Author

Tony DeRosa

Date of Award

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Leadership Studies

Abstract

This thesis addresses the role that deliberative democracy can play in local politics. Deliberative democracy is a theory that posits discourse among free and equal citizens as a route to better public policy outcomes, a more just society, the fostering of social capital, and the cultivation of civic virtues. While both liberals and civic republicans have endorsed the theory, it stands in direct contrast to the economic theory of democracy. This view equates citizens to consumers, whose private preferences are to be aggregated by the political system. Votes are the equivalent of capital in the market, according to the economic theory of democracy. For deliberative democrats, this overlooks the moral obligations citizens have to one another and the benefits that can come out of critical thinking on public policy issues. As many experiments have shown, once people have to defend their views in public, they often come to change their mind.

I argue that deliberative democracy will yield the best results at the local level. Forums held in cities and towns have the advantage of civic associations that can take a stake in deliberation and the simple fact that it is easier for people to come together. Moreover, deliberation can serve as a means for bringing diverse groups of people together to reaffirm their shared identity as members of a particular community. I also maintain that it is effective at developing civic virtues such as trust, respect, cooperation, and other forms of civic engagement. As people take a greater interest in public policy and those in their community, they are likely to become better citizens

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