This is how Canada, and other countries too, would handle the trucker’s protests if they had direct democracy

Canada is divided; millions of Canadians consider the truckers heroes, millions of other Canadian consider that truckers nuts, selfish. The Canadian Prime Minister,  Justin Trudeau, even called the truckers people who hate women and nazis.

I do not know if it was before or after he said that but in social media many people seem to be in line with Trudeau’s thinking. Sympathisers of the truckers accused of totalitarian, etc.

I do not know if Trudeau’s actions are legal, the courts will decide that once the legal challenges work their way through the justice system.

What I am presenting to you here is how Canada would have handled the people who oppose the vaccine mandates and the trucker’s protest if the country had direct democracy at the national level.

The most important thing to know is that the trucker’s protest would not have happened if Canada was a direct democracy. Yes, it would not have happened, one or more key reasons.

First, let me briefly tell you what direct democracy is.

Direct democracy means “government by the people”. Well, that is the meaning of the word “democracy”. In Ancient Greece  citizens made all the important decisions; they met in a public place, debated different issues, proposed laws, they voted and tin this way theyant executive and legislativ made most significative decisions. They did not have politicians or political parties, each individual decide based on his understanding of what he considered the best decision for the common good and himself.

That it what democracy is; the people decide in an orderly manner and without politicians deciding for them, or telling them they should vote this or that way because of some ideology or because what the politician thought was the best decision for the nation.

But do we have to use the term “direct democracy” as if it was another form of democracy? Because, in fact, the only democracy is direct democracy. Representative democracy is democracy only when the people vote to elect representatives. Once elected, the politicians behave as an electe oligarchy because, as a class or group, the have all the executive and legislative power.

In representative democracy, depending on the results of elections, the government sometimes has control of the executive and legislative. Besides that, in many representative democracies, the government appoints the judges to the highest court in the land.

The term “direct democracy” would not be necessary if it during the French Revolution, when clumsy attempts to (direct) democracy never succeeded and  degenerated into mob rule and dictatorship, even terror.

To bring things under control, some leaders of the French Revolution decided that direct rule by the people did not work because they believed the average person was not capable of deciding correctly and because the country was too large or the people to make all important decisions directly.

Among those leaders, one of them, Robespierer said: “The Revolution should aim to  establish a democratic or republican government; these two words are synonymous”. He also said that democracy was not “a state wherein the people continually assemble to manage the public affairs all by themselves. Democracy is a state wherein the sovereign people, guide by the laws of their own making, does all that it can properly do, on its own, and does by delegates all that it can not do itself”.

When he said that he redefined democracy. Until then “democracy” meant democracy as practised by the Ancient Greeks in Athens and in dozens of other independent Greek city-states; the people decide all important issues, and the people decided which issues were important by bringing them up before a public assembly of thousands in the case ot Athens. The popular assembly listened to arguments for and against and then voted to decide how to address the issue.

Others felt that democracy, as practised by the Greeks was not feasible in large countries with large populationbecause Athens, the largest Greek city-state, had approximately 250 000 inhabitants,

The Ancient Greeks proved is that democracy, real democracy, direct democracy works, that it had nothing to do with the “mob rule” of the French Revolution.

Greek democracy did not die by degenerating into a mob or a dictatorship. Greek democracy died the same way democracy in France, Belgium, the Netherland died when they were invaded by the Nazis; it died when the Macedonians invaded the Greek city-states.

Just in case you do not know, the Macedonians were no democrats, they were ruled by a king with absolute power, much like the French king beheaded by the French revolutionaries.

Alexander the Great was Macedionian, he was no democrat, he was an absolute ruler who through military conquest created a huge empire. Under democracy, neither Athens, nor the other Greek city states created an empire. Perhaps they didn’t because in a real democracy, where ordinary people decide, the people are not very interested in initiating wars where their children or themselves would die. In a real democracy, people go to  war only if attacked. They are not interested in fighting to conquer or having control of far away places in search of gold, oil, or whatever because they would voting for their own deaths.

But let us go back to the French Revolution. Robespierre and others prevailed; “the people are not fit to decide and the country is too big for democracy (Greek style). One result was that Robespierre himself emerged as one of the rulers “representing the people”.

