"A lottery would also improve our odds of avoiding the worst candidates in the first place."
Luck of the Draw
America's presidential election is just next year, but the competitive ugliness on display on social media leading up to it is already making any sane person want to dip their head into boiling acid.
Fortunately, according to a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, there could be a better way: eliminate elections altogether and pick our leaders by lottery. Say what?!
"In the United States, we already use a version of a lottery to select jurors," Adam Grant wrote in The New York Times. "What if we did the same with mayors, governors, legislators, justices and even presidents?"
Grant makes a persuasive case for picking our leaders randomly from a pool of candidates by pointing to research by Alexander Haslam, another psychologist, who's run experiments that show that better decisions are made when the group leader is chosen by lottery essentially versus if the group leader is chosen for their leadership skills or if elected by their peers
"'Systematically selected leaders can undermine group goals,' Dr. Haslam and his colleagues suggest, because they have a tendency to 'assert their personal superiority.' When you’re anointed by the group, it can quickly go to your head: I’m the chosen one," writes Grant.
Electing leaders by lottery, he points out, does have some historical precedent.
"The ancient Greeks invented democracy, and in Athens many government officials were selected through sortition — a random lottery from a pool of candidates," says Grant, who says he's been suggesting the idea to US Congress members.
Grant says that pool of candidates in Ancient Athens had to take a test "of their capacity to exercise public rights and duties," and perhaps America can have the same thing, a civics test essentially.
"A lottery would also improve our odds of avoiding the worst candidates in the first place," Grant writes. "That’s because the people most drawn to power are usually the least fit to wield it."
Other contemporary countries have been experimenting with this form of democracy as well. Grant points out to instances in Europe and Canada where government officials have held lotteries to pick citizens to work on a variety of issues, such as climate change.
Let's be clear: the concept is a long shot to the point of near impossibility in American politics, and it would presumably require basically shredding the Constitution. But still, it's tantalizing to imagine not only picking better leaders, but eliminating the ugliness of election politicking and the bloated capital geared towards campaigning.
More on elections: Sam Altman Fears AI’s Effect on Elections
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