Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Direct Democracy in Switzerland (wikipedia.org)
84 points by kyleblarson on Dec 1, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments



I've been a fan of the Swiss system for quite a while. The citizens don't merely get to make public comment on what the government does; they can create a referendum and overrule it. They use proportional representation too, as do many democracies.

And the cantons are cool. A part of a canton can leave the canton, join another or make a new one. It rarely happens, but the fact that it can probably helps keep the canton government on its toes. And canton boundaries are probably more organic than many of the US states.


I don't know the actual laws, but I would argue that a canton leaving and joining another canton is as easy/hard as it's in the US.

Source: I'm Swiss.


Making a state from part of another state requires the consent of both state legislatures and Congress (Article IV, Section 3). Pretty much any border change of a state requires at the approval of both Congress and all affected state legislatures. Note that this leaves executive branches out entirely.

Not sure how it works in Switzerland, though a quick look at Wikipedia suggests plebiscites can be involved. National plebiscites don't really exist in the US.


If my reading of 1999 constitution is correct, the canton(s) involved must approve and a majority of Swiss voters and a majority of the cantons. It does not have to be approved by the Federal Assembly.

"Any change in the number of Cantons requires the consent of the citizens and the Cantons concerned together with the consent of the People and the Cantons."

https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19995395/...

Not sure that is any easier than getting Congress to approve such a change. But such changes have happened in Switzerland and the only one that's happened in the US was due to most of Virginia seceding at the start of the Civil War. Of course, Switzerland is much older.


But such changes have happened in Switzerland

Exactly ONE new canton got created by a referendum process. It took 30 years to get to a referendum, accompanied by everything from acts of terror to threats of foreign intervention. And today, 40 years later, we're still trying to sort out the exact boundaries.

Surely, it was pretty successful by international separatist standards, but it still was a hard slog.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurassic_separatism


Yeah exactly that's my point. The parent made it sound like it happens every other year.


Not easy at all, but still beats most civil wars. Thanks for pointing this out.

Is this where Jurassic Park happened :-)


There was a plebiscite for a small city in the Jura mountains whether they want to stay in the Canton of Bern or change to the Canton of Jura. The city was in favor of changing. However some irregularities were discovered and the outcome declared invalid by judge. The city has been ordered to redo the plebiscite.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moutier

(please read the ninth paragraph or the last one before the section Geography)


How did that work out for California?


One should also consider that the Swiss people refused to grant women voting rights on a federal level in 1959 and only did so in 1971. One region in Switzerland still refused to grant them this right until they where corrected by the Swiss supreme court in 1991.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_Switzerl...


In Switzerland, women are still second-class citizens. They're supposed to stay home and raise the kids. Day cares are full with the kids of expats, Swiss kids to the playground with their mothers.


How did we get to the state where staying home and raising kids is regarded so poorly.


raising kids is the most important thing in a parent's life. But still, not having any other choice than being full-time parent does not suit a modern society, like Switzerland claims to be (and blatanty failing at that)


Ah come on, that's just not based in reality. I'm Swiss and in all the companies I've worked, there were a lot of women working. Many of them taking advantage of the option to work 60% or 80% (as men do too).


Glad to know you think raising children isn't important work.


If it was seen as important work they'd be paid for it and it wouldn't have such an impact on their careers.


One reason salaries are high in Switzerland is the men are expected to support an entire family off one salary. If you really want to you can consider the "free" housing, food, heating, car etc as payment to the woman, although that seems unnecessarily materialistic.

As for impact on career, this is again a matter of perspective. If parenting is skilled work then arguably raising children is a second career. We don't normally classify parenting as a career but that's just a matter of terminology.


Swiss logic is that raising children is so important that women should just do that and have no other option. It sounds good, right? Men have all options, women have the options their husband allows them to have (btw, I'm a Swiss male, so I'm bitching about my own country)


That's really sad to hear. Any pointers to English-speaking and/or prominent Swiss women's rights voices would be appreciated!


I assume this phenomenon has more to do with the fact that it is not required for two people to work in a household to comfortably sustain it in Switzerland, which allows the women the option to stay at home with adolescents. Maybe they in fact have more rights.


No they don't, there's just a lot of systemic issues that discourage mothers from working - from the insane costs of daycare, increased tax burden for working couples, school system which sends children home during the day and a complete lack of motherhood leave and job guarantees m


I don't think they are second class citizen. I think that a lot of Swiss women are more privileged than their spouses.

A woman with kids can choose whether to stay at home or work (full or part time at their discretion) and plenty of women choose to be stay at home mums.

No such choice is given to most fathers.


Ah yes poor women spending time with their children rather than slaving away pushing meaningless paper for MegaCorp. Shit life eh?


