Well !, well !, well !; without direct democracy the US (and others) will go to hell!

All countries need direct democracy; it is the next logical step for democracy. But democracy is in danger because representative democracy gives too much power to the elected politicians, so much that in time the will of the people does not count for much, as the politicians can not resist using their excessive power to accumulate more, it is a never-ending spiral; until representative democracy enters crisis mode and collapse.

Canada, the country I live in, is ready for the next step, for direct democracy. But it is close to the US, and the US is politically unstable now. There is excessive polarisation among Americans. Democracy will not survive such polarisation. If an economic crisis comes up; Americans will go at each other’s throats or, more likely Americans, on the Left and the Right, will reject and even go after their elected elites for creating the mess.

As US democracy becomes more stable, Canadian democracy will follow. To save democracy in Canade and the World we all need a stable, less polarized US democracy. This will not happen without direct democracy.

The situation is made worse because democracies face now, like they did in WW II and during the Cold War too, a dangerous rival, the militarily and economically powerful Chinese regime.

As long as China, like the USSR, practiced communism, it posed no economic threat because Communism is very inefficient.

But China is no longer Communists, forget what they say. China now is now is more like Nazi Germany; it has a system of state-controlled capitalism, disciplined, hardworking, entrepreneurial and… also convinced of their superiority.

For all that, China will be dangerous for a while. I know the Chinese people, eventually, will get rid of their current regime. The reason is obvious; lack of freedom will, at some point prevent innovation in science, technology and also in culture. It will happen as soon as someone develops ideas, science or technology that threaten the regime. But that collapse can happen soon, or it may take decades.

Democracies still have a window of opportunity. The window will last only as long as the US is a democracy and as long as the US is clearly the most powerful nation.

Unfortunately, the way the US is going, it will become weaker economically, militarily, and politically.

What the US needs is to strengthen its representative democracy with direct democracy.

Economically the US is becoming weaker because US capitalists have practically abandoned making things to make money, particularly high-tech products. They prefer to maximize profits by manufacturing outside the US, or by practicing “financial engineering”, like buying their own shares to keep their value high, which is good for the executives.

One effect of such policies is that, even for its weapons systems, the US military depends on other countries, even on China, for some important components; it an absurd situation created by those who feel their mandate is to maximize profits.

Another result is a huge trade deficit in manufactured high-tech goods and services, not just in frying pans, microwave oven or vacuum cleaners.

The trade deficit means the US is sending money to China; logically, it is making China more powerful by the day. If the trend continues, China will pressure the US, and other countries too, in all areas.

Besides, others, observing China’s “success”, and the failure of the US, will be more tempted to emulate the Chinese dictatorship because “it works”.

But there is another problem; US representative democracy is in very bad shape. This is a problem the Americans have created all by themselves because of the dynamics of representative democracy. If US democracy collapses, Canada and the rest of the West will become puppets of the Chinese regime until that regime collapses.

Democracy, in theory has many advantages over dictatorship but only if democracy works properly. By “working properly” I mean, government has the support of the people. American are so disenchanted with democracy that only 30 have confidence in their politicians. In Canada, the support is better, 60%, but also much lower than in Switzerland, where the support hovers around 80%, why?, because they have direct-representative democracy.

Let us help Americans fix American democracy, for the sake of all of us, icluding the Chinese people…

Victor Lopez

 

 

 

Change or die! Representative democracy in the US and most of the World will die if it does not evolve into representative-direct democracy

Representative democracy in the US and everywhere else will perish if we do not renovate it with direct democracy.

Direct democracy does not mean we get rid of the politicians or the political parties. Direct democracy means the people decide whenever approximately 1% of voters agree that all voters should decide the issue in a referendum. This applies to laws, policies, changes to the constitution, taxation levels, budgets, treaties, etc.

Normally, the people let the elected representatives carry on as they do now. The difference with direct democracy is that we will have a mechanism for the people to decide if they support what the politicians want to do.

In a direct democracy, the elected representatives have to govern with a much sharper eye on public opinion.

In a representative democracy, the politicians monitor public opinion, but it is a sort of lazy glance. They do that because in a representative democracy they are only concerned about the effects their actions on the next election.

Their calculation does not always work, so we have the party in power losing the next election. This change is good, but no longer is good enough; the ones now in power will try to please the voters with other policies, but the strategy is the same: “how can we win the election by pleasing most voters at election time, or soon before”. Their concern is not, it can not be, the long-term good of the citizens, it is winning the next election.

Politicians play that game because the system of representative democracy forces them to. People often disparage the politicians as if they were people with character flaws. Most politicians are people like the rest of us but the system bends them out of shape.

Direct democracy does not “twist” the character of the politicians because the people decide the key issues. Direct democracy allows politicians to be better people because they have less decision-making power. This also means they do not have hordes of lobbyists pressuring them with their private interests. The lobbies know that in a direct democracy, politicians do not decide the key issues; taxes, budgets, the health system, the educational system, the size of the military, public works, hospitals, etc.

As soon as the voters become the decision makers on controversial issues, voters “grow up”; they soon learn they have to vote carefully.

Their behaviour becomes similar to that of homeowners, or car owners; they behave responsibly with what is theirs.

In a direct democracy, the politicians do not make grandiose promises either; “we will become the most powerful”, “we will have the best space program”, “everything will be free”, etc. They stop doing that because in a direct democracy the people can stop, and will stop, the politicians from doing foolish things. They do because in a direct democracy votes are responsible for the effects of their decisions.

