If your country is a democracy, how come you, the ordinary person, do not get to define the issues and decide the issues?

In your representative “democracy”, you do not define the issues, let alone decide them, because your “democracy” is not such thing.

In representative democracies, the economic lobbies, the political lobbies, the media owned by a few (with a political and economic ax to grind), and the social lobbies, define the issues.

Such groups may be at odds with each other but they do not represent the interests of the majority of ordinary citizens because they have in mind their own interests, not the interests of the majority. Of course, they know that with “clever” argumentation and manipulation, and massive repetition, they can fool many voters into believing they defend the interests of ordinary people.

The hard truth is that none of such groups can defend the interests of ordinary people, they can not because they have in mind their particular interests, not the interests of the majority.

Big media, big business, big farm, big finance, big manufacturing, big unions, big political parties, the “opinion makers”, etc., are interested in what concerns them, not what concerns you. But they are not stupid, they know that with clever strategies, clever words and repetition, they can persuade many voters, at least for years, even decades, that the country is a real democracy.

The lobbyists who represent the interests of such groups also know they can pressure (or is it intimidate?) politicians to do what the lobbyists want.

These weak spots of representative democracy deprive most voters of control of their democracy. It does not matter if the ordinary citizen is a  progressive or a conservative, he or she never gets to decide what the issues are and, much less to decide the issues.

The end result is that as time passes, more and more citizens feel the elected politicians do not represent them, even when “their” “progressive” or “their” “conservative” party wins the election and governs.

The problem is compounded because to be elected, the politicians and their parties need lots of money to compete in elections. Ordinary voters can not donate to political campaigns, of candidates or parties, enough money to make other donations, or the influence of biased media, superfluous and unimportant.

In fact it is the other way around, the contributions of the lobbyists make the contributions of ordinary people irrelevant.

Consider also that many of those lobbyists also have the power to mobilize many people who work in their business, who belong to professional associations, unions, etc. This is also a factor that pressures politicians before, and also after getting elected, if they aspire to re-election, to yield in whole or in part to the pressure of lobbies.

If, to the above, you add that ordinary people have not the means to make the population aware and to educate the population, on other issues, you have a situation in which the majority of citizens, on the left, right and center, can not decide which are the issues, much less decide them.

This brings us to the closure of the vicious circle of representative “democracy”; because ordinary citizens do not have the means to rise and spread the awareness of issues, the voters can not vote motivated by the issues that affect the majority. Do not forget also that big written media, big radio, big TV and big Internet also have the power to silence issues, besides the power to raise the ones that interest them.

So, ordinary citizens do not decide what the issues are and can not vote on the issues; the cycle repeats at election time and between elections.

Representative “democracy” has another huge flaw; the elected politicians decide all issues, the people can not vote on issues to decide the issues.

In a direct democracy things are very different. It is very simple; in a direct democracy if approximately 0.5% to 1% of the population put their names and decide “this is an issue voters should decide”, then a referendum takes place and the voters decide, not the politicians. Of course, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary have to accept and execute the result of the referendum.

The 0.5% to 1% is a sound number because it ensures a reasonable minority of ordinary citizens back the issue. It also ensures that the number of signatures is low enough so that collecting them is feasible for a small group of ordinary citizens, a small pro-something or anti-something group, even a minuscule union, ecologist group, religious group, a minor political party with no representation in the local council, the regional, provincial, state or national parliament have, all of them have, the means to raise an issue and have ordinary voters decide the issue.

By giving the people this power, the power of lobbies, of the large parties, of opinion makers (or is it manipulátors?), of big media, etc., is kept in check.

This is what happens in a direct democracy; once the people collected the required signatures, the government has to hold a referendum and the government has to send to all potential voters an information package presenting the arguments of those who collected the signatures and also of those against them. Both sides are given equal prominence.

When this happens, the big lobbies, big media, big parties, etc., know they have to acknowledge this is the issue, that the people decide what the issues are, not them.

Furthermore, the lobbies also know ordinary voters decide the issues and, more importantly, ordinary people know they are in control; not the lobbies not the political parties.

In a direct democracy, ordinary citizens can stop existing laws or laws parliaments or councils draft, they can stop treaties, they can change the constitution of the country or the by-laws of their town, the health care system, the laws on marriage, the level or taxation…, anything.

When the people are in control, the people are made responsible of the effects of their votes and, as most people always do, when they bear the responsibility they behave responsibly.

In a direct democracy there is not complaining about the politicians or the lobbies, becapse the people have the power to keep them in check.

Direct democracy is the real check and balance democracy needs, not the fake checks and balances among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. They are fake because they leave the people out; in reprerentative democracies, the people can not check and balance any of the three powers, or the lobbies or big media.

Direct democracy also makes democracy and society more stable. That is why Switzerland is the most stable country in the World, the one with the least polarisation also becaure it is the political parties pursuing power, and the media supporting them, who promote polarisation, in part to distract the people from the issues that affect them, but that the lobbies and politicians want to silence.

If you want real democracy you should inform yourself about direct democracy. I have no doubt you will support it.

Victor Lopez

 

If your country is a democracy, how come you, the people, can not change the constitution of your “democracy”? This is how a real democracy does it

Well, because in spite of all the grandiose talk about “democracy”, “the people”, etc., your country is not really a democracy.

At the core of any democracy is the constitution of the country, it only makes sense that the people should be in full control of the constitution of the country.

This means only the people, not the elected politicians, must have the authority to change the constitution.

In a real democracy, in Switerland, this is how they do it:

I reproduce an article by Politicalsciencenotes.com

“This article throws light upon the two methods of amendment of the Swiss constitution. The two methods are: 1. Process of Total Revision of the Constitution 2. Process of Partial Revision or Amendment of the Constitution.

Method # 1. Process of Total Revision of the Constitution:

A total revision of the constitution means the adoption of a new or totally revised constitution.

Total revision can be affected in any of the following three possible ways:

(i) If the Federal Parliament, by an approval of each of its two Houses, passes a new draft for a total revision of the Constitution, a referendum is held.

If the new draft gets the approval of the majority of voters as well as of the Cantons, it comes into operation. Rejection in the referendum by the voters or by the Cantons or by both, finally rejects the new draft and the old constitution continues to operate.

(ii) If one House of the Federal Parliament approves a draft for the total revision of the constitution but the other House rejects it, the issue is submitted to the people in a referendum. If the majority of the Swiss voters approve the proposal, the Federal Parliament is dissolved. Fresh elections are held.

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Thereafter, a new Federal Parliament is constituted. It prepares and approves the draft of a revised (new) constitution. The same is then submitted to a referendum. If in this second referendum the new constitution is approved by both the majority of the Swiss voters as well as the Cantons, the old constitution ceases to operate and the new constitution comes into operation.

(iii) The proposal for a total revision of the constitution can also come through an Initiative. If 1,00,000 of the Swiss voters submit a proposal for a total revision of the constitution, the proposal is submitted to the people in a referendum. In case the proposal is supported by the majority of voters, the Federal Parliament then prepares a new constitution and it is put before the people in a referendum. If the new constitution is approved both by the majority of voters as well as of the Cantons, it becomes operative and replaces the old constitution.

After the successful total revision of the 1848 Constitution in 1874, three unsuccessful attempts at total revision of the constitution were made in 1880, 1935 and 1975. However, the attempt made in 1998-99 proved to be successful.

Draft of a total revision of the constitution was adopted by the Federal Parliament on 18 December 1998, it was adopted by a majority of the people and the Cantons in a referendum on 18 April, 1999, The Federal Parliament issued a decree for its enforcement on 28 September 1999 and the New Constitution (Totally revised Constitution) came into operation w. e .f. 1 January 2000.

Method # 2. Process of Partial Revision or Amendment of the Constitution:

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A Partial Revision or an amendment of the Constitution can be initiated and adopted in two ways:

(1) A proposal for a partial revision of the constitution can be made by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament. Thereafter, the proposal is submitted to the people in a referendum. If the majority of the people as well as of the Cantons approves the proposal, the amendment gets incorporated in the Constitution.

(2) The proposal for a partial revision of the constitution can also come from the people. If 1, 00,000 of the Swiss voters submit a general proposal for a partial amendment of the constitution, the same is put before the people in a referendum. If it gets the approval of the majority of voters, the Federal Parliament drafts the amendment on the basis of the general proposal made by the people through an initiative.

This draft is then submitted to the people in a referendum. If the majority of both the Swiss voters and the Cantons approve it, the amendment gets incorporated in the constitution. However, if the initiative for a partial revision, as made by 1, 00,000 Swiss voters, is made in the form of a complete draft, the draft is discussed by the Federal Parliament.

The Federal Parliament gives its verdict either in its favour or against the proposed partial revision, in either case, the draft is submitted to the people in a referendum. If it is approved by a majority of both the people and the Cantons, the amendment gets incorporated in the constitution.

From the above account, it is clear that the process of amendment of the Swiss constitution is difficult, cumbersome and complicated. It gets completed in two stages: Proposal Stage and Approval Stage. The proposal can come either from the Federal Parliament or through a popular Initiative by 1, 00,000 Swiss voters.

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At the approval stage the amendment proposal has to get the approval of the majority of both the Swiss Voters as well as of the Swiss Cantons. However in actual practice, the process has proved to be neither very rigid nor very complicated. Some eighty partial amendments were successfully incorporated in the constitution between 1874-1999.

In 1999, the Swiss Constitution was totally revised and consolidated by incorporating all the amendments made during 1874-1999 as well as by adding a bill of rights, social goals, more detailed description of the powers of the Federation and the principles governing relations between the Federation and the Cantons.

The Swiss Constitution has now 196 Articles, while before this total revision it had only 123 Articles. The maturity of the Swiss voters and the convention of working through a general consensus has softened in actual practice the rigidity of the formal process of amendment of the Constitution.

The most salient feature that makes the amendment process very distinctive the fact is that no amendment, total or partial, can be made in the constitution without the approval of the majority of the people as well as of the Cantons. A Canton is deemed to have approved the amendment if the majority of the people of that Canton approves the amendment.

In other words, popular sovereignty is really in operation in the sphere of the amendment- making process of the Swiss Constitution.”

So, there you have it; in Switzerland the people are boss, the politicians can propose only.

If in your country the politicians propose and decide your country is not a democracy, it is an elected aristocracy. Sure you decide who governs and you have freedom to speak, but those who govern decide everything and you do not have the freedom to decide issues. It is far better than a dictatorship, but it is not a democracy, no matter how many times the media, the politicians, the lobbies and the “opinion makers” (what a term!), say daily.

You can change things and make your country a democracy, at least as good, if not better, than Switzerland. But you have to do more than just complain about the politicians, or not going to vote.

Victor Lopez

Direct democracy is about you deciding what the issues are and deciding them; elections are no longer enough

First of all, do not take at face value what anyone says about direct democracy; those who are against it do so out of ignorance, or because they have an ax to grind. Those of us who are for it are entitled to our opiniong but you have to decide for yourself; to do that you have to inform yourself about direct democracy, nobody else can doeit for you.

Do not oppose or support direct democracy if you do not know what it is.

Direct democracy, in a nutshell, means that if 1% of voters decide that an issue is an issue of concern to them, and sign to have the issue decided by all voters of the village, town, city, province, region, state or nation, then a referendum has to be held to decide the issue and the results of the referendum have to be fulfilled by government.

Direct democracy does not need to mean voters decide everything, direct democracy means the voters decide anything 1% of voters decide that all voters should decide.

Depending on the nature of the issue, the voters of the village will decide, the whole nation will decide, or any in-between jurisdiction wilh decide.

The “1%”, refers to 1% of the population of the jurisdiction; in a village of 300, 3 people will be enough to call a referendum of village voters to decide if they need a traffic light. At the other end, 1% of voters means 300 000 people in a country of 30 million people, will decide that a national referendum has to take place in the nation to decide if the nation will have a universal, fully taxpayer funded, health system, for example.

Direct democracy also means the people can force a referendum on any law or regulation, from municipal by-laws to national laws.

Direct democracy also means that the people can force a referendum on any decision by the major and the council of a town or a city, and also on any decision by the national government or the national legislators.

Likewise on any policy decision or treaty.

Direct democracy means that the politicians still legislate and make policy decisions but that anything the elected politicians do, or want to do, can be challenged by a few people and put to a referendum before all voters.

Before the referendum, the politicians present their arguments, and the 1% of citizens who triggered the referendum also present theirs; then, the people, democratically, decide if what the politicians want goes ahead or is overturned or stopped.

Direct democracy also means the voters can decide if the town or village should build a new school or a new health care facility, or a new road or a new sports facility, etc.

Direct democracy means the votes of the town can decide if the illegal parking fines should be increased or reduced.

Direct democracy means votes can decide the zoning regulations of the village, town or city.

Direct democracy means voters can decide if a new gas station is needed in the village.

Direct democracy means that voters can decide if the country should go to war, or have a health care system that covers everyone the same, no matter how much money they have, or if they have a job or are unemployed, or a good job with a great company or a bad job with a bad company.

Direct democracy means voters can decide if the armed forces need to be bigger or have this or that expensive weapons system.

Direct democracy means voters can decide if universities should be 100%, 50% or 0 %, financed by the taxpayers and also if tuitions should be zero or tens of thousands of dollars, or one thousand dollars.

Direct democracy also means voters can decide if the country needs more immigrants, no immigrants or millions of them.

Direct democracy means voters can decide how strict or lax should border controls be enforced.

Direct democracy means voters can decide if the death penalty is right or wrong.

Direct democracy means voters can decide what education system the town, the city, the province, the region, the state or the nation will have.

Direct democracy means the voters can decide if the country will aspire to host the Olympic Games or the World Cup, or whatever.

Direct democracy means the politicians can not not decide anything against the will of the majority if a minority of 1% sign up to hold a referendum, and if in the referendum the voters decide against the politicians. It does not matter if it is the executive or the legislative, or both; neither branch can prevail over the will of the people. Not even the Supreme Court can judge the political decisions by the people. In a direct democracy, the results of referendums can not be declared inconstitutional, or is it “unconstitutional” ?, by the highest court in the land, no matter how experienced, how many degrees they have, or how wise the judges are.

Direct democracy also means that ordinary citizens, even those without political representation, or who do not belong to a party, a labour union, a bussiness association or a professional association, can get together and set up a working group to collect the required 1% of signatures to propose to all citizens a new law, a new policy, changes to the by-laws of a town, as well as changes to national laws and also to the constitution of the country.

Direct democracy means, for example, that a group of ecologists can force a referendum on banning chemical pesticides, or on any other issue.

Direct democracy means that hunters can force a referendum on any hunting law that affects them.

Direct democracy means that the people could force, for example, that in the US a national vote be held on universal health care. In Canada, direct democracy could determine, for example, that the number of family doctors must be increased until all Canadians have a family doctor. In the UK a new referendum could decide to rejoin the EU, etc.

But for all of this to happen, we the people, will have to write to the politicians, create groups to bring direct democracy, demonstrate, and never give up until the politicians accept the “mother of all referendums”; a referendum on direct democracy.

Local, regional and national politicians have to be pressured until they yield.

That is exactly what the people of Switzerland did. Switzerland is, by far, the most democratic country in the word, never mind the wrong democracy rankings by the UK magazine, The Economist. Switzerland is the also the best, most stable country in the World, and it is because of direct democracy.

By the way, those who oppose direct democracy are not democrats, even if their intention is to be. They are not because democracy means “government by the people”, it does not mean “government by those elected by people”, no matter how big a majority they won in the election.

Direct democracy means that between elections, the people also vote on issues of their choosing.

Direct democracy also forces politicians to listen to the people always, no just at election time. Direct democracy also forces cooperative govenrment on politicians and drastically reduces polarisation; that is why in Switzerland, the major parties, representing 70-80% of voters govern in coalition, always.

So, do not complain about the elected politicians “not doing this or doing that”, do something yourself to bring direct democracy to your village, town, city, state, province or nation.

Victor Lopez

The transition from representative democracy to direct democracy all over the World is as inevitable as the transition from kings with absolute power to representative democracy

Direct democracy will happen for one simple but powerful reason; it elevates the dignity of people. Just like representative democracy elevated the dignity of people by giving the people the power to elect their representatives, direct democracy elevates the dignity of people by giving people the power to decide laws, issues, policies, even the constitution, in addition to continue electing representatives.

Direct democracy, for the first time since Ancient Greek Democracy, gives ordinary citizens the power to truly run their affairs. Direct democracy gives voters more power than the politicians.

I do not mention non-democratic regimes because in terms of the development of human dignity, they are in the sociopolitical stone age. All those societies where one person, one party, one religion, rules are intrinsically inhumane regimes. Unfortunately, too many societies are unwilling or unable to have political freedom and find themselves ruled by various forms of authoritarian regimes. It is sad to recognize it but authoritarian regimes are better than anarchy, because anarchy is even more inhumane.

Direct democracy gives voters more power than the politicians, but it is only common sense, and fair, that it do so; the people pay the salaries of the politicians; the people pay everything the politicians do; highways, airports, research, hospital, schools, the military and on and on. The people also elect the politicians.

It makes no sense that the people not have the power to tell politicians: “we decided by popular vote you can not build that highway, you have to reduce the budget for space exploration, or for the military, but increase the budget to fight disease”. “We also want the right to decide just the opposite” (Although I believe that only in very special circumstances most of the people will vote for less cancer research and for more weapons).

Regardless of what the people decide, they must have the right to prevail over the politicians because the people pay and it is their lives; the people use the road or the airport; the people die because of cancer and so on.

Anyone who becomes interested in direct democracy, and has no ax to grind because he or she is not a politician, a lobbyist, an academic or media elitist, etc., soon sees that direct democracy is the only democracy that makes sense.

The hard hidden truth is that the Greek invented direct democracy. They did not call it like that because to them, and to anyone who takes the trouble to study it, the only democracy is direct democracy.

Representative democracy, participatory democracy.deliberative and any other   xxxx-democracy are just verbal shenanigans. Direct democracy is participative and deliberative like no other form or government can be. The reason is simple, in a direct democracy the people participate because they decide, there is no higher form of participation.

Direct democracy is deliberative because direct democracy makes the people directly responsible for what happens in the country, they no longer can blame the politicians. When people are responsible for the consequences of their votes, they deliberate as long as necessary before they vote. They do not vote impulsevily, they do not listen to demagogues either, or because they like this or that charismatic politician.

Democracy also means “rule by the people”, not “rule by those elected by the people”. If those elected by the people rule, we do not have a democracy, we have an aristocracy of the elected (and of the lobbies close to them who help get them elected).

It is “rule by the people” if the people directly rule or if the people have direct control of those elected, at any time between elections, on any issue the majority of the people decide the elected politicians must do this or can not do that.

In the 1700s some Western societies decided they had enough of rule by the king. The Americans got rid of the power of the English King with their War of Independence, the French by overthrowing and killing their king and many of the ruling elite.

The English themselves, even earlier, got rid of the absolute power of the king. Some countries, like the cantons that created Switzerland, started even earlier to stop “rule from above”.

Really, the only question is when and how direct democracy, or Swiss-style semi-direct democracy, will become the political system in the representative democracies of the West, in Japan, in South Korea, in Taiwan (the Taiwanese already started), in India, etc.

The Swiss did the transition from representative democracy to direct democracy peacefully. Interestingly, they did it because of another pandemic. The people of the city of Zurich decided they had enough, that since the authorities botched the fight against that pandemic, from then on the people, directly will be the final authority on laws, policies, treaties and the constitution; not the politicians, not even the Supreme Court. From Zurich it spread to all of Switzerland.

From Switzerland, it is spreading around; why do you think the European Union is now talking about “popular initiatives” ? (although with not much teeth in them yet), because the trend is inevitable; the people are no longer satisfied with voting to elect, they also want voting to decide issues.

Many reasonable people also believe current governments have botched the fight against the virus; perhaps they will also say: “enough!”, and the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, etc., will evolve into direct democracies.

In a Swiss-style direct democracy the elected politicians are the administrators of the will of the people; there are no hot air, grandiose, statements about “the people we are”, “the vision for justice”, “the fight for equality” and other vague and demagogic postures.

In a direct democracy, the voters decide: “do we want to increase taxes?”, “should we increase the minimum wage?”, “do we want a minimum wage?”, “should we have more women in politics?”, “should we have more medical doctors?”, “should the army have more jets”, “should we sign a treaty with x country?”, “should we have universal health care covering absolutely everybody?”, “should we increase the budget for hospitals so that waiting times for elective surgery drop from months to weeks”, “should that law be stopped?, “should we modify the constitution?”, “should we send soldiers to this or that place?”, and on and on.

Direct democracy will come, it is absolutely inevitable. If it does not happen peacefully, it will happen violently. I believe than in most representative democracies, once the politicians see the people are determined to have direct democracy, the politicians will yield.

All arguments against direct democracy are just dialectic pirouettes, and smoke and mirrors exercises to delay the inevitable. Direct democracy is “rule by the people”, representative democracy is not, that is why it will die out.

Please, believe nothing I say; inform yourself about direct democracy. Do not listen to anyone that attacks or defends direct democracy; go and find out all you can. I know you will reach the obvious conclusion: “when I look at the facts, direct democracy is the way to go”.

How much longer should we wait? Do we have to wait until people explode because of the elitist behaviour of elected politicians, or because of the ways various lobbies practically have hijacked democracy, or fed up with the decisions politicians make against the will and interest of most citizens.

Direct democracy transcends partisan politics, it is not about “Right” or “Left”, “progressive” or “conservative” because it is about issues, not a about this or that “political doctrine”, or is it “political theology?

Victor Lopez

Habit is stronger than progress; why direct democracy takes time

When I speak to people about politicians in representative democracies, most people on the Right, Left and Center, young and old, men an women, say they are tired of politicians and political parties.

They say they are tired of the way they spend the taxes they pay, of the level of taxation not reflected in services, of the state of education, of health care, of pensions, of involving the country in foreign wars, of election promises not kept, of doing things they never talked about during the election campaign, of how lobbies for business, unions and other groups get their way at the expense of the will of the majority. of the privileges politicians enjoy, on how the elected politicians, instead of serving the people, serve themselves and the lobbies, of how elected politicians claim to have the “leadership” and “vision” to lead the country but things do not improve, etc.

I could go on but, it is obvious there are many problems of lack of representation of the will of the majority in representative democracies.

Then I tell those people that there is another system, the system of direct democracy that gives the people the means, the authority, to make sure elected politicians do not go astray with their “vision”, or the “vision” of the lobbies and other non-elected people.

Not only that. I tell them that if the country becomes a direct democracy, the citizens will have the power to introduce legislation and to change the constitution.

At this point, many of those unhappy people start to get cold feet. They tell me things like; “we pay the politicians to make decisions”. My answer: “you just told me you are not happy with their decisions, how are their decisions going to change if our reaction is just to say we are not happpy”.

