only take place in a small community.

* MacIntyre believes that politics should be a practice with internal goods, but as it is now it only leads to external goods. Some win, others lose; there is no good achieved that is good for the whole community; cheating and exploitation are frequent, and this damages the community as a whole.

* If politics were a practice with the possibility of internal goods and virtues, this would not be the case; but since it is currently not a practice, and therefore has only external goods to offer, it is. Anyone who has read The Prince cannot read MacIntyre on this point without recalling Machiavelli's advice to the prince about the need to be adaptable and the only relevant standards being those of success or failure; MacIntyre would certainly agree that the modern world is characterized by its Machiavellian politics.

2) Jane Mansbridge, "A 'Selection Model' of Political Representation"[3]

* As trust in government plummets in most developed democracies, citizens routinely call for more accountability and transparency. These demands are implicitly grounded in a model of political representation based primarily on sanctions, in which the interests of the representative (in economic terms, the agent) are presumed to conflict with those of the constituent (in economic terms, the principal). In such models the principal must invest in systems that monitor the agent closely, reward good behavior, and punish the bad.

Another possible --- and sometimes conflicting -- approach is based primarily on selection. This approach works only when the principal and agent would have similar objectives even in the absence of specific incentives and sanctions. That is, the agent is already internally motivated to pursue certain goals -- goals that in politics include both a general political direction and specific policies. If the representative's desired direction and policies are the ones the constituent desires, and if the representative also has a verifiable reputation of being both competent and honest, then it makes sense for a constituent to put that representative in office and subsequently spend relatively little effort on monitoring and sanctioning. As a general rule, the higher the probability that the objectives of principal and agent may be aligned, the more efficient it is for the principal to invest resources ex ante, in selecting the required type, rather than ex post, in monitoring and sanctioning. If these objectives are well aligned, citizens will be better served by a constituent-representative relationship based primarily on selection than by one based primarily on monitoring and sanctions. From a normative perspective, the selection model also tends to focus the attention of both citizens and representatives on the common interest.

3) The Report of the Commission on Candidate Selection (a board composed of the leaders of five large political parties in Great Britain) that investigated why parties are not representative of the people.[4]

* The public's ideal of representation, if seldom articulated clearly, can differ from that of the parties and political professionals. Voters seem to prefer candidates who are prepared to adopt a consensual approach to political behaviour in Parliament, the council chamber and media studios while selectorates and party professionals are more attached to an adversarial approach.

After quoting statistics showing the 'underrepresentation' of various minorities, The Report says:

* These figures add up to a picture of a narrow group of representatives selected by a tiny proportion of the population belonging to parties, for which ever fewer members of the public vote and for whom even fewer people have any feelings of attachment.

* In most cases .... selection is in the hands of parties, and their relatively small groups of members. Voters themselves have to choose between candidates picked by these small groups, and, under the first-past-the-post system, the outcome in the vast majority of constituencies is a foregone conclusion.

* Party selectorates often expect candidates to have gone through traditional hoops (almost rites of passage) --- length of party service, door-to-door campaigning, service as a local councillor and fighting a "hopeless" seat. These are commonly seen as a prerequisite for selection as a candidate in a winnable seat. Such criteria --- and evidence of personal commitment and party loyalty --- are important. But they should not be the sole criteria, especially if they discourage people with local credentials and a background outside mainstream party politics from becoming candidates.

* The whole thrust of our report is against uniformity of candidates and in favour of diversity. Quality can take many different forms in a political context. If we wish candidates to be truly representative of the communities they are elected to serve, we must recognise that there will (and should) be all sorts of candidates with a wide variety of backgrounds.

* The Commission has had to consider whether the ways in which candidates are selected should any longer be regarded as purely internal matters of no concern to the wider public.

The Report contains a good description of the waning public interest in parties ...

* Party memberships consisting of just over one elector in a hundred are unlikely to be representative of the population as a whole.

The attitudes of the electorate are shown.

* There is an apparent paradox that people feel less and less affinity with conventional party politics, yet many of their most important concerns remain very political.

