We can do it too!; adding direct democracy to the representative democracy systems in our countries

What I write today, and everything in my blog, applies to stable representative democracies anywhere in the World. Unstable representative democracies are not ready for direct democracy, but exceptions are always possible.

Nations which are not even representative democracies, such as nations where only one party, person, one religion governs, are not ready at all for direct democracy.

Even in stable representative democracies, whoever wins has too much power over the people. Even if the party in power changes, all that changes are the policies; those new in power will continue to have much more power than the people, that violates the spirit of democracy and has to be corrected soon, before representative democracy becomes even weaker and people become tempted by dictatorship, by people with “authority”; it happened in Germany and brought Hitler to power.

Direct democracy is necessary to prevent that degeneration. We need to invert the power pyramid, we need to put the people at the top. To make people the real final decision-makers, not just to vote and decide who will govern, but to decide issues.

The people need to have power over anything the politicians want to do; be it a policy, a law, or a change to the constitution. The people do not need to exercise their power over the politicians on everything, what the people need are the tools to exercise that power whenever they decide a democratic decision by the people is necessary.

The system has to make it practical for citizens to force the government to run a free and fair binding referendum.

In addition, the people must also have the power to propose new laws, new policies and changes to the constitution, and have the electorate decide.

The people must also be able to organise the referendums without the support of the government, even if the executive and parliament oppose the referendum, even if all parties and all parliamentarians oppose it.

It is also essential that the results of the referendums be binding on governments. The binding referendum is necessary for the people to be, and feel, responsible for their decisions, for what happens to their country, town, province or village.

If the people do not feel responsible for what happens it is because they do not decide anything other than at election time. When voters have decision-making power, voters know they are responsible and behave responsibly.

In representative democracies, voters have no direct responsibility to deal with issues, they can not because they do not decide, the politicians decide.

Democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, how can it be democracy if the people are not responsible for any decision, other than electing the politicians?, it makes no sense.

Direct democracy is essential at all levels of government; only in this way it is possible to have a generalised culture of direct democracy, of the people being the final decision-makers, of feeling and knowing they are responsible. You can not have direct democracy at the local or regional level but not at the national level; it is a bit like being pregnant…

Direct democracy is genuine progress; it is about expanding the rights, and the responsibilities, of voters.

Setting up a direct democracy requires a minimum of political maturity among voters, the practice of direct democracy develops the political maturity of voters, nothing can be better for a country, town or village.

But we do not have to “reinvent the wheel”; we have one country that practices direct democracy, and does it at the local, regional and national levels. That country is Switzerland.

Switzerland can improve, but others can catch up and surpass it; a good way to advance is to start is to know, understand, adapt, adopt what the Swiss people do and have proven it works; that is why Switzerland is the most stable, better organised, most prosperous democracy.

Introducing direct democracy does not require we get rid of politicians, no need for revolution; peaceful transition is possible, the Swiss did it, so can the rest of us.

In a direct democracy, politicians will continue to propose and execute most policies and laws. This is so because, most of the time, most of the people will agree with what they do, or at least will not disagree with them so strongly as to force a referendum to try stop them.

But even if an issue goes to referendum, it is very good for the country, the city or village; if what the politicians propose prevails in the referendum, they have won the legitimacy that only a democratic decision by the people has.

Likewise, the people will also seldom have to call a referendum to propose new policies or laws. This happens because, with the people having that power, politicians know they have to do what the people expect them to do.

This is one of the decisive advantages over representative democracy that the power of the people to call referendums brings; it forces politicians to govern in tune with the will of the people. This means the end of riots, of violent protests, etc. No “yellow jackets”, no “occupy Wall Street”, etc., in Switzerland they are unnecessary.

When governments do what the people want, the people also trust government; Switzerland has the highest level of trust in government.

As the Swiss put it, direct democracy is the great tool the people have to “put the brake and stop politicians or to push the accelerator to get politicians to act.”

Tomorrow I will discuss territorial organisation of a country and the decision-making powers of the various levels of government, so that direct democracy can take root in our representative democracies.

Victor Lopez

 

 

 

“Moutier-Exit”; again!, and again without fanfare, Switzerland shows the world how real democracy works; this time at the local and canton levels.

Yesterday I wrote about a referendum in the small town of Moutier. Today we know; they decided to leave Bern and join Jura.

2114 votes were for “leave” and 1740 for “remain”; 55% vs 45%. 88% of the voters participated; where did I hear “voter participation a in direct democracy is low”?; hogwash! The Swiss take part at the rate they consider the issue requires nothing to do with “voter fatigue”, and assorted verbal tricks to distract us from demanding direct democracy in our countries.

Most of the people of Moutier are French speaking, but language and culture are not the primary motivation for leaving. We know that because in the seventies, several other French-speaking municipalities organized a referendum, but not to leave Bern and join the adjacent French-speaking Canton of Neuchatel, they demanded their own French-speaking canton (state or province).

It is also important to note that Bern is a bilingual German-French canton, but the French speakers wanted much more than language recognition.

I believe in other countries where they try to make bilingualism work, they will fail because the minorities also want and need their own administrative territory to control more of their own destiny. Minorities will demand their own territorial identity and that their language be the only official language. It goes beyond language, much like the Swiss have done.

