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.


Victor Lopez

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