* Ordinary people not involved in politics are either indifferent to internal party feuds or can react negatively to the priority which politicians and activists place upon party loyalty. It is loyalty to the constituency as a whole that the public wants to see in candidates ...

* When people are asked to rank the characteristics they value in their elected representatives, honesty is rated highest, followed by trustworthiness, accessibility and competence. Fewer than a quarter cite experience as one of the three most important attributes in an elected politician, which suggests that the long apprenticeships valued by many party activists do not make much of an impact on voters. Other desireable attributes include independence, understanding, personality, intelligence, availability and integrity. Saints, please apply.

The closing sentence, "Saints, please apply" implies that people of "independence, understanding, personality, intelligence, availability and integrity" do not exist. That is not only disparaging, it is untrue. We don't lack people with those qualities, we lack the means to select and elevate them to positions of political leadership.

4) Robert Michels, Political Parties[5]

* Organization implies the tendency to oligarchy. In every organization, whether it be a political party, a professional union, or any other association of the kind, the aristocratic tendency manifests itself very clearly. The mechanism of the organization, while conferring a solidity of structure, induces serious changes in the organized mass, completely inverting the respective position of the leaders and the led. As a result of organization, every party or professional union becomes divided into a minority of directors and a majority of directed.

* It is indisputable that the oligarchical and bureaucratic tendency of party organization is a matter of technical and practical necessity. It is the inevitable product of the very principle of organization ... Its only result is, in fact, to strengthen the rule of the leaders, for it serves to conceal from the mass a danger which really threatens democracy.

We will do well to look beyond the platitudes that harness academic inquiry to existing political structures; it is time to consider the benefits that will flow from making politics a project shared by the entire community.



1) For each election, divide the entire electorate into
   groups of three randomly chosen people. (see Footnote on
   Group Size)

   a) The random grouping mechanism must insure that no two
      people are assigned to a triad if they served together
      in a triad in any of the five most recent elections.

   b) At any time up to one week before an election, people
      may declare themselves members of any party and may
      create a new party, simply by declaring membership in
      it.  People that do not declare party membership are
      automatically assigned to a set of people with no
      party affiliation.

      Triads will be created from members of the same party,
      as long as more than two members of a party exist.
      When less than three members of a party exist, the
      party's remaining candidates are merged with the
      no-party candidates.

   c) For the convenience of the electorate, triad assignments
      shall be based on geographic proximity to the maximum
      extent practical, subject to the foregoing restrictions.

2) Assign a date and time by which each triad must select one
   of the three members to represent the other two.

   a) Selections will be made by consensus.  If consensus
      cannot be achieved, selection will be by vote, in
      which case, participants may not vote for themselves.

   b) If a triad is unable to select a representative in the
      specified time, all three participants shall be deemed
      disinclined to participate in the process.

3) Divide the participants so selected into new triads.

4) Repeat from step 2 until a target number of selections
   is reached.

For convenience, we refer to each iteration as a 'Level', such that Level 1 is the initial grouping of the entire electorate, Level 2 is the grouping of the selections made at Level 1, and so forth. The entire electorate participates at level 1 giving everyone an equal opportunity to advance to succeeding levels.

Elective and Appointive Offices

The final phase of the Practical Democracy process, electing candidates to specific public offices, is omitted from this outline because it is implementation-dependent. One possible method is to stop the triad process when the number of selections is the smallest number greater than the number of offices to be filled (see example table below). Candidates who attain this level act as a committee that elects its members to the offices they are deemed most fit to occupy. Members not elected to specific offices constitute a pool of validated candidates from which appointive offices must be filled.


The process is inherently bi-directional. Because each advancing participant and elected official sits atop a pyramid of known electors, questions on specific issues can easily be transmitted directly to and from the electors for the guidance or instruction of the official. This capability offers those who implement the process a broad scope, ranging from simple polling of constituents to referenda on selected issues and recall of an elected representative.


