My response to Richard on his " How does harmonisation work? " post:
As I mentioned before, I certainly see harmonization as a crucial factor in a direct democracy. The two concepts are directly linked. The more harmonization, the more democracy.
However, I fear the system you are describing could in the real world manifest itself as an incubator for technocracy. Breeding an elite of people that are willing to involve themselves in the process. Specially if you start to stack this process through various levels of "hierarchy", like you have described in
a comment to a previous post
, this "danger" becomes more and more significant.
I believe your system suppresses some factors that contradict with the concept of harmonization but are also important factors in a direct democracy.
Should "emotional disagreement" be ignored? The harmonization process requires involvement and reasoning that not everybody will be willing or able to contribute. The wisdom of instinct is an integral factor in a direct democracy. People must have the right to vote on an issue even if they can not articulate their concern and their vote is based more on a gut feeling than on facts. This is a feature, not a bug.
What about the interests of those not interested? Harmonization can't be mandatory. Or even if you think it can be, I don't think it should be. Even in your ideal scenario where the outcome of the harmonization process at higher levels would in theory still reflect every individuals consent, I believe that a safety mechanism that allows the people to force an issue to a vote should be a requirement. Those that didn't participate in the process for whatever reason get a chance to veto its outcome.
Harmonization is about reaching a consensus for "change" but "change" is only half of the story. There is also an already existing consensus for "no change", the result of a previous harmonization process, the status quo. The decision between "change" and "no change" should happen outside of the harmonization process. This is where the direct vote of the people controls the process.
When individuals involve themselves in different interest groups and the system forces these interest groups through harmonization in order to reach a consensus then that outcome will likely be accepted by the people in a vote. There is no need to eliminate the direct vote from the process. It does not contradict with harmonization but it makes the process safer and allows it to be designed more efficient.
While harmonization in my opinion shouldn't replace referendum and initiative, it does make the concept of political parties obsolete. A direct democracy does not have a "governing party" and would never have an "opposition". In a direct democracy interest groups form around specific topics and work together to achieve concordance. The composition of the executive and the government then reflects that concordance.
I like your description of harmonization and I do know that it works. But I see it as a puzzle piece in a larger concept. Harmonization as the "best practice" for building consensus and achieving "governance in concordance" between all the different interest groups. At any level where policies are discussed and rules are drafted, the harmonization process should be applied to develop consensus. But the direct vote by the people should keep that process under control.
The limits of harmonization
Le Conseil fédéral a entamé ce matin sa course d'école de deux jours dans le canton de Berne. Après une excursion en bateau sur le lac de Bienne , les Sept Sages se sont rendus en hélicoptère au Mont-Soleil, au-dessus de St-Imier .
Les conseillers fédéraux sont ensuite montés à bord d'un char attelé pour rejoindre la centrale éolienne et solaire . Ils visiteront le bâtiment ainsi que l'obervatoire astronomique .
Ils découvriront ensuite le musée et la fabrique de montres Longines à Saint-Imier. Une rencontre d'une heure aura lieu avec la population. L'événement sera convivial et sans protocole.
I remember it :-)
response to Richard :
I agree with you that a representative democracy can not at the same time be a direct democracy.
I agree with you that a representative democracy will always erode.
I claim that the system I'm describing is not a representative democracy.
I claim that it is possible to create a system that delegates the work over various levels from local to global without delegating power .
You say direct democracy means that the people themselves make the laws and decisions, not legislatures . I say it depends on your definition of "make". The system has to put the people in "control". The members of the legislature should be delegatees and not representatives. They should have no power to decide. They receive drafts of legislation from the people, they should then "harmonize" these different drafts and forward the results for decisions by the people. These decisions by the people are then executed by the executive.
In representative democracies, it is the executives that lead and drive the legislative agenda and it is the legislatures that control that process - and they have the military at their disposal as the ultimate reinforcement.
These powers have to be taken away from executives and legislatures. The people must lead the executive, control the legislature and be the military.
If we can come up with a system that truly enforces these principles, then direct democracy can coexist with hierarchy !
You say that you... very much disagree with the claim that "every people have the government they deserve." . I said ultimately they will.
Do the people of Iraq deserve what is being currently imposed on them? No, they don't. The situation in Irak is one where seven wrongs still do not make a right. But ultimately, they will have the government they deserve. If they do not find a way of building a strong understanding for the need of harmonization that is deeply rooted in their local communities then it will not be the one we would like them to have.
If people have a perfect system in place that ensures their direct democratic control, they will also have the power to destroy it, should they choose to do so. Ultimately, they have the system they deserve. That means we have to educate people and people have to be willing to make their contribution for the system to work. Do the people deserve a perfect system if they are not willing to make their contribution?
Richard wrote: We are born into a system, and seldom is there an opportunity to change it. Many of the world's governments have been imposed from the outside, by either conquest or intrigue.
