There are three plausible assumptions that are commonly made about democracy and that we should be loath to reject; they are axioms of democratic discussion. Yet those assumptions are inconsistent with one another, and constitute a riddle for democratic theory. This paper presents and motivates those assumptions and shows how standard approaches to democracy resolve the riddle in an unsatisfactory ad hoc
manner, restoring consistency by the blunt rejection of one or another axiom. The paper goes on to outline a different strategy of resolution, involving the reinterpretation rather than the rejection of an assumption, and it uses this to identify a novel way of conceptualizing democracy as a regime of deliberative regulation. Under this conception the assumptions become jointly consistent, while remaining individually plausible.