Bilingualism only makes sense in very specific areas where the minority is not a small minority and where there is a high degree of mixed neighbourhoods, business, etc.

But the Swiss have gone beyond autonomy based on language alone, that is why Switzerland has many German-speaking and French-speaking cantons, instead of one large German-speaking canton and one large French-speaking canton; it is a stroke of collective political genius.

Switzerland also proves that majority rule, including areas where the minority is the majority, direct democracy at all levels, is not mob rule at all but rational rule; much more rational than ruling by elected representatives, which is what we have in representative democracies.

Each Swiss Canton also has more autonomy and independence than a German Lander, a state in the US, a Canadian Province, a Spanish Autonomous Region, etc.

It is interesting how other federal, or almost federal, governments, like the ones of the countries I just mentioned, often speak of “local identity”, “give minorities a voice”, “recognise founding minorities” etc., but when it comes down to political power, the national government politicians insist that most power be with national government.

It is not like that in Switzerland at all, as we see in Moutier’s case and in the creation of the Canton of Jura. In Switzerland, the national government manages only the areas which the cantons can not manage, such as external relations and defence.

The result of the Swiss system is that the majorities and minorities of Switzerland, have their own territories and far more rights than the majorities and minorities in any of the representative democracies I just mentioned, or any other representative democracy.

But the case of Moutier is not unique. In 1996 the 72 inhabitants, yes, seventy two, of the village of Vellerat, also in the Canton of Bern, and also French-speaking, had a referendum to join the Canton of Jura. The proponents of the referendum won, and Vellerat is now part of the Canton of Jura. In this case, the people feel joining another canton is enough. They did not demand their own canton, although in Switzerland, some cantons are very small.

In my next post I will discuss the changes required to develop a representative democracy into a direct democracy.

The next step now for the government of Moutier, and the governments of the cantons of Bern and Jura, is to start the process of a smooth transition to ensure the people of Moutier continue to enjoy being citizens of the most stable, democratic and prosperous country on Earth.

Victor Lopez

 

Today, another demonstration of direct democracy and cultural and political wisdom, of the Swiss people at work (I hope); this time at the local level.

In today’s case, the people of the small Swiss town of Moutier, just over 7 000 inhabitants, will decide if they will leave the Canton of Bern and will join the Canton of Jura.

Years ago, the people who now make up the Canton of Jura, also decided they were not happy in the Canton of Bern. After some political agitation, even some minor violence, the Canton of Bern, and the whole of Switzerland, decided the people of the area of Jura should hold a referendum to decide if they wanted to create their own Canton.

In the referendum, the proponents of separation won. In 1979, they created the new Canton of Jura.

The major reason for the people of the Jura to want their own Canton was linguistic, and the desire to have their own territory. This was because they speak French, but most of the people of the Canton of Bern speak German. The French-speakers are also Roman Catholics, German-speakers are Protestant.

But the key was not religion; it appears than language, culture and, above all, being in control of the territory they inhabited, played a larger role in their decision to become a new Canton. If language and religious affiliation had been the key factors, the people of the Jura would have asked to join an adjoining French-speaking canton, but they didn’t, they wanted their own canton, and they got it.

But in 1979, some French-speaking areas of the Canton of Bern decided to stay in Bern, not go with the others to create the Canton of Jura. But as time passed, it seems many people have changed their minds.

Among them are many people in Moutier. They have been pressuring to leave the Canton of Bern and join the Canton of Jura. In 2017, the Canton of Bern agreed they could hold a referendum to decide. The vote to leave won by a small margin, they got 51.7% of the vote.

Unfortunately, some people not living in Moutier illegally voted in the referendum. This prompted the government of the Canton of Bern to declare the result of the referendum illegal.

But that did not mean that issue died. The people of Moutier insisted on holding another referendum, and that is what will happen tomorrow. If the proponents win, Moutier will join the Canton of Jura.

I believe most other countries could learn from the Swiss here; how democratically, the Swiss, again, show that the will of the people is supreme, if it is not, it is not a democracy; that is the big problem in representative democracies. In such democracies the will of the politicians prevails, not the will of the people.

But the Swiss people also show something, perhaps even more important, that when people sharing a language-culture want to have control of their own territory, they must have it.

However, the Swiss do it with a very interesting twist; the Swiss reject the idea of a state with one language, one culture. They also reject the idea of one big unitary canton or region for each language-culture.

The Swiss, the peoples and cultures of Switzerland, by acknowledging that languages-cultures require territorial control they have given themselves the sense of autonomy and control they need. By preventing the creation of unitary territories for all German-speakers, French-speakers, etc.,  they have prevented the rise of “tribal-nationalist” feelings among the four Swiss cultural-linguistic groups.

Other countries, like the UK, Canada, Spain, and others, have not done that; separatism along cultural and linguistic lines, threatens, lurking in the background, the stability, even the existence, of those countries.

Unitary nations, such as France, have suppressed anything not “French”, but separatism raises its ugly head there too.

Switzerland is stable and prosperous because the Swiss people practice direct democracy and political common sense at all levels; at the local, regional and national levels.

