- THE JURORS REPUBLIC: A NEW WAY TO AN ECOLOGIC SOCIETY -

Reading time: 12 minutes (writing time: 10 minutes)

  Are our western regimes only semi-democratic, and do they lead us towards a collective disater? Two questions in one for a sad answer: yes. A yes that will be detailled in this article at the end of which, to go beyond alarmism and easy criticism, we will propose a practical solution fitting to France and any other society. To know it now all you have to do is to join the part VI but, if time allows and if you feel like it, we will start with the analysis of the revealing response Emmanuel Macron gave to the claims expressed, with more or less peacufully, by the yellow vests movement.

1) Starting of a debate between representatives of the executive and a group of citizens

  Aside a vigorous maintenance of public order, the French président organized just like Louis XVI in 1789 the collection of Cahiers de doléance : lists of grievances drawn up by the French population that summarize more than 10,000 citizen meetings and 2 million online contributions.

... at least will we show that we are a People
who is not afraid to talk, to exchange, to debate.
Emmanuel Macron

  In his shirt sleeves to let us know about his energic involvement, the présiden participated to a few meetings, while waiting for a summary of all grievances to be submited to him… before being directly classified. Nothing is accessible to the press and the conclusion of this so-called democratic exercise was the Président's one and alone: ​​postponement of the inclusion of the NOTA on ballots, of the Citizens' initiative referendum, and of the re-establishment of the solidarity tax on wealth. This refusal of the main demands of the yellow vests, even if supported by most of the French, reveals a first reason for our yes: it seems that in France, and probably in many other countries, citizens do not decide through their representatives, but elect people who decide for them. And that if between two elections the People can talk, nothing forces the executive to listen. A de facto semi-democracy, which allowed the president to escape a major challenge to his policies with some minor and symbolic promises.
  A year later, one of its pledges was fulfilled: a second consultation, called Citizen's convention for the Climate, brought together for several months 150 people representing the French population, and selected at random. On the other hand, the subject they were given to think about does not seem to have been chosen at random: as the popular movement of yellow vests was born out of the protest of a fuel prices rise, average citizens were much likely to confirm that the people's priority was not ecology, and to offer the government a popular guarantee to its reluctance on the subject. But no, absolutely not, and it is precisely this small political fail that will inspire us to find a solution to escape the collective disaster, to the eventuality of which we are now going to look.

2) On the left, the blue planet. On the right, a blue trash can.
The integrity of one depends in part on the proper use of the other.

I / State of art

  During the last 10,000 years, Mankind has grown from less than 10 million to more than 7 billion people, and from isolated groups to vast interconnected nations. The development of agriculture, animal breeding and the road network that came along our evolution radically changed the landscapes and is still sets back, today, what remains of unspoilt nature.
  Thus our formerly scattered species has disconnected from the wild while connecting with itself... but the consequences of our contacts with nature were paradoxically amplified, and this is the first great ecological threat to which we are exposed: while they had a limited impact at the time of small hunter-gatherers groups, infectious disieses of animal origin have because of our ultra-connection turned into deadly pandemics... plague was brought by marmots, AIDS by monkeys and, today, coronavirus by the pangolin or the bat.

3) Quartet of guilty innocents

  The situation is paradoxical but clear: like the first human settelments, our global village remains surrounded by the wilderness. And a quick overview allows us to see that our use of fossil fuel puts us face to face with a second threat: a pollution that generates a process of global warming promising to be the cause, in a less and less distant future, of diluvian dramas and others plagues. Our influence on nature is not a control, and this irrefutable fact suggests that if our societies want to continue to develop without destroying themselves, we must move towards a change of model or, at the very least, a control of our current excesses.
  Well informed about the situation that we have just summarized, and although of all political stripes and all social conditions, the 150 French citizens of the Convention have, after only 9 months of experts consultations and debates, given birth to 149 proposals, all going toward political ecology. Here are a few :

- Establish a moratorium on the implementation of 5G.
- Creation of a vehicle weight criterion to decrease the sellings of Sport Utility Vehicles.
- Regulation of the advertising of highly polluting products.
- Creation of a crime of ecocide, backed by the concept of planetary limits.*
- Reduction of taxes on train tickets.
- Prohibition to build new airports and to extend existing ones.
- Increase of the eco-contribution on air transport.
- Prohibition of internal plane flight for a journey that could last less than four hours by train.**
- 4% tax on dividends.
- Speed limitation to 110 km/h on the motorways.
- Placement, in the preamble of the Constitution, of the environmental security at the forefront of French fundamental values.

  Even if the three last ones, the most restrictive for finance, State and industry were directly rejected by Monsieur Macron, he seemed this time to align his views on people's ones:

I was committed to it, I keep my word: 146 proposals out of the 149 that you made
will be transmitted either to the government, or to the Parliament, or to the French people.

  The president had indeed not lied: he is not afraid to speak, to exchange, to debate. But it did not take long for us to realize that transmission is not application: less than three months later, the other eight proposals mentioned just above were rebutted. A denial of popular opinion which, we will see, is not new, and of course not only French.

II / States of trite

  The behavior of the executive in the face of the Convention like of the Great National Debate was simple: to let people speak, to declare to have heard, and finally to continue its policy as if nothing. A classic outlook that our half-democracy even manage to reproduce among themselves: the last great example dates from 2015 with the COP21. A great conference which brings together in Paris 197 nations and during which the did not negotiate with the peoples, but in their names. A different role but a similar logic: after the inevitable agreement that the situation is alarming, commitments were made, but no legislation was adopted to impose it to the polluting firms whom, be sure, will not respect them. And this is quite normal: the vocation of a company is to make profit, not to protect. This role is in principle devolved to the States but we can see that actually their representatives seem to prefer the safeguard, through their inactions, of the economic privileges of some than the action to preserve a planet that is our common good.
  Here is a direct link between semi-democracy and the collective disaster, and one can favor the other because our political system whom, by linking the destiny of the masses to the decisions of few ones, also links it to their particular interests. And these ones are quite often far from those of the common people.

4) Allegory of the crushing of democracy by the economy - East Timor

  This prioritization of the economy that we know to be deleterious for our planet is boosted by a political ideology which governs the majority of our governments: economic liberalism, where the authority of the State is restricted to promote free enterprise and personal enrichment. The bet is that individual successes will benefit, by trickelling down, the whole of society; a clear logic but perhaps a little simple, and which seems to quickly forget human nature.

There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will;
the latter considers only the common interest, while the former takes private interest into account,
and is no more than a sum of particular wills.
Rousseau. Jean-Jacques.

  The obvious being seen for at least 200 years, it is tempting to suspect that the good intentions of this common individualism that is liberalism are only a modest veil placed on the selfishness of those who defend it. Anyway, and even giving them a benevolent benefit of the doubt, a little look backwards in time is enough to confirm it: the sum of particular wills only favors particular prosperity.

5) Mining workers waiting for individual prosperity. Mulet expecting nothing.
Around, Thiers and Casimir-Perrier, Presidents of the French Republic and coal mines owners.

  The collusion between industry, finance and politics is a historical reality: without too many laws to constrain them, often because they wrote themselves theses laws, and while entire populations were dying to run their factories or dig their mines, the first manufacturers of the 19th century were living in opulence. But in the end, everyone died. Time does its business and offers us a perspective that suggests a question: did the fact that the first barons of liberalism died so rich justify that millions more died sooner, and with more suffering? Because moderation in the methods of acquiring their wealth, in addition to preserving the physical integrity of their workers, would not have slowed down the technical advance of humanity. The proof being that since the increase of worker's rights, scientific or medical progress has nevertheless accelerated, and that if the enrichment of the upper class was very relatively slowed down, its wealth is even more considerable than before. The portion is smaller, but the cake is bigger.
  The fact remains that if we do not quickly find a solution to the planned obsolescence of our bodies, the prosperous of this century, also, will all die. Perhaps like their predecessors rich and satisfied, plump and fulfilled, but also leaving to the following generations, perhaps this time fewer in number than theirs, the bitter leisure to say to themselves that their fleeting opulences were either not worth all this suffering... because today too, we suffer and die for profit.

