Friday, 2 January 2004

Deliberating deliberation

From Legal Affairs: Lily Malcolm thinks Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin’s latest idea, called Deliberation Day, “is a really stupid idea the likes of which only someone like Bruce Ackerman could dream up.” Political scientist Arthur “Skip” Lupia isn’t buying, and neither is Richard Posner.

Fishkin has been trying to sell this concept for the best part of a decade, starting with his work on promoting something he calls The Deliberative Poll™ (yes, the trademark is his). It’s attracted a lot of positive attention from certain goo-goo political scientists who’ve made a career out of spending a lot of their time fretting about the lack of civic competence of the public—and, in many scholars’ minds, this lack leads to all sorts of calumnious outcomes, not the least of which is the election of Republicans. The underlying theme of their work is summed up rather nicely by Posner:

I think that what motivates many deliberative democrats is not a love of democracy or a faith in the people, but a desire to change specific political outcomes, which they believe they could do through argument, if only anyone could be persuaded to listen, because they are masters of argumentation.

Anyway, for a window into my little corner of the political science universe, go read all three pieces.