Sortition, Voting, and Democratic Equality

On another note, a paper of mine just appeared in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy CRISPP). The paper, entitled “Sortition, Voting, and Democratic Equality,” appears in a special issue devoted to “Equal Representation: New Perspectives on Democratic Theory” (volume 19, no. 3, June 2016). The paper can be found here:

Here is the abstract:

In recent years, democrats both inside and outside the academy have begun to reconsider the merits of the age-old practice of sortition, the random selection of political officials. Despite this fact, however, the comparative assessment of the merits of voting and sortition remains in its infancy. This paper will advance this project by treating the problem of assigning public responsibilities as a problem of allocative justice. To treat the problem in this manner is to treat public office as a type of good to which citizens might have various claims. Random selection is the appropriate method for distributing public office when all citizens have equal claims to that office and there is not enough to go around. Universal distribution is more appropriate when all claimants have equal claims to the office and there is enough to go around (as with universal suffrage, for example). Election (or possibly other procedures, such as appointment) makes sense when citizens do not enjoy equal claims to the office and that office is in scarce supply. This approach captures a crucial component of democratic equality. Different understandings of democratic equality lay behind sortition and election. Each might be appropriate under different circumstances, but both place rights-based constraints on the design of a democratic political system.

Paul Cartledge: The case for sortition is persuasive

Just read a short piece by Paul Cartledge in which he talks about the history of sortition, a topic treated more extensively in his book Democracy: A Life (Oxford University Press). He even manages to plug my own book, The Luck of the Draw: The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making (also Oxford University Press) along the way. Check it out:

It is quite easy to compile a checklist, perhaps even a decalogue, of differences between their democracy (or rather democracies, as there was no one identikit ancient model) and ours (ditto). And in no respect did they and we differ more than on the issue of sortition, that is, the application of the lottery to the conduct of politics (another Greek invention, both the word and the thing, with – again – the accent to be placed on difference as well as similarity between theirs and ours). We today take the exercise of voting in either general or local elections to be the very quintessence of what it is to do ‘democracy.’ The ancient Greeks took the exact opposite view: elections were elitist and for the nobs, appropriate more for oligarchy (the rule of the few rich) than for democracy (the rule of the masses, most of whom were poor), whereas sortition, the lot, was the peculiarly democratic way of selecting most office-holders and all juror-judges to serve in the People’s jury-courts.
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