Transcript: Is Democracy In Need of A Serious Shake-Up? | May 13, 2021

An animated slate reads "The Democracy Agenda. A TVO and Toronto Star partnership."

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a checkered shirt and a black tie.

A caption on screen reads "Is democracy in need of a serious shake-up? @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says EVERY DAY CITIZENS ARE ESSENTIAL TO DEMOCRACY. BUT DO THEY HAVE A BIG ENOUGH VOICE IN IT, AS IT'S CURRENTLY CONSTITUTED? HELENE LANDEMORE THINKS NOT, AND LAYS OUT HER ARGUMENT FOR REFORM IN: "OPEN DEMOCRACY: REINVENTING POPULAR RULE FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY." SHE IS AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT YALE UNIVERSITY. AND HELENE LANDEMORE JOINS US NOW FROM PARIS, FRANCE.

Hélène is in her thirties, with long straight brown hair. She's wearing a black blazer and silver hoop earrings.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover is white, with a picture of an open window.

Steve continues A GREAT PLEASURE TO MEET YOU. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Hélène says I'M DOING GREAT. THANK YOU, STEVE, FOR HAVING ME. PLEASURE TO BE ON.

Steve says NOT AT ALL. HAPPY TO HAVE YOU HERE. LET'S START WITH AN EXCERPT FROM YOUR BOOK AND WE'LL GO ON AFTER THAT TO CHAT.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Democracy in need of repair." The quote reads "One could argue that the crisis of democracy as we know it -which ahs come to be symbolized for many by Trump or Brexit- is a sign of its vitality as a normative ideal. People throughout the Western world resent and distrust their political personnel and institutions precisely because they fail to deliver the promise of democracy -people's power.
The silver lining of otherwise disenchanting events is that they tap into an obvious desire to gain or regain control and wrest power from runaway elites.
The crisis of democracy could be, in other words, a case of frustrated, perhaps even rising, democratic expectations coming to terms with the limitations of an existing paradigm."
Quoted from Hélène Landemore, "Open democracy." 2020.

Steve says OKAY, HELENE. LET'S DIVE INTO THIS. WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS OF THE QUOTE, UNQUOTE, EXISTING PARADIGM THAT YOU THINK BREXIT AND TRUMP WERE TRYING TO CHALLENGE?

The caption changes to "Hélène Landemore. Author, 'Open Democracy.'"

Hélène says I THINK THE LIMIT OF THE EXISTING PARADIGM HAS TO DO WITH THE LIMITS OF ELECTIONS AS A WAY TO SELECT OUR DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVES. WE SAID TIME AND TIME AGAIN THAT THE PEOPLE WE SEND TO PARLIAMENT IN PARTICULAR FAIL TO DELIVER THE POLICIES AND LAWS THAT WOULD ACTUALLY IMPROVE THE LOT OF THE MAJORITY. AND SO I THINK THERE'S A FRUSTRATION THAT THEY SAY PROMISE AND VOTE FOR ME. PEOPLE QUESTION WHETHER THE SYSTEM IN PLACE IS REACHING THE NORMATIVE IDEA OF PEOPLE POWER. FOR SOME [indiscernible] BECAUSE THEY THINK THE STRONG MAN IS GOING TO RESTORE PEOPLE'S POWER, BUT I THINK FOR MANY PEOPLE IT'S DISILLUSIONMENT WITH THE ELECTORAL VERSION OF REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY AND THE HOPE THAT WE CAN CREATE SOMETHING BETTER, MORE DELIBERATIVE, MORE INCLUSIVE OF ALL PEOPLE.

Steve says WELL, IN THIS PROVINCE AND IN THIS COUNTRY WE'VE BEEN DOING IT THIS WAY FOR MORE THAN 150 YEARS. IN THE UNITED STATES FOR MORE THAN 200 YEARS. IF YOU'RE GOING TO CHANGE SOMETHING THAT'S THAT ENGRAINED, I GUESS WE NEED TO KNOW IN PARTICULAR WHAT YOU FIND SO PROBLEMATIC ABOUT IT. WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

The caption changes to "Hélène Landemore. Yale University."

Hélène says THE PROBLEM IS THAT IT WAS BORN... THIS ELECTORAL SYSTEM WAS BORN AT A TIME THAT WE THOUGHT IN ORDER TO CREATE SMART GROUPS, YOU NEEDED TO PUT IN THEM A LOT OF VERY SMART, COMPETENT PEOPLE. IT TURNS OUT THAT SOCIAL SCIENCES TELL US AND EXPERIENCE TELLS US THAT IN ORDER TO HAVE A SMART GROUP, A GROUP THAT'S GOOD AT SOLVING PROBLEMS, MAKING GOOD LAWS, IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT SOLUTIONS, YOU'RE BETTER OFF WITH A GROUP THAT'S A LOT MORE DIVERSE THAN INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE COMPETENT. LAWMAKERS ARE TRACKING MUCH MORE OF THE DIVERSITY IN THE LARGER PUBLIC, IN FACT HAVE LESSER EDUCATION AND FEWER DIPLOMAS, BUT REALLY BRING IN A DIVERSITY OF PERSPECTIVES AND LIFE EXPERIENCES THAT CAN ENRICH THE WAY WE APPROACH COLLECTIVE PROBLEMS AND SOLVE THEM. THAT'S THE NOVELTY HERE. AND THE PROBLEM WITH ELECTIONS IS THAT THEY SELECT FOR CERTAIN KINDS OF PEOPLE THAT GO TO THE SAME SCHOOLS, SHARE A SORT OF WORLD VIEW, WHETHER IT'S LIBERALISM OR ANOTHER TREND... NEOLIBERALISM OR ANOTHER TREND, AND THEY TEND TO THINK THE SAME WAY AND WE GET STUCK IN THE SAME PLACES. WHEREAS IF WE OPENED UP THE CENTRE OF POWER TO MORE AND MORE DIFFERENT PEOPLE, I THINK WE WOULD SEE BETTER POLICY AND LAW-MAKING.

Steve says I WAS ACTUALLY QUITE STRUCK BY THE WAY YOU DESCRIBED IT IN YOUR BOOK WHERE YOU TALKED ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE, QUOTE, TOO SHY, TOO ORDINARY, TOO WEAK-WILLED OR TOO INARTICULATE TO STAND OUT IN THE EYES OF OTHER CITIZENS. NOW, THOSE ARE NOT... THOSE QUALITIES YOU JUST DESCRIBE... THEY ARE NOT THE TRADITIONAL QUALITIES THAT WE TEND TO WANT TO ELECT TO HIGH OFFICE. SO WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THEIR RIGHTS TO BE SEEN AND HEARD OUGHT TO BE ESPECIALLY SIGNIFICANT WHEN DESIGNING A BETTER DEMOCRACY?

