This is the first of four chapters on belief democracy, and discusses democratic bargaining in relation to beliefs. Disputes over beliefs sometimes get resolved through persuasion, but in the real world of democratic politics, more are resolved through negotiation; each person still believes the truth of the proposition they originally advocated, but each sees the need to ‘get on with it’, so all agree to treat certain propositions ‘as if true’, for the particular purposes at hand. The latter process is what is called here ‘bargaining over beliefs’, and the aim in this chapter is to show that that is a form of bargaining, on a par with any other, in ways that economists and democratic theorists inspired by them can and should take on board. Ordinarily, many different modes of bargaining are intertwined, and the presence of the more familiar forms (‘bargaining over distributions’ or ‘over values’) blinds us to the presence of less familiar ones (‘bargaining over beliefs’); in the different cases analysed in this chapter, in order to bracket out these confounding factors, the focus is on situations in which familiar forms of bargaining seem necessarily absent. Even there, however, it is shown that bargaining of a sort might still occur; moreover, the sort of ‘bargaining over beliefs’ identified in those atypical situations is not confined to them alone, since elements of it can also be perceived to be at work in more common sorts of social and political bargaining.
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