Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Deliberation Day" - Why not on the Web?

In the NYT Sunday Magazine today, I read about an idea called "Deliberation Day." Coined by Profs. James Fishkin of Stanford and Bruce Ackerman of Yale, Deliberation Day seeks to recreate - for a single day - the original direct democracy of the ancient Greeks. According to Fishkin and Ackerman, Deliberation Day would be a national holiday held a few weeks before election day in which voters in groups as large as 500 would congregate and, through concensus, "hash out issues together."

Sounds interesting in theory, though in reality it would probably be a chaotic and minimally-productive headache (that's democracy for you.) Nevertheless, it would remind the participants and anyone who learned of the event, of what democratic decision-making really is. For better or worse, the representative democracy that in practiced in the US and Europe is a bastardization of the original participative concept of democracy. We should always be asking ourselves, is our system really democratic? Do we even want it to be democratic? How can we strike a better balance between populism and pragmatism?

I think it would also be interesting to see Deliberation Days appear on the internet, people from different countries trying to reach concensus on a topic. (The number of participants would have to be smaller than 500, of course.) Why not have citizens from Israel and Palestine meet regularly online with the explicit goal of developing a workable solution to the crisis between their respective nations. It's a crazy idea, but nothing else has worked, so why not try digital direct democracy?

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I think this is a powerful hair of thought. Digital democracy could work. In the case of Middle East peace.

Hamro Nepal, Latest
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