Representative democracy is some ways is a delusion; politicians promise everything voters want, the voters believe them, get mad at the politicians when the “promised land” never happens, no matter who governs. It is time for voters to take control of the life of the nation, of their own lives, in their own hands.

The mechanism to have direct democracy, to exercise the will of the voters, is the popular referendum at the national level. If the national executive and legislative can decide but the voters can not force referendums on those decisions, particularly when they are controversial, the country does not have a direct democracy, even if there is democracy at the state and local levels.

In a direct-representative democracy the people call the referendums, not the government. In a direct-representative democracy and the results of popular referendums are also binding for the government, nobody can overturn them; not the Congress, not the Supreme Court. Popular referendums must meet both conditions, one is not enough.

One significant effect of direct democracy is on the lobbies; the lobbies are no longer so interested in influencing politicians. Lobbies now know the people are the final decision makers on any issue the people want to decide. Although a direct democracy has to take precautions with the role of lobbies, big business, billionaires, etc., in referendum campaigns. Otherwise we may end up with something similar to what happened with elections in the US; the big donors may end up controlling referendum campaigns.

Direct democracy will free politicians from the obligations to big money. This will be good for the politicians, for democracy, for the people and, over the long term, for the rich and big business too.

A country where the people see that the will of most voters prevails is a more stable country. The wealthy need stability more than anybody else because they have more to lose.

Direct democracy is good for all. How do we know it? Just look at Switzerland; with far fewer resources than the US but higher standard of living, less economic disparity, less violence, better education, better health care and much more political stability, less political polarization; no riots, no assaults to Congress, no hate of their history, no irrational “we are the greatest”, etc.

The Swiss system is so superior that 80% b of the Swiss have a positive opinion of their executive and legislative. No other country comes close. In the US, the figure is 30%; no democracy can survive that forever, and things in the US are not improving.

Americans need direct democracy, and the rest of us have to support them because “as America goes so democracy will go”. We have the new scary authoritarians capitalists at the gates now; 80 years after Uncle Adolf, it is deja vu all over again.

Victor Lopez

If the United States does not introduce direct democracy at the national level, democracy will die in the US and in most of the World

This is a race against the clock for the survival of democracy.

The United States is the most important democracy. It is not the best democracy, perhaps it never was, but for decades US democracy has been deteriorating. If US democracy fails, and it is already failing because the social, political and economic division worsens with every election. More and more Americans are discouraged with the way US democracy works; only 30% of Americans are satisfied with their government, no democracy can survive like that.

If US democracy continues losing credibility among voters, many other Western democracies will go down because none has the power to face or compete with the new totalitarian-capitalist regimes.

US representative democracy is deteriorating because representative democracy has a huge flaw built-in; it is government by the elites, not by the people; the people vote but do not govern. Representative democracy is not “government by the people”.

Representative democracy is a vast improvement over rule by absolute kings, absolute parties, absolute religions or absolute dictators. It is very important that people have the freedom to choose and change rulers, but it is not enough, it was never enough. The people have to be the final decision makers on any issue the people decide they want to be, not the politicians, not even the Supreme Court.

The Americans, the French and many other nations made a colossal improvement when the people gained the right to vote to elect and reject leaders. They were right.

But representative democracy still is government by the elites, by the elected elites and those close to the elite; big business, big lobbies, various pressure groups.

This is more obvious in the US than in any other democracy; the people elect the leaders but the various pressure groups year after year have been gaining influence on those elected, and the voters have been losing it.

The root flaw is that representative democracy gives the executive and the legislative too much power. Between elections, politicians can pass any law, any policy, any reform of the constitution, can increase the budget, reduce the budget, increase the deficit, increase or reduce the armed forces, sign any treaty, raise or lower taxes, build any infrastructure, commit billions of to any project, etc., and the citizens, the voters can do nothing about it.

The voters may get angry about what the politicians do, but they can do nothing to stop them. The people can do nothing either to force the politicians to do things the people consider important. Even if the politicians break electoral promises, there is no mechanism for the voters to force the politicians to keep their promises.

All the people can do in a representative democracy is remember for the next election, but the next election is several years away. During that time, the same politicians can do other things that the people do support, unexpected issues may come up, the voters forget, the next election may be about other issues, etc.

If the people become furious when the politicians do something, or if they are too slow doing something they consider important, they can complain, take to the streets, burn cars and shops to show their anger, etc.

This means that in representative democracies, voters decide who will govern but lack the institutions to control what the politicians do.

In the United States, and in other representative democracies too, politicians use their excessive power to govern without considering how the people feel about the policies and laws politicians approve. The only consideration they need to make is to calculate if the decision the people oppose will have a significant effect in the next election.

The politicians often calculate like: “well, perhaps most voters, including who voted for us, dislike what we are doing, but before the next election comes about, we have time to do important things the people will like.”

Representative democracy puts voters in an impossible situation; voters elect politicians but have no control over what the politicians do. It is an absurd situation; voters decide who governs, that is important, but even more important is to decide how they govern. But the way we set representative democracies voters have no way of controlling what politicians say.

Representative democracy has become an absurd game; the voters vote, but the politicians decide. We have to go to “the voters vote and decide”. This does not mean voters will become involved in all the policies, laws, etc., but they will have the right, and the power to exercise it, to stop policies and laws approved by the politicians. Voter must also have the right to force the politicians to institute policies and laws the people decide they want.

Direct democracy is necessary at all levels of government. It is urgent in the US, and in most other democracies, at the national level. Direct democracy at the local and state level is important too, but if there is no direct democracy at the national level, it does not matter much if a few states of the US have direct democracy, or even if all the states have it, because the most powerful government in the US and in other representative democracies, is the national government. If there is no direct democracy at the national level, things will not change enough.

But reality in representative democracies is even worse than that.

In the next post I will show how the lobbies and pressure groups have much more influence than the voters on what the politicians say and, above all, on what they do. This has sent US representative democracy into a deadly spiral; morally, socially, economically, politically.

My goal with today’s post and other posts is to show how the US and other representative democracies, need direct democracy, without overthrowing representative democracy They need the change soon to avoid its collapse and/or the people turning to authoritarian practices.

I believe I will show to you how direct democracy will save democracy and will also bring more prosperity, more social justice, more social benefits, more efficiency, a better and universal health care system, better education, better protection for minorities, more freedom and dignity, do away with the bitter right-left, progressive-conservative division, fewer wars and, help all of humankind advance to a more humane live.

But to help the US and other representative democracies adopt direct democracy, at all levels of government, you will have to do something. To change the facts you have to change your thinking and then act, pecefully, but forcefully, intensely, until the politicians accept to give more power to voters and reduce their own power.

 

 

Direct democracy will make your country a better country because the voters will have the freedom to decide, not just elect politicians

Let my people decide!, not just vote!

Regardless of what country you live in, you do not have the freedom to decide issues. If you live in a representative democracy, and if it is not corrupt, you have the freedom to elect those who govern, but you do not have the freedom to decide over what the politicians decide.

If you do not live in a representative democracy (or in a direct democracy) you do not even have political rights, you do not count, only the “great leader”, “the great party”, “the great priest” count, that is a much worse condition to live your life.

I do not care in which representative democracy you live, you do not have the right to decide issues or to choose the issues you want to decide.

If you live in the UK, you don’t, if you live in France, you don’t. You don’t if you live in Germany, in any of the Scandinavian countries, in the Mediterranean countries of Europe, in Canada, in Japan, in the US, in Australia, in New Zealand, in Chile, in Mexico, in South Korea and in any of the other representative democracies, even in those with a strong and stable tradition of direct democracy.

The only democracy, besides Switzerland, who is seriously introducing direct democracy, inspired by the Swiss, is… surprise! Taiwan! Unfortunately, Taiwan just started to practice direct democracy, it is too soon to use Taiwan as reference, that is why I use Switzerland. Besides, Taiwan has a scary, not very democratic dragon, breathing its very hot breath down the spine of the Taiwanese people… who knows how long Taiwan’s democracy, or even the country survive? Although I am sure that sooner or later the big dragon will become a democracy, a direct democracy too, because the other system is no way to live.

Some of the representative democracies mentioned above practice a little of direct democracy. For example, some of the US states do.

Unfortunately, no state in the US has real direct democracy. They do not for two reasons; the courts can overturn the results of popular referendums. This negates democracy, democracy is “government by the people”, not “government by the people, unless the courts decide otherwise.”

The second reason is that the US has no direct democracy at the national level.  How could we say there is direct democracy in the US if there is no direct democracy at the level of government with the most influence over the lives of Americans?

There is no direct democracy in the US as long as there is no direct democracy at all levels of government, and as long as the courts can overturn the decisions of the voters. In fact, there is no real democracy anywhere as long as there is no direct democracy; no matter how many American politicians, “influencers”, university professors, etc., go on about the “great American democracy”.

In a direct democracy the people decide any issue, law, treaty, etc., which they want to decide and no court can overturn the decision of the people, not even the Supreme Court of the country.

For direct democracy to work, the process to have the people decide issues also has to be simple. For example, the number of signatures required to call a referendum has to be small, around 1% of the voters, perhaps even less, not 4, 5, even 10%, as it is in some places, it is ridiculous!

In a direct democracy the people have the power to decide issues such as;

      • Laws and by´laws
      • Policies,
      • Projects,
      • Taxation levels,
      • Treaties with other countries,
      • Changes to the constitution,
      • Road building,
      • Hospital building,
      • To have or not, universal health care,
      • Building a swimming pool,
      • Setting a minimum wage,
      • Decide if there will be a universal basic income,
      • The building of a new shool,
      • Stop laws and policy decisions proposed by the executive and parliament, regional and local government
      • Increase or reduce the size of the armed forces,
      • If the country, the region, the municipality should be unilingual, trilingual or bilingual,
      • The education system,
      • If Taxpayers will fund if universities and is student will have to pay university fees,
      • If the multinationals based in the country will be held responsible before the courts if they break laws abroad,
      • If certain religious practices, many voters may consider offensive, will be permitted,
      • If homosexual relationships will be accepted as marriages, etc.

The freedom and the right to decide is the pending civil right people still do not have in representative democracies.

Direct democracy is not when the government, or parliament, decide to hold a referendum either. Direct democracy is when the people decide on what to hold a referendum, decide the wording and decide when, even if the executive and the parliament, the regional or local politicians, oppose the citizens, even if they do so unanimously.

By the way, Brexit was not the practice of direct democracy. When a California court, or the US Supreme Court, overturn a decision made by the people of California, that is not direct democracy either, it is not even democracy.

Direct democracy improves everything; the economy, education, the health system, etc. It does because the collective intelligence and knowledge of voters, who also know they are responsible for the effects of their decisions, is superior to the intelligence and knowledge of the executive and the legislative, and their experts.

Among the voters there are many experts on any issue, many more than in any government. In debates, social media, etc., preceding popular referendums, their opinions reach many other voters, particularly if there is still some media still interested in real democracy, in that what really concerns voters be discussed.

Governments and their advisors, not only have less knowledge than the people collectively, they do no feel as responsible because their bad decisions because they are not, particularly for the long-term bad decisions. The consequences will not affect their lives; they will be retired or in the cushy jobs they get from their colleagues in power, the grateful lobbies and pressure groups.

How many times voters will turn their heads and pretend they don’t see the dynamics of politics in representative democracies because they are scared to act, or because the media, who often uses selective news and commentary as very effective blinders shines its attention on superficial issues? For how long will this go on?

Direct democracy is a great advance, it is not the “promised land”, there is no “promised land”, but if you want direct democracy you will have to pressure your elected politicians. It will not be easy because most of them dislike direct democracy. They will give you all sort of explanations as of why representative democracy is better than direct democracy, but among the reasons they will not give you are: “because we think we know better, that the average voter is not capable of decidin issues, and because we hate to lose power and influence…”.

Cheers!

V ictor Lopez

Here we go again Canada!; smaller provinces with more autonomy and… direct democracy, will help Canada leap forward, and your country too.

This is the continuation of a previous blog about reforming all representative democracies to also have direct democracy, which really means more power for the voters and less power for the politicians in the executive and the legislative at all government levels.

Diversity is a great idea; let us push it further, to the beauty of cultural diversity let us add more territorial diversity. That is what the Swiss have done with amazing results.

Perhaps you thought I was crazy when I wrote about having 25-26 provinces out of what now is Quebec. Well, you may be surprised to learn that Quebec is already divided into 15 administrative regions.

This means the people of Quebec recognise, French-speakers are diverse among themselves, like non-French-speakers, are diverse. They are diverse because they live in different geographic areas. The people of each area are also different because of their economy, their natural resources, climate, history, etc.

Since Quebec already has 15 administrative regions, it should not be too difficult to turn them into provinces. They could be called regions, but would assume most of the power of the province. The province would keep the powers the people of each region, by referendum, decide they do not want to have.

I propose the Swiss model because Swiss model “pushes power down to the cantons (provinces) and the municipalities”. The Canadian federal government would lose some powers to the current province, just like the province will lose power to the municipalities and, this is key, all governments and parliaments will lose power to the voters; voters will decide issues and laws, not just elect representatives.

Do not fear too much government if we divide countries into much smaller units where voters have decisive decision-making powers, it will not happen under this system.

You will have fewer politicians because we are also bringing direct democracy. Direct democracy needs fewer politicians, or needs less time of the politicians, because voters are far more involved in decision-making. In Switzerland, most politicians are part-time politicians, even in the Swiss national parliament. Direct democracy makes life easier for the politicians too, they do not have to bear the burden of making the decisions; the people will assume that burden whenever the people decide. The system frees them from the lobbies “breathing down their necks” all the time.

Because lobbies lose a lot of power, business groups, lobbies of various sorts, do not have to spend time and money lobbying the politicians because the politicians govern for the people, they have no choice.

But there is something even more interesting in Quebec; the people of Quebec already recognise they also have 28 natural historical regions. This goes way beyond the 15 administrative regions and even beyond the 25-26 I mentioned in another post.

It should not be too difficult to give the people of each of the 28 regions the power to run their own affairs. Perhaps in Quebec the logical step would be to create 28 new provinces or regions, each with autonomy the Province of Quebec has now, or more; let the people of each region decide that by referendum. Let Quebeckers organise themselves the way they want to; no need to follow what the colonial powers decided, or what the politicians, in Quebec and all of Canada, decided long ago.

The approach will result in most new provinces being unilingual French, a few would be unilingual English, unilingual Native Canadian language, and some bilingual.

This approach would also mean the creation of unilingual French provinces in other of the current Canadian provinces with sizeable French  areas. Like wise in the case of native Americans.

Here you have the 28 historical regions of Quebec, to give you an idea. You can look at your country along similar lines.

Abitibi-Temiscamingue. 150 000 people. 57 000 sq km (22 000 sq miles)

Lower Saint Lawrence. 197 000 people. 22 000 sq km (8 500 sq. miles)

Beauce. 106 000 people. 4 000 sq km (1 500 sq miles)

Bois Francs. 242 000 people. 7 000 sq km (2 700 sq miles)

Charlevoix. 27 000 people. 7 000 sq km (2 700 sq miles)

Chateauguay Valley. 1 700 000 people. 57 000 sq km (22 000 sq miles)

North Shore and Lower North Shore. 92 000 people.  300 000 sq km (116 000 sq miles)

Eastern Townships. 300 000 people. 10 000 sq km (3800 sq miles)

Gaspesie. 140 000 people. 31 000 sq km (12 000 sq miles)

I could go down the list; Lac-Saint-Jean, Magdalen Islands, James Bay, Lanaudiere, Laurentians, Mauricie, Monteregie, Montreal region, North of Quebec, Nunavik, Ottawa Valley, Outaouais, Pontiac, Quebec City region, Rupert’s Island, Saguenay, South Shore of Montreal, Timiskaming, Ungava District.

In case you may think some are too small to be viable as new “provinces”,  remember the smallest of the 26 Swiss cantons has 14 000 inhabitants. Many cantons have less than 100 000 inhabitants.

It is interesting that the Swiss decided to turn their representative democracy into a direct democracy when they got fed up with the way elected “representative” politicians handled another pandemic… does it ring a bell?

They pressured the politicians until they had no choice but yield. The result is the creation of the best governed and more prosperous country humans ever developed; direct democracy and small territories with lost of autonomy; diversity at work like nowhere else.

Other representative democracies; the US, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, etc., can also reform themselves along the lines of smaller units, with more autonomy, and direct democracy at all levels.

Representative politicians in representative democracies, in your country, do not like these reforms because they will have less power to decide, but the people will decide more, will decide issues and laws, as it must be in a real democracy.

Cheers!

Victor Lopez

Note: Data about Quebec regions from Wikipedia.

Direct democracy and deeper recognition of diversity, surprisingly, brings more unity.

Two blogs past I wrote about how the territorial organisation in Canada would change if the country adopted and adapted Swiss direct-representative democracy

I looked at Canada and wrote that if the country adopted Switzerland’s philosophy of territorial distribution, Canada would have around 125 provinces and territories. We also saw that Ontario would be split into approximately 46 new provinces and territories.

You might have thought: “Are you crazy? We already have too many politicians and too many problems trying to get then provinces to work together ! We already have enough problems with the French-English divide, the issues with Native Canadians, bilingualism, internal trade barriers, etc. Not to mention increasing the number of politicians!”

OK, but listen for one minute:

The French-English divide would not exist. One immediate benefit would be the death of Quebec separatism.

The divide would not exist because the division between French Canada and English Canada would not arise.

Imagine that instead of Quebec we had 26-27 provinces; Quebec has the population of Switzerland. Switzerland has 26 cantons.

If Canadians find that it is too radical to break up the existing provinces, they could keep them but giving them authority only in the areas that the new mini-provinces decide they do not want or can not deal with. Naturally, all that would be decided by popular referendums. The referendums would also include taxation authority.

This also means that Quebec, Ontario, etc., would assume some of the current roles of th federal government. The federal government would have only the responsibilities that Canadians decide it should have. The role of the federal government would be much smaller on internal issues.

One of the wisest thing the Swiss have done is separate language from territory. Well, they have not really done that. What they have avoided is the creation of large territories, one for the German-speakers, another one for the French-speakers and so on. They have not created anything like Quebec and they have also avoided the creation of large German-speaking “super cantons”.

By doing that they avoided merging territorial identity and cultural-language identity. What they have done is make sure each that the people of one language and culture are not all in one large territory, or canton.

I do not know if it was intentional but it is as if the Swiss had  realised that one language and culture in one large territory fosters “tribalism”, nationalism, separatism, rivalries along ethno-cultural lines and all the problems associated.

Other countries should start to consider this approach, not just for language and culture, also for religious groups and separate the “need” for one country or territory to identify with religion. Sadly, most of humanity is not ready for this; you only have to look at the crackdowns totalitarian regimes of people of different ethnic group, religion or culture; total barbarism in the 21 st century.

By splitting in this way, the Swiss have many small cantons sharing the same language but which are independent of each other, and compete in taxes, ease of doing business in the canton, etc.

This means the German cantons are too busy competing to worry about “we are one people because we share the same language”. This is the mother of all problems in nations with several native cultures and languages.

The French cantons are also too busy to think of “one French “identity” for the same reasons.

In Quebec, following the Swiss approach, there would by perhaps 19 French-speaking cantons (provinces) and perhaps 3-4 English-speaking cantons, along with 2 or more cantons with Native Canadian Languages.

The idea of the “Quebec nation” would have never taken root because each French-speaking canton would compete with the other French cantons, along with the English-speaking cantons.

So, there you have it: if Canada adopted the territorial-political organisation of Switzerland, all the headaches Quebec separatism has given to Canada, and to itself, would never have happened.

In my next blog we will look at each of the hypothetical cantos; location, size, population, etc.

This organisation, if it spread to all of Canada, would recognise the real diversity of Canada.

As in Switzerland, most the cantons created out what is now Quebec would be unilingual, mostly unilingual French. No bilingualism except in very specific situations, and by decision of the people, but others would be unilingual English, and there would be unilingual cantons following the various native Canadian languages. Remember; the idea is small unitary provinces with one language, but small to prevent tribalism.

The subdivision of Quebec, Ontario and the rest, besides less political nationalism, now represented by Quebec, there would also be less commercial and industrial nationalism because the much smaller new provinces and territories will see they have to be open, to trade, and prevent the uneconomical internal trade barriers the Canadian Provinces erect among themselves: it makes no sense.

Quebec political and commercial nationalism, together with commercial nationalism of the rest, are hurting Canada; there is no reason for Canada to have lower standard of living (75 000 USD per person in Switzerland, 52 000 in Canada), half the unemployment rate, a much better universal health care system, have more vacation and free time, much less likely to be in prison, much less likely to be murdered, less inequality, lower infant mortality rate and live longer.

All that in a country with no natural resources, except for water. Canada is the richest country of the World in natural resources, in absolute terms and per person.

And, let us not forget, Swiss citizens have much more control over their politicians; they can stop any law or decision the politicians make. They can do that at all levels of government.

But there is more; the Swiss do not have the antagonistic government we have in Canada. In Canada, the opposition, at the federal and provincial level speaks of the Prime Minister, the ministers, the party in power, as a bunch of stupid, dishonest manipulators. The government does the same to the opposition. It is bad for the country, but such are the dynamics of representative democracy.

You will not believe this; in Switzerland there is no opposition; the major parties of the “right” and the “left” govern together in coalition. Perhaps even more amazing is that the Swiss Parliament meets only a few times a year. Therefore most politicians in Switzerland, even at the national level, are part-time politicians and continue working at their regular jobs.

See you in two days!

Victor Lopez

 

Today, a short break from the application of direct democracy in Canada; the Swiss wealth tax or, Switzerland direct democracy, again, shows the way

I will take this break because there is a lot of discussion about the so-called “wealth tax” some populists on the Left propose, some from the Right are also for it.

There are people on the Left who oppose it too, normally progressive rich people. There are also many rich people on the Right who oppose it. The rich who oppose the wealth tax are shortsighted. The rich of Switzerland seem smarter than the rich of other places,

Switzerland, again, shows that the Left-Right division is a fake division, that what is important is the issues.

As the Swiss people see it, since late in the 18th century, a wealth tax makes sense, it is a fair way to deal with an important economic and social issue.

You probably know it but, just in case, let me tell you Switzerland is, overall, the best run country in the World.

The Swiss have the World’s best democracy (to say there are better systems than democracy, like all totalitarians and authoritarians claim, is absurd because if humans do not freedom to speak, criticize the authorities and kick the authorities out of power by elections and override them with people-organised referendums, they are not living a full human life, even if they are wealthy).

By the way, forget also the silly rankings of democracies by The Economist, placing Switzerland in 11th place, it is a joke; Switzerland practices direct democracy (the people decide any issue they consider is important enough for the people to decide) at all levels of government, no other democracy does that. No country comes close to Switzerland in democratic quality.

The Swiss also have the World’s highest standard of living. They have attained it through smart hard work, with no natural resources.

They also have the best universal health care system in the World (the wealth tax does not seem to have hurt them in this regard either).

Their education system must be best in the World too, otherwise they could not have the best political system, the best economic system, the best universal health care system and even more “bests”.

On education, the famous PISA rankings of education systems are also out to lunch; they measure the performance of teenagers in math, science and language in a classroom. Anybody knows education is much more than the classroom and is much more than math, science and language, as the Swiss demonstrate.

I say all this also because it means that if the Swiss have a wealth tax, it is not harming Switzerland much.

It is interesting to note also that Ancient Greek Democracies also imposed a wealth tax on their richest citizens. Like the Swiss, the Ancient Greeks were way ahead in freedom; freedom to think, to choose rulers, to create in all fields, etc.

The Ancient Greeks were ahead even of all the West until the Renaissance, and still are ahead of most of the World, including several European countries.

So, if the Swiss do it and the Ancient Greeks did it, it is reasonable for others to conclude that perhaps a wealth tax is a rational measure.

One important reason the Swiss (even the wealthy), and the ancient Greeks too, consider a wealth tax reasonable, is because it helps create political stability by applying common sense (the highest form of human intelligence) to political and social stability; “people should contribute to society in direct proportion to their abilities and their wealth”.

But even in one area the Swiss have not caught up to the Greeks; during some of the brightest periods of Ancient Greek direct democracy, there were no taxes at all. The “tax” consisted in  the wealthy paying directly for public works. For example, if a new bridge was necessary, a local wealthy family would pay for it and give it to the city.

The family would not set up a toll booth and call it “another business center…”

In Switzerland, even people of the conservative, some say populist, SVP (Swiss People’s Party) feel the wealth tax is a fair tax, there is no debate.

But the Swiss know how to look at the details too, sometimes they seem to want Switzerland run as a Swiss watch. They decided, by tradition, because the wealth tax precedes most of the Swiss institutions of direct democracy, that all cantons (states or provinces) must impose a wealth tax but, to accommodate the particularities of each canton, the people of each canton decide the tax rate and how to apply it. In some cantons, if a wealthy person owns a donkey, they asses the donkey at 500 USD.

The wealth tax in Switzerland starts at low levels. For example, in the Canton of Zurich, you pay 0.07% (135 USD) tax if your assets (not income) amount to 200 000 USD. If your assets reach one million USD, you pay 0,21% (2,103 USD). At two million you pay 0.31% (6,144 USD). Most other cantons diverge little from Zurich’s levels.

You could think this would produce a “race to the bottom” on taxes among cantons, but it has not. Perhaps in a future blog I will write about why that race has not happened.

The Swiss seem to believe the wealth tax contributes to political stability by removing some of the hard earned privileges the rich enjoy. If the wealth tax helps promote political stability, the smart, not too greedy rich are happy with the tax too. They know that if the masses become angry, one of the people they go after are the rich.

So, there you have it; if you are wealthy and not too greedy you should support the wealth tax, it is in your own interest.

Of course, instead of the tax, it would be even better socially if today’s rich did like the rich in Ancient Greece during some periods; directly pay for public goods and services.

Would it not be great if instead of taxes, the rich voluntarily paid for building the new road or bridge?. We would put their name on them and thank them; much better than paying taxes.

In a way, the system is similar to what some rich people already do when they pay for a university buildings, etc.

In the US they could have the “Bill Gates Highway”, the “Jeff Bezos Hospital”, the “Elon Musk Power Station”, etc. In Canada we could have the “Weston Expressway”, the “Irving Museum”. In other countries they could do the same. I rather see Bill Gates name, or Musk’s, or even Rockefeller than a politican’s.

We could expand the system to corporations; they could also show social responsibility by financing public services; “GM Public Hospital”, “Goldman Sachs Assistance Program for Families on Welfare” (Other banks could join), etc. The responsibility of corporations has to go beyond the astound stupid sentence of Milton Friedman: “The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase its Profits.”

It seems the US, Canada and most other countries could do worse than following the Swiss, and drop the foolish debate about the wealth tax.

In the next blog I will continue with the adoption of direct democracy in Canada and other places.

Victor Lopez

This is how Canada will look like if it enhances representative democracy with the territorial organisation of Swiss-style direct democracy

The Swiss have introduced some interesting practices to representative democracy that would also improve Canadian representative democracy.

One is to avoid having cantons (cantons are similar to Canadian provinces, American states, German Landers, etc.) so large and powerful that would dominate national politics.

Another important measure they introduced is to avoid having large cantons along cultural and language lines. Instead, the Swiss “break up” each of their major cultural and language areas, the German and French-speaking areas, into many cantons which are independent of each other.

This is what it means in practice; 2/3 of the population of Switzerland are German-speakers, but in Switzerland do not have one large, or a few large, German-speaking cantons, they have 17 German-speaking cantons, independent from each other.

This system helps prevent that the French, Italian and Romansh minorities feel overwhelmed by German-speakers. It also helps the prevent the growth of “tribal feelings” among German-speakers, and also among the many French speakers.

Most Swiss cantons also have only one official language, that’s it; no experiments in Switzerland with “immersion” classes in the other languages of the country. The people should also decide by referendum if they want one or more official languages.

The Swiss also allow creating new cantons for language-cultural minorities, if they demand it.

Each canton should also have lots of autonomy, more than the current Canadian provinces have.

How the Swiss system would change Canada;

Switzerland has 26 cantons for a population of 8.5 million; Canada, for a population of 39 million, has only 10 provinces and 3 territories. If it followed the Swiss model, it would have 125 provinces and territories.

If we follow the Swiss criteria, Ontario, for example, would be reorganized into 46 new provinces independent of each other. Ontario, as we know it now would cease to exist.

The 46 new provinces would not be of the same size, in land area or population. The 46 would reflect the identity of the people and the area they live in; geography, major economic activities, traditions and profile of the people in the area, etc. The size of each of the 46 new provinces would also be quite different.

There would be provinces for Native Canadians, and also for French-Canadians, in the areas where there are enough of them.

It is easy to imagine the boost to the pride and self image of Native Canadians if they had their own province, proper control of their lives, instead of being governed by the Minister and Civil Servants of the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

Is it not the logical, the rational and humane thing to do, to give each area of Ontario, to give Indigenous Peoples and French-speakers of Ontario the right to have and run their own unilingual communities?

At the local level, Ontarians would also have direct democracy.

I hope this gives you an idea of how Canada and Ontario could be reorganized, and I hope you like it.

In my next blog I will look at Quebec and the revolutionary changes it would bring to Canada. For example, the issue of Quebec’s separatism will go away forever.

Victor Lopez

What Canada, and other countries, will gain if they adopt the territorial and governance changes making Switzerland the most successful democracy ever

I believe the territorial organisation of a country is critical for direct democracy measures to work, the measures by themselves are not enough. But, how do you do it? I believe the Swiss, deliberately or by “historical luck”, have found a better way.

One key criteria: no province or municipality should have so much population that its voters decide who runs the country. A second criteria: each province and municipality area should have as much self governance as its inhabitants consider practical.

This means we want to create many more and much smaller provinces and territories in Canada.  We also want to create many more municipalities. We want them all to have more self-rule.

Do not worry about having more politicians. Because of the smaller governments, many more politicians would work part time, because of direct democracy, the voters will control politicians much more effectively.

 

Having more, does not preclude cooperation among the newer and smaller provincial and local governments in many areas such as garbage pickup, fire, police.

This is how things will change; Switzerland has 26 cantons for 8.5 million people. If we apply the same ratio, Canada would have roughly 125 provinces and territories. As for municipalities, if Canada adopted Swiss criteria, it would have 5500 municipalities, 50% more than it has now.

It is also possible that Canada’s vast territory would require even more provinces and municipalities; it is quite possible that Canada is more diverse than Switzerland in many ways.

“Breaking up and pushing down” governance serves two purposes; it dampens the “tribal” tendencies, often reinforced, when a group sharing a culture-language, sometimes religion too, is much larger than the rest. It also enhances the particular characteristics of each of the smaller territories.

I also believe that if Canada had the territorial organisation Switzerland has, Quebec separatism or “Ontario dominance”, “Ontario and Quebec dominance” would not have risen; there would be many much smaller French-speaking and English-speaking provinces; the French would not feel dominated by English Canada, the West would not resent the East, and the Maritimes would not feel they count for little now, in spite of being the original core of Canada. The perpetual puzzle of how to treat Native Americans would have been solved long ago too.

The Swiss system respects local identity more because even in areas with a single language and culture, people of different areas are different, we all know that.

Within each of new smaller Provinces and Territories of Canada, we should also give municipalities, towns and villages more decision-making power.

