29 November, 2009

A Nation of Cockfarmers?

One bad thing about direct democracy is that you can't really blame anyone else when patently egregious decisions are made. In the light of Switzerland's referendum vote to ban minarets, it must be difficult for anyone from that country to argue that it is not a nation of cockfarmers.


Fernando Brito said...

During President Lula's first term, his ultra-leftist Chief of Staff José Dirceu tried to mobilize the Workers Party in order to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow the president to call referendums without Congress approval. The idea was to use the populism+referendum formula in order to establish the Hugo Chavez model in Brazil. We were lucky, the local media hit hard on him and eventually he was forced to resign under allegations of leading a vote-buying scheme. The moderate Lula gained full control of the party and the amendment wasn't even proposed. As you know, other Latin American countries weren't so lucky and the formula is being used with growing frequency. Now what's really amazing is that more mature or at least politically stable states are following the same steps. California banned gay marriage by referendum; Colombia's Alvaro Uribe is trying to use it in order to get a third term; now the only place where direct democracy seemed to work, Switzerland, comes up with that incredibly racist decision... When the Federalists "accused" Thomas Jefferson and his followers of being "democrats", that's exactly what they meant. The only way to protect minorities from the dictatorship of the majority is to leave some decisions to a smaller collegiate that represents the people but does not act like the people.

Anonymous said...

come on, ian. it's not fair to call them cockfarmers. they've earned the right to be called a bunch of islamophobic shit-munching dick-stains. your words can never take that away from them.

ian said...

Thanks for writing in, Anonymous.

FB.., there is a lot of stuff in your post, not sure I can do it justice in a reply.

One thing I would like to know more about is how the Swiss referendum thing works in practice. Partly through my work I have come to a closer awareness of how complicated legislation is, and there is no realistic way you could have end-users voting on and/or amending things that will actually appear on the statute book, so I'm guessing that Swiss referendums see people voting on a principle that then has to be enacted by "real" legislation. I wonder if they have loads of court cases alleging that the actual legislation is not really reflecting the principle voted on in the referendum.

I don't think it is a good idea to have referendums on everyday issues, not so much because of some idea of The People being stupid or anything, more because the electorate do not have the time to immerse themselves in the intricacies of legislative issues - better to leave this kind of thing to experts, provided you get to choose the experts.

On big issues (like constitutional things), I am a bit more sympathetic to referendums.