An Electoral Commission conducts the process. It assigns the participants of each group and supplies the groups with the text of pending ordinances and a synopsis of the budget appropriate to the group. In addition, on request, it makes the full budget available and supplies the text of any existing ordinances. This enables a careful examination of public matters and encourages a thorough discussion of matters of public concern.

* As the process advances through the levels, the amount of time the participants spend together increases. At level 1, groups may meet for a few minutes, over a back-yard fence, so-to-speak, but that would not be adequate at higher levels. As the levels advance, the participants need more time to evaluate those they are grouped with. They also need transportation and facilities for meeting and voting. These are mechanical details.

* The public has a tendency to think of elections in terms of just a few offices: a congressional seat, a senate race, and so forth. There are, however, a large number of elected officials who fill township, county, state and federal offices. The structure outlined here produces publicly-validated people for those offices.

The initial phase of the process is dominated by participants with little interest in advancing to higher levels. They do not seek public office; they simply wish to pursue their private lives in peace. Thus, the most powerful human dynamic during the first phase (i.e., Level 1 and for some levels thereafter) is a desire by the majority of the participants to select someone who will represent them. The person so selected is more apt to be someone who is willing to take on the responsibility of going to the next level than someone who actively seeks elevation to the next level, but those who do actively seek elevation are not inhibited from doing so.

As the levels increase, the proportion of disinterested parties diminishes and we enter the second phase. Here, participants that advance are marked, more and more, by an inclination to seek further advancement. Thus, a powerful human trait is integrated into the system.

Those who actively seek selection must persuade their triad that they are the best qualified to represent the other two. While that is easy at the lower levels, it becomes more difficult as the process moves forward and participants are matched with peers who also wish to be chosen.

Each participant must make a choice between the other two people in the group knowing that they must rely on that person's integrity to guide their future actions and decisions. Since they are unable to control the person selected (except as otherwise provided to implement the bi-directionality described above), they must choose the person they believe most likely to conduct public business in the public interest.

However, they do not make their choices blindly. Elections are a periodic process. The majority of those seeking advancement will do so each time the process recurs. Some will be successful. They will achieve public office and their performance will be a matter of public record. When they participate in subsequent occurrences of the process, their peers can evaluate that record to help them decide the candidate's suitability for advancement.

Furthermore, the names of advancing candidates are announced as each level completes. Members of the public with knowledge of unseemly acts by an advancing candidate can present details for consideration at the next level. Since, during the second phase of the process, the peers also seek advancement, they will not overlook inappropriate behavior.

Face-to-face meetings in three-person groups eliminate any possibility of voting machine fraud. Significantly, they also allow participants to observe the non-verbal clues humans emit during discourse and will tend to favor moderate attitudes over extremism. The dissimulation and obfuscation that are so effective in campaign-based politics will not work in a group of three people, each of whom has a vital interest in reaching the same goal as the miscreant. Thus, the advancement of participants will depend on their perceived integrity as well as the probity with which they fulfill their public obligations.

This is a distillation process, biased in favor of the most upright and capable of our citizens. It cannot guarantee that unprincipled individuals will never be selected --- such a goal would be unrealistic --- but it does insure that they are the exception rather than the rule.

Michels wrote, "Though it grumbles occasionally, the majority is really delighted to find persons who will take the trouble to look after its affairs."[6] From the perspective of such people; those not motivated to influence communal action, it is worth noting that, as each level completes, two-thirds of the participants can resume their daily lives without further involvement in the process. At the same time, the bi-directional capability of the process lets those who do not advance guide or instruct their representatives to the extent and in the manner provided by those who implement the process.

Simplified Illustration

This table is built around a hypothetical election in a community with an electorate of 13,416 people. For simplicity, we omit party considerations and assume each triad selects a candidate. The election is to produce a Mayor for the community, two Council members, and candidates for state and national offices. The notes describe the rules for handling overflow situations.

