The Demarchy Manifesto: For Better Public Policy
The Demarchy Manifesto: For Better Public Policy
John Burnheim
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781743324608

What is wrong with democracy as we know it? Too many decisions are the result of political deals based on the power strategies and tactics of politicians, not on the merits of the case. The voters can only accept or reject the packages the parties offer them.

The Demarchy Manifesto exploits the possibilities of modern communications to give a new role and focus to public discussion. It proposes taking the formulation of public policy out of the hands of political parties and putting it into the hands of those most strongly affected by particular issues. The aim is to tell the politicians what we want, after serious and focused open, discussion. Burnheim explains why this needs to be done, and how it can be achieved through voluntary means without constitutional change.

John Burnheim’s Demarchy Manifesto isn’t just an insightful and deeply pragmatic inquiry into the legitimacy and effectiveness of contemporary representative democracy but also a handbook for citizens looking for a meaningful way to bring new energy and much needed relevance to the way we determine public policy. He puts skin on the bones of what it means to find the public good by arguing for a community-based transfer of policy-making from political parties to deliberative councils, representative of those most directly affected in the case at hand.

— Hon Geoff Gallop AC
     Premier of Western Australia (2001–2006)
     Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Government, The University of Sydney

About the author

John Burnheim taught philosophy in the University of Sydney from 1960 to 1990. His book Is Democracy Possible? (1985) explored the possibilities of democratic alternatives to voting. It was the first modern book-length treatise on ‘sortition’ – the choice of citizens for public office by random selection rather than voting – that was at the heart of the classical Athenian demokratia.


Part One: Exploring the Problem
Part Two: Suggested Solutions
Part Three: Objections Considered

More by this author

Is Democracy Possible? The Alternative to Electoral Democracy
Sydney University Press, 2006 (2nd ed.)

John Burnheim presents bold and original proposals for the working of a new democracy. In particular he provides a radical reinterpretation of the concept and mechanics of representation and a structure that is designed to avoid concentrations of power and power-trading at any level. Among other points, he argues that we must abandon mass voting in favour of statistical representation.

To reason why: from religion to philosophy and beyond
Sydney University Press, 2011

To reason why explains the arguments and aspirations that guided a professional thinker's choices on the key issues that have affected both theory and practice for believers and unbelievers of many persuasions from the turmoil of World War Two down to the present.

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