Sunday, 21 October 2007


Do you know why Ariane-5 exploded 39 seconds after take-off? It was because the inertial guidance system failed. And then the backup inertial guidance system failed. Then the rocket made a course correction it didn't need to, put the rocket in an aerodynamically dangerous position, and then the auto-destruct sequence was called, as designed in the case of significant malfunction, and worked perfectly.

Amongst the many lessons one could take away from the explosion is that having a backup system that works exactly the same way as the primary system means that if the primary system fails due to an inherent flaw (rather than failing due to an individual component malfunction), then the backup system will fail in exactly the same way. Indeed, that's exactly what happened in Ariane-5.

So, why the hell would we want to elect the Lords? We already have one elected chamber, and the people in it are, as previously mentioned, not necessarily the best people for making laws.

The Lords as is has its problems, but imagine if it had roughly the same composition as the Commons. Every law introduced by the Commons would get passed through the Lords on the nod, and vice versa. The Lords currently provides an important balance to the excesses of government because it is composed of members appointed by previous governments many years past. That is to say, the backup system uses a different algorithm to obtain its members.

I'm not claiming that the Lords as-is is a perfect or even near-optimal solution, but I'm damn sure that electing the Lords would make things worse, not better.


Will said...
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Will said...

That's an argument for electing the Lords in a different way, not for appointing them, and we should elect them differently from MPs.

There are many ways in which a dictatorship might provide for more efficient government than we currently enjoy, but we don't go down that road because we're a democracy - and in a democracy, we get to elect the people who make our laws.

sanbikinoraion said...

Yes, you are correct, except that you don't necessarily have to elect the people who make laws.

Democracy is not about election by the people, but representation of the people. Representatives can be obtained in many different ways - sure, we can elect them, and that's common, but there's no reason really why we can't just pick our representatives at random (as we do when juries are drawn to represent the will of the people), or allow anyone who can pass an exam to represent the people, or win a race, or whatever. The latter two are perhaps a bit silly, but there's a good case to be made for a Lords that is drawn by lot rather than through election or appointment.