Lottery and Legislative Powers: A Reply to Yoram Gat

In his recent blog post, “The Elected Legislator’s Burden,” Yoram Gat challenges one of the arguments of my essay, “Lot and Democratic Representation.”  In that essay, I argue that the U.S. Senate (along with state Senates) should be abolished and replaced with a citizens’ chamber, with its members chosen by lottery. In short, I propose that we preserve bicameral legislatures, but with one chamber filled through election and the other by lot. I argue, however, that the citizens’ chamber should have fewer powers and responsibilities than the elective chamber. It should have the power to veto any legislation ratified by the elective chamber; it should also have the power to draw district boundaries for the elective chamber and to compel a floor vote in that chamber on any legislation introduced there.

            Gat challenges my reluctance to grant the citizens’ chamber “full parliamentary powers – to set its own agenda, initiate legislation and draft its own legislative proposals.”  He suggests that citizens chosen by lottery are capable of wielding these powers responsibly—or, at least, that there is every reason to expect that they will do so as responsibly as elected legislators. He lays out several arguments in support of this claim, and I will consider each in turn.

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