Sunday, March 14, 2010

Political reform: Let's license legislators

Americans are grumpy. It's been a bleak decade, and the next one doesn't look too promising. Our politicians are going to have to work through the end of American exceptionalism, the beginning of the end of oil, the age of mass disability, the challenge of CO2 management, the rise of China and India, the Fall of North Korea, nukes galore, the ghost of Malthus and sentient machines.

Just kidding about the last one. Skynet is fifty years ahead and we don't survive it, so no need to worry.

America has the talent to manage these problems. Trouble is, none of the people we need are crazy enough to run for office, and voters wouldn't like 'em anyway. GOP voters would especially dislike the rationalists we need - and we Dems need a sane GOP opposition.

So how do we grow a sane government? I've thought of drafting people to serve, but it's easy to come up with too many objections. I really can't come up with a great alternative to elections, though I still like the idea of taxing campaign related activities at 50% to enable publicly funded campaigns.

So what can we do to improve the system we have now? Let's license legislators. After all, we license lawyers, accountants, physicians, barbers, and realtors -- why not legislators?

It's not hard to image an appropriate curriculum -- starting with courses and evaluation on basic probability, logic 101, business operations, economics, history of science, history, and comparative theology. An intensive 12 month program should do it for most legislators. Grading could be pass-fail -- I'm fine with that.

Legislators would, like physicians, redo their board exams every five years.

Clearly we'd need to compromise on certain topics. For this group there's no problem with "teaching the controversy". By all means, give biologists and Creationists equal time to discuss natural selection. We can balance climate scientists with hobbyists and eccentrics. Different religions can argue for their own creation myths; and our exam questions can cover both scientific and Hindu explanations of biological diversity.

As is the common custom we'll grandfather in current politicians. Maybe we'll even have an interim time when licensure is only needed for those seeking public financing. Eventually though, all legislators will be licensed.

Or we can just stay as we are and die in the cold and the dark. We always have a choice.

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