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New Book on Deliberative Democracy in America

Ethan Leib sent me the following details about his new book “Deliberative Democracy in America” today.

“We are taught in civics class that the Constitution provides for three basic branches of government, executive, judicial, and legislative. While the President and Congress as elected by popular vote are representative, can they really reflect accurately the will and sentiment of the populace? Or do money and power dominate everyday politics to the detriment of true self-governance? Is there a way to put “We the people” back into government? Ethan Leib thinks there is and offers this blueprint for a fourth branch of government as a way of giving the people a voice of their own.”

While drawing on the rich theoretical literature about deliberative democracy, Leib concentrates on designing an institutional scheme for embedding deliberation in the practice of American democratic government. At the heart of his scheme is a process for the adjudication of issues of public policy by assemblies of randomly selected citizens convened to debate and vote on the issues, resulting in the enactment of laws subject both to judicial review and to possible veto by the executive and legislative branches.

The “popular” branch would fulfill a purpose similar to the ballot initiative and referendum but would avoid the shortcomings associated with those forms of direct democracy. Leib takes special pains to show how this new branch would be integrated with the already existing governmental and political institutions of our society, including administrative agencies and political parties, and would thus complement rather than supplant them.

Deliberative Democracy in America was published by the Pennsylvania State University Press in March 2004 and is available at Amazon.com.

Ethan Leib can be contacted at Ethan_Leib@ca2.uscourts.gov.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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