Constitutional Debates

Above all, the Constitution attempts to create a deliberative democracy, that is, a system that combines accountability to the people with a measure of reflection and resason-giving.  In the last decades, many people have discussed the framers’ aspiration to deliberative democracy. Their goal has been to show that a well-functioning democraic system attempts to ensure not merely responsiveness to the people through elections but also an exchange of reasons in the public sphere. In a deliberative democracy, the exercise of public power must be justified by legitimate reasons – not merely by the will of some segment of society, and ineed not merelybythe will of the majority.

Cass R. Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent, p. 150

Diversity, openness, and dissent reveal actual and incipient problems. They improve society’s pool of information and make it more likely that serious issues will be addressed. I do not deny that great suffering can be found in democracies as elsewhere. There is no guarantee, from civil liberties alone, that such suffering will be minimized. One reason is unequal distributions of political power, which decrease the likelihood that important information will actually reach public officials and that such officials will have the proper incentive to respond to suffering. But at least it can be said that a society which permits dissent and does not impose conformity is in a far better position to be aware of, and to correct, serious social problems.

Cass R. Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent, p. 149