Hélène says FOR ONE THING, THE MEANING OF DEMOCRACY IS THE MEANING OF, YOU KNOW, ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE; ONE PERSON, ONE VOICE. WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO BE SMARTER OR MORE COMPETENT AND SCORE HIGHER ON AN IQ TEST IN ORDER TO HAVE A SAY ABOUT THE COMMON DESTINY. SO IF WE ARE TRUE DEMOCRATS, WHICH I THINK WE ARE NOT, WE SHOULD BE COMMITTED TO EQUALITY AND DISTRIBUTION OF [indiscernible] IN AN EQUAL AND INCLUDED MANNER. SECOND OF ALL, BECAUSE OF WHAT I JUST SAID ABOUT THE COMPETENCE OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE, WE WOULD BE BETTER OFF... PEOPLE WHO SEEMINGLY DON'T HAVE MUCH TO CONTRIBUTE, PERHAPS ARE SHY AND INARTICULATE, BUT ACTUALLY BRING IN A DIVERSITY OF PERSPECTIVE, INFORMATION, LIFE EXPERIENCE, ET CETERA, AND MEASURE IT TO THE GROUP IN A WAY THAT IS LARGELY UNPREDICTABLE. THAT SOUNDS SCARY MAYBE ON THE FACE OF IT TO SORT OF GAMBLE ON PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE IDENTIFIABLE QUALITIES. BUT WE HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE AT THIS POINT, EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE THAT THIS WORKS WHEN YOU RANDOMLY SELECT GROUPS, INDIVIDUALS TO TAKE PART IN LOCAL CITIZENS ASSEMBLIES, THERE IS A MAGICAL COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE THAT CAN EMERGE UNDER THE RIGHT CONDITIONS AND THAT DELIVERS THE GOODS. IN FACT, CANADA IS FAMOUS FOR HOSTING ONE OF THE FIRST SUCH EXPERIMENTS OF THE MODERN ERA, IT WAS PRACTISED IN ANCIENT GREECE BUT HASN'T BEEN PRACTISED IN 2,000 YEARS. YOU HAD A CITIZENS ASSEMBLY ON ELECTORAL REFORM IN BRITISH COLUMBIA IN 2004 WHEREBY 160 RANDOMLY SELECTED CITIZENS GOT TOGETHER FOR A FEW MONTHS AND MADE A PROPOSAL TO REFORM THE DYSFUNCTIONAL ELECTORAL LAW, AND THAT PROPOSAL WAS PUT TO A REFERENDUM WHERE IT DIDN'T PASS BECAUSE THE THRESHOLD WAS TOO HIGH, BUT THE PROPOSAL ITSELF WAS OF HIGH QUALITY AND SPOKE TO THE POTENTIAL OF SUCH ASSEMBLIES AND DIVERSE GROUPS OF CITIZENS.

Steve says WELL, WE TRIED THE SAME THING IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO, WHICH IS WHERE I'M LOCATED, IN 2007, WHERE THEY CREATED A CITIZENS ASSEMBLY WITH THE IDEA TOWARDS GETTING, YOU KNOW, MR. AND MRS. EVERYDAY ONTARIO, ANYBODY... NOBODY WITH ANY POLITICAL SCIENCE DEGREES OR JUST A RANDOM SAMPLING OF PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED... AND THE IDEA WAS TO LOOK INTO CREATING A DIFFERENT WAY BY WHICH POLITICIANS ARE ELECTED. THEY LOVED THE EXPERIENCE. THEY SAID THE WORK WAS FASCINATING. THEY CAME UP WITH SOMETHING WHICH THEY THOUGHT WAS VERY NOVEL. AND IT WAS OVERWHELMINGLY REJECTED BY THE ELECTORATE AT THE ENSUING ELECTION. DOES THAT TAKE ANY OF THE SHINE OFF THIS EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?

Hélène says IT RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO ARTICULATE THE WORK OF THESE GROUPS THAT DELIBERATE IN SORT OF LIKE, YOU KNOW... AFTER ALL, 160 PEOPLE IS NOT THAT MANY PEOPLE, AND THE REST OF THE PUBLIC. SO WE NEED TO HAVE BETTER COMMUNICATION BETWEEN ORDINARY CITIZENS THAT HAVE THE SPACE AND TIME AND LUXURY TO DELIBERATE AND BECOME INFORMED ABOUT VERY COMPLEX SUBJECTS AND THE REST OF THE CITIZENRY, WHICH DOESN'T HAVE THE TIME AND ACCESS TO THAT EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE. SO HOW DO WE BRIDGE THAT GAP? I THINK WE KNOW THAT IN THE CASE OF IRELAND, THEY FIGURED IT OUT. SO IN IRELAND IN 2012 YOU HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIMENT RUN ON THE QUESTION OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY. THEY TRIED WITH A HYBRID FORMAT, WITH 66 RANDOMLY SELECTED CITIZENS AND 33 REGULAR POLITICIANS, AND THEY CREATED A TRUST BETWEEN THE TWO. SO WHEN THE REFERENDUM CAME, THE PARLIAMENT WAS BEHIND THE WHOLE EXPERIMENT AND THE PROPOSAL THAT CAME OUT OF IT, AND SO MARRIAGE EQUALITY PASSED IN THE REFERENDUM. LATER, IN 2016, THEY RENEWED THE EXPERIMENT ON THE VERY HOT TOPIC OF ABORTION. THIS TIME THEY WENT PURE RANDOM SELECTION. THEY HAD A GROUP OF 99 RANDOMLY SELECTED CITIZENS, BACKED UP BY PARLIAMENT, AND THE MEDIA COVERED [indiscernible] THERE WAS A CONNECTION TO A LOT OF PUBLIC. THERE AGAIN IT WORKED. 66 percent OF THE POPULATION, ROUGHLY THE SAME PERCENTAGE IN THE CITIZENS ASSEMBLY, VOTED TO DECRIMINALIZE ABORTION. SO I THINK THIS CAN BE DONE RIGHT. IT TAKES TIME TO FIGURE OUT THE EXACT METHOD AND TO BRING PEOPLE ON BOARD. SO IN FACT CANADA WAS TOO EARLY, WAS TOO SOON IN SOME WAYS.