              Full  Over Prev.  Total People  People
Level People Triads Flow Level Triads Chosen Unchosen
  1    13416  4472    0    0    4472   4472    8944
  2     4472  1490    2    1    1491   1491    2981 (1)
  3     1491   497    0    0     497    497     994
  4      497   165    2    1     166    166     331
  5      166    55    1    2      56     56     110
  6       56    18    2    1      19     19      37
  7       19     6    1    2       7      7      12 (2)

1) If the number of candidates does not divide equally into triads, any candidates remaining are overflow. Level 2 is a special case. When there is overflow from Level 1, the extra person(s) automatically become candidates at Level 2. Thereafter, when there is overflow at any level, the number of people needed to create a full triad is selected at random from the people who were not selected at the previous level.

2) The seven (7) people selected during the 7th level decide which of their number will serve as Mayor, which will serve on the Council and which will compete for offices at the state and national levels. Any remaining candidates constitute a pool of validated individuals from which appointive offices must be filled.

Time Lapse Example

To give a very rough idea of the time lapse required for such an election, we will hypothesize triad lives of 5 days for the 1st and 2nd levels, 12 days for the 3rd and 4th levels, 19 days for the 5th and 6th levels, and 26 days thereafter. For the example, that would work out something like this:

Level  Start     Report   Days
     1)  07/07/10  07/12/10    5
     2)  07/14/10  07/19/10    5
     3)  07/21/10  08/02/10   12
     4)  08/04/10  08/16/10   12
     5)  08/18/10  09/06/10   19
     6)  09/08/10  09/27/10   19
     7)  09/29/10  10/25/10   26

Cost and Time Consumption

The cost of conducting an election by this method is free to the participants, except for the value of their time, and minimal to the government. The length of time taken to complete an election compares favorably with the time required by campaign-based partisan systems. Even in California, with a voting-eligible population of about 21,993,429, the process would complete in less than 12 levels, or about 230 calendar days.


Practical Democracy (PD) springs from the knowledge that some people are better advocates of the public interest than others. In Beyond Adversary Democracy, Jane Mansbridge[7], speaking of a small community in Vermont, says, "When interests are similar, citizens do not need equal power to protect their individual interests; they only need to persuade their wisest, cleverest, most virtuous, and most experienced citizens to spend their time solving town problems in the best interests of everyone." The fundamental challenge of democracy is to find those people and empower them as our representatives. PD does that by giving every member of the electorate an opportunity to influence the selection process while ensuring that no individual or group has an advantage over others.

PD makes no attempt to alter the structure of government. We have the venues for resolving adversarial issues in our legislatures and councils. However, since the solutions that flow from those assemblies cannot be better than the people who craft them, PD lets the electorate select the individuals they believe will resolve adversarial issues in the public interest.

Since peoples' interests change over time, these changing attitudes must be given voice and reflected in the results of each election. The PD process lets particular interests elevate their most effective advocates during each cycle. Advocates of those interests can proclaim their ideas and encourage discussion of their concepts. Some will be accepted, in whole or in part, as they are shown to be in the common interest of the community.

Describing the public's belief in a common good, Mansbridge wrote[8]

"Political theorists in the adversary tradition have tended to downplay the idea of a common good. But despite the frequent recurrence of real conflict, the ideal finds ample support in Selby, whose residents disapprove of 'factions', 'cliques', and 'special groups'. When they talk about the town, Selby's citizens seem not only to hope but to expect that the town meeting will make policy and the townspeople elect officers on the grounds of common interest, not according to which faction had the most votes."

Most people share this view. They expect their elected officials to represent their interests. The difficulty is that communities are made up of diverse interests and the relations between those interests can be contentious. Selecting representatives to resolve those that remain outside the common interest requires a process that lets them show their capacity for careful examination and productive deliberation.

Deliberation is most effective in a face-to-face environment. The identification of common interests occurs more quickly and more freely during the face-to-face exchanges that are integral to the PD process. To quote Mansbridge again, experience teaches us that[9] "... in practice face-to-face contact increases the perception of likeness, encourages decision making by consensus, and perhaps even enhances equality of status."

Face-to-face deliberation not only lets participants examine controversial issues from various perspectives; it also exposes the acts and attitudes of the participants. Each participant's record (including those who have held public office) is a part of the process, ensuring that actors are held accountable for their acts. As the levels advance, the need to be clearly recognized as an advocate of the common interest increases. In this way, Practical Democracy creates a unique merger of self-interest and the public interest.


PD focuses on selecting representatives who will resolve adversarial encounters to the advantage of the commonweal. During the process, participants necessarily consider both common and conflicting interests, and, because PD is intrinsically bidirectional, it gives advocates of conflicting interests a continuing voice. At the same time, it encourages the absorption of diverse interests, reducing them to their essential element: their effect on the participants in the electoral process. There are no platforms, there is no ideology. The only question is, which participants are the most attuned to the needs of the community and have the qualities required to advocate the common good.

PD disproves the notion that it is 'impractical' to heed everyone's view by giving each person an opportunity to influence the electoral process to the full extent of his or her desire and ability. It lets the public discuss substantive matters --- with a purpose. It gives participants time for deliberation and an opportunity to understand the rationale for the positions of others. It lets every member of the electorate affect the flow of events, to the full extent of their desire and ability.

That is the essence of a democratic political process.


The Paradox

Robert Ortiz describes the paradox that the more people who vote, the lower the average thoughtfulness of the voters and the less any one individual's vote matters[11]. The paradox results from the practice of treating 'the people' as an amorphous mass whose only political right is to vote their approval or disapproval of choices made by the oligarchy[12] that controls the nation's political parties. PD avoids that error. It recognizes that the people constitute a vast pool of talent containing individuals with the ability to resolve public issues in the public interest. It accomplishes government by the people by empowering the non-partisans in the electorate and giving each of us a voice in our government.


Individuals with the qualities required to advocate the common interest are uniformly distributed among the people. To provide the largest possible pool of talent, the right to participate in PD is as unlimited as true democracy can conceive. The participants select their 'small, representative sample', not by externally prescribed rules, but by their own judgment.

Participation is not mandatory; it is accomplished by peer pressure. If someone refuses to participate, that person implicitly grants the other members of their triad the right to make a selection on their own. While this circumstance is most likely to obtain at the lowest level, the effect is the same whenever it occurs.


Whether or not participants are sufficiently thoughtful to contribute to the political decisions of the community is a matter for their peers to decide. PD encourages and makes time for active, thoughtful participation and provides pertinent material for consideration. The requirement for thoughtfulness increases as the process proceeds because participants are grouped with ever more capable individuals. Because self-selection is not an option, participants must carefully evaluate their peers to ensure advancement of their own interests, and, by inference, the interests of those who advanced them to their present level.

To inspire thoughtful political decision-making among the public, the political process must give the people a purpose --- a reason to think. When the people have the means to formulate the issues for their government, when they can select their own representatives, in short, when there is a purpose for their participation, the best among them will not lack for thoughtfulness.


The range of issues that concern the people is enormous. The individuals most qualified to deal with those issues will vary with circumstances and time. No set of selection rules can anticipate the qualities required. Only the people, themselves, can do that. PD lets participants examine their peers with regard to issues that concern them before choosing the individuals they deem best qualified to represent them. The process is always responsive to contemporary issues and dynamism is ensured because each election cycle starts with a fresh set of triads.


PD describes a method by which the people can actively participate in the conduct of their government. It provides a means for the people to impress their moral sense on their government. It lets everyone participate in the political process and creates a unique merger of self-interest and the public interest.

PD is a practical way to obviate Michels' Iron Rule of Oligarchy, resolve Ortiz' Paradox of Mass Democracy, and achieve MacIntyre's vision. However large the electorate, Practical Democracy lets each of us participate in the political process to the full extent of our desire and ability.


