The Swiss canton of Glarus still practices the concept of the Landsgemeinde. Quoting from Wikipedia:

Eligible citizens of the canton meet on a certain day in the open air to decide on laws and expenditures by the council. Everyone can debate a question. Voting is accomplished by those in favour of a motion raising their hands.

In Switzerland, this is practiced by the cantons of Glarus and Appenzell-Innerrhoden. The German-language Wikipedia article Gemeindeversammlung tells us that most Swiss municipalities use a similar system, but that details differ locally. The linked English-language article on town meeting describes a number of examples in the United States, although the article on open town meeting seems more similar to what the German language article describes and what is practiced in Switzerland. The examples described here are mostly in New England.

What are the main arguments in favour and against decision-taking by general assemblies, compared to other forms of direct democracy?

  • 1
    Advantages for whom? Please be specific. This is currently just another List Of Things question.
    – fuxia
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 13:55
  • I disagree that advantage/disadvantage is a list question, see this discussion. But I've rephrased it to state more specifically what I'm after.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 15:18
  • 2
    I think that as a community we need to make some kind of call on advantage/disadvantage questions, so I've posted a question on meta about the subject.
    – user97
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 16:52
  • 1
    At the moment I still see the problem of a too broad question which could result in a List of Things answer. I don't move for a close because I believe @gerrit can rephrase, but may revisit my decision… Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 0:57
  • What other forms of direct democracy do you have in mind? Direct democracy isn't practiced much, and the most well-known was among the ruling class in ancient Athens, which may or may not be relevant. Do you include recall elections and referenda? Or are you interested in hypothetical forms, such as instant electronic voting.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


I will list the main two disadvantages:

  1. It is hard/impossible to scale well. Especially when we include discussions.

    • Physically, you can't fit all that many people together and allow either discussions or even accurate voting.

    • Electronically, you have issues with authentication etc...

    This is exactly why you see such an approach used for small town meetings or small Swiss cantons. How are you going to organize an assembly of all eligible voters of Texas, USA?

  2. In physical presence assemblies, the people who can physically intimidate others have too much power. I'm not going to vote openly against slavery reparations when there are a couple of 6'3" 200lb bodibuilder type black guys standing near me glaring angrily, no matter what my opinions as a short small white person are. Especially if we are talking about small community where people know where you live.

    Please note that the latter is the main reason why pro-Union left wants a so-called "card check" legislation in USA and anti-union right does not. The MAIN thrust of the legislation is to abolish secret voting to establish union in a factory. The objections to that is that the union thugs would - in absence of secret ballots - intimidate people into voting pro-union (lest someone states that it is merely overactive paranoid imagination of right wing, look at the statistics - a LOT more people vote (openly, when directly canvassed in person by Union organizers) to support the "should we have a union vote" motions; than people who vote to instantiate the union in subsequent secret ballot voting.

  • 2
    Two comments: (1) I think the labour union comment is not necessary, the rest of the post is good but the labour union one is a bit argumentative and (2) point 3 is not applicable, because I specifically asked "compared to other forms of direct democracy". Otherwise a good answer.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 17:29
  • It is not "impossible" to scale if you use electronic methods, and Liquid Feedback proves it quite well.
    – o0'.
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 16:58
  • @Lohoris - was any Liquid Feedback implementation ever attacked using full spectrum of available attack methods?
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 16:59
  • @DVK, of course not, but this doesn't mean it's powerless..
    – o0'.
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 17:00
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    If I may suggest a rewording: "Please note that the latter is the main argument used by both sides of the Union 'Card Check' debate. Pro Union members argue that without it, you can have management intimidation, with it, you can have Union intimidation"
    – user1530
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 21:18

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