So sorry to hear all this, Isabel. It must be absolutely awful having to deal with these problems on top of the earthquakes and the resulting earthquake issues. If there's anything I can do (engineer's second opinion, etc.) then please let me know. We're thinking of you in Dunsandel.
Did you come across The Museum of Childhood?
We've visited it before; slightly disastrous when you take an actual child who wants to play with the exhibits, so avoided it this time. Had visions of my children making the newspapers: "Museum Damaged by Badly-Parented NZers: Curator Vows to Ban Children When Museum Rebuilt."
... latent fear of being mugged by for the crime of being a tourist.
Derek told me that the other exciting activity for tourists is to park in the no parking zones on the Royal Mile. Apparently you come back to discover your rental car and luggage has had a starring role in a controlled explosion by the police bomb squad.
And – after doing a tour through England- my mother & self could read body language again
Yes, I always notice the same thing. Also, disturbingly, the facial structure similarities between Norwegians, Scottish, and Pakeha NZers (in a way that, say, the French, Italians, or Spanish don't usually have with Pakeha).
A bit alarming and weird to consider that the -- ahem -- aggressive emigration policies of Norwegians (in the past), and then the Scottish diaspora, could shape the facial features of people on the other side of the world...
Soo… you like Edinburgh in hindsight?
Oh, I’d liked it before – always thought it had a bleak, rainswept beauty. But I guess this is my first visit that I’ve noticed how pretty it is.
Also had a couple of very funny posh Edinburgh moments as per Alexander McCall Smith. Jennifer wouldn’t let me put them in writing, alas.
David, thank you for such a wonderful post.
Delighted that you liked it!
Attentive readers may have noticed that this blog has been posted rather after the fact. We’ve had internet problems in the UK—apparently this year’s unexpected autumn has resulted in the internet tubes becoming clogged with leaves, which means the internet packages have lost traction and are travelling very slowly. My last blog took over an hour to post; I figured it was easiest to wait until we made it to the US.
Lovely work (again), David. Thank you!
I put this down to a few too many wee drams and the Chch earthquake...
Oh dear, I'm afraid my interest in this subject predated the quakes and the drinking. I have no excuse.
I suppose it's my background (both in terms of my family and in terms of control engineering) that makes me interested in such things. It seems to me that both elected and sortitioned representatives have their advantages and disadvantages and it's interesting (to me) to consider a proposal that might be an optimized combination of the two.
I'm also interested in the difference between cut-down unicameral systems (such as ours, which almost amounts to unbridled power for the governing party) and, say, the US system with extreme separation of powers and lots of checks and balances.
Apart from anything else, I'd like to test my own thoughts (and those of a Glaswegian anarchist) on the subject.
Hopefully I don't come across as taking it all too seriously!
Ben Wilson wrote:
They’re professional in so far as they get paid, but the line’s not far from there, really. And these jurors would be paid, hence professional.
Sorry, I didn't put that very well. I should have said "career politicians".
I don’t think the idea of age stratifying the groups makes any sense... The numbers seem way too low, there’s an unacceptably big chance of getting a non-representative group in there. Also, I don’t see the need for the lengthy term, upon which the strange choice of demographic was founded. If it were, say, a month, then pretty much anyone could participate at some time in their life.
I take your points (and have argued most of them myself), but I think I've come round to disagreeing with them over the years!
I think there really is a good reason for selecting two deliberately dissimilar juries that are quite small.
Even with a single very large jury (e.g. 100 jurors) you stand a reasonable chance of randomly selecting a slight majority that is the reverse of that in the House of Representatives. This is particularly true, of course, of societies that are fairly evenly divided into two tribal groups (as ours is at the moment between the Labour/Green and National "tribes"). So then you have the likelihood of the dominant tribe in the parliamentary jury blocking all the legislation from the dominant tribe in the House of Representatives for purely tribal reasons -- with the consequence of a paralysed government.
Some people might think that a paralysed government is a very good thing, but NZers don't seem to like it (this being one of the reasons that the old Legislative Council was abolished).
Hence the advantage of two deliberately dissimilar juries, and the requirement that you must have a majority of jurors against in both juries to block legislation. You have made the overlapping portions of the Venn diagram deliberately small; if two very different groups both conclude that something is a bad idea then it seems reasonable that it should be blocked for a year.
