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Sorted : Civic Lotte ries In 2004 and 2006, two major democratic

and the Future
experiments took place in Canada’s first
and third most populous provinces. Two Sorted: Civic Lotteries
of Public Participation years later, this pamphlet explores the

Oliver Dowlen
Introduc tion by
impact of Ontario and British Columbia’s
first Citizens’ Assemblies by examining
the premise on which each assembly
and the Future
Michael MacKenzie
and Peter MacLeod
was based: the use of sortition, or a
“civic lottery” to select citizens to partici-
pate in a binding public process.
of Public Participation
By examining the use of civic lotteries
through history – a tradition that remains
at the core of our judicial system – this
Oliver Dowlen
pamphlet explains how sortition can lower
the barrier to political participation and
extend a meaningful new franchise to citi-
Introduction by
zens wishing to serve their communities.
Against a backdrop of institutional and
political stagnation, Sorted: Civic lotter-
Michael MacKenzie
ies and the future of public participation
makes the case for reviving a neglected
democratic tradition – one that works in
and Peter MacLeod
partnership with existing institutions and
elected legislators to create a more pow-
erful and direct role for citizens.

Just as public opinion became essential
to governance in the 20th century, inno-
vative forms of public engagement are
essential in the 21st. MASS LBP under-
stands this. They are shaping the next
generation of thinking and working to
reconnect people and politics.
– Michael Adams, founding president,
Environics and author of Sex in the Snow,
F i re and Ice: The United States, Canada
and the Myth of Converging Values and
Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph
of Canadian Pluralism.

MASS LBP is reinventing
public consultation

masslbp.com

ISBN 978-0-9811005-0-0

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MASS LBP is a new kind of company We regularly make presentations to audi-
that works with visionary governments ences about our work concerning the
and corporations to deepen and improve future of responsible government, public
public consultation and engagement. systems design and civic engagement.
We design impartial and fully transparent We also offer seminars and related pro-
public learning processes that build gramming to clients on many of these
awareness, consensus and insight. themes.

MASS LBP provides an unparalleled Inspired by Canada’s first Citizens’
range of consultation and engagement Assemblies, MASS LBP was founded in
services for government, corporate and 2007 by Peter MacLeod and George
not-for-profit clients. From conception Gosbee to extend this model and
to execution to evaluation, MASS LBP reinvent public consultation.
delivers highly innovative engagement
strategies that increase public under- MASS LBP is based in Toronto, with
standing, legitimacy and support. associates in Vancouver, Ottawa and
London, U.K.
Our services include:

• comprehensive process design and
delivery – from 20 to 200+ participants
• strategic advice, analysis and recom-
mendations concerning effective
public engagement and stakeholder
consultation
• corporate and public needs
assessment
• program evaluation and analysis
• custom research and dissemination
• facilitation and learning
• public communications and curriculum
development
• event coordination and logistics

Canada • This summary. MASS LBP gratefully acknowledges the work of Creative Commons in inspiring our approach to copyright. authorities and want to have a better They have begun to describe the con- masslbp. This is because the attention of those inside and outside Toronto. Set in Helvetica Neue permission provided that the following the next generation of thinking and work. To find out more. • The work is not resold. save. As the publisher of this work.com are displayed. Jarislowsky Chair in and Berthold Baskerville Book conditions are met: ing to reconnect people and politics. Ontario work as widely as possible while retain.com one to access our content online without understanding of and control over the tours of an important and emerging charge.masslbp. more world-wise of government working to create a con- Canada M5R 3B2 ing the copyright. which enables any. • The text is not altered and is used in full. without written LBP understands this. including translation. well-being of their communities.org . • A copy of the work or link to its use online is sent to MASS LBP. We therefore have an citizens no longer defer to institutional structive and engaged role for citizens. better-educated. They are shaping citizenship.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 2 First published in 2008 Open access. Some rights reserved. Fire and Ice: The United States. go to www. the MASS LBP and the Myth of Converging Values and company profile and the address Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph www. founding president. an original approach to public policy in Some rights reserved. – David Zussman. MASS our democratic institutions through active Series design by Concrete Design mat. decisions that affect their lives and the political project – one that seeks to renew ISBN 978-0-9811005-0-0 perform or distribute this work in any for. of Canadian Pluralism.creativecommons. inno. to governance in the 20th century. Anyone can download. MASS LBP vative forms of public engagement are Canada. University Cover paper: Cascades Cover 80 – Michael Adams.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. of Ottawa Text paper: Cascades Natural 60 • MASS LBP and the author(s) Environics and author of Sex in the Snow. (FSC Mixed Sources) are credited. Their first publication deserves 392A King Street East wants to encourage the circulation of our essential in the 21st. 1 800 369 7136 open access policy. Public Sector Management. Just as public opinion became essential MASS LBP is bringing new energy and © MASS LBP and Oliver Dowlen.

I he effectively shows how best to deploy – Edward Andersson. What’s who nurture. MASS LBP outlines the required is a new and open ethos that them. to restoring trust in government and its – Professor John Gastil. Oliver Dowlen plays this work outlines the key arguments for and many ways in which we can reinvigorate combines public input and expertise. The challenges we face are too Instead. believe these methods will go a long way a civic lottery in contemporary politics. St Antony’s. contemporary use) of this practice. Institute of Public University of Washington. I hope that public participation and consultation. Involve Demos. Dowlen reminds us of the Sorted marks the first of many valuable MASS LBP reminds us that democratic assemblies as part of that framework and historical roots (and taken-for-granted contributions from MASS LBP to the field participation needs to be part of the fab. and Visiting Fellow. phlet identifies civic lotteries and citizens’ Assemblies.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 4 At a time when soulless technocracy and The time has come for governments to Good ideas don’t capture hearts and Sorted reminds us that lotteries are not populist rhetoric vie for our attention and rethink how they make policy and take minds by virtue of their own strength. ric of our everyday life. These are now receiving a second ing and sweeping exposé of the history it and flex our democratic muscle. nothing is more wel. reignite our enthusiasm for “open source policy framework” could teries. This important engagement. – Gabriel Sékaly. just for charity raffles and cash prizes – both leave us cold. decisions. This pam. Head of Practice. Senior Associate. innovations need champions they are also an overlooked alternative come than a fresh look at public complex for top-down planning.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. In Sorted. as proven methods for engaging mem. and author of Administration of Canada Political Communication and Deliberation and editor with Peter Levine of The Deliberative Democracy Handbook . while also providing an entertain- participation. Departments of University of Oxford relevance to citizens. and of public engagement. Communication and Political Science. British Columbia’s first Citizens’ to the modern jury system. By leverage the most innovative ideas to help look thanks to the work of Ontario and of political lotteries. from ancient Athens experimenting with innovative tools for solve our greatest challenges. CEO. bers of the public in the policy process. introduce and celebrate for political selection. An role for the neglected notion of civic lot. against. – Catherine Fieschi.

masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 6 This pamphlet is dedicated to the members of Ontario’s and British Columbia’s first Citizens’ Assemblies – as well as to the more than 8.000 citizens who volunteered to serve their province. .

masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 8 Sorted: Civic Lotteries and the Future of Public Participation Oliver Dowlen Introduction by Michael MacKenzie and Peter MacLeod .

masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 10 Contents 13 Introduction 21 Author’s Summary 23 The Citizen’s Dilemma 27 Understanding Sortition 29 The Blind Break 32 The Athenian Experience 36 The Florentine Republicans 38 Reforming the English Jury 40 The Past and Future of Sortition 47 Unnecessary Uses 50 Developing the Civic-Lot: Machiavelli and Lesueur 53 Civic Lotteries and the Modern Polity 56 Principles for Designing Civic Lotteries 63 Acknowledgments 64 Endnotes 65 Further Reading 66 Selected Bibliography 68 About the Author .

In total. It seemed as if the letter had fallen out of the sky. She thought it was probably a standard notice either requesting informa- tion or informing her about changes to a government service. The letter made the news and her invitation official.com 13 . Donna had won the first stage of Ontario’s two-stage civic lottery to select members for a new kind of public body. Like many of the citizens who had received the government’s invita- tion that week. The letter explained that the Assembly would convene every second weekend for nine months at York University in Toronto.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 12 Introduction In May 2006. Three months later. Instead. Donna was skeptical. and she couldn’t find any mention of the Citizens’ Assembly in the local newspaper. she would need to dedicate an incredible 800 hours to masslbp. More than 10. These citizens would become members of the province’s first Citizens’ Assembly – an independent commission created by the government to recommend whether Ontario should revise its electoral system.000 other names that had been randomly identified from the province’s reg- istry of voters. The letter Donna received told her that her name was one of 125. which would select one citi- zen from each of the province’s 103 electoral districts. Though she always voted and considered herself reasonably well informed. she didn’t think of herself as especially political – much less an expert on electoral reform. If she was chosen. a letter from the Government of Ontario arrived in Donna Rasiuk Tichonchuk’s mailbox. it would change the next 18 months of her life. Donna didn’t think much of it at the time.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6.000 citizens in her electoral district had received letters – but she didn’t know any of them. she would be giving up a lot of time usu- ally spent with her family. Donna thought about it for a few days and consulted with her family and friends. it was something entirely different. She was now eligible to put her name forward for the second round of the lottery.

