Ivy League Prof: Bad people get elected, so let's choose our leaders by lottery instead

A University of Pennsylvania professor said in an August 21 op-ed that the U.S. should switch to a lottery system for political offices.

The article, originally titled 'Elections are Bad for Democracy,' was changed to 'The Worst People Run for Office. It’s Time for a Better Way,' hours after publishing.

An Ivy League professor said in an Aug. 21 op-ed that the United States should do away with elections and switch to a lottery system.

Adam Grant, a Professor of both Management and Psychology at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, opined that elections favor people with “dark triad” personality traits and social privilege. He claimed a lottery system would select better leaders, and fix other concerns like election integrity. 

The piece was originally entitled “Elections are Bad for Democracy.” 

However, the title of the article changed 12 hours after it was published, to “The Worst People Run for Office. It’s Time for a Better Way.” 

”On the eve of the first debate of the 2024 presidential race, trust in government is rivaling historic lows,” Grant began. “Officials have been working hard to safeguard elections and assure citizens of their integrity. But if we want public office to have integrity, we might be better off eliminating elections altogether.”

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Professor Grant then proposed a lottery pool as the alternative selection method. Grant compared the potential lottery election to both ancient Athenian democracy and the NBA draft.

The professor declared that dispatching elections would have several advantages. It would help get rid of privilege in politics; it would give a fair shot to those “not tall enough or male enough to win”; it would also “open the door to people who aren’t connected or wealthy enough to run.”

Furthermore, the lottery system, or sortition, would increase confidence in elections. “[N]o voting also means no boundaries to gerrymander and no Electoral College to dispute,” he said. Instead of debating the accuracy of vote counts, the public could just watch their potential leader get chosen live through the lottery pool. 

Grant also suggested that citizens who want to become part of the lottery pool should pass a civics exam, like in ancient Athens. “We might wind up with leaders who understand the Constitution,” he quipped.

Grant also claimed that a lottery would instead improve the odds of avoiding the worst candidates. Grant explained that the most politically ambitious people exhibit “the dark triad of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.” In studies of elections, those candidates were more persuasive and did better in elections overall, he stated.

Grant said that this “dark triad” manifests itself chiefly in “autocrats” like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and former President of the Phillipines Rodrigo Duterte.

Grant said that eliminating voting would make it less likely for “dark triad” candidates to be elected by the public, even though it could deprive the American public of a leader with skills. He stated that this outcome is “a risk I’m willing to take.” 

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When asked if he would feel the same way if a Trump supporter was elected by the lottery and he responded, Grant told Campus Reform that he would feel no different in his views: “If you accept a system, you accept the result,” he said.