French and American Revolutionaries missed the opportunity for direct democracy…, but the Swiss did not.

The American Founding Fathers and the American Framers of the Constitution were inspired by the same French thinkers behind the French Revolution but, for whatever reason, the Americans never considered direct democracy for their nation, although some American towns, particularly in New England, practice direct democracy at the local level. The French considered direct democracy, but they blew it.

French revolutionaries brought to the rest of the World many of the advances of the American Revolution. They also toyed with the idea of direct democracy. Unfortunately, the enemies of direct democracy ended up controlling the Revolution; they came up with the euphemism “representative democracy”. Representative democracy is an oxymoron; if it is representative, it is not democracy because it is the representatives, not the people, the ones making the political decisions.

It is interesting to know that the King of France, Louis XVI, helped the Americans free themselves from the British King; just a few years later, French Revolutionaries turned on the King, overthrew him an all the elite and executed them in the name of the people. When the dust settled, France had a better system than the monarchy, but the system, to this day, is not a democracy.

The French Revolution killed the first opportunity humans had, in 2500, years of bringing real democracy back.

Ancient Greek democracy was direct democracy, not representative “democracy”. If the Ancient Greeks saw the “democracies” we have now in France, in the USA, etc., they would tell us; “your leaders are fooling you, this is not democracy, what you have it is an elected aristocracy; the people do not govern in the US, in France, in Canada, etc., the only country where we can recognize something resembling democracy is Switzerland, perhaps Taiwan too”.

Some French revolutionaries realised “representative government” can not be democratic government. For example, the Jacobin Deputy Pierre-Francois-Joseph-Robert said, in early 1793: “I know well that in a democracy, it would be the people who would judge the tyrant, because in a democratic state, the people do everything themselves; but what we are here, in France, is not a democracy.” In 2021 the same words still apply in France and all other representative “democracies.”

He said that in a debate in the French National Convention to decide if there should be a popular referendum on the judgement of Louis XVI, but others rejected his arguments, “in the name of the people…”

It fell to the Swiss, whose democracy was inspired by the Americans and the French, to go beyond them. The Swiss had the wisdom, the common sense, the popular political intelligence, to recognise that direct democracy is the more democratic and more effective form of government.

The Swiss did not bring back full direct democracy, but they changed Swiss representative “democracy” in one crucial way; the people have the power to prevail over the politicians on laws, regulations and policies. Whenever approximately 1% of the voters sign up to hold a universal referendum, a referendum takes place, the politicians can not stop it. The people, by the popular referendums, are the highest authority in Switzerland, not even the Swiss Supreme Court can overturn the results of popular referendums.

The Swiss do not have full direct democracy because they still have political parties and elected politicians; but the Swiss people have direct control of the politicians with people-initiated referendums.

The people of the US, France and most other representative democracies are losing faith in democracy, but it is because they do not really are democracies, therefore they need to introduce direct democracy at all levels

Like the Swiss did, it is up to the people of representative democracies to demand direct democracy, and not give up until the elected politicians give in.

Victor Lopez



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