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“Rousseau did not believe that representative democracy was democratic. “The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of Parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing,” the French theorist wrote in his 1762 treatise, Social Contract. According to Rousseau, the will of the people cannot be truly expressed when mediated by representatives—it has to be voiced directly.
In 2016, the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union—but did not vote on the terms of the exit, nor on its relationship with the EU once it left. After much negotiation, the Conservative-led British government under Prime Minister Theresa May has finally reached a deal regarding these particulars—a deal few are enthusiastic about. Anti-Brexit groups, the Scottish National Party, the Labour party, and even some Conservative members of Parliament have now raised the possibility of a second referendum: a “people’s vote” on the deal’s terms, with the UK staying in the EU if they are rejected—“a gross betrayal of our democracy,” according to the prime minister and others who consider the 2016 result final. The fundamental question is what “the will of the people” requires in this sort of situation.
In the aftermath of the 2016 vote, despite the fact that the referendum itself was not legally binding, there was a near universal understanding that the result had to be respected. Leaving the EU was against the better judgement of the majority of the people’s elected representatives, but the democratic power of a referendum result was seen as trumping their concerns. The UK’s political class, with some notable exceptions, seemed to have espoused Rousseau’s view that direct democracy is democratically superior to representative democracy.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."
"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."
"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."
"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."
"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."
"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."
"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."
"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."
"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."
"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."
"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."
"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."