Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Campaign Finance Reform

The country of Kahanistan recently adopted a new constitution, much like ours but with one noteworthy exception: because Kahanistan has far too many states to make a Senate practical, their bicameral legislature is composed of a "House of Experts" and a "House of the People" instead.

The members of the "House of Experts" are elected representatives who, like members of our own House of Representatives, have staffs to do much of their research and bill drafting while they spend most of their time worrying about fundraising for expensive media-driven election campaigns to make sure their staffs get re-elected. This House is expected to work out many of the details of legislation.

The second house, the "House of the People" operates something like a lawmaking focus group. Members of this House do not and cannot seek election: they are selected randomly from out of the census records (with an international team of computer scientists and statisticians observing and confirming the randomness of the selection process) and invited to join the House for a term. Thus, the House of the People routinely includes numerous members drawn from the ranks of Kahanistan's stay-at-home mothers along with garbage men, advertising copy writers, nurses, public school teachers, college students, small businessmen and women, grandparents, retirees, the unemployed, and generally at least one or two prisoners (who participate through video conference). All legislation which comes out of the House of Experts is subsequently examined, debated, and then accepted or rejected by the House of the People. The members of the House of the People also talk amongst themselves about the nation's problems and occasionally create detailed mandates for the House of Experts to write legislation on this or that issue, keeping this or that in mind.

Kahanistan claims, through this system, to be the world's only true democracy--a bold claim for an imaginary country, to be sure, but one which the innovative system of government nevertheless justifies.

Could the U.S. ever adopt a system like Kahanistan's?

It may be that a measure as radical as selecting one democratic legislative body without campaigns and elections would be the only successful means of enacting effective campaign finance reform.


  1. Do you remember Harrison Bergeron? I think we read it in high school:

    Has a couple of the same ideas, but carried to an extreme that Vonnegut pulls off true to form.

  2. Of course I remember Harrison Bergeron! Great story. We read it in Pfeiffer's class.

    As I recall, Pfeiffer couldn't decide whether he thought it was about equality made extreme, or about how we "live in a two-tiered society": Diana Moon Gompers and Co. having control through "equality" over everyone else.

    I don't see Kahanistan as particularly dystopic. If the purpose of elections is to partly to represent the people, but the economics of campaigning is turning them into media-driven events that often get bought, why not think of ways to get democratic representatives without elections? Such a thing was not really technically feasible in the late 1700s, but is now.


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