Out of the four women I know who are or were pregnant, one was fired immediately after her maternity leave ended, one was forced to go from a 100% to a 20% (one day a week) contract, and one was the target of retaliation by her boss, who felt that it was unfair that she should get pregnant less than three years after she started her job (he told her this in an official setting and cited her pregnancy on her end of year performance appraisal).

The fourth was a graduate student in the final year of her studies. She hasn't been able to find a job since, despite having a good background.

Two of the four women are Swiss, and the other two are German citizens. Three of the four have graduate university degrees (two in hard sciences) and all have good to stellar resumes.

Source: Expat currently living in Switzerland.


To each of those individual data points, I can give you counter-examples that do not support this theory. It's actually extremely common for women to work. Usually a couple (with kids) works each 80% or some other kind of combination of %.... Don't spread misinformation, please. Or maybe you were misunderstanding the situation? Source: Am Swiss (lived large parts of my life abroad, but am back in Switzerland since 5 years)


I can also give several examples of women with children who work, but I can only give one example in my social circle (and my wife's) social circle where the woman wasn't forced to take either a substantial reduction in contractual workload after returning from maternity leave, was fired outright, or was otherwise subject to some form of discrimination for being pregnant.

Our friends are largely university educated and are a mix of expats and Swiss nationals. It is - very - well known among Swiss women in particular that getting pregnant and having a child is a detriment to your career.

I agree that personal observations shouldn't be used to generalize an entire population. However, I've heard enough to believe that what we've seen isn't out of the norm.


I must be missing something. Because it reads as if it’s extremely shitty for women in Switzerland and that’s a place having above average European standards. I’d assume at least at par with Scandinavia. Or at least that’s how I have come to know it from far.


It's complex. From what I've seen, it's largely fine if you're young and don't have children, or if you're older and your children are past the first year of kindergarten. There is still a proverbial glass ceiling in place at a lot of companies, but there are also a lot of examples of women in prominent positions in business and government.

It gets difficult - again, from what I've seen - when you run into edge cases that brush up against how things are traditionally done. I don't think that a lot of companies have gotten a handle on how to accommodate women with children. For example, average working hours can easily go past 17:30, but most kinderkrippe close at 18:00. There are also social expectations that are hard to interpret or otherwise navigate, especially if you're not a native citizen and didn't grow up in the culture.

I think that the situation isn't that different from a lot of other European countries, and it also appears to be improving (even in my limited time here, I've noticed that there has been a lot of discussion around the gender pay gap, and a stronger focus on accommodating women with children at work).


never heard of women in top management or women CEOs?? Women only push papers in your world?


You imply that top management at MegaCorp is somehow more meaningful work than middle management.


I think you'd have to fix the educational system in the US before you could have meaningful direct democracy. Any form of democracy, be it representational or direct is only as good as the people that make it up. The more directly you empower the people, the more directly their opinions and ideas will be expressed in the country's laws.

The average person is woefully prepared to judge laws on their merits, be it economic laws or otherwise. They're arguably better prepared in Switzerland, but still not great compared to experts in the field. If you look to Africa, you can see what a mess you can make when your average person is not educated well at all. Democracy is often described as the best of a lot of bad options, but there's also a big variance in how well it works.


Africa is a mess because of relentless Western imperialism, not because of "too much democracy".

It's rather elitist to say that more educated (AKA richer) citizens make "better" political decisions than less educated (AKA poorer) citizens. They both make decisions with relatively similar amounts of clarity in their respective class interests.


> Africa is a mess because of relentless Western imperialism

That's one hypothesis but there are many things it can't explain. We could compare African countries that were colonized to African countries that were not colonized. The hypothesis predicts a big difference but is there?

We could compare non-African countries that were colonized to African countries that were colonized. Hypothesis predicts a small difference, is there?


This is explored by Francis Fukuyama in "The Origins of Political Order" and "Political Order and Political Decay". He presents compelling arguments for why we have failed states but more interestingly, he works through how we got successful ones. Non-failed states are far more rare in history, and they are the goal, after all.


Imperialism continued after the end of formal colonization, and takes place even in countries that weren't formally colonized. Capitalism and imperialism are global systems that affect every nation on Earth, there is no unaffected country to compare to.


But there was a time before colonialism. And the comparisons for sub-Saharan Africa don't look that great that way either.


Sub-Saharan Africa had some pretty advanced and successful civilizations before colonialism.


Such as? All that I'm aware of is Ethiopia and you could make a pretty good case that that's primarily because of Ethiopia's proximity to the Dar al-Islam.


It's not elitist, it's reality. Do you really think uneducated people can make decisions requiring deep knowledge across many complex domains as well as well-educated people? That's tautologically false. Even well-educated people are pretty lost outside their own domain.

