Let me get one thing out of the way; while representative democracy falls short in terms of real democracy, non-democracies, or corrupt democracies, are systems that should not even exist because they daily violate human dignity.
The best representative democracies, while they are not real democracies, are light-years ahead of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in terms of the dignity of the lives of their citizens.
In a direct democracy, the people can stop any law the politicians want to pass. This is impossible in a representative democracy, unless the people turn to massive street protests or even riots. But even in that case, there is no guarantee the politicians will listen to the people.
In a direct democracy, the politicians know the citizens have more power than they have; there is no question of them not listening to the people.
Politicians in a direct democracy have learned the people are the ultimate authority on everything. Therefore, politicians in a direct democracy will not pass laws or put in practice policies not approved by the majority of the people.
The people decide through popular referendums. The power of such referendums is amazing.
Besides controlling the politicians, the popular referendums give their outcomes democratic legitimacy, much more so than decisions made by elected representatives.
Democracy is rule by the people, not by the representatives of the people. If the people do not rule, it is not democracy.
Democracy means, for example, that if the majority of citizens decide in a referendum that every adult citizen will receive the universal basic income, then such a decision will become the law of the land. There is nothing the politicians can do to stop it; they do not have the authority.
Swiss citizens recently voted on such a referendum. They turned the idea down, for now, but perhaps in a few years, the decision will go the other way. That is democracy at work.
It makes much more sense that the people make such decisions, not their “representatives”. Direct democracy does away with the excessive importance politicians have in a representative democracy.
In a direct democracy, the people also decide taxation levels, immigration, international treaties, joining international organizations, the building of a new highway, a school, a hospital, etc.
It is not democracy if citizens can not do such things.
It is important to realize that not even the best representative democracies of Northern Europe come close in democratic depth to Switzerland’s direct democracy. The reason is obvious, in none of them do the people come close to having the power the Swiss people have.
It is interesting some organizations that rank democracies have the cheek to put Denmark, Norway ahead of Switzerland. they say they are “better” democracies; it is absurd.
One of those organizations is the English magazine The Economist. The magazine publishes a “Democracy Index”. The index ranks democracies based on opinion surveys.
The Economist asks questions about the electoral process, pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.
But the key factors that make a democracy a better democracy are not those. Democracy is about people’s power. People’s power is when the citizens directly decide all important issues.
The essence of democracy is not the political process, plurality, or political participation. The essence of democracy is people’s power. For example, the citizens of representative democracy can all vote in elections, and yet the country will be far less democratic than a country where only 40% vote but do so to approve a new law, change or eliminate a law, revise the constitution, etc., not just elect someone.
Those are the hard facts; Switzerland’s democracy is head and shoulders above any representative democracy.
In the best representative democracies, such as Denmark and Norway, the politicians normally pass laws after ample and genuine consultation with the people. One effect is that such laws are supported by the majority of the people. Obviously, that is very good. Such is the situation in Denmark and Norway, however, both countries are less democratic than Switzerland. The reason is plain; the Swiss people have much more power.
The Swiss people have the power to directly decide on laws, the constitution, international treaties and international bodies. The Danish and the Norwegian people do not have that power.
If you want real democracy, you want direct democracy.
But even Swiss democracy is not fully direct, even the Swiss can improve. This means others can set up even more democratic democracies.