But already during the French Revolution, one of the deputies in the Assembly, Pierre Francoise Joseph Robert, pointed out that representative democracy is an impossibility. He said: “There is no democracy with national representation, and those who wish to adapt 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”.

Robert was right because soon, the so-called representative democracy degenerated into a totalitarian regimeof terror. Representative democracy was such failure that the French Revolution got rid of absolute rule by the King but ended up with an Emperor.  Many say Napoleon was an enlightened emperor, but an emperor, not a democrat.

Soon, Robespierre himself, with his behaviour, showed that Robert was right. Robespierre, the proponent of representative democracy demonstrated that “representative democracy” was not democracy.

In a short time, as the elected leader “representing the people” of The Committee (of the Revolution) for Public Safety, he became the leader of the “Reign of Terror”, a bloody dictator.

That could not have happened in Ancient Greek democracy because nobody was elected to any comparable post, no way anyone would have been given the powers the leaders of the French Revolution and Robespierre had.

Representative democracy has become a guge improvement over absolute oppressive rulers. In representative democracy, the people have freedom of expression and have the power to decide who will govern, but is not democracy because the people do not govern, neither do they have the power to kill policies and laws passed by the politicians. They do not have the power to tell the policians that they must put in place policies and laws the people may want to increase taxes or reduce taxes to individuals or  business, institute universal health care, affordable education at all levels, reduce or increase the size of the armed forces, etc.

To “protect” the Revolution and, presumably its ideas of “freedom, equality, fraternity”, Robespierre ordered or encouraged the execution of approximately 17 000 French people, another 10 000 died in prison. The 17000 executed were killed in less than 10 months, from September 5, 1793 to July 28, 1794. This means that, on average, every day 57 people were excuted, as “enemies of the Revolution”.

The terror ended when even Robespierre’s “colleagues” had enough with blood spilled, literaly spilled, because the execution was by guillotine. On July 28, 1794 Robespierre and his associate Louis Antoine Leon de Saint-Just (what a name for a murderer!) were executed, “before a cheering crowd”, such is the degeneration possible in a representative democracy.

First Robespierre misused his powers to kill the “enemies of the Revolution”, then other “democratic” leaders decided it was time to excite the people and kill Robespierre.

But that is not the only time representative “democracy” degenerates into chaos or “order” under terror. German representative democracy degenerated into Nazism; it is even a more terrifying example.

But those are not the only examples; plenty of countries around the World had representative democracies that so polarized the country that they ended up in civil wars, coups and dictatorships of the Left or the Right. Right now we have several examples.

But no direct democracy has degenerated into terror, chaos, etc. The French during the Revolution had the intention of establishing a direct democracy, real democracy but, for a number of reasons, were unable to do so.

Had France been a direct democracy, Mapoleon would not have the powers he had. It is also unimaginable that if the people had the opportunity to decide, they would have authorized the sending of French soldiers (themselves) to their deaths all over Europe.

The death of Robespierre ended the “Reign of Terror”, but did not bring democracy or peace, it brough the “White Terror” against Robespierre’s party and followers. It was not nearly as bad as Robespierre’s terror, but it was terror.

The root problem in representative democracies, in countries where the people elect their representatives, continues to this day. The problem is that the elected politicians have too much power; the people only have the power to vote or not vote for politicians but, once the election is over, the people have not the formal, orderly, established process to exercise their power and stop the politicians from doing something most citizens oppose, or to force the politicians to do what most people want them to do.

In other words, in a representative democracy, once the election is over, democracy is over until the next election.

So, the regimes we have in Canada, in the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, France itself and all other representatives democracies is system that as Deputy Robert would say, it is not a democracy. The Ancient Greek wpul not recognise any oth those countries as democracies, they would consider them elected aristocracy, elected oligarchy, not democracy.

It possible also to have a system that is formally a hybrid of direct and representative democracy. You can have direct-representative democracy.

This is how it works, the people continue to elect representatives, we have political parties and elections just like we have in representative democracies, but there is a huge change; the people have veto power over any law or policy formulated by the politicians, the executive and the legislative. The people can also direct the politicians to adopt new policies and pass new laws. Furthermore, the people can make changes to the constitution and must approve any change to the constitution that the elected politicians propose.

Because of those powers of voters, if Canada had a direct democracy, it almost certain the situation with the truckers would not have happened. The truckers would not have gone to Ottawa and clog the city, neither would they have blocked some border crossings.

This is how the situation would develop if Canada had a direct democracy;

The government, like governments in representative democracies would have put in place the various emergency policies necessary to deal with the pandemic two years ago, and adapt them as the effects of the virus on the health of Canadians evolved.  the government would act immediately, without asking people to decide in a referendum. That would not be different, but the nature of the policies would be very different.

One reason is that as government of direct democracy, the Canadian government would have acted taking into account public opinion much more carefully; it would know Canadian voters could set the wheels in motion to challenge, in a binding referendum initiated by the people, the government policy or laws the government might have developed to deal with the virus.

The government would have in mind also that the people could relatively easily collect the approximately 250 000 signatures necessary to have a referendum, within the required 3 months.

The Canadian government, the executive and the legislative, would also know that after the collection of signatures a binding referendum would take place. The government, even if all politicians unanimously agreed,  could not stop the referendum.

For example, if the voters decide not to support the government measures, the measures; policies or laws, would stop.

But the Canadian government also would know that up to two years can pass from the time the signatures are collected to the date of the referendum. This means the government could say: “it is not important what the people decide, by that time we will stop the policies”.

In some cases, it is possible the referndum would happen too late if the Covid crisis were to be over. But the government does not know that. This means that it would be interested in adopting policies and passing laws that not too many people would oppose, in order to prevent triggering a referendum.

Most policies and laws are not not temporary, so the goverment, and this means the executive and the legislature have to be careful to make sure most voters support what government does.

But direct democracy brings about another very interesting change; because politicians do not want their policies and laws killed by the people, the majopr parties negociate until they reach a compromise their voters will back or accept, and not actively oppose.

In time, that realisation also pushes all the major parties, not just to negotiate individual policies or laws, but to always govern in coalition. This also means 70-75% of the voters are represented in the negotiations. When  the policiy or law comes out it is highly probable it will be accepted and supported by the majority of voters.

But governing in coalition also has another effect, it eliminates the bitter fights among parties and politicians we see on the parliaments of representative democracies and in the media.  In a direct democracy, the parties have different opinions but they do not want to use words so extreme that makes it difficult to later sit down and work together with rival in a constructive team atmosphere. In representative democracies, the major parties are always on “electoral mode”, they do not want to cooperate with rivel parties, they want to discredit them because there are always on “election mode”.

The intensity of those fights is not caused by the disagreement on the issues but because in representative democracies, politicians have a lot more power than in a direct democracy and, logically, they fight to win is more agressive.

In representative democracies, parties also fight hard because to win, they believe it is essential to discredit the other party and each of the politicians of the other parties.

For example, on abortion, Democrats and Republicans in the US were unable to negotiate a compromise supported by the majority of the people. As a result, abortion ended up in the US Supreme Court. In 1973 the Court decided that abortion would be legal in the United States.

Supporters cheered, opponents experienced other emotions; anger, frustration, indignation. In other words, the issue was legally settled, but not politically.

The collective failure US politicians on abortion is of such magnitude that in 2022, almost 50 years later, those who support abortion fear that the “conservative Supreme Court” the US has now, could reverse the decision. If that happens, the Trucker’s convoy in Canada will look like nothing…

That is another problem in representative democracies; too much power in the hands of the highest courts.

The net effect is that judges, non-elected officials, but often appointed by poiliticians, end up making new laws.

This brings us to another advantage of direct democracy; in a direct democracy the constitution is a live, constantly changing document because the people, regularly, propose and execute changes to the constitution.

The result is a continuous but gradual and calm evolution of the constitution that reflects the changes in society.

In a direct democracy the constitution is not treated as a holy document; the constitution is, like ordinary laws, a reflection of the  continuously evolving values and beliefs of people.

But in a direct democracy the poltical atmosphere is calmer because referendums do not happen “next week”. For example, the established procedures do not make possible to have a referndum, next week or next month, on the dealth penalty because a mass murderer or political terrorists killed a large number of people.

That is not possible. First the people who want to have a referendum need to collect the signatures, that takes time. Once they do that, they present the signatures, then some more time passes before the vote takes place.

For example, perhaps tha country mignt establish it is not practical to have referendum many times, and on different dates, thorougout the year. This means that the referendums can take place only one or a few times each year so that the people decide several issues at once.

