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Only a True Democracy Can Meet The People's Needs; We Need a New Way to Select Representatives to Congress

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Message Rod Rylander
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Given the legislative paralysis we now see in Washington, it is all too obvious that American democracy has been undermined by the influence of party politics, money, lobbyists, and the shallow bread-and-circuses quality of our mass communications.  

To remedy things, we need to think outside the box -- and I mean way outside the box.  

My solution for reforming our dysfunctional, corrupt Congress -- specifically, the House of Representatives -- isto replace members now tied to the unproductive, toxic system of party politics with ordinary citizens who are qualified but randomly selected.  The procedure I envision is this:  In each precinct of acongressional district, one person would be selected at random from a body of citizen volunteers who meet qualifying criteria set forth in a Constitutional amendment.  The district-wide representative to Congress would then be randomly selected from the body of those picked at the precinct level.  No politicking would be allowed at either stage of the selection process -- and would in any case be irrelevant to the totally random system of selection.  The Congressional term limit would be six years, with staggered selections scheduled annually.  The result would be that in each successive year one-sixth of the Congress would consist of new representatives.
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To ensure that the legislation produced by the citizen Congress is totally unbiased, all lobbying would be outlawed by constitutional amendment.  And to make sure that members stay true to their role as citizen volunteers, pay would be limited to twice that of the average salary of professors in state-supported colleges, and health care benefits would reflectthose of the general public. 
Answering the Critics
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In considering the idea of a randomly selected citizen Congress, some critics have suggested it could lead to putting a few crooks in office.  To that, my response is this:  Better a few crooks than all crooks!  Moreover, if a few crooks should get in, they would be in for six years at most, nota lifetime. There would still be enough good people around to make the ethics committee credible as a means for culling out the crooks!

Another reservation people might have is that a randomly selected congressman from their district would lack the "muscle" or background of a traditional politician to represent them adequately.  I have an answer for that objection, too.  A randomly selected representative meeting Constitutional qualifications would surely represent their interests more broadly than a lobby-supported representative. Moreover, the change of representatives every six years would increase the chance that the specificinterests of each constituent would at some point be represented.  For the same reasons, I should add parenthetically here that I would also like to see members of the Supreme Court selected randomly from a roster of qualified persons, and limited to six years on the bench. 
Diversity has been proven to be an essential ingredient for sustaining the biologicalworld.  It is also essential to economics and politics. Concentration of power, whether reflected in limited animal or plant species, or single-basket investments of money, may at times be more efficient, but they are not sustainable. 

Who could be against the plan I'm proposing?  Well, politicians, lobbyists, PR firms, the media, and those who simply oppose change come readily to mind.  They would all fight tooth and nail against implementing a fair system that could create a true American democracy. 
The system I've proposed is of course highly unlikely to be implemented while the current crop of politicians and lobbyists is in control.  However, in light of the growing success of Occupy Wall Street, it seems to me that it might well be within the reach of a similarly empowered people's movement. 
Forty years ago I wrote a paper recommending the implementation of a transactions tax in the finance industry.  Now we are close to implementing one. I sincerely hope that random selection of representatives won't take that long.  Our current hard times make obvious that we can no longer tolerate a system in which money and power determine the outcome of elections.  The economic fairness we seek can only be achieved in a true democracy that is responsive to the needs of its people.


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During my 71 years I have received a BA in Biology from UNT, MA in Social Ecology from Goddard College (thesis - alternative 5 year plan for Nepal);and have been a teenage ornithologist; curator of a museum; teacher in public schools, colleges, (more...)
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