Direct voting on every issue (referendum) - new political system
First of all, I am not a politician. I am just a computer scientist. I asked this question because I do not think that I have adequate knowledge of various political systems.
Background: Over the recent months of observing different campaigns for presidential election in the U.S. and their one-sided views on everything, I got to the point of thinking that indirect vote by representatives of the people is not working any more. After checking the voting records in the U.S. Congress, I observed that when political party X proposes a bill, 99% of members of political party X agree with the bill and 99% of political party Y disagree without satisfactory debate to justify their opinion. This is a sign of a non-functional system.
Examples (based on my observations over the years): In countries like the U.S. that have two major political parties, almost no new idea (or bill) gets past Congress. In countries like the U.K. that have multiple major political parties, members of Parliament have to come up with a majority to be able to pass a bill and this itself is a very slow process. In middle eastern countries (e.g. Turkey), a single political party gets too powerful and silences opposition parties. Thus there is failure of political systems of various flavors.
Why do we have indirect voting: I believe indirect voting was made in the old days due to long distances and lack of communication. Thus a group of people was assigned a person to represent them. Then, representatives will echo the voice of their people in an attempt of greater unification. But nowadays thanks to the Internet, communication is instant. Therefore the primary reason that made us to create the indirect voting system no longer exists.
What I propose is a direct voting web platform which lets citizens of a country submit a idea (or bill), then citizens up-/down-vote the idea. If a proposed idea reaches a certain number of up-votes then all citizens of a country are able to directly cast their votes and if the majority of citizens agree with the proposed bill, then it becomes a law. To address the issue that citizens might not have time to vote, we could make the voting period weekly (i.e. every week there is a referendum online on various bills).
What are the benefits:
- Eliminates the concept of representatives and political parties
- Eliminates lobbyists and interest groups
- Creates a platform in which new ideas pass the barriers, and become laws more quickly than ever
- Eliminates the uncertainties in voting result (i.e. bipartisan support)
- No salaries to pay. Thus cheaper than having Parliament or senate and congress.
- Eliminates thirst for power (i.e. representative runs for office many times and multiple terms)
Question: I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system and has the idea of direct voting in every issue (referendum) ever been implemented or is it even possible to implement?
You are not the first one who has that idea. There already is a software for this. It's called Liquid Democracy.
I'm not sure why you think the reason for representatives is the mechanical difficulty of getting everyone's vote counted. The fact that information is available online doesn't magically mean people have the time to spend analyzing it.
Ad 5. "No salaries to pay", on the other hand if every citizen becomes effectively full-time politician (voting is much more than merely pressing the button), who (and when) is going to get the real work done?
I used to think this was a great idea. Then I realised that people are idiots.
When it comes to governance, inefficiency is a design feature; for more information, check out Madison's classic Federalist #10.
I strongly disagree with the idea that ALL people are idiots / should be protected from themselves by government. Direct vote shouldn't imply that current system will be completely scrapped. It is possible to combine direct voting with representation - see my answer for more details.
Might I suggest, instead, a system similar to California's ballot proposition system? It goes something like this: You submit a petition with a number of signatures equal to at least 1/5 of the number of people who voted during the last governor election. The state then ensures that your petition meets the requirements and that the proposition is adequately summarized for presentation to the voters. They may also create a cost estimate. The proposal is then voted on during the following statewide election.
Ballot propositions tend to go both ways, though...and regardless of being good or bad, they often lack insight into the bigger picture.
You might want to have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiquidFeedback . That's a voting system which allows people to take the voting in their own hands, or delegate part of their voting to trusted persons which they can change at any time - thus this eliminates the problem of being overwhelmed by too much votes.
@hstoerr it always feels silly to see idea you thought about a lot is already completely implemented. What I am talking about in my answer is practically 95%+ already implemented in LiquidFeedback; thanks for leaving this link!
Before even thinking about "voting", you'd do better by proposing a complete replacement of whatever 'Constitution' defines and delimits the overall government within which this "voting" would take place. Without that, it's a pointless exercise that has no meaning.
as an intermediate step, it would already be useful to have a database showing me what each member of parliament voted on a given subject...
The reality is that most people don't know enough to evaluate most proposed laws and there's no way even the informed can honestly evaluate all the proposals--it simply takes more hours than there are in the day.
