If you are not free to decide collective issues, you are not free, direct democracy makes you free

Direct democracy must become a fundamental human right.

Direct democracy is to representative democracy what the right of colonies to govern themselves was to colonial powers.

I do not know why most people in representative democracies seem to accept that system as the most desirable system. I say this because there is a better alternative to representative democracy. That alternative is direct democracy.

Direct democracy turns representative democracy on its head; instead of the elected representatives making the decisions on issues, the voters do.

Most voters I know now are reasonable and competent people, if we bring direct democracy they will vote with common sense.

They would vote responsibly to decide on: the use car seat belts, entering a commercial treaty,  abolition of the death penalty, increases or reductions of budgets, taxes, building new roads or railroads, the military budget, modification of any law or the constitution, introduction of new laws and regulations, etc.

Decisions made by voters, after proper public debate, are more representative of the voters, but are also better decisions than decisions made by elected politicians. There are several reasons for that.

Among the voters, there are many skilled experts on any issue; those experts can explain to voters in conferences, documents, debates, etc., the pros and cons of issues.

Another one is that ordinary citizens want the best for themselves, their families, their towns and their country. They also want their children to have a wonderful future. This is better because lobbies can not pressure citizens the way lobbies pressure politicians, often at the expense of the common good.

Another important reason that strengthens decision-making in a direct democracy is that decisions made by the citizens have a democratic credibility that no decision made by elected representatives has.

Even if a direct democracy is not fully a direct democracy, such is the case of Switzerland, because they still have elected representatives, it can be a pretty good direct democracy.

This happens in Switzerland because the Swiss people have more say than their elected representatives on any important issue. They even have more power that the Swiss Supreme Court on constitutional issues.

For example, there is no way the Swiss Supreme Court could decide, like the US Supreme Court did some time ago, that corporations, unions and other entities can contribute as much money as they want to political campaigns. The result of that thoughtless, yes thoughtless, decision by half plus one of the US Supreme Court Judges has been the almost total control of electoral campaigns by those with money. Money controls much of the messages in the US now.

The Swiss have direct democracy, nobody else come close, because the people have control; not the politicians, not the judges, not big money.

Swiss-style direct democracy is spreading without the Swiss pushing it. Taiwan is one important recent case. It is important because a few decades ago, it was a dictatorship, like its neighbour China still is. But this also means China is also capable of becoming a direct democracy. Imagine how that would advance the whole of humanity, not just the Chinese…

To summarise; “We pay we decide”.

If you are not free to decide collective issues, you are not really free; somebody else has that freedom to decide “on your behalf”. Direct democracy stops that and makes you free.

 

How can representative democracy be “government by the people” if the politicians have more power than the people who elect them? It makes no sense.

Democracy’s definition is straightforward; democracy means “rule by the people”.

By the way, if democracy is “government by the people” you do not need to amplify it to “government of the people and for the people”. Democracy is “government by the people”, it is enough.

The Greeks did not invent “representative democracy”, they invented democracy. There is only one kind of democracy; direct democracy, the rest is not democracy. To the Greeks, representative “democracy” would be an “elected oligarchy”, not a democracy. It is time to stop distorting what the Greeks di 2800 years ago, and fool the people in the process.

How can “representative democracy” be a democracy if the people do not govern? In a representative democracy, in all of them, the people vote but do not govern, the politicians govern.

Representative democracy is an enormous advance over absolute kings, rule by priests, totalitarian regimes by individuals or political parties, but it is not democracy, it is not “government by the people”. That is why, in most representative democracies, voters do not trust elected politicians.

In a representative democracy the people vote and select the rulers, but the rulers govern, not the people.

Among modern countries, only Switzerland comes close to doing what the Greeks did.

Like in representative democracies, the Swiss also have elected politicians and political parties; in this they are no different. What makes the Swiss more democratic, and closer to Greek direct democracy, is that the Swiss people have more power than the representatives they elect.

This is how the Swiss system works; the people, not the politicians, have the power to call for popular referendums on anything the politicians do. The results of referendums are mandatory for government, not even the Swiss Supreme Court can overturn the results of a popular referendum.

In some cases, even if the people do not demand a referendum, a referendum has to be called for the people to decide.

The Swiss people can veto laws and policies; they can also modify the constitution. The elected politicians, no matter how many of them agree, can never prevail over the will of the people.

All Swiss citizens know they can start a referendum. They also know that decisions made by referendum have the democratic legitimacy that no decision by elected representatives can have. This is so for winners and losers of referendums and helps prevents riots and many other problems we see in representative “democracies”.

What do Swiss politicians then do? They propose laws and policies. Most of the laws and policies they propose are not challenged or turned down by the people. This is so because Swiss politicians know any decision or law they propose the people can reject.

It is also because of this that Swiss politicians have learned to work together; they negotiate… and negotiate… and negotiate, until they know most voters will support their decision.

