The amount of new laws
passed in most countries has outrun the capacity of the politicians
and parliaments (that are supposed to control them) to discuss
and monitor them intelligently. This applies even more to the vast
amount of secondary legislation that is added by bureaucrats in
order to implement these laws.
In the EU, for
example, its unelected bureaucrats have churned out an
astonishing 90,000 pages of directives, regulations and decisions during the
past 50 years. Would this have been possible if the citizens would have had
the opportunity to question and vote on all this legislation?
We do not propose that the passing of new laws and regulations
should automatically involve the holding of a referendum. This would
obviously be impractical. But the mere threat that the imposition of
any measure that neglects to consider the interests of the
electorate or important constituencies could lead to a referendum
would act as a brake on ill-considered legislation.
Involving the citizens in legislation would reduce the amount of
laws passed as the capacity of the individuals to properly assess
and process the necessary information by definition is limited.
But the citizen
cannot be involved in the technical details of legislation!
This is one of the favourite arguments that the opponents of direct
democracy have at their disposal. Even people who in principle like the idea of
closer citizen involvement seem to be puzzled by the question how direct
democracy could work in practice.
The solution to this 'conundrum' is quite simple. Most laws would still be
proposed and agreed in the traditional fashion, that is by the elected
representatives in Parliament, regional bodies or town halls. But all
legislation of major importance would have to be subject to a mandatory
referendum. All other legislation would still be subject to a facultative
referendum that would have to be launched by the citizens that want to object.
They would then have to find sufficient support before a referendum on the issue
would have to be held. The number of supporters would have to be large enough to
demonstrate that a referendum has real support but not too large so as to
make it impossible to launch a referendum. A number between 5 and 10% or
registered voters may be just about right.
The result of such a system would be that the government would avoid
introducing legislation that has very little hope finding majority
approval. This in turn would reduce the number of issues that would
require the holding of a referenda.
Stop to 'proposals', 'initiatives' and 'schemes'
More and more
legislation and bureaucratic regulation is created as a consequence of
so-called 'proposals', 'initiatives' or 'schemes' launched by elected
politicians or civil servants.
We think this is a symptom of what is wrong with the legislative process
in our societies. People who have an in-built interest to increase their
power or force their individual views on others are in the driving seat
when their main focus should be on the smooth running of the government
machinery. Their attention should be directed towards the efficient
execution of existing legislation and only in extremis should they add new
rules and regulations. These should not be created with the stroke of a
pen and nodded through by subservient placeholders (aka Members of
Parliament) but the process of launching new laws should start at
grassroots and only be moved forward if enough citizens are willing to
Every new initiative that is set up
increases the distrust we feel for the State
Apart from the fact that most of these 'initiatives' are thinly disguised
edicts based on only a shred of legitimacy we just want to point out the
main cause of this malaise: the citizens are effectively excluded from the
process of legislation and only a radical reform can reverse the growing
distrust that is felt.
Direct action in the form of protests such as truck drivers blockading
streets in order to support their demands will become a growing feature in
our societies if this root-and-branch reform is not started soon.