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How does a direct democracy end up becoming just as statist or authoritarian as representative democracy?

+1 vote
asked Aug 10, 2012 by anonymous
edited Aug 11, 2012

2 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
Direct democracy often implies a federalized structure of ascending levels with supposedly revocable delegates that are supposedly responsible to their constituents. Higher ranking delegates could possibly receive mandates from a lesser number of citizens yet still would have an equal vote.  Inequality is made worse at each level the higher up it goes.

Incidentally this is not to suggest that other forms of democracy are somehow compatible with anarchist theory and practice. It's just seems helpful to point out some of the traps and dispel some of the myths or illusions that some anarchists may be otherwise tempted to entertain.
answered Aug 11, 2012 by skitter (4,110 points)
"Direct democracy often implies a federalized structure of ascending levels with supposedly revocable delegates"

unless i am missing something, the very point of direct democracy is there are NO delegates.  delegates kind of define representative democracy. not that i find either very appealing.
I tried to simplify and/or paraphrase pertinent information in Bob Blacks pamphlet (perhaps doing it a disservice). http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Bob-Black-Debunking-Democracy.pdf

A simpler response to your comment would be that it's simply not that simple..... Individuals within popular or populist movements approach them, each with their own set of of undeclared assumptions, with ill-defined words and phrases scattered throughout. These can tend to lead people astray from their own principles anarchist goals and desires. So it's probably better just to directly quote Black

"[T]he major objections to
representative democracy also apply to direct democracy,
even if the latter is regarded as an, ideal form of pure
majoritarian democracy.
[S]chemes for direct democracy typically call for a federal
system with layers of "mandated and revocable delegates,
responsible to the base" by which the decisions of assemblies
are reconciled. Some delegates to the higher levels will
potentially speak for a different number of citizens than
other delegates but cast equal votes. In a federal system of
units of unequal population, voting equality for the units
means voting inequality for individuals. The federalist
- but single-member - simple-plurality system evidently
contemplated by most direct democrats, including
the syndicalists, is the least proportionate of all voting
'Ihe inequality will be compounded at every higher level.
The majority; the majority of the majority; the majority of
the majority of the majority - the higher up you go, the
greater the inequality."
" it's simply not that simple "

... a beautiful phrase to let the air out of most of the balloons filled with pre-judices floating in around our harried little minds.

For myself, i'll say that i have no hostility toward vote-casting or federations - while they serve as a temporary tool toward some ongoing project.  Once the project is completed, or abandoned, the structure must be abandoned, torn down, and subsequently rebuilt as necessary for subsequent projects - no short cuts allowed, at the hazard of our liberty.  Once the make-shift jig or prop of vote-casting takes on a life of its own as 'Democracy!', it will, like all other systems, suck the life out of everyone it touches to sustain its own pseudo-life.  (ok, that's kinda zombie-esque -- the base idea is coherent, modify the metaphor as necessary for your individual brain trauma.)
To my mind, that is the danger of direct democracy - not that it may display some haphazard 'inequalities', nor that it infringes upon our shining 'purity' of anarchist life-to-be - but that it can so easily take on a 'life' of it's own, with it's own disciples all-too-ready to crucify those of us who would dare question the unquestionable.
Yea, out of the many problems cataloged in Debunking Democracy, that also is obviously one of the most significant. Pointing out the inequalities just seemed more useful post occupy, 2 years ago with the influx of a varied demographic newly exposed to anarchist ideas and practice. With so many leftists once again mingling amongst anarchists, it just seemed best to dispense with the idealism of Democracy, with dd invoked along with the slogan of what "...real democracy looks like" (puke!). Thus I find your zombie metaphor to be quite apropos to say the least....
skitter, re your bob black quote:

"[S]chemes for direct democracy typically call for a federal
system with layers of "mandated and revocable delegates,
responsible to the base" " ...

i am not a student of politics, nor have i read that bob black piece, so i may well be missing something that you are not. but i don't see how what is described there is substantially different from representative democracy.  people (s)elect other people to make decisions for them. and if they don't like what happens, they (s)elect someone else next time.  even though i have no more interest in direct democracy than representative (and i completely agree with dot's critique below), any time there are "delegates" (which are, literally, "representatives") and layers of administration, i can't think of it as direct democracy. i don't care what the dictionary (or bob black) says.

that's kind of like my friend calling her shoes "diy" because she went to the store herself to buy them. :-)
+1 vote
the issues with democratic decision-making is that a) it structures questions in dualistic ways (either this or that), b) people who disagree with those decisions are still supposed to abide by them, c) decision-making turns into a popularity contest, d) everyone is supposed to have an equal vote even when everyone *doesn't* have the same level of engagement with an issue.

i'm not sure that it's worth hedging around "more authoritarian or statist"? is that what we're doing now? choosing the lesser of two evils?

(if you put a dash between majority and rule, it will show as a single tag, which is probably what you wanted?)
answered Aug 10, 2012 by dot (50,920 points)
Sometimes people associate anarchy with direct democracy. So the question is not suggesting a "lesser evil" but that, at the very least, direct-democracy is not anarchy. The challenge is to examine the ways in which it may be even worse than other forms of democracy and thereby dispense with this false analogy.