One thing that shocked me as an American when I was traveling the world was discovering that there were people from other countries who actually liked their governments and felt like they were actually being represented, something I never felt at home.
I remember speaking in astonishment to a Swiss woman on a walking tour in Buenos Aires. “Really? No complaints?”
“We have direct democracy that enables us to vote in our own laws via referendum, multiple political parties (~5), and 7 presidents. Life is pretty good in Switzerland, and I feel like we’re being represented.”
And the statistics back that up – 65% of Swiss citizens are satisfied with their government, according to Cheryl A. Fain’s book Modern Direct Democracy in Switzerland and the American West.
Meanwhile in the U.S., only 17% of Americans feel that Congress is representing them. Whereas other countries have multiple political parties in government, we are stuck in a two-party system by design due to the lack of ranked voting and winner-take-all nature of our elections. The last two Republican presidents lost the popular vote due to a ridiculous electoral college system that means your vote for president is literally worthless unless you live in otherwise irrelevant flyover “swing states” like Iowa with a population of only 3 million. Republican gerrymandering has literally rewritten congressional districts in their favor.
We have the most bloated and dysfunctional healthcare system in the world, we are the only country where college graduates entails $50-100k+ in undischargable student loans, housing has become unaffordable, the average worker only has 2 weeks of vacation and can be fired at any moments notice without justification, etc.
Growing up I was never interested in American politics because it always felt like they were talking a lot without actually saying anything useful. They were like actors expertly trained in dodging questions with generic ideological platitudes appealing to the lowest common denominator.
A: If you were president, how would you fix our healthcare system?
B: We need a healthcare system that works for America! Hard working Americans and small businesses are suffering every day.
A: Ok, but how would you fix our healthcare system?
B: We’re going to fix our healthcare system while giving you the freedom to keep your insurance. If you love your healthcare insurance, you should not have to give that up. These socialist politicians want to take your healthcare away from you. That is un-American.
A: Can you answer the damn question? How would you fix our healthcare system?
B: We need to cut regulations and lower taxes to allow the free markets and ingenious American enterprise work their magic. And help small businesses.
Even as a teenager I had no interest in U.S. presidential debates because I felt like I was losing brain cells listening to them. Nobody actually said anything meaningful, and I was shocked that nobody was calling this out. They seemed to overfixate on random smaller issues like abortion as if our choice of U.S. President should hinge on it.
The Trend Towards Humans in Politics
As much as I dislike Trump, my favorite thing about him was that he was maybe the first major U.S. presidential candidate who didn’t speak like a politician, and actually spoke more like a human being (though a low IQ narcissist at that). He wasn’t afraid to say what he believed, and was admitting that the country was in a crisis – unlike establishment Hillary who’d say the economy was doing great because “look at those unemployment numbers!”. As a result Trump resonated with a lot more people, people who were fed up of not feeling represented in government.
I didn’t vote for Trump or want him to be president, but I thought that if he were to be elected, on the bright side it might start a trend towards more blunt and ambitious humans in office – and away from establishment politicians with their “political speak” and fake pandering nonsense.
The Democratic debates seem to reflect this trend. 2 of the top 3 Democratic candidates right now in the polling – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders – are progressive and outspoken in a way that Democrats historically have not been Unfortunately the top candidate as of this writing is a centrist establishment candidate, Joe Biden.
How can America fix its democracy?
First let’s stop worshiping the Constitution. It was not written to help everyone, it was written to protect the rights of white male landlords. The American political system is slow to change because it was designed to preserve this status quo. The first step is to admit that there’s a problem, and to be willing to change it, 250 year old wealthy white plantation owners with slaves be damned.
- Eliminate winner-take nature of electoral college. There is no reason that a small state with a population of 3 million should have such disproportionate influence in U.S. elections in a country of 330 million.
- Rank-based voting. The reason we only have two political parties and centrist candidates is because of the lack of rank-based voting. Without rank-based voting, your vote for a third party candidate is literally a vote wasted. With rank-based voting, you can vote for fringe candidates without wasting your vote, promoting better representation and better intellectual diversity.
- Repeal Citizen’s United and get money out of politics (as much as is possible)
- Direct Democracy
Direct democracy – giving citizen’s direct power – is the purest form of democracy. The problem with representative democracy is the middleman is always prone to an agency problem and corruption. Not to suggest that representatives must be done away with entirely, but it should certainly not be the case that one is completely beholden to their “representative”.
Direct democracy wasn’t feasible on a national level back in 1776 when people still rode around on horses, but now that we have smartphones and the internet, things are totally different. It is no longer necessary to have representatives representing us. If we truly believe in democracy, citizens should be allowed to vote directly on the issues, instead of that power being exclusive to representatives who “know what’s best for us”.
Switzerland is proof that direct democracy improve’s citizens’ satisfaction with their government and laws. But we can take it a step further.
Liquid Democracy, a.k.a Delegative Democracy, presents the ultimate democratic system. In such a system, one has the option of voting directly on any issues they want, or in delegating their vote to a representative. It gives citizens the power to choose between direct and representative democracy for themselves.
Andrew Yang is advocating for rank-based voting, ending partisan gerrymandering, repealing Citizen’s United, and an interesting idea of promoting public funding of elections through “Democracy Dollars”. I’ve spoken before on how he’s the first presidential candidate I’ve ever seen that I’ve truly resonated with (largely though not only due to his support of a universal basic income). If he ever mentioned Liquid Democracy and Land Value Tax,.well then he’d be the ultimate candidate.
In summary, America’s democracy is broken. It’s time to acknowledge that, and time to fix it. If we keep tying ourselves down to a Constitution written by white male plantation owning slavemasters trying to preserve their own power, then we’ll forever lag behind the rest of the world in government satisfaction.
17% congressional approval should be considered a national emergency, and it’s time to take the bold steps necessary to fixing this, such as by learning from Switzerland’s successful direct democracy.
I know there will be American “conservatives” who counter by saying “we’re too big a country with such a diverse population, there’s absolutely nothing we can learn from a small homogeneous country like Switzerland.”
First regarding diversity – they have four national languages with 60% of the population speaking Swiss-German and 20% speaking Swiss French – so no, they are not less diverse than us – in fact if anything they are more diverse (Americans for some reason think they’re the most diverse country).
Second – the statement that we can’t learn from country X because they’re smaller than us is just flat out logically incorrect and ignorant backwards unscientific defeatist thinking. The fact that I even have to address this is ridiculous, and perhaps points to a failure in America’ education system if people are stupid enough to think like this.