The kind of everybody is equal mentality that must underlie such a statement boggles my mind. It's an attitude that is shockingly disconnected from the real world. We may as well be talking about Santa Claus.


Most decisions put to referendum in Switzerland don't require deep knowledge. In fact most decisions governments make don't - they can't because neither politicians nor civil servants are chosen on the basis of their specialised knowledge.

Typical issues that go to referendum in Switzerland range from the trivial (shall we raise taxes to build a new football stadium/road tunnel/etc), to the constitutional (should international treaties be able to override referendums... that one is running at the moment). In none of these cases is a decision so complex that it can't be understood by everyone in a short time.

Generally, I've found that anyone claiming a government-level decision is too complicated to explain to an average person is trying to cover up major weaknesses in the underlying arguments.

The kind of everybody is equal mentality that must underlie such a statement boggles my mind. It's an attitude that is shockingly disconnected from the real world

The extent to which people differ in their moral and intellectual potential is the defining difference that creates right wing vs left wing politics in basically any democratic society. Read Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions" to get a very insightful analysis of why this is so. Far from being mind boggling, it's entirely expected that different people have different intuitions about the capability of the average person.


People may have different intuitions about the capability of the average person, but they're wrong. Not all opinions are equally valid.

Reality is one way, and we build models of it in our minds to differing degrees of accuracy - the better your models the better you are equipped to make decisions in life. This applies to political decisions, major life choices, what you eat for breakfast.

Politicians are not only not very well versed in the fields they need to understand, they're sometimes purposefully ignoring it in order to do something popular among their voters. Direct democracy makes this a bigger problem - it turns into tyranny of the majority and there is no check on what is popular (in Switzerland there are actually a lot of checks, but I'm talking more in general here about Athenian style direct democracy.)

Imagine a direct democracy in France once they have a majority Muslim population - you could start to watch the freedoms we take for granted in the West being rolled back one at a time. And it's not that their ideas are equally as good as our Western ideas - not all ideas are equal, and I think despite being obviously biased, it's true for me to say that many of our ideas are superior.

If you had a direct democracy in South Africa, they would take all property from the rich and redistribute it. The country would promptly fall apart like Venezuela and Zimbabawe where similar things happened. In Switzerland I think people understand the ramifications of doing, what on the surface, sounds like a good thing.

Representative democracy doesn't save us from this at all (the scenario in South Africa looked like it would come to pass, and they reversed course under international pressure) but it may curb some of the worst excesses of a direct democracy.


"Education" isn't just "knowing more things", it spending time at specific institutions -- institutions which some people have more access to than others, and institutions that impart a specific worldview. Going to a Chinese university vs an American University, or even an Ivy League vs a state school is a very different experience. And people can be educated about politics in a non-institutional context, ie through news media, local activism, friends and co-workers, unions, etc. What is shockingly disconnected from the real world is the idea that elite American educational institutions are somehow totally disconnected from social realities and study politics in a field of pure, unbiased reason


Yes, actual knowledge can come in many forms. But are you actually saying that, on average across populations, people who go to school/college aren't more knowledgable than people who do not? If that is in fact the case, we should completely abolish the entire education system, because it's clearly not effective.


That depends a lot on how you define knowledge.

If you take two 25 year olds, and one spent 7 years in the university system learning 'book knowledge', and one spent 7 years in industry learning via an apprenticeship (this sort of situation is common in Switzerland), then who is really more knowledgeable? What even is knowledge? Is knowledge obtained only from professors, or from managers and supervisors on the job, or practical experience, or a blend of all of these?

There's a reason the most famous successful tech CEOs in the USA seem to be college dropouts.


No, I'm saying they are equally equipped to make decisions in a democracy.


If it's education in a technical sense you're probably right; it's more about having some kind of institution where people learn to think politically and historically.

Democracy by itself is not necessarily a stable institution. In the absence of a strong social commitment to rule of law and an effective and disciplined state, it doesn't work. The path that some societies took to get to this state did involve education, and in particular literacy, to a fair degree.

Africa is a mess due to western imperialism but failed democracy is a different topic than that: because most societies started off in some kind of mess, either in disarray, or in a state of tyranny. We don't have any examples of states going directly from tribal societies to functioning democracies with rule of law in one, peaceable step. Looking only at the west, it took centuries of violent conflict.


Democracy leading to tyranny of the majority in form of a popularly approved authoritarian leader is unfortunately common, and not just in Africa - I'm from a country that walked that path as well. I don't know if it's because Western liberal democracies are more educated, or because their political culture evolved certain safeguards over time, but there clearly is a difference, and it's not elitist to point it out.


I'm sorry, but this is just foolish. It's like saying, "It's elitist to say that more educated engineers make better products than less educated one." One of the reasons the US wanted to have people read, why we made it part of public school, is to have an informed, i.e. educated, citizenry.


Here you assume that both engineering and politics are purely objective sciences, where one's cultural background is irrelevant, but that is true in neither case. The fact that silicon valley is mostly white men of a certain age and economic status has a big effect on what gets built, and what doesn't get built -- think about elon musk's obsession with tunnels and car transportation and disdain for public transit. Regardless how you feel, tht isn't just an objective rational problem, the fact that Elon isn't someone who has ever taken or relied upon public transit matters.

The same is true if social policy -- it's easy to look at the voting decisions of people without college degrees as "stupid" and "uninformed", but I would challenge you to think about how their actions are just as informed and reasoned as people in your demographic, they just come to a different conclusion because of their economic and cultural background. "Education" is often a proxy for race or class in political discussions. I would argue that policy (and engineering) is much more about values than knowledge -- is housing a human right? Is healthcare a human right? Should the United States acknowledge and repair the damages of slavery and systemic racism? Should we accept asylum seekers? Everyone may have compelling, reasoned arguments to these questions, but it is naive to say only college educated specialists have the correct ones.


I'm glad that your political system is working well, not full of corruption, and that you have bright leaders who have a deep understanding of matters of education.


Point number one: agreed, Western Imperialism.

However (ignoring the ad hominem), I don't agree with your second point that a more education citizen will not necessarily make better decisions than less educated ones. Obviously everyone will make decisions that benefit themselves, but only with Education can someone understand the ramifications of their decisions in a broader context. Many political situations have little-to-no effect on an individual in the short-term, so making a decision (since it's not based on personal gain) must be based on something else. I would argue that something would be an individual's understanding of the impact on society in general - an understanding that a "good education" is supposed to cultivate.


Apologies if that was read as ad hominem, I meant that the argument is in my view elitist not that you personally are. My point is that formal education is not the only way to develop informed political consciousness. And in fact formal education may in many cases overlook the struggles of marginalized groups.


Africa is a mess for a number of reasons. Western imperialism is probably the biggest, but there are plenty of other. Tons of deadly parasites and diseases and a general lack of good arable land in most places are also significant factors.


[flagged]


Attacking another user like that will get you banned here, so please don't do it again. Insinuations of astroturfing and nationalistic flamewar are particularly bad.

Ideological battle (which the GP comment was also practicing) is also unwelcome.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I have a technical question: how is it that you can ban accounts, but not delete them?


Please delete my account.


It is not only about Education in terms of knowledge in specific domains either, it is more about the population being able to some sort of critical thinking, which is more of an ideal than reality.

One of the reason why I think it didn't work out so well in poorest countries. I think they will need 10 to 20 years of Well placed Educational structure before Representative Democracy being used as a political system, and then hopefully moving to Direct Democracy.


While in representative democracies, decisions get made by "experts in the field" like [checks notes...] washed up reality TV hosts with a career defined by bankruptcy and white collar crime.


Not really the best way of going about this sort of thing. Voting in elections and referendums is fraught problems and unhealthy incentive structures. Sortition, via the formation of citizens' assemblies, is a superior model of democracy. Leaving decisions up to a representative random sample of the population allows the assembly to carefully consider and debate issues and form a consensus. Whereas elected officials are incentivized not to compromise or plan for the long term and voters are usually poorly informed.


I lived in Zurich, Switzerland for ca. 5 years and I am a huge fan of their system.

One may argue that the very same system allowed for seemingly ‘insensitive’ or ‘misguided’ legislation. In my time there (2009-2014) a referendum allowed the Swiss to preclude minarets from being erected, while another referendum was voted against allowing the Swiss to freely smoke in public areas such as train stations (last I checked you can still smoke in the Zurich Hauptbahnhof platforms right up to entering your train).

Nonetheless, while I don't agree with some of the decisions made, democracy is literally about granting the citizenry the ability to rule themselves and IMHO this is how it should be. Granted, such a system may lead to bigoted decision-making but if that's what the people want it should be what they get.


I like that they also vote whether they want taxes:

https://lenews.ch/2018/03/02/switzerland-votes-this-weekend-...


Direct democracy in Switzerland is a good way to distract the population with futile issues ( https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/24/europe/cow-horn-referendu... ) while the oligarchy does its dirty business ( https://www.reuters.com/article/us-swiss-grenades/swiss-set-... ), and - at the same time - giving the impression that the people are actually in control, but they're not. The parliament can and will interpret people's will ( https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/switzerland-... ).


On the last issue, the problem is that it's pretty much impossible to enact the exact people's will because it is not consistent.

Just have a look at the latest vote on EU ties. They want to keep the economic benefits but to restrict foreign workers, except the EU is never going to accept that. It's like the British, they want the cake and eat it too. The people can have their dream and vote on whatever they want and express themselves, and that's great, but at some point someone has to go back to reality and make compromises.

I would argue it is the parliament job to transform the people's will into realistic laws. At this point, the parliament could either water it down or go full Brexit. The latest vote just confirmed it took the "correct" decision by watering it down.


The Swiss people's will is entirely consistent. There is nothing strange or unusual about having both immigration controls and trade. That is in fact entirely normal anywhere outside of Europe.

The EU bureaucracy's near-fanatical, unbending approach to what it wants doesn't make anything different "inconsistent", "a dream", "unrealistic" or "not reality". That's the sort of attitude that is inflaming serious anti-EU tensions across all of Europe and will eventually cause either the EU to crush European democracy itself, or the EU to collapse chaotically.

Indeed, the "watering down" you mention was a violation of the Swiss constitution and has led to quite serious political tensions, including a new referendum that's trying again to force the political class to actually implement referendums the EU doesn't like.


That's how democracy works. The parliament is chosen by the people as well. Sometimes interpretation is necessary, as the referendums are vague or well written. Still better to be able to voice one's opinion. What's the alternative?


There were referenda trying to suppress that "dirty business", but they failed. I'm not happy with that fact, but the voters DID have a choice.


Change my view: This only works with small, homogenous populations.


Switzerland is very heterogeneous in terms of language and mentality. The Röstigraben is clearly not a myth. However people accept those very high differences because it's economically going really great in Switzerland. (But of the day the economy is down, I think tensions might really explode, French vs German speaking have really different mentalities)


How is the economy down? Looks pretty up here in Zurich.

knock on wood


Homogeneous?! Switzerland is a confederacy and home to three distinct linguistic/cultural populations.


4 official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romansh_language


Three distinct European cultures.


Compared to the United States, this is very homogeneous.


Statistics disagree:

    Rank Country 	Ethnic Fractionalization Index 	Cultural Diversity Index 
    63 	 Switzerland 	0.575 	0.418
    85 	 United States 	0.491 	0.271
    159  North Korea 	0.002 	0.002

    Ethnic, Linguistic and Religious Fractionalization
     Switzerland 	0.531400 	0.544100 	0.608300
     United States 	0.490100 	0.564700 	0.824100
     Korea, North 	0.002000 	0.002100 	0.660400
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_ranked_by_et...


Statistics don't represent the whole story. How many indigenous groups are in Switzerland? How many language families are native to Switzerland? By my count, two, where in the United States it is over twenty. When's the last time Switzerland had a civil war (I mean, war between the cantons)? Is there a deeply ingrained bias against other Swiss depending only on how they look?

Even in the supposedly mainstream culture, I have almost nothing in common with "Red Tribe" Americans. Just because we share a language, ethnic identity, and religious category does not mean we are homogenous by any means. I often have much more in common with people of a different ethnicity and religion than those statistics would indicate.


I'm sure you are right.

I don't know anything about language families native to Switzerland.

The census in Switzerland counts over 40 main languages spoken in Switzerland. 64% German.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Switzerland#Other...

In the US the census only counts 32 languages spoken at home. 70% English only.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_States

Probably these are not comparable and this doesn't really prove anything.

> When's the last time Switzerland had a civil war

1847, but I don't understand how that's relevant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonderbund_War

> Is there a deeply ingrained bias against other Swiss depending only on how they look?

Sadly, yes. Immigrating and becoming Swiss is difficult, but it does happen. Swiss with a migration background suffer a higher rate of racial discrimination.

https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home/statistiken/bevoelkerun...

I don't know how this compares to the US.


I live in Switzerland.

A lot of these questions are extremely US-centric in worldview. I'll try and answer them anyway.

Firstly, how do you define 'indigenous group'? Switzerland is in central Europe, it wasn't colonised in recent times. There are a lot of people from all across Europe here, and in particular lots of immigrants from places like Turkey and the Balkans, i.e. Muslim. I don't know if they'd count or not.

Language families is again a vague term, but there are at minimum four: German, Italian, French and Romansch. However the reality is much more complex. German is only used in formal and written settings, the daily spoken language is a mishmash of what are euphemistically called "Swiss German dialects" but in reality are almost entirely different languages to German. German people cannot understand them, for example. Imagine trying to understand medieval English and you're in the right general area but 10x worse. These dialects also vary significantly across different cities. Oh, and of course English is both widely spoken and used in daily life due to the huge foreign population that has never got to grips with the chaotic language situation.

Switzerland had its last civil war in 1847, so roughly in the same time period as the USA did.

