Direct democracy; “Dictatorship of the majority”, give me a break!

Just in case you are not familiar with direct democracy, I will summarise it for you before I address the “dictatorship of the majority” criticism.

The easiest way to understand direct democracy is to use a simple example; your town or city.

With representative democracy, you elect the mayor and the town council. Once they are elected, all decisions are in their hands. They decide which street to repair, if to build a new public swimming pool and where, the local tax level, where houses, stores or factories can be built, and on and on.

In other words, all the local policy decisions, local laws and regulations are in the hands of the elected politicians. The only political right voters have is just vote to elect, not vote to decide any action or policy; they can not stop the politicians when they do something people disapprove of, nor can they tell politicians what to do. Between elections, citizens have zero power in a representative democracy. This means that between elections representative democracies are no democracies.

In the 1800s the Swiss decided representative democracy had a very important shortcoming; elected politicians had too much power. They decided to keep the elected politicians, but they introduced a peaceful but radical change, from then on the voters would have more power than the politicians. They did it after the politicians messed up another pandemic… Perhaps the people of other countries will now find inspiration to demand direct democracy.

Let me go back now to the critics or skeptics about direct democracy.  One of the criticism is: “direct democracy could become a dictatorship of the majority and oppress tha minority”. There is no evidence at all that will happen. We know it because of history, it never happened.

The  World knows of two proven examples of direct democracy; the democracies in the ancient Greek cities all over the Mediterranean is the first. As you know the Greeks invented democracy. To them, representative democracy would not be democracy, it would be just elected oligarchy or elected aristocracy, not democracy. 

It has been estimated that there were as many as 80 such democratic cities in Ancient Greece. The best known is Athens. Athens was the largest, approximately 100 000 people, and the best known because of all the information, archeology and other sciences have extracted from excavations, documents, etc.

None of the Greek democracies was a tyranny of the majority. The citizens of Athens were all Athenian men and women who were not slaves or foreign residents. Unfortunately, women citizens were not allowed to participate in politics. As you can expect, slaves could not either.

Nevertheless, the Greeks established the defining characteristic of democracy; that ordinary people would govern, not kings, emperors, oligarchs, dictators or priests.

Slavery and keeping women out of politics were two important  shortcomings but remember, slavery was the norm in most ancient cultures; Jews, Romans, Chinese, Moslems, the most advanced American cultures before Columbus and after him, and many other countries in the World practiced slavery until the 19th century in the West and the 20th in places like China, and the Moslem World. Even today, it is estimated that 30 million are slaves right now in various nations.

As for women, they gained the right to vote at about the same time as slavery was abolished.

But have no doubt; had Greek democracy, with its tolerance of free thinking, reason and analysis of everything, survived, the Greeks would have concluded that both, slavey and women not voting, was wrong. It would nave been addressed much sooner that was the case under Christianity because Christianity and other religions, are the opposite of free thinking: “this is the Truth, the rest is false or evil”.

In fact, some anciente Greeks posed some questions about the legitimacy of slavery.

As for Greek women, while they could not vote, many became important in poetry, leaders defending their cities, philosophers, physicians, astronomers, mathematicians, etc. No other ancient culture comes close to the Greeks in terms of so many important women in active roles and “men” roles. Sparta, another Greek city, although not a democracy, had practical equality between women and men.

More than 20 centuries after the Greeks, slavery, and women, and most men too!, were excluded from politics. The political emancipation of women in the modern World, and the abolition of slavery, are not the result of Christian ideas or the ideas of any other religion, but the result of the Renaissance which itself arose out of the awareness of the accomplisments of the Classical World, and the importance of the human body and mind, the lack of “original sins”, “expulsion of Paradise” and assorted stories that demean human nature. Those who studied Greece marvelled of its accomplishments; direct democracy, philosophy, arts, theatre, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, sculpture, the Olympics, non-absolute gods, rejection of dogma and absolute “truths” and other ideas much of the current World has not caught up with yet.

Direct democracy in Greece did not result in the majority dictating to the minority. Slavery and women’s absence from public life, was not something brought about by Greek democracy, it preceded it and continued long after democracy perished.

In the reakl world, in Greece and now in Switzerland, direct democracy works in and orderly manner, there are no mobs: the people decide calmly, rationally, considering many factors. Because of that, those  whose vote is in the minority,  accept the outcome because in a direct democracy, decisions are democractic, by fello voters, not by the elected elite. There were no mob decisions in Greek democracy and there are no mob decisions  in Switzerland.

Let us look and see if in Switzerland there is anything resembling the “tyranny of the majority”.

Nearly 63 % of the population of Switzerland is German-speaking, 23 % French-speaking, 8% Italian-speaking and 0.5% Romansh-speaking.

Do we hear of the French, Italian or Romansh-speakers, feeling oppressed in any way by the German-speaking majority? No.

Have you heard of separatist movements in Switzerland with the French, the Italian or the Romansh areas, wanting to separate from Switzerland?, No. Did yoiu ever hear of French, Italian or Romans languages and culture being in danger because of the prevalence or German? No.

Far from tyranny of the majority, in Switzerland, when the French-speaking population of the majority German-speaking Canton of Bern, decided they wanted to have their own French-speaking canton, the majority of the German-speakers of the Canton of Bern voted and agreed. The majority of the Swiss also ratified the decision. As  result, the new French-speaking Canton of Jura was born. So much for “tyranny of the majority”. Which other country you know that would allow such freedom to a minority? I do not know of any.

