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Why is representative democracy chosen over direct democracy (i.e., referendum, plebiscite, straight vote)?

I find there are two schools of thought or arguments for rep. democracy::
1) asking citizens what they think on every issue is impractical. We'd have to go to the voting booth everyday and wouldn't have time to live our lives!
2) we need to put trusted experts in charge because our collective action requires those that know the issues better than the average citizen.

I am interested in this question as a student of environmental science/studies, economics, and web information technology. I would like this question to inform and structure a TED Conversation 'Debate' that I will start after this.

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    Oct 28 2011: the experts in any given field will always be outnumbered by those who are not experts. if everyone gets a vote then you are operating with ignorant views and opinions.
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      Oct 28 2011: i disagree that in all circumstances you are worse off by including average people. If you asked an average group of people questions like:
      "how many jelly beans in that jar?" or
      "what are the odds that new england will win this game?" or
      "what will China's economic growth be four months from now" or
      "when will there be an uprising in Libya?"
      the average of their guesses is closer than the expert's.
      prediction markets are an example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prediction_market
      James Surowiecki has written about the wisdom of crowds as well
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    Oct 27 2011: I think it's time for people to vote on a plan for directing the country over the next few years and the politicians are merely there to carry it out. No decision making without the consent of the voting majority. Replaced if they prove incompetent, crooked or working to an agenda that is not in the best interests of the citizens.

    The plans would be put together by experienced people in the relevant positions (too many times, we have had Ministers overseeing particular areas that have no experience in that area whatsoever).
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    Oct 27 2011: I imagine it's really all about locking down the means of power and control. Not necessarily for nefarious purposes but nothing seems to scare politicans more than giving real power to the people.

    That's why politicians (along with the folks that pay them to maintain their self-serving agendas) move quickly to break up peaceful protests and want to restrict and control the internet (the greatest communication device to date).
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    Oct 27 2011: I would also like to add something that I noticed from the Propaganda model as well and this this will correlate with point number two:

    Whenever we see issues on the news pertaining to something like politics, religion, gay marriage, the economy, etc
    we always see individuals with high social prestige, telling us their expert opinion. We'll see C.E.O.'s from Goldman Sachs, We'll see Harvard Law professors. We'll see Economic professors from Yale and we'll see prestigious authors who meets the values of the news network. We also see this on a lot of T.V. shows such as the one on ABC called "What Would You Do" and at times Maury.

    This is really how I see it: The leaders think that the public is too ignorant to understand political, social, economic, etc issues, therefore they need to listen to these "experts" because they know what they'er are talking about.

    I prefer a direct democracy being that it engages everyone or at least most.
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      Oct 27 2011: You have no faith in people.

      People are not ignorant, say rather, they are focussed on other, more immediate issues.

      The so called "News" media is nothing more than a portal delivering an audience to advertisers. They are not interested in informing people.

      The word 'expert' is as misleading as the word 'democracy'.
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        Oct 27 2011: I see,

        You took what I said wrong and perhaps I should have elaborated more on what I was talking about o rephrase what I was saying: I personally do not think "all" people are ignorant. I'd be foolish to say that plus Id see no hope in protesting or even wasting my time on this site. What I meant to say was that those at the top think that the general public is ignorant. That is one of the reasons why the public relations industry was created. I by no means stated that I was an expert. But I'll rephrase what I said. I'm aware that people have other priorities. I am one of them but at the same time i think this is what the leaders want.

        Also its not as misleading as you think. Democracy (or shall I say voting) is highly dependent on the public opinion of the general public and a way of filtering out this information is through media outlets. I'm well aware of how media work and they are focused on dis-informing individuals.

        but my apologies if you took offense to what I said
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      Oct 27 2011: Yes, it's a question of chicken or the egg when talking about what makes the average citizen ignorant. I believe its the system that discourages critical thinking and productive discussion and debate about politics. We have no incentive to make sure our neighbor is educated and no incentive is like a disincentive.

      The Athenians had a direct democracy. Their society had flaws but it worked pretty well.

