John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Limits of Direct Democracy

Posted on November 6, 2014
DC Cannabis Campaign volunteer 2014.JPG

"DC Cannabis Campaign volunteer 2014" by MatthewVanitas - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I couldn’t do it.

Despite talking a big game about being for pot legalization, when I had the chance to vote for the policy, I voted no.

It didn’t matter.   DC voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum.

I voted no because I really don’t think the city can handle more pot smokers.

It was not a vote against the policy per se.  It was a vote of no confidence in my fellow DC citizens.

My friend Steve said that the big winners this election cycle were Pizza deliver guys, because anywhere where the minimum wage and the pot legalization were on the ballot, they passed pretty easily.

We live in an imperfect representative republic.  I have always believed that given the opportunity, the American people would vote far different from their representatives if we lived in a direct democracy.

For example, most people would ban lobbyists from giving campaign contributions.  They think it is all bribery.  Pro-tip:  If you are a lobbyist and you are faced with a corruption trial, don’t think the jury will save your bacon.

Most people would vote to end all immigration.

Most people would vote to end all foreign aid.  Sorry Israel.

Most people would vote to cut Congressional pay to a miniscule amount.

Most people would vote to make Social Security more generous and to expand Medicare.

Most people would vote to end any trade agreements.

Most people would vote to cut their taxes and vote to increase taxes on rich people.  Of course, rich people would vote against that, but there aren’t enough of them to matter.

Most people would vote against funding the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Commerce, the FTC, FCC, and all of the other little agencies that populate Washington DC.

The combined effect of these policies would be disastrous, of course, except of the banning of lobbyists giving campaign contributions, which I enthusiastically support.

That’s why we have representative government.  To avoid the disaster of direct democracy.

So, let’s not make too much of the idea that the American people voted for the minimum wage and for more widespread weed consumption.

Just because the American people have spoken on those issues doesn’t necessarily make them good policies.