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When a lottery is the right way to share, select, decide


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from 2005 (13 Dec): Sortition vs. Distributionism (Philosophical difference)

Posted by kleroterion on Monday, 21 December 2009

> Hi Ben, (Saunders) Oxford
> Great to hear from someone else toiling in the field – although I’m more  about using L to decide ‘who gets the prize’ (rather than L voting for who  should get the job of distributing the prizes.

Could you give me a bit more  info on your topic?

You might be interested to know that a French chap,  Antoine Vergne is doing something on ‘sortition’. I can give you more info  if you wish.
> Holy coincidences! You tell me about Harry Brighouse, and quite  independently I’ve just come across him too! My source was a blog:
> http://crookedtimber.org/2005/09/29/lotteries-in-admissions-to-academies/#comment-104659
> So, yes, I’ve now seen his article in the Indy from 2000. His blog entry started  as a result of Haberdasher’s Askes school adopting L entry. I got a letter  about it in the Sunday Independent (see below).
> Meanwhile, I run an e-mailing list to a group called ‘Kleroterions’ (no need  to explain what that means, I trust!). Would you like to join?
> best wishes Conall
> Conall Boyle
> Margam Park Village, West Glamorgan
> Website: http://www.conallboyle.com

Ben replied:
I’m not sure the democratic case is so different from ‘who gets the prize’. In
a direct vote, it simply determines who gets the prize, and I think voting for
a representative can be seen as a one-off direct vote, which then influences
further allocations.

Lottery-voting works with people casting votes as per normal, but without the
most votes necessarily winning. Rather a ‘random dictator’ means if (say) the
Labour candidate gets 40% of the vote, (s)he has a 40% chance of election.

I think such a system gives minorities ‘proportional chances’, and hence some
satisfaction. It also has interesting side effects, like the incentive for
representatives to try to win as many votes as possible (51% isn’t enough),
and the fact there’s no incentive for strategic voting.

Amar tries to defend the system purely on these ‘consequentialist’ grounds. I
try to argue not just from such an idea, but to it from an initial account of
fairness and lotteries. Basically a contractual form of democracy (a la Rawls’
Original Position or Scanlon’s reasonable agreement), and I claim at least in
the OP parties would reject majority-rule for the same reasons as
utilitarianism. I then go on to defend lotteries as a way of showing each
individual equal concern and respect, and argue that they can be employed to
decide winning votes in elections, giving every voter a truly equal chance of
being decisive.

(It’s not really sortition as such, but has affinities – e.g. if those
randomly selected could abdicate their place to a representative of their
choosing, I take it the result would be similar)



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