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An Epistemic Theory of Democracy$
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Robert E. Goodin and Kai Spiekermann

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198823452

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198823452.001.0001

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Direct versus Representative Democracy

Direct versus Representative Democracy

(p.244) 16 Direct versus Representative Democracy
An Epistemic Theory of Democracy

Robert E. Goodin

Kai Spiekermann

Oxford University Press

On the face of it, direct democracy should outperform representative democracy based on the number of voters. If, however, the electorate is better at selecting representatives than policies (the Selection Effect) or if the deliberation feasible among representatives leads to epistemic gains (the Deliberation Effect), then representative democracy may be preferable. Another factor is whether representatives act as delegates or trustees. If the former, the epistemic loss from bunching voters into constituencies is minimal. If the latter, the much smaller number of voters may be compensated for by the ability to deliberate among trustees. A mix of delegates and trustees can possibly benefit from both Selection and Deliberation Effects.

Keywords:   direct democracy, representative democracy, Selection Effect, Deliberation Effect, delegates, trustees, constituencies

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