47. Citizens Assemblies are better than referenda

In a representative democracy a referendum as a voting instrument should be used extremely rarely, if at all. This is not the right instrument for making complex political or economic choices because of the complexity of the issues. They require a rational rather than an emotional judgement, which may seem right at the time of making such a decision but a potential catastrophe, if people do not see clearly the multifaceted impact of their decisions, as it was the case with Brexit.

Referenda should be rather replaced with a Citizens’ Assembly, provided that its members are coached for before a decision on a specific issue is made, like in the Irish referendum on abortion and gay rights. A Citizens’ Assembly instead of a referendum, should be especially applied in decisions that are fundamental to the nationhood, such as splitting from the current state and becoming an independent country.

However, if a Citizens’ Assembly is used instead of a referendum, the key problem of how to avoid bias by inappropriate formulation of a question, will still remain. The next issue regards the number of options in a Citizens’ Assembly replacing a referendum. Some argue against having more than two options in a referendum, since the result may not be supported by the majority of the population taking part in the voting. The solution in my view is to apply the 21st century solution instead sticking to the one invented 2,500 years ago. That solution is the POLIS system, applied here. To read more, see here: