Re: POLI: Random democracy

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 21 Feb 1997 13:46:59 -0800 (PST)

"Peter C. McCluskey" writes:
>Suppose there was a widespread preference for candidates who promise
>randomness, and that such promises were often enforceable. Would that
>give candidates an incentive to make such promises? It isn't obvious
>that the benefits of winning an election after making such a promise
>exceed the costs of getting elected.

It's not obvious to me. There are lots of small elections that don't
cost that much to enter. Maybe you'd need an expensive ad campaign to
make clear your position the first time someone like this ran, but
after the first few all you need to say is "random party", and
everyone should know exactly what you mean. No need for finer policy

>Given the frequency with which candidates break promises ("Read my
>lips ...", "I won't seek a second term", etc.), why would voters
>expect they could enforce a promise of randomness?

How about posting a bond that you lose if you break your promise?
Compared to most political promises, this should be relatively easy to
verify that it was broken.

I do think it is possible that overcoming these two barriers is a cost
that it happens that no group has been willing to try yet, and recent
changes of opinion will soon make it feasible to overcome. That is,
it could be that this idea is just now ripe for implementation. But
we should consider other theories as well.

>>can't be as skeptical as you regarding the information value of
>>advertizing, or they wouldn't be persuaded by it.
>The rational agents in their minds could be aware that the information
>value is negligible, but unable to prevent the advertisers from
>exploiting evolutionary quirks in other parts of the mind.

This is possible, but they why should these rational parts have any
more luck convincing their bodies to endorse a random legislature,
etc? In general, I think it is too easy to make up irrationality
theories; a equally simple rationality theory gets more weight for me.
And there are such theories for advertizing.

Robin D. Hanson