If you examine how Switzerland works, you quickly see that the minorities, even the tiny Romansh minority of 40 000 speakers, in a country of 8.5 million inhabitants survives without difficulty. You will also find surprising that Romansh, spoken by just 0.5% of the Swiss, is one of the four official languages of Switzerland.

You have not heard of the minority languages in Spain, France, the UK, etc., becoming official languages of the country. Have you heard of Spanish or Native American languages becoming official languages of the US, or Native Canadian languages of the Indians and Eskimoss becoming official languages of Canada, or minority languages in Germany, like Danish or Frisian?

It is obvious direct democracy is no “tyranny of the majority.” Tyranny is tyranny, dictatiships are dictatorships  and have nothing to do with direct democracy.

Direct democracy, because it automatically takes into account the priorities of the majority, has never become tyranny and will develop into dictatorship either; it is representative democracies that can, and has developed into dictatorship when they do not listen to the majority; Germany, Italy, Spain, Cuba, etc., are examples.

It happens because representative democracy often fails to take into account the concerns of the majority. And that is the reason representative democracy is in crisis in most countries now; immigration, vaccine passports,  using public money to rescue banks and other big business, big internet companies out of control, politics “infecting” practically all institutions, job losses, lack of job stability, wages falling behind, the rich becoming much richer, etc., are all realities undermining the confidence of voters in representative democracy. In some ways it is representative democracy that has turned into the tyranny of the minority over the majority, something that is contrary to the stability of society.

All the worst crimes against humanity were commited, and are being commited, by dictatorships and even by representative democracies who degenearted into dictatorships, or shaky representative democracies. But mostly by outright totalitarian regimes; absolute religious regimes, the Communist regimes of the USSR and China, tribal wars in non democratic nations, etc.

It is also important to note Ancient Greece never had the  religious wars we have seen the World over, and always in regimes who are not direct democracies.

In a direct democracy, voters are responsible for life in the country. They understand that oppression of other citizens will threaten everyone because oppressed people, often turn to violence and the control of such violence can not be done without weakening democracy for all.

Another aspect that I believe prevents direct democracy from evolving into tyranny of minonirities, is that when voters make the decisions, they not need “leaders with vision”, “charisma” and other characteristics that often turn such leaders into mass manipulators to get elected, or demagogues who seduce the powerless masses or push legislators to give them special powers, etc.

Direct democracy forces voters to grow into responsible voters, nothing further from “tiranny of the majority”. Do not fear direct democraccy if you are part of a minority, fear representative democracy degenerating into dictatorship, as it has happened.

No lame duck president, prime minister or chancellor in Switzerland, and it is better

No lame duck presidents in swiss
system, why?

First, what is a “lame duck” president, prime minister, chancellor, etc.?

This is the definition in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

“An elected official or group continuing to hold political office during the period between the election and the inauguration of a successor”.

In Wikipedia, they expand; “In politics, a lame duck or outgoing politician is an elected official whose successor has already been elected or will be soon. An outgoing politician is often seen as having less influence with other politicians due to their limited time left in office. Conversely, a lame duck is free to make decisions that exercise the standard powers with little fear of consequence, such as issuing executive orders, pardons, or other controversial edicts. Lame duck politicians result from term limits, planned retirement, or electoral losses, and are especially noticeable where political systems build in a delay between the announcement of results and the taking of office by election winners”.

So, lame ducks are not good because they lose influence on major issues, as others see the lame duck will not be around for much longer and therefore is now of little importance.

At the same time he or she can do some things, like in the case of the US president, to pardon supporters or friends in jail, always controversial.

In a direct democracy, at least in a Swiss-style direct democracy, the “lame duck syndrome” does not arise for several reasons. Other countries would do well to look into and adapt-adopt, the Swiss system of presidency.

In the Swiss system a group of 7 people, collectively, are the top executive of the country. But they do not come and go all at once and, normally, are re-elected to the post several times, this provides the continuity the “lame duck system” can not.

It is interesting each of the seven is not elected by the people but by both chambers of the Swiss Parliament.

This is not as democratic as if they were elected by the people. But in Switzerland does not matter much; in Switzerland they have direct democracy, which means voters have more power than the politicians, than both, parliament and the executive.

In Switzerland the voter vote to elect politicians and also vote to decide policies, issues, laws, even the constitution. They do that independently of the politicians, a remarkable and far more democratic system which, to top it all, delivers better decisions, and decisions readily accepted by those who disagree because they are real democratic decisions.

When the people have more power than the executive or the legislature can not do anything of importance if the voters are strongly against it; voters will gather the signatures and a popular binding referendum will be held; the results could kill the decision of the executive or the law.

The people can do the same with any law approved of proposed by parliament.

Going back to the Swiss executive members, they are not lame ducks; with relatively low power and the powers shared among the seven, when one of the seven retires or quits for another reason, the impact on the executive and the country is minimal. Others know that most of the executive stays on and continues; it does not lose influence.

Normally, the members of the Federal Council, which is the formal name of the executive, are re-elected for several terms, this means that the impact of a “lame duck” councillor is reduced further.

So, the Swiss system provides unparalleled stability and continuity.

The seven are not assigned official residencies either; they rent apartments if they are from outside Bern, the city where government sits. Bern is not the capital. Switzerland has no formal capital.

The lack of the almost royalty honours that presidents and prime ministers receive is totally inappropriate in a democracy; we are supposed to be citizens, the president or the prime minister should drop all the  “star” status.

The 7 members of the Swiss executive do not have the overblown status of presidents, prime ministers, etc., with fancy residences, motorcades, etc., like they do in representative democracies. This also ensures the members of the Swiss executive stay more in touch with ordinary people.

