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.