Direct democracy in Swiss municipalities; Zurich

When I tell people how direct democracy will give them direct authority on how their city is administered, they like the idea.

They like to have the power to stop politicians if they spend the money of their taxes in ways they dislike.

The problem arises in the details; when we try to expand representative democracy to direct democracy.

Sometimes the problem is the people themselves. They have not known direct democracy and this scares many.

We are referring to people in stable representative democracies. I am thinking of places such as the English-speaking World, Northern Europe, Japan and a few others. When things are going well, why change?

When a representative democracy is not stable, direct democracy is unlikely to work. In non-democracies the possibility is even more remote.

Polls show that people in stable representative democracies often do not feel represented; this is a problem that endangers democracy.

If you would like to be in control, even with the same elected representatives, direct democracy is the best way to achieve that.

One could say direct democracy is: “control of politicians by the people, for the people”.

Representative politicians sometimes sense voters feel alienated. When this happens they do things to get citizens more involved. For example, they give citizens the opportunity to provide input to the budget, etc. This is not direct democracy.

Direct democracy is not about consulting or listening to the people, it is about the people becoming the direct bosses of the politicians.

Why many representative politicians are not eager for direct democracy?

They have a lot more power than direct democracy politicians; therefore it is logical they will think representative democracy is best.

Representative politicians are not devious people; most of them honestly believe representative democracy is the best democracy.

But ordinary people, politicians and academics, may also say: “I fear direct democracy because I fear the tyranny of the majority”. People who say this do not believe in democracy, or can not appreciate the true meaning of democracy. In democracy we trust the people, there is no other way.

Anyhow, if the majority decides to become a tyranny they can do so in representative democracy too; all they have to do is elect a dictator; remember Hitler, Chaves in Venezuela, etc.

If we trust that citizens are democrats we should have no issue with direct democracy. I agree that in many countries, sadly, the people can not be trusted to make any form of democracy to work, but that is not the case in stable democracies.

In stable democracies, unless a catastrophic crisis drives the majority to desperation, and even then, the majority will choose the middle way. They do so decade after decade, sometimes century after century! How can we think such people will become a tyranny! it makes no sense. The majority in those countries have proven their intelligence, their common sense, decade after decade.

Words are useful but the best way to prove direct democracy works is to know direct democracies that are working.

I will now tell you about Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland. Zurich has a population of 400 000.

Zurich has a representative local parliament of 125 seats and a local executive with 9 seats.

Zurich has four direct democracy tools; mandatory referendum, optional referendum, popular initiative and personal initiative.

The mandatory referendum is for changes to Zurich laws or for any large government expense.

Because the Swiss pay a lot of their taxes locally, they are quite interested in having a say, and a veto. They use referendums to control  significant expenses.

In Zurich any one time expense of more than 10 million Swiss Francs, about 10 million USD, has to be approved by citizens in a referendum.

Citizens also have to approve any established yearly expense of over 600 000 Swiss Francs.

Zurich’s budget is 8,753 billion Swiss francs. As you can see; the citizens of Zurich keep a very close eye on their money. They watch the “pennies”.

The other referendum, the optional referendum, can be called by the city, or as a result of a petition by citizens.

To force the “optional” referendum, 4000 Zurich citizens need to demand it.

The government can also put to a referendum any issue that feels should be approved by the people.

The popular initiative. This is another way to force the government to put to a citizen vote many issues.

Finally, they also have the personal initiative.

Using the personal initiative any citizen, individually, can write a request to Zurich’s parliament. If 42 of the 125 members of the parliament support the request, then the personal initiative has to be considered by the executive. Afterwards, the executive has to come back with a proposal to execute the personal initiative.

The executive’s response is then debated again in parliament. If at least 42 members still support the private initiative, then it is also put to a direct vote by the people.

What a simple and beautiful way to give power to the citizens!

As we can see, Zurich’s citizens have quite a bit of control over what the local parliament and government can do.

There is no reason why any city of any size in any stable democracy can not do the same, or better.

