We need a new way to make Senate work
All of us are affected by politics. While “the arc of history does bend toward justice” and increasing numbers of humans have benefited from democratic progress, the majority of the world’s population and about 15 per cent of the population in western democracies still live in poverty.
The latest “bend toward justice” started with the Progressive Movement in the first decade of the 20th century and reached its zenith in the late 1970s. The dramatic rise of a large middle class began with a package of progressive democratic reforms called the New Deal passed before the Second World War. Additional progressive legislation followed right into the ’70s. This large middle class was able to nurture and develop a large number of well-educated people who went on to achieve great things never seen before in history. This is not surprising because evolution and genetics predict exactly such an outcome from providing a good education to a wider gene pool instead of just the children of the aristocracy, or today the one per cent.
Unfortunately, many of these bright young folks nurtured in this unprecedented positive environment forgot their roots. They forgot that the environment they were lucky to be born in gave them a great advantage over the vast majority of people in the world who were not so lucky. These people came to believe they did it themselves and if they could, anyone could. These people started electing politicians like Thatcher and Reagan in 1980 and implementation of the mother of all Ponzi schemes began under the guise of trickle-down or supply-side economics.
Since 1980, the middle class has been steadily shrinking, denying that same lucky opportunity to millions at home and around the world.
There are two self-evident truths about money:
• Lack of it is the root of evil. Why do you think 80 per cent of criminals grew up in poverty.
• Too much of it is the root of evil. Too much money equals too much power and power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do you really think the 85 plutocrats who control 50 per cent of the world’s wealth have everyone’s interests at heart?
Progressive democracy is the best method we have to mitigate the effects of those two extremes.
Sortition was first implemented to avoid undue influence in the making of public decisions in our first known democracy in Athens. It is a method of randomly selecting individuals who will make decisions for the greater good all. Trial juries with some filtering steps in the process are selected by sortition so we already have the methodology and structure.
It is time to be innovative and experiment with sortition in Canada. Canadians take pride in being helpful, inclusive, peacekeepers and, most importantly, polite. I can’t think of anything more helpful than for Canada to lead the way in the next great reform of progressive democracy.
Random lotteries produce a descriptive representation of the population that reflects the needs, aspirations and thoughts of the population as a whole and not just those of the elite and the one per cent they serve.
The Canadian senate can become a great experiment in the next reform of progressive democracy today without any legislation! By current law, senators are appointed by the Governor General solely on the advice of the prime minister.
A Senate derived by sortition from the population would provide a democratic, inclusive and representative house of sober second thought to check and balance the power of the elected house.
Is there someone out there who will run in the next election on a campaign promise to select future Senators from a list created by lottery? Such a bold leadership commitment would not just make Canada a model to follow in progressive democratic reform but quality of life for all Canadians including the poor would improve.
I suggest one Senator for each MP. In addition to giving legislation the smell test, senators could compete to see who does the best job for their constituents.
A Senate drawn by lottery would not only be a true chamber of sober second thought but also a very effective check and balance on the powers of the House. Senators who do not have to worry about getting re-elected do not need campaign money and are therefore not easily influenced by the money offered by the one per cent to do their bidding.
Randomly selected Senators would vote their conscience and reject legislation that does not pass the smell test. They would have the opportunity to base their decisions on the rational evidence presented and not on who paid campaign donations or the irrational influence of ideology/religion/beliefs.
I’ve rolled my sleeves up and started to work on this. Who wants to help?
Red Deer County