Random selection by lot replaces human agency with chance (the modern view) or supernatural agency (the view of Italian city-states and ancient Athens). It can help democracy be just, clean, and efficient. So use it mindfully to thwart corruption, to produce legitimate deliberative cross-sections of a population, and to fairly distribute social goods or burdens.
Related: 12 Competent Popular Oversight of Governance, 13 Constraints on Concentrated Power, 20 Diversity, 59 Synergy Between Part and Whole, 63 Universal Participation, 68 Whole System in the Conversation, 69 Wise Use of Uncertainty
Going Deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
Random selection is perhaps most famous for its use in lotteries. “Sortition” is that same process applied to politics or the collective affairs of a society rather than lotteries where you have bought a ticket and are waiting to see if you’ll get rich.
One of the most potent things about random selection in politics is that nobody is in charge of who gets picked. And if it is done correctly it gets in the way of anybody trying to manipulate the political system. So if it is truly random selection nobody knows what is going to happen or what is going to show up as a result of the random selection.
So if you have a system that is working really well for you, by elections or whatever, then you really don’t have to worry about it. But if you have a system that is filled with corruption, random selection offers a very powerful lever to shift it.
Just for example, imagine if we could choose a legislature by a random selection of people in the society or a random selection of everybody who has volunteered. For example, anyone might be added to a volunteer pool by saying, “If I’m chosen I would love to serve“. Or we could set certain qualifications to be in the pool. Of course each person is part of a pool which has, say, 4 million other people in it. And let’s say we choose 400 of them to be in our legislature for a year. If we set it up right, the chances of somebody being able to manipulate that legislature are really small.
Of course we’d have to set it up right. For example, we can say “If you manipulate this, we’re going to penalize you. If we find out that you offered people $100,000 to vote in favor of your corporation, then we will close down your corporation and put you in jail” or something like that. Even now, there are serious penalties for people who meddle with trial juries or for certain kinds of corruption. So there would need to be laws to penalize efforts to manipulate or corrupt randomly selected legislators, too.