20 Minutes: The vaccination collective starts its work

The French news website 20 Minutes reports on the allotted body that has recently been convened by the French government to monitor the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

Vaccination: The collective of 35 allotted citizen starts working on Saturday

Laure Cometti, 15/01/2021

The 35 allotted citizens representing the diversity of the French, as announced by Emmanuel Macron, are going to have their first work meeting this Saturday.

  • The citizen collective, tasked at the end of November by Emmanuel Macron to guarantee the transparency of the government’s vaccination strategy, is going to start its work on Saturday
  • It is composed of 35 citizens who are supposed to reflect the diversity of the French population and the different points of view regarding the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • It will meet regularly and will be able to interview experts. Its mission is to express the concerns of the population and formulate recommendations for the executive in order to assure the success of the vaccination campaign, lasting until the autumn.

This innovation is aimed at responding to the mistrust of the French toward the Covid-19 vaccine, and more generally toward the management of the crisis by the government. On November 24th Macron announced that “a citizen collective” would be created in order to “involve” the population in the vaccination campaign. This group of 35 allotted French people is now in place and is going to have its first meeting this Saturday. But what will this body do and how will it function? 20 Minutes explores.

Is this group representative of the population?

Not exactly, but this sample aspires to be representative of the diversity of the Frenchpeople. Allotted through the telephone, under the guidance of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), the group comprises 18 women and 17 men. According to the CESE, all ages are represented, as are all regions and types of localities (large and small cities, rural areas, etc.). The same goes for levels of education (covering everything from no degree to graduate degree) and occupations. Members include farmers, workers, retail tradespeople, senior executives, lower management as well as the unemployed and the retired.
Continue reading

Some Problems of Citizens’ Assemblies

Academia.edu have recently launched Academia Letters, a peer-reviewed journal consisting of short articles that are distributed to a wide audience, and Alex Kovner and I were invited to contribute to the first edition. The Academia Letters article is here (along with the reviewers’ comments). It was edited down rather severely, the advantage being that, according to the analytics, most people who received the notification actually read it, the intention being to introduce new work to a broader audience than the usual recipients. A fuller version is available on Alex’s blog: Part 1 and Part 2. We’re currently working on a new Superminority article to directly address the problem at the heart of the US and other deeply polarized political systems — where half the electorate are effectively disenfranchised — that led to the attack on Capitol Hill.

New subtitle for Equality-by-Lot

This is to announce the results of the vote for a new subtitle for this blog.

Terry Bouricius has done the hard work of collecting the ranked choice lists and converting them to pairwise comparison matrices. Thanks, Terry!

Following Terry’s instructions, I have summed the matrices and produced the sum matrix. Candidate subtitle #6 has a clear advantage, beating almost all other candidates in a head-to-head comparison. The sole exception is candidate #26 which is tied with #6 at 8 votes each. However, Terry assures me that despite this tie, due to tie-breaking considerations, candidate #6 is the undisputed winner.

Reflecting this result, I will start taking steps to change the subtitle of this blog to “The democratic potential of sortition”.

I thank everybody for contributing candidates and registering their votes. Again I encourage the proposers and voters to take part in this blog in other ways as well.

Association Pour la Rotation Et la Sortition (L’APRES)

This post was written by NemoNihilis one of the co-founder of l’APRES (not my pseudonym). Come and visit our website https://sortition.fr

The goal of this association is to turn debates into discussions. Our objective is meta-political, that is to say we discuss the politic of how to do politic in order to promote diversity. We aim to provide tools for people fed up by a discourse monopolized by those who speak the loudest, or absent of the voices of those with less self assurance and crucially. We offer two solutions to these problems.

I. Rotating moderation

The moderator gives the floor to people asking to speak, or request to hear someone’s opinion. However, their work doesn’t end there and they can also choose to keep or change the topic(s) of discussion.

Traditionally, a group would elects a single moderator for the entire meeting, but our association proceeds differently. We rotate the role every X (often 20) minutes or less because the moderator can choose to end their mandate anytime even before it begins. It is then the turn of the person to their left to take over this role.

What about sortition in all of this? Continue reading

Only two days left to vote!

The poll for the change to the subtitle of this blog ends on Tuesday, yet currently only .02% of the “electorate” have recorded their preferences. This might seem like a trivial matter, but it crucially affects the range and scope of the posts submitted. The blog was founded by Conall Boyle and others some ten years ago in order to discuss the work of those with an interest in lotteries for equal distribution and social justice — see for example Barbara Goodwin’s Justice by Lottery. However the blog soon became dominated by those (like Yoram and myself) exploring the political potential of sortition in reforming (or replacing) electoral democracy. This change of focus seems to meet the needs of most contributors and readers but it would be a tragedy if those working on other aspects of sortition felt excluded by an over-prescriptive sub-title. If you look at the book series Sortition and Public Policy you’ll see that around half of the titles are devoted to the non-political use of lot. And many theorists dealing with the political potential of sortition, for example Oliver Dowlen and Peter Stone are unpersuaded regarding the use of sortition for democratic representation (they focus more on the Blind Break as an arational prophylactic against factionalism). So it would be good if the new subtitle reflected the full range of interest in sortition. If you want to vote, just go to the Online Poll, look at the list of “candidates”, choose your preference(s) and post a comment, it’s that easy!

C.E. Johnson: The Democracy Machine

C.E. Johnson is a multi-disciplinary visual artist working and living in Alabama.
Johnson’s work The Democracy Machine is currently on exhibit in the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans. The work is inspired the Athenian kleroterion. It

can be used as an object of meditation for healing in a time of disillusionment with Alabama-based politics. It is an artifact from an alternate history of the state where elections were given up to pure chance and a monument to the ideals of democracy in its authentic form.

Getting out the vote

There are twenty-six options to vote for in the poll for changing the subtitle of this blog and, at the time of writing (08 Jan) we have only seventeen voters. Unless we have a large increase in voters (this blog has 996 followers) there is a good chance that the outcome will be random in the pejorative sense, rather than reflecting the preferences of posters and readers. The poll ends on Tuesday 12th, so we would strongly encourage as many people as possible to vote. The voting system is Ranked Choice, so you can include as few or as many choices as you wish. Vote by posting a comment to https://equalitybylot.com/2021/01/05/subtitle-change-vote/.

Macron’s vaccine ‘citizen panel’ is doomed to fail

A column by Keith Sutherland and Alex Kovner in the The Spectator:

France has a problem when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine. Emmanuel Macron’s administration has so far only given out around 5,000 vaccines, and France has one of the lowest levels of trust in the coronavirus vaccine in the world, with only 40 per cent of the public saying they want to be inoculated. Faced with this trust deficit, Macron has proposed a 35-member ‘citizen panel’ to oversee France’s vaccination programme. The body, made up of a random selection of French citizens, will be responsible for monitoring and advising the government when it comes to the vaccine roll-out.

Covid Treatment Lottery

“For patients with similar prognosis, who cannot be separated in other ways, a random allocation, such as a lottery, may be used”, says the protocol.

So says a Report in the Daily Telegraph (UK) of 5th January by Paul Nuki titled “Covid ‘lottery’: Doctors draw up triage protocol in the event treatment has to be rationed” (Telegraph usually paywalled, but this seems open-access)

It refers to a paper in J Medical Ethics “Development of a structured process for fair allocation of critical care resources in the setting of insufficient capacity: a discussion paper” also accessible f.o.c.

This is circulating in NHS hospitals as a proposed protocol.

The protocol – drafted by medical, legal and palliative care specialists at the Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust – is the most sophisticated attempt yet to devise an ethical system for rationing care in the event that there are insufficient resources to treat everyone.

Now this is exciting! But it is not new. Right from the start of organ transplantation (1960s) such moralistic contentions were weighed up.

