Maurice Pope’s book The Keys to Democracy

March 4, 2023 Leave a comment

This page is to help you find out how to buy – and see what people have said aboutThe Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power by the late classicist Maurice Pope.

You can order the hardback either directly from UK publisher Imprint Academic (note the launch discount with code CAT23), from bookshops like Barnes & Noble or globally from Amazon (e.g. US, UK, AU, DE, FR). It is also available as an ebook on Kindle and on B&N’s Nook.

Links to public presentations and discussions of the book are here. You can also read the preface online.

Video highlights of a debate at Wadham College, Oxford, to launch the book in March 2023.

Reviews and endorsements are below, with the most recent entries are added at the bottom of this page.


This is a visionary, luminous, wide-ranging and profoundly humanistic book … Maurice Pope saw the potential of democracy by lot to fight corruption, to improve the quality of deliberation, to build on ordinary citizens’ common sense and diversity, and to educate and spread in the body politic the fundamental ethos of social equality.

Dr. Hélène Landemore 

Professor of political science at Yale University and author of Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the 21st Century.


The apogee of a career’s thinking as a radical-minded classicist … The Keys to Democracy remains unique in its philosophical breadth and scope. And in its vision, it is still bolder than many on offer. 

Dr. Paul Cartledge 

Emeritus A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University and author of Democracy: A Life


Maurice Pope was obviously something of a visionary, predicting the modern reincarnation of sortition in the form of citizens’ assemblies years before the recent “deliberative wave” was even a tiny ripple on a few disparate ponds. He was also incredibly knowledgeable and insightful. His arguments and reasoning as he sets out the case for sortition are still highly relevant today.

Dr. Brett Hennig

Director and Co-Founder, Sortition Foundation, Cambridge, UK, and author of The End of Politicians: Time for a Real Democracy


Maurice Pope’s book provides a compelling basis for the next democratic paradigm. He makes it clear that what we refer to as ‘democracy’ today is rather an oligarchy of elected elites—and that it was intentionally designed as such. It’s why we need to reclaim the true meaning, values and processes of democracy. Pope shows us why the ideal of government by the people is not only desirable, it is also possible if we return to democracy by random selection of representatives (sortition). It gives us hope.

Claudia Chwalisz

Chief Executive Officer of DemocracyNext and former lead of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s work on Innovative Citizen Participation


Required reading for our times. Innovation in democracy has never been more needed now that climate change requires long-term collective action underpinned by democratic consent—over decades to come. This bold proposal combines Maurice Pope’s insights into ancient methods of democracy with a brave vision for the future that overcomes the limits of representation.

Dr. Heather Grabbe

Open Society European Policy Institute and University College, London


Maurice Pope’s call for random selection-based democracy is a powerful, pre-emptive herald to the current expansion of citizen participation. It has the distinctive merit of connecting the field of sortition design to wider historical trends and political philosophy. In doing so, his book adds invaluable intellectual ballast to the quest for better democratic practices. Pope’s masterful tract shows that today’s attempts to involve citizens in politics should not be dismissed as an ephemeral fad, but have deep roots in political concerns and debates extending back many years.

Prof. Richard Youngs

Senior Fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, professor at Warwick University and author of Rebuilding European Democracy: Resistance and Renewal in an Illiberal Age 


Informed by a learned and entertaining sweep of the pedigree of democracy, this erudite book makes a cogent case for the merits of sortition as a means of revitalising citizen engagement and improving the quality of political decision making, while not hiding the obstacles to its adoption in the years ahead. At a time of growing cynicism, it should be read by anyone seeking creative ways to boost trust in politics.

Michael Keating

Executive Director of the European Institute of Peace and former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Somalia


Those of us who yearn for citizens’ assemblies to be better respected, understood and used as a transformative tool for democracy will find much solace and hope in Maurice Pope’s pioneering book. Having a work of such calibre and prescience at our side will surely help many hitherto covert sortition supporters come out of the closet once and for all.

Annika Savill

Formerly the Executive Head of the UN Democracy Fund, the Senior Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan and the Diplomatic Editor of the UK’s Independent newspaper


Awe-inspiring … [Maurice Pope] was an intellectual dark horse.

Dr Edith Hall

Professor of Classics, Durham University and author of Aristotle’s Way and Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind


Maurice wrote his book decades ago. Couldn’t get it published. Too crazy an idea. Until now! 

Jefferson Smith

Democracy Nerd podcast host


A masterpiece of thinking and writing, and a pleasure to read … I love the book.

—James Harding

Editor and founder Tortoise media, former director of BBC News and ex-editor of The Times.


It’s an astonishingly brilliant book. It thinks through many of the things that political theorists and political scientists have been gradually groping towards over the last 40 years. It is radical, but also realistic. It recognizes that the full utopian vision is not going to come about any time soon, that many of the changes in democracy have been gradual processes that have taken hundreds of years to develop.

—Dr Alan Renwick

Professor of Democratic Politics at University College London, Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit and author of The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy.


Encountering the book … is like discovering a time capsule: we peer into the mind of a genius whose work reaches out from the past and yet, in its perspicacity and ambition, stretches way ahead of us. It’s also a delight to read. Pope’s voice speaks through the text in his breezy style and inimitable wit; the anecdote and humor that he peppers throughout make his points pop in your mind. And they’re big ones...

Pope was … a visionary, and his plan’s more revolutionary than The Communist Manifesto. What’s incredible about it is the context of its writing. In the late 1980s—and certainly with the fall of the Soviet Union—citizens of the West were being told repeatedly that we’d reached “the end of history.” There were no alternatives, Thatcher declaimed, to liberal capitalism and the elective oligarchy that’s got us by the throat. Yet deep in the bowels of his study, this brave, brilliant man was working out an audacious dream for democracy entirely on his own. Reading the result is like being invited in and given a cup of tea in one hand and a stick of dynamite in the other—except the dynamite explodes your mind. The author’s out on a limb here; yet every place he leaps, he finds his feet. The epigraph from Chesterton above actually omits the full phrase: “All real democracy is an attempt, like a jolly hostess, to bring the shy people out.” Maurice Pope is that host, and his feast’s a joy.

Nick Coccoma

Review in The Similitude, 5 April 2023.


