Direct democracy is about voters having the institutionalized, orderly, power to decide issues; to push or stop the politicians.

Now, in representative democracies, we do not have control over our politicians; in-between elections, the people in power can do anything they want.

In a representative democracy, you do not really have control over the elected representatives; we give them absolutely all the executive and legislative power. Do you think that is right, fair or just?; it is absurd.

This also means representative democracy is not really democracy. It can not be; it is not “government by the people” if the people do not have control.

Direct democracy offers the mechanisms, and the proven track record to make sure elected politicians can not act without the support or consent of voters.

Direct democracy gives elected politicians the authority to propose policies, laws, and changes to the Constitution, but what they propose is subject to what voters decide about that specific issue.

The current situation is wrong; we elect people and then give them control over our working and personal lives. The people we elect become our masters, not our servants, never mind all the devalued, and often false, words many politicians spew out about being “the servants of the people”.

How can be the “servants of the people” tgose who pass all the laws and make all the executive decisions the people have to comply with? The current situation in representative democracies is a lie and is unjust.

Direct democracy is about many things, but it is also a formalized, systematic, deliberate, peaceful, orderly system for people to control the politicians.

We, the voters, pay. With our taxes we sustain the executive and the legislative; we pay their salaries, their pensions, their expenses, we sustain our towns, regions and countries, we should be the masters. We should not accept a system, where the people we elect become our masters.

If the people can not control what the politicians, do it is not democracy. It is not democracy just because the party in power changes. It is not democracy because those now in power continue to have authority over us. It is not a substantial difference just because “the Right”, “the Left”, “the Center”, or a coalition of parties, now governs, as long as they have power over us.

Don’t you think it is time that we turned “we pay, they decide” into “we pay, we decide”? If you believe it is, you will have to mobilize, peacefully, but insistently, forcefully, until the politicians agree to transfer their authority to us, the voters.

Formal, systematic, deliberate, orderly control of politicians by the voters is urgently necessary.

Direct democracy delivers the best government we know. How do we know? Because Switzerland has it and it is the best governed country in the World; it combines real democracy (government by the people), freedom and prosperity, and does so at the highest levels humans have reached.

For centuries, direct democracy has given unique power to the Swiss voters to, sometimes push the politicians if they do not do what the people want them to, other times the voters pull them back to stop them from doing things the people do not want.

Us, voters of current representative democracies should push to have at least such powers.

Collectively, we pay for everything, we should have authority over the politicians; turn them around into our servants.

 

This may surprise you: direct democracy is also better than representative democracy because it uses the knowledge and experience of voters to make decisions.

Would you like your country to have a higher standard of living, lower unemployment, better and universal health care, better education, better roads, look cleaner, have sounder public and private finances, practically no youth unemployment, no friction among languages and territories, no separatists, no extreme politicians, etc.?, then you should push for direct democracy.

When the people in a direct democracy decide to reject a law, a treaty, change the constitution or propose a new law, build a new road, increase the size of the armed forces, change the constitution, approve or reject a budget, etc., what they do is place at the service of the whole country their collective knowledge.

They do it as family members, neighbours, professionals, taxpayers, lovers of the outdoors, consumers, etc. Naturally, such wider and deeper input makes for better decisions.

For example, when the Swiss (a direct democracy) decide, on the coming 7th of March referendum, to approve or reject the use of burkas in public places, a trade treaty with Indonesia, or the digital ID, they decide by bringing their massive collective knowledge and points of view to the issue. There is no way elected representatives alone, with their advisers, have the quantity and quality of the knowledge millions of voters have. Do not forget either thousands of those voters are authorities on many issues and participate in debates, write, etc.

At the local and regional level, similar things happen. For example, the voters of Geneva, Switzerland will also decide if illegal workers should receive up to 4 000.00 UDS per month because many lost their jobs because of the virus from China, or its British or other variants.

In other countries the politicians would decide, or would be to afraid to, in Switzerland a few citizens collected about 5000 signatures and the voters of Geneva will decide; “oui” or “non”; nothing can be more democratic.

Direct democracy is not mob rule, that is a silly accusation with no basis; decision-making by the people in a direct democracy is far more deliberate, restrained and organized than the debates in most parliaments. Perhaps that also contributes to better decision-making.