Another benefit of the need parties have to cooperate is that in the Swiss parliament, the media, etc., you will not see the aggressive, often hateful and demagogical, debates we see in representative democracies.

While the Swiss do not practice direct democracy to the degree the Greeks did, the fact that the Swiss people have more power than the elected politicians gives the Swiss people the power they need to prevail and make Swiss democracy “government by the people.”

Swiss politicians can not “betray” voters either; they do not have the power to do that. No wonder Swiss politicians are the most trusted in the World.

Tired of politicians governing instead of you and your fellow voters?

Isn’t it time to switch to direct democracy? I am convinced it is.

Direct democracy fosters development of more intelligent and more responsible voters, who make better decisions on the issues than the elected politicians

Politicians, opinion makers, intellectuals and common citizens in representative democracies often say that direct democracy can not work because citizens are not competent to make sound decisions on issues.

In representative democracies they see voters often make the wrong decision by electing people that are unfit for public office, sometimes because of intellectual or knowledge limitations, other times because they have character flaws.

Many opponents of direct democracy say things like:

“If voters already make huge mistakes when they elect politicians, just imagine what mistakes they will make if they decide on complex issues like the economy, technology, law, science, education, energy, medical care, the environment, etc.”

When people do not know how direct democracy works, it is understandable many will think that way.

What those people do not know is that direct democracy does not work like that because direct democracy changes votes because it changes voters.

We know it because the World has only one country that practices direct democracy today; Switzerland. Other countries have some elements of direct democracy but if direct democracy is not practised at the local, city, region and national level, you do not have direct democracy.

Switzerland is the best governed country in the World, how can that be if it is a direct democracy?

Well, direct democracy fosters responsible voting. Swiss voters have to vote responsibly because if they do not, they know the dire consequences are their own fault; they can not blame their elected representatives.

So, the evidence shows that direct democracy has the opposite effect to those who fear it believe; when the voters have the last word on issues, on policies, on laws, on regulations, on the constitution, and the politicians do not, the result is better governance, much better.

Why do you think Switzerland is the most stable country in the World, economically and politically? Why do you think they consider the Swiss Franc a more stable currency than the US Dollar, any other dollar, the Euro, the British Pound or any other currency?

Sometimes it seems as if the elites of other countries are happy with Switzerland being a direct democracy; because of its stability they have a nice safe place to keep their “emergency big bucks”. These same people dislike to give up the power representative democracy gives to them and to the politicians whose campaigns they finance, in their own countries.

But it seems more and more people are catching on; direct democracy is the better way, including for those in the elites who want a more stable country for themselves, even if it requires they throttle their short term greed.

Direct democracy makes voters responsible. Because of that, the voters in a direct democracy demand information for and against the issue before they vote; they listen to experts, to debates, etc.

So, if you want your country, it does not matter which country, to become as stable, prosperous and well-run as Switzerland, you better do something, now.

Insist on direct democracy because you and your fellow citizens will vote more intelligently, more responsibly.

By the way, Switzerland also has the best universal health care system in the World. Direct democracy produces an interesting balance of capitalism and socialism, and far from the “Capitalism vs. Socialism” absurd fight we see in too many countries right now.

You can find enemies of democracy in surprising places.

Rick Shenkman, in Politico Magazine, made reference on September 8, 2019 to an article published by Shawn Rosenberg, Professor of Professor of Political Science and Psychological Science in the University of California.

Rosenberg predicts “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”

First of all, the affirmation is contradictory; a well-established democracy is stable and will not fail.

“Our brains.” says Rosenberg, “are proving fatal to modern democracy. Humans just aren’t built for it”.

Human brains are not built either to speak, to write, or even to eat with fork, knife and dishes, for mathematics, for using computers or to enjoy to classical music, etc., they have to learn all that.

But human brains are built to be curious, to learn and invent. One invention is democracy, and we can teach it to others.

It is obvious Mr. Rosenberg does not know well democracies that work far better than the US. He seems to generalise from his particular knowledge.

What Mr. Rosenberg could do is live in Switzerland for a few years to observe Swiss direct democracy at work.

He will see that, even if the “human brain is not wired for democracy” (it does not have to be), democracy can work reasonably well, certainly better than in the US and most other “established”, “advanced” countries.

The key is direct democracy; when the citizens have more decision-making power than the elected representatives, when they don’t just vote to elect others, when they make political decisions. This is “government by the people”; it means citizens handle the effects of their decisions. When that happens, they decide very responsibly. This is why Switzerland is the best governed country in the World.

But Mr. Rosenberg, unfortunately, says other “interesting gems”. Again, I quote Politico:

“He has concluded that the reason for right-wing populists’ recent success is that elites are losing control of the institutions that have traditionally saved people from their most undemocratic impulses. When people are left to make political decisions on their own, they drift towards the simple solutions right-wing populists worldwide offer: a deadly mix of xenophobia, racism and authoritarianism”.

Anyone who says “the elites are losing control of the institutions that have traditionally saved people from their most undemocratic impulses,” is an elitist, not a democrat.

