Random Appointment of One House of a Bicameral Legislature?
Michael Redman - 2015 0407


Randomly appointing one of the two houses of a bicameral legislature, while leaving the other elected like it is now in the U.S. federal government, would strengthen and renew modern democracy while retaining the experience of our best elected leaders.

Random appointment would strengthen our societies by hardening governments againt the influences of campaign finance and "Good Ol Boy" networks. With one of the two houses appointed completely at random from the population for single terms, the members of the appointed house never campaign, and never get to use the benefits of incumbency to perpetuate their power. The members of the appointed house would have significantly more freedom to vote their conscience than people who have to raise money to run again, or owe favors for money already spent.

Random appointment would also renew the spirit of democracy with genuine public participation. Both the absolute level of voter turnout in recent U.S. presidential elections (around 55%) and the decline from averaging around 75% in the 1800s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections) are quantitative proof that many people don't believe their vote matters (if they thought it did, they would go vote). When people see the faces and hear the voices of common people from the streets and the farms, up on TV sharing in the responsibility and the power of running their state or country, they will know with undeniable certainty that the common people are represented in their country and that what we all do, matters.

Keeping one house elected means retaining our best leaders who want to continue to lead. We need the expertise and viewpoint of guys like John McCain. Good leadership is hard to find and we would be stupid to throw it out of office "willy-nilly" - this is a major problem with term limits. With one appointed and one elected house, we never have to give up great leaders who want to keep leading.

Random appointment has been used in government design before. It was an important element of the Athenian democracy for many of the same reasons it could benefit us today.

If this design is implemented at the federal level in the U.S., it would be the second time the country has tweaked its bicameral legislative system to achieve a better balance of power: when appointment of senators by the state governments caused problems, the U.S. switched to direct election of senators.


One commentator expressed the concern that ordinary citizens may not be competent to make decisions.

This cannot be ascertained without testing the idea, see the proposed experiment, below.

The group may also be competent even though the individuals alone are not, because they can confer together and also take under consideration the thinking of the elected legislators and other experts. For statistical reasons the group probably ought to be at least a certain size for random appointment to be a good idea.

Proposed experiment

Implement this design in the U.S. in maybe 5-10 states and 100-500 municipalities as a test. If the results seem good then implement it for the federal government and everywhere else.

Terms of 3-4 years are probably the best. It will take the new appointees their first year to get up to speed. Three year terms get twice as many productive years out of them as they spent learning. Four years is probably the longest the appointments should be because four years is already a big chunk out of someone's life, and the term of many other this like high school, and undergraduate degree, and the presidency.

The appointments should be staggered so the same number of people are "new" and "retiring" each year.

Copyright 2015 Michael Redman