The Swiss have not one person as head of state, it is a shared responsibility of the 7; you could say the seven are the head of the state.

Another advantage of the Swiss system is that if one of the seven dies, the disruption is minor.

Collective leadership is not related to direct democracy. I fact it is not direct democracy, but is another example showing how the Swiss system reduces the important of politicians and eliminates the foolish, exaggerated, concept of “the leader”, “people with vision” and other “personality marketing tricks we see in representative democracies; no doubt a remnant of the exalted kings and emperors, who are not needed in a direct democracy.

And remember no lame duck executive, in Switzerland the ducks are just in ponds, not in power.

If James Madison had pursued one of his ideas, the US would be a direct democracy now, it is not too late for America to change the World again!

Most people know little about direct democracy; sometimes it seems there is a conspiracy of silence, and perhaps of criticism too, but it is clear to me; direct democracy is the next logical improvement for representative democracy.

It is crucial to look at the United States now because it is the most important representative democracy and because representative democracy is in crisis all over. If the US switches, the rest of representative democracies will follow, just like nations followed the US Constitution after the US was founded. Including the Swiss; the ones who now set the pace for direct democracy.

Today, representative democracy has problems. Even countries, like those in Scandinavia, Canada and others, who are  among the most stable, seem to be falling, like the US, into a state of increased polarisation and intolerance. I believe such developments are the inevitable result of representative democracy;  representative democracy gives politicians too much power.

One effect of so much power is that politicians fight bitterly to win; exaggerations, lies, demagoguery, airing of personal issues, practically everything is used to win by trashing rivals. Naturally, this causes polarisation of politicians, voters and the media. The result is that society submerges itself in a sea of many irrational emotions incompatible with democracy. Democracy needs reason, rational argument, respect.

Once in power, politicians in representative democracies can not resist using their excessive power to push their agendas, often without considering the will of the people on very important issues.

In representative democracies, the people can vote the current politicians out of office but they will end up with another set of politicians with as much power as those who preceded them.  In a representative democracy, no matter who governs, the people always lack power to make sure politicians govern in tune with the voters.

If American representative democracy continues deteriorating, in other representative democracies will be very difficult to stop the deterioration of their democracy too.

How will representative democracy’s deterioration will end? No one knows, but in the 30s Germany’s representative democracy deteriorated to the point Germans stopped believing in it; Hitler was the result. We can denounce Hitler as a monster, but it was the breaking down of  representative democracy that brought Hitler to power.

As you may know, most Americans already have little respect for their politicians in Washington.

Why the US did not become a direct democracy at the very beginning? Why the American Founding Fathers did not opt for direct democracy? They knew of direct democracy, but seems they felt ordinary people were not up to the task.

I do not know if it was because the American Founding Fathers were wealthy people, perhaps at heart, aristocrats. Somehow, they felt the people needed “leaders”, people to represent them; presumably, people formally “educated”, property owners, university graduates; people like the Founding Fathers themselves.

Although the American Founding Fathers did not establish a direct democracy, what they did was a tremendous improvement over rule by autocratic kings, dictators, hereditary aristocrats,  “noble” families or “holy” men. But it was not a significant improvement over the democracy the United Kingdom already had at that time.

Americans rebelled against the UK because the democratically elected parliament in Westminster raised their taxes, not because they felt oppressed by the British king. They did not rebel for lack of freedom either; they rebelled because they objected to taxation without representation.

The American Founding Fathers did not really believe in “government by the people”. In the US, like in the UK, the people do not govern. Perhaps the Founding fathers believed, like the politicians in the UK, the average American voter of the time was not ready for direct democracy, or perhaps it was the Founding Fathers that they were not ready, or perhaps both.

But is very interesting one of the Fathers of the American Constitution, James Madison, who became the fourth President of the United States, considered by many as “The Father of the American Constitution”, considered direct democracy, but decided against it.

It is surprising he decided against it. He felt “factions” were the problem, but he wrote: “Factions they can dissolve if the public is given time and space to consider long-term interests rather than short-term gratification”. In other words, the people could be able to decide, no need for political leaders deciding for them.

To Madison, “factions” were “groups of people who have special interests that are in direct contrast to the rights of others.”

By “factions” Madison also meant “impetuous mobs.” Mob means: “a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence”.

After he wrote that under certain conditions the people could govern themselves, he could have thought: “what mechanisms can we put in place so that the people are given enough time and space to vote on issues taking into account their short term and long term interests”?, but he didn’t.

Perhaps he tried to, but could not think of such mechanism to achieve those goals, to make it possible for the people to directly decide, calmly, rationally, keeping in mind their short term and long term interests.

It is also interesting Madison ignored ancient Greek democracies, because they were able to establish the mechanisms Madison sought. It is interesting too, and surprising that today, Madison’s successors ignore Switzerland’s direct democracy and its proven and unmatched track record for over 150 years.

It is possible his mind, and the minds of the other Founding Fathers, were too set on the idea that people were capable of of voting to elect those who would decide for them, but not capable decide by themselves, policies and laws.

I do not know why they thought that way, because it seems to me more difficult to assess the skills and character of a candidate to president, particularly his or her skills to lead the country through a great variety of challenges in the present and also for the long term, than to decide concrete issues such as raising or lowering taxes for individuals and business, whether to have universal health care, the size of the national debt or of the government deficit, declaring war, signing commercial treaties, etc. An all that is precisely what Swiss voters do since the 1800s, whenever they decide the issue is important to them.

If Madison believed then elected representatives were more capable than ordinary voters of for the long term, observing current politicians, in the US and other representative democracies, soon he would have doubts and would push to have direct democracy, to give people the opportunity to govern or, at the very least, be able to control or stop then policies and laws the elected representatives make.

I believe ordinary voters can make sounder decisions for the short and long terms because they are free of the need to take into consideration election or re-election. They are freer of the pressure of the lobbies as well.

Madison, the other Funding Fathers, and all those who support representative democracy, seem to believe those elected posses qualities of character ordinary people do not posses. History does not show that, with the politicians in charge, representative democracy is progressively losing credibility because politicians often make bad decisions, and also decisions against the will of the voters, even of the voters who elected them.

Representative democracy  places politicians in a catch 22 situation; if they decide what is good for the long term of the country, the decision might be painful for voters in the short term; voters might decide to elect a rival politician who gives or promises them “candy” now.

Because representative democracy gives politicians too much power, too often they use power to give themselves even more power and privileges. They also use power to help those who support them, with money and other resources, to win elections.

So much power creates the systemic corruption of democracy we see, where the politicians often do not do what the people want. Not to mention the corruption related to money and influence.

It is time to bring to all representative democracies, direct democracy, the system that forces voters to grow up; to learn they are responsible for the life of the whole country, just like now they are responsible for their personal lives.

Once they assimilate this system of self responsibility, they know that sometimes they will have to prescribe themselves the bitter medications, like raising taxes or reducing the military budget, just two examples.

In a direct democracy, on all major issues, the people no longer blame the politicians because the people have the power to control them and to make sure they carry out the will of the people.

Politicians in representative democracies often are not able to do what the nation needs for fear of losing the next election. You see, in representative democracies, the implicit message to the people is: “Just vote for us and leave to us to look after your interests and the interests of the country”.

Quite logically, when the situation arises to give people bad news, such as raising taxes to pay for the deficit, the debt, pensions, etc., the politicians do not do that because the rival party often delivers the opposite message; “vote for us, we will reduce taxes, increase pensions, we are not like them, with us life will be wonderful”, etc. The end result is parties engage in electoral wars of beautiful promises and attacks to rivals, nothing about the “elephant in the room”. It is terrible for the long term, but by that time the current politicians have retired.

Judging from the political and economic management of Switzerland, compared to representative democracies, it is obvious the people make better decisions than the politicians, and the system does so in a more cooperative political environment. The system. by reducing the power of politicians, forces conservatives, progressives and others to cooperate. This drastically reduces division and polarisation.

I believe other countries can do what the Swiss do, perhaps even improve Swiss practices.

It is the time for American to execute Madison’s idea: “put in place mechanisms so that the people are given enough time and space to vote on issues taking into account their short term and long term interests”.

Bringing direct democracy to the US will revitalize all representative democracies; it would be another hugely positive contribution of America to humanity.

Direct democracy will also speed up the collapse of dictatorships. This is because the contrast between real government by the people and authoritarian-totalitarian government, is much stronger than the contrast between dictatorships and representative democracy.

All peoples want to control their destiny, it is as natural for them as for a person to control his or her life. Unfortunately, sometimes the peoples do not believe they are capable, that they need “leaders” to decide for them. Other times those in power do not let the people decide, or do all they can to discredit the idea that the people are able to decide.

The US is the most important representative democracy. That is why it is essential for the World Americans demand direct democracy at the national level now.

The Swiss found what the American Founding Fathers did so good they used the US Constitution to draft their own initial constitution. But in the 1800s, the Swiss added direct democracy to it.

They did it when they saw how their politicians mishandled another pandemic; are we now in a “cosmic coincidence” opportunity with the current pandemic?

The Swiss felt then it was time for the people to be in control. They kept representative democracy, but they inverted the power pyramid; the Swiss people have since the power to stop any policy or law drawn by the politicians. They can also instruct politicians to put in place the policies and laws the people want, including changes to the Constitution.

It is now the turn for Americans to look at the Swiss.

By the way, Swiss direct democracy, which they have in all levels of government, is quite different in crucial details from direct democracy as practised in some of the American states.

Victor Lopez

In Swiss-style direct democracy, it is not too important if the President or the Prime Minister dies. Read on to see why and how

xSome people say Biden is suffering some sort of mental deterioration. What others said about Trump left no room for deterioration…

If a president or prime minister becomes incapacitated, or dies, it is a big problem in representatives democracies because the power and decisions such persons sets them apart from other government members.

On top of that, or perhaps because of their exalted position, in most representative democracies, there is a kind of “cult of personality” around such persons. No wonder that, like entertainment stars, some seem to lose their heads and seem to believe they are special humans.

In the eyes of much of the public, they become persons with almost superhuman qualities. You only have to observe how members of the public show such awe when they are in the presence of presidents and prime ministers, perhaps submisivenness is the appropriate word, yet, they pay his or her salary like they do with most politicians!

During electoral campaigns, when they seek power, such people are mere candidates, just “politicians”, but when they reach power a metamorphosis takes place. It seems this transformation affects practically all those who become presidents or prime ministers.

This means that in representative democracies you have a serious crisis when such persons become physically or mentally incapacitated, or die, particularly if they die a sudden death for whatever cause.

Such situations create a “power vacuum”; it affects, normally negatively, local and domestic issues, ordinary people become very worried, so do business, the economy, the stock exchange, etc.

It is as if the “cult of personality” had convinced the public the president or prime minister was indispensable; they are not but the image developed around them makes many believe, including the person himself or herself, that they are.