Of course, to get citizen’s attention we may need to change laws. For example, the citizen should pay more of their taxes at the local level. Once that happens, soon they link taxes to expenses and become very interested in how their city spends their money.

Tomorrow I will provide another example.

Your critical feedback and contributions are appreciated.

In two days I will publish the next blog.

Cheers!

 

Local Direct Democracy in Switzerland

From Rossland in British Columbia, Canada, we go now to Switzerland.

I continue with local direct democracy because I believe that it will be easier to start at the local level to prove direct democracy works. People have to see direct democracy working effectively. The local level is more manageable, for obvious reasons.

Switzerland is the closest any country has come to full direct democracy in 2800 years. I will deal in other blogs with Swiss direct democracy at the canton and national level.

Switzerland is part direct democracy, part representative democracy. The important thing is: the people have the final voice on laws at all levels of government.

Direct democracy and representative democracy side by side, make representative democracy more responsive.

Each Swiss municipality is unique it manages its affairs. Their size, the laws of the Canton, location, local traditions, etc., determine how they work.

About half of Swiss towns are small; less than 1000 inhabitants. The largest is Zurich with 400 000 inhabitants. The smallest is Corippo in the Canton of Ticino.

Corippo has just 12 inhabitants. It has an official website (www.corippo.ch), its own coat of arms, a church and a restaurant.

This tiny village also has a mayor and a town council. In the town council three citizens serve. It exists as municipality since 1822.

All municipalities practice forms of direct democracy.

There are other interesting curiosities to show how diverse is Switzerland.

The municipal diversity shows not only in size. For example, in the municipality of Bern there is a parliament for children between 8 and 14 years old. It also has a youth parliament for youths aged 14 to 21. These meet at least twice a year and vote to refer their decisions to the Bern municipal council.

This is not unique. Scotland, Liverpool, and probably in other places have parliaments for young people.

Each Swiss municipality also can organize itself politically and administratively. The level of freedom to do that is set by the cantonal laws. Cantonal laws also reflect culture. German-speaking cantons give more freedom to municipalities to organize. Switzerland has four cultures and four official languages; German, French, Italian and Romansch.

Most municipalities over a certain size collect enough taxes to run many services. Tiny municipalities receive money from the Cantonal government. As a result, they are less independent.

In all municipalities there is a town council presided by the mayor. Most municipalities work that way.

Larger municipalities also have a local parliament.

Voters elect the town council and also vote to pass or reject laws passed by the council.

Local parliaments passes laws. It also supervises the municipal administration, approves the executive’s management report, the budget and major expenses. But the voters always have the final say.

Local parliaments also decide town planning and building regulations. Often, also posses executive powers. For example, the power to appoint officials.

Parliaments are representative democracy, not direct democracy. If we also have direct democracy, citizens have authority over parliament, here and now. No need to wait till the next election. This does not happen in representative democracy. Naturally, this makes democracy work differently.

For example, lobbying by business or unions has much less influence on legislators. Lobbyists do not try too hard to persuade politicians to pass or change a law.

Lobbyists are less important at the Canton and Federal level also.

In all Swiss municipalities citizens can order local government to hold a referendum. Citizens can also use initiatives to force the local government to adopt a new law.

In many municipalities, some as large as 10,000 citizens, the citizen assemblies also play a key role. In the assembly, citizens directly decide to adopt or reject local laws. In this case they do not need to organize a referendum.

The citizen assemblies meet several times a year. Some take place in the town square.

Swiss municipalities are responsible for:

Education, (from kindergarten to secondary schools),

Health,

Urban planning,

Building laws,

Social assistance,

Home care,

Care for the elderly,

Water supply,

Electricity,

Waste water treatment,

Garbage disposal,

Public transport,

Roads,

Museums,

Police,

Fire department,

Regulation of local commerce and trade.

Of course, the tiny ones are not responsible for all that.

To do their job municipalities need lots of money. They have the power to set business and income taxes. Approximately 70% of the municipal budget is financed with local taxes.