It’s surprisingly a lot more relevant today than when Maurice Pope originally wrote it. He was echoing his experience in understanding classical and Athenian democracy and the ways they used instead of elections, which he was very sceptical of. They used sortition, basically random selection, to put ordinary people in control of decision-making and government. Recently there’s been a lot of experiments in this, in Ireland, where they used it to reform their abortion law, and they are about to use it to discuss their neutrality, and in France where they’ve used it in … . carbon and environmental issues and euthanasia issues. So it’s a fascinating book on how random selection can be a more democratic tool than elections.

Jeremy Shapiro

Director of Research at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Speaking on Mark Leonard’s World in 30 Minutes, 28 April 2023.


Un livre né d’une belle histoire : d’abord refusé par les maisons d’édition il y a plus de 30 ans, le manuscrit a été retrouvé par son fils @hugh.pope, qui l’a édité et publié. Un livre précurseur sur les assemblées tirées au sort. Hugh Pope m’a raconté cette histoire incroyable lors d’une rencontre au Parlement.

A book born of a lovely story: first turned down by publishing houses more than 30 years ago, the manuscript was rediscovered by his son, who edited and published it. A pioneering book on randomly selected assemblies. Hugh Pope told me this unbelievable story during a meeting in parliament.

Magali Plovie

President of the French-speaking Parliament of the Brussels Region in Belgium. Magali Plovie chose The Keys to Democracy as one of her three picks for “inspirational reading on democracy this spring.” May 2023.


Of all the things I’ve read on sortition, it’s the most Socratic ... Recommended!

Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics, Australia, during our May 2023 podcast discussion about the The Keys to Democracy.


Not a bad stylist, your Dad. Not a bad writer at all.

Michael Goldfarb, broadcaster, ex-NPR correspondent and host of FRDH Podcast “Democracy in Crisis: One Idea for Fixing It“. 4 June 2023.



A rich photographic album of Istanbul

June 8, 2023 Comments off

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A heavy head after Turkish election night

May 17, 2023 Leave a comment

Well, I admit it, I can’t stop thinking about the latest episode of Turkish Election Night. That promising new story-line of David vs Goliath, how could anyone resist? And the plot twists! Goliath sneaking out distracting numbers to put his opponent’s aim off. A sharp new personage surging onto the stage as a co-combatant. And then Goliath beating the odds and coming out on top.

That ending seems unlikely to change in a run-off vote on 28 May. Challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who took 45 per cent of Sunday’s vote, will be hard pushed to catch up with the incumbent, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who led with 49 per cent and looks sure to pick up much of surprise kingmaker Sinan Oğan’s 5 per cent.

Perhaps a different result might have meant profound shifts in domestic and foreign policies, as the New York Times opined. For the Economist, it was “a chance to restore democratic rule, and a path to economic stability”, with the fate of relations with Russia, the judiciary and the central bank all in the balance. At the very least, it would have been good to see a prisoner of conscience like persecuted businessman Osman Kavala walk free.

Now we’ll probably never know. My head the morning after was weighed down by the realisation that Turkey’s stance on all these real dilemmas was riding not just on a narrow majority but also on just one day’s vote that will not be repeated for another five years. And the question: why would any country, business or organisation that wanted to be flexible and innovative allow its decision-making process fall into an iron trap like this?

Choices have long-term consequences. As Turkish Professor Murat Somer argues, the country has been charging toward an autocratic, untransparent model of centralised decision making since a narrow majority of Turks approved a presidential system in a 2017 referendum. “The current authoritarian constitution and ruling style has not been consolidated yet but if the current government wins … it’ll be hard to get back to democracy. Autocracy could last a long time,” he said.

In short, I felt like I’d been hitting my head against a brick wall and expected a different result. The same old political map emerged: inland Anatolia and the Black Sea coast voted pro-Islamic and conservative (that is, for Mr. Erdoğan); the coast and some the biggest cities voted secular and progressive; and the mainly Kurdish southeast voted for Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu for president and for their mainly Kurdish party for parliament.

But the prevailing injustice remains: one half of Turkey has got to choose what happens next, and for five years national decisions will continue to be made more or less whatever the other half thinks. (Since the opposition is a much more equal coalition committed to re-introduce a parliamentary system, it’s fair to assume that it plans less of a one-person show, but in principle the same applies to them). The many municipalities in opposition hands will struggle to get funds and stay out of legal trouble. Meanwhile the common ground of consensus and good sense are undermined as the system increases Turkish nationalists’ undue influence on the right, as it does Kurdish nationalists on the left.

The incumbent’s victory surprised even the markets and on Monday morning the Turkish lira dropped five per cent against the dollar. The workers who are half-way through rebuilding the roof of my Turkish home from home failed to turn up, knocked out by spending the night watching the results come in and in one case driving half way across Turkey to vote.

Now the whole country of 85 million people faces two more weeks of paralysing drama until the 28 May run-off. Polarisation will proceed apace as President Erdoğan is forced even further to the right to ensure victory, while progressives, left with no prospect of a say in government, will doubtless become more pointed in their opposition.

Voting is obligatory and well-managed in Turkey – with only one or two reports of violence at polling stations – and Sunday’s 88 per cent turnout puts many Western states in the shade. But whichever side wins, it is hard to see how stability, motivation and progress will be well served by a centralised presidential system in which half of the population is angry, frustrated and feels unable to have its voice heard.

This is the same divisive majoritarian logic that gave Turkey its presidential system in 2017 with just 51 per cent of the vote. Similarly, this logic gave Europe the 2016 UK referendum on Brexit (which left 48 per cent of the British population seething and impotent for an indefinite future outside the EU) or the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence (in which 44 per cent of the Scots were left frustrated inside the UK for another generation). There is also the razor-thin margin which will doubtless decide between a Republican and a Democrat candidate in the U.S. in 2024, driving ever-deeper divisions between Americans who would mostly be able to agree on many things.

It’s not just in Turkey that people are gravitating to authoritarian alternatives (as long as autocrat reflects their political preference, of course). Pew Research Centre finds that a median of 51 per cent of people in 27 countries are dissatisfied with their country’s democratic performance, and a median 52 per cent of people in 17 advanced economies think their systems need major change.

Why then should elections continue to be the exemplar of how we choose who runs human affairs? In the conversations I’ve been having in my nearby market town in southern Turkey (described before the elections here), people are definitely split down the middle in their preferences between the candidates on offer. But at the same time, it is clear that most of them want broadly the same things: rule of law, predictability, jobs, schools and municipal efficiency.

In Turkey, polls generally show that people may dislike politicians, but they still trust the country’s institutions (see my pre-election piece in Politico about Turkey’s ‘battle of the centuries’). Experiments in my favourite alternative or complement to elections – sortition-based democracy, that is, groups of randomly selected citizens informing themselves about a topic, deliberating and then deciding in the public interest – are spreading fast in Europe, and from the Philippines to Mexico. Could they work in Turkey too? Perhaps. A recent Harris poll found that 63 per cent of Turkish citizens would be ready to participate in a council to audit their municipality’s work.

A start could be made with a citizens’ assembly on a subject that isn’t one of the big divides of Turkish politics. Possible subjects could be:

What would Turkey’s best policy be to cope with the long-term presence of 3.5 million Syrian refugees in the country?

Or: How can this country, criss-crossed as it is by major tectonic fault-lines, revamp its existing and future buildings to deal with the dangers revealed in the February earthquake, when inadequate and poorly enforced building codes resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people?

Or even: What does Turkey really want from its stalled membership negotiations with the European Union?

Such citizens’ assemblies would surely give a heartening example of ordinary people moving forward and finding consensus on difficult policy matters, as such mini-publics have done so well elsewhere. This would certainly lighten up the status quo, in which half the population is left alienated or angry the morning after. And for years of mornings to come.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s rollerskate ride – Byline Times

April 5, 2023 1 comment

How are things going in Iraqi Kurdistan? I enjoyed ten days there this winter and – even though I know people often take a very dim view of the region’s prospects – the piece below published in the Byline Times is my attempt to give a fair answer the question.

I was lucky to be travelling with Jonathan Randal, author and former grand reporter at the Washington Post, whose energy in travelling to the ends of the earth to nail down sources remains undimmed at the age of 90. We visited inspiring volunteers in community radio stations, dissident journalists in hotel cafes, past and present militia bosses in their gilt-chair-filled reception rooms and (perhaps somewhat lonely) leaders in their glittering palaces.

It’s hard to judge a place when being shown unfailing help and hospitality, being constantly offered tables groaning with delicacies and being witness to the enormous respect in which Jon is held among Iraqi Kurds of all stations.

My favourite moment came when visiting a media company (above) and Jon was introduced to the economics editor. “You should read my book about that,” Jon urged him as a familiar topic re-emerged. “Oh, but I have,” replied the editor. “In fact, I’ve read it twice.”

Here’s the top of the piece, anyway. There seems to be no paywall, so just click at the end if you want to continue reading.


Hugh Pope in the Byline Times, 3 April 2023

English Channel crossings that end in tragedy highlight how many Iraqi Kurds have been willing to take dramatic, expensive risks to reach a dream of prosperity and stability in richer countries in Europe. But 10 days spent in Iraqi Kurdistan reveals another, parallel, reality: a small but still significant number of Kurds who are obliged or ready to return.

“You should see my house in Erbil – it’s absolutely fantastic!” an Iraqi Kurd said as we chatted in the slick and shiny airport of Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital. “Sure, I’ll stick to my car wash business in Manchester for a couple more years but I plan to come back here with my family and set up a car repair place. In Britain, you can never really save money.”

Who is making the right move?

It has always been tough knowing what future to bet on in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, a shape-shifting homeland for some six to seven million people. Hopes and opportunities have to be weighed against the repeated experience that everything can change at lightning speed.

“How many collapses have we seen in our lifetimes? Three, four? No, many more!” joked former Iraqi Kurdish government minister Hussain Sinjari over dinner one evening. [Pictured above].

In a strange contrast to the serenity of his hosts’ elegant home – where the walls were hung with fine Iraqi Kurdish modern art – guests chimed in to count the catastrophes: the failure of the first modern Kurdish rebellion in the 1960s; the collapse of another Kurdish revolt in the mid-1970s; the Halabja chemical attack and Iraqi ‘Anfal’ murders of more than 50,000 Kurds in the 1980s; the 1.5 million refugees forced to flee after the Gulf war of 1991; the inter-Kurdish civil conflict of the mid-1990s; and the sudden shock when advancing Islamic State fighters were on the point of taking Erbil airport in 2014.

For its critics, Iraqi Kurdistan has wasted its chances and once again failed to prepare for a possible new perfect storm. The threats are rising again: regional meddling, a possible withdrawal of US bases, rampant domestic corruption, newly violent internal divisions, rising inequality, popular frustration and economic breakdown.

“Iraqi Kurdistan is like a country living on roller skates,” said another of the dinner guests, Jonathan Randal, a veteran reporter and author of After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness? My encounters with Kurdistan. “There’s always a chance it’ll fall flat on its back.”

That’s why everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan takes precautions…

For more, please click on this link to the Byline Times site, no paywall spotted so far. If you want still more on the Kurds, here’s an appraisal I did in 2014: The Zig-zagging Rise of the Kurds.

Panels and Presentations for The Keys to Democracy

March 22, 2023 1 comment

This blog is updated with the public presentations of The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power, by my late father Maurice Pope. Endorsements and reviews can be found separately here. A fine hardback is available direct from Imprint Academic (where you can get a 30 per cent launch discount with code CAT23, but beware of Brexit charges if ordering to Europe!). Globally it’s on Amazon (e.g. US, UK, DE) as a hardback and as Kindle. The publisher also posted my Dad’s preface online here.


4 June 2023 – FDRH Podcast with Michael Goldfarb

The eloquent American radio reporter and podcaster Michael Goldfarb and I had a fun and thoughtful conversation about democracy by lot and my late father Maurice Pope’s new book ‘The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power’. (Also on SoundCloud here).

Goldfarb reported from around the world for National Public Radio, so our discussion on his First Rough Draft of History (FRDH) podcast ranged far and wide, even taking in the Turkish elections. I was happy that the veteran newsman, now living in London, appeared to like the book as well.

“Not a bad stylist, your Dad. Not a bad writer at all,” he hummed, reflecting what, in his adopted English home, could be quite strong expression of approval.


