I will look first at the criticisms put forward by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). They are reasonable arguments but they can be dealt with. I am certain many people agree with them. I have also heard them often.
I do not know if IDEA shares these criticisms of direct democracy. But that is not the important issue. What is important is to deal with the objections. I hope to do so.
If are successful, more people will be receptive to direct democracy.
Let us start.
IDEA states as a disadvantage that direct democracy requires “citizen information and competence”.
If ill informed and incompetent voters are a problem, the answer is not to throw away direct democracy but to inform and educate voters.
Besides, better informed and more competent voters will produce a better society, not just make direct democracy possible.
IDEA states that direct democracy demands understanding complex issues. I agree, but most voters can grasp grasp complex issues.
To grasp complex issues it is not necessary to be an expert. Most politicians are not experts in many of the issues they face.
To solve this problem, experts explain the issues to the politicians. We can also bring experts to explain the issues to voters.
Experts can do that in TV, radio, articles, debates, question-and-answer sessions, etc.
Experts also often disagree with each other. This is normal and good. The public, like the politicians, needs to know what different experts think.
For example, experts disagree on what is the best approach to “The Virus” pandemic. After listening to the experts, most voters will understand the issue and vote competently.
But neither the politicians nor the voters must delegate decision making to the experts, except in some narrow technical issues. This is important because experts have a narrower expert vision. That is why they are experts; they know a lot about a narrow field.
We should not underestimate ability of voters to make very tough decisions and the right decisions on complex issues.
For example, let us look at trial by jury. A jury of lay persons can understand the legal issues and the evidence provided by various experts. They are then capable of deciding if the accused are guilty or not guilty.
Most of us accept ordinary citizens can decide if a person is guilty or not. Likewise, we can be confident ordinary citizens are able to make competent decisions on issues such as virus lockdown, increasing or reducing taxes, institute free (taxpayer paid) university education, universal health care, etc.
In the next blog I will continue dealing with other interesting arguments against direct democracy.