Direct democracy is simpler than representative democracy

The reason? Representative democracy is very complicated because politicians have all the power; the pursuit og power complicates everything.

Politicians having all the power complicates everything because they know that to gain power is extremely important for them individually, for their parties and for the lobbies and pressure groups that help get them elected and help them mount competitive election campaigns.

Those factors turn political campaigns in representative democracies into highly elaborate activities; complicated communication strategies designed to influence and manipulate public opinion.

In representative democracies, the lobbies and pressure groups know that if they gain influence over the politicians, they will have a direct influence on the laws, regulations and policies the politicians develop and adopt.

You may think, but why, for example, a gigantic business will donate to progressive parties when such parties often are against big business? Well they do it to minimise their losses. They would rather the conservatives win, but if they don’t, the donations and other help to the progressive parties could help mitigate their anti-business, anti-profit measures.

In a direct democracy, because the voters decide the issues, not just elect politicians, the lobbies and pressure groups know that helping politicians get elected, or helping them defeat rivals, is not so important because the elected politicians, even if they get elected, even if the form the new executive branch of government, do not have the power to help the lobbies and the pressure groups.

In a direct democracy, the lobbies do not try to manipulate the public because they will quickly be denounced; they prefer to speak, but keeping a low profile.

The reason electoral fights are not so vicious in a direct democracy is obvious; in a direct democracy, the people control the politicians with initiatives and referendums on any issue or law that motivates a relatively small number of people. Because of that, it is not so important who gets elected or what party wins the election.

This explains why elections in Switzerland are far less important than referendums.

In Switzerland a small group of motivated ordinary citizens, without the backing of any lobby or pressure group, or even a small political party with no elected representatives, can fairly easily gather the 50 000 or 100 000 signatures, and are given plenty of time to gather them.

Once they do that, the issue goes to a popular vote.

Because in a direct democracy, the people are directly responsible for what happens in the country, the state (province, region or canton), and in their town or village, the people get very interested in the issue, if the issue interests them.

Not all issues interest most voters. For example, we do not know if the upcoming national referendum in September, where the organizers propose raising taxes for business and reducing them for individuals, will interest most voters.

Some wage earners may feel that doing that may make Swiss business less competitive and endanger jobs, and perhaps wages too. Such people may vote “no” to the proposal. Others may vote “yes” because they believe it is fair that business pay more and individuals less. Yet others may simply feel that the issue is not important enough, that regardless of what happens, their lives will not change much for whatever reason. In many referendums, those not interested enough to vote are the majority.

So, we do not know if this September, most eligible voters will vote, perhaps as high as 70% will, as it has happened in some referendums, or as low as less than 40%, as it has happened other times.

But what makes things simpler in a direct democracy is that the issues have to be understood by most voters. Voters demand clear explanations because they know their vote is a decision-making vote. It is not just a vote to elect someone.

Because of the need to make things clear for the ordinary voter, the government also sends a referendum package to every potential voter.

In the package, the proponents of the referendum explain their position in clear language and in a relatively few sentences. In the same package the government and the main political parties also explain their position, opposing the proposal and/or presenting to the voters an alternative to the proposal.

This means that voter can say “yes” to the original proposal, can say “no” to it, or can say “yes” to an alternative.

Because ordinary people have to decide, there are also plenty of debates in the media where experts defend the different positions, and in plain language. Swiss citizens also discuss the issues in family and in workplaces. This is possible because one of the positive effects of direct democracy is that depoliticizes the issues; there is less antagonism, less irrational-emotional posturing. Swiss voters know their decision is very important and do not want to hear demagoguery.

Direct democracy simplifies the political debate because the key debates take place at street level, among the people, not the among the politicians in the rarified and hot air of the Executive and Legislative branches.

If one thing that you find irritating is that it is difficult to understand the political fights in your representative democracy, it is because the politicians and the lobbies do not really want you to understand. They like to always put forward the idea; “many issues are too complex for the average voter”.

Unfortunately, too many average voters have swallowed that and think their next-door neighbour is not really capable of deciding if taxes for business should be raised and lowered for wage earners. Of course, many of those “next-door” neighbours think the same of other neighbours and non-neighbours.

The situation serves well the elected politicians in representative democracies, and the lobbies; as long as enough citizens believe that, most people will not demand direct democracy.

But if those arguments are valid, how come the Swiss people can decide complex issues? They can because the “complexity” of issues is a red herring. The Swiss are not smarter than the Germans, the French, etc., what happens is that the same experts able to explain the complexities of global warming, or taxes, or nuclear energy to politicians, who are just like ordinary citizens in the technical knowledge of those issues, can also explain the issues to ordinary people.

With one huge advantage, many of the experts who explain the issues to the people are not paid by the political parties or the lobbies, they come from business, academic institutions, etc., with no ax to grind in the debate, people who just want to contribute their expertise to the debate and help their fellow citizens.

So, if you want to decide your present and your future, and the present and the future of your children, your nation, city or village, push for direct democracy; you can decide issues, do not believe those who say “issues are too complex”. Believe me, the decision the Swiss will make in September on taxation is a lot easier than raising a family, for example. As Swiss history proves the Swiss voters directly, make better, and more honest, decisions for Switzerland than the elected politicians of representative democracies make for their countries.

Keep one thing in mind also; the only properly run direct democracy humanity has is Switzerland; what they have in California and other US States is not real direct democracy, one of several reasons is that the decisions of the people are not final, they can be overturned by the judges, not so in Switzerland.

Victor Lopez


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