In a direct democracy, is there a a judicial or executive branch. If so, what is it? It a group of people? Do people elected them?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, Chicken! Welcome to Worldbuilding! Direct democracy is eliminating the need of legislative branch. However, I don't think it is ever expected that citizens would collectively run day-to-day executive duties. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Aug 27, 2018 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify what the population is, and what are the restrictions on who can vote? The larger the population and the more complex the society, the more cumbersome a direct democracy becomes. In a complex society, there will always be managers. How they are selected is the question. If they are appointed, you need an executive branch. If they are elected, what is their term? $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2018 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ I think this belongs on the Politics SE, not here $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2018 at 1:15

2 Answers 2


There are a lot of good modern examples we could draw from for this. I'm going to look at the early Athenian direct democracy, because it's distinct from modern democracies, and I think it exemplifies direct democratic purism.

Athens had no judges, and court cases were handled by large groups of jurors, selected by lot from the people. On the local level, the people were both judicial and executive.

Athens also had no executive branch (in the modern sense), but made national executive decisions by individual vote in nearly every case where it was possible to carry out a vote. The people didn't have representatives vote for them; the votes were tallied on direct popularity. So, on the national level, the people were also executive.


Very simply, democracy is the process of casting votes to establish the rules of society. So long as a form of democracy is involved, voting exists.

However, voting is not doing, and all three things still need doing: executive (administration or enforcing the law), judicial (adjudicating the law), and legislative (creating the law).

In a direct democracy, you still need police and military, which means you need civil control over the police and military, so the executive branch still exists and would constitute elected offices with appointed cabinet positions.

Similarly, you still need to judge both people and the law, so your judicial branch still exists with judges, lawyers, and other officers of the court — both elected and appointed.

What changes most is the legislative branch. It still exists, but it's only purpose is to create new law and recommend changes to existing law. It no longer does the voting, so it cannot implement law. In a direct democracy, that role — the power to implement law — is given over to the people. Further, in a direct democracy, the now purely administrative legislative role could be given over to the executive branch (it really depends on how large and complex your society is, one hates to give too much power to anyone), which would dissolve the legislative branch entirely.

  • $\begingroup$ The Legislative branch could itself be democratized as well. You could have a system in which the public at large actually debates new laws or changes to old ones. This would be really difficult in a pre-modern society, but a modern one could theoretically do it over an internet forum. This could also be a good use of a blockchain. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Aug 27, 2018 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L, you're correct, but someone needs to keep track of the changes, make sure everyone's emailed, etc. That pitiable person, even if there be only one, is "the legislative branch" or the administrator of the legislative process. You could only remove the legislative function completely with a very small community (I'd say 20 people was too many) or a boatload of technology, but someone needs to manage the tech.... A rose by any other name.... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 27, 2018 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Well given how poor voter turn-out is in the US, I'd say we don't really need to email everyone. Keeping track of the changes would be done via blockchain, i.e. programmatically. I don't think this accomplishes anything though, good or ill. You will still see the democracy dominated by a small group of the most active participants while the rest can barely get enough motivation to even vote, let alone debate or propose changes. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Aug 27, 2018 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L, HAH! No doubt! It's like we're really a direct democracy with the inconvenience of having to re-convince the people to let the encumbants get on with it. I mean, in their minds at least, they're the only ones that matter, right? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 27, 2018 at 22:46

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