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In this article we argue for an empirical governance approach—the use of public evaluations—as one basis for deciding whether and how to regulate decisions with public consequences. We propose a conceptual framework for evaluating public acceptability, notably that public judgments should be evaluated against five criteria: overall acceptability ex ante; robustness; consensus; procedurality; and their ranking on nonfairness issues such as cost and convenience. In the article we also move beyond theory to implementation by modeling our framework to evaluate public judgments concerning acceptability in the contentious area of land-use decisions in Florida.

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