How People Deliberate about Justice: Groups, Gender, and Decision Rules

  • Tali Mendelberg
  • Christopher Karpowitz

Abstract

In recent years, theorists, observers and policy makers have increasingly promoted citizen deliberation. Yet little is known about how people deliberate about matters of politics. In this paper we ask how people deliberate about distributive justice, and in particular, about a guaranteed minimum income to the poor. If the proponents of deliberation are correct, deliberation is likely to enhance distributive justice and will lead people to grant a decent minimum income to the poor. But what actually happens when people deliberate about distributive justice? We make use of experimental data matched with discussion transcripts. The data were gathered for a somewhat different purpose but can shed light on the question of what deliberation actually does when people use it to decide a matter of justice. We find that deliberation can work as expected, enhancing distributive justice — and creating a long list of other positive outcomes — but only under certain conditions. Those conditions are structured by the decision rule (majority rule or unanimous vote) and by gender composition. Rules and gender interact to shape the group’s social norms. When deliberation is not properly structured by rules and norms, it does not conform to the expectations of its proponents.

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Copyright information

© Tali Mendelberg and Christopher Karpowitz 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tali Mendelberg
  • Christopher Karpowitz

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