Before a referendum, eligible voters receive from government the information package presenting all sides of the issues (the government does that because it has to, by law), voters also watch debates, see what the media say, listen to experts for and against the issue, discuss the issues with friends and family, even at work. At the end of the process voters are well informed, they know what they want to decide.

If you live in Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Canada, the US, Japan, etc., and had direct democracy your country would be more democratic and you would make better decisions if it adopted direct democracy.

Although the primary goal of direct democracy is better democracy; giving the people the final say on issues that affect their lives creates a better functioning society.

Direct democracy works better because it profits from the voters collective knowledge and experience. It as if a direct democracy had thousands, millions of free consultants whose only interest is to make the country better.

Direct democracy has made Switzerland the country with the highest standard of living, the most stable politically, with the best universal system of health care, low youth unemployment, etc.

Other countries handicap themselves by not letting voters make decisions; as result they make poorer decisions on practically all issues; economy, industrial policies, health care, entrepreneurship, education, social issues, language and territorial issues, etc.

Conclusion: Besides wanting direct democracy, because it really is more democratic than representative democracy, there is another reason; direct democracy makes the country more productive, more prosperous, more stable, etc.

The same country will become a better country with direct democracy.

Victor Lopez

Direct democracy is clearly more democratic and provides better governance; how come it is not the norm then?

Direct democracy is more democratic because the people have the final say on everything of importance, not the elected politicians.

The Swiss, the only people practising direct democracy in all levels of government, make more democratic decisions every year, and have been doing it for more that 150 years, than all other nations on Earth together!

Direct democracy is the only democracy; “representative democracy” is not real democracy, it is an elegant, but false, political marketing term cooked up during the French Revolution by some of its leaders, unable or unwilling, to make direct democracy work. Representative democracy is more like an elected aristocracy.

The original intention of the French people was to have a direct democracy. It is about time the French adopt direct democracy; so should the people of all other representative democracies.

I do not speak of authoritarian regimes because they are still light-years away from even representative democracy.

The major reason direct democracy is not the norm is that the people have been persuaded to believe the only democracy is representative democracy, even if it is not real democracy.

You might have noticed the elites; political, academic, mediatic and economic, of your country talk little about direct democracy. For them, representative democracy and democracy are the same thing; many of them know better, but they keep quiet.

Politicians, and some political ideologues, in representative democracies have done an excellent job at persuading people that what is not democracy is democracy.

But reality has caught up with this false democracy because it is not working very well; even in the better known representative democracies, most people do not trust their elected representatives. Many citizens feel the politicians do not govern for ordinary people, perhaps they never did, that they govern for big business, the media, organized lobbies and political pressure groups.

One reaction to the discontent is right wing and left wing populisms, but neither believes in direct democracy either. We know that because they present to voters “great leaders” to “free us from this Valley of Tears and deliver us to the Promised Land”; there is no “Valley of Tears” and there is no “Promised Land”; there is only reason, common sense, and plenty of voters with plenty of both, to decide by themselves how to build and manage a prosperous and stable society.

We can keep the elected representatives, but as proponents of laws and policies, not as decision-makers, more or less like the Swiss have been doing for a long time.

Direct democracy is not about any “great leader” it is about “rule by the people”, This means the people decide issues by voting on the issues, not just electing politicians.

Politicians in representative democracies like representative democracy because it gives political parties, politicians, those close to them, and those appointed by the politicians, all the power. Together, they have all the executive power, all the legislative power and all the judiciary power.

Why should politicians in representative democracies speak well of direct democracy if it deprives them of most of their power to pass laws and put in place policies as they see fit? No elite ever gives up power easily.

Some of those elected representatives, and others in the social and economic elites, have the cheek to say ordinary people are not capable of making the right decisions.

Other politicians do not want the people to decide because it would not be good for the politicians and the elites close to them.

Do not expect elected politicians in a representative democracy to push for direct democracy; most will never do it.

Others will speak against direct democracy using false arguments such as “direct democracy can become the dictatorship of the majority”. If you hear that, just point out Switzerland; a direct democracy where its historical minorities get more respect than minorities anywhere else.