Steve says OH, THERE WE GO. LEADING THE PACK AGAIN. THAT'S THE PROBLEM WHEN YOU'RE LEADERS IN THE WORLD. I'M BEING FACETIOUS. SOME OF THE LITTLE DETAILS THAT WOULD NEED TO BE WORKED OUT. FOR EXAMPLE, IF WE WERE TO GO TO A KIND OF LAWTOCRACY, IF I CAN PUT IT THAT WAY, YOU'RE SELECTED BY A LOTTERY TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS. COULD YOU GET OUT OF DOING IT IF YOU DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT? WHAT PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WOULD BE REMOTELY INTERESTED IN DOING THIS KIND OF THING. DO WE HAVE ANSWERS FOR THOSE KINDS OF QUESTIONS?

Hélène says I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE WOULDN'T WANT TO FORCE PEOPLE TO DO IT, THOUGH IDEALLY, THIS WOULD BE CONSIDERED A HIGH HONOUR AND, YOU KNOW, A REWARDING EXPERIENCE. SO IN ORDER TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN, YOU HAVE TO COMPENSATE PEOPLE HANDSOMELY FOR THEIR TIME. THINGS WERE INSTITUTIONALIZED, I THINK PEOPLE WOULD SEE THEM AS A POSSIBILITY TO EXPLORE AND LEARN AND PERHAPS GET AN EDUCATION IN SOME WAYS. YOU KNOW, IT WOULD TAKE SOME PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THEIR VERY, YOU KNOW, NARROW ENVIRONMENT AND GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING ELSE LATER ON BECAUSE YOU HAVE ACCESS TO RESOURCES, EXPERTS, OTHER CITIZENS. MAYBE IT'S A WAY TO DEVELOP YOUR MIND AND START A NEW LIFE TASK AND PERHAPS NEW CAREER. WE'VE SEEN THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE CONTEXT OF THE [indiscernible] THAT LASTED BETWEEN 2019 AND 2021, AND THE PEOPLE WHO CAME IN, VERY SKEPTICAL, DISILLUSIONED, ANGRY EVEN AT THE SYSTEM CAME OUT OF SOME OF THEM EAGER TO, YOU KNOW, CONTRIBUTE IN OTHER WAYS, JOIN ASSOCIATIONS. SOME OF THEM ARE CURRENTLY RUNNING IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS. THE THING IS NOT TO COERCE PEOPLE BUT TO INCENTIVIZE THEM. TO HAVE PURPOSE IN NEW FORMS OF DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION. WE KNOW PEOPLE ARE QUITE EAGER, ONCE YOU OPEN THE DOOR TO THAT KIND OF EXPERIMENT, THEY'RE QUITE EAGER.

Steve says WE ACTUALLY HAVE SOME EVIDENCE FOR THAT. WE DID, KNOWING THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE ON, WE DID SOME POLLING ON THIS HERE, AND WE ASKED CANADIANS IF THEY THOUGHT THAT A POLITICAL SYSTEM COULD WORK ON THIS KIND OF LOTTERY BASIS WHERE YOUR NAME GETS RANDOMLY SELECTED AND YOU'RE URGED TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS KIND OF CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY, WHAT WOULD THE RESULTS BE. 34 percent OF CANADIANS SURVEYED SAID, YES, THEY'D BE INTERESTED IN DOING THIS. 41 percent WANTED TO BE SELECTED AND WANTED TO PARTICIPATE. FOUR IN TEN. WHAT WOULD YOU TRY... OR WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE 6 IN 10 WHO, AT THE MOMENT, DON'T SEEM TO BE TERRIBLY INTERESTED IN THE IDEA?

