With direct democracy, politicians are closer to the citizens. Part II.

Direct democracy is much more than the citizens having the final say.

In the last post I wrote about how direct democracy lightens the load of elected politicians.

Elected politicians in Switzerland are also “representative”, but they are “less representative” because in a direct democracy the people represent themselves more because they vote in all key issues.

Every time there is a referendum in a Swiss village, town, city, canton or the nation, the people do not need an elected representative to vote “on their behalf”. It is unnecessary because the people themselves vote and decide.

In fact, in referendums, the elected representatives are just another voting citizen. Their vote carries the same weight as anybody else’s vote.

Political parties, in power or out of power, in a direct democracy also are kept humble by the system.

Let me illustrate this with an example.

Right now, some Swiss politicians are trying to pass a new law. The law would make tax deductible in Switzerland fines Swiss companies may receive in other countries.

A current example involves one of Switzerland’s most prestigious banks, Union Bank of Switzerland, better known as UBS.

The proposed law would allow the Bank to deduct a 5 billion dollar fine it has just received in a French court.

The interesting twist is that, while some Swiss politicians sponsor the law, other Swiss politicians oppose it and, even if they are in the minority in Parliament, they can stop the law by going outside parliament.

This is possible because in Switzerland, political parties can, just like any citizen, go to the people.  What they have to do is collect the signatures of 50 000 ordinary voters. This would force a referendum on the law.

If their position wins the referendum, the law is dead.

This tool makes it very difficult for governments in Switzerland to pass unpopular laws, even if governments have most votes in the assemblies of towns, cities or the national parliament.

One ordinary citizen could also stop the law. First, he or she has to set up a group capable of getting within 100 days, 50 000 signatures supporting their position. Afterwards, their position has to win the referendum.

That a minority party can also use the mechanism of referendums adds another mechanism of control of elected politicians.

This is real control by the citizens and minority parties. It is very different from the just verbal control sessions we see in representative democracy parliaments and assemblies.

Referendums triggered by the people make sense.

The explanation for direct democracy not being the norm in all established democracies is that representative politicians and lobbies do not want direct democracy.

Many elitists, who pose as lovers of democracy, but do not in fact, believe in democracy “by the people” do not want direct democracy either. Elitists do not trust the people, that is why they are elitists. These fools think they know better.

With direct democracy, democracy advanced a step further. The change is comparable to when the people decided to elect their representatives and replaced absolute kings, oligarchs, theocracy, dictatorships, etc.

Direct democracy gives more power to the owners of the country, its culture, its traditions; the ordinary citizens.

Direct democracy politicians are always in touch with the citizens because they have to. At any moment between election periods, citizens can enter into the picture and decide on any law or significant issue.

In the case of the law I am referring to, the politicians drafting the law, and also the politicians who are against it, have to take into account how the people feel about the issue right know, not just calculate the impact of the issue in the next election.

Things would be very different if the same issue of tax deductible fines arises in France, Germany, the US, UK, Canada, or any of established democracy. All that the politicians proposing a similar law would have to worry about is how to win in Parliament.

In representative democracy if Parliament, the Town Council, etc., passed the law there is not much the opposition or citizens can do stop it.

They will have to wait for the next election or, as it often happens, take to the streets to try to get governments to listen. We know such street actions can turn violent. Democracy is about reason and peaceful discussion, not violence.

In representative democracy, polls could show a majority of citizens oppose a new law. This majority could even be a clear majority. Unfortunately, in representative democracy there is no mechanism to stop the law if the law is supported by the majority of politicians in parliament.

This means that if you want to make sure that in your country, state, region, province, city, town or village, the citizens have the final say, that politicians can not pass new laws just like that, you have to do something.

You have to make direct democracy happen.

Representative politicians will not do bring direct democracy because they believe in representative democracy, the lobbies will not do it, and the establishment will not do it. All of these groups will have less power in direct democracy. Only you can push for the evolution towards direct democracy. If not now, when? if not you, who?

Your comments and criticisms always appreciated.

Victor

 

With direct democracy, politicians are closer to the citizens. Part I.

Direct democracy puts decision making in the hands of citizens. Because of that there is no need have long, heated debates in parliament.

Voters will hear all the arguments as part of the referendum process, no need to go on and on in parliament.

Because the citizens decide, elected representatives have to dedicate less time to the issues to “be right”. Instead, the people decide and hold themselves accountable; “… by the people…” as that famous sentence says.

Another effect of direct democracy is that representatives have a lighter workload and do not need as much staff to research uses, prepare for debates and appearances in the media, etc. Besides helping save time, direct democracy also saves money in this area.

It is also interesting that because people need to understand the issues in order to decide, the language used in referendum-related presentations is plain, to the point. “Legalese” and “jargonese” are less present.

There are more benefits.

Since politicians know the people have the final say on laws or policies, the behaviours of politicians, instead of antagonistic to “defeat” rivals, is more cooperative. “Let us produce laws most people will approve”, seems to be what elected representatives in direct democracy think.  Their horizon is not the next election but the next issue. It is the people who are responsible for the long-term horizon far beyond the next election.

In Switzerland they do not have such a thing as “majority government”, they govern in coalitions. You could say “the majority governs”.

Coalitions rest on cooperation. Cooperation means politicians work with the elected representatives of the other major parties to produce laws and decisions acceptable to the decision makers, to the people.

Cooperative work also requires far less time to decide than competitive, antagonistic work.  Decisions made in a cooperative spirit, are also superior to adversarial decisions. This is so because in cooperative decision-making the brainpower of all parties works more towards the common goal. 

Direct democracy also helps avoid another problem; we all see how difficult it is to tell in antagonistic parliaments if the debates are about the issues or about “being right” and getting positive media coverage. I often think parliament moderators should ask members: “does the honorable member want to be right or to solve the problem?”

Another positive effect of direct democracy is that it helps develop a culture of cooperation throughout society, in other areas beyond politics. This is not a small benefit.

Cooperation also helps efficiency because people do not waste time in arguments. This might explain why Switzerland has such high GDP per person; the Swiss are efficient, even more efficient than the famously efficient Germans.

Cooperation, which does not mean “saying yes” to the boss, also helps develop innovations requiring teamwork. Many are very surprised, I was too, when they learn Switzerland exports per person twice as much as Germany, and eight times more than the US, in high tech, high value added goods and services.

Because direct democracy politics requires less time of politicians, they have time to keep their regular jobs. This helps them stay aware of the issues that concern ordinary people. Full-time politicians live in a very different reality, remote from ordinary people, economically and psychologically.

Another effect of the lower workload of elected representatives in direct democracy is that parliament does not have to sit all year, like it does in representative democracies.

For example, both chambers of the Swiss national government sit only 4 times a year, each time for only three weeks. This means Swiss national (federal) politicians only have to be in the national capital 12 weeks in the whole year. The rest of the time they are in their districts and also doing their regular jobs as private citizens.

In the Swiss cantons, elected representatives are even in more close contact with citizens because the cantonal parliaments meet usually only for one day each month.

Since politicians in direct democracy stay closer to the lives of ordinary citizens, they draft laws and make decisions more in tune with what concerns the people. As a result, most citizens are more likely to support what elected representatives propose.

Isn’t it surprising that part-time direct democracy politicians, who have less decision making power than representative democracy politicians, and invest less time in politics, represent citizens better than full-time elected representatives in representative democracy?

The overall effect is that direct democracy gets closer to turn into facts the intentions of Lincoln’s famous sentence “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

In the next post I will continue with the discussion on how part-time direct democracy produces better politicians and better politics.

All your comments are appreciated.

 

Direct democracy; no riots

One key advantage of direct democracy; no riots.

If the United States had direct democracy things would be very different, and far less polarized. Trump would not be president, Black Lives Matter would not exist and the current riots would not take place.

With direct democracy, the US would evolve in a more cooperative, less convulsive, less confrontational way.

