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Choices without reasons: citizens' juries and policy evaluation


Citizens' juries are commended as a new technique for democratising health service reviews. Their usefulness is said to derive from a reliance on citizens' rational deliberation rather than on the immediate preferences of the consumer. The author questions the assertion of critical detachment and asks whether juries do in fact employ reason as a means of resolving fundamental disagreements about service provision. He shows that juries promote not so much a critically detached point of view as a particular evaluative framework suited to the bureaucratic idiom of social welfare maximisation. Reports of jury practice reveal a tendency among juries to suppress by non-rational means the everyday moral language of health care evaluation and substitute for it a system of thought in which it can be deemed permissible to deny treatment to sick people. The author concludes that juries are chiefly concerned with non-rational persuasion and because of this they are morally and democratically irrelevant. Juries are no substitute for voting when it comes to protecting the public from zealous minorities.

  • Citizens' juries
  • deliberative democray
  • health care rationing
  • public consultation
  • social welfare
  • public choice

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