Where does he get the idea that people have “undemocratic impulses”? The people do not have undemocratic, or democratic impulses, but I know humans have the impulse to find freedom and respect, which is what democracy is about.

As for his affirmation: “When people are left to make political decisions on their own they drift towards the simple solutions right-wing populists worldwide offer: a deadly mix of xenophobia, racism and authoritarianism.”

Switzerland proves, decade after decade, that when the people make the key decisions they decide responsibly, they do not fall for populists or demagogues of the right or the left.

Reject Mr. Rosenberg’s wrong and harmful views. It is time we fight everywhere, with arguments, people like him, who transmit to the next generation wrong ideas that weaken democracy.

I suppose it is not Mr. Rosenberg’s intention, but his words undermine democracy and strengthen the arguments of the enemies of democracy.

The foolishness impulse it is obvious exists. Perhaps democracy is too much for Mr. Rosenberg.

The rest of us should push now for direct democracy, to avoid the collapse of representative democracy by neutralizing bad ideas, of which Mr. Rosenberg is, sadly, not the only generator.

With the “virus from Hell”, the Swiss, again! show the way for democracy!

In all countries there is controversy regarding the “virus from Hell” which is killing many people and the economy of the World.

In all representative democracies, there are arguments regarding lockdowns. Most governments are for them, including the Swiss government.

It is possible that most people support lock downs. But we do not really know.

What is obvious is that in the argument for and against lock downs are heated. In some countries, like the US, those who support and those who oppose are at each others throats every day, and not just the politicians. It is as if people have lost the ability to disagree rationally; “my way or no way!”

But in representative democracies, the people can do nothing about lock down. They can argue, they can show, they can complain, but they can do nothing; if the government decides “lock down”, lock down it is, if the government decides “no lock down”, there is no lock down.

It does not matter if most of the people want lock down or do not want lock down. The government treats its adult citizens as children unable to make responsible decisions. The only “responsible” decision that in a representative democracy the citizens can make is…. you guessed it… elect the politicians!

It makes no sense that those elected consider that those who elect them are not mature or intelligent enough to decide on issues, it is absurd. Unfortunately, in representative democracies, too many people have bought that argument; it is time to discard it and take control.

Perhaps they do not know about direct democracy or about Swiss direct democracy.

In Switzerland, all you need is a tiny minority of 50 000 or 100 000 people, depending on the issue, to put it before the entire nation, and the nation decides, not the politicians.

These minorities represent 0.5% and 1% of the population, talk about giving an authentic voice to minorities, instead of hot air talk about minorities!

At the canton and local level, the figures are lower, but the people also call referendums.

In Switzerland, the results of all popular referendums are mandatory for governments.

Concerning the lock downs, a small group of Swiss citizens collected 86 000 signatures, 36 000 over the 50 000 required for this issue. They did it within the 100 days limit. A referendum will now take place, and the government can not stop it.

The referendum may be held in June 2021. The voters will decide if they want to repeal the law that gives the Swiss government the power to impose lock downs. The people will decide “lock downs” or “no lock downs”. Their decision will affect the current pandemic, but also have future issues.

One of the healthier effects of the referendum is that will settle lock down-no lock down. It will because is a fully democratic decision. No decision by the legislators or the executive can match the democratic quality of a decision made by the people, no ifs or buts.

In case you do not know, Switzerland is number one in many areas; one of them is political stability. Referendums, with the Swiss system, not the system most others follow to carry referendums, generate political stability and unify the country.

Perhaps one of the reasons is that the popular referendum takes the issue away from the politicians, the pundits, the media, etc. No more heated, emotional, aggressive, demagogical headlines. The way the Swiss system works, referendums are animated but calm and rational political activities.

Prior to referendum, so that they can vote informed, the people will receive dossiers from the government, arguing for the goodness of the lock down. But the government will also send to every household the information and the arguments of the people who propose the referendum.

Besides those positions, in the government package there will also be the position of the political parties on the issue.

Among themselves, at home, at work and with friends, the Swiss discuss the issue in the months, sometimes years, leading up to the referendum. They also listen to debates and to the opinions of experts on health, to economists, etc., who are for and against the lock downs.

The Swiss voters know they have a very serious responsibility. They know their decision will impact their own health, the health of their families, their jobs, their income, their education, etc. Because they know it is a serious issue, they are not interested in the political and media shenanigans we see in representative democracies, they want serious, credible information.

We know, from the many previous Swiss referendums, there will not be any of the radicalisation and polarisation we see in representative democracies, among which the US is perhaps the most extreme example. In the US it is ridiculous. It is ridiculous to the extreme positions dominating the debate; those supporting the lock downs consider those opposing them as crazy, the “compliment” is returned by those opposing the lock downs.

The mutual despise is also “adorned” with mutual accusations of “fascists!”, “socialists”, and worse sometimes.

In your country the situation many not be as polarised as in the US, or perhaps we just know more about the US.

