Sintomer: Tirage au sort et démocratie délibérative

An article by Yves Sintomer discusses, among other things, reasons for the avoidance of sortition by 18th century revolutionaries. English translation by John Zvesper.

Bernard Manin first raised the question of why with modern revolutions sortition disappeared from the political scene. His answer was based on two observations: first, the founding fathers of modern republics wanted elective aristocracies, and for this reason they rejected random selection, which Plato and Aristotle had connected with democracy. Second, the theory of consent, deeply rooted in theories of natural law, was so widespread that it seemed difficult to legitimize any political authority that was not formally approved by the citizenry.

Both of these arguments are important, but they do not explain everything. […]

The unavailability of the statistical concept of the representative sample (even though probability calculus was already well developed by the time of the American and French Revolutions) is the key to understanding why political sortition seemed useless in modern democracies, whose size – as almost no political writer in this period failed to point out – made it impossible to have self government similar to that of the ancient democracies. In this conceptual world, drawing lots meant arbitrarily giving power to someone. Lacking the idea of the representative sample, the proponents of descriptive representation were forced to choose other tools to advance their ideals.