A Connundrum

Readers will be aware that I am an advocate of FlexCit and direct democracy (including the ideas encapsulated in The Harrogate Agenda.

Unfortunately I am unable to accept the proposal that referendums should be only advisory (paragraph 4: http://harrogateagenda.org.uk/blogview.aspx?blogno=83222).

If we are to adopt the principles of direct democracy then referendums are the only means whereby we, the people, can instruct our government to enact the will of the people; and as such they, if accepted,  must be binding.

What, therefore, is the reason for an ‘advisory’ referendum? Politicians have a long history of ignoring the will of the people – have we not had enough of politicians ignoring the will of the people?

For The Harrogate Agenda to write: “However, compelling legislatures to frame laws in response to popular demand is problematical. It can create inconsistencies and anomalies within the legal code, and contravene treaties……A greater handicap, though, is that the process is prone to abuse by well-funded or dedicated single-issue groups, and by the popular press or television. This exposes law-making to rule of the mob. Giving the public direct access to the law-making process can end up in petty tyranny.“; is, I believe, a tad misconceived and being economical with the actualité.

As of December 2015 a look back in Swiss history shows that voters have had the final say on a total of 198 proposals since the introduction in the late 19th century of the right to launch initiatives, amending the constitution. Only 22 of them have won approval so far. (Source) which is 11.111%. Hardly ‘mob rule’, methinks.

On the foregoing point, take a look at this graph showing how Swiss voters have had the opportunity of dictating the future of their  nation. Hover your mouse over each section of each part of each bar in every graph to see the power the people of Switzerland have over virtually every aspect of their lives (and note how each has either been accepted or rejected; also that the number accepted is once again a small percentage?). What is not to like? The people of Switzerland have far more control over their  government, be that local or national, than we do in the United Kindom. Again, what is not to like?

In view of  the foregoing, do I detect, among those that wrote the Demands of The Harrogate Agenda, an attempt to limit the ability of the people – were direct democracy to be the norm – to decide their own future? I sincerely hope not.

The Harrogate Agenda was conceived as a people’s movement, so how come what was conceived as a people’s movement appears to be dictated to? Is the ‘control factor’ still alive among those who would guide us, in view of the fact that we are informed the 6 Demands are ‘set in stone’?

 

 

.

 

 

16 thoughts on “A Connundrum

  1. There are three uses of referendums proposed in our fourth demand.

    The first, to avoid mob rule, only allows the ‘People’ to advise the government on any policy initiatives they want it to consider. Should the government ignore the majority’s wishes, assuming the ‘policy’ received a clear majority, then the public can show their displeasure come the next election. But the point is governments must be allowed to govern in accordance with their manifesto and cannot be expected to govern smoothly if they are required to enact very new initiative coming from referendums that would almost certainly originate from well organised lobby groups.

    The second allows an overwhelming majority to stop in its tracks any piece of government legislation with which they disagree. This is the essence of our fourth demand and is absolutely essential.

    The third allows the public to challenge decisions made by the government or official bodies and by elected and appointed officials including minsters and judges.

    We have discussed this many times before and I still find it surprising that you cannot accept that the combination of the three elements, explained above, along with the safeguards built into each do not satisfy your Direct Democracy credentials.

    1. Niall your first point will create only oligarchy as it has done, elections are elaborate exercises in fraud, government are the product of lobbying, true democracy on the other hand allocates those equal and eligible to public office through the system of sortition

      Aristotle said the following about democracy;

      ….it is accepted as democratic when public office is allocated by lot; and oligarchic
      when they are filled by election

      therefore if your starting point is the privalge of the few to govern over us via political parties and their rigged party political elections, you’ll fail to create a fair and true form of democracy, which pretty much renders your subsequent points frankly irrelevant

      you should’ve had sortion as a central part of your peoples movement, still i suppose it’s never to late, if i were you I’d be inclined to take a fresh look at your 6 point plan, especially that bit about the people being sovereign!

      1. I’ve read ‘Against Elections’ by Van Reybrouck, on Sortition have you?

        You seem have a basic misunderstanding as sortition is a method of electing a body to make decisions but being governed by a body selected through sortition is not the same thing as people’s referendums.

        THA does not do away with governments which through demand two should be based on real ‘Localism’. Demand four ‘The People’s consent is essential and in fact we make very clear all six demands come as a total package and cannot be separated.

        I like sortition especially compared to epistocracy and I personnally feel it could be part of a new Senate to replace the House of Lords.

        1. sortion is a random system of selection, nothing to do with electing people

          well done! you’ve come up with something new, so you should write it into your peoples movement, a new senate, a sortion senate, a random selection of those eligible to govern, and very easy to sell as its no different than jury service in essence, but i don’t need to tell you this as you’ve read a book about it

          one last thing, since the people are sovereign shouldn’t they have sovereign money? something they actually rejected in Switzerland,… just a thought

        2. “we make very clear all six demands come as a total package and cannot be separated.”.

          There you go again dictating to people what they can and cannot have. When will you get it into your head that THA is a peoples movement and that they and only they can decide what they will have.

  2. Further to my comment above I have belatedly taken a quick look at the Swiss system and it appears to be fairly similar to ours They also have three types of referendums.

    1. People’s intiatives – require the highest bench marks are met and it doesn’t appear that the government have to enact them?

    2. Constitutional changes – are mandatory.

    3. Optional referendums – to contest goernment policies.

    THA and DD seem very similar.

    1. So the Swiss people are a leaderless mob? C’mon Niall, you can do better than that. They are educated, quiet, sensible and polite – hardly characteristics associated with a mob.

  3. Niall,

    As day follows night – or night follows day – it was expected that the first comment on this article would be from you – and it was also expected that it would be pointless and misguided in that you would follow the ‘teachings’ of your ‘God’.

    To take your points in order:

    1: “The first, to avoid mob rule, only allows the ‘People’ to advise the government on any policy initiatives they want it to consider. Should the government ignore the majority’s wishes, assuming the ‘policy’ received a clear majority, then the public can show their displeasure come the next election. But the point is governments must be allowed to govern in accordance with their manifesto and cannot be expected to govern smoothly if they are required to enact very new initiative coming from referendums that would almost certainly originate from well organised lobby groups.”

    How can you talk about ‘mob rule’ when I have shown, in my article, only 11.11 % of referendums succeed? Ditto the graph I reproduced? You obviously have not anyalysed the findings of said graph!

    “Should the government ignore the majority’s wishes, assuming the ‘policy’ received a clear majority, then the public can show their displeasure come the next election.” So you obvious do not understand the objectives of direct democracy; which is to halt any proposed government policy twixt general elections.

    On this point you talk about governments being allowed to govern on their manifesto when their manifesto cannot be, under representative democracy -and our current law – legally challenged?

    You state: ….governments cannot be expected to govern smoothly if they are required to enact very new initiative coming from referendums that would almost certainly originate from well organised lobby groups”.

    If you had read my article I made the point not every referendum attempt is accepted by the people. Not all referendum attempts originate from lobby groups; they also come from people’s initiatives and those of political parties.

    Your fourth paragraph negates all your initial arguments , what next do you have to say?

    “We have discussed this many times before and I still find it surprising that you cannot accept that the combination of the three elements, explained above, along with the safeguards built into each do not satisfy your Direct Democracy credentials.”

    That we may have done, but the ‘combination of the elements you mention do not satisfy the basics of direct democracy.

    NIall, I have visited Switzerland, I have spoken to – and discussed with – Swiss politicians direct democracy and their system of same’, together with the people; and until you do likewise might I suggest you cease instructing one with ‘first hand knowledge’?

    To now come to your further ‘addendum comments’; The people’s decision,following an initiaitve of theirs, or that of any group, is ‘binding’ – whether that be on a local or national matter.

    Do please show me, under the Swiss Constitution, where the Swiss have an ‘optional referendum’?

    In conclusion: you may have taken a ‘quick look at the ‘Swiss system’; can I suggest you take another, deeper, look? It is far from similar to The Harrogate Agenda, something which you maintain is ‘set in stone’!

    Just asking………..

    1. I’ve looked at the graphs again and them seem to support my case more than yours.

      1. The People’s Initiatives – seldom received over 50% of the electorate and so were mostly rejected based on this fact alone.

      2. Mandatory referendums – were closer to the 50% with again many rejected.

      3. Optional – Often low turn outs with many rejected.

      If as I’ve already said our own government could enact an advisory referendum, part one of demand four, if they want to so I really don’t see what your connundrum is exactly???

      1. Niall,

        Acceptance or rejection has nothing to do with the level of tunout.

        You misinterpret the word ‘optional’. It is not up to the government, be that federal or local to accept the result. Any result is binding.

  4. I did look at the graphs but didn’t mention this as I like to keep my replies as short as possible as with my blog posts.

    Anyhow I did notice that most of the Swiss ‘People’s Initiatives’ were rejected and I believe that acceptance or rejection is up to the government to decide so like the first part of our fourth demand they are not compulsary.

    What I haven’t said, but it is clearly possible, is that under the first part of demand four a government could move to enact the results of a referendum IF they decide to do so.

    Given this I see our fourth demand as very similar to the Swiss system which is great news David as it shows that we are in perfect harmony :-)))

    1. Niall,

      You really do not understand Swiss direct democracy. As stated above governments, be that local or federal, do not have the right to accept or reject the result of any referendum. Where do you get this idea from, FCS?

      We will never be in perfect harmony while you continue to discuss Swiss direct democracy with the ignorance you exhibit.

      You do not understand the Swiss system and I wonder if you actually understand THA.

      1. As a result of our chat I now do appreciate that Swiss sytle DD has any referendum that achieves over 50% for the motion, regardless of how low the turnout is, as an instruction to the government to deliver.

        While I now do get this point I had, up to now, also seen the merits in the need for advisory referendums and the requirement for higher benchmarks for a motion to pass rather than just a simple majority of any turnout.

        I believe that we need to revisit Demand four in this light but, with Brexit still the main political activity, I cannot realistically see this being done for a while yet.

        As to my earlier point above about our six demands coming as a package and being inseparable I still hold to that but of course accept if the ‘People’ come up with other demands they should of course be considered. However our six demands provide the hooks for alot more specific detail in each area and at this stage in our development I believe we will not help the cause by getting diverted into debating the specific details of each demand. As a light hearted example at this stage we should not be concerned with the type of paper our new codified constitution is written on.

        In conclusion you do make a valid point about demand four which will need to be addressed in due course however, while I appreciate you have very strong views, it would make life easier, and I’m ever hopeful this may yet happen, if you weren’t quite so disparaging of those of us on the same side.

        1. Ah, progress – thank you.

          I trust we are now agreed that ‘benchmarks’ are unnecessary.

          Your point about a possible delay in correcting what is an error in part four is accepted.

          “at this stage in our development I believe we will not help the cause by getting diverted into debating the specific details of each demand”. This point also is accepted, however when glaring errors are discovered then these must be debated and resolved, as in part four.

          As to my ‘abrasiveness’, let me say that I get frustrated having to explain what is a basic point time after time, especially to those who should already be aware of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *