Fundamental Challenges For Direct DemocracyInaccurate voters? Many voters are:
A) Emotional, sentimental: “Let a six-year-old girl with brown hair need thousands of dollars for an operation..., and the post office will be swamped with nickels and dimes to save her. But let it be reported that without a sales tax the hospital... will deteriorate and cause a barely perceptible increase in preventable deaths — [then] not many will drop a tear or reach for their checkbooks.” Thomas C. Schelling 1968.
B) Ignorant: They lack important information needed to vote for themselves. They simply do not have enough time to think through all the important information available. Democracy has huge inherent costs in days of study by all voters.
C) Superstitious: The details depend on your own beliefs.
D) Prejudiced: The culture of a voter often colors what he sees, so he does not realize the present facts. In some places, groups competing for resources are politically separated by culture, language, religion or ethnic rivalries. Each group can try to raise its political muscle by raising its population in a battle of birth rates. (A high voting age might deter fertility wars.)
E) Easily misled, they often seem to change their opinions when we change the wording of a polling question. Unthinking followers of fads and fashions: They are easily (mis-) led by ads, rumors and “reasonable doubts” planted in news media by political operatives. Many people who use critical thinking well in some situations often ignor it in others.
A story from California: “Assembly Speaker, Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) said, [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger's repeated use of the ballot [referendum] - where his popularity with voters is a potent weapon - amounts to a disdain for representative government, where policymaking power rests with elected officials.” Peter Nicholas; The Los Angeles Times; December, 2, 2004. [emphasis added. The governor's popularity dropped before the referendum and all his proposals failed. The supposed failings of direct democracy and Condorcet winners are complimentary. Direct democracy is said to swerve policies from side to side, while Condorcet's rule is said to make decisive action unlikely.]
The Vivarto system of delegating power from voters is half way between direct democracy and representation. It lets a voter delegate his power on an issue to a rep. She has his power only for the issue(s) he chooses to give her and he may rescind that authority at any time. He may delegate other issues to other reps.
A) Limited choices force voters to choose between 2 or 3 bundles of policies, (the major party's programs). They may not choose a solution for each policy. So if one votes for a candidate because of her position on education, one must accept her positions on everything else. This is like having to choose a shopping cart already filled with groceries rather than choosing food to put in the cart.
A cartoon from The New Yorker magazine: A man with a large nose and open mouth stares up at a shelf with 3 brown-paper bags, priced “groceries $65”, “groceries $55”, and “groceries $70”. He appears shocked at this choice; he can't see what is in the bags, much less choose what goes in. Change their labels to "government services $XX" and you have a typical election choice — except in the U.S. where the choice is limited to 2 options.
Packaged politics: “conservative”, “liberal”, “reactionary” and “radical”... Packages compress into a single point a constellation of attitudes about authority, abortion, contraception, conservation, drugs, education, fluoridation, forestry, guns, health, insurance, immigration, inheritance, labor unions, minimum wage, missile defense, monopolies, pollution, prayer in schools, regulation, rent control, taxes, trade, urban sprawl, vaccinations, war. . .
They rob opinion of its complexity. They turn dispassionate discussions of policy into contests of orthodoxy.
B) Power separates reps from voters. It tends to make reps feel differently and have different interests to protect than voters do. Power often leads to temptations, arrogance and corruption, financial and otherwise.
“The worst defect of democracy is that politicians are under constant pressure from the lobbyists of special-interest groups to support particular public policies.
Freedom versus Democracy?John T. Wenders writes at http://www.libertyhaven.com/countriesandregions/hongkong/democracy.html
“The unpopular answer, of course, is no. Freedom and democracy are different. In words attributed to Scottish historian Alexander Tytler: ‘A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.’ Democracy evolves into kleptocracy. A majority bullying a minority is just as bad as a dictator, communist or otherwise, doing so. Democracy is two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
Accurate Democracy argues that freedom is correlated with the ability to vote effectively.
The argument that “democracy evolves into kleptocracy” comes from doctrines, not from objective measurements. There is no country in which the wealthy do not have better health care than the poor, better transportation, more choices of food and of homes. All of those freedoms from (crime, disease) or freedoms to (go there, buy that) are larger for the rich than for the poor in the most democratic countries. The rich in democratic Switzerland have more freedom than the rich in authoritarian Zimbabwe. If the Swiss did not vote on pollution and public health issues, the rich of that country would have less freedom from disease.
Some say Russia has a very good constitution. But most observers say its citizens have only weak votes. (For example, the regional govenors are not elected but appointed, sometimes despite public opinion.) The Swiss have direct democracy on many issues, including taxes, so the Swiss voters are powerful. Who is freer the Russians or the Swiss? Which country do you think is more of a kleptocracy?
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