The time between the initiaction of the collection of signatures and the date of the referendum, gives the voters plenty of opportunity to hear arguments in favor or against, of knowing what experts, for or against, say. Voters have plenty of time  to digest and reflect on the inormation.

So, if Canada had direct democracy at the Federal level, the Trudeau Liberal government would not be the Trudeau goverment, it woul be the Liberal-Conservative-NDP government.

The point of view of the truckers and many others who oppose or support the vaccine mandates, would have been considered in far more detail. It if turned out, as some polls indicate, that 2/3 of Canadians support mandatory vaccination for the truckers and many others, the leaders of the Conservative Party would know that many of their supporters are for mandatory vaccination. This would mean that it would be very unlikely those disagreeing would want a referendum they had few chances of winning.

But if they did pursue a referendum, and lost, what could they do? It would be absurd to organize a protest convoy to force the government to change its decision; they would know the government could do nothing, that once the peoiple decided to support the measures, the decision was a gold-plated, a truly democractic decision that te Canadian governement could not ignore or reverse.

Nobody could challenge the decision in the Supreme Court either. This is because in a direct democracy, the Suppreme Court would be forbidden to evaluate the results of a referendum on constitutional grounds. Remember that the people make the constitution as the values of the people change.

Some people are scared that, in a direct democracy, the majority of people may make the wrong decision, that they will oppress minorities, etc. The experience of the Ancient Greek democracies shows is not that at all.

In a direct democracy there is no “majority” in the sense there is a majority in a representative democracy. In a direct democracy, the people vote each issue on its merits, not in terms of progressive of condervative ideologies. Ideologies that are futile attempts to predefine solutions based on ideology for every problem.

In a direct democracy, the majority may vote “progressive” to have universal health care. A different majority may vote conservative on immigration. Direct democracy is far more flexible.

Minorities have nothing to fear in a direct democracy because direct democracy brings political stability, it delivers good government. When tha country is free, stable and well governed, minorities are safe. Minorities are in peril in representative democracies because too often the elected politicians do not govern in tune with the people. When that happens, the system becomes unstableL we all know what happens to minorities when there is turmoil.

In a direct democracy, because voters know they are responsible for the consequences of their decisions, this pushes them to vote very responsibly. In a direct democracy, voters can not later blame the politicians; they have the power to stop the politicians and to tell the politicians what policies and laws they must put in place.

Conclusion: Canada would not be submerged in the polarising mess it is now if it had direct democracy; the goverment would have have made a more thoughtful decision because the decision would represent the consideration of the three major parties. The truckers would not have organised the protest because they would have known that the politicians representing the vast majority of voters were behind the law. It is very unlikey they would organise the protest convoy. because it would be clear to them the majority of Canadians would not support them.

At most, what they would do is collect the signatures and organise the referendum. If they lost it, that would be it. If they won, the government would have to come with new policies that would exclude mandatory vaccination for the truckers and perhaps everyone else.

How do I feel so sure about how things would work out in a direct democracy? Because that is what happened in Switzerland, where they have direct-representative democracy.

Many Swiss oppose the policies the Swiss government put in place to fight the Covid virus. They collected the required number of signatures, 50 000 and forced a referendum. This past November the Swiss voted and 62% decided to back the measures put in place by the government. As long as the government does not make any major controversial change, nobody will dare to protest the measures.

Switzerland does not have manadatory vaccinations and it seems the controversy over Covid measures settled.

It is not often that the people challeng the consensus-based policies and laws the Swiss government puts in place, but sometimes it happens, as it did in this case.

The option the people of  direct democracy have to force a referendum acts as the final safety valve.  If the majority of voters agree with them, the government has to withdraw the law oer policy. If the voters disagree with the proponents  of the referendum, the issue is closed by the most democratic of decisions; no more protests, no more “convoys”…

After a referendum, the issues is settled and people move on.

What has happened in Canada’s representative democracy is the opposite; division has grown, the government will be challenged in the Supreme Court, the truckers and others are angrier because, until know, they “only” felt the government had imposed excessive covid measures, from now on they feel gthey have been mistreated; detained, their bank accounts blocked, could end un in prison, tremendous economic hardship.

It can not be ecluded that even more people have been antagonized by the Canadian government because themajor political issue now might have evolved into one related to unjustified use of an emergency law not meant to deal with, basically peaceful although annoying to many, political protests of this magnitude.

In view of the situation, whic direct democracy would have prevented, I hope many Canadians will feel motivated now to incorporate key elementsof direct democracy into Canada’s representative democracy.

That is precisely what the Swiss did, more than 150 years ago and, coincidentally, also as a result of the mismanagement of another pandemic by the politicians of the representative democracy Switzerland had at the time.

I do not have to tell you Switzerland is the most stable, better governed country in the World. In true direct democracy fashion, Swiss voters sometimes become a majority of “progressives”, that is why,for example, Switzerland has universal health care, best in the World, affordable university education, excellent pensions, legalized gay marriage, they have a wealth tax, etc. But sometimes they vote “conservative”; turned down a proposal to increase taxes to business, banned having the face covered in public, banned the minarets of mosques above a certain height, they control immigration, etc.

Victor Lopez

In a representative democracy, once the election is over, democracy is over too until the next election

In representative democracies, you still have freedom to criticise the elected politicians. You can take to the streets and write letters to your elected representatives.

You can also go to the traditional media and make thousands or millions aware of whatever issue concerns you, but that will help only if the media decides to give you air time. As you know, the media does not have to do that. Besides, given the massive politicisation of most traditional media, chances are they will only air your cause if it aligns with their editorial line.

This means that, in most cases, your cause has to be considered progressive or conservative. It has to align with the major parties. Your chances of air time are very close to zero if criticze of the conservative or progressive established parties, or all of them. If the conservative media give you air time it is enough for progressive media to write you off, likewise in the opposite case.

But even if they give you air time, there is air time, and there is air time.

They can give you air time to shoot down your position and try to discredit it. This means they give you air time to discredit you, not to give you unbiased air time. Or they give you air time once, which is a drop in the bucket.

You know than when the media wants to push an issue, a cause, a group, a party or candidate, they give them air time all the time in the hope of “shaping” public opinion.

For example, chances are that if they gave you some air time to speak about direct democracy, most media today, on the left and the right, will try to convey to the audience that the idea is not practical, that it makes little sense for the country, that direct democracy is a scary idea, etc.

Nobody will tell you: “you know, direct democracy just makes me think that if Germany had a direct democracy, Hitler would have never happened because the German people would not have fallen for a demagogue when they say representative democracy was not working.”

If the German people could have voted to decide, they would not have voted for the extermination of the Jews and others. They would not have voted to invade France, Czekoslovakia, Poland or declare war to Russia, either.

It would not have happened because when the people are in control and know they are responsible for the fate of others and of themselves, they are far more prudent than the politicians, not just demagogues like Hitler, but also in representative democracies. For example, do you have any doubt that if the American people had to decide to go to war in Irak against Sadam, they would have said “NO”?

The people only would vote to go to war if the country is being attacked or strangled economically. The reason is obvious; it is likely they or their children will die.

So, it unlikely your host, eitor, etc., will be support direct democracy because direct democracy diminishes the power of the parties, the lobbies and the media but increases the power of ordinary voters.

As for printed media, it is basically the same as other traditional media, most of them are just as politicised.

Unfortunately, your issue is now as important as the media decides. The chances of you issue receiving air time or space in a newspaper, if it is critical of the major parties or proposes something that gives voters power over the parties and over the economic and political establishment, giving you enough air time or space in page to have an impact on voter during election and between electiuons, is almost zero.

No wonder in representative democracies they have lots of aggressive demonstrations even riots. I do not enter into if Black LIves Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the Yellow Jackets in France, the “Indignados” (furiously angry) in Spain and others are “right” or “wrong”, but they are positive proof politicians do not listen to them, and that they do not have the mechanisms to orgamize a binding referendum to let people decide if there should be an independent judicial investigation of the banks, of police departments, of the influence of the rich, of business and professional lobbies, of the media, of unions, etc., in the development of laws or policies, in elections, etc.

Diversity is in fashion, but not for ideas critical of the establishment of the Right or the Left.

Luckily, we have Internet now, that is why I use Internet. Internet helps but there are barriers there too.

