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congress as jury duty

Using registered voters as randomly drawn officials
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(+10, -7)
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So you get into these wonderfully effective political discussions over a pitcher of beer and wonder why the heck our elected officials never consider such a brilliantly simple course of action. Everyone complains about unequal representation, bi-partisan ploys,conservatives and liberals... And of course the electoral college. So why not dispense with congressmen whose interests are primarily concerned with their own re-election and randomly select a group of registered voters instead? A group of 12 ordinary people chosen for jury duty in a courtroom understand the seriousness of their role and are more than capable of making intelligent, rational descisions. Because the process would be completely random, you would get an unbiased "slice" of the population, composed of citizens of every class, age, race, sex, and political view. Because there are so many seats in congress, even if there were a few nutcases who were called into office, the rest of the group would outweigh them. Also, because the job would be temporary, we would not have to worry about power-hungry people who would do anything to keep their seat in congress.
nathandrea, Jul 17 2001


       Surely you don't want an unbiased slice of the population, you want people who are 'biased' in *your* favour, because they are supposedly representing *you*.
angel, Jul 17 2001

       What about the lobbyists? It seems if you were randomly chosen (by the way, jurists are not randomly chosen) it would be like hitting the lottery. Suddenly RJ Reynolds and Ford and Colt Firearms would be VERY interested in handing you lots of money, women, food, cars, etc.   

       Besides, how exactly is that going to help us get rid of Bush?
eander, Jul 17 2001

       I like this. Each party or faction could provide an advocate and a member or several members of the legislature could sit as judge(s). The resulting decision would be drafted by one of the 'judges' and would become law. A brilliant implementation of democracy.
st3f, Jul 17 2001

       Baked. This is the way it was done in ancient Athens (the entire governmnent was chosen by lot), and it is in fact what the term "Democracy" actually means. What we have now is not a democracy, but an elected oligarchy. The Athenian system was far superior to our current one, not to mention being perfectly fair, and I agree with you that it should be reinstated ASAP. Fine idea, worth a dozen pastries!
BertieWooster, Jul 17 2001

       Yeek. Not to vilify the Athenians for failing to share modern ideas or to claim that admiration of their accomplishments is misplaced, but -- their political system holds no charm for us. Remember the usual list of faults: Suffrage and office-holding was limited to adult male citizens; the state was supported economically by the slave labour which mined the silver deposits of Attica on its behalf; it was ruled for the period of its democratic experiment, between revolutions, by demagogues; it hardly refrained from atrocities; and it self-destructed in a war of its own making.   

       It was the system, anyway, of a tiny, ancient city-state with a simple economy, a fairly rigid class system, and a set of cultural practices which would seem very unpleasant to us (all measurements by modern standards). The idea that it would be swell to transplant it to a place like, say, the United States, is extremely goofy (though not, unfortunately, uncommon).   

       This idea is is not much better, for all the obvious reasons. The idea with representative democracy is that you get to direct the state without having to do things like negotiate esoteric trade agreements with places like Paraguay.
Monkfish, Jul 18 2001

       Ancient Athens was not the same as a modern nation, it's true. And many things about their society were less than perfect, as are many things about ours. But arguments against slavery and suchlike are beside the point, what is suggested here is that members of government be selected randomly, not by popular election. I've yet to hear a decent arguement against this idea.   

       As for trade negotians with Paraguay, how many ellected office holders come to power on the basis of their trade negotian skills in any case? Complex technical details are always handled by the civil service, and there would be no reason for that to change.   

       What reason is there to think that average citizen can not make sensible decisions? Because ultimately, that is what arguments against this idea must claim - that the average person isn't smart enough to make important political decisions. And if you think that, why don't we just have a dictatorship?
BertieWooster, Jul 18 2001

       One argument for elected politicians is that you get the chance to not elect the worse candidates. However a mix of elected and random politicians, split into different chambers would be fairly sensible.
Aristotle, Jul 18 2001

       How apropos of Aristotle to join in. What length of time would the terms be? And yes, Oligarchy is what is in place now.
thumbwax, Jul 18 2001

       In the true spirit of democracy I vote that the term should be one debate. Just like a jury sits on one case I believe that this decision making body should debate and decide one issue.   

