Direct Democracy

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
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The City of Vallejo, California, recently put to public vote the choices of city programs that could be paid for from available budget funds. Civic interest was high, voter turnout impressive, and the citizens got what they desired. This is a beautiful example of direct democracy, where each citizen’s vote is used to build their society. Like an alcoholic who has to hit rock-bottom before there can be improvement, Vallejo hit bottom with bankruptcy because of bad management, special interest demands, and politics. A big upset of the apple cart.

I would like to think that direct democracy can be expanded to more cities and even to the state. Our state legislature already allows referendums, initiatives, and recalls, but I envision greater implementation of direct democracy – where state, county, and local “representatives” present proposed rules and laws to the general public for vote.

In our modern world, we do not need to elect someone who will be heavily influenced by money, power, backroom deals, or having to make compromises. Historically, representatives were chosen by the local citizenry to work for them and their region. But that has been largely lost to politics. In order to be elected today, one first has to choose a political party to join. Right then the representation has been diluted.

Switzerland and England are using direct democracy today. California has always been a trendsetter, and we have an opportunity to lead with this idea. Many of us have lost trust in our representatives and their bureaucracies. We have the technology. Do we have the will?


Independent Discussion Guidelines

One person's "direct democracy" is another's uninformed micro-managing.

The author left a heck of a lot of details out of his letter:

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 10:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Would be nice if locals controlled the budget. State mandated spending could be challenged.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
July 3, 2013 at 12:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good source EB. As our population becomes increasingly more illiterate we hardly need direct democracy. Perhaps many Americans do not understand our form of representational democracy and our federal democratic republic.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 6:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

California, Santa Barbara county and city have lost their way.
Up until the 80's 20+% of the general fund went to roads, now it is 2-3%. Our roads are crumbling and general funds going to salaries, pensions and benefits have raised from approx 50% to 70-80%.
Our government entries are more about providing for 'themselves' then for the citizens the are supposed to represent.
While revenue allocation is difficult I do believe the citizens vote would do a much better job than the state, city council or BOS.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 10:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

gotta agree, Italian, when you write as you often do, "Perhaps many Americans do not understand" their own governmental structure. And any internet-based pseudo-direct democracy would be extremely scary and anarchic, absolutely made for demagoguery. For a true direct democracy the citizens' Assembly [ekklesia] couldn't be larger than a hall or outdoor area where ALL the voters could hear one woman or one man's speaking voice (from ancient Athens), or, perhaps electronically amplified. With our federalism system, and representative democracy, in a land of 310 million people the idea of a true direct democracy is absurd and unworkable.
I've noticed, Italian, that people who immigrate here and take out citizenship, pass the Constitution test, usually understand the ins and outs of US democracy much better than home-grown Know-Nothings. When I teach US History class students have to take this actual test (a facsimile thereof), so that they're even with the newer, often more patriotic, citizens. I kind of despair of our country due to its ignorance of its own government.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 10:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah I'm not sure I trust human rights with some of the commentators here that's for sure.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 4, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

U.S. students are comically devoid of historical knowledge. And we cannot blame anyone but the parents for this fact. Let's face it, current society in the developed world does not encourage introspection and reflection and I fear that in our zeal to have instant gratification the lessons of history will be lost forever. With the WWII generation nearly dead we have zero links to the sacrifices that have preserved our freedom and right to act like idiots...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 7:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with much of your post, italian.
But let's also blame the chronically underfunded public education system! More Prop. 30s needed, AND some reining in of teacher unions, AND some limiting of public pensions, I know, I know, and I agree.
It is indeed sad that with the passing of the WW II generation (though overbilled as the Greatest by Ted Brokaw's book: we only came into W W II because Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor 3 years after Hitler's aggression started the war, and 7 years after Japan invaded China) -- the memory links we are losing are significant.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 10:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

From a college student at a midwestern university 20 years ago:

"Until I heard your talk this morning, I never realized the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast"

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 6, 2013 at 11:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Unfortunately this Hydra has so many heads that I do not think there is an answer...Even Hercules would be befuddled.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
July 7, 2013 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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