There is also a sound reason for keeping the juries small (and not just cost). A small group allows better communication channels and the chance for genuine discussion and persuasion with regard to the legislation. Again, this will give a different perspective to the very large group in the House of Representatives, where there is little genuine discussion and declarations of for/against are usually made along "tribal" lines.
Having accepted the advantages of two small dissimilar juries (which you may not!), then it comes down to the best way to ensure dissimilarity. As discussed in the original piece, age seems to have a number of advantages -- but there may be other better systems.
The one-year term (vs. something much shorter) is also something that I've debated. Incoming jurors would have to be given some sort of orientation procedure to familiarize themselves with the parliamentary process (given that we don't teach this in schools); you have to set up their support staff; possibly you have to deal with issues of housing and childcare. With a month-long term there might not be too much time left over to consider the actual legislation. Plus also sometimes it's more convenient to be away from your normal activities for a year rather than a month, e.g. for students.
In all of this there is the difficult balance between providing a check on government (mis)behaviour, and avoiding the possibility of having a government that can't do anything, and also developing a solution that is practical for the people involved. All sorts of permutations are possible (if I could figure out a way of quantifying dissimilarity then I could do some interesting maths on this problem!).
> Jurors can’t be manipulated by
> an established government bureaucracy
> or civil service.
bet they can, especially if bureaucrats only have to bamboozle em for a year at most.
Oh, I may not have explained that particularly well. I was attempting to highlight the contrast in terms of the concerns about potential manipulation of MPs by permanently appointed civil servants in the various ministries, etc. The parliamentary jurors would, of course, have little cause to interact with these civil servants.
But I take your point that the permanent staff responsible for supporting the jurors could possibly seek to sway their decisions. There are ways around this: for example, allowing jurors from the current year to have a role in appointing the support staff for the next year, etc.
David, I think this is a brilliant notion. Your grandad was perhaps unfairly prejudiced against drycleaners, but otherwise very sound!
Damn, I should have put the drycleaners on that list! On the other hand, this theory would be ideal for the fashion range that I am planning off the back of the successful adoption of this system. The front of the tee-shirts would say "Demarchy Now!"; the back would say "Death to Drycleaners!"
A major problem with this proposal is that it doesn’t really ensure any representation for the parents of young children, especially young mothers... I think you have to question whether that under-representation is a good thing? This would just reenforce it.
I totally agree about the importance of representating the views of young parents. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that solo mothers are the most demonized group in our society.
But I actually think that my grandfather's proposed scheme would be an improvement on the current situation -- since the junior jury is very likely pick up some young parents.
Of course, one has to strike the balance between securing representation and placing an unfair burden of jury duty on those who are already massively overworked (if their children are like mine, at any rate). So Lucy Telfar Barnard's and Emma Hart's point about childcare support would be critical.
Also agree with t’other Lucy’s previous comment about absence of mothers of young children, though the Junior Jury could include young mothers, particularly if the Jury was well set up with optimal childcare.
One might get an estimate of how effective it would be by repeated random sampling from the proposed age groups about “controversial” legislation before the final reading.
That would be a very sensible investigative approach, it seems to me...
The GSCB, Gay Marriage and Electoral Finance Act bills would have been interesting ones to see. My guess is that the first two would pass. Not sure about the latter.
That would be my guess, too!
the concept of being governed entirely by a council chosen totally at random feels like a good concept to me but I fear unlikely to work in reality with human nature being what it is.
Oh dear, now I'm wondering if I have made a good translation from the Glaswegian!
The idea is *not* that you would be "entirely governed" by the parliamentary juries -- the current House of Representatives with its elected MPs carries on exactly as it does now.
But on top of that are the two juries, which act as a double-check on the legislation produced by the House of Representatives. If a majority of jurors in both the juries thinks that the legislation sucks then they can block it.
So the theory is that you get the best of both worlds: the legislation is developed by elected professional politicians as now, but the randomly selected jurors (who therefore don't have the motivations of professional politicians) keep an eye on the elected politicians. And you deliberately set up the two randomly chosen juries to be as dissimilar as possible so that they also act as a partial check on each other, and minimize the chances of paralysing reasonable legislative programmes from a government.
I hope this explanation makes things a little clearer?