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Most modern democracies are considered as such due to the feedback that voters do as a control of their government and country. This is done in a representative way in intervals usually of 4 years.

Some countries have additional rules to require a referendum for certain decisions, for instance changes to their constitutions or organic laws.

This has become the standard and it is assumed as the right way in many cases, but I think this is doubtful and therefore I ask.

What evidence do we have about this being enough? (with or without referendums)

If this is not enough, are there any implemented solutions that have proven to work better?

Thank you.

PD: BTW: I'm also interested in theoretical analyses when proved formally (since empirical proves are probably hard to obtain).

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    "Proven to work better?" By what metric? How are you measuring "working better"? The USA has 2 year terms for representatives and 6 year terms for senators, staggered (to resist sudden changes). Is representation "usually 4 years"? What is your sample set? – user1873 Jul 24 '13 at 1:13
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    I not sure about the metric, which metrics are out there? I think it can only be voter satisfaction, whether it feels as "real" democracy or just a dictatorship where the dictator can be swapped every 4, 5 or 6 years. About the sample set, here it is. – Trylks Jul 24 '13 at 10:39
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    "voter satisfaction" isn't necessarily correlated to other metrics, though. It's really more of a 'gut opinion'. That said, you could look to Canada for this, where they can declare an election based on a 'non-confidence motion'. – user1530 Jul 24 '13 at 15:28
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    @DA. - some US states have recall elections to achieve the same result. See: Terminator – user4012 Jul 24 '13 at 18:40
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    @DJClayworth what is subjective? I think it is a perfectly legitimate question in cyberpolitics (a tag that should be added BTW) – Trylks Jul 24 '13 at 19:04
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You are envisioning democracy as a system where government officials are elected… and then they work, work, work, work, work only to lift their head every four years to see how they are doing. The "feedback" you are suggesting they lack comes from a lot more voting than you are considering.

Each and every day of the democratic process is filled with voting (and the feedback that comes with it). Representatives vote on legislation, vote to appropriate resources, shape foreign policy, trade policy and foreign aid; heck, they even vote on what they can talk and debate about. All this is driven by the committees and the constituency of voters they serve. They don't work in a shell that only gets feedback every four years. If they're not doing the will of those who elected them, they're not getting anything done and they aren't going to be very effective. This happens every day.

They don't necessarily need an election to get the "feedback" you are suggesting comes only once every four years. The four year election cycle is just a way to say "Times up; is it time to give someone else a try?" You can argue that elections should happen more often to create more churn, but it's the checks and balances built into the democratic workflow that actually determine who is able to do what and how effective their efforts have been.

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    This is an excellent point: particularly with the internet and other mass media, politicians don't only find out about their approval come election day. – Publius Jul 24 '13 at 2:40
  • I think this is the key point: "If they're not doing the will of those who elected them, they're not getting anything done and they aren't going to be very effective." However, they may be very effective at doing the will of those who pay them (anonymously or illegally) and at completely ignoring the will of millions of voters. Also there are just too many ways and tools to win some elections even after doing that. – Trylks Jul 24 '13 at 10:51
  • Well, I wish they worked at some point and lifted their heads now and then, but how could the people enforce that? There also protests as a feedback mechanism, and protests can be ignored. The votes may simply be a means to get to a position where their salary isn't relevant, because they may have illegal (or legally anonymous) sources of funding that are several times greater than their salaries. When the funding doesn't come from the people, their bosses are not the people. IMHO, there is no stronger feedback than money. – Trylks Aug 4 '13 at 18:40
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In the USSR initially was implemented a system where the deputies were elected by the labor collectives. The collective knew how the representative voted and acted due to thir reports, and could revoke the deputy any time. Additionally the deputy knew that he had to work with their collective after their term had expired.

This system was changed under Stalin in 1936 with a new constitution, when a more Western-style system based on territoriality rather than working collectives was introduced. The right to revoke a deputy formally remained, but actually became unusable. Although in his speeches Stalin empathized that unlike the Western countries where there was a fixed term and no responsibility of the elected for their decisions, in the USSR the voters could revoke a deputy, in reality this feature no longer was used in the USSR.

On the other hand, one should note that the supreme leadership of the USSR was not elected for a fixed term, but rather could be ousted at any time, as had happened with Khrushchev. As such the leadership should make constant efforts to maintain their popularity at least in party circles and in the Supreme Council.

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  • That's a very interesting alternative (and I doubt there are many others out there). Unfortunately without working in practice it's hard to ascertain if a working version of this alternative would have actually been better or worse than the usual representative democracy with fixed terms. – Trylks Jul 24 '13 at 12:11

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