Do not kid yourself; proportional representation will not give you the power you need.

In fact, many countries have proportional representation. I do not doubt many people in those countries feel they are better represented than in first past the post systems.

Unfortunately, when it comes to decision making, the voters in those countries feel ignored by the executives and the legislators in towns, cities, regions and at the national level.

More and more people are fighting for proportional representation, you may have noticed it. They argue it is a fairer system than first past the post (winner takes all). But even if it is better, proportional representation does not address the key issue.

The key issue is lack of people’s power. One symptom is that too many voters do not trust their politicians.

Proportional representation is not the remedy to close the trust gap. It can not be because it is about better representation, not about power.

The mistrust happens because the people do not have power. If the people have power, the politicians cannot do things that the people do not support. This would end the mistrust.

I also think  “first past the post” vs. “proportional representation” distracts from the real issue of power.

Many honestly believe proportional representation is the answer representative democracies need. I do not think it can be..

Others promote proportional representation to distract people from the actual problem of lack of citizen power. Here it is not about such people being wrong, it is about something less defensible.

I have no quarrel with first past the post or with proportional representation. I see no point in getting involved in a discussion which does not tackle the genuine problem.

If you want to learn more about first past the post and proportional representation, all you have to do is enter those terms in your computer or phone.

But let me bring a little of Switzerland into the conversation once more. Let us look at some facts.

Decades ago, Switzerland also had a first past the post system. At some point it switched. Now it has proportional representation. First past the post persists, but on a small scale.

The switch from first past the post to proportional representation was an important change for the Swiss. More important though, was the switch introducing referendums for almost anything. This meant the people had the final say on many issues; taxes, roads, education, etc.

Most Swiss agree that what gives Swiss citizens power is the mandatory referendum.

They have another referendum, one that the people themselves call if enough of them demand it. They call it “voluntary referendum”. This is also helpful. Helpful too are the popular initiatives.

All these tools give Swiss people proper control over how their cities, towns, cantons, and the entire country, run.

For the Swiss it is no longer only about, who to vote for? But about, do we approve this budget, this road, this tax, this fee, etc.?

Direct democracy turns around the usual situation in representative democracy. In representative democracy the elected representatives can “override”, or ignore,  the will of the voters. In direct democracy, the people can override decisions made by their elected representatives.

Because the people have power, the politicians no longer do “whatever they want” between elections.

In view of this, it is easy to understand why many representative politicians are not keen on direct democracy. The reason is obvious, for them it means less power.

Yes, Swiss politicians have a lot less power than politicians in representative democracies. But I suspect they have come to see how that is better for their towns, cities, regions and country, and for themselves and their children too.

No Swiss politician would be foolish enough to try to do away with direct democracy. I am sure this does not surprise you.

But we must not be too rigid about direct democracy. It is unusual, but it is possible; a stable representative democracy can achieve several of the benefits of direct democracy.

This can happen when the political culture of a society has “taught” those in government to listen to the citizens.

Unfortunately, that is rare. It happens in some Northern European countries, such as Denmark.

Denmark is a representative democracy but they also have referendums for particular situations.

But not even Denmark comes close to Switzerland in citizen power. The Swiss have far more say on how their towns, cities and country run than the Danes.

Switzerland is also the democracy with the highest trust in government. It may have something to do with the control that citizens have of government. In Switzerland, governments do not stray far from citizen sentiment.

This blog is about adopting direct democracy to improve stable representative democracies. It does not matter if they use first past the post or proportional representation.

If a democracy is not stable, it can not make direct democracy work. There are too many frictions, too many ill feelings, too much mistrust. If it is not a democracy… then forget about bringing in direct democracy.

The blog is not to promote direct democracy as the “grand solution”. We must be practical, there are no “grand solutions”, for anything.

But you can take small steps anywhere. Even if your country is a dictatorship, it may be possible to gradually bring in direct democracy at the local level. In time it may spread to the whole country.

If the society you live in is a stable democracy, it is easier to introduce direct democracy. But that will only happen if you spread the word about its benefits.

Fortunately, many citizens are receptive to direct democracy now. They understand it as the best way to fix serious problems in representative democracy.

There is growing interest around the World in direct democracy. Practically in each country that is relatively free there is an organization promoting direct democracy. You may have one in your country, or you can start it.

Your comments positive or critical are always useful.

Cheers!

Victor

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