Wednesday, June 30, 2010

House of Continuity

Nick Clegg has been given the job of looking at reform of the House of Lords. It would be nice if, this time, there were actually some sensible progress. Who knows, perhaps in Britain's changed and reduced state such a thing may even be thinkable. There is no shortage of good ideas out there.

It might even be good to consider (with due scepticism and an eye on what is supposed to be 'the art of the possible') some really way out and whacky ideas. For example, the idea proposed by Jiang Qing in China for a tricameral legislature. As Daniel Bell describes this to Alan Saunders, this would comprise one House as 'more democratic', another House where the representatives are chosen by 'some sort of meritocratic means like some sort of examination system where the deputies would have the obligation to represent non-voters', and another House which Jiang Qing calls a House of Historical Continuity. In the second and third House the delegates would be required to consider and attempt to represent, somehow, the wisdom of past generation and the interests of future ones.

Jiang Qing's proposal may or may not be unworkable and misguided for China or anywhere else. But it has the merit of recognizing some shortcomings in what we regard as a typical system of representative democracy. And it might help us think.

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