I just hacked your web system and made my proposition to give me all the federal funding win by 125%. Problem?
Political parties, lobbyists, and interest groups will exist the same: in your voting platform you will need ways to make proposals stand out: how would you deal with 10000 proposals per week? No one will read them.
But things get worse: you say the system will be more efficient and that's not the case. It happens often that public opinion flips, so you will have to deal with contradictory laws passed all the time. And, on the same line, there will be no policy dictating the bills, so decisions will be made almost at random: what happens when the first two bills of the year spend the whole year's budget?
You are bringing up valid concerns - I think that having direct vote system with option of representation would easily solve this. See my answer for more details. Worst case scenario, with system I propose we would have same problems we currently have: 1. US government running out of money every year, as we all well remember from 2013 US government shutdown because of debt ceiling debate in Congress / 2. Most of the governments around the world proposing budgets with deficits.
@user4012 Might you be referring to - "The State is the Great Fiction by which every citizen strives to live at the expense of everybody else?" (paraphrased; I didn't refer to the source)
You should look at the political system of Switzerland, it is not what you propose but went into that direction. When there is a clear consensus on an issue in the parliament, there is typically no popular vote. In some cases, uncontroversial news laws have to be adopted by referendums because the law requires so. and in addition, if a significant portion (even a small minority) of the parliament asks for referendum, they can ask a certain number of citizens to sign the referendum, and if this certain number of signatures is reached, a referendum is held.
As such we as citizens have to vote to at least a dozen of subject each year. This leads to many advantages, however it is far from the ideal democracy that some people, including you, imagine. Lobbies are (in my opinion) just as powerful than in other countries, if not even more because they are more legitimized by the system, and they basically rule the country. They can manipulate the average citizen just as well as they can manipulate politicians , in fact even more, because the average citizen is much less educated, and as such, is more subject to external influence.
We do not use the internet for voting because of two major issues
Not everyone has a computer nor internet access. It might seem unimaginable for you, or even for me, but I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of the retired people here, which form about 20% of the citizens, never used a computer, ever, let alone an internet connection. I don't think the situation in other 1st world countries has a reason to be very different.
Security issues. You're basically handing the political system to potential pirates that could vote for you. It's also much harder to prevent political fraud, that is people voting for others.
Internet voting is still considered for the future (as an option, not mandatory, just like paying bills, so that older people can still vote). But it hasn't been implemented yet.
I am living in a city which allows referendums on citizens initiative. I made the same observations: Lobbies do invest large amounts of money into advertising campaigns to influence these referendums. We even had a case where a private company initiated a "citizens initiative" to overrule a government decision to deny them a permit for a construction project. They lost the vote, but only barely.
Don't get me wrong, I consider these referendums a great tool for citizen participation. But they are not the perfect solution to all problems. They can supplement an elected government, but I wouldn't consider them as a replacement for one.
@Philipp Your point is basically my point. Not only companies and lobbies rule the country, but also it appear legitimate, as average people voted. And a few years after the vote, the law is somehow worked arround if it isn't like they wanted to, so it makes no difference at all.
I get to hear Swiss radio, so tend to follow this a bit. Sometimes the result of a referendum is extremely embarrassing for the government (like the one to forbid mosques from having minarets) but if they are passed they have to implement them. And yes, there is a lot of aggressive advertising on television and radio and on posters. Referenda work relatively well in Switzerland because it is very small and the population have a high standard of education. Even then it is open to abuse.
On the other hand here in Baden-Württemberg we had a referendum recently, on whether to continue building a large railway station in the capital town. The government wanted to stop the project and were very sure that the voters wanted to stop it too. However the voters wanted it built and so they are obliged to continue. They had to extract their own supporters from the trees and park to permit work to continue, great schadenfreude for the rest of us.
@RedSonja Wow then our BW neighbours are **very** different to us. Here, it's more like the government wants to build stupid things all over the place, and people have to fight to limit this.
@Philipp: Yup. Initiatives are great, right up until a guy like Tim Eyman (the man who essentially single-handedly ruined traffic patterns throughout the greater Seattle area) shows up and promises to save people money on their taxes without explaining what that money is being used for or what the effects of the loss of that revenue will be. A bit of back-of-the-napkin math suggests that the average commuter in Seattle is losing more money each year due to burning gas while stuck in traffic than they save on his reduced car-tab fees, but his self-destructive scheme remains popular anyway!
@Bregalad sometimes it works that way round too. The Red/Green government of Hamburg wanted to destroy the school system and some citizens got together and organised enough signatures for a referendum and stopped them.
On "Security issues" - we in the US basically already have this problem in our voting system. You can vote without having to prove who you are. Online voting might improve this. And it's true that not everyone has a computer; perhaps you could still have polling places that provide internet voting. But I agree with you in general that operating such as system will be problematic. There are existing sites like http://makeyourcase.org that basically do what we're talking about; they could possibly be expanded to produce a voting system.
The internet access problem is easily solved by voting booths, save for the problem of technical illiteracy. But the security problem is a BIG one: there isn't just the problem of voter fraud by impersonation, which is difficult to do at a large scale without being detected, but that the vote counting can be hacked, which could easily have a HUGE impact and is very difficult to prevent. And there are many organizations which could profit billions from this and therefore could be prepared to spend billions on that. That's something many seem to ignore, strangely.
Is there a case for banning political advertising in Switzerland? Or at least have strict controls on the amount of money spent on it.
@icc97 Banning political advertising is not even close to being suggested - on the countrary they advertise in a lot of places where normal advertisement would be banned, going as far as having posters in the middle of the sidewalk, effectively blocking the way. However there is a movement calling for more financial transparency for parties, which is not hard since right now it's 100% opaque.
The problem is that voters can't possibly be properly informed on every issue under consideration. Political representatives can give their attention to those issues on a full-time basis, and have staffs to study the issues in detail and brief them. Your representatives are not supposed to just vote the way you would -- they're supposed to vote the way that you would if you were fully informed on the issue, which may well be different.
This! For sure. One of the most common complaints of our current representatives is how they aren't always all that well informed on a lot of subjects they vote on...multiply that by the population as a whole and you're not necessarily going to end up with thoughtful votes.
Recommend an edit, reflecting that not even our current political representatives can't read every bill they are expected to sign.
@DrunkCynic well, we could argue they are *expected* to...but we don't seem to enforce that as voters much. :)
@blip Thus the problems that lead to solutions like the Question poses. It is far easier to control 535 individuals than a country.
+1. Also note that laws will be tested in courts and will need more rigor than a citizen just posting their great idea for a bill. (Which also allows clever citizens to propose laws that seem to say one thing, but will actually be interpreted otherwise by courts. Theoretically, politicians and their staffs look at such things.
The last sentence is the key. I don't have the time to get all of that information any more than I have the time to attend medical school, culinary institute... I pay doctors, chefs etc. to do those things for me. The difference with representative government is that I don't get to choose someone who really represents me. Instead, I have to pick the lesser of two evils. If I could vote for any of the 435 members of the House instead of just my district, and each of their votes were weighted thereby, it would far more accurately represent the public.
+1 for @MontyHarder comment; the biggest issue with current political system is that duels are forced all the way from local to congressional levels. You shouldn't be forced to "pick between the lesser of two evils" (or two candidates you don't believe in), but rather you should be allowed to pick your representative. As long as someone is willing to be a representative and I am OK with him representing me, it shouldn't matter how many votes he has. See my answer referencing Liquid democracy.
I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system
One disadvantage of your proposal is that representative government takes advantage of division of labor, and you would lose that advantage.
Just as a board of directors for a large company may not want to undertake the time and effort to review and make decisions on every matter the company faces (due to their time constraints), those represented in a democracy similarly may wish to delegate the responsibility of legislating to their representatives. This is similar to other situations in which principals choose to employ agents to represent them, in order to take advantage of not only their agents' time, but also those agents' expertise. (Note: that said, there are widely recognized problems often present in the principals' ability to ensure their agents represent the principals' interests (see Wikipedia.)
Especially given the complexities inherent in the world today (and therefore the depth of detail, legal obscurities, and the like represented in actual legislation), the ordinary voter in a democracy may find his or her time better spent on other activities than doing enough research in order to form an opinion on each potential piece of legislation. Therefore electing representatives who the voters believe can be trusted as responsible delegates may represent a much more efficient outcome.
I think the biggest problem is that people see direct and representative democracy as something that can't be combined. I don't see reason why it can't - just make voting process easier, the same way it was done for banking. If I want to do my voting/banking online, allow me. If I want to stick to offline, let me do that. And as soon as you have online voting, implementing something like LiquidFeedback would be easy and would improve our current political system immensely; see my answer.
