I just finished listening to a fascinating episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast, and I wanted to share it and get your thoughts.
The episode is about the democratic electoral process. Gladwell doesn’t directly comment on higher-level politics; instead, he focuses on student body elections (and a little bit about NIH grant proposals) following an experiment in Bolivia and a discussion at a US school.
Basically, the idea Gladwell discusses is instead of having candidates campaign for months then be selected by voting majority (either total votes cast or an electoral college), elections could work like this: Candidates would have a short period of time to get on the ballot (perhaps via online petition) and present their platform, then people would vote. The winner of the election would be randomly selected from all votes cast.
It sounds a little crazy, right? And perhaps it is. But Gladwell makes an intriguing case:
While I’m not entirely sold on the idea, I also don’t think the current system in the US is as good as it could be, so I’m open to trying something else. My biggest concern is that a randomly selection creates the possibility that an objectively bad person could somehow get enough support to get on the ballot and would then have a chance at winning. That said, many would argue that there are some people elected via the current system who fit that description.
What do you think? Could you see this working for some types of elections?