Direct democracy is the only way to “drain” the political swamps in representative democracies.

All representative democracies have their own political swamps. Swamps exist at the national, state-province, and local level. The Swamp became famous because of The Swamp in Washington.

For most people, The Swamp includes the Executive, the Legislative, many career bureaucrats, and all the lobbyists around all of them. But I also include the judiciary, because the Judiciary is also an entrenched power with huge clout over American politics, and it should not have that power.

The Swamp is not a right-wing or left-wing phenomenon, it is a systemic illness.

Ordinary citizens dislike The Swamp. They dislike it because they sense, correctly, that The Swamp runs the country, but not for them.

The way representative democracies work, it is almost inevitable for them not to develop some version of The Swamp; the Swamp is a natural consequence of representative democracy.

The reason is simple; representative democracy gives all the executive power to the elected executive, to the elected legislator, and also to the judges.

The political parties can not drain the Swamp because being part of it brings them many benefits.

For example, passing a law or issuing an order that, rises or lowers tariffs, benefits one lobby or another. The lobbies who benefit are likely to help politicians at election time with big economic donations to their campaigns, with political ads, articles, books, favourable editorials and so on.

The lobbies need the politicians in the executive, and the legislative, and the politicians need the lobbies. It is a symbiotic relationship.

The fights we see in representative democracies, such as the United States, between the parties, are fights for power. What is important to them is to win the election to have the power the other side now has. No party ever campaigns to diminish the power of politicians.

In representative democracies, there are “checks and balances” to prevent that the executive, the legislative or the judiciary prevail over the other two, but the checks and balances in representative democracies do not check or balance the overall power of government over the citizens.

The newly elected government may dismantle the program of the preceding government, only to bring their own, perhaps even more controlling program. They never reduce government power (over ordinary citizens).

Regarding the judges, we have the situation in representative democracies where non-elected judges make political decisions.

But is even worse, the judiciary is accumulating so much power that often we have “government by the judges.”

In a representative democracy, the voters have zero, nada, power in-between elections, but in a direct democracy, the voters are the final decision-makers on any issue the voters decide they should be the final decision-makers; public expenses, big projects, treaties, taxes, military expenses, education, health care, etc., are some examples.

When the key decision-makers are the voters, the lobbies and other interest groups soon learn that it makes no sense to spend millions on politicians who have no power to help them.

As the lobbies spend less money in The Swamp, The Swamp drains, and many of its “creatures” leave it.

The key problem people have to overcome to bring direct democracy is the resistance of the politicians.

Direct democracy came to Switzerland, the only country with a long history of direct democracy, at all levels and branches of government, when the Swiss realized that the people, in an open, orderly manner, make better decisions than the politicians. But that realisation was not enough; they had to pressure and pressure the politicians to give up most of their power, they succeeded in 1798.

They were right; Switzerland is the most democratic, most stable, and best functioning country in the World.

Direct democracy also produced in Switzerland a political climate that is far less polarized than in representative democracies. In Switzerland, the major parties, who represent 70-80% of the electorate, govern in coalition; there is no “loyal” opposition in Switzerland because it makes no sense to have it.

In Switzerland, the judges are also kept in check; they can not rule if laws are or not constitutional. Swiss judges can not make decisions that cancel the decisions the people make via referendums either.

Direct democracy really is “government by the people”, nothing else is necessary.

If you want your country not to have a Swamp, you will have to mobilize, like the Swiss did.

The idea of Direct Democracy is catching on for the same reason water flows downhill; it is Nature’s way to social progress

Our current representative democracies are a huge step forward from absolute rulers, but another step is necessary.

Unfortunately, in a representative democracy the elected officials hold all the power. The voters only have power at election time. Between elections, the voters are mere spectators. It is time to change that; the people should have always the final say on any decision or law the people consider important.

Fortunately, we have in stable representative democracies the tool to exercise that power orderly; is called voting.

The change involves expanding voting, from just voting to decide in elections to voting on issues, and to also give voters the power to present issues to binding referendums.

Today, we only have one nation with a proven record doing that; Switzerland, but the current is starting to flow that way in other places.

Switzerland is almost a full direct democracy because the people have the power to propose laws, to stop and reject laws proposed by their elected representatives, and also to change the constitution. Switzerland is not a full democracy because the Swiss still have elected representatives, nothing wrong with that, but all decisions and laws proposed by the representatives are subject to explicit voter approval or rejection.

I refer to Switzerland as the only direct democracy because it is the only country with direct democracy at the national, cantonal (cantons are like states or provinces) and local level.

If there is direct democracy at the local or state level, but not at the national level, there is no direct democracy, particularly if the national politicians hold most of the power, it is impossible.

Introducing direct democracy at the local and at the state-province level may be important as a sort of training ground, but it must only the first step.

Because the idea of direct people’s power on issues is catching on, there are groups promoting direct democracy all over the World; it is quite likely you have one in your country, look it up in Internet.

The interest in direct democracy is growing due to growing disenchantment with representative democracy. This is because in a representative democracy the elected representatives have too much power. This allows them to make all decisions, including those that give them progressively more power and leaves voters with less and less power; no wonder many become voters disenchanted.

The ordinary citizens who still believe representative democracy is a real democracy are being naive.

To make direct democracy happen, it requires persuading our fellow citizens that direct democracy is a better system.

Although direct democracy is a logical advance, it will not happen just like that; the Greeks had to persuade fellow citizens and fight the elites to get direct democracy 2600 years ago. Almost two centuries ago, the Swiss had to do the same; you will have to do it too.

But the task is not easy; most “experts” living in representative democracies do not trust the people to be able to make political decisions, and they write and speak about that, although not openly in many cases.

They do not say they do not trust the people, they say they fear “mob rule”.

In fact, direct democracy is a safeguard to prevent the discredit of representative democracy and its collapse into mob rule or dictatorship.

We saw it happened in Nazi Germany, in Cuba, in Venezuela, and we see it in many countries now. Switzerland proves direct democracy is a guarantee against mob rule or dictatorial rule. The Ancient Greeks also proved that.

Representative democracy is suffering in the United States, something unthinkable a few years ago. We will see it the American people take the opportunity to react, and peacefully push to bring direct democracy to themselves.

But the “experts” are not the only ones who do not like direct democracy; most politicians in representative democracies do not like direct democracy either. It happened in Switzerland too.

Politicians in representative democracies know direct democracy brings a drastic reduction in the power they now have, and that they feel need for the country to function “properly” (according to them) socially, economically, politically, legally. They may be honest, but they are wrong; direct democracy is better on all counts.

What is even more important is that many ordinary citizens in representative democracies do not seem to trust the ability of their fellow citizens (of themselves, really) to vote competently on issues; we have to inform them about direct democracy and hope they will change their minds.

Those of us who know direct democracy is better, must do all we can to bring it about. Let us go from the idea to reality.

DW (Deutsche Welle), the German national broadcaster, should support direct democracy, not attack it.

I just read an article published by on May 18th, 2014.

I quote; “Estimates place more than half of all worldwide referendums as taking place in Switzerland. The small country of eight million residents is seen by many as an ideal model of democracy. However, recent years have shown that such referendums can lead to controversial political decisions. In 2009, a proposal to ban minarets on mosques received the majority of the referendum vote. And at the start of 2014, Europe was shocked at the referendum-based decision to restrict the number of EU immigrants to Switzerland”.

DW seems to suggest Swiss-style direct democracy is not a good system because it produces “controversial decisions”.

Do not politicians in representative democracies, like Germany, produce controversial decisions too?  Don’t they produce them sometimes, even against the will of their own people? What sort of balderdash are the DW’s editors talking about?

How about Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to refugees? That decision made millions of Germans angry, and millions of other Germans happy; quite controversial. We do not know if more Germans supported her decision or were against it. We will never know because they did not vote.

It is reasonable to question representative democracy because of the power it gives governments to decide without consulting the people; when they do that, they are not acting democratically. Whatever happened to “democracy: government by the people”?

Angel Merkel’s decision was controversial in Germany because it was not a democratic decision, because the people did not vote. She did it because she felt “it was the right thing to do”, and because representative democracy gives her that power.

It is very different to create controversy the way Angela Merkel did, ignoring the will of the people, from the democratic controversy in Switzerland, when the people debate an issue and democratically decide.

After a referendum in Switzerland, there hardly is any controversy; the losers accept they lost after a fair hearing. They learned they  have to improve their arguments, or wait until the public mood changes; there are no politicians to get mad at, like in Germany.

In Switzerland, after much debate and discussion, the voters made a rational, deliberate decision on minarets and immigration.

The Swiss process allowed those who supported the building of minarets and not limiting immigration plenty of time to present their point to the public. The process did the same for the people who oppose building the minarets and want to reduce immigration. One argument persuaded more voters, that is all; that is what democracy is about.

The four positions are reasonable; to defend the building of minarets, to defend banning minarets, to reduce immigration or to maintain it at current levels. The right thing to do is for the majority to decide, it is their country.

The referendum results were clear; 57.51% of the voters said “nein” to the building of minarets, 42.49% said “ja”.  The proposal also won the referendum in 22 of the 26 Swiss Cantons (states).

The results of the referendum to limit European immigration were clear but closer; 50.33% voted in favour of limiting immigration and 49.67% voted against. The proponents of this referendum also won in most cantons; 14.5 cantons voted “yes”, 11.5 cantons voted “no.”

