Constitutional choice in ancient Athens: The rationality of selection to office by lot

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    Contrary to modern democracies ancient Athens appointed large numbers of government officers by lot. After describing the Athenian arrangements, the paper reviews the literature on the choice between election and lot focusing on representativeness of the population, distributive justice, minimization of conflicts, quality of appointees and administrative economy. It then examines why in drawing up the constitution a self-interested citizen may give up voting for government officials and appoint them by lot. It is shown that appointment by lot is preferred when the effort required to choose candidates is less than the benefit expected from their actions as government officials. It is also found that, given the choice, office motivated candidates may unanimously agree to selection by lot but not to election.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    JournalConstitutional Political Economy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Mar 2012


    • Constitutional choice
    • Ancient Athens
    • Appointment to office by lot
    • Election


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