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Accidental Politicians: How Randomly Selected Legislators Can Improve Parliament Efficiency

10 March 2011

We study a prototypical model of a Parliament with two Parties or two Political Coalitions and we show how the introduction of a variable percentage of randomly selected independent legislators can increase the global efficiency of a Legislature, in terms of both number of laws passed and average social welfare obtained. We also analytically find an “efficiency golden rule” which allows to fix the optimal number of legislators to be selected at random after that regular elections have established the relative proportion of the two Parties or Coalitions. These results are in line with both the ancient Greek democratic system and the recent discovery that the adoption of random strategies can improve the efficiency of hierarchical organizations.

Probably, for a modern political observer, our findings could sound very strange. In fact, today, most people think that democracy means elections, i.e. believe that only electoral mechanism could ensure representativeness in democracy. However, as already anticipated in the introduction, in the first significant democratic experience, namely the Athenian democracy, elections worked side by side with random selection (sortition) and direct participation. Actually, in that period Parties did not exist at all and random selec- tion was the basic criterion when the task was impossible to be executed collectively in the Assembly, where usually Athenian citizens directly made the most important decisions.

That is from a working paper, Accidental Politicians: How Randomly Selected Legislators Can Improve Parliament Efficiency. The lead author is Alessandro Pluchino, a Physicist in Italy. HT Bakadesuyo. Shall we randomize our politicians, folks?

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