Hélène says I WOULD SAY KEEP AN OPEN MIND. TRY IT. DO IT FOR YOURSELF. I THINK I'VE SEEN THE POWER OF CITIZENS' ASSEMBLIES ON PEOPLE WHO ARE SKEPTICAL. CAME IN THE FIRST DAY OF THE FRENCH COMMISSION FOR CLIMATE, THERE WAS THIS GUY WHO CAME IN WITH THIS SUITCASE AND WOULDN'T LET IT GO. HE SAID I'M OUTTA HERE IN TWO HOURS. BUT IN FACT HE STAYED. AND HE'S ONE OF THOSE FEW THAT I THOUGHT OF WHEN I SAID SOME OF THEM ARE CURRENTLY RUNNING FOR ELECTIONS AND VERY INVESTED IN POLITICAL LIFE NOW AFTER YEARS OF BEING, YOU KNOW, HAVING GIVEN UP ON THE SYSTEM. SO I THINK THEY JUST HAVE TO GIVE IT A TRY. WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO LOSE?

Steve says WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO LOSE, INDEED. WOULD THERE BE POLITICAL PARTIES IN YOUR MORE OPEN DEMOCRACY?

Hélène says THAT'S AN EXCELLENT QUESTION. I ACTUALLY THINK WE COULD ENVISION THE POSSIBILITY OF A PARTISAN OPEN DEMOCRACY. IT WOULDN'T BE PARTISAN IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE OF MACHINES TO CONCUR POWER THROUGH, YOU KNOW, ELECTION AND ELECTORAL MEANS. BUT YOU STILL HAVE ASSOCIATIONS OF THE LIKE-MINDED THINK-TANKS, GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO DEVELOP VISIONS FOR SOCIETY, BECAUSE THE IDEA OF AN OPEN DEMOCRACY THAT AT ITS CENTRE HAS THIS LEGISLATIVE BODY [indiscernible] AND THAT PUBLIC WOULD HAVE TO BE OPEN AND RECEPTIVE TO THE FEEDBACK OF THE REST OF SOCIETY. SO ASSOCIATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO SHARE A VISION WOULD [indiscernible] AND THE NETWORK WITH IT. SO I THINK THAT IT WOULD JUST BE A DIFFERENT SOCIETY WHERE [indiscernible] DIFFERENTLY BUT YOU HAVE TO PLENTY OF OCCASIONS TO DELIVER IT AND TALK AND PUSH FOR AN AGENDA AND POLITICAL PLATFORMS.

Steve says I'M SURE THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE PARTICULARLY WHO DO WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING WHO THINK THAT ELECTIONS AND THE POLITICAL PROCESS ARE SORT OF A GRAND CLASH OF LIBERAL VERSUS CONSERVATIVE IDEAS, AND I HAVE TO TELL YOU, HELENE, MOST DAYS... MOST DAYS WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT, I THINK IT OFTEN JUST COMES DOWN TO, YOU KNOW, IT'S THE INS VERSUS THE OUTS. THESE GUYS ARE IN, AND THESE GUYS ARE OUT, AND EVERY NOW AND THEN WE JUST NEED TO SHIFT IT AROUND EVERY NOW AND THEN. SO DOES YOUR... DO THE REFORMS THAT YOU REPRESENT, DO THEY ALLOW ADEQUATE POSITIONING FOR CONSERVATIVE VERSUS LIBERAL AND THAT KIND OF THING?

