Friday, 23 December 2011

Tosses not tossers

Along with quite a few others over the years, I’ve often wondered why we don’t elect our MPs randomly. The process could be more sophisticated than tossing a coin, but not necessarily much more. Ironically we might get fewer tossers via random selection. 

A party-free electoral system could be rather like jury service where MPs are selected randomly from a large pool of citizens. Those selected would do a tour of duty as MP with various job guarantees and compensatory arrangements, serve their term and go back to whatever they were doing before.

John Burnheim has proposed something similar, using Hayek’s word Demarchy for his ideas. As we all know, traditional MP selection by party has been corrupted by professional policy-makers from banks to charities to foreign governments such as the EU. This is what Wikipedia says about the basics of demarchy.

Demarchy (or lottocracy) is a form of government in which the state is governed by randomly selected decision makers who have been selected by sortition (lot) from a broadly inclusive pool of eligible citizens. These groups, sometimes termed "policy juries", "citizens' juries", or "consensus conferences", deliberately make decisions about public policies in much the same way that juries decide criminal cases.

Demarchy, in theory, could overcome some of the functional problems of conventional representative democracy, which is widely subject to manipulation by special interests and a division between professional policymakers (politicians and lobbyists) vs. a largely passive, uninvolved and often uninformed electorate. According to Australian philosopher John Burnheim, random selection of policymakers would make it easier for everyday citizens to meaningfully participate, and harder for special interests to corrupt the process.


Mark Wadsworth said...

I think it's a great idea, in a bi-cameral system we can try it out in the house of lords.

But people on average are just as stupid and easily corruptible as most MPs, I fear.

Demetrius said...

There would be a very serious risk of having some people with experience or knowledge of what they were talking about. In our present system of government this would never do.

A K Haart said...

MW - the Lords would be ideal for trying it out. Make a nonsense of calling the other place the Commons though.

D - experience and knowledge are always a problem in these exalted spheres.

James Higham said...

Yes, either that or meritocracy.

A K Haart said...

JH - a real meritocracy though.

Trooper Thompson said...

I think there was a fair amount of random selection in James Harrington's 'Commonwealth of Oceana'.

A K Haart said...

TT - thanks - I've not come across him before but I'll take a look.