A Randomly Selected Chamber: Promises and Challenges
University of Louvain, BE
Pierre-Etienne Vandamme is completing a Ph.D. in political theory at the Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics, University of Louvain (Belgium). He is working on the relation between democracy and social justice.
This paper explores the idea of a randomly selected chamber of representatives (RSC) through an appreciation of the promises it offers and the challenges it would face. We identify two main promises: a RSC could offset the aristocratic character of elections, thereby increasing the legitimacy of the political system; and it could increase democracy’s epistemic potential, thanks to gains in terms of diversity, deliberations, humility, and long-term perspective. We then discuss four key challenges. First, participation: how can the chamber have diversity without mandatory participation or heavy sanctions? Second, how can we conceive or build legitimacy for this non-elected and somehow unaccountable chamber’s views? Third, independence: how to safeguard randomly selected people from corruption? Finally, there may be a linguistic challenge: if the RSC has a deliberative role, how should it cope with the possible linguistic diversity of its members? We conclude that these challenges are not insurmountable, but reveal some trade-offs that cannot be entirely dissolved.