In Seattle the so-called ‘God committee’ was set up to make these difficult choices (reported in Calabresi & Bobbit (1978) Tragic Choices). The committee eventually found that it was too agonising to make these choices, and passed the task back to the medical practitioners. In the end it was felt that only medical  factors should be taken into account. Even if no overt rules on social merit were in place, we should not be surprised if the doctor, genuinely uncertain on medical grounds,  was to pick the ‘nicer’ of the two patients.

A secret lottery?

Elster (1989) in his masterly ‘Solomonic Choices’ gives the example of child custody cases, where the judge is frequently unable (in his own mind) to give a clear-cut decision. Yet decide he must, so he goes ahead, dressing up the verdict with trappings of rationality.

This, claims Elster, satisfies both parties, the winner praising the wisdom of the judge, the loser cursing his bias. No doubt a similar process might go on when a medical doctor decides, even if partly randomly and in secret, between her two patients: So long as both patients believe that their case is decided clinically by an expert, then both winner and loser may find it acceptable.

The doctor herself may even be a bit cognitively dissonant—convincing herself that she is doing the right thing for the right reason, exercising judgement based on intuition  rather than validated knowledge. This form of fudging may be acceptable all round, but it is fraught with dangers.

If fakery is suspected, patients rapidly lose their trust in their professionals. Unwitting discrimination seems inevitable. True expertise will fail to develop unless its limits are acknowledged.

Against a lottery is Greely (1977) who suggests that if recipients can argue about any allocation, they feel more satisfied. Anand was also interested in what is called ‘voice’—that one of the reasons a coin-toss was thought to be unfair is that it deprived customers of a say in the decision.

In favour of a visible act of coin-tossing Calabresi & Bobbit explain that it draws attention to the fact that resources are limited. Edgeworth (1888) suggested another benefit would be that the public, seeing a random drawing take place, would be alerted to the ‘aleatory nature’ of the decision. Bureaucrats might not like having such attention focussed on this shortage of resources and their uncertain knowledge.

[This was part of my 2006 thesis Who Gets The Prize. It can be viewed in full on my website www.conallboyle.com]

Subtitle change vote


Following the call for proposals for changing the subtitle of this blog, we have the following proposals:

  1. The blog of the Kleroterians (i.e., keep the subtitle as is.)
  2. The political potential of sortition
  3. Sortition as a democratic tool
  4. No democracy without sortition
  5. Because you can’t have democracy when you don’t have sortition
  6. The democratic potential of sortition
  7. Sorting out sortition
  8. A blog to sort out sortition
  9. Maximus in minimis
  10. Put the man in the street in the catbird seat
  11. Democratic lotteries and the potential of sortition
  12. Selection by lot
  13. Selecting political decision-makers the way we select jurors
  14. More democracy by random selection of citizens
  15. Better democracy through sortition
  16. Renewing democracy through sortition
  17. More democracy by haphazardly selected citizens
  18. Sortition: next step for democracy
  19. The political potential of democratic lotteries and sortition
  20. More democracy via sortition
  21. Democracy and the potential of sortition
  22. Sortition is the future of democracy
  23. Better politics through sortition
  24. Sortition, impartiality, equality, People’s rule
  25. Democracy through sortition
  26. Sortition for democracy, fairness and good governance

(I tried to include no more than two proposals by each person. If you feel that there are fewer than 2 of your proposals on the list, or if you otherwise feel that your proposals were unfairly excluded, please let me know as soon as possible.)

Ideally, I would go with proportional representation, so that each subtitle would be used part of the time, where the part is determined by the proportion of the votes it got. However, I am afraid this is technically difficult. (Maybe we can consider changing the subtitle every year?)

As we all know, there are no good voting schemes, so we are left with using a bad one. I suggest then that we use ranked choice. Please respond in the comments below with exactly one ordered list of subtitles from the list above representing your order of preference. Voting closes in a week.