Who Needs Elections? Random Selection Is Better

demandsupplycurve.jpgAre you fed up with the gridlock and incompetence of our government? Well I came across a radical idea recently that serves as food for thought. An Italian physicist used game theory to prove that random promotion in organizations produces a more efficient outcome than promotion by merit. This prevents the so-called Peter Principle, in which people are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. Really?

Silvio-Berlusconi.jpgIt turns out that this applies theoretically to hierarchical organizations, but not to representative government, but I can see how an Italian scientist might look at Silvio Berlusconi and reach a different conclusion. On the other hand, the Athenian “democracy” that we revere really was based on drawing lots and randomly rotating participation in the decision-making bodies. Similarly, in the USA today we depend upon random selection for a very important function: juries in our criminal justice system.

And there are modern advocates of random selection of representatives in government as well. John Burnheim, an Australian academic and former Catholic priest, promotes a model that replaces government departments with citizens’ committees. He called this Demarchy.

The method of random selection of representatives is called sortition, and here are a few advantages from the Wikipedia entry:

• Fairness and Equality – Ordinary citizens do not have to compete against the powerful and influential. All dimensions of diversity in the population would be reflected in the government.
• Less Corruption – Campaign donations are no longer effective to influence policy.

But I maintain that we can achieve these objectives without a radical re-engineering of government. It is true today if you want it to be. Frontrunner2020 exists to encourage greater participation in government. We want you to run for office. If we all show up to vote, serve on boards and commissions, and run for office, then government works. Your presence in local government is the first step. Participate.

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