Somewhere (I don't remember where) I read about a proposal for a tricameral parlamentarian system where the third chamber's only mandate would be to revoke (e.g. idle) legislation. This was presented as a possible mechanism for keeping the sum of all legislation "relevant" as opposed to "big".

Does this ring a bell? Has something like this ever been tried? And can you please point me to more specific information?

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    This sounds like one of those ideas that is great in theory and miserable in practice, but I'd like to read more about it once you get your answer. – Bobson Sep 15 '14 at 15:02
  • India has a bicameral system and 'some' times, politics is abundant in that system as well. In a tricameral system which has the 'absolute' power, whoever 'controls' it, will control everything right? – Praba Sep 16 '14 at 17:28
  • @prabugp sounds like a bicameral with a filibuster power to me – user1858 Sep 17 '14 at 0:48
  • This feels a lot like the story-identification questions on SciFi.SE. Any chance you can provide any additional clues? When and where do you think you heard about this? – indigochild Feb 20 '17 at 20:04
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    While I have not heard of a tricameral solution, Robert a Heinlein, in his science fiction novel, *The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" brought up the idea of one chamber being able to vote in a law only with a 2/3 majority and the other chamber devoted to repealing laws with a 1/3 minority. Perhaps this is where you heard it. – sabbahillel Feb 20 '17 at 22:51

I've never heard the idea of a tricameral parliament in this sense, but the idea of systematically reviewing government functions over time is not new – for instance, sunset provisions do exist. Lately, at the US federal level, the PATRIOT Act and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban come to mind.

In Texas, there's an interesting case, where the Sunset Commission essentially does what you describe for every state agency, where all of them (with some exceptions) would go through public hearings and evaluations at least every twelve years. If the legislature doesn't approve an agency's raison d'être within that time frame, the agency shuts down.

Inspired by that, another idea instead of adding a third chamber is to constitutionally specify that all law would need to be re-approved every decade, for instance. Saves a bit of time on election day, if nothing else.

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I don't think this system really exists, but the Republic of China constitution (prior to the 2005 constitutional amendments) has a somewhat similar design. The ROC constitution establishes three (directly or indirectly) elected assemblies: the National Assembly, the Legislative Yuan (立法院), and the Control Yuan (監察院).

According to the 1946 ROC constitution, the National Assembly and the Legislative Yuan are directly elected by all citizens, while the Control Yuan is indirectly elected by provincial legislatures. The powers of the three assemblies are divided as following:

National Assembly

  • Electing the President and Vice President
  • Amending the constitution
  • Initiative and referendum (創制復決), which are reserved powers that are not "activated" until some time in the future (explained below).

Legislative Yuan

  • Pass and repeal laws, budgets, treaties, declarations of war, etc.
  • Vote of confidence on the Executive Yuan (i.e., cabinet)

Control Yuan

  • Advice and consent to presidential appointments
  • Instigating & trying impeachments (subject to final approval by the National Assembly)
  • Checking and supervising the executive
  • Audit

The Legislative Yuan is similar to parliaments in many parliamentary states, the National Assembly essentially holds the fundamental powers and sovereignty of the state (somewhat similar to the UK Parliament), while the Control Yuan is much like the US Senate stripped of its legislative powers.

The power of "initiative and referendum" is most similar to your "third chamber". Sun Yat-sen, who proposed the framework of the ROC constitution, believed that the people shall be able to directly interfere in legislation - by submitting them to popular referendum (and also by popular legislative initiative). However, China is very big, and he thus believed that popular referendum of laws is only appropriate at the local level. At the national level, this power shall be held by the members of the National Assembly, who acted as full-power representatives of the people.

However, at that time, there was a lot contention over this power, so the 1946 ROC constitution included a clause which said "the National Assembly shall have the powers of initiative and referendum after the people in more than half of all localities in the country have exercised these rights". However, this have not happened, while in 2005 the National Assembly was effective abolished, and the idea of "initiative and referendum" was also gone.

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I don't actually understand the question. Did you imply that the chamber should possibly veto legislation when it's brought into law, or review law regardless of the time passed since the legislation was brought into law?

The first version exists as a 'chamber' in many countries, such as France's Constitutional Council, and acts as a governmental method to stop legislation from being brought into law. Other versions include the United Kingdom's Privy Council.

There's also a ability of the courts to review legislation, such as the Supreme Court of the United States, or supranational courts such as the European Court of Human Rights.

But if you imply a 'third chamber' that's about reviewing and revoking existing law, then I doubt that exists anywhere due to the relative overlap between 'new law' and 'amending law' - often new legislation attempts to create new rules in areas already regulated by other law.

I would personally advocate an appointed/undemocratic "privy council" for countries in Europe and India, in order to liquidate some of the populism and democracy that can create a 'tyranny of the majority' (i.e. overpowering 'Muslim Vote' etc...)

  • Privy Council (functional constituencies and reserved/appointed seats)

  • Council of the States

  • Parliament

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You may be thinking of the veto. In the United States, the President has the power to veto bills approved by Congress, but this veto can be overridden by a supermajority in Congress, although this is rare. There isn't anything qualitatively different between this executive power and your conception of a third legislative chamber. The president is still an elected representative, albeit only one person, and also charged with enforcing the law. Many other governments use some form of this idea.

"Relevance" is highly subjective, so it is difficult to imagine how such an idea could be enforced in any system. In practice, the president vetoes bills he dislikes, without even a superficial regard to some standard of "relevance".

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  • The question seems to be about voiding existing legislation rather than stopping new legislation. – user9389 Feb 17 '17 at 23:55

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