Symposium: James S. Fishkin, Democracy When the People Are Thinking
Abstract Democracy When the People Are Thinking reveals how Deliberative Polls are today becoming embedded to various degrees in the policy processes of some democratic states. Some are legally required and even given close to decisional power at points in the democratic process. Here I warn that the more powerful Deliberative Polls and other minipublics based on “civic lotteries” become—the more they make important decisions instead of merely giving advice—the more they will come under attack from individuals and groups who benefit comparatively from traditional democratic processes. The more they come under attack, the more they will require both normative and perceived legitimacy. Robust legitimacy derives not only from appropriate delegation but from the design and the public presentation of the mini-publics themselves. A contingent analysis argues that the more embedded these institutions become in the state, the more important it will be first to ensure and then to publicize effectively the representativeness of the randomized assembly, the balanced and comprehensive nature of the materials and experts that the citizen deliberators consult, and the quality of the deliberation. Some practical suggestions follow.