The Swiss people took the opportunity of a previous pandemic in 1867 to bring to themselves the power politicians had before; they switched from representative democracy to direct democracy. They know both systems well; they have not looked back. This is why they are able to call this referendum.

I believe all representative democracies should push to get know what the Swiss fought for, peacefully, 154 years ago.

We better get going because representative democracy is deteriorating, and fast. So fast that many developing countries are starting to look at you know what totalitarian capitalist dictatorship, not too different from the Nazi one, as the model to follow.

Why in a representative democracy the politicians lie, and often don’t keep their promises, and in a direct democracy they don’t.

In a direct democracy, politicians have to make promises the voters like, even if they are bad for the long term, or have no intention of keeping them. They also have to discredit political rivals, using almost any means.

Because in a representative democracy the only job of the voters it to elect politicians, voters do not feel responsible if the promises do not turn out to be as wonderful as the politicians promised. The voters can change the government, but all that does is change the promises.

In a representative democracy, any politician who wants to get elected can not tell voters things they will not like to hear either, even if they are best  for the country over the medium and long term.

These problems direct democracy fixes. Direct democracy cuts through the political “smoke and mirrors”; it adapts to reality and to the practical interests of the people.

In a direct democracy, politicians propose policies and laws but the people always have the final say. Having the final say also makes voters very responsible in their decisions.

Direct democracy radically changes the point of view of those making the decisions and passing laws.

This is so because the voters do not have to get elected or re-elected; voters think long term because they want to leave a good country for their children, politicians in a representative democracy can not do that.

The representative democracy system does not work that way; the next election is paramount. There is no room for long-term thinking; politicians talk “about the future” but they behave for the next election, or the next vote in the legislature. The end result is the deterioration we see in representative democracies.

This is why no representative democracy is a responsibly governed as Switzerland; the only established direct democracy we have. In Switzerland, the voters decide, and decide responsibly.

There nothing superior about the Swiss; when the citizens are responsible for what happens in the country, they are not interested either in demagogical, messianic, polarising, absolutist policies promising “heaven on Earth”. We can all do what the Swiss do, but we have to push ton get that system.

Some say that direct democracy can turn into the “dictatorship of the majority”. This is absurd, pure armchair speculation. Just look at Switzerland, the only established democracy we have. All you have to do is enter “Switzerland’s direct democracy” in your computer or phone.

In a direct democracy, “promise inflation” (a way of lying) does not happen either because the politicians can not promise much.

But there are other problems in a representative democracy, the politicians come up with more than promises, they come up with tricks to get voters to deceive themselves

One trick is inflation. Another trick, to prevent raising taxes, is to borrow money to pay for the nice promises; but we know what happens when a country has too much debt and an economic crisis arrives.  There are many more tricks.

This system of “promises and vicious criticism of rivals” weakens, and ultimately will destroy representative democracy. In reality, representative democracy is not democracy, it is an alliance of elected oligarchs and other elites.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of representative democracy is that it does not make voters responsible; direct democracy does.

This is why all representative democracies should evolve into direct democracies; the elected politicians will still have the important role of proposing policies and laws, but the people decide.

 

Politics is too important to leave to the politicians!

You may wonder; why is it that as time passes more people are unhappy with politics and politicians? Too much fighting among the politicians to tear each other apart, and not enough fighting for the common good

The viciousness of political fighting has spread to society.

Even in schools it has become almost impossible to have political debates; people with opposing views seem to despise each other so much they are totally paralysed and incapable of rational debate.

How come so many people who live in the same country, in the same neighbourhood, who work together, go to the same schools, often live in the same house, dress similarly, enjoy the same food, visit the same beaches, parks and museums, often like similar pop or classical music, identify with their national music, etc., are often unable to have a political discussion?; makes no sense.

It seems we are back to the era of “absolute truths”. If the Ancient Greek democrats visited us they would not believe what we have done to democracy.

Too many people are now convinced they are “right”, whoever disagrees with them is “wrong”, “stupid” or even “evil”.

Perhaps the country where this is more obvious, or at least the country we have more information about, is the United States.

By most objective measures, the United States is one of the best countries in the World; this is why millions migrate to the States, legally and illegally, and from developed and underdeveloped countries.

Amazingly, the impression I get from many Americans is that they believe their country “is bad”.

It is much easier to find an American who feels ashamed or embarrassed about his or her country, than people from any other country feel about theirs. It is an absurd position to believe the US is a bad country but, somehow, it makes sense to millions of Americans; no family, club, business, religious association, church, etc., will last if many members feel that way.

I believe the root problem is that politics has infiltrated everything in the United States; the Supreme Court has become political, so have many judges. But business, sports, etc., have also become political now.

US business now take political positions; it does not seem important to them that their customers and employees have many different political positions. Somehow, their executives seem to believe that now, there is only one “right” political ideology, and they choose one.

We know, because each of us has done it, that depending on the issue, we hold positions that sometimes are “progressive”, sometimes “conservative”. It is absurd to simplify people to the point of labelling us “progressive” or “conservative”.

For example, a worker may want to limit immigration because he or she feels that too much immigration will depress his or her wages. But on another issue, like gay marriage, the same worker may support it. Too often, many people would jump and label the worker “right wing” for opposing massive immigration, or “left wing” for supporting gay marriage, but that shows lack of respect for the intelligence of people.

Each person should be educated to be able to decide after considering issues based on the facts that concern him or her, not on some political “theology”.

He and she should also be educated to accept that other ideas are valid too. If we do not do that, people will not be able to think.

To advance, morally, spiritually, materially, humanity needs ideas many disagree with. Was Galileo not necessary? Was not the Church intolerant and dogmatic negating Galileo and his ideas? He also was against “The Truth” of the time. Let us not turn each of us into small Great Inquisitors now!

But such education is difficult now because the political parties and politicians, much of the media, many big business, many writers, public personalities, etc.,  seem to see issues already in “right-left”, “progressive or conservative”, “right-wrong” terms, and want everyone else to see it that way too. Sadly, the politicians have succeeded at politicizing everything and polarising everybody.

The problem can be fixed, not through education but through politics; it will be automatically eradicated if voters directly vote on issues. This means stopping the politicians from being the final decision makers.

Politicians politicize everything because that is how they see society; to them everything is political. Politicians can not help but look at every issue from their ideology, in terms of their own interests, or the interests of those who help them get elected. They find it more difficult to see the issues with the eyes of the majority of the people.

So, if you want less polarisation in the US, or anywhere else, push for direct democracy. Direct democracy means the people decide the issues.

Even the Supreme Court of the US, the lower courts, and the courts in your country, should not decide political issues either. The final referee in the Constitution of your country should be you, the people.

It is time to take politics out of the hands of politicians.

Direct democracy is feasible in all representative democracies, but you have to fight for it.

Let us have Direct Democracy instead of “representative” aristocracy

I will never get tired of saying it; representative democracy gives too much power to the elected politicians, and that is very bad.

It does not matter who governs, elected politicians use their power to accumulate more power. I am not saying they are evil for doing that; they probably feel they need more power to do more good, the way they understand “good”.  Unfortunately, their understanding of what is good, often is not good for the majority of the people, sometimes even for all, but is good for the politicians and their “friends”.

The result is a never ending spiral where government, no matter of which colour, accumulates more and more power, and not for the good of the people.

In the beginning of representative democracy, after getting rid of absolute kings, aristocrats, oligarchs and dictators, the first generations of elected politicians came from the people, they were relatively ordinary people who understood the voters and governed in tune with the voters.

But as time passes, elected representatives become more detached from voters because their power distances them from voters. It is as if the politicians thought; “we need the voter to get elected and to govern as we see fit, no need to listen to them once the election is over.

Thing are made worse because, often, the people are not even aware of what the politicians are doing, or do not know or understand the implications of the decisions. Why should they try to understand if it does not matter, if the politicians decide as they see fit.

Voters could try to understand issues by checking the media. Unfortunately, the media are partisan; there is no independent media anymore. They are still free because the write or broadcast whatever they want, but they have no independent perspective, they are biased.

As the media become more partisan most voters also become partisan; it is almost impossible to be an independent voter today,. to figure out where the facts lie.

With the media so partisan voters soon feel “this media is with us”, “this is against us”, so people also become progressively more polarized. One effect of polarization is that the people start to believe that the people who vote “the other party” are a bunch of ignorant, or even evil people.

As the voters become polarized they also want, and vote for, more polarizing politicians, politicians who aggressively “defend us” and “attack the other side”.

Democracy is impossible in those conditions.

The general polarization of the population and the media also influences business, because every citizen works somewhere.

Business also discovered, at least in the US, that elected politicians have a lot of power and it is good for business to “court” them.  Business “courts” politicians with money.

Politicians also learn that business can use money to weaken or destroy the campaigns for election, or re-election, of rival politicians. This an additional reason to please big business. Small bunisnes do not really countb for much.

Democracy can not work if business and other groups have more influence on politicians than the voters.

Polarization, media partisanship and the lobbies are the “viruses” that are weakening, may even kill, representative democracy.

We see now polarization and distancing in all representative democracies, not just the US. Even those that, until relatively recently, had little polarization and trusted politicians have deteriorated, two examples are Sweden and Denmark.

The problem has nothing to do with the Right or the Left. In Sweden and Denmark the Left governs most of the time.

In Germany the Right governs most of the time but they are in the same situation of polarization and low trust in politicians.

This is why we need direct democracy; one of the decisive advantages of direct democracy is that because voters decide issues and laws, voters have to look at the facts, they can not just say: “I voted for them but they are not doing what they promised”.

For example, if the decision is about building a new public swimming pool in the town, the voter has to look at cost and impact on the taxes they will pay, for example. It the issue is a new law on immigration, the voters also have to look at the pros and cons of such law.

