Sunday, March 31, 2013

Stealing from the Swiss!

The Problem:

The Swiss are often in the news because they have a system of direct democracy. While this is not really the case as Switzerland has a parliament (national council), it is true it uses referendums once in a while. 
In 2012 for example, the Swiss population was asked 12 questions in 4 referendums of which 4 questions were adopted. Just as a comparison, US congress introduced 3914 bills in 2012 of which 61 were adopted, and that was their worst performance since WOII. 

From experience the Swiss know that asking the People more often than 4 times a year is counterproductive because fewer people will show up. Participation in any election has already dropped below 50% in Switzerland, so any vote can be approved by 25% or less of the electorate. That is probably better than asking 200 parliamentarians but it falls short of direct democracy. Or at least, we can do better.

The Solution:

But there are little gems in the Swiss system: any proposal that gets 100,000 signatures (that is less than 2% of the registered voters) will have to be considered in a referendum. That is a beautiful idea that this blog fully supports.
But the most beautiful part of the Swiss system is not used to its fullest. Each time the Swiss have a referendum, a random sample of the population is selected to count the votes. That is of course a waste of time and resources. But the random sampling is perfect and the referendum should be replaced by asking this randomly selected group to vote for the Swiss population. The result would be closer to the will of the Swiss People then the referendum result. And a lot cheaper too. That is what I would call direct democracy.

The Transition

The key elements of Agile Direct Democracy already exist and have been tested. It is just a matter of putting them together into a functioning system.