Why do people still believe that direct democracy can't work?

My answer to a question in Quora: Why do people still believe that direct democracy can't work even though there are now examples which prove that is is working?

Those in power got there under current system. Why would they want to change the system that is working for them so well?

Also there are examples of bad decisions made by direct democracy. Then again, I'll bet there are even more examples of bad decisions by representative democracies or dictatorships.

Then there is the "stupid people" argument: average citizens are simply not informed enough to make decisions about complex issues, it is better to leave that to professional politicians. But if people can not be trusted to make informed decisions, how can they be trusted to choose the right people to make those decisions? If people would make bad decisions on issues, then they are bound to make bad decisions on choosing their representatives, say, by choosing them by their ability to appear good on TV and give rousing speeches instead of actual expertise of making competent decisions on complex issues. Dunning–Kruger effect actually pretty much guarantees this: not only are incompetent people unable to recognize their own lack of competence, they are also unable to recognize genuine competence in others, leading them to mistake confidence and charisma for actual competence.

Yes, people might be stupid and make bad decisions. But that problem is not solved by representation, is simply moves the bad decisions one step away: instead of making the bad decisions themselves, they elect incompetent representatives to make the bad decisions for them.

(Side note: If people can't be trusted to elect competent leaders or make informed decisions, shouldn't we just get rid of democracy and use a system where leaders are chosen by their competence instead of their popularity among masses? Sure, as soon as someone invents one. Unfortunately there currently does not exist a system that would guarantee a competent leadership. After all, who gets to decide who is competent to lead? Who decides who is competent to make that decision? Several methods have been tried, pretty much all of them ending badly for everyone. Democracy might not guarantee a competent leadership, but neither does any other known system. But democracy has one major advantage: it makes it much easier to get rid of truly horrid leadership. In most other systems the only way to accomplish that is to have a bloody revolution, in democracy you simply vote for the other guy in the next election.)

Ok, but what about time: most people have day jobs, they simply do not have the time to spend researching the complex issues that need to be decided, isn't it better to leave that to people who are paid to do that full time?

True, but I'll bet very few of the representatives bother to actually read the proposals either, let alone do any additional research. After all, they usually belong to a party and the party leadership decides how their representatives should vote, they just need to push whichever button they are told to push. Sometimes there might be issues where representatives are allowed to vote freely, but even in those cases most representatives are unlikely to do the work themselves, they simply ask opinion form someone who has done the research and whose opinion they trust and vote accordingly.

This is most likely what would happen also in direct democracy: it's not necessary to each citizen to do complete research on every issue, it is enough that some people do and then tell their informed opinion what the decision should be, then the others simply decide whose opinion they trust most.

Then there is the Principal–agent problem: Voter wants the representative to act on his behalf, that is, make decisions that benefit the voter. However, the representative is more likely to make decisions that benefit himself. Luckily they often align, since representative wants the voter to vote for him also in the next election. But sometimes they do not: opinion of a large campaign donor often counts more than that of several individual voters, or sometimes a good career offer after finishing current term is sufficient to override any concern of voter opinions. Remember any politicians that somehow end up in a well-paid job in a large corporation after serving their term?

The point of the democracy is that people have the power. However, representative democracy sometimes ends up making decisions that is opposed by majority of people, and that means that democracy is not working properly. Perhaps that decision was better, perhaps not, but if it is against the will of majority of people, then it is by definition undemocratic. Representative democracy was a necessary compromise during the time when there were too many citizens to fit under one roof, but we lacked the technology to debate and vote any other way, that is why we had no choice but select representatives to do that for us.

That limitation no longer exists, we now have the technology to research, debate and vote on issues online, no matter how large the number of voters. Now representation is just an unnecessary obstacle in the way of true democracy and it is time to get rid of it, no matter how much the current representatives would like to cling to their power.

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