Volume 20, Issue 2, 2020
Political Parties as Corruption Hazards
The Republican Case for Sortition
In this paper, I do several things. First, I present a definition of ‘corruption’ as ‘abuse of power that builds or maintains the abuser’s power’, arguing that this definition is more generally applicable than other definitions offered in the literature and that it highlights a crucial property of corruption, namely its tendency to metastasise, presenting a more and more serious danger to society. To defend the emphasis I place on this tendency, I then argue that corruption (as commonly understood) frequently produces three mechanisms pushing it to reproduce: self-perpetuation by the corrupt actors to protect themselves, formation of networks between corrupt actors which ensnare new participants, and normalisation of specific kinds of abuse of power in the corrupt actors’ social environments. From here, I turn to political parties, arguing that they present fertile soil for the mechanisms just described. In their stead, I argue for sortition—a system whereby legislators are randomly selected from the population at large. I make the case that each of the three metastatic mechanisms I have described would have much more difficulty taking root in a sortitional-democratic system than in an electoral-democratic one, before concluding by responding to a major potential objection to such a proposal’s feasibility—namely, that sortitional juries would be less competent than elected legislatures—and presenting a sketch of a sortitional-democratic system setting out how it could discharge the government’s executive functions, in addition to the legislative functions already covered. The paper as a whole, in addition to its explicit arguments, may be considered to make an implicit case for non-ideal over ideal theory, in that it attempts to show the importance of that quintessentially non-ideal factor, corruption, to the nature of any political order.