Short refutations of common objections to sortition (part 1)

1. It would be madness to appoint public officials by lot. No one would choose a pilot or builder or flutist by lot, nor any other craftsman for work in which mistakes are far less disastrous than mistakes in statecraft.

The problem with this ancient argument against sortition (attributed to Socrates) is that it implicitly assumes that there is some consensus around who should be running the state (those are the pilots, builders or flutists of politics). If there was such consensus politics would be very simple. Politics to a large extent is about identifying whose advice should be taken on which subject. The pretense of elections is that the voters can identify such people. This is a fantasy.

A small group, meeting together and discussing and examining matters in depth, would be able to do a much better job of getting the best advice than the citizens can do as isolated individuals. In fact, most voters already know that – they tend to be very disapproving of elected officials – the very people whom they supposedly selected as being the best suited to handle statecraft.

2. Average people suffer a great many shortcomings (some combination of stupidity, laziness, apathy, greed, selfishness, lack of education, lack of experience, inability to work together with others, etc.).

This dismissive view of the average person is offensive and unsubstantiated by the facts. Continue reading