27 June 2023 – Engines of Oligarchy: Podcast with Australian economist Nicholas Gruen

This is a full podcast with Nicholas Gruen – on YouTube here – but our full conversation was a lot longer and has been well-edited to capture all the best parts that make up a good introduction to the benefits of sortition. The sound and video are strikingly good too, considering that I was talking from the end of a very long, thin copper cable while supervising roof work at my Turkish mountainside home-from-home. We cover a lot of ground about elections, sortition, my late Dad’s book and we even had some fun along the way.


24 May 2023 – Video of the book launch debate

“Fantastic.” “Visionary.” “Extraordinarily radical.” “It’s a brilliant book.”

This short video highlights the uplifting comments and buzzing spirit we had at the launch in Oxford of The Keys to Democracy: sortition as a new model for citizen power, my late Dad Maurice Pope’s long-lost work on how to understand and fix our dysfunctional, 250-year-old political system. To mark the occasion, more than 70 members of his family, friends and similarly minded enthusiasts for democratic innovation gathered on 18 March 2023 for a debate in Wadham College.


18 April 2023 – Online panel with Germany’s Mehr Demokratie

Much to consider in this YouTube recording of our wide-ranging debate on 18 April organised by Germany’s big national democracy innovation NGO Mehr Demokratie about when and how randomly selected citizens’ assemblies may gain more decision-making power.

For the discussion, Mehr Demokratie’s Ina Poppelreuter hosted Polish sortition expert Marcin Gerwin, Mehr Demokratie’s Board Member Sarah Händel and me.

While there was mention of legally binding powers in some countries and in some domains already today, most interventions were in favour of step-by-step gradualism and more experimentation. Still, it was clear that most of us thought that some citizens’ assemblies are already gaining much legitimacy and credibility, and that politicians will have increasing difficulty to ignore their recommendations.


21 March 2023 – Online panel organised by DemocracyNext

A first online discussion of The Keys to Democracy – alongside Professor Yves Sintomer, whose excellent new history of sortition The Government of Chance was published in February – was hosted on 21 March 2023 by Claudia Chwalisz of DemocracyNext and moderated by James Harding of Tortoise Media. Click here for a Twitter thread with key take-aways and more pictures.


18 March 2023 – Wadham College, Oxford

We had a full house and a lively debate on Saturday 18 March 2023 at Oxford’s Wadham College to launch my late father Maurice Pope’s book The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power. A short video of the event is here.

I told our audience of 70 friends, family and democratic innovation enthusiasts how my father conceived and wrote the work in the 1980s, why it didn’t find a publisher three decades ago and what happened after we found the typescript after his death in 2019, forgotten on an obscure shelf in his large library.

I also laid out how The Keys to Democracy challenges us to define democracy more honestly: that is, to convince proponents of our current system that elections are not the be-all and end-all of democracy. In fact, my late Dad’s book argues that elections visibly do little more than shuffle chairs within an oligarchy, proving that “a ruling class does not need a ruling committee”. The alternative is sortition, he says, the system that powered the success of a civilisation like ancient Athens: replacing elite party politicians with the random selection of citizen panels that set policy through informing themselves, deliberating and reaching consensus, not forcing things through on narrow majority votes.

My old Wadham College roommate Michael Potter, now Cambridge’s Professor of Logic, responded to my enthusiasm by pointing out some challenges ahead. For instance, he questioned how a court jury can really be transformed so easily, as my late father proposes, into a policy-making panel. Michael’s intervention was informed by many conversations with my late father about the mathematics of sampling and random selection.

Richard Pantlin of Oxford’s Citizens Assembly Network moderated our debate, mixing it up with some instructive fun. Rich recreated the buzz of deliberation in a citizens’ assembly by asking guests to discuss their views with neighbours. Then he gave a taste of random selection by using lottery tickets to choose who got to ask questions from the audience. As ever, using random selection gave everyone a taste of having an equal chance.

We also had the chance to listen to two other Oxford activists. Dr Al Chisholm added a practical note, describing how a Citizens Jury brought very different people onto the same page about travel within Oxford. Dr Rabhya Dewshi explained why Extinction Rebellion supported citizens’ assemblies as part of XR’s goal to #decidetogether.

We were honoured to have University College London’s Professor Alan Renwick in the audience. He rose to tell us about a citizens’ assembly that he led in 2017, in which the randomly selected citizens made consensual proposals that might have defused the post-Brexit crisis. For instance, they showed that informed citizens supported the UK staying within the EU customs union and single market. If only such an assembly had had the chance to debate EU membership before the referendum vote!

Pioneer Olly Dowlen, who wrote his book on the political potential of sortition more than two decades ago, told the audience about how sortition produces good decisions.

I was amazed to hear, just ten days after publication, that several people had already ordered and read the book. My proudest moment for my father at the event was when one top practitioner said he had bought and almost finished The Keys to Democracy already and found it an “astonishingly brilliant book. It thinks through many of the things that political theorists and political scientists have been gradually groping towards over the last 40 years.”


13 March 2023 – Leiden University, the Netherlands

A light moment after a first book talk for The Keys to Democracy on 13 March 2023, for faculty and students at Leiden University’s Institute for Security and Global Affairs in The Hague, the Netherlands. 


1 March 2023 – Democracy Nerd podcast, Portland OR

The irrepressible Jefferson Smith and I left no stone unturned in my first podcast on 1 March 2023 in support of my late Dad’s book The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power.

Starting with the impact of the earthquake in Turkey (where I happened to be), Smith and his podcast Democracy Nerd took us on an unstoppable and surprisingly fun romp through not just the philosophy of democracy (including testing questions on Plato’s noumenalism), my father’s work in South Africa, the lonely life of an independent academic, the things sons do & don’t learn from their fathers and what it’s like to attend a citizens’ assembly.

Along the way we did of course explore the ins and outs of random selection, deliberation and the possible uses of democracy by lot. It was midnight, we kept debating for more than 90 minutes, I was freezing by the end and I had no idea that the camera recording was going to be published on YouTube! So it was not my slickest look.

Attending a Citizens’ Assembly in Paris

December 21, 2022 1 comment

How often do any of us study a single topic for 27 working days, spread over four months of reflection? Backed by the full support of a government and briefings by experts, officials, civil society and academics? Helped by regular deliberation with fellow citizens from all parts of our community? And in our conclusions, responsible to nobody but our individual conscience?

