A Vote for Direct Democracy is a Vote for Unity

Pieter de Beer
A vote for representative democracy (a.k.a. republicanism), is a vote against unity.

At its peak, republicanism is a popularity contest.

Someone like Trump, who is arguably one of the most hateful and bigoted people to ever hold the office of President in the United States, can legitimately gain presidency over a global superpower by using representative democracy, which discourages participation through its obvious charade.

In a representative democracy, the constituency is encouraged to disengage from the political process, bar a single vote once every 4 years. What little engagement remains is to attempt investment of our political capital in whoever has most closely aligned with our values. The irony is that in order to fix this, there needs to be more political engagement and acumen, which is the hallmark of direct democracy.

Which leads us to ask, if we need to fix the problems of representative democracy by using direct democracy (which is when the power to govern lies directly in the hands of the people), then why bother with representatives at all?

Give every citizen the means to influence policy, and allow administrative control to be limited to the state, or preferably the municipal level. Confederate under a single constitution, but allow each municipality to have relative autonomy. No representatives needed.

This is just one possible route that could be developed if everyone wasn't busy arguing over which representatives are least representative.

At its core, representative democracy is a system of division that leaves a majority against a group of minorities. There is no intention of unity or progress, just keeping the status quo and using the division as a distraction, while embezzlement and corruption are imbibed in along with a healthy dose of abuse-of-power. Divide and conquer! And we don't see it because we’re so busy arguing about which politician has the most flawed policy.

The argument is commonly made that direct democracy is a tyranny by the many. Not that there is any evidence to support this idea, and certainly there are far too few examples for this statement to be considered a valid generalisation.

But, assuming that this is correct, representative democracy is arguably worse, since it concentrates power in just a few hands. Anything that is supposedly wrong with direct democracy, is orders of magnitude worse when applied to representative democracy.

So which is Better, Representative, or Direct Democracy?

Representative democracy requires high levels of trust in the ability of representatives to make decisions that represent the wishes and interests of the constituency.

Direct democracy requires high levels of political engagement, and a relatively high degree of understanding of the subject matter being decided on. Which means relatively high levels of education, and low levels of economic inequality, are quite important (though not deal-breakers).

We would have to establish what constitutes "better" in order to make a comparison.

If by "better" we mean lower levels of corruption, higher levels of service delivery by government, and a higher degree of regulatory innovation, then direct democracy is almost certainly a better system.

If by "better" we mean government more responsive to industry interests, an electoral process that is easier to install and maintain, and a legislative process that promotes conservative values by rejecting the majority of legal changes, then a democratic republic is the better system.

Representative democracy incentivizes disengaging from the political sphere by convincing the populace to hand over their political will, making direct democracy virtually impossible to implement. And, ironically, I think that direct democracy is more representative of the interests of the public than a representative democracy could ever be.

Now, we've entered the digital age, and as such should be seeing the democratic process reflect the technical and technological advance we're making as a species. Unfortunately, representative democracy is deeply entrenched in global politics, and is going to take a monumental effort and level of engagement by the public to be ousted by direct democracy. This doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be done, merely that it won't be a simple matter of saying "let's try this new idea"

Can Representative Democracy lead to Anarchism?

In short, no.

Representative democracy is a powerful weapon against anarchism. Simply put, no anarchist movement can beat it, because the very idea of anarchism prevents a leader from arising and taking the people into the future. Within the republican world, anarchism is nothing more than an ideal, and since an anarchist party (because of inherent paradox) cannot exist, republicanism will continue the ridiculous search for a ruler that will free the people, even though no such ruler can ever exist. Belief in representative democracy is the belief that freedom is impossible and we all deserve to be ruled by flawed politicians.

Democracy and anarchism are not mutually exclusive. They simply are not compatible if we're dealing with representative democracy.

There are some excellent decision making platforms that do not require representatives or a national government. A confederation of autonomous municipal districts doesn't need to give away political power to those with vested interests that do not align with their constituency.

Anarchism is not statism, so it cannot be judged by statist values, yet there still needs to be some form of legislation, which is currently far too complex for an average voter to comprehend, let alone reach complex decisions about. However, legislation that is too complex shouldn't even see the light of day.

There is absolutely no reason that legislation can't be expressed in natural language. We live in an age with software systems abound that could simplify the legislative process. But political parties and government have a vested interest in maintaining a system that is easily subverted by capital. This becomes obvious when we see how many members of Congress depend on corporate money for election.

Again, legislation that is too complex for those to whom it applies to understand, is very obviously oppressive, and should not be permitted. All 'legalese' can be translated to natural language, and this translation could be automated. Mass participation in group decision making can be simplified through social networks that cluster decision makers according to their centrality to proposed legislation.

How are you going to clean up the existing system without higher levels of political acumen and participation, which are pre-requisites for direct democracy.
Once you have an actively engaged populace, why revert to representatives?

An argument then usually gets made about how the vast majority of people don’t have the time or inclination to participate regularly in a direct democracy. The truth is, these same people have ample time to discuss these topics on social media platforms and online forums, and I'm saying it's as simple as designing an effective app.

We are automating in every industry, at every level. There are actual political decision making platforms that already exist and are open source, so they can be adjusted as needed, at marginal cost. This software is specifically designed to facilitate the creation and maintenance of policies and legislation.

This software would highlight legislation according to its centrality to the reader. So the more relevant the legislation is to you, the higher its rank in your "news feed". People that don't live in your area, will have lower centrality to legislation that affects you, and thus are less likely to be asked for input. Experts in specific fields may provide viewpoints that don't require regional proximity, so expertise would be another variable in the ranking.

Regulatory establishment and compliance are not complex. They are simply couched in legalese in order to render them inaccessible, as exemplified by statements such as this Department of Justice regulation: "When a filing is prescribed to be filed with more than one of the foregoing, the filing shall be deemed filed as of the day the last one actually receives the same."

Surely we can find a way to conduct the affairs of governance using a model which operates more like a local council or guild, where good ideas can flow inward from the community and be acted upon and bureaucracy can be minimized or avoided.

What if adhocracies, project-based governance in which the relevant people form a temporary group for the purpose of solving a problem and then dissolve once the problem is solved, replaced most of the functions of current government? Instead of simply getting advice from experts, actually elect from among the experts and groups central to the issues at hand, groups to solve the problems, whose influence does not extend beyond their given task. Once the problem is solved or found to be intractable, dissolve the adhocracy. If needed, vote in another group to solve the problem.

Since the 1930s, the US President and other high officials frequently have used ad hoc organizations. The Hoover Commission, the Committee on Civil Rights, the Gaither Committee, the Scrowcroft Commission, and the Tower Commission are a few examples. So it’s not as if Ad Hoc governance is entirely new within this arena.

In most representative democracies, we are not given the opportunity to vote for our true preference, but from among the representatives that have managed to gain the most corporate sponsorship. There is a strong correlation between the winning party and the size of the advertising campaign they could afford because of corporate sponsors.
This is not a choice, but the illusion of choice. Like selecting between competing brands of cereal, but they're both produced by the same company, making the competition artificial.

There are hundreds of initiatives all over the US, and thousands globally, to try and engage local communities in local governing. It isn’t that far a stretch imagining a system in which these initiatives allow for the current form of government to be rendered obsolete, and for direct democracy to form a coherent replacement.

There is a better way than republicanism, which has given us Trump. Isn’t it time we found that way?