Rutgers prof: Get rid of elections. Choose leaders by lottery
Becoming the next lawmaker for New Jersey, or the next member of your local Town Council, could work the same way as getting picked for jury duty, under a new form of government proposed by a philosopher at Rutgers.
The "lottocracy" model from Alexander Guerrero, an associate professor of philosophy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, gets rid of elections altogether and gives the power of political decisions to adult citizens chosen at random.
This way, he says, America can do away with the current system of false campaign promises, wealthy special interests, and the sense of "winning or losing" when one political party defeats the other.
"Also it would get people from all walks of life," Guerrero told New Jersey 101.5. "It wouldn't be just rich lawyers and bankers and people who went to Harvard Law. It would be all kinds of people — nurses and schoolteachers and veterans and police officers."
Guerrero lays out his plan in a free online course, several articles and a forthcoming book. Similar to the mechanisms used for jury selection, adults aged 18 and up would be randomly selected to serve a three-year term. Selected citizens would not be required to serve, but the promise of a convenient schedule and significant salary could incentivize them to take the oath.
Guerrero said his model could be applied to all levels of government. On the federal level, he said, Congress would be replaced with several single-issue legislatures; people can focus on, and have a passion for, one topic only during their term.
Guerrero said there are many everyday citizens who believe they could make a difference today if they were involved in the political process, but it requires overwhelming resources, time and money — sometimes millions, depending on the race — to secure a victory.
"This is kind of an out-there idea, I acknowledge that," Guerrero said. "But randomly chosen citizens have played a role in politics."
To reform election law, Canada and the Netherlands used assemblies of citizens chosen at random. Iceland and Ireland did the same to help with the process of constitutional reform.
Guerrero said he's in no way advising residents to avoid participating in today's version of democracy.
"I think everybody should vote given the system that we have; we want to choose the best people we can," he said.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.