Higher political legitimacy via citizen assemblies

Aug 10, 2020 by

Nowadays, the political discourse is often dominated by thinking within the vantage point of its own political party, not accepting good ideas by one’s opponents just because they come form another political party. As citizen one would expect that striving for the best ideas that benefit the most would be the main agenda and thus be pushed forward. Unfortunately, reality look quite different, dominated by competition and a too narrow view.

In order to overcome that narrow thinking, citizen assemblies as proposed by Christian Felber might be promising counter measures to opt for the best options for the majority of the population. So, how could citizen assemblies look like? A representative number of citizen (incl. minorities) are chose randomly to elaborate solutions for controversial topics, like “How much should we limit the income gap between the maximum and the minimum wage within our society?”

In general, it is important to ensure a proper wording of the questions at hand as this influences where the discussion leads to, which options are considered and how people in the end vote. The representatives of the citizen assembly meet on a regular basis to discuss the issues and are consulted by experts that provide various perspectives to ensure a broad understanding of the given topic. One technique to identify a path with the least resistance is by systemic consensus as proposed by Christian Felber. For any controversial problem and its individual solution options there is resistance of various people due to conflicting of interest. The options with the least resistance wins.

There are a number of positive examples (like France or Ireland) where involvement of citizen led to successful outcomes (in those cases not necessarily considering the system consensus technique). One example from Ireland is especially of interest as there have been votes in favour of equal marriages and abortion, which have been highly controversial topics in the conservative and catholic country. The final decision was in the hand of the parliament which followed the votes of the citizen council. Indeed, the parliament had been confronted with a high public pressure to conform with the votes of the representative citizen as any deviation would need to be explained in detail. In general, citizen participation in the political process would very much increase the legitimacy of decision makers, especially on controversial topics.

Another field that needs higher democratic legitimacy and more transparency is the banking sector.  Since central banks play a crucial role in monitoring the monetary and fiscal policies through banking system by the circulation of money in the economy. In this regard, central banks have shown the inequality and undemocratic management in their structural system. A question has been raised over time from many controversies which is “How to eliminate the inequality in central bank?”. Concerning this question, the bank must not only check the financial elements, but also the moral elements.  Recently and fortunately, banks are already obliged to realise a moral assessment of their loan clients, but this assessment is limited to “financial criteria” in terms of the chrematistics or capitalism understanding. Why we have to mention this issue?

Because the democratic deficit is deepened due to expanding central banks’ intervention in the carbon industry who have impact on the environmental issues including climate change. Many industrial corporations are trying to get finance from the commercial banks and central banks through the anonymous concept so that people, including the environmental activists, cannot realize which corporation is getting financed for their carbon industry. These acts have made the banks’ annual financial report seem untransparent.  Hence, governmental entities and central banks need to coordinate with each other to initiate the new green model of financing the green transition/green projects, innovative applied throughout all sectors of business. Therefore, diversifying the background and the people from different interest group maybe the way to democratize the central bank.

Christian Felber has proposed the model of sovereign money which can have demurrage. This notion would also have to be linked with a degrowth mechanism for ecological human rights – which is a limited consumption budget per capita. Demurrage could have several goals which would have to be intelligently combined that we think can support the political legitimacy:
– Incentivise savings in a negative interest system
– Reducing inequality
– If It could be combined with an UBI, the demurrage would not hurt the poor
– If It could be combined with ecological human rights, It would not boost consumerism


Written by: Valeri and Anh Tuan

Based on the session with Christian Felber and David Barmes during the AEMS 2020.