While representative democracies have mechanisms to replace the president or prime minister if he or she becomes incapacitated, the substitutes lack their experience making decisions and the hipper exaltation of qualities many feel are necessary to lead the nation. They do not have the “special aura” the media and others create.

This “cult of personality” is not as deranged as the cult of personality we see in dictatorships of the Left and Right, or in absolute kingdoms or religious dictatorships.

The exaggerated exaltation of presidents and prime ministers has interesting effects; even those who oppose the person in power become so enraged for decisions presidents and prime ministers make, that their hateful reactions become confirmation of the special power of the president or prime minister.

In some cases the discapacitation, mental or physical, does not impede the persons to carry on with their duties, at least to some extent; now we have a person who is not fully capable but still has the same authority as if he or she was fully functional; it can be as bad or worse than full incapacitation, or even death.

Direct democracy, besides its many other virtues, provides insurance in such situations. As you might have guessed, I am referring to Swiss direct democracy.

In the Swiss system, all politicians are less important than in representative democracies because they have far less power. This includes the top positions in government. The power direct democracy conveys to citizens enables citizens to stop any major decision by the executive. The people can fairly quickly get a referendum under way. In such referendum, voters can stop the decision and can even tell the executive to do something they are not doing.

The Swiss people also have those powers over parliament. That is correct, Swiss voters have more power than the executive and the legislative, even if those bodies unanimously oppose the calling of a referendum or its results.

But the Swiss people have gone beyond giving themselves final authority over the executive, they decided it is best to have a collective executive. The Swiss have seven persons with equal power and responsibilities as the executive.

Every year each of the seven occupies the presidency of the executive, but he or she has no more power than any of the other six members. His only tangible power is to cast the decisive vote if there is a tie among the other six.

That person also has the responsibility of visiting the leaders of other countries and of welcoming them to Switzerland.

The decisions of the Swiss executive are also collective decisions, often unanimous. Unanimity is reached after long deliberation.

Once a decision is made, all seven members have to defend it in public, even if they do not agree with it, and even if the decision is contrary to the poisition of the party to which the member of the executive belongs.

Let me make an aside here; the Swiss executive is not directly elected by the people. The people elect the members of parliament and it is the parliament who selects the Swiss executive, known as The Federal Council. That is not as democratic as directly electing a president or prime minister, but it does not really matter; remember the Swiss people, every time they decide to do so,they can prevail over any decision, or law the executive and the legislature make. The people always sit in the driver’s seat, whenever they decide to sit there.

Furthermore, the seven members of the Swiss executive represent the 4-5 major parties in parliament. Together, they represent 70 to 80% of voters.

This means that the Swiss executive and the legislative are always in tune with the overwhelming majority of Swiss voters; the system of referendums leaves no other option.

This system forces the major parties on the Left, Right or Center, and the members in the executive who represent them, to come up with decisions and laws supporterd by the huge majority of voters. They do that because they know that if the don’t, the people can call a referendum and kill whatever decision or law the executive or the legislature develop.

The major parties have one or two members in the Swiss executive but smaller parties have none. Such parties, like any party even outside parliament or private citizens, do have the opportunity, and they use it, to collect the signatures necessary to call a referendum, this is not too difficult. If voters agree with the organisers of the referendum the decision kills any decision or law of the Swiss executive or parliament.

I hope you can see how the Swiss system of direct democracy and collective executive, in which most voters are represented, provides far smoother governance and, because of it, more stability than the mechanisms available in representative democracies.

Direct democracy has many more strengths, starting with the key one; it is real democracy. Let me suggest you inform yourself about Swiss direct democracy. I am specific about Swiss direct democracy because it is an irrefutable demonstration that direct democracy, the way the Swiss execute it, is superior and the logical next step for representative democracies.

Swiss style direc democracy has extra pillars for support and checks and balances that are impossible in representative democracies; direct people power, shared responsibility at the top and elimination of the bitter division representative democracy creates among politicians, their supporters and the media, which perhaps has had no choice but to become partisan to atract readers, listeners and viewers interested mainly in the reinforcement of their views.

It is easy to see how in the Swiss system is not very traumatic if one member of the Swiss executive becomes incapacitated or dies, his or her party will quickly appoint a replacement. One member of the Swiss executive represents only 1/7th of the executive, not traumatic at all for the country, practically everything will carry on fairly normally.

Finally, another important fact for those interested in business management illustrating the advantages of collective leadership; Toyota also practices collective leadership; it gives the company more diversity of points of view at the top, and also stability and continuity.

Although Toyota is not a democracy, it also involves all workers in the continuous iprovement of their work by giving them the authority to make decision within their area of responsibility.

It is those characteristics that enabled Toyota to become number one. Yes, it looks like Toyota is somewhat behind in battery-powered cars. But it is still early. Tesla is a great innovator but tlere is no collective management there; if something happens to Musk, Tesla does not have the continuity mechanisms Toyota has. I believe Toyota will catch up and surpass Tesla, just like it did with General motors and the rest, even the German brands. Of course, it is not impossible that Toyota will fail.

Victo Lopez

This is how Swiss direct democracy reallyworks; no reason why it will not work in your country!

Today, another example of how Swiss direct democracy works and how, in my opinion, hopefully in yours too, it is superior to representative democracy and it is logical evolution for democracy.

The post does not address non-democratic systems because they are an affront to human dignity; they are the worst possible systems and should not exist. Unfortunately, too many societies seem still unable, for now, to have democracy, even representative democracy. It would great, but a miracle, if a country governed by communists, fascists or religious totalitarians, were able to pole vault into direct democracy.

