- Substantive: better policy results from a broader knowledge base, drawing on local skills and expertise to develop innovative solutions.
- Instrumental: increased popular support, trust in government, perceived legitimacy, and sense of ownership over policy.
- Normative: resulting policies really are more legitimate. The deliberative process upholds key democratic values, including civic respect, empowerment, autonomy, and popular sovereignty.
- Transformative: aside from these governmental advantages, meaningful democratic participation may also influence culture and create better citizens. Over the long term, it can promote civic engagement, develop citizen capacities, and boost civic awareness and commitment to democracy and community among the citizenry.
There are also significant challenges that face any attempt to achieve meaningful deliberation, including:
- Motivation: Self-selection is unrepresentative, given disparities in political engagement. Because people are not motivated to step forward, the State must do more to come to them – e.g. inviting randomly selected citizens to participate in a jury-like process.
- Close-mindedness: meaningful deliberation requires that participants be willing to revise their views upon learning of new reasons and evidence. Participants should show respect for one another’s perspectives, and pursue the common good in a spirit of open inquiry. Skilled moderators and well-designed deliberative institutions may help to promote and enforce these democratic norms.
- Culture of Competition: deliberative institutions must guard against adversarial forms of argumentation (rhetoric), which are all too familiar from other spheres of life. Special effort may be required to foster a more cooperative atmosphere.
- Groupthink/polarization: empirical research suggests that the risk here is greatest when groups are relatively homogeneous to begin with. Hence there is a need to include diverse views and encourage constructive criticism.
- Unequal abilities: political equality is undermined when some people are naturally more capable and confident of performing in deliberative contexts. Education should seek to alleviate such disparities in the very long term, but more immediate steps must be taken in the meantime, for those the education system has failed. At the very least, skilled moderators should take care to reign in dominant personalities during group discussions, and ensure that every participant has the opportunity to contribute meaningfully.
- Psychological biases / systematic human irrationality: the psychological literature reveals systematic biases in human thought, e.g. confirmation bias, the salience heuristic, etc., that could undermine rational deliberation. Again, the guidance of skilled and knowledgeable moderator/facilitators may help groups to guard against common fallacies.
Any other suggestions?