Feb. 27th, 2012

kent_allard_jr: (morans)
This is a bit of pie-in-the-sky political philosophizing. It's based on a contradiction between two principles.

On the one hand, a good government is one that acts in the best interests of its people, and the only way to ensure this (that we know of) is to hold the government responsible to those people through free, fair and regular elections. On the other, a good government is a well-informed government, one that studies the issues it's involved in.

Traditionally, we've hoped or assumed that representative democracy fulfills both criteria: We elect leaders who then learn all they need to make intelligent decisions, because failing to do so could lead to disasters that they would be held responsible for. Is this, however, a safe assumption? I don't think it is, particularly when dealing with issues of great public interest but limited public knowledge. What's the point of learning about an issue if you're responsible to an uneducated public, that will punish you for taking the correct, well-informed position?

Note that when I say "uneducated" I mean "about a specific issue." Everyone is poorly informed about some matters, and well informed about others. This is not a question of college degrees or anything like that. It isn't about credentials, but a willingness to learn.

My solution to this problem would be, first of all, to have a limited bicameralism, with one elected (and more powerful) chamber, and another made up of technocrats elected from professional associations or something like that. The latter would be able to veto the decisions of the former, but only with a supermajority vote (say, 3/4th of the technocrat chamber); they would only be able to veto if there was a broad professional consensus. (In practice, these vetoes would have to be made by specialist committees, rather than the chamber as a whole. So there'd be one made up of economists, one of national security specialists, and so on.)

In addition, the second chamber's veto could be overridden by a draft lottery legislature. This would be a group of randomly selected citizens, who would listen to arguments from representatives of both chambers before deciding whether to sustain or override the veto. So in my vision, the constitution would be both more technocratic and more democratic at the same time, with the purpose of creating, and putting more power in the hands of, a well-informed public.

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August 2012

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