Talking and Deciding
Public discussion gathers information from diverse individuals and publics. Yet to make a decision, that flow of information must be reduced. To decide is to sift, parse and select. Decision-making is a ‘bottleneck’ of collective information-processing, one that inevitably requires a loss of information.
Most collective decisions are made without adequate deliberation and are harried by voices that demand an end to talk. Decisions then ignore what little deliberation there was and immediately cut through its complexity with voting and majority decision rules. As a result, citizens are consulted without effect, made resentful and excluded. Certainly, to pass through the ‘bottleneck of making a decision’ requires procedural rules. Whether consensual, dissensual or a mixture of both, such rules must themselves be agreed upon, revisited and adjusted. There is no other source of legitimacy.
A time for deliberation – as much as can be afforded.
A time for decision-making.
Sometimes there is no time at all.
Before the emergency occurs, prearranged procedures for rapid information processing must be put in place, and again and again living and revisited. While a perfect democracy ‘takes too many meetings’, perfect authoritarianism has no meetings at all. Somewhere in between is a citizenry that deliberates when they can and decides when they must. If this requires leadership, it must be time-bound, rotated and afterwards, held to account.
Did the leader obey the people?
“Who among you has voice to give?”