About the Kleroterians

Equality-by-lot is the blog of the Kleroterians. The Kleroterians are an informal group interested in the deliberate use of randomness (lottery) in human affairs. There are two main areas of interest: Its use in Governance (sortition) and Distribution. The aim of this blog is to provide a discussion and information forum for ourselves, but also a ‘shop-window’ for our ideas.

Membership as a Contributor is open to all ‘Kleroterians’ plus others we might agree to.  A Contributor is someone who can post an article onto the blog. To become a contributor, please email Conall Boyle or Yoram Gat. You will need a wordpress account. Setting up a wordpress account is free and simple – go to wordpress.com.

Contributions can be anything that may be of interest to the group.  This could include: 

  • Academic papers, especially in draft, pre-published form for discussion.
  • ‘Think-pieces’ by group members, preferably which have been published elsewhere.
  • News items about the use of randomness (lottery) in both governance and distribution

Remember though, that this is a forum open to the public. Nothing naughty please!

Potential contributors need not be deterred by technical hurdles. Yoram Gat will serve as technical support for contributors.
Email:

Advertisements

32 Responses

  1. I have been working on an article on democracy and sortition, and have a question about terminology.

    As the idea of sortition grows, it would be desirable to have a consistent set of terms used by all. Is it better to refer to the selection of public officials (legislators or others) by random lottery as “sortition” or as “allotment.” The word “sortition” provides a nice counterbalance to the word “election.” However, I am not sure what verb form to use. The word “sorted” doesn’t feel like the counterbalance to the word “elected.” Would one say a person or legislature was “sortitioned?” If I go with the term “allotment,” would I say an individual had been “alloted,” instead of “elected.”
    Any thoughts?

    Like

  2. I like ‘sortition’ because it is not all that familiar so it makes people stop and think. / ‘Allotment’ edges towards affirmative action … making a place for special groups. I’d rather avoid those associations. / The term ‘demarchy’ has, I am glad to see, not made much headway. To my ear, it sounds harsh (the ‘archy’ part = monarchy, archons). Demarchy is also more complicated to explain. / I like the Latinate softness as well — the ‘-tion/shun’.

    Like

  3. I use ‘sortition’ for the system and ‘allot’ for the action. I agree that it would have been nice to have the same stem for those two, but there seems to be no way to do so without using confusing terms or inventing new terms.

    Like

  4. so, what does kleroterian mean?

    also, if you use lottocracy for the name, allot goes nicely with it as the action.

    Like

  5. > so, what does kleroterian mean?

    It is a word play on Kleroterion – the device used in ancient Athens to allot public officials and jury members.

    Like

  6. Hi,

    I have just discovered your site (through google) and are quite elated to find people sharing an interest in sortitionist democracy (or lottocracy or other synonyms).
    I am a Dutch political scientist who has only recently begun to study this topic.

    Kind regards

    Paul Lucardie

    Like

  7. Welcome, Paul – it is always exciting to discover more sortition-enthusiasts. Please join the conversation in comments or by contributing posts. If you have any existing relevant work, please let us know.

    BTW, if you link to this blog from your webpage it would make it easier for others to find us.

    Like

  8. Suggest you have a twitter feed

    Like

  9. We have a Senate in Canada similar to UK House of Lords. It would be easy to appoint members drawn by lot as they are currenlty appointed by the Prime Minister. Instead of a political “list” to choose from the PM would appoint from a “Sortitioned list.” All that is required is a Prime Minister who is willing to try it! Everyone in Canada supports a reformed Senate but no one agrees on what a new one would look like. The Canadian Senate currently meets all the other criteria of a Sortition Selected then Appointed House that would be a “Check and Balance” on the Representative House. It cannot propose original legislation but it is the chamber of “sober second thought” that can propose amendments and send legislation back for a re-draft.

    The concept should be tested first. Perhaps a willing Canadian municipal government that would set up a “Municipal Senate” and see how it works. Again I don’t think any legislationi is required to do this. Governments already have mechanisms for citizen advisory committees. But again, instead of political appointments, the members would be drawn by lot.

    Most people dread jury duty but I for one would love to be selected as a Senator by lot. I think most others would too.

