When Does Deliberating Improve Decisionmaking?

62 Pages Posted: 4 May 2006


The promise of deliberation in small-group settings is a key theme in the modern political theory of public decisionmaking. Scholars of various stripes have insisted that social welfare can be enhanced - indeed, considerably enhanced - by procedures that are discursive and deliberative. This hypothesis has seldom, however, been tested empirically. More often than not, the case for deliberation as a means for welfare-enhancement is defended on purely theoretical grounds. Frequently, the argument rests on exclusively normative assertions, such as the view that collections of individuals in should communicate candidly with one another in order to increase the information available within the group and to expand the feasible set of desirable policies. On other occasions, scholars advance the argument that deliberation will occur and will improve social welfare. These latter arguments, we show, rest on dubious empirical bases. Through experiments, we raise doubts about the empirical case for deliberation. And, in the end, we question whether any of the theories and results that support deliberation as an element in a fruitful decisionmaking process can be separated from "expertise" systems, systems more characteristic of the modern administrative state.

Keywords: deliberation, cemocratic decisionmaking, experimental

JEL Classification: C90, D72, D78, D81

Suggested Citation

McCubbins, Mathew D. and Rodriguez, Daniel B., When Does Deliberating Improve Decisionmaking?. Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, Vol. 15, 2006, San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-47, 1st Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=900258

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University (deceased)

Daniel B. Rodriguez (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics