Research: Sharing the funds by lottery

Hans de Jonge, a university Education Policy Advisor in the Netherlands asks for our help:

“I believe there is some similarity between the arguments used to support lotteries in the allocation of scarce places in medical school and the case for using lotteries in the distribution of research funds. Do you know of any papers in support of this, or instances where it is used?” Continue reading

36% of Americans think they could do a better job than current government

A poll previously mentioned on this blog found that in January 2010 45% of the U.S. public said that a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress. Some doubt that such a finding indicates that many Americans would view a proposal to allot Congress favorably. Instead, they suggest that the positive responses are merely equivalent to exclaiming that “a monkey could do better than that lot”.

A February 2010 poll by CNN put the matter a little closer to home, asking: “Do you think you personally could do a better job running the country than our government officials are presently doing?”. 36% of respondents answered positively.

The obvious conclusion is that 9% of the public think that a monkey would do a better job than they would.

Other interesting findings from the same poll: over 80% of the public think each of the following describes “officials in Washington”: “Heavily influenced by special interests”, “Mainly concerned about getting reelected”, and “Out of touch with the average person”. Only 22% think the officials are “Honest”.

Democracy – Ancient and Modern

In The Principles of Representative Government (1997), Bernard Manin attempted to explain why Athenian (sortive) democracy was supplanted by election at the time of the birth of modern representative democracy. Many members of this forum have lamented this development and called for a return to classical democracy. In this post I would like to argue that sortition was only ever one element in Athenian democracy and that the other elements, if translated into a modern context, would of necessity be rather like the institutions that we currently bemoan. For analytic convenience I’ll deal with Athenian democratic practice under three categories:

  • One Man One Vote
  • Deliberative Scrutiny
  • Rule and Be Ruled In Turn

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‘Replace the House of Lords with a citizens’ assembly, chosen by lot’ (again)

I know it’s an old idea (see Barnett & Carthy Athenian Option 1998/2008, ImprintAcademic), but here’s a letter in today’s (London) Times (Sat 21st May)

Citizens’ assembly


Brian Harris (letter, May 19) is right to question whether the best cure for our dysfunctional Lower House is to create a weaker version in the Upper House. As he suggests, the last thing the public wants is more politicians.

A reform that would indeed mean “improvement, not a near duplication” would be to replace the House of Lords with a citizens’ assembly, chosen by lot from all members of the public (excluding political officeholders) willing to serve for a single fixed term, with adjustments to ensure fair representation by gender, age and region.

By virtue of its democratic credentials, such a popular assembly could be given greater powers to challenge the Commons. Even if these powers extended to a right of veto, there would be no conflict of legitimacy of the kind which, as Mr Harris points out, could afflict two elected houses: election and sortition are different but complementary modes of reflecting public opinion. It would thus be quite reasonable to require legislation to secure the approval of both houses.

Nonetheless, one could provide that an enduring deadlock between the two houses be resolved by referendum: that should encourage constructive compromise, as the Commons would no doubt be wary of trying the public’s patience by invoking such a provision too often.


Robin Smith: Democracy is not working. Sortition – Election by Jury

Robin Smith, a social entrepreneur and Independent Councillor, dedicated to justice in society through economic reform, writes:

[W]e do not need any more CORRUPTIBLE leaders and we do want people to vote for what is best for ALL people, not themselves.

We can see that democracy today, at best, leads inevitably to oligarchy. Rule by the few. This seems to be a natural tendency under current macro economic conditions […].

With sortition, just like jury service, the assembly of leaders are elected, by lot, from a pool of pre selected but random candidates, essentially all citizens who are willing to do it.
With sortition, just like jury service, the assembly of leaders are elected, by lot, from a pool of pre selected but random candidates, essentially all citizens who are willing to do it.

Some will say there is a small risk of electing a bad guy. Yet how does it compare with what we have today where it seems ALL leaders eventually get corrupted. Remember… keep thinking!

The ignorant and selfish kind of leadership we have today could no longer buy the people and would never rule. There would still be problems. But a BIG one would have been abolished and buried out of sight.

Sortition for the House of Lords

Andrew Lilco of the influentual website Conservative Home is currently proposing sortition for the reformed House of Lords:

I propose that half the members (300) should be selected randomly.  It would be better if randomly-selected members knew their random selection from an early enough date to prepare for the role.  Thus I would prefer hereditary – probably with new hereditary families.  But I suspect that would be so controversial as to derail the whole scheme, and it is more important that there be random membership than whether people are prepared.  So I propose that half the members be selected by lot, as with jury service.  If you are selected for Second Chamber service, you must serve there for six months.  I suggest that there is overlapping turnover – so, each month one sixth of the membership leaves to be replace by a new set.  Hopefully, after a while people would see the benefits of expertise, responsibility and obligation being bred from an early stage, and so hereditary would once again be feasible.  But a jury-style (or Athenian-style) component to the chamber would be a good base.

Full article

Plan to DUMP legislators by lottery!

Plans to reform House of Lords could include a lottery to cull peers

Nick Clegg’s white paper to include several options for cutting second chamber seats to 300 by 2015
Patrick Wintour
Wednesday 11 May 2011 21.13 BST

A lottery could be used to decide which peers are thrown out of the House of Lords under one method being discussed to cut the second chamber down to as few as 300 members.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, will seek to re-energise his political reform agenda next week when he publishes a white paper on an elected second chamber that will set out plans to cull remaining hereditary and appointed peers.

The government is expected to leave open the question of which peers are selected to stay, but a favoured option being canvassed is for each party group to hold a random draw for each phase of the removal of peers.
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