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.

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4 Responses

  1. I am interested to have a look – could you email me a copy?

    The matter of strategic voting appears to have gotten some attention. It seems to be a matter of dogma that strategic voting is a serious obstacle to good governance. I think that it is a minor issue compared to other inherent difficulties with elections. (Information gathering costs organization costs are the main factors that make elections inherently oligarchical.)

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  2. Although I am familiar with Gibbard’s conclusions (taking off from Arrow’s Theorem), I am not able to help you with the technical aspects of his paper. But I can refer you to people who probably can. I am on an election methods discussion list that includes all kinds of academics (and activists). It’s easy to join, and you could join just to ask this one question. Go to
    http://wiki.electorama.com/wiki/Election-methods_mailing_list
    and subscribe to the e-mail list.

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  3. Terry–thanks for the list mention. I’ll check it out. Yoram–I think that the concern with strategy proofness is somewhat tangential to the concern with elitism. It takes for granted the existence of professional politicians and parties, and tries to figure out how to make sure that voter preferences are reflected in the parties that get elected. But of course the same issues do arise when representatives must vote for policies, whether those representatives be selected by lot or by vote.

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  4. It takes for granted the existence of professional politicians and parties, and tries to figure out how to make sure that voter preferences are reflected in the parties that get elected.

    My view is that once it is acknowledged that “credible” parties are representatives of various factions of an elite, then picking out which one of those factions is in control makes little difference to the voters so that their “preferences” between the parties are based on trivialities (“Coca-cola or Pepsi?”). When this is so, it is hard to get worked up about the fine details of how well those preferences are represented.

    But of course the same issues do arise when representatives must vote for policies, whether those representatives be selected by lot or by vote.

    Elections and parliamentary voting are only superficially similar – the scale makes a qualitative difference. Representatives are not locked into voting for or against pre-made options. They are able to author their own options and to negotiate with others to reach mutually beneficial compromises. The oligarchical pathologies of mass voting (elections or plebiscites) do not occur within a small group.

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