       Say the government wants to change the age of consent or the drug laws they would look at the alternatives and a representative of each faction would present them to the 'jury'. When the 'jury' has voted it would be disbanded and the legislation drawn up.
st3f, Jul 18 2001

       The second thing you learn at law school is "Never underestimate the stupidity of jurors." Jurors are manipulated and misled in the name of justice. The same would happen with a randomly chosen (single-issue) legislative body.
calum, Jul 18 2001

       It is yet another demonstration of their wisdom that the founding fathers of the U.S. created a democrat*ic* republic, and *not* a democracy.
beauxeault, Jul 18 2001

       I think it all comes down to if you think people are smart or stupid. I think people are smart (common sense is after all, "common"), so I'm in favour of this idea.
BertieWooster, Jul 19 2001

       I don't think Bush is the best example of an achetypal politican you can find, to be honest. His election was probably just a blip on the radar, unless America has genuinely turned into an aristocracy where only people from noble families can achieve the highest office.
Aristotle, Jul 19 2001

       it seems I over-simplified my idea a bit. What I meant to imply was that what we need in this country's legislation is common man experience. What does anyone who works their way up through politics really know about how people live today? You think they REALLY understand the single parent working in retail or worse? No, not really. Our nation is not made up solely of upper middle class white protestants, unfortunately, that's who get elected. The idea is to get at least some realistic domestic legislation. Think of the movie "Dave" when Dave asks the head of the dept of transportation about the campaign to make american consumers feel better about their cars, this is not movie magic - this stuff exists.   

       Also, by the time a congressman gets his seat, he is almost without doubt in someone's pocket. I like the idea of changing lobbyist laws in this case, if only to alliviate corruption.
nathandrea, Jul 19 2001

       [mephista: Make the duty of holding public office even more burdensome by requiring that any holder of public office must, for the rest of his or her life, forfeit all gifts, all inheritances, and all profits to the public good.] Am I misreading you completely? You want to *draft* citizens, and then penalize them for not being able to squirm out of the pool? Where I live, jurors are selected not from the voter registry, but from the DMV list; even if you don't drive, you are obliged to have an ID, issued by, you guessed it, the DMV. Everyone I know who has served as a juror has stories of the majority just wanting to get it the hell over, escape the uncomfortable 1930s issue wooden chairs and benches, find an air-conditioned saloon, and get on the outside of a cold beer. Before we take really radical steps, let's bring back equal time, and force the lease-holders of the public airwaves to give us some real debate, including the freaks on the fringe, rather than shill for the major party apparatchiks. -on the other hand, if we continue as we are, then by all means tie the bums down. [The finances of every former or prior office holder would be carefully watched, and would be available to the public for scrutiny.]
trixie, Feb 13 2002

       There are a few problems with this idea as well as those outlined above, although I'm drawing from experience of not the US, but the Uk system, where there currently is a little more emphasis on the needs of the public rather than of business (although it's dwindling) and individual representatives tend to be of a greater cross section of society.   

       Still, a temporary position such as this negates any benefits of the experience of running huge / specific departments that a lot of career politicians amass through working through local council and the two houses.   

       Elected representatives might not totally understand the needs of a single parent working in retail [nethandrea], but they understand their vote, and therefore make an attempt to address their needs along with the needs of many others. They also have experience of being (at least perceived as) evenhanded. I doubt if a man off the street would be so universally inclined.   

       Croissant for the trust in the common man though.
notripe, Feb 13 2002

       Oh, my. Epiphany.
phoenix, Feb 14 2002

       How could a random sampling of a population not wind up being more representative than financed campaigns? In the US, the founding founders set up a federalist representative system in order to be protected from "the tyranny of the majority"- James Madison. They had to give the vote to common men in order to get common men to join the revolutionary army. This idea may not be perfect, but it would reduce the concentration of power.
hermosahi, Aug 15 2002


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