When the US Supreme Court blew it

This is a continuation of the last blog about the root problem in representative democracies.

In representative democracies the people have no executive power; all they can do is elect the politicians, the politicians are the executive power.

Excessive power in the hands of politicians has also given interest groups a more powerful motivation to lobby them; it is far easier to lobby a few hundred politicians and governments than to persuade millions of voters that the interests of the corporation, or of the pressure group, coincide with the interests of the majority of citizens.

In this way politicians help the lobbies with laws and policies that may mean billions to those who the paid lobbyist represents, even if they go against the interests of the majority of citizens.

In direct democracy it is the other way around; the people have more power than the executive, the legislative and the Supreme Court or Constitutional Court of the country. The result is lobbies know it makes no sense to lobby politicians if the people have more executive power than the politicians. The result is far less influential lobbies.

However, in the US in particular, a terrible ruling by the US Supreme Court has given lobbies and rich people the means to “lobby” the people; more on this further down.

In direct democracy the people directly decide if laws and regulations passed by the elected representatives will go ahead or die. They also decide on large expenses; the government can not just go and say: “We believe the Olympics will be great for our country, therefore, we decide to support our great city of … (fill the blanks for your country) to host the 20xx Summer Olympic Games and will invest x billions in infrastructure”. They can not do that in a direct democracy country.

With respect to the judiciary, under direct democracy there is no “supreme court” to deal with constitutional issues; the people decide constitutional issues, the people “are” the Supreme Court,

The “returns” to lobbies can be protected markets, professional associations who control how many people enter a profession, government subsidies, etc.

To make matters worse, in the US, the US Supreme Court made in 2010 one decision which makes representative to democracy even les representative.

It dit it when it decided a corporation, a professional association, an organized religion, a union or a rich person, spending millions of dollars in a political advertising campaign supporting or attacking a politician or a party, is merely exercising its right to free speech.

They can spend hundreds of millions to sway voters, and they do. This is not free speech, this is a massive tool to influence free speech; it is not far from controlling speech.

The decision did not say: “Corporations, other organizations, churches, rich people, etc., have the right to say: “our organization endorses or is against such and such candidate”; that would be reasonable.

The Court went far beyond. With this “Super PAC” approval the US Supreme court made it practically impossible to have “government with the people, for the people, by the people”.

In his dissenting opinion, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens argued in 2010 that the Court’s ruling represented “a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government”, well said.

If the Supreme Court rejects common sense it is worse than not having Supreme Court at all.

Many lobbies have also learned to contribute to the campaigns of politicians of the major parties. They do it as an “insurance policy”; no matter who wins, they win. The lobbies are “bipartisan”, even “polypartisan”.

This is why both parties, for example, support immigration of cheaper foreign professionals of non-organized professions; computer programmers, for example. But they do not do that with strong organized professions who also know how to lobby.

Either way, lobbying is bad for the majority of citizens because it distorts democracy, the will of the majority of the people, and their interests, get pushed aside.

So, if you want to retake democracy for ordinary citizens and ordinary workers you have to push for direct democracy; you pay, you decide.

 

The root problem in representative democracy.

THE root problem in the US, and other representative democracies, is excessive government power.

It does not matter if the “right” or the “left” governs; excessive power in the hands of the executive, legislative and judiciary continues to grow.

With direct democracy, the US would not give rise to Trump, or Sanders; they would not be “necessary”.

Excessive power in the hands of politicians in the US has resulted in the current crisis.

The excessive power politicians have is a problem since the foundation of the US, it has been buidling up from the beginning.

But let me keep things in perspective; the US still is one of the most successful representative democracies, but it might have come to an end if what is happening now continues.

US politicians always have had excessive power, like politicians in all representative democracies. This is why government in representative democracies keeps growing in size and power; its control of citizens also grows. As it grows, it becomes progressively more remote to the people.

There are a few representative democracies which, function fairly close to direct democracies. This happens to some extent in Scandinavia, because consultation before making laws and regulation is wide and deep. But still does not give people the actual power direct democracy brings, Scandinavian governments have the power to govern as they wish between elections and, sometimes, they do.

This excessive power, by its own nature, continuously increases in all representative democracies: being excessive it creates a never-ending spiral of power accumulation. This happens at the expense of the power of the people. As times passes, representative democracies are less and less with the people, for the people or by the people.

This is why in the US, where the problem is worse, perhaps because of the prevailing political culture, have the problems they have.