Swiss citizens pay 30% of their total taxes directly to the municipality. In Canada they pay 12%. In the US varies from state to state but is never higher that 13%. Perhaps you can find out about your country.

Citizens get involved in local decision making because they know they pay for the budget. They “own” it.

A very interesting aspect of Swiss direct democracy is that citizenship has three levels in Switzerland. A Swiss national is citizen of the municipality (commune), of the canton and of Switzerland.

To become a Swiss citizen you have to satisfy the municipal requirements. This shows how important local government is in Switzerland.

Swiss local democracy is not designed to know what people think or about how to get them more involved. It is designed so that the citizens have the final say on every law and important decision. No need to write to the elected representative about something of general interest.

As you see, municipalities in Switzerland have more direct democracy than Rossland. This is because Swiss laws favour direct democracy.

It is almost like in Ancient Greece. Except that in the Ancient Greece system the people are the authority always. No need for politicians or parties.

In the next blog I will continue with Swiss local direct democracy.

Your input is critical. Do not hesitate to comment.

Cheers!

 

One small but great example of direct democracy now.

First I have to remind everyone; there isn’t a real direct democracy now. Nothing we have can compare to ancient Greece direct democracy.

But direct democracy is advancing around the World. I have no doubt it will become the norm for all humans. Some will need more time than others.

We have excellent examples of partial direct democracy.

Direct democracy is not the only Greek idea that took time to gain acceptance. It also took time the application of reason to understand the Universe., instead of relying of the word of a god. It took 2200 years, until Galileo. And we all know how far we have come in space exploration and astronomy since.

Direct democracy is a little harder; so far, 2800 years have passed.

I will start with a direct democracy example in Canada. It is in a small town that has introduced essential elements of direct democracy.

This case is recent, from 1980, and it does not come from a long tradition of direct citizen power. Canada comes from the British tradition. In the British system there is not a tradition of direct rule by the people. The people elect the representatives, and the representatives rule. The people have no direct power between elections.

Fortunately, in the British tradition we have the most stable representative democracy. This provides freedom to promote change.

This small town in British Columbia put into practice two elements of direct democracy; the referendum and the initiative.

Both are under the control of the people; the town council has no choice but to respect the results.

The town is Rossland. Rossland has a population of about 3500 people. It has more people in winter because it is a popular location for skiing and snowboarding.

Rossland had one important advantage because Canada, as a solid representative democracy, provides an environment of tolerance.

I like the example of Rossland also because it is easier to start small. Before an entire country makes the transition to direct democracy, it is important to have successful “pilot projects”.

In 1980, they had problems in Rossland. The elected city council had been losing credibility because many decisions did not please voters.

Some citizens got fed up and presented a document; “A Constitution for Local Government”.

But they had to take into account that the laws of British Columbia do not help direct democracy.

The people understood that they could propose nothing that would require changing British Columbia laws. They knew a town of 3000 people had a zero chance of convincing BC legislators to change the province’s laws.

So they had to introduce a measure of direct democracy within a representative democracy tradition.

They produced a municipal “constitution”. This document had two important provisions of direct democracy; referendum and initiative.

The referendum gives give the people the final say on whatever the elected representatives decide.

The initiative gives the people the power to propose change and to force the elected representatives to act on what they propose.

With the referendum, the residents of Rossland can stop any by-law before it becomes the law of the town.

To do that, any citizen that collects the signature of 20% of registered voter will force the town to hold a referendum on the by-law. If the proposal to stop the by-law wins, then the by-law is dead in the way it is written.

This forces council members to consult and negotiate until they believe the revised version will be accepted.

The second way in which the voters of Rossland can take matters into their own hands is by a petition. Citizens can propose a by-law to city council. If 20% of registered voters sign it, then council has to hold a referendum on the draft of the by-law.

Of course, this by-law, like any other by-law, can be challenged by citizens.

The process makes voters responsible for the running of their community. If a voter, for example, push for a by-law to double the number of traffic lights in the town, they quickly learn the cost of the project and how much their taxes will go up to pay for it.

