The Swiss are like everybody else; those with more formal education and more money really believe they are “more qualified” to tell the rest how they should think and behave.
Fortunately, the ordinary Swiss are not like everyone else, so far.
This “more qualified” bit is a “class” thing, almost a “caste”.
This is what happens:
Those with money believe they are special because the fact that they have money “proves” they are “smarter”. Likewise, those with more formal education also believe they are “smarter”; after all, to do complex calculations, to write well, to analyze human and technical problems, you have to be “smart”. If your writings elevate you to the category of an “intellectual”, who can question you are smarter?
But there is more to this “I am smarter” thing.
Those with money, particularly if self made, believe they are smarter than those with high university degrees and even the “intellectuals”. They do so because, to make money you really have to be smart in the “real world”. Somehow, the sort of intelligence required to make money is, to them, more elevated than the intelligence required for academic subjects.
But it does not end there; those with high degrees and/or “intellectuals”, feel somehow superior to the fellows who make a lot money, and to everyone else, of course. They feel that way because, who can doubt that the intelligence to write a great book, to develop a new psychological insight or to do the calculations to send a rocket to the moon, is superior to the intelligence required to set up a new business or make a business decision that generates millions in profit, etc.?
If we look at moral superiority, the businessman does not stand a chance; we all “know” to make money you have to manipulate, deceive and a number of other disgusting practices. Unfortunately, in academia they do not fly much higher; there is envy and resentment of the one who “publishes” more in the more prestigious journals, there is personal animosity because of academic discrepancies, etc.
And, you know what?, even in academia some make a lot more money than others, among other things, by selling, selling books for example… interesting.
There is special category among the rich and those with higher formal education, the “famous”. Those who are famous believe they have something special that makes them even more qualified. Otherwise, why would millions pay attention to what they say?
But we have an even more special category of people; “the leaders”. The “leaders” are sometimes also the rich, the famous and the intellectuals but more often, the “leaders” are the politicians; any politician elected, to even the more modest public office, tends to think he or she has “leadership” qualities. It is “obvious”, as the reason they voted for him or her is because the people, the ordinary people, “saw” in the politician those qualities.
Too many people among those with money, with higher formal education, the famous and, above all, the politicians, are convinced their condition also makes them smarter to speak and decide on any issue of importance to society.
Of course, they are wrong. The intelligence required to set up a great business, to be a prestigious intellectual, a successful politician, is not synonymous with common sense.
We all know of people with money, intellectuals, famous people and politicians, who do not have common sense. We also see ordinary people without common sense.
Common sense is the most important form of intelligence. You only have to look at how Merriam-Webster, Oxford and Collins define common sense:
“Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”.
You can not go far without common sense, no matter how “smart” you are.
In my opinion, the majority of people with money, the intellectuals, the politicians, even the famous, have common sense. I also believe the majority of ordinary people also have it.
Ordinary people, voters, exercise common sense when they elect politicians. I am referring here to ordinary voters in stable democracies. In unstable democracies I do not know; perhaps they choose wrong.
To have a stable, prosperous democracy, common sense has to be present in the majority of voters; otherwise they will make too many mistakes at voting time and select the wrong representative. Voters make mistakes even in stable democracies sometimes, but it does not happen too often, and they do not make catastrophic mistakes, otherwise they would not be stable democracies.
Most elected politicians agree that, generally, ordinary voters have the common sense necessary to choose the right person to represent them.
But a surprise pops up; too many of those elected politicians believe that same voter, who decided to vote for him or her, does not have enough common sense to decide if the village, the town, the region or the nation needs a new school or school system, a new road or transport network, a new tax, a new immigration law, a law on gay marriage or health care, or a new trade treaty.
It is also interesting that in most democracies changes to the constitution require approval by popular referendum. This means politicians recognize the people have, not only common sense, but wisdom. They recognize the people have the ability to decide on the key document of the country.
In view of all that, it is obviously absurd to say voters do not have the capacity to decide on any law, school, health care system, treaty, etc.
There is no doubt that in stable democracies the citizens are qualified to make decisions on specific issues.
To decide, ordinary citizens will need information. They will need to listen to the experts, just like politicians do. Any issue can be explained in ordinary language by the experts. Once that is done, the common sense of the voter enables him or her to decide.
That is why in Switzerland they do it that way, and it works.
The Swiss have not done away with politicians; they have elections, and the politicians propose laws. What they have changed is that the people decide on the laws and the issues. They decide on any decision or law politicians want to make.
Citizens can also propose new laws and changes to the constitution.
In both cases citizens decide by voting in a referendum. They decide on anything of importance; taxes, health care, road building, nuclear power, education, etc.
If the Swiss can decide if a new school is necessary, on gay marriage, on universal health care, on a new road or new treaty, why can’t you?
I tell you why, it is because you have not fought for the right to be able to. The Swiss had to fight. They fought with arguments. They fought and they won; that is why they have direct democracy from the local to national level, and you do not.
By the way, with direct democracy people will not riot, like they do in so many representative democracies. This is because all decisions have the legitimacy of explicit support by the majority of voters. No decision made by representative politicians, no matter how intelligent they may be, has comparable legitimacy.
It is in your hands to bring direct democracy to wherever you are; don’t sit on them!