You are correct that in these cases it is unfair to say that they have the government that they deserve. I meant the statement in a way that looks at the big picture without focusing on any specific point in time. If we would say "We the people" have the government we deserve then that would mean several things:
Direct democracy is only sustainable in its absolut form. If the sovereignty of the people is compromised then it will erode - and by definition, it would no longer be a truly direct democracy.
There can be no compromises. The sovereignty must stay with the individual and through the individual with the people. All current systems make compromises that turn their democracy into a farce.
Here in Switzerland we call our system a half-direct democracy. We have made compromises that mix the concepts of direct and representative democracy. The same is true for the system in California. Even if California would have a system that sustains direct democracy to the top it would be a farce because California itself has no sovereignty.
I believe that the basic unit of sovereignty is the individual and not the community. In a direct democracy the individual can not delegate this responsibility to the community.
If an individual in a certain situation believes that the right thing to do is to break the law, then it is ok do so, as long as that individual is willing to accept the consequences. Sometimes breaking the law might be the only honorable thing to do.
Even in the military, individuals should be responsible for there actions and follow their conscience - but still suffer the punishment if they decide to go against the rules.
Only free individuals will be good community members. The community is the first and most important level of "hierarchy" but not the basic unit of sovereignty, in my opinion.
"Can democracy coexist with hierarchy?" ...Probably not, because when I described a direct democracy working over several hierarchical levels, I should probably have dropped the word hierarchy, since I believe that there should be direct interaction between the individual and any level and not just an indirect structure where the individual is only involved on the local level.
So, hierarchy is probably an inherently bad thing and not compatible with democracy. But I think direct democracy can work at various levels from local to global.
John Baldwin, Robert Watson and Scott Long .
Robert Watson: "One of the things I like to point out about FreeBSD is the longevity we see in our contributors -- we are one of the few open source projects that can demonstrate a code history going back almost 30 years, and who have active developers who have worked on that code base for much of that time! I began using FreeBSD in about 1995, and joined the developer team in 1999 -- despite being on the project six years, I consider myself a relative newcommer. Many commercial software companies would count themselves lucky if their senior engineers had half that time working on a project."
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday , Peter Maurer, the Swiss ambassador to the United Nations, called for "stronger and more specific wording" of the proposal to make the Security Council "more representative, more transparent, more accountable and more inclusive". A very, very first babystep towards qualified minority veto rights? Wishful thinking. I'm sure.
In the United Nations, a qualified minority veto should replace the current post-world-war-II veto rights in the security council and get UN reforms moving towards global democratisation. Already on a local and national level there may be needs to protect ethnic, religious, geographic or language minorities from being overpowered by the majority. Harmonization and consensus development tends to be easier to achieve on local levels and will probably need some help by design on hierarchical levels further removed from the individual.
Certain decisions could for example require a qualified majority in order to override a qualified minority veto. If 2/3 of the nations in one world region reject a proposal then it will be blocked even if it is backed by the majority of the global voters - unless the approval exceeds 2/3 overall. Or the rule might simply be that the percentage of overall approval has to exceed the percentage of minority disapproval.
With fine tuned systems like this, I believe even a global direct democracy will be possible.
Can democracy coexist with hierarchy?
"In envisioning a new democratic system, we might think we could do better than America's Founding Fathers, and design a liberal democracy with even stronger safeguards against the centralization of power. I suggest that we would be deluding ourselves. In the compromise between hierarchical government and popular sovereignty - which is the defining characteristic of liberal democracy - the tendency toward hierarchical centralization will always eventually win out. The forces pushing toward centralization - both elite pressures and legitimate concerns for efficiency - act relentlessly over time. In the contest between stone and water, the stone, no matter how strong, eventually succumbs to erosion."
"At its best, liberal democracy provides only a very limited version of democracy, and it always goes downhill from there, as regards responsiveness to popular sentiment. If we want to establish genuinely democratic societies, we need to look for models of governance that are not based the delegation of power to hierarchical institutions, and which enable people to participate directly in the process of setting the agendas of their societies."
I believe the criteria that causes modern democracies to suffer from erosion is not that they are "liberal democracies" but that they are "representative democracies". I hope Richard will use that term instead, since it is not the liberal characteristics that cause the erosion of democracy. While todays liberal democracies are representative democracies, they could also be direct democracies and not suffer from erosion.
Yes, I think it is possible to design a system that would be a direct democracy and that would not erode. The people can delegate law making to a legislature and the people can delegate the execution of decisions to an executive government. But they must not delegate the decision making and they must not delegate responsibility.
The people do not need leaders but instead must lead through initiatives and referendum. Initiatives to give binding orders to the executive and legislature and referendum to control and confirm that work of the executive and legislature.
Since in a direct democracy it's the people that make decisions, it would always be the people that decide which issues are put to a referendum. And ministers would lead their ministries and would never attempt to lead the people or make decisions for them.
I believe hierarchical direct democracies can escape erosion if the delegation of responsibility to higher levels always stays reversible. Never delegate the final decision making and never delegate responsibility.
Ultimately every people have the government they deserve.
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