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How Can a Democracy Solve Tough Problems?

This September 2, 2010 article by Joe Klein on the Time Magazine website compares Jim Fishkin’s Deliberative Polling process with the kleroterion process used in ancient Athens (a citizen decision-making process that used random selection), and suggests that rather than appointing a “blue-ribbon” commission to study the federal deficit, Obama ought to have initiated a deliberative democracy program using Deliberative Polling. View it here.

Klein writes, “Let his 18 commissioners — who range from a conservative budget wonk like Congressman Paul Ryan to former Service Employees union leader Andy Stern — prepare a briefing paper for 500 Americans selected by Fishkin’s team and then make themselves available for close questioning. Let them lay out the most vexing budget choices we face. Let the whole process be televised. It doesn’t have to be binding. I’ll bet the kleroterion would produce results bolder and more credible than anything Obama’s commission will recommend.”

The article posits deliberative democracy is most effective during difficult times…

“It works best when you have hard choices,” Fishkin says. “Despite what you see and read, this is not a nation of extremists. What you see on TV, and in most polling, is an impersonation of public opinion. The actual public isn’t really like that, especially when it is given something more than sound bites and distorted political messaging. If you give people real choices and real consequences, they will make real decisions.”

View the article (and the range of viewer comments it inspired) at http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2015481,00.html.

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