On 9 December, France embarked on exactly that to find answers to fraught questions around its ban on assisted suicide. As the centre of a national debate on the issue, it convened 185 people, randomly selected from all over the country and its overseas territories, to research, discuss and propose answers to the question: “Is the framework for end-of-life support suited to all situations or should changes be introduced?”

This article was originally published on 19 December in English and German on the website, part of Mehr Demokratie, one of the biggest national organisations supporting the cause of sortition and other innovations in deliberative democracy. I was particularly happy to be invited to observe the assembly because “mercy killings” were identified by my late father in his upcoming book The Keys to Democracy as exactly the kind of topic ideally suited to a citizens’ assembly.

Time will tell where the Citizen Convention on the end of life’s work leads to by the time it wraps up in March. But the first of nine long weekends of intense discussions was already remarkable, at least as seen from my position as one of 25 researchers and students invited to observe the assembly.

Most extraordinary was the depth of French government support for this second iteration of a radical experiment in democracy by lot. (The first was a similarly constituted Citizen Convention on Climate in 2019-20). When President Emmanuel Macron summoned the new Citizen Convention into existence in September, the job was again assigned to France’s Economic, Social and Environmental Council, a little-known constitutional body known by its French acronym CESE, which acts as a link to the broader population for the National Assembly and the Senate.

CESE thus coordinated the random selection of participants, found experts, prepared briefing papers and organized the convention’s three main phases: research, deliberation and summing up. The Convention also takes place in CESE’s fine Palais d’Iéna, which looks over the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Ironically, an early revelation was how the building’s great spaces done in 1930s rational modernism are fine for top-down speeches to 150-250 people, but lack the subdivisions needed for deliberation in small groups that is a key part of today’s participatory democratic process.

“A place in which new forms of democracy are being invented”

“You are here in a place in which new forms of democracy are being invented and developed … and of them the Citizen Convention is without doubt the most ambitious, the most demanding and the most engaging,” participants were told by CESE’s president, Thierry Beaudet. “It’s impossible to do this [deliberation] on the scale of a country, so you’re going to do it for us, for the whole of society … This is the basis of both your legitimacy and our trust in you.”

The randomly selected audience hardly looked revolutionary. Participants had only some of the youth and diversity of, say, the crowds travelling in the nearby Paris metro; they also had very few of the confident smiles and neat, conservative clothes that are the hallmark of elected politicians. At the same time, every element of society and France’s geography seemed present: a cheese farmer from the Alps, a professor of Greek and a retired teacher from Lille were joined by an immigrant from Niger, people of Algerian and Moroccan heritage and Muslim women in headscarves.

A true mirror of a country’s whole population

It was unique to see a true mirror of a country’s whole population in one place: France came across as predominantly middle-aged, paler-skinned, polite, attentive and – after some initial shyness – articulate, collaborative and ready to challenge authority.

All whom I met were delighted to take part, even if, before they got the phone call inviting them to the Convention, few had given much prior thought to civic action or end-of-life issues. Even fewer had heard of random selection. “I can’t believe how lucky I was to be selected!” said one. “I’m very proud to be here,” said another. “I feel like for once my voice will be heard,” said a third.

The way people reflected the actual diversity of France was praised repeatedly in speeches to the Convention by French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and President of the National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet. The two elected politicians thanked the conventioneers and promised to take their work into account in deciding how to shape a likely future change in French law on accompanying the end of life.

“The level of government support and organisation is so different this time,” said Mélanie Blanchetot, one of the participants in the 2019-20 Climate Convention, who was invited back to brief the new assembly on what had for her been a life-changing awakening to political activism. “When we started, there were members of parliament who said: ‘What legitimacy do you have?’”

On their first weekend, the new participants mostly got orientation: on how a citizens’ assembly is chosen by random selection, how to get access to digital information and what the 25 observers sitting near their tables are researching. Belgian and Swiss practitioners took the floor in a sombre session to discuss what administrating assisted suicide feels like in practice. Jean-François Delfraissy, president of France’s National Council of the Ethics of Life Sciences and Health, reminded all that there was no one right answer. “You won’t get the last word, so be humble,” Delfraissy said. “I predict there’ll be another group just like you revisiting the issue within a decade.”

The quality of much of the information was striking, like a 102-page report from France’s National Centre for End of Life-Palliative Care. With scrupulous neutrality, the document gives participants examples of end-of-life dilemmas cases and a list of arguments for and against actively assisted death. It outlines French law and gives examples from 10 other countries where assisted suicide is possible. It shows how France is growing older and therefore more people are dying in absolute terms each year; and how most French people want to die at home, but only 25 per cent manage to, with more than half dying in hospital. It ends with a list of relevant official reports, books, documentaries, theatrical productions and films.

Most of these documents and speeches are being made public on CESE’s website to allow the rest of France to inform itself alongside the Convention. The participants’ deliberation, however, is private. This took place in between the briefings at tables of about 10 people, whose make-up was shuffled between sessions through repeated selection by lot. Here the role of facilitators was key, especially in making sure everyone’s voice was heard. Sometimes the discussions stumbled when it wasn’t clear what was being asked of the group. By the third day, however, most people were making sensible, lively and acute contributions.

Absent from the Convention was any sign of the polarization one might expect given the political, religious and ethical sensitivity surrounding end-of-life dilemmas; all the main religions were invited to say their part on the second weekend. “There’s the same mix of views on assisted suicide within the group that feels religious convictions as among those who say they’re atheists,” one participant remarked.

One unexpectedly lively area of private discussion among participants was the politics behind President Macron calling the Convention into existence. Some thought it might be an attempt to score a popular goal without losing the support of people with strong views, since the most recent poll in February 2022 shows that 94 per cent of French people agree with euthanasia in cases of extreme suffering and 89 per cent agree with assisted suicide.

Perhaps alluding to politicians’ perceived need to renew their legitimacy before an electorate alienated from politics – about one quarter of French voters abstained from last presidential elections – Prime Minister Borne hoped that the Convention would play a “central role” in a new national debate, bypassing polarizing debates in electoral campaigns.

