Deliberative Democracy: A Binding Methodology?
AbstractIn a democracy, decisions may be taken in a number of non-violent ways. Some are taken by everybody in referendums or, after an election, by the members of parliament; almost all of these ballots and elections of the general population, as well as decisions by elected representatives, are binding. Other, usually non-binding decisions, may be made by independent commissions or public enquiries, albeit sometimes subject to a government veto; while yet further decisions of government may be influenced by consultations, public opinion surveys, deliberative polls and focus groups. Given the ever-increasing sophistication with which some forms of deliberative democracy operate, it is time to ask whether they too should be legally binding if, that is, (a) the representative sample meets certain minimum criteria, and (b) the outcome, the social choice or ranking, has passed a pre-determined threshold of support. Accordingly, this article first examines the way a social choice or ranking can be identified; next, with frequent reference to instances from across the globe, it takes an overview of the more common means of public participation; and then, in regard to item (b) above, it advocates criteria by which the outcomes of some of these democratic instruments may be deemed to be binding.
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