In public political deliberation, people will err and lie in accordance with definite patterns. Such discourse failure results from behavior that is both instrumentally and epistemically rational. The deliberative practices of a liberal democracy (let alone repressive or non-democratic societies) cannot be improved so as to overcome the tendency for rational citizens to believe and say things at odds with reliable propositions of social science. The theory has several corollaries. One is that much contemporary political philosophy can be seen as an unsuccessful attempt to vindicate, on symbolic and moral grounds, the forms that discourse failure take on in public political deliberation. Another is that deliberative practices cannot be rescued even on non-epistemic grounds, such as social peace, impartiality, participation, and equality. To alleviate discourse failure, this 2006 book proposes to reduce the scope of majoritarian politics and enlarge markets.
• Novel extension of rational-choice theory to political discourse • Widely varied readership: moral and political philosophers, philosophers of economics, political scientists, economists • Critique of theories of deliberative democracy from an unusual libertarian perspective
1. Introduction; 2. The epistemic argument for deliberation; 3. The rational choice framework; 4. The resilience of discourse failure; 5. Symbolism in political argument; 6. Discourse failure and political morality; 7. Non-epistemic defenses of deliberation; 8. Deliberation, consent, and majority rule; 9. Overcoming discourse failure: voluntary communities.