The Luck of the Draw: The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making

Hardcover | April 18, 2011

byPeter Stone

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A prominent scholar once noted that lotteries in politics and society - to break vote ties, assign students to schools, draft people into the military, select juries - are "at first thought absurd, and at second thought obvious." Lotteries have been part of politics since the Greek and Romantimes, and they are used frequently in American politics today. When there is a two-to-two vote tie for prospective school board members, officials will often resort to flipping a coin (as happened recently in California). And in military drafts, the conventional wisdom is that random selection isfar more just than non-lottery drafts. Northerners rioted against the perceived injustice of the non-random draft during the Civil War, and Americans by and large believed that student deferments subverted the justice of the draft during the Vietnam War. Over the years, people who study and practice politics have devoted considerable effort to thinking about the legitimacy of lotteries and whether they are just or not under certain circumstances. Yet they have really only focused on lotteries on a case-by-case basis, and no one has ever developed asubstantial and comprehensive political theory of lotteries. In The Luck of the Draw, Peter Stone does just that. Examining the wide range of arguments for and against lotteries, Stone comes to the startling conclusion that lotteries have only one crucial effect relevant to decision-making: theyhave the "sanitizing effect" of preventing decisions from being made on the basis of reasons. Stone readily admits that this rationale might sound absurd to us, but contends that in many instances it is vital for people to make decisions without any reasoned rationale to compel them. Sometimes,justice can only be carried out through random selection - a fundamental principle of the practice of lottery that Stone comes to call "The Just Lottery Rule." By developing innovative ways for interpreting this pervasive form of political practice, Stone provides us with a foundation forunderstanding how to best make use of lottery when making political decisions both large and small.

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A prominent scholar once noted that lotteries in politics and society - to break vote ties, assign students to schools, draft people into the military, select juries - are "at first thought absurd, and at second thought obvious." Lotteries have been part of politics since the Greek and Romantimes, and they are used frequently in Ameri...

Peter Stone is Faculty Fellow in the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs at Tulane University. He has been researching the theory and practice of random selection for over a decade, and his work on the subject has been published in such journals as the Journal of Political Philosophy, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Political Theory...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:April 18, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199756104

ISBN - 13:9780199756100

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Table of Contents

Part One: The Logic of Random Selection1. Why Lotteries?1. The School Board Tosses a Coin2. Lotteries, Lotteries Everywhere3. Absurd yet Obvious4. The Story So Far5. The Argument to Come2. What Do Lotteries Do?1. What Is a Lottery?2. Fundamental Features of Decision-Making3. Decision-Making by Lottery4. The Lottery Principle5. Indeterminacy without Lotteries6. Lotteries and DivinationPart Two: Lotteries and Justice3. Allocative Justice1. The Relationship between Lotteries and Justice2. The Just Lottery Rule3. Consent, Opportunities, Expectations4. Impartiality1. What Does Allocative Justice Require?2. Allocative Justice and Outcomes3. Allocative Justice and Actions4. Impartiality and Indeterminacy5. The Right and the Good5. The Implications of Impartiality1. The Nature of the Impartiality Principle2. Theories of Justice3. Alternatives to Random SelectionPart Three: Lotteries beyond Justice6. The Idea of Sortition1. Sortition in Practice2. Sortition and Justice3. Incentive Alignment4. Descriptive Representation5. Random Selection in Other Contexts7. Conclusion