POLI: Random democracy

Robin Hanson (hanson@hss.caltech.edu)
Tue, 18 Feb 1997 09:58:03 -0800 (PST)

The Low Golden Willow writes:
>Since it seems likely that we need _some_ government, to regulate
>necessary non-local interactions (pollution, other public bane/public
>good problems) and to make necessary but arbitrary decisions (which side
>of the road to drive on), we still need to think about what form of
>gov't to have, and representative legislatures still seem the best bet.

We we clearly want some form of social coordination to deal with these
issues, but whether that is a "government" depends on what you mean by
the term. If everyone in the US had voluntarily agreed to abide by
our current rules, would our "government" deal any worse with these

>One would hope that their electorate was judging [politicians] by the
>ability to make good decisions, but in fact considerations of pork
>obtained, seniority, and sheer amount of advertising seem to be the
>main factors. ... The simplest way to get a representative
>cross-section of the population is to select a few hundred to a
>thousand people at random. ... They would not, of course, be any more
>qualified than the whole population, but since we are supposedly a
>democratic nation this doesn't seem to be a philosophical problem, and
>I've alread assumed that no one believes the winners of elections are
>all that qualified either.

You could now run for office on a platform that if elected, you will
replace yourself with a randomly selected member of your electorate.
Since people do not now run on such platforms, I suspect that voters
do not in fact trust such a random person to do as well. Also, voters
can't be as skeptical as you regarding the information value of
advertizing, or they wouldn't be persuaded by it.

Robin D. Hanson hanson@hss.caltech.edu http://hss.caltech.edu/~hanson/