In the developed world, almost all of us live in representative democracies; frequently, however, the wishes of citizens seem not to be fully implemented by serving governments. Direct democracy is an alternative, but we are all aware of its dangers: the potential for a majority to override the wishes of minorities, often to violent extremes.
However, I wanted what posters thought of the following proposal for a revised political system incorporating Direct Democracy with safeguards for basic rights. It consists of four main bodies:
1) The legislature. A parliament would be elected every four or five years as is now the case in most democratic nations; the government would propose legislation, and the parliament as a whole would vote on it. If legislation is passed and not challenged by the public, it would become law. However, as in Switzerland, the citizens could trigger a referendum on any legislation passed by the parliament if a certain number of signatures are gathered within a specific time period.
2) The voters. Firstly, they would vote in a referendum on any government-initiated policy proposal that had gathered sufficient signatures to trigger one. If the voters rejected proposed legislation, it would not become law. Secondly, the voters could themselves propose and initiate legislation via initiatives that, if sufficient signatures were gathered, would trigger an immediate referendum. Legislation passed by referendum would not be subject to review by the parliament.
Neither the voters nor the legislature can initiate legislation regarding tax rates, as explained below. After a law has been passed, but before it is written into the statute books and implemented, it passes to:
3) The supreme court. Their role would be to determine the constitutionality of the legislation passed both by the parliament and by the people. Legislation considered to violate constitutionally guaranteed rights would be thrown out and would not become law. Legislation accepted by the court would pass to:
4) The civil service. Their function is to determine the cost of bills that have been passed. Tax rates are then modified accordingly, so that the country remains in budget. Thus, if a universal health care bill is introduced, tax rates rise automatically to provide for it; if defence spending is cut, then tax rates automatically fall. Or vice versa. If the initial costing turns out to be in error once the policy is implemented, then the tax rate is modified the following financial year.
The constitution itself could be modified but to do so would require a supermajority in all branches - say two thirds of the parliament, plus three quarters of the voters, plus two thirds of justices on the supreme court.
How would this scheme work? Would it succeed in implementing the will of the people while still preserving the rights of minorites?