Hélène says SO YOU'RE RIGHT THAT THE SYSTEM WE HAVE CURRENTLY IS BASICALLY LEFT AND RIGHT, LEFT AND RIGHT VERY ABRUPTLY AND WITH VERY LITTLE ROOM FOR ACTUAL CONSENSUS AND AN ENORMOUS BIAS, AT LEAST IN THE U.S. THE SYSTEM I HAVE IN MIND WOULD BE A LOT MORE CONSENSUS ORIENTED. IT CONSISTS OF BUILDING THROUGH DELIBERATION COMMON GOALS, COMMON SOLUTIONS, AND THERE'S NO SAYING WHETHER IT WOULD GO LEFT OR RIGHT ON CERTAIN ISSUES BEFORE YOU TRY IT BECAUSE, FOR EXAMPLE, ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, THE TENDENCY IS TO MEAN WHAT YOU CONSIDER LEFT, I GUESS, TO BE MORE IN FAVOUR OF DEVELOPMENT OF GREEN ENERGY AND BE LIKE THAT, AT LEAST IN THE FRENCH CONTEXT IT WAS QUITE CLEAR. WE SEE IT ALSO IN TEXAS WHERE A FEW YEARS AGO [indiscernible] BASICALLY TURNED AROUND THE POLICY FROM, YOU KNOW, BIG OIL TOWARDS GREEN ENERGY AND THINGS LIKE THAT. BUT IN SOUTH KOREA A FEW YEARS AGO AS WELL THERE WAS ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE ASSEMBLIES THAT TOOK PLACE AND THEY RECOMMENDED AGAINST THE DECISION OF THE PRESIDENT, HIS PREFERENCE, TO CONTINUE DEVELOPING NUCLEAR PLANTS, FOR EXAMPLE. SO IT DOESN'T... YOU KNOW, IT'S QUITE UNPREDICTABLE WHICH DIRECTION PEOPLE WILL GO. IN EUROPE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE RANDOM [indiscernible] THE ASSEMBLY THAT HAD TO DELIBERATE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF EUROPE CAME AGAINST TURKEY AFTER LISTENING TO THE FACTS AND LISTENING TO EXPERTS. SO I THINK THE BEAUTY OF THIS IS YOU WOULDN'T BE LOCKED INTO PARTISAN PREJUDICES, IF YOU WILL, LIKE PRECOMMITMENT. PEOPLE ARE OPEN BECAUSE THEY COME IN NOT AS A MEMBER OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OR DEMOCRATIC PARTY. THEY COME IN AS GERRARD FROM NORMANDY. THEY COME IN AS WHOLE INDIVIDUALS WITH VARIOUS DIMENSIONS, VARIOUS PERSONALITIES, VERY CONCERNS, ET CETERA. SO THEY'RE READY TO CHANGE THEIR MIND, WHICH IS REALLY NOT THE CASE IN THE CURRENT SORT OF PARTISAN SYSTEM WE HAVE.

Steve says NO, THAT IS VERY SURE. LET'S PLAY A CLIP HERE. THIS IS THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHER CORNEL WEST WITH, WELL, RAISING SOME OTHER KINDS OF OBJECTIONS TO SOME OF THE IDEAS THAT YOU'RE ADVANCING HERE. LET'S HERE WHAT HE'S GOT TO SAY AND THEN WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Cornel West. What is Democracy. 2018."
In the clip, Cornel sits inside a living room and speaks. He's in his sixties, with big curly gray hair and a long goatee.

A male voice says DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WANT TO RULE THEMSELVES?

Cornel says IT'S A TOUGH QUESTION. DOSTOYEVSKY SAID DO THEY... THAT'S THE CHALLENGE. IN THAT SENSE HE'S LIKE PLATO'S CHALLENGE TO DEMOCRACY. THE CHALLENGE TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE FREE. HOW MANY PEOPLE REALLY WANT TO BE FREE? JAMES BALDWIN SAID: VERY FEW. THE BURDEN IS TOO MUCH. TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

The clip ends.

Steve says "THE BURDEN IS TOO MUCH." ARE YOU AT ALL CONCERNED THAT POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT MAY NOT BE AS UNIVERSAL A DESIRE AS YOU HOPE?

