As a Swiss citizen, I am used to have almost every topic decided by a vote, so of course, I have problems to agree that we should let difficult/complex decisions to experts:Teralek wrote: ↑March 20th, 2019, 6:23 am[...]
In principle I don't agree with enforcing permanent and deep changes on a country based on simple majorities. The public has whims, a close vote today might have a completely different outcome in 2 months. This isn't like voting for PM where you can change your mind every 4 years, this will have a lasting impact for generations. A decision as such put on referendum should only pass with 2/3 majority. I don't even agree to put such a thing on referendum, some things should be left for the experts. Most of us, me included, aren't experts in economy or even on how to run a country.
To put in referendum the UK membership of the EU, with all the caveats included, such as membership of the single market, is like me putting on public referendum my doctor's diagnostic and prescription... silly.
- Who selects the experts? In most topics, I can find an expert that will support any possible decision.
- Being a (scientific) expert does not remove personal opinions and even if the expertise would be generally accepted, this does not yet guarentee that the expert will push the optimal solution for the country (but perhaps for himself)...
- Perhaps the correct decision is not the "optimal" option of experts - because you have to take into account the acceptability and nobody is forced to be objective anyway (I prefer eating choclate, even if I should eat less sweet. It is my life!)
Assuming that a referendum is legitimate, it does indeed has weaknesses:
- Decisions close to 50/50 are unduly influenced by the mood of the moment and leave the country devided.
- In a society with the attention span of a Tweet, complex topics are difficult to sell - so simple (simplistic) solutions have a higher chance to win, even if they are not even functioning.
- It bears the risk of dictature of the majority; I live in Switzerland, from the french-speaking minority. In theory there could have a vote where ca. 75% of the (German speaking) voters decide that School must be held in German.
- A culture of concordence (still quite strong in Switzerland), helps bringing to vote mostly propositions that are somewhat broadly acceptable and have not a part of the country (geographically, culturally) that absolutely cannot tolerate it. Some party try to ignore it, but mostly loose as the people are all aware that they may be the next "minority".
- Federalism: by keeping decision at the lowest possible level, a local community can decide without impacting the neighboring communities
So finally my question:
Are referendum still the ultimate democratical way to get a broad decision for important topics, or do the dangers of emotional moods make it dangerous and it should be eliminated, or significantly modified?
Is it even compatible with democratic rights to forbid referendums? Is democracy actually always the decision of majority, or are there other ways to define it?
Finally: while I like the idea of "such referendums" needing a majority of 2/3... who decides that a referendum is "such"? Then it should be the rule for any referendum, with always "change" requirering 2/3? This will be difficult to keep society moving with such hurdles...
But perhaps a law saying that any result less than 55% must be revoted after 3 months may be interesting.