Practical Solutions Government Make Congress Like Jury Duty

About a practical proposal to change the government's system of representation from voting to a random jury duty style system.

SOLUTIONS--PRACTICAL PROPOSALS AND BRAND-NEW APPROACHES TO A MULTITUDE OF PROBLEMS

GOVERNMENT

Surprise! You're a Senator

Maybe the way to restore the government to the people is to make it truly representative once again.

Why not view serving in the legislative branch of government as a responsibility of every citizen, just as each citizen has the duty to serve on a jury? Names of candidates could be drawn in much the same way that jurors' names are selected. A random sample would ensure a far better representation of minorities, women, and the various levels of our economic strata than our present system could ever hope to provide.

It would mean the demise of political parties as we know them. It would mean that our legislative bodies would consist of citizens not beholden to any special group or interest. The preposterous expense of election campaigns would be eliminated, and the campaign period could be drastically shortened. We could get down to the real business of running the government for the people who pay for it.

This kind of representative government would silence the officeholders who are forever telling us that to get competent legislators we have to offer them higher salaries. In any state in the union, there are thousands of capable and honest people who could serve with distinction in the legislative positions now held by professional politicians, and would be glad to do so. Nor would they think the present salaries are too low.

Such a proposal as this would never be adopted at the federal level, or even the state level, but perhaps some municipal government might have the courage to try it as a pilot project. If it turned out to be as successful as I think it would be, the idea might catch on and eventually be tried at higher levels of government.

Russell E. Simmons

Raton, N.M.

Source: Reprinted from Harper's Weekly (Dec. 29, 1975).

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