We know direct democracy is better because of the Swiss, the only established direct democracy in the World, prove it every day; the Swiss trust their governments more than their German, Austrian, French and Italian neighbours.

Switzerland is also the ancestral home of four peoples; German-speakers, French-Speakers, Italian-speakers and Romansh-speakers.

Yet, those four communities have been able to create a multicultural country surpassing, by any economic, political and social measure its four “unitary” neighbours. Switzerland it is more stable politically, socially and economically, fiscally more sound, more democratic, more prosperous, more developed, has a better health and educational system, etc., than France, Austria, Italy or Germany.

If you want direct democracy in your town, province, state or country you will have to push for it because most of your elected representatives and those close to them will not. Even if some representative support direct democracy, their party, or those who finance their campaigns, soon will discourage them.

When the Swiss people decided they wanted direct democracy, their elected politicians did not like it one bit either; the Swiss had to push, peacefully, but hard.

Now that you know why direct democracy is not the norm, it is up to you to do something about it; but do not blame the politicians for your country not being a direct democracy. Instead of blaming, act, push peacefully, but push, so that the people of your town, state, province and country become the key decision-makers, not just vote.

Victor Lopez

Next post in two days, as always.

If Elected Politicians, Elitists and Messianists, on the Right, Left and Center, do not support direct democracy, you can draw your own conclusions…

Most of those people believe ordinary people are not very smart and, because of that, they need “leaders”; people with special vision, people who “know the way”.

It is a lot of baloney, but like baloney itself, and many other worthless things; some marketing tricks can fool most people most of the time.

All of them say they believe in democracy, but they do not; democracy is “rule by the people themselves”, not by elected representatives.

Most Elected politicians, prefer representative democracy, they do not like direct democracy. If you press them, they will perform many verbal pirouettes to convince you with arguments like “the population is too large to involve them in decisions”, “most issues are too complex, understanding them requires efforts most people do not have the time to make”, “there is a danger demagogues will fool the people”, etc., etc.

The reality is that democracy is “government by the people” and there are plenty of ways to have direct democracy, even in the largest countries.

Some will tell you representative democracy is democracy because the people decide which party is in power, but changing the party in power does not change the essence of the system; regardless of who governs, in a representative democray, those in power continue to make all the key decisions, the voters do not make the decisions, the voters do not govern, they just elect politicians.

For now, the population of representative democracies supports representative democracy, but the number is dropping, fast. Rapidly, the numbers of those who know about direct democracy is growing; the big switch to direct democracy will happen, it is inevitable.

Common sense also makes it obvious we are ready for direct democracy; if the voters are adult enough to hold a job, raise a family, save to buy a house, pay our loans and mortgages, elect politicians etc., we are also adult enough to decide by ourselves if taxes should be raised, if we need new roads, if we should have universal health coverage, if the  country should sign a treaty, belong to an international organisation, what the educational system we need, etc.

Humanity is fortunate to have two nations who have demonstrated direct democracy works better, that citizens, not only do not need to elect “leaders with vision” to have a successful nation, they build a better nation without such leaders.

The first of such people were the Ancient Greeks; they invented democracy, direct democracy. To them, representative democracy would not be democracy at all. Representative democracy is not democracy and should not be called democracy. “Representative democracy” is another verbal pirouette.

The other people who do not need “visionary leaders”, “prophets” and other “great men”, are the Swiss. The Swiss are here, with us and, in the modern World, “next door” to you and me.

Anyone can study the Swiss system, just click “direct democracy” or Swiss direct democracy”, in almost any language and examine what pops up in Internet.

The Swiss used to have representative democracy too, but one day, as a result of another pandemic, they decided they would govern Switzerland themselves, not the elected representatives.

Formally, the Swiss have not done away with representative democracy; they elect representatives, have a parliament and a government made up by politicians, but the Swiss have introduced a key difference; the people have the final say on everything the elected representatives and the executive want to do, and the people also propose and make changes to policies, laws and even the constitution.

For example, the coming March 7, 2021, the Swiss people will decide three issues that in other countries are decided by the elected representatives, not by the people; unless the people take to the streets and impresses-scare the elected representatives into listening.

