Limitations, or Dilemmas, to Direct

How do we mitigate these technological risks (chemical, radioactive, and biotechnological)? Those exposed to the risks are numerous and capable of mobilization to the extent that they “threaten the stability of the political-economic order, and thus place legitimation at issue” (p. 326).

The following direct democracy dilemma is the dilemma of technology and expertise. As governance issues are often directly affected by technology operated and most fully understood by experts in those fields, the public can often not compete with the strength of the experts voices in terms of knowledge, information, and expertise. Thus, the dilemma is that in fields affected by complex technologies, experts typically are over-represented while the public is greatly under-represented. The question is, then: how can citizens be included in decisions regarding complex technologies, “especially when there can be wide disagreements among the experts, and the costs of gaining the knowledge, information, and expertise to stay current in these debates can be prohibitive?” (pp. 326-327).

The next, second-to-last dilemma our authors give is the dilemma of time and crises. Humanity now faces an era of accelerating crises; it is often necessary for policymakers to make their decisions swiftly, and these decisions very often involve large numbers of people. In these cases, there simply isnt time for group consensus, and moreover, citizens themselves may not have the time to deal with every problem that an elected official does. How can this be dealt with?

The final dilemma is the dilemma of the common good. The common good is often not served best by direct participation. “Power to the people does not necessarily produce thoughtful deliberative power.” How can we make it so that direct participation motivates those that participate to think more seriously and fully about the issues?


Roberts, Nancy. (2004). “Public deliberation in an age of direct.

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