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Numbers Rule by George Szpiro

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CHAPTER THREE

THE MYSTIC

In the Athenian Assembly the choices to be made were usually of the form yes/no, for/against, guilty/innocent. The decision-making process usually worked all right, because deciding between two options presented no special problems; a simple majority vote does the trick. And whenever an official had to be chosen from among more than two candidates, the selection was usually deferred to chance, or god, by drawing lots. With time it became apparent, however, that choices between more than two alternatives were inevitable, and electors were often hard put to agree on a winner. Reluctant to let the lot—or fortune, or god—decide on important issues, many institutions drew up their own rules as they went along. By and by, special ...

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