New second chamber could be filled using a process of random selection

Andrew Carruthers, a reader of the Scottish The National, writes the following in a letter to the editor:

THE Labour party has again proposed to scrap the House of Lords. This raises the question of what form a replacement House should take, not just in Westminster but also in a potentially independent Scotland.

The obvious answer is some form of democratically elected forum, as indeed Labour suggests. The Lords itself is unrepresentative and not a model to follow. But “democratically elected” systems also have problems. Not least is that most seats in any election do not change party, so most of the individuals “elected” are actually chosen by a small clique of the incumbent party’s faithful. In other words, they are jobs for the boys rather than being democratically responsive in any meaningful way.

A further issue is that the sort of people who put themselves forward as candidates may have laudable ambitions, but are not necessarily the sort of person you and I would actually prefer to be in charge. Clearly not every political hopeful is a self-seeking egomaniac, but the very fact that they are putting themselves forward will always raise a suspicion – just think Boris Johnson (but not for too long).

So how do you get normal, reasonable people into the legislature? Well, by the same method we already use in the jury system, ie by random selection. Your initial response might be: how could “know-nothings” run the country? But in reality most people are not “know-nothings”, and most are at least reasonable human beings. That is why the jury system works and we have such pride in it. In fact, there would be an appropriate sprinkling not just of wise

heads, but also of each sex, all adult age groups, every belief system etc. And it would be possible to give them access to proper information about each issue, rather than just the clap-trap that so much of our news media churn out.

A less obvious advantage would be that each member would represent their own cross-section of the public by simply saying what they themselves think, rather than what they believe other people want them to say. After all, they wouldn’t have to curry favour with electors, or to toady to lobbyists offering to fund future campaigns. And, if they formed the “second house”, they would provide a built-in informed opinion poll on any and every issue under debate. In summary, it would be a counter-balance to an elected “first house” rather than more of the same thing in slightly different clothes.

Clearly there would be a cost from paying compensation to enough people for long enough to make a scheme like this work, but nothing that could not be overcome. And if you started with a big enough selection they could sit in relays of, say, 50 at a time, so that they could each continue to manage their own home life, while only requiring a relatively small formal meeting space. They could also be replaced so many at a time on a rolling basis, thus avoiding problems of continuity.

Would this really overturn the world as we know it, or is it an idea whose time has come?

One Response

  1. be careful of what you are asking for
    It is obvious that most proposals of a ‘Senate’ (or Second Chamber) appointed by sortition are merely propaganda because they refer to an informative or deliberative panel that has nothing to do with the ‘authority’ of a ‘Senate’. These proposals has to grant its participants the aura of ‘senators’ who meet in the ‘grandeur’ of the ‘Senate’. Also the location is important for the influencing purpose. That’s why we suggest, as a matter of example, to let the panel of allotted civilians to meet and eat in the dining hall of the homeless in Brussels , if this would be practically possible. This shows what kind of influence we are talking about. By determining the location at the House of the Senate the number of participants is also fixed due to the design of the number of seats ‘lliterally’ and there can never be a descriptive amount of citizens attending that could claim representativeness and legitimacy in proportion to its authority. A good example of this manipulation due to its designation is the name for an informative panel in the province of Luxembourg, le ‘ Parlement Citoyen Climat, that insinuates, due the word ‘parliament’, to have more power than it really possesses.


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