CALVIN: Hello, I am American National Goverment Student and we are currently studying the tupes of goverments that can be implemeted. My instructor has given us an assigment, and I would like to know some of the pros and cons of a direct democracy. The term sounds good. I do believe that the people should govern, but through our (representative democracy) we do that indirectly and not directly. I have came up with a few disadavantages and advantages like (the people will get to decide to make their decisions, but there will be leaders who will influence them to vote in a certain way) - the concept of representative democracy will be flipped Also the uneducated will be voting on issues that they may not understand so therefore efforts to educate the uneducated will have to be mandatory. Could you please give me a little more insight on the pros and cons. RSVP Thank you.
DDC: Please tell us your grade level, the name of your school and how you found our site. I will be happy to provide you with the information that you requested.
CALVIN: I am a student in college and I attend Hinds Community College. I am a sophomore. Our assignment was based on this site. He gave a a sheet of paper with the website on it and told us about the situation in California with the direct democracy.
DDC: Here is the information you requested:
THE PROS: There would be less political corruption. The people would have no more government than they need. The people would have more direct control over their lives and their future. And society would be more just, reasonable and fair because there would be better understanding and cooperation between people rather than the divisions of ignorance.
THE CONS: Leaders, demagogues and factions could influence people to vote their way. The majority could abuse the minority (tyranny of the majority). People would not take the time to participate in direct democracy, probably because only half or less of the people vote now. People would not trust other people to decide issues for them. And your concern about voters not being educated about the issues they vote on.
EXPLANATION of pros and cons: If you ask people, as I have, whether they would trust the judgment of their fellow citizens to make good decisions or decisions for them, most would say no. That's understandable because people have been conditioned not to trust each other in a society that has lost trust in itself. Example: Most people don't trust politicians, government or the news media and it's gotten progressively worse because of political correctness. As for participation, people would quickly learn to participate when they realize that they have the power to really decide issues. And most people would make good, informed decisions as they do now in many groups and organizations. Educating voters comes with direct democracy and is discussed below.
The tyranny of the majority is a major con that is taught against pure democracy, but it's nonsense. In our current system, the majority decides everything through their elected representatives in government that operates under majority rule (votes in Congress, state legislatures, city councils, etc.). The Founders of the Constitution relied on the best of us representing the rest of us, but it simply hasn't worked out that way. Indeed, the tyranny of the minority is a major problem in government because the special, selfish and moneyed interests of the few control the lives of the rest of us.
The type of direct democracy proposed by the DDC is between a pure democracy and a representative democracy, thus called Direct Representative Democracy, as opposed to a democratic republic, which is what we have now. One major difference would be that all elections and government would be nonpartisan rather than the failed two-party system of Democrats and Republicans.
The concept of a Direct Representative Democracy would establish voting networks connected to voter's homes. All elections, initiatives and referendums would be conducted over the voting networks.
The voters would elect their representatives in much the same way as they do now, but the representatives would be well-compensated professional government managers rather than professional politicians. Candidates would be reviewed and the best qualified candidate would be elected by the voters, much the same way a city council reviews and selects the best qualified candidate for a city manager. The entire process would conducted over the voting networks.
The voters would not micro-manage government. Instead, they would decide matters of taxation and public policy in the same way that voter initiatives and referendums are decided. Rather than having representatives elected for terms, the voters would vote to retain or remove them every year or two. Representatives could also be recalled (fired) by a vote of the people at any time.
There has always been a problem of public leaders trying to influence or demagogue people to vote their way. That's exactly what has been going on with our present form of government since the founding of the United States. However, the system has been reduced to people seeking and staying in public office to gain "personal power" and influence, and having our elected representatives controlled by too many special, selfish and moneyed interests. Plus, representatives' loyalty has moved from the people's interests to political party interests. And that is why the system would have to be nonpartisan.
Lastly, direct democracy would not work unless the voters were fully and truthfully informed (educated) over the voting networks so they could make informed decisions. Leaders would have little success in influencing, demagoguing or lying to the people to get them to vote a certain way because the direct democracy system would require the independent truth.
The first democracy was a direct democracy that was created over 2500 years ago in Athens, Greece. It worked very well and the Athenians built a great civilization with it. It also worked because there was only about 250,000 people in Athens. Direct democracy could have worked early in American history, but as the country grew in size and population, it would not have worked because communications was difficult and the people could not easily assemble to vote.
Only now, with the information and technology revolution, is it be possible to have direct democracy in America. The Internet provides more and more sources for voters to become better informed. Direct democracy is probably inevitable because it's already happening over the Internet. Elections have been held over the Internet in Arizona and Alaska. It's just a matter of time. Direct education is already in place and growing. Educating people for direct democracy would be simple.
