10 October, 2007

The War on Rhode Island

openDemocracy has also been running a number of article about deliberative democracy, partly in the context of more advanced opinion polling and partly as a way of actually making political decisions. Deliberative democracy is where you grab some people at random. With normal opinion polling you would just ask them a load of questions, often effectively generating instant opinions, but what you do with the deliberative approach is you make them read up on a load of issues and debate them among themselves and then you make them decide an outcome. I suppose the jury system is a bit like this. This kind of random choosing of people to make decisions was used in ancient Athens; as a classicist I am therefore all for it.

However, I only really bring the subject up to mention an vignette contained in an article by James Fishkin. He talks about how Rhode Island was the only one of the original members of the United States of America to have a referendum on the constitution. The electorate voted against, incensing the federalists who argued that a referendum (unlike an elected consitutional convention) could not produce a truly deliberated result. The governments of Connecticut and Massachusetts were so incensed that they threatened to invade , leading to Rhode Island convening a convention that opted to join the Union after all.

I wonder would it be possible to invade the United Kingdom, to oblige them to accept the EU Consitution and the Euro?

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