A republic is often defined as a country where the government is only indirectly responsible to the people: the people vote for representatives, who then within the framework of their government’s constitution pass whatever laws they can agree upon. As an extreme example, at the beginning of the United States the Federalists held that the people had zero right to protest any duly passed law; their only recourse was to vote different representatives into office next election.
The Democracy of ancient Athens was a different story. There, laws were passed by plebiscite: every citizen (which was not everyone) voted on proposed laws.
In the modern era, some polities have provision for referendums: a sufficiently large number of voters can demand an up or down vote on special issues.
The Iron Law of Oligarchy suggests that the trend is almost always away from direct democracy and towards some sort of professional governing class that usually ends up taking steps to insulate itself from public opinion. Carried too far, this leads to one-party states where theoretical guarantees of rights are honored in the breach, if at all.
So what is the most direct democracy in existence today? And how has it stayed viable?
Estonia & they’ve stayed viable by being good at it. Good at democracy, I mean. Their focus on relentlessly pushing the country to the fore tech-wise has helped too; they’ve combined the two to work together.
The most direct democracy in the world is any one of several very small towns in New England.
You see, on a purely pragmatic level, the biggest problem with democracy is that it just doesn’t scale up worth a hoot. A population of about 2000 people is about the upper limit for democracy to be completely workable. After that, things start breaking down.
There is some truth to this, but personally wish there was more use of delegative democracy in the world. I believe it still has many of the benefits of direct democracy without many of the disadvantages of more representative forms.
Even those locations which don’t put everything to the vote, put to the vote stuff that for anybody else is exactly why we bother have a City Hall. I don’t know how does the issue stand right now, but when I lived in Basel they’d been trying to decide for several years and several rounds of voting whether and how to repaint the façade of the Casino. You see, as it stood, the painting on it was religious in nature with a Resurrected Christ as the central figure so, a) restore, b) replace with something geometric, c) paint flat, d) replace with something religious and inclusive, d) replace with something non-religious… and of course, each option had suboptions, yay!
As to how it has survived, because it’s THE Swiss thing. To the Swiss, “we decide everything by direct vote” is the one defining item in their Swiss-ness, even if it’s not the one a Swiss person may say first when you ask them about it; it’s the water to their being fishes.