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This suggestion was originally made by Science-Fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – the same book where he introduces the wonderfully ungrammatical expression TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein

In the novel, the Moon has been turned into a penal colony. The prisoners rebel against the Earth authorities and form an independent colony. Now one of their challenges is to write a new constitution – for example, figuring out how to organize their legislative assembly. From the old democracies they have learned that parliaments end up enacting more and more laws, often with the thinnest of majorities.

The Loonies’ solution is to create a two-chamber system. One chamber is tasked with creating new laws, which can only happen with a two-thirds majority. The argument is that any law that doesn’t have a two-thirds backing can’t be said to have “wide” backing and shouldn’t be enforced on the people. The other chamber is tasked with eliminating old laws that are no longer needed or are deemed to have been passed in error. To eliminate a law takes one third of the votes. Again, the argument is that if more than one third would want to get rid of a law, it does not have a wide backing and an oh-so-practical majority of 50% + 1 doesn’t have the right to force their will upon the minority.

Seeing how for example the Danish parliament often passes laws with a minimal majority, and then repeatedly tries to “repair” those laws that turn out to do more wrong than good instead of simply abolishing them, I would fully back Mr. Heinlein’s suggestion.

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