On the 7th of March, Swiss voters decide if a commercial treaty with Indonesia goes forward, on the electronic ID, and also on the legality of covering the face in public places.

Swiss politicians can recommend to voters to accept or reject the proposals but that is all the power they have. Quite different from your country, right?

If the Ancient Greeks 2500 years ago, and the Swiss now, do not need “leaders” who decide and have more power than the voters, is it not time the rest of us have the same rights and power ? I believe it is time.

But to change things we will have to do more than complain about the politicians; we will have to pressure them until the politicians have no choice but to bring direct democracy to our countries; that is exactly like it happened in Switzerland.

The time has arrived to ignore what most elected politicians and elitists say about direct democracy.

Let us move forward!

Victor Lopez

In representative democracies, politicians are pulling the voters’ legs!

Most politicians in representative democracies say things like; “the average voter is not qualified to vote on most political issues because the issues are to complex for them, this is why direct democracy will not work. Voters need “leadership”, this is what we provide”.

Balderdash!, all of it!

People may need a leaders in extreme situations, most of the running of a country is not as dramatic, as “black and white and urgent” as “representative” politicians want you to believe.

Most elected politicians are not qualified either in economics, psychology, engineering, roads, health, army, commerce, technologies, history, education, and on and on; but that does not stop them from passing laws and regulations on all those areas.

How is it possible for elected politicians to vote and decide issues on which they have no formal qualifications?

The explanation is evident; elected politicians have access to experts that explain the issues to them. In this manner, politicians become qualified to vote and decide on any issue.

In a direct democracy, the experts do the same, but to the people. They the issues so that voters become qualified to decide issues competently; exactly in the same way the politicians become competent to decide.

You may think, “if elected politicians are competent to decide, why do we need the voters to do that job?” This is why: a politician may understand the issue, but his or her priorities often do coincide with the priorities of voters, never mind the cliché about “serving the people”; only when the voters themselves decide can they be sure their interests are the decisive consideration.

That is precisely what they do in Switzerland’s direct democracy; the people have the final say on all issues of importance, but before voting , voters receive information packages explaining the advantages and disadvantages of voting “Yes” or “NO”.

Voters see what the government, the political parties, unions, and many experts on both sides of the issues, say.  They also watch debates, read articles, etc.

The results, the facts on the ground speak, even “scream”, by themselves; Switzerland, the only country practising direct democracy at all levels of government, is the best managed country of the World.

There is another factor that makes Swiss voters more competent to decide than voters in representative democracies; in a direct democracy “you vote, you are responsible for the effects”. Voters learn to vote responsibly in a direct democracy.

In representative democracies, even after the elected politician proves to be a disaster, a crook, etc., the voters blame the politician, not themselves. They do it because in a representative democracy, voters are not responsible for the decisions politicians make.

Next time someone tells you voters in your country are not qualified to vote on the issues, to have direct democracy, tell him or her:  “the practice of direct democracy qualifies voters to vote competently”. This is how humans learn; we learn by doing.

If you want your country to be better governed, push for direct democracy.

We need direct democracy because representative democracy is not democracy; democracy is “government by the people”, not “government by the elected representatives”.

Victor Lopez

The Swiss do it better or, why direct democracy is not enough. Part II.

Swiss direct democracy should not exist. Switzerland should not be a stable country either, but it is the most advanced democracy and the most stable country.

If we look at Switzerland past the cliches, the foolish comments about the “crazy system where the people are voting themselves to exhaustion”, we see the most politically advanced country in the World.

Let us look at the facts on the ground.

Switzerland has all the elements that in other countries create serious political problems; they have founding peoples who speak different languages, practice different religions and have different cultures. They even have different temperaments.

The Swiss have made their country the most democratic and stable country on Earth. It is also the most prosperous too, with the best universal health care, etc.

Switzerland is the most democratic because “democracy” means “government by the people”, not by the representatives of the people. No other people come close to the Swiss in actual people’s power.

To make matters even more difficult for the Swiss, the founding peoples of Switzerland had a history of being at war with each other.

As you probably know, the Swiss practice direct democracy; a huge advance over representative democracy. But the Swiss realized direct democracy would not be enough. They also had to accommodate the cultural and linguistic differences among the people living in different areas of Switzerland.

