Debates and Decisions

In any debate, the purpose of which is to take a collective decision, the decision-making process to be used at the end of those deliberations will determine the nature of that debate. If that process is dichotomous,  participants are likely to take sides and divide into two opposing camps; thus the atmosphere in debate is likely to become (perhaps bitterly) polarised. If however, the final decision-making process is non-majoritarian; if, in other words, the outcome is to be that option which gets the highest average preference (and an average, of course, involves every voter, not just a majority of them), then the debate may well take place in a more convivial atmosphere. This article first considers some of the disadvantages of majority voting before then describing a more inclusive measure of the collective will. The latter, it is suggested, will facilitate not only a more constructive milieu, but also a more accurate and therefore more democratic outcome. Accordingly, the article goes on to describe the nature and structure of a consensual debate.

Peter Emerson

Director, The De Borda Institute

Peter Emerson is Director of not-for-profit NGO the De Borda Institute. His latest publication Delining Democracy was published by Springer in 2012.