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

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

by Peter Stone


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From the earliest times, people have used lotteries to make decisions--by drawing straws, tossing coins, picking names out of hats, and so on. We use lotteries to place citizens on juries, draft men into armies, assign students to schools, and even on very rare occasions, select lifeboat survivors to be eaten. Lotteries make a great deal of sense in all of these cases, and yet there is something absurd about them. Largely, this is because lottery-based decisions are not based upon reasons. In fact, lotteries actively prevent reason from playing a role in decision making at all.

Over the years, people have devoted considerable effort to solving this paradox and thinking about the legitimacy of lotteries as a whole. However, these scholars have mainly focused on lotteries on a case-by-case basis, not as a part of a comprehensive political theory of lotteries. In The Luck of the Draw, Peter Stone surveys the variety of arguments proffered for and against lotteries and argues that they only have one true effect relevant to decision making: the "sanitizing effect" of preventing decisions from being made on the basis of reasons. While this rationale might sound strange to us, Stone contends that in many instances, it is vital that decisions be made without the use of reasons. By developing innovative principles for the use of lottery-based decision making, Stone lays a foundation for understanding when it is--and when it is not--appropriate to draw lots when making political decisions both large and small.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199756100
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 04/15/2011
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Peter Stone is Ussher Lecturer in Political Science at Trinity College Dublin. Before that he was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Faculty Fellow at Tulane University's Center for Ethics and Public Affairs. 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, and Social Theory and Practice. He also works on broader issues relating to justice, democracy, and rationality.

Table of Contents

Part One: The Logic of Random Selection
Chapter 1: Why Lotteries?
1. The School Board Tosses a Coin
2. Lotteries, Lotteries Everywhere .
3. Absurd yet Obvious
4. The Story So Far
5. The Argument to Come
Chapter 2: What Do Lotteries Do?
1. What Is a Lottery?
2. Fundamental Features of Decision-Making
3. Decision-Making by Lottery
4. The Lottery Principle
5. Indeterminacy without Lotteries
6. Lotteries and Divination
Part Two: Lotteries and Justice
Chapter 3: Allocative Justice
1. The Relationship between Lotteries and Justice
2. The Just Lottery Rule
3. Consent, Opportunities, Expectations
Chapter 4: Impartiality
1. What Does Allocative Justice Require?
2. Allocative Justice and Outcomes
3. Allocative Justice and Actions
4. Impartiality and Indeterminacy
5. The Right and the Good
Chapter 5: The Implications of Impartiality
1. The Nature of the Impartiality Principle
2. Theories of Justice
3. Alternatives to Random Selection
Part Three: Lotteries beyond Justice
Chapter 6: The Idea of Sortition
1. Sortition in Practice
2. Sortition and Justice
3. Incentive Alignment
4. Descriptive Representation
5. Random Selection in Other Contexts
Chapter 7: Conclusion

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