Direct democracy will not work if the majority of voters do not have enough common sense. But nothing works if that happens.

Rossland’s direct democracy measures were not proposed by any party or any group with an ideology. The only ideology was “we want to decide”. If ideology gets into the picture, the whole thing is likely to go nowhere.

I hope you like this little example of how a small town in Canada introduced two key aspects of direct democracy.

Perhaps the wise people of Rossland in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada, will inspire you. Go and visit them!

In the next blog I will give more examples.

Cheers!

 

How super cool ancient Greek direct democracy could work now

The democracy the Greeks invented differed greatly from current democracies.

The Greeks practiced direct democracy. This means the people decided, not the elected representatives of political parties, because there were none. Not needed.

In fact, political parties are a leap backwards, they are a bit like political religions. They have “principles” (dogmas and faith that you are not allowed to question). They also turn every issue into a good vs. bad, “us” the good, “them” the bad. It is not reasonable.

Every issue has many sides. To have a preconceived idea of how to deal with it is not the best approach.

Better to first know the facts and informed opinions. Let us listen to all reasonable sides of the issue and then let us decide. No “progressive” or “conservative” ways, but solutions made by the people on the issue. Sometimes the people will be “progressive”, sometimes “conservative”. Nothing wrong with that, ideas change.

Sometimes, progressive can bad. Same goes for conservative.

In ancient Greece the people also made the laws and applied the laws.

The people also decided who would run the government, the “bureaucracy”. It would be run by ordinary citizens. When special skill or knowledge was required, the people also decided who would do the job.

There were no permanent positions in government. This meant no entrenched political elites, no professional politicians, no politicians who serve for decades, no lobbyists that often distort the flow of democracy.

When the people decide, lobbies make no sense. Business, or anyone else who wants to argue that taxes are too high, etc., will have to make the case to the voters. It is easy to see how this will eliminate a huge corruption motivator.

In ancient Greece citizens also proposed changes to laws, proposed new laws or do away with existing ones. But they had to argue their case before their fellow citizens.

I would like to listen to citizens who believe climate change is caused by human activity. I would also like to listen to the experts whose evidence backs up that position. But I also would like to listen to those who oppose them.

Once I hear their arguments, I would like to make my decision and cast my vote. I do not want others to “vote” for me. Politicians are not experts; nobody can be an expert in more than one field. I prefer to listen to the experts myself and decide by myself. I know, the majority may vote the opposite of what I vote, but that is democracy.

Would not all that be a great step forward?

Citizens also decided in Greece when to declare war, when to stop the war, who was guilty, etc., I would love to do that now too.

It makes sound sense that decisions that result in the death of thousands of fellow citizens are far more important that electing a politician. Therefore the citizens should be responsible for such decisions.

Greek direct democracy can be applied to any issue.

For example, if someone, or a group, believes that health services should be universal and paid for by taxpayer, he could propose and defend that before the people.

The people would then vote for, against, or perhaps a third alternative.

Likewise, if we have universal health service but some think that it is not good, a person or group could argue the issue before his fellow citizens.

Another health example is the case of the corona virus lockdown. Citizens in favour or against, and experts, would argue the issue before the citizens. We would would then vote.

With direct democracy there is no need to have those endless arguments among politicians. Direct decisions by the people would speed things up. There is no need for time consuming negotiations among parties, with lobbies, etc.

Direct decisions by the voters also remove from the process political electoral considerations. As we know, such considerations often have little to do with the common good.

The ancient Greeks had the key insight; better we decide for ourselves. They trusted that the majority of fellow citizens had common sense. I also have that trust.

It is possible that the majority of citizens do not have political common sense and direct democracy can collapse, that would be a problem. It did collapse in Greece. But representative democracy, which also requires a lot of common sense. Sadly, we know that sometimes it collapses too.

The majority of countries in the World are not ready for representative democracy. But that does not stop us believing representative democracy is the more civilized form of government.

In representative democracy we trust the people to select the right people to make the decisions. In direct democracy we make the decisions ourselves. It makes sense.

