This paper tries to use the theories of social choice as a light source in order to read in transparency the critical points of the deliberative experiments. The purpose is to reserve to them the same kind of treatment the public choice reserve to the institutions of representative democracy. This approach is based on the fact that deliberative theories do not remain in the empyrean of mere speculations. In their name every day tens of forums are set up that claim their ability to interpret "the choices of the people", "the will of the citizens". From the social choice perspective, two dimensions seem particularly important in order to construct an analytical typology of the various deliberative practices: the weight of the externalities and the degree of spontaneity of participation. The paper continues analyzing the great merits and the great limits of the partisan mutual adjustment that characterizes decisions in the "policy networks". The fact that these pillars of pluralistic democracy are exposed to the risks of manipulation and intervention of "high demanders" does not mean that the institutions of deliberative democracy are immune from other perverse logics. The final part considers the various theories developed in the last few decades to give more satisfactory contents to the idea of democracy; and concludes that it is just their imperfection that provides the best guarantees to the "general will".