Political Science

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What are Fishkin's three essential conditions for a fully realized democratic society?

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James Fishkin is a believer in what he calls "deliberative democracy."  This is a concept which argues that true democracy can only exist when citizens think clearly about their choices before voting.  Fishkin argues that there must be three conditions in order to have a truly democratic society.  These are:

  • Political equality.  This means that everyone's vote ought to count equally, but it also means that everyone's voice should have an equal chance to be heard. If some people have an advantage over others in getting their voices heard via the media, for example, this condition is not met.
  • Nontyranny.  Fishkin is talking particularly about the tyranny of the majority here.  He argues that no society can be democratic if the majority is allowed to treat minorities (racial, ethnic, political) in ways that infringe on their rights.
  • Deliberation.  This is the point where Fishkin is most novel in his thinking.  He says that people should not simply get to vote.  He says, instead, that they need to have the time and the inclination to truly think about the choices before them before they choose.

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