I am sure most of the people who dislike direct democracy believe voters should not have so much power. Somehow, they feel “I cannot trust the people”, although they exclude themselves, I suppose.
Democracy, even representative democracy, sits on the belief “I can trust the people”. If we do not believe that, we do not believe in democracy; representative or direct. Rule by elites, even if elected, is not a democracy, democracy is rule by the people.
I suspect others oppose direct democracy because it shifts the balance of power to the people and away from the politicians and those around them, the lobbies, the pressure groups, the “opinion leaders”, and so on.
For a thoughtful voter, for the average voter, it is a lot more difficult to figure out how a politician will decide once elected than to decide by himself o herself.
Ordinary voters are capable of making hard decisions; they do it in their personal and professional lives. They can also decide if health care should be universal and financed with taxes or universal and privately financed, or something in-between. Voters can also decide if taxes should be raised or lowered, or if a new highway is necessary, or if nuclear electricity should be canned.
In a direct democracy, the voters decide, but they do it after ample, open, public, and orderly debate on the pros and cons of what the politicians want to do. They listen to politicians on all sides, to experts, to others in their families, etc. After that process, the voters can make an informed decision on any issue, no matter how “complex”.
Another enormous benefit of direct democracy is that decisions are more readily accepted by the losers after a citizen’s referendum, than a decision made by a politician sitting very far. If after open and fair debate, and a trusted voting system, your side loses the argument before your fellow citizens, the only rational thing to do is accept the verdict, and people do.
In a direct democracy, the people elect representatives, but the politicians still draft laws and make decisions.
In a direct democracy, all important decisions by politicians have to survive far more thorough scrutiny than in representative democracy. They are scrutinized by other politicians, by the experts, and by the people. Keep also in mind that there are many experts among ordinary voters, even if they do not work in known institutions.
Because the people have the final say, in a direct democracy the elected representatives become useful advisors to the people. The people now have the right to say to the executive and the legislative: “look, the law you propose, the treaty you think we should sign, the purchase of new jets for the air force, keeping nuclear electricity, etc., maybe are the right thing to do, but enough of us among the voters, do not agree, we want our fellow citizens to decide if they support what you propose”.
Another advantage of direct democracy is that the lobbies can not pressure ordinary voters in the way they can pressure elected politicians; voters do not need the money of the corporations, the unions, the media, or other groups for election or re-election.
An additional benefit of direct democracy is that, because politicians do not have the final say, the pressure groups do not pressure them as much as they do in representative democracies. In this way, it is easier for politicians to make decisions for the good of the majority.
Just a word about direct democracy. California and other American States do not have real direct democracy for two reasons; the first one is that there is no direct democracy in the United States at the national level. As long as California is in the US it can not have direct democracy where it would most count; at the federal level.
The second reason is that in the United States the courts can overturn the results of popular referendums. In Switzerland, even the Supreme Court can not do that.
The facts speak for themselves; look at the history and the present of Switzerland under direct democracy. Direct democracy has been, and is, wonderful for Switzerland; a great standard of living, low corruption, the great trust of the people in government, continuous evolution of laws and the constitution to the changing values of the people, no riots, no demagogues.
The facts on the ground prove it; the German majority which constitutes 63% of the population, does not vote to oppress the French, the Italian, the Romansch or of other minorities.
Certainly, in Switzerland, there is no “tyranny of the majority” or “mob rule” either.
On the contrary, it is in representative democracies where we see the riots that can lead to mob rule. We saw that recently in France, in the United States, and other representative democracies.
If correctly implemented, direct democracy is the next step in the development of democracy. The advance representative democracies need is systemic, not ideological. It is not an “advance” to the left or the right, it is an advance in decision-making. “We pay, we decide”. The time has come.
We can trust the people.