September 29, 2016
An Idealized Design for the Legislative Branch of Government
By: Terry Bouricius and David Schecter. Systems Thinking World Journal, Volume 2. Issue 1. January 22, 2013
Russell Ackoff developed a profoundly useful concept for systems thinking – Idealized Design (Ackoff, 1974, Ackoff, Magdison & Addison, 2006). An Idealized Design is developed based on what the designers really want, rather than working incrementally from current reality. There are two constraints imposed on idealized designs,and one important requirement. First, the design must be technologically feasible—no science fiction. This constraint does not preclude innovation, but it does restrict innovations to what we currently know we can develop. An idealized design might not be implementable for economic, social, or political reasons, but it must be technologically feasible to operate if it were implemented. The second constraint is that the design, if implemented, must be capable of surviving in the current environment. This does not mean that the design must be capable of being implemented now. Finally, there is the important requirement that the process must be capable of being improved over time. It should be ready, willing, and able to change itself or be changed (Ackoff, 1974).
In this paper, we propose an idealized design for the legislative function of government. The design could theoretically be adapted for use in any country with a democratic form of government, and could be implemented in ways that range in scope from a small incremental change to a fundamental reform, at any level of government.
The design is based on three concepts adapted from ancient Athenian democracy, as described in Mogens Herman Hansen’s authoritative history, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (Hansen, 1999),and Paul Woodruff’s First Democracy: the Challenge of an Ancient Idea (Woodruff, 2005). First, instead of concentrating lawmaking responsibilities in one or two all-purpose legislative houses, these responsibilities are divided among six types of more specialized bodies, with limited powers. Second, the members of these bodies aren’t elected – they are selected by lot. Third, the bodies that make the final decisions are temporary, like juries.