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The Luck of the Draw – The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Luck of the Draw: The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making

Peter Stone


From the earliest times, people have used lotteries to make decisions—by drawing straws, tossing coins, picking names out of hats, and so on. (This practice is sometimes known as sortition, or selection by lot.) They have placed citizens on juries, drafted men into armies, assigned students to schools, and selected lifeboat survivors to be eaten. Lotteries make a lot of sense in all these cases, and yet there is something absurd about them. They seem absurd because they do not make decisions based upon reasons. Indeed, they actively prevent reasons from being used. How can we resolve this para ... More

Keywords: lottery, random selection, sortition, reason, decision‐making, rationality, justice, allocation, democracy

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2011 Print ISBN-13: 9780199756100
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756100.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Peter Stone, author
Tulane University

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Part I The Logic of Random Selection

Part II Lotteries and Justice

Part III Lotteries Beyond Justice

End Matter