I wrote the article (as in the medium story), and it was clearly in there. Maybe some misunderstanding.
Swiss, Icelandic, etc. consume less in the sense that what they spend on is more services based on very small and relatively insignificant items. Of course it’s still not great, but that makes it better than the US, etc.
Direct Democracies lead to incredibly ‘bitty’ public policy with no real broad plans, as a range of issues are decided directly by people. If referenda were eliminated for some issues of lesser significance, then it would be more sustainable due to lower voter apathy and the aforementioned reason.