Lotteries during Covid-19

Public housing is allocated via lottery in Trinidad and Tobago:

Five hundred applicants from the public housing database moved one step closer to home ownership when they were selected for assessment interviews during the Housing Draw, which was hosted live by the Ministry of Housing and the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation (HDC) on Wednesday.

The HDC said the applicants were selected from a database of 180,000.

The National Housing Allocation Policy, which was developed in 2004, and which guides the HDC, is intended to ensure greater equity in the allocation process so that all applicants, once they are eligible for the programme, have an equal opportunity of being randomly selected for the location of their choice.

In addition to modified random draws which account for 60 percent of allocations per community, the Allocation Policy provides for a 25 percent for emergency cases or those recommended by the Minister; 10 percent allocation to members of the protective service and defence force; and 5 percent for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

To be eligible for public housing, applicants must be twenty-one 21 years and over, resident citizens with a combined household income of under $25,000 and must not own any property.

Primitive (innate) ideas on randomisation, divination and lotteries

No-one would accuse the classical Greeks, our heroes of the klereterion, of lacking insight into abstract, nay philosophical concepts. Yet it was not until Pascal & Co. in the 1600s that formalised concepts of Probabilty were established. So we can only speculate that the Athenians knew(?) that a lottery was best for implementing fairness, equal chances, descriptive representation — democratic values — across the citizenry. Even so we surely would never describe them as ‘primitive’?

But what of the widespread ‘folkish’ practise of divination, where some natural random phenomenon is used to decide—a lottery, in others words. This could be to  choose a course of action, or even decide guilt or innocence in trials. Many of its  practitioners would be pre-literate, and in the grip of a range of irrational, some might say primitive religious beliefs. What did they think this ‘lottery’ was doing?
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Welsh Assembly Member proposes Citizens Juries

From the BBC News:

Compulsory Welsh citizen ‘democratic duty’ call

Welsh citizens should be called-up for compulsory democratic service in the same way as “jury duty”, an AM has said.

Conservative David Melding said a second chamber of the assembly should be created for residents to influence decisions and laws.

Mr Melding said introducing a “citizens service” in Wales would help narrow the gap between politicians and the public.

He said it would help keep politicians and officials “rooted”.

The AM for South Wales Central said the growing distance between politicians and the public, and the lack of engagement was “very damaging”.

Speaking on BBC Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme Mr Melding said a “citizens’ service” should be introduced, in a similar way to jury duty, with residents randomly selected to sit on panels, including local health boards to look at how hospitals and GP services are run, and local town and county councils to have their say on new leisure facilities and bin collection changes.
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Strictly Eating Chances: You can’t eat chances? Oh yes you can!

I say this despite David Wasserman’s snide comment on the claims made by us lottery enthusiasts. We would say that where there are more qualified applicants than places available, a lottery’s the thing. Some will then win a place — “eat”— but everyone will benefit by having had the chance of winning.

But what is the value of a chance when you win nothing? Rationally we should conclude that the value of nothing is zilch, zero, nada.

In another swipe at advocates of lotteries for sharing Wasserman comments:

if it makes sense to treat an expectation as a good, it also makes sense to ask whether the value of that good increases the longer it is held by the recipient.

It’s nice to see a bit of sarcasm from a philosopher whose main concern is medical ethics!

Instead, I’d like to take up Wasserman’s challenge, and propose that your ‘expectation’ — your ticket to the lottery — can indeed be made more valuable by spinning out the process.

Take for example the way the TV hit show Strictly Come Dancing (in the US it’s called Dancing With the Stars) operates. They start with a dozen or so stars. Each week they dance competitively, and by a complex process one star is eliminated. Over the next weeks the process is repeated, one ‘loser’ every week until there are three left. It is then decided by a Grand Finale.

I take it as axiomatic the producers know how to give the public good entertainment value. That’s show business!
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Selecting Police (partly) by Lottery

The Long Island Exchange reports that Suffolk County, Long Island, NY (Pop.1.5 mn) Police Department is holding a lottery for the order in which qualified candidates are assessed:

Gregory Hosts Lottery to Rank New Suffolk Police Candidates

(Long Island, NY) Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on March 4 hosted a lottery in which the 3,739 individuals attaining a score of 95 on the written exam to become a Suffolk County Police Officer were ranked in priority order to advance to the next stages of the selection process. The lottery was live-streamed from the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.

The additional phases of the selection process include a personality and psychological assessment, physical fitness test, medical examination, a polygraph examination and a background investigation.  After the testing and background review are completed, candidates who successfully complete all parts of the selection process will be considered for appointment in the same sequence in which their names were drawn in the lottery.

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory pulls a name at the March 4 lottery in which the 3,739 individuals attaining a score of 95 on the test to become a Suffolk County Police Officer were ranked in priority order to advance in the next stages of the selection process. Gregory hosted the lottery at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge, from which it was live-streamed. Photo Credit: Suffolk County.
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An old idea re-cycled—babies allocated at random

What a daft notion!

If you want to, you can read the full article here:

https://aeon.co/opinions/if-babies-were-randomly-allocated-to-families-would-racism-end

Now even the visa lottery is unsafe?

According to the NYT,

a small number of giant global outsourcing companies had flooded the [U.S. H1B visa lottery] system with applications, significantly increasing their chances of success. […O]ne of the outsourcing companies applied for at least 14,000.

What has happened to the ‘sanitizing’ effect of the lottery?

Does it matter that well-resourced companies ‘game’ this lottery?

[‘Outsourcing‘: A practice used by different companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally. (investopia) In the UK this practice is known as ‘sub-contracting’.]

Unthinkable: Should college places be awarded by lottery?

An excellent article in the Irish Times:

Unthinkable: Should college places be awarded by lottery?

Using a lottery is preferable to distributing goods based on ‘bad reasons’, argues political scientist Peter Stone.

Dr Peter Stone of TCD’s political science department believes there’s scope for greater use of lotteries in society as a way of keeping “bad reasons” out of decision-making. Rather than seeing lotteries as a failure of imagination, he argues that those who dismiss lotteries can “have the failure of imagination because they think there must be a good reason for distinguishing [between options], even though we haven’t found it yet”.

School admissions are a “classic case” where lotteries are preferable, he says, and he extends the argument to third-level admission. Criticising the recent CAO reforms, which try to minimise random selection in the points race, he provides today’s idea: “Not only should we not be reducing the amount of random selection [in college admissions], we should be letting more in.”

How to make your $$$$ lose value — randomly

Imagine that the Fed were to announce that, a year from today, it would pick a digit from zero to 9 out of a hat. All currency with a serial number ending in that digit would no longer be legal tender. Suddenly, the expected return to holding currency would become negative 10 percent.

This, was the suggestion put forward in 2009 by the economist N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, to overcome the ‘problem’ that the dollar/pound/euro in your pocket could not be taxed when inflation falls below zero.

Socialism in the USA — and they love it!

I’m sure most of you know about the lottery used to allocate newly qualifying players to the NFL football teams. But it unusual to see this described as ‘Socialism’ in the New Statesman, a major UK political magazine.

You can read the full article here (no paywall): The socialist principles at the heart of American Football.