The Swiss Connection
Swiss voters have been blending direct democracy with representative democracy for hundreds of years. Switzerland’s constitution empowers Swiss citizens to formulate laws, obtain approval of their proposals in popular votes, and mandate their elected representatives to implement their proposals.
Inspired by this historic precedent, the founders of the Global Social Network for Voters have incorporated into the network’s platform a unique repertory of tools and services empowering voters to use the World Wide Web to devise their own forms of direct democracy — adapted to their needs — and blend with institutions that provide representative democracy.
How the Swiss Blend Direct Democracy with Representative Democracy
In contrast to many federal forms of government, the powers of Switzerland’s federal government are significantly limited by the powers of its autonomous cantons and their citizens.
To protect the autonomy of the cantons and their citizens, Switzerland has created a unique blend of direct and representative democracy.
This blend confers on Swiss citizens far greater legislative prerogatives and influence than citizens of purely representative democracies.
A core prerogative is the legislative power of Swiss citizens at the grassroots. They can:
- Mandate the enactment of specific legislation through initiatives that receive a majority of votes cast by Swiss citizens in special elections.
- Overturn specific legislation through referenda that receive a majority of votes cast by Swiss citizens in special elections.
Initiatives and referenda must be enacted into law by elected representatives at the federal level because the Swiss constitution requires them to honor the will of the people as expressed in these votes: Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation, Title 4.
These constitutional provisions have made it necessary for federal legislators to develop effective mechanisms for consensus-building because they know that citizens at the grassroots have the power to overturn laws they pass. These mechanisms have conferred on Switzerland worldwide respect for developing democratic consensus-building and conflict resolution capabilities that appear to be among the most effective in the world.
That the Swiss brand of autonomy and influence emerged at all, and has survived the test of time, is rather extraordinary given the potentially divisive cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity of the various regions of the country and their populations.
In this regard, one of the most important lessons that Swiss history teaches may well be the principle that grassroots autonomy and the “bottom-up” exercise of popular sovereignty are indispensable to democratic self-governance. They render centralization of authority both unnecessary and counter-productive.
While many complex political, economic, social and cultural factors contributed to the creation of the unique Swiss blend of direct and representative democracy, three centuries ago a Swiss-born philosopher gave voice to fundamental premises underlying it:
“As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State
‘What does it matter to me?’ the State may be given up for lost.”
The Social Contract, 1762
Swiss Consensus-Building and the Global Social Network for Voters
The Swiss model of democratic self-government through blended direct and representative democracy is an inspirational precursor of the Global Social Network for Voters. Its digital dashboard empowers voters at the grassroots to set their political and legislative agendas, join forces to forge broad-based consensus across ideological and partisan lines, and organize politically to get their agendas enacted.
They can build voter-controlled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions that can set common agendas, nominate electoral candidates of their choice, and build electoral bases large enough to elect their nominees and effective pressure them to enact voters’ agendas.
Continuous, transpartisan consensus-building and conflict resolution are natural by-products of these political self-determining and self-organizing processes. Blocs, parties and coalitions will be motivated to reach out to other voters across ideological and partisan lines because doing so will enable them to build electoral bases large enough to win elections.
Moreover, in contrast to the chaotic, polarizing and counterproductive politics of the large majority of legislative bodies throughout the world, voters using the world’s first large scale consensus-building and conflict resolution platform will be able to join forces online to devise and mandate the enactment of comprehensive legislative agendas comprised of virtually unlimited numbers of laws that are logically and coherently interconnected.
Decline of Democratic Institutions Worldwide
Switzerland, with its blend of direct democracy and representative democracy, is a peaceful nation. It has never attacked or invaded another country, and actively assists other nations in their peace-making initiatives and conflict resolution efforts.
Its government is constitutionally required to “assist in alleviation of need and poverty in the world and promote respect for human rights and democracy, [and] the peaceful co-existence of peoples.”
Switzerland is also the birthplace and headquarters of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), which was founded in 1863 by a Swiss citizen and is maintained largely by Swiss volunteers. Switzerland’s political neutrality and lack of colonial past facilitates the accomplishment of ICRC’s humanitarian missions around the world.
Moreover, Switzerland advocates decentralized forms of democracy abroad via its Democratisation, Decentralisation, and Local Governance Network (DDLGN).
In contrast to Switzerland, democratically accountable democracies with popularly controlled electoral and legislative processes are declining in number. The result is widespread distrust and dissatisfaction with unresponsive legislative and executive bodies that are failing to meet the needs and demands of their constituents.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, government “is the least trusted institution globally … 2015 witnessed a ‘plunge of trust in government due to stalemate and perceived incapacity.'”
In addition to the lack of direct democracy, a key cause of popular distrust and dissatisfaction is governance failures stemming from the inability of voters, lawmakers and political parties to build consensus and resolve conflicts across ideological and partisan lines.
- Voters, political parties, lawmakers, and electoral candidates are unable to build consensus among themselves regarding legislative priorities and agendas, who should run for office, and what legislation should be passed.
- Voters are unable to independently define their own priorities, build broad-based consensus among themselves, and nominate their own candidates.
- Instead, voters are compelled to choose among competing candidates nominated by sharply divided, often ideologically driven political parties that advocate legislative priorities which voters are largely unable to influence.
- Electorally unaccountable lawmakers and parties tend to pass legislation lacking broad-based popular support which often fails to protect the welfare and well-being of large segments of the population.
- Unaccountable lawmakers who are financially beholden to special interests tend to pass legislation favoring special interests over the public interest.
- Unaccountable governments and lawmakers tend to limit and even prohibit the exercise of fundamental civil, political and human rights.
- Unaccountable governments and lawmakers tend to be associated with social unrest, protests, confrontations, conflicts and political violence.
These deficits are reflected, in particular, in the political polarization that often results from ideologically driven political parties and special interests that tend more towards creating internal and external conflicts than resolving them.
Throughout history and the modern era, such parties and special interests have been found to display inherent tendencies to:
- Spark controversies to divide voters into hostile camps in order to increase their political influence and win elections.
- Align with financial interests and corporate-controlled media to disseminate biased news stories and confuse low information and undiscerning voters.
- Rig elections by suppressing votes, falsifying vote tallies and election results, and changing election district boundaries to include a majority of voters likely to vote for their candidates, and exclude those likely to vote against them.
These “democratic deficits” enable political parties, candidates and lawmakers to get elected and gain control of governments and their legislative processes and outcomes for extended periods of time, even though they represent a minority of eligible voters; large majorities of voters oppose the laws they pass; and they engage in conflicts domestically and transnationally over which voters have no control.
Despite the international efforts of Switzerland and many countries and organizations around the world to build and strengthen democracy, democratic governments and the electoral and legislative processes and institutions on which they depend — especially political parties — are in decline.
In 2015 alone, 72 countries became less democratic, as reported in The Guardian View on Democracy.
According to the 2015 Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit,
“The number of ‘full democracies’ is low, at only 20 countries, comprising only 8.9% of the world population. 59 countries are rated as ‘flawed democracies’, comprising 39.5% of the world population. Of the remaining 88 countries . . . 51 are ‘authoritarian’, comprising 34.1% of the world population; and 37 are considered to be ‘hybrid regimes’, comprising 17.5% of the world population.”
The Global Spread of Political Violence
Parallel to the decline of democracies around the world is the global spread of social and political unrest, and political violence.
The 2016 Global Peace Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) reports an historic ten-year deterioration in world peace. The peace scores of 79 countries deteriorated, and although the scores of 81 countries improved, the size of the deteriorations was greater than the size of the improvements.
An increase in the number of regions and countries engaged in external conflicts was also reported, including the US “which remains mired in numerous Middle Eastern Conflicts as well as Afghanistan.”
The highest levels of terrorism were found in a record number of countries, compared to any of the past 16 years. ISIL and its affiliates were active in 28 countries, 15 more than in previous years, as a result of its shift in tactics to transnational terrorism not only in the Middle East but to Europe as well.
Factors associated with terrorism include “political violence committed by the state” and “state sponsored terror, involving extrajudicial killing, torture, and imprisonment without trial.”
The key role played by democratic governance failures throughout the world, in established democracies as well as transitioning democracies and governments that have never had functioning democracies, when seen in the light of research conducted by the World Bank and others, indicates that “the risk of conflict is higher in countries where the government tends to infringe on the fundamental rights of its citizens.” They are countries deficient in the rule of law, political rights and civil liberties, and honest elections.
These findings lend credibility and significance to causal links found between public distrust of democratically unaccountable governments and escalating social unrest, including:
- Growing opposition to elected officials and their legislative enactments.
- Electoral upsets, protests, confrontations, and extra-legal actions.
- Political violence and the rise and spread of paramilitary groups and “lone wolf” attacks throughout the world.
These trends are unlikely to be reversed in the near term by relying solely on time-consuming efforts to internally reform democratically unaccountable, conflict-producing governments on a country-by-country basis. The most promising alternative is the Global Social Network for Voters and its consensus-building and conflict resolution technology that empowers voters worldwide to re-invent undemocratic governments externally using the World Wide Web.
The Technological Re-Invention of Democracy
The Interactive Voter Choice System
The Global Social Network for Voters and its unique consensus-building technology, the Interactive Voter Choice System, enable voters to build consensus among themselves, across ideological and partisan lines, and elect governments, lawmakers and political parties that can consensually resolve political conflicts.
Without changing laws or pass new laws, in most cases, voters can insert their own forms of direct democracy into electoral and legislative processes of representative democracies to solve problems, crises and conflicts current governments are failing to resolve.
These problems, crises and conflicts include threats to the planet’s sustainability and humanity’s survivability posed by extreme climate disruption and the global spread of political violence.
Powerful governments are not only failing to devise solutions to overcome these dire threats, but many are making them worse and allowing others to make them worse.
As a reflection of extreme climate disruption, the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA) visualization below shows how older arctic sea ice is disappearing.
Growing risks to human survivability are reported in research conducted by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) showing that in 2015 alone, 27.8 million people in 127 countries were displaced by conflicts, violence and disasters.
The Interactive Voter Choice System technology enables voters everywhere to overcome the threats to their well-being, the planet’s sustainability and humanity’s survivability by eradicating the root causes of these threats: the “democratic deficits” that prevent voters from building consensus across ideological and partisan lines, and gaining control of electoral and legislative institutions and processes to ensure they serve the public interest.
This technology enables voters everywhere to join forces to:
- Build winning domestic and transnational online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions that cross ideological and partisan lines.
- Set common transpartisan legislative agendas and devise peace plans to resolve domestic and transnational crises and conflicts — including the the global spread of violent conflicts and the devastation and loss of life caused by extreme climate disruption
- Form domestic and transnational transpartisan voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions around common transpartisan legislative agendas and peace plans.
- Nominate and elect lawmakers to enact their agendas domestically, within their home countries, and transnationally, within international organizations.
- Guide and direct the actions of lawmakers during legislative decision-making processes by transmitting direct messages to them with continuously updated agendas, and by conducting and sharing with them the results of online referenda, initiatives, petitions, and straw recall votes.
- Evaluate lawmakers’ legislative records and hold them electorally accountable by voting to re-elect or defeat and replace them with candidates of their choice.
The technology promotes and facilitates consensus-building and conflict resolution by virtue of the fact that blocs, parties and coalitions are more likely to win elections if they
- Reach out to voters across ideological and partisan lines to set transpartisan legislative agendas.
- Build transpartisan electoral bases larger than those of single parties.
- Nominate and effectively get out the vote on behalf of transpartisan slates of candidates.
Highly partisan and ideologically driven blocs, parties and coalitions that rigidly focus on fixed sets of issues and priorities, and fail to reach out to prospective supporters and voters across the political spectrum are less likely to win elections.
Political and Economic Inequality
In addition to expressing political discontent, voters around the world are also expressing growing opposition to increasing economic inequality.
Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, on the basis of the Global Wealth Report 2015 published by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse.
“Nearly three-quarters of the world’s adults own under $10,000 in wealth. This 71 percent of the world holds only 3 percent of global wealth. The world’s wealthiest individuals, those owning over $100,000 in assets, total only 8.1 percent of the global population but own 84.6 percent of global wealth.”
Global Adult Population and Share of Total wealth by Wealth Group, 2015
Growing worldwide disparities in wealth and political power, coupled with dysfunctional and democratically unaccountable governments, are raising concerns that social unrest and volatility might create unmanageable political turmoil in the near future, similar to implosions that have occurred in previous eras.
One mathematician has statistically tracked 40 factors in society such as “wealth inequality, stagnating well-being, growing political fragmentation and governmental dysfunction” and fears that some kind of societal “collapse” might occur within a decade.
His findings dovetail with those of other analysts who fear that in 2016 the “World Passed The Tipping Point Into A Perilous New Era”:
The fearful and fearsome reaction against growing inequality, social dislocation and loss of identity in the midst of vast wealth creation, unprecedented mobility and ubiquitous connectivity, is a mutiny, really, against globalization so audacious and technological change so rapid that it can barely be absorbed by our incremental nature. In this accelerated era,” I continued, “future shock can feel like repeated blows in the living present to individuals, families and communities alike.”
Indeed, increasing numbers of voters around the world are taking unprecedented steps to register their opposition to growing inequality and democratically unaccountable lawmakers and governments. One way is by voting in decisive numbers in anti-establishment upset elections. They are also launching massive protests and confrontations; many are engaging in extra-legal actions.
Unfortunately, electoral upsets – such as the Brexit vote and the recent U.S. presidential election – are unlikely to quell widespread voter opposition to their governments if so many voters continue to be prevented from determining what laws are enacted.
In fact, these electoral upsets are likely to lead to more upsets, protests, confrontations and extra-legal actions unless voters can permanently obtain control of political parties, special interests, and the legislation that results from electoral and legislative processes.
Yet most voters in most countries with democratically unaccountable governments simply do not have any effective ways to change the status quo. In the U.S. where the political system is universally condemned as “broken”, there are few, if any, partial fixes. Virtually no viable systemic solutions are on the table.
Given the lack of internal levers by which voters can reform democratically unaccountable governments, the Global Social Network for Voters and the Interactive Voter Choice System provide a universal, near-term technological solution by which voters can autonomously re-invent these governments.
This consensus-building and conflict resolution technology, which enables voters to blend direct and representative forms of democracy, can be implemented by citizens and voters autonomously online.
It enables large numbers of well-informed, consensus-building citizens to work together to supplement — and in many cases supplant — the small numbers of lawmakers who all too often ignore voters’ priorities in favor of their own and those of the special interests that finance their electoral campaigns.
This paradigm shifting technology is the next step in the technological evolution of government “by and for the people”. Voluminous research has demonstrated that large numbers of people make better decisions than small numbers of people, especially in large complex systems such as governments in which a single lawmaker may represent millions of voters.
The Global Social Network for Voters empowers virtually unlimited numbers of citizens to join forces to make better-informed collective decisions and devise more effective legislative agendas than the small numbers of lawmakers who enact laws lacking broad-based popular support that all too often jeopardize the welfare and well-being of large segments of the population.