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.