The word ‘idiot’ derives from the ancient Greek for a private citizen who professes no interest in being involved in politics. In the birthplace of democracy, it was simply an article of faith that every citizen would become actively engaged in the political decisions of their towns, cities and nation state. Democracy, as the ancient Greeks conceived it, was a civic duty and any citizen could be called upon to serve. No hustings, no elections, and no political parties. Just the random selection of individual citizens who would willingly step forward when their names were drawn by lot. Known as sortition, this form of democracy would be anathema to our modern-day career politicians. Yet it is a particular form of sortition – the citizens’ assembly – to which many countries around the world are now turning to help resolve some of their most intractable problems. And as we settle down to watch the next instalment of modern-day British democracy of Brexit, many now argue that a randomly selected assembly of citizens, expertly guided and supported, might just offer a sensible way forward. We’d surely be idiots not to try.
Look back next week, to find out a bit more about the participative democracy happening in Aberdeenshire now.