We only have one country in the World who practices direct democracy in a established, systematic manner, it is Switzerland.

In Switzerland they practice partial direct democracy because they still have elected politicians. But Swiss voters have direct power, real power, over their elected representatives. They exercise their power mostly via referendums.

With the results of referendums they force the politicians to manage and legislate in tune with the electorate. They do this at the local, state (canton) and national level.

But Swiss politicians and political parties are not in a state of playing cat and mouse with voters; they simply understand they have to work cooperatively with the voters and among themselves. As a result in Switzerland there is no opposition party because the opposition is in government too, always. Imagine that in the US and others representative democracies!

Swiss citizens have the power to  decide in the management of public affairs . This means that elites, lobbies and elected representatives can not set public policy like they do in the United States and other democracies. In the US policy and law making are far more removed from ordinary citizens.

If the US had direct democracy the current riots would not happen. They would not happen because direct democracy ensures governments are essentially sensitive to the concerns of ordinary citizens, not the interests of lobbies and “influencers”.

Direct democracy prevents turmoil because it keeps government in tune with majority and minority citizens.

In direct democracy, the citizens themselves can make changes that only elected representatives can make in representative democracies.

But it goes beyond; direct democracy voters can force elected representatives to make changes.

Voters can also stop changes that elected politicians may want to make.

In this way the government and the legislators continuously incorporate the will of the people in their decisions and actions.  By contrast, in representative democracy the will of the people counts during elections, not much between elections.

In direct democracy, people decide by means of referendums. Referendums may be mandatory by law or by the people. The power to call referendums is not in the hands of elected representatives.

Referendums take place also after serious and balanced debate of the issues. This reduces demagoguery, which in reality is the “art of seducing” voters without facts or data.

Referendums also “clear the air”. For example, if a majority of voters vote to legalize homosexual unions, those who voted against have no choice but to accept the decision. The people have decided.

Why have endless debates about gay marriage among politicians? Let the people decide.

Once the people have decided, what credibility would have those who lost if they riot?, not much.

Direct democracy also tones down “right” and “left” ideological positioning. In this way avoids polarization, a huge problem in the US now.

Polarization diminishes because direct democracy is about decisions on concrete issues, not about ideology.

Because of the excessive role of ideology we  see how “Right” and “Left” have become “faiths” who divide people into “believers” and “non-believers”. That is no good for any type of democracy.

Because of the “right-left” divide, many voters define themselves as being “conservative” or “progressive”. Once they do that it is hard for them to go against “their” beliefs and “their” party on most issues.

Another problem with excess ideology is that it also weakens voter’s ability to look at the facts in an open, pragmatic manner.

Some people say that direct democracy can become the “tyranny of the majority”.

That is not so. The people who say that are trapped in “left-right” thinking.

In direct democracy there is not a “right” or “left” majority. There are issues and the people decide.

In a referendum on a particular issue the majority may vote “left”, on another issue the majority may vote “right”. There is no permanent majority to become tyranny.

People who think in terms of the “tyranny of the majority”, do so because they see the “right-left” division as fixed as the law of gravity. It is not so. “Right-Left” exists only since the French Revolution.

“Right-Left” is a way of thinking about reality that direct democracy makes less important, even unnecessary.

Another problem is that, often the division between “right” and “left” is used to keep ordinary people divided and distracted from the real goals of the elites of the “right” and the “left”. Those goals are power and money, in one way or another. This is not a small problem in representative democracy.

The current riots would not happen in the US because direct democracy provides powerful ways for governments and legislators to have to listen to citizens. Representative democracy does not do that as effectively.

For example, with direct democracy at the local, state and national level, police officer selection and training in the US would be far better attuned to the community.

You would not have in police forces people like the obviously incompetent, possibly perturbed, white officer who killed the black man by pressing the man’s neck with the knee.

With direct democracy police unions and management would also work more cooperatively. If they did not, voters would change the laws and force them to.

Voters would also force politicians and police bosses to incorporate the union in the management team. This would also make unions more responsible and accountable, not just focused on “protecting their members”.

In the news they reported the white officer who killed the black man had complains because of his previous behaviour. I would like to know if the union contract made it impossible to fire or mandate deep retraining for such obviously unfit officer.

The more you know about direct democracy, the more sense it makes.

Why representative democracy is not “government FOR the people”

“FOR the people”. This is the third part of Lincoln’s famous words at Gettysburg.

Remember: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

In the last two blogs we showed that representative democracy is not “government OF the people” and “government BY the people”.

Just in case this is the first time you visit: I do not question representative democracy.

Representative democracy is light-years ahead in human capital of any authoritarian or totalitarian regime.

All those regimes belong to a more primitive social state. Even if they are technologically advanced, they are humanely primitive.

The blog is about promoting direct democracy. Direct democracy is the next logical stage for established and stable representative democracies.

We do not have many such democracies.

This small group includes only the Northern European countries, Canada, the US (even with its never ending state of tension), Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and perhaps China (Taipei), South Korea and India. I might have left one or two out.

So, if representative democracy is not “OF the people” and “BY the people”, there is no way it can be FOR the people.

Credible opinion surveys show many people do not feel represented in representative democracies. Representative democracy is not FOR them. More than a few feel representative democracy is for the representatives themselves and the lobbies.

But you do not need the surveys to know that representative democracy is not for us. We know it from our personal experience, from others in our family, from our friends and from colleagues at work.

People to not have a high opinion of their elected representatives because of the behaviour of the representatives. That is the reason.

We all know how what people associate to the word “politician”, it is not pretty.

How can people hold politicians in high esteem?; they make promises they can’t or won’t keep, they lie, they manipulate, once elected they pass laws and make decisions, or look the other way, even when they know most people are against.

They do it because they make the rules and play the game. It is time citizens do that.

Politicians also lead far more privilege lives than most voters

As a result, their personal and collective priorities are very different from those of ordinary voters.

Too often they only put themselves in our places to fool us.

This is why so many people do not feel represented in “representative” democracy, and never will.

Elected politicians also often have to listen to the rich and the lobbies. Sometimes they have to because they need their money to run election and reelection campaigns. They also listen to  because those with the money can offer politicians very well paid jobs after they leave politics, if they are nice to those with the money while they “serve”.

In short, if the people do not govern it is logical that representative democracy not be FOR the people.

There are many other signs that representative democracy is in trouble because it has lost its way.

For example, many ordinary people look at those they elect as people with superior status. This makes no sense.

Makes no sense that we treat the people, who have the job of representing us because we gave it to them, and whose salary we pay, end up being treated as if they have superior status to us.

We refer to permanent government employees “civil servants”. Politicians should be called “elected civil servants”, it is good enough.

One first good step, only a first one, is to do what the Swiss do.

The Swiss, have and use, the power to approve or stop the laws the elected representatives make. At least we have to have that in all established and stable representative democracies.

A better step is that the people, directly govern.

Until we do that, “government of the people, by the people, for the people” are nice words, not facts.

To make then facts we have to DO things.

Thanks for your comments.

 

Victor Lopez

Real government by the people, not what we have!

“Government by the people”.
 
This is the second part of Lincoln’s famous words at Gettysburg: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
 
Well, representative democracy is not “government by the people”. Those elected by the people govern, the people do not govern.
 
Some say that because those who represent the people come from among the people, then the people govern, makes no sense to me.
 
It is like saying that the shareholders of a company run the company. It is obvious the top executives and their teams run companies.
 
In my last blog I wrote about how, even if the elected representatives formally are ordinary citizens, in reality they are not. You can look at that post to see why I say so.
 
The people do not govern; the professional politicians and career public employees ARE the government, not the people.
 
Even in Switzerland, who are closer to “government by the people”, they are not doing that.
 
You could say the Swiss people govern because the people have authority over the elected representatives. Indirectly, they also have authority over the civil service.
 
The Swiss people directly decide. They decide what laws can become laws, building a public swimming pool, universal income, treaties, etc.
 
The Swiss do this at the local, regional and national level. This is critical to create a culture of decision making by the people. What the Swiss do is far ahead of the rest, still, it is not government by the people. It is more “government controlled by the people”. Not bad at all.
 
Only the ancient Greeks had government by the people.
 
In ancient Greece the people served in government. Yes, ordinary citizens run the government. I know, we are so used to being the other way around. We are used to government running the lives of citizens. We are so used to it that most people need to think hard to see it is logical to go back the Greeks.
 
The people should be the boss, not the politicians or the civil servants.
 
The ancient Greeks did it in a way similar to how people serve on juries.
 
Citizens were selected by lot to serve. After that they had to pass a screening. Ordinary citizens did the screening. The panel or assembly to do the screening can also be selected by lot. The assembly must be large enough to be representative of citizens..
 
Overall, government by the people, means citizens of all walks of life would be randomly called to serve in government. Very different to what we have now, isn’t it?
 
We would have to prevent absurd situations, like in any system. Selection by lot would not mean any citizen can serve in any job, screening is necessary.
 
The selection panels, or assemblies, would be large enough to be representative of the citizens. Among them there would be men, women, young, old, most professions, etc. People would be called to serve in the selection assembly by lot.
 
Because the assembly is large enough, it will be representative of the people.
 
The people selected to run the government and selected to the selection assemblies would do their jobs for a limited period of time. It may not even be a full time assignment. This will help them stay in touch with reality outside government.
 
After they serve in government, the people would return to their professions. They would not go back to government, or would do so after 15 or 20 years. This would prevent creating undesirable networks.
 
There would be career civil servants, but with very limited and specific functions.
 
If we do the above we would could say we have government by the people.
 
Of course, many other details have to be worked out.
 
We could start with pilot projects at the local, regional and national levels. We could start with one department or ministry, etc.
 
The key lies in the majority of citizens agreeing that ordinary citizens should run government.
 
Getting the people involved in running government has huge benefits. The people would be directly responsible for what government does, no more blaming “the politicians”. Citizens will no longer be in the passive role representative democracy places them in. The people will understand government, they will know what can and cannot be done, they will prevent government distancing from citizens, etc.
 
For example, if ordinary citizens run police departments we would not have crazy incidents like the murder triggering the current protests and riots in the US and elsewhere.
 
We wouldn’t have the riots either because ordinary citizen would bring to the police the awareness to personnel selection, training, and policing procedures that will prevent the tragic systemic failures we regularly see.
 
In the next post I will write about the last part of Lincoln’s words.
 
As always, your comments are valuable.
 
Victor Lopez

Is representative democracy another oxymoron?

OK, representative democracy is light years ahead of any dictatorship or authoritarian regime, of one person, one party or one religion.

Representative democracy satisfies a basic human desire; ordinary people should be the ones deciding who rules. Not the “divine” king, the prophet, the priest, a self-appointed leader, a religion or a political party.

But representative democracy has some shortcomings. The mayor one is that it is not representative enough. We know this from multiple surveys.

Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg address summarized well what democracy should be about:

“government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Ancient Greek democracy was that:

“government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Unfortunately, the concept of “people” for the Greeks left out women and slaves. But I am sure that if Greek democracy had survived, Greeks would have figured out centuries ago that slavery was wrong and that women must vote.

The Greek Stoics, a very important school of thought, were the first humans anywhere to condemn slavery. Stoicism started 2400 years ago within Greek democracy.

As for women, even earlier, Plato states they are equal to men.

Slavery survived all over the World for many centuries in many human societies. Even in modern democracies until very recently. So it seems the shortcomings of Greek democracy were not unique.

All major religions accepted slavery and the back seat role for women, for more the 2200 years after the collapse of Greek democracy. Some current religions still look the other way on slavery and are explicitly against women’s equality.

Women started to have the right to vote late in the 19th century. In some surprising places, like France, women could not vote until 1944, 1944, that’s right. In Switzerland, the most democratic modern country, women had to wait till 1971!

