A Modest Proposal: T. SHER SINGH
Let's Have a Lottery!
Friday, July 13, 2012
Here’s an idea.
It’s not original. It gets bandied about ever so briefly from time to time, whenever we find ourselves in the midst of election campaigns - which seems to be all the time now, doesn’t it?
Or when we look at election results. Any of them. Anywhere. Everywhere.
Maybe the idea deserves more thought and some serious consideration.
But before an election, mind you, rather than after the damage has been done.
Let’s do away with elections. And replace them with lotteries. That’s it. That’s the idea.
What do elections accomplish anyway? We spend millions of dollars - actually, now billions of dollars! - and so much media time and space, and yet end up with a lot of fools and only the occasional worthy one representing us.
To begin with, it can’t get any worse if we try a totally arbitrary method. Moreover, how can you get more arbitrary than the system we currently have?
The “one-person-one-vote” idea was premised on the theory that each voter would be able to review the merits and demerits of each candidate - based on his/her (the voter’s) own personal abilities, no matter how great or slight - and then make a personal decision as to who to vote for.
That ideal has long fallen by the wayside. The sophistry of current campaigning practices prevents the system from working the way it was meant to. Voters are bombarded with irrelevant, fudged and/or misleading messages, each one designed to hide, camouflage, obfuscate or disguise reality and divert attention from the truth.
Voters, being human beings with all the shortcomings that come with the DNA of the species, succumb to the loudest, longest, biggest, and most glittering messages. Thus, those who have the most money and the least of moral compunctions tend to have an advantage over the rest.
This has become the mainstay of democracy as we know it today … everywhere.
If this is democracy, it isn’t worth writing home about.
It gets worse.
Now that some voters are catching on to the gimmickry, election campaigners have introduced a new slant to the art and science of leading the voter astray.
Get the candidate to say nothing, do nothing. If possible, even be seen as little as possible. Thus, the less you say and do, the fewer mistakes you make.
The theory: it’s better to be criticized as being indifferent or uninterested or lacking commitment, than being found to be incompetent or dishonest.
For us, it’s from the frying pan into the fire! Before, we had to choose between a bunch of hucksters. Now, we get to choose between ghosts who make appearances and utterances with the same frequency and duration as Banquo at Macbeth‘s table.
So, why not save ourselves a bundle of money and several months (years?) of aggravation by merely having a lottery.
It would work exactly like we select a jury.
If you are a Canadian or American or British or Indian citizen, or whatever, 18 years of age and over, of sound mind and no criminal record, your name is thrown in. Upon selection by random lottery, you get to serve for two years. Your employer is required to give you leave, with no penalties -- exactly the way jury duty works, being a short absence; or pregnancy leave, to take a longer example.
You get paid according to the job you’ve been selected for. You serve one term. The selection is staggered so that a fresh crop comes in once every year, to join the veterans from the previous year.
Full-time, permanent civil servants will continue to do the bulk of the work of running the city, province, country or whatever. They always have. The public representatives will inject the public interest component and help shape policy.
Is two years enough?
Well, currently, elected politicians who get elected for, say 4 or 5 years, spend a mere fraction of the term on real work: the bulk of the time is spent in posturing and preening for the next election. Thus two years of solid, concentrated work can only be an improvement on what we currently have.
Who would make the appointments to boards, commissions, tribunals, etc?
Lottery, of course.
If a situation calls for special expertise, the lottery pool will have to be specialized, with the pre-requisite minimum number of years of experience in the appropriate field and the necessary qualifications.
Like in jury duty, no one will have reason to refuse duty, unless the excuse falls within a specified list.
How do we prevent office-holders from goofing off or mischief? We already have, for example, rules which keep disgruntled jurors in line. Or, better still, standards already formulated for corporate directors - such as due diligence, for example - can be applied to all public-office holders.
What we’ll end up with is a fair representation of our society, automatically.
The quality of those selected? Sure, we’ll end up with a whole lot of idiots, a bunch of mediocre souls, a few brilliant minds, and a saint or two. But how would that be any different from the ones we already have?
How could we ever do worse than George W. Bush, Brian Mulroney, Indira Gandhi, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Pranab Mukherjee, Mike Harris, Bill Vander Zalm, Lallu Prasad, Prakash Singh Badal … or the unfortunately named Palaniappan Chidambaram!
Just look around you. Look at all the election campaigns brewing to your left, to your right, in front you, behind you. Look at the sweet-talking clowns who want you to vote for them. See how much real work they have done to date. Compare it with the personal wealth each has accumulated. Look at their real qualifications. Look at the scandals they have been involved in or from which they have managed to squeeze out.
Have they made the world a better place than when they first appeared on the scene?
Could we have done any worse if we’d had a lottery instead?
Conversation about this article
1: Kulwant Singh Kang (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), July 13, 2012, 10:17 AM.
I second that! And, it would sadden me immensely if there were even one "Yes" to the question at the end of the article.
2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 13, 2012, 10:43 AM.
This idea has 'serious' overtones! When I'm in India, I am reminded by taxi drivers as well as academics - the two traditional founts of wisdom! - that all that the politicians want from them is their vote every 4 or 5 years and that is it! The rest - the actual functioning of the government - is left to the psychotic and corrupt police and the incompetent paramilitaries, to mete out law and order, etc!