In Internet it is possible to reach the public, but it is not easy. You might find somebody with a podcast who has millions of viewers and who finds your topic interesting, but most podcasters position themselves as progressive or conservative; in this respect you are back to the situation we have with traditional media.

You can set up a website, post videos, etc. With skill and luck you can create a large audience. But no matter how large your audience, you audience has no mechanism to force a popular vote, even less with results that would be binding on the issue and force the politiciamns to stop or to starte doing somthing.

In the Internet platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is clear they censor speech. They may do it with the best of interntions. They do it when they consider the ideas can mislead public opinion or are “dangerous”. In itself, tolabel ideas dangerous is tha same as saying “we do not trust the viewers, readers or listeners”.

Perhaps they do not trust the public because they believe the public is gullible, that the public lacks a clear idea of what is right or wrong. To me, besides being unfair to those censored, it not rational to belive so many citizens are incapable of telling right from wrong.

It is obvious, such platforms can deprive the users of their freedom to hear different opinions. They might do it with the best of intentions, but they censor. Fortunately, direct democracy does not fall into the group of censored issues. Still, no matter how many people watch or listen to your podcasts, they have no power to force a binding referendum on anything.

In short, if people can speak and write but the vast majority can not hear them or read them, how meaningful is that freedom? And, even if they are heard and read by thousands or millions, if those thousands or millions can not force a popular vote with binding results, what good does it do to have millions of followers? Having many followers influences elected politicians, but does not force them to do anything. In some cases, often another political party, challenges a law or an executive decision in court, but ordinary people lack the means to do that, thay might not even have legal standing.

This means that in representative democracies, once the election is over, it is not possible for many causes to be heard, even if most people support, or would support, your cause. Much less can the people do force the politicians to act.

If the people have no established mechanisms to stop the policies, laws and regulations politicians put in place, even if most of the people oppose what the politicians do, then the country is not behaving as a democracy. Democracy means “government by the people”. It is not “government by the people” if the people can not stop political decisions or tell the politicians what to do.

It is not “government by the people” either if the people, once the election is over, can not force the politicians to pass a new law concerning an issue the majority wants addressed.

In representative democracies, the people can not set in motion changes to the constitution and can not make te changes themselves either.

It is obvious then that, between elections, representative democracies are not democracies because they lack the formal mechanisms for the will of the people to prevail.

One of the strong points of a direct democracy is that between elections, any person, any group, even a small political party without elected representatives, any union, any association of environmentalists, literally anyone, can put before the people for the people to decide, any issue, stop any law or policy, force politicians to make laws or policies. In representative democracies, the people can not change the constitution either. At most, they can approve or reject the changes prepared by the politicians.

All anyone or any group has to do in a direct democracy, to force a vote on any issue, is collect a small number of signatures. Such number must be small enough so that not too many signatures are necessary. It can not be so small that a frivolous issue could be put to a formal vote; voting is expensive in time and money.

It requires time because citizens have to invest time discussing the issue because they know thay are responsible for the consequences of the decision, not the politicians. In a direct democracy is not like in a representative democracy where you “vote, forget and hope for the best”.

It is also costly because of all the people, media materials, debates, vote counting, etc., involved in a referendum.

In Switzerland, our only established direct democracy, about 0.5 to 1% is the number of eligible voters who must sign to have a referendum on any issue. For some issues, the people who want a referendum must collect 50 000 signatures (it represents 0.5 % of the population, but it is a higher percentage of voters) within 100 days. On other issues, they must collect 100000 signatures within 18 months.

But the process is not fast; it is not like the politicians do something and next day a referendum is held. Even if technically that became possible, it is obvious the voters need to be exposed to the many opinions for or against the proposed referendum. They need time to digest the implications because in a direct democracy, the voters can not blame the politicians like voters have to do in representative democracies because they do nothing else, other than protest.

This means that, not only a direct democracy is much more democratic than a representative democracy because the people really decide what government can or must do, and even change the constitution, it produces better and more solid decisions than a representative democracy.

It does because they debate the issues for a longer period and the voters hear more opinions from experts inside and outside government, for and against the proposed referendum.

There are other crucial advantages; voters do not have to worry about being elected at the next election. This means that in their decision does not enter: “if we pass this law, implement this policy, how will it affect the next election?, what will this business or professional lobby, this union, this rich donor will do?

Ordinary voters do not have to worry about being supported with the money, or the votes, politicians need to get elected.