The Swiss saw that Swiss German-speakers made up almost two thirds of the population of the country, French-speakers one quarter, Italian-speakers 8% and Romansh-speakers a tiny 0.5%. They had to figure out a way to prevent Switzerland from becoming a country were the German-speaking majority became so dominant that the other groups would feel oppressed or discriminated; as you know it happens in other countries.

One smart thing the Swiss did is se up Switzerland as a federal nation; a union of free states.

Another good move was to separate cultural-language identity from territorial administration.

Most other countries, including federations, with several historical cultures, do the opposite; they organize the country around language and culture. In those countries each group has its own territorial administration; they never make the arrangement work very well. Friction, separatist movements, even terror, are never too far.

Had Switzerland done the same as most other countries, the country would have four cantons; a huge (compared to the others) German-Speaking canton of 5.5 million people, a mid-size French-Speaking Canton of 2.1 million, one small Italian-Speaking canton of 0.5 million people, and one tiny Romansh-speaking canton of 50 000 people.

It is easy to see how a huge German-speaking canton, dwarfing the rest, could find it hard to resist making its power prevail over the others. If that happened friction and resentment would quickly appear.

But the Swiss did not do that. What they did is divide Switzerland into 26 cantons; 17 German-speaking, 4 French-speaking, two Italian-speaking and a few bilingual and even trilingual cantons.

The Swiss also have a flexible system of Cantons; it has happened that a group has become a canton because they were not happy in their old canton

Another clever move by the Swiss was not to have one national language, official or otherwise. The Swiss made the languages of the four founding peoples official languages; German, French, Italian and Romansh are all official languages of the national federal government. Note than only 0.5% of the Swiss speak Romansh, yet their language is official language.

By doing all those things, the Swiss succeed at finding harmony among their founding cultures. Many other federal or unitary nations, such as Canada, the US, Germany, Australia, France, Spain, etc., have not.

Those are great nations in many other respects, but they have not been able to achieve the harmony the Swiss have achieved. The Swiss have done away with the “majority-minority” concept. They did it by dividing the territory occupied by German-speakers and French-speakers into many cantons. It is almost as if the Swiss system turns every group into a minority.

Swiss cantons are small, but each is very autonomous, almost another country within Switzerland. Each Swiss canton has far more autonomy than the often much larger states in the US or the Canadian provinces.

The Swiss have also succeeded at making their nation’s identity independent of language and culture. By doing this they keep at bay the “tribal impulse” humans have.

I believe it is essential to understand what the Swiss have done. All countries need direct democracy, but countries with more than one founding culture also need to look at other aspects of the Swiss system which complement direct democracy.

 

The Swiss do it better

Have you ever considered how does, historically culturally and linguistically diverse, Switzerland functions better than the US, UK, Canada, France, etc.?

“Diversity !”, “diversity !”; you hear a lot of talk about “diversity”. Most who do, do not know how to make diversity work in the actual World. But the Swiss talk little about “diversity”, for them the facts are more important than words; Swiss make diversity work, perhaps not like a Switch watch, but they do a better job than any other country.

Most countries with ethnic and cultural diversity all they are able to do is: the majority “rules” and the minorities shut up, revolt, resort to terror or threaten separation. You see that all over the World.

Most of them are regimes that oppress the majority too, their majorities do not rule; the rulers belong to the majority, it is not the same thing. It seems inevitable; when they oppress their minorities, they also oppress the majority.

There is no need to name such countries, many are well known… They violate the human dignity of the majority and the minorities; they do it every day many times all over their territories, year after year. Sometimes they do it even abroad. They are terrible, shameful regimes who should not exist, but that is for another blog.

I am sure the people will overthrow those regimes, just like the French and other countries, mostly in the West, overthrew their oppressive regimes and instituted representative democracy.

This brings me to established representative democracies and their historical minorities.

By getting rid of the old absolute-power regimes, representative democracies solved the problem of oppression of the majority, but no representative democracy has solved the problem of oppression or suppression of its historical minorities; it is a big problem now.

I want to say also that many representative democracies have evolved into societies where most citizens no longer feel represented by the elected politicians, but that is issue for another post too.

