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The green case for a randomly selected chamber

Abstract

One of the greatest challenges facing current generations is the environmental and climate crisis. Democracies, so far, have not distinguished themselves by their capacity to bring about appropriate political responses to these challenges. This is partly explicable in terms of a lack of state capacity in a globalized context. Yet we also argue that election-centered democracies suffer from several flaws that make them inapt to deal with this challenge properly: youth is not appropriately represented; parliaments suffer from a lack of diversity; elected representatives’ time-horizon is too narrow; anti-regulation lobbies have too much influence. Considering this, we argue for rejuvenating our democratic systems by introducing a randomly selected legislative chamber, which would be permanently integrated to our political systems and would play a deliberative and scrutinizing role. We have identified four eco-political arguments in favor of such reform. The generational rebalancing argument, which we examine first, has some plausibility but is not the strongest. The other three arguments – its eco-epistemic promises; its wider time horizon; and the independence of its members from short-term corporate interests – however, appear to us to be much more convincing.

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Acknowledgements

For their complete revision and helpful comments, we warmly thank Andrés Cruz Labrín and Théophile Pénigaud. We also thank Claudia Chwalisz, Vincent Jacquet, and two anonymous reviewers for useful suggestions. Previous versions of this article were presented at the Workshop interdisciplinaire des étudiants-chercheurs en philosophie et en droit de l’Université Laval (May 2017) and at the Workshop Démocratie(s) et environnement: à la croisée des chemins? SQSP (May 2019). We thank all participants for comments and discussion.

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Correspondence to Antoine Verret-Hamelin.

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Verret-Hamelin, A., Vandamme, PÉ. The green case for a randomly selected chamber. Contemp Polit Theory (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41296-021-00491-z

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Keywords

  • sortition
  • climate crisis
  • deliberative democracy
  • citizens’ assemblies
  • short-termism
  • elections