How Swedish representative democracy shot itself in the foot.

Sweden has been one of the better-run countries in the World for decades.

For many years, a coalition of left-wing parties governed Sweden. They are pragmatists who realize the welfare state needs a strong, highly efficient private sector. You could say Sweden was, still is, a social-capitalist country.

Swedish capitalists have created major international companies like Assa Abloy, Electrolux, Ericsson, Essity, H&M, IKEA, Skanska, Spotify, Vattenfall and Volvo.

Sweden’s leftist parties have also created a country with excellent and abundant public services.

But in the 1980s the Swedish political and social elites made a mistake, a big one. For whatever reason, the governing politicians and others decided that Sweden should open its doors to refugees and immigrants. The politicians decided, like in all representative democracies, without the people having a formal say or control of the decision.

As a representative democracy, in Sweden, the elected politicians in parliament and government can pretty well decide whatever they consider good for the Swedish or the World. There is no mechanism for letting people decide.

Unfortunately, the new policies on immigration were not popular among many Swedes of different political tendencies, not just “conservatives”. This was because of the violence, poor integration of many immigrants, etc., affected Swedes of all ideologies.

Most politicians, the media, and many commentators equated opposition to immigration to racism. The result was that many ordinary citizens opposed to immigration were shamed into silence.

Nevertheless, the shaming did not change opinions; surveys showed most Swedes opposed to immigration in the way it was being handled by the government.

Slowly, the frustration of many voters led them to support the Sweden Democrats, a right-wing party. The party has been growing from 1% of the popular vote in 2002 to 17,5% in 2018.

Today, Sweden is more polarized than ever before; the parties and the people are polarized, although it does to reach the level of the US.

Direct democracy would have prevented polarization in Sweden, in the US too.

By not having direct democracy, the Swedish people can not gather, for example, 100 000 signatures to support a referendum on immigration, or on taxes, or anything else, and force the government to hold a binding referendum on the issue.

It is interesting to look at how the Swiss and their direct democracy system, handled immigration. In Switzerland, the people have the power to stop decisions made by the executive and the legislature, even if the decision by the legislature is unanimous.

In the Swiss system, politicians do not have the power to do what they did in Sweden.

In 2014 the Swiss gathered 100 000 signatures to support its initiative for a referendum on mass migration. Anyone is allowed to gather 100 000 signatures; a group of citizens, a political party, or any other organization.

The referendum showed that 50.33% of the voters supported ending mass migration.

If the public mood changes, another group of citizens, a party, etc., can gather the 100 000 signatures required to hold a referendum to do just the opposite or on another issue.

For example, the same conservative party who launched the initiative on mass migration, launched another one earlier on, in 2002, against “asylum abuse”. 50.1% of the voters rejected the initiative; end of discussion.

Because the Swiss politicians, the cultural elites, the media, etc., are used to having the people decide, to them opposing or supporting mass migration, or asylum seekers, is not related to racism, it is just another problem to be dealt with democratically, by letting the voters make the decision.

To equate opposition to mass migration to racism, and to silence those opposed to mass migration, was a huge mistake for Sweden. It is another example of the mistakes politicians with too much power make that harm democracy.

So, if your country is a parliamentarian democracy and has become polarized by immigration policies or other issues, spread the word about direct democracy.

Direct democracy is a more democratic system and also helps avoid polarization.

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