Robin Hanson proposes two simple campaign promises that would get people more of what they say they want

Here are two positions most any politician can take, yet few ever do:

  1. “If elected, every month I will impanel a new random jury of voters in my district.  I will inform them in detail about my upcoming decisions, and will ask them for their choices.  Then I will just do what they say.  In this way I can assure you that won’t act on my own interests or those of my cronies or donors; I will act as would random informed citizens from my district.”
  2. “I promise that, if elected, I will do X, Y, and Z.  But I don’t just make promises; I show you I am committed to keeping my promises.  My word isn’t my only bond; my house is also my bond.  I have contracted with ABC law agency; they will give my house away to the first person that can prove that I have broken any of these promises.”


Robin suggests a few reasons why politicians don’t make such promises and more importantly why voters don’t demand a politician who does. However, I think he misses the big point. Politics, for most, is a sport. Its a chance for the Blues to trash the Greens and vice versa.

What important in politics is that the politician is a member of your team. We he wins, you win. This puts politicians in a bind. On the one hand they want to float to the middle so the most people can realistically tell themselves that the politician is on their team. On the other hand they need to draw contrasts with their opponent so that team affiliation is strong. Walking this tightrope is the essence of politics.