in British Columbia two years before. she hoped her number institutions have reached new lows and efforts at meaningful parliamen- would come up. a highly original.” she fully appreciate and understand. Citizens’ Assemblies and other demo- Some two years later. they provide supplementary themselves. 8. we decided the time was right to serve just two specific functions. on the first anniversary of the conclusion of cratic processes based on participation by randomly selected citizens Ontario’s electoral reform initiative. She had never been called for jury serv. civic revolution now underway. recalled. with Ontario completing its ing interest in finding better and more meaningful ways to engage citizens process in the spring of 2007. Only once. nearly 150. Like the Charter. “I went home with a lightness in my step. Though the odds were long. representing the district of tionship between citizens and state in ways that will take many years to Scarborough-Centre. This deserves to be Something big stated clearly and unequivocally. In the run-up to the referendum following the Citizens’ Assembly’s sory. take charge of a process of such magnitude and public significance. They point toward an original and distinctly Canadian as the first member for a neighbouring district was called. She decided that the This revolution is still in its infancy. More than aim to reanimate public life by boosting voter turnout. provinces. In this way. like a Royal Commission. “I imagined I was in for something big.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. it European countries supply impartial and informed advice from a repre- was easy to lose sight of the fact that the process used to evaluate the sentative cohort of citizens able to weigh multiple perspectives and to province’s electoral options was at least as revolutionary as the options suggest a course of action. the most significant democratic innovation in Canada since the 1982 That same week Donna marked a different kind of X – one that con. This is a bold firmed her eligibility and asked that her name be advanced to the next claim. Like both Assemblies on Electoral Reform. begin examining the legacy and potential future of Ontario’s bold experi. had citizens advice to government and. is the pri- macy of elected representatives or legislatures.” What is not at issue or up for grabs. they have begun to redescribe the rela- ond confirmed member of the Assembly. a Royal idea of civic lotteries throughout this pamphlet – could help to fill the Commission or Special Legislative Committee would have been struck to thousands of oversight and non-specialized public appointments rou- perform the same service. tinely made by federal and provincial executive councils and by centred initiative took shape in Canada’s third and first most populous municipalities and other public boards and agencies across Canada. but still an an ever-widening array of citizens formally sanctioned to deliberate and Introduction 14 masslbp. She didn’t like the idea of being away.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 14 the work of the commission. citizen. but at the very time when confidence and trust in public office and stage of the lottery. and 261 Canadians had been granted In each case we believe the principle of sortition is a highly consis- the distinction to be formally appointed as members representing their tent and natural extension to our long-evolving parliamentary system. we believe these experiments are Two months later. re-establishing critical bonds between people she heard her own name announced. in riding alongside their provincial and federal colleagues. Donna watched highly instructive. Donna had been named as the sec. assist legislatures been summoned by their government to serve as representatives and with their deliberations. and politicians. but it represents what is perhaps opportunity to serve her province was too important to pass up. at a special event near her home. Civic lotteries would be a very different and radical response to the grow- By the time these assemblies concluded. Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.000 had volunteered to serve.000 Canadian citizens had in public life. They would certainly go far further than the many efforts that received a letter such as Donna’s inviting them to participate. the notion of a Citizens’ Assembly would have been as sortition by academics and a term we use interchangeably with the unthinkable and largely confined to the political fringe. their first function is advi- ment. Citizens’ Assemblies and similar policy juries used in several historic recommendation to change the province’s electoral system. ice and couldn’t help but feel a twinge of civic duty. Then suddenly way to build new bridges. In the rush toward which the exercise of sovereignty has flowed outwards from the Crown to electoral reform – an option ultimately rejected in Ontario. but ongoing possibility in British Columbia – it was easy to miss the second she was struck by the invitation. A Their second and more provocative function – a process referred to generation earlier. as some critics fear.com 15 . Yet in 2004 and 2006. tary and party reform remain stalled.

From Royal Courts to Legislative Councils. public auditors and their time and money to support interest groups and non-governmental Introduction 16 masslbp. but they are neither sufficient principle of random selection re-emerged so consistently over the course nor adequate heirs to the best of Canada’s imaginative and reformist of three millennia? Why is it not used more often. senate and others in judgment of another citizen is one of our society’s great demo- constitutional reform. the concept of sortition may feel unfamiliar. and in more contexts. This belief is the genesis of MASS LBP.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 16 act with the Crown’s consent. prison officials. new pamphlets use of random selection to empower citizen representatives can also will be added and this collection will grow. randomly selected citizens who provide an integral component of our Canadians have proven that they have a limited appetite for a demo. As Dowlen Democratic innovation explains. Random selection was used in ancient Athens to select turnout and party membership. in politics at the their constituents want while increasing public awareness and support. The radical strengthen public consultation processes by applying many of the same impartiality of sortition. individual preferences. Children spin bottles and friends toss coins. These examples of civic lotteries raise two questions: Why has the These reforms may ultimately be necessary. mentary democracy by identifying and amplifying the future trends that But sortition is not only about challenging established interests. struggle to temper excessive partisanship and achieve broad political We are very pleased that Oliver Dowlen agreed to write this pamphlet consensus. staff. was published earlier this year by Imprint Academic. Over time. citizens prefer to use including municipal magistrates. selection is an intuitive and relatively simple way to make difficult deci- sions fairly. The stand to influence our system of government.com 17 . includes nothing more than gradual refinements to existing institutions. political tradition. The Political Potential of Sortition.D. We should strongly reject the idea that we have cratic achievements. both standard measures of political par- the 500 members of the boule and for many other political positions. preformed opinions Electoral Reform as members. The idea that any citizen could be called to sit with cratic politics whose only horizon is the pursuit of electoral. Increasingly. such as the Medicis in Renaissance Florence. but Despite our country’s commitment to democratic government. we felt it made sense complement and strengthen the mandate of elected representatives. meaningful franchise to those who wish to serve their communities and The principle survives today in the form of a “jury of one’s peers” – share in the privilege of government. Citizens’ Assemblies and civic Middle Ages and in England and its American colonies in the seventeenth lotteries again lower the barrier to political participation and extend a and eighteenth centuries. His dissertation. opinions. the citizenry.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. Dowlen recently completed his Ph. a long history deeply intertwined with the Western demo. For to focus on one of the most promising but also contentious aspects of elected representatives and public agencies in mature democracies that the assembly process: the use of sortition. a new kind powerful political actors. that similar citizen-centred processes can be used to assess a wide A partial answer to the second question is that throughout history range of policy issues. but defended reached the endpoint of our democratic evolution and that the future without exception. jurors. makes it difficult for established interests to reproduce their This pamphlet is an important part of our work to strengthen parlia. For now. citizens are not routinely engaged in the democratic process. most of its it has. The future of public participation As Dowlen recounts. of company that is working with governments in Canada and abroad to have worked to resist and undermine the principle of sortition. ticipation. political dominance. The idea of using civic lotteries to bring more citizens by modern democratic states? into contact with government and its myriad institutions should appeal to Perhaps the most obvious answer to the first question is that random democracy-minded reformers on both the left and the right. one of the advantages of random processes is that they are Many of us who were involved with the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on impartial. in which political responsibility is diffused across principles used by the Citizens’ Assemblies. judicial architecture. sortition can be a powerful tool to better assess what it is for MASS LBP. University of Oxford. Electoral cratic tradition. researchers and observers believe and prejudices are excluded from the decision-making process. Random selection was again used in Italian city republics in the to Parliaments and Legislative Assemblies. in fact. biases. It’s an idea that is not only accepted. have declined precipitously.

According to Statistics Canada. This is the conceptual or paradigmatic divide that separates the efforts of tradi- tional politics to encourage more people to the polls and an approach that takes as its first purpose the democratic fitness and readiness of all citizens to share in the exercise and administration of government. Better informed and con. tutional flux is itself an important lesson. purports to represent them has failed to keep pace. increasingly. it is no substitute ready to serve.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. while only 2% of citi. We prolonged political recession leaves our democratic system more vulner. An emerging scholar in his field. less deferential and uniquely capable of articulating their of sortition. the wide and varied uses of civic lotteries through history. It reas. MASS LBP exists to reinvent public formal politics has traditionally promised and delivered. nearly half the Canadian contribution to the work of government. public deliberation and authority. this and fail to match the ability or intelligence of their citizen participants.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 18 organizations. Today our conception of citizenship may be more sedentary than in ancient Athens. In this site to political success. But while civic consultation because we believe that citizens not only want a say. but are activism is essential to any society’s democratic health.com 19 . believe that progressive governments must redouble their efforts to tap able to capture and oscillation and less likely to serve. This is the radicalism at the core of sortition: Because we take all cit- izens as equal. way. it feels increasingly as though politics and society have fallen out of sync. the development of civic ability. we risk fuelling an already vicious circle as citizens search for alter. we’re reminded that even though we build our parliaments interests. sures us of the public’s enduring appetite for exactly those things that It’s here that our work begins. recognizing it as an asset and. we act out the belief that their natural capacities and experiences are not so different that each cannot make a full and direct Introduction 18 masslbp. The application of this ideal to the busi- ness of politics is one of the principal forces animating our democratic evolution. as a requi- and representative sense. he gives us examples of or are prepared to endorse. That each of Canada’s first Citizens’ Assemblies offer us an opportunity to move these accounts play out against a backdrop of political change and insti- the democratic agenda in a bold new direction. ernments at all levels conduct are all too often inadequate to their task ernment. Energized by this commitment to population is involved in community organizations. By exploring the historical uses nected. but it is also founded on a profoundly radical and quin- tessentially modern idea: that all people are equal in fundamental ways and possess inalienable rights. The explosion of a new right and responsibility similar opportunities to exercise the privilege of grassroots politics throughout the democratic world is laudable. As party memberships lapse and ballot boxes empty. Canada’s citizens have changed while the political system that out of stone. Dowlen helps us in this task by reminding us of a forgotten demo- natives while pulling away from a formal politics they no longer recognize cratic tradition. Meritocrats who seek qualifications and aristocrats who seek privilege will doubtless balk – as will democratic conservatives who resist the idea that citizens can successfully govern without the ben- efit and guidance of a carefully scrutinized elite. But it’s also an ideal that has always been forcefully resisted – often as much by those wanting to make common cause as by those who reject it outright. politics rarely stands still. In a sense. surveys and town halls that gov- for sustained engagement in formal politics and the institutions of gov. the general interests of the population. The many focus groups. we ask that all citizens share as both zens are members of registered political parties. in any meaningful this intelligence.

it can enable more citizens to participate in public office in a manner that is stable. with clear objectives in mind. this means that the selection of public officers cannot be controlled by those with power or influence. For this reason. fair and equitable. therefore. however. It is therefore immune from wilful interference or manipulation. It was the mainstay of Athenian democracy and was rediscovered by the communes and city republics of late medieval northern Italy. masslbp. Sortition can. inhibit the growth and operation of partisan factions and encourage greater habits of independence among the citizenry. This method of selection is not new. The central quality of a lottery decision is that it excludes all use of reason from the choice between options. In particular. it can establish a greater sense of ownership of the political process on the part of the citizenry. civic lotteries can lower the threshold to politi- cal participation. civic lottery schemes need to be carefully designed. payment for public duty and the maintenance of a balance between officers selected by lot and those chosen by prefer- ence election. These include the provision of education for would-be participants.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. however. be used inappropriately. This pamphlet describes a number of historical examples of civic lot- teries and advances 11 points or principles that could contribute to the success of civic lottery design. It can bridge the gulf between the voting citizen and the professional political establishment and moderate the partisan excesses that currently distort electoral poli- tics.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 20 Author’s Summary This pamphlet is about the selection of public officers by lot and how the use of this mechanism (known as sortition) has the potential to produce lasting benefits to the relationship between citizens and the state. Most significantly. organized. In modern democracies it sur- vives in the form of the randomly selected jury.com 21 . In political terms.

