Sandel: “Summon Chance to Chasten Meritocratic Hubris”

Millions of YouTube viewers will be familiar with Michael Sandel of Harvard University’s lectures on Justice. He has been described as “a philosopher with the global profile of a rock star”, so it is greatly encouraging when in his book The Tyranny of Merit he emphatically endorses the use of lotteries for admission to elite universities.

His condemnation of actual existing Meritocracy is well worth a read, not least the societally damaging effects of hubris and self-worth among the elite ‘winners’; and the despondency and nihilistic voting for Brexit and Trump by the ‘losers’ and indeed all the non-credentialled.

In Chapter 6 makes a heartfelt and extended plea for the extensive use of lotteries for admission to not just Ivy League, but all selective colleges and universities. This Sandel says would “summon Chance to chasten Merit”.

I’m sure most readers are familiar with the American S.A.T. (Standardized Attainment Test), a sort of IQ test inflicted on 18-year-olds. This, Sandel suggests, could be used to establish a threshold for entry into the selection lottery and nothing else. This level of ‘Merit’ should be no more onerous than that imposed when the SAT was originated in the 1940s.

From this device Sandel argues that winners will be saved much  stress and avoid much of the (wasted?) effort of working towards the impressive list of activities that fills out their application form. Losers will gain too. No more rejections, and being made to feel  inadequate, despite losing narrowly. Much more psychologically healthy all round!

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Lottery for CV-19 Vaccination in Manatee, Florida

I suppose it had to happen!

“Currently, there are about 180,000 people [over 65] signed up in the county’s standby pool [database] with hopes of being vaccinated at the county’s drive-thru at Tom Bennett Park, 400 Cypress Creek Blvd, Bradenton. When COVID-19 vaccine doses become available, people are randomly pulled from that pool and given a shot. The county’s IT director said it’s entirely up to a computer to decide who will get a vaccine and when. “It is fully automated. There is no other information in there, whether race, ethnicity or address,” said Paul Alexander.”

Here’s how the randomisation system works

“The county’s IT director said it’s entirely up to a computer to decide who will get a vaccine and when. “It is fully automated. There is no other information in there, whether race, ethnicity or address,” said Paul Alexander.”…..”When doses become available — which is determined by the weekly allotment granted to the county by the Florida Department of Emergency Management — that database is used to randomly select from the pool who will get a shot.”

More on this at

Manatee County’s COVID-19 vaccine standby pool explained | Bradenton Herald

Teaching students government skills

Adam Cronkright, co-founder of the Bolivian organisation Democracy in Practice, gives a Democracy Talk audio overview of the group’s findings so far with experiments in student government.

Democracy in Practice has been helping run student councils in a few different Cochabamba secondary schools since 2013, using lottery selection rather than elections to choose candidates.

Doing away with elections allows for a more representative body of students on council, making room for less charismatic or popular pupils to have a chance at government.

Changing selection methods is one thing, governing differently is another – with all the usual challenges of having representatives turn up on time, or at all, learning how to take collective decisions, not dominating proceedings and following through with promised actions.

An encouraging finding, Adam says, is that students can, and do, learn the necessary skills to govern. That raises hopeful prospects for better government in societies who manage to improve their citizens’ governance skills more generally.

An intriguing curiosity, albeit an anecdotal one according to Adam, is how students who appear to stand out as natural leaders, those who might usually get chosen in elections, are often not the best suited to actual government.

Catch the full audio interview below.
 

Why women fail to take an equal share of top posts in academia

Here’s a nice piece in today’s Irish Times, showing clearly the need for lottery selection in jobs.

It asks the question: Why women (despite being over 50% of the faculty staff) fail to take an equal share of top posts in academia?

You can read the article in full (and for free!) at

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/why-women-fail-to-take-an-equal-share-of-top-posts-in-academia-1.2108539.

In the comments section we the usual reaction to any suggestion of ‘affirmative action’

“Here we go, more feminist claptrap. All academic posts must be based on merit.”

To which a wise commentator replies: “You think merit has much to do with academic appointments? There’s usually an assessor’s box called suitability which you can fill with subliminal prejudices: plays golf, politics, sounds like me etc”.

While waiting for grand schemes of sortitionist democracy to be implemented, wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit of genuine equality based on lottery selection over the qualified candidates?

On a Lighter Note…

On a Lighter Note…

Google alerts brought this to my attention. The same paper (with no author indicated) can be found at http://www.handmenotes.com. At first, I thought someone had written some kind of working paper on my work. But it looks like this is intended for use by students trying to cheat on a term paper assignment. I had no idea that enough professors were assigning my work as to justify circulating a paper like this. I’m deeply touched.