The issue of what would happen to the Convention’s findings triggered the only moment of tension on the first weekend. In response to critical questions from the Convention floor, the president of the National Assembly sharply defended her conviction that while the conventioneers might have valuable inputs and reflect French society, the elected parliament had the final word.

“You are free, but so are we … even if you reflect greater diversity than parliament, you don’t represent the people! You are a foundation stone and we will all build the wall together,” Braun-Pivet said. “There is no question that random selection will replace elections.”

“Collective intelligence can produce tremendous things”

Even if this put-down grated with some – one participant grumbled about feeling like a commoner at the last Estates-General of Louis XVI’s crumbling regime, convened just before it collapsed in the 1789 French revolution – the atmosphere in the convention remained highly collaborative. As Prime Minister Borne pointed out, “few countries in the world would give such responsibility to randomly selected people and commit to collective deliberation.” After all, 27 days of work amid four months of reflection is “much longer than the time available to most members of parliament debating and reflecting on the writing of a new law”, the CESE’s Beaudet reminded participants. “The Citizen Convention is a wonderful tool that shows how being perfectly informed and taking time to deliberate, collective intelligence can produce tremendous things.”

Iraqi Kurdistan: an audience in the palace

December 5, 2022 1 comment

Being ushered into the presence of a country’s most powerful person is a highlight of any trip. In Iraqi Kurdistan, that means visiting Masoud Barzani, former president and leader of the biggest political-military movement.

Thanks to the chance to travel in the company of Jonathan Randal – revered here for his book on the Kurds and reporting for the Washington Post – that also means being picked up in a motorcade of black limousines and swept up to Barzani’s palace on the smooth first fold in the mountains that rise north of the capital, Erbil.

Jon told Barzani how grateful he still was for Barzani’s role in saving him and an embattled group of foreign reporters whom Barzani helped make it out of Iraqi Kurdistan safely in 1991, just ahead of advancing Iraqi troops. Barzani then reminded us of how one day in 1996 he’d been in his home village of Barzan, its houses then still flattened piles of rubble after being blown up a decade before by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein when Jon suddenly appeared in front of him with a first rapid-fire question: “What are you doing here?” To which Barzani remembered replying: “This is my village. What are YOU doing here?”

It’s a good question. Jon, now 89, usually says that the Kurds were his last reporting love because, however desperate their predicament, they could laugh at it and make him laugh too. I was once again with Jon that day in Barzan, and remember how we stopped on the potholed road, jumped out of the pretty white Suzuki jeeps that we’d driven over from Turkey and astonished Barzani’s entourage by wandering up to talk – interrupting what they’d hoped would be a day off in a tense period of soon-to-turn-deadly internal Kurdish political rivalry.

My contribution to our palace visit was a memory from further back: a gift of two pictures of Barzani as a young guerrilla leader in the mountains in 1985, when the Iraqi Kurds became tangled up in the Iran-Iraq war. Barzani remembered that day too. “Our headquarters was half an hour away and the Iranians told us a group of their senior commanders were coming. So we hurried over,” he said. “Then we found the Iranians had brought a group of journalists. The Iranians were very keen to make it look like we were fighting alongside them.”

In the shifting Bermuda triangle of Kurdish geopolitics, Iran, like Turkey, is now occasionally bombing bits of Iraqi Kurdistan to underline its discomfort with Kurdish issues and to provide distraction from domestic problems. But nearly forty years since my first visit in that Iranian helicopter, it’s the only place in the Middle East I can think of where the same man still presides over his people. A lot has improved, with roads, airports, some international recognition and construction everywhere. Many enduring and apparently insoluble problems remain, of course, yet Iraqi Kurds still manage to laugh at some of them.

Setting a course for a better-run future

September 13, 2022 Leave a comment

One question often nagged me in my four decades as a reporter, writer and conflict prevention analyst: Is the occasional vote for a politician or party truly the best system to choose who runs a country?

Over the past year, I was delighted to learn I wasn’t the only one puzzling over the answer. I was even happier to discover a group of like-minded idealists who are working on DemocracyNext, an independent non-profit dedicated to researching and bringing to life a better-designed paradigm for future governance. Here’s their public online launch event on 15 September 2022 (International Democracy Day).

I’m also very proud that DemocracyNext has asked me to join their Advisory Board. At last, I feel that I have found a political ideal I can believe in and work for.

Learning to love sortition

The key innovation that DemocracyNext is looking into is how to bring people into decision-making through selection by lot, as in jury service. This is also called sortition and is inspired by the classical golden age of Athens, whose definition of democracy was a government by randomly selected citizens. All were equal and took turns, first to deliberate on problems, and then to legislate, judge and act as the executive in the name of the city.

DemocracyNext is one of a number of groups that have sprung up in recent years to promote aspects of sortition. All share many values and principles, but most focus mainly on one country: for example, Sortition Foundation in the UK, Equality by Lot in the US, Mehr Demokratie and its Citizens’ Assembly project in Germany, Tegen Verkiezingen in the Netherlands, G1000 in Belgium, WeDoDemocracy in Denmark, Deliberativa in Spain and newDemocracy in Australia. DemocracyNext adds a more international and radical vision: to put sortition “at the heart of a new democratic system,” not just in government but in the workplace too.

DemocracyNext aims to create brand new institutions, not to bring the sixth century BC back to life or have a lottery to choose the president or prime minister. The approach builds on a growing wave of Citizens’ Assemblies, which are randomly selected so that representatives are a true sample or reflection of their communities or countries. In the past decade, more than five hundred such assemblies in dozens of countries have been finding original solutions to problems that have long stumped politicians: climate change in the UK, France and elsewhere; conflict resolution in the Philippines and Bosnia; and in Ireland, breaking the logjam on abortion and same sex marriage.

Are these assemblies really different from elected parliaments? Two sets of pictures speak volumes to me. One symbolises the current system in the United States, showing the eight top Congressional officials in the Senate and the House. I know that individually some of them – notably Sen. Dick Durbin, whom I’ve interviewed – are wonderfully effective people. But the problem is that collectively, they all look exactly the same. Charismatic, good at raising money, old, male, mostly of one skin colour and likely all pretty well off.

