Are Referendums Bad For Democracy?

2016 was the year of controversial referendums. In Colombia, voters rejected a peace deal
that would have brought an end to half a century of war. In the United Kingdom, voters opted to leave
the European Union, the first country to do so since the Union’s formation. And in Thailand, voters gave the military
greater control over the country, alienating the democratic process. Most passed by relatively narrow margins,
and shook establishment ideals to their core. So what are the inherent dangers in holding
referendums? Well, some believe that referendums are undemocratic,
despite serving as a direct form of democracy. In fact, referendums ultimately serve to highlight
the flaws in having policy decisions made by majority rule. Referendums are nothing new, they’ve been
used since Ancient Rome to decide issues of policy. Even Adolph Hitler was able to consolidate
power by way of a referendum. But today, most democratic countries operate
as “representative democracies”, meaning that instead of citizens voting directly on
policy issues, as they do during referendums, they instead vote for elected officials. These officials are implicitly trusted to
learning about the ins-and-outs of policy, and what potential pitfalls or benefits each
decision may have. But with referendums, voters are tasked with
these nuanced decisions, something many do not have the time or inclination to fully
understand. Most voters must rely on news, social media,
their friends and family, and other non-direct or fully informed sources. In some cases, this has led to voters being
mislead, such as with a Brexit campaign in the UK, promising to redirect 350 million
pounds a week from payments to the EU, to the country’s overburdened healthcare system. Some voters cited this as a convincing argument
to leave the EU. But following the vote, its lead proponent
backtracked on the statement, saying it was a “mistake”, and that the money would
not necessarily go to healthcare. Another major problem is that the substance
of a referendum can end up being ignored, in favor of whichever political party supports
it. In Italy, for example, a referendum on clearing
up a time-consuming bureaucracy ultimately ended up being treated, by many, as a referendum
on the popularity of the prime minister. Because the PM promised to resign if the referendum
was not passed, it gave voters an entirely unrelated reason to vote, without even considering
the question on which they were voting, skewing the results. Finally, and perhaps most problematically,
this form of direct democracy highlights the entire purpose of representative democracy:
protecting minority rights. Implicitly, the majority will always overrule
a minority, a situation called “tyranny of the majority”. For example, for hundreds of year in the United
States, African Americans were denied the right to vote, meaning they were denied the
right to democracy, simply because the majority was white. In fact, many who opposed giving African Americans
this right to vote did so as to protect their majority interests, and ultimately it took
a constitutional amendment to fix this injustice. Referendums open the door to this sort of
anti-democracy ideal, and allow an almost equal half of the voting population to exert
overwhelming control on the other half. 2017 will likely see two major referendums,
one on the independence of Catalonia from Spain, the other, in Turkey, would grant the
president more power. But the reasons listed, and others, suggest
referendums are inefficient methods of effecting change in government. On the other hand, some people support the
idea of referendums as they can give the voice of the country back to its people, rather
than vesting it in political officials. Direct democracy via referendum does work
on a local level, and Switzerland, for example has held more than 600 referendums in its
political history. But whether you think these votes help or
harm a country, there is no question that referendums are incredibly powerful tools
of change. So, what about the United States? Can it truly be called a democracy, or is
it something else entirely? Find out in this video. In a representative democracy, citizens vote
for elected officials who collectively vote in the place of citizens and are expected
to represent their best interests. Although that’s a step above having a monarchy
or oligarchy you didn’t vote for, it isn’t a direct democracy. Thanks for watching Seeker Daily, please don’t
forget to like and subscribe for more videos every day.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. This video's title makes about as much sense as "Is water bad for your health?"
    Voting in an "election" IS a referendum, lmao

  2. No, I didn't even watch the video yet, but referendums are the core of democracy. If you don't like the results, question your beliefs rather than the means.

  3. Canada may have a referendum for electoral reform. I think that this is not a good idea because the general populace usually isn't informed about the issues present in different voting systems, nor even necessarily what all the options are or how they work.

  4. In my country there's a child's saying that goes "ganhou a maioria, viva a democracia" it translates to "hurray for democracy, the majority won", and I think it illustrates what I think is wrong with the video.
    I didn't understand how referendums specifically reduce democracy, if they are a direct form for people to decide what happens.

  5. Referendum is the embodiment of the democracy. Unless you think that democracy means the rule by social democrats.

  6. "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." H.L. Menken

  7. The problem with the brexit referendum is that referendums have no official capacity in the UK constitution. The prime minister tried to illegally leave the EU without parliamentary consent by using the excuse of the referendum.

    If we are going to use referendums we need to enshrine them in the constitution somehow.

  8. In 2011 the UK voted in a referendum to keep its First Past The Post voting (FPTP) system which greatly benefited the two main ruling parties. The win was mainly down to low voter turnout and the supporters of the main two parties voting to keep the system to maintain the parties' duopoly on power.

    That is an excellent example of how a referendum has been used to stop a country becoming fairer and more democratic.

  9. Referendums are bad for democracy! Representative democracy is more efficient and democratic.

    But not applied to Hillary Clinton case though! We must abolished the Electoral College, because Clinton gets the popular vote and she is #mypresident. That's true democracy.

    This is so funny.

  10. I believe a good comment here is that they dont believe that voters dont have the ability to understand problems with any complexity. The brexit quote wasnt a promise since they couldnt get in power. Hence the we COULD.

  11. Advocating "Popular Votes" in another video, attacking "Tyrranny of the Majority" in this video.
    Liberals've been doing #FuckLogics since the 40s.

  12. Referendums are democracy—what you really mean is, "Are referendums bad for republics?" Or, rather, "Is democracy bad for republics?"

    And the answer is probably that it is.

  13. There is one truth everywhere. The rich own us. They control us. They never represent us, and ALL politicians are bought out. 1/2 of our nation can't handle $500 emergency expense. WE are all hanging on for our lives. WE live in one of the richest countries ever. We just don't have any of the riches. If you fight it your a sore loser and need to shut up. YOu have no rights. Trump only represents the worst of us. His followers, anyone that supports him is an willful idiot. Anyone who thought the Democrats ever had an answer is a willful idiot. They been worthless my entire 41 years of life. Now you can't even complain about it or again you're a sore loser get over your loss. The rich control everything we eat see and hear. They laugh at us constantly. Read Trump's tweet to his "enemies" and you'll know what they all think of us. He is supposed to represent all America now. If you can't see it, you are an idiot. But it doesn't matter. Those for Trump will say my voice doesn't matter. I know there's doesn't either. I just know where the power truly lies. In the same few hands as always. As they laugh.

  14. Referendums aren't bad for democracy. Referendums are direct democracy. Therefore referendums are great for democracy! The problems you are talking about don't only apply to Referendums but to all kinds of democracies. In representative democracies people can be just as ill informed as in a referendum. Your point about the Italian Prime Minister promising to resign also rings true for representative democracies. Politicians can say the similar things, the only difference being instead of directly voting on the issue now it's voting on the candidates who will vote on the issue. Finally, your point on minorities being oppressed can, guess what? Also be applied to representative democracies! How do we know? Because the United States is a representative democracy, well technically it's a Constitutional Representative Republic but the point remains either way. The point is that the problems you're talking about aren't just with referendums, they're with democracies and republics as a whole. Referendums aren't bad for democracies, it's that democracies have flaws that you see in referendums because your less use to that form of democracy and can see the flaws easier. If I may ask another question, how can we solve these problems in democracies?

  15. what a fucking stupid shit question? are you retarded? of course not! of course fucking not!!! you guys are enemies of democracy!

  16. Referendums are not very good because the people is stupid. You see, in Colombia people were complaining before the referendum because they had no access to enough information and they wouldn't know what the peace treaty would do, so the government put the 350 pages peace treaty on the Internet so that everybody would know what was it about. Do you think somebody read it? All the people that read it (less than 1% of the population) wanted to vote yes. But there is a demigod here in Colombia called Álvaro Uribe and many people just love him, but he is a total jerk, just because he said no (because he has a rivalry with the president) a lot of people were like "oh no, if the Lord says no we should say no…"

  17. So referendums are bad because people vote options people in power don't expect…

    And I don't see how minorities are well represented in a representative democracy, so the only way to fix that is teaching people in empathy towards the others.

  18. REFERENDA. One referendum, two referenda. It's the same as the second neutrum declination (verbum) in plural nominative. Singular: 1. verbum 2. verbi 3. verbo 4. verbum 5. verbum 6. verbo Plural: 1. VERBA 2. verborum 3. verbis 4. verba 5. verba 6. verbis (Numbers indicate cases.)

  19. The bus slogan wasn't a promise and only implied the NHS could be funded from the sum of money sent to the EU. It was also not said by Nigel Farage, whom you chose to quote, despite not being part of the Government and had no authority to give any promises in the first place.

    That being the one example you decided to use makes me wonder how much research you actual do and whether you care about being seen as biased?

  20. I'm beginning to hate referendums, most people have no clue what they are voting for and why. Politicians may be corrupt sometimes, but they aren't completely uninformed about what they are doing. Knowing what's being discussed is their JOB, not just some water cooler discussion at work.

  21. Its not the fault of the people that leaders lie about the ins and outs of proposals. An informed and educated populace, can lead a nation into far better directions if they are allowed to have more direct control. Your point only stands if people remain ignorant, and you simply ignore how corrupt and frequent liars political leaders can be.

  22. Stop insulting voters intelligence, people know what they are voting for. There are some constitutional issues where it should be up to the people to decide as a whole and not just a few hundred.

  23. wen you are asking if Referendums are bad for democracy becoz 51% can beat the 49% then would you rather the 49% beat the 51%?

  24. Are referendums bad for democracy? It's so absurd to ask that question! They are the most democratic institution that has ever been created!
    Is democracy really good for people? That would be much more logical and relevant question.
    I think it's full of flaws but I can't think of anything better. That's the only form which ensures that the government will be changed if the majority is really upset. As history shows, the absolute monarchy with a hereditary monarch will give people a bad ruler sooner or later, people will be upset but unable to change that and oligarchy will always create huge tenions because people hate when they are denied the laws that the others have. And I don't think there can be other undemocatic form of governance other than these two (it's always either one, some or all people who have a vote and any monarchy that is not absolute and hereditary has to include either democartic or oligarchic elements). If I am wrong, please correct me.

  25. Certainly Representative Democracy is better than true Democracy. But I live in the US, so I don't live in a Representative Democracy, or even a Federalist Republic as the founder intended, I live in a oligopoly…
    If we could trust our "representatives" to serve the people instead of the donors I would have representation, but we can't so I don't.

  26. Jesus Christ, Seeker… Way to compare them to Adolf Hitler and also Nigel Farage was NEVER part of the Leave.EU group, so he was uninvolved in that statement about the NHS. He always stated the funds could go to better use but never made the claim that £350 million would go directly to the NHS.

  27. Referendums are bad only if liberals don't like the results. Example: Majority of Brits wanted Leave. Liberals hated that; saying that most people were "uneducated". God Emperor Trump wins through the Electoral College but loses the popular vote. Liberals now say we should have a "direct democracy". Cognitive dissonance at it's finest!

  28. Referenda are the most stupid way to kill democracy.
    They are against the concept itself: the people are not obliged to be expert in politics, they should just be free to have an opinion, which is deeply different. Elections exist because people can't govern themselves and therefore they delegate more capable experts: electing someone else is the declaration of not being able to decide what's the best way to reach your goal.
    Democracy should be about the general agreement on what we, as a comunity, want to reach, not on what we should do to do it.

  29. how can a person backtrack on aa statement they didn't make. WTF are you on about! Whatever the figure is (it's closer to 200 million) thats still a lot of money. The funding NHS was not a promise. It was a suggestion of what the goverment at the time could fund instead of the anti democratic EU.

  30. Pure democracy will not work, because the voice of the minority may not be heard, as suggsted in the video about the African-American community. This is why Reresentative democracy with electoral colleges are better, to represent the minorities as well.

  31. I don't know why everyone doesn't understand the meaning of the video. Referendums are bad sometimes because it gives anyone the power to vote, even the poorly educated. Some people may just randomly vote, skewing what the country actually needs. This is why in order for democracy to truly work education is key, bit the problem is not everyone takes politics seriously, inf act most people only listen to biased news and/ or lack research in the referendum results.

  32. "the biggest argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter" Winston Churchill
    basically you can't trust the majority of the population because the majority of the population are idiots.
    So yes referendums are bad for democracy

  33. A true democracy is when the majority makes all decisions. The "tyranny of the majority" is 100% democratic. To argue against having referendums is to argue against democracy itself.