@Kape123: Direct Democracy exists in every state at some level (Referalls on law are options in all 50 states, Referrals on Constitution amendments are options in all but DE, about half have some form of Citizen Referendum on some kind, the most common being veto of legislation, but proposed legislation and constitutional amendments exist, as do Recall elections). The Swiss took that model and implemented it at a Federal level.
TLDR: What I am proposing in my answer is combination of representative and direct democracy. @hstoerr has left a link to LiquidFeedback that implements almost everything I am talking about in my answer.
Software developer here also - but as you, I have also been thinking a lot about this problem over past few years.
When you take everything into consideration, I would say that two biggest issues in current political system are:
- You can't easily change your political representatives (in lots of cases people don't even know who is representing them on local / state / federal levels)
- Power is concentrated within small groups - you have professional politicians who are in some cases completely disconnected from reality.
By tackling those two issues I assume we would solve majority of frustrations that people have with political system. So, how we would do that? Well, actually - easy - all we need to do is implement voting systems that would support few things:
- Allow people to directly vote on proposals submitted to the country assembly
- For those who do not want to vote directly, they can pick representative. Representative can be anyone, but his history of votes is public. That way you can find someone who votes the way you like practically give your vote allowing him to represent you. In interest of brevity I will stop here but obviously there are lots of ideas applicable here: if you don't like how your representative voted on some issue you can change your vote manually if voting is still in progress... people should be allowed to easily switch their representative on a monthly / yearly level... etc
A great example of a "better voting" system is how moderators are picked here on StackExchange. I urge you to visit StackOverFlow elections page if you haven't already and look at how awesome the whole process is. I was stunned when I saw how well process functions and basically allows the best candidates to be picked regardless of their background and years. This especially struck me as a great example of how broken our current political system is - in SO elections some candidates were younger than 15 years and yet I voted for them because of quality presentation and ability to see their history of votes / answers.
In "real world election" these candidates wouldn't be able to run for anything regardless of their ability simply because they are were less than 18/21 years old.
EDIT: As I am reading what others wrote in their answers I'll try to provide my view on things they bring up.
- @MartinArgerami brings up two issues:
"How would you deal with 10000 proposals per week? No one will read them". I think this one is easily solved - you have more than 10000 submissions to Reddit, Imgur, StackExchange yet what is considered "good" content tends to flow to the top. The same way people are allowed to upvote/downvote a question on StackOverflow, they would be allowed to upvote/downvote proposal. And, as I say in my answer, representatives would make filtering easier - for those who don't want to read / vote on every single proposal. Plus since they have votes of people they represent, with their upvotes/downvotes they would effectively act as moderators.
Taking @blip 's comment into account - to clarify - I am not saying that Reddit, Imgur, StackExchange ranking and upvote/downvote systems are FLAWLESS. Great submissions may slip through the cracks. Silly submissions may reach front page (Christmas selfies on Imgur, anyone?). However, any ranking system is infinitely better than "let's just leave it only to professional politicians to prioritize and have 0 control" system. As I said previously in my answer, I urge you to visit StackOverFlow elections page and see how well implemented upvote/downvote system is working in practice, for moderator election.
"What happens when the first two bills of the year spend the whole year's budget?". This is not really relevant to my answer as what I am proposing is tied to making current political system more accessible / transparent to average person, rather than getting into what people decide. That being said, I highly doubt allowing people to vote directly would lead to "first two bills spent whole year's budget". Ironically, this already happened numerous times in current political system. 2013 US government shutdown because of US Congress was blocked from raising debt ceiling is a great example.
- "Not everyone has a computer nor internet access.". Again, I think the biggest issue is here is that people look at direct voting and representation as mutually exclusive options. They are not. With system I am talking about in this answer, there is no obstacle for allowing people to vote "the old way" during transition period - i.e. have election day during which people pick their representative in assembly / congress and he votes for them for 4-6 years. But, those who want should be allowed to pick their representative more often and access their representatives vote history.
- "Security" - obviously there is no silver bullet here. But that shouldn't discourage anyone - in world where you can use mobile phone as credit card, voting shouldn't be a big deal. Yes, there will be problems and people will need to improve their technical knowledge to ensure their account is not compromised. But since people are already doing this for their Online Banking / Facebook / Twitter accounts, I doubt they wouldn't be doing it for online voting.
EDIT, EDIT: Phew, lots of issues to tackle. I will keep typing... here are some of the things that I think could be especially problematic with system I proposed... that I still haven't responded to:
- Confidentiality - considering that for direct vote everyone needs to see the proposals, how to handle confidential / sensitive / national security proposals?
"For those who do not want to vote directly, they can pick representative" = is that not exactly what we already have in the US?
Also..."StackExchange yet what is considered "good" content always flows to the top"...I disagree completely with this. Interesting content is often flowing to the top. And really bad content is usually at the bottom. But if you peruse the 'hot questions' column on the right, you'll find a lot of not-great questions often with really bad answers. Popularity, alas, doesn't necessarily mean quality. See also: American Idol.
@blip, in a sense - yes, part of what I propose is exactly the same what you already have in US and throughout the world. However, what you currently don't have is the ability to change your representative easily. That's why every election is presented as a matter of life and death - you are picking somebody who will be in office for number of years regardless of his performance and whether or not he will fulfill promises given during campaign.
Well, actually, it *is* pretty easy to change our representatives. We have term limits, and they have to go up for a vote again. That we have a problem with voter apathy is the bigger issue. But the system *is* set up to remove bad representatives on a routine basis.
@blip it is not easy to change representatives - it takes a lot of time (we are talking about YEARS) and costs a lot of money ($$$ need to be shelled out for all those voting locations, administrators, etc). Plus, because of the way current offline voting system is setup - paper votes resulting in limited candidate pool - it's quite likely that running candidates may not represent values you believe in, which results in voter apathy you are talking about. And, AGAIN as I said, if your candidate doesn't fulfill promises given during campaign, you can't take your vote back.
Well, "years" isn't that long in political time. You can't really judge a representative's ability in less than a couple of years anyways. As for paper voting limiting the candidate pool, I don't quite understand the connection there. Regardless, the point I was trying to get across is that in the US, the system was specifically designed to make it easy to remove a representative. That we don't utilize the system like we should is a different, though obviously related, problem.
Well, if "years" isn't that long in political time, good for you. For me, 4-6 years is a LOT of time. As for paper voting limiting candidate pool - you need to limit number of candidates in order to be able to count votes. Imagine paper ballot with 100+ candidates. That's why current outdated voting system practically forces duels from local all the way to congressional level. I don't want to be forced between two candidates I don't like. I want to be represented by someone I believe in regardless of how many votes he has as long as he is willing to represent.
I'd argue most voters have trouble truly understanding the difference between 2-6 candidates. I can't see choosing from 100 candidates being an improvement to the system. More choices isn't necessarily a good thing all the time. :)
I think you are seriously underestimating the needed security, here. In politics there is a BIG incentive for voting fraud - after all we are talking about billions of $ that would be spent to crack the system. IMHO the use of voting computers in the US is grossly negligent. So LiquidFeedback would be absolutely not fit for this. I'd massively protest any system which was not open source, and where I and others could not somehow verify that my vote was correctly counted. And how to combine this with anonymity is solved for manually counted voting, but not for computer assisted voting.
@hstoerr I rather think that people who are using "security" as a trump card are just simply not informed enough on what's possible technology wise. Yes, you could have an online voting system in which you and only you can verify your vote by using private / public key system. On the other hand HOW in manually counted voting system can you PERSONALLY verify that your vote was correctly counted? You can't. You simply trust other people's word and that's it. Yet for some reason, that's good enough for people defending current system... I simply don't understand the double standards.
@hstoerr And just for the record LiquidFeedback is open source (I do agree that any important voting system will have to be open source). And if you don't trust people enough to allow them to vote with just username / password - implement system that requires possession of something like chipped driver's license / state id. Want to take it even further? Go with 2 factor authentication. There are TONS of things you can do security wise and in the end you would have FAR more secure and transparent system then what you currently have with paper voting.
@kape123 In a decent manually counted voting system anybody can observe and verify every step of the rather simple process. And as a software developer I know how hopelessly complex and fragile software is - it can easily be hacked, even the hardware. To be able to verify this, you'd have to invent something *really* ingenious. Your suggestions secure against voter fraud, but the really big issue of computer voting is fraud by hacking the voting / counting process by any of the many multi billion dollar organizations, who'd have a massive interest in that. How to prevent that?
