The reason so many bad policies are good politics is that so many people vote. … Ignorant voters … are biased towards particular errors. … The best way to improve modern politics? … The number of voters should be drastically reduced so that each voter realizes that his vote will matter. Something like 12 voters per district … selected at random from the electorate. With 535 districts in Congress … there would be 6,420 voters nationally. A random selection would deliver a proportional representation of sexes, ages, races and income groups. This would improve on the current system, in which the voting population is skewed … the old vote more than the young, the rich vote more than the poor, and so on.
I suspect that randomly selecting votes rather than voters will not achieve the desired effects of making voters reflect the governed more exactly, and making voters cast votes in absolute seriousness.
Unless it's paired with mandatory voting, randomly selecting votes will not make the general populace more inclined to vote in the first place, as there will still be the problem that people would not perceive the influence of their vote. Indeed, it might make the problem worse because the expected effect of any single vote will be even less than before. (Before it was one over the total number of voters; now it's that ratio times the probability that it will even be counted.)
The effect of randomly choosing voters (not votes), on the other hand, is that any citizen is equally likely to be chosen (while choosing votes still privileges those who can bother/afford the time to vote). Secondly, the voters that are chosen should cast their votes with orders of magnitude greater seriousness and consideration, presumably making political gimmicks far less effective.
In short, the advantages random voter selection offers are that the voters will more accurately reflect the governed, and that votes will be cast only in full seriousness.
If you're worried about corruption, why not have a watered-down version? Have a random selection of voters, but remove the "spirited away" aspect. It could even be a fairly high number of votes (e.g. 1% of the population). There would still be incentives to be rationally ignorant, but I would guess the rarity of being able to vote would encourage somewhat higher levels of self-informing. If nothing else, this would decrease the deadweight loss of voting, as the random sample would be so large that the results would be almost identical to the preferences of the whole population, while only a few need to spend time and effort actually voting.
>Richard, John, Stuart, Buck, why would voting rules be so much more subject to status quo bias than most everything else in our lives?
The folks with political power are just those who benefit most from the current voting system.
In addition, US politics in general has a large inertial aspect. Four years ago, no one would have thought a libertarian candidate had a snowflake's chance in hell of winning the presidency. A few weeks ago, Ron Paul handily won the CPAC presidential straw poll. Do you think that the US has become significantly more libertarian in the last four years? I don't. Rather, I think libertarians learned just how many libertarians there were, and decided to vote libertarian instead of strategically voting for more mainstream candidates.
Instead of status quo bias, try game theory. Right now most libertarians/alternative voting system fans are hunting rabbit, and it's perfectly rational for them to continue hunting rabbit unless they have evidence that many others are or will be hunting stag. Even if the stag hunt does not apply to the voting systems problem (i.e. there is some way of implementing the national jury without electing any candidates through plurality voting), the fact that the stag hunt does apply to plurality voting has conditioned folks to believe that only ideas that enjoy lots of support are worth supporting.
With juries instead of elections, no matter how badly you want to you can't do a blessed thing to change any aspect of government policy unless you're randomly selected (with odds approximating winning the lottery, so no, this won't happen), or are willing to use violence.
You say voters have no influence now, which I think means two things: 1) the odds of any given vote swinging an outcome are pretty remote, and 2) most people don't much care for the system we've got now, yet it persists.
For 1, if we replace elections with juries, groups, however large, will be just as unable to swing elections as individuals are, because there will be no elections to swing. You might say they're going to be represented in proportion to their size in the juries, but represented or not you have everyone sitting helplessly, acted upon rather than acting; subjects, not free citizens. Waiting passively is both infuriating (as it should be, if someone chose it for you), and corrupting; virtue pertains to action. You might now say that freedom and virtue are hazy, unquantifiable god-terms, but they are no more so than whatever value you're trying to maximize.
For 2, this is partly a signaling issue: if you say you like the status quo you sound like a simple-minded sheep, but if you don't like it you have higher standards and an independent mind. But this will always be the case no matter what the status quo happens to be, and people implicitly realize that, which is why they go around saying things like "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried." It doesn't necessarily mean real disaffection. To the extent that people are genuinely disaffected with our current politics, what they have in mind is more popular control, not less, and getting there is largely a coordination problem.
If you think juries preferable, then obviously you think that voting does matter. You just think it's for the worse. I say, to the contrary, being the active agents in our own government is more than worth letting some ill-informed people vote.
Grant, we think we understand why chiefdoms naturally displaced tribes due to military advantages and capital accumulation. Now that we are rich we can indulge our inherited preferences.That sounds plausible, but is there evidence that these preferences are inherited?
Is this what you assume about our jury system today? Crytographers say they have adequate robust solutions, should we be interested.
I fear that any system involving only a handful of voters would be easier to subvert. I suggest you rethink your model, based on an assumption that any/all parties involved in executing the process of gathering, counting, etc, are deeply corrupt. Would it still work?
How many voters want to admit, to themselves or anyone else, that they're too ignorant or irrational to be allowed to vote without a week of remedial education?
On the other hand, if you could sell it as an unfortunate but necessary reaction to all that corrupting money spent on politics by all those evil special interests, then it might have some chance.
If it ever happens, I'd expect post-election retaliation against jurors. I'd invest in a big "I Didn't Vote" button.
...Thought experiment with elections: My response to Robin Hanson's "National Juries..."
Robin, voting rules are a classic example of emergent behavior through a distant and inaccessible system.
When people vote they don't think of it like a political economist or a mathematician studying voter theory. They roughly approximate the process as the creation and exercise of a mythical 'collective will' or 'will of the people.'
(Personally, I am skeptical of the idea of collective will...but that's another discussion).
Voting rules are part of the guts of the system and in order to explain why they produce the results they do first you have to disabuse voters of the the myth of a collective will. This is counter-intuitive, evolutionarily novel, and therefore costly and difficult.
The people that do understand what happens in the sausage factory generally have a vested interest in some close variant of the status quo continuing either
(1) because they benefit directly through resources or power(2) their expert knowledge (and thus status) are reliant on the system staying the same
In summary, the cost of understanding the problem is high and the people that could make it happen don't want to. Therefore, high ignorance and high status-quo-bias (as in most 'ignorant' or poorly educated communities/cultures).
Similarly, people have a lot of trouble getting their head around population dynamics, ecology, and economics. These are all systems where the interactions of many small fairly unpredictable particles interact to produce emergent (but often non-linear) order. It is very expensive cognitively to understand this versus the first approximation which is linear and which sees the world as intentional/agent-based.
How does this make the expertise problem worse?
I was thinking in terms of bringing in specific experts to directly answer the voters questions, rather than of broadcasting pundits. This is part of sequestering voters from any contaminating influences, like in a jury trial, to prevent coercion of jurors by special interest groups. If you allow free interaction between jurors and the general public, it's easy to see how they might be bribed, intimidated, extorted or otherwise coerced to vote in a particular direction. The only way I see of avoiding this is to follow with the jury trial analogy and have only approved, expert testimony presented to the jurors. Which makes the issue of properly selecting experts paramount. Perhaps a 'democratic' solution for selection of experts to ensure the major perspectives are represented?
If people were allowed to communicate freely with the public (or even just freely receive information from the public), as you seem to be proposing, how do you see specific, targeted coercion of jurors being prevented/mitigated?
why would voting rules be so much more subject to status quo bias than most everything else in our lives?
Regardless of why - they are. Just look at how people in different countries are attached to tiny arbitrary peculiarities of their political systems, each different.
What you call "status quo bias" isn't necessarily a "bias" in a bad sense - most ways to change something that works are changes for the worse.
What's so strange about the idea of humanity evolving ideas? Memes, anyone?
Richard, John, Stuart, Buck, why would voting rules be so much more subject to status quo bias than most everything else in our lives?
Grant, we think we understand why chiefdoms naturally displaced tribes due to military advantages and capital accumulation. Now that we are rich we can indulge our inherited preferences.
Edward, if the entire week is televised, undercover police are included among the random jurors, and large bounties are offered to anyone who exposes a bribe attempt, bribing won't be easy.
OK, then they can't participate - seems a small price to pay for more informed voters.
"obviously we’d forbid new laws targeted specifically and obviously at these jurors"
That seems easier said than done. A more effective solution might be to expect these promises, and then create incentives for the jurors to avoid those politicians.
For example, if you multiplied the number of selected jurors by 4-5x, but had only 20-25% of the votes "count" (randomly), then each juror would expect to not be selected and therefor not a recipient of said "pork". The trick here is to make sure that the identities of the wider pool aren't known to politicians and aren't verifiable if they claim publicly to be in the pool; identities of the smaller amount of "chosen" jurors would be made public following the NEXT election cycle.
In other words, by significantly increasing the odds that a juror's vote could matter, but still keeping that probability well below 50%, you would create adequate incentives for participation while limiting incentives for gamesmanship.