Let me leave you with this thought: What we are doing now is a form of direct democracy. We are having a discussion and communicating ideas over the Internet. Sources of information are increasing. People discuss and debate issues and ideas over the Internet through forums, message boards and chat rooms. And it's growing constantly.
The bottom line is that direct democracy would work because it's in people's self-interest to make it work. Plus it would give us all a better understanding of each other, which would overcome our divisions with mutual cooperation for the public good.
I hope this helps you with your assignment. If you have any further question, please do not hesitate to ask. Good luck.
CALVIN: I am not a political science major but for my interest, I would like to ask you a few questions.
1. What would happen to the idea of federalism (our federal system)? Will we become a confederacy again (not literally but throught our voting practices)? (strong state government) - (weak central goverment)?
2. Eventhough everyone will be heard in the votes. (The votes will only favor the majority of the voters and not the minority)
What if there is some type of issue that will hurt the minority yet the majority is happy that things fell in their favor.?
3. What will happen if people just started to divide off into groups according to their votes then. I know you stated that, but what will happen.?
4. Will a direct democracy diminish the need for the national goverment or will this just be in state affairs?
The only thing that I think we should have a direct opinion is the presidential election. Also when I think about it - What is the difference between politicians politiking for their own interest and the people politiking for their own interest?
Also when something is approved and the public wants to revote on it, can't the majority dominate the polls again and again .....
I think that the direct democracy would lead to hyperpluralism or ruling by the majority forever.
Tell me what you think.
DDC: Thanks for your interest. Honestly, it's disturbing to know that the political and education establishments have conditioned students to believe that democracy is a bad thing. I sense it in your questions, which are nearly the same as most students ask, with increasing distrust through college graduate students. But there's a good reason for that. The political and academic elite scorn the people, as Plato did, as too ignorant and unsophisticated to govern themselves. Indeed, they simply fear the loss of power and influence over the masses, so they educate students to believe they are members or potential members of the elite "club." Unfortunately, the rude awakening for most comes later in life.
If you have the time, you ought to read Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason's writings. Though they have been recently demonized by factions against democracy, what they believed about democracy was fundamental to the creation of the republic and our very existence today.
Answers your questions as you asked them:
1. Federalism would be reduced, but so would the power of state governments. The playing field would be leveled, but tipped in favor of democracy over political parties and special interests.
2. Votes favor the majority in government now, whether it be in the election of representatives or representatives voting in government.
You should understand that majority rule is what we have now. The difference between the present system and direct democracy is what's behind the majority. In the present system, it's political parties and the special interests behind them. With direct democracy, the special interest is in the people as a whole.
3. There will always be interest groups, but with direct democracy all voters will be fully informed and able to interact between themselves and with their representatives, thus promoting mutual understanding over division.
4. Direct democracy would probably reduce national government to only what the people feel they need, which would include powers granted to Congress by the Constitution. The problem with the growth of federalism is that Congress, the Executive (presidency) and the judiciary have stretched their powers beyond constitutional recognition. State government would also be reduced to what the people feel is necessary, and local control would be increased. That's a good thing because the federal government has unconstitutionally usurped power from the states, and the states have usurped power from local governments.
I agree that the president should be elected by popular vote rather than the electoral college. There is a significant difference between politicians politicking for their own interests and the people politicking for their interests, simply because too often politician's personal interests conflict with the people's interests contrary to what they were elected for. That's why politicians campaign to get the majority vote, then do what they want for political party interests or their own, which means they often have to pay back those campaign contributors who paid for their election.
Regarding your last two questions/comments: The majority (voters or representatives) can vote and decide something and then change their minds and change it whenever they want. They do it now by electing representatives, then recalling them and electing someone else because representatives are not doing their jobs. Both voters and representatives can change laws by voter initiative/referendum and by the legislation of legislators (representatives).
Direct democracy is hyperpluralism or populism, or majority rule. But, as stated before, the only difference between majority rule now and direct democracy is which majority rules: The people or the political parties and all the special/selfish interests that goes with them. Rule by the majority will continue either way.
The bottom line is that I think nonpartisan direct representative democracy with voting networks and professional government managers is better than the so-called representative democracy that we have now.
Look at it this way: If we had direct democracy, there would probably be no energy crisis, less government waste, reasonable taxes, fewer laws controlling so much of our lives and less divisiveness in our society. And if you think about it, you might come to the conclusion only you can decide what is best for you, and that collectively, the people can decide what's best for us all.
I've included a recent article by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby regarding voter initiatives that might interest you. I recieved it from the Initiative and Referendum Institute. You also might want to check out their site - listed after the article.
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