Looking for co-presenter on sortition in Washington

The National Coalition on Deliberation & Dialogue is holding its annual meeting in Washington, 17-19 October.

They ‘highly encourage’ two presenters.

I’d be interested in focusing on the cultural aspect of switching from electoral campaigns to sortitional selection. Especially how media might be used. Encouraged by NCDD’s suggestions, I might devise an on-the-spot exercise for participants.

I would assume that a co-presenter would concern her- or himself with the more conceptual aspects.  But maybe not. Maybe doubling up on the “How?” would be best.

Please contact me directly if interested: dgrant (at) thecommonlot (dot) com

Lotteries in the Atlantic

While I was out of town this weekend (for a conference–some good lottery-related discussion there, BTW), no fewer than 2 friends brought to my attention this recent piece from the Atlantic. It proposes that highly competitive universities deem admissible twice as many students as they have positions to fill, then select randomly from this list. A very sensible idea–from my own experience at competitive universities, I have little doubt that there are at least as many qualified applicants rejected as accepted.

Anyway, here’s the link:


Manuel Arriaga: Rebooting Democracy

A review of Manuel Arriaga’s Rebooting Democracy: a citizen’s guide to reinventing politics

Rebooting Democracy is a short and enjoyable book (available at Amazon; the first 50 pages are available online). Its introduction explicitly positions it as being motivated by the sentiments of the Occupy protests and the author’s proposals as responding to those sentiments. Like the Occupy protests Arriaga’s message is to a considerable extent anti-electoral:

[V]oting out one politician or party to bring in a different one will not solve our problems. Time has made it clear that this is not merely an issue of casting. If the play stinks, replacing the actors will not make it any better.

The first two chapters present an explanation of why the Western electoral system does not serve “us”. Arriaga summarizes his explanation with the following two points:

1) We have delegated power to the political class and hardly supervise it.

2) As voters, we are condemned to unreflective and easy-to-influence decision-making. Even if we were inclined to effectively supervise politicians, this would severely limit our ability to do so.

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Presidential Selection by Lottery?

The latest on sortition from Italy. Not sure I see the advantage of having the head of state selected by sortition, and equally unsure why it should be so important to exclude anyone from the draw for such a (largely ceremonial and apolitical) post. More consideration of these topics seems appropriate.


Democratic accountability, part 2

Part 1 describes what “democratic accountability theory” is.

“Accountability” has a generalized positive connotation. Surely it is better when power is held accountable than when it is unaccountable or arbitrary. Scratching the surface, however, various considerations make it evident that the appeal of “electoral accountability” is illusory.

  • First, an “accountable government” is presumably self-evidently superior to an “unaccountable government” whose mandate is permanent and therefore cannot be replaced. But the charm of accountability seems less clear when the alternative is a different “unaccountable” government – a government whose mandate is temporary and cannot be renewed. If elections are the only method of accountability then such a limited mandate government is not accountable either. Accountability, it turns out, is not about replacing government any more than it is about permanent government. For some reason, a government must be re-electable to be “accountable”. It is the ability to award the prize of re-election that makes a government electorally accountable. If a prize cannot be awarded, or cannot be withdrawn, the spell of accountability is nullified.

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