One of Bill McClellan’s readers writes in

Google Alert netted another fine catch:

Democracy seeming like Greek to U.S.

Bill McClellan, July 29, 2011

Not long ago, I wrote a column in which I suggested we select our leaders through a lottery [Stupid vs. immoral? Let’s leave governing up to chance, June 8, 2011]. We would avoid tiresome campaigns and the lies and misrepresentations therein, and we would rid ourselves of campaign contributions and the time-honored practice of buying influence and favors.

It was a whimsical idea. Or so I thought. But one of the joys of writing a newspaper column is hearing from people who know more than I do about the subjects I write about.

David C. sent me this note: “Today’s column made me think of ancient Athens, one of the most thoroughgoing democracies in western history (at least for those who weren’t slaves). They had a system of government very similar to your idea of government by lottery. As the Marxist historian C.L.R. James wrote in his essay, ‘Every Cook Can Govern’: ‘Perhaps the most striking thing about Greek democracy was that the administration (and there were immense administrative problems) was organized upon the basis of what is known as sortition, or, more easily, selection by lot. The vast majority of Greek officials were chosen by a method which amounted to putting names into a hat and appointing the ones whose names came out.'”