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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Referendums

Having elected representatives sometimes seems a roundabout way to run a democracy. Wouldn't a series of referendums be a more direct way to express the will of the people?

The people who run for office are a generally dishonest, self-serving bunch. They will likely pay lip service to popular ideas without really meaning it. When questioned, they will usually answer evasively. Once in office, they will be winded and dined by all sorts of special interest groups who will do their best to form personal relationships with them. These lobbyists will also give them indirect bribes in the form of campaign contributions. The politicians will therefore feel indebted to them, and will legislate in the best interests of the lobbyists, against the best interests of the American people.

Rather than let the politicians and lobbyists decide our fates, would it not be better to just hold referendums on various hot button issues of the day?

Imagine if the following issues were decided by direct vote: whether to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether to have affirmative action. Whether we should be giving 25% of all our foreign aid to Israel. Whether to bail out the banks the way we did.

These seem to be issues on which the wishes of the majority of the electorate are being circumvented.

Yes, such referendums would be unconstitutional. And they would leave the country vulnerable to whoever got to choose the wording of the referendums, and there would always be a question about where to draw the line on the issues. But there are certain issues on which the public is so well versed that the exact wording of a referendum would be less crucial.

When the Founding Fathers structured our government so that we would have elected representatives, they never anticipated the influence of moneyed special interests like the ABA or AIPAC.

It's time to bypass the lobbyists.

(It'll never happen, of course, but it's a pleasant fantasy.)

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