Research themes

Short-termism in decision-making

The prerequisite for long-term decision-making is our ability to perceive and identify, in addition to our own future interests, the perspectives of future generations. In some situations, we must be able to make sacrifices to ensure the wellbeing of these future generations. Political decision-making should, in principle, strive for solutions that can best withstand the test of time. Constitutional laws define the structures and powers of political institutions for decades at a time. Other decisions – such as public budgets, energy and climate policies, and final disposal sites for nuclear waste – require careful consideration due to their far-reaching nature. These decisions do not concern just current generations, but future generations as well.

The PALO project assesses the issues related to short-termism in decision-making from multiple perspectives. From a philosophical standpoint, the project focuses on the ethical problems involved in short-termism and how these problems could be addressed. From the perspective of behavioural science, the project analyses the individual and group psychological factors leading to short-term decision-making and how these propensities could be avoided. Social science research methods help us assess how different institutions and practices of public decision-making of citizen participation affect policy-makers’ time horizons. For example, we aim to survey the views on long-term decision-making among current policy-makers at various levels of governance. We will also make recommendations on how decision-making institutions and practices could be developed so that the influence of short-termism could be decreased.

Deliberative citizen participation

As a solution to the problem of short-termism, the PALO project aims to develop practices for deliberative citizen participation that better take long-term effects and future generations into account.

Studies on deliberative citizen forums have shown that facilitated group discussion between individuals with different views helps widen their political understanding. In addition, social psychological studies have demonstrated that requiring people to give justifications and providing them feedback are effective methods for correcting the distortions in a person’s train of thought. The principles of democratic deliberation are realised in some representative democratic institutions, such as the parliamentary committees. However, the benefits derived from this type of deliberation are usually greater when the participants are citizens who do not represent any specific group, such as a constituency or interest group.

The use of mechanisms of deliberation, i.e. discussion based on the merits of arguments, could represent a democratically justified method for strengthening the long-term nature of decision-making. The PALO project assesses how deliberative citizen participation could be used to promote future interests and how it could be fitted into current democratic practices.

Future sensitive democracy

The goal of the PALO project is to strengthen the role of democracy in Finland. Our vision is a future sensitive democracy, where the practices of citizen participation are more effective and the public decision-making process support long-term decision-making.

We want to renew decision-making practices within our current representative democratic system, but we also want to develop innovative practices of citizen participation that could be used in as many contexts as possible, for example in conjunction of elections and referendums and in resolving conflicts of land use planning. Our goal is to ensure that our practices and recommendations can have an impact on future democratic participation and decision-making practices in Finland and elsewhere.