Occupy was right to advocate -and use- "direct" democracy, as did Mexico's Zapatistas and other international movements.(Further right, The Economist has advocated it in at least 17 articles: http://Vote.org/econ
) But Occupy, and so many others, seem unaware that ballot initiatives (also called "propositions" or "referendums") that are available in 24 States and DC, are direct democracy, and were the start of everything from women's suffrage and electing our own US Senators to renewable energy requirements for utilities and medical and now legal marijuana. Sure, initiatives are too expensive, and a bit primitive, but solutions are well-known, and could be implemented by ballot initiative.
Blame the media. They've focused on the few problem initiatives, most famously California's anti-gay 2008 Proposition 8, the only initiative many are aware of. Media want access to politicians, and get it by pleasing them. Most politicians hate ballot initiatives which compete with and limit their power. I've been promoting better and national ballot initiatives since 1988. You can see how Colorado's leading Democrats (with one important exception) have misrepresented our work in order to make us seem like extremists at http://Vote.org/udall
It would be funny if it weren't tragic for what the Economist called, "the logical next step for the West." You can see how many great things started as initiatives -and a link to a searchable database of ALL US initiatives- at http://Vote.org/initiatives
Colorado has a stellar recent record: http://spryeye.blogspot.com/2012/01/case-for-ballot-initiatives-and.html
Here's why initiatives and direct democracy work, using simple systems theory: As Wikipedia's article states, "A central topic of systems theory is self-regulating systems, i.e. systems self-correcting through feedback." Politicians -and citizens voting on ballot initiatives- make mistakes, and must correct them. But politicians mostly cover up their mistakes to win re-election and please their big campaign contributors -who later hire them as lobbyists at huge salaries. And they throw good money after bad: they plan to spend $1.5 Trillion on the F-35 "Joint Strike Force" fighter jet even though a government report says it "can't turn, can't climb, can't run."
Voters, on the other hand, have every incentive to fix our errors because we have to live with them and pay for them. Our egos and careers aren't on the line if we make mistakes. Jefferson said, "...the will of the majority, the Natural law of every society, is the only sure guardian of the rights of man. Perhaps even this may sometimes err. But its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived." The founders didn't call it systems theory, but they understood.
Here's an example of how I learned from a bad ballot initiative: In 1992 Coloradans narrowly approved Amendment 2, an anti-gay initiative. (It never went into effect because all the courts ruled it unconstitutional.) I voted against it, but, having been raised ignorant about gays in the 50s and 60s I was always a little wary of them. Amendment 2 was in the news for years because it was on the ballot and then going through the courts, which made me finally remember why I was wary of gays: when I was 18 I was living in San Francisco and hitch-hiking for transportation. The first gays I was aware of in my whole life were drivers who picked me up -and had their hands all over me! Now that I remembered, and realized that most gays aren't like that, the fear fell away. Now I have plenty of gay friends (I always did, unaware) and one is the only leading Colorado Democrat who supports national ballot initiatives, our Congressman Jared Polis: http://spryeye.blogspot.com/search?q=polis
If Amendment 2 had been an insider debate at the State Capitol, it wouldn't have made me and others think about it. By now most of the nation is better educated about gays -due in great deal to ballot initiatives -and in 2012 Maine, Maryland and Washington legalized same-sex marriage by initiative.
The most important two objections I hear to ballot initiatives are: 1. Majorities will use them to abuse minorities and 2. People aren't educated enough to make their own decisions.
1. While voters in some states have hampered gay rights, it was representatives in many states who made gay behaviorcriminal. It was Congress which persecuted and imprisoned Communists and their friends during the McCarty era. It still is Congress and other reps who persecute and imprison millions for using marijuana, which a federal judge has called, "one of the safest therapeutically active substances know to man.'' Never has a successful ballot initiative persecuted minorities like representatives repeatedly have. We need BOTH direct and representative democracy, to check and balance each other.
2. If people aren't educated enough to vote on laws,