This “break up and push down” also will help give Native Canadians a stronger identity and a stronger voice, instead of being “under ministries”, some of them with, to me, almost demeaning names, like “Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous affairs” and the not better “Federal Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations”.

Under the new system, the 1,6 million Native Canadians would have several provinces of their own, and many municipalities. They would speak as equals at all levels. We would also do away with the scent of patronizing charities many services established to help Native Canadians have.

With their own provinces and municipalities Native Canadians will speak, by themselves and for themselves, at all levels of government. We would not need either the regular CBC programs about “how badly we treat Native Americans”, etc. They would not be necessary because, with their own provinces and municipalities, Native Americans will have more power at all levels.

The changes will benefit Native Canadians, and rest of Canadians too, because every Canadian will have a more direct voice in local, provincial and national affairs.

Let us not worry about having too many territories, or too small either. In Switzerland, the smallest canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden, has 16 000 inhabitants. Switzerland also has municipalities with as few people as 30 inhabitants, and many with less than one thousand.

The reorganisation to strengthen local identity and power, together with direct democracy measures, will go a long way to improve governance in Canada. One effect would be to bring the level of satisfaction with government in Canada up to Swiss levels; from 46% to the Swiss level of 75% (OECD study).

The improvements will make Canada even more stable and prosperous.

In the next post I will look at the new provinces-territories and municipalities  and where they will be located, if Canada adopts the Swiss model. We will also look in more detail at how Switzerland handles being a multicultural, multilingual country (very different from Canada, and with far less friction).

Victor Lopez

Representative democracy also requires territorial reorganisation for direct democracy to work.

I am using Canada only as an example.

I chose Canada as the first country to consider for transition to direct democracy because it is a stable, prosperous, representative democracy, it is also the country I live in.

But the key factor to consider direct democracy for Canada is the growing dissatisfaction with politicians in Canada, as in other stable representative democracies.

I believe the dissatisfaction comes from a “birth defect” representative democracy has; from the very first day, it gives the elected politicians more power than the voters. Voters have no way to control the decisions the politicians in power make; they can elect them, but they have no way to stop their actions.

Regardless of who gets elected, the party, the persons in power always have more power than the people, way more.

In some countries they have mandatory popular referendums to change the constitution, but they are the minority.  In any case, the people have only that power; the rest of laws, policies, etc., are under the firm control of the politicians.

When the party in power changes, the policies and the laws will change but the people still have zero formal, institutionalised power to stop the new government, including stopping the legislators, even if 90% of the people are against a law or policy.

In a representative democracy, the people can take to the streets, even riot, to scare the politicians, but even then, the politicians can ignore the people, and they do, unless the date for the next election is around the corner.

After demonstrations, politicians are never short of pleasant words and promises of reform. Those promises we know where they end up; as nothing, or as fake reforms, like the one in the Canadian Province of British Columbia I discussed in my previous post.

But, not only the people in representative democracies lack the power to put the brakes on government, the people also have no formal way of imposing their will on politicians on any issue most of the people want addressed.

It is obvious then that in Canada, like in the rest of representative democracies, democracy does not mean: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. If it does not mean that, Canada, and the others, are not democracies.

But there is another problem, perhaps the biggest one, with the excessive decision-making power politicians have in representative democracies; they use their excess power to constantly increase the power, the control, they have over citizens.

In representative democracies the power of government never ceases to grow, and it does at the expense of the power of voters. Inevitably, this causes divergence between the elected representatives and the people. This is the root cause of the growing dissatisfaction of voters with governments, in Canada and in other representatives democracies.

Politician can not address the problem because the power they have enables them to unilaterally decide what is good for the people, as they see it. But what they believe is good for the people may not be so. Besides, most of the people may not agree with the politicians at all on some policies or laws issues, but there is not much they can do, other than voting out those in power. As I just said, such change does not fix the power imbalance between politicians and voters.

Others, for example, the powerful lobbies, prefer representative democracy, because they know that in a representative democracy is far easier than in a direct democracy to influence, or pressure, politicians to adopt policies and laws who favour the lobbies.

Most academics, opinion leaders, NGOs, unions and others, who could create pressure to change the system, they do not either because they often rely on the government for money, and the government relies on them for policies, etc.

Not that all those people do not want the best for the country, I believe most do. The problem is that they are “prisoners” of the prevailing mindset; they believe “representative democracy is real democracy and better than direct democracy”. In other cases, the privileges their lobbies have carved out for them traps them, even if they damage democracy.

Many voters are also feel trapped by the economic help they receive from governments, and also by various social programs; they fear a change from representative democracy to direct democracy could threaten such their benefits.

The reality is  far from that!; the facts show direct democracy makes the country more efficient, more competitive. As a result, the country has more money for better universal social programs and services.

For example, the Swiss universal health system is superior to Canada’s and to the system of any other country. For example,  in Switzerland all citizens have a family doctor, in Canada some 5 million Canadian do not have a family doctor. Waiting lists for the Swiss are days, weeks, even months shorter. It is irrational that in Canada cars, machinery, computers, etc., have better to “care” than people.

Swiss universities are also cheaper than Canadian universities and colleges. Adult unemployment in Switzerland is 50% lower than in Canada. Swiss youth unemployment rate is 3%, four times lower than Canada’s.

We better fix the problems of credibility of representative democracy in Canada, and in other places, and soon, to prevent dangerous, anti-freedom, anti-democracy initiatives form the Right or the Left.

In my next blog I will continue with direct democracy for Canada.

Victor Lopez