Psychology professor suggests replacing US presidential election with lottery


A psychology professor suggests replacing the US presidential election with a lottery.


Introduction: The US electoral system has faced growing criticism recently, most notably exemplified by the controversy surrounding Joe Biden’s presidency. In response to this discontent, Adam Grant, a psychologist at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, has proposed an unconventional idea that challenges the traditional election procedure – the introduction of lotteries as an alternative method of selecting officials, from mayors to presidents. Drawing inspiration from the jury selection process, Grant questions why a similar approach couldn’t be applied to broader political appointments, citing research highlighting the potential benefits of such a radical shift.

The Influence of Jury Selection: The comparison with jury selection is central to Grant’s proposal. Just as juries are chosen through a lottery-like process to ensure impartiality and representativeness, he suggests applying a similar mechanism to political appointments. According to Grant, this approach could mitigate the biases, influence, and shortcomings that have increasingly marred traditional elections. The core argument rests on the idea that just as juries collectively ensure fair judgments, a randomly selected leader might better serve the interests of the broader public.

The Role of Psychology and Leadership: Grant augments his argument by referencing research conducted by his colleague Alexander Haslam. Haslam’s findings suggest that a leader chosen via lottery could foster a leadership style unburdened by ego and self-perceived infallibility. This counteracts the idea that leaders who ascend to power through traditional elections might eventually succumb to feelings of exceptionalism, creating a disconnect between the leader and the public.

Historical Precedents and Contemporary Realities: Grant highlights historical instances, such as ancient Athens, where lottery-based selections were employed for political appointments. However, he acknowledges the implausibility of implementing such a radical idea in the current American political landscape. The influence of vested interests, capital, and established power structures is far-reaching, often shaping the trajectory of electoral outcomes. While intriguing, the notion of “lottery” elections faces a significant challenge in reconciling the prevailing dynamics of modern politics.

Conclusion: Adam Grant’s proposal to introduce “lottery” elections as an antidote to the perceived flaws of traditional political appointments challenges the norms of democracy. Drawing parallels with jury selection and citing psychological research, Grant presents a thought-provoking alternative that aims to prioritize impartiality and prevent the erosion of leadership humility. However, the practical implementation of such a proposal faces substantial barriers, particularly in a political landscape heavily influenced by established interests. As societies grapple with the complexities of democratic governance, exploring alternative models might offer insights into recalibrating the balance between power, representation, and the public interest.

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