INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

Although I have written many things since 1971, when I invented the Citizens Jury process, I have not done good job of writing articles and books that attract public attention.   Much of this is the result of my focus on making the Citizens Jury process a useful tool in the real world of politics.  It was only in 2011 that Oregon adopted into law the Citizens Initiative Review.  But in part that is an excuse, since I was impatient and by the early 80s lost interest in doing the academic work needed to publish in peer-reviewed journals.  When I could not find a publisher for Towards A New Democracy (posted in Section 3 #3), I was not motivated to write another book until 2003.

If I had to pick three things posted on this website which I hope get read, I would pick the following:

  • How Should We Live Together (Section 1, #2). The most important use of Citizens Juries and other deliberative methods is to help humankind figure out a way of living together in peace and with respect.  I urge moral philosophers to stop speculating on the nature of the good, and to give up on arcane discussions of a postmodern variety, instead focusing on how to get everyday people to come together to seek ways of getting over fear and hate to live together in peace.
  • DEMOCRACY A Retrospective and Look Ahead (Section 2) This paper lays out how my ideas have evolved since publishing Healthy Democracy in 2003. Some of the ideas in this paper I am working on now.  For example, on page 5, I outline how to create an “informed policy dialogue”.  My work during 2015 is exploring how some version of this might be developed on the issue of pre-K education in Minnesota or Washington state.  I am working with the Jefferson Center on a feasibility study to learn if some kind of project might be possible.
  • Section 3 on new democratic systems. Here, the book Towards A New Democracy is something that is still important, even though some of the examples used in the book are dated.  But it discusses in detail how dysfunctional our democracy was back in the “good old days” of the 1970s and 80s and why we should start thinking about whole new democratic systems.  By 2007 I realized that it probably made more sense to figure out how a sophisticated group could come together to plan a new democratic system than for me to create one that I liked.  The proposed new democracy in the final section of Towards A New Democracy is a good example of what might be done, but should be seen only as an example.  Therefore I wrote “A New American Democracy”, but published it under a pseudonym so that it would not undercut the introduction of the Citizens Initiative Review in some western state.

The postings on this website regarding the background to the Citizens Jury process will likely have only a small audience.  But for those who are curious, it shows some of the steps I went through when inventing Citizens Juries.  So far as I know, the Citizens Jury process I invented in 1971 is based more on academic reflections than other democratic processes invented in the 20th century. Peter Dienel, who invented the “Planungszelle” (a process very similar to the Citizens Jury) three months before I did, based his invention mainly on his experience working at a retreat center that hosted many discussion groups. He certainly added his intellectual insights from sociology, but the main stimulus for the invention was practical experience. Jim Fishkin based his Deliberative Poll on the work of Granada TV in the early 1970s in Britain.  Like Dienel, he added many intellectual insights in writing up his ideas, based on his Ph.D.s in philosophy and political science, but the main stimulus came from the work of others.

My intention is to post relatively few of the things I have written. If these generate enough interest or I receive requests to post a specific essay, then other pieces will be added. The postings are divided into the three categories listed above. I also make reference to the few published articles (and one book) that I have written. Many thanks to David Schecter for motivating me to set this up and to Dawn Dettinger, Andrew Rockway and the rest of the staff at the Jefferson Center for their help in creating the website and posting the articles.