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Assess the advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy.

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  • Essay length: 513 words
  • Submitted: 21/11/2011
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AS and A Level Political Philosophy

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Assess the advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy?

Direct democracy occurs "where the will of the people is translated into public policy directly by the people", and can be thought of as "the absence of an election." The most common form of direct democracy is a referendum, although there are others. Although Britain is primarily a representative democracy, it does have some degree of direct democracy.

Perhaps the main disadvantage of direct democracy is that the demos (or people) may not fully understand complex political questions. The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato feared that the "mass were unwise", and could therefore make foolish decisions based upon short-term considerations. One example would be in California (1978), when the people voted for Proposition 13. This led to a severe shortage of emergency services, and the authorities were unable to deal with a fire that swept through Orange County.

Direct democracy can also lead to the majority discriminating against a minority. For example women did not gain the vote in Switzerland until 1971 because until then the franchise consisted entirely of men.

Under the Athenian model persuasive orators can sway the crowd, appealing to

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