Common sense words from the land of Common Sense

Hi! Good day!

As I promised to you yesterday, today I reproduce the Foreword that Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation in 2010 and 2017, wrote for  2010 edition of the book “Guidebook to Direct Democracy” written by Bruno Kaufmann, Rolf Büchi and  Nadja Braun.

Common sense is the more intelligent human intelligence, for obvious reasons.

This is what she wrote:

“Democracy is hard work -sweat and often uncomfortable confrontation. As former journalist Ulrich Kägi (*) noted ‘the conflict of interests and opinions – but also the wisdom to recognise the limitations of this conflict’.

Democracy is never easy – especially in an increasingly globalised world, in which state borders become more and more porous, where commerce and trade are possible everywhere and the exchange of goods can be carried out at any time. Nowadays – with few exceptions- and thanks to the latest electronic communications technology, doubt, distrust and criticism of government decisions can be viewed and downloaded by anyone anywhere in the world round the clock.

The result is that Modern Direct Democracy as a necessary part of representative democracy is forced to engage more strongly than ever before in arguing its case – in convincing people of its merits – and in the perpetual search for compromise. In the 150 years of its history as a modern democracy, Switzerland has developed a form of direct democracy and federal participation in decision-making  which is about much more than just the victory of a majority over a minority. It also has to be possible for majority decisions to be secured by minorities. Federalism is one of the ways in which minority rights can be institutionally secured. Democracy also serves in a complementary fashion to protect the majority from the dictates of a minority. The procedures are designed in a such a way that the losers can also live with the outcome. In our country democracy is not the “rule of the politician” as defined by Joseph A. Schumpeter. In Switzerland there is a direct trade-off and active participation in shaping policy between the political establishment and the voters via the right of initiative. Here the initiative and referendum process has become a direct political feedback loop.

A reminder of this form of citizen participation and of the possibility of the concluding check through the popular vote on substantive issues is urgently needed as the world shrinks and barriers are dismantled. For globalisation to really benefit everyone, then multinationals and multilateral organisations also need a new input of democratisation. That doesn’t mean that companies have to be run democratically from top to bottom, nor that new bodies are needed to regulate international trade, for example. But the economic and financial crisis has shown that the rights of shareholders and employees need to be strengthened. An the work of tacking the crisis and dealing with its after-effects today shows just how urgent is the need for democratically derived rules within a larger international framework so that the multilateral organizations can be strengthened. In order to deal with the great challenges of the 21st century – the demand for resource efficiency, the removal of the great economic disparities, the demographic adjustments – there is a need for a democratic multilateralism. It will not suffice for a group of heads of state to determine the pulse and pace of the world. In a globalised world, Modern Direct Democracy can create that connection with the citizens which can make the law serve humanity – even in the 21st.

The new edition of the IRI Guidebook to Direct Democracy in Switzerland and Beyond offer you the basics (and much more) to become better informed about the options and limits of this challenging way ahead”.

Doris Leuthard

President of the Swiss Confederation

(*) Unfortunately, he wrote in German. I could not find tranalation of his work into English, Spanish or French.

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