T Nation

Direct Democracy?

This seems to be a timely enough conversation in light of folks talking about removing the Electoral College and the ability through technology to take votes directly to the people. Should this be employed and if so how much?
I think the idea of Direct Democracy for all things for governance is a bad idea. I don’t think you want the sweaty masses to determine the threat level of North Korea, or Russia, or Syria. But for less daunting things particularly local issues, maybe the time has come?
Should we try it? Should it be the rule of law? Or did the FF get it right and a Representative Republic is the best possible compromise?
What do you think of such an idea and how if implemented should it be itself governed?

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Look at history. Republics (Rome) tend to last longer than direct democracy (Athens) before they implode and burn down. Every nation-state dies eventually, ours will at some point.

As corrupt and nasty as politics is, it is still probably a better idea to hire legislators whose job it is to propose/write/vote on legislation. It would take too long for 325M people to agree on anything.

If everything is direct voting… who sets the agenda? How do you propose legislation, and keep the ZEPs of the world from flooding the floor with 1M useless bills?

The great unwashed generally suck. It would be the French Revolution again in no time. Off with their heads!


Worth a look. The Swiss vote on 12 nationwide referendums every year on average, but that number doesn’t include dozens of referendums on canton and municipal levels carried out on a wide variety of issues.


I don’t trust current technology not to be compromised.


No. We are already over $20 trillion in debt. Let’s at least slow the inevitable bankruptcy of the US to give everyone time to polish up their Mandarin language skills.


I think it would end up being direct idiocracy.


I think a direct democracy is a poor idea but I reckon Delegative Democracies are now a reality and have lots of merit.

The issue remains, how do you focus on the important things? Each election you decide on the handful of really important stuff and then let the parties squabble out the details. I think that is actually a pretty critical part of getting some semblance of pragmatism.

The Irish resort to it frequently. But it is an important creature of our Republic’s constitution.




1 Any provision of this Constitution may be amended, whether by way of variation, addition, or repeal, in the manner provided by this Article.

2 Every proposal for an amendment of this Constitution shall be initiated in Dáil Éireann as a Bill, and shall upon having been passed or deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, be submitted by Referendum to the decision of the people in accordance with the law for the time being in force relating to the Referendum.

3 Every such Bill shall be expressed to be “An Act to amend the Constitution”.

4 A Bill containing a proposal or proposals for the amendment of this Constitution shall not contain any other proposal.

5 A Bill containing a proposal for the amendment of this Constitution shall be signed by the President forthwith upon his being satisfied that the provisions of this Article have been complied with in respect thereof and that such proposal has been duly approved by the people in accordance with the provisions of section 1 of Article 47 of this Constitution and shall be duly promulgated by the President as a law.



1 Every proposal for an amendment of this Constitution which is submitted by Referendum to the decision of the people shall, for the purpose of Article 46 of this Constitution, be held to have been approved by the people, if, upon having been so submitted, a majority of the votes cast at such Referendum shall have been cast in favour of its enactment into law.

2 1° Every proposal, other than a proposal to amend the Constitution, which is submitted by Referendum to the decision of the people shall be held to have been vetoed by the people if a majority of the votes cast at such Referendum shall have been cast against its enactment into law and if the votes so cast against its enactment into law shall have amounted to not less than thirty-three and one-third per cent. of the voters on the register.

2° Every proposal, other than a proposal to amend the Constitution, which is submitted by Referendum to the decision of the people shall for the purposes of Article 27 hereof be held to have been approved by the people unless vetoed by them in accordance with the provisions of the foregoing sub-section of this section.

3 Every citizen who has the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann shall have the right to vote at a Referendum.

4 Subject as aforesaid, the Referendum shall be regulated by law.

That’s actually a good model. Of course the Swiss are about as diverse as vanilla pudding so referendums would look very different here.


It could still be done at the ballot box, but presented and argued via technology. I don’t think I would want some dolt to just click ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’ via cell phone. Voters would still have to put forth effort to have their vote counted.
I could see the benefit from having more legislative direct input from the populous. But the populous has to care enough to go vote. However, it may be better to do this with state referendums once a year, rather than federal. I still do not want Gordon Gecko from New York to make decisions for Joe the Farmer in Nebraska.
Loppar’s Swiss Model shows that the government provides 12 referendums a year for the people to vote on. I could see some benefit to that, rather than waiting every 2 years, hoping your representative will actually represent you by proxy.


I only trust paper ballots. I could not recommend an alternative at present.


If we stopped electing politicians who are mediocrities, at best, would we even be asking this question? I used to believe that the problem was partisanship and an unwillingness to get things done, combined with the influence of money, but I now believe that the problem is that they are incapable of getting things done and blame partisanship in order to cover their incompetence.


I don’t mind the idea of a few more things being put to referendum than currently are (ahem, use of public funding for sports arena/stadium when cities are in the red and sports franchise is worth billions) but those are things that are being handled at the state and local level, not federal.


Judging from the past national election, mediocrity is all we had to choose from. Do you want bad, or worse? I can think of a bunch of people who would have been better candidates, they just were not on the ballot. And there was not enough consensus on a particular one to collectively write one in.

Agreed, and very, very little should be put up for a vote via direct democracy.

The whole point of not being one is protection of the minority’s rights. While our country doesn’t have a stellar record in this area, if you take a look at it through the lenses of the entirety of human history, we have done pretty well actually, and continue to improve all the time.

But, no people shouldn’t be voting on other people’s tax rates, if their marriage should be recognized or if we are allowed to buy a rifle.

Our system is imperfect, has layers of corruption and is littered with imperfection everywhere. But it’s a hell of a lot better than direct democracy. Direct democracy with universal suffrage is absolutely the worst idea in the world right now.


As a percentage of the population executed, the French Revolution wasn’t as bloody as it is portrayed, but since the aristocracy and the literate had so much overlap in Europe at the time and the conservative elites of nations from England to Russia were able to reassert dominance, their shock rippled through history because they wrote it. There have been a lot scarier revolutions before and since. And I would point out that the French Revolution has been used as example of how intellectuals can’t be trusted with revolution rather than the “great unwashed.”

However I do agree with your first three paragraphs.

I do think we need to get rid of gerrymandering, however we are too big a society to get away from representative democracy. The remarkable thing is that the US as a nation of 300 million has a higher percentage of the people with the right to vote than when it was only a nation of 4 million.

Depends on your country but many (most?) are set up for failure. In the corporate world, you try some of the shit that politicians pull and you are flagged as a blocker with a poor attitude and your career soon ends.

In politics, it is easier and you are typically rewarded for stopping or dramatically changing things.

This may well be by design but perhaps explains the number of weasely types that find their way into politics.

It is. It’s supposed to be difficult to get legislation passed, because (as we’ve seen time and time again) once a law is passed, it’s doubly difficult to repeal. (Obviously there are exceptions to every rule.)

The other reason it is difficult by design is each piece of legislation means more power the government has over the people. Something that is supposed to be limited.

SOmehow, along the way, the “great experiment” that was meant to produce a “small government” that was restrained by rule of law, a constitutional republic, has become the largest most influential (for better or worse) government the world has ever know, by almost any metric.

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I think it’s rigged in favor of the corruptible and the selfish. People who can’t be bought and have integrity aren’t allowed to play the game.