Repeatedly, I have read articles about how extremely irresponsible Cameron was for following through with the Brexit referendum. The implicit, and sometimes explicit, suggestion of these articles is that the public is unable to make responsible decisions on such important issues.
Regardless of my position on Brexit, it is this democratic fundamentalism that concerns me the most. There is convincing evidence (and this) that suggests our elected representatives are rarely representing the will of the average citizen. Aside from more nefarious explanations for why this is, it is often clear that elected representatives are generally dissimilar from the average citizen. Why then is the knee jerk response towards efforts to actually represent the will of the people so negative?
I imagine these responses come from a lack of critical examination of where these assumptions were first conceived. Many of the ideas pushing for governance by elites find their roots in arguments around racism and efforts to pander to aristocrats.
I disagree with the notion that citizens are incapable of producing meaningful policy. Methods within the field of deliberative democracy have shown that in the right environment average citizens are capable of creating meaningful policy that represents the will of the communities they come from.
Cameron may have been irresponsible for holding the referendum, but not because he allowed citizens to decide on an important issue. He was irresponsible for not structuring the referendum around a deliberative process that would allow for citizens to make better decisions.
Experimenting with new forms of democracy is necessary if we are to break from the current trends of democratic misrepresentation.