They claim that despite its imperfec- tions. On the one hand. On the other hand. Although the public gets its “right to a voice” during election periods. their financial backers (known or unknown). The electoral process is vital to the ideals of democracy. media giants and so-called experts in public opinion. the right to vote is the great touchstone of free govern- ment and of power vested in the people. corrupted and distorted through the media- tion of powerful and astute shapers of public opinion. they have to use their constitutional right to vote or else it will be lost. Others stay at home – a phenomenon pejoratively described as “voter apathy” but that can also be understood as a natural and logical reaction on the part of many citizens to what they see as an irrelevant and patronizing charade. These belong to the people who organize the political parties. but it is a process that has been cheapened. Some go dutifully to the polls. voices. the impact. recognizing that the people’s collective consent and all it entails is at the heart of the age-old fight against tyranny and oppression. but individuals react to it in differ- ent ways.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 22 The Citizen’s Dilemma In modern democracies.com 23 . often private. While the introduction of the universal right to vote gave the wider population a masslbp. decide which issues or images should become uppermost in the public mind and gen- erally process the way that politics is presented to the citizenry. set their tactical agendas and platforms. the nature of the competitive electoral system and the persuasive capacity of the media mean that power is increasingly in the hands of party officials. I would argue that this is a symptom of a wider breakdown in the relationship between the citizen and the political process. meaning and quality of that voice are effectively diminished or channelled by other.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. usually characterized by the terms liberal or rep- resentative. Most people sense this dilemma. lobby groups. citizens are faced with an essential paradox or dilemma.

the voting a modern democracy. we will find it difficult or impossible to develop any real exclusively via the medium of the organized political parties. For the conscientious citizen who is not necessarily corrupt. as a whole. and a Member of Parliament has to be absence of a proper understanding of the responsibilities of govern- both a larger-than-life media figure and a sympathetic listener to indi. the time and money required to fight a successful elec- precise. contentious or potentially embarrassing issue will know how quickly I start this pamphlet. the education that most rank-and-file party members receive is highly ernment to a caste of professional politicians who are then. that it is necessarily partisan. we are now begin. In the often impossible to reconcile. little first-hand experience of how gov. only that it must be obtained. citizens have the impression that poli- you want my vote. are not always aware of. After all. I would suggest that this role of the ordinary party member has become primarily that of an derives from the tendency for professional politicians to become a electoral operative. But what is most significant in which to base their vote. In addition. more tied to their own partisan objectives than the gen. vidual constituents. is the political process itself. competitive. The main casualty of the division between those who vote and The citizenry can feel alienated from the process of government. a day-to-day engagement in politics by the citizenry at large causes a Although the continued existence of political parties is often justi- division to open up between those who govern and those who vote. fied on the grounds they are organs of political education for the public. on obtained. Politics is a place for the tal- inated by professionals is maintained because the political arena is ented. often partisan and based. constitutional contact between the great majority of citizens and the ing public easy to bridge. by identifying a need for demo- professional politicians. the zealous and the insensitive: the ambitious egoist or the almost impenetrable from below. therefore. duplicitous. It is a place where most of us would fear to tread. As long as voting remains the sole point of ranks. and the sense of the common ownership of the political process. Lacking political experience.com 25 . They tell the electoral canvasser: “I only see you when ideals of popular self-government. ment. express his or her independent opinion. the difficult manipulated and egged on by hostile voices from rival parties or within and responsible job that major political office-holders in a representative the media – and can makes cruel and devastating misjudgments about democracy are asked to do. tics belongs to the political caste. Ill-informed public opinion – especially when public. The unjustly. The citizenry leave the business of gov. This division between the voting public and a political sphere dom. manipulative. Nor is the divide between the professional politician and the vot. Public opinion can be a powerful but not always beneficent force in eral task of conducting and defending good government. however. this can be too high a price to ning to see the limitations of that constitutional role. To be more pay. inured with the “habits of power. unconstitutional partisan opportunism or The Citizen’s Dilemma 24 masslbp. They have. or of the nature of governmental responsibility. We. supporters or bypassed by the excessive competitiveness of the rival Style and charisma are preferred to substance and genuine argument. or understanding toward. I would quid pro quo for electoral support is that the candidate adheres to the suggest that while the system of government by elected representatives collective party line on most issues. we are seeing the problems that arise because voting is the only tion puts politics beyond the reach of most citizens who have work to political role effectively available to the majority of citizens.” will close cratic innovation. Entry into the political arena is almost body politic. blamed for being out of touch. Anyone who has tried to pursue a self-sacrificing saint. Both sides of the divide suffer. those who govern. from a party political perspective it matters not why a vote is ernment works.” And the canvasser knows it’s true. parties.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 24 constitutional role they did not previously possess. them – but for the sole purpose of gaining that all-important cross on Despite the claims of those who see liberal democracy as enshrining the the ballot paper. on maintaining electoral supremacy. closed group. they become terms of the arguments I am advancing is that the idea that politics is a pawns or statistical components in a war of rhetoric that is aimed at process that belongs to all is almost absent from today’s public discourse. The need for they can feel conspired against by those in power and their influential votes or for popularity at all costs cheapens the language of politics. it is far more susceptible to the cankers wants to serve the community as a whole and who wants to be able to of creeping self-interest. ultimately.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. the good can suffer along with the bad. The demands of constituency and party are the integrity of a genuinely publicly motivated office-holder. The lack of do and bills to pay.

advocate sortition in the place of election.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. diversions. but rather as a complement to office-holding by election. In our Western political tradition. I argue that sortition can help to established word that refers to the use of random selection or the establish a special relationship between the individual citizen and the drawing of lots to effect a decision. The Citizen’s Dilemma 26 masslbp. Sortition To strengthen the relationship between the citizen and the political process. Its longevity – longer in some instances than our current system of universal suffrage – indicates that the politi- cal communities that used it were. I suggest we should give serious consideration to the reintro- duction of random selection. however. and in the heyday of Athenian democracy it became the most important method of selecting public officers. It appears in ancient Athens as early as the seventh century BCE. The use of sortition to select public office-holders has had a long and distinguished history. it emerges again in the late medieval period. happy with it. on the whole. Lotteries can thus be used for body politic – a relationship that is impossible if we rely exclusively on serious purposes and not only for games of chance or other frivolous preference elections. What is remarkable about sortition as a means of selecting political officers is the consistency with which it was used and the length of time during which these lottery schemes operated.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 26 procedural lassitude if the majority of citizens remain passively discon- nected from the day-to-day activities of government. Above all. In Athens. I would also suggest that the relationship between the citizen and the body politic Understanding would benefit if the partisan excesses of electoral politics were moder- ated by a greater active presence of independent citizens in government. sortition was used for more than 200 years.com 27 . I do not. pro- vided that sortition is properly understood and is used in appropriate What is sortition? While an unfamiliar term to most. The Venetian lottery-based scheme remained virtually unchanged from its inception in the late thirteenth century up until the fall of the Republic in 1798. It survives in modern Western democracies in the form of the randomly selected jury. as a means of deciding who should hold office. an innovation dating from 1682 in South Carolina and from 1730 in England and Scotland. it is a long- and well-designed schemes. Even a little-known scheme in the British east coast port of Great Yarmouth lasted from 1490 until it was finally replaced in 1835. In this period it was usually used in conjunction with preference election: either enclaves of electors were selected by lot or officers were chosen by lot from pre-elected pools. its use outlived the fall of democracy in 312 BCE. or sortition. principally in the city republics and communes of northern Italy. but also in other European locations. This all represents a considerable investment in sorti- tion as a method of selection.

was used consistently in ancient societies in religious settings and as a tion could be used in the modern world and what possible solutions it social tool to solve problems such as how to distribute goods. Because of its links with democracy. we first have to look more carefully at lotteries themselves and how For our purposes. The fundamental characteristic of a lottery is that it is a mechanical means of making decisions that deliberately excludes all human input. ber of distinct characteristics. and there were few written accounts that could communicate the details and value of its use to later generations. It can be applied well if those characteristics are used positively and purposefully. Because lotteries are used to make decisions that Understanding Sortition 28 masslbp. In a normal draw of numbers or names from a hat.com 29 . we can get a real idea of how sorti. such as who was to hold office. Those who believed in the primacy of reason and moral choice also had diffi- Break culty in accepting that important political decisions. it is useful to think of it as a tool that has a num- they operate.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 28 It is difficult to give precise reasons for its decline. We can illustrate this central characteristic as follows: Y X Y Y Y On the left are the options. The lottery is a human invention. It are able to answer these questions. however. it was never popular among aristocrats and was certainly attacked by anti-democrats on the grounds that its use pre- The Blind vented public officers from being chosen on the basis of merit. was simply that practical knowl- edge of sortition died out when the regimes in which it was practised fell. it ceases to be a proper lottery. It had its origins in religious practice. Just what was the main function of sortition in this political role? innovation. if anyone wilfully manipulates a lottery.” This is the area of a lottery from which all human differentiation and manipulation is delib- erately excluded. It is arguably on par with the making This leaves modern commentators and advocates in some diffi. In the centre is what I call the “blind break. probably because it What did it bring to the political communities in which it was used.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. On the right is the chosen option. these different options are converted into symbols (such as balls) that cannot be distinguished by the senses of the person making the draw. duties or could provide to our current political problems. it can be applied badly if those characteristics and the needs of the job in hand are mis- matched. To find the answers. even punishment. took decision making out of the hands of any particular human agency and why was it considered so effective that they kept using it? If we and decisions could thus be seen as emanating from the supernatural. One of the main reasons for its decline. should be made by people chosen by lottery. of fire or the wheel – although it is a social rather than a technological culty.

successfully communicates the neutrality of the lottery process along random aspect of the selection process as a whole is retained. To begin with. were assigned to their respective provinces by normally use the latter to denote flawed human judgment (an excess of lot from a pool of those suitably qualified. Because a lottery is a decision-making process that is deliberately mechanical. In the field of poli- tics. such as amoral or impartial – all of which derive from the absence of human reason. for instance).masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. with the idea that all reason. or the rational. unemotional and so on. It is a term that encap- sulates many other terms. Arationality is not the only accurate way of describing a lottery. amoral. I use the term arational in preference to irrational because we Quaestors. The aristocratic argument that use of a lottery denies political The Blind Break 30 masslbp. we can think of a lottery as a rational and purpose- ful means of using the arational. but it is the most useful way. rather than the mere absence of human judg. by lot. we can therefore start looking for circumstances in which this quality would be advantageous – where advantages would outweigh any possible disadvantages that might accrue from using an arational means of choice. excludes flawed reason along with its experience could assist those with less. a decision made by lot can be correctly described by any term that reflects this non-human quality. It is also the most pointed way of comparing a lottery decision with a normal human decision. A good reason. In these instances.com 31 . numerous insights or per- spectives on the operations of the lottery become possible. for example. This analysis of the lottery procedure also helps us to differentiate the central arational action of a lottery from the rational pre-lottery decisions that define the size and nature of the pool and the role of the lottery winner. A lottery. There is no love in a lottery decision. rational rational counterpart. but no hate either. It is therefore unpredictable. It clearly does its job best in circum- stances in which a virtue can be made of the arational blind break. is eliminated. worked in boards of 10 so that those with greater ability and ment. impartial. The advantage of this term. therefore. of course. rather than merely a way of giving play to the actions of chance. or weighing of options. is that it design is used to address the question of suitability while the arational. A lottery will be less effective if it is used for a task that does not require or benefit from the use of an arational mechanism. lottery design will match the general abilities of those in the pool with We should therefore think of arationality as being at the heart of the requirements of the post for which the lottery is held. chosen emotion. Roman the lottery. the most office to those with merit and specialist ability is actually an argument significant absence from this central zone of the lottery is that of human against bad lottery design rather than against lotteries per se.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 30 otherwise would be made by humans weighing the options. Once we understand a lottery as an arational decision-making process and the blind break as an arational zone in the centre of rational pre-lottery and post-lottery decisions. Athenian magistrates.