III / Life or money, still today

  If in the West we no longer die in the mines, our liberal model adds to the two major environmental risks mentioned above a third mortal danger, still common but yet perceived as individual: pesticides, junk food, diesel or even tobacco ... in France, the products sold by manufacturers - and bought by consumers - make cancer to bury 150,000 people each year. 35,000 more die of diabetes. 40,000 do not recover from a stroke and 140,000 are struck down by heart disease. These deaths, 40 per hour, 350,000 per year and 5 since you started reading this article are all individual and family tragedies, which are a dismal prelude to our collective disaster.
  Think about it: with 1,750,000 people who died prematurely from pollution-related or lifestyle-related diseases in five years, and even if we consider that only a third is the result of a too lax legislation, this means that French people lost more lives for the GDP of 2015-2020 than during the second world war.

Of little folks it often has been the fate
To suffer for the follies of the great.

  Do the math for your country, you'll see. But the hecatomb of our time is discreet. Private and almost without pictures, it has less psychological impact than a war, even if like a war its consequences are common. Even if here too a policy that cares about human lives would avoid a large part of these misfortunes; for example, banning diesel would save thousands of lives per year, avoid billions of health spending and slow the increase of global warming... while only slowing down a bit the enrichment of some industrialists. But in the name of freedom - the freedom of enterprise rather than the freedom to live in good health - almost nothing is being done.
  And it is here that we encounter the greatest perverse effect of liberalism, because by claiming to defend individual freedom it individualizes hope, and stifles the possibilities of opposition or collective action. In the end, nothing more than the acrid liquid of individualism trickles down onto the populations liberals lead. And these liberals weather they're facing the announced disasters or the the deaf ongoing massacre, continue in an egotistical and deadly logic to emphasize individual responsibility:

"Recycle your waste"
"Buy responsibly"
" Do sports"
"Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day"

6) A group of sane, sober, serene and sweaty Swedish citizens.

  This is the great political force of this system: by making their citizen-consumers individually responsible of their fate, rulers can hide their own irresponsibility. Perhaps hoping that civic activity will compensate government inertia, perhaps also being convinced that it's up to others to make enough efforts to reach the social heights they reached and so to make, by the addition of their individual excellences, the planet a little more comfortable and a little more beautiful.
  Because in the liberal ideology, that is almost a dogma, each and everyone is supposed to be aware of their own needs better than a distant state. All and all are declared capable, at the cost of a little effort, to be the rulers of their own fate. Such arguments of pride ironically make us think that liberalism is a kind of right-wing libertarian anarchism where, as with its left-wing counterpart, it is the principles are dominering; where ultimately faith prevails over reality.
  We thus invite the last defenders of liberalism to follow their principles to the end, by putting their social Darwinism to the challenge of Darwinism itself... because finally, it is always possible for them to go and check in the primal forest the legitimacy of their leader status. I think most will soon have to find refuge on a tree, squealing for help by trying to escape a rival badger.

7) Alpha male: a precarious status.

  If they survive this initiatory adventure - and of course we wish they do -, they will be able to realize that a community protects the weakests but also favors the strongests, who could not have reached such a level of prosperity without the addition of the skills and the work of all the others. Nor even, at th elight of this painfull forestry experience, the most elementary security... when it comes to solitary performances we have to resign to this modest fact: modern humans are to the hunter-gatherer what the dachshund is to the wolf. And if our collective disaster happens, the individual will not be able to do much, whether he is now small or powerful ...

IV / The age of reason

   The absurdity of our sacrifices on the altar of profit is beginning to be obvious, and the slowness of the States, which increasingly contrast with the popular awareness of the risks that threaten us, involve one last but not least great risk: history teaches us that Totalitarian ideologies often respond to injustices and emergencies situations. And in addition to not being gentle with the previous powerful people, they can lead to much worse situations than they purported to solve.

8) Liberty or Death, by Jean-Baptiste Lesueur.

  For example, the French Revolution experienced many excesses and, as a result, economic power was transferred from the minority of the nobility to that of the bourgeoisie, which in the long term even occupied a large part of the role of the clergy: the hope of heavenly paradise, sold by religion at a time when earthly well-being was a sweet dream, was gradually replaced by the promise of a material paradise made by the American Way of Life. A logic with comparable results: comfort at the cost of death.
  In the meantime the bourgeoisie was in its turn contested, by new revolutions which knew new excesses and, today, our binary producer-consumer system, by privileging quantity over quality, opulence over satiety, wealth over progress and above all, in fine, by prioritizing the present of some over the future of all and the ease of a minority on the health of the majority, draws upon itself a legitimate but increasingly radical contest; the French yellow vests were the perfect illustration, and their failure heralds the appearance of other movements, which will perhaps be more violent. But let state the obvious by saying that today is no longer yesterday, and that between a brutal revolution and the persistence of laissez-faire, a middle way can exist; quite simply in the evolution of institutions, and the strengthening of law.
  Group life implies the sacrifice of a part of individual freedom: parents teach it to children, and Justice takes over this role in the adult world, being more and more necessary as societies grow. And for parents towards children as well as for justice towards litigants, if maturity does not come by itself to correct the childish feeling of omnipotence and prevent the nuisances that it entails, it is necessary to know how to constrain individualism.

V / Law or death

  Our fundamental difference with the wild world is that our lives are a series of constraints that we impose to our urges. It is our social conventions and our laws which, for millennia and in an imperfect but increasingly effective way, have preserved us from dangers and injustice. But by leaving companies free to be liberal, our governments preserve a large part of the economy from this logic, and maintain a last part of our societies where the law of the strongest prevails. And the strongest of course decide, in their vast majority, to do what is in their best interest. Cesare Beccaria, Italian Lumière, noticed this as early as 1764:

There is no one who spontaneously donated part of his own freedom
for the public good; this chimera only exists in novels.

  ...and still, in 2020, in the speeches of many leaders. But in reality the consequences of their actions and inactions will be suffered by their citizens... who would not necessarily be better than them.
Because if one smoke, drink, or have any other vice despite being aware of the risks, how can we hope to find within the People the one who, once in a power position, will correct what goes against his or her interest or the wealth of his social group, and who only seems to endanger the lives of others?

9) Diogenes preparing to go in search of an honest man, by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

  Let's give up the traditional messianic expectation of a providential individual, too long, too random, and too misguided by the exercise of power. The solution that we mentioned in the introduction of this article will be inspired by the French Citizen's Convention for the climate. Not only new, the exercise was also ideal: it showed that people selected at random and without special skills could give a coherent and responsible opinion on a complex subject; in short, that common citizens could do as well as our elected officials. Or even better. Because without yelding to any ideology and simply by facing facts, their conclusions clearly leaned towards political ecology: perhaps because the members of the Convention knew they were part of the people and were aware to also act for themselves, while our politicians, who so often talk about the French, the Romanians, the Americans, seem to exclude themselves from this mass that they are yet supposed to represent...
  By thinking together, we think less of our "myselves", and we arrive at common conclusions that will ultimately benefit everyone. We favor compromise over conflict, and caution over violence. Actually the providential man is already there, and we just have to summon him... neither individual nor divine envoy, it is quite simply the famous average Joe.

10) Faces of average French, by researchers from the University of Glasgow

  And let's not forget the median Janet. It's these two carachters of the political mythology who symbolically gave their opinion during the Citizen's Climate Convention: the will of all which Rousseau mentioned was expressed there, and its result makes us presume that in France, that anywhere elsen, the only reasonable way to see the common interest take prevails on common individualism is to add a direct popular control to our representative system.

VI / The Jurors Republic

  The solution is within the reach of a single referendum: a constitutional evolution towards a Republic whose institutions would include a new citizens' chamber, with members drawn by lot and for a short term. On the principle of jurors who have to validate the verdict submited by the court, the members of this Jurors chamber would be responsible for validating laws prepared and voted upstream by professional parliamentarians. It would thus have the equivalent of a popular veto, which could be supplemented by a possibility to proposal laws much more practical and much less expensive than the Citizens' initiative referendum. A model which would limit the powers of the executive which could in return, via the elected professionals, contain possible populist excesses; each legislative registration being dependent on the validation of the two chambers.

11) The Kléroterion, a Greek invention used to select citizens at random.
A more modern and less lithic system will probably be preferred.

  The model is simple: an assembly of elected representatives associated with an assembly of citizens selected at random. A new bicameral Republic that would solve many of the problems of our current half-democracies:

- The Jurors assembly would replace senates where there is one, or the House of Lords in England for instance, which is nothing more than an expensive recording chamber, only representative of a certain notability - or nobility.
- The elective system of the national assembly would ensure the democratic legitimacy of each decision, while the randomness of the Jurors assembly would ensure the representativeness of each layer of the population - there are no blue-collar workers and only 39 % of women in parliament, while the Citizen's Climate Convention had 10% blue-collar workers and 50% women.
- No party would be represented in the Jurors assembly, which will allow its members to think freely, far from any ideological shackles and partisan interests.
- The people chosen by lot will not be influenced by the upcoming elections, and the shortness of their mandate would protect them from the influence of lobbies. Instead of small helmsmen who too often pilot in the short term with their main concern being their re-election, the laws would depend on the opinion of people who have no concern for personnal ambition.
- Citizens would feel more involved in political life, because they are potentially actors.
- As politicians are often elected with a lot of abstention and by default, some points of their programs which are mainly rejected by the population may be blocked by the Jurors assembly. In the same logic, the Jurors assembly will be able to propose popular laws carried by small candidates. In the event of major disagreement, the convocation of a referendum could be voted on by one chamber or the other, by a two-thirds majority.
- Fundamental questions, such as ecology or the economy, will no longer be hostages of any party.
- Laws to prevent and punish the actions of some and the inactions of others, perhaps even retroactive, could be passed. The people, democratically and without uncontrolled violence, will then be able to choose between justice and forgiveness.

It should be observed that the concepts of law and force are not contradictory,
but that the first is rather a modification of the second,
most useful modification to the greatest number.
Cesare Beccaria - On crimes and Punishments

  Our reflection ends here, and the time for you to read it was also the one of six more French tragedies, six more deaths since our last count. And many more in the rest of the world. It is by thinking about their fate and therefore our own that we realize the need for a new collective repression of our individualistic impulses, of this categorical imperative to our civilizations which, by their excesses, are about to turn progress into regrets.
  We are here facing an unique responsibility in Human history; all of us one of the billions of co-responsible of the ongoing eco-disaster, at the same time as one of its potential victims. After protecting ourselves from hunger and predators by our technical evolution, after having begun the moral and judicial channeling of the wild part of human nature, protecting Nature from its human part is the new condition of our survival. Our dazzling evolution that has given us the capacity to destroy the balance of nature now commands us to preserve it, by applying eco-responsibility as a corollary of progress; because if today the civilized threatens the wild, the part which will outlive the other is not necessarily our one.

  Long live to the Jurors Republic!


* Edit 04/17/2021: The French National Assembly has created an offense of ecocide (and not a "crime", as required by the Convention). Only intentional, serious and lasting damage to the environment will be punished; in other words, the lawyers of the polluters will only have to plead good faith to avoid a conviction. To prevent a possible conviction, their customers will only have to order phony studies to show that their polluting activities were thought as harmless. The law passed by the French National Assembly is therefore as lightly restrictive as it is easily circumvented... my bet it's just a gross attempt to seduce green voters, before the Presidential elections of 2022.

** Edit 04/11/2021: The French National Assembly has just published a law prohibiting domestic flights if another mode of transport (train or bus) offers an alternative of less than 2h30 to the journey by plane... farewell, the three dailies Paris-Lyon. So long, the three dailies Paris-Bordeaux. Except these two lines that's about all, and it doesn't change much of the situation; airlines companies will keep the vast majority of their domestic lines, despite satisfaying existing rail alternatives. That is why the Citizens' convention called for an alternative duration of 4 hours maximum, much more restrictive and therefore much more effective in reducing CO2 emissions. In the end, we have a half-measure that will have more effect for government communication than for the planet. They must prepare their 2022 elections campain...

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