The Blind Break and the Invisible Hand, Part 1

Last week’s sortition workshop at Queen Mary, University of London was entitled Sortition and the Consolidation of Democracy. The host and academic convenor was Oliver Dowlen, who was a research fellow at QM, and most of the papers adopted the Dowlen-Stone ‘Lottery Thesis’ that the primary value of sortition is as a prophylactic to protect the political system from factionalism and corruption — a principle that Dowlen and Stone attribute to the arational ‘Blind Break’ introduced by the lottery mechanism. The main focus of my commentary is Peter Stone’s (draft) paper, ‘Democracy and Good Government’ (Stone, 2013), but my arguments are addressed to all three signatories of the ‘Dublin Declaration’ (Delannoi, Dowlen and Stone, 2013),* which, whilst acknowledging that sortition is also a way of instituting ‘descriptive’ representation, concluded that this was a ‘weak’ use of the lot. My claim in this commentary is that the ‘Blind Break’ is a) politically conservative (sortition is capable of protecting the integrity of any political system, not just democracy) and b) philosophically tautological (its ‘strength’ is entirely reliant on the pre-definition of the Lottery Principle).
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Politeia 2.0

This past week, Oliver Dowlen organized a very good workshop in London on “Sortition and the Consolidation of Democracy.” In addition to the academic speakers, we heard a talk from a representative from a Greek civic organization named Politeia 2.0. The group is working with James Fishkin and Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy to use randomly selected deliberative bodies. They want to use these groups to develop proposals to reform the Greek constitution. They have a website at