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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 Picks
"Not even what one might think of as the most basic tenet of any religion, a belief in the existence of God, is a prerequisite: Agnosticism is a key principle of at least one major school of Hindu philosophy."
"The presidency of any particular incumbent is relatively short... but the precedential consequences of impeaching a president without complying with the specific provisions of the Constitution “as it was written” are enduring."
"After news that a judge allegedly provided sexual favors to Bar Association president Efi Nave in exchange for her appointment, several politicians said in their responses that the Judicial Selection Committee needed to be the “Holy of Holies.”"
"Two new documentaries take on Billy McFarland and his disastrous music festival... the secret villain of this story all along: the subtle menace of social media marketing."
"Eating out, ordering in. Throw in a bagel here, a coffee there, and it all adds up. "It's definitely a challenge for people my age to save on food.""
"Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. "
"Here in the good old U.S. of A, the third annual Women's March planned for Jan. 19 is in serious trouble, thanks to irreconcilable political disagreements."
"Nature, however, with its endless cycles of death and rebirth, fascinated her. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself."
"Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do."
"The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised."
"Sphen and Magic looked like they would make great, diligent, careful egg-warming parents. They made the biggest nest, and they sat on it constantly."
"How YMHAs, followed by synagogue-centers, and finally JCCs have tried—in different ways—to balance Judaism and Jewishness, by bringing Jews together in intellectual, spiritual, and physical pursuits"