Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Lottery

Bernard Chazelle, who writes smart, incisive, provocative posts from his professorship (American Lit? Lit Crit? No, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Computer Science) at Princeton, for Jon Schwarz' lapidary site, A Tiny Revolution, today had a post addressing the problem of maintaining the integrity and independence of y/our elected officials. Select 'em the way we select jurors. Here's the good Professor:
Jury Duty Democracy

By: Bernard Chazelle

I suggest that all US senators and representatives should be picked at random among the adult population. Like jury duty. Except that if you're chosen you can say no. The job will be prestigious and well remunerated, so most lucky winners will say yes. I've given this idea a lot of thought, that is, as much thought as one can pack in 2.5 seconds, so maybe there's a GIANT flaw but here are the pros and cons.

1. We'd get politicians of average intelligence: no difference.

2. We'd get politicians of average honesty: huge improvement.

3. We'd get the thin Bell curve tail of lunatics, sex perverts, and psychopaths: huge improvement. Right now we get a "only-the-crazies-join-the-crazies" power-law distribution that produces the Joe Liebermans of the world.

4. We'd get no elections hence no electoral campaigns hence no campaign financing hence no lobbyists hence no corporate pimping: huge improvement.

5. We'd get true representation of the American people, and not true representation of the super-rich: huge improvement.

6. We'd get more women and minorities in government. We'd get an average of 2 lawyers in all of Congress. Yes, 2! (They'd probably sue each other and cause no harm.) Again, huge improvement.

7. If jury duty is any indication, we'd get people who often take their job seriously: huge improvement.


1. You don't get to choose your representatives. Like today. Right now you get to choose people but they are not in any way your representatives, so there would not be the slightest difference on that score.

2..... I dunno. I am sure there's a second flaw somewhere. You have to help me here.
PS: I don't recommend this for the US presidency because the variance is too high.
It seems unlikely that, on average, we'd do any worse than the corrupt, venal, mendacious scoundrels that the present system procures for us, Pandarus-like...

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