and all citizens were entitled to The Athenian speak. Athens. The other 100 or so. The result of these arrangements was an unprecedented (and. We do know. were only open to the highest economic class. No one could hold office on successive bring to modern politics when we apply this analysis to the past prac. The majority of offic e s we re open only to the top three of the four Athenian economic classes. lar manner. or people’s courts. In this case.501 for account of the need for leadership and the value of individual initia- major public interest. which were organs of Athenian government. every citizen could make an official denunciation mental institutions and pro c e d u res. On the one hand. It is likely that Kleisthenes also used secret ballot without consultation. 32 masslbp. Standing for any of these offices was voluntary. or dikastai. These responsible for organizing the agendas for the Assembly and dealing constituted the basic geo-political infrastructure of the polis. Although only male Athenians could be re gistered as citizens. Dikastai would tive. because it was used in identical form for While understanding how a lottery works can help us to focus our those seeking elected office. was selected o f fices subject to lottery selection we re apportioned evenly and fairly by lot on the basis of a quota from each deme. unsurpassed) level of citizen participation in the affairs of the elected by the Assembly. all took place as part of the same package of reforms – those of ecution and would vote for a ve rdict in favour of one or the other by Kleisthenes in 507 and 508 BCE. in a simi- problem of how it could work in the context of modern constitutions. used 201 polis. all citizens had to have their citizenship checked. we magistrates could hold office for as long as they continued to be can get some idea of how it was incorporated into different govern. especially treasury appointments. a council of 500 members then grouped across geographical boundaries to form 10 tribes. The only major pro c e d u reby which powerful individuals could be sent into temporary organ of government not to use sortition was the Assembly itself. This exile by a popular vote. All offices save the elected magistrates arguments. the be selected by lot on the morning of the case in question from a pre.com 33 . the organization of Athens into demes and tribes and the used for this purpose. or local ward. Once selected and assigned their courtroom by consolidation of the status of citizen (by registration at the deme leve l ) lot. that he introduced ostracism. howe ve r. on the other hand.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. elected.1 Lot was used to select members of three out of the four major Athens was divided into 139 local demes. Political partici- selected pool of 6. This arrangement was also used for random selection for his new boule of 500. and all with most matters of foreign policy on a day-to-day basis. This pro c e d u redoes not seem to have been used to counter the chance element of the lottery choice. employed bureaucracy). we re dire c t l y fact. the would listen to speeches for and against new laws. could challenge any Assembly decision as being The best example of sortition in action is undoubtedly ancient unconstitutional or against the interests of the city state. we only begin to get a real idea of what sortition could we re subject to yearly rotation. dikastai would listen to timed speeches from the defence and pro s.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 32 was open to all citizens to attend. The random nature of the lottery there- 700 magistrates who administered the city state (in the absence of an fore operated within a rational. The boule. It also produced a unique form of shifting power that took citizens. In addition. Elected lot was considered to be politically valuable. proportionate structure . The dikasterion. the dikastai for certain. Of the between the demes and tribes. howe ve r. this can help us to understand why could be members of the boule only twice in their lifetime. for most private prosecutions and up to 2. but we do not know this the legislative body.000 sworn citizens. and most offic e s Experience we re also subject to some special qualification. judicial review or political cases. years. Special lottery machines were pation. or wards. Dikastai had to be more than 30 years old. 600 we re selected by lot. or nomothetai. B e f o re entering office. and some. This can help us to address the of corruption against a serving magistrate in the courts and. no one could hold the same magisterial office twice and citizens tice of sortition. in mainly specialists such as generals or treasury officials. category of citizenship did include both rich and poor. or polis.

as we have seen. this took a particular form Athenian family. In Athens. But while selection by lot favo u red those with fewer re s o u rces or pre-existing advantages. we have only to look at the recent events in Ke nya and Zimbabwe. Elections.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. It is a rational step. the ara- tional nature of a lottery decision is used positively to pre vent anyone with power or influence from dominating the selection pro c e d u re.com 35 . He then took the demos. into his faction to secure his ascendancy. would have allowed local landow n- ers or members of powerful families to exert their power in the pro c u rement of votes over those with no education or few material re s o u rces. or ordinary body. It there f o re pulled poten- tial rivals into a unified political process and discouraged social divisions and electoral violence – whether emanating from democrat or aristocrat. at the same time it did not exclude local aristocrats. in fact. What we get from these reforms is a new-look Athens that is unified and highly organized politically and militarily. For a modern-day example of the speed and ferocity with which electoral activity can divide a community. At its centre is a powerful citizenry. This led to the development that we now term democracy. This new direction invo l ved the demotion of the ancient aristocratic council and further constitutional measures such as the d e velopment of the dikasterion and the randomly selected magistracy. I have told the story of the Athenian use of lot because it shows h ow the problems of inhibiting concentrations of power that might constitute a danger to a unified. who was a member of a powerful the heart of the use of sortition.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 34 We are told that Kleisthenes. it merely ensured that their participation in public office did not amount to domination. lost out to a rival. Here. Athenian democracy differs considerably from the ical to suggest that the reforms were designed to cement his new type of modern polity that bears the same name. Athenians. its primary role was to pre vent the re-emergence of politics based on the aristocratic clubs that had previously dominated the appointment of public officers. In the circumstances of early fifth-century Athens. What this story shows us is how sortition seems to have been employed as part of a range of measures designed to pre vent partisan cliques from building up inside the administrative apparatus or within the key institutions of government. alliance with the demos and pre vent a restoration of tyranny or a drift into destructive factional unrest. Isagoras. Cliques would have constituted the greatest threat to the new political role of the demos. taken against known dangers to the state or polis. on the other hand. It would seem log. but. open and shared political process lie at The Athenian Experience 34 masslbp. following a period when that was based on the mass participation and vigilance of the citizen Athens was under despotic rule. set up the distinctly democratic direction that Athens took during the next century. These measures.

com 37 . our political world. elected into a series of bags. replacing election. Existing be a very modern political drama. Their platform involved two main elements: the right to free political expression and the restoration of sortition. There can be no clearer indication of the value of sortition middle and sometimes even the lower end of the artisan class. were able to develop a patronage system comprehensive enough to control the selection process.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. or borse. the Medici adapted the selection process so it was no longer random and put in place a system of elected committees they could effectively manipulate by fear and favour. One name was drawn from each bag every two months to form the highest executive of the city. The scheme also included a proce- dure to ensure no two members of the same family ended up in the same batch of six names. with sortition – an anonymous. or sixth. or personal pressure. and open criticism disappeared. And while we do not have evidence officers and appointees carried out a comprehensive secret ballot every of similar battles in Athens.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 36 shared governance was thus maintained while the true levers of power The Florentine remained hidden. In this case.2 Their rule was not uninterrupted. This group aroused considerable public inter- est and advanced a platform for political change. this scheme served regimes of either popular or oligarchic persuasion from its inception in 1328. The Medici granted sortition for all offices save the Signoria. It shows sortition playing a role in what could system based on the device of the electoral purse. The semblance of 36 masslbp. that a grouping managed to gain enough support to mount an open campaign for the restoration of a republican constitution. and dur. of the city. an extraordi- My next example comes from mid-fifteenth-century Florence – another nary commission packed with Medici supporters was appointed. one for each sesto. the Medici. In 1434. way that power was exercised in the selection of political office-holders. and cauldron of innovation that played a significant part in the shaping of the constitutional changes were halted. From the mid-thirteenth century up to 1434. arational and ing the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries popular revolts led to impartial process organized and administered by the shared entity itself: periods when public office was also shared among citizens from the the republic. which was vulnerable to private banking families. but before the final step could be taken. the evidence of why lot was used is This well-documented incident shows how sortition was advocated more concrete and compelling and the sense of political combat more as a direct response to the arbitrary power of tyranny – particularly the palpable. To maintain control. Republicans It was in these circumstances. To chan. as a means of breaking up concentrations of power that could be (and nel the claims of rival factions and warring families into some sort of in this case were) harmful to the development of open government and shared political structure. they took power. it is clear that a major political function of three or four years during which they committed the names of all those sortition lies in its ability to inhibit tyrannical and partisan power. the Signoria. With various changes and modifications. The earlier dispensation of open discussion and free political debate rapidly disintegrated. however. the Florentines devised a complex electoral free political expression. Florence was a city The republican movement threatened to take this selection out of the republic ruled by a broad swath of citizens from the elite merchant and hands of the Medici. In the early fifteenth century. one nouveau riche family. in 1465. however.

constitutional context. In Athens. it also prevented the sheriff choice of its members. The key element is that the lottery is applied in ways that make a positive virtue of its arational essence – there is no question that a rational or preference-based means of selection could do the same job In 1730. In the by allowing numerous challenges to the sheriff’s original choice of Florentine case. The new act. analysis. While the jury sys. sortition and in some key cases during the previous century had found against was used against the patronage system of the Medici.com 39 . in Florence. we can see direction. inclusive government. from all those in the citizen-wide pool. advocated as a panel. It did not make the jury an organ of community justice – how a measure designed to prevent low-level corruption has implica- arguably it already had that status – but it did reinforce the authority of tions at a higher political level. whose job it was to institution. and in the case of establishment opinion. When the jury took on a pivotal role in the defence of freedom of expression in the late eighteenth century. the main means of ensuring the impartiality of the and the rights of individual citizens to bring cases to the dikasterion jury in respect to the interests of the defence and the prosecution was that supported the general aims of open. lotteries are used Juries. we see sortition in a combative role. groups of individuals. These three examples give us some indication of how sortition works. this was not the thinking behind the act. acquitting writers and publish- ers prosecuted for criticizing the government. nonetheless made a contribution in that versed in what sortition could do. It demands responsibil- ity.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. It also enabled the jury to be understood as a state their responsibilities by bribing the under-sheriff. It fact. surrounded by other measures such as rotation Prior to the act. In Athens. we can see sortition as acting in a from repeatedly calling those known to be good payers. The fact that it was ran- domly selected was regarded as proof that it was a genuine reflection of the people’s will. while not specifically aimed at establishing the means of restoring open government by a republican movement well jury’s impartiality in this sense. The the jury. By the same token. the British Parliament passed the Bill for Better Regulation of in the same circumstances. The randomly selected jury thus epitomizes Reforming the two-sided nature of citizen/state relationship. in the final the jury by guaranteeing its impartiality – at least at the point of selec. What this example shows is how random selection can be used to organize the duties and responsibilities of the citizen body. In the case of the jury. or potential responsibility. namely of ensuring that. but at the same time the use of sortition sig- nals that its members are not individually appointed by the state and will not necessarily act in the state’s interests. This stipulated that a list of all those liable for jury service was to guard against the unique hazards that often arise when the selection to be posted in each parish and that from this jury panels should be of office-holders is left to the seemingly rational choice of individuals or selected by lot when the time came to select juries. sortition prevented the under-sheriff from controlling the selec- act’s stipulated aim was to prevent middle-class citizens from evading tion of jurors. justice lay with the citizenry. it the English Jury is organized by the state. but one that was demonstrably impartial in respect to the select jury members.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 38 impartial or neutral entity. the worry was that aristocratic cliques tem was valued as a great example of justice vested in the community or factions would attempt to take over the polis. in all three contexts. it was heralded as a key institution in the defence of political liberty. be perceived and understood by its citizens as an 38 masslbp. in this respect at least. That it does so in a way that excludes all partisan influence means that the state can. tion.

