Limiting the allotted chamber’s powers – a foundational argument

In our recent exchange (1, 2), Alex Zakaras and I debated whether an allotted chamber should be given the full legislative powers now held by the elected chambers, or be limited to ratifying or rejecting legislative proposals made by an elected chamber. Two main line of arguments were brought up:

  • Most of the discussion revolved around issues of competence – can an allotted chamber be expected to be as competent in drafting legislative proposals as an elected chamber. Zakaras argued that an elected chamber can be expected to be more competent due to the experience of its members. I argued that experience is to a large extent a separate matter from the method of delegate selection.
  • Additionally, there was some discussion regarding representativity. I think that we agree that due to its statistical representativity, the outlook of an allotted chamber would be closer to that of the general population than the outlook of an elected chamber is. Zakaras, however, asserted that, due to both formal and substantial considerations, an elected chamber has the advantage of being accountable to the public while an allotted chamber is not. I argue that the electoral accountability is a purely formal (or mythical) notion, which is absent in reality and self-contradictory even in theory.

Here, instead of pursuing those same lines of argument I would like to develop a different point by arguing that, in fact, there is no situation in which the public should rationally bar the allotted chamber from initiating legislature – even if Zakaras’s arguments become accepted, and it is widely agreed that an allotted chamber should generally avoid such a role.

Continue reading

Citizens’ Constitution of Czech Republic

I don’t believe that this blog has previously discussed the proposed Citizens’ Constitution of Czech Republic, which would introduce both citizen assemblies and referenda into the Czech Republic on a massive scale. The proposal can be found at

http://www.pdemokracie.ecn.cz/cs/index.php?pg=eng

The proposal is not always clearly worded, but judging by Article 53A, the idea seems to be to select ten citizen commissions which will meet in parallel for five days, before getting together to submit a single joint set of recommendations (presumably chosen by majority or plurality rule). Interestingly, the proposals of the commissions are meant to be advisory only (with the final say going to either the elected legislature or a referenda) UNLESS the commission is dealing with the salaries of government officials. One might wish to expand this a bit to include, say, the ethical rules that officials must follow regarding lobbyists, transparency laws, etc.

This proposal would surely lead to a great many referenda being held. I am unsure that even a small country like the Czech Republic could make so many referenda work. But if one wants citizen participation, and one is not willing to let randomly-selected bodies make binding decisions against the will of elected legislatures, then I suppose one has little choice.