Wednesday, 3 October 2007

MP selection algorithms

One of the parts of a safety case for a safety-critical system is a list of the engineers who developed the system, and a reasoning for why they were selected. For a safety-critical system, you want smart, well-trained and diligent people who "do their utmost" to make sure that the system turns out well.

Lawmaking is a safety-critical system: bad laws can result in harm to millions. So why do we select our lawmakers in such a poor way? We must be, because the people who get elected are frequently cunts.

One of the problems is that the average voter probably doesn't know what makes up a high-quality lawmaker, and probably doesn't care to find out.

So, how about an exam for potential MPs? We have exams for doctors, lawyers, teachers, and, of course, engineers. Why is law-making exempt?

The exam would cover questions of political history, use of statistics, logic, policy analysis and development and so on. It would be set by a board of academics drawn from leading universities, appointed by a crossparty committee from the House of Lords.

Candidates' exam results would then be shown on the ballot paper next to their names. In fact, the ballot paper could show a "star rating" for each candidate which would be influenced by their exam score, length of previous experience (in local or national government), any criminal convictions, and so on. The ballot paper could show the salient details in successively smaller fonts, so that the party affiliation can be used for those who care not at all, the star rating for those who care somewhat, and the details for those who care a lot.

Some might say that anyone should be able to represent the people, education or not. Some might say that the exam excludes the working class, that the "experience" part of the star rating excludes the mavericks and includes the party apparatchiks. They may indeed be right.

But would you really want an uneducated person making your laws? Look at George W. Bush.

Would you want an inexperienced person making your laws? You probably wouldn't want an inexperienced engineer designing your car or your holiday jumbo jet.

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