Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Nov 11, 2009 in Places, Politics | 15 comments

Questioning Direct Democracy

That’s precisely what I did in my latest guest commentary for St. Louis Public Radio, aired yesterday.

This missive was originally prompted by my disgust with the recent, seemingly endless flood of anti-stem-cell initiatives in Missouri. Granted, those initiatives — manifestations of direct-democracy that I oppose — are only attempting to overturn an earlier direct-democracy initiative that I supported. I’m thus willing to concede that, had the original initative not been attempted, the current slate might not plague us.

Either way, my larger point, articulated in the conclusion of the commentary, stands: Democracy would probably cost less and be more effective if we maintained a primary focus on (and expected a higher level of accountability from) our base system of representative democracy (a.k.a., our Republic). In other words, we elect and pay people to do the work of government; to thoughtfully and thoroughly study issues and take actions for the benefit of the citizenry. It’s only logical, then, that we make these people do their job rather than doing it for them. Otherwise, we’re paying twice for the same function.

That is, of course, a thoroughly debatable position. Also, I suspect there are appropriate uses of direct democracy — that a blend of direct and representative democracy has its merits. My concern is that this blend may be off balance, or at risk of skewing off balance, in certain states and circumstances. We should thus be mindful of that risk and openly, actively discuss how to mitigate it.

By the way, if you’re looking for good commentary on California politics, the Sacramento Bee columnist I reference in my commentary, Dan Walters, is well worth reading.