George Tridimas: When is it rational to give up rationality?

George Tridimas of the School of Economics of the University of Ulster circulates via the Kleroterians mailing list a draft of a paper, soliciting readers’ comments. The abstract is below. Please contact the author for the full text of the draft.

When is it rational to give up rationality?

Appointment to office by lot in Ancient Athens

Contrary to modern democracies ancient Athens appointed large scores of government post-holders by lottery. After describing the Athenian arrangements, I review the choice between elections and lottery from the perspective of the citizen focusing on representativeness of the population, distributive justice, minimization of political conflicts, administrative economy and policy making ability of appointees. Adopting the methodology of public choice, I then examine why a contestant for office may choose the lottery rather than elections as a method of winning office. Although the outcomes of both mechanisms are uncertain, a contestant may influence the probability of winning an election through his campaign efforts, but not of a lottery. I establish conditions for choosing one or the other mechanism depending on the availability of campaign funds and campaign effectiveness of the contestants and I show that despite its mechanical character appointment to office by lot is consistent with self-interested behaviour and can be voluntarily agreed by all contestants.