The Swiss people are also wise when they avoid creating unitary administrative regions for each language and culture.

They are also masters of “orderly flexibility”; they show it in situations like the Jura and Moutier. In Switzerland, the people can can do anything, but not with demonstrations and riots; with orderly debates and orderly referendums, no mob rule in Switzerland. In fact, the politicians in representative democracies use emotional discourses that sound more like the screams of an excited mob.

It is time other countries adopt the wise Swiss measures, or perhaps even improve on them.

In my next blog I will discuss what happened in Moutier today, and how perhaps our countries can apply a similar approach to our political problems.

Victor Lopez

Representative democracies are failing because too often governments violate the will of the people

It is urgent because the deterioration of representative democracy may turn the people to non-democratic regimes of the right of the left. This has happened many times before.

In a representative democracy, it can happen that most voters may be against the government; if an election were to take place, the party in power would lose. But it does not matter, even if 90% of the voters are against what the government wants to do, they have no formal mechanisms and procedures to stop it.

This means that in a representative democracy a government can carry on without the support of most voters, even against their will; how can that be a democracy?

Democracy is “government by the people,” or, as President Lincoln and others put it: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

In a democracy, the government must not be able to make even one decision against the will of the majority.

Representative democracies must put in place mechanisms to put the will of the people above the will of the politicians.

The Swiss used to have representative democracy too, they changed that forever, the trigger was also a pandemic…

They have now four mechanisms to empower voters to prevail over the politicians.

First, they have the popular initiative. It allows the people to change the constitution. The people can do it without the support of politicians, even against their will.

To launch a national referendum on an initiative, its proponents have to collect 100 000 signatures in less than 18 months. 100 000 signatures are about 1% of the population of Switzerland. This is very important; you may know that in some countries with forms of direct democracy, they require a much higher percentage of signatures; this makes signature collection very difficult and has the effect of killing the process before it starts.

Once the proponents of the referendum collected the signatures, the national referendum takes place; the people decide. The executive, the legislative, have to accept the decision and make it stick. The only challenge allowed is another referendum on the same issue.

Before the referendum takes place, politicians can make a counter proposal to the people launching the initiative. These people may reject or accept the counter proposal. If they accept it, they withdraw the initiative, and no vote takes place.

Another tool Swiss voters have is the optional referendum. With this tool, the Swiss people can stop any law passed by the legislature.

In most cases, the people do not object to the laws passed. But this happens because of the power voters have to stop any law. This power keeps Swiss politicians very aware they have to pass only laws acceptable to the voters.

To launch the optional referendum, its proponents must collect 50 000 signatures within 100 days of the publication of the law.

The Swiss have a third tool to control politicians; it is the mandatory referendum.

Here, the people do not have to collect signatures; the mandatory referendum kicks in when the politicians want to change the constitution. There must a popular referendum on any proposal the politicians make to change the constitution.

But they even have fourth tool; the Swiss people have to approve any international treaty, the executive can not do it on its own.

As you see, the Swiss have turned the tables on politicians; what the Swiss did is radically reform representative democracy by introducing powerful instruments of direct democracy. They kept the elected representatives but they inverted the pyramid of power; at the top, instead of the politicians, the people sit.

If you want you and your fellow voters to have a functioning democracy from election to election, you will have to push until your politicians agree to put in place measures similar to Switzerland’s, or better.

If you do not do that you are contributing to the deterioration of democracy in your country. Populism is just the first symptom democracy is not really working.

Victor Lopez

 

 

The dishonesty, or ignorance, or both, of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) about Switzerland and populism

This post is three times longer than usual; I hope each sentence is interesting enough so you will read the next one.

I just watched a video that I find indignant, and indign, of the BBC, of the BBC’s program Newsnight; “Switzerland: The cradle of populism?” is the title of the video. The BBC broadcasted it on September 28, 2018. You can watch it by entering the title in your computer or phone.

The title makes it clear; perhaps there is a link between populism and Switzerland.

By trying to link Switzerland to populism the authors show they do not know much about the Swiss political system, or perhaps they are just dishonest, with a hidden agenda to discredit democracy. Perhaps they are elitists also, people who do not believe in democracy, in government by the people, and only pay lip service to democracy to pose as democrats..

The reality is not like they present it, the reality is that the Swiss direct democracy system makes it impossible for populism to govern.

Populist leaders emerge in representative democracies, or much worse regimes, because in representative democracies the people do not have the power to decide anything and, in time, they get frustrated.

In a direct democracy, is is not like that; the people still elect the politicians, but the people can decide anything they want to decide, over and above the decisions of the politicians.

In representative democracies, it does not matter if the Left, the Right, the Center, or a coalition, governs, it is always the same; the people vote, the people elect their representatives, and the representatives have all the power.

In a representative democracy, the famous “check and balances” occur only among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary; the citizens have no power to check and balance the power of any of the three. If anything, it is the opposite, as it happens in those countries when the supreme court, appointed by politicians, cancels the results of a popular referendum because “it is contrary to the constitution”.

Direct democracy is provides the most important check and balance; the only one we need, the others are phony checks and balances.

