Bürgergesellschaft oder Zweiklassendemokratie - wem nützt die direkte Demokratie?
Civil society or two-class democracy- who gains from direct democracy?
A sceptical input keynote from Wolfgang Merkel as made to burst of a rather one sided debate on the podium afterwards. Merkels main argument was as follows: direct democratic decision making institutions (referenda and the like) are only voted on by a minority of the people eligiblie to vote. Actually less voters turn to teh ballot box for referenda than in generel national elections. Furthermore those people that do show up to issue their voice on a particular decision do tend to be the more well off in society. The segregation between rich and poor, educated and uneducated is even stronger than it is in representative elections.
No doubt that the overly sceptic picture Wolfgang Merkel drew in his keynote do to some extend not diminish all positive effects that are entailed in direct democratic processes but nevertheless Mr Merkel pointed top some important shortcomings of direct democratic practioces from a theoretical perspective.
Unfortunately the debate on the podium was very one sided and all five participants -including the moderater from the NZZ which seemed to have forgiotten abour siwss neutrality- were shooting against Merkels arguments. To be fair some of the points were reasonable, others empirically flawed because relying upon `special` cases and yet again others totally missed the point of Merkels critique. Mr Merkel was given the opportunity to respond to those criticisms briefly from his place in the crowd. I found the fact that the podium was building such a united front against Mr Merkel and the members of the podium badly selected and even more badly moderated.
Another scientific expert would have guaranted at least some level of empirical substiantial coiritique and at least one nother ciritique of direct democracy would have sparked a much lifelier debate. Furthermore the fact that the moderator took sides from the beginning against the keynote speaker was simply unprofessional as a moderator that is usually expected to take a neutral stands especially if all other podium guests shoot against the keynote speaker anyway.
Some articles in the run up to the events have been published in newpspapers and are also available online: