Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Is direct democracy preferable to representative democracy?

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Yes because... No because...

Direct democracy gives power back to the people. Getting to vote only once every 4 years (for examp...

Direct democracy gives power back to the people. Getting to vote only once every 4 years (for example) gives citizens very little power to affect their government. Direct democracy would allow people to change laws and their political system whenever they wanted. This would be much more democratic.

Elections might only happen once every few years, but governments are still very concerned with what people think in the meantime because know that they will have to be elected again. Also, any changes in the economy, laws or government services often take many years to show the benefits (or problems). Four or five year gaps between elections give us the time to see how good governments really are. Holding referendums all the time will lead to policy switching to and fro with the popular mood, to no good effect.

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Yes because... No because...

Direct democracy would speed up political processes. If urgent action were needed, decisions could ...

Direct democracy would speed up political processes. If urgent action were needed, decisions could be made much more quickly (particularly with electronic voting) without the issue getting bogged down by political parties fighting one another, scoring points and trying to slow down the system.

Slow political processes are often vital to make sure that laws are properly written. Debate and strong political opposition means that legislation must be well written, balanced and clearly explained. Slower processes also remove the risk of over-reaction by people. For example, support for the death penalty often rises suddenly after news about terrible crimes, but then returns to lower levels soon after. If people could change laws instantly, then some very extreme proposals might be accepted.

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Yes because... No because...

People today are apathetic and distrustful about politics, which is very unhealthy for a democracy. ...

People today are apathetic and distrustful about politics, which is very unhealthy for a democracy. Low turnouts in elections mean that governments today lack moral authority. Giving people more direct control would create more interest in politics, and get more people educated and active about the issues that affect them.

If people are uninterested or uninformed about politics, then it is not clear that giving them more control over it is a good idea. People may be easily swayed by clever media or advertising campaigns, even if the law in question is not good for them. Just as people can be persuaded to smoke even though it is unhealthy, they could be persuaded to vote for laws which might not be in their interests. In a direct democracy, the owners of big media companies would end up with too much influence.

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Yes because... No because...

Direct democracy gives power to people by by-passing other organisations. Governments are constantl...

Direct democracy gives power to people by by-passing other organisations. Governments are constantly 'lobbied' by businesses, trade unions and other groups, which means that they get special consideration when it comes to writing laws. Ordinary people don't have this kind of access to politicians, and so giving them direct control would level the playing field.

Businesses, unions and charities, etc. may not be 'citizens' as such but their opinions are still very important. Ordinary voters can never understand as much as they do about the economy or social issues. And also, very often what is good for these organisations is good for the whole of society. As they cannot vote, it would be damaging to exclude them from politics altogether. In any case, those organisations with enough money to buy political advertising would have too much power in a direct democracy.

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Yes because... No because...

In a democracy, everyone's opinion should be equal, because there are no right or wrong beliefs abou...

In a democracy, everyone's opinion should be equal, because there are no right or wrong beliefs about how society should work. Yet the opinions of politicians are treated as far more important right now, and they are able to make decisions that a majority of people would be against. This should never happen in a true democracy.

It is important that politicians sometimes follow their own opinions. Firstly, this shows us what kind of opinions they truly hold. If they just followed the crowd, how would we ever know what they stood for? Secondly, politicians often know more, and can call on greater resources (such as researchers) to decide about issues. And they have time to hear a range of viewpoints and carefully consider the consequences of new laws. There may not be right and wrong answers to political questions, but there are certainly more and less informed ones.

Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Yes because... No because...

Direct democracy would lead to better decision-making than we get under representative democracy. E...

Direct democracy would lead to better decision-making than we get under representative democracy. Elected politicians are almost all well-off professionals with little experience of life for ordinary people. They think alike and do not understand the impact of the laws they pass. But referendums draw on the experience and views of the whole of society, allowing political decision-making to benefit from the “wisdom of crowds”.

Direct democracy would lead to worse decision-making and could harm many people in our society. Deciding laws simply on majority vote could lead to minority groups being picked on. Worse, referendums may have such low turnouts that laws could be passed by minority groups who care a lot about the issue in question, and get their way because most people cared less and didn’t bother to vote.

Debates > Direct vs. Representative Democracy