Random Legislators - Part I

A study shows that mixing random and elected legislators would increase efficiency in congress.

Modern democracies are not very efficient. Democratically elected legislators are very good at passing many laws but…, with very little public benefit(1). As a result, despite politicians’ hectic daily activity, average social welfare obtained is very poor. Modern representative governments have degenerated into a sort of new aristocracy whose vested interests prevail at the cost of public interest. The main problem with modern democracies is that legislators often use their power, knowingly or absent-mindedly, for their own agenda.
An alternative could be to select legislators through a lottery system. These individuals would owe nothing to anyone and therefore, they would more likely remain loyal to their conscience only. They would not be concerned about re-election either.
There is also an additional advantage with this system. Congress would become more efficient since random legislators would employ their time dealing with the complexities of the laws only. Unlike their democratically elected peers, random legislators would not need to spend/waste their time dealing with political intrigue within the party, resisting pressure from lobbyists on behalf of powerful and generous corporations and not to mention attending meetings and giving speeches to promote their future re-election(2).
This random congress sounds promising but, unfortunately, a computer simulation model run by a group of Italian researchers(1) shows that this kind of government is not very efficient either. Random legislators would pass laws with a very high social gain but…, they would manage to pass very few of them. As a result, as with the standard democracies, the average social welfare obtained by the society as a whole would be very poor.
The Italian researchers propose to mix both kinds of legislators in a single chamber. Doing so we could obtain a bettered system. Many laws would be passed thanks to the positive role of the democratically elected representatives. At the same time, the quality of the laws passed would increase as well due to the role of the random legislators. They argue that random legislators should be around 20 to 30% of the total.
Conventional democracies are much better than dictatorships, no one argues that, but no doubt they have their shortcomings(3) as well. Ask the Greeks or the Spaniards.
  1. Accidental Politicians: How Randomly Selected Legislators Can Improve Parliament Efficiency. A. Pluchino, C. Garofalo, A. Rapisarda, S. Spagano, M. Caserta. http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.1224
  2. Random Selection in Politics, Carson L., Martin B. http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/99rsip.pdf
  3. US Vice-president Al Gore “The Inconvenient Truth” is a good example. He knew what had to be done but didn’t do it. He was more preoccupied about his short-term reelection than the long-term global warming. This is the real inconvenient truth.

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