In the 1800s the Swiss had it with politicians. In 1848 they could not take it anymore. They decided the politicians would not make the major political decision, the people themselves would make those decisions.
Most Swiss politicians, as well as many in the and the economic and cultural elites, opposed the idea. You know the argument, the elites in your country use it now; “truckers and bus drivers, electricians, housewives, owners of small shops, factory workers, salesmen, etc., just do not have the education to make important decisions about laws, budgets, taxes, international relations, economic and social policies, etc”.
“That is our job, to decide on their behalf. Us, the professional politicians, the wealthy executives who run the complex business of the very and super-wealthy, the intellectuals and commentators who spend our whole lives thinking about these issues, we are the ones with the capacity to understand what is good for society”.
“Yes, we are divided in two major opposing bands; the Left and the Right. “Each side “knows” the other is wrong, but we reach that conclusion after “rigorous”, “educated”, “rational” analysis. Such a task is beyond the skills of the majority of the population”. “As we all “know”, most voters are swayed by emotion, not by seasoned rational arguments”.
The elites also say: “Even the best-educated among the population; those with university degrees, the doctors, the lawyers, the accountants, the engineers, the dentists, etc., who have the intellectual ability to grasp the issues, they do not have the time to study them and decide correctly”.
“Therefore, representative democracy is the best option; the people elect representatives to make the hard decisions. The representatives listen to the intellectuals and the commentators to further guide their decisions”.
I think the arguments are weak, but wrapped-up in nice-sounding sophistry, (I could use a more direct word…)
The Swiss people said to all that: “We no longer buy that. We changed our minds. We believe we are smart enough to run our lives, do our jobs, run our small business, raise our families, we are sure we are also smart enough to make the political decisions by ourselves, directly. We do not need middle-men”.
The Swiss radically changed the rules of the game. They did it without bloodshed, (this is not a small credit to the average Swiss and also to the elites).
The Swiss liked the people-initiated referendum to make major decisions so much that the idea rapidly spread to the Swiss cantons, cities, towns and villages. The cantons in federal Switzerland are like the states in the US and Australia, the Canadian provinces, etc.
In today’s Switzerland, popular referendums are routine. Every year the Swiss vote 3 to 4 times. Each time they decide on laws, on changes to the constitution, rising or reducing taxes, approve or reject budgets, etc. They do it at the national, cantonal, and local level.
The overall history of Switzerland is not radically better than the history of current stable representative democracies. If they did it, others can too.
The Swiss truckers, bus drivers, housewives, doctors, lawyers, small business owners, etc., have proven that by making the major political decisions themselves, they have produced the best-run country in the world; prosperous, stable, peaceful, free, with excellent health care, excellent education, excellent social protection, a high-tech powerhouse, etc.
By taking politics into their own hands, the Swiss are no longer fed up with politics and politicians. Why should they be, if they are the ones who call the shots?
This radical resetting of the balance of power has also made elections in Switzerland far less important than in representative democracies. When the politicians have less power than the people, it does not matter much who gets elected, or which party gets the most votes.
The parties and the politicians know that too. They realize the laws and decisions they develop need the support of the people to pass. If they do not have that support, the people can call a referendum and stop whatever the politicians want to do.
But the change goes beyond stopping the politicians; the Swiss people also have the power to propose national, cantonal, and local laws. They can propose changes and change the national constitution and the constitution of the cantons, increase minimum wages, approve a universal income, buying weapons for the Swiss Army, build a new public swimming pool, a new road, etc.
Another wonderful effect of people’s power has been that the politicians of left, right and center, work cooperatively to make laws and policies. Each knows that the other’s voters also have to support the new law for a law to pass.
Because they have to work cooperatively, Swiss politicians also avoid the aggressive fights in parliament, in the media, etc., that dominate in representative democracies
Politics in Switzerland is a far more subdued affair than in representative democracies.
Direct democracy, real people power, also prevents the rise of demagogues of the Left or the Right, with their promises like; “if you vote for me, for my party, we will bring peace, prosperity, justice, harmony…”. They only have to add “paradise…”.
It is time you and your fellow citizens push for this bloodless revolutionary change, don’t you think?