authors are particularly indebted to
Surowiecki's "The Wisdom of
Crowds" and also to Professor
James S. Fishkin's "Democracy
and Deliberation" and "The
Voice of the People" for many of the concepts and ideas
underlying the materials that follow. In Surowiecki's parlance, the
Boule possesses the requisite qualities of a "Crowd" that can
reach wiser choices than its best experts can. In Fishkin's
parlance, the Boule functions as a "Deliberative Poll®*"
making choices that only an exceptionally well-informed Electorate
creative process of proposing Initiatives requires insight into the
problem and solutions that often involve new ideas. Though we do not
well, it is clear that ego, emotion and intellectual effort
usually drive it. These are abilities of individuals and
occasionally of small "brainstorm"
groups, but not generally of a large Boule.
Initiatives Amendment recognizes that
a large Boule
is not likely to be highly creative at developing Proposed
Initiatives—this is the responsibility of Citizens, who include many
highly creative persons.
Surowiecki succinctly explains that "…groups
are better at deciding between possible solutions to a problem than
they are at coming up with them."
(JS p. 60) He
goes on to explain that "…under the right circumstances, groups are
remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest
people in them. Groups do not need to be dominated by exceptionally
intelligent people in order to be smart. Even if most of the people
within a group are not especially well-informed or rational, it can
still reach a collectively wise decision."
(JS p. XIII)
Moreover, "…it doesn't matter when an individual makes a mistake. As
long as the group is diverse and independent enough, the errors
people make effectively cancel themselves out, leaving you with the
knowledge that the group has."
(JS p. 278)
Fishkin concisely notes that a deliberative Boule "…offers a
face-to-face democracy not of elected members of a legislature, but
of ordinary citizens who can participate on the same basis of
political equality as that offered by the assembly or town meeting.
It provides a statistical model of what the electorate would think
if, hypothetically, all voters had the same opportunities [to study
the issues] that are
offered to the [Boule Members]."
(JF-DD p. 4)
rise to the occasion. The following discussion shows that there is
good reason to trust their combined judgment to act wisely in the
best interests of the People.
Surowiecki notes "…four conditions that characterize smart crowds:
diversity of opinion (each person should have some
private information, even if it's just an eccentric interpretation
of the known facts),
independence (people's opinions are not determined by the
opinions of those around them),
decentralization (people are
able to specialize and draw on local knowledge), and
aggregation (some mechanism exists for turning private
judgments into a collective decision)."
(JS p. 10)
He goes on to note that "Incentives almost
certainly help, if only because the prospect of a gain (or a loss)
helps concentrate people's minds, and for situations in which
relevant information might not be obvious—it takes a little digging
to uncover it—they can be very useful. But what's interesting is
that those incentives don't need to be financial."
(JS p. 279)
Fulfilling these conditions will enable the Boule to perform the
cognition process involved in the Boule's primary function, i.e.,
advancing Proposed Initiatives or tabling them. In addition, the
Boule must have the skills to manage itself in order to ensure
Selecting the Boule by
rigorous random-sample from
entitled to vote (not just those registered to vote)
yields the maximum diversity
of Members. It is also worth noting that there are additional good
reasons why the Boule Members must be randomly selected:
produces a sufficient foundation of diversity to assure wisdom.
In theory, a
random sample of 480 eligible voters will have the same
opinions as the nationwide Electorate to an accuracy of ±4.5
percent in 95 percent of the decisions.
In practice, this
polling accuracy would only hold true if:
eligible voter actually voted, which of course they do
not, so the Boule is actually a better gauge of what
the Citizens want than might be expected.
eligible voter had the benefit of the information
received by the Members and participated in the debates
like those in the Boule. Of course, they do not, so
the voters may reject some Candidate Initiatives that
the voters would not have time to understand well
produces a Boule that can remain
incorruptible—though this benefits the
independence of the Members in the
next heading rather than their diversity.
produces a Boule that is fair to the Constitutional equality
of all Citizens' right to vote.
accuracy of the randomness of the sample is assisted by
reasonably well to ensure that the less wealthy and poor can afford
to be Members and by assuring
job security for
those who are more wealthy. Further, to avoid the occasional
capricious or unjustifiable turn down of their duty to serve,
the legal system must impose
penalties when justified in order to ensure
The Boule members will have typical life
experiences and knowledge resembling the entire Electorate. As Surowiecki observed, "The fact that
cognitive diversity matters does not mean that if you assemble a group of
diverse but thoroughly uninformed people, their collective wisdom will be
smarter than an expert's. But if you can assemble a diverse group of people who
possess varying degrees of knowledge and insight, you're better of entrusting it
with major decisions rather than leaving them in the hands of one or two
(JS p. 31) In
fact, the Boule has a remarkable variety of knowledge and insight as
level of the 480 Boule Members by number
and percentage will average:
Not Completed High School
Completed High School
Completed a College Degree
Despite the fact that
over 32 percent of Boule Members will have a degree, there is a
significant difference in education levels between the Boule and
Congress. Outside consultants will provide essential knowledge and skills that are unavailable from
the Members—the practice Congress generally follows. The Boule's broad range
of views and abilities will permit it to arrive at good common-sense
solutions and prepare the drafts, but they will call upon outside
lawyers to advise and assist in finalizing the Initiative
legislation. Nevertheless, Initiatives' legal issues should usually
be relatively modest because the Boule is expected (but not
obliged) to stay away from complex legislation, which is much more
the business of Congress.
