Context: 1+1>2

After reading Nielsen and Johnson’s articles, although they present some interesting points of view about collective efforts on making policy which echo with the idea of deliberate democracy, I think it’s still difficult for the massive population to reach consensus when facing public affairs, especially in countries where expressing unpopular opinions or dissents are not banned but welcome.

This perspective can be directly found in Nielsen’s blog post, as he writes:

Many of the crucial problems of governance have large communities of interest and it can be very difficult to get even two people to agree on tiny points of fact, much less values. As a result, we can’t simply open source policy documents in a location where they can be edited by millions of people.

As far as we know, participation is a matter of primary importance with respect to democracy. However, in my opinion, working on political issues together cannot be simply equal to studying out a scientific program. After all, no one can guarantee that the same collaboration will also “help the community aggregate all the best ideas into a fantastic final product”, which is illustrated in Nielsen’s article as an example of “an open source collaboration where problems like this don’t occur”. By searching relevant arguments via Google, I find that Hans Klaus has the same concern:

The most specific and valid critique of deliberative democracy is that deliberative democracy adds too much participation into the deliberation process, resulting in inefficient outcomes… Their collective decision-making processes of the deliberative democracy theory disregards the fact that the whole society cannot participate in the collective decision making process for practical reasons which will be deemed illegitimate from the individuals outside the process. Moreover, the quality of the discourse in the collective decision-making process varies tremendously which leads to a declining in legitimacy under deliberative democracy.

To date, the aforementioned idea seems too theoretical to be applied in real world. However, I admit collaboration on policy-making is a promising idea as this process represents a bright future with fairness and public autonomy. Joe Klein, a writer for the Time magazine, articulates this in the article:

“The public is very smart if you give it a chance,” says Fishkin, 62, who has been conducting experiments in what he calls “deliberative democracy” for nearly 20 years now. “If people think their voice actually matters, they’ll do the hard work, really study their briefing books, ask the experts smart questions and then make tough decisions. When they hear the experts disagreeing, they’re forced to think for themselves. About 70% change their minds in the process.”

Currently, given the fact that the public has already been much more engaged in public affairs, I think to certain extent, this higher level of involvement demonstrates a very good beginning of deliberative democracy. Daniel Little describes the advantage of deliberative democracy as follow:

A greater likelihood of a good decision (because citizens do a more adequate job of canvassing the facts and values that ought to guide the decision); a deeper understanding of the idea of rational deliberation about what to do; and, a greater likelihood of mutual understanding and consensus among citizens.

I think Daniel’s words reflect the commonplace book idea somehow, as both are leading to mutual understanding and new values, depending on individuals’ backgrounds respectively. Despite Johnson’s article doesn’t deal with the collective decision-making process directly, his words stress on the “connective power of the web” by offering the textual analysis as a whole.

When text is free to flow and combine, new forms of value are created, and the overall productivity of the system increases.

As a result, I think collective efforts on public affairs will be achieved in the future, but now, we still have a long way to go.


~ by luckymaggie on October 29, 2010.

6 Responses to “Context: 1+1>2”

  1. There is a clear distinction between Eastern and Western thinking with respect to how much public should engage in politics and what level of democracy a society should be given. Most people nowadays seem to admire Western democracy, considering it the ultimate or the ideal system for a country. But I believe problems will emerge if democracy goes to extremes, especially on political issues. After all, not all of us are “rational.”

  2. Comments for blog 9

  3. I agree with you that Nielson might be too optimistic when trying to bring the practice of Mathwork to the case of deliberate democracy directly. In my opinion, true consensus is almost impossible especially when more people are involved. Even for cases which a consensus seemed to be reached, it might not be real consensus since people who held a different opinion could give in due to group pressure. I remember reading a research about the dynamic of group discussion. It proved that people are more likely to form polarized opinions when they find out about the mainstream opinion. The excerpt from Joe Klein is interesting where he considers public to be smart. I think citizens are more likely to engage in public affairs in countries where they are considered ‘smart’.

  4. Links! Maggie, links! Why did you put in URLs that are not links we can click? This is the Web, after all. Clicking is what we do here.

    Well done, although I think the ending is a somewhat weak attempt to include Johnson. 🙂 Up until the end, it is quite persuasive.

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