True democracy in the sense that each person gets a vote, not on representation, but on the issues themselves.

The interest is in:

  1. How far such systems may have scaled.
  2. More recent examples.
  3. The failure and successes of such systems.
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    Athens, Rome etc.? – Matt Feb 23 '16 at 7:39
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    The expression you are searching for is "Direct democracy". – SJuan76 Feb 23 '16 at 7:56
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    Switzerland? Present day example. – andejons Feb 23 '16 at 9:47
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    This seems more like a request for sources/overview of direct democracy in history than a question. – Semaphore Feb 23 '16 at 11:10
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    I've probably asked this wrong, as it isn't directly an answer to the question but after some research Switzerland certainly seems like an exemplary case! – Legato Feb 23 '16 at 17:01

The system you describe is only possible with very small population. Something like this existed in the city-states of ancient Greece, and city-states elsewhere, on their early stages. (But of course not EVERY person had a vote; women and slaves and immigrants and children of immigrants were usually excluded, and still there were officials appointed to run everyday business. But on important questions every citizen voted). Such system also existed in some "free cities" in Medieval times, where all important issues were decided by an assembly where all male citizens were eligible to vote.

As these states developed and became larger, the power usually shifted to oligarchy more and more. Among the modern states the closest example is Republic of San Marino, where people just take turns to serve in the government. This city-state essentially preserved its medieval system.

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A comment mentioned Switzerland as a present day example. After some research, the conclusion it is more accurately a semi-direct democracy as the direct democracy is practiced in parallel with representative democracy. In essence, while they still have a parliament body, any citizen may challenge any law as well as propose modifications to the federal constitution, at any time.

One helpful source on how this works is this page.

The crux of the page and the pages it links to(excepting the non-English ones):

  • The direct democracy is the heart of the political process and is attributed to the country's long lasting political stability.
  • There are still political parties, in fact as of today there are five majorly supported ones.

  • They still have federal experts who prepare, formalize and examine requests.

  • This is then presented to the general body in opinion polls who then approve and propose changes.

  • The electorate have many breakpoints where they can effect change. e.g. Where in the U.S. many petitions are signed in the hopes that some elected official takes notice, after a certain amount of signatures a petition may become a mandatory referendum.

  • The above is exceedingly difficult to do for any single person. There are exponentially more cases of failed efforts than successes. Even in cases where one person perpetuates propaganda via speakers and ads.

  • From the text the reason is that electorate is very informed and seeks more information(Mind you this is all based on the page, so take with a grain of salt), they go to public discussions, seek convincing arguments and discuss the issues among family and friends. (Contrast to how, in certain countries, political discussions are sometimes taboo/reported as uncomfortable for participants.)

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Please also consider:

-The EZLN in Chiapas


-Native tribes which have practiced direct democracy for generations


-Referendum systems introduced in California and elsewhere, which resulted in a rollback of education spending in the 80s as part of a "taxpayer revolt"


-Ad hoc direct democracy systems introduced during civil unrest. This happened in Argentina in 2001


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