February 11th, 2015
What if democracy works better with some members of parliament chosen at random? This is what Athenians used to do in the past, and what a team of Italian researchers at the Università di Catania defend in a paper, now brought back to attention by Marc Abrahams in his weekly column ‘Improbable Research’ at the The Guardian.
The study, published in Elsevier’s journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, tries to prove that, in the case of a Parliamentary system with two parties, ‘the introduction of a variable percentage of randomly selected independent legislators can increase the global efficiency of a Legislature.’
Researchers present a series of mathematical equations to show that these randomly chosen legislators would work for the general interest, this resulting in more laws passed and better social welfare. This system would also help to avoid the “Peter principle”, which happens in hierarchical organizations, where ‘employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.’
The measure would be based in an “efficiency golden rule”, summarized in the following remark: ‘the greater the size difference between the Parties, the greater the number of members that should be lotted to increase the efficiency of Parliament.’
Does it sound anti-democratic? Taking into account the quality of some institutions, I wouldn’t rule it out just yet.
Source: The Guardian
Pluchino, A., Garofalo, C., Rapisarda, A., Spagano, S., & Caserta, M. (2011). Accidental politicians: How randomly selected legislators can improve parliament efficiency Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 390 (21-22), 3944-3954 DOI: 10.1016/j.physa.2011.06.028