      In complex systems like our economy and environment 'experts' don't know any better than you or I what will happen. Tetlock's book documents this:
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0691128715?ie=UTF8&tag=greisinte-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0691128715
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        Oct 27 2011: Once again, due to the way I framed what I said, I was not implying the that "everyone" is ignorant and I offer my apologies if you took offense to that.

        Anyhow I have to somewhat disagree with you. It is indeed a danger zone to over-generalized everyone but at the same time these people at the top do know what they are doing (if not now they did way back in the day).

        Democratic societies are by there very nature less violent than those who are in a dictatorship. Because of this Democratic leaders know that they cannot force their citizens to do anything by force. So they systematically have to control the minds of the public if they are to have any political or economic power. In this account these leaders would have to be smart enough to really manipulate the general public.

        There are those leaders who really are not that smart (G.W.Bush, Christine O'Donnell, etc) . This really is nothing new. Edward Bernays talks about this all the time. so did Walter Lippmann and So did Woodrow Wilson. They created the Industry of Public Relations because they had to convince the Americans that WWI was worth fighting for. They did this by systematic manipulation. So yes it does take a degree of higher intelligence to convince most of the Country to support the war. It also takes appealing to their interest as well as putting them in a corner so intelligence is not everything. One did not need a college degree to oppose the war. Many anarchist opposed the Espionage Act and many of these anarchist were working class individuals and perhaps the most intelligent people I've read about. They just opened their eyes to the truth of their situation. Here is an example of what I'm talking about in relation to control the public systematically: its about 5min long

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMBaYwhyEYk

        You are correct about the Athenians. I was actually thinking about the Iroquois confederacy. I will also add though that not everyone cares about being informed.
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          Oct 28 2011: I will read about the Iroquois! do you have a link?

          I'm much on the same page as you and have read about Bernays. Is it Walt Lippmann that Chomsky often quotes as seeing the public as sheep that need to be led?
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    Oct 27 2011: If I am correct about the distinction I would have to say there are three reasons:

    1) people are perhaps not interested in political issues pertaining to their lives until something bad happens to them
    2) it is a lot easier to select someone who claims to represent you so you have time to do other things as opposed to keeping up with the latest political issues
    3) A few intelligent individuals realized that the first two are correct, therefore establishing a system in which they can acquire a high social status, get the people to believe in it by creating a symbolic representation of their interest and decided to control them by creating certain laws and social norms for the society to follow.
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    Oct 27 2011: nowadays point 1) is not so much a problem. some sort of computer voting system could be made (it may be expensive to initially make however. point 2 is the main reason why.
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      Oct 27 2011: Agree logistically it can be easier now a days with computer technology........
      But will it mean , while people are voting on some issue they are all equally informed and have same level of understanding before voting ?
      Everyday voting what will be the turnout ......vote after 4/5 years unable to have a turnout 70-80% in many instances
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        Oct 27 2011: I find the political party system, especially in the high-stakes political game in the U.S., pushes us towards a partisan, two team situation. Then, even though there are dozens of major issues that the public is interested in, it boils down to one choice between two parties. It doesn't make sense, especially give that if we can bank securely online surely we can vote online. I really don't see much discussion of the problem of a two (or few) party system being that you have to 'pool' a bunch of issues under one banner. Like why does someone who supports public funding of education automatically have to be pro-choice for example? Or why if you're for increasing military funding do you have to vote against public healthcare?
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          Oct 27 2011: In this sense it really does come down to choosing the lesser of two evils to be honest.

          It really does not make sense and any third party that is trying to compete with the two major parties is going to get stigmatized in a negative way. I honestly do not know why this happens. I mean its is both the fault of the leaders for convincing the people that this system works and the fault of the public for engaging in such a process, especially if they are well aware of what is going on. I can tell you one thing: Its really all a matter of social convention(what society adheres to)

          I think the question comes down to this: many people know what is going on. Now that we know what can we do to change this? To get other parties more involved? To be honest this is beyond me
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          Oct 27 2011: it bugs me that some countries choose to opt for this binary voting system. 1 or the other. in the UK at least you have many party choices (although really it comes down to 4). there should be a system where you get 10 voting points and can allocate them evenly or all on one party based on how much we like their policies.