People sometimes say some issues are too complex to be decided by ordinary people. Well, complex technical issues can be explained by experts in ways the vast majority of citizens can understand. Is it not what they are doing with the corona virus or climate change?

I am more comfortable voting on any concrete issue, than voting to select the right leader who would decide for me. That is one of the reasons why I prefer direct democracy. Don´t you?

Direct democracy also by overcomes the problem of how the parties select the candidates, or the political marketing and packaging of candidates.

Some people say dictatorships can be more efficient than representative democracy, I disagree. Dictatorships hide the real problems; they all blow up. They are more ruthless, not more efficient.

Direct democracy, because it is direct, is even more efficient than representative democracy, IF people have the skills to make it work.

I am convinced. I have no doubt at all, that the people in stable democracies are ready to evolve towards direct democracy.

With the new technologies direct democracy can be more practical than even in ancient Greece.

What we have to work on is prepare ourselves in our schools, boroughs, villages, towns, cities, regions and countries to be capable of direct democracy, at least to the level of the ancient Greeks.

In the next blog I will give examples of direct democracy in practice right now, perhaps they are closer to you than you think.

Help spread direct democracy to make life better.

See you tomorrow.

Cheers!

 

OK, sounds good, but what really is direct democracy?

Direct democracy means direct control by the people. The people run the show, not the elected representatives. There are no politicians or political parties either. No need for the constant fights among rival parties. There are issues, not ideological positions. Parties are permitted but are not necessary

You know that direct democracy was developed by the Ancient Greeks. Nobody else has practiced direct democracy since, nobody. The Swiss are the closest, but their democracy is semi-direct, not direct.

We like to think we are more advanced than the Ancient Greeks. Yes we are, but only in science and technology. That is important, but the way we run society is even more important.

The Greeks, somehow, overcame rule by kings and gods and decided they could rule themselves. The kings, the gods or their priests would not rule them. The gods were still there but the Greeks decided they themselves, the ordinary people, would make the laws, not the gods. No God-inspired books either to tell the Greeks how to behave.

The direct democracy of Ancient Greece is important because many among us have lost confidence in representative democracy. For a number of reasons, elected representatives have distanced themselves from those they should represent.

For me, perhaps for you too, the key factor is if direct democracy is better in practice than representative democracy.

I think it can be, if we can make it work.  Direct democracy is better because it works more in tune with the priorities of the citizens.

The key fact is not if in theory direct democracy is better; it has to be better in daily life. But direct democracy is difficult because it needs the majority of citizens with the right values and behaviours. When people are not ready, it will be foolish to expect direct democracy to work.

Representative democracy is difficult too. Representative democracy works only if the people posses the skills for it. When they don’t the country becomes corrupt and unstable. The outcome is dictatorship or anarchy. Direct democracy is more difficult because it needs even better prepared citizens.

Representative democratic societies that are not stable are not ready for direct democracy. Stable representative democracies are.

If your country is a stable representative democracy then you can already help push for switch. If your country is not a stable democracy, or is not a democracy at all, you can work to help it become ready.

Sometimes countries surprise us; perhaps they surprise themselves too, and accomplish amazing changes. For example, Taiwan, not long ago a dictatorship, is now a semi-direct democracy. Amazing!

So, if you country is ready, push! If it is not ready, to push make it ready! The people now running the country will not push for change. They are happy with the current system. Who can blame them?

OK, direct democracy sounds good, but we need more information; how did the Greeks manage to take such huge leap forward? How did they make it work for several centuries 2800 years ago? What mechanisms and institutions did they set up? How did they make the laws? Who made the laws? How were they applied? How did they prevent corruption? How did they decide who run the government? etc.

In the next blog we will look at all those things. The idea is to help make direct democracy a credible alternative for all countries.

As always, your insights and action will help reach the goal.

Cheers!

Note: Under normal circumstances I will publish a new blog every 2 days.

Democracy is better, much better, to fight the coronavirus

I read that totalitarian governments are dealing with the coronavirus crisis better than democracies.

This is wrong. It is not possible to know the facts in such countries.

I can’t believe totalitarian regimes on hardly anything. Particularly on anything that has to do with the power and prestige of the regime.

You can believe a totalitarian regime only if whatever they say can be verified by others.

Some say that such regimes can be more effective because when the top guy says; “do this!” everybody complies. It does not work that way. This is how it works;

Before the top guy issues the order someone has to give him the information. In a totalitarian system, those who have the information have to be careful. The boss may not like the bad news. This fear makes people hesitate and wait. “Maybe someone else will give him the bad news…”

Anyone can understand this sort of thinking goes against effectiveness. Effectiveness requires facts, open information up front. The totalitarian frame of mind is in fact a mental handicap, no matter how many share it.

We saw what happened in China to the doctor who first spoke up about the coronavirus. His local “top guy“  told him something like this: “That can not be true, that can not happen here, we control everything. You have to retract what you said”.

The local official thought that way because his own superiors may not like such bad news either. He felt compelled to do the irrational thing. He forced the doctor to say he had made a mistake. He forced the doctor to deny reality, but this seemed logical and rational to him.

This is like what the Church did to Galileo. On February 26, 1616, the “Holy” Inquisition (what a name!), forced Galileo to retract the facts he had found. One would expect that in 2020 this sort of madness could not happen, but it is happening.

I do not know what sort of threats the doctor received, but they had to be scary to force such courageous man to retract.

When the regime finally admitted to the problem, it had lost valuable time. Many people died and are dying around the World because of this huge management mistake.

In a democracy things are very different. The doctor would have attracted media attention. The government would have to act right away. If it did not, the consequences for those in power would be very serious.

Imagine what would happen to officials in a democracy if they forced a doctor to do the same.

It is possible that Trump and other leaders did not react as fast as they should, although it is easy to second guess. Because of the lies and misleading information from China even medical experts in the West were slow to react.

In the US, just for believing he acted too slowly, many people are jumping all over Trump. It may cost him the reelection. Nothing of that is possible in a totalitarian regime.

Even now we do not know what has happened in China, or what is happening. There could be thousands more dead, tens of thousands, we do not know. As consensus emerges in key democracies that the Chinese have been lying and continue to lie, it seems they are “admitting” to more coronavirus cases. Such “admissions” are worthless because nothing they say has credibility.

If things get uncomfortable, the Chinese regime may even execute a few officials in Wuhan. They could be same officials who pressured the doctor; such are the crazy ways of totalitarian regimes.

I read the doctor has already been “rehabilitated”. Those who forced the doctor to recant may be the ones getting nervous now. Unfortunately, the doctor has passed away. They say he became infected with the virus. I do not know if that is true either.

No matter what it does, the regime will not change its ways. It can not. It is not in its nature. Next time the same thing will happen.

Conclusion: totalitarian regimes are far worse than democracies to deal with crisis because they do not face the facts.

In democracies, the people, the elected representatives and the judiciary can punish officials. They will also be criticized by independent media. It is suicidal for a politician in a democracy to do what the Chinese leaders do.

Some people point out that the Chinese regime acted swiftly. It is obvious that it did not. It acted swiftly AFTER wasting valuable time. The delay costed thousands of lives in China and around the World, some swiftness!

But since this is a blog about direct democracy, I want to add a few comments.

In a direct democracy the people have more power to know the truth. The government has fewer “political” calculations than in representative democracy. Such calculations can slow down decision making and lose sight of the common good.

In direct democracy there are no political parties. Elections are to elect ordinary citizens who serve for a time and then go back to their regular jobs. No political organizations behind them. This means there is far less political calculation.

In direct democracy the people could remove anyone from power at any time.

In direct democracy the people are more involved in the running of society. They have more rights and also more responsibilities. If a lockdown is ordered they are more likely to obey, because the institutions have more credibility.

Even to decide if the lockdown is necessary the people directly can decide in a matter of days.

Panels of experts can discuss it on national television, internet video and other media. The people will reflect on what they learned and then vote electronically. In a matter of minutes the results can be known.

