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Deliberative Democracy
Monday, February 13, 2006

I thought that my idea of Statistical Democracy was the result of one of my rambling fits, but I found out that the whole concept may not be so crazy after all.

A couple of days ago, I bought the book The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki, and encountered in the last chapter (Ch 12) that the idea that I proposed in Statistical Democracy has been studied and somewhat implemented by political scientist James Fishkin.

Surowiecki writes (page 260):
    Deliberation Day, which Fishkin and Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman proposed, would be a new national holiday on which, two week before major national elections, registered voters would gather in their neighborhoods, in small groups of fifteen and large groups of five hundred, to discuss the major issues at stated in the campaign.
The concept of Deliberation Day is eerily similar to my Statistical Democracy. They are both based on the effectiveness of information and the fact that our democracies are a function of "crowd wisdom," which is the whole premise of the book.

The Wisdom of Crowds is an interesting read, on all accounts, specially if you are interested in the functioning of the stock market. The book is an easy read and it should not be taken as a deep study of Statistics or the mechanics of free market economies. However, the main points are well explained and explored. To clumsily summarize the book: groups of independent individuals will generate better solutions to complex problems than expert individuals in certain conditions.

Wikipedia has a more in depth review of the book and summarizes the requirements for crowds to achieve wisdom as follows:
    Diversity of opinion: Each person should have private information even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.

    Independence: People's opinions aren't determined by the opinions of those around them.

    Decentralization: People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.

    Aggregation: Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.
If you get a chance to read the book (or have read the book), you will find this entry to border on the thin line of irony. To be more specific: if you buy the book because of my site, you will be following the crowd doing what the crowds does best--follow--thus, proving Surowiecki's hypothesis.

12:24 AM | 0 comment(s) |


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