All the people in those representative democracies can do between elections, if they disagree with the executive, the legislative or the judiciary, is to demonstrate, protest, riot or turn to other forms of violence.

In a representative democracy, voters have no mechanisms to vote on an issue and prevail over those in power.

When in a representative democracy, the same party controls the executive and the legislative, things are even worse; even the phoney checks and balances go out the window; the executive can do anything it wants.

Even if at the next election, voters decide to punish those who govern, all they can do is give control to a rival party. As you can guess, the rival party, once it governs, will also use its excessive power, but in a different political direction; the people still have zero power to stop or push the new executive and legislative.

In representative democracies, the economic and social lobbies soon realise that what they have to do is gain direct influence with the elected politicians. If they do that they control the agenda.

The lobbies gain influence by “delivering votes” at election time. They do that with money to finance election campaigns. They do it also by persuading the members of their unions, business groups and professional associations to vote for this or that politician or party.

Lobbies know that in representative democracy, those who govern have the real power, not the voters. This is why many such organisations donate to any party or candidate who may win; they want to be on the winning side, no matter who wins; it is a sort of “diversification of investments”.

In Switzerland they do things differently, they still elect their politicians. Switzerland used to be a representative democracy, until they realised voters should be able to control the politicians, not just elect them.

The Swiss created the process to make sure the politicians can not do anything the majority of the people oppose. The process also allows the people to force the politicians to do something the majority of the Swiss people strongly want done.

This radical change eliminates the problems of representative democracies; in Swiss direct democracy it is impossible for the politicians to go astray from the will of the people; the politicians do not have the power to do that.

If the politicians can not go astray, populism can not rise, a simple concept of difficult execution.

Because the politicians in Switzerland lack the power of politicians in representative democracies, the lobbies and the pressure groups also know there is no point in pressuring politicians to do things the people will oppose and reject. They also know there is no point in trying to stop the changes the people want.

Populism (of the Right and the Left), demagoguery, “messianism”, “great leaders”, and other assorted political derangements appear in representative democracies. They appear precisely because the voters can not control the politicians.

Conclusion: Switzerland is no “cradle of populism”, it is the opposite, it is the cradle of real modern democracy (amazingly, and shamefully for humanity, it took 2800 years after the Greeks did it).

The “cradle of populism” are the countries with representative democracies. One of those countries is the BBC’s own country. Has the BBC not learned anything from Brexit?

But I suppose it is more comfortable to do a fake program on Switzerland than to do an in-depth analysis of how the governments, of the Right and the Left, who control the BBC budget work and, as a result, populism emerges.

In representative democracies, as the politicians make more decisions that most voter dislike, or do not make the ones the people want, the frustration of the people keeps rising.

Eventually, the people become so upset that many of them, perhaps most of them, fall for the politicians with grandiose ideas who promise to “lead them out of this valley of tears”; “to make the country great”, “to real justice”, “to real equality”, “to rights for this and that group”, “to free them from the clutches and lobbies and pressure groups, from the capitalists, from the leftists, from the unions…”

In Switzerland the rise of people like Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders or “Mr. Brexit”, or any other populists, is not possible, because there is no need for them. The Swiss system has flexibility to govern for the majority by the majority, built-in. In Switzerland, ideology takes a back seat because the system forces the politicians to focus on the practical solutions most voters want, not ideological “magico-messianic”, politically mad “solutions”.

For example; Switzerland is very welcoming to business, they have low taxes; Mr Trump would like that. They also have better control of immigration, but they have a higher percentage of immigrants than almost any other country.

On the other side, Mr. Sanders would like the Swiss universal health care system. Switzerland has the best universal health care system in the World. In Switzerland, poor, working class, middle class and wealthy, all are covered by the same universal health system.

The poor receive the money they need to pay the premiums from the government. The only advantage the people with more money have is access to nice, but not essential, luxuries, such as a private room in the hospital, but at prices that are reasonable and affordable to many.

Swiss voters stay focused on issues because they decide issues, the system does not work them into the polarising frenzy that politicians in representative democracies work their followers into, in their mad race to gain power, almost absolute power.

So, dear fellows at the BBC, you do not understand; Switzerland is not “the cradle of populism”, it is the “vaccine” against populism.

In Switzerland, politics is more rational than in the UK, and all other countries, because of direct democracy; the people have the final say on any issue, not the fast-talking demagogues.

Switzerland is probably the only country where populism will not rise, even if a “populist” party governed, because the voters cut short any demagoguery, any grandiose or extreme policies.

It is the US, France, Germany, the UK, etc., it is the representative democracies, that are “the cradles of populism”. If populists gain power in those countries they will do exactly as those in power do now, but in the opposite direction, and perhaps aggressively, which will generate a fresh wave of opposing populists.

The BBC would do a much better public service if, instead of airing groundless programs about the Swiss, did a real in-depth analysis of why millions of ordinary reasonable people, in the UK and other representative democracies, are turning to populism.

Populists of the right and the left are also clueless about the Swiss system, even if they admire it; in the same BBC video, Steve Bannon, the well-known US “populist”, congratulates the Swiss by saying in a speech in Switzerland: “you are the most free and most prosperous place in Europe”.

It is obvious Mr Bannon does not know Swiss democracy, or Switzerland; the people of Switzerland are the most free and most prosperous people in the World, not just in Europe. They are considerably freer and more prosperous than the people in the United States.

The Swiss are freer because direct democracy gives then the power and freedom to run their country, their cantons, their cities, towns and villages the way the people want, not the way the elected politicians and the lobbies want. No other country comes close, certainly not the United States.

In terms of prosperity, the income per capita of Switzerland is higher than the US and, if you take into account that the rich in the US are extremely rich and that the poor are much poorer than in Switzerland, it is obvious the Swiss are considerably more prosperous too. What prosperity do the people without health insurance have in the US?, or the middle class people who go broke paying for health services if they do not have health insurance? Or those in debt to their eyebrows who lose everything when the recession comes?

Steve Bannon and, I suspect Trump, Sanders, the rest of populists, as well as the producers of the BBC, are pretty clueless about how much better  their countries would function if they adopted the Swiss model of direct democracy, freedom and social protection, etc., assuming the country has the collective skills to do it.

Mr Bannon is another example of an American intoxicated with the fake idea the US is the freest, best democracy in the World, it is not, it never was because representative democracy makes it impossible, Switzerland is and has been the best democracy in the World because it is the only direct democracy. Representative democracy is not democracy, it is not because, while the people elect their representatives the will of the majority often does not prevail on very important issues. In Switzerland it does, that is why it is a real (not perfect) democracy.

Nevertheless, the US still is one of the best countries in the World, that is why millions risk their lives to enter illegally, but it needs direct democracy, urgently. The defeat (fake or real) of Mr. Trump does nothing to address the root problems who gave rise to Mr. Trump and the movement he leads. If the system does not evolve towards direct democracy, in the US and other countries, the worst is yet to come. But the elites, so far, seem oblivious.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Swiss consolidated their direct democracy after a pandemic. Perhaps the current one is the opportunity we need…

Victor Lopez

 

Direct democracy cuts political parties and politicians down to size; it is overdue

Representative democracy is another “star system” which leads politicians to think they are “leaders”, special people.

When the few decide for millions the system does not work because the few do not have the collective awareness and the collective knowledge of the many.

The star system is bad, it is bad because it leads voters to believe politicians are people with special qualities, superior to the voters. It is also bad because it leads politicians to believe they have special qualities; and that is the whole fake foundation of representative democracy, a poor foundation that is slowly crumbling now.

Dictatorships of any sort are far worse, but that is another issue.

Representative democracy is a bad idea. The fellow who came up with it is Robespierre, yes, that “nice” fellow who played a big role in the French Revolution, killing dozens every day for almost one year, some democrat!

The French Revolution was about eliminating the absolute power the French king, the French “nobility” and the bishops of the Catholic Church had over the people. This was a great idea but, like with many “great” ideas”, “the devil is in the detail”.

At first, the leaders of the French Revolution liked and supported democracy; that the people directly would make the political decisions, just like the Ancient Greeks did.

Unfortunately, it proved too hard for some leaders of the French Revolution to accept that the people would decide.

Soon, some of those leaders decided the people needed what turned out to be like new “kings”, new “nobility” and new “bishops”. The titles and the institutions changed; instead of a monarch we have a president or prime minister, instead of the nobility and the bishops we have party leaders, high-level bureaucrats, executives of large corporations, union leaders and so on. In this system, ordinary people vote but, like in the old regime, decide nothing.

The French Revolution brought rights and freedoms to ordinary citizens they did not have before; it was a huge achievement, but… having more rights and freedoms does not mean the key decision-making powers do not still lie in the hands of elites.

Because the politicians decide everything, and because political marketing campaigns present politicians as superior beings; “leaders”, people with vision, courage, character, honesty, etc., many voters believe they need such people to decide for them. They have been “educated” to believe they do not have what it takes to decide issues themselves, to lead themselves.

This is also why you see the cult of personality in representative democracies; the caravans of limousines with flashing lights, the special planes, the palaces or palace-like residences, the titles; “honourable”, “premier”, etc.; “special people” need “special choreography”; the whole thing is absurd.

Representative democracy rests on the premise that citizens need people with superior qualities to “represent” them. In reality, the elected representatives do not represent the voters. If elected representatives really wanted to represent the voters, they would consult with the voters before they decide or before casting any vote in parliament, but they do not do that.

There are many ways the politicians could vote and decide how the voters want, but they “know what is good for the people” better than the people themselves, why should they consult the people?

It is an idiotic concept; voters are intelligent, responsible adults, they do not need any politician to decide on their behalf.

We can keep the politicians, we can let them decide but with one critical change; the voters are always the final authority and can stop or change any decision taken or law proposed by the politicians

The system we need, where the citizens vote to elect and also vote to decide when they decide is necessary, is direct democracy. Direct democracy works, it is perhaps the key reason that makes Switzerland the best governed country in the entire World.

The Swiss have quashed the idea of “leaders”; this is why the highest government position in the country rotates among seven equal people; they do not need or like the idea of “one leader”. The seven also decide by consensus, and their decisions can be stopped by the people.

