Dictionary of Arguments

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Surowiecki I 330
Democracy/Politics/Deliberation/Communication/Fishkin/Surowiecki: In 2003, Fishkin organized a meeting of 343 people in Philadelphia who had been carefully selected to represent a cross-section of the American population. (1)
Fishkin invented the deliberative opinion poll based on the idea that political discussion should not be confined to specialists or members of the political class and that there is no need to do so. Since then, such initiatives have been carried out in hundreds of major cities around the world.
Surowiecki I 331
Given sufficient information and the opportunity to discuss matters with their peers, ordinary citizens are perfectly capable of understanding complicated situations and choosing between different points of view in a meaningful way.
Richard PosnerVsFishkin/PosnerVsAckerman: it is a false expectation that such discussion events could turn Americans into role models of reason and civic virtue.
The people of the United States form a "deeply philistine society". "Citizens have little taste in abstraction, little time and even less inclination to spend a considerable part of their free time educating themselves to be informed and responsible voters". And further: "It is much more difficult to get a solid idea of what is necessary for the whole society than to be aware of one's own interests". (2)
Democracy/Surowiecki: the dispute between Posner and Fishkin is about the question of what we mean by democracy at all: do we have a democracy, because it...
a) gives people a feeling of being involved in everything and being able to determine their own lives,...
Surowiecki I 332
...and that is why it contributes to political stability? Or
b) because citizens have the right to govern themselves, even if they use this right in a ridiculous way? Or
c) because democracy is an excellent instrument for making intelligent decisions and discovering the truth?

1. A similar idea is presented in: James Fishkin, Democracy and Deliberation (Yale University Press, New Haven 1952), as well as in: Fishkin, The Voice of the People – Public Opinion and Democracy (Yale University Press, New Haven 1996). The "National Issues Convention" attracted considerable national attention and a five-hour segment was broadcast live on PBS and C-SPAN. Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin outlined their idea of a day of political opinion-forming in "Deliberation Day", a treatise they presented at the conference "Deliberating About Deliberative Democracy" at the University of Texas (February 2000). See also Ackerman and Fishkin, Deliberation Day (Yale University Press, New Haven 2004).
2. Richard Posner, Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy (Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2003), S. 131 f., 164.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

PolFishk I
James S. Fishkin
Democracy and Deliberation: New Directions for Democratic Reform New Haven 1993

Surowi I
James Surowiecki
Die Weisheit der Vielen: Warum Gruppen klüger sind als Einzelne und wie wir das kollektive Wissen für unser wirtschaftliches, soziales und politisches Handeln nutzen können München 2005


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-05-19
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