If credit cards are secure to buy online, voter ID can also be secure online.

My conclusion is that representative democracy is far better than totalitarian regimes. Direct democracy is better than representative democracy.

Democracy is better than a totalitarian regimen in any country, IF it knows how to make it work. Sadly, the majority of humanity is not prepared for democracy. As a result they “govern themselves” with all sorts of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.

But even most of those who have democracy are unstable and corrupt. In spite of that, at least the people have the power and the freedom to change who rules.

For representative democracy to work, people need the education, the values and behaviours that it requires. Direct democracy requires that citizens be even better prepared.

In my opinion, all the stable representative democracies are ready for the transition to semi direct democracy.

It is amazing and surprising that 2800 years later, no country in the World has been able to replicate Ancient Greek direct democracy. But I believe we are ready to catch up with and surpass the Greeks. This modest blog tries to contribute to that goal. I hope you do too, anywhere you are and also here with your input.

See you soon.

Cheers!

Note: Under normal circumstances I will publish a new blog every 2 days.

 

Why a blog about direct democracy and cooperative management?

I write it because direct democracy and cooperative management significantly improve democracy and management.

Direct democracy is the logical next step to fix the problem that too many do not feel represented.

Today I write only about direct democracy. I will write also about cooperative management.

Your comments and contributions are always welcome.

In “pure” direct democracy, the citizens themselves make the laws and the decisions. They serve in government at various levels for a limited time. Citizens directly control the political process. There are no elected politicians.

In direct democracy political parties and professional politicians are unnecessary. This is because the issue is what it important, not what political philosophy to apply to solve it.

People debate each issue as such, with no “left” or “right” positions. People form opinions around the issue on its merits, not based on their political beliefs. Because of this political parties, with their particular philosophies, serve no purpose.

Ordinary citizens debate the issues, and also listen to experts, to make better decisions.

All citizens must serve for a period of time in the institutions. This means, among other benefits, constant renewal and no entrenchment.

There are also citizen’s assemblies at regular intervals to vote on various issues.

Like any form of democratic government direct democracy needs independent institutions.

Another benefit of direct democracy is that lobbies and rich people have less influence in government.

Swiss direct democracy is not “pure” direct democracy because it has political parties. But the major parties govern in coalition. Perhaps this is so because the parties realize they can only do things that have the backing of citizens.

Politicians in representative democracies have much more power than in direct democracy. Because of that many do not seem to believe in direct democracy.

Direct democracy is a sound idea, but the practice of direct democracy is not sound if the people are not ready.

Representative democracy needs sound citizens. Direct democracy needs an even higher level of sophistication.

The preparation of citizens is the key. That is one of the factors that helped the Ancient Greeks develop the first democracy. Amazingly, they developed direct democracy right from the start.

Education for all boys started at age seven in Athens. They learned to read and write. Most girls were not taught to read and write, but many learned. We know they did because there are more than 20 Greek women whose writing reached us. To have so many that reached us there must have been many more women writers.

Direct democracy needs citizens with well developed common sense. Common sense is the most important manifestation of human intelligence.

Direct democracy is difficult but Representative democracy is not easy either.

How many solid representative democracies we have in the World?

The solid representative democracies are: “Northern Europeans”, France, the “Anglo-Saxon” countries and Japan.

But they are not the same; Anglo-Saxon democracies have been far more stable than most of the others.

There are other countries that are democracies but do not have as good a record of stability.

You might have noticed I have not mentioned Switzerland. I have done it because Switzerland is the only consolidated direct democracy. It still has elements of representative democracy.

Switzerland is a referent I like because it is with us, here and now. Other democracies are starting to move in Switzerland’s direction.

Switzerland is living demonstration that direct democracy works. Swiss democracy is not direct like in Athens, but the people have direct control.

Let me say a few things about Attica and Athens. It is important because they are our roots.

Athens was part of Attica. People refer to Athenian Democracy. In fact it was Attican Democracy.

