Monday, November 9, 2009

Direct Democracy

I think this is a great idea, to allow the US population to vote, directly, on whether a bill should become law, instead of the indirect process we now use, trusting our congresspeople to vote on our behalf.

Everyone in the US knows how lobbyists, hired by corporations or other groups with lots of money, sway how our congresspeople vote by simply bribing them. It's a disgusting situation, yet, somehow we all complacently accept it as normal. I'm sure our founding fathers had no idea this would happen nor how much technology would advance.

Congress does other things, of course, like holding public hearings on important topics, etc., so I don't think it'll really be as simple as outright abolishing it.

Unfortunately it seems very unlikely that the US will ever switch to a direct democracy. But I for one would sure love to see it.


  1. Aaron and I have come to the conclusion that the United States, for the most part, is now a plutocracy--governed by the interests of those who are wealthy and can afford to fund candidates, lobbyists, etc.

    It has been a long time since we've been an actual democracy--not in my lifetime, I believe.

    I agree with you that the current system is corrupted but I am not sure that abolishing Congress is the way to solve it. I'd like to find a way to take money out of the equation though, e.g. getting rid of private campaign finance and having set "office hours" or public workshops of sorts for constituents (NOT lobbyists) to bring forth concerns and issues.

  2. I agree Mike, direct democracy is a wonderful, if not utopian ideal. If you gave everyone a vote, how many people would actually use it? The end result would be a minority of people who made decisions for the country.

    Another negative element is that most Americans are not equipped to make important political decisions. A "representative" in a representative democracy is supposed to be an expert on politics, and therefore capable of making wise decisions on the behalf of his/her laymen constituency.

    To extend this point further, a lawmaker's full attention is (supposed to be at least) spent on lawmaking, whereas the average American is too busy doing other things to lend much thought towards political issues. A representative simply has more time to be involved in the issues.

    I support direct democracy in small groups (much like the soviets of 20th century pre-Bolshevik Russia), but for large bodies of people I believe representatives are still necessary.

  3. I agree, the average/typical US resident simply doesn't have the time/energy to be informed enough to make proper decisions for our country. Some people are informed, but the vast majority are not. The issues are complex.

    So, yeah, some form of representation seems necessary.

    The problem is, how can keep our reps honest? The current state of affairs, where it's well known and common practice that companies (through lobbyists) bribe our reps in various creative ways to sway their votes, is horrible. Our reps really ought to be an open-book as far as their finances go, how they vote, whether they are missing sessions, etc.; they should be audited regularly; the results should be well publicized; and the punishments for accepting bribes, severe.

    Even being informed about whether your rep is doing a good job is hard enough. Maybe if we had more transparency, a nice standard web site that tracked reps' record over time, tallied up how much money each rep accepted from different companies (should be zero!), etc., that'd be a good start.