    Sortition would greatly increase public involvement and interest in politics and may even increase voter turnout over time.

    Thanks for reading this far.

    Like

  10. Although I can understand the pragmatic motive for an allotted Senate/HoL (they’re not that important/nobody knows what purpose they serve, so might as well be the locus of constitutional experiment) it’s very odd that the mechanism that characterises democracy/popular government should be chosen in so many proposals for the upper chamber. If you take the traditional view that the Senate is the aristocratic (viz. wise/experienced/rich/oligarchic/interested or whatever synonym you choose) chamber then the Senate should be elected or selected on merit and the lower house (the jury) chosen by lot. This has been the division of labour made for over 2,000 years so why has it been reversed in the last few decades? It strikes me that there has been a lot of confused thinking going on since the American revolution (just read Gordon Wood’s head-scratching over the difficulty in finding a role/selection mechanism for the upper house at the time).

    Like

  11. kejamo,

    Great that you dropped by.

    There was a Canadian named Mike who was trying to promote an allotted senate: https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/peoples-senate-party-in-canada. (Clicking on the link to his website now, it seems he changed his emphasis. But it may be worth contacting anyway to see if you can join forces.)

    Keith,

    I don’t see how the formalism of calling something “Senate” makes any difference.

    Like

  12. I’m not too bothered what names we use for institutions, my concern is with the division of function. Elected lower houses, as currently constituted, mix the advocacy and judgment function within the same personnel and this corrupts the legislative process. This is because the verdict is predetermined by the congressional/parliamentary arithmetic — opposition spokesmen are literally wasting their time and most parliamentarians only turn up for the final division. It’s hard to imagine a more corrupt system. In a judicial trial the judgment function is in the hands of a jury of commoners (who are legally obliged to turn up and listen to the arguments) and this should be the model for the judgment of legislative proposals. This presupposes that advocacy comes from people who are selected on the basis of their knowledge and rhetorical skills — such aristocratic qualities normally being associated with an upper house.

    Needless to say such a process requires both houses meeting in plenary, as in a judicial trial. The need for a separate revising stage is the product of the corruption of the legislative process — the upper house being needed to remedy the inevitable errors of the fused lower house. Much better to get it right the first time (as in Harrington’s proposal). This is why sortition is the appropriate selection mechanism for the lower house, not the senate.

    The other reason to oppose an allotted House of Lords is that this is the only chamber of parliament that currently performs its function reasonably well, so reformers would do better to focus on the corruption of the House of Commons. Congressional systems, in which both chambers are elected, are corrupt through and through, so there is a better case for an allotted Senate than an allotted HoL.

    Like

  13. Thanks for reading to the end of my first missive! Warning! I am about to get on my soapbox! If you don’t want to read the motivation that underlies my belief in sortition as the saviour of humanity, just skip down to the last few paragraphs at the end.

    Kejamo will be my name should I live long enough to become a citizen of the world. On that great day I will cut ties with my past because the past does not matter except for the lessons to be learned. The future can’t be controlled, only influenced. Therefore, I believe only the present matters. My real name is from my Irish and German Christian past; Kevin James Mooney. My universal name will be Kejamo pronounced “cage a moe” or you can call me Kej (cage). Its kind of hokey but it is simply the first two letters of each of my Christian names (Ok so there is some tie to the past but only you two know that for now).

    Humans are both individual and social animals. We are all unique and imperfect pieces of the puzzle but we need each other to survive. Our uniqueness and imperfection drives us to act as individuals but our need for survival forces us to cooperate. That is the dialectic. The constant struggle between individual and cooperative action starts within each of us and projects outwardly on our politics in the eternal debate between progress (left) and status quo or worse, a return to some point in the past.

    Forgive me but I can’t resist a joke at this point (if you are still reading, skip to the next paragraph if you want). There is a legend of a British Airways pilot flying into Afghanistan under the Taliban who, when giving his passengers the standard landing speech, ended with, “It is 30 degrees in Kabul and you may set your watches back to the 12th Century.”

    The primary need for all humans is to survive; something we ALL have in common. If the experts are right, and I believe they are, then Planet Earth has passed the tipping point and humanity is on an irreversible course to extinction. And if they are wrong, the planet will die eventually. Either way humans will be forced to act together to survive. We can choose to cooperate now or later but let’s not wait too long.

    What we learn from history is we have responded to the most severe challenges to our existence by exploring other lands. We moved to find food, get away from drought, and escape persecution. Since we have fully explored the surface of the planet, the next serious challenge to our existence will require the exploration of space. And the only way to find a planet that we can live on will be through cooperation of ALL humans and maximizing our human and physical resources. Not sure where the state will have the time or the resources to continue to subsidize the production of useless widgets, subsidize spoiled sports team owners and players or to continue not taxing profit centres because they are a “religion.” People will remain free to pursue the production of useless widgets, watch professional sports and attend church, but don’t expect any support from the state.

    There is a clear and pressing business case (did I mention survival) to ensure all humans develop to their fullest potential and thus contribute to the great effort that will be required to find a new planet. How many Einstein’s die every day for lack of basic necessities or in the case of the richest country in the world, lack of basic health care! And when we get there, as I believe we will, we will learn from (not live in) the past and thus get a chance to do the right thing for a change.

    Politics is the art of the possible. I totally agree with you that the lower house should be by lot and the upper by election. Can we get there quickly enough to ensure our survival? Do we want to keep debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    In Canada the current Senators (for the most part a bunch of unaccountable politically appointed hacks) and politicians (everything Keith said) are predominantly white, male lawyers. I have nothing against them and in fact I are two of them! Are they “representative?” Not even remotely.

    Through random selection, future Senators would be more representative of the entire population. Probability would dictate that the Senators would closely mirror the distribution of women, gays, disabled, aboriginals, people of colour, and immigrants in the general population. Oh and there would still be some white male lawyers … probably … maybe … if they are not extinct. A Senate that mirrors the needs, interests and aspirations of the entire population that it purports to serve could hardly do worse.

    Future elected politicians would likely come from this randomly selected group instead of through the current political parties. The electorate would also re-engage in the political process (everyone would be far less than 6 degrees removed from a Senator!) and turn out at elections would increase.

    The randomly selected Senate would be for 2 to 4 year terms and be off cycle with the political cycle to avoid politicizing the process.
    Senators who choose to remain for a second term could either face some type of popular or peer vote election. If they lose a “confidence” vote, their replacement would be randomly selected. Senators would only be allowed to serve two terms.

    Once again, how kind of you to read to this point. I thank you for your interest.
    Kevin

    Like

  14. >Politics is the art of the possible. I totally agree with you that the lower house should be by lot and the upper by election. Can we get there quickly enough to ensure our survival? Do we want to keep debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Fair point. From a pragmatic perspective it would be difficult to replace the house with the popular elected mandate any time soon. The trouble is that although many second chambers are dysfunctional, the UK House of Lords works well in a muddled sort of way, so it would be a shame to get rid of it. It’s also a good way of making the advocacy/judgment distinction which is completely blurred in your proposal, as it is with all attempts to simply replace elective by descriptive representation. Your proposal (at least from the third para from the end) focuses on random individuals rather than the assembly (the appropriate level for the statistical mandate). If we don’t clarify these conceptual issues (“angels dancing on the head of a pin”) there is a real danger of attempting to implement something that can’t work because it hasn’t been properly thought through. That’s why political theorists are a little more use than medieval schoolmen.

    Like

  15. Hello Keith,

    I sincerely apologize as I have offended you. My wisecrack about debating dancing angels was directed at contemporary politicians and journalists. They are wasting our time debating non-issues (abortion, gun control, gay rights, ad nauseam). Perhaps some Random Thoughts from the Edge of the Empire might further explain where I am coming from (or just skip to the last para).

    I’s time to stop playing silly little political games and debating tit for tat political, ideological and religious positions. We may as well debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (this is where I first used that saying). Pretty soon, maybe even in my lifetime, humanity will have no choice but to employ a more innovative way to solve our problems. Rather than wait to be forced, I say rational minds should gather from round the world and start now.

    If abortion, gay rights, gun control, left vs. right are not the right questions, what are?

    How do we maximize our ability to survive in the most efficient, effective and timely way? How do we structure our political system and economy that ensures the survival of the species? How do we reward value added activities that support those goals? What do we need to stop doing? What do we need to start doing? What do we keep on doing? It’s no longer simply “about the economy stupid.” It’s about saving this planet or, when it’s too late, finding another habitable one.

    We have created heaven on earth for millions of people. I was thinking of this the other day as I was luxuriating in the hot tub of our local recreational complex. I had just finishing working out, running the track, having an indoor swim in the wave pool and was looking forward to finishing the day in the sauna. It struck me, the only difference between my situation and Caesar’s was there were no slaves to look after my every (and I mean every!) need. There were however a bunch of nice young ladies and gentleman being paid “slave wages” to make sure I didn’t hurt myself.

    Do you see the picture? Any member of my community can enjoy this for $6 a day! And those that can’t afford it get a free or reduced pass based on their level of income. I totally understand that not everyone in the world enjoys this luxury. All that is standing in the way of them getting that recreational complex is culture, religion, colonization, global greed, politics, wars, famine … you name a few. I am sure there are more man-made problems out there that I am unfamiliar with due to my lofty privileged position here on the edge of the british-american empire (which doesn’t exist of course, hence no capital letters).

    The solution is as simple as Tarzan and Jane; man make problem, man fix problem. All that is lacking is the political will to action.
    The solution may be simple, but the irony is telling. We are creating heaven on earth while at the same time destroying it.

    I hope you accept my apology? Offending other humans is a capital offence in Canada. After all, we have an international reputation to protect.

    I’m sorry (standard Canadian salutation),
    Kevin
    PS I hope to start my own Blog sometime

    Like

  16. Don’t worry, I’m immune to offence and sorry for misunderstanding you (I thought your impatience was with political theorists like me, not politicians and journalists). Perhaps a more relevant cliche would be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. My concern is only that we think through what we are trying to do properly. I’m all in favour of a sortition experiment within a small community like a school, but it’s doubtful if you can scale up the results in a meaningful way to polities numbering many millions of citizens. Sortition worked well in small Greek poleis but if we want to adapt the experience to modern usage we need to think clearly as to what are the differences between ancient and modern conditions.

    Keith

    Like

  17. […] to manipulation at the hands of powerful interests or organs of government. Kleroterians, as some advocates of sortition call themselves, would reply that these admitted disadvantages could be mitigated by the particular […]

    Like

  18. It is time the American people take their government back from the Super Rich and Wall Street. The way to do this is State one by one chose their representatives by LOT. The congress does not represent America, they only represent Wall Street and the Super rich. The only way to get rid of the super rich in the house, is by LOT. I use the word CHOSE, is because the second paragraph of the Constitution, states that the representatives will be CHOSEN by each state. The fact also is that every courthouse in America uses Election by LOT to select their JURY.

    Like

  19. Unfortunately the word “chosen” would not mandate selection by lot as it involves the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one or more of them. Election by lot; selection by lot; drawing lots — OK; choice by lot is oxymoronic (unless you presuppose some kind of supernatural agency). Looks like you guys need to change your constitution (no problem for us Brits as we never had one in the first place).

    Like

  20. jdlaughead,

    Welcome! It is always nice to meet a fellow sortition supporter.

    Regarding the state-by-state approach – I feel this is a tactic that is unlikely to succeed (quite apart from the issues of “constitutionality”). A situation in which a single chamber consists of both professionals (elected) and amateurs (allotted) will allow the professionals to manipulate, and discredit, the amateurs. Consider, for example, the situation of the jury being manipulated by the judge and lawyers.

    I believe we should aim at having, from the outset, a chamber, with sufficient powers, which is fully allotted.

    Like

  21. Yoram, would you support the idea of an elected Senate and an allotted House?

    I realize you may have commented on this previously. If so, please direct me to that.

    Like

  22. David: I support the mixed bicameral arrangement (one elected chamber and one allotted chamber) as a first step toward a fully democratic (i.e., sortition-based) system. See my exchange with Campbell here.

