4.1 – DD. is a political system where the rules of governance are decided by referendum, by all concerned citizens with equal power of one person, one vote.

DD, in principle, is not a new idea. It has been tried as a political system since the Athenian democracy. It was developed around the fifth century BC, exclusively for an elite class of citizens: ”White, male, property owners.”

Also, November 19, 1863, USA President Abraham Lincoln,  called for a “Government of the People, by the People, and for the People”, again, exclusively for the dominant class of citizens of that time: “White, male, property owners.”

What is new in DD today is that it shifts the legislative power from being the exclusive authority of a few elected representatives to being a universal responsibility of all citizens, regardless of gender, race, and economic status.

DD by referendum is occasionally used in some countries.

4.2 – Components of D.D.

The significance of direct democracy by referendum depends on several factors: Full Information, Protest and Debate, computer technology, and willingness to participate.

Full information is Indispensable to DD. Without it, and specially when partial information is misused with an ill intention of confusing the issue, the outcome of a referendum can become skewed.

Protest and Debate – can generate publicity, can educate others, can clarify the issue, and can give a sense of solidarity and personal satisfaction.

Although, protest demonstrations and civil disobedience alone have achieved social change in some cases, being informed and just protesting, in most cases, will not necessarily bring social change.

Michael Nagler in his book, “In Search for a Nonviolent Future” says: “The tail of protesting wrongs would never wag the dog of building a society.”

Computer technology has enabled DD in recent times. It would not have been possible, fifty years ago, to propagate information to millions of people and tabulate the results of referendums instantly, as we are able to do now a days.

Willingness to Participate is the Essence of DD

We can have all the information necessary to form an opinion; we can endlessly protest and debate the wrongs of our governments; we can have the ultimate computer technology to gather and tabulate our collective vision, but if we don’t participate in a referendum, selecting what we want, social change will not come automatically from above.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Thomas Jefferson

4.3 – DD puts the responsibility of our actions on ourselves.

Based on the information we consume, we react in protest and debate, blaming the elected rulers for their wrong policies.

However, when we participate in “justified” wars, or we ignore social misery, with apathy, instead of legislating our own laws, the responsibility is ours.
John Holloway says,
“We participate in the breaking of our own doing, the construction of our own subordination.”

DD proposes to securely register our opinion on a referendum system, so our choices can be counted. Then, we can legislate and materialize our vision into social change.

4.4 – DD Prevents the Concentration of Power

Historically, legislative power concentrated in the hands of monarchs, dictators, or a few political representatives has inherently corrupted. Potentially, it will continue to corrupt in the future. Direct democracy decentralizes political power.

Additionally, Direct democracy with a diffused political-decision-making power, in the hands of all citizens, would prevent the few selected politicians  from being co-opted, or coerced by economic interests

Baron Acton (1834 – 1902)

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

4.5 –  DD Is an Ongoing, Perpetual Activity

It is relatively easy for many people to be temporarily fooled during a short electoral campaign period. It is also relatively easy for a few of us to be confused for a longer period.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time“.
Abraham Lincoln
1809 –  1865
16th U.S. president

With citizens perpetually debating social policies, it would require media and influential lobbyists to multiply their propaganda, rather than just to promote personalities of their individual representatives every four years. DD would require all people to  address each social issue all time.

4.6 – DD Measures Human Values of Society.

D.D. will show whether or not most people are ready for, and want to practice a fair allocation of natural and human resources, as Karl Marx manifested: by contributing according to people’s abilities and distributing according to people’s needs.

Effectively, D.D. will reflect people’s commitment  to the most fundamental human values: empathy, equality, justice, security, and ecological conservation.

DD will measure the depth of  people’s moral values in legislation that complies with ethnic, gender and religious rights, granted to all minorities.

 

4.7 – DD enables a gradual and peaceful shift away from “parliamentary representation”.

Historically, some political and social changes have been achieved through violent revolutions: USA independence from England, the Bolshevik independence from the Tsar of Russia, and the Maoist Cultural Revolution in China.

D.D. implies a peaceful political evolution. However, It will not come from political leaders like Gandhi in India, or Martin Luther King in America. D.D. will come from the people. It must be clearly articulated, discussed by all concerned citizens, and decided by majority on a referendum.

 

4.8 – DD Requires a New Constitution.

The constitution, currently ruling the Canadian parliamentary system, is based on a hierarchical  power from above, whereas DD enables a system of legislative power originated from the people below. Therefore, the constitution requires structural changes, and the rewriting of new laws.

Republics who wanted structural political changes like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Iceland, sought to created a new constitution.

 

Thomas Jefferson, (1743-1826)
Draftsman of the Declaration of Independence and Founding Father of the United States, said that the constitution should be rewritten every 19 years.

We can figuratively interpret it as our perpetual responsibility to amend our constitution as often as needed, so each generation should define for itself how it should be governed.

4.9 – Dissatisfaction with our governments’ agenda, and public protesting against government policies will continue to happen, as long as we the people continue to subordinate ourselves, or give away our decision making power, to political representatives.

We have reviewed the “World Perspectives of Democracy”, the “Canadian Ideologies of Governance”, the “Discord Between citizen’s Visions and Government’s Agenda”, and “What is DD”. Let us now review some historical plebiscites and referendums, as possible precursors of D.D.