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

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