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: Suggested Citation