David Hume's Court of Competitors or Opposition Bloc

The Council of Opposition Icon

September 7, 2021

In Hume’s essay of the ideal commonwealth , he writes his plan for the ideal government:

  • The people are split into 100 counties which are split into 100 districts
  • The people vote for a district representative. This creates 100 district representatives per district and a total of 10,000 district representatives
  • The 100 district reps vote for 1 senator to represent their country.

Its unique feature is The Court of Competitors which we rename as The Council of Opposition and is made up of the losers of the senatorial race who lose by landslide.

The logic is that, since the senators are chosen from the district representatives, then if a senator wins by a small margin, it means that the district assembly is divided among themselves. It follows that the losers make up a natural opposition against that senator.

But if the senator wins by a landslide, then it means that most of the representatives back that senator and the opposition is muted. In such a case, the system gathers the small opposition into a Council of Opposition which will strengthen and organize the force that checks and counteracts the ruling senator and assembly.

It has two main jobs:

  1. To audit the public records for anomalies
  2. Accuse bad senators for mistakes, corruption, etc. This will be tried by the senate. If the accusation is rejected by the senate, the Council can appeal to the 1,100 magistrates who will then choose up to 300 district representatives to try the case.

If the senators do not win by landslide, then the natural opposition within the senate will create regular accusations and there is less need for a Council of Opposition.

Solving the Audit Problem

The Council of Opposition formalizes the oversight function of democratic legislatures through its powers of audit.

In parliamentary systems, such as in the UK and Australia, the auditing body is put under the parliament, as a counterweight to the Exchequer. This makes it timid in auditing if the ruling party has many seats.

In parliaments that have no strong party, the auditing body naturally becomes more active. However, it cannot do much with its findings since the parliament is divided in the first place. An example is Lebanon where everyone knows that there are serious problems in government policies and procedures, yet no one is able to do anything. Another more recent example is Afghanistan, where its divided government was unable to check the corruption despite it being obvious.

Taliban fighters

In democratic systems, such as the Philippines, the auditing body is an independent body created by the Consitution. This allows it to do its job regardless of the ruling person in the executive or party in the legislature. However, the downside is that it also can just give advice and cannot implement any corrective policy since it is separate from the executive or legislature.

The Council of Opposition solves both problems by making the auditing body serve under a separate minority legislature that can enact laws. If its national bills are rejected, then at least it can create local bills to solve bad procedures. It prevents timidity since its members are made up of the opposition that are voted by the people. In contrast, independent bodies are not voted and so their drive to do their job tends to be lax.

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