In the US now they have things like high pay for executives, often even if they perform poorly or get fired, hyper expensive university education, a Third World social system with society divided in the hyper-rich, the very poor and a struggling middle class, no universal health care and, amazingly, many rich “leftist” politicians.

They also have Third World inner cities, breakdown of the family; most Black babies with no father, and many White, Hispanics and native American babies too.

They have riots, “defund the police” and on and on.  Millions no longer want to wait for elections because they suspect nothing will change; if the Democrats win, only brings cosmetic changes for the people, if the Republicans win, it is the same, but with different rethoric. It is all about superficiality; mere marketing.

The American people have lost control of the federal government; they are now subjects of the federal government. Half of the population is controlled by government, in turn, the government is controlled by the lobbies. The other half of the citizenry is also controlled AND, even worse, they are also dependent on the government.

The US, and other countries, have arrived at a situation where most people are fed up with the power of politicians. In desperation, millions have turned to populism of the right and the left and, in the US, away from the Republican and the Democratic parties.

If the situation is not fixed, in desperation, the majority of the people may turn to Fascism or Communism; it has happened before over and over, it will happen again.

The US is now split into two camps, with positions making normal political debate and dialogue impossible. No democracy can function forever with such deep division.

We need real power to the people; we need a peaceful, non-radical revolution to reduce the power of politicians. It is necessary to add, to the voter’s current power to elect politicians, the power to decide, to accept or reject, to vote, on the decisions politicians make.

But to get to that, the people of all cultures and ideological persuasions will have to insist together. They can disagree on everything else, but they have to agree on this.

That is what they did in Switzerland. Swiss elected politicians, initially, also resisted direct democracy, just like they do now in all the rest of democracies.

There is a reason why you do not hear even populist or socialist politicians pushing for direct democracy, they do not like it one bit because they will have far less power. All elected politicians like power for themselves, both oppose power to the people. Some may do it because they are convinced the people can not be trusted, others because power means a better life for them.

Do something if you want to have direct control of the politicians you elect!

Could this help explain why direct democracy does not work very well in California?

Many people speak and say many things are not right in California. Two important ones are, the high income tax and the state budget deficit.

It is surprising such things happen in California. I say that because, at the state level, California, along with Oregon and Arizona, has developed direct democracy further than any other state in the US.

In some ways, at the state level, California’s direct democracy is ahead of the Swiss cantons. As you may know, Switzerland is where direct democracy has been developed further (if we do not include Ancient Greece).  For example, Californians can propose new laws, the Swiss can not do that, although they also have many of the tools of direct democracy at all levels of government. But, the main difference between Switzerland and California lies in the facts on the ground; in how direct democracy is put to work

Let us use an indicator of voter power and responsibility. Let us compare the income tax in a city in California, San Francisco, with the income tax of the largest city in the Swiss canton of Zurich.

Just in case you are not familiar with Switzerland; a Swiss canton is more or less comparable to an American state, a Canadian Province, a German Lander, etc. Sizes are very different though; California alone has 5 times the population of all of Switzerland and 27 times the population of the Canton of Zurich.

I believe it will help us understand how direct democracy works if we use income tax in California and in Zurich.

The comparison helps understand why California voters seem more willing to support more taxes and more spending.

In San Francisco, the highest income tax rate is 51.8%. It is distributed like this; 37% is federal tax. 13.3 is state tax and 1.5% is city tax.

In Zurich the situation is very different. In Zurich the tax paid at the canton and city level amounts to 41.3%. Of that 41%, the resident of the city of Zurich, pays more to the city than to the Canton. The highest rate of federal income tax for a resident of Switzerland, in any city is 11.5%.

This means that a resident of San Francisco pays most of his or her income tax to the distant federal government. In Switzerland it is the opposite; they pay most tax to the canton and the city.

The Swiss pay most taxes right where they live, in the US, it is the opposite.

This means that in San Francisco, a voter who, for example, votes for a law making public transportation “free” (paid by taxes), knows that the repercussion of the measure on the taxes he or she pays, at the state and city level, is much lower that the repercussion on the taxes that a voter in Zurich would have to pay.

Before approving more government expenses, the fellows in Zurich and elsewhere in Switzerland, are much more likely to say: “wait a minute!, let us look at the impact on our taxes!”.

It is easy to see how this difference makes it more likely for the voter in San Francisco to vote for measures making government spend more than in Zurich.

In California it is easier than in Zurich to think: “I decide but others pay”, in Zurich is more more difficult. In Zurich voters are more likely to think: “I decide, but I pay”.

In California, half of the income tax is also paid by the wealthiest 1% of the population. This may cause some people, with average or low incomes, to vote for propositions that increase taxes, as they are more likely to feel others will pay.

Could the above help explain why, fiscally, direct democracy works in Switzerland much better than in California?

If this is the case, it means that until the American taxpayer pays several times more income tax to the city and state than to the federal government, it is unlikely Californian voters, and the voters all over the US, will be as fiscally responsible as Swiss voters.

Perhaps the biggest problem in the US is that voters in California, and everywhere else, have no power to control how much the federal government spends. This means American voters everywhere are not likely to feel responsibility for government spending because they can not control the politicians in Congress or in the Executive.

In the US there is no direct democracy at the federal level, and in most states either. American voters have no direct say on how and how much money is spent at the federal level, which is most of the money government spends in the US. American voters can not stop any expense or law approved by the government in Washington.

If the voters do not have the feeling that they control the expenses of the government that most influences their lives, they are not likely to feel fiscally responsible.

If you are in California, or in any other American State, Canadian Province, Spanish Autonomy, Australian or Brazilian State, etc., and you want more fiscal responsibility by government, it will help to have direct democracy at the national, regional and local level. Direct democracy at two levels is not enough.

Direct democracy is like pregnancy; you can not be half pregnant. Likewise, direct democracy does not work if you do not have it at the national level.

Democracy is government by the people, at all levels.

Wherever you are, you always pay, therefore you should always decide”.

The OECD’s “Better Life Index” needs, at least, fine tuning!

The OECD, Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, publishes the “Better Life Index” whic ranks countries.

It is an interesting effort. It includes the following factors:

      • Housing
      • Income
      • Jobs
      • Community
      • Education
      • Environment
      • Civic Engagement
      • Health
      • Life Satisfaction
      • Safety
      • Work-Life Balance

I will deal only with one of those factors,  Civic Engagement. Unfortunately, this factor does not reflect Swiss reality of direct democracy and how it provides superior civic engagement.

Let me reason how I arrive at that conclusion.

The OECD defines “Civic Engagement” as composed of two other factors; “Stakeholder Engagement for Developing Regulations” and “Voter Turnout”.

In “Stakeholder Engagement for the Development Regulations”, the Index ranks Switzerland as number 16.

The following countries, according to the index, have citizens more engaged than Switzerland; Lithuania 15th, New Zealand 14th, Slovenia 13th, Italy 12th, Israel 11th, Netherlands 10th, Poland 9th, Australia 8th, Estonia 7th, Korea 6th, Canada 5th, Slovak Republic 4th, UK 3rd, US 2nd, Mexico 1st.

The OECD defines “Stakeholder Engagement in the Development of Regulations” as the “Level of formal stakeholder engagement in the development of primary laws and subordinate regulations”.

If by “formal” the OCDE means, “on paper”, perhaps the OCDE is correct, but what is important is not what the papers say but the facts in real life. As the Spanish say; “el papel lo aguanta todo”, which in English I translate as “anything can be made to look great on paper”.

Perhaps the root of the problem lies in that the OCED speaks of “formal engagement”, as an indicator of civic engagement.

I say this because in Switzerland they have a different system. In this system engagement of voters far exceeds the engagement of voters of any other country.  If we included canton-state-region and municipalities, Swiss engagement is even stronger; “it goes through the roof”.

In Switzerland voters, by majority decision can stop, and do so, any law or regulation proposed by government and passed by parliament. They can also propose and decide on new laws and changes to the Constitution. You can not get much more “engaged” than that.

In Switzerland, it is not up to government or parliament to “engage” the citizens either; by law, the citizens decide how engaged they want to be. This is so because Switzerland is fundamentally a direct democracy. In direct democracy the people have direct power over the politicians. This is not so in representative democracies.

Swiss voters do not just elect the politicians; they have power of decision over the decisions of politicians.

This is a radically different concept from “engagement” in its usual meaning. Swiss citizens do not need to be “engaged”. They do not need to because they are the final authority; no need for anyone to “engage” you if you are the authority.

Swiss citizens can stop any law proposed by the politicians, even if it is approved unanimously by both chambers of the Swiss parliament.

In view of the above, it makes no sense to rank Switzerland as number sixteen in terms of participation; it is evident that it is number one.

Perhaps the ranking makes sense for representative democracies, where citizens have no decision power over laws and regulations.

In representative democracies, the politicians in government and parliament make the decisions on laws on regulations; the people only have the power to elect their representatives. Electing representatives is very important, but not as important as deciding on issues, which is what the Swiss can also do.

Conclusion: The OECD should revise the concept or definition of “Stakeholder Engagement for Developing Regulations” because Switzerland is far ahead of the rest, not number 16!

Another option is to specify the criteria do not apply to Switzerland because, in direct democracy, the people have the power to “engage” as much as they wish, no need to promote that they be engaged.

The only possible higher degree of engagement would be for Swiss ordinary citizens to actually govern, not the politicians, there would be no politicians, like the Greeks did in Ancient Greek democracy. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, not even the Swiss have caught up with our Ancient Greek “cultural forefathers”. The rest of us are behind, most of humanity is political light-years behind!

It is obvious the OECD’s “Stakeholder Engagement for Developing Regulations” index is not a fair indicator when it comes to Switzerland and it should be revised.

Tomorrow I will address another, perhaps even more serious, problem with the OECD’s Civic Engagement Index.

Swiss direct democracy is great but…

Swiss direct democracy is, by far, the most advanced democracy in the World. This is so because the Swiss people have the power to do things the people in other democracies can not even dream of.

The Swiss can, and do, stop laws passed by their parliament. They can also ratify or reject treaties between Switzerland and other countries. Swiss citizens can also propose changes and change the constitution. Any change to the Swiss constitution also needs explicit people approval.

But Switzerland is not 100% a direct democracy, Switzerland is a mix of representative and direct democracy. It is a direct democracy because all key authority resides in the people. Switzerland is a representative democracy also because the Swiss people elect representatives to the Swiss Parliament.

However, because the Swiss people have more power than parliament and the executive, Switzerland is more a direct democracy than a representative democracy.

This is how it works; Swiss voters elect their representatives to parliament. The Swiss parliament is known as the Federal Assembly. The Federal Assembly has two chambers; the National Council and the Council of States. The members of both chambers are directly elected by the people.

It is the members of both chambers who select the seven members of the Swiss federal executive.

The Swiss Parliament can elect any adult Swiss citizen to serve in the Federal Government executive; in reality only members of the upper and lower houses are elected.

It seems odd that in a country where ordinary citizens have so much power, they do not have the right to choose their government. In Switzerland, the politicians elect other politicians to run the country. I believe that should not happen; the people should elect the executive directly.

This is the composition of the Swiss Federal Government; two seats for the Free Democratic Party, Two seats for the Social Democratic Party, two seats for the Swiss People’s party, one seat for the Christian Democratic People’s Party. These parties, together, represent more than 70% of the voters.

You may think; “are you joking? Are you telling us that in Switzerland the major parties all govern cooperatively, in coalition?” Yes, that is how it works.

The Swiss call it “the magic formula” because it has given Switzerland amazing political stability.

Because the major parties govern, the Swiss avoid the concept of “party in power”, “party in the opposition”. With this system all major political tendencies are represented in the Swiss government.

By tradition, the executive is always partially renewed, never totally renewed, after each national election. This also helps government stability.

A multi-party executive has a natural tendency to develop decisions that have the support of all members of the executive.

The executive is also stable, and promotes gradual change, because there are no governments with absolute majorities. We all know absolute majority governments can ram through laws and policies, regardless of how voters feel.

The Swiss system of cooperative coalition government is also possible because their electoral system of proportional representation helps prevent the rise of absolute majorities.

But perhaps the key factor that led Swiss political parties to govern in coalition is direct democracy.

Direct democracy gives people the power to hold referendums on any decision or law by the executive or parliament.

Perhaps Swiss politicians realized there is no point in doing things that do not have the support of a clear majority of the people, because the people can stop them

The consensus-cooperative government system makes much more sense than the “government vs. opposition” system. Imagine a business, a religious organization, the military, a university, a charity, a sports club, any organization, governed on the basis of an executive and an opposition which always radically disagree. The formula of “government vs. opposition” is inefficient; the Swiss system is more efficient and more democratic

If you believe the representative democracy of your country needs improvement; Swiss-style direct democracy will bring that improvement.

One important factor to consider; for direct democracy to work it must be present at the national level, at the state-region-province level and the local level; it makes no sense to believe the people can have a culture of being capable, responsible and mature to make decisions at one level and not other levels. Such practices do not foster the development of engaged citizens much more than traditional representative democracy.

In spite of all the positive factors Swiss direct democracy has, I believe the Swiss people, not their elected representatives, should elect their government directly. Formulas can be developed to ensure government in cooperative coalition.

Direct democracy adds the right to decide to the right to elect; big difference !

Swiss men AND women have the right to elect and the right to make and stop laws and to control government expenses; do you ?

Swiss women were behind most Western women in having political power; they had to wait several decades more than in the other democracies to have the right to vote.

It might have something to do with direct democracy itself because it was the men who decided by referendum. It was not like in representative democracies, where the elected representatives could just simply pass a law giving women the right to vote. Of course, the same representative politicians can also rise your taxes and do many other things the people do not like; like raising taxes, favouring private schools over public schools and many more things.

We should not forget either that many women in Switzerland, the US, and other countries, opposed that women vote. Among other reasons, those women felt their role as mothers and wives was special already. They believed that voting involved women in political life, and that this would corrupt women as it had corrupted men.

Perhaps that also slowed down the right to vote for women, in Switzerland an other places.

Anyhow, Swiss women got the right to vote in 1971,  French women in 1944 and American women 1920. If you look at the long history of most countries, a few decades is not so much.

It is interesting to note that in the same year that Swiss women got the right to vote, a Swiss woman, Lise Girardin, served in the Swiss federal government as one of the 46 members of the Council of States, which is the Swiss upper chamber.

But note this; once Swiss women got the right to vote, the same direct democracy that slowed down their right to vote, gave Swiss women far more power than the women, and the men, in any of those countries, or any other country in the World. This is so because in Swiss direct democracy women, and men, have the right to vote and also the right to decide.

Not only that, by agreement among the major Swiss parties, there will always be at least three women among the seven Councillors who make up the national government of Switzerland. All the Councillors serve as President of Switzerland on a rotating bases. As a result, Switzerland will have far more female presidents than any other country in the World.

Even if other democratic countries, like the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, India, etc., can have a woman in the top job, once she is gone there may not be a woman in the top spot for years; in Switzerland there will be at least three women at the top level and many women presidents.

If we take together Swiss direct democracy and this provision of the Swiss National Council, it means Swiss women “started late” but have leapfrogged the women, and the men, of all those other countries, including those where women had the right to vote decades before Swiss women.

It is obvious that the injustice committed by Swiss men in granting women the right to vote late, does not invalidate the overwhelmingly positive aspects of direct democracy.

To say direct democracy is worse than representative democracy because of the late right of women to vote, or because of the banning of minarets in Swiss mosques, or many  more reasons, makes no sense. It does not make sense because direct democracy givers far more rights and power to ordinary citizens, men and women, than representative democracy.

The Swiss, men and women, have the right to decide. The decide on issues and can decide and prevail over the wishes of politicians.

If I had to choose between the right to vote and the right to decide, I much prefer the right to decide. The right to decide gives us, the voters, control over the politicians and it also gives us decision power on how the country, the state, the province or the town, are run. Representative democracy does not do that.

Swiss men and women are politically far ahead of the rest. They have direct democracy since 1891; a few decades have gone by for the rest of us…

Isn’t it time to for you and your country to catch up with the Swiis!

The democracy rankings of The Economist are wrong!

The Economist Intelligence Unit of the British magazine, The Economist, every year prepares The Democracy Index. The index ranks countries by the following factors;

Electoral Process and Pluralism

Functioning of Government

Political Participation

Political Culture

Civil Liberties

The top 10 countries, starting by the most democratic, are:

      1. Norway
      2. Iceland
      3. Sweden
      4. New Zealand
      5. Finland
      6. Ireland
      7. Denmark
      8. Canada
      9. Australia
      10. Switzerland.

However, the Index is wrong; there is no doubt that Switzerland should be number one. The reason is obvious; no country comes close to Swiss democratic practices.

By all, or the clear majority, of the factors the Economist considers, Switzerland comes out on top.

The Swiss people have, by far, more say in how the country is run than the people of any of the other nine countries.

But let us first look at definitions of democracy. The exercise in itself is interesting;

Merriam Webster: “Government by the people”. I like this one.

Oxford Dictionary: “A system of government based on the belief of equality between people, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves”.

A democracy in which the people exercise power directly is very different from a democracy in which the elected representatives hold practically all the power, even if in both the people believe in equality.

Wikipedia: “A form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation”.

I do not know what to make of this one. I am not saying it is bad, it just seems a bit narrow; the people should have the power to decide, beyond legislation.

Dictionary.com: “Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”.

This has a weak point; a democracy in which the people exercise their power directly is very different from one in which the elected representatives have the power of decision.

Larousse (France): “A political system, a form of government in which sovereignty emanates from the people”.

This is too vague; “emanates” can mean anything.

I like Merriam Webster’s because it is to the point; “government by the people”.

Given the diversity of definitions, it is no wonder the Index “wanders”.

I also like Abraham Lincoln’s; “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. The Swiss come closest to this one because the Swiss people have the most power to make it so.

Actually, you only need “government by the people”, as Webster says.

No matter how you look at it; nobody can represent the people better than the people themselves.

In representative democracy the people have, sometimes, the power to decide on issues. This is the case in binding referendums. Unfortunately, in the nine representative democracies of the list, referendums are few and most are non-binding. When this happens, most referendums are little more than elaborate and costly surveys.

In a direct democracy, the people decide all key issues and their decisions prevail over the decisions of government and parliament, pretty cool.

The other nine democracies in the list have some referendums, but only when the elected representatives so decide and most are non-binding.

Not only that, the elected representatives decide on the date in which the referendum will be held.

When the elected representatives, government or parliament, decide what and when something goes to a referendum, they also have in mind their political interests and the interests of lobbies, not necessarily the interests of the people. This is not “government of the people, for the people, by the people”, it is something else.

If, on top of that, the elected representatives also have the power to decide on the wording of the referendum, this further dilutes he power of the people.

But all representative democracies, including the “top nine” in the Economist’s Index, go even beyond that in reducing the power of the people. This is so because the elected representatives pass all laws and regulations, and the people can not do much about that democratically, by means of votes.

They can demonstrate, write letters, articles and books showing their disagreement, but all that is evidence of the lack of democratic power, ballot box power, by the people.

If the people have power they are able to stop the elected representatives from raising taxes, spend public money in any way they see fit, sign treaties without the approval of the people, etc. Not only that, it is be the people who decide on taxes and the rest.

Demonstrations, etc., are an indication that democracy is not as developed as it can be. Freedom to protest is not democracy, it is freedom to protest. Democracy is when the people do not have to protest, because they have the power to directly control what government does. The Swiss people have that power, the people of the other nine democracies do not.

Here is a very short guide of what the other countries, ahead of Switzerland in the list, do in terms of people power, beyond the power to elect representatives;

Norway: The constitution does not even mention referendums! Politicians decide when the people will vote in a referendum. The result is non-binding. They have had six referendums. Not impressive. No way Norway is number one.

Sweden: It is similar to Norway. They have had six referendums since they have democracy.

New Zealand: Citizens can propose a non-binding referendum; not much “meat” here either. They have had ten referendums.

Finland: The people can propose a referendum, but the politicians can ignore the petition. They had two referendums.

Ireland: The politicians decide if there is to be a referendum. 38 constitutional referendums called by the politicians. No other referendum.

Denmark: It is also up to the politicians. They have had sixteen referendums.

Canada: It is up to the politicians. Three referendums.

Switzerland:  Binding referendums are called by the law or by the people;   600 binding referendums, yes 600. The government can not call referendums in Switzerland. This reduces the power of government even more in relation to the power of ordinary citizens.

Swiss voters regularly decide on laws proposed by parliament; the law does not pass if the voters reject it. Even if both houses of parliament, and the government, unanimously propose the law, the people can reject it.

In Switzerland, voters must also approve international treaties and, like in many countries, also decide on changes to the constitution.

Ordinary Swiss citizens can call for a national vote, legally binding, on almost any issue. In none of the other nine countries can ordinary citizens do that.

There is even more; in Switzerland there is no Supreme Court or Constitutional Court to decide on interpretation of the constitution. This is so because the people are the interpreters.

The Swiss hold more than one half of the word’s referendums at the national level, probably even many more at the state (province) and municipal levels.

That is impressive for a country of 8.5 million people in a World of billions of people.

The facts speak; Switzerland is clearly the most democratic country in the World.

It is incomprehensible that the Economist does not rank Switzerland as the number one democracy.