The average number of
Members with business knowledge and skills and some of the typical
registered professional occupations are:
Heads of non-farm businesses
The 70 Members who
have been heads of non-farm and professional businesses will have
faced the hard realities of buying and selling, solving
unforeseeable problems, balancing complex tradeoffs, and making a
business profitable in the face of competition. The average age of
Boule Members will be about 45 years.
comparison, not only do wealthy special interests and their
lobbyists excessive influence Congress, but also Congress's general lack of diversity tends to work against good
decision-making. "… [Scott]
Page…a political scientist at the University of
Michigan…speculates, grouping only smart people together doesn't
work well because the smart people…tend to resemble each other in
what they can do."
(JS p. 30)
Congress is remarkably homogeneous with over
millionaires earning at least a million dollars per year, 42 percent
lawyers, 69 percent white, and 87 percent male.
Surowiecki goes on to discuss work by
that identifies an example of a serious government failure caused by
this, and in which "The people who planned the operation [Bay
of Pigs invasion] were the
same ones who were asked to judge whether it would be successful or
(JS p. 37) Other
failures occurred because sometimes the "…experts don't know when
they don't know something."
(JS p. 278) The
approach taken in the Amendment, where the People propose
initiatives and the Boule judges their merit, will avert this type of
Members shall have and shall vote their
opinions; consensus it not desired. They are encouraged to
maintain their independence while members of the Boule.
The principle factor
creating the independence of the Boule is the Constitutional
These words state, "The
Boule shall be
independent, responsible only to the People…" The independence
of the Members is also
protected in the Amendment
by the words "Members shall vote their own
independent un-coerced opinion
after open-minded deliberation; they shall not participate in voting
for any group affiliation, vote trading, sale or favor."
not mean isolation, but it does mean relative freedom from the
influence of others. This is important because a group of people…is
far more likely to come up with a good decision if the people in the
group are independent of each other…relying on 'private
information.' (Private information isn't just concrete data. It can
also include interpretation, analysis, or even intuition.)"
(JS p. 41)
important to intelligent decision making for two reasons. First, it
keeps the mistakes that people make from becoming correlated…. One
of the quickest ways to make people's judgments systematically
biased is to make them dependent on each other for
information. Second, independent individuals are more likely to have
new information rather than the same old data everyone is already
familiar with…. You can be biased and irrational, but as long you're
independent, you wont make the group any dumber."
(JS p. 41)
Monthly turnover in Boule
membership helps maintain independence. Similarly, the
Boule provides separate
living accommodations for the sexes, which helps to reduce social
gatherings. "Groups benefit from members talking to and learning
from each other, but too much communication, paradoxically, can
actually make the group as a whole less intelligent."
(JS p. XIX)
noted by Surowiecki, "Expertise is valuable; smart people are
valuable. The more information a group has, the better its
collective judgment will be, so you want as many people with good
information in a group as possible."
(JS p. 277)
The Boule, with advice from many sources, will collectively
determine the total set of general
materials and information and make them available to all
members. The Boule will subscribe to pertinent written materials
and paid-access Internet sites and provide access for the members.
Governments are obliged to provide information to the Boule.
The Boule will provide all Members with easy access to these
materials and information while at the Boule facilities.
To encourage decentralization,
Members are strongly
encouraged to take advantage of
and to research issues themselves using the general materials and
information accessible at the Boule and from their own private
incentives described below encourage and reinforce this
Each Boule Member participates in
Deliberative Task Forces that will advance their personal
knowledge of the issues—decentralized from the Boule as a
whole—and enhance their
independent information and views.
Members are strongly
from trying to reach a consensus on issues—potentially undermining
valid decentralized personal information—but rather to determine
their collective opinion by
vote. The secret vote also has the benefit that, if somehow a
special interest group did gain influence over some Members, the
inability to know how the Members voted would make any rewards by
the special interest group less likely and less effective.
Boule has two principal
methods of aggregation. Both methods occur after there has
been extensive access to relevant information and debate of the
The primary and formal method is by a
vote of the Members in
Plenary Session. The Boule would use this, for example, when advancing
a proposed Initiative to a higher level of consideration.
The less formal method uses
Task Forces (DTFs) that the Boule selects randomly and assigns
problems or tasks. Often, it will assign the same problems to several DTFs
to confirm accuracy. For example, more than one DTF might make an initial
evaluation of a set of incoming proposed Initiatives. After deliberation,
the DTFs report to plenary sessions. When several DTFs answer
the same question, the Boule can compare and aggregate their
evaluate their acceptability.
