Author: Oliver Conolly

Direct Democracy and Its Discontents

The word “democracy” has a kind of halo around it. In right-thinking circles, criticism of democracy seems inherently indecent. This is not completely unwarranted. There is a good deal to be said in favour of the various forms of parliamentary democracy that have evolved around the world in the last 250 years. Whilst the causes of (previously unthinkable) increases in living standards around the world in that period are debated by historians, there is a plausible case that parliamentary democracy is at least one of the ingredients of that transformation. And democracy is not merely a means to the end of increased GDP. It also embodies fundamental values which we hold dear, such as respect for the dignity and liberty of the individual. Whilst parliamentary democracy clearly has a lot going for it, direct democracy is something quite different. Of the 196 countries in the world 123 are representative democracies. None are direct democracies. Switzerland – or rather some cantons within in – comes closest, but is still nowhere near a pure direct democracy. What …