In Ancient Greece there were other democracies. The cities of Corcyra, Syracuse, Argos, Corinth, Megara, also had direct democracy, but not as well developed as in Attica-Athens.

How big was Attica? Attica occupied 2 500 sq. km or 1000 sq. miles. Picture a rectangle of 25 km by 100 km, or 15 miles by 60 miles. It had a population of 250 000 to 350 000 inhabitants. Some 150 000 of them lived in the city of Athens. The city of Athens itself had a land size of a few kilometers in diameter, about one or two miles.

The size of Attica’s population was like the Swiss cantons of Luzern, Fribourg or Ticino.

In area, Attica was roughly 50% larger than the Canton of Luzern or Fribourg, and a bit smaller that the Canton of Ticino.

Because of the direct power of citizens, the Swiss parliament and the government have far less power than in any other democracy.

Most Swiss parliamentarians are not professional politicians. The National Council meets four times a year, each time for three weeks. This means parliamentarians can stay active in their professions. Many of them say: “we like it like that way because it keeps us with a foot in the real world”.

I chose those three cantons also because they represent three cultures; Swiss-German culture, Swiss-French culture and Swiss-Italian culture. This means that direct democracy can work in cultures that are different.

The Swiss practice direct democracy at the canton level, at the federal level and at the local level.

Switzerland is also politically neutral. This may make it easier for others to take a look at Swiss democracy.

I encourage you to learn about Swiss direct democracy. Feel free to comment about it in DirectsDemocrats.com.

I will be writing a new blog every two days but the news may force me to change the schedule.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Well, finally we are on the air!

This site is to promote direct democracy and harmonious, cooperative management. First I need to tell you how much I worked to develop the site.
 
I never imagined a site would be so much frustration and satisfaction. So many frustrating mistakes! Learning WordPress.org is A LOT of work. The satisfaction came from fixing every mistake. The bottom line is satisfaction. Big achievement for me what for others is simple.
 
My “computer background” is Office and Open Office. Eons ago I studied FORTRAN. FORTRAN has nothing to do with WordPress. To my surprise, I learned in Wikipedia that FORTRAN is not dead. Physicists work with FORTRAN for climate and astronomical calculations.
 
I chose WordPress.org because many people who know say that WordPress is the best choice to build a website. The cost of learning is low too, if you learn WordPress as a hobby, or do not pay yourself much. WordPress itself is free.
 
Once I chose WordPress, I learned and learned… and learned. I sorted out things working on the site hosted on my computer, without uploading it anywhere.
 
To make a WordPress site work, you need other programs called “Wordpress plugins”. But it is not like; “here are the 5 plugins you need”. There are many for every need. There are free plugins, partly free and others are not free. I had to do a lot of Internet “walking” to decide which suited me.
 
Internet to me is the new Library of Alexandria, everything is there. I like the name Library of Alexandria” better than “Internet” or the “Web”. I wonder if Amazon’s Alexa got her name from the Library of Alexandria; Alexa´s goal seems to be: “I have the answers”.
 
Internet has everything, but the way you ask determines what the search engines “fish”. Small changes can make a big difference.
 
Tons of places teach WordPress. I entered “Wordpress tutorial videos” and several good ones popped up. I find videos more entertaining and easier to follow. For me it works best with two computers. On one computer I open my site, on another computer I play the video and apply to my site the instructions in the video.
 

I also looked up many established blogs. I checked the sites of Michelle Malkin, Politicus, Red State, Real Clear Politics, Seth’s Blog, Jane Friedman’s, The Creative Penn. I studied them for style, layout, content and features.

Once I felt comfortable with the site, I needed a host, a home for my site. After more searching, I chose FastComet. It is price competitive and has excellent reviews. My experience confirms the reviews.

 I uploaded my site to FastComet but without making it available for pick up by search engines. I had more to learn about WordPress and about Fastcomet.
 
FastComet has instant-fast and practical help service 24/7. I use it often. They do not compensate me in any shape or form for saying this. I say FastComet is good because it is good.
 
My next blog will be about direct democracy and cooperative business practices.
See you.