The Swiss did what the French could have done; the Swiss said: “OK, we will keep representative democracy, but with a twist to ensure the politicians will really represent us; we will let the politicians propose laws, treaties, etc., but we give to ourselves, the people, the power to stop anything the politicians want to do, we also give ourselves the right to introduce new laws and to change the constitution, and no politician, parliament or supreme court will have the power to stop us”.

Let the rest us grow as voters too, we do not need “leaders with vision”, we need politicians who do what we want done because they have no choice.

 

In representative democracies, the elites are not the problem, we, the people, are the problem because we do not act.

I am sure you hear more and more people in the media, academia, even the political elites, say that the people are becoming disillusioned with representative democracy.

The disillusion arises because most voters feel  politicians govern for the “donors” to their campaigns; some “donors” “donate” money, others “donate” voters.

To improve representative democracy, you might have heard of “deliberative democracy”, “participatory democracy”, “democracy of proximity”, “people budgets”, etc., perhaps there are others.

All those ideas can not work because they do not take the bull by the horns, they want to improve representative democracy but they do not want the people to have decision-making power over the politicians, which is what we need, and  what direct democracy does. If that happens, the politicians will govern for the people; it is in our hands to change the system.

Because millions of people are getting very frustrated, we have populist leaders in the Left and the Right. In a direct democracy, the people decide, they do not need leaders or parties with “messianic” solutions to “deliver us from this valley of tears”.

But, as long as most of us, ordinary citizens, continue to blame the politicians for the problem of weak, even fake, representation and representative democracy will continue to deteriorate, the final consequence is anybody’s guess.

What is obvious is that problems will not be solved if we expect the current system to solve them. It will not happen because the solution requires a rebalance of power.

We, the people, need to stop blaming; “less talk and more action”. The actions we need do not require riots or other violence; in representative democracies there is freedom of expression, at least there still is. What citizens need to do is to visibly act, speak, write, demonstrate. We must do it over and over, until the politicians are, individually and collectively, overwhelmed and surrender their key decision-making powers to us, to the voters.

It is essential to push the politicians to accept that the final decision on any law, policy, budget, treaty, etc., will no longer be in their hands but in the hands of voters. The voters will decide the issues they want to decide.

This is not a “Left” or “Right” issue; it is a universal issue. It is as relevant to all citizens as when we demanded and won the right to vote and elect the rulers.

Now we want the next step, we need the right to have decision-making power over those we elect, to ensure that they really serve the people.

Some people say: “It is not practical if the people have to decide everything”. In a direct democracy, the people do not have to do that, all that direct democracy requires is that the people have the power to prevail over the decisions taken by the elected representatives. This means that the people will use their power only when they decide they need to use it.

The elective representatives will still elaborate most laws, treaties, etc; what they do will stand if the citizens do not object.

The Swiss, the only people to have a solid, established, direct democracy, seldom challenge the decisions of their elected representatives, they do not need to; Swiss politicians know they have to govern for the people.

This means that in most issues, a direct democracy works in ways fairly similar to a representative democracy; the politicians still govern but with a big difference in trust levels; in a direct democracy the citizens trust the politicians will govern for the people, not for “donors”, the lobbies, etc., it is a huge change.

There is another important factor the people must demand;  the mechanisms to enable people to exercise their power must be simple and straightforward.

The Swiss, again, show us the way on that.  If between 0,5% and 1% of voters (depending on the issue and place) sign up, any issue will go to popular vote for the people to decide; any law, treaty, policy, budget, etc., will be decided by the voters.

The people must also be given ample time to gather the signatures; between 100 days and 18 months, depending in the issue, from the time they initiate the process of collecting signatures.

It goes without saying; the results of popular votes in Switzerland are mandatory for the government, they are not plebiscites or consultative referendums initiated by governments; the people initiate and the government obeys. That is what democracy is, that is what the Ancient Gree.ks invented. To the Greeks, representative democracy would make no sense

It is important also that in Switzerland any individual, formal or informal group, can start the process of gathering signatures; no need to be a political party, no need to have representation in parliament, no need to be a union, etc., although those can also use the provisions of direct democracy.

The nature of the Swiss process is deliberate, relatively slow, calm, controlled; there is no room for the “hot air”, polarizing, often irrational-emotional, political style prevalent in representative democracies.

If you want to fix the democracy in your country, no other system compares to direct democracy, but you have do act and stop complaining.

Victor Lopez

You know what is wrong with representative democracy; the politicians and the lobbies have too much power. Direct democracy fixes that.

Representative democracy gives voters only one established tool to change the behaviour of those in power; they can vote for someone else at the next election. It is no longer sufficient. Perhaps it never was.

Finally, we are waking up; politicians and those with direct access to them, have too much political power and they push government further and further away from the interests of ordinary people. It has to be stopped because it is a threat to political stability.

The tool voters have in a representative democracy, voting for another politician or another party is not effective because all it does is shift the power to another party, other lobbyists, etc., it does not bring government closer to the interests of the people. Of course, all parties put out many clever messages and political marketing tricks to distract voters one more time, but the game has become too obvious.

Other than show their anger or riot, in representative democracies voters have no power to control the actions of the executive or the legislative, no matter who governs.

The famous “checks and balances” between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary are only checks and balances among the three powers; there is no “check and balance” the people can execute on any specific issue; they do not have the power.

No wonder citizens lose confidence in their elected representatives; the people know what the politicians do or don’t do, but the people do not have the power to change specific decisions made by the politicians, they can not stop the laws the politicians pass, they can not control over spending, they can not stop grandiose and ruinous projects, they can not stop laws passed to help this or that business or social lobby, etc.

Direct democracy fixes the problem; direct democracy gives voters power to stop what the politicians want to do, or to force them to do what they do not want to do.

That is what they have been doing in Switzerland for over one hundred years! Hard to believe, right? It is time for the rest of representative democracies to catch up, to switch to direct democracy.

Representative democracy was an enormous improvement over rule by the Church and the Kings. In representative democracy, the people choose those who would occupy the place of the King, the Bishop” and the “Nobility”. In absolute monarchies, in dictatorships or in theocracies, the people can not do that, and it is terrible.

The sad part is that in a representative democracy, those elected to parliament and to the executive have almost as much power as old the royalty and aristocracy. The result is that in representative democracies the people are still “ruled from above”; we do not rule ourselves, we just vote, it is not the same thing.

This is why the next step for representative democracy is to remove the final decision-making power from the elected representatives, and give that power to the voters; as it always was meant to happen in a democracy.

The Swiss have done it; the people there are the final authority. Swiss elected representatives still develop laws, treaties, budgets, etc.; the key difference is that the voters can intervene to stop the politicians. Voters can also propose and approve laws and changes to the Constitution.

The people of the well-established representative democracies have the information, they know what is wrong. Just as important, we have the individual and collective social skills to make direct democracy work. But we have to act forcefully, peacefully, relentlessly, like the Swiss did, until politicians agree and accept direct democracy.

Victor Lopez

If the representative democracy you live in now is democracy, then Amazon, GM, Walmart, Ikea, Nestlé, Toyota and any other shareholder-owned company, are representative democracies too.

Formally, those large business and a representative democracies are very different, but if you look at how they work, there are many similarities. The central one is “the people at the top make all the decisions and have big incomes and privileges”.

Look at this:

The average yearly increase in the net worth of ordinary Americans was 3.7% from 2004 to 2012.

US politicians had an average increase in their net worth of 15.4% every year; over the same period; this is over 4 times the increase for average Americans.

But it gets even more interesting if you look at the dollars. The average net worth of members of the US Congress was $1,008,767.00 in 2012. In the same year, the net worth of the average American was about 12 times less.

As time passes it looks more like “government of the rich, by the rich for the rich”.

You may find different figures but the trend and facts make it clear; US politicians, at least at the federal level, belong to clearly higher social and economic class than ordinary Americans, even relatively prosperous Americans.

Such politicians, even if they have the best intentions will find it very difficult to identify and represent ordinary Americans; they do not have much in common with them.

It you also take into account that those politicians, to get elected or re-elected, need a lot of money to run their campaigns, and that the people who supply most of the money are corporations, professional associations and assorted lobbies, it becomes practically impossible for such politicians to defend the interests of ordinary citizens.

No wonder political campaigns look like an exercise in how to use the money of the big donors to persuade voters that those they elect will represent their interests and not the interests of the donors.

The political orientation matters only in that some donors give more to progressive candidates, others give more to conservatives ones, but in both cases the big donors have great influence over the elected politician, and also over the ones that lose the election. Big donors often give to all candidates so that they do not lose, no matter who wins.

How can such government with such people (legislative and executive) be “government of the people, by the people, for the people” ?

If you look at large business the situation is similar; how can executives be interested in, or understand, ordinary employees in the companies they run, even in the shareholders when executives make, 10, 20, 100, 200 times more money than the average?; they can’t.

Their compensation packages make it worse; the income of most executives is tied to current profits; they often change companies too, why should they care much about long-term investments that will pay off long after the executive is gone? No wonder most American companies are losing know-how and competitiveness.

Something similar happens in a number of other nations.

The same phenomena happens in politics; politicians in representative democracies are concerned about “now and the next election”, not about the long-term future of thr country.

This is why we need direct democracy; ordinary people are not under the direct influence of donors, therefore they can focus on the interest of the whole country and also on the future of the children of ordinary people; it is a very different perspective. That is why Switzerland is the best governed country in the World. It is because of direct democracy.

Current politicians and executives of public companies seem to have moremuch in common with the bishops and the nobility of pre-revolutionary France. It is those privileges and money who drove the impoverished French people to make the bloody French Revolution…

The political parties fight very hard to win elections, but no party can really represents the interests of ordinary people because of what I just said. The situation has deteriorated so much that a billionaire, Donald Trump, emerged as the “defender of ordinary Americans”; it is grotesque.

Many large companies also have flashy policies about corporate responsibility; it does not seem to include their own employees and most shareholders.

In other representative democracies, the contrasts may not be as glaring as in the US, but the differences are also creating growing disillusionment, and even anger, towards politicians and executives

In what is essentially a direct democracy, Switzerland, the gross income of federal politicians is approximately 35% higher than the average income of Swiss citizens. The difference is that the Swiss people have the mechanisms to directly tackle those issues, including executive pay, the rest of us do not, but we should.

In Switzerland, the mechanisms of direct democracy empower Swiss citizens to stop any law or government policy.

The Swiss do that with the initiatives and the referendums. The Swiss people have the power to set the process of change in motion; they do not need to convince politicians that change is necessary, they do the changing themselves, even if the executive and the legislative bodies oppose the change,

No wonder 80% of the Swiss trust their government; the Swiss system does not allow politicians to forget the people because the people can take matters into their own hands.

Giving the dynamics of political campaigns, and the power of politicians in representative democracies, the most practical reform such democracies need is to adopt direct democracy, at least to the level of the Swiss, to ensure “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, otherwise such government is impossible.

The politicians, and the executives, in representative democracies should remember that the French Revolution, but also the Communist Revolution in Russia, the American Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, were triggered by money. Some revolutions end up being far worse than the “ancient regime”, but angry people want to get rid of the current oppressors, they have no way of knowing the new oppressors might be worse.

It is obvious the average voter in a representative democracy has no more leverage over the politician he or she votes for, than the average shareholder or employee has over the executives who run any public company; no wonder elected politicians and executives have emerged as a privileged class.

How can such system be called democracy? Democracy means “rule by the people”, not “rule by the representatives of the people”.

To learn more about these issues you can go to Opensecrets.org and Ballotpedia.org. They have plenty of information on the subject of incomes of politicians in the US, etc.

To learn more about income disparities in business, just enter “differences between worker pay and executive pay”.

To learn more about direct democracy, enter “direct democracy around the World”, or similar terms.

Victor Lopez

Did you know in a direct democracy, there is more freedom to decide than in the representative democracy you live in now?

In a direct democracy voter have more freedom because they have more choice; they vote to elect a politician, like voters do in representative “democracies”  but they also vote to decide issues and, just as important, they have the freedom to define the issues they want to vote on.

In representative democracies you do not have that; once you vote, that’s it, the politicians (and the media and lobbies define the issues), and the politicians decide what to do. The voter can do nothing until the next election. His or her whole life is in the hands of the politicians. That is no good at all.

In representative democracy voters are free to not vote too. This means they have the freedom to decide they do not exist, some freedom!

But they do not even have that if they live in places like Australia, Belgium and over 20 other democracies.

The politicians in the countries making voting mandatory should ask themselves: what are we doing wrong?, why so many people may not want to vote?

They should set up a project to figure the problem out, and make changes to increase voter involvement, instead of treating voters who do not want to vote as a bunch of irresponsible idiots to be herded into the voting booth.

In Switzerland, there is one canton, Schaffhausen, where voting is mandatory; in all other cantons and at the federal level, voting is voluntary. Schaffhausen does not enforce that ridiculous law. I believe the fine is something like 3 US dollars, a joke! Perhaps the people of Schaffhausen are just joking; their way of laughing at such laws.

Schaffhausen means, literally, “sheep houses”, perhaps they are not joking…

By the way, contrary to what some who dislike direct democracy say, in Switzerland voter participation is higher than in any representative democracy, except perhaps those who punish people if they do not vote.

Some critics of the Swiss system say; “but voter turnout in Switzerland is not very high”.

Voter turn out for parliamentary elections and for referendums in Switzerland is around 48 to 50% of eligible voters.,but can go as high as 75% and as low as 30% depending on the issues.

The critics of Swiss direct democracy do not consider Swiss voters vote on many issues at the local, cantonal and federal levels many times each year. Over one year, 80% of Swiss voters vote in elections, referendums and initiatives.

It is obvious the Swiss vote a lot more than those of any other nation; they vote several times per year each year, year after year. In other countries, voters only vote once every several years.

Swiss voters also decide many issues every year; you can not compare voter involvement in Switzerland with voter involvement in any other country.

This is why I laugh when I see The Economist’s rankings of quality of democracy; it places Switzerland behind 11 representative “democracies” in democratic quality. It is another “sheep house” joke!

A Swiss voter many not vote on issues of no concern to him or her, or perhaps feels it is better if voters familiar with issue, or more concerned, vote.

Voter participation in federal elections in Switzerland is a few points below 50%. But we must also keep in mind the election of representatives in Switzerland is far less important than in representative democracies because direct democracy make such elections less important; it is not critical what the politicians want to do because the people have the last word on everything.

Politicians in Switzerland are far less powerful than politicians in a representative democracy. Naturally, this makes their election less important.

In a representative democracy, voters have the freedom vote for party and candidate, but it is not enough; democracy is rule by the people;.

In a representative democracy the people do not rule, the people elect those who rule. In a direct democracy, voters are free to elect politicians, but they also have the even more important freedom to decide issues.

In representative democracies, the voters can not go against whatever the politicians they elected decide to do. All they can do is get mad, demonstrate, riot, etc., but they have no mechanism to prevail over the politicians. In a direct democracy, they can and do so.

Don’t you think it is time that what happens in Switzerland should come to your country too? I do.

Victor Lopez