Thursday, June 30, 2011

Random Representation

Despite routine assertions of the moral superiority of Democracy, people seem uncomfortable with any ideas about implementing one in which the people actually decide anything (we're talking about direct democracy here).  We often get excuses about this under the heading of "impracticality", though in the internet age that argument gets increasingly difficult to swallow.  It really seems like people are just uncomfortable with the idea.

Consider this thought experiment proposed by Yglesias (an experiment bearing marked similarities to conversations my lab mates and I have had in the past few months).  Basically the idea goes like this:

1. Assume that direct democracy is still unfeasible for logistical reasons.
2. A mathematically pleasing proxy is just to take a random statistically representative sampling of the population and make them the representatives of the people.  Do that, and let them rule.


3. In Yglesias' argument, you make them a sort of check on the actual governing body (say a city council and/or mayor or whatever) so that they are just approving (or denying) actions and budgets rather than making policies, and occasionally deciding whether we need a new governing body.

One would imagine that almost by definition this would better represent the spread of views in the population than the results of a "winner takes all" style election.  I know you all agree with me, but are still squirming in your seats as you contemplate the various sorts of people who would get minor positions of authority in this setting.  I like Yglesias' take on it, because it makes them into a sort of check on the person or people doing the actual governance, rather than the governors themselves, which seems to alleviate the majority of my squirming (a squirming I firmly believe is more closely tied to prejudice than to practicality).  I can even imagine that in the right small town you might be able to convince people to agree to give this a try.  Anyone want to form a new community with me and give this a shot?

No comments:

Post a Comment