Voters are less dependant on the media  because the referendum is amply discussed in many forums. I suppose, most media also want audience and in Switzerland, so far, it seems the media are not as partisan as in representative democracies. Perhaps because the system of direct democracy centers the discussion more on issues and less on “conservative-progressive” ideology, “Right-Left”. They want to reach a large audience which is less focused on ideology and more on the issue at hand. The media know that a partisan strategy, like we often see in the media of representative democracies, in direct democracy is a bad idea for the business.

Because they are directly responsible, voters in a direct democracy are not dominated by ideologies (that in representative democracies are almost like religions, in a direct democracy voters have to think harder abaout the consequences of their vote

Because people see growing problems with representative democracy, they propose improvements. Listen to them, butt their “improvements” change nothing of substance because they do not address the root weakness of representative democracy.

For example, some people speak of “deliberative democracy”, “participatory democracy”, “proportional representation” and other concepts to improve representative democracy. I believe they do improve representative democracy, but such improvements do nothing to address the root problem; the voters have no executive and legislative power over the people they elect.

They are like improvements to the gasoline engine; it will still burn hydrocarbons. To really address CO2 emissions, you have to go to a new engine, the electric “engine”; we keep the four wheels but what moves the car is radically new.

None of the proposed improvements addresses the key weakness of representative democracy; between elections the politicians hold all the executive and legislative power and the people have zero formal power. They can not stop the politicians from doing anything they want, nor they can they tell them what they must do on this or that issue and, just as important, at no time do people have the power to change the constitution by themselves, independently of the executive, the legislative of the judiciary.

In a direct democracy, the people are truly “sovereign” because “they posses the supreme political power”, not the politicians, nor the judges.

So, if you want democracy to continue once the election is over in your country, your state, your province, your region, your city, town or village, direct democracy is the answer.

Victor Lopez

 

 

The Swiss, again, show to Canadians and all others how it can be done, democratically, with no protest caravans

As you know, right now there is a huge caravan of trucks in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, because many truckers are upset at the Canadian government’s requirement that unvaccinated Canadian truckers to be tested AND quarantine after they return to Canada from driving in the US. American drivers do not have to do that.

I do not know if the truckers are angry because of the requirement by itself, or if they are angrier because American truckers do not have those requirements when they return home.

This is just another notorious example of the controversies many governments in democracies have created with their vaccine policies. In dictatorships, as we know, there are no controversies, we bless such countries with omniscient leaders who can do no wrong and therefore, only “fools” or “evil” people dare to protest.

There has been lots of confusion, which is not reduced by trying to silence or dismiss as lunatics those who disagree with government policies. Even in some social media has become acceptable to delete the account, or demand that it be deleted, of someone who questions the measures enacted by governments to deal with the virus.

I am vaccinated and believe in vaccines; the issue is how those who disagree are treated by governments, by most media, and perhaps even by most of the people who believe in vaccines. What I see and hear I dislike, but is just my opinion.

What is important is to see if direct democracy provides less controversial ways to deal with those measures.

Th intolerance of some pro-vaccine people has reached such madness that even demand medical doctors, who do not oppose vaccination but some of the control measures, should be silenced. This is absolute madness. How is the public going to form an opinion if they can not know different, even opposite opinions, to the prevailing ones?

I do not know if it is just ignorance or an irrational desire to see everything in absolute terms; true-false, good-bad, right-wrong. Too many people seem to mistake the opinion of scientists for science. An opinion is an opinion. Scientists often disagree because we can interpret the data in different ways.

In a free country, we have to listen to different opinions; to suppress opinions is to kill democracy. What freedom do we have if opinions are censored? What is then the difference between a dictatorship and a democracy? The only difference would be that in a democracy, you elect the dictator. I am not sure it is a radical improvement.

So the truckers are mad. Why are they mad?, basically because they do not accept the decision of the Canadian government, they disagree with the government; they feel the government is unfair, that it is imposing a decision without justification.

The truckers might be mad because they believe the measure is not medically justified. Perhaps they have listened to some of the medical experts banned from social media. Or perhaps they believe the measure is unfair and punishes them more that others, for example, their American counterparts.

