Post by Dr Peter Stone (TCD)
In Aristotle’s day, people took it for granted that democracy meant selection by lottery, and aristocracy meant elections. Today, most people assume that a democratic society elects all of its officials. But a growing movement believes that we should revisit selection by lottery as a means of curing the various ills of contemporary democratic society.
The Policy Institute at Trinity College Dublin has just published a report on this topic. The report, entitled The Lottery as a Democratic Institution was officially released in July 2013. It was co-authored by Gil Delannoi (fellow of the Centre de Recherches Politiques and professor of political theory at Sciences Po, Paris), Oliver Dowlen (who holds an ISRF Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary College, University College London), and Peter Stone (Ussher Assistant Professor of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin).
The report was based upon a workshop held at Trinity College Dublin on October 11-12, 2012. This workshop brought together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from across Europe to consider the role of lotteries in a vibrant and well-functioning modern democratic polity. This event, organized in collaboration with the Policy Institute, considered the following three questions:
1) What can lotteries contribute to politics?
2) How can lotteries best be incorporated into modern democratic institutions?
3) What research questions on lotteries still need to be addressed?
The report suggests that lotteries may have an important role to play in selecting citizens to function as impartial guardians of the political system. This means selecting citizens at random, not to make policy or enact laws, but to protect the integrity of the political process—by making and enforcing legislative ethics standards, for example. Sortition’s strongest contribution is to the prevention of corruption and/or domination; the fact that it enables descriptive representation, while undeniably true, is less important to politics.
The Lottery as a Democratic Institution can be found online here. Hard copies can be obtained by contacting the Policy Institute, Trinity College Dublin, 3 College Green, Room 5.02, Dublin 2 Ireland, firstname.lastname@example.org.