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Between Experts and initiatives

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

Governance Salon featuring Michael Neblo, Ohio State University


Participatory democrats often criticize deliberative democracy as an inefficient, elitist, technocratic attempt to manipulate the public toward policies favored by elites. On the other hand, critics less sanguine about the capacities of the citizenry attack deliberative democrats as hopelessly naïve in thinking that “a few days of democracy camp” could hope to overcome the ubiquitous need for expertise and technical competence demanded by modern governance. I begin by sketching a middle way between technocracy and direct democracy that I term “deliberation as republican consultation.” I then report on a range of findings from a deliberative field experiment pairing twelve sitting members of the U.S. Congress with random samples of their constituents. Finally, I discuss those findings in light of the normative rationales behind direct democracy, republican consultation, and technocratic conceptions of governance.

Bedrosian Center