So, let us go to Switzerland’s direct democracy.

On Nov. 28, 2021, many popular referendums took place in Switzerland; some at the national level, some at the cantonal level (a Swiss canton is roughly comparable to a US State, a German state, a Canadian Province or a Spanish Autonomous Region, but generally much smaller and, surprisingly, with significantly more autonomy). It seems the Swiss really practise diversity in this regard to accommodate geographic, cultural and linguistic differences. Todo that they organise themselves in 26 cantons, for total population of 8.5 milliom.

Today I will refer to one of the votes that took place, specifically, one vote in the Canton of Zurich. The most populated canton with 1.5 million inhabitants.

In Zurich, you need to collect six thousand signatures of eligible voters to call a referendum. In other cantons the numbers are different to accommodate differences in population, but in percentage terms, they are roughly similar, but each canton sets its own referendum rules.

Anyone can collect the signatures to call a referendum on any issue that falls within the responsibilities of the Canton of Zurich. The residents of the municipalities of the canton can also call referendums, from the largest, the city of Zurich, to the smallest of a few dozen people, all practise direct democracy; the people decide issues, such a building a municipal pool, a library, etc. The number of signatures is proportionally smaller to reflect the population of the municipality.

If for a population of 1.5 million, such as the canton of Zurich we need 6000 signatures, 0,4% of the population, representing approximately 0.5% of eligible voters.

If we assume, roughly similar ratios, a city in the Canton of Zurich of, for example, 20 000 people, will require approximately 500 signatures to launch a referendum. In a small municipality, only a few sirgatures are required.

With each Swiss voter practising direct democracy, which voters are decisive in the running of the country (The Swiss Federation), each canton and each municipality, you can imagine that Swiss voters really feel they control what happens at all government levels.

Compare these figures with California, where the signatures of between 5 and 8% of the numbers of voters who participated in the previous election, are required. These figures are considerably higher than Zurich’s, although not as high as those numbers would seem to make them, because voter turnout is lower than the number of eligible voters.

This is a separate issue, but in Switzerland they do not have laws to control financing of referendum campaigns. In spite of that, they do not have the phenomenon we see in California’s referendum campaigns, general state campaigns and, above all, US Congressional or Presidential campaigns, where big money from various sources distorts democracy in a serious way.

Swiss voters, Zurich and municipality voters too, know they pay the taxes required to implement the local, cantonal and national decisions they make with their votes, in the US, most taxes are paid to the federal government. This means California voters do not feel as responsible as Zurich voters, because they aren’t, for the effects of their decisions in their pocket as much as the Swiss are. In Switzerland, most taxes are paid at the local and canton level, not the federal level.

Fossil fuels to be phased out in the Canton of Zurich,

6000 thousand signatures in Zurich, is all that was required to launch the referendum to decide the future of fossil fuels for heating systems.

63% of voters turned out supporting the measure to replace fossil fuels in heating systems with other energies. Notice that the politicians in Zurich could not have done that on their own without the approval of the people. Swiss voters, not just in Zurich, have the power to stop the politicians and to push the politicians on specific issues, even national issues, like defense, international treaties, etc.

Swiss cantons are responsible for universal health, education, most taxes, etc. This means the Swiss control their governments at all levels. It seems Swiss voters have decided: “we pay, we have the final say on any issue, not the elected politicians, we, the people decide to phase out fossil fuels, not the elected representatives”.

The Zurich house owner’s association campaigned against the law, so did the conservative party. Most Swiss do not own or live in houses, that can explain the results of the vote. But the vote was, unquestionably, a democratic vote. Much more democratic than in a representative democracy where powerful lobbies would have pressured the politicians not to listen, or to push for the switch because heat pump manufacturers, distributores and installers benefit. The pressure coming from the “donations” those groups make to the political campaigns of politicians and parties.

But issues of general interest should not be in the hands of specific groups when they pressure politians for reasons who do not consider the general interest.

But it is not a “dictatorship of the majority” vote; government will provide financial assistance to those who own houses. It has doubled the support already in place to encourage switching. Those who voted for the measure know the money to help house owners will come from their taxes too.

In a representative democracy, where politicins have much more power, the politicians can not resist also “buying” votes with measures geared to “improve the environmen” (and also get voters to support them at the next election, but not because the measures are good for the environment but because voters get “gifts” with their own money but with no say in the decision.

For example, right now in Canada, the federal government gives up to 5000 Canadian dollars to house owners who install heat pumps. The cost of such installation amounts to about 12 000 to 15 000 dollars. It is a substantial investment that many people can not afford, Precisely the people who most need to reduce their heating bills. They will continue to use oil gas and wood; I suppose wood burning was not an issue in the Zurich referendum because fireplaces are not allowed for heating.

With this decision, the people of the canton of Zurich will reduce CO2 emissions 40%.

Swiss direct democracy forces voters to focus on the real issue; reduce CO2 emissions, to vote responsibly and to own the consequences of their decisions, they can not blame the politicians. Voters make such decisions after informed debate.

In Canada, none of the parties directly involved in the decision have CO2 emisions as the central concern; most house owners do not think of CO2 when they know of the program, they think things like: “If we install heat pumps in the house we will reduce our heating bill by so much and the government will give use 5000 dollars”. Perhaps they will also think: “the house will be easier to sell”. Others may pass because they do not have the money or they say: “it is not worth it, in a few years we will probably move, we will never get our money back”. In short, the program has a lot of political marketing in it; very different from what happened in Zurich.

