Life By Lottery

BBC Radio 4’s flagship Analysis programme next week is devoted to sortition and distributive lotteries:

Should we use chance to solve some of our most difficult political dilemmas? From US Green Cards to school place allocation, lotteries have been widely used as a means of fairly resolving apparently intractable problems. Jo Fidgen asks whether the time has come to consider whether more of society’s problems might be solved by the luck of the draw.

Producer: Leo Hornak.

The presenter interviewed Barbara Goodwin and Peter Stone and the producer consulted Conall Boyle and myself. Broadcasting on Monday 24th at 8.30 pm.

6 Responses

  1. Looking forward to it. That’s 2030 GMT, 1630 Eastern Time?


  2. 2030 GMT. If you can’t catch it live, you’ll be able to download it from the BBC website shortly afterwards.


  3. It was interesting that the programme focused primarily on the connection between the lot and distributive justice — this may have been because the original approach was to Barbara Goodwin. The last five minutes was devoted to sortition but purely in prophylactic terms (the Stone-Dowlen lottery thesis) — no mention of descriptive representation. Those of us who believe in the latter are going to have to work hard to be heard.


  4. Yes, a weak follow up to the promise made in the Russell Brand segment to discuss sortition as a substitute to electoral politics. The focus on the use of sortition as a tool for equalization of outcomes is an easy way to avoid talking about it as a tool for representation. This way, Prof. Lee can hide behind talk about merit and reason rather than have to display his elitism in a fully explicit form.


  5. The five-minute section on political lotteries wasn’t on equalising outcomes, it was on the Stone-Dowlen Lottery Thesis (how to protect the political system from ex-ante corruption, domination and factionalism). The programme failed to even consider the normative case for descriptive representation and/or the epistemic case for the wisdom of crowds. I did try to make that case to the producer, but he chose a different focus. I suppose there’s only so much that you can cover in 30 minutes. What it does indicate is how different the negative and positive uses of the lot are, and the folly of trying to explain them both with a single lottery principle.


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