Direct democracy is a political system. It differs from the federal and State governments in the United States, which is a republic or a representative democracy. In a direct democracy all citizens who wish to are a part of the government, in that they, generally, make laws, conduct trials and elect or remove officials, though exactly what they do is dependent upon each individual system. Athens of ancient Greece was the first direct democracy.
Switzerland is a direct democracy.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau also preached for direct democracy in his works. However, his vision on how it is to be implemented resulted in the French Revolution as well as the Reign of Terror, which also gave way to Karl Marx's Communist manifesto.
Direct democracy in the United States today
Direct democracy is practiced today in those New England towns that have open town meetings.
The phrase "New England town" does not mean merely a town in New England, but refers to a characteristic form of town government. The executive branch is called the board of selectman and the legislative branch is the town meeting.
Smaller towns usually have open town meetings at which any citizen can attend and vote. (In Massachusetts, for example, towns with populations of less than 6,000 are required to have open town meetings). Larger towns, however, usually have representative town meetings. Illustrator Norman Rockwell "Freedom of Speech" power, one of his "four freedoms" posters, shows a citizen rising to speak in what is probably an open town meeting.
- Freedom of Speech, Norman Rockwell poster.