“Representation and Randomness,” Part Three

(See parts one and two in Peter Stone’s review.)

The third paper in the Constellations symposium is “Lot and Democratic Representation: A Modest Proposal,” by Alex Zakaras. This paper has already received some attention here, and so I shall try and approach it from a somewhat different angle.

Zakaras’ “modest proposal” calls for the replacement of national- and state-level senates with randomly-selected legislative bodies. These “citizen legislatures” would not be responsible for drafting legislation. Rather, they would be responsible for approving or vetoing legislation proposed by the second, elected legislative body. They could also compel their elective counterparts to hold floor votes on legislation that is stuck in committee or otherwise stalled. And they would be solely responsible for drawing and redrawing legislative district boundaries (p. 457-458). I particularly like the latter idea. It seems to me that many of the most egregious failings of modern legislatures stem from the fact that they almost invariably get to write their own rules, and enforce those rules upon themselves. That works about as well as most self-policing—it’s better than nothing, but sometimes not by much. I would see redistricting, as well as the creation and enforcement of codes of legislative ethics, as tasks particularly well-suited for a randomly-selected group of ordinary citizens.

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