1 Robert Michels, Political Parties, http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/michels/polipart.pdf
2 http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/p-macint.htm
3 http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP08-010
4 http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/downloads/Candidate%20Report.pdf
5 Robert Michels, Political Parties
6 ibid, p. 38
7 Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy, University of Chicago Press, 1980, p. 88
8 ibid, p. 78
9 ibid. p. 33
10 Daniel Ortiz, Rethinking The Vote, The Paradox of Mass Democracy, p. 210-225
11 ibid, p. 212
12 Michels, Political Parties, p. 27


We prefer triads because we want to ensure the active participation of the entire electorate. We want to guarantee that those who are not accustomed to the serious discussion of political issues are placed in circumstances that allow and encourage them to express their views. The larger the group, the less inclined most of us are to participate in the discussion and the more inclined we are to simply form unvoiced opinions. To encourage broad participation, the discussion group should be of the smallest practical size.

Everyone who participates in the Practical Democracy process is affected by their participation. Many of us are unaware of our political talents because we are never placed in a situation that calls upon us to exercise them. When we are invited to discuss current and prospective political issues with our peers, some of us will blossom and thrive. Some, who start at the lowest levels unsure of their ability, will, when their reason is consulted and they learn they can persuade others of the value of their ideas, gain confidence in their own ability to influence our political existence. (See the references to Alasdair MacIntyre, above)

If we examine the dynamics of the process, we find that, when three members of the electorate, probably neighbors, meet for the first time to select one member of the triad to represent the other two, there will be three kinds of participants:

* those who do not want to be selected

* those willing to be selected, and

* those seeking selection.

If none of the participants are willing to be selected, the triad will not make a choice. The members will drop from the process in accordance with their own wishes.

Among triads that actually make a selection, those who are selected to advance will either be people who want to be selected or people who are willing to be selected. This is not to say that each person must be of one type or the other, but rather that each person will be somewhere on the continuum from those willing to be selected to those wanting to be selected.

For simplicity, we will assume that the desire to be selected is equivalent to a desire for public office and that the people we mention as examples are at one end of the wish-willingness continuum or the other. The reality is infinitely more complex but the results will differ only in degree from what we learn by thinking about the kind of people who are at the hypothetical extremes.

We must note that the attitudes we've mentioned are not static. Although, a person seeking public office is unlikely to become a person willing to serve, a person willing to serve might be transformed into a person seeking public office, in this way:

If person-willing-to-serve (A) decides person-seeking-office (B) is not a good choice, (A) may seek to persuade the triad that (C) is a better choice. Such an effort moves (A) closer to being a person-seeking-office because, if (A) will not support (B), the chance that (A) will be chosen increases.

Based on this assessment, we can say that people who advance to the next level either persuaded the other members of their triad to select them or they relied on the other members to select them. The difference is the extent to which they used persuasion to achieve selection.

In a pyramiding process of the type under discussion, it is reasonable to think that active seekers of public office will succeed more frequently than those who only advance because they are willing to allow themselves to be selected. Thus, after several iterations of the process, we can anticipate that each member of a triad will be a person seeking public office. In other words, the art of persuasion assumes mounting importance as the process advances.

The essence of the activity at each level is that each member of a triad wants to select the person with the qualities deemed most desirable in the individual selected to represent the group. Those seeking selection will try to persuade their peers they have the qualities sought. In this sense, a person seeking public office may be thought of as a 'persuader'.

When persuasion occurs between two people, it takes place as a dialogue with one person attempting to persuade the other. In such events, both parties are free to share in the process. The person to be persuaded can question the persuader as to specific points and present alternative points about the topic under discussion. Under such circumstances, it is possible that the persuader will become the persuaded.

When persuasion involves multiple people, it has a greater tendency to occur as a monologue. The transition from dialogue to monologue accelerates as the number of people to be persuaded increases. The larger the number of people, the less free some of them are to participate. They have fewer opportunities and are less inclined to question specific points or offer alternatives about the topic under discussion. The more assertive individuals will dominate the discussion and the viewpoints of the less assertive members will not be expressed. In such cases, assertive individuals are less likely to be persuaded of the wisdom of an alternative idea, because the view will not be expressed and thoroughly discussed.

Viewed in this light, we can say that when selecting public officials, a system that encourages dialogue is preferable to one that relies on a monologue. Discussion is best encouraged by having fewer people in the "session of persuasion". Because of the need for a definitive decision, we believe the best group size to encourage active involvement by all participants is three.

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