Politicians think: “Incentives to improve energy efficiency sound good, if people get money for heat pumps they will like it. We hope they remember at election time”. If not many people install heat pumps, and the effect no CO2 emissions is negligible,and people have no idea of how important will be the benefits, nor where the reduction will happen, but who can deny it is “an initiative to help Canadians and the environment”. In the end it does not matter much in how many tons of CO2 emissions will be reduced.

As for the heat pump manufacturers, distributors and installers, no need to say that their major concern is to sell and install heat pumps, it is their business!

In other cantons, such as Bern, with one million inhabitants, voters rejected a similar referendum earlier; this another of the beauties of direct democracy, Swiss style; it accommodates differences among cantons and municipalities.

Direct democracy also forces voters to grow up. In representative democracies voters elect politicians who decide for them. The system frees voters of responsibility and, in a way, reduces them to children whose vote is bought with nice promises and gifts. Voters in representative democracies never feel directly responsible for anything; it is always “the politicians!”.

It is time to grow up, to give politicians the role of doing what the people want, not to “lead” the people. The people know how to lead themselves very well once the have to decide issues and are responsible for the consequences. Swiss voters have been demonstrating for more than 150 years.

In representative democracy, the problem is not the politicians or the parties or the voters, although most voters like to think so, the problem is the system of representative democracy. It is the system, that makes voters not responsible, and politicians irresponsible, because the system forces them to have winning elections as the main goal, not the good of the community or the country. The system of representative democracy forces politicians to consider every issue with short term electoral concerns in mind. On the other hand, direct democracy forces voters to think long terms; voters are not runnig for reelection, they think of the environment on its merits, of the future of their children and the country.

It is not that politicians are bad, selfish, greedy or stupid, politicians are ordinary people but the system forces them to behave badly very often.

So, study the Swiss system and bring direct democracy to your country at to all levels of government.

Victor Lopez

Some of the things that make direct democracy the logical improvement of representative democracy

The crucial one is that direct democracy meets the key criteria of democracy; government BY the people, period. No needed to add “government FOR the people, WITH the people or OF the people; government BY the people is enough, it automatically includes the rest.

The phrase “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people…” pronounced by Abraham Lincoln, and others before him, is redundant, it does not add anything.

Unfortunately, it does not point to the most important fact; that neither the US, nor any other representative “democracy”, of the republican or parliamentarian sort, are “government by the people”, they are “government by the elected politicians”, often “for the elected politicians”, and the lobbies and people with the money to finance the election campaigns of politicians, with the obvious intent of obtaining benefits in return.

In other words, representative democracy is no democracy; it is a great advance over rule by kings, priest, party or personal dictatorships, but it is not democracy, it is elected aristocracy, and as aristocrats, the elected decide and behave. They can not help themselves; they have the power to do so.

But direct democracy or just democracy or real democracy, has many other benefits.

To show them, I will refer to a real direct democracy at work; the Swiss one, because fprmore than 150 years it has proven it works. Sadly is the only one in the World with a proven track record at the national level, although Taiwan, bless them! is following the Swiss.

Taiwan has special merit because it has been able to transition, without war, from dictatorship to representative democracy to direct democracy in two generations, an amazing accomplishment. It also shows Chinese culture is fit for democracy, that it does not need iron fist dictators. Let us hope the regime in Beijing is also able to evolve like Taiwan.

Let me clarify one thing; while Switzerland is not formally a 100% democracy (direct democracy) because voters do not decide everything, it has the provisions that empower voters to decide anything they consider important enough for them to decide.

This means Swiss voters kill or endorse laws, policies and treaties carried out by politicians. For example, Swiss voters just voted to back up the policies of the government on the “Chinese virus” (I will say Chinese virus as long people use “Spanish flu” and “Black plague). They decided to back them up, but could have killed them.

Swiss voters can also tell the elected executive and parliament to put in place new laws and policies on specific issues. They can reject or support laws approved by the elected politicians, before they go into effect.

Swiss voters can also make changes to the constitution.

In Switzeerland, only voters can initiate referendums but, sometimes certain issues must, by law, be decided by referendum.

For example, Brexit would only be possible in the UK, if the uK adopted the Swiss system, if voters set in motion the referendum process. Mr. Cameron would not have been able to call the Brexit referendum, neither could the Parliament, nor could Parliament or the highest court in the UK, override or nullify the results of a referendum.

If the UK had the Swiss system, the people who disagree with the result of the Brexit referendum would also be able to impulse another referendum once they thought the opinion of the public had changed, either on its own accord or because of their campaigning.

This is the pragmatic beauty of the Swiss system; automatically and gradually adjusts the laws, treaties, policies, regulations and the constitution itself to the evolving will of the people.

But there is more; under the Swiss system a referendum can be set in motion by any individual or group of individuals, they do not have to be a union, a women’s association, a political party, an employers association, a professional association, etc., although those organisations can do so. Even political parties without representation in parliament can set a referendum in motion.

Government can not call referendums in Switzerland, only the people or private organisations can. Some referendums have to be held because they are mandated by law.

The results of all this is that any minority has much more power in Switzerland than the majority has in countries with representative democracies.

In Switzerland, a minuscule group might identify an issue they believe most Swiss would agree to change. It could be gay marriage, banning oil burning appliances to reduce contamination, change immigration laws, change the constitution, practically anything. All they have to do is collect the 50 000 or 100 000 signatures o eligible voters. This is not difficult to do if the issue has some traction.