The members of Citizens’ Assemblies, on the other hand, seem exactly like people you might meet on a bus, train or plane. They represent the full, balanced diversity of the community or population. The pictures below – from Citizens’ Assemblies in France, the UK and Germany – also capture both the intense concentration on discussing expert evidence and also the joyful sense of engagement that are characteristic of these gatherings.

Until now, Citizens’ Assemblies have mostly been convened in an advisory capacity. While some politicians have embraced them or joined them, others have stood in their way, seeing them as unqualified or as a threat to their lock on power. In future, such assemblies could achieve much more. At the top of DemocracyNext’s to-do list is the design of and advocacy for sortition-based institutions with real authority.

Why bother?

Personally, I feel many reasons to gravitate towards democracy activism.

I’ve never believed in elections, for a start. They have long struck me as the root cause of the political dead end that delivers government-by-pantomime in my native Britain, the worst polarisation in generations in the United States and multiplying numbers of authoritarian leaders around the world. I’m not alone in thinking that something is deeply wrong: a global survey in 2021 by the Pew Research Center found that almost everywhere people have less respect than ever for politicians and are hungry for change.

I’ve never felt that people involved in politics had a special call on my admiration or loyalty. At Oxford University four decades ago – breeding ground of many of the country’s parliamentary leaders – I remember being put off by the stressed and hungry looks of the politically ambitious as they plotted and partied for support. (The parties were fun, though).

I left England a month after graduating to become a reporter and writer. I spent decades criss-crossing the eastern Mediterranean and greater Middle East, from crisis to conflict to economic collapse. Yes, people wanted a better life, including justice, freedom, equality and more. But elections – whether real, faked or only promised – rarely made much difference to what was really going on in most people’s lives. And I never solved the equation that posits: elections equals democracy equals better government.

Take Malta, for instance. In the 1987 elections, an 0.2 per cent swing away from the previous left-wing ruling party triggered a 180-degree about-turn in the small island nation’s rulers. As a young reporter for Reuters news agency, I remember standing bewildered on a midnight pavement in central Valetta as supporters of the triumphant right-wing nationalists went mad around me. For the Maltese, and perhaps many others, it seemed perfectly normal. I however was completely confused by the logic of a system in which a country could so radically change course only because a tiny proportion of the people changed their votes.

Or look at Turkey. In recent decades, the technical side of the electoral process has been generally clean, with lots of parties competing and people able to vote freely. Yet the results are gravely distorted by vote-share thresholds that exclude smaller parties, monopolisation of media by the party in power and the locking up of dissidents. And, in the end, just one man rules.

Iraqi man writes “Yes, yes to the leader” in his own blood on his arm in Mosul, northern Iraq in 2002.

Or Iraq. There was no doubt in my mind, when I observed Saddam Hussein’s referendum on his presidency in 2002, that the process did deliver him something close to the 99 per cent support he claimed. But looking at the traumatised faces of the ‘voters’ being watched every step of the way from the electoral roll to the ballot box, it was clear that the legitimacy Hussein sought was a brittle charade.

Referendums in a much freer country, the United Kingdom, look suspect to me too. How can a decision as serious and multi-faceted as Britain leaving the European Union or Scotland leaving the United Kingdom be left to a majority achieved by a razor-thin number of voters, after a process that is thoroughly politicised and open to all kinds of domestic and foreign manipulation?

Meeting Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister, in 2004.

Then there are the professional politicians. I have met and interviewed dozens of heads of state and government, almost all winners of elections. Only rarely, I found, did what they said leave a lasting impact or memory. When I did occasionally admire a politician, it was because of their achievements in life or the charisma of their personality, not because I felt that they deserved to be in charge of so many details of other people’s lives.

All that is before we take conflict into account. When I worked for the International Crisis Group, I once did a back of the envelope reckoning and found that nearly one third of the conflict prevention reports we wrote in one six-month period in 2015 were about violence before, during, or after elections. I wondered: were elections the symptom, or the cause?

Blanking out at the ballot box

As a result, I’ve only voted once in my life, in my Brussels neighbourhood, and I did that because it is a legal obligation in Belgium. I felt so overwhelmed that I just voted for the mayor, probably because he seemed familiar from the monthly commune newspaper. And maybe a bit because he had cancelled a plan for a carpark under our local square that everyone protested about. But I had nothing against the other faces on the voting slip. Compared to the commitment and seriousness of the voting station workers, I felt silly. But I also felt frustrated: as a former reporter, I knew that I would have to do days of work to know if the mayor was really the best candidate, days I just didn’t have.

Perhaps electoral politics and voting never had a chance with me. Growing up, my late classicist father Maurice Pope lampooned politics and elections from the head of the family dining table. He even wrote a book in the 1980s, advocating a completely new democratic framework based on sortition. When I read it back then, I teased him about how unrealistic it all sounded. His publishers rejected the work as too outlandish. He put it aside. Years later, the work seemed to be actually lost.

Over the decades, much changed and not just with me. A decade ago, there was only a trickle of books on sortition; it is now a torrent. As frustrations with politicians, corruption and political dysfunction mounted, academics and publishers began rediscovering the democracy by lot that made ancient Athens one of the greatest civilisations the world has ever seen. Looking at ever-more extreme inequalities of wealth in countries with electoral systems, they remembered what Aristotle and many other Greek thinkers took as self-evident: elections create oligarchies, and only the random selection of citizen decision-makers, or sortition, qualifies as democracy.

Those who support electoral systems often quote Winston Churchill in their defence. Britain’s World War II leader famously said in 1947 that: “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”’

Britain’s electoral democracy may have been freer and more accountable than many others in the mid-twentieth-century – probably a generous view – but such thinking is too complacent and sets the bar too low for us today. Is our democratic ideal really only to be a bit better than dictators, absolute monarchs and monopolists of religion and ideology? Surely, we can at least try to take decisions for the common good in ways that give much fairer weight to principles like equality, participation and justice?

That’s why I’m glad to be a small part of DemocracyNext, contributing something to a real and growing wave of activism in support of sortition-based, deliberative democracy. In the same spirit, after my Dad’s death in 2019, my mother found the manuscript of his lost book in his library; finally able to understand its importance, I was inspired to edit it, with help from my brother Quentin, and pitch it for publication. A noted UK publisher, Imprint Academic, has now taken it on. Watch out for publication next spring: The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power.

This text was updated on 19 September after the actual launch of DemocracyNext

“The Keys to Democracy” Has a Publisher

September 11, 2022 Leave a comment

Good news! The UK’s Imprint Academic will be publishing my late father and classicist Maurice Pope’s last and long-lost book, which I and my brother Quentin been busy editing for the past several months. It will appear in Spring 2023 as “The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a Model for Citizen Power.”

Three decades ago, my father’s then publishers turned down the text. They found his proposals for political innovation too radical, utopian and implausible, even though they were inspired by ancient Athenian democracy. He turned to other projects. The book disappeared into what we thought was an irreparably corrupted 1980s computer file.

Then, after my father’s death in 2019, my mother Johanna found the typescript in his library. Time changes points of view! Back in the 1980s I too thought the text wasn’t very realistic. But now I see how much politics-as-usual needs to change, his argument for decision-makers selected like juries looks fresh, relevant, clear & compelling.

The project to revive the book would have got nowhere unless others had felt the same.

Huge thanks for a generous Foreword to Prof. Dr. Hélène Landemore of Yale University, whose 2021 book “Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the 21st Century” sets a gold standard for academic studies of sortition. She calls my Dad’s book “visionary … a prescient and self-assured argument for democracy by lot before pretty much anyone else.”

I much appreciated too a scene-setting Introduction by classicist Prof. Dr. Paul Cartledge of Cambridge, author of the masterful “Democracy: A Life.” Here’s part of what he says: “The Keys to Democracy remains unique in its philosophical breadth and scope. And in its vision it is still bolder than many on offer.”

Many thanks as well for early endorsements from Dr. Brett Hennig of Sortition Foundation, Claudia Chwalisz of DemocracyNext, Dr. Heather Grabbe of Open Society Foundations, Michael Keating, executive director of the European Institute of Peace and ex-UN envoy to Somalia and Prof. Richard Youngs of Warwick University and Carnegie Europe. They have variously supported the book as “Incredibly knowledgeable”; “Gives us hope”; “Required reading”; “Learned and entertaining”; and “[A] masterful tract”.

Much gratitude too to pioneering political scientist Prof. Dr. Peter Stone of Trinity College Dublin, who connected us to sortition guru and publisher Keith Sutherland. Imprint Academic is placing “The Keys to Democracy” in its series on Sortition and Public Policy.

Over the years, we also owe much to the moral and real support of Jonathan McVity, an author and student of philosophy who helped my father in trying to interest US publishers in the text in the 1980s; he tells the story in one afterword. And also Dr. Michael Potter, Professor of Logic at Cambridge’s Faculty of Philosophy, who shared rooms with me when we were undergraduates at Oxford. Michael often discussed sortition with my father, and in another afterword describes what he would have liked to have had out with my father about the use of juries (and my father did love a good argument).

The conclusion of The Keys to Democracy, Maurice Pope’s 2nd draft

It’s been a busy year of typing out the manuscript, editing, reaching out and researching footnotes. But it’s been wonderfully motivating to meet leaders of the new wave of innovators trying to upgrade our democracies, and above all to feel their selfless support.

Personally, I felt a great sense of closure when I pressed the button and sent the final manuscript to the publishers on Thursday.

I’m also so glad too to think that my father – silently but deeply disappointed, I believe, that this culmination of his life’s work didn’t see the light of day – can rest in peace. His ideas will now live on.

Holidays versus Holiday Homes

September 7, 2022 Leave a comment

Back at work in Brussels this week, trying to bottle up my few last rays of Turkey’s summer sun, I took time out with a nice Economist article on why we go on holiday. It made me question my own holidays, which seem to have little in common with this normality.

The Economist’s correspondent, vacationing in Venice, juggled museum-to-gelato ratios, hedged lovely places to visit against saw-you-coming tourist traps and hunted for the occasional ten memorable minutes to treasure – for instance, watching La Traviata in a Venetian palazzo. This kind of destination vacation, the article’s headline said, widens our world.

I too love a horizon-expanding visit to an unknown capital or beauty spot. But, perversely, I rarely do it. For the past 17 years, almost every holiday has meant one thing: visiting The Lazy Olive, the house my wife Jessica and I built from scratch on the flanks of Turkey’s Mount Olympos, near the Mediterranean coast. There we do have fun with beaches, boats and delicious food. But we can also find ourselves caught up in manic days, weeks, even months of our never-ending struggle to finish the project.

The Lazy Olive catches the early morning sun.

We know we are slightly mad and are missing out on ‘normal’ escapist holidays. But the gradual improvements, even if they can take several attempts to perfect, do make us proud. And we know that we absolutely have to make them, since we now have a steady stream of guests who rent it as a holiday home through AirBNB or Vrbo. (We hope you’ll join them, do check out the links).

Jessica enjoys this summer of 2022’s (now completed) rebuild of the natural pool’s east wall. She added five stone seats on which to soak up the sun while cool in the water.

All that work seems to be paying off at last. This year, at last, staying at the Lazy Olive felt like a holiday for me too. The work seemed less onerous, I had more time to read and relax, and the property seemed settled. Jessica moved just a ton or two of stones to make new in-water sitting places along the east wall of the natural pool. I satisfied myself with refitting a door, changing a tap and surviving some complex wiring work in the main fuse boxes.

Country retreat maintenance is certainly not what the Economist meant by “the explorer’s delusion, whereby people set out to discover what they already expect to find.” Each day at the Lazy Olive, we have little idea what fate will throw at us. I’ve written a whole book about our adventures, but I can’t finish it because the story never seems to end. Still, I can feel the narrative slowing to a more comfortable pace.

Given how much work it’s all been, it’s not surprising how important our guests’ reviews can be. It gave real joy to read Tiffini, who stayed this year. “The pool is the real gem,” she said, “the perfect place to cool off and watch the fish, frogs and dragonflies.” Or Katya, also here in 2022, who said she found “the place was perfect. It’s definitely not the usual type of vacation home, because the owners created it for themselves with heart and soul.”

For us, such endorsements is how we get our version of those treasured ten minutes to savour over the rest of the year. It’s not the Economist’s mind-widening experience of refreshing touristic novelty, perhaps. But it definitely gives some long-lasting satisfaction and a sense of ever-more deeply rooted connection to an alternative world.