Chapter

The Idea of Sortition

Peter Stone

in The Luck of the Draw

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199756100
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895120 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756100.003.0006
The Idea of Sortition

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The most common practical use of lotteries in decision-making concerns the allocation of goods, that is, the domain of justice. The second most common use concerns the assignment of responsibilities, such as public office. This use, sometimes known as sortition, has a long pedigree, with examples to be found in ancient Athens, Renaissance Venice and Florence, and the modern Anglo-American jury. This chapter examines three arguments for sortition. The first simply treats public office as a good, and argues that the demands of allocative justice (including the impartiality principle, which sometimes dictates the use of lotteries) apply to it. The second argument recognizes lotteries as a means of preventing corruption. If reasons have no place in the selection of public officials, then powerful interests cannot stack the deck with candidates they prefer. The third argument points to the ability of lotteries to ensure descriptive representation. All three of these arguments, the chapter concludes, rest upon the sanitizing effect that lotteries can have, although they do not always see value in this effect.

Keywords: lottery; sortition; Athens; Venice; Florence; jury; justice; impartiality; corruption; descriptive representation

Chapter.  12063 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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