US proposed replacing presidential election with lottery: scientists say it could work

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
Winners of such a lottery may be more efficient than winners of the standard system

It would probably be better for the United States of America if all the power in the country were chosen by blind lottery rather than by popular election. This may sound naive, anti-democratic and even counterproductive, but numerous studies have proven that leaders chosen in this way can be even more effective than those who win by the standard system.

An organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Adam Grant wrote about this in an article in The New York Times. He cites a study by Australian psychologist Alexander Haslam.

"We are already using a version of the lottery for jury selection in the US. What if we did the same with mayors, governors, legislators, judges and even presidents?" Grant asks.

Citing Haslam's research, he notes that experiments suggest that better decisions are made when a group leader is chosen by lottery rather than by their leadership skills or peers.

Research has shown that systematically elected leaders can "frustrate group goals" and engage in asserting "personal superiority" as politicians or officials who are voted for by a certain group of people begin to feel a certain giddiness, their own "chosenness" and superiority.

Grant notes that the election of leaders by lottery has a historical precedent in ancient Greece, which is the birthplace of democracy. Many officials were chosen by a random lottery among a pool of candidates in Athens in particular.

He states that those who were chosen at random usually did not feel enough power to succumb to it. At the same time, they had a heightened sense of responsibility.

"I haven't done anything to deserve it, so I have to make sure I represent the group well," the psychologist explains people's opinions.

Grant claims to have proposed the idea to members of the U.S. Congress, but they are concerned about how to ensure that the winners of such a lottery are competent enough to run the government.

The psychologist explains that in Athens this was ensured by requiring candidates to pass a test "on their ability to exercise public rights and duties," and perhaps the same could be true in America. It can be a citizenship test that would result in the country getting leaders who "understand the Constitution."

"A lottery would also improve our chances of avoiding the worst candidates. That's because the people most drawn to power are usually the least fit to wield it," Grant noted.

He believes such a lottery would give a fair chance to people "not tall or manly enough to win."

"It would also open the door to people who don't have enough connections or wealth to run for office. Our flawed campaign finance system allows the rich and powerful to buy their way into the race, keeping people without money or influence off the ballot," the scholar notes.

Grant points out that studies show that "people who grew up in low-income families are often more effective leaders that are less likely to cheat. They are also less likely to be narcissistic and have a sense of entitlement."

Switching to a lottery would also save a lot of money, as the 2020 election, for example, cost more than $14 billion.

"IF there is no campaign, there will be no special interests offering to help pay for it. Finally, no ballot also means no boundaries for gerrymandering and no Electoral College to argue with. Instead of questioning the accuracy of counting millions of ballots, we can watch the lottery live," Grant summarized.

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