The delegation game

Randomization is a standard solution in problems of game theory. In this context, randomization is used to baffle an adversary, who would be able to counter any deterministic strategy (assuming that that strategy was known to her) more effectively than she would be able to counter a randomized strategy. Thus, randomization is a maximin strategy: it guarantees the randomizer the best possible worst-case outcome. Sortition – a randomized strategy for selecting political delegates – can be advocated on similar grounds.

In a standard conception of the problem of selecting delegates, the people can assess the quality of any possible delegate set. They do so and then choose the delegation that maximizes that quality. Thus, in this conception, delegation is a maximization problem.

An alternative conception is one where the quality of potential delegations is difficult to assess. In such a situation, selecting a delegation requires some way to handle the uncertainty. Continue reading

“We need to scrap elections and have lotteries to select officeholders”

A recent discussion on

Face it, virtually no one can get elected without prostituting themselves out to big business or the rich. The Citizens United case made it impossible to ever elect an honest, competent person who will represent the people. What we need is a lottery system that selects people at random, say from their social security numbers.