Otlers respond; “well, if the party I vote for was in power things would be better”. I say: “but both parties have been in power and we are were we are, somehow, neither party seems able to govern for the majority, that is why they get voted out regularly”

“Alternancy in power is much better than one party always in power, and ligh-years better than any totalitarian regime controlled by one party, one religion or one person, but what would you say if instead of alternancy, the parties that represent 70-80% of voters governed in coalition AND if the voters have the power to stop them, right then and there. when they pass a law or adopt a policy the majority of the people do not agree with?”

At this point, most people choose habit over progress. It is a normal reaction; unless people are desperate, they are reluctant to ditch representative democracy and go for direct democracy, for the unproven unknown (to them).

I speak to them about Swiss democracy and its combination of representative and direct democracy.

At this point, the people who live in large countries say things like: “Switzerland is much smaller”. If their country is more or less like Switzerland in size, they may say: “our culture is very different”.

Others say; “such system could become the tiranny of the majority”. I tell them, in Swtizerland they have four founding cultures; the minority cultures in Switzerland have more power and rights than minorities have in any other country”.

As you guess, practically nobody among those unhappy with politicians and parties says to me: “you know, the Swiss system is interesting, how can I learn more about it ?”.

It is logical that very few react that way; bringing to people the power of direct democracy is a huge change, even if in most representative democracies it can happen without violence, like the Swiss did.

Reluctancy to change is logical, it is prudent, it is intelligent. The trick is: how to bring change without scaring people and without making things worse.

This is why all those who are convinced direct democracy is the next logical advance for democracy, have to sort in their minds this question: “Do I want to prove to others I am right, or do I want to help them persuade themselves direct democracy is the way to go?”

If your emphasis is on showing you are right, then direct democracy is light-years away for obviuous reasons.

I am convinced that when the first human decided to put meat over the fire, cooked it and ate it, and said to himself or hersel#: “this is much better than raw”, and then told others, many reacted with expressions like: “we neved did it like that”, “it may make you sick”, “raw meat is the natural way to eat it”, “no other animal cooks meat”, etc.

I hope you will accept that the evidence to eat meat cooked is far clearer than the eveidence in support of direct democracy.

So, let us work hard to show others the facts about direct democracy, and let them decide what they want. I have no doubt that as people know more about direct or semi-direct, Swiss-style democracy, they will reach a point when most will DEMAND direct democracy, and direct democracy will happen.

Victor Lopez

Representative Democracy is about the people deciding who rules, direct democracy is about the people ruling over the rulers

Representative democracy was really about for dignity; the Americans tired of the English king; the French tired of their king. Earlier, the English started to tire of the absolute power of the king years ago, when the English barons told the king: enough, from now on your power is not absolute! From then onwards, the English-speaking peoples developed their representative democracies.

The French were more drastic, but in the end, it was about the same issue; that the people should decide who rules.

In fact, the French Revolution, at first went further, it tried to establish the democracy of Ancient Greece, with direct rule by the people, direct democracy.

Unfortunately, perhaps because of centuries of Christianity, which promotes the idea of special, chosen people, seems most people had difficulty in France accepting that all citizens should have equal rights, that no citizens should have more rights than the rest. This is why at first the French Revolution tried to have the people themselves directly make all important decisions.

Unfortunately, some of the leaders of the French Revolution, like Robespierre, did not believe the people were capable (intelligent enough) to decide issues. Robespierre et al. did not like the absolute power of the “divine” king, but they did not like the power of the people either.

The leaders of the French Revolution sort of accepted that the people should elect the rulers, but the rise of `”imperial people”, like Napoleon, shows the French Revolution, in fact, fell behind the English in governance. To this day, the history of France and England-Britain, shows the Anglo-Saxons have done a better job at governing.

Representative democracy was a vast improvement over the absolute power of kings and emperors, but it fell short to improve the dignity and rights of people. It happened because representative democracy does not allow people to decide issues; the people can elect the representative, who are the ones actually making the decisions, but the people can not with their vote decide any issue, nor can they prevail over the will of the elected representatives.

The result has been a progressive encroachment of the elected elites, and the lobbies that support them. In practically all representative democracies the power and money of the elites has increased, at the expense of the power of the people.

The en result is a gradual, but steady, deterioration of democracy in all representative democracies; even in the better functioning ones, more and more people are becoming disenchanted with elected politicians.

The disenchantment does not happen because there has been a long streak of poor politicians, it happens because the system of direct democracy puts too much executive and legislative power in the hands of the elected and those close to them, and they end up taking advantage of that.

This is why we need direct democracy, and fast, because when representative democracy deteriorates and reaches the crisis point, what comes out of the collapse of representative democracy is usually not direct democracy, it is a totalitarian regime. This probably happens because the collapse of representative democracy discredits the word “democracy”.

Hitler came out of the collapse of representative democracy. The same happened in the 30s in Italy, Spain, and also in Cuba, Venezuale and other places.

This means that to eradicate the risk of totalitarian regimes of the Right or the Left, one party rule or one religion rule, representative democracies need to transition to direct democracy.

Representative democracy was about the people deciding who rules, direct democracy is about the will of the people prevailing over the will of the executive and the legislative on issues, policies, laws and the contents of the constitution. It is also about the highest court of the land being barred from deciding if what the people decided is constitutional; there is no higher authority than the people.

Some fear “the dictatorship of the majority”; their predecessors, who also lacked trust in the people, did not like representative democracy either.

Direct democracy is another step forward in the rights and power of ordinary people.

It is time for the Americans, the French, the British, the Scandinavians, the Japanese, etc., to take the next step to increase the dignity and power of the people. To do that, what they have to do is what the Swiss did in 1867; they introduced direct democracy. You can read all you want about it if in Internet you enter “history of Swiss democracy”.

In a Swiss-style direct democracy, the people will still elect politicians, but when the people want to, the people also decide issues, the contents of the constitution, laws and regulations, treaties, taxes, etc.

When the people decide to do something, nobody can stop them; if the majority of citizens demand direct democracy, direct democracy will come to the US and everywhere else, and the quality of governance will improve, as Switzerland has been showing for almost 200 years.

If you want direct democracy, demand it, just like the Swiss did, and do not let up until you ge it.

Victor Lopez

Direct democracy is like pregnancy; not possible to be half-pregnant…

I hear people say that in the US and a few other representative democracies, they also have direct democracy, that is not possible. Below I reason why.

In the United States a number of states have some measure of direct democracy, from 8 to 27, depending on what you consider direct democracy.

Direct democracy is when the people decide issues.

Sometimes they decide that a new law should be enacted or an amendment added to the constitution, other times they decide a law enacted by the legislature should go to referendum.

Some analysts want to pass as direct democracy actions that are not direct democracy at all.

For example, in some US states the people can send to the legislature a people’s initiative but the legislature decides if it will be enacted or not.

Clearly that is not direct democracy at at all, such initiatives are not worth the effort and paper they are written on. They are little more than the freedom to petition. It is not direct democracy. Those who consider it direct democracy are ignorant or dishonest.

Same goes for the referendums that the legislators or the executive initiate. It is not direct democracy because the politicians decide when and about what the referendum will be.

Direct democracy happens only when the people initiate the initiative and when the executive and the legislature must comply with the results of the popular vote on the initiative, if the initiative is approved by the people and by simple majority.

Direct democracy also happens only if the people initiate the referendum and if the results of the referendum are mandatory for the executive and the legislative if the popular proposal passes.

For example, the Brexit referendum was not direct democracy at all, although it was more democratic than the usual practice of governments in representative democracies, to decide, event the most serious issues, like go to war, change the constitution or change taxes, and everything else, without the people voting on the issue.

It is not direct democracy either, if its exercise is so difficult that people are discouraged because it takes too much money or effort. This happens if the number of signatures is too high, the time span too short or if, as it happens in the US, moneyed lobbies of the left or the right take over the process, effectively making it impossible for ordinary citizens to launch an initiative or a referendum.

Another factor that kills direct democracy is if the courts can overturn the results of popular referendums and initiatives because “they are not compatible with the constitution” of the state or of the US. In a direct democracy only another popular vote can overturn the results of a popular vote. The courts can only intervene if there is fraud or other illegalities in the process.

Besides these flaws at the state level, in the US does not have direct democracy because the most important level of government in the US, the Federal Government, is not subject to direct democracy at all.

Direct democracy is like pregnancy; you have it at all levels or you do not have it; if the people do not have the last you do not have it either.

Like pregnancy also, direct democracy must be obvious, relatively easy to exercise, pleasurable and pleasant, at least until the result is known…

So, let us reject the shenanigans about fake direct democracy, as well as “deliberative” or “participatory” democracy.

There is only one democracy, direct democracy; when the people govern.

At the very least we must have Swiss-style representative-direct democracy. This means we still have political parties and elected politicians, but there are important additional provisions:

1. The people initiate the initiatives and referendums.

2. The executive and the legislative must comply with the results of votes.

2. The executive and the legislature can not initiate initiatives and referendums.

3. The judges can not overturn popular votes for reasons of “inconstitutionality” because the people make the constitutions as they go. Like a famous Spanish song says: “people make the trail as they walk”, there is no trail before people walk.

4. Collecting signatures, and the time required to collect them. is such that ordinary citizens can have organize and have initiatives and referendums voted on, several times per year.

Victor Lopez

Cuba and direct democracy

Sooner or later, the Cuban regime will die; it may die relatively peacefully, like the Soviet, Maoist and Pinochet regime (although Pinochet’s was barely a dictatorship compared to the other two regimes), or it may die violently like the Communist Regime died in Rumania.

But it is obvious the Cuban regime is not going anywhere because it does not deliver neither “butter” nor freedom. If it at least delivered “butter”, like the current politically Communist but economically Capitalist regime in China, the Cuban regime could last longer, although once people have enough “butter”, they also want dignity and respect, which is what democracy is about.

When the Cuban regime dies, the Cuban people should not make the mistake of going for representative democracy because representative democracy, while it is a great advance over absolute kings, personal dictatorships, party dictatorships or religious dictatorships, it carries within a  fatal flaw that ends up weakening and destroying democracy.

The fatal flaw is that direct democracy gives elected politicians too much power. It gives them so much power that representative democracies are not really democracies.

“Democracy” means “government by the people”, not less. The famous expression by US President Lincoln: “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is superfluous, unnecessary; if it really is “government by the people” it needs nothing else.

If the people really govern, what else can government be but “by the people, for the people”?

The problem, the root and rotting problem with representative democracy is that the people vote but do not decide anything beyond electing the politicians. It is the politicians who decide everything.

This happens to such an extent that in all representative democracies, including the better ones like those of Scandinavia, the political parties and the politicians hold practically all the executive power.

The politicians, regardless of political orientation, as a group, have monopoly power to make laws, regulations, policies and appointments to the major institutions of the country, the people of representative democracies have zero executive power.

In the better functioning representative democracies, the politicians, by cultural and traditional reasons, usually decide to involve various groups in the formulation of laws and policies, and also foster public participation in those processes.

That is good, but the system of representative democracy does not really require such consultation; we see how even in Scandinavia the separation between the politicians and the people is growing.

There is only stable, steady, real democracy, when the people have the right, the effective power to make, and do make, all major political, social and economic decisions. Of course, the people also have the power to decide what issues are of major importance.

The Ancient Greeks did not invent representative democracy, they invented democracy, direct democracy. In Ancient Greece, the politicians did not exist, neither did they have political parties or political “leaders with vision” (or similar hogwash), the people decided everything.

Representative democracy is a verbal pirouette performed by some elitist leaders of the French Revolution to continue the elite system they had been raised into and could not resist.

For those who will say; “but the Greeks did not allow women and slaves to vote”, I will say, that happened 2800 years ago, if Greek democracy and freedom of discussion had continued, no doubt the Greeks would have concluded women should be able to vote and slavery abolished, and much sooner than we have.

What came after Greek democracy, and even the weaker Roman democracy; Judeo-Christianity and Islam, did not do much for women and slaves, and everybody else (nobody could vote). Only when Europe reconnected with the Ancient Greek ideas did the World start to move again, very slowly.

So, the Greek people decided the issues that concerned them, not the politicians. As a result they had no politicians or political parties.

At the very least, once Cubans get rid of the current regime, they should go for direct democracy Swiss-style.

Because Cubans will have the unique opportunity of breaking with the past, they should go for direct democracy, not representative democracy.

As Cubans can see, representative democracies are in not very good political and social shape. The Cubans should look at Switzerland’s semi-direct democracy, and Taiwan’s too.

Switzerland is the only experienced modern society practising direct democracy, Taiwan is a recent adopter. But Taiwan has the important merit of having transitioned from dictatoship to representative democracy to semi-direct democracy. This means the Taiwanese come from a situation more similar to Cuba’s than Switzerland.

The Cubans should seek expertise from Switzerland and Taiwan, and stay clear of the US, of Harvard, of US “experts” in democrcy as far as possible. It does not matter if the US “experts” come from the right or the left, they are all elitists who believe the people are not fit to practise direct democracy; Trump, Clinton, Bush, Biden, etc., are all the same on this; they believe in “leadership”, in leaders with “vision”. They believe the people may be smart enough to elect them; the people with the “special qualities” (watered down versions of prophets), but they also believe the people are not smart enough to decide if they want to pay higher or lower taxes, to have better or worse public services, or to build a road or a school, or if they should have universal health system (the Swiss do and is best in the World), or go to war, or have a larger or smaller army, etc.; the Swiss do all that.

Perhaps you know that in California and many other US states, they have direct democracy at the state level, unfortunately it does not work as well as in Switzerland, probably because in the US there is no direct democracy at the national level. The US Federal Government is, by far, the most powerful level of government in the US. Logically, US national politicians are not interested in direct democracy and the US people have no institutional means to force them to bring direct democracy to the nation.

Almost two centuries ago Swiss politicians did not want direct democracy either, but the Swiss, during another pandemic, took a break from making chocolate, watches and tending to the cows, and forced Swiss politicians to accept direct democracy. They have not looked back.

The US also needs direct democracy but things are not bad enough yet in the US for the majority of people to demand it.

So, I hope Cubans opt for direct democracy and become the third leg of direct democracy in the World.

Victor Lopez

 

The current European Union and real democracy; direct democracy, are like oil and water

No matter how many pirouettes EU politicians and Swiss politicians perform in Brussel’s “circus”, there is no way to square the circle; a direct democracy differs greatly from the collection of representative democracies who created the EU to prevent another war between the Germans and the French.

The Germans and the French created the European Union because the French are scared of the Germans, and the Germans are scared of themselves. I do not know if the French should fear the Germans or if the Germans should fear themselves, but the reality is that the EU was created to prevent another war. The motive is noble, the means, the EU, has clay feet because it does not come from the people.

The EU was not created by the German and the French people by referendum, it was created by the politicians. This does not mean it was a bad idea, but it is an idea that has become reality without the people voting and approving it.

The EU is another example of the fundamental weakness of representative democracy; the elected politicians can change the destiny of the nation without the explicit backing and approval of the people they “represent”.

If elected politicians really felt they represent the people, they would do nothing, of the magnitude of creating the EU, without the explicit backing of the peoples of Europe. But they did it because the culture of representative democracy rests on the idea that “the people are fine to elect their representatives, but the representatives are better qualified than the people to decide what is good for the people, after all, the elected representatives have more formal education than the average voter, political parties and political leaders have deep knowledge of the country and of what is good for the country, they have teams of experts that assist them, etc.”

On the surface, all that may seem to make sense, but it is wrong; the ability to decide what is good for a country has little to do with formal education, it is common sense. Common sense is the most important form of intelligence because it is the intelligence that considers the innumerable factors at play in the functioning of the country. Formal education is useful but common sense if far more important.

This is why the late W F Buckley said: “I would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the telephone directory than by the Harvard University faculty.”

A properly run direct, or semi direct, democracy, such as Switzerland, has been showing for almost 2 centuries, in some ways even more, that direct democracy provides the best governance. No representative democracy in the World is better governed than Switzerland.

Just in case someone misinterprets what I say about governance; non-democracies of any stripe; personal dictatorships, party dictatorships, religious dictatorships, are intrinsically inhuman governments that should not exist, but the people of those countries will have to fix that, just like the English, the Americans, the French and others got rid of absolute rulers.

Switzerland is governed better than representative democracies because, with direct democracy, the Swiss government can not stray from what the people want, and also because direct democracy benefits from the collective intelligence and common sense of the Swiss people. Direct democracy forces Swiss citizens to think hard about issues, because they decide them. This makes them directly responsible for the fate of the country.

The Swiss can not say; “roads are bad because the politicians spend the money in weapons”, “education is bad because the unions do this or that”, “taxes are too high (or two low) because of the politicians”, the country is polarized because of the politicians”, the government overspends because of the politicians”, “we went to war in x place because of the politicians”, etc., etc.

The hard truth is that Swiss voters are responsible for all of that,and more.

Swiss voters are adults who decide if this or that agreement with the EU is good for the country. The voters of EU countries do not decide anything, their politicians treat them as the means to reach power, not really to represent them.

In the EU, authorities are used to “dirigisme”; “us, the elites know what is good for the people better than the people who elect us”; they don not say so openly, but their actions show what they believe.

While the British, or the English, do not have direct democracy, the British people and the elected politicians are somewhat more aware than the peoples of other EU countries, that the people, not the elites decide the destiny of the country just like that. British politicians, also know, better than the politicians of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc., that they represent the people of their riding, and must vote in tune with the people. It is not as good as direct democracy but is what made David Cameron decide the people had to decide EU membership in the terms the EU wanted.

Brexit is the decision of the British people, that is what democracy is about. Unfortunately for the British, it is up to the government to decide what issue to put to referendum.

In the UK, some also said that because the Parliament is “sovereign”, it could ignore the results of the referendum. What sort of democracy is one where the politicians do not have to do what the people explicitly voted and decided the politicians must do.

In Switzerland it is not like that at all; the citizens themselves decide what issues should go to referendum, and government must implement the results of referendums.

The current low in relations between Switzerland and the EU is the result of the inevitable clash between a country where government has no choice but do what the people want it to do, and the countries, and the EU itself, where politicians can do anything they want, as long as they have a majority government of get the approval of the majority of politicians.

The hard truth is that EU politicians, except at election time, they can do anything without approval of the people, Swiss politicians can not do that.

Brussels, the EU and its members do not want the Swiss to make decisions the EU does not like.

While EU governments submit to EU politicians, because they are all in the same “representative democracy wavelength”, Swiss politicians can not do that, even if they wanted to. The reason is obvious; Swiss politicians are directly controlled by Swiss voters through people started and people-decided referendums.

For example, if the Swiss decide they want to control how many people enter the country, the EU says; “no, this is how what you have to accept”. Things like that are causing friction between the EU and the Swiss people.

It is inevitable; either the Swiss abandon direct democracy, or the EU abandons representative democracy, and introduces direct democracy.

Direct democracy has growing acceptance among the peoples of the EU; this is why the EU has accepted the idea of “people initiatives” by the people, but such initiatives have no teeth.

The EU needs binding, people-initiated referendums, but in Brussels  they still believe “we know better than the people what is good for them”; it totally undemocratic.

But the idea of this fake democracy is so rooted that countries like Norway, Denmark, UK and others, where the people do not have the power to decide key issues, are ranked by an organisation, that I will not name, but that you will easily identify, as better democracies than Switzerland; it is a sad joke.

Not only the lack of direct democracy in the EU is a problem for Switzerland; the EU will break up if it continues as out of tune with the people as it shows daily.

Victor Lopez

 

This is how direct democracy works in Switzerland… and would work in your country

The key difference between direct democracy and representative democracy is this: in a representative democracy people vote to elect their representatives, in direct democracy, voters elect their representatives and also vote to decide issues.

In a direct democracy, the people also decide which issue, law, regulation, policy, change the constitution, etc., they want to decide.

In direct democracy the results of the referendum on any issue can not be challenged, ignored or overturned by the executive, the legislative or the Supreme Court. In a direct democracy, the results of referendums must be implemented by government.

The only established direct or, better, semi-direct democracy we have is Switzerland.

This is what the Swiss can do that you and the people in your representative democracy can not do:

The Swiss vote 4 times each year to decide issues. They vote on issues and laws at the federal level, the canton (state) level and also at the commune (municipality) level.

The referendums are initiated by the citizens or mandated by law, and the politicians can not deny, stop or overturn a referendum in any way, nor can the Swiss Supreme Court.

To trigger a referendum, all the people have to do is collect approximately 0.5% of 1% of signatures of eligible voters, but some somewhat higher figures are also possible. The proponents of referendums have plenty of time to collect the required signatures.

In Switezrland it is easy for the people to trigger a referendum. In other countries with some form of direct democracy, it is not so easy to get a referendum under way, often because the number of signatures required is too high and/or the time allowed is too short.

Once the required number of signatures has been collected in the required time, Swiss governments prepare a package they send to to each voter.

The package contains the position of the proponents of the referendum, the position of goverments and the position of other relevant parties, such as political parties, environmental organisations, etc.

Then, 3 to 4 weeks before voting, voters receiveve a package

The package explains the objective of the referendums and the positions of the proponents, of governments and other parties.

The people also receive a voting ballot.

In the weeks previous to the referendums there are are lots of discussions, debates and forums to help people understand the issue.

Depending on the issue, voter turnout varies, because not all issues interest most voters. Therefore, participation in referendums can be as low as 25% and as high as 70%.

Low turnouts do not mean Swiss voters are “tired” of voting or apathetic, all it means is that issue did not interest many voters. But that is OK, the important thing for democracy is that the group who got the referendum going, can see what the people, democratically, decide.

Because of that, the “losers” do not get angry or disillusioned; they had the opportunity to put the issue before the people and will accept whatever the people decide, because that is real democracy. If, after the people, democratically, reject what a group proposed in the referendum, the proponent’s only reasonable option is to accept the verdict, otherwise it is obvious they are not democrats; they would be elitists, fanatics, messianic, etc., but not democrats.

In Switzerland, a group of individuals, a party, even a party with no representation in parliament, a union, an environmental group, etc., can collect the required signatures to force a referendum.

Direct democracy is not complicated, really; the people decide. What is complicated is to overcome the resistance of politicians and lobbies to direct democracy. They resist because they know they will lose power and influence. The Swiss elites also resisted direct democracy almost 200 years ago, but the Swiss people insisted and the politicians, and others, yielded.

Direct democracy is about putting voters at the controls, not the elected politicians, like in representative democracy.

The more I learn about direct democracy, the more I see is the logical evolution for representative democracy. I am convinced you will also reach that conclusion. But to bring it to your people, you will have to insist, often and intensely, but peacefully.

Victor Lopez