Participatory Democracy and Deliberative Democracy fall short of Direct Democracy

Representative democracy is feeling the pressure; too many citizens do not feel well represented.

This situation has stimulated thinkers to suggest “refinements” to representative democracy.

One of them is “Participatory democracy”; the other is “Deliberative democracy”. Both can work with first past the post and with proportional representation.

“Participatory democracy” seeks citizen input to develop laws, pass budgets and major projects. The idea is: citizen input will influence policy making.

Such influence will improve the quality decisions and also their acceptability. Another benefit is more legitimacy to politicians and institutions.

Unfortunately, participatory democracy does not give more power to the people. It gives more voice, but not more power. Voice is not power, power is power.

“Participatory democracy” is an improvement, but not the improvement we need because the people still do not decide.

Another idea to improve representative democracy is “Deliberative democracy”.

Like “Participatory democracy”, it can work with first past the post and with proportional representation.

The idea is to involve many citizens before passing new laws or making major decisions.

But managing large numbers of people is difficult.

To fix this, some propose to select a representative sample of citizens,

But the problem persists; the people still can not stop laws or propose laws, approve budgets or projects.

In short, participatory democracy and deliberative democracy will improve representative democracy, but fall short of direct democracy.

For you to decide you need direct democracy.

But for direct democracy to work, most citizens must have the common sense and the values direct democracy needs.

Those criteria are essential, but they are not enough. 

Other important considerations are:

Requesting a referendum must not require too many citizens requesting the referendum.

The Swiss experience shows 1-2% of the population works well. Perhaps it can be lower if Internet makes it much easier to hold referendums.

That the people should be able to change the referendum requirements is also important. 

Even better than the people petitioning, is the mandatory referendum. In the mandatory referendum the government must hold the referendum because the law says so; no need for the citizens to lift a finger.

In such system all laws and major decisions must be decided by referendum, no need for petitions.

In referendums it should not matter how many people turn out to vote. As long all potential voters have had sufficient time and information.

Low voter turn out can be because people are not interested in the issue. For example, they may not be interested in the law controlling speed in highways, or building a new sports centre, or providing free drugs to addicts, etc.

When this happens, it is not a problem if a minority of voters decides.

It is critical that the decision by the people be obeyed by the government. I know, it is basic, but it happens that if a government does not like the decision of the people, sometimes they resort to stalling, manipulation, etc.

No need to say that consultative referendums have nothing to do with direct democracy. If the people do not decide, it is not direct democracy. It is not direct democracy either if the government decides on what issues to hold referendums, even if the result is mandatory.

Direct democracy is not about consulting the people; it is about the people deciding. This is a real, down to earth, revolution and the future for everybody,  starting with stable representative democracies to show the way.

Your comments, pro AND against are welcomed.



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