lotteries can develop patterns of increased citizen participation in government. influence. Similarly. no need to appease a party hierarchy or a potentially hostile press. no application of material or themselves – the use of the lottery then ensures that participation is physical force will influence the result. This effectively lowers the threshold to participation. This also helps us to separate what sortition can do in all cir. supportive measures. To begin with. for example. function of lot operates at the highest level (against tyrants or potential For the citizen. a design decision has to be made about the office or offices public officers. some preliminary education or cumstances from what political benefits come as a later consequence training on the specific issue and constitutional responsibilities will and in the right supportive conditions. This is clearly not the case with pref- individual who might attempt to use it for his or her own ends. is that it excludes Nonetheless. then. in his or her favour: no persuasion. of sortition that is most closely linked to the specific task of selecting Second. they also significantly simplified the tasks of government all rational thought. When a group of fishermen. the citizen’s financial accounts were rou- instance. where maximum use is made of the blind break and made accessible to the citizenry in this way. it does this by ensuring that indi- of sortition. but the state cannot actually interfere with their selection without fixing the lottery. a number of preconditions have to be in place before the political community. wealth or power cannot vent the selection of public officers from falling into the hands of any dominate the process of selection.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. and there were severe penalties (including the loss of forming a rudimentary political community and defending it by making citizenship) if any impropriety was discovered. the lottery still acts to exclude the of Sortition wilful interference of powerful individuals. The Athenians. could (I would argue should) be initiated and approved by the citizenry come will reflect the effort. Randomly selected jurors in a totalitarian state may have little effective voice against state ortho- doxy. always be required. therefore. they are tinely checked. use a lottery to decide who will fish which area when. Athenian polis. tyrants). viduals with greater resources.” This is the function democracy. can we assess what benefits sortition brings to the modern achieve this. It is a means Any problems that might derive from greater and easier popular by which the arationality of sortition is used against a known tendency participation could be addressed by other. the relatively easy access to government tions that make decisions on behalf of the community – however large was accompanied by a high expectation of appropriate behaviour in or small that community might be. First. for example.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 40 rules and procedures to prevent one of their number from dominating The Past and Future the others. In the for individuals or groups of individuals to seek power over the institu. for office. Even if the circumstances in which a lottery is held give little effective power to the participants. this can easily be achieved by using the register of electors. and it can also operate against the lowliest corrupt under. there is no costly or energy-draining campaign to run. It has to be recognized that where it has a fundamental political impact on the task to which it is while the citizen body can bring a great depth and diversity of ability applied. and experience to the political arena. and one that was intuitively the integrity and honest commitment of their citizen office-holders. placed a high value on A fundamental quality of a lottery. This immediate exclusion of the powerful or well connected can engender a number of secondary benefits. the citizen body has to be problems facing the voting citizen that I raised earlier? First.com 41 . To How. In a liberal isolate what I call the “primary political potential. This erence election. In the first instance. we must defined so that it is clear who is in the pool and who is not. The primary political potential fairly distributed. can be expressed as the ability of a lottery to pre. Thus no one can influence a lottery decision to go so that all citizens could play an active part. understood by most of those who used it successfully. We also saw earlier how 40 masslbp. and how can we bring these ideas to bear on the lottery itself is brought into action. sheriff or the friend of the accused hoping to pack the jury. no scheming or no planning or With these preconditions in place – and they are measures that preparation can be brought to bear with any sure sense that the out. Upon leaving office.

the cit.) In our modern circumstances. What lot does is to supply the effective means of exercising that not distribute proportionally. In a citizen-wide scheme. the sortition because it is a true rational foil to the arationality of lot. such as a political organization. The random nature of very ideal of political equality is – at least in part – a legacy of the use the draw means that all members of the pool have a potential stake in of lot in Athens and in late medieval republicanism. The fact that no party has control over a lottery also enables sorti- This special relationship between citizens and the polity is also aug. he suggests that military officers should be assigned qualitative differences among them are temporarily suspended in their regiments by lot. O c e a n a. date.com 43 . While it the political process can be understood as belonging to all – in that it is always possible for a citizen to become corrupted or to take bribes belongs to no other party or interest group. this idea that the citizens themselves own the late medieval period that used lotteries in conjunction with preference public process of appointment. In respect to the choice consolidation of new political arrangements between previous rivals. made mechanically by the lottery. Britain was just The Past and Future of Sortition 42 masslbp. The state.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 42 any citizen had the right to denounce a sitting magistrate for corruption respect to the question of access to public office. at the “rotation” at half-time is a good example of how we have come to accept same time can be understood as genuinely impartial – at least in terms this combination of mechanisms as fair and workable. ity. in fact. it is not egalitarian in the citizen body in a particularly active sense: as those with the right to sense of creating equal shares for all. What is more. guaranteed and developed in practice. A lottery held in public makes it clear that no one has inter. especially interactive elements and systems within the If we view the political equality of all citizens as a fundamental media. We should also realize that the more importantly. does the calling is direct. effectively. but because the England. Because a lottery is unpredictable. of nominators. we are. At the time O c e a n a was written. the lottery once in office. the fact that he or she owes their office to no one means process is unique in that it is not only impartial. cannot develop or can only develop elections – often through the selection of enclaves of electors or groups with difficulty in a political environment dominated by competitive elec. right. can be encouraged and. chosen on any one occasion might be chosen subsequently means that While a lottery can assure citizens about the fairness of the pro c e- all are engaged in the process. public office can be seen as a means by which that principle can be Greater citizen participation. This concurs with and could have the case heard at the dikasterion. therefore. tion to play an important role in conflict resolution or the initial mented by a special relationship among citizens. (In these cases. The arrangement in Great Yarmouth fits this category.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. The fact that those citizens in the pool that are not use of sortition. of the appointment of officers. In this respect. corruption and covert factional activity. sustained by the use of lot. a sense of equal distribution is achieved by the ratio-based device of ro t a- Because selection by lottery excludes interference or “mediation” tion in office. making plans and schemes is fered with the choice. I would describe rotation as the “twin” mechanism of by any third party. that it inhibits intrigue. it also contributes to the special relationship of subject to diminishing returns. This was certainly the case in the many Italian communes in the This special relationship. Its results are random and it does office. This In James Harrington’s seventeenth-century model constitution for is not because they have equal qualities or abilities. this defines the dure by which they might be chosen for office. In a great number of instances where lot citizen ownership by emphasizing the public nature of the body politic was used. party or faction. In most political schemes that use lotteries. the media. advantages from dominating the process of choice. The relationship between the citizen who is “called” to office and the state coin toss at the start of a football game to decide ends followed by the that. then the use of random selection for selected citizens in office. or polis. all citizens are considered equal. tions and political parties. but demonstrably there is no one in the potential position to call in the favour at a later impartial. reclaiming our political heritage. These two factors create a very special A further advantage of using sortition to select public officers is relationship between the citizens and the body politic. By reclaiming the the political system. many of our ideas about fairness and fair play and can be seen as a izen bringing the charge would face a hefty fine if he did not receive a direct consequence of the way a lottery prevents those with pre-existing large enough portion of the final vote. it was in response to electoral violence or partisan irregular- — the fact that these appointments are not made behind closed doors. could have a very important role in supporting randomly principle in our democratic society.

is to be achieved by virtue of who is selected or by virtue of what those lic offices and political institutions. sortition can play a vital role when were made legible by all citizens and so could be administered by all. I would hesitate. For this reason. the opportunity to contribute to the community is also an using random selection. Because all human qualities are excluded from a decision taken by Headlam in his study of election by lot in Athens is that there was no lot. they are more likely to make decisions in the long-term wider pool in any reliable. that more citizens from diverse backgrounds will have greater access to they are more likely to make independent judgments while holding the body politic. Because there is no life. less play is given to the excesses of remains the high bar to which contemporary legislators should strive. tasks of public office. opportunity for self-fulfilment. It creates a “richer mix” than if government was cal process and instilled with a shared sense of duty to a new impartial dominated by professional politicians or limited to those with similar constitution. suggest that lot should be introduced solely on the grounds that it cre- A further secondary benefit is to be found in the idea of independ. ates a sample of the population in anything beyond the general sense ence. in government. certainly from is the range and diversity of those selected and the value they bring to the point of view of those used to being excluded from the political the political process. It can be attributed. Most constitutions that made widespread use of all minorities in a political rather than in a statistical sense. By means of lot-based institutions. backgrounds and aspirations. in the main. Free of the short-term need produce a grouping that is a miniature. reconciliation is required or when an electoral backlash might irra. however. this obviously partisan body politic. exact manner or in a way that might satisfy interests of the polity. I have already involved in politics. While it would be difficult to selected might be required to do. Though likely incompatible with the complexity of modern political tionally deny office to worthy candidates. The however. A lottery is a random process and will not necessarily office than those elected on a party ticket.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. selection of political officers by these means diminishes the role professional bureaucracy and no specialist legal profession charged with played by anger. This diversity is not altogether the consequence of process. This is not to say that Athenian. Those failing to gain It has been argued that government bodies selected by lot could be office would harbour fewer grudges knowing that no one actively “representative” of the people at large. One of the major points made by J. dictatorship many sensed that more bloodshed was in the offing. but overt partisanship was considered dangerous. less mentioned how. From a citizen’s perspective. Because citizens selected into office have no ties of dependency. it is arguable A final point needs to be made about the way a lottery acts as an that if a greater number or proportion of independent citizens became anonymous call to office within a citizen-wide scheme. from the point of view of the polity as a whole. and under Cro mwell’s military as to reflect the diversity of the pool. unlocks a new diverse human resource and brings it to bear on the One of the benefits of a citizen-wide lottery scheme for public office problems of government. laws suit of political aims. this emphasis on transparency and clarity is surely enviable and competition in a lottery system. if not make government more representative first have to define whether this destructive. A citizen sortition outlawed political parties and most of those who advocated the selected to political office by lot might become a good representative by use of lot to select office-holders expected those who were selected in seeking the views of his or her constituency and actively voicing them this way to act as independent citizens. revenge. What random selection does do. A citizen-wide lottery scheme that draws lottery decision to widen the pool to include all (or a greater number on all citizens (not only those who volunteer) can encourage people of) citizens or to make the number of citizens selected large enough so who do not necessarily see themselves in this type of role to engage The Past and Future of Sortition 44 masslbp. to the pre. Those advocating lot in order to activity.M. to excluded or rejected them for any reason.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 44 re c overing from a disastrous civil war. imagine this state of affairs in our modern democracies. is to bring citizens together in new and unexpected combina- idea of diffusing military power by using sortition was clearly meant to tions and to harness their assorted life experiences and acumen to the illustrate how potential rivals could be brought into a common politi. this could help to create a more responsive. but this is a consequence of his or her actions in office. Florentine or Venetian politics were not underpinned by covert factional not the mode of his or her selection. to the common peace and thus it was banned from the pub. hatred or any other passion in the active pur. proportionate version of the to win elections. the interpretation of the law.com 45 . competitive zeal that plague elective systems.