This is in accord
with Surowiecki's admonition that "What makes a system
successful is its ability to recognize losers and kill them
quickly. Or, rather, what makes a system successful is its
ability to generate lots of losers and then to recognize them as
such and kill them off. Sometimes the messiest approach is the
wisest." (JS p.
The Boule may find this approach appropriate in the
case that it receives a particularly large
The Boule and its subsets will avoid use of straw polls. The reason is
that voters become emotionally committed to their initial vote "…and
debate after that tends to concentrate on getting those who don't
agree to agree."
(JS p. 178)
In like manner, after
all deliberations are complete, decisions "…clearly can and
should have people offer
their judgments simultaneously, rather than one after the
(JS p. 65) This
information cascades in which the "…choices are made
sequentially, instead of all at once."
(JS p. 63) By
contrast, Congress permits an information cascade by keeping the
vote open—i.e., a congressperson's vote can depend on the preceding
generally be highly motivated to be a credit to the Boule. It is
a unique chance to serve their country in an important capacity and
have an interesting and rewarding work experience. Only about
one in 7,000 Citizens will get this chance in their lifetime.
Two types of incentives
are provided to Boule Members:
The Boule will award
recognition of effort incentives when Members
fulfill their duties and leave. Members will have the
choice to make their names public after the fact and to receive
thanks from their government.
The Electorate will vote on performance grades and
based on the results of the Initiatives selected four years ago
by the Boule.
In combination, these
two incentive programs will provide powerful personal and peer
pressure on Members to give their best performance. Boule Members
collectively have to earn their financial
incentives. Though some slackers may get undeserved awards, this
should be more than offset by the benefits of peer pressure to get
everyone to work for the common good.
The discussion above
has shown that the Boule can perform its function to select
wisely the most worthy initiatives. In addition, it must
contain the basic skills to manage itself. The Boule's
responsibilities are constrained by its function to a narrow scope
that is far less than most businesses—e.g., it has no employees,
does not have to show a profit, does not have to create new
products, is exempt from litigation, has no marketing and sales
functions, and complies with no complex government regulations. Compared
with many company management responsibilities, the Boule is
relatively simple to run.
The information in
the above section on diversity
detailing education and occupations
of the Members illustrates the inherent
capability of the Members to run the Boule. Approximately 70 members will have has hands-on
experience at managing businesses and/or professional organizations.
Others will have un-anticipatable non-business management
experiences and rise to the occasion. In total,
this will be more than sufficient to provide an adequate pool of
management capabilities for the Boule, especially since it
will purchase comprehensive outside support for many areas such as
accounting, legal, facilities, computers, communications etc.
people have universally distrusted leadership by a crowd. "The
assumption that authority ultimately needs to rest in the hands of
an individual is a difficult one to overcome."
(JS p. 222) "…the
wisdom of crowds challenges some of our most deeply held assumptions
about leadership, power, and authority…the notion that power
ultimately has to reside in a single place—a single person—if it's
really going to work. We want there to be one person we can point to
and say, 'He made the decision.' and we fear that if we don't have
that, nothing will get done."
(JS p. 281)
There is good reason
why this should be so. A group expects its leaders to deal with
emergencies or unusual circumstances that threaten the group. If the
had to convene a committee, the decision would often be too late.
Any society that relied on committees in emergencies would
eventually cease to exist. Old jokes like "a
a horse designed by a committee" make their rounds in every
generation. Distrust of leadership by a group is natural.
Dogs, horses, and many other social animals place their trust in an
alpha member who leads the others. Thus, we have a valid innate
belief that leadership by group is a bad choice.
However, Citizens tend
to underestimate their abilities as a group. "…groups tend not [to
be] wise about their own wisdom."
(JS p. 278)
This distrust must be reconciled with the concept of a wise Boule.
Two vital differences explain and reconcile the Boule and its
The Boule is
unsuited to leadership in
However, the Amendment never expects the Boule to make
emergency decisions. Emergencies are the business of the
Executive branch of Government, which can make decisions in
minutes. Congress has the power and capability to provide
oversight of the Executive emergency actions in a matter of
On the other
hand, the Boule cannot cause any response to a situation in
less than nine months—the minimum time between the
first reading of a
Draft Candidate Initiative and the following election. Thus,
the Boule is neither expected nor able to assume emergency
leadership by Boule.
Members may not possess the
for good leadership ideas—see
solution is simple; the Boule does not propose Initiatives.
The Boule only judges to decide which Initiatives are best, a function
to which a Boule is perfectly suited.
To see the validity
of this reconciliation, consider how we accept and trust group
decisions in our Jury system.
The above two vital
differences apply equally well to Juries. First,
juries make their decision at their own pace and no one can force
them to rush. Second, juries generally have only a simple guilty or
innocent judgment to make, specialists—judge, lawyers, witnesses—deal with the creative
arguments. Since we are familiar with juries, we can see the
reconciliation without difficulty and accept the wisdom of juries.
Therefore, our innate
human distrust of leadership by a group is valid and understandable, but it is
inappropriate and irrelevant for the Boule.