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


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