The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

This House favours the use of referendums as a form of decision-making

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/9/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,564 times Debate No: 33505
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)




I will be arguing in favour of the increased use of referendums as a method of decision making. The Opposition should argue against. I'll be examining mostly from a UK perspective.

Note to Opposition:
I will be sitting my AS Politics Exam next Friday, and one of the topics I need to know about is the advantages / disadvantages of referendums. For this reason, I'd be really grateful to debate this with someone knowledgeable. (Also check out my STV debate, if you'd like to help my revision!)

Format of the Debate:
Round One
is acceptance only.
Round Two is definitions and substantives.
Round Three is substantives and rebuttal.
Round Four is rebuttal and summing up, no new arguments.

Burden of proof:
Shared between Proposition and Opposition.

Sources don't need to be cited in the first instance, but can be cited for rebuttal or to back up your reasoning.

I look forward to a rewarding, respectful and enjoyable debate - and thanks for helping with my revision!



I will take this debate and will be arguing that referendums are an inadequate form of decision-making.

I look forward to the debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Opposition for taking this on. I have 48 hours until my exam, so let's make this a good one!

A referendum is a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.
Decision-making is the process of forming policies, deciding resolutions for political issues, et cetera.
I will be arguing principally from a UK perspective, on the grounds that referendums are rare in the UK at present, and thus their use should be encouraged / made more frequent.

Opening Statement for the Proposition
The debate focusses on the following scenario. This House is the Government, and it is faced with several issues which it needs to resolve. It must decide how to do so. This House proposes that the Government should make more of these decisions by referendum than previous governments have. We propose that referendums would be used to resolve constitutional issues, moral issues (e.g. euthanasia and abortion), electoral issues (e.g. the voting system) and other such issues - the major, hot-button issues in society which have a long-lasting legacy and are hard to reverse.

I will now move on to my first two substantive arguments in favour of the greater use of referendums.

Substantive I: Referendums are another avenue for political participation
Political participation in western democracies is in crisis. Turnout at general elections is falling. People have less and less confidence in their government: not just in those who they have elected but also the very systems which keep the elected in power. People no longer trust representative democracy as much as they used to: they believe that politicians do not have their best interests at heart, and that "they're all the same". The Proposition believes that, in this world where people are disillusioned with politics, there are two things which need to be done to restore this faith. The first is to try to restore faith in the elected - by making them more accountable - but the second method, and the subject of this debate, is by facilitating 'people power' on a larger and more productive scale. Referendums encourage people to participate in the political process as they have a greater impact on the decisions formed by the government as it gives a proposal a public mandate - or not, as the case may be. It is another avenue for people to have their say in major issues. If people are losing faith in representative democracy, then that is obviously a problem, and it is a problem which needs to be dealt with as well. But we should also seek to provide opportunities for people to have a more direct impact on the political landscape, by offering referendums as a participation avenue.

Substantive II: They entrench major constitutional changes
In the UK, parliamentary sovereignty dictates that no government can - in theory - bind its successor governments. The use of referendums, however, means that a new government will be unable to reverse a policy which has had huge public support because that policy or decision has a direct mandate from the electorate. An example of this in the UK would be the establishment of regional assemblies serving Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London; these were policies to which the Conservative Party was opposed in the late 1990s however they would now be unable to reverse these decisions as they have a direct mandate from the public, and they would not want to be seen as taking away these elements of democracy when they have backing from the public. They could, of course, do it anyway; but in effect the use of a referendum has settled the question of devolution in the regions until public opinion swings significantly against it. Therefore, the use of referendums can guarantee the safety of a decision which has popular backing.

Summary of the Second Speech for the Proposition
We have demonstrated that the increased use of referendums is necessary to provide another avenue for political participation, and in turn we have shown that we need to introduce more ways for people to have their say because of participation crises ensuing in western democracies. Since people are losing faith in representative democracy, we have shown the need to allow people power. We have also shown that referendums can protect - by convention, thus retaining parliamentary sovereignty - decisions taken by the government which have popular backing. For all of these reasons, we would urge you all to Vote Pro.

Over to Opposition to open their case...


My thanks to the House for what should be an engaging and hopefully enlightening debate. My thanks also for their lucid and cogent argument.

My first substantive is that decision-making by referendum does not guarantee the best or even the right course of a action.
As with any democratic vote - be it referendum or election - the popularity of the candidate or proposition is what ultimately determines the course of action. I repeat, it is the POPULARITY that wins, and not necessarily the best or most appropriate CoA to the matter at hand. By changing the constitution so that populism becomes thee method of decision making we would be undermining the importance of politics and the far-reaching implications of political decision-making. This would more often than not prove catastrophic. Voter turnout is low. This suggests that the electorate at large do not want to be involved in politics. Voter apathy is a sign of political apathy. What would it benefit a nation or government to defer its decision-making to an apathetic electorate? If such an electorate are apathetic towards politics, how well-informed could they be come polling day? Decisions that are made without any forethought or rationale is called gambling. I submit that political decisions that affect a country, and possible the globe, are too important to be gambled on. If referendums came to pass, there is no guarantee that that would increase voter turnout. Indeed, if political apathy is the norm amongst a majority of the electorate, it is likely that only the current lot of active voters would participate in referenda.

Substantive II people typically only have their own self-interest at heart.
Although the calibre of politician in a democracy may be low, they have far more insight into the consequences of policy changes than the average voter. They have studied politics. They are far better educated than the average voter and they have to consider the implications of their decisions by orders of magnitude deeper than the average voter. They simply have an overview that the Everyman doesn't possess. The Everyman would only vote on the matters which affect him personally. He would vote FOR the matters that benefit him personally and he would vote AGAINST the proposition that costs him personally, even if the cost to himself was going to pay for the benefit of another more needy group of people. Those who turn out to vote would necessarily be partisan. Whilst the Everyman will likely have a job or career and a family that he has to dedicate all of his waking life to, the politician does these things for a living. His scope is broader. He sees the bigger picture more clearly than the Everyman ever could. The Everyman has neither the time nor the inclination to research and analyse his voting decision as it applies to the game of Holistic Society Jenga in a referendum as a professional does.

In sum, if voter apathy is on the increase, then why not be democratic about it and give the majority what it wants - NO political participation at all.

Government should not allow the electorate the ability to make decisions on specific policy as that way even the most dubious, ill thought out but well presented policies could find their way into the constitution. By combining epetitions and referendums, we could well see the death penalty brought back to the UK.

The average voter will only himself a bigger slice of the pie and will vote his neighbour a smaller slice. Such is human nature.

Vote Con. Referendums are a woefully inadequate form of decision-making. We're talking about political policies that affect the whole nation here, not the X Factor, BGT or Big Brother.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2


Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the Opposition for his second speech but, equally, his substantives are all based in criticisms which my opponent seems to apply more to democracy in general. None of his substantives have any worth to this debate as they are criticisms, essentially, of democracy - the idea of rule by the will of the majority. Whilst my opponent deplores my plans to make politics more 'populist', he fails to mention or even recognise the fact that democracy is inherently populist, and this will form the basis of most of my substantives in this new speech. First, however, I would like to issue some rebuttal.

Rebuttal I: "Decision-making by referendum does not guarantee the best or even the right cause of action."
This is true, but nor do elections. People can elect the wrong party in much the same way that they can choose the wrong outcome in a referendum. This is a criticism of allowing everyone a say in politics (which we already have via e-petitions, lobbying, and elections - i.e. democracy), therefore Proposition does not deem it to be a valid criticism of referendums.

Rebuttal II: "By changing the constitution..."
We don't propose to make any legal changes which would require the Government to hold referendums, this House would merely like to see them used more. Forcing the Government to hold a referendum would be wrong.

Rebuttal III: "We would be undermining the importance of politics..."
This side of the House would disagree. We think making politics more populist makes it more relevant to society. The biggest problem faced by politics is the idea that it is seen as out of touch and in general under the present system people elect an official and hear little more from them until they seek re-election 4 or 5 years later. By giving politics a larger presence in citizens' lives, we believe that would say that politics is incredibly important, it is relevant to you and we want to know what you think. In other words, we're in touch, and we care.

Rebuttal IV: "Voter turnout is low. This suggests that the electorate at large do not want to be involved in politics."
This is a common view, and I understand why Opposition has cited it. Research at the University of York, however, says that the fall in voter turnout is due to two factors. People feel alienated by the political parties (partly brought on by events such as the MPs' expenses scandal, I grant you), and they also feel that the parties have become too similar to each other and there is no real choice. [1] Therefore, we believe that using referendums will appeal to those who are not currently voting. They are being presented with a clear choice which will lead to a very active decision - and the two possible consequences will be very different - and they will be being consulted by the parties without those parties wanting votes or re-election. Proposition feels that this point is knocked down.

Rebuttal V: "How well-informed could they be come polling day?"
With the advent of new opportunities presented by the Internet, apps and social media; we feel it would be very possible to run online campaigns regarding these referendums reasonably cheaply which would reach most citizens of the UK (alongside the continued use of Party Political Broadcasts). (This point stemmed from a point about apathy, see above.)

Rebuttal VI: "There is no guarantee that that would increase voter turnout."
Opposition is right; we can't guarantee it. We feel that the use of referendums will appeal to those who are not currently voting in elections, however we can't guarantee they will. Proposition feels, however, that Parliament is morally obliged to create avenues of participation for those who have lost faith in the existing ones.

Rebuttal VII: "People typically only have their own self-interest at heart."
Again, the same applies for voting. If you look at voting patterns in the UK, they are highly class-based: people vote for parties which offer tax policies (for example) which favour them over others. Of course the same would apply for referendums, but that's democracy.

Rebuttal VIII: "They have far more insight into the consequences of policy changes than the average voter."
If we go down this road too far, we end up with voting rights only being given to those of a certain IQ. Just because someone isn't insightful, it doesn't mean that - from a democratic point of view - their opinion is invalid, or should be ignored. People with very little political insight still vote in general elections, stand for Parliament, and even become MPs.

Rebuttal IX: "They simply have an overview that the Everyman doesn't possess."
To suggest that the electorate shouldn't be trusted to make a decision is a very dangerous move. I'd like you to clarify what you are implying in your next speech, but my last piece of rebuttal also applies here.

Rebuttal X: "The Everyman has neither the time nor the inclination to research and analyse his voting decision."
Again, we believe that political apathy is much lower than our Opposition would have people believe. We think people do care, and our evidence would agree. It is discontent with the voting system which is the problem. And, as previously stated, we believe that in the 21st century it is easier than ever before to quickly and succinctly make the voter aware of the two campaigns. This point is knocked down.

Rebuttal XI: "Give the majority what it wants - NO political participation at all."
Oh, so Opposition is socialist after all. Besides this point (do we really want to start debating democracy versus dictatorship? I only have 2,368 characters remaining and we don't have enough rounds), we don't believe that the majority want no participation at all; they just want it in different ways because they've lost faith in elected official. More and more people are protesting, pressure group membership is increasing, and more people than ever are standing for election.

Rebuttal XII: "We could well see the death penalty brought back into the UK."
Whilst I agree with you that this would be catastrophic, if the public want it, then politicians are in no place to simply tell the public they're wrong. Politicians serve to enact the will of the public, not the other way round.

Summary of Rebuttal
We believe that we have knocked over both of Opposition's two substantives, both in their own right but also on the basis that they serve principally to point out potential flaws with democracy. Given that this debate assumes a democratic state, we believe they are not within the bounds of this debate.

Substantive III: They resolve differences between parties and parliamentary deadlock
If we look at the example of the 1973 European Community referendum, the referendum was key for making a decision when the parties in Parliament were unsure what to do and could not come to an agreement as to whether or not the UK should be a part of the European Community. Likewise with electoral reform, leading to the referendum on the Alternative Vote in 2011 (although the Proposition would argue that, to give the voters more choice, multiple choices should have been presented to the electorate). When parties are divided on an issue, be it divided against each other, divided within each other or both, we believe that the best thing to do is to allow the public to have the casting vote, as opposed to simply having parliamentary deadlock. For this reason we would advocate the increased use of referendums.

Summary of the Third Speech for the Proposition
We have demonstrated the problems with Opposition's arguments. We have shown that Opposition's arguments are more criticisms of democracy, and not of referendums. We have contributed a further substantive in favour of referendums. For all these reasons, we urge you to Vote Pro!

Back to Opposition, for their next speech.



Thanks to my opponent.

My substantives ARE based on criticisms. How else would I argue for the inadequacy of referenda as a decision-making method without criticising their utility? Do these apply more to democracy than to referendums? Well, referendums are primarily a democratic tool, they are the emodiment of the democratic ideal, so it stands to reason that any criticism of a specific democratic tool, in this case referenda, will by proxy be a criticism of the system itself.

I have no need to mention the fact that democracy itself is inherently populist, as that is implied. That is automatically understood. I can however use populism as an argument against either or both democracy or referenda. It is specifically referenda that is up for debate here though, so I will keep my focus on that. It should be noted however that the weaknesses and arguments I use to defeat the proposition carry an implicit argument against democracy as well. But it shall remain only implicit.

Response to Rebuttal I

Electing a person or a party is not equivalent to electing a specific CoA. In elections, you are electing a person or party based on their perceived ability to determine and carry out the best CoA. You say people elect the wrong party. By what criteria do you determine them to be the 'wrong' party? More accurately, you should say that people elect a party who then subsequently go on to make (some) wrong decisions. There is a massive gulf between the two. The criticism remains valid and still stands.

Response to Rebuttal II


Response to Rebuttal III

It depends on what you want to achieve by adopting referenda. If the ultimate goal is merely to make the citizenry feel more engaged in the political process, then yes, knock yourself out. If the ultimate goal is to make BETTER political decisions and to achieve societal and national progress, then, no - the two don't marry. At all. I submit that making optimal political decisions and advancing the welfare of the country as a whole is a far more important ideal to attain than that of making the populace feel like they are engaged in the political process. Why? Because making them feel engaged comes with no guarantees. It is an end in itself and it is simply its own reward. The danger however is that the groupthink of the masses could render the whole nation impotent. Inert. I cite the Occupy movement as a case in point of what happens when you try to put such a system in place. Indecision and poor decision abounds! The real life importance of politics simply would be undermined. Severely so.

Response to Rebuttal IV

This is only a common view because it is quite plainly the case. Those two factors you mentioned will help contribute to the apathy, undoubtedly. But they only help contribute and are not the only two reasons that there exists political apathy. Scan your surroundings and engage with your everyday, working class acquaintances. Engage them in a meaningful political discussion. That smattering of people can be viewed as a microcosm of the working class attitudes to politics of the whole country. What do you see? What do you hear? Unless it involves them directly or they are already predisposed to n opinion on the matter, there is simply no interest whatsoever.

Response to Rebuttal V

The point stands. How well informed could they be come polling day? By your answer, they would only be as informed as the media and parliament make them. Various factions of parliament would be spinning their agenda, supported by their agenda driven media outlets. The point was, would the Everyman conduct enough of his own analysis and research to come to an informed decision? And the answer is an emphatic NO! Politics would remain its own self contained game show, talent show, trying to win the vote for their proposition with their promoters, their ad men, in their corner. The electorate would still merely be playing the part of audience members with a vote. And their options would still be held by parliament. Limited.

Response to Rebuttal VI

Sounds almost fair enough, however the Opposition feels that the House is merely trying to put a plaster over a gaping wound. If people have lost faith in politics, allowing them to vote in referendums would only give the appearance of restored faith. If politics is rotten, then the Houses efforts would be better directed to addressing the source of the problem.

Response to Rebuttal VII

I agree. They are highly class-based. People vote for the colour rather than the policies offered by a party. Take Scotland as a case in point. Scotland will vote with the negative intention of keeping power OUT of the hands of the Tories. "..but that's democracy". Knowing what we know about the voting habits of people and their motivations in voting, why allow such a tribal, partisan and unbalanced mindset to call the shots on political decisions? It certainly cant be justified with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and a nonchalant "but thats democracy" Lets put the country as a whole first.

Response to Rebuttal VIII

To be fair, we are not even on the road that you are suggesting. No one is talking about taking the vote away from people. We are talking about whether the people should be allowed to vote on more, and more specific things. They are different roads altogether. My point is that the people who make policy changes are far better equipped to think through all the nuances and understand all the less obvious I placating than is the layperson who spends his time in other ways.

Response to Rebuttal IX

I am more than suggesting that the electorate shouldn't be trusted to make a decision - I am flat out and emphatically proclaiming it to be the case! Nothing implied. I'm leaving it all out there. The electorate SHOULD NOT be trusted to make policy decisions!

Response to Rebuttal X

I disagree that it is discontent with the voting system that is the problem. The real problem is political incompetence. The REAL problem is that politicians do not speak to the hearts of the masses. Also see my Response to Rebuttal V

Response to Rebuttal XI

Pressure groups. The great slogan of the Occupy Movement, which espoused all the same values as you are with regards to Democracy was "We are the 99%". The truth however was that they didn't speak to the hearts of the masses either and far from being the embodiment of the 99%, the reality as it unfolded showed that their sentiments were really only that of the 0.0000000000000000000000001% which comprised their movement. The Everyman couldn't endorse or get behind their message, as he was apathetic towards those who want enhanced democracy also. He is apathetic towards politics all round.

Response to Rebuttal XII

Says who? It would be a disgusting move if a government were to quench its citizens bloodthirst purely for its own sake. We are in disagreement as to what a government ought to be. I submit that a government should be a moral, guiding, pioneering authority over its subjects and not a servant of the ignorant masses whims. Government should be boss and not the people.

In sum

The people at large are unworthy of decision-making power, as un-PC and horrible as that sounds.

People should collectively earn the right to make decisions. For instance, when the UK tops all education and health global rankings we could be more certain that the population in general were of a high enough calibre that the likelihood of them making good decisions was increased. But not before. I am certainly against just handing over decision-making power to the electorate - and PARTICULARLY during a high of voter apathy. Could there really be a more inappropriate time to hand over the reigns?

I believe the House wants to introduce referenda for all the wrong reasons. Not because the nation itself will be enhanced, will advance. Not because it will do anything great for the country but because it will diminish the appearance of apathy. Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 3


This is the last round, so all rebuttal and summing up. I'd briefly like to thank Con for his participation - the question I faced in my exam was almost identical to the title of this motion, and this debate helped me greatly, so thank you!

Rebuttal XIII: "In elections, you are electing a person or party based on their perceived ability to determine and carry out the best CoA."
You don't just elect based on competence, you elect based on the policies they are promising in their manifestos. In this sense a referendum is no different to a standard election. But this is better because instead of inadvertedly voting for a policy you hate because you're also voting for a policy you like, you're able to pick and choose which policies get enacted. This gives value to referendums - you can pick and choose by issue as opposed to ideology.

Rebuttal XIV: "By what criteria do you determine them to be the 'wrong' party?" - clashes with - "If the ultimate goal is to make BETTER political decisions..."
These points reflect back on themselves - what do YOU define as a 'better' political decision? Democracy has to be neutral. I judge the 'wrong' party based on hindsight, but democracy cannot say that one policy is 'better' than another. People can argue about it, and the electorate can vote on it, but as far as our neutral political structures are concerned each policy is of equal value.