With respect to 'deeply ingrained bias based on only how they look', this is exceptionally US centric. There have been ethno-religious conflicts all over the world and throughout history between people who look identical. Just look at the history of the Troubles in Ireland, or the state of Africa. The USA is actually quite unusual in having such serious racial tensions based purely on skin colour. There's nothing special about Switzerland in not having those problems, it certainly doesn't make the society "homogenous".


Thing is, Swiss are a purely civic nation, not an ethnic one - just like Americans. So your complaint that you "have almost nothing in common with the Red Tribe" is important to understand in context - the American civic nation is no longer a thing as a single entity, but it wasn't always the case. And for Swiss, it is the case today, but it is not necessarily the case tomorrow. What keeps a civic nation together is its politics, and if you get a sufficiently broad rift in the populace, that can kill it.


Switzerland has a population of 8 million. The US has 38 million black descendants of slaves, 34 million descendants of Mexicans, 5 million Puerto Ricans, 4 million Chinese, 3 million Indians, 2.7 million Filipinos, etc.


US people seem to underestimate how homogeneous the US is. It's quite a thing to know that you won t have to change habits when you travel across.


I guess you haven't visited the East or West Coasts of the U.S.?


at least from central all the way to the west, it doesnt feel like you re among very different people. You can find similar or bigger differences by going from south to north italy. And this is just 1 country


Let's just consider a single city in the United States: Los Angeles. The population of Los Angeles metropolitan area is 13 million people (so, larger than all of Switzerland). Here are some interesting demographic stats about Los Angeles:

Less than 60% of people in LA were born in the US. There are less whites (<30%) than hispanics (47%). There are also 10% asians, 10% blacks. On top of that, I can tell you that there are neighborhoods in Los Angeles where specific ethnicities are so concentrated that the street signs are largely or entirely in foreign languages. This is true for the following languages: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Armenian, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish.


yet they all eat at mcdonalds, shop at 7-elevens and have thanksgiving parties. Here is another test: do you see many satellite dishes in immigrant neighborhoods?


Right, so because the whole world drinks Coke and buys furniture from Ikea, we're all just one global monoculture, right? I get that Switzerland is not a monoculture. But to pretend that it's more diverse than the US is just a joke.


I've moved from the East coast to the West coast and there's basically no difference in my view.


White and Christian, white and Christian, and white and Christian. That's all that matters. :)


Even today, Europe is far more diverse than the US in the sense that culture doesn't travel far: traveling a few hours by train in any direction from where you were born could easily put you in a place where you don't speak the language and where cultural practices, while nominally Christian, were markedly different with regards to dates and times, things people ate, what counted as legitimate use of a public place and so on. The US is much more homogeneous than Europe with regards to these kinds of criterion, which in practice greatly impacts government administration.

Switzerland is like this but turned up a notch -- an hour's travel by train is usually enough to land in areas with mutually incomprehensible spoken languages, even when they are both nominally German.


I don't believe it s their homogeneity, besides, different languages, quite different cultures, mountainous divides etc, it's all very different. But, they share the values of fierce independence . Even the (rich) foreigners who choose to make it their home seem to do so .


To repeat: The South always had enough votes to keep slavery legal. Direct democracy is literally mob rule. The reason the Constitution had the 3/5 phrasing for slaves is not that the ciswhite males thought blacks were less than people, they didn't want the South to get even more votes through their slaves than they already had. They knew the only way to get rid of the peculiar institution was to vote it out (or go to war, but they didn't want that).

This is this the reason that the Founders didn't pick it. It is mob rule. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-friedman/the-founding-...

The general concept of the Republic is that it balances the terrors that all other governments impose. Through the representatives, the people trained in statecraft, the passions of the masses should be calmed. It's the hardest to corrupt. It's the most likely to survive deaths. If you had a perfect king, giving him absolute power is a no-brainer. The trouble is a) that's near impossible, and b) when he dies how do prevent a non-perfect king from ruling absolutely?

We see this with budget deficits in California. Direct democracy allows ballot initiatives without the need to secure funding. The masses vote for wonderful, expensive things, but they don't say how to pay. The leaves the general budget scrambling for scraps to cover the cost.


Switzerland is the exact proof that what you say about masses voting for the expensive things is not always true. For e.g they had a "votation" on minimum wage, and people refused because the proposed minimum wage was too high. They had the maturity/long-term vision of refusing such a proposal. But in other countries/context I agree with you, try to do that for e.g in France and I'm pretty sure people would instantly vote yes to such a proposition without caring about the consequences.

Maybe when you ask people often what they want they become responsible (like in Switzerland) while if you never ask people what they think, the rare times where you'll ask them through referendum, they'll go for the extreme/expensive because they want to express how frustrated of not being listened to they are.


It doesn't need to be "always true" for a tendency to produce conflicting objectives no sane legislator would ever choose (and making them much more difficult to repeal) to be a potentially crippling weakness of direct democracy.

Perhaps experience with being consulted is why the Swiss appear relatively sanguine about a referendum vote to impose quotas on all immigration being creatively reinterpreted by its trade-prioritising government as just introducing job preferences for Swiss nationals in times of high unemployment and tightening residency permit criteria. That's certainly a course of action which would be expected to create much more unease in other parts of Europe; the furore over whether prioritising Single Market alignment in the UK's future relationship with the EU over an assumed preference for immigration restrictions that wasn't even on the relevant referendum ballot paper is a notable contrast. But I'd imagine there were aspects of the Swiss political psyche other than "maturity", "long term vision" or experience with referendums which made them relatively unenthusiastic about an impractically-high UBI proposal, high minimum holiday entitlement and supremacy of Swiss law over international law and relatively enthusiastic about banning minarets, allowing greater surveillance powers and [until remarkably recently in some cantons] restricting the franchise to men. Californians certainly don't have a particular shortage of referendums either.


You made the generalization that people will always vote for shiny and expensive stuff, I gave you an example it is not always the case. I never said direct-democracy is a bullet proof system that always ends up deciding reasonable laws. Taking the case of surveillance law as a failure of direct democracy is not relevant as a majority of non-direct democracies countries passed far more privacy invasive surveillance laws around the same period


Except when the voting mechanisms that elect those representatives is badly broken and easily gamed, i.e. gerrymandering districts in the US.

There are a lot of things that are a problem with the way the US government is set up. 1) The Senate is a questionable insitution born out of a bad compromise with the size of colonies at the time. 2) Our average House Representive is representing 375,000 people. It should be much, much lower than that. 3) There are NO spending limits on political campaigns and that the US considers corporations as “people”. 4) Supreme Court judges have life terms. They should have longer terms than senators but not for life (15 years?). The people of a nation change, yet parties can push through politcally motivated or judges that strike down or uphold laws that maybe the population doesn’t want anymore! 5) It’s become almost impossible to change the constitution with Amendments due to only having two parties and the fall of bi-partisanship.


While I agree, or at least am willing to hear more about various points, none argue for a direct democracy.

For a direct democracy you need a small population that is homogeneous in at least outlook if not in race. The countries that come closest to it are largely a single race.

I also think that republican forms of government collapse when you get 100+ million. The US has been straining for sometime to hold itself together. More and more people feel divided. If it wasn't for the inherent weakness to outside attack, I'd prefer to see the US divide into regional countries that are better able to manage themselves.

For example, a $15 hourly wage would bankrupt rural Florida. We hear more and more about that at a Congressional level. The same is true for most of the rural areas of the country. A better answer is for the States to move to minimum wages that fit their territories.


I wasn't putting through arguments for direct democracy. Just that the current system is badly failing the people and it needs to change. Point number 1 & 2 would actually move us more to a direct democracy than you think. But direct democracy isn't the answer. We need to re-establish the fairness, and by extension, faith in the federal government. Look, this sentiment has been echoed in polls for years. The congress has a historically bad approval rating. The presidency, not so much. Because people lean to a strong man in times of feeling under represented. This is how dictatorships are born.

The US needs to change[1]

[1]https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/12/john-dinge...


> The South always had enough votes to keep slavery legal.

Enough white votes, maybe, and trying to exclude people from the franchise is still a powerful strain in US politics.

> This is this the reason that the Founders didn't pick it. It is mob rule.

I can think of other reasons why a group of propertied males would think that government by a group of propertied males was optimal...

What I find particularly dumb about the US political system is that the founders consciously patterned many of its elements (mutually blocking institutions, vetoes, senators, indirect representation, unequal representation) directly after the Roman Republic, while being perfectly aware how THAT turned out (Increasing institutional gridlock, increasing reward for violating norms, escalating violence, eventually leading to 1500 years of monarchy).

> We see this with budget deficits in California.

Excellent! Now explain budget deficits in Kansas, or federal deficits in the US, for that matter.


> Excellent! Now explain budget deficits in Kansas, or federal deficits in the US, for that matter.

Extremes in ideals. Kansas cut their tax base too much without cutting their spending accordingly. With the US most of its the process of taking on massive amounts of debt under a pseuodo-socialist/capitalist system of welfare programs. 80% of the US budget goes towards paying for welfare programs: medicare/medicaid, social security, and debt payments that came from mostly spending on the welfare programs. The Republicans never slash, or kill the programs. The democrats always expand them without correcting the tax issues. For example, when Obama had the majority of Congress, he did not seek to raise the cap on SS taxes past the existing 120-130k line where it is today. Increasing the line, while also limiting payouts to an income of 120k, would pay for the program. What I mean by this is that there should be no cap, but the system will only pay out a maximum regardless of how much you paid in.

