As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) I keep up with their many and various initiatives. Today I was invited to participate in a new group on Deliberation.
Deliberation turns out to be a fascinating field. It’s a process of thoughtfully weighing options, usually prior to voting. Deliberation emphasizes the use of logic and reason as opposed to power-struggle, creativity, or dialog. Group decisions are generally made after deliberation through a vote or consensus of those involved. (from a reliable source).
What does this mean, and why talk about “deliberation”? In today’s world, we face many significant and impending issues. One thinks of gun control, abortion, healthcare, global warming, Brexit, and many more. It’s generally true that in all cases that there will be one outcome, one solution, one path forward that will be imposed on the mass of people.
But who determines the path forward? Is it a large group of affected people, after deliberation – cooperatively using logic and reason to weigh options thoughtfully? Or is there a vote which tallies the wildly differing opinions of the voters and goes with the most popular one?
In the ongoing saga of Brexit, where it seems there will be only one path forward affecting all participants (In or Out), the referendum results were so close as to be statistically identical. Many people had their own opinion – not much by way of deliberation took place on a national level. There was a suggestion that the widely famous bus poster shown in this picture helped to sway many people. As it turns out, the advertisement was wildly misleading, as the EU returns to the UK an almost equivalent amount in goods and services.
Abortion is another example. It’s right to life, or right to choose, an impossible debate. Is there a correct answer? No, there isn’t – or we would have found it by now. The point is that often, on a particular issue and in a specific society there is a range of opinions, beliefs, and feelings, but only one path forward, and in that case a solution will not address the desires of a significant number of the population, even if it meets the needs of the largest individual group.
In conclusion, the area of “deliberation” addresses not only the methodology by which a large number of people can come to a reasoned consensus on an issue, but also concerns how a society can implement an outcome in the light of political, social and economic reality. There are many facets and ideas which I have not yet touched on, and as time goes by and our group continues to meet, I will report on other areas that we learn.