Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens' Assembly

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Mark E. Warren, Hilary Pearse
Cambridge University Press, Feb 7, 2008 - Political Science
Is it possible to advance democracy by empowering ordinary citizens to make key decisions about the design of political institutions and policies? In 2004, the government of British Columbia embarked on a bold democratic experiment: it created an assembly of 160 near-randomly selected citizens to assess and redesign the province's electoral system. The British Columbia Citizens' Assembly represents the first time a citizen body has had the power to reform fundamental political institutions. It was an innovative gamble that has been replicated elsewhere in Canada and in the Netherlands, and is gaining increasing attention in Europe as a democratic alternative for constitution-making and constitutional reform. In the USA, advocates view citizens' assemblies as a means for reforming referendum processes. This book investigates the citizens' assembly in British Columbia to test and refine key propositions of democratic theory and practice.

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democratic renewal and deliberative democracy
Who should govern who governs? The role of citizens in reforming the electoral system
Citizen representatives
Institutional design and citizen deliberation
expert influence and citizen autonomy in the British Columbia Citizens Assembly
Descriptive representation in the British Columbia Citizens Assembly
Do citizens assemblies make reasoned choices?
Communicative rationality in the Citizens Assembly and referendum processes
the British Columbia Citizens Assembly as agenda setter
the Citizens Assembly model

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Page 162 - Fishkin [6] states: a major part of the problem of democratic reform is how to promote mass deliberation - how to bring people into the process under conditions where they can be engaged to think seriously and fully about public issues, (p.41...
Page 216 - Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, Making Every Vote Count. The Case for Electoral Reform in British Columbia, Final Report (Vancouver, December 2004), is a short brochure outlining the assembly's work and conclusions.
Page 116 - In a general sense, we are very much aware that politically significant characteristics vary with time and place, and that the doctrines about them vary as well.
Page 215 - Todd Donovan, and Jeffrey A. Karp 1999. "Proportional representation and attitudes about politics: results from New Zealand." Electoral Studies 18: 533-55. Banducci, Susan A. and Jeffrey A. Karp 1999. "Perceptions of fairness and support for proportional representation.
Page 12 - Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform?
Page 214 - Influence of physician payment methods on the efficiency of the health care system. Commission on the future of health care in Canada, Discussion Paper n. 35.
Page 54 - contemporary democracies do not suffer from a surfeit of interest articulation, but from a lack of institutions and processes that can aggregate and balance divergent interests into a coherent policy program that participants can accept
Page 41 - ... counted, unless respectful reasons justify unequal treatment. The reasons are respectful if they could be mutually accepted by free and equal citizens, and thus only if they affirm, or at least do not deny, the equal civic standing of citizens. For example, inequalities that result from geographic variation are acceptable to the extent that they do not create or reinforce other unjustifiable social inequalities.
Page 150 - Lee (1992: 409) argues that the universalism of the presuppositions of validity claims means that "the basic framework is extendable from the initial idealization of isolated speech events to sequences of speech acts, texts, and conversations.
Page 191 - we would probably solve most of our big national problems if decisions could be brought back to the people at the grass roots...

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About the author (2008)

Mark E. Warren holds the Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair for the Study of Democracy and is Academic Director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia.

Hilary Pearse is a Ph.D. candidate and Commonwealth Scholar in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.

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