Archon Fung is Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship. His research examines the impacts of civic participation, public deliberation, and transparency upon public and private governance. Fung received two SBs and a PhD from MIT. [Biography courtesy of HKS]
Please tell me about the work you’ve done in the area of deliberative democracy.
I do work in public deliberation and deliberative democracy and citizen participation. [O]ne premise of that work…is that an appealing idea of democratic government is a government in which the laws and policies flow from deliberation and argument and reason among citizens.
People think of deliberative democracy as quite different from aggregative democracy, in which the laws and policies are products of just…“counting up heads”….The problem with aggregative conceptions of democracy is that they can oftentimes result in unjust policies or even unwise policies when [people’s] preferences…are either not well-informed, or maybe they’re unjust…
Recent experiments have actually put some of these notions of deliberate democracy into practice. Can you talk about some of those experiments?
[W]hen I began this work…I think it’s fair to say that in the academic world…a lot of people are already working on deliberation, but they were thinking about it as kind of an ideal of how societies ought to be. And one criticism is that these ideals and theories never quite touch the ground. And so what does deliberative practice look like, what does it look like when people actually deliberate, or policy-making is actually connected to deliberation…?