2700 years is enough!, it is time to catch up with the Ancient Greeks or, at least, with the Modern Swiss, and have direct democracy.

Just in case you are new to the blog; direct democracy means the people directly make all crucial decisions, the people also elect other ordinary citizens to serve in government and run it.

Once their term is up, those elected ordinary citizens go home; no appointments to other government agencies, no switching ministries, no highly paid jobs as lobbyists to influence government, nothing of that.

That is full direct democracy; no political parties, no professional politicians, and no lobbyists because there is no political establishment of the “Left” or the “Right” to lobby.

That is the democracy the Ancient Greeks developed and practiced 2700 years ago. As you know, we have not caught up to them, not even in Greece. Somehow the people, even the Greek people, accepted the idea that ordinary citizens do not have what it takes to decide issues, that they need “leaders” to run their own affairs, that god, the king, the high priest, the dictator and, now, the elected representatives have the wisdom the people lack.

Of course the Ancient Greeks proved such beliefs in “superior beings”, “the chosen”, “the people with special wisdom”, are false and unnecessary.

During the French and American revolutions, humanity came within a hair of resuscitating direct democracy. Unfortunately, the American Founding Fathers, while no monarchists, they could not bring themselves to direct power by the people. They fell for “pure” representative “democracy”; once in power the elected representatives must have all the decision-making power; more power than the people who elected them. It makes little sense to me, but it did to them, and still does, to many people in the US and other countries, that is why direct democracy is not the norm yet.

Perhaps most Americans, and people in other representative democracies, still believe the elected politicians should run the show, even if the majority is not happy with the way the politicians do things. Isn’t it time to reach the obvious decision; “let us decide the issues, policies and laws ourselves, whenever we want to”?. But they do not, yet, they are stuck, they just blame the politicians.

Blaming the politicians will change nothing because the politicians do what the system forces them to do.

For example, in the US, because of an insane decision by the US Supreme Court; corporations and rich individuals control the US electoral system. This is how it happens; the people with money can contribute so much to the campaigns that if a politician tried to get elected without their contributions, he or she can not win because he or she will not get the recognition necessary to compete with those who accept big money donations.

It is not the fault of the big donors either; they do what the system allows them to do to protect or advance their interests. They know the elected politicians have all the power; they look for ways to have influence over the elected. One way is to make sure only people who accept big donations get elected.

The result is “government of big money, by big money, for big money”, not “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

But the politicians still need the votes of those who go to the booth. So we have a situation where the politicians need the money of the rich to persuade ordinary voters that they will govern for them and not for the rich, it is ridiculous.

In the US, and many other countries you have the absurd situation where only a wealthy person can get elected without the support of big money. Obviously, it is not possible for such wealthy person to govern for the majority because he or she does not live the life the majority lives.

There is only one way to increase the approval rating of politicians in democracies; make sure the politicians do what the people want them to do. The way is if the people give themselves power over the politicians in legislation and policies. The people must have the power to stop or overturn anything the politicians try to do or have done. This power means that if 1% of the voters, or less even, demand a referendum on any issue or law, the referendum has to happen and the results are final; no politician, no supreme court will be able to decide against the will of the people.

That is the sort of representative-direct democracy they have in Switzerland. It is not full direct democracy, but it fulfills the criteria of democracy: “government by the people” because the people are the final decision-makers every time they decide to challenge the politicians.

Direct democracy makes voters very responsible because they can no longer play the “it is the politicians!” blame game.

The responsibility of deciding issues forces voters to inform themselves on issues and also makes them prudent. Ordinary citizens, when they are responsible for the decisions, they weigh much more carefully the issues than the politicians; going to war now means the voters decide they will sacrifice their lives, or the lives of their sons and daughters (perhaps war should be declared only by those who may die in war, but that is another issue); raising property taxes now means those who vote will pay more themselves; voting for lower taxes might mean the schools, or the health system, or the roads, or essential social services will become worse, etc.

It is not by chance that Switzerland is the best run country in the World; it is because of direct democracy. The Swiss people have no choice; they have to inform themselves and they have to vote prudently because they are the final decision-makers.

Direct democracy is also better democracy, on a level of its own above representative democracy, because it is much closer to “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. By the way, do not be deceived by the rankings of The Economist about “democratic quality”; it places 11 representative democracies ahead of Switzerland; it is a naïve (or perhaps not…) intellectual pirouette.

Stop blaming the politicians for the laws and the policies, do something (peaceful) yourself to bring direct democracy to the US and to all other countries.

Victor Lopez

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