Rebuttal XV: "I submit that making optimal political decisions and advancing the welfare of the country as a whole is a far more important ideal to attain than that of making the populace feel like they are engaged in the political process."
I agree with Opposition in that we disagree on what democracy should seek to achieve. Given that democracy exists to guarantee the representation of the people, I believe that it is an inherent feature of democracy that it serves to translate the sentiment of the people into the legislature. My opponent disagrees but we've already discussed this, so I'd ask the voter to see my previous statements in response. I'm not dropping the argument, just saving characters!

Rebuttal XVI: "There is simply no interest whatsoever."
Look again at my source (note that you have not cited a source for this comment). People are interested in politics and they do care - they just feel that the existing direct avenues are broken as they have no faith in the politicians themselves. So we propose to cut out the middleman and allow people to vote on the actual policies.

Rebuttal XVII: "Various factions of Parliament would be spinning their agenda."
People would still get the various sides of the viewpoint, and it would be exactly the same as an election campaign for this reason. All the views would still be represented and the various parties would still be trying to undermine each others' views.

Rebuttal XVIII: "The electorate would still merely be playing the part of audience members with a vote. And their options would still be held by Parliament."
This is still better than the present system where the Government can introduce legislation which was not a manifesto commitment. Moreover, since the First Past The Post system generates large government majorities, leading to suggestions that the UK government is normally an 'elected dictatorship', this is an opportunity for the government to allow a piece of legislation to be voted on by the electorate which they would otherwise be able to steamroll through Parliament.

Rebuttal XIX: "If the politics is rotten then the House's efforts would be better directed to addressing the source of the problem."
We agree that the politics is rotten to a certain extent, in that MPs are no longer seen as accountable and responsible. By your own admission this is a major wound and will take time to recover. There is no quick fix for this that this House can initiate. So the House should still introduce these new avenues of participation.

Rebuttal XX: "Let's put the country as a whole first."
We believe that putting the country as a whole first involves giving the people the policies they want, not the policies the small elite class think they should want.

Rebuttal XXI: "The people who make policy changes are far better equipped to think through all the nuances..."
Surely this is more valid for the much more complicated issues such as economic policy which are decided by manifestos in elections, and not by referendum. I turn this point: is Joe Public really qualified to judge which party has the best economic policy? Because that wouldn't be decided by referendum (as stated by our definition).

Rebuttal XXII: "The electorate SHOULD NOT be trusted to make policy decisions!"
We don't believe that's what democracy is about. Again, see previous discussions on the disputed purpose of democracy.

Rebuttal XXIII: "The REAL problem is that politicians do not speak to the hearts of the masses."
See Rebuttal XVI - we're cutting out the politicians (since people have lost faith in them) and letting people have a direct say in concrete policies.

Rebuttal XXIV: "Pressure Groups. The great slogan of the Occupy Movement."
Occupy's claim to represent the views of the vast majority of the planet is an isolated case. The point still stands that pressure group membership is growing (not denied by Opposition) therefore people still retain an interest in politics but seek to express it in new ways.

Rebuttal XXV: "I submit that a government should be a moral, guiding, pioneering authority over its subjects and not a servant of the ignorant masses' whims."
In a democracy, Proposition believes that a government exists to enact the views of the people as shown by the democratic processes. People vote for parties, the parties enact their ideological policies. People vote for a policy, Parliament should enact it. Parliament exists to represent the coalition of views in the country, so what right does it have to say "the people have spoken but we're ignoring them because we know better"? That's fundamentally undemocratic.

To sum up I will introduce what Proposition sees as the two key Points of Clash (PoC) in this debate.

PoC1: What is the purpose of the government?
Opposition has argued that the government exists to do the 'right' thing, but this fails to recognise the fact that there is no such thing as the 'right' thing in the neutral eyes of the political process. There is the 'popular' thing, the thing which the people want to see enacted. We believe that if democracy really is government by, of and for the people then Parliament is bound to serve public opinion - as represented more clearly by referendum. We believe that Proposition takes this point.

PoC2: Do people still care about politics?
Opposition have cited tired and clichéd arguments that people no longer care about politics, they are voting for apathy and they no longer care about the government. We disagree and have cited an academic source which falls on our side of the argument. Pressure groups are growing, people are standing for office, lobbying continues. People DO want to take part, they just don't feel able to fully do so by the traditional method. What Proposition proposes allows the electorate, if they have lost faith in politicians - as we admit we think they have - to cut them out. We believe Proposition has the better argument here.

For these reasons, and the many more given in my 25 items of rebuttal, we believe that Proposition wins this debate over the increased use of referendums as we have made a clear and coherent case for their benefits. With that I sign off and urge you to Vote Pro!

Thanks again to Opposition - you've helped my revision immensely. I proudly hand you over to Opposition, who I invite to close the debate.


Thanks to the House. Only too glad I could be of help, and I hope the exam went well!

Response to Rebuttal XIII

their manifestos and campaigns serve to outline their ability to detect appropriate solutions to the issues facing the country. The proposition may well give value to referendums in themselves, but it does not follow that referendums necessarily give value to the political process. I contend that they do not.
Our respective arguments can be summed up largely by this piece from the Riksdag.

Response to Rebuttal XIV

Of course democracy is neutral. Of course democracy cannot judge one decision as 'better' than another, being, as it is, just a process, a method. But we are in severe danger of putting the cart before the horse here if we are to claim that all decisions made within a democracy are of equal value purely by virtue of the fact that they were made democratically, which really boils down to popularity. As humans, we have a unique ability to analyse, scrutinise and discern the objective 'best' course of action, and the objective findings may well be at odds with the majority opinion. Should we defer our better reasoning to a mere formula which is inherently dubious and open to abuse? Or should we charge the most competent amongst us with determining the best CoA and then put our faith in them delivering?

Response to Rebuttal XV

Ok, so I admit that my own thoughts in this regard are based entirely on my own experience. I am working class. I am surrounded by working class. My whole existence is working class. I simply do not trust some far-off survey results to tell me what those around me think of politics. I can go straight to the horses mouth in that regard. Indeed, I am IN the horses mouth already, perched atop a molar. I trust my own perception and findings, based on my own interactions, more than a 'survey' though I appreciate that that may not pass as evidence in a formal court case on the matter. But still, there it is...

Response to Rebuttal XVII

"And the various parties would still be trying to undermine each others views" this, for me at least, is the clincher. Might my opponent agree that the constant undermining, petty squabbling, smear campaigning - the whole adversarial, antagonistic nature of politics may be one of the main culprits in the growing apathy of the electorate? Might the electorate be tired of seeing people they can't relate to engage in a meaningless, vacuous exercise in pure rhetoric? Might he agree that it leads to confusion? that the 'truth' is necessarily sidelined for the 'win'? Does my opponent really propose that the answer is to introduce more of the same? Political homeopathy anyone?

Labour. Think about what Labour ought to be. He is quick to point out how his schooling makes him 'one of us', but listen to his RP accent. Listen to the things he says. Can anyone relate? A minority only.

Response to Rebuttal XVIII

See above response. It is not 'better', it is just more of the same on a micro level.

Response to Rebuttal XIX

Introducing such a measure in lieu of an actual cure is surely no reason for doing so. It's time-wasting, paper-shuffling, putter a plaster on a gaping wound.

Response to Rebuttal XX

Should a parent give their kids sweets and allow them to stay home from school, just because that is what the kids want? The kids would get what they want in the short term, but over the long term such measures would prove disastrous for the kid. They would become fat, unhealthy and uneducated. Their prospects diminished to a point of near-nothingness. Getting what one WANTS, doesn't always equate to getting what one NEEDS. In fact they can often be at odds. A responsible government is there to fulfill the needs of the nation first. And needs should never give way to desires.