Hélène says I'M NOT CONCERNED BECAUSE MY MODEL OF OPEN DEMOCRACY DOESN'T REQUIRE EXTREME POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT AT ALL TIMES. IT'S NOT A MODEL OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY. ON THE CONTRARY. IT'S A NEW IDEA OF DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATION. SO THAT MEANS YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO RAISE YOUR KID FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS OR IF YOU PREFER [indiscernible] OR YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT POLITICS RIGHT NOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE MASSIVELY INVOLVED ALL THE TIME. IT'S NOT A MODEL OF ANCIENT DEMOCRACY WHERE IT WAS YOUR DUTY TO BE IN THE PUBLIC FORUM ALL THE TIME. BUT THAT SAID, I DO THINK THAT WE UNDERESTIMATE THE POTENTIAL AND THE DESIRE THAT PEOPLE HAVE FOR CONNECTION THROUGH POLITICS AND THE PUBLIC [INDISCERNIBLE]. AND POLITICS CAN TAKE MANY FORMS. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS CLICHE OF, YOU KNOW, DEMONSTRATIONS OR CANVASSING OR CAMPAIGNING IN THE TRADITIONAL WAYS. IT'S A VERY ELECTORAL CENTRIC, PARTISAN CENTRIC WAYS. THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF WAYS TO ENGAGE IN THE COMMUNITY AND BE POLITICAL. THE YOUTH KNOW THAT. THEY ARE PROBABLY THE MOST POLITICAL GENERATION IN A LONG TIME AND THEY DON'T VOTE MUCH. SO I THINK IT DEPENDS ON WHAT WE MEAN BY POLITICAL COMMITMENT OR PARTICIPATION. I THINK I WOULD LIKE TO SEE CONTRIBUTING TO WIKIPEDIA, FOR EXAMPLE, AS A POLITICAL ACT, YOU KNOW, EDUCATING YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE RIGHT WAY TO SETTLE DISAGREEMENTS. OR IF YOU'RE A STUDENT, TRYING TO LOBBY TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM FOR SELECTION OF DELEGATES TOWARDS SOMETHING LIKE A RANDOM SELECTION, WHICH WAS TRIED IN BOLIVIA, FOR EXAMPLE. I THINK THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF WAYS. PEOPLE ARE REALLY EAGER TO HAVE A SENSE OF BELONGING AND... YOU KNOW, AND [indiscernible]. I THINK THAT'S WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO TRY TO GIVE THEM THROUGH THE IDEA OF AN OPEN DEMOCRACY.

Steve says TRUE ENOUGH. IT ALSO HARKENS TO MIND THE OLD LINE ATTRIBUTED TO OSCAR WILD IN WHICH HE SAYS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH SOCIALISM IS IT TAKES TOO MANY MEETINGS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THAT'S THE GIST OF THE LINE. HAS HE GOT A POINT?

The caption changes to "The Democracy Agenda. A TVO and Toronto Star partnership."

Hélène says AGAIN, I DON'T ASK PEOPLE IN MY OPEN DEMOCRACY TO GO TO TOO MANY MEETINGS. I ASK THEM TO SIMPLY ACCEPT THAT ONCE IN A WHILE THEY MIGHT BE REQUIRED TO GO AND BE PART OF A, YOU KNOW, AUTOCRATIC BODY FOR A FEW WEEKENDS, SOMETIMES A FEW MONTHS, AND MAYBE IF YOU GO THAT FAR, A FEW YEARS. I THINK THE PROBABILITY OF BEING... FOR A FEW WEEKENDS WOULD BE HIGHER. IT WOULD BE EASIER BY PAYING PEOPLE HANDSOMELY, AS I SAID, COVERING CHILD CARE, TRAVELLING, YOU KNOW, MAYBE THE USE OF TECHNOLOGIES THAT THEY COULD HAVE MEETINGS FROM HOME AT CONVENIENT TIMES. AND ULTIMATELY THE TRUTH IS THAT I WOULD LIKE US TO ALSO RE-THINK THE ENTIRE ECOLOGY OF OUR POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS, INCLUDING OUR ECONOMY, FOR EXAMPLE. I THINK THAT IN THE U.S. ESPECIALLY PEOPLE WORK WAY TOO MUCH, WHICH MEANS THEY DON'T HAVE TIME TO... I MEAN, THOSE WHO WORK, THEY DON'T HAVE TIME TO, YOU KNOW, FOCUS ON OTHER THINGS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR, YOU KNOW, IDENTITY OR THE FULL DEVELOPMENT AS HUMAN BEINGS, AND SO IF WE MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE A LEAVE FROM THEIR JOB TO GO AND DEVOTE TIME TO CIVIC ACTIVITIES, I THINK THAT WOULD BE AN IMPROVEMENT AND A WAY TO JUST MAKE SOCIETY MORE LIVABLE, MORE HUMANE.

