What are the main advantages and disadvantages of sortition?

  • Ancient Athens, what is by many considered the first democracy, resorted extensively to sortition to assign its political offices. In modern times however the only place where this method of selection remains in widespread use is for selecting trial juries. What would be the main advantages and disadvantages of using sortition in politics? Specially in the case of bodies large enough so that they can be considered statistically representative of the population at large.

  • I will give a list of what can be considered advantages and disadvantages. If any point is not clear, please ask for clarification in the comments and I'll amend the answer.


    • Effective representation of the interests of the people
    • Fairness & Equality
    • Democratic
    • Less corruptible than elections
    • Fair representation
    • Power to ordinary people
    • Voter fatigue
    • Loyalty is to conscience not to political party


    • Pure sortition does not discriminate
    • Misrepresentation
    • Sortition can put in power people with minority views
    • Voting confers legitimacy
    • Some forms of sortition entail compulsion
    • Enthusiasm of the representatives
    • Accountability

    I believe the fact that an allotted body is less **corruptible** is debatable (although I personally tend to agree it would be). As for **compulsion**, although it might be desirable to properly represent the people, it seems to be in no way an intrinsic requirement of sortition, or am I missing something?

    Regarding **corruption**, I do agree that sortition alone is no guarantee for it, but it could help with the problem because you can not promise sth. that has implications beyond your "reign". In some forms of sortition you would not need to accept the result but you would be put in power whether you like it or not, that is the **compulsion** I was talking about. Should I clarify that in the answer?

    As I see it, if one thinks compulsion would have more cons than pros, the obvious solution is to allow people to refuse and simply draw somebody else in their place. In this sense sortition does not have to include compulsion, unless yo think it is an advantage having it. You could still argue compulsion is the best way to implement sortition over all, but has *some* undesired consequences (which ones?).

    That's why I put it as "Some forms of sortition entail compulsion" Compulsion needs to be considered a negative effect as it is an effect against the free will of somebody. Even if we could alleviate the effect it would imho still be a negative one.

    Is there any proof that "Effective representation of the interests of the people" is indeed the case? Starting with a workable definition of what "interests of the people" mean :)

    J. Burnheim (pol sci) argues: "But do we, in order to have democracy, have to find a way in which the demos first makes up its mind what is to be done and then controls its representatives in the process of carrying it out? What I want to suggest is a different conception. Let the convention for deciding what is our common will be that we will accept the decision of a group of people who are well informed about the question, well-motivated to find as good a solution as possible and representative of our range of interests simply because they are statistically representative of us as a group."

    DVK, if we define interest of the people as what the people want, on any topic where the majority of the citizen of 50%+x (where x is any number > 0) has a certain opinion, you can make the probability of an allotted body having a different majority as small as you want by increasing the number of members. Said more simply, as a consequence of the law of big numbers, an allotted body will approximately have the same opinions as the general population, the approximation is better the bigger the body is. Elections have no such property.

    Sven, I now see the points seem to be almost identical to those of wikipedia, you should have credited the source.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM