Why Deliberative Democracy is (Still) Untenable

Public Affairs Quarterly 26 (3):199-220 (2012)
Abstract
A common objection to deliberative democracy is that available evidence on public ignorance makes it unlikely that social deliberation among the public is a process likely to yield accurate outputs. The present paper considers—and ultimately rejects—two responses to this objection. The first response is that the correct conclusion to draw from the evidence is simply that we must work harder to ensure that the deliberative process improves the deliberators’ epistemic situation. The main problem for this response is that there are non-deliberative alternatives—most prominently information markets—available that do a better job from an epistemic point of view than does social deliberation. So why keep bothering with deliberation? The second response attempts to answer this question by arguing that only socially deliberative practices can confer legitimacy on the resulting policies. In response to this, it is argued that information markets actually carry more promise than does social deliberation when it comes to offering the kinds of justifications that are relevant to legitimacy.
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