Low trust in politicians is a blessing in disguise!

The heading is a bit provocative. It came to me as I read for the second time a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developmen (OECD).

Because I had read the OECD report before, I knew the Swiss had the highest level of trust in their government.

You can see the report here.

What I had not done is relate distrust of politicians to trust in government, let me explain how distrust in politicians brought about trust in politicians.

In 1874 the citizens of Zurich did not trust their elected representatives much. The level of trust was so low that the citizens decided; “enough of representative democracy!, we want direct democracy!”.

What triggered their anger was the mismanagement by the government of a cholera pandemic that killed many citizens.

One of the factors that triggered the people turning against politicians and the elite was that many in the elite fled Zurich to their country states. I wonder to what extent this is happening all over the World in the current pandemic…

But the Swiss still elect representatives, they still have a parliament and an executive, but since 1874 they have them under control. Basically, Swiss politicians, and even the Swiss Supreme court, are subordinate to the will of the people and this is what, over the years has generated the trust.

The Swiss trust their politicians now because the people have the last word on any policy or law the politicians want to put in place, there is no fear the politicians will not do what the people want.

The result has been good for the Swiss; the politicians enjoy the feeling that the people trust them, and the people enjoy the feeling of trusting the politicians. That is how it should be in all democracies.

Direct democracy produces also amazing results that cut through all the heated conservative, progressive, socialist, and capitalist rhetoric we see in representative democracies.

For example, Switzerland has the best health care system in the World. It is universal, it really covers everybody.

You could say it is “socialist”, but it is “capitalist” because it is privately funded; the people pay their health insurance premiums, like people in other countries pay their car or home insurance.

To make sure everybody has the money to pay the premiums, the Swiss government gives people with lower incomes the money to pay the premiums.

One of the great things about the Swiss health system is that if you want, you can book appointments directly with medical specialists.

The Swiss voters do not care too much about ideology when they vote to address problems; they focus on the results, not on ideology.

Unfortunately, the OECD is not yet sold on direct democracy; its recommendation:

“Governments with low levels of trust must do more to win back their citizens’ trust; they need to start putting more money into public services, and become better at meeting the needs of the entire population, including in healthcare, employment, and education. They also need to make sure that all their citizens can access government services”.

This is as bland as you can get, it will have zero effect on most politicians.

But keep in mind most elected politicians in your country will react like their Swiss counterparts did in the 1800s; they will not want to hear about direct democracy.

The hard truth is that if the people of those countries want to increase the level of trust in their governments they will have to do what the Swiss did; say loud and clear, and insistently: “enough, from now on we will have the final say on all your decisions and laws you propose, also, the Supreme Court will not have the power to turn down the results of popular referendums. We will also be the ones calling the referendums, not you, and the results will be binding for you”.

For comparison’s sake, look at the levels of trust in other important democracies; 64% of Canadians trust their government, 56% of the Dutch, 56% of New Zealanders, 53% of Germans, 49% of the Swedish, 45% of the Danish, 43% of the Australians, 33% in the US and 28% of the French.

In Switzerland, 82% of the people trust their government, impressive, eh?

I suspect the Swiss also trust their business, media, unions, academia, etc., more than other countries because, as they reduced the power of politicians, they also reduce the power of all those who in representative democracies have too much influence on the powerful politicians and push politicians away from what most ordinary citizens want.

Let us face it; if in a democracy half of the citizens, or more, do not trust their elected representatives, what sort of government of the people, by the people, for the people is that?

Let’s go!

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