The problem with direct democracy is it doesn’t work very well. Big political questions, which are usually big economic questions, are hard to understand. Who really gets economics? Anyone?
So, when asked if you want the EU to stop stealing your money, what do people say? “Stop stealing my money!” When asked if you would like to keep more of your cash-money-dollar in your pocket, and not give it to the taxman, what do people say? “Less tax, please!”
The politics of economics
That’s exactly what occurred in the Brexit referendum of 2016, and it’s exactly what occurred in the Tory leadership contest vote of party members to select Britain’s new Prime Minister in September 2022. Both times, people made instinctive economic choices.
Those choices failed to see the bigger picture of economic interconnectedness that means a vote to apparently make myself richer by keeping money directly in my pocket now, can actually translate into me being poorer in the end due to macro-economic effects I don’t understand.
What’s the point of MPs?
A Member of Parliament (MP), lest we forget, is there to represent their constituents in parliament. We have chosen them based on their worldview and priorities broadly aligning with our own. We ask them to make the big calls for us.
If MPs turn back to the electorate and ask them to make the big calls, in referendums, then they are no longer representing us. They become a pointless middleman.
MPs knew – barring ideological zealots – that leaving the EU was a bad idea. MPs knew that Rishi Sunak was the most competent replacement for Boris Johnson. Their decision to pick him second time round illustrates the gap.
If MPs renege on their responsibility to represent us on matters they – or if not, their advisors in the relevant fields – know far more about than the average voter, then democracies will continue to get the poor results they are getting used to.
Of course, we voters are very good at electing appalling politicians in the first place. But that’s our own fault. And it beats being told what to do by a benevolent dictator.
Remember Brexit? Yes, it was that bad. Let’s laugh about it with some Blackadder goes Brexit