this constituted a good use of sortition. As well. according to my analysis. Here. we are able to get some idea of the advantages that the use of sortition could bring to the modern polity.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 46 positively in their political environment. lot is not used because it is arational. four cannot agree on whom to sortition and what type of political environment would help to sustain a appoint for a particular job. the expectation of the candidates when they attended their interviews in the first place. after hours of deliberation cannot come to a satisfactory majority deci- sion. I also make suggestions as to an arational procedure. We can call this a by the general population and the dangers to the political process posed “strong” use. therefore. Another third would then be chosen by lot to leave the council after two years’ serv- ice. The second half of this pam.com 47 . the opposite happens: when lot is used or advocated but where the task phlet. Because the calling comes from no particular person or party. Uses By looking at the qualities of the lottery process. The places of all retiring councillors were to be filled by newly The Past and Future of Sortition 46 masslbp. but merely because it is expedient. If they decide to settle the issue by tossing a coin. the arational blind problems of voter disaffection. deals with some of the problems involved in designing to which it is put does not require or specifically benefit from the use of schemes that make good use of sortition.3 After elections to the council. We now have to look briefly at some examples in which by excessive competitive partisanship. A better solution would be to appoint a fifth member of the panel (possibly by lot) to hear the case for both candidates and make a casting vote. It makes a much too rare appeal to our sense of civic duty and desire to contribute to the well-being of our society. it is very easy for those selected to see themselves as directly engaged in work for the general good or for the Unnecessary community at large. This would hardly be ideal but would continue the practice of rational deliberation based on the qualities of merit and suitability that was. say. he stipulates that one-third of the members should be chosen by lot to relinquish their offices after one year in office. therefore. the sense of political powerlessness felt break. we presume.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. They have two clear front runners and politically active citizenry. what other measures might be needed to support the modern use of An interviewing panel of. this would. A decision has to be reached rather than no decision. but with careful and purposeful use and in conjunction with other Earlier I discussed the idea that when the lottery is applied to make a measures it is clear that its use could go some way to resolving the positive virtue of its central and defining feature. however. constitute a weak use of lot: one that does not benefit from the use of arationality. and combining this with an appraisal of how lotteries were used in a num- ber of political contexts. A second example is provided by a proposal by William Penn in an early draft for the constitution of Pennsylvania. These advan- tages are not guaranteed by the mere introduction of sortition. the use of an arational mecha- nism for this task is incommensurate with the rational process of weighing and balancing qualities that preceded it.

Penn dropped the scheme and stipulated that three differ. to some extent. become defined in terms of groups. and duce a proportionate result in accordance with probability theory – for the blind break to continue to do its work. This consideration These examples alert us to the need to combine the rational sec- might. can be understood as a situation in which the pool is split into several over. The simplest forms of weighted lottery are. and rational or ratio-based solutions should be used when these would tion is required. ies. or options. the lottery scheme for distributing power between the families this could rank as a weak use. The decision to remove members by lot. My exam- tenure. a son why this decision should be taken by an arational decision-making coin that has one side heavier than the other. This begins to erode the remit a hidden expectation that some sort of proportional outcome will u n p redictability of the lottery element and means that the outcome be achieved. a scheme based on reason and ratio is likely to prove be more appropriate. more complex and controversial example is provided a period of time. In the sce- no point in using sortition to prevent factional or partisan influence in nario of names. the lottery works as a weighted lottery if the main question ent batches of members were to be elected: one-third for a one-year is not which individual ball is chosen but what colour it is. c o n t rol. importantly. is that lotteries are used to their best advantage when complementary manner. There seems to be no rea. one-third for a two-year tenure and one-third for a three-year ple of the parliamentary committee falls into this category. This was precisely the tactics is split 40-60 between two parties chooses a committee of five by lot.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. If the to succeed. aim was to give the minority party the occasional chance of a commit. proportionate outcome might be available in the longer term. so there would be so they fall on one face more frequently than the others. useful to look at some proposals for citizen-wide lottery schemes. a weighted lottery the process of choice. In the final version of the black and two white balls are placed in a bag and one is drawn out constitution. More this example is tied in with the idea that a random procedure will pro. it would be more successful. As they brought more and more Fl o rentine families under their between the parties should be reflected in the makeup of the committee. As part of a power-sharing arrangement. Here. two from the other) rather than a random solution. or dice that are “loaded” mechanism. can easily become incorporated into competing groups. party wanted to increase its chances of controlling the committee over A third. According to this law. a parliament that can. This task does not need an arational became more and more predictable and less and less effective. the lottery is weighted frame best suited their needs and allowed voters to choose who they in favour of the majority party in the ratio 6:4. My tions of any lottery scheme with the arational element of the lottery in a claim. it suggests that for a lottery to remain uncorrupted.com 49 . The difficulty in participants. Now if the majority would rather see holding which post. indeed. when averaged out over a large number of draws. the ent citizens is preferable to a small group who. it would have to try to win more seats or bring more where the application or task for which lot is used contains within its members of the other party over to its side. This arrangement allowed candidates to decide which time is made by lottery from the whole parliament. The re l- mechanism and would benefit from using a proportionate (three from a t i vely small pool of citizens invo l ved in the scheme helped this tactic one party. of the Medici in Fl o rence during the early years of the fifteenth cen- Now. sits uncomfortably with the fact that citizens have originally groups and the outcome assessed in terms of those groups. If propor. if those proposing the scheme did so in order that the ratio tury. Thus a be better served by rotating the chair or by selecting an extra member lottery among individuals can easily become a weighted lottery if the of the committee from the whole parliament by lot. In other words. the arationality of the lottery they deliver short-term uncertainty rather than when they suggest a is best used positively for tasks in which this quality would be of value. more. however.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 48 elected councillors. as the term implies. If the choice tenure. tickets or balls drawn from a bag. a large pool of independ- more specifically the law of large numbers. To understand how this can operate. This indicates that the unpredictability of a lottery can be compro- tee majority or of greater influence on the committee. if not initially belonging makeup of the committees would reflect the proportion of the parties to any party. thus establishing a rotational system. Elections would have already been held. If three expressed their preferences by rational choice. Unnecessary Uses 48 masslbp. randomly. then this would mised by the formation of groups within the lottery pool. lot is This example brings us to the important issue of weighted lotter- advocated purely as a matter of convenience. become predictable. encourage the minority party to accept the scheme.

In September 1792. The practical running of the state was then delegated to groups of the author calls a “Civic Century. From these each of which would act as the main governing group for one year at a citizens. They were. and there was an additional governmental layer of that any issue arising within that group be taken. The use of sortition for the office of zenry with the idea that the government of a city is best carried out by Provost was a means of preventing bribery.5 There was nothing unusual Gonfalonieri.” The Circle Council – made up of officers from the Civic 32. The pool for the executive body. The aim Centuries and judicial officers – would constitute the electorate for of what was effectively a veto was to ensure no question concerning the members of the National Legislature and the National Executive.4 It was a e n s u re that the appointees for life continued to act for the city as a whole scheme that sought to combine the notion of a politically active citi. this scheme is a valuable example of how Executive member from each Circle was limited to those from the 50 masslbp. however. first to the 101 “Circles. One of From the point of view of how sortition could be integrated with prefer- these would be elected every three or four years as the Gonfalonier. The other 64 were to be divided into two groups of 32. then to the Senate and from there to the Grand Council. The basic unit of head of state. 100 people would be drawn by lot every year to become what time. and not in their own interest. only four could of government. These officers decide between those nominated. general good of the polity should be put into practice without a level of Candidates for these bodies were to be subject to a quota restriction. they were to act as witnesses to the executive on behalf of the Niccolo Machiavelli produced a draft constitution for Florence that he wider body politic and thus of the wider citizenry. on appeal. from the general citizenry on a rotational scheme.com 51 .000 citizens. Lot is used at the entry level of citizens into the body politic and is so organized to make entry into the pool Civic-Lot: Machiavelli dependent on no other criteria save that of citizenship. A dominating their selection. was to be made up of 65 members appointed for life. the constitution was the electoral district of 1. a constitutional proposal was presented to the National Senate of 200 by preference vote and a group of 16 known as the Convention by one Theodore Lesueur. The role of the Provosts is critical to the balance of the whole constitution. Sortition for the minor offices allows the Council member to gain experience and and Lesueur develop a level of hands-on responsibility without having to rely on win- ning a competitive election.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. From this grouping. experience and permanent commitment. While they had no deliberative In 1520. The aim was to sent to Giovanni de Medici in the hope it would find favour. or Signoria. Of oversight that was constitutionally linked to the major popular organs the 12 members of the National Legislative Council. The Council would elect a Revolution. would allow candidates with perc e i ved ability to take some of the more important political roles. Groups of 25 Civic Centuries would would attend the meetings of the Signoria and would be entitled to ask then form Tribes. patronage or intrigue from those with knowledge. to this extent. during the political upheavals of the French all minor officers would be selected by lot. or ence voting. about this occurrence.” The Civic Century would then pro- eight from this body who would hold office for three months at a time vide a pool from which all local officers and some members of higher as a ruling executive body. however. the much quoted and often misrepresented political adviser function. this proposal is of considerable interest. such proposals were common during this time. To link these two systems – political bodies would be elected. This would either be by direct elec- those appointed for life and those selected to and by the Grand Council tion or by a Venetian-style combination of lot and election in which – Machiavelli proposed that four Provosts on the Roman model were to nominators were first selected by lot and a secret ballot then held to be selected by lot from the 16 Gonfalonieri every month. and candidacy for the one From our point of view. Elections for the Senate and Gonfalonieri. to be seen as the Grand Council of between 600 and 1.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 50 lot. appointment and election can be used to complement one another Developing the within the same constitution.000 was to be selected by lot impartial servants of the polity. come from the higher economic class. or standard-bearers.

