What’s the Point of Lotteries

point-of-lotteries

I’ve done an interview for the BBC Radio show “The Inquiry.” The episode is now online under the title “What’s the Point of Lotteries?” You can find it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p046z7fg

Most of the first half is concerned with lotteries as a form of gambling, but my interview (which starts at 17:23, in part 4) focuses upon the social and political uses of lotteries. I don’t think it came off half-bad.

Advertisements

Democracy In Practice’s newest project

We are happy to announce the launch of our newest project focused on democratic experimentation and innovation in collaboration with the R.V. High School in Bolivia. Check out our launch video below, and stay tuned for more updates! Happy to hear any of your questions and comments.

Democracy In Practice

 

Teaching students government skills

Adam Cronkright, co-founder of the Bolivian organisation Democracy in Practice, gives a Democracy Talk audio overview of the group’s findings so far with experiments in student government.

Democracy in Practice has been helping run student councils in a few different Cochabamba secondary schools since 2013, using lottery selection rather than elections to choose candidates.

Doing away with elections allows for a more representative body of students on council, making room for less charismatic or popular pupils to have a chance at government.

Changing selection methods is one thing, governing differently is another – with all the usual challenges of having representatives turn up on time, or at all, learning how to take collective decisions, not dominating proceedings and following through with promised actions.

An encouraging finding, Adam says, is that students can, and do, learn the necessary skills to govern. That raises hopeful prospects for better government in societies who manage to improve their citizens’ governance skills more generally.

An intriguing curiosity, albeit an anecdotal one according to Adam, is how students who appear to stand out as natural leaders, those who might usually get chosen in elections, are often not the best suited to actual government.

Catch the full audio interview below.
 

Democratic experimentation meets democratic education in Cochabamba, Bolivia: a case study

Founded in 2013, Democracy In Practice is a non-profit organization dedicated to democratic innovation, experimentation and capacity-building in an effort to contribute to government that is more inclusive, representative, and effective.

We present a case study which collectively examines the three pilot projects of Democracy In Practice’s student government program which ran February through November of 2014 in three schools in the Cochabamba area of Bolivia. This program involved replacing student elections with lotteries in which government members were randomly-selected to serve a given term before being replaced by a new group of randomly-selected students.

Program Overview

Implemented in three separate schools in the Cochabamba of Bolivia, the Democratic Student Government Program involved a dynamic and multi-faceted reinvention of student government. Most fundamentally, this reinvention involved replacing elected student governments with those that were randomly selected and rotated from within the student population. These governments of rotated, randomly selected students therefore operated continuously as standing decision-making bodies within the schools. Accordingly, the implementation of this program involved not only clear institutional change but also complex normative change, challenging conventional notions of governance as well as the regular practices and routines of both students and teachers. In this way, the projects explored here differ from other participatory governance initiatives that are typically temporary and limited to a particular issue.

Just How Do CJs support ‘Freedom and Democracy’?

In a spate of moronic ‘reforms’ Education Ministers in England (of all parties) have vowed to set schools free from the dead hand of local (elected!) authorities. Hence there are Academies, Free Schools, Foundations including some for-profit schools. Yet all of these are funded by the State through taxpayer money.

So how should these ‘free’ schools be governed? A Governing Body, but chosen by election? No, no! Continue reading

The Median Voter Rules — OK?

Cabinet reshuffle montage: ministers in Downing Street
David Cameron used his reshuffle to promote a number of women – and to sack Michael Gove

Francis Elliott, Michael Savage and Laura Pitel, The Times, July 16 2014:

Michael Gove was removed as education secretary after David Cameron’s election guru warned about his “toxic” polling. Mr Gove paid the price as the prime minister reshaped his cabinet into an election-fighting unit, more than doubling the number of women in a top team that he claimed “reflects modern Britain”. . . [P]olling showing that more than half of voters thought the education secretary was doing a bad job fatally undermined him. Insiders say that Lynton Crosby, the Tories’ election strategist, led a powerful coalition inside No 10 calling for Mr Gove to be removed.

Michael Gove was the architect of the government’s ‘free schools’ policy, which was intended to encourage state-maintained schools to aspire to the values and achievements of independent (fee-paying) schools. This was certainly not a policy designed to appeal to the ‘rich and powerful’ (who can afford the fees of independent schools) as it increases the competition for places in top universities. The toppling of Gove is, ironically, a victory for the rich and powerful, but it was instituted by the need to pander to the preferences of the median voter. The commitment of the government to free schools was ideological, as opposed to reflecting the interests of the ruling elite, and the overturning of it was in response to the perceived [i.e. short-term] interests of the median voter. The main reason that Gove appeared unpopular with parents in Crosby’s focus groups, was his insistence on rigorous examination standards and the attempt to return to a traditional (ie academically challenging) core curriculum. David Cameron and the vast majority of the cabinet supported Gove’s strategy but he was sacrificed for purely electoral purposes (another factor being the need to reduce the alienation of teachers and other public-sector workers).
Continue reading

Michael Schulson: How to choose?

A few weeks back, I was interviewed for an article in Aeon Magazine. That article, entitled “How to Choose? When Your Reasons Are Worse than Useless, Sometimes the Most Rational Choice Is a Random Stab in the Dark,” has now appeared online.

Some interesting sources cited in it (and not just my book…).