Altman: Strengthening Democratic Quality: Reactive Deliberation in the Context of Direct Democracy

A 2014 paper by David Altman, professor of political science at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, proposes using citizen juries as part of the intiative/referendum process in a way that goes beyond Citizen Initiative Review.

Strengthening Democratic Quality: Reactive Deliberation in the Context of Direct Democracy

David Altman

Kellogg Institute for International Studies – Working Paper Series #400

Abstract: Acknowledging that mechanisms of direct democracy can fall prey to narrow and egoistic interests (regardless of how legitimate they may be) and that legislatures do not always have the incentives to articulate responses to those narrow interests, I propose a hypothetical reform: any time a popular vote (i.e., initiative, referendum, or authorities’ referendum) is held, representative and direct institutions should be supplied with a stratified random sample of eligible voters convened to advance citizens’ counterproposals. This original institution—which does not exist even in the places where direct democracy is most developed—would discuss, deliberate, and offer an alternative or an improvement to a policy question that is to be decided in the near future; it would refine and enlarge public views on a contentious topic, providing meaningful political choices, and thus strengthening democratic quality. In arguing for this, my research takes insights from two real-world situations—Uruguay’s two 2009 initiatives for constitutional reform—in which citizens’ counterproposals could have played a crucial role in informing public views on a contentious topic and offered an alternative to both sides of the debate.

2 Responses

  1. David Altman has more recently (2018) published the book

    Table of Contents:
    1. Democratic innovations for representative governments
    Part I. Origins:
    2. Breaking through: the rebirth of direct democracy in the age of the national-state
    3. Catching on: waves of adoption of citizen-initiated mechanisms of direct democracy since World War I
    Part II. Nature:
    4. Status quo bias? Political change through direct democracy
    5. Left or right? Investigating potential ideological biases in contemporary direct democracy
    Part III. Reform:
    6. Why adopt direct democracy? Much more than a simple vote
    7. How can direct democracy be improved? Citizens’ commissions and citizens’ counterproposals
    8. Conclusions: a new democratic equilibrium


  2. The book of Altman is called: Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy

    Liked by 1 person

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