Essentially both parties fail to observe the logical outcome of their philosophies. The Republicans are for a small government and a large military, which isn't really contradictory. The military is a specific power of the US government under the Constitution. The trouble with them is that they don't actually pursue the process of paring down the government. The Democrats are for large government. Their problem is they don't pursue the tax side the way they should. They need to increase taxes on the poor like the Scandinavian countries. In Finland, the average person pays 30-40% of their income to the State. They don't have a progressive tax system like we do. The Democrats don't pursue this. As a result, they go into debt.

A direct democracy doesn't protect against this. Look at recent Florida elections. There is less than a 1% difference between the gubernatorial candidates. Should the 49.9901 get ruled by the other side?

> Enough white votes, maybe, and trying to exclude people from the franchise is still a powerful strain in US politics.

The South didn't have, and knew it would only loose ground, to the Northern votes if it only leaned on its white population. The first industrial revolution was growing the North even in the early days of the Constitutional system. The South needed the white Democrats, at least the precursor, once the cotton gin was invented to support slavery. Before the gin, slave labor didn't help that much. Cotton was too expensive due to manual labor. With the gin, all those bails of cotton that usually rotted in the fields were useful and valuable as long as you had the labor to get them out in time. The northern bankers made the funding available to purchase the slaves and extend the cotton trade.

The founders were more afraid of direct democracy that led to the Athenians getting pushed to the sea when a demagogue rose to power due to sweet words. Again, unless you require a supermajority for all votes, direct democracy is easily swayed by political hacks like Colbert or Catiline.


> In Finland, the average person pays 30-40% of their income to the State. They don't have a progressive tax system like we do.

What? Finland absolutely does have progressive taxation.


You need to look it up. They don't have the washout rates like the US does. Everyone has to pay taxes. In the US about 50% of the population gets everything, aside from SS/Medicare, taxes back. The US needs to tax everyone fairly. That means everyone has to pay without the refunds.


I don't need to look it up, I've paid plenty enough of Finnish taxes to know. State taxation is progressive and municipalities collect an additional flat tax. The marginal tax rate for non-capital income, with all normal taxes reductions, is between ~8% and ~60%.

I'm not an expert on US taxation, but US is somewhat infamous for favoring wealthy at the expense of the poor. I'm unconvinced that increasing taxes on poor would improve that situation in the slightest.


Remove the 6% from Finland’s income, Fix the spending at current levels, and see a budget hole form.

The US is famous for supposedly favoring the rich. Half of the population pays no federal income. They may pay state taxes if the states collect tax and if the states don’t return based on income. It is possible for people to pay almost nothing, aside from SS and Medicare taxes in the US, while costing hundreds of thousands of dollars over their life. We call them welfare queens. 5 generations of people contributing nothing to the tax rolls, yet wasting fund to maintain them and allow them to procreate.

The bottom 40% of all tax payers cost the US $621. If they paid their cost, the US would take in an extra 48 billion each year. Those people would be contributing to the republic. While 48 billion is not, relative to the national tax a lot, it’s fair. It’s money that could go to paying debt.


I don't subscribe to your view. We each receive different lots in life, some with more options and better support networks than others. Being poor is not an enviable position, and it's only fair that everyone contributes according to their abilities.

To me, having a considerable part of citizenry receiving rather than contributing doesn't sound like a taxation issue, but rather income inequality issue. Having more equal income distribution would automatically mean more equal tax base. It's hard to achieve through legislation though, so the second best option seems to be a heavily progressive taxation. I think it could even be worth it to emphasize that even more -- perhaps to tax capital income like regular wages, and negative tax rates for the lowest income brackets to encourage working?

Finally, lots of Finnish citizens are obviously currently net receivers from the state. Unemployment, health problems, or troubled upbringing combined with strong safety nets do mean that there may be considerable costs to be borne by others. I know I'm one of the luckier ones, and very happy to pay taxes knowing they contribute to a fairer society where everyone has a realistic chance to go as far as their capabilities allow.


> Should the 49.9901 get ruled by the other side?

Oooh, there's another favorite argument of anti-democrats. Curiously, they have no problem whatsoever with 55% of the population being ruled by 45% under gerrymandered elections, or a winning candidate disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters.

> Again, unless you require a supermajority for all votes, direct democracy is easily swayed by political hacks like Colbert or Catiline.

While presidential democracy leads to the election of sober statesmen like [checks notes...] Trump?




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: