JFI and Berggruen Institute Report: People’s Assemblies Should Govern Public Banks

Christopher Eldred

Media Contact
Chris Eldred
Molly Dektar

Global trend toward deliberative democracy could be used to resolve debates over public finance and investment

JFI and the Berggruen Institute have released their third publication on public banking in Los Angeles, focused on democratic governance. The new briefing explores how a municipally-owned financial institution could directly incorporate citizens’ input into investment decisions.

Noting Los Angeles’s historical inequalities, the briefing highlights the need for a direct public voice in the day-to-day governance of a public financial institution. In describing the shortcomings of elections, public comment, and other well-established modes of democratic practice, the briefing makes the case for the use of deliberative democracy or decisions taken by randomly-selected groups of citizens to fill this need.

Using contemporary and historical examples of deliberative democracy from Paris, East Belgium, Bogotá, and Ancient Rome, the briefing goes on to propose a new governing architecture for a bank in which key governance functions are performed by these citizens’ panels. The proposed structure would rely on input from five kinds of citizens’ panels, each of whose members would be chosen by lot at pre-set time intervals and presented with high-quality, objective information:

  • An assembly as the highest decision-making body, responsible for setting the bank’s overall mandate;
  • a series of research juries responsible for identifying and gathering information on poorly-understood areas of possible investment;
  • investment panels to oversee specific parts of the bank’s mandate;
  • a review board to oversee the bank’s operations and its compliance with its mandate; and
  • commissions comprised of and representing the interests of specific communities such as workers, environmental experts, and indigenous people to ensure historically underrepresented viewpoints and social factions are represented in bank policy.

This briefing is the third publication in JFI and the Berggruen Institute’s joint series on public banking in Los Angeles initially announced on April 20, 2023. Past publications introduced the series and explored the impact of public banking on affordable housing. Forthcoming publications will explore how a public bank in Los Angeles could empower worker ownership of small businesses and accelerate the green energy transition.

“A truly democratic society needs input from ordinary people in investment decisions,” said Michael McCarthy, Berggruen Fellow, associate professor at Marquette University, and author of the briefing. “This framework is based on principles that can be applied across the economy.”

“Mike McCarthy’s brief exemplifies the kind of expansive thinking around the design of public institutions we need in order to envision and achieve a more democratic financial system,” said Paul Katz, VP in JFI’s Social Wealth initiative and co-coordinator of the joint series.

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About the Jain Family Institute:
The Jain Family Institute (JFI) is a nonpartisan applied research organization in the social sciences that works to bring research and policy from conception in theory to implementation in society. Founded in 2015 by Robert Jain, JFI focuses on building evidence around the most pressing social problems.

About the Berggruen Institute:
The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop foundational ideas and shape political, economic, and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, we bring together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to explore fundamental questions of our time. Our objective is enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, strengthened the ballot initiative process in California, and launched Noema, a new publication that brings thought leaders from around the world together to share ideas. In addition, the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award, is conferred annually by an independent jury to a thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.


composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE