Lotteries in Chicago

Just got back last night from Chicago, where I attended the latest meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Always an interesting conference, although they have expanded in recent years, which frankly means a lot more sub-par papers. It also means more flake-outs–I was supposed to present a paper on a panel with 2 other papers, but one of them was withdrawn in advance of the conference, and the authors of the other simply never showed up. (Needless to say, neither one was a Kleroterian…)

My paper was not directly on lotteries; rather, it dealt with non-reasoned decision-making more broadly. Some Kleroterians have probably seen an earlier version of it. There was also, however, a paper presented critiquing James Fishkin’s work, as well as the broader idea of “deliberative mini-publics” achieved through random selection. The author, Anna Drake, teaches at Queen’s University, in Canada. I spoke to her after the panel, and she might be interested in sharing her work with our group.

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Athenian Democracy in the British Museum

I recently visited the British Museum and found that among the hundreds of displays devoted to the ancient Greek world and specifically to ancient Athens, there is one display box titled “Democracy”.

The box contains, among other items, a storage jar dated 490-480 depicting Theseus (“credited with the invention of democracy”), a drinking cup dated 490-480 depicting Athena watching over the Greeks at Troy as they vote to decide whether Ajax or Odysseus should receive the arms of the dead Achilles, and several jurymen pinakia, such as the one below, which belonged to one Archilochos of Phaleron and is dated 370-362.

The box carries the following description:

Classical Athens was the world’s first democracy. The tyrants who had ruled the city for some 50 years were expelled at the end of the 6th century BC and, from 460 onwards, all male Athenian citizens governed law and politics by debating and voting in a popular assembly. State offices and legal juries were filled by drawing lots. Not everyone, however, was included in this democracy, and women, resident foreigners and slaves were excluded. Nevertheless, Athenian democracy was a starting point for the development of modern democracies.

It is interesting that despite the mention of the practice of sortition in Athens, the text endorses the conventional modern view of equating democracy with elections and equating democratic progress with  the widening of electoral rights.

Lottery Voting

I’m reading Allan Gibbard’s paper on Lottery Voting, i.e., the “Random Dictator” rule. According to this rule, people vote for candidates the same way they normally would, but instead of the votes being counted, one vote is selected at random, and the outcome of that vote implemented. (“Manipulation of Schemes that Mix Voting with Chance,” Econometrica 45, April 1977). There have been a number of philosophical discussions of the idea over the years–most notable Akhil Reed Amar’s paper in the Yale Law Journal (1984)–but Gibbard’s paper is the central paper on the mathematics of the rule. Unhappily, the paper is very technical, and I find myself stuck at one point in the argument. Does anyone know the paper particularly well? I could use some guidance here.

Allotted Lamas

It turns out that allotting lamas has been a state sanctioned system since 1792, and the modern day Chinese are adherents:

As the Dalai Lama ages, speculation swirls around the mystery of his reincarnation – and the question of who will assume religious and political leadership of the Tibetan diaspora after he dies.

The Dalai Lama has played with the idea of controlling his reincarnation and possibly designating his successor before he dies, in order to pre-empt Chinese efforts to control the selection of the next Dalai Lama, as they did for the current Panchen Lama.

Regardless of what novel methods the Dalai Lama adopts, conflict instigated by China – and divisions that dilute the authority and prestige of the exile religious establishment headquartered in Dharmsala, India – are inevitable.

The new governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Region declared that designation of the next Dalai Lama would strictly adhere to the state-controlled model dating to the Qing Dynasty: selection by lot from a golden urn under government supervision.

The Dalai Lama has apparently been grooming the young leader of the Kagyu or Black Hat sect – the Karmapa – as the leader of Tibetan Buddhism in exile.

Kleroterians at the WPSA

This weekend, the Western Political Science Association (WPSA) held its annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. A panel held yesterday (Saturday, April 3) featured two Kleroterians, Joel Parker and myself. No pics got taken but trust us–it happened.

I plugged the blog at the meeting. If you’re reading this blog for the first time as a result, welcome. And don’t forget–we have a Facebook page as well :)