Deliberation is an approach to politics in which citizens, not just experts or politicians, are deeply involved in community problem solving and public decision making. Working with trained facilitators who utilize a variety of deliberative techniques, citizens come together and consider relevant facts and values from multiple points of view; listen to one another in order to think critically about the various options before them and consider the underlying tensions and tough choices inherent to most public issues; and ultimately seek to come to some conclusion for action in the form of a reasoned public judgment.
Not politics as usual. Too often, in our political system bad communication is seemingly rewarded. Despite any good intentions, politicians and candidates often rely on arguments or attacks that simplify issues and exaggerate differences. Campaigns frame tough questions as if there are obvious choices (high taxes v. low taxes or good roads vs. bad roads), rather than the tough choices and value dilemmas inherent to public policy decisions (high taxes and good roads v. low taxes and bad roads). For democracy to thrive, decision-makers need to confront the complexity of issues and attempt to balance competing values, not distract from them. Such considerations are at the heart of deliberation.
The practice of deliberation is the cornerstone of democratic and community politics. Deliberation connects people, even those with conflicting interests, in a way that allows them to make decisions and act in regard to problems or challenging circumstances. Deliberation can also reveal new possibilities for action that individuals alone did not see before.
Deliberative democracy is also of particular interest to communication scholars. Indeed, the art of deliberation in many ways represents the traditional heart of a rhetorical education spanning back to the classical Greek and Roman societies. Far removed from the manipulative “non-contradictory” argumentation that typifies much contemporary political debate, an ideal rhetorical perspective seeks out opposing perspectives, understands the importance of factual information, considers the inherent value dilemmas in all public controversies, and relies on structured discussion and debate to help achieve the critical goal of reasoned judgment. Deliberation should also be differentiated from dialogue. While similar in the sense that both encourage greater understanding and respect between diverse groups, deliberation goes further by asking participants to focus on the often unpleasant costs and consequences of various options and ultimately come to a decision.
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." U.S. Constitution
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Declaration of Independence
“The qualifications for self-government are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training. Thomas Jefferson
"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
“Because the things human beings consider good are various and qualitatively distinct; because conflicts between such good things have no absolute, predetermined solution; and because to know what is best requires considering the views of others, we need to engage each other in the sort of exchange that will enable us to form sound personal and public judgments. This process of coming to a public judgment and choosing—together, as a public—is the essence of democratic politics.” Michael Briand, Practical Politics.
“Value hierarchies are, no doubt, more important to the structure of an argument than the actual values. Most values are indeed shared by a great number of audiences, and a particular audience is characterized less by which values it accepts than by the way it grades them. . . . . The reason why one feels obliged to order values in a hierarchy, regardless of the result, is that simultaneous pursuit of these values leads to incompatibilities, [and] obliges one to make choices." Chaim Perelman, The New Rhetoric
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill
“Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth—that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible.” Max Weber, in “Politics as a Vocation.”
"The real value of freedom of speech is not to the minority that wants to speak, but to the majority that does not want to listen" Thomas I. Emerson
“on every subject on which difference of opinion is possible, the truth depends on a balance to be struck between two sets of conflicting reasons. . . . until we know how it is shown, we do not understand the grounds of our opinion. But when we turn to subjects infinitely more complicated, to morals, religion, politics, social relations, and the business of life, three-fourths of the arguments for every disputed opinion consist in dispelling the appearances which favour some opinion different from it. The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary's case with as great, if not with still greater, intensity than even his own. What Cicero practised as the means of forensic success, requires to be imitated by all who study any subject in order to arrive at the truth. He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.” John S. Mill, On Liberty
This area will be used to list and explain individual terms and concepts relevant to deliberation. For now, we'll just piggyback on the great glossary at the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation website.