it seems highly likely. then surely there should be no obstacle to giving it our serious consideration. The first argument might run along the lines that lot polities where lot is used but not in a way that draws on the entire citizen popu. The jury is ongoing proof that a lot-based system can gain the long-term trust of the citizenry at large and that citizens Developing the Civic-Lot: Machiavelli and Lesueur 52 masslbp. My first response to both these arguments is to stress how sortition was reborn in late medieval Italy not because the communal govern- ments had any idea of what happened in Athens. they provide us with some idea of the possible structure and form of An important question is raised: Just how easy and how appropriate what I would call a “Citizen lot-polity. responses. we have the experience of the jury system. and we have nowhere near that amount of political experience of using sortition. It is difficult to say whether these schemes could have worked in practice. Nonetheless. as with Machiavelli’s scheme.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. While the author of the constitution does not specify whether membership of the and the Mode rn Civic Century is a voluntary or compulsory duty. The introduction of civic lotteries according to this argument requires such a complete change in political consciousness as to render it almost unachievable in current circumstances. Another argument is that both the Athenians and the as no less experimental than the idea of a polity dominated by universal Florentines took more than 200 years to develop their political systems franchise elections and political parties. and Civic Lotteries the higher officers are then filled by preference election. could actually facilitate the relatively speedy reintroduction of sortition. If civic lotteries seem to be the answer to some of the problems we are facing with our current forms of govern- ment.com 53 . mainly in liberal democracies. It is also worth reflecting that at the time of their (respective) and are wholly inappropriate to today’s complex and densely populated presentations. but rather because it solved some of the problems of political consolidation and factionalism they were grappling with. Most would agree that the jury is probably the best means invented of ensur- ing criminal justice was both fair and based on the community – not to mention its role as a bulwark in the protection of the citizen against the excesses of the state. the entry level to the political body is by lot. given the organizational system as a whole. that all citizens would have Polity to be prepared to serve. where a bureaucracy and Machiavelli or Lesueur in modern conditions? There are a number of centralized military apparatus holds power. or whether they would have had to be substantially amended as their defects became known. What is interesting about this scheme is the way that. and secondly from polities.” I use this term to differentiate would it be to introduce a constitution similar to those suggested by this type of arrangement firstly from a state. My second response is to point out how some of the political institutions and ways of looking at politics that we have devel- oped. these civic lottery schemes would have been thought of nation states. To begin with.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 52 lower economic grouping (known as the minus possidentes). were a product of the small city state of the Renaissance or antiquity lation.

sortition enables the citizen to take on some level of ownership of the political process.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 54 take their civic responsibilities seriously. Now we can also see it as adding a missing political element to the way the public econ- Civic Lotteries and the Modern Polity 54 masslbp. Moreover. My ipation in government and experience of government would seem to be feeling is that if the values of projected civic lottery schemes have to be a natural extension of this existing situation. There is a sense in which the citizen already has a stake in government for the simple reason that all government operations are financed by taxation. Our one remaining example of omy is run. tional instability. In this respect. would strike a blow against the culture of personal appointments and ments of the twenty-first century put a high value on open government interlocking favours that can too easily come to dominate this sector of and freedom of political expression.” but the principle holds and could well and debated within an open public arena and thus can attract valuable be the basis for re-energizing the public domain. this would be no bad thing. level of political participation and it might be a long time coming. Since the citizen is at once the fin- ancier and the consumer of public services. At a more local level. a regional health board or a public transport committee The next important point is that the liberal democratic govern. As we have seen. The ability of citizens to perform well in public office could obviously be enhanced by good civic education. Perhaps we are not ready for this a general environment of healthy political debate. while sortition can These are some of the reasons why civic lotteries can be seen as a help ensure the independence of the citizenry in the circumstances of natural and relatively easy step for a developed liberal democracy to their selection. this relationship can only be enhanced by greater direct citizen involvement in the management of public spending. it means that civic lotteries can operate in with our essentially private concerns. Against this it could be argued that we have grown used to dele- expression can then help guarantee their freedom and independence gating political responsibility to professional politicians while we get on once they hold office. We’re a distance from rallying citizens with the cry tional proposals. the traditions of open government and freedom of take. praise or criticism from a variety of sources. our capacity for developing a positive ethos of citizenry far out- weighs those of ancient Athens or Renaissance Florence. zens to. their introduction.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. It would help of the reins of political control by the select few could find sortition to us to design better schemes and to think through the full implications of be a valuable means of achieving this without opening the door to fac. First. say. Public education is another factor that could help civic lotteries find a natural home in today’s developed liberal democracies. A further indication of the relevance of civic lotteries to the mod- ern polity can be found in the relationship between taxation and public spending. Greater citizen partic. a scheme that used lot to select citi- sortition has actually been a resounding success. Second.com 55 . can be put forward “No taxation without sortition. the public domain. It is also worth mentioning repeatedly demonstrated by pilot schemes and in-depth analysis to per- that regimes moving toward greater political openness and a relaxation suade the apathetic doubters. It is our money. the fact that in some schemes any citi- zen might be selected by lot to hold public office would put a significantly higher onus on the educational providers to make their courses in citizenship relevant. Third. this means that new constitu. such as the use of civic lotteries. accessible to all and of a universally high standard.

One major reason for blind break.com 57 . selected would have the role of supervising legislation initiated in tive that had been elected by the National Convention. organiza- tion or lobby group while they hold office. the situation in should pertain directly to some course of action to be made by the 1795 also needed strong government and reliable institutions.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. three years. or remain. In the post-Terror environment. the government needed to be understood as impartial. Perhaps the most serious miscalculation in this respect is the Second Chamber (The House of Lords) by sortition. members of a political party. is what is really required.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 56 served the same purpose in a manner that better reflected the judg- Principles for ment of the Convention. and this was possibly the rationale for 3 The decisions and recommendations made by citizen officers the introduction of this scheme. place. Not to do so is to risk serious failure. if those and possible introduction of such schemes. As existing political institutions and actors. This arrangement was seen as a means of retaining they specified that one member would be selected by lot to leave the “independent element” of the Hereditary Peers. While sorti- schemes should have a clear political purpose for doing so. Unfortunately. This ensures that a lottery. Those decision made by the French in 1795 to rotate the six-man execu. They tion can ensure independence of selection. 1998. A series of six votes. this particular and explore some of the ways each could have an impact on the design quality that the lottery brings to the selection process. schemes that specified an independent role for randomly selected tery is a powerful tool. one for each length of office sion on the political value of sortition revolves around the idea of (for one year. body politic. government. They should not be. who were due his office every year. This was a proposal to select a large proportion of the U.6 To do this. The tasks of office should be organized so citizens are free and able to exercise their The final section of this pamphlet deals with the design of good civic own judgment. My discus- lot for this task. either because they belonged to a party or because they were 1 Sortition should be used to make a positive virtue of its arational approached by a party to do their bidding. One of the best that expressed purpose.K. Civic Lotteries Citizens selected by lot should serve in office as independent citi- zens dedicated to the general good of the state or polis. the demands and should be sufficiently aware of the qualities and characteristics of requirements of the office in question have to be used to help main- the lottery to ensure this choice of mechanism is the right one for tain and encourage independence of judgment. rather than some other using civic lotteries is to bring a diverse range of citizens into the form of selection. would have access to office. there was no real reason to use I have included this for a very important reason. It would contradict this potential. and so on). That diversity would be compromised if those This tops the list simply because those who draw up lottery selected merely followed party lines when they voted. a lot. selected merely acted as political agents for existing political par- ties. Here. I advance All officers selected by lot are selected in a manner free of par- 11 specific criteria or guidelines based around my earlier arguments tisan influence. A newly elected member would then take his to be phased out and replaced by appointed or elected members. lottery schemes for citizen participation in government. If citizens are selected by lot but have no power to 56 masslbp. in my example from Pennsylvania. Designing 2 Sortition should be used in a context commensurate with its capac- ity for inhibiting partisan power and promoting independence. Their status should be esteemed by the public and Removing key individuals from office by chance did not help. the Commons. but it can also have powerful adverse citizens was advanced by Anthony Barnett and Peter Carty in effects. two years.

These might take the form of regular We have little experience of civic lotteries. 6 Citizen officers should only be selected randomly to hold office lar measures can be made to sound acceptable.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 58 decide or make a persuasive recommendation that carries consider. the polity itself belongs role and status risks fuelling popular skepticism of such exercises as to everybody. links can be maintained between the officers and the citizen body text. This. What I do propose is that out compromising the principle of temporary office. Within the design of sys- tems. sortition is able moral force upon any issue of government. by the same token. These functions are vital to the way our institutions and require that the office-holder remain out of the public eye. there should. In suggesting that civic lotteries should be reintro. should not undermine or contradict their results or processes. subject to this provision.com 59 . that those selected consultation (even for the best reasons) without a clearly defined belong to nobody and. but we have consid. however. board or council in question. political institutions can help to make those institutions more trans. The and priorities. positive links decision making. that some official civic lottery offices might govern. Public fair.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. a branch of partisan politicking – a giant focus group designed to ensure government is “on message. I described what I called the of temporary office. Civic lotteries should be seen jury service. however. This would enhance the electoral process and help to 7 Civic lottery schemes should be designed so that positive working place the political parties in a proper and useful constitutional con. then the division valuable because it is demonstrably impartial. Principles for Designing Civic Lotteries 58 masslbp. civic lotteries be used to bridge the gap be t ween citizens and gov- ernment. I do not propose that electoral that those who have more to give have opportunities to do so with- politics should be replaced by sortition. between the largely passive voting citizen and the professional re q u i res that it should not only be fair. less concentrated power structure — in his or her vote is often inadequate to convey his or her real interests this case provided by the diversity of the citizen body itself. be ways in which the experience and 4 Civic lottery systems for selecting and employing citizen officers knowledge gained in office can be passed on to others or can be should be designed to complement existing electoral processes and used in other parts of the polity. Both are ways in “Citizen’s Dilemma. temporarily as part of rotational systems. It is inconceivable without it.” or a means by which unpopu. open meetings or the maintenance of an information website on erable experience of electoral democracy as a means of creating the affairs of the office. it is important participate in the political process. however. those drawn from the citizen body to parent and more responsive. but should be seen to be political caste remains but merely takes on a different form. To ensure the possible gap between the citizen body and lic attention on the true substance and true difficulties of political the body politic is bridged in more ways than one. this process can be gin to focus pub. Again. Hypothetically. The mere presence of impartial citizen participants in key or constituency from which they were drawn. we can imagine that citizen members fulfilling an 5 The lotteries used to select citizen officers should be held in a pub. oversight function for armed forces or security bodies would be lic and transparent fashion to guarantee their procedural fairness. Repeated across a range of local and hold public office could become disconnected with the larger citi- national organs of government. While this measure is almost self-explanatory. At the same time. at the same time. It has to be government by consent and giving government the mandate to recognized. this can only help the electoral pro c e s s . zen body. should be put into place. tect the individuals concerned and the institution as a whole. anonymity might be the order of the day so as to pro- as a means of enhancing what we have rather than replacing it. acutely aware of how pered by a more shifting.” The citizen recognizes the constitutional value which the power of individuals within the body politic can be tem- of the act of voting but is. As with political expectations are understood. loss of experienced citizens by rotation is made up for by the fact duced in order that citizens should have a greater opportunity to that more citizens can participate. Without this provision. Historically the process of sortition is linked with the concept At the start of this pamphlet. It is the necessary assurance. if you like.

