Sydney J. Harris: I would like to see American officeholders drawn by lot

A short article by syndicated columnist Sydney J. Harris was published in the March 1960 issue of The Rotarian under the title “Pick Leaders Out of a Hat?“. The article – a reprint from the Chicago Daily News – takes a bold stance in its first paragraph:

The chief thing wrong with democracy is that it is not democratic enough. I would like to see American officeholders drawn by lot, as they often were in ancient Greece.

Harris’s proposal finds little favor with the four discussants invited by the The Rotarian to respond. The responses range from

I doubt we should dignify his [Harris’s] proposal by giving time, thought, and paper to it,

to the milder

Obviously, everyone’s name cannot go into the hat – the results could be too entirely fantastic – so the would have to be some plan of selection. It is altogether likely that any suitable selection arrangement would gradually develop into nothing but a duplication of the present system.

2 Responses

  1. I doubt whether the reaction to a similar article published now would be anything like as hostile, so I think some progress has been made in the last half century.


  2. Yes – things have changed. For one thing, the Swiss responder’s confidence in the quality of his country’s political system, its popularity among the Swiss and the admiration for it among foreigners seems comical today.


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