How do we use citizen deliberative councils strategically to empower public wisdom? What can we do to make such councils part of our usual political process? Here are a few ideas.
Citizen deliberative councils (CDCs) could and should play many roles to help us take into account what needs to be taken into account in our public decision making.
Two of the main obstacles to the effectiveness and wisdom of our democracy are (a) the time demands of responsible citizenship and (b) the side effects of power, especially corruption. These factors block our capacity to address our public issues well, and they frustrate efforts to elect better lawmakers.
For those seeking a healthier, wiser democracy, the question is no longer: Which is better: direct democracy or representative democracy? The more useful questions are: What are the gifts and limitations of both direct and representative democracy? What is the best role they could play together?
The public is not just a bunch of isolated disengaged individuals. It is the people in the sense of Lincoln’s memorable phrase “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” When I talk about public wisdom I mean that the public has latent wisdom that can be brought out and then spoken by its public voice — the voice of the people. People can and must empower their public wisdom to have real impact in the world.
How can we generate public
wisdom right at the grassroots, with people creating that capacity in their
communities whenever they want to? Can we get at least 80% of the quality of a
professionally organized face-to-face citizen deliberative council with far
less expense and effort — perhaps with smart use of the Internet?