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Direct democracy facts for kids

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Appenzeller Landsgemeinde
Landsgemeinde of the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, example for direct democracy in Switzerland

In a direct democracy, which is also called pure democracy the decisions are not taken by representatives. All decisions are voted on by the people. When a budget or law needs to be passed, then the idea goes to the people. Large governments rarely make decisions this way.

Costs and benefits of direct democracy

Interest groups would have to change the minds of all people, not just a few representatives. Taxes could not be raised without the permission of the people. The few would not rule the many and the government would not pay representatives salaries. In indirect, or representative democracy, citizens elect representatives to make laws on their behalf. This is what most modern countries have today. Direct democracy makes decisions by majority rule. Representative democracy was made with the idea that representatives would be responsible for the majority's interests while protecting minority rights. People like James Madison believed that direct democracy was bad for minority groups.


Ancient Athens was a direct democracy. All citizens voted on all decisions of government. Switzerland also has a long history of direct democracy. The Federal government of the United States does not use direct democracy but the individual states sometimes make laws by referendum.

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