Tax breaks on returning to work could be a This excursion into some of the principles that can inform the means by which further incentives could be added. This would suggest that in some circumstances it would be 8 Extensive opportunities for learning should always accompany a easier to introduce compulsory schemes than in others. but it suffices to say that if citizens cannot express their ideas years to perfect their system. citizenry at large. we have to recognize how much can freely and openly. Principles for Designing Civic Lotteries 60 masslbp. the balance between the citizen body. posts. There is no once-and-for-all can first be selected from the general citizenry. integrity and common sense. that a lottery excludes relationships of political power (and those seeking that power) from the process of selecting public officers. tribute to the same ends of political freedom and good government. citizen participation will flounder. Payment for office is there f o re an essential condition if this princi- ple is to be upheld. they both con- Pericles. It 10 The relative merits of voluntary and compulsory schemes should is this that gives the ownership of the political process back to the be considered when designing civic lotteries. If the introduction of the limitations of the present to see how elements within the politi- civic lotteries schemes for citizen participation is a decision made cal system could be operated by the citizen body for the benefit of by citizens and their elected re p resentatives. The selected. At the civic lottery process. I have dealt with this point ear- subject of numerous pilot schemes. political education among the general citizenry and in the creation of special courses or arrangements for those selected for office or 11 Selection procedures and the terms of office should be commensu- wishing to put their names forward. those selected could have the right to return to the employment they held when still be subject to the pressures to follow the party or state line.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 60 state. It also sharpens our body politic by this method. While sortition can help to break up concentrations of power within the political apparatus. They should ful groups in other sectors of the polity exist. citizens in that pool solution to how we run our affairs. In central place is the fact self-government. according to officers and assemblies are natural companions. For countries that have schemes of social or holding the levers of power. ticular way that citizens can take greater ownership and control of oped than where citizens have no such regular obligations to the what is rightly theirs. If we categorize the lottery as a human invention. What I hope to have shown is one par- military conscription. to the theme of this pamphlet – is that they enable us to transcend formance of civic duty in current conditions.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. or selections can be made from among those putting them. we should selves forward for particular offices. What is more important – and central aw a reness of the sacrifices made by citizen volunteers in the per. The most likely way that civic rate with the aim of promoting and defending open government lotteries might gain popular acceptance would be if they were the and freedom of political expression.com 61 . however. same time it should be noted that those who put themselves for- Direct attention should be given to this both in the form of ward for civic or public work are likely to do that work well. to could then be offered a choice between offices that involve different change or to improve only held by the few or those (temporarily) levels of commitment. nor is the right to amend. it immediately the potential difficulties and advantages of bringing citizens into the sharpens the way we debate their value. was that no one was excluded from office by poverty. requires Citizens can be selected by lot and then required to fill specific commitment. It took the Athenians about 200 lier. When the cost design of civic lottery schemes has enabled us to envisage some of of introducing widespread civic lotteries is raised. if power- 9 All citizens should be paid for their service in office. aim of open government and the use of sortition to select public One of the key benefits of the Athenian system. the idea of public service is more fully devel. Alternatively. To take that process back fully. responsibility. a pool of citizens also categorize politics in this way. then any attempt to reap the benefits of greater only be understood in practice. It is this reciprocal relationship that lies at the cost and benefit can be safely left to the due process of democratic heart of the view I have put forward.

the potential of this mechanism. and Michael MacKenzie for his hard work and helpful suggestions that made this pamphlet possible. I would also like to thank Peter MacLeod of MASS LBP for asking me to write this pam- phlet. 63 .masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. alerted me to the anti- factional potential of lot. His subsequent founding of the Society for Democracy Including Random Selection further developed my interest in. Keith Nilsen of the Labour Committee for Democratic Accountability of the Secret Services. made at the British Labour Party Conference in 1994. whose proposal for randomly selected monitors for secret services. and understanding of.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 62 Acknowledgments I was first introduced to the subject of sortition by Dr.

A selected bibliography is included on the 3 Details of this proposal can be found in Penn. Keith Sutherland’s Oceana. (1951).qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 64 Endnotes Further Reading 1 The most useful modern account of 4 See Machiavelli. of the series. Chapel Hill: University mentary Survey of the French of North Carolina Press. The representative democracy. For an account of contemporary in Florentine Electoral Politics. The next page. 1891). Batsford. Najemy’s Corporatism and Consensus in Florentine Electoral Politics. Eds. M. This includes my own can be found in Hansen.M. (1966). For the Revolution. see Bernard Manin’s The Principles of see Rubinstein. Durham (1999). 165. a Press (1st ed. 1434–1494. 1280–1400. p. Medici. VII. primarily on the grounds that it provides detailed argument and examples Classical. 64 65 . University Press. New York: Macmillan B. A. Carson and 1280–1400. Trans. S. Eds. monograph. J. J.W. Representative Government.H. Liljergen. Martin. and Sydenman. Oxford electoral system. Oxford: J. which I would recommend Age of Demosthenes. Athenian Democracy in the and London: Duke University Press. and for an historical account of the relationship of sortition to republican movement of 1465–6. see Najemy. The publication of this pamphlet coincides with a new series on sortition Athenian constitutional structures Machiavelli – The Chief Works and and public policy brought out by Imprint Academic. N. Bristol p. J.. Dunn.. Others. (1974). William. Dunn. 2. University of Pennsylvania Press.T. Gilbert. K Gleerup. The best work on ancient Athens is still Government of Florence under the London: B.H. the Florentine system is best Clarendon. Lund: C. and intro. 6 See Stewart.W. On the use of lot. Vol. M. The First French Republic 1792–1804. Modelled on James Harrington’s leading classical scholar of the seventeenth century. Niccolo. Imprint Headlam. The Party’s Over and Barbara Goodwin’s Justice by Lottery also form part 2 For an account of the Florentine B.J. described by J. The Political Potential of Sortition. Cambridge University French Draft Constitution of 1792. has also reprinted Of the Nature and Use of Lot by Thomas Gataker. Election by 5 See Lesueur.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. (1989). Papers of William Penn. (1932). 111–12. see based around the particular viewpoint expressed in this pamphlet. (1933).M. (1982). 145. Headlam’s Election by Lot at Athens. see Random Selection in Politics by L. M.W. Théodore. Corporatism and Consensus pamphlet on the House of Lords reform.M. R. and p. A Lot at Athens. as does a reprint of Barnett and Carty’s original Demos (1982). A Docu- interest in the subject.

Democratic Theory. M. Dordrecht. Cambridge University Press.” Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Amar. (1999). (1899). (1997). Cells: A Gate to ‘Fractal’ Mediation. J. (1990). (2004). “Citizen Politics. (1972). no. (2005). Citizen Participation.” Ethics 95 (October): 38–55. London: Springer.W.A. O. Participation and and the Jury. Liberties Review 12: 113–41. Cambridge University Press. Weidemann. H. modo di eleggere gli uffici nel Consigli Staveley. Cambridge University Press. Democracy Pateman. (2008). 1 (March). Sher. Engelstad. (1939).. Justice by Lottery.” Working Paper No. Cornell University Oxford: Clarendon. Broome. J. Mark E. “The Assignment of Lot: a conceptual and empirical analy- Political Office by Lot. Oxford: Clarendon. “Lotteries in allocative Bristol Classical (1st ed.” Social Science sis. situations. Press. and the Courts. Politics. Trans. Cambridge University Press (1st Historical Review.” no. James. The Exeter: Imprint Academic. Representatives. Election by Lot at the Italian Communes. (1988). Warren. “Conceptualizing Hacking. (1985). J. Elster. (2008) The Political Potential J. Athens. Aristotle. (1997). G. Solomonic Judgements. Chaitin. “Why Lotteries Are Constitution. “Telepathy: Origins of Just.1. (1946). “Planning Reggimento di Firenze. Kelly. 16. Institute of Public Policy Mulgan.R. Ed. 1434–1494. pp. Randomly..J. (2008). Science Association. N. (1977). device. tion of citizens for public office. “Del Administration Review 46. (1986). Kendall. no.qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 66 Selected Bibliography Gataker. Chance. Greely.K.M. Wolfson. International Political Works of James Harrington. “Allocation by Randomness. September 2007.C. B.. (1989). K.” Harvard Studies in Series of the Committee on Concepts Berkeley: University of California Press. 1899. E.R. Political Concepts: A Working Paper Participatory Politics for a New Age. (1980). R. Ed.” American Selection in Politics. (1984). J. (1627). Vol.A. Information 28: 1n (March): 23–50. The Athenian Renn. Webler. Conn. Bari Laterza. “Choosing representa. O. P.. Crosby.” Public Guicciardini. (1988). (1999). James. Stone.. F. Of the Nature and Use of Lots: a treatise historicall and theologi- Najemy. 66 67 . Gobert. Chapel Hill: published 1619. Phillips. N. Strong Democracy: Dow.” Yale Law Journal. The Taming of Lotteries. Justice. J.” Social Science Information. Exeter: Imprint Academic. (2007).S.G. (2007b). T. Martin. T. London: John Haviland. Philology 50. (1989). A. E.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. Vol. The Government of Florence under the Medici. and Oligarchy.” Journal of Political Philosophy 15. V. Deliberative Democracy: The British Callenbach.. O. A Oxford: Clarendon. (1992). P. Renn. Commonwealth of Oceana and A System Possible? The Alternative to Electoral of Politics. C. I. Trans. (1982).” Social Science Information. (1984). (1995). the Kleroteria. (2001). G. Coote. Westport. (1977). Corporatism and Consensus in Florentine Electoral call. “Citizen’s Panels – a new approach to Fair?” Nous 14. Stone.” Review of Politics 46:4. 1991). “Selecting People Dowlen. L. Barber. (1970).1–22. “Lot as a democratic Research. Exeter: Harrington.H. Duxbury. Exploring Hofstee. Eckhoff. Athenian Columbia Citizens’ Assembly. Berkeley: University of Environmental Discourse. W. B. Cambridge University Press. 7.G.. E. (1984). Aldershot: Dartmouth. First Politics. 3: 276–295. P. “What Makes a Lottery tives by lottery voting.” In Designing Lotteries and Legal Decision-Making. Citizen Legislature. Cambridge University Press. (1989). B. Barker. 1280–1400. ed.” In Dialogo e discorsi del Voting and Elections. P. A. (1999). Isis 79. Moore. Greek and Roman Aristotle. 93. M.” In Palmarocchi.. “The equality of alloca. N.M.. Citizens’ Juries. Exeter: Imprint Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes.. J.M. October London: Praeger. I. (1932). A cura di R. J. Netherlands: Kluwer. “Forms of Voting in Carson. In Fairness and Competence in Citizen Hacking. tion by lot. Goodwin. Grande. no. Harrington. Sutherland. The Party’s Over. Hansen.A. Burnheim. (1986). J. Pocock. Dienel. P. London: Polity Press. “Aristotle. California Press. Stewart. E.. Rubinstein. 28. S. (1984). Aristotle and Xenophon on Democracy Participation: Evaluating Models for Randomness in experimental design. of Sortition: a study of the random selec. Pocock. J. Academic. Headlam. Random Justice – on Cambridge University Press. 1891). Schaefer. (1966). Random Vol. J. The Political and Methods. T. University of North Carolina Press. A.B. Is Democracy Imprint Academic. Francesco. (1933)..

qxd 9/15/08 11:36 AM Page 68 About the Author Educated as a visual artist. Oliver lives and works in Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. In 1999.. In 2002–06. won the Sir Ernest Barker Prize for best thesis in political theory 2006–07. His thesis. in which he investigated Marx’s concept of alienation. Oliver Dowlen became seriously involved in practical and community politics during the 1980s and 1990s. It has recently been published as a monograph by Imprint Academic. on the political potential of sortition. 68 .Phil. he took a full-time doctorate at New College. he completed a part-time M.masslbp_pamphlet_body_v6. Oxford.