  34. Under white rule south africa had a referundum for the majority to have the right to vote, the referundem was open to whites only

  35. Referendums work perfectly for Democracies.
    The people's will is being executed.
    But the fact is that most people are uneducated retards.
    That's why the people should never hold the power.

    Doesn't mean I'm PRO monarchy, dictatorship etc… there is another solution.

  36. I can't blame Seeker for making this mistake as it was pretty convoluted and made by a lot of Brits as well. There were two Leave campaigns : Vote Leave and the United Kingdom Independence Party campaign. Nigel Farage who led the UKIP never made the promise of £350 million a week for the NHS. Vote Leave, made up of a coalition of parties and comprised of Labour and Conservative MPs, did make that promise. Nigel didn't make the promise and so it was unfair of Susanna Reid to ask him that question. She should've posed it to Gisela Stuart or Andrea Leadsom or Boris Johnson or Michael Gove. Good video overall though Seeker! ??

  37. I'm italian and I voted the referendum and this is not true at all. The majority of people voted NO because the reforms were just plain bad and would have reduced the power of the people by revoking most of the decisional power of one of the two houses that actually exists (Chamber of deputies and Senate). If the reform would have been a good one, it would have passed.

  38. This is total bullshit and describes voters as uninformed idiots!
    Colombians voted NO because they did not want to give a free pass to people who badly damaged their life and their country, straight from terrorists to political party.
    British have not been tricked into vote LEAVE, they were well informed and demonstrated that in numerous interviews.
    And as an Italian voter i can tell you that we really dislike Renzi but we never voted NO for something so trivial. We voted NO because it was a trick to amend constitution in tortured ways Obamacare-style, with articles that went from 8 simple words to 438 words of lawyerish nonsense incomprehensible even for constitutional experts, with the only purpose of granting more power and less opposition to Renzi, as Wikileaks demonstered.
    Also, he paid million of euros to trick Italian voters in foreign countries, planned to literally buy votes in the south with the complicity of Campania governor De Luca and paid thousands of dollars to the pay for play scheme of the Clinton Foundation through our Land & Sea dept.
    This video is just a political propaganda tool that put together the worst of the mainstream media lies.
    Shameful and very offensive to voters. Total left-wing despicable propaganda.
    Disgusting move from Seeker.

  39. "The purpose of representative democracy is to protect minority rights" how stupid is this video ?

  40. 2:43 The USA was always a representative Democracy even through the Jim Crow laws. There is nothing about representative Democracy that prevents Tyranny of the Majority. Only strong morals can prevent that.

  41. Also the USA is not primarily a Democracy. It is a Republic first and foremost and within the definition of the USA republic is the outline of our Representative Democracy.

    Which basically uses the rules of the Republic to restrain the power of Government when determining what its rulers can subjugate its citizens to. And defines how the "public will" is aggregated and communicated to the Government.

    Basically the US Republic filters that which is handed down and the US Democracy aggregates that which is handed up. The United States is a Democratic-Republic as opposed to a pure Democracy or even a Representative-Democracy.

  42. The authors clearly can’t accept the democratic results of these referendums which they would vote the opposite way.

    If you learned more about the EU, you might understand why the majority voted to leave as it’s got many faults and no democracy like most western national governments.

  43. I think referendums are good for democracy, but what is bad is the campaigns leading up to the referendum that bend the truth to get the vote.

  44. Is Democracy bad for Democracy?

    ……. no, because democracy IS democracy. But republicanism, or REPRESENTATIVE democracy is better for society than direct democracy.

    The average person does not understand the complexities and nuances of government, law, public policy, trade, or economics. Unless educated at at least a baccalaureate level, then we ought to leave the complex decisions to educated officials who understand governance.

    When every citizen has access to affordable university and has intellectual competence, then referendums and direct ballots will work best.

  45. The United States is no longer a Representative Democracy of the People. It's a Corporatocracy, no different than Feudalism! For the Corporations, by the Corporations. It's all about who has the most money becoming the most powerful. You, my friends, are owned – nothing but mere labor and wage slaves to survive. Welcome to Reality.

  46. Will the doctors ask patients to vote for which surgery plan to do? Let the experts do the job and admit you are not an expert is so hard?

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