Direct democracy is about freedom and power

Direct democracy means the people have freedom of expression, freedom to decide who governs, and the freedom and power to make executive decisions that prevail over the decisions of politicians and judges.

If the people have the first two but do not have the power to decide on issues and laws, then democracy falls short; it contradicts what democracy is about when the people are not the final decision-makers on issues.

The reason is simple; when the elected representatives, or the highest court in the land, have more power of decision than the people, then it is not a democracy.

When the people fought for and gained the power to decide who governs, they made a tremendous improvement over totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, one-party system regimes, religious regimes, absolute kings, and so on.

But that advance is no longer enough.

When you elect your representatives, you have representative “democracy”. Unfortunately, in representative “democracy”, the elected representatives, the politicians have all the executive power, as the old regimes did; together, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary have all the power of decision.

The politicians also control de judiciary because they elect the judges of the highest court. They do not control the decisions of the judges, but they control who becomes a Supreme Court Judge and that gives them even more power.

In a democracy it can not be like that; the vote of the people must be the decisive power on all laws and on the constitution itself.

Representative democracy does not require approval by the people of the decisions of the executive, the legislative, or the judiciary. The opposite happens; the majority of the people may oppose a decision, but it has no effect.

So, here you have it; in representative democracies, the people are sovereign, but not really. The people have no executive power on anything, they just elect the politicians.

For example, the preamble to the Constitution of the United States says: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more Perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the Common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I mention the United States because it is the better known representative democracy, but the Constitution of your country probably says something similar; that the people are “sovereign”, that the people are the source of all authority, etc.

So, if the American people “… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”, you would think the American People have the authority to revise, modify and replace the constitution, and do the same with all laws made under the Constitution.

Unfortunately, it is not like that. The people can not modify directly the Constitution of the United States, no matter how many want it. The American people do not have the power to do that, only the elected politicians can do it, and only the Supreme Court can decide if this or that law is constitutional.

The American people can write, speak, agitate, march, protest, riot, and they do, to change laws. Sometimes, protests prod the politicians into action to pass a new law, or to modify an existing one. Other times, they ignore the protests. The American people were sovereign only once; when they created the Constitution.

We also know protests do not always represent the will of the majority. This means that in a representative democracy you have situations where government passes a law that may be opposed by the majority. In democracy, that is not rational.

The American people do not have any established mechanism to make decisions collectively. This has to change.

It is interesting that some representative democracies practice timid forms of direct democracy. I say timid because they appear to let the will of the people prevail on issues, but when it comes to the hard facts, they don’t.

Tomorrow I will look at timid California’s direct democracy to illustrate this.


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