2006/05/08

Kvatch Konsiders - Lotteries Instead of Elections

I've been called for jury duty countless times and served twice. Both times my impression has been that once in the jury box people really try to do their civic duty. They try to be fair, and they do their best dispense justice.

Now...why do I mention this? Well some decades ago in science fiction there was a popular notion that anybody deliberately angling to achieve public office should be immediately disqualified (Heinlein maybe?). In fact, Arthur Clarke popularized this notion in his novel The Songs of Distant Earth, where instead of electing their leaders people where chosen to serve by lottery, and I believe that once chosen most citizens would serve honorably and fairly.

This begs the question: With corruption rampant, special interests and corporations exerting more influence than the electorate, and leaders so morally bankrupt that they can't even abide by the documents they've sworn to protect...wouldn't we be better off if we just chose our leaders via lottery? In other words, fix the duration of service, pay a more than decent wage, make it mandatory, and let people govern themselves...for real.

24 Comments:

I would agree that once chosen, as opposed to elected, people tend to act with a remarkable level of diligence.
The real problem is getting a balance between a dedicated legislature and, as would be required under this method, an entrenched bureaucracy.
Bureaucracies do tend to take up the vacuum left by a weak and inexperienced administration. Sort of a rock and a hard place situation.
But there is no need to be offensive…
Now THAT would be an exercise is spreading democracy!

Thanks for your comments. I've added you to my "fellow bloggers".

Nice blog, and keep it up!
Cartledge, that is the problem isn't it...the mind boggling complexity of government these days, and that's perhaps where this whole thing falls down. Works on a small scale--local, maybe state--but fails on a large scale.

Someonce said that the only way the Italians could endure more "post-war" governments than years since the war was the entrenched bureaucracy.

Praguetwn...welcome and thanks.
Are you treasonously suggesting that we allow this country to be ruled not only for the people, but BY the people?!?

That's just crazy talk!

I mean, how could the patriotic lobbyist class expect to form symiotic relationships with a bunch of altruistic amatuers?
There should be no money in politics. No corporate donations, no lobbyists...

Additionally, debates should not have rules. Debates should be a free for all, sort of like ultimate fighting.

That would be a good start :)

I like the lottery idea, but that does not mean people can't be bribed ;) Chances are that your experience as jury member did not even tempt you with the possibility of working it to your advantage. Politics is all about that, so even a lottery system could be corrupt...
Rex, in a lottery you might become the county assessor and imagine what you and Mrs. Danger Seeker could do then?

Denisdekat, like the debate idea. Could we have a cage as well..."In this corner George "Babyface" Bush...and in this corner Bill "Cruuussssher" Cliiintoooon!"
Cage matches are a good idea, kvatch. I wouldn't go too far into the lottery cage match thing that's just asking for bad luck of the draw. I'd surely get matched to some Andre the Giant type! :>(

In the red corner we have Andre the Auto Mechanic from Hoboken and in the blue corner we have ThePoetryMan! Ouch...
I like the idea of taking money out of elections.

How about this (and I know it will never happen, but I'm just riffing here):

1. No political donations - not from corporations, lobbyists, private citizens, anybody
2. No private money can be used. No more advantages for the Bloombergs of the country.
3. All campaigns, from dogcatcher to president are publicly funded (a graduated scale of funds)
4. If a candidate spends all of his/her public funds, the candidate cannot spend anymore money on the election - period.
5. No more advertisements - special Civics channels would be given over to 30 minute campaign blocs where candidates could tell voters what they stand for, what they propose, etc. Candidates can go negative, but they have to do it themselves live - no ads or spots created by media gurus or consultants

And that's the start of my money-free politics idea. Pay a decent wage to folks, make it absolutely illegal for lawmakers or politicians at any level from taking anything from a lobbyist or constituent (money, meal, plane ride, golf trip, etc.) and I bet politicians will be a lot more likely to vote their guts and/or constituents' intersts than the special interests.

Again, just riffing. I know it will never happen. Probably not even constitutional actually.

I plan on seeking out the Clarke novel though (if it's in print.) It sounds interesting.
There's definitely something wrong with almost anyone who thinks he or she is fit to be president. That's for starters. Then there's the fact that by the time you get to the level of senator, if you're not morally compromised it's a genuine miracle. So..lotteries, the draft..something like that...might not be such a bad thing.
Right now, I would support any plan that would get us out of this tailspin. Canada doesn't allow any donations toward an election and they have paper ballots with very small precincts, so the counting is quick and easy. We could take a lesson, maybe. As for the lottery, I would live in fear of being chosen.
Lottery? Are you serious?
I will give you 3 things that should be immediately disqualified from any future drawings:
1. Ann Coulter
2. Pat Robertson
3. ANYONE employed at Faux News...
Shelly...am I serious? Are you serious? (I kid. I KID!) :-)

All I have to say is "odds of about 130,000,000 to 1".

Peacechick...you really only need to fear if the Dems get ahold of a Diebold Accu-lotto 8000.
I go with the lottery.
hey, that is a great idea. at first i was like ha ha, but then I thought about it and it makes sense
I'm with Denisdekat...totally! Remember certain jobs attract people to them for obvious reasons. Pedophiles like to do kiddy things (boy scouts)...Cops (big egos and chips on shoulders)...Doctors and their god complexes...Bankers like money (sight,smell and feel)...so the political types join in for the gratis the fun getaways. Generalizing of course...but done the lottery way would put your grandmother on the bench...and she's probably a sharp cookie. The great equalizer in that department. I think it could work.
And here I thought it was just for the free hookers
My partner mentioned the lottery idea a couple of years ago and I poo-pooed it - saying that it would never work and what if you get a real "loser", etc. But the more "stuff" that has occurred in the last couple of years, the more I think that it just might work. It certainly couldn't be any worse!

His idea was that each citizen selected would get a good salary and once they finished their duty, they would receive a very good pension - one which you'll never have to work again if you don't want to. BUT, in order to get this, you have to be "clean". If you were convicted of taking bribes, etc, then you lose the pension. So there is very good incentive NOT to do anything corrupt while in office. Also, since you'd be set for life with the pension, you would have little incentive to give someone or an industry "special treatment" while in office since you probably don't need them for a job after you are out of office.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.
Lottery sounds like a fantastic idea! The analogy to jury duty is a good one. That civic duty should be extended to serving in office.

"Mr. Snave, you have been selected by lottery to serve as U.S. Senator for the next six years. We have notified your employer."

"Uhh, thanks. Like, when can I start socializing the country?"

If it's true that people who are chosen at random would tend to be fair, altruistic and hard-working, would a large group of such people (i.e. the Senate) police itself, weeding out the corrupt types? I like to think it might.
kvatch,

You think that the bureaucracy in Italy might have helped government after government fail. Each promises reform and runs into a brick wall of pencil pushers. Nothing changes. New government.
Praguetwin, you bring up an interesting point. I was actually crediting the bureaucracy with keeping Italy stable through...what 50+ (?)... postwar governments. But I can also see your point about it contributing to the demise of so many of them.
His idea was that each citizen selected would get a good salary and once they finished their duty, they would receive a very good pension...

Elsa, my thoughts exactly. Surprising how many people have come up with this idea. Worth a go? Perhaps.
Makes sense to me. Politics naturally attracts smarmy, narcissistic bastards. Add money to the mix and you get what we have -- government by greedy, smarmy, narcissistic bastards.

Government picked by lottery couldn't possibly include as many theiving, lying, sanctimonious sociopaths as we have in power under the present system.
Kvatch,

I know what you are saying. Seems like kind of a catch 22. For a while, Italy had more constitutions than years since WWII, but that was while I was still in college.

Your idea is basically how Plato plays it in the Republic, except the leaders are choosen by the community. If anyone shows an interest in leading, they are automatically disqualified. The citizens choose their leaders and the leaders are forced to lead from afar. They are well taken care of, but are forbidden from dealing with money. I think they are the second to have to leave the city after the soldiers, but it has been a while since I read it.
I agree with zenyenta. None of those men or women at the top are corruption-free, as much as we'd like to think they are.

Yep. Taking the donations away would be a great place to start.

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