Look at the situation of historical minorities in some well-known representative democracies;

In the US there is no need to tell you about the issues with Blacks, Native Americans of several cultures and languages, and also with native Spanish-speaking Americans.

The issues in Canada with Quebec, the First Nation Indians, Acadians and Eskimos are also well known. The constant fear Quebec may separate is a major “background worry” in Canadian politics.

If you jump across the Atlantic;

In Spain, it is not possible to exaggerate the cultural and territorial frictions related to language and culture. Those frictions threaten to break up the country now, and have already in the past.

Moving North to France; you might know about the “problems” with the Corsicans and the Bretons. There are other separatist issues in the French state.

Italy has tense accommodation with its Northern region.

If we continue on to the UK, everybody knows about Scottish separatists.

For something quite different, let us now go to Switzerland, a direct democracy, and how it handles its historical minorities.

I mention Switzerland’s nature as a direct democracy because I know it explains the success of Switzerland with its historical minorities.

In Switzerland the German-speaking majority has no issues with the French, Italian and Romansh minorities, nor do the minorities have issues with the German-speaking majority. How do the Swiss manage such amazing feat?

Switzerland has succeeded in the accommodation of its minorities because Switzerland does not really “accommodate” its minorities; the minorities are equal partners with the majority. A simple but revolutionary concept the calm Swiss do not brag about.

In the process of figuring out how to make diversity work in the real world, the historical cultures of Switzerland have turned Switzerland into perhaps the most politically stable country in the World and, overall, the best country in the World

It is more stable than any of the countries I mentioned, including the UK and Canada, considered very stable countries by many of us; I consider Canada, the country where I live, very stable, but that does not mean the cultural and linguistic issues with its historical minorities have been solved, they have not.

In the US, and the other countries I mentioned, there is lots of talk, articles, academic papers, forums, laws, regulations for this or that, concerning historical minorities, but none of them manages the realities on the ground too well.

Why they don’t look at the Swiss? I do not really know, but I suspect it is because the majority of the population, including the minorities, do not know how the Swiss do it. I also suspect the status quo is comfortable for the politicians and others in the “elite”.

In my next post I will discuss how the Swiss make their historically multicultural country work. I hope you join me because I have no doubt the Swiss have found the better way.

 

Direct democrats: “We pay, we decide”

We, the people, pay the taxes, we pay the salaries of the politicians; it makes sense we the people should be the final decision makers, not the politicians.

That makes Switzerland very different from representative democracies; in Switzerland, “we the people, decide issues”.

In representative democracies, the people elect the politicians, but the politicians make all the decisions.

The people in a direct democracy elect the politicians, but they also have the final say in all important executive and legislative decisions, they propose laws and changes to the constitution AND approve them, not the politicians.

Today I will look at how the Swiss change their constitution.

When the elected politicians in Switzerland agree on a change to the Constitution, even if both chambers of parliament agree, they can not make the change; they must propose the change to the people.

The people decide if they agree with the proposal by voting in a national referendum, if the result of the referendum is a “yes”, then the constitution is changed.

If the people reject what the politicians propose, the politicians can go back to the draw board, or they can forget the changes.

But there is another very interesting twist in Switzerland; the people can also propose changes to the constitution without the agreement or consent of the politicians.

To do that, any citizen, group of citizens, political party (no matter how small), environmental group, religious groups, etc., all they have to do is collect 100 000 signatures, approximately 1% of the population of Switzerland, in 18 months or less.

Once they do that, their proposal goes to a national referendum, just like when the politicians propose the change. The difference in Switzerland is that the politicians propose and do not decide, but the people propose and decide.

It is also very important to know that in Switzerland’s direct democracy, the Swiss Supreme Court can not overturn the decisions of the people.

In representative democracies, the Supreme Court, sometimes called Constitutional Court; can overturn the decisions of parliaments. They do not overturn the decisions by the people because the people can not make decisions; in representative democracies there is nothing to overturn.

One of the healthiest effects of the system of direct democracy is that politicians know they can only propose changes that are in tune with most of the voters. To increase the chances that the people will approve what the politicians propose, the major parties in parliament, who represent 70-80% of the voters, work cooperatively to draft the changes; no heavy handed adversarial politics in the Swiss parliament. This also helps prevent polarization of the country around the major parties, unlike what happens elsewhere.

Remember also that minority political parties, or parties with no representation in parliament, and others, can also propose changes to the constitution if they collect the 100 000 signatures. This makes that the Swiss direct democracy system a great equalizer of political power; a group of citizens, a small party, etc., have the same opportunity the Swiss parliament has to have their proposal to change the constitution become reality.

This is why when I see The Economist’s Democracy Index ranking several representative democracies as more democratic than Switzerland’s direct democracy, I laugh. I also feel sad for what I used to believe was a serious publication.  To see the index: democracy-index-2020

The magazine places Norway as the most democratic country in the World. Unfortunately, in Norway, (in other ways a great country) the politicians alone can change the constitution; they do not need the approval of the people, they do not even have to consult the people and, if they do, they can ignore the wishes of the people; some democracy! Democracy means government by the people.

Never mind the Economist and Norway; if you pay, you should decide. Electing the politicians is no longer enough. Democracy does not mean rule by the elected politicians, it means the people rule.

Representative democracy is an oxymoron, really; if the people are represented and the representatives decide, then the people do not decide, that is not rule by the people, it is not democracy, it is something that resembles democracy, it is better than totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, much better, but it is not democracy.

If you want democracy in your country, you will have to do more than blame the politicians or complain, you will have to spread the word about direct democracy until the people demand it, and do not give up until they get it.

Direct democracy did not land in Switzerland from Heaven…, they had to demand it, insistently.

Direct democracy is better for the majority… and for minorities, too!

Let us look at minorities in the only time-tested direct democracy the World has now; Switzerland.

Switzerland is made up of four founding cultures who speak German, French, Italian and Romansch. German-speakers make up 63% of the population, French-speakers 23%, Italian-Speakers 8% and Romansh-speakers 0.5%.

Although the Romansh language is spoken by a tiny minority, it is one of the four official national languages. No other democracy does that; France, Spain, the UK, Sweden, Canada, the United States, etc., with much larger minorities, do not do that, and suffer never ending tensions because of it.

Have you ever heard that Breton or Corsican are official national language of France, or Gaelic in the UK, or Galician, Basque or Catalan as official languages of Spain, or any aboriginal language of Canada, the US or Mexico? You haven’t because they are not.

But it gets even more interesting; of the 8.5 million Swiss, only about 60 000 people speak Romansh and they no not make up the majority in any of the Swiss cantons, (a canton is equivalent to an American state, a German lander, a Mexican state, a Canadian province or a Spanish autonomous region).

Why has the German-speaking majority, and also the other major French-speaking and Italian-speaking minorities, recognize in such clear and official manner the language spoken by such a few people?

It can not be because of their votes count for much at election time in the national elections. They do it because they know it is good for themselves too because it prevents alienation and frustration when people are not respected and recognized.

But there is more to Swiss direct democracy; in Switzerland, if you get 50 000 signatures, or 100 000 in other cases, any issue has to be put to a national referendum.

There is also a very important detail; in Switzerland, the results of popular referendums are mandatory; the parliament and the executive have to respect and implement them. Also very important; the Swiss Supreme court can not overturn the results of popular referendums because they may be “contrary to the constitution”. In a direct democracy “the people are sovereign”, for real.

In Switzerland, if 50 000 or 100 000 people, between 0.5 and 1% of the population, sign up to a proposal anyone can make; “this issue should go to national referendum”, it goes.

But the issue does not even have to affect the 50 000 or 100 000 people, a much smaller group of people can force a national referendum on an issue they consider important, as long as they get the signatures. This gives significant power to the smallest groups.

Small and large groups, tiny and large political parties, can force national on other issues, and they do; making Swiss companies responsible for human rights and environmental violations in their foreign facilities, gay marriage, immigration, taxes, commercial treaties with other countries, budgets, new weapons for the armed forces, gun laws, and on and on.

Direct democracy provides a mechanism for social minorities, minority political parties and other groups, to have the whole nation decide.

Popular referendums in Switzerland have even been used to create new cantons. This has happened when a significant portion of the population of a canton are convinced they need a canton of their own.

The political diversity of Switzerland is amazing also; there are 15 political parties with representation in the national parliament and, amazingly, the Swiss parliamentarians and the executive work cooperatively; does that happen in your country?

There are another 10 parties with no representation in the parliament but, remember, they can organize referendums; they have power beyond their numbers. The 50 000-100 000 signature system allows citizens to go the people for a decision, over the heads of the executive and parliament.

So, if you belong to any minority, or to the majority, but want to avoid having frustrated minorities and peaceful getting along, no other system comes close to direct democracy. Ignore what some academics, opinion makers and politicians in your representative democracy may tell you.

Besides, direct democracy develops voters into much more responsible voters; it happens because voters now decide, they don’t just vote for someone; they know they are responsible for the fate of the nation.

 

Direct democracy; cheaper and better, no joking, just read on

Very few people know it, the people elected to the Swiss federal government, and other Swiss politicians, are part-time politicians. With part-time politicians, Switzerland is the best run country in the World; interesting and surprising.

You know Switzerland is a rich country, but you may not know they have the best universal health care system in the World as well. There are many other areas where the multicultural Swiss excel.

The Swiss believe that even the politicians who serve in the federal parliament should be part-time politicians. They believe it is good for the country when elected representatives work also at a regular job, in this way they also live the actual life of ordinary voters and will understand them better.

Perhaps the 80% approval rating of Swiss politicians has something to do with the fact Swiss politicians are “of the people”; they do not make up a political class, like politicians in representative democracies do.

Another interesting fact is that Swiss part-time politicians have a much higher approval rating than their full-time counterparts in other countries.

For example, in the Unites States, the approval rating of the US Congress hovers around 15-25% time after time. But something is wrong when, despite such dismal performance, 90% of the members of the US Congress are re-elected, time after time.

So, US politicians do a terrible job, according to US voters but, somehow, the voters keep them in their jobs time after time; something is wrong in the US system, but is another issue.

Other representative democracies are not doing too good either; in the UK, France, and most other representative democracies, the approval of politicians is below 50%.

The Swiss people are more satisfied with their part-time politicians than you are with those who work for you full-time. But, do your elected representatives work for you full time?, or do they work full-time for themselves, to get re-elected, and for this or that lobby or pressure group?

Switzerland shows that James Madison, “father of the US Constitution” was wrong;

Jameson wrote in Federalist No. 62 that “It is not possible that an assembly of men called mostly from private pursuits, continued in appointment for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to devote intervals of public occupation to a study of the laws, the affairs, and the comprehensive interests of their country, should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important errors in the exercise of their legislative trust.”

The Swiss prove the opposite; not only part-time politicians “escape” with fewer errors; they can perform much better than full-time politicians.

I believe there is another factor that makes part-time politicians better; direct democracy.

In a direct democracy, all the key decisions are made by the people; after all, democracy is “government by the people”, not by elected representatives. The idea that a country governed by the representatives of the people  is a democracy is wrong. The Greeks invented (direct) democracy, not representative democracy. “Representative democracy” is an oxymoron.

In Switzerland the voters work harder because they decide, they don’t just vote to elect politicians.

This why both chambers of the Swiss Parliament meet only 3 weeks during the year. Also, Swiss politicians do not need the crazy big staff politicians in representative democracies need.

Because in Switzerland the people decide, Swiss politicians have a lot less power, less responsibility and less work.

Logically, Swiss parliamentarians are also cheaper than their counterparts in countries other countries;

US:                 175 000 USD

Japan:            150 000

Austria:          145 000

Canada:         140 000

Germany:      130 000

UK:                    115 000

France:           100 000

Switzerland:   72 000

Another advantage for the Swiss of having part-time politicians is that the politicians spend more time in their districts; listening to the people, living with the people, working among the people. One effect of that is that Swiss politicians govern more in tune with the ordinary citizen.

Isn’t it time to push for direct democracy and part-time politicians? Isn’t it obvious part-time politicians produce better results than full-time politicians, at least if the country is a direct democracy, or a semi-direct democracy in which the elected politicians have their power drastically reduced?

No time to lose; we need to push for direct democracy to improve democracy, and remove the dangerous discontent with representative politicians, who do not represent the people well, in so many countries.