Last batch of arguments cited by International IDEA against Direct Democracy

“Direct democracy has conservative bias”.

Direct democracy is not about being progressive or conservative. Direct democracy is direct power by the people.

The labels conservative-progressive are outdated. Enough of such labeling and self-labeling!; let us focus on solving concrete problems.

Thinking in terms of “Conservative-progressive” limits our freedom to think of ourselves and of others. Voters should apply reason to every issue. Many voters some times vote “conservative” and sometimes “progressive”.

For example, a voter can vote for tax payer funded health care for all. The same person can also vote against gay marriage.

Another voter may vote for business to have total freedom to fire workers. But that person can also vote for excellent social benefits for workers.

A voter can vote to reduce taxes for business and also vote to give jail time to the executives of companies who cheat consumers.

Direct democracy is people deciding; if they “go right”, fine. It is also fine if the “go left”

“Non-elite citizens are less educated and less cosmopolitan than elites, and may maintain more traditional or even reactionary values: transferring decision making from (relatively elite) politicians to ordinary citizens can therefore hinder progressive reforms”.

I am not sure where to start!. The person who came up with that comment is not a democrat. Instead of rule by the people, he or she promotes rule by the elites. Elitist thinking has nothing to do with direct democracy, or with representative democracy.

Direct democracy is based on information and common sense. Common sense is the most important human intelligence, and much harder to master than academic knowledge.

“Authoritarian and populist abuse. Historically, authoritarian rulers such as Napoleon in France, Franco in Spain, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines and Park Chung Hee in South Korea have used uncompetitive referendums to create a false veneer of democratic legitimacy”.

What examples! I do not know if Hitler or Stalin also held referendums…

Such regimes have nothing to do with direct democracy. A referendum, by itself is not direct democracy.

“Referendums are expensive”

The Swiss have referendums more often than anyone else.

With no natural resources, Switzerland is one of the top countries in standard of living.

The cost of referendums does not seem to hurt Switzerland much. If it did, they could change the Constitution and ban referendums. But perhaps referendums, far from being “expensive” are good economic investments.

“Direct democracy may create social conflict and affect minority rights”.

With well informed and competent voters, that will not happen. Smart voters want to avoid conflict. They avoid approving laws that create conflict.

If voters are not informed and are not competent, anything can happen in direct or in representative democracy. In fact, uninformed and incompetent voters weaken and even destroy democracy.

Switzerland has four autochthonous cultures, two major religions and many others, four official languages and countless others are spoken, 25% of the inhabitants of Switzerland are immigrants from all over the World.

Switzerland is 62.6% German, 22.9% French, 8.2% Italian and 0.5% Romansh 0.5%. I never heard the German majority passes laws that mistreat the Romansch, Italian or French.

“Direct democracy can polarize debate, exacerbate political divisions and increase the potential for destabilizing reactions such as boycotts or violence”.

This argument is just speculation.

The only direct democracy (well, semi-direct) we have in the World, Switzerland is an example of the opposite. Switzerland practices cooperative decision making. They do that in politics and also in business.

In Switzerland the major parties govern in coalition. There is no “opposition” party. That is possible because there is much less of the adversarial politics we see in representative democracies. Perhaps direct democracy contributes to that. But in coming blogs we will write plenty about the advantages of direct democracy. After all, that is why the blog exists.

In short; far from creating political division, it seems direct democracy does the opposite.

“The mechanisms of direct democracy have many problems”.

Come on! You can say that about the mechanisms of representative democracy too.

“Legal drafting of laws is extremely complex”.

The legal details are complex but voters are competent to say: “we want to lower the speed limits”, “we do not want to join the European Union”, etc.

The laws are drafted by legal experts. Voters tell the experts what law they want.

“Hate crimes in the UK surged because of the Brexit vote”

This is not an argument against direct democracy.

In the first place, The UK is not a direct democracy. The Brexit referendum does not make the UK a direct democracy.

But even if hate crimes rose because of the Brexit referendum, the common sense answer is prosecution of the guilty, not to stop referendums.

International IDEA also mentions that in a Hungarian referendum “the people had voted in favour of closing doors to refugees, but less that half of the eligible voters voted”.

This does not invalidate the vote.

In Switzerland it is not uncommon less than half of the voters vote in some referendums. The Swiss people do not consider the results illegitimate because of that.

Voters could fix that too. All they have to do is hold a referendum making invalid any referendum in which less than half of the people vote, or two thirds, etc.

International IDEA also mentions referendums in Egypt as indication direct democracy can be problematic.

Egypt is not a direct democracy by any stretch. Egypt is not even a stable representative democracy. Makes no sense to criticize direct democracy because of what happens in Egypt.

“It can be all too easy for direct democracy initiatives to bypass, rather than complement, the work of the legislature”.

Direct democracy is the opposite. In direct democracy the people do not “by-pass” the legislators because the people are the supreme legislators.

What direct democracy does is prevent politicians from bypassing voters, which is one of the problems of representative democracy.

In the next blog:

Other, and final, arguments against direct democracy cited by another important organization.

Your comments are welcomed.

Cheers!

Victor

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