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When Citizens DecideLessons from Citizen Assemblies on Electoral Reform$
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Patrick Fournier, Henk van der Kolk, R. Kenneth Carty, André Blais, and Jonathan Rose

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567843

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567843.001.0001

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Power to the People?

Power to the People?

(p.1) 1 Power to the People?
When Citizens Decide

Patrick Fournier

Henk van der Kolk

R. Kenneth Carty

André Blais

Jonathan Rose

Oxford University Press

Throughout human history, political thinkers, observers, and practitioners have debated the competence of citizens. Both ancient and modern philosophers have offered different perspectives on the capacity of ordinary people to make enlightened political decisions. This book proposes and follows an empirical approach to the issue. It looks as closely as possible at what ordinary citizens actually do when they are given the opportunity to make important political decisions. This opportunity was given to them in three unprecedented democratic experiments in British Columbia, the Netherlands, and Ontario. Instead of just voting, sanctioning, chastising, or being consulted, individual citizens were given the chance to spend a year developing a new political institution. This chapter shows how these three cases can help us to answer some core questions in the study of democratic politics. The issues addressed in this book are introduced and the data used are outlined.

Keywords:   citizen competence, empirical approach, democratic experiments, political institution

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