Perhaps the government could have prevented the protest if it had invited representatives of the truckers and others to discuss the intended measures. It is likely the government could have learned something to make the requirements more palatable to the truckers. From the discussions, the truckers could have also learned the pressures on government. It is likely a compromise could have been reached and the current conflict avoided.

So, how can you reach a decision that is controversial and ensure that everybody complies without triggering a protest like the one the Canadian government faces? It is easy, yet difficult. The answer is: make the decision transparent and democratic.

The most democratic decision in representative democracies is when we vote to elect our representatives. What is even more democratic is when in a direct democracy, we vote in a binding referendum to decide an issue.

Canada would save itself the current trucker protest if it did what the Swiss do; let the people decide. After calm, informed discussions and debates, the voters go to the polls and decide.

One significant advantage of the people deciding issues, instead of the politicians, is that the decision is fully democratic. The truckers would have no credibility to protest against the measures if their fellow citizens had approved them. They would not organise any convoy either, or show at Trudeau’s door. They would look like fools; it is absurd to refuse to accept a decision made by majority of the people. It would also be foolish for the truckers to pressure Trudeau because in a direct democracy, the politicians can not overturn a decision by the people.

Sometimes, such as the current pandemic, there may be no time for the people to decide which are the measures they find reasonable. This means that, even in a direct democracy, government has to act quickly.

When that happens, how can the controversy, such as the one with the Canadian truckers, can be avoided? It is simple, give people the chance to organise a referendum on the validity of the measures adopted by the government.

When people know they can organise a referendum challenging the government measures, and the results of the referendum are mandatory, that government has no choice but to follow them (ordered by voters), that not even parliament or the highest court in the land can overturn the decision by the people, then the people can easily accept the emergency measures, as they know they can kill them if enough of their fellow citizens support what they propose.

If Canada had the Swiss system, instead of protesting, the truckers could have organized a national referendum.

This is exactly how the do it in Switzerland; the Swiss government passed several measures to control the damages the virus causes. Essentially, the Swiss government did what the Canadian one did, but via a significantly different process, because of Swiss direct democracy. Because the Swiss government knows the people can organise a referendum that could kill the measures, they normally negotiate with relevant parties until consensus is reached, but in this case perhaps there was no time. In such cases, a referendum is like a safety valve; those opposing the measures can persuade voters to kill the measures.

Perhaps more important is the fact that Swiss politicians of the 4-5 major parties, representing 70-75% of voters, long ago realised the best way to avoid people-initiated binding referendums, is to negotiate among themselves; if 70-75% of voters feel that a reasonable policy has been agreed to, it is unlikely anyone will challenge it.

Among the measures, the Swiss government passed is one requiring vaccination passports to access restaurants, etc.

But, perhaps the consultations were not thorough enough, perhaps there was no time. The result was that  many people in Switzerland disagreed with several of the measures. They set up a group with the aim of forcing a referendum on the measures the government enacted on September 2020 and on March 2021.

The organisers of the “protest” referendum collected the required 50 000 signatures within the required 100 days.

The referendum took place on November 29, 2021, 62% of the voters rejected the proposed rejection of the measures and sided with the government measures.

It is obvious many Swiss, truckers or not, disagreed with the measures; after all, 38% of them voted against them. But these people lost a fully democratic contest. They had time to explain their point of view. There were plenty of debates in the media, with co-workers, among family members. They heard the opinions of experts for and against the measures. Each voter received an information package to prepare for the referendum. In the package, the proponents of the referendum to kill the measures explained their position in their own words. In the same package, the government presented its arguments defending the measures. It was a fair contest.

Once the proponents of the referendum, and their supporters, saw most voters rejected their arguments, they had no other option but to accept the result. If they organised protests after having a fair hearing, they would look like fools and sore losers. Besides, their protest would have no effect on the measures because, how could the government back out of measures the voters, democratically, supported?

In this example, I believe it is clear why direct democracy is superior so representative democracy or any other system; it produces better thought out decisions because there is more open discussion than the usual hyper-partisan ones we see in representative democracies. Besides that, the decision made through a referendum has a democratic quality that no decision by politicians can have.

A referendum is therefore the most rational solution to important or controversial issues; it prevents conflict and produces better results and more acceptability.

Swiss style direct democracy can be scaled to smaller and larger countries, just like representative democracy has been successfully scaled.

Victor Lopez