cj#598> re: direct democracy


Richard Moore

Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996
Sender: Peter Schachte <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#596> re: "What can we do about it all??"

> >...I find that the Swiss system of direct democracy is much more
>promising and
> >can and should be refined, especially now that electronic networks can be
> >used.
>         Here we have perhaps fundamentally different perspectives.  I do
> not believe in direct democracy, taken to extremes, for several reasons.
> For one thing, direct democracy atomizes the population into a bunch of
> individuals, each voting on some issue.  This is an ideal scenario for
> mass-media manipulation, and indeed experience with the initiative process
> often shows that it is more easily manipulated by the elite than even
> legislatures are.

Sometimes this is true.  But when I lived in California I found that
fat corporate advertizing campaigns didn't always succeed in swaying
voters.  Sometimes small popular lobbying groups are able to use the
initiative process to make changes they could never have effected by
lobbying the corporate-financed legislature.

Certainly the mass-media have been successfully used to sway the
public on some issues, but this is a danger in representative
democracy, too.  Already a demagogue can take to the airwaves
spreading half-truths about a bill being considered by the
legislature, causing an avalanche of popular protest, and finally
killing the bill.  At least an election campaign (in the US) allows
time for a response pointing out the inaccuracies.  A demagogue caught
out a few times misreporting objective facts will quickly lose his

>         My belief is that the sinew of democracy is not the individual, but
> varous kinds of non-governmental organizations and institutions.  Things
> like churches, unions, parents organizations, associations of all kinds,
> etc.

These can all be a positive force in a direct democracy, too.  People
will turn to organizations they respect to decide how to vote on an
issue.  In this way, leadership is still very important in direct
democracy, it's just that it can now come from outside of the
government, and from a position one does not need hundreds of
thousands or millions of dollars to buy.

There's also the tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee effect.  It may be harder
to avoid polling about an issue, or to arrange that none of the
choices are any good, than it is to arrange for both candidates in a
representative democracy to have similar views on it.  It's hard for
me to believe that the US would have its current health care
non-system had the people been asked for their views at the polls.

Finally, I view the rise of the Internet with some optimisim.  Mailing
lists like this one, certain news groups, and web pages sprouting up
all over the world have the possibility of bringing news and analysis
direct and unfiltered to a large segment of the population.  This may
weaken the grip of the corporate media on the popular mind, allowing a
better informed populace to make better choices at the polls.
Providing corporations can be prevented from taking control of the

-Peter Schachte      URL:  http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~pets/
•••@••.•••     PGP:  finger pets@ for key
    [A computer is] like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules
    and no mercy.  -- Joseph Campbell

    Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
     Cyberlib:  www | ftp --> ftp://ftp.iol.ie/users/rkmoore/cyberlib