Abstract: Most nations have unicameral legislatures. Where bicameral legislatures exist, the second chamber is usually a subject of contention, regarded as either mischievous or redundant. They are often studied in isolation, with few comparative studies and little theorizing. Where the membership is appointed rather than elected, second chambers are treated as self-evidently undemocratic. The principal justification tends to be one of representation in federal nations. Here, we take a case study of the UK House of Lords, and proposals for reform advanced by a Commission on the UK’s Future, as the basis for rebutting the case for elected second chambers and for theorizing the case for a particular type of second chamber. Moving beyond the extant categories of representative and reflective, and the challenges posed by each, we develop the theoretical foundations for a complementary second chamber. Building on the propositions that good government needs an effective legislature, and that good law is a public good, we show that complementary second chambers add value, enhancing rather than challenging or being superfluous to the first. This shifts debate to a new paradigm, establishing the basis for unicameral nations to embrace bicameralism.
Keywords: bicameralism; federalism; House of Lords; legislatures; representation; second chambers; UK Parliament
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