The organiser of the referendum also have ample time to collect the signatures. In Switzerland, the people do not complain that it is diffuclt to take issues to a referendum because of “too many signatures” or “two little time”. Anyhow, if that was the case, you guess it, enough people would support changing the law with another referendum.

Politicians, parliament, can also propose changes to the constitution, but they too must be approved in a national referendum.

Once the proponents of a referendums collect the signatures, they hand over to the politicians their proposal for the referendum and the signatures. Then, the politicians might just do what the proponents want, without going to a referendum, or they can make a counter proposal telling the proponents of the referendum what they will do to make the referendum unnecessary.

It the people who collected the signatures accept the counter proposal of the politicians, then there is no referendum, if they reject it then there must be a referendum. The result of the referendum is always binding on the politicians. The Swiss do not have consultative referendums, plebiscites or any of the shenanigans they have in some representative “democracies”, and that keep decision making power in the hands of the politicians and away from the hands of the people.

You might think, but if the 50 000 or 100 000 signatures empower the organizers to negociate with the politicians such important changes, is it fair they would have such power with only 50 000 or 1000 signatures backing them? It is not a problem because others could soon organize another referendum on that issue. But referendums do not happen in Switzerland every weekend, they take place four times per year and take usually more than one year to organise and celebrate, giving people voters plenty of time to know the issues.

I believe it is obvious the Swiss system is superior to representative democracy because it empowers all voters, even small minorities, to actually decide and prevail over the politicians. That is real empowerment, not the cheap demagoguery about having more women or blacks, etc., in politics, in the executive suite, etc. It is absurd to say we empower women because a few women are now executives, while 99% of women, and men, and blacks, etc., continue powerless in the running of the country.

Cheers!

Victor Lopez

Direct democracy is what makes sense for civilised countries, representative democracy is obsolete

The French Revolution was the culmination of the rebellion of the masses against the Church, the divine kings and the aristoctats. It was supposed to bring democracy back, but it di not. It was a good advance, but it did not bring democra y back.

Initially, the French Revolution was set up as a Greek styke democracy, the only one we knew. That meant a direct democracy,a democracy where the people directly decide policies and laws.

But something happened in the French Revolution; somehow, they were unable to make direct democracy work and “settled” (with a lot of bllod shed) for “representative democracy”.

This is an expression that to the Ancient Greek democrats would be an oxymoron. As already French Jacobin Deputy Pierre-François-Joseph Robert stated in early 1793, “There is no democracy with national representation,” he opined, “and those who wish to adapt all the principles of democratic government to a representative government are either imbeciles who disrupt without knowing it, or rogues who knowingly disrupt in the hope of not losing the fruits of anarchy.”

There you have it, representative democracy is not democracy. To the Ancient Greeks, our representative democracies would be “elected aristocracies”. What that wise French deputy thought of representative “democracy” you just saw it.

What sense does it make to have a few hundred elected representatives make all decisions for the rest of us just because we elected them? Does election make them more competent? Do they get elected because they have shown they are competent governing? Do they have ample knowledge of all the issues they face in which they have to develop policies, laws, treaties, etc., in fields as varies and complex as education, technology, science, crime, economy, industry, farming, health, energy, etc.? No, they do not, we all know politicians can not be experts.

So, they do not have special expertise but they make the decisions for us. In their teams they have experts but those experts are there to backup the preconceived political ideas of those who pay them. The politicians on the left find experts to back up their views, the politiians of the right find experts to say just the opposite.

Neither the left or the right are interested in seeking the advice or independent experts, because such experts might support some of the positions of the politicians or party, and criticize others, and the politicians do not like that; it would meaken weaken their position; they rather die than hire such independent advisors.

You see, in representative democracy, it is all about winning the next election. The chances of winning increases the stronger the politician and party appears to the eyes of the voters, and the more ghey can weaken rivals.

Here lies one key advantage of direct democracy. Because prdinary voters have to decide issues, policies and laws, and voters know they are responsible for the consequences, voters want to hear all relevant opinions, partiularly the opinion of independent experts. Most voters are as capable as politicians of undertanding complex issues when experts explain the issues to them. That is what the politician do; they do not have special expertise either, the experts have to explain the issues to them.

The wider diversity of opinions that come into play in direct democracy makes for better decisions. More minds look at the issue in a direct democracy, including more experts, particularly experts not linked to politicalparties.

It is also important to note that in a direct democracy many members of the public have expertise, this elevates the level of the debate and the uality of the decision.

The ample debate direct democracy generates ensures that more people comsider more ideas. Normally, this will also result in a better decision.

Switzerland demonstrates direct democracy works, if you apply it like the Swiss, at all level of government. Direct democracy if not direct democracy if there is no direct democracy at the national level. This is why direct democracy in the US and other places does not work well.

Switzerland has more than 150 years experience with direct democracy. Everybody knows Switerland is the most stable stable country in the World, the one with less polarisation too, because direct democracy forces voters to look at the issues to decide, not just listen to various degrees of demagoguery who also pretend to have special “vision” to decide on behalf of the citizens.

So,if you are tired of politicians making all the decisions; telling you what you can, can’t or must do, decide your taxes, your pension, the national deficit, the national debt, the education system, the health system, etc., then you are ready for direct democracy.

If you are also tired of the influence of the lobbies and the “donors” (investors, really) to political campaigns, of the polarisation of voters, of the partisan media of all hues, you are ready for direct democracy.

But you have to do something the politicians do not mind too much that you have a terrible opinion of them, that you blame tham for this or that, as long as they enjoy all the power representative democracy gives them, and that direct democracy will largely take away, and the many perks that go with it.

Victor Lopez