Representative democracies cannot prevent the entrenchment of what has become a political class, a sort of elected oligarchy. Representative democracy can not prevent either that lobbies and pressure groups gain too much power through the elected representatives.
For many, the Scandinavian democracies of Denmark, Sweden, are the most stable and better run representative democracies.
Unfortunately, in the Scandinavian countries, like in all other representative democracies, the only realistic way to aspire to hold public office, and particularly high office, is to join one of the established political parties.
This makes it very difficult to renew the thinking of decision-makers; all future decision-makers have to go through “The System”. “The System” conditions them to perpetuate the status quo.
Just look at this; the current Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, has spent practically all her professional life as a politician. She was in a trade union for one year. At 24 they elected her to the Folketing, the Danish Parliament. That was in 2001, she has been a politician ever since.
Take Sweden. Its Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, is 63 years old. After he finished his mandatory military service, he became a welder, presumably in his 20s. Soon he became a trade unionist and at 49 he rose to chairman of the second-largest trade union in Sweden. He has also been a member of the Social Democrat Party of Sweden since the age of 13! In 2012 he became the leader of the Social Democrats and in 2014 Prime Minister.
In Norway, the Prime Minister is Erna Solberg. She is a conservative professional politician since the age of 18.
You get the picture.
How can such people, who are establishment creatures, govern in tune with the people? They can not; they are trapped in their ideologies, in the system, by the system, and by all those pressure groups and lobbies around the system. It is impossible for such people to govern in tune with the people.
In most other countries, the situation is no better; it is worse.
Disenchantment with the political establishment is growing, even in Scandinavia.
In countries where representative democracy has already deteriorated, we see the disenchantment of millions growing; Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US represent millions of disenchanted people.
The problem will not go away, no matter how much the establishment pretends nothing is happening. As history shows, the establishment will be caught by surprise when society explodes in anger.
This brings us to the logical way to renew democracy; direct democracy.
The only country where the Ancient Greeks would recognize their democracy is Switzerland. The Greeks had direct democracy, not representative democracy. It is time to catch up after 2,600 years.
While the Swiss people have not deepened democracy to the level of the Ancient Greeks, they have done something which is necessary to have real democracy; they gave themselves the power to decide issues, not just the power to elect representatives.
The elected Swiss politicians used to have the power of politicians in representative democracies, now they only have the power to propose; the people can stop any decision or law the politicians propose.
But they even go further in Switzerland; the Swiss people also propose laws and change the constitution. Swiss politicians can not change the constitution, only the people can.
Still, they go further; the Swiss Supreme Court can not examine laws to decide if they comply with the Swiss Constitution. In this way, they keep the Supreme Court out of politics. They also prevent the High Court “legislate”, as the US Supreme Court does.
In several other representative democracies the situation is not too different from the US.
Furthermore, the Swiss High Court can not overturn the results of any decision by the people.
By the way, the Swiss Executive has to comply with the decisions made by the people.
The Scandinavian peoples can not do anything of what the Swiss people can. Fortunately, perhaps for cultural reasons, their governments have not yet “gone too far” from the people, although the distancing is growing.
The Swiss system is not a secret, but the political establishments of representative democracies are not interested in weakening their power; the various pressure groups and lobbies that can influence the elected decision-makers are not interested in direct democracy either. Therefore, you hear little about Swiss direct democracy. The little you hear is mostly critical, the reason is obvious…
If we do not put our foot down, as the Swiss did, representative democracy will continue to deteriorate. As a result, the distrust of politicians will grow. There is already talk in some countries of the “advantages” of dictatorship by a political party or by an individual “saviour”.
If the distrust is high enough and a serious economic or health crisis arrives, representative democracy could die at the hands of a totalitarian group or individual. We could also do something intelligent like the Swiss did; use the pandemic to pressure the elected politicians and bring direct democracy to our countries.