@hstoerr As for fraud, I already gave you the answer on how to prevent it, read my comment again. Now, it comes down to your personal belief - for some reason you believe that "software and hardware are hopelessly complex and fragile and can be easily hacked". I find that laughable - online banking wouldn't exist in that case. And by that logic we will be forever stuck with current paper voting system, which to me seems obviously false. But who knows - maybe you are right... maybe people will just keep clinging to professional politicians as a layer of protection and blame.
@hstoerr Which "decent manually counted voting system" are you talking about? Isn't current system something like - there is a voting committee, they count votes and tell the others - these are the results? I.e. you inherently trust them and that's it. There is no way for you to verify that your vote was counted correctly. While we are at it - here is a good list for you - List of controversial elections @ Wikipedia.
I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system and has the idea of direct voting in every issue (referendum) ever been implemented or is it even possible to implement?
Many states in the US do this with voter referendums. Voters can propose laws, then vote to implement, and then the state passes it into law regardless of the representative's votes. Washington state is one that does this.
There are definite pros and definite cons.
One pro is that it allows the people to circumvent the oft-times ineffectual gridlock of a two party system. Another is that it allows proposals that would never make it to the light of day from congress due to being "politically dangerous" topics. In WA state, some examples of that could include the voter referendums that legalized marijuana and gay marriage...topics that politicians felt were overly controversial and preferred not to deal with.
But then there are the cons. One con is simply a lack of understanding of the big picture. Running a government isn't easy and masses aren't necessarily any more (and possibly, quite less) informed about the big picture than the representatives are. An example of that is WA's recent referendum to create a charter school system. Alas, while the referendum passed, it was unconstitutional.
Another con is that you'd loose the typical due-diligence process that most legislation goes through which includes things like alternative proposals, revisions, committees, public feedback, industry feedback, hearings, analysis, etc. Public voting on referendums, as such, requires that said referendums be fairly static and limited in scope. (One could argue that that happens prior to it becoming a referendum proposal, but it's still limited in scope as to how flexible of a process that can be).
Beyond that, perhaps neither a pro nor a con, it can be noted that voter referendums can suffer from the same plights as policies proposed and pushed for by representatives. This can include things like heavy corporate influence (typically in the form of money) such as the battle over GMO labelling and highly influential disruptors such a Tim Eyman who are considered by many to simply be a nuisance.
And finally, as stated, the typical argument against direct democracy is the issue of tyranny of the majority. Of course, one could argue that problem already exists with a two party representational system. :)
The initiative to limit vehicle license fees in WA is another potential _con_ example that is having serious repercussions many years later. The streets/bridges/etc. infrastructure still has no viable long-term funding source. The 'People' _en masse_ have a hard time seeing beyond paying their personal monthly bills to envision results a decade later.
In the country I am from there have been a few groups who have in intended this. None of them were very successful however.
To answer your question, the disadvantages I see are:
Having secret ballots cast digitally, given the dangers of hacking that it entails. Personally I am more inclined to have completely open and transparent elections. Something that would obviously only work in a stable, peaceful and transparent democracy. Having said that, there are quite a few technical solutions to this problem already. One basic version of that is https://github.com/benadida/helios
The potential danger of voting fraud is much greater given that it's much easier to defraud an election. There needs to be a way for people and the media to verify that a vote has been tallied correctly.
In a transition period from a representative to a direct democracy, one would need to mimic the existing already established procedures on how votings currently takes place in parliaments and senates. This can become overly complex and convoluted.
Having said that, direct democracy is obviously the far superior alternative, and is most likely what we will have in the future. I can envision people discussing and voting on an online platform on issues that matter the most to them. Where people will have the ability to delegate their vote to any "politician". And have the ability to override that delegated vote on issues they disagree. Obviously they would also be free to switch their delegated vote at any time. And being able to pick such a "politician" for whatever issue they want. Thus making it radically different from the representative democracy we have today.
Direct Democracy provides insufficient protections for individual rights, allowing the majority to override the freedoms of the minority.
"direct democracy is obviously the far superior alternative" = how so? The reason we have representational democracy in many cases is because in part, people *didn't* agree that direct democracy was far superior.
@DrunkCynic: That's true in a representative democracy as well. Just look at the rise of Hitler and the implementation of the Patriot Act.
@blip: The reason we have representative democracy is because it hasn't been possible in practice to implement direct democracy, until now. Direct democracy is obviously superior as it gives you more flexibility and freedoms when it comes to voting.
@dan-klasson no, that's not *the* reason. There are *many* reasons. One being that direct democracy, simply put, is majority rule. And that, alas, backfires as much as it succeeds.
@dan-klasson touche! Well, yes, I have to concede on the surface, that's somewhat true. However, most of the checks and balances that have been implemented to avoid the tyranny of the majority require the representational structures that are in place to work even marginally effectively. There *is* truth in the *too many cooks in the kitchen* phrase. :)
@blip: In practice most people would just delegate their vote, so the structures in place today would still exist. With the major exception that people have the ability to override votes for issues that are important to them.
This does not work I am in a similar field as the OP and have been toying with this concept in my head for almost a year and here are the problems I keep coming to.
This system allows for a pure democracy which is great in ideal but falls apart for several reasons.
First as others have pointed out public sentiment swings randomly. A representative democracy is better because a society needs to have individuals whose time is dedicated to the understanding and scrutiny of public policy. Us ordinary folk don't have the time or knowledge to adequately review and deliberate each and every single legislation. [not saying our current representative system does this well either but imagine compounding that issue by several million fold]. Not to mention people(plural) are inherently resistant to change so revolutionary concepts would also be hindered by this.
Some people have noted that web access is one challenge. This problem is less of an issues as currently there are tons of corporate initiatives to get everyone access to the web. Raspberry Pi and Google as some of the bigger efforts.
The real issue here is security. Currently, everyone is getting hacked left and right and while there is concerted international effort on this issue a resolution is undoubtedly a distant dream. This is mostly because just as there is incentive to not be hacked there is plenty of incentive to hack. If a nation decided to control its public policy over web services other nations would have great incentive to hack that system to promote their agenda, let alone special interest groups.
There are other issues with this I have contemplated but cant remember now in passing. I think a more valuable solution would be to create a system that increases the dialogue and transparency between an elected official and their constituency. Where the official must justify their decision, where they can gain more knowledge and insight on an issue of contention. Recently, I have been hearing about various apps that are following this very concept, but I have yet to try them.
The main issue I see in this system is how to turn it on; you'll need a law for it (or a more deep modification of the political system), and guess who has to approve it?, yes; the folks that would loose some of their power when the thing starts to work.
It could be approved by a referendum, but with the entire political system against that could be really hard.
+1 - this is 100% true. But I guess change of political system would happen the same way it was happening throughout the history: once overwhelming majority of people believe that new system should be established, it would simply happen one way or the other. I guess I should expand on this in my answer, too ;)
@kape123 not sure if we can find a change at this scale that removed the power from politicians and ended up nicely
I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system and has the idea of direct voting in every issue (referendum) ever been implemented or is it even possible to implement?
There are many places where direct vote is used for tense / complicated matters.
As an example, the last mayor of a nearby town foresaw the problems that "enforcing" changes to the town's main street ( 1 less car way, and more parking space ) , would cause to his reputation, so he made public, electronic poll (with voting stations on public spaces) on that district (and lost). the changes were not made, and a new poll was made to find out a alternative change, and a similar measure was found to be greatly accepted.
Ofcourse, we're speaking of a concrete change on a city, so answering your question:
- is it possible to implement?
Completely? no. We will always need political representatives to do the job, hire contractors, make the plans, etc...
we can (and in my country, if everything goes well, we will soon) prepare the ground for the citizens to decide on the crucial matters .
- how we might do it?
The plan is that every party inside the parliament / local government would have to power to call for a referendum on a subject or matter, and that any social movement / group of citizens with enough signatures (equal to the vote cost of 1 seat on the parliament / local government , for example) could do so too.
Changes to the constitution, or bills passed that go against the elections program / promises of the ruling party should have to be passed by referendum too, because nobody voted you ( the politician ) to do that.
Example, the "Open Government" initiative of Barcelona's City Council. Open Government
- does that mean that every issue can be solved by referendum?
No, because that would both take too long to be efficient, and would make those same referendums become useless, and, in a long time , increase abstention in the voters, giving power only to the interested ones.