Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Senate

A re-post from a topic on BIAW found here

Should the Senate be an Elected house?

The issue really comes down to 2 questions as I see it:
  • What is the senate's purpose?
  • How can it best fulfill that purpose?

In answer to the first question I believe its purpose should be to advise and to balance the highly political nature of the House of Assembly. If we lived in a world where the electorate made purely rational choices it is my belief that we wouldn't need two chambers and that the only reason we have two right now is to attempt to mitigate some of the failings of democracy in reality. Ideally it would retain the restrictions it has now on its ability to delay legislation and specifically those relating to money bills.

The answer to the second question is a little more complicated. To me it seems that it is obvious that it must be a non-political entity (something that we come close to achieving by giving the Government the same number of senators as everyone else) comprised of highly educated professionals like lawyers, doctors and economists (people who can truly consider the implications and rationale behind legislation). On whether it is elected or not I find myself torn between conflicting ideas. On one hand the will of the people is the primary source of power in a democracy. On the other however, the whole purpose of the senate should be to avoid politics and emotion while focusing purely on the legal, financial, rational etc. basis for legislation which would be impossible if its very composition was based on the often emotional responses of the voting public. Thus I cannot decide between two possible options for a reformed senate:

Firstly, a purely appointed body. Appointed either by the governor or by a commission which was appointed by the governor in which members would sit for long terms (7-10 years perhaps) after which they could be appointed again but, would be an equal footing in the commissions considerations as all other potential candidates selected from the pool of professionals in the country.

Secondly, a body where 50% + 1 were appointed in the same manner as the first and the rest were elected through proportional representation.

I think I lean towards the first option because we already have a chamber that is completely elected but, I think either could work as well as the other.

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