This installment of Duly Noted departs from the posting’s usual pattern. A seemingly small event has occurred that sheds light on what might be, a yet partially hidden, long-term trend of fundamental significance.
The venue of the deed is Switzerland. That country might be small but its unique political system –that operates one of the world’s most successful economies without having natural resources- has now produced a result that deserves the title of this writing. Here the reader should know that Switzerland practices direct democracy, which means that the people is called upon several times a year to vote directly over initiatives and to make the decisions of parliament and executive binding. The result is that, matters about which even in advanced democratic countries the political class decides, are subject to the direct judgment of the citizenry.
Numerous issues that are determined elsewhere by the governing clans are the subject of a direct vote. This makes Switzerland into a place where one can hear the people’s voice about matters elsewhere are judged too complicated and delicate to be determined outside of the elites.
This day (09.02), the Swiss rendered a decision regarding the unlimited entry of persons from countries that are members of the European Union –in which Switzerland does not participate. That non-membership is the result of another popular vote that is strongly opposed by nearly the entire “who is who” of the “important people”. The central issue of the initiative has been that Switzerland, as a sovereign state, should assert the right to control its immigration and to set rules for residency.
Additionally, a larger issue hovered behind the vote. It involved resisting the growing power of “Brussels” to centralize and bureaucratize Europe in order to create a supranational super state.
The campaign to reject the initiative has been astonishing. That is the point where the quoted “revolt of the masses” enters the picture. For one thing, all the parties, the Socialists, the Greens, the once centrist party of the Catholics, and the supposedly classical Liberals, urged a “No” vote. So did industrial associations and the Universities. Published opinion surveys made their own contribution to influence the pawns. Only the Swiss People’s Party/SVP (right of center, more-less comparable to centrist US Republicans) supported a “Yes” in favor of controlled immigration. It was in part to prevent an SVP success that explains the stance. Almost all the newspapers and the electronic media, as well as the Executive, predicted the end of civilization should the people vote wrongly. That forecast was given support by threats fired off by the EU. Most welcome by the thankful national Cabinet’s “agitprop”, Brussels claimed that the screening of entrants involves a violation of bilateral Swiss-EU treaties. The threatened consequence: economic retaliation that amounts extortion by a promised boycott.
Now then, this might tell a lot about the EU that confirms earlier negative judgments. However, the vote has a significance that transcends even this matter.
What the story reveals is a sizable gap. Its open jaws tell about the gigantic breach that can exist between the people and the ruling elites that claim to represent them. The reader is called upon to take some of the issues that his community faces and to consider what the response of official politics is. He might want to proceed from that to stipulate what the verdict on the same matter would be if his neighbors would be enabled to say their piece. The difference you might detect tells that the disagreement between the masses and their governors is growing and that this disparity expresses a crisis of contemporary democracy.