Response to Rebuttal XXI

See my sources for a sound critique. In essence, my opponent, in this line "I turn this point: is Joe Public really qualified to judge which party has the best economic policy?" is arguing that two wrongs make a right. Democracy itself, as it is, is dubious. Adding more of it is alleviating none of the problems associated with modern UK democracy.

Response to Rebuttal XXII

Agree to disagree.

Response to Rebuttal XXII

You have in no way cut out politicians. They are the ones who will present and fight the case on each issue that is to be put up for referendum. Suggesting that you have taken them out of the equation is patently false.

Response to Rebuttal XXIV

It's only isolated since it fails to support your claim. Why sideline what was perhaps the single most vocal example of the point you sought to make?

Response to Rebuttal XXV

"Parliament exists to represent the coalition of views in the country, so what right does it have to say "the people have spoken but we're ignoring them because we know better"? That's fundamentally undemocratic."

And yet, that exact point can still be illustrated through the use of referendums. I attach a link to the Wikipedia entry on the aptly titled 'Never-end-um'

And I refer to the Lisbon treaty as a case in point.

Response to PoC1

I don't believe that Proposition takes this point by any stretch of the imagination. My opponent seeks to reduce the whole interrelated fabric of humanity, society, its organisation and moral obligations down to a heartless, faceless process which is laden with danger and opportunities for abuse. A country doesn't run by mere data. The sum of a country can't be calculated through recourse to Excel spreadsheet formulas, by just making sure the numbers tally. It is much, much more than that. It is much more delicate than that. If there are already pains with democracy as it is, then introducing even more of it is surely just sado-masochism. Politicians and their seedy endeavours to convince the electorate using dishonest means would become even more of an ever-present than it already is. Referendums are not the answer - to anything. They are cheap ways to gain a mandate, but perhaps not so cheap to enact - in terms of both time and money. The cost of financing, campaigning and organising them would give very little return of investment. In fact I believe overall, we would not see a return of investment. It would be all cost, no benefit.


The premise for Propositions argument here is flawed. He believes that his method cuts out the politicians, but this is erroneous. Someone still has to fly the flag for whatever the proposition would be. Someone with a vested interest in the outcome of the proposition. Politicians would still campaign for the outcome of the referendum. Their presence and attempts to influence our political decision-making would only be - in fact, could only possibly be - greatly increased. The only true difference is that they would no longer be held accountable for the effects that such a decision would bring about. Absolved of any responsibility. A get out of jail free card. Can you imagine a situation that you would like to find a disingenuous politician less than the one proposed by the house? Me either.

In sum

Well-intentioned though I believe the proposition is, I believe referendums are an inadequate and short-sighted method of decision-making for a slew of reasons.
I don't believe that populism is the way forward for anybody. It opens the door for things like Fox News. It only divides the people further. It enhances the undermining, competitive nature of democracy which I believe is one of its main weaknesses and one of the main reasons why people are becoming apathetic to the same old, same old.

Hopefully I have argued convincingly enough for the case against referendums.
Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Dann 3 years ago
And we both used sources!
Posted by Dann 3 years ago
Hey Kwhite. What do you mean I failed in my BoP by not introducing contention? Can you clarify, for my own sake please?

Posted by Kwhite7298 3 years ago
Conduct -- Pro, for better labeling of arguments making it easier to read.
S&G -- tied, no issues either side
Arguments -- Pro. Con failed to meet his half of the BoP (by not introducing contentions) therefore these points are unnegotiable
Sources -- tied, none either side.
Posted by Dann 3 years ago
Hey don't worry. No need to apologise. You can make the full use of your allocated time if you like.
Posted by orangemayhem 3 years ago
Gaah, sorry for being so late, got caught up preparing for History yesterday... I'll have R2 up within the hour.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Ardenwa 3 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Voting strictly on the PoCs, Con wins because Pro never shows that 1. Populism is the best thing to do. 2. If people didn't care about politics, then why would there be referendums requiring most people to vote? Con says all of that, and since Pro gave the PoCs as the sole voters, Con wins since Pro's ground crumbles.
Vote Placed by Kwhite7298 3 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments