1. It would be madness to appoint public officials by lot. No one would choose a pilot or builder or flutist by lot, nor any other craftsman for work in which mistakes are far less disastrous than mistakes in statecraft.
The problem with this ancient argument against sortition (attributed to Socrates) is that it implicitly assumes that there is some consensus around who should be running the state (those are the pilots, builders or flutists of politics). If there was such consensus politics would be very simple. Politics to a large extent is about identifying whose advice should be taken on which subject. The pretense of elections is that the voters can identify such people. This is a fantasy.
A small group, meeting together and discussing and examining matters in depth, would be able to do a much better job of getting the best advice than the citizens can do as isolated individuals. In fact, most voters already know that – they tend to be very disapproving of elected officials – the very people whom they supposedly selected as being the best suited to handle statecraft.
2. Average people suffer a great many shortcomings (some combination of stupidity, laziness, apathy, greed, selfishness, lack of education, lack of experience, inability to work together with others, etc.).
This dismissive view of the average person is offensive and unsubstantiated by the facts. However, even if we assume such views are justified, they are still not a good argument for preferring elections to sortition, since both ultimately rely on the judgment of the average person. The difference is whether this judgment is the snap judgment of the voter which is based on slogans and prejudices or the informed and considered opinion of an allotted delegate. No matter how competent that average person is, a superior decision can be expected under the latter, more favorable conditions. The allotted delegate should not be seen so much as an improvement over the elected delegate but as an improvement over the voter.
3. The allotted delegates will be easy prey to various professionals (bureaucrats, advisors, lobbyists, the media), The government will therefore be run by those unrepresentative groups and will not be democratic.
It is true that professionals in the political system always have the potential of usurping representative power. However, in the electoral system the power of professionals is much greater, since the delegates themselves – the elected officials – are professionals. In a sortition based system the representatives have much better control over the professionals than the voters have over the elected delegates in an electoral system. Again, the question is not whether the allotted delegates would be easier to manipulate than elected officials, since elected officials are themselves the manipulators. The question is whether allotted delegates would be easier to manipulate than the voters.
4. It would be easy for powerful organizations to bribe the allotted delegates.
There is no reason to think this is true. The existing laws against bribery of state officials would remain in effect.
In any case, officials are usually not bribed outright by having money passed around in envelopes. This is not effective because a single official has limited power and large-scale illegal activity is hard to keep secret.
Officials are usually bribed legally by rewarding them in various ways once they move through the revolving door from official office to private business. This can only be stopped by strengthening the bribery laws, which elected officials, who spent their lives fighting for power and come to see it as their hard-won prize, have not done and show no indication of doing. An allotted legislature, on the other hand, is more likely to reflect public sentiments and crack down on legal bribery.
5. The core of democracy is mass participation. Elections provide at least some form of participation, even if a limited one. Sortition doesn’t.
The core of democracy is equal say. Mass participation is at best a tool, and is often no more than a sham. Voting in “free and fair” elections is only marginally less of a sham than voting in a single party system (which is also “some form of participation”). While voting gives the illusion of choice, the real choice is made long before the voters arrive at the voting booth, when a short list of candidates is created. If this short list contains only a single name, or contains the names of a few people all of whom agree on the major points of policy, then voting is no more than a theater of democracy.
Meaningful mass participation in government can be imagined, but it will take very different forms than mass voting. The chance that a mechanism of meaningful mass participation is developed and implemented is much higher when the decisions about such an issue are in the hands of a representative sample of citizens rather than in the hands of a power hungry elite.