Interview with Hélène Landemore about Lottocracy

The Nation Magazine just ran an interview with Hélène Landemore, author of Open Democracy, dealing with the state of democracy today, with a particular focus upon the promise of lottocracy. It can be found here.

Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality

There’s a report out on the recent Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality. The report, by Jane Suiter, Kirsty Park, Yvonne Galligan, and David M. Farrell, focuses on “the quality of the deliberative process and the attitudes of the members towards the process”. The report can be found at:

Defending Democracy

Anthoula Malkopoulou (Lund University) and I just published a paper in Constellations entitled “Allotted Chambers as Defenders of Democracy.” Here’s the first paragraph:

In this paper, we identify a problem—the problem of which actors should serve as defenders of democracy—and propose a solution to that problem—the creation of randomly selected citizen bodies, or allotted chambers (hereafter ACs). Having in place institutions that are tasked with democratic self-defense, is, we argue, a critically important pillar of democratic government, but its importance has often been neglected. This neglect is exacerbated by the evasive nature of the task that these democratic defense institutions are called to perform. Part of the problem is that the task of democratic self-defense is often mistakenly conceived as an ad hoc response to an occasional problem, rather than a routine task to which democracies should devote regular attention. Once the task of democratic self-defense is properly specified, the advantages of assigning this task to ACs, rather than courts or legislatures, become evident.

You can read it here:

Two New Articles on Citizens’ Juries

Read two interesting articles on Citizens’ Juries today. The first, entitled “The Wisdom of Small Crowds: the Case for Using Citizens’ Juries to Shape Policy,” was written largely by researchers affiliated with the Brookings Institute.

The emphasis in the article is on the epistemic advantages of citizens’ juries (with, say, 12-24 members) and not on the descriptive representation provided by citizens’ assemblies or deliberative polls (with hundreds of members).

That article led me to another one, “Respect: A New Contract with the Middle Class”, also from Brookings researchers.

The emphasis in this article, in contrast to the previous one, is on citizens’ juries as a respectful way of involving citizens in the political process.

In scholarly circles, Citizens Juries are seen as an example of “participatory action research.” To us they are a tangible expression of partnership between state and citizen, and of democratic respect. To date, they have been the result of largely voluntary and philanthropic efforts, and patchy in terms of quality. We believe that Citizens Juries should be seen as an important part of the standard policymaking process.

IPSA World Congress, 25-29 July 2020

The Call for Papers is currently out for the World Congress of the International Political Science Association. The congress will take place on 25-29 July 2020 in Lisbon. I am currently involved with an effort to assemble a panel or two for this meeting. The focus will be on combining sortition with election and other institutional mechanisms.

The Call for Papers can be found here: If you have any interest in joining a panel like this, please let me know ASAP. The deadline is coming rather fast–10 October, in fact.


The 2019 Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association (EPSA) will be held on 20-22 June in Belfast next year. I’m organizing the Political Theory panels for this meeting. I know there are plans afoot to organize one on sortition and related democratic institutions, as well as another democratic theory panel (on epistemology and democracy). Unfortunately, the deadline is a bit tight–17 December. (I meant to post about this earlier, but was distracted by other matters. Apologies.)

If you might be interested in joining one of these panels, please drop me a line ASAP. (Or just go ahead and propose a paper–I can add you to a panel later.) The website for the meeting is at


What’s the Point of Lotteries


I’ve done an interview for the BBC Radio show “The Inquiry.” The episode is now online under the title “What’s the Point of Lotteries?” You can find it here:

Most of the first half is concerned with lotteries as a form of gambling, but my interview (which starts at 17:23, in part 4) focuses upon the social and political uses of lotteries. I don’t think it came off half-bad.

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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Why Chance Matters

Just saw the following event announced on PHILOS-L. Anyone know the speaker?


Why Chance Matters
with Prof. Mauricio Suárez
(Complutense University of Madrid & UCL)

Tue 12 April, 18.00 (drinks from 17.45)
@The Conservatory, Bloomsbury Publishing
50 Bedford Square, London.

Organised by UH Philosophy & Bloomsbury Philosophy

Free entry- all welcome – no booking required.
Please arrive early to secure a seat and enjoy a drink on us!

Facebook group for the event:


Chance has been raising intellectual passions at least since the concept of probability emerged firmly in the 17th century, in connection with both evidence in jurisprudence and regularities in so-called “games of chance”. Probabilistic thinking soon spread everywhere: from actuarial science to population statistics, from the calculus of expectations to decision theory, from measures of experimental error to quantum mechanics. Ideas of pure chance and randomness infected general culture and even the arts. Yet, there have been many attempts to deny the reality of chance. Those in denial have typically tried to explain away chance in terms of something else, something less “fickle”, “elusive” or “ephemeral”. But there is deep disagreement as to what that something else may be. Objectivists aim to analyse chance in terms of proportions in real or virtual populations. Subjectivists aim to analyse it away as a feature of the architecture of cognition – such as information, or partial degree of belief. Yet none of these denials of chance seems to apply across the board and, as I show, they are all subject to important conceptual objections anyway. I conclude that chance matters, not only to many areas of philosophy but also to social policy, and how we conduct our lives in general.
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