Saturday, December 13, 2008

What if... #13

What if we would chose the members of parliament randomly from the whole population?

This post is part of the 2008 advent series "What if..."


  1. Strange, I thought what we have now represented that pretty well. On second thought perhaps it’s a chaotic system with the strange attractor representing to be self interest or perhaps arrogance as for what has been happening in Canada’s parliament seems to indicate to be what they all have in common:-) With that in mind perhaps random is the better way as for me it represents the set of all sets which of course would give us benefit at least of all possible outcomes.

  2. I don't know. How random is "random"? I guess there would have to be some limits about age and capabilities. Or maybe it would work better if we had a bunch of kids in there deciding things. ;-)

  3. Hi Rae Ann,

    There is a German song called "Kinder an die Macht" (Roughly: "Let Children Rule"), which summarizes this idea very nicely :-) I could even find an English translation of the lyrics:

    Kinder an die Macht

    Armies of gummy bears
    tanks made of marzipan
    wars are eaten up
    a simple plan
    childishly brilliant

    There's no good,
    there's no bad/evil
    There's no black,
    there's no white
    There are gaps in teeth
    rather than repression
    There's strawberry ice cream for life
    always good for a surprise

    Give the children the command
    they don't calculate what they're doing
    the world belongs in the hands of children
    an end to gloom
    We're being laughed to smithereens
    Power to the children!

    They are the true anarchists
    and love chaos,
    clean up
    know no rights,
    no duties/obligations
    unbowed strength,
    fierce pride

    Give the children...



  4. Tripped over this while looking for other stuff but it's an idea I've nursed for quite a few years now. Elections seem easily corrupted by donors and special interests even if the voting is above board, and the longer I live the more it seems that the people I would want to vote for would touch political office with a barge poll. And that in many cases (cf the current US president) that almost anyone could do better.

    What I settled on was that if selected on the same basis as jury duty participation in local government should be mandatory from the age of 18, and kids be prepared for it as part of being an adult. Parliament then could be filled with a random selection of people who had already served on their local council.

    Can't see it happening any time soon but I like tinkering with it every once and a while. Happy Crimbo!

  5. If the members didn't need to be elected, and didn't care what everybody else thought, what would keep them from devoting their terms of office to looting the country on their own behalfs? This happens a lot even with the threat of retribution hanging over them.

  6. One would obtain a Parliament of mediocrities rather than a Parliament of whores (ISBN: 0-8021-3970-1).

  7. Vague and unreliable memory suggests (and Wikipedia seems to agree) that this wouldn't be such a new idea... except for the replacement of "reasonable people", for some definition of reasonable, with "everyone".

    The question is: to be fully representative, one would have to extend the pool of possible applicants to include, for instance, the prison population. This is unlikely to work well in theory or in practice, surely?

    Anyway: this comment has been an excuse to carry out part 5 of a meme I got tagged with. Please feel free to ignore, of course :-)

  8. since we are chosing em randomly from the population so results may vary in every session due to difference in calibers of people but overall it is going to like now only becoz even the elected ones are not certified from any institution for taking political decisions in a right way.all of our grt leaders are also from the population but they did it well becoz of their commitment.
    thus nothing will change.

  9. Regarding the fugitive "A": Like watching a dog (presumably not a beagle) playing chess, one is amazed by Wincrap's perseverence not its results.

  10. Automatic full and proportional representation of every minority group.

    Also a perpetual class of political greenhorns who would probably get manipulated into rubber stamping everything the bureaucracy came up with.

    The possibilities are endlessly amusing.

  11. As noted above, the proposed system - called sortition, (or allotment) - was the one used by the Democratic archetype, Athens. In fact, the classical political philosophers (most prominently, Aristotle, but this was apparently a truism at the time) considered selection by lot to be democratic, and selection by election to be oligarchical.

    I am a committed supporter of the idea of sortition and have written several blog entries related to the idea. In those entries I attempt address many of the objections raised by the commenters here. See for example, The problem with elections, Capitalism is from Athens, elected government is from Sparta and other entries under the category "democracy".

    There is also a recent series of books devoted to the idea.

  12. Power would end up in the hands of the civil service. With most legislators neither especially interested in the job or especially prepared for it, it would be too easy for the administrators to present matters to parliament so as to get the outcome they wanted.


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