Saturday, April 03, 2004
Even more deliberation day
Lupia is writing in Legal Affairs (the same issue that has articles by Posner and A&F).
Lupia argues: (1) The goal of Deliberation Day is to increase civic competence; (2) what we know about cognition gives us no reason to expect that Deliberation Day would accomplish this goal; Hence, (3) Deliberation day fails on its own terms.
For the most part, Lupia focuses on 2. He doesn't give an argument which establishes his point definitively, but proceeds in three steps. First, he goes through some empirical research which seems to indicate that the procedures of Deliberation Day could have consequences other than those predicted by A&F. Second, he points out the limitations of the empirical research A&F conducted in support of their proposal. Lastly, he asks why A&F would be inclined to expect deliberation to have the expected results.
Here is part of what Lupia has to say about the third point:
Deliberation advocates who insist that citizens learn a specific set of facts or engage in a particular set of practices may not really understand how these actions affect the target audience. In many cases, advocates presume that the practices they prefer are better for others. In other words, elitism fills the void left by advocates' inattention to basic facts about how people think. The result is that advocates who are overconfident in their ability to change human beliefs and behavior end up imposing on others values and programs that favor elite worldviews yet make the target audience worse off and that fail to improve civic competence. Outcomes like these are tragic, wasting resources that could have been used for activities that would more accurately diagnose and remedy problems caused by a lack of civic competence.This is a sophisticated version of the elitism argument. It says, basically, that elites make a serious mistake when they assume that the method which they employ to obtain civic competence, deliberation, also works for most other citizens. What interests me is that this way of looking at things understands deliberation (and for that matter, civic competence) as having only instrumental value. This marks, I think, a fundamental divide in the way deliberative democracy is understood in Political Science as opposed to Philosophy departments. (I'm not entirely sure where A&F fall on this point) And what this suggests is that the problem with Lupia's argument, if there is one, is in the first premise rather than the second.
What is meant by civic competence? Lupia writes:
By civic competence, I mean a citizen's ability to accomplish well-defined tasks in her role as voter, juror, or legislator. If deliberation is to increase civic competence, it must cause people to think about politics in very specific ways; not just any change will do. Suppose that we can define a competent vote as the one that a person would cast if she knew where a specific set of candidates stood with respect to a well-defined list of major policy debates. For deliberation to increase her competence, she must not be voting competently initially. Deliberating must cause her to do so. If knowing a candidate's political party leads her to draw the correct conclusion about which candidate takes the positions she prefers, then deliberation cannot increase the competence of her vote.On this account, an entirely disengaged citizen who would, if fully engaged, vote Republican has full competence if she knows this fact and so, votes Republican.
Now if this is what democracy were about then voting doesn't make very much sense. Instead, we should develop sophisticated polling devices and manage affairs accordingly.
I think it's pretty clear that this isn't what A&F have in mind. They think, I believe, that political participation is good for its own sake. It's not clear whether this is because it is, somehow, supposed to complete the individual (a la civic republicanism) or because the exercise of state power is only justifiable if that exercise is, in some sense, the expression of a collective will, or for some other reason.
So the point of their proposal is, at least in part, to make political participation individually rational. Lupia's version of civic competence isn't irrelevant to this, but it isn't the whole story. On A&F's view, as I understand it, competence and participation aren't fully seperable.