Assess the advantages of direct democracy

There are four main "benefits" of direct democracy, but are they really beneficial to the people who live in it? The first benefit is that there is no separate political class from the people – they are the ones making the laws they live under. The people act as a collective to create their own economic and social conditions. I see this as beneficial as it reduces dependence on professional politicians who can easily end up distorting public opinion, but there are still some issues with this so called benefit.

A government without experts in various fields surely is not best placed to act in the public interest whereas professional politicians have a better education and expertise in crucial areas than the masses. Personally I'd be willing to accept a gulf between the people and the government in order to have highly trained individuals who work solely in politics rather than have the public try and balance their everyday lives and jobs with constant political participation.

As well as being good for society, it also greatly aids individual development, leading to a vastly more politically aware society as a whole because people have to consider each issue for themselves. People develop a deeper understanding of the society they live in, both the politics that affect it at the present and the type of politics that would need to effect to bring about the formation of society they want. It's very hard to find any drawbacks of this element of direct democracy. The only possible argument against it I can think of would be that "ignorance is bliss" as Thomas Gray said.

In some situations, possibly to do with the current dilapidated credit market or volatile oil prices, it may be kinder to let some people carry on with their lives rather than worry them with the tough situations the real world faces. It is a true government of the people, not one merely acting in the name of. Undeniably this is beneficial in the sense that it's the only pure, genuine form of democracy and therefore, in principle, improves the democratic process and strengthens popular participation in the governed area.

But despite this, direct democracy has drawbacks in the sense that it's only feasible in small areas and wouldn't work on a national scale as it comprises so much personal interaction to make decisions. What is the use in having a perfectly democratic nation if all matters of public interest are solved by direct referendum which would be slow and expensive which would surely increase voter apathy and cause a rise in the number of unthinking votes.

Direct democracy has far greater legitimacy than an elected body of officials and career politicians as they are decisions that have been decided on by those who are required to follow them. For me this is a huge benefit as citizens take direct responsibility for political decisions and can't shift the blame onto anyone else which should ensure a stable government. On the other hand it could be argued that citizens being responsible for political decisions could lead to an upsurge in unwillingness to compromise which could obviously spawn public conflict.

The closer people get to an issue, the more passionate and devoted they may get. Assess the advantages of representative democracy It is a more practical form of democracy. As I have already said, direct democracy can only really work in small communities, as mass meetings to decide matters of state are nearly impossible. It is seen as the form of popular rule in large modern communities. I'm yet to find a drawback of a practical system, whatever its other flaws, so I can only conclude that it is indeed a genuine benefit.

People in government are most often career politicians and have the expertise to govern better than the mass of people and in the interests of the nation/state. Quite obviously, having people that are educated in economics and politics for example, is an advantage as you would think they'd be best placed to act in the public's interest. However, I think the current crop of MP's are entirely unrepresentative of our nation and this can be a problem to any representative system.

If we look at the 2005 general election, 90% of labour MP's elected were over 40, only 28% of these were women, only 13 non-white labour MP's were elected and most MP's across all parties in that year worked as barristers. I'm far from saying that we should elect people purely because they tick a box, but in their current form, career politicians can't be seen as a benefit as they fail to properly represent key areas of society such as those from ethnic backgrounds, women and the youth.

I see the division of labour as one of the greatest assets of representative democracy. Other citizens are not burdened with the job of being part of the political decision making process on a daily basis, they merely choose those who govern them and then decide themselves if they want to be more involved – it is not the compulsory duty of all citizens. This distancing of the public from politics however can increase voter apathy and a growing disillusionment with politics which in turn results in poor turnouts such as just 65% in the last general election.

Personally I disagree and think that if people want to participate in politics then they can easily apply to take part in focus groups or vote in referendums and voter apathy is more a product of politicians that people can't relate to, constant un-kept manifesto promises and a lack of choice when it comes to individuals and political parties. It also helps maintain greater political stability as it separates people from the major political decisions of the time.

A certain amount of public apathy is seen as useful for maintaining order because when people become more directly involved in politics they usually become more passionate which often leads to greater conflict. I would see this more as political stagnation rather than stability as I can't see how you can see public apathy in a positive light. Low voter turnout can lead to bad policy. If very few people vote, there is a very low chance that those in office will be voted out of office (political stagnation), regardless of what they do while they are in office.