The system of direct democracy forces the people to be pragmatic; they can not just rely on the politicians or the media.

The politicians also know that in a direct democracy, they can not use “preacher language”; long or rhetoric and grand promises, but short on facts and costs.

Another benefit of direct democracy is that since business knows politicians do not have much power; it makes little sense to spend millions on them.

Direct democracy is the only democratic system that prevents the creation of a powerful “aristocracy” of politicians, media and business.

Democracy is supposed to be the alternative to aristocracy; it was created, to stop the power of royalty and aristocracy., unfortunately representative democracy has created a new aristocracy.

By the way, do not believe the people who tell you that voter turnout is low in a direct democracy. Switzerland is the only established direct democracy we have at all government levels. The Swiss vote on 12 to 15 issues ever year. It is true that turnout can be low in a referendum, sometimes as low as 40%, or even less, other times can reach 70%. It depends on how many voters are interested in the issue.

But the important fact is that each year 90%! of Swiss voters go and vote in referendums. This means direct democracy engages people much more than representative democracy; it does because citizens know they are responsible for what happen in their town, province-state and the whole country, and they vote to decide any issues that concerns them. It is logical that every issue will not interest everybody or even the majority of voters.

We should bring direct democracy to every country. If you do nothing to bring direct democracy to your country you are, directly or indirectly, contributing to the the weakening of democracy because of the elected “aristocracy”.

Victor Lopez

The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

History is full of violent events triggered by good intentions. I have no reason to doubt the good intentions of Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and others when they ban many conservative people and websites, but they should remember “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Reasonable people may doubt the intentions of those companies, but good or bad, the intentions are not the problem, the problem is effect of the action of censoring, banning, etc.

I came across a published academic, but easy to read, paper that the people in those companies need to read urgently. Hopefully, the article will persuade them to reverse their decisions because their “remedy” might turn out to be for everyone, including themselves, far worse than the “disease”.

They should let people write and say anything they want as long as it is not illegal. If it is illegal they could denounce them to authorities who are the ones to decide what to do.

If the companies believe someone posted something illegal, their legal advisors should make the decision to take down the message, but never ban the writer or the organization that allowed publication of the opinion.

Certainly, they should not get involved in banning a platform like Parler because “it does not enough to prevent hate speech”.

The words “enough” and “hate speech”, “violent speech” can be argued about for centuries, better not to use them to make decisions such as the ones these companies have made.

Here is the paper; read it and you make your mind up. Perhaps you can send the paper to those companies and to many media outlets and politicians who cheer them on. Perhaps they should convey a meeting of independent experts to debate the issue.

This is the link to the paper “Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?”

I reproduce the article below. I do not include the many references its author, Gordon Danning cites to shorten what I reproduce an also to make it more clear visually. You will be able to check the references out in the link above.

The article focuses on the United States, but it is relevant for any democracy.

“Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?: Censorship of Hate Speech May Well Increase Violence

Gordon Danning, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

 University of Nevada School of Law

From Charlottesville to college campuses, people with odious views have been very much in the news over the past year.

Responses to those people and the groups to which they belong have ranged from efforts to keep them from speaking in person, to deleting their presence on the internet, to efforts to have them terminated from their jobs, or evicted from their apartments, and even to physical assault by members of such groups as Antifa.

Such efforts at censoring, ostracizing, and stigmatizing hate group members are generally justified by claims that such individuals are dangerous.

It is true that some scholars have found an association between the existence of far-right hate groups and the occurrence of far-right ideological violence; however, it is also true others have failed to find an association between hate groups and hate crimes, and that the majority of hate crimes are committed not by ideologically-motivated individuals, but rather by groups of bored youths who are often under the influence of alcohol.

Most importantly, there is substantial evidence that censorship and demonization of hate group members is counterproductive because they tend to lead to more violence, not less.

To understand why that is the case, it is essential to take a step back and consider why individuals engage in political violence in the first place. Is it because they are content, feel respected, and feel that they are treated fairly by government and society? Clearly not. Rather, individuals engage in political violence only when they have grievances.

That does not mean that they have been treated in an objectively onerous or unfair manner. Rather, individuals are “aggrieved” in a way which is likely to drive them to political violence when they have been treated in a manner which they consider unjust: Grievances are not merely expressions of deprivation and dissatisfaction.

People can be deprived, disappointed, frustrated, or dissatisfied without feeling that they have been unjustly or unfairly treated — their unsatisfactory outcome may be “just the way things are” or the result of divine judgment, or a consequence of personal ineptitude.

In contrast, a real grievance, regarded as the basis for complaint or redress, rests upon the claim that an injustice has been inflicted upon undeserving victims. Grievances are normative protests, claiming violations of rights or rules.

The key concept here is that individuals are likely to feel aggrieved if they believe that rights or rules have been violated and, hence, that they have been treated unjustly.

