“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others”. Winston Churchill’s words in the House of Commons from 11 November 1947 still ring true today. While democracy certainly solved many of the problems that plague other political systems, it still struggles with at least one: It only puts people in charge who really want to be in charge.
The paradox of leadership, however, is that many people who turn out to be great leaders usually did not set out to lead. Whereas those who do set out to lead often covet leadership in itself, rather than some more utilitarian end that really benefits the people who are to be led.
Unfortunately, this problem is difficult to solve through elections alone. Because here, too, candidates must really want the job, otherwise they rarely get far enough in the system to be able to run in the first place.
Even if we assume that the people will always pick the leader that is best for them, they can still only choose between those that are on offer at any given time. Every democracy is plagued by this problem, but it is especially apparent in two-party systems, such as the United States. People are usually forced to vote against the person they hate most, rather than for the person they like most.
Luckily, there is a solution: Randomness. It may sound counterintuitive at first, but think about it: What do we want in a democracy? Representation. What does representation mean? Having people in office who understand and work to provide for the needs of their constituents. Who understands the needs of any body of constituents the best? The constituents themselves. So, why not create a body that consists of a selectively stratified sample of constituents to represent themselves?
Thanks to censuses, we know how any population within a country is distributed. It would be easy to determine the proportions of relevant subgroups within an area, say based on age, ethnicity, gender or education, and then randomly select a subset of the population based on the proportions of the subgroups that need to be represented. This subset could then serve as a representative council for that area for a given time.
Of course, there are lots of further questions associated with this concept. Which competences should such a council have? How would it relate to existing governing bodies? What if selected individuals do not want to be on the council? How should existing commitments that selected individuals are likely to have, such as a regular job, be handled? What about renumeration for sitting on the council? There are also challenges of accountability, continuity in governance, etc.
All of these are fascinating questions that would go beyond the scope of this post (let me know if you are interested in hearing me talk more about them!). And there are also a ton of benefits beyond mitigating the paradox of leadership that such a system could provide. And it is not like the idea is a complete novelty; it goes at least as far back as Aristotle.
What do you think, could you imagine a democracy that is entirely random or at least includes elements of randomness? Or do you think that introducing any degree of randomness like this is a terrible idea?