In countries that are not democracies, they do not consult the people. The blog is not about them. Unstable “representative” democracies are not ready for direct democracy either. This blog is not about them either.
In solid representative democracies it is realistic to discuss direct democracy.
In representative democracies, the government decides without consulting the people. The people elect the government and the government decides what to do to control the virus. We see that now.
In representative democracies, between elections, there is no mechanism for the majority to exercise its will.
In most societies everybody agrees on the general ideas; “the virus is bad”, “we must protect people”, etc.
The problem is: What decisions to make? What rules to apply? To whom? etc.
We all know that people hold different opinions on many things. Because of that, when the government decides, many disagree.
Government tries to make a decision that most citizens will find reasonable. The motivations of governments are fairness and the next election too. Both criteria are very dependent on what the particular government considers fair and right and its electoral interests.
The way we do things, governments also lack a reliable way of knowing what the majority wants. Polls can indicate, but polls can be unreliable. Sometimes they have serious bias and become propaganda.
Most governments do not use polls to decide either, particularly if the decision has to me made in a hurry. In such cases the only polls are those after the decision.
In a direct democracy, the government could propose and ask people to vote on the proposals. Government could also make the initial decision, and ask the people to vote on it, or an alternative.
Some people will say that asking the people to decide is wrong because “the people are not well informed”.
I disagree. With today’s technology, people can be very well informed. It is possible to set up debates and presentations with different experts.
To educate voters on the virus, we can bring experts in medicine, economics, finance, business, labour, etc.
In a matter of days, even hours, the debates and presentations can take place. We would hold them in internet, radio, TV and newspapers.
Voters will also research the issue on internet by themselves.
As a result, the people will be ready to vote on the measures they want.
There is another critical difference between direct and representative democracy; if we the people decide, it becomes “our” decision. It removes a lot of the political fireworks.
With the debates and presentations on the virus, the people will be far better informed than they are now when they vote for a politician.
This is because political debates are hypothetical and general. The debates and presentations about the virus are very specific; what to do here and now about this? This pushes forward facts and data, not a hypothesis.
The debates can take place in one day or in a few days. People could then vote the next day or a few days afterwards.
As for security, we have the answer. If we can securely buy online with our credit card, we should be able to vote online with a “voting card”.
The decision by the people would be known right away. This is another plus.
People could vote by town, city, region, state, province or the whole nation.
Once we know the results of voting the government knows what it must do and we all can focus on the task. This is much better than arguing about the government’s decision.
Switzerland, again! One of the effects of direct democracy is very interesting. In Switzerland they have political parties but they have no opposition party. They fight it out at election time. Afterwards, the major parties govern together in coalition.
Swiss politicians have learned to legislate and execute by consensus. This way they avoid that people stop what the politicians want to do.
Besides removing the political fireworks,direct democracy also makes lobbies less important. This is important.
But let us not be foolish. Solid representative democracies are not ready to switch overnight wholesale to direct democracy. But they are ready to start the change.
We could start with referendums to decide if we want direct democracy in our town, city, school, country, etc.
Getting back to the virus. Most voters have learned a lot about the lock down. They are ready to decide on how to phase out the lock down and other measures. The decision by the people will prevent much of the divisiveness we see in various places about the lockdown.
Direct democracy is not easy. But most important things are not easy. It requires a clear majority of us with the maturity and common sense necessary. In solid representative democracies we have that. That is why they are solid.
I hope you will help give direct democracy a chance; “rule by the people”, nothing can be better.
Your comments are welcomed.