    Like

  23. >Consider, for example, the situation of the jury being manipulated by the judge and lawyers.

    How then, in your view, should criminal trials be conducted? Should they be entirely in the hands of amateurs? If so, then this makes it easier for us to make sense of your political proposals.

    Like

  24. Yes. In a democratic system, any application of political power must be carried out by a representative body.

    Like

  25. Yoram,

    Most people would argue that the rule of law is the prime business of “the magistrate”, that knowledge of the law is a specialist profession and that accused persons should have the benefit of expert professional advocacy to protect them from the random prejudices of jurors. This gives rise to a mixed judicial system, with the state, advocates and jurors each playing their own part. In your model, in which justice is dispensed by a “representative” body, the trial proceedings and verdict will depend on who is allocated to the jury and (in particular) the illocutionary powers of high-status and persuasive members thereof. If I were on trial in such a system I would consider it to be very unjust. If the state brought the original prosecution, what you are proposing is the Pontius Pilate model of justice, if it were left to individual citizens then it would be a lynch mob. I’ve always argued that politics should follow the mixed judicial model, whereas you would leave it all in the hands of the (political) jurors. You claim that makes me an authoritarian elitist, whereas I would interpret it in terms of liberal checks and balances. I leave it to others to judge which is a more accurate description of my views.

    Thanks for laying out your own views so clearly for all to see. All we need to know now is what possible meaning of the word “representation” makes consistency an irrelevant factor (in both criminal and legislative trials).

    Like

  26. Keith,

    I Googled the phrases “chosen by lot,” “selected by lot,” “elected by lot,” and “picked by lot.” there are more than twice as many hits for “chosen by lot” than most of the others (more than all of the others combined, too)… thus making a “choice” “by lot” is fairly standard in English, despite your concern for the connotations of the word “choice.”

    Like

  27. That’s interesting, because the word “choice” does suggest some form of intentionality, rather than mere randomness. Might that be a relic of religious thought? (as suggested by the finger of god graphic adopted by the UK National Lottery, along with the caption “It Could Be You”). And is it context-specific? When people draw straws for an unwanted task, in a sense everyone “chooses” which straw (even though you could just as well allocate them randomly), whereas I’ve never heard of anyone being “chosen” for jury duty. In fact I have a letter in front of me from HM Courts and Tribunals Service, which “summonses” me for jury service on 18 November. I would be very surprised to hear that I had been “chosen” for this duty, and would most likely respond — why did you choose me?

    I suppose it gets down to whether a human agent “chooses” a straw or whether a computer draws a series of random numbers. The process in both cases is exactly the same, but we are reluctant to attribute any form of intentionality to a random-number generator. The choice of legislators would normally be seen as something done by human agents rather than a computer, as it is an indication of preference rather than just sticking a pin in the telephone book, hence my argument that selection by lot would fall outside the usage of “choice” in the second paragraph of the US Constitution.

    Like

  28. I have started my first crowd funding project.
    Washington State Citizen’s Advisory Legislature,
    “What do voters really want”

    Everyone knows what voters want: endless services, endless programs and no taxes EVER. But what are voters actually willing to pay for? I propose find out by paying one hundred random Washington State eligible voters to participate in a weekend citizen’s advisory legislature that will vote on a model budget for Washington State. Their budget would be a model for what government services and programs voters really want and how they are willing to pay for it.

    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/washington-state-citizen-s-advisory-legislature/x/8533486

    https://sites.google.com/site/jwoods486/wscal2015

    Like

  29. Hi John,

    Crowdsourcing sortition is an interesting idea. Do you want to create a post about this so we discuss it?

    Like

  30. There is interesting recent research where random selection wins out over wisdom of the crowd, as reported here: http://now.howstuffworks.com/2016/07/08/no-wisdom-crowds-one-head-may-be-better-two-22

    Like

  31. The general idea in the paper is that in situations where most people are wrong, it is better to have a small decision-making group because then there is a chance that the group is unrepresentative and the minority opinion (which is the correct one) will prevail. This seems a very odd model and the long and long-winded analysis that follows does very little to persuade that it is of any value.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: