What if people were drafted to serve in Congress?
You've been drafted!
You've been drafted!
Imagine this scene . . .
You're going through your mail one evening. Among the usual bills and notices, you see an envelope from the Selective Service System.
Is it what you think? Of course you knew it was a possibility. Everybody's been talking about the fact that draft time has rolled around again. But you never imagined it would happen to you. You open the envelope and read . . .
"Greetings. You are hereby directed to present yourself ", etc.
It really is. You're being called up for service in . . . . the United States House of Representatives.
Thoughts run through your mind. Should you try to see if you qualify for any of the exceptions? Maybe you could intentionally try to fail the test?
But no. You take a deep breath and hold your head high. You're an American and this is your duty. You will serve, and you will serve with honor.
(Those seals of the U. S. Congress and the Selective Service are in the public domain.)
Drafting people to be legislators?
In the past, of course, we have drafted American citizens to serve in the military, which is a part of the Executive Branch of our government (Source: The White House).
We also conscribe citizens to participate with the judicial branch of government (jury duty).
What about the legislative branch? What would be the pros and cons of using a draft to staff one of the houses of Congress?
What if the upper house were elected and the lower house were conscripted?
The question that we'll consider on this page is this:
What it would be like if the U. S. Senate remained an elected body, but seats in the House of Representatives were filled on the basis of a draft, drawing from all citizens who met certain standards of ability?
Drafting legislators: The PROs
These are the potential benefits I see that could result from conscripting people to serve in the House:
- More diversity. Without question, a legislative house made up of inductees would be more representative of our whole population in terms of race, religion, age, and gender.
- A wider variety of backgrounds. We would have representatives that understand how government policies affect citizens from every possible angle. We might see proposals that don't get much attention from the current crop of legislators.
- More equal footing. There wouldn't be certain representatives who have been in Congress for 30 years and can always get their way. And those are the legislators who are the most attractive targets for lobbying and bribes.
- More moderates in Congress. A lot of our current legislators position themselves in an extremely polarizing way in order to win primaries. The majority of Americans are more moderate in their views and would probably be more willing to compromise.
- The whole thing of endless fundraising for elections would vanish. Drafted legislators would not be dependent on catering to big-time donors.
- I think it would change the public's view of the legislative branch. Many people think of Congresspeople as dishonest; they wouldn't think that as much if Congress was made up of ordinary folks.
- People would have an incentive to pay close attention to what the government is doing, knowing that they may be called on to participate.
Drafting legislators: The CONs
How about the potential downside of having draftees serving in the House?
- Obviously, they would have less experience than elected representatives. We all have some understanding of how our government works, but would we be ready to actually be a part of it?
- Would the screening mechanisms be good enough to keep out people who are seriously wacko or evil?
- Would people feel resentful toward the government for taking them away from their regular lives when they were called up to serve?
- Would people feel intimidated by the responsibility and decide to be as passive as possible, just do nothing and wait out the end of their term?
A little riddle:
If PRO is the opposite of CON, then what is the opposite of PROgress?
Would it be good for the country if we drafted people to be members of Congress?
Assuming that inductees had to meet certain qualifications (just like military inductees have to), would this be a good idea?
If we drafted people to serve in the House of Representatives, would things work better or worse than they do now?
Turns out there's a group that's really trying to make this happen!
Next Step for Democracy
Would you serve in Congress if you were called? (Poll for US citizens only, please) - There's a poll right after this for citizens of other countries
If you were drafted to serve in the US Congress, how would you respond?
For citizens of nations other than the USA, would you serve as a legislator in your country if you were "drafted"?
If you were drafted to serve in the lawmaking body of your country, how would you respond?
Is any kind of drafting ethical?
Is it ethically acceptable for a country to mandate any form of public service (jury duty, military draft, etc.?)
Justice by lottery?
In this book, author Barbara Goodwin argues that justice would be better served and equality better achieved if lottery systems were used in more areas of public life. She even spins a fanciful vision of a nation where almost everything is administered through random selection.
A couple of review comments (from Amazon):
"Insistently and acutely challenges readers to say what our moral equality justly demands." -- Eric Rakowski, American Political Science Review
"'Justice by Lottery' will richly repay close reading." -- Noam Zohar, Mind