Now that we have left behind the shortcomings on slavery and women of ancient Greek democracy, and of modern democracies too. it is time to catch with  Ancient Greek democracy in other areas.

Yes, we have to catch up. The Ancient Greeks were closer to fulfill Abraham Lincoln’s words about democracy.

Let us look at the first part: “government of the people.. “.

Representative democracy, even Swiss semi-direct democracy is behind the Greeks in this regard.

Let ur look at how that happens.

Representative democracy is “government of the people” to the extent that the a number of elected representatives are common people. Unfortunately in many representative democracies, many those elected are not common people.

For the most part, elected politicians come from above average socio economic levels. Furthermore, once they are elected, most of them become even better off and in so doing they dis distance themselves even more.

In part this happens because elected politicians are often very well paid, and have all sorts of costly benefits payed by ordinary taxpayers.

Also interesting is that most taxpayer make a lot less money and have a lot less benefits than the politicians they elect.

Difficult to see how this is “government of the people”.

We also know political campaigns in most representative democracies require a lot of money.  Often that money comes from rich individuals, corporation and various lobbies. Logically, those elected, even if they are common people, end up representing non-common people and their interests. This means elected representatives are nos as representative as they should.

Those are not the only problems.

To be a candidate it is almost essential to belong to a political party. This means that those who become candidates are people promoted and controlled by the professionals who run the parties. Only those who belong to political parties can get elected.

So, the “government of the people” affirmation is not happening and has to be corrected.

To correct it ordinary people like you will have to actively fight for it. It is not going to be corrected by current politicians, their parties and the lobbies because they are the establishment. Establishments to not like change.

In the next post I will look at the second part of what Lincoln said: “government by the people”.

Your comments, for or against 2 I see are welcomed.

Why is it that in Switzerland is where citizens trust government the most?

I do think it is the result of direct democracy.

In direct democracy the citizens control the executive branch and also the parliament.

In effect, the Swiss citizen is the boss; government and parliament has to listen to the people because if they do not the people will stop dead the laws and policies they propose, right then and there, no need to wait till next election.

The logical result of the power citizens have is that they trust government and parliament. They do because the citizens know government and parliament do not stray far from the will of the people.

In fact, direct democracy reduces the role of politicians to that of managers of the will of the people. In Switzerland they do not have or need “visionary” or “charismatic” leaders; what two irrational concepts!

The Swiss have reduced the role of political positions so much that even the role of President of the country rotates yearly among the four major political parties. The President is one of the seven people who run the Swiss federal government.

The President of Switzerland is first among equals. It is a collective consensus-based leadership.

It is also interesting to note that Swiss voters do not elect the President, or any of the seven Councilors. The Federal Council members are elected by the Swiss Parliament.

Many would think that to place such power in the hands of parliament would be a sure way for all sorts of horse trading and deals in backrooms, and ignoring the people.  Direct democracy keeps that in check.

No wonder more than 80% of the Swiss trust their government.

Compare that with the next best countries, Norway and Canada. They are in the 60% level.

I want to mention Denmark too, because I compared Denmark and Switzerland in a previous post. Trust in government in Denmark is about half of what it is in Switzerland.

Although Denmark is a fairly well run country and government seems to listen to the people, there is something there that undermines trust in government. Perhaps it is the sensation of being listened to but not having the power to control that the Swiss do have.

Also very interesting is that the trust of the Swiss in their governments has been increasing year after year. No other country has done that.

Because at the regional (canton) and local level, Swiss citizens have as much or more control than at the national level over government and politicians, it is reasonable to assume the level of trust is high also at the local and regional levels.

Because in Switzerland the will of the citizens controls governments and politicians, the Swiss have no need to march on the streets against or for this or that decision or policy. The Swiss get signatures and everybody decides in a local, regional or national referendum.

No need in Switzerland for politicians promising grandiose this and that. No point doing that because the people decide, not the politician.

If the United States had direct democracy the polarization between Republicans, Democrats, etc., would not exist because the power of referendums would have forced them to negotiate.