Steve says HELENE, IN OUR LAST MINUTE HERE I WANT TO ASK YOU A BIT OF A PERSONAL QUESTION INASMUCH AS YOU ARE A PROFESSOR AT YALE UNIVERSITY. THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS AND ELITE UNIVERSITIES IN THE WHOLE WORLD. YOU ARE TEACHING AND HELPING DEVELOP THE NEXT GENERATION OF ELITES WHO PRESUMABLY ARE GOING TO TAKE THEIR PLACE IN POLITICS AND THE OTHER INSTITUTIONS OF OUR WORLD. AND YET YOU SEEM VERY MUCH TO BE SIDING WITH THE ANTI-ELITISM, POPULIST MOVEMENTS OF OUR DAY. AND I WONDER WHETHER YOU THINK THAT PUTS YOU INTO A BIT OF AN ODD BOX EVERY NOW AND THEN?

Hélène says IT DOES. I HAVE TO SAY, THIS IS KIND OF A STRANGE PLACE TO BE. SO I'LL TELL YOU THE WAY I RECONCILE MYSELF WITH THAT IS THAT, ONE, I TEACH AMAZING STUDENTS WHO ARE INCREDIBLY IDENTIFY LIST PARTICULAR. THEY ARE SELF-SELECTING TO MY CLASSES MAYBE. THEY WILL TALK TO THEIR ROOMMATES AND SLOWLY CONSULTING THEM ONE BY ONE FOR A BETTER VISION FOR SOCIETY, I'M HOPING. I GET A LOT OF PUSHBACK FROM THEM. THEY ARE VERY SMART. THEY COME SOMETIMES FROM MORE CONSERVATIVE BACKGROUNDS, YOU KNOW, ECONOMICALLY CONSERVATIVE BACKGROUNDS. WE HAVE INTERESTING CONVERSATIONS. I'M PROBABLY WRONG ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS. I HOPE THEY TAKE THE IDEAS AND TURN THEM INTO SOMETHING BETTER. THE OTHER WAY I RECONCILE MYSELF WITH THAT IS THAT I MAKE THEM CONTRIBUTE TO WIKIPEDIA, FOR EXAMPLE, SO I HOPE THAT I ADD TO THE SUM TOTAL OF KNOWLEDGE AND GIVE ACCESS TO THAT SORT OF KNOWLEDGE THAT I SHARE, YOU KNOW, WITH OTHER PEOPLE. FINALLY, I AM ON THE SENATE OF MY UNIVERSITY WHERE I'M PUSHING FOR RANDOM SELECTION SO FAR AND I'M TRYING TO CHANGE THE CULTURE THERE. IT'S VERY HARD. IT'S REALLY AN UPHILL BATTLE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Wodek Szemberg, @wodekszemberg."

Steve says WELL, YOUR BOOK IS GETTING AND YOUR IDEAS ARE GETTING A GREAT DEAL OF PUBLIC ATTENTION AND DISCUSSION RIGHT NOW, WHICH IS ALL TO THE GOOD, AND SUGGESTS THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH OUR CURRENT DEMOCRACY THAT NEED FIXING AND GOOD FOR YOU FOR PUTTING SOME IDEAS OUT THERE AS ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTIONS. AND WE THANK YOU FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT AND SHARING YOUR VIEWS WITH US. MERCI, HELENE.

Hélène says MERCI.

Watch: Is Democracy In Need of A Serious Shake-Up?