Bill Harper: A Beginner’s Guide to Sortition

harper - sortition

9 Responses

  1. Personally, I don’t like the dice as a symbol. It links sortition to gambling. The concept of sortition is related to things like statistical sampling, diversity, inclusion and self-governance. I think dice is an unfortunate public relations mistake.


  2. I agree. Dice tend to convey an image of unpredictability, while sortition actually relies on the law of large numbers that promises the opposite. We should put some effort into coming up with a better image.


  3. This is an interesting monograph and well worth reading. Unfortunately, like most “let’s tear it all up and start again from scratch” proposals there are a number of problems:

    1. The Supreme Council, comprising 400 elected delegates from the 100 Constituency Councils will supply the legislative agenda for the government of appointed “super civil servants”. However the delegates are bound by the decisions of their Constituency Council, so how will the legislative agenda be agreed without breaching the delegate mandate?

    2. Harper argues that the system will lead to a marked decrease in corruption owing to the numbers involved (10,000 allotted Reps in total). What this ignores is that real power will be in the hands of the Council of 400 allotted reps (the 150 Elders and 50 Monitors have no vote) so will not beyond the resources of lobbyists, given the agenda-setting role of the Council. Although Harper sees re-election as a source of corruption and short-termism, this ignores its role in ex-post accountability.

    3. Given that every Allotted Citizen will have only one vote in 10,000, why should they bother to take the time and trouble to study the issues in depth?

    4. Although the success of the trial jury is used as a justification for the model, this ignores the fact that the jury has a far more limited role to play. There is no suggestion that the jury should be responsible for initiating prosecutions.

    Seeing as his model is based on British political experience he might be better off building on what we already have. The Elders bear a striking resemblance to an idealised version of the House of Lords (House of Advocates in my proposal); and government ministers, formally speaking, are appointed by the crown on merit. If the role of the allotted element were to be to decide the outcome of the legislative debate (currently reserved, Rousseau-style, to the delegated government) then elected politicians might have an ongoing role in setting the legislative agenda. That way no turkeys would be required to vote for Christmas.


  4. NASA size Mart Simulation


  5. Where could I find a copy of the book? I’m trying to read every sortition-related bit I can.


  6. Hi Ahmed,

    Clicking on the image in this post will take you to a pdf copy of the book. If you prefer a hard copy, please email me your mailing address and I’ll forward your email to Bill.


  7. Nice to start up A Beginner’s Guide to Sortition. Some work has already be done, however, many years ago and should be integrated in this text. Go to:


  8. Hi Ahmed,

    You wrote: “I’m trying to read every sortition-related bit I can.” You cannot miss ‘The World Solution for World Problems’. You can read the book freely on:

    Especially the chapter ‘A Concept for Government’ may be of interest to you.


  9. Regarding a better image: a “names out of a hat” image might be pretty good. It conveys the message of fairness, and has no gambling undertones.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: