Difference between Direct and Indirect Democracy – an Introduction

“Freedom is not won by a passive acceptance of suffering. Freedom is won by a struggle against suffering.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“A democratic organization has to dare to do the right at all costs”- Mahatma Gandhi

” As I would be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.” Abraham Lincoln

Indirect Democracy-

Indirect Democracy is when the people elect representatives who vote on laws on the behalf of the people. In this type of democracy representatives of the people are chosen to govern the country. Those chosen or elected people carry the feelings, sentiments and problems of the people and take decisions. These representatives of majority party form the Government and are part of Legislature. Indirect democracy (also called representative democracy)- is where citizens choose others to represent them, making important decisions on their behalf.

In the UK, there is a system of representative democracy called ‘liberal democracy- in which the people vote for a government through regular elections with secret ballots and choice of canditates. Government is accountable to the people, and has its power limited in some way, in part by free press and the individual rights of the people. Advantages of representative democracy, especially as opposed to direct democracy called ‘liberal democracy’ – in which the people vote for a government through regular elections with secret ballots and a choice of candidates.

Government is accountable to the people, and has its power limited in some way, in part by a free press and the individual rights of the people. Advantages of representative democracy, especially as opposed to direct democracy, include that the people cannot be expected to have the time or interest to make important and regular decisions, representatives ensure the interests of all sections of the society (including minorities) are taken into account, and can can be held accountable for their decisions. Finally, representatives are able to ‘aggregate’ the differing demands of people into a more coherent and politically logical programme.

Disadvantages of representative democracies include that representatives may distort peoples’ demands to suit their political preferences, may not make themselves accountable enough between elections and can only be removed by elections if they lose the respect of the people. The electoral mandate representatives is flawed, as voters have to accept or reject a whole manifesto, not being able to make clear which parts of it they oppose , and there is more information in this day and age for people to be able to make better decisions. Representatives also have to decide whether to be ‘delegates’ for their constituents, merely putting forward their view, or using their best judgment to ‘represent’ their constituents.

Oligarchy- ”Indirect Democracy” is an oxymoron, since the people cannot consent to a government which has final authority by electing the members of oligarchy in question; however the obvious fact remains, that the people do not consent to the oligarchy itself, and so its rule over them is always final. Due to this sophistry, however, the people actually believe that they are in power; but this simply renders a covert oligarchy, which is even worse than an overt one in many respects; in the words of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.”

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” As a result Americans are slaves to their own ignorance, and pride groeth before a fall; since just as Thomas Jefferson held a state policy of direct democracy, that ”the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself,” he likewise claimed a federal policy of ”Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none; and therefore the suppression of direct democracy in each state during the Lincoln regime, led to a plicy of global war… starting with the killings of 1/4 million so called ”traitors” without trial or evidence, other than the federal fiat of alleged national authority on it own dictates … as is th way of all oligarchy. Countries that use indirect democracies include Great Britain, France, Australia, Canda, and a bunch more.

Direct Democracy

Direct Democracy is when the people vote directly on the laws or other issues that are proposed. It is suitable for small nations. All the people of a nation or community directly participate in decision making. All the people of the community sit together, raise issues, discuss them and take decisions. The entire community forms the Legislature. Example-India. Direct Democracy is useful and feasible for only those countries which have considerably low population and small territory.

In this form of democracy people directly participate in the process of decision making, unlike the indirect form of democracy in which there are a few elected or chosen people who act as the representatives of populace of their respective area. India is the second and seventh largest country in the world by population and geographical area respectively. Therefore, it would be a very difficult task to run and administer such a large country by means of direct form of democracy. It may create the unnecessary chaos which would result into the malfunctioning of administration and inefficiency in governance.

Though the power would be supposed/ seemed to have penetrated into the every section of society, yet some people would still not be enjoying their powers/rights either due to unawareness or lack of understanding and proper knowledge.And, some irresponsible and undeserving elements of the society may also misuse the power to fulfill their selfish goals sidelining the larger interest of country. The most important historical reference of direct democracy is to assembly democracy in Ancient Greek city-states, particularly Athens, where decisions were taken by people’s assemblies of some 1,000 male citizens.

Later, people’s assemblies were used in many Swiss cantons and towns as well as in town meetings in some American Colonies and States. Early US States also started using procedures in which constitutions or constitutional amendments were ratified by referanda, which later became common in the United States. Popular Sovereignity, proclaimed in the French Revolution, had rather been distorted, however in Napolean’s autocratic plebicites. Switzerland and many US states incorporated direct democracy in their constitutions during the 19th Century, while Germany and few other countries adopted some elements after World War 1. In a more general perspective, the ensuing introduction or practical use of direct-democratic institutions originated from three major types of developments-

1. Social class conflict to curb the political power of a dominating oligarchy (eg. Switzerland, US States)

2. Processes toward political/territorial autonomy or independence for legitimizing and integrating the new state unit (beginning after World War 1)

3. Processes of democraticd transformation from authoritarian rule (eg- Germany’s regional states after 1945, some Latin American Countries).

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3 thoughts on “Difference between Direct and Indirect Democracy – an Introduction

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