The Wisdom of Crowds

12: Democracy: Dreams of The Common Good

Deliberative democracy is a form of democracy in which deliberation is central to decision making. Deliberations are made among large groups and small groups and are an effective way to reengage people with civic life, give them a chance to voice their opinions in a meaningful forum, and learn about issues (Surowiecki 261). Deliberative democracy works through deliberative polling in which voters deliberate over issues the nation is facing and essentially govern themselves. Fishkin believes deliberative polling is a better reflection of what voters really think about national and state concerns and the lawmaking process.

Judge Richard Posner disagrees with Fishkin and deliberative polling. He believes that Americans are indifferent to cultural values, intellectual pursuits, and government matters. In his book he writes, “The United States is a tenaciously philistine society. Its citizens have little appetite for abstractions and little time and less inclination to devote substantial time to training themselves and less inclination to devote substantial time to training themselves to become informed and public-spirited voters.”

Is deliberative polling is beneficial and should it become common place in our society? I’m very gray on the matter. On one hand I believe that Americans are passionate about addressing the issues that they’re facing as citizens of the US, on the other hand I also believe that there are voters who are apathetic to the issues and would rather let an elected representative call the shots on the matters without taking their opinions into consideration.

Another form of democracy is representative democracy, in which people vote on a candidate and that elected politician represents the people and addresses the issues that they and the nation are facing. The Wisdom of Crowds was written when Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State, Colin Powell were still in office and Surowiecki argues that political elites such as them cannot see past their own ideology on state matters and will not take public interest into account.

In a representative democracy the elected officials are considered experts who will make informed decisions. The group of “experts” making these decisions is very small compared to the deliberation of the voters. Surowiecki believes that when you shrink the size of a decision-making body, you also shrink the likelihood that the final answer is right. Pg. 267 I agree with Surowiecki and believe that the majority rule of voters should decide lawmaking practices.

Surowiecki ends the chapter, saying that, “The decisions that democracies make may not demonstrate the wisdom of the crowd. The decision to make them democratically does” (Surowiecki 271). In my opinion this statement leads me to believe that Surowiecki is a proponent of deliberative democracy even though he feels it is unachievable because he thinks voters are not willing to devote their time and energy to deliberation.

Leave a Reply