Perhaps proportional representation would also produce more major parties who would govern together by consensus.

The current riots in the would not be taking place because the politicians would have listened and forced to listen.

For example, the people would have imposed much better selection and training of the people who run police forces and police officers. No crazy policemen of any colour, like the nut who killed George Floyd would have made it to policeman or training would have “civilized” him.

Another effect of direct democracy is that the “superhuman” image of the President, even Senators, governors and other positions would be cut down to human size.

If you do not hear your politicians promote direct democracy it is easy to guess why. If you want orderly citizen power you have to help spread the idea and the superior facts of direct democracy.

Your comments are appreciated.

Victor López

If direct democracy is superior, why Denmark, a representative democracy, does almost as well as Switzerland?

Switzerland and Denmark are among the best countries we have on Earth. For that to happen, there must be something else besides the system of democracy to explain why Denmark with its representative democracy system does so well.

Let us first look at some basic facts about each country.

They are both small; 8.3 million people in Switzerland and 5.8 million in Denmark.

Denmark is a Monarchy. It is also and a unitary state. In Denmark, Danish is the native language of almost all Danes.

Switzerland is a federal republic. It has four native cultures and four official languages. Most Danes are Protestant. In Switzerland, Catholics are slightly more numerous than Protestants. An interesting fact is the Swiss had a war between Catholics and Protestants.

Taxes are much higher in Denmark, but Switzerland citizens have to pay for many services out of their own pocked. This happens, for example, with health care. Both countries have universal health care but the Swiss people personally pay the premiums. Because the premiums can be high, Swiss governments give money to people who need assistance to pay the premiums. In the end the result is the same; universal health care.

Swiss and Danes trust their governments and their politicians, although the Swiss trust their governments more.

Both countries have low corruption, but Denmark has a little less than Switzerland.

Politically, the Danish have the interesting “habit” of not electing majority governments. This means parties have to negotiate to pass laws. The result is laws acceptable to most voters. But I am sure this also happens because of good Danish common sense. In many other countries coalition government are not possible, or do not work.

In Switzerland, the mandatory and voluntary referendums have taught politicians they must pass laws acceptable to most voters. Like in Denmark, in Switzerland the major parties govern in coalition.

I believe Swiss and Danish politicians have one very important thing in common, they listen to the people and act accordingly. In Switzerland they may listen because it makes sense for the well-being of the country and also because the law gives them no choice. In Denmark they listen because it makes sense for the well-being of the country.

The ability to listen explains why Denmark and Switzerland function quite well. Switzerland may have the edge because of direct democracy.  I have little doubt that if the Danish decide to adopt direct democracy it will work there very well too. Perhaps even better than in Switzerland because Denmark is a more homogeneous society.

To conclude:

A representative democracy can work well when the elected representatives listen to the people.

However in representative democracies it is not as easy for the people to control politicians when the politicians “go astray”.

Representative democracy is more vulnerable to lobbies, etc., because politicians can pass laws people do not support.

The only regulated option voters have in representative democracy is to elect another party at the next election, in the hope the new government will repeal the law. They can also demonstrate, etc. That is what people often do in representative democracies.

Representative democracy is also less “representative” than direct democracy because the voters do not have to explicitly say: “yes, we support the new law”. The system does not make voters “stand up and be counted”.

In direct democracy the situation is very different; politicians have to listen to the people. They can not do anything the people do not want them to do. This is so because, as soon as the politicians pass a new law, it may be mandatory to get voters to approve the law, or voters can force a referendum to stop the law dead.

Direct democracy puts voters in charge. They too are responsible for what the country does, as it should be. That is the big difference between direct democracy and representative democracy.

One great advantage of direct democracy is that it makes politicians and the people co-responsible.

In direct democracy those who pay are in charge, not their “employees”.

Switzerland can also serve as an example for another important reason; to successfully and democratically manage a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-language society.

Honestly, I do not know if direct democracy has made diverse Switzerland possible as a country or if it is diversity that made direct democracy possible, perhaps even necessary.

Thank you for your opinions.