2010 review – sortition-related events

My call for proposals of mention-worthy lottery-related 2010 events garnered one response. Below are, therefore, Peter Stone’s proposal and mine. Happy New Year, and best wishes for 2011.

  • Peter Stone called attention to the 2010 book, Sortition: Theory and Practice, edited by Oliver Dowlen and Gil Delannoi. (Conveniently, Amazon UK, at the link above, allows to peruse some of the book’s contents online.)

    With my personal interest in statistics, I found Antoine Vergne’s sortition-related literature survey – in which he offers some quantitative data – particularly interesting. Vergne defined a corpus of 199 texts starting with 2 published in 1956 (one of which presumably is C. L. R. James’s ‘Every Cook Can Govern’) and ending with 9 texts published in 2008. The texts are about evenly split between ‘descriptive’, ‘exploratory’, and ‘advocative’ texts. Vergne claims that the historical trend “makes it clear that there has been a growing interest in sortition”.

  • To me, the most prominent sortition-related event of the year had been Joe Klein’s blog post suggesting to replace Obama’s budget commission with a Fishkin-style Deliberative Poll. This has been, I think, the most widely read mention this year of the idea of policy setting by a body selected by random sampling. It has generated a small amount of attention.

    It is a sad state of affairs that a poorly argued blog post by a person of such low intellectual and moral standing would easily attract more attention than all the high quality material about sortition that is available. It is a reflection of the elitist nature of mass media today, and highlights the need for fundamental reform of this institution.

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2010 review – statistics

Some statistics about the first year of Equality-by-Lot:

2010 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 288 8 30
Feb 242 12 29
Mar 417 7 28
Apr 252 5 16
May 344 6 18
Jun 259 6 15
Jul 324 9 20
Aug 372 7 93
Sep 550 10 38
Oct 704 6 97
Nov 1091 10 133
Dec (thru 23rd) 458 6 41
Total 5301 92 558

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

The system reports that posts were made by 6 authors during 2010, with two of those authors making only one contribution. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 14 email subscribers to this blog.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the second result (out of “about 24,400 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 39th result (out of “about 30,000 results”). Searching for “kleroterion” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 18th result (out of “about 2,030 results”).

2010 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 288 8 30
Feb 242 12 29
Mar 417 7 28
Apr 252 5 16
May 344 6 18
Jun 259 6 15
Jul 324 9 20
Aug 372 7 93
Sep 550 10 38
Oct 704 6 97
Nov 1091 10 133
Dec (thru 23rd) 458 6 41
Total 5301 92 558

What did the Ancients do for us?

A 2005 BBC documentary has the answer:

As usual, the presentation is made in such a way as to imply that sortition was used solely in the courts, eliding its more crucial, and less familiar, roles in government.

The Enfranchisement Lottery – a commentary

I assume that everyone has by now read Claudio López-Guerra’s excellent paper. It was circulated on Conall Boyle’s email list and is available from the author: claudio.lopezguerra@cide.edu. The paper compares the enfranchisement lottery with universal suffrage and concludes that, although the former is clearly an improvement from an epistemic point of view (ensuring that voters are properly informed), universal suffrage wins on account of being more conducive to political stability. I would like to make the alternative case – the epistemic benefits come out on top because political stability is ensured by factors other than the ‘perceived fairness’ of universal suffrage.

Continue reading

Claudio López-Guerra: “The enfranchisement lottery”

Claudio López-Guerra, an assistant professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City, has a new paper, “The enfranchisement lottery“, part of an upcoming book on the right to vote.

Abstract:

This article compares the ‘enfranchisement lottery’, a novel method for allocating the right to vote, with universal suffrage. The comparison is conducted exclusively on the basis of the expected consequences of the two systems. Each scheme seems to have a relative advantage. On the one hand, the enfranchisement lottery would create a better informed electorate and thus improve the quality of electoral outcomes. On the other hand, universal suffrage is more likely to ensure that elections are seen to be fair, which is important for political stability. This article concludes that, on balance, universal suffrage is prima facie superior to the enfranchisement lottery. Yet the analysis shows that the instrumental case for the ‘one person, one vote’ principle is less conclusive than democratic theorists usually suppose.

Keywords: voting rights, mini-publics, citizen juries, deliberation, democracy, lotteries

2010 review – upcoming

As 2010, the first year of Equality-by-Lot, comes to an end, I thought it would be appropriate to have some sort of review. Any ideas about how to conduct this review are welcome, but here are my thoughts.

One element of the review can be a statistical summary of some sort: a count of posts, comments, contributors, etc. The WordPress system provides some data, and other data I can collect manually. Another part of the review could be a list of 2010 posts and comments on this blog that are worth mentioning again. In order to form this list, I invite anyone who posted an entry or a comment on this blog to select their one favorite post (that is, the post or comment that they wrote and that they hold most dear), and to either send me an email with a link or link to it in the comments here. You can also add a short paragraph explaining why the post or comment are of particular interest. I will collect all the entries and compile a list that will appear the review.

Finally, please also write in the comments or through email about any 2010 event, news item, website, or any other item related to sortition or distribution-by-lot that occurred or appeared over the last year. A list of those could be the third part of the review post (or posts).

The comments section of the review post could be used as a discussion forum about the past and future of the blog in particular and of the sortition and distribution-by-lot ideas in general.

The delegation game

Randomization is a standard solution in problems of game theory. In this context, randomization is used to baffle an adversary, who would be able to counter any deterministic strategy (assuming that that strategy was known to her) more effectively than she would be able to counter a randomized strategy. Thus, randomization is a maximin strategy: it guarantees the randomizer the best possible worst-case outcome. Sortition – a randomized strategy for selecting political delegates – can be advocated on similar grounds.

In a standard conception of the problem of selecting delegates, the people can assess the quality of any possible delegate set. They do so and then choose the delegation that maximizes that quality. Thus, in this conception, delegation is a maximization problem.

An alternative conception is one where the quality of potential delegations is difficult to assess. In such a situation, selecting a delegation requires some way to handle the uncertainty. Continue reading