Every day it becomes more obvious that representative democracy is a dumb system for many reasons, one of them is that it dumbs people because the people do not have to decide real, specific, issues, (for sure, dictatorship, religious or not, is much worse, it dumbs people and is also a crazy, dehumanised and dehumanising, system).
2700 years ago, the Greek figured out that direct democracy is the best system because it does the obvious; it gives people the power and the responsibility to govern themselves; no “emissaries” from the gods, no “divine” books, no “great” leaders with special talents. Instead of that, ordinary people decide what is good or bad for the people, it makes sense.
But it requires a radical shift in the perception people have of themselves; from “we need special people to guide the nation and decide for that nation”, people need to feel good enough about themselves to say to themselves: “most of us are smart, are capable, are responsible, are rational, we have the common sense required to decide by ourselves”.
Amazingly, 2700 years later, only the Swiss come close to Greek democracy. Among the peoples of the World, only the Swiss people decide their destiny. All other nations elect those who make the decisions or have various dictatorships and dictators who appoint themselves to “guide” the people by force.
Only the Swiss have direct democracy, which means the people have more power than the elected politicians, at the local, regional (canton, state, etc.,) and national level.
On September 26th the Swiss people decided that gay marriage will be as legal in Switzerland as any other marriage. They also decided not to raise taxes to incomes generated by investments and not to lower them for people on salaries.
The Swiss make decisions like that on four dates every year. They also decide if a swimming pool will be built in the town, changing the constitution of the canton or change the federal constitution. They do all that on their own initiative and also where the law requires a popular referendum. Interestingly, Swiss politicians can not call referendums. Even more interesting, all decisions, law proposals, treaties, etc., proposed by the Swiss politicians in the executive and/or the legislative, can be thrown about by the Swiss people if they so decide.
By contrast, the Germans also voted on the 26th of September and, unfortunately, they did not decide one single issue; all they have done is elect politicians. They are the ones who will decide all issues, and the German people can do nothing, zero, zilch, nada, about what the politicians decide. In the German system, the politicians decide if the borders will be open or closed, if Germany will sign a treaty with Russia, if taxes will be raised or lowered and for whom, if gay marriage will be legal, etc.
At most, what the German people have done is decide who will make the decisions; the decision-making power will rest with the politicians and, sometimes, with the Supreme Court. By the way, in Switzerland, the Supreme court has a zero say on the results of referendums. To the Swiss, the notion that a bunch of judges, selected and appointed by the elected politicians, could prevail over the will of the people, is absurd.
After each election, the German people become spectators; the actors are the politicians. The German public will, again, be just spectators. They will have the same power that spectators in a football match have; they can scream, insult the referee, insult the payer of the other team, burn containers and cars, but can do nothing about the decisions and actions of the referees and the players.
It makes sense that spectators in a theatre, or at a football game, lack the power to decide if the play should stop, or a goal should count. It makes sense because they go there voluntarily, knowing what the rules are and knowing the play or the game will not affect their daily lives; taxes, neighbourhood safety, the education their kids will receive, border control, etc.
The German system is not really a democracy. Democracy means “government by the people”. It is obvious it can not be that because in Germany the people do not govern, they elect those who will govern; it is very different.
But what happens in Germany is like what happens in the US, in Canada, in France, in the UK, etc. For example, Canadians had a national election last week, they decided nothing, they just re-elected the same government and the same “opposition” (what a name!). Canadians, like Germans, will be spectators for another four years.
That the German system has proportional representation, while the Canadian has not, it does not make much difference; proportional representation gives a voice in parliament to people who otherwise would not be represented, but the decision-making power continues to be in the hands of the politicians.
The Swiss system has proportional representation, but that does not make much difference. What makes all the difference is the power people have to decide issues. Keep in mind to that anybody in Switzerland can start a referendum, it does not have to be a political party represented in parliament. In the Swiss system, everyone has a real say in the running of the country.
Direct democracy, besides being real democracy, has many other benefits; prevent political polarisation, as elections are less important because politicians have less decision-making power. Politicians can not make the grandiose promises we see in representative democracies; they know and the people know politicians lack the power to promise much.
Direct democracy also removes a lot of ideology from politics. This happens because the people decide concrete issues. The people also know they handle the consequences of their decisions. This forces them to focus on the hard facts. Therefore, for example, Swiss voters soundly rejected the proposal to raise taxes for capital and lower them for salaries. Swiss voters had no choice but to look at the real consequences of their own decision. For example, they had to consider the effects on investment, research, relocation of business, etc., if taxes on capital were raised.
Direct democracy also does away with concept of “the opposition”. Swiss political parties soon realised it made no sense to make promises they could not fulfill if most of the people did not back the promises and could call a referendum. The result is that the 4-5 major parties, who represent 70-80% of voters, always work in a coalition to write laws and plan policies that most voters will support.
One added benefit of the Swiss system in relation to the German or Canadian system is that it produces sounder decisions politically and in effectiveness. The decisions are politically more solid because most of the people explicitly backed them. They are also smarter because the combined brainpower of voters if superior to the brain power of the politicians.
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