To make it even more democratic than in Germany, in Switzerland, it is the people who call the referendum, not the government. In Germany, only the Government can call a referendum; the German people do not have the right to do that, but they should. Also, like in Switzerland, the results of the referendum should be binding for the German government.

It is important to note the Swiss did not vote to ban Islam, ban Moslems or ban Mosques; what they did is ban minarets. They did not ban European immigration either; they just wanted to limit it.

The Swiss do not have a recent history of doing crazy things like banning a religion or their practicioners, but long time ago they did have “religious” wars. They like immigrants too; 25% of the population in Switzerland are immigrants.

Perhaps Swiss voters made a bad decision on minarets and on immigration; there is no way of demonstrating that.

Unfortunately, the track record of representative democracy, certainly in Germany, is far worse than Swiss direct democracy; it was in a representative democracy that people voted for Hitler.

In representative democracies, not just in Germany, the politicians have too much power; if the executive and parliament agree, they can do anything they want. In a direct democracy they can not because the people have more power than the politicians, that is what it is all about; power.

I believe if Germany had a direct democracy, she would not have started WW I and WW II. If it had direct democracy, they would have not ended up in the arms of Adolf Hitler either.

Given Germany’s history with representative democracy, it would be more reasonable for DW to support direct democracy than to criticize it.

Switzerland proves that direct democracy, “government by the people”, exercised through an orderly, rational process, produces sounder decisions than representative democracy.

In Switzerland’s direct democracy process, those supporting the building of minarets can also collect the 100 000 required signatures to hold another referendum on the same issue, and perhaps win. It is a better system, although not perfect.

Let us bring Swiss-style direct democracy to Germany and to other representative democracies.



In a direct democracy, individuals and small groups are able to put their proposals to a popular vote

In no representative democracy is that possible. In Switzerland’s direct democracy it happens all the time.

For example, there is a group in Switzerland;  “The Group for a Switzerland without and Army”. It was set up by 100 Swiss young pacifist men and women. It now has 25 000 members.

They created it in the town of Olten, in the Swiss canton of Solthurn, in September 12th, 1982. Olten is a town of 17 000 people.

This group uses the tools of direct democracy to directly influence Swiss politics.

They can do that because in a direct democracy, you do not have to rely on a political party to push an issue, the people can directly go to the people and the people decide. They can do that even against the wishes of the executive and the legislative, and the courts stay out of it, how about that? Nothing like that is possible in the representative democracy you live in now.

In 1986 the group gathered the 100 000 signatures required to put one issue important to them to a national referendum.

What they presented to the people was a proposal; “For a Switzerland Without an Army and an Overall Peaceful Political State”. The referendum took place on November 26, 1989.

Many Swiss laughed at the proposal; they were convinced it made no sense, that voters overwhelmingly would vote it down. I do not know if the politicians laughed at it too. If they did, they all stopped laughing when they saw the results of the referendum, because the proposal received the support of 36% of the voters.

Many ordinary Swiss and the politicians were shocked; they never imagined that over one-third of Swiss voters wanted to abolish the army.

Naturally, with only 36% support, the proposal was not accepted. Nothing changed legally, but it shook other voters, the politicians, the military, etc. It was a healthy shake-up; it showed how those running a country can get out of touch with huge segments of the population. It also showed how citizens can be out of touch with fellow citizens.

If the elected representatives, and ordinary citizens, can get so out of touch with other citizens in Switzerland, over something as important as the Army, in spite of the constant people-initiated referendums on all sort of issues, you can imagine how out of touch politicians are in representative democracies.

I believe armies are necessary, but that is not the point. The point is that in a direct democracy, even small groups can put their ideas on the democracy test. There are other groups like this one in Switzerland.

Because of direct democracy, in Switzerland, left wing groups, centrist groups, right wing groups, and groups interested in any issue, can go straight to the people and have the people decide; “government by the people”.

On the contrary, in a representative democracy, you have to get the politicians to support your ideas, you can not go straight to the people for an executive decision; it is very different.

Democracy is supposed to be; “government by the people”, not “government by the representatives of the people”.

The Ancient Greeks invented direct democracy; they did not invent representative democracy. To them, representative democracy would be more like an elected oligarchy, it would not be a democracy, because it is not.

In a direct democracy the people make the key decisions at the national level, the state-province-canton level, and at the local level. Even small groups, minorities, etc., can put issues that concern them in the national, cantonal or local agenda.

They do not have to resort to demonstrations, riots or political violence; all they have to do is get a small number of their fellow Swiss to sign their proposal, and voila!, the whole people decide!

Let us get going and bring Direct Democracy to our countries.

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