Indeed, as a recently published book points out, almost all violence is morally motivated in the sense that it is seen by the perpetrator as being morally permissible or even mandatory.

That is often the case even with hate crimes. Thus, because grievances are based on perceived violations of rights and rules and because violence is morally motivated, the circumstances that prompt violence will vary from society to society since no two societies have identical ideas about morality, about the rules that govern society, or about the rights which inhere to members of society.

For example, in thirteenth century France, a miller’s daughter would not be aggrieved were she told that she could never be ruler because such a statement would be consistent with the rules of that society.

In the contemporary United States, by contrast, children are taught from an early age that “anyone can grow up to be president.” As a result, a person who is barred from running for president due to his or her class of birth would most certainly feel aggrieved because that bar would violate a commonly accepted “right or rule.” Therefore, there is no objective test for political grievance.

History is full of people and groups who seem objectively oppressed but consider their circumstances to be legitimate.

As a recent doctoral dissertation from the London School of Economics and Political Science notes, “in order for people to take action to address inequalities, the first step is to recognize them and to consider them unjust.”15 Indeed, all societies are unequal in some way.

Every society tells those at the bottom of the hierarchy that their circumstances are just and, hence, that political violence is unnecessary or wrongful.

Often that claim is buttressed by religious beliefs: Hinduism justifies the caste system; Buddhism tells its adherents that the solution to misery is not to attempt to supplant those who have more material goods, but rather to give up the desire for those goods; and Christianity classically taught that justice for the oppressed is not to be achieved by violence in this world, but rather will be delivered in the next, for “the meek . . . shall inherit the Earth,” and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Even slavery is sometimes deemed morally acceptable by those enslaved. So, if members of hate groups are barred from expressing their views, are they likely to feel that a “right or rule” has been violated? It certainly seems so.

The ideals of free speech, civil liberties, and cultural and political egalitarianism are central to what social scientists call the “American Creed,” which Anatol Lieven described as “integral to American nationalism.”

In other words, respect for free speech defines what it means to be a member of the American nation (i.e., an “American”). Thus, the idea that every American has the right to speak her or his mind—a right which is protected to a greater extent in the United States than in any other country on Earth —is clearly one of the basic rules of American society.

If that rule is violated by silencing “hate group” members—even though the silencing is done with good motives—then by definition those individuals will feel aggrieved.

Indeed, the Supreme Court recently held that even convicted sex offenders have a right to access the internet, so “hate group” members who are told that they are so loathsome that their views are not welcome on the internet are likely to see their treatment as unjust—even if objective observers can distinguish between sex offenders and “hate group” members.

Hence, it should be expected that silencing and stigmatizing hate group members will create grievances and thereby make violence more likely.

Indeed, there is substantial scholarship which indicates that censorship or stigmatization of extremist groups and their members tends to drive them to employ violence.

For example, a recent study by a professor at the University of Oslo’s Center for Research on Extremism examined differences in the level of right-wing terrorist violence in eighteen western European countries between 1990 and 2015.

It found that one “recipe” for increased right-wing violence was elites responding to right-wing extremism by repressing and stigmatizing extremist groups and opinions.

That finding is consistent with what scholars of political violence have long known: [I]f groups are excluded, or feel themselves to be excluded, from democratic channels of participation, then violent action may be seen as the most rational means of political action open to them . . . .

Political violence is thus fostered by the exclusion or marginalization [sic] of groups from the established channels of democratic politics.”

To put it another way, “[w]hen normal channels of access to the political system are blocked, extreme forms of political violence are perceived as necessary.

Thus, censoring and otherwise stigmatizing members of hate groups increases the risk of violence by causing members to feel that they have been treated unjustly.

However, that is not the only way that such strategies are often counterproductive.

Censorship and other stigmatization of hate groups and their members also tends to make them increasingly extreme, which means that they are increasingly willing to use violence.

There are several ways that those strategies tend to radicalize hate groups and their members.

First, it is commonly understood by social psychologists that repression and ostracism of groups leads members to identify more strongly with those groups.

A study of members of three extremist right-wing parties in Italy found that physical or verbal assaults on young persons because of their right-wing political views “favoured the development of interviewees’ image of themselves as extreme right-wing activists.”

Similarly, in Europe, censorship and verbal delegitimization of those deemed radical Muslims have made radical groups more attractive to Muslims who feel alienated from society.

Second, censorship and ostracism of members of extremist parties tends to drive out relative moderates, leaving only the most extreme members, who are more likely to use violence.

That is true both of extremist groups on the left, as in Italy in the 1960s and early 1970s30, and of extremist groups on the right, as is demonstrated by a study of ten anti-immigrant parties in Europe that found parties that were ostracized continued to be extremist, while parties which were not ostracized became more moderate.

Moreover, since men are less deterred by the social stigma against the radical right than are women, and since men are more willing to engage in violence than are women, ostracism is likely to leave extremist groups largely in the hands of men (i.e., those most likely to support the use of violence).

Third, censorship and ostracism of extremists plays into the hands of the leaders of extremist parties who use the threat as a means of increasing solidarity and a sense of victimization among rank-and-file members, thereby radicalizing formerly more moderate members.

Thus, it is no surprise that the 2009 hate speech prosecution of Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders increased his support in the subsequent election.

Finally, censorship, stigmatization, and ostracism interfere with efforts to deradicalize extremists because, in order for deradicalization to be effective, it is essential for the individual to be respected, even as his or her opinions and behaviors are challenged.

It seems quite clear, then, that the most common responses to hate group members and other extremists are likely to be counterproductive and should be discouraged.

A key first step in responding to extremists is to strive to treat such individuals, though not their ideas, with respect. After all, these people are clearly upset about something.

It does not matter why they are upset. It does not matter that they are upset because they have bad upbringings and are possibly emotionally unstable as a result. It does not matter if they are upset about the loss of their “white privilege” or if they are being manipulated by agents of “global capitalism” or other elites.

Nor is the question whether society should accede to their demands because the answer to that is clearly “no.”

The vow of the protesters at Charlottesville that “Jews will not replace us” obviously should not and will not become the basis of public policy. Rather, the question is how should society respond to the expression of those ideas in a way which does not exacerbate grievances or increase the risk of violence?

This challenge was stated succinctly by Jacob Ravndal in his recent work. As he notes, the challenge constitutes “a demanding balancing act between upholding core liberal democratic principles such as the freedom of expression and political freedoms for all people, including those on the far right, on the one hand, while trying to prevent any form of antidemocratic or violent behaviour, on the other.”

In the words of the political scientist John Schwartzmantel, There are two implications here for the politics of liberal democracy: the first is the need for the creation of new institutions which are more inclusive than the present institutions of liberal democracy . . .

The second implication is that there needs to be a change in the discourse of politics—from one that is confrontational and dogmatic to one that puts greater emphasis on dialogue and communication.

As much as people fear hate speech, history teaches us two things.

First, people are far less susceptible to propaganda than is popularly assumed.

Second, and most importantly, the ideals of liberal democracy have repeatedly won out in the marketplace of ideas. Hence, while putting up with reprehensible beliefs is deeply unpleasant, the alternative is likely worse.

The best—or, perhaps, the “least bad”—solution to the problem posed by those who express odious opinions is not less respect for civil liberties and democracy, but more.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to be the “adults in the room” by respecting the extremist individual, while challenging their opinions and behaviors.”  End of the paper.

Victor Lopez

A crisis can really be turned into an opportunity

 

 Thousands of people gathered in Zurich in December 1867 to challenge the political order and demand more democratic rights. Keystone / Anonymous

The image shows what the people of Switzerland did in the summer of 1867 to bring direct democracy to the country, and clip the wings of their elected representatives forever.

What the Swiss did is one of the best examples of turning a crisis into an opportunity; will the peoples of the World do that with the current pandemic?

I will let the website Swissinfo.ch describe the events.

This content was published on May 1, 2020.

Domhall O’Sullivan wrote the piece.

“In summer 1867, cholera spread through Zurich. By the time it had been stamped out, in the autumn, the canton was about to create “the most democratic political system in the world”.

After the first case was recorded in July 1867, the disease spread quickly, especially in the poorer and dirtier districts of the city, writes Swiss medical historian Flurin Condrau.

Health authorities, still in their infancy at the time, took the familiar steps: the quarantining of infected houses, a strict separation of the healthy from the unhealthy. Citizens, meanwhile, viewed their efforts with distrust, and as the death-rate rose, they began also to be infected by an eerie atmosphere, as the Winterthur Landbote reported:

“If you haven’t been to Zurich in the past few weeks, you can’t really imagine what it’s like, both in the streets and in your mind […] The impact of the fearful epidemic and the pressure of sudden loneliness lie heavy on the population, and those who have lived in this situation for weeks cannot avoid taking on such a dim impression.” (September 28, 1867

And despite calls by the authorities for solidarity and community, “many members of the wealthier classes saw things quite differently, fleeing the city”, Condrau writes.

Then, by the end of October, it was over: 481 people had died, and the disease had not spread beyond the city, let alone canton or country.

Success? Not for the authorities at least. The event proved to be the catalyst for the overthrow of the liberal regime – epitomised by the omnipotent figure of entrepreneur Alfred Escher – that had governed Zurich for decades. In its place, citizens demanded more democracy: first in Zurich, where a new constitution was approved in 1869 (surviving until 2005), then across much of the country, as other cantons became inspired.

In 1874, the right to referendum was incorporated into the national constitution as a control instrument for parliamentary laws; the right to constitutional initiatives by the people was added in 1891.”

What the people of Switzerland did is demonstrate until the elected politicians had no choice but give in to the demands of the people.

This is how the Swiss wrestled control of the country from the hands of elected politicians and their “friends”.

Are the people of your country ready to do the same? Are you ready?

Victor Lopez