Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Direct Democracy vs. Representatitive Democracy

  1. Apr 25, 2010 #1
    We see the disadvantage with Representative Democracy:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy#Comparison_with_representative_democracy

    Most notably with Palin.

    Ideas regarding the desirability of direct democracy are usually in comparison to its widespread alternative, representative democracy. (Hans Köchler, 1995)

    * Political parties. The formation of political parties is considered by some to be a "necessary evil" of representative democracy, where combined resources are often needed to get candidates elected. However, such parties mean that individual representatives must compromise their own values and those of the electorate, in order to fall in line with the party platform. At times, only a minor compromise is needed. At other times such a large compromise is demanded that a representative will resign or switch parties. In structural terms, the party system may be seen as a form of oligarchy. (Hans Köchler, 1995) Meanwhile, in direct democracy, political parties have virtually no effect, as people do not need to conform with popular opinions. In addition to party cohesion, representatives may also compromise in order to achieve other objectives, by passing combined legislation, where for example minimum wage measures are combined with tax relief. In order to satisfy one desire of the electorate, the representative may have to abandon a second principle. In direct democracy, each issue would be decided on its own merits, and so "special interests" would not be able to include unpopular measures in this way.
    * Voter apathy. If voters have more influence on decisions, it is argued that they will take more interest in and participate more in deciding those issues.[5]
    * Scale. Direct democracy works on a small scale. Town meetings, a form of local government once common in New England, have worked well, often emphasizing consensus over majority rule. The use of direct democracy on a larger scale has historically been more difficult, however.[6] Nevertheless, developments in technology such as the internet, user-friendly and secure software, and inexpensive, powerful personal computers have all inspired new hope in the practicality of large scale applications of direct democracy. Furthermore ideas such as council democracy is a proposal to enact direct democracy in nation-states and larger groups.
    * Manipulation by timing and framing. If voters are to decide on an issue in a referendum, a day (or other period of time) must be set for the vote and the question must be framed, but since the date on which the question is set and different formulations of the same question evoke different responses, whoever sets the date of the vote and frames the question has the possibility of influencing the result of the vote.[7] Manipulation is also present in pure democracy with a growing population. Original members of the society are able to instigate measures and systems that enable them to manipulate the thoughts of new members to the society. Proponents counter that a portion of time could be dedicated and mandatory as opposed to a per-issue referendum. In other words, each member of civil society could be required to participate in governing their society each week, day, or other period of time.
    * Systematic Bias.[citation needed] In association with organizational biases (e.g., group-think) and logical errors (e.g., argumentum ad populum), systemic bias within a direct democracy could, in theory, lead to sub-optimal outcomes for a population. Decisions dealing primarily with factual analysis (as opposed to value-based or ethics-based decisions) could be manipulated (willfully or inadvertently) by individuals or organizations, influencing public opinion and therefore the outcome of a direct democracy's decisions. Note that the same problem potentially occurs with representative government assuming everyone has equal access to the misleading factual information.


    And the possible implementation of Direct Democracy:

    Some of the issues surrounding the related notion of a direct democracy using the Internet and other communications technologies are dealt with in e-democracy. More concisely, the concept of open source governance applies principles of the free software movement to the governance of people, allowing the entire populace to participate in government directly, as much or as little as they please. This development strains the traditional concept of democracy, because it does not give equal representation to each person. Some implementations may even be considered democratically-inspired meritocracies, where contributors to the code of laws are given preference based on their ranking by other contributors.


    Libertarians take their freedoms very seriously, e.g. healthcare

    Do you think Direct Democracy would undermine state control over the people in favour of libertarians?

    If not, would their influence be more detrimental and regressive to the society as a whole?

    Would an uneducated electorate also be detrimental and regressive to society as a whole?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2010 #2
    Representative democracy is much better in my opinion.
     
  4. Apr 25, 2010 #3
    Why?
     
  5. Apr 25, 2010 #4
    Because it works in reality opposed to just being a theory. Everything in theory is always 'the best' and 'perfect'. Goooood luck.

    EDIT: I'm talking about at a national level by the way. It's perfecty usable at the lowest levels of government... mostly because everyone who can have a voice can attend a meeting. I.e. Towns
     
  6. Apr 25, 2010 #5
    Not even in the future?

    "Some of the issues surrounding the related notion of a direct democracy using the Internet and other communications technologies are dealt with in e-democracy. More concisely, the concept of open source governance applies principles of the free software movement to the governance of people, allowing the entire populace to participate in government directly, as much or as little as they please. This development strains the traditional concept of democracy, because it does not give equal representation to each person. Some implementations may even be considered democratically-inspired meritocracies, where contributors to the code of laws are given preference based on their ranking by other contributors."
     
  7. Apr 25, 2010 #6

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Beware the masses, for when they act as one, they lose the rational thought of the individual.
     
  8. Apr 25, 2010 #7
    Some of the points in the OP don't seem very realistic.

    For instance the idea that political parties would not exist in a direct democracy. People tend to group themselves for their mutual benefit. If this is a free democracy that we are talking about then there is nothing to stop people of a similar mind from grouping and having private meetings to discuss, bargain, and negotiate on issues. A group may agree to all vote a certain way on an issue in return for agreement to vote a certain way on another. There is no guarantee that any member will in fact hold to their agreement but this is no different than a representative democracy except perhaps that in a direct democracy individuals votes may still be held secret making it less likely that one will be held accountable for bargain breaking.
    There is also the likelihood of persons grouping to produce campaigns in support of or against any particular bill or candidate for office. While they may look different I believe that political parties would likely still exist.
    How would any particular issue come up for vote anyway if there are not organized groups petitioning for action? If every individual has equal ability to propose an idea and put it before the public forum we would likely wind up with an extremely crowded and chaotic message board (going off of the e-democracy model) with thousands of threads all proposing different (and likely many similar) ideas. Most would be drowned out and lost under what ever is 'hot' or popular at the time. No one but the most dedicated would be able to keep up with the discussion of more than a few dozen topics and most would likely only pay attention to what ever few spark their interest at the moment.

    Also the issue of "special interests". While the term has become more of an epithet special interests serve a purpose. Minority groups have rights which should not be hedged out by a majority and sometimes unpopular ideas are still good ideas. One of the design advantages of a representative democracy is that it generally takes time for any particular bill or idea to get through and passed. It gives time for consideration and debate and for indicative circumstances to bare out one way or another. While right now it may seem like a great idea to do something next year it may seem unimportant or a poor decision.
     
  9. Apr 25, 2010 #8
    Isn't that why Obama won? I must agree with you on this one Ivan.:wink:
     
  10. Apr 26, 2010 #9
    Do you think the U.S. would have been off with MCCain and Palin ?
     
  11. Apr 26, 2010 #10

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Whether WooWee believes that or not doesn't have a lot to do with the point: The media, despite being heavily pro-Obama called it "Obamamania" for a reason. His pre-election support far exceeded any rational basis and the McCain=Bush idea that he sold and the public bought was also not rationally justified.

    At the same time, Obama's popularity crash has also been faster than is rationally justified.

    I agree that direct democracy is neither feasible nor desirable. The masses are fickle and gullible/impressionable.....not to mention not well enough educated in general or on the specifics of the issues.

    Also, "direct democracy" would need to be defined, because the name sounds simble, but someone still has to be doing a lot of the work behind the scenes - who is that person (group of people) and how do they get and use their power?
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2010
  12. Apr 26, 2010 #11
    Through a representative democracy, selected individuals have privy knowledge of "secrets" of vital importance to national security.
    In a direct democracy there would be no such thing as secrets, and our country would quickly be taken over by internal or foreign adversaries.

    Well then, you say, "OK, that makes sense, so let's have only trusted individuals in a direct democracy know about such things."
    You just created a representative democracy.
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook