2012 May 28 Monday
Randomly Chose Small Subset To Serve As Voters?

Obviously having many tens of millions of people voting leads to very sub-optimal outcomes. A couple of research initiatives argue for a return to the ancient Athenian practice of randomly choosing a small subset of the population to serve as voters. The idea is that the smaller set, knowing their votes count for far more, will take their responsibilities more seriously and try harder to become informed.

Two separate research initiatives—one from a pioneering cryptographer and a second from a team based at Stanford University—have proposed a return to this purer, Athenian-style democracy. Rather than expect everyone to vote, both proposals argue, we should randomly select an anonymous subset of electors from among registered voters. Their votes would then be extrapolated to the wider population. Think of it as voting via statistically valid sample. With a population of 313 million, the US would need about 100,000 voters to deliver a reliable margin of error.

Since these proposals would tend to pull in people who do not vote today I think the outcome would be even worse. The people who do not vote are, on average, both less intelligent and more apathetic. Giving the dumb and apathetic incentives to vote seems like a bad idea. Prospective voters should be subjected to both IQ and knowledge tests. Any who can't make the intellectual grade should not be granted the power to vote.

The Founding Fathers did not grant everyone the power to vote. Neither did the Athenians. The modern liberal Blank Slate view of everyone as capable of intelligent and responsible citizenship has caused us to lose the benefits of wisdom of the these innovators in civic decision making. Since America's democracy has become increasingly dysfunctional I think we ought to consider a return to more ancient practices of democracy.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 May 28 10:32 PM  Democracy Failure

Sam said at May 28, 2012 11:42 PM:

We need a test based on the US constitution, the Federalist papers and the anti-Federalist papers. Norm the test to 100 IQ. Maybe add a nominal, say $100, poll tax.

Engineer-Poet said at May 29, 2012 8:29 AM:

The poll tax better be good for an entire election cycle, otherwise you'll have local interests pulling scams by putting their favorite issues on a special ballot and paying the tax for their supporters to ram it through.

The point of a poll tax is to serve as a sorting mechanism.  Subject-matter competence tests would serve just as well and be less problematic; we want the competent to vote, not the mercenary.

Lono said at May 29, 2012 1:29 PM:

I say this random sample should be drawn from those in the top 2% of IQ in our country. Outcome - Ron Paul wins by a large majority.

Can we go ahead implement this before the next election?

WJ said at May 29, 2012 4:26 PM:

Lop off the bottom 25%, and the vote shifts to dramatically favor Republicans. Uninformed people should not even be able to vote. The Left knows this, which is why they work hard to register the absolute dumbest citizens and get them to the polls. Ironically, it is the Left that is also most likely to dismiss the popular vote (Prop 8, Prop 187, etc.) when the voters' decision is inconvenient.

The top 2% is not necessarily the most disinterested. They are often the most interested in gaming the system to shift massive amounts of wealth to a small subset of the populace.

Just Chillin said at May 29, 2012 5:55 PM:

"Since America's democracy has become increasingly dysfunctional I think we ought to consider a return to more ancient practices of democracy."

Then it would only become a Democracy by the few, for the few and of the few, in which case -of course- wouldn't be Democracy.

Just Chillin said at May 29, 2012 5:57 PM:

Maybe such thing as Democracy doesn't really exist. There's no such a thing as the will of the people.

Black Death said at May 29, 2012 6:51 PM:

There are only 535 "voters" in Congress, and look how many of them are idiots. The franchise should be limited to those who are net contributors to society. Those who are living off taxpayers' largesse (recipients of food stamps, welfare, subsidized housing, Medicaid, etc.) should not be allowed to vote. Government employees should not be allowed to vote (I would exempt the military). People who did not contribute to the making of the pie should not be allowed to vote themselves bigger pieces.

Mthson said at May 29, 2012 7:29 PM:

Give the issues to teams of engineers to solve, but double-blind it to minimize politicization.

Speak only of Group A, Group B, etc. and we avoid the large reduction in IQ that comes with discussions of identity groups.

Check it Out said at May 30, 2012 6:26 PM:

"There are only 535 "voters" in Congress, and look how many of them are idiots."

I didn't want to believe it at first, but I finally see it is true: The world is now owned by idiots.

That's really a problem; a big one.

James Bowery said at May 31, 2012 10:35 AM:

The Electoral College had the clear Constitutional intent of creating a deliberating body -- not a body bound by the States from which they were derived.

However, since it has become standard practice for the Supreme Court to give final opinions on the intent of the Constitution, and current political structures are built around its corruption, there is little chance of the Electoral College, let alone an Athenian system, being adopted as a true body of deliberation.

Leno said at June 4, 2012 4:11 PM:

"I didn't want to believe it at first, but I finally see it is true: The world is now owned by idiots."

The problem with idiots is that they're too many, and they get to elect the president.

There's no way to fight such an enormous army, so we gotta be affraid of them.

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