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God does not play dice, but people should: random selection in politics, science and society


  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Lasse Steiner


This paper discusses and proposes random selection as a component in decision-making in society. Random procedures have played a significant role in history, especially in classical Greece and the medieval city-states of Italy. We examine the important positive features of decisions by random Mechanisms. Random processes allow representativeness with respect to individuals and groups. They significantly reduce opportunities to influence political decisions by means of bribery and corruption and decrease the large expenses associated with today’s democratic election campaigns. Random mechanisms can be applied fruitfully to a wide range of fields, including politics, the judiciary, the economy, science and the cultural sector. However, it is important that random selection processes are embedded in appropriately designed institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno S. Frey & Lasse Steiner, 2014. "God does not play dice, but people should: random selection in politics, science and society," ECON - Working Papers 144, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:144

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David N. Laband & Robert D. Tollison, 2003. "Dry Holes in Economic Research," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(2), pages 161-173, May.
    2. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:104:y:2010:i:02:p:243-267_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Matthew Spiegel, 2012. "Reviewing Less--Progressing More," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(5), pages 1331-1338.
    5. Bruno Frey & Paolo Pamini & Lasse Steiner, 2013. "Explaining the World Heritage List: an empirical study," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 60(1), pages 1-19, March.
    6. William Niskanen, 2012. "Gordon Tullock’s contribution to bureaucracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(1), pages 97-101, July.
    7. Bruno S. Frey & Lasse Steiner, 2013. "World Heritage List," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Cultural Heritage, chapter 8, pages i-i Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. William H. Starbuck, 2005. "How Much Better Are the Most-Prestigious Journals? The Statistics of Academic Publication," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 16(2), pages 180-200, April.
    9. Michael D. Intriligator, 1973. "A Probabilistic Model of Social Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(4), pages 553-560.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:100:y:2006:i:02:p:147-163_06 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item


    Random selection; lot; democracy; representativeness; corruption;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General

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