>From Kenneth McBride, September 14, 2000

Hello, my name is Ken. I am doing a report with some other students for school about direct-democracy. I was browsing your site, but I see nothing about what if any countries tried this form of government, and if any did whether or not they succeeded. Has this form of government ever been tried? If so, where? And also, I saw some pros about direct-democracy, but I've (so far) seen no cons... there must be a downside to this government, no matter how insignificant. Do you have a list of pros and cons that I can compare and possibly use in the site that my group has to create? I will send you the site when we are finished, and you can check it out if you want. (by the way, the group I'm in is apparently pro direct-democracy)

Reply from the DDC

We will be happy to assist you and your group with your project on direct democracy. We assisted a high school group from New York with a similar project. All we need to know is the name of your school, the class and grade level.

Democracy was born 2500 years ago in Athens, Greece. The type of democracy was direct democracy, wherein all citizens were considered equal and participated directly in self-government. Athenians elected a Council of 500 to run their government. All of their representatives were subject to term limits and annual confirmation to hold office, including their highest level leaders. Pericles of Athens was the Greek leader who perfected what began as a fragile democracy. The Athenians voted on taxes and every major decision of the state. And it worked extremely well for over 200 years, until Athens fell to kings and rulers who waged many wars against them. But not before the Athenians built what is considered to be the greatest early civilization.

There were three conditions to the success of Athenian direct democracy: Good institutions, well-informed citizens with an understanding of democracy, and quality leadership. The Athenians would not stand for factions and demagogues.

Direct democracy surfaced again for brief periods in Rome and Florence, but it wasn't until the American Revolution of 1776 that another form of democracy took hold with success. Of course, we know it now as a republic of representative democracy. After the French Revolution, there was an attempt to form a government of direct democracy, but it failed because it was limited to the military and subject to the tyranny of the majority.

The only country that currently has a form of direct democracy is Switzerland. There are several Web sites that describe how it works. Though somewhat limited to initiatives and referendums, Swiss democracy has been very successful.

The down side of any democracy is partisan politics and demagogues who incite the people into making vindictive, foolish and selfish decisions. Another down side is the potential for the tyranny of the majority, or as some call it, government by the mob or mobaucracy. The flip side of that, of course, is the tyranny of the minority. America seems to be suffering much more from the tyranny of the minority than from the majority. Special and selfish interest groups who use money, power, inflammatory rhetoric and the courts to get their way.

Indeed, representative democracy is failing because of partisan politics and the two-party system that controls elections and government. The Constitution says nothing about political parties. Even though there's nothing wrong with having parties or any group dealing with politics and government, all elections, state and federal government should be nonpartisan, like most local government is.

About half the states have limited forms of direct democracy with voter initiatives and referendums. There are pros and cons to that. The people have the ability to change and reform government through voter initiatives, and the can make law with referendums. However, moneyed interests and state legislatures seem to dominate the process, which has become too expensive for ordinary citizens to utilize.

Our efforts are focused on establishing government of nonpartisan direct representative democracy with voting networks connected to every voter's home. All elections would be conducted over the voting networks. Elected representatives would be professional government managers rather than partisan politicians. The people would not micro-manage government. Rather, they would decide all matters of taxation and major public policy.

In addition to the United States, there are direct democracy movements in Canada, Australia, Greece, England and other European countries. It won't be long before voting will be done over the Internet or some kind of voting networks. People are becoming better informed because of the information technology revolution, and democracy will increase right along with it. Some form of direct democracy is inevitable. Direct education and education networks are already a reality.

If we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to ask.