Since the Ancient Greeks, no other country has, or has had, a democracy that comes close to Switzerland, on paper and on the ground.
Switzerland is the most democratic country in the World because it is the country that comes closest to rule by the people, rule by the majority. That is what democracy is about; when the will of most voters prevails; “rule by the people” is what democracy is. Democracy is not “rule by the representatives of the people”.
The US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany and the rest of Northern and Southern Europe, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, new Zealand, etc., are not democracies; they are societies governed by elected elites; the elites decide, not the voters.
Elected elites is a better system than dictatorships of the Right, the Left, or in-between, and also superior to one-religion or one-party regimes, but they are not democracies.
Democracy is “rule by the people”, this means the people decide, at least they make all the decisions they consider important enough to decide themselves, they leave the rest to politicians.
In a real direct democracy, the voters decide the issues when they so choose. They also elect ordinary citizens, not professional politicians, to serve in the highest posts of government. That is what the Ancient Greeks did. Amazing we still have not caught up to them 2800 years later!
Those citizen-rulers were selected by lot, not unlike how some countries now select jurors for trials. This does not mean that any citizen would serve, for example, as judge, medical officer, or head of the armed forces, just because his or her name came up by lot. The selection by lot was the first step.
It would not make sense to appoint public servants in special positions just by lot. It would be as dumb as appointing by lot doctors, engineers, mathematicians or car mechanics.
Somewhat like the selection of jurors today, but better; after the selection by lot, there would be panels of citizens to make the final decision. Such panels would be a fair representation of society, large enough and diverse enough to ensure the panel is a fair representation of society.
Le me make something clear; democracy is not about minority rights, or women’s rights, or men’s rights, or universal schooling, or universal health system, or about having a Supreme Court, or government by elected politicians, or about protecting the environment or about worker’s rights, or employer rights, or student rights or teacher rights.
Most of us agree those goals are worthwhile, but they are not democratic measures if the voters directly, by majority, did not decide they wanted them or approved them. Most of the laws and regulations we have in representative democracies are not democratic because the people did not explicitly approve them, or had the opportunity to do so.
In a democracy, the people decide all that, plus the level of taxation, the size of the armed forces, the government budget, the contents of the constitution, the changes to the constitution, what countries to trade with, etc.
There is only one type of real democracy; direct democracy. The so-called “representative democracies” are not democracies because the voters do not decide; the elected politicians and the supreme court judges, appointed by the politicians, make the decisions. The only decision the people make is to elect the politicians.
Representative democracy is much better than the “people’s republics”, because in representative democracies the people can change the rulers, can also criticize them, and can also challenge the rulers in court (although most individual citizens can’t, because they lack the money to pay the lawyers.)
Switzerland comes closestto being a real democracy. IT Is not a full direct democracy because those who run government are the elected politicians. But Switzerland surpasses all representative democracies in democratic level. Switzerland used to be a representative “democracy” like the others I mentioned. At one point almost 200 years ago, the Swiss people decided they had enough of just representative democracy.
They introduced a radical modification; if a Swiss citizen can gather around 1% of signatures of the eligible voters, any law or decision by the government, including parliament, will go to a popular vote.
The Swiss have three levels of government; national, cantonal and municipal. In all levels, if the citizens gather the required number o signatures within a certain period, the law, the decision, the treaty, the proposed change to the constitution has to go to a popular referendum. The number of signatures and the time allowed makes it easy to collect them too.
Depending on the issue, the referendum can be national, cantonal or municipal.
The people also draft the questions in the referendum, not the government, not parliament.
Just as important, the results of the referendums are binding on governments; not even the Swiss Supreme Court can invalidate the results of popular referendums. Governments have no choice but to apply the results of the referendum.
The Swiss have not yet caught up with the Ancient Greeks, but they are closer than any other nation. There is now also talk in Switzerland of having ordinary citizens occupy the most important government positions, and do away with professional politicians.
While the Swiss still have politicians, most of them are almost ordinary citizens because they serve, even at the national level, part-time.
The direct responsibility Swiss voters have in the running of the nation, the cantons and the municipalities, has turned Swiss voters into the most responsible voters in the World. This is why Switzerland is the best run country in the World.
I have no doubt the voters of other countries will vote as responsibly as Swiss voters once the have similar decision-making power; the peoples who decide know they are responsible for the effects of their decisions on themselves and their nations.
Direct democracy also overcomes the silly division of countries into Right-Left, Progressives-Conservatives. Such split does not happen because the people decide on the issues, not the politicians.
Elected politicians of all sides distract ordinary voters with ideology, with polarization; they leave the decisions to themselves, to decide as they see fit. This includes pleasing the various lobbies who are interested in issues related to money, to taxes to favour this or that group or business, etc.
It is time to wake up and, as a first step, demand Swiss-style, almost-direct, democracy. Direct democracy is necessary now to stop the growing disenchantment with representative “democracy” in all countries and save democracy. The support of the Swiss for their direct, or almost direct democracy, is higher than the support for representative democracy in any other country.
By the way, direct democracy has nothing to do with proportional representation. Proportional representation, instead of “first past the post” electoral systems, still leaves all decision-making power in the hands of politicians.
Proportional representation, without direct democracy, is a “bone” thrown at the voters to keep them distracted from power. Likewise, other gimmicks like “deliberative democracy”, etc.
Do not settle for less than, at least, Swiss-style democracy; it will turn your country into another Switzerland, perhaps even more stable and more prosperous.