If representative democracy, where the citizens choose those who make decisions, is difficult, direct democracy where the citizens themselves decide on issues, not just who will govern, is much more difficult. Perhaps this is why it took humanity about 300 000 years to come up with democracy.
It happened in Ancient Greece 2500 years ago. It lasted a few centuries and then the democracy clock stopped. It took another 2000 years for democracy to revive. Unfortunately, it only did so in Europe, and in a limited way.
It happened in Europe probably because Europeans were lucky enough to have access to ancient Greek books. Some Greek ideas were passed on to them through the Romans and others. Somehow, the Europeans also developed the common sense necessary to make democracy work.
However, even today, even among the countries with stable democracies, only one, Switzerland, comes close to Ancient Greece democracy, the rest follow the less democratic representative democracy.
Direct democracy is superior to representative democracy because it is more democratic; it increases the power of ordinary citizens to decide how society works. This also increases their self esteem, their confidence in themselves, the dignity of their lives; it improves the whole country.
Direct democracy is about rebalancing power; that is one of the obstacles because those with power do not want any rebalancing. To them, things are as they ought to be.
Somebody said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. He also said: “great men are almost always bad men”. This is why nobody, no elite, no party, no person should have a lot of power, not even when the people freely elect their representatives. The representatives must have their power limited; the final authority must be the citizens.
The quoted words above were written in 1887 by Lord Acton, an English politician and writer.
He could have also said, but he did not: “politicians love power”.
It was the Swiss who made the closest approximation to Greek direct democracy.
But in Switzerland the change did not happen because the “enlightened” political parties decided that “government by the people” was good. The Swiss political parties did not want direct democracy, they were happy with representative democracy. They used the same arguments politicians in other representative democracies continue to use, including your own country.
They are happy; “you just vote for us, we know what to do, we have that special quality that enables us to know what is good for the country, you do not have to worry”.
It was in the 1830s when the people of Swiss cantons decided they had enough of that. They pushed and pushed and gave themselves the power to stop laws drafted by the parliament and the government of the cantons. They also gave themselves the power to propose and pass new laws.
The Swiss cantons can be roughly compared to the states in the US, Australia or Germany, the provinces in Canada, perhaps the states of India, etc.
At the national level, Swiss politicians resisted direct democracy for another 40 years; it did not happen at the national level until 1874.
Notice that the Swiss tackled what worried Lord Acton, even before Lord Acton wrote those words. It is obvious the Swiss are very clever about something even more important than watches, cheese, chocolate, banking, high technologies and many other things.
But the Swiss advance has not spread yet. Perhaps it is because most people do not know about. Perhaps it is because the politicians resist losing some power, like Swiss politicians did.
It is also possible that it is because ordinary people do not believe in direct democracy. However, in my experience, most people just do not know about direct democracy; once I make them aware of it and how it works, they like direct democracy. This is why I started this blog; to help spread direct democracy.
Swiss direct democracy has demonstrated most citizens are very responsible. You already know that in your country because most people behave responsibly with their own affairs. For example, people pay their mortgages and other loans, they look after what they own, they are responsible neighbours, responsible parents, responsible workers, etc.
The key to develop responsibility is to give people the power to experience responsibility. To feel responsible for what happens in the country they need the power to decide on issues, not just the power to decide whom to vote for.
In representative democracy the majority of people do not feel responsible for how their country is managed. They feel that way because, once the politicians are elected, once the new parliament and the new government are formed, ordinary citizens have no power; all they can do is complain. As a result, for them, “the problem is the politicians”.
To change that we have to act like the Swiss, we have to say it loud and clear, and insist for as long as necessary, that we want direct democracy.