Obligation and Consent

The last Paris sortition meeting was devoted to Bernard Manin’s argument that sortition was replaced by preference election on account of the natural right theory of consent. I challenged Manin on this with an argument based on Fishkin’s claim that the decision process of an allotted assembly modelled on a Deliberative Poll would be a proxy for the informed consent of all citizens. During the report presented to the recent Dublin meeting Peter Stone returned to this point by arguing, with Bentham, that the whole social contract theory of consent was just nonsense on stilts.

Peter recently referred me to Hanna Pitkin’s two-part paper on Obligation and Consent. The paper is hard work, but could be boiled down into just two claims:
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The Random Assignments of Legislators to Constituencies

Scott Wentland (Longwood University) and I are working on a paper in which we explore the idea of randomly assigning legislators to districts when they come up for reelection. The working paper has received some attention at the Washington Post‘s blog: Would Congress work better if legislators were randomly assigned?

Kudos to Scott for his well-thought-out words to the press. We hope to have a revised version ready before the year is out. When it’s done, we’ll let you know.

Sanitization, Arrationality or should it be called Super-Humanity?

Describing what a lottery can contribute to the process of choosing.

Sanitization, Arrationality or should it be called Super-Humanity?

Whatever it is used for, a lottery does something for the process.  Sanitizing  is Stone’s description; Arrationality is Dowlen’s.

I do not disagree with either definition, but feel that both are a bit lacking.

Sanitization implies a clean-up, removal of contaminating elements, but leaves open the question: Cleansed of what?

Arrationality, besides being a neologism, hence not easily understood, might also even be taken to mean some kind of crazy departure which abandons the only human attribute that truly sets us above the animals – the ability to use our brains to think about things.

So either incomplete or liable to be mis-understood; can I come up with something better?
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Sortition is natural to democracy, as elections are to aristocracy

An introductory presentation about sortition for a talk I’ll be giving to a general audience. Comments are welcome.