The Index ranks the countries of the World by what the Economist considers are good indicators of the quality of democracy. Click here to see The Index
The Economist places Switzerland behind 11 other countries, this makes no sense; Switzerland far and away the most democratic country in the World.
Switzerland is the most democratic country because it practices “government by the people” more often and more deeply than any other country.
The Swiss people can prevail over their elected politicians on any issue the Swiss people consider should be decided by popular referendum. The Swiss people can declared invalid laws proposed by the elected representatives, and they do. The Swiss can also enact new laws without the consent of the elected representatives. They can change the Constitution without the consent of the elected representatives.
Not even the Swiss Supreme Court can overturn the results of popular referendums. Nor can declare the results contrary to the Constitution, the way they do in the US and most other representative democracies.
The Swiss people are the supreme authority in Switzerland; that is what “government by the people” means. There is no need to “refine” the criteria.
Unfortunately, for the Economist, democracy does not mean “government by the people”, it must mean other interesting things, but none of them can have the weight of “government by the people”, because that is what democracy is.
The Report ranks Norway as the most democratic country and places Switzerland as the 12th most democratic country in the World.
Let us compare “government by the people” in Norway and Switzerland.
In the Norwegian constitution popular referendums are not even mentioned. This means the Norwegian people have no say in the running of Norway; their Constitution does not give them that power, except voting at election time.
The Norwegian people can not call for referendums on any issue, all they can do, if the politicians do something Norwegians do not like, is: accept that their fate is in the hands of politicians, complain, riot or revolt.
Norway is one of the best countries in the World; stable, successful, with governments that listen to the people, etc., but as far as “government by the people”, as far as real democracy goes, Norway is much less of a democracy than Switzerland.
The people of Norway have no authority to decide any issue of national or local importance, except if the Government asks them. But even in that case, the Norwegian government can ignore the verdict of the people. Even if the people vote 99% in favour, or against, the issue, the government can ignore what the people want, some democracy!
Norwegian referendums do not have more weight than opinion polls.
Norway’s elected representatives; the politicians hold all political power in Norway, like in all other representative “democracies”.
Switzerland does it very differently; the control of the politicians by the people is built into the system; it is part of the of the way Switzerland works. The people can call referendums on almost anything they decide they want to decide. They do it in a civic, orderly manner; no violent protests take place because they are not necessary.
How can Switzerland, a country where the people vote more times the in Norway, on more issues and have more rights to decide how the country is run, be less democratic than Norway? To consider Norway more democratic than Switzerland is absurd.
None of the other 11 countries the Economist considers are better democracies that Switzerland either, they all are far less democratic.
The people of Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands and Taiwan have far less power to decide issues or policies than the Swiss; this is why they are democracies or lower quality.
In fact, right after Switzerland, which should number one, The Economist should rank Taiwan; the Taiwanese people, in many ways inspired by the Swiss, have more “government by the people” than the other countries ahead of Taiwan.
Taiwan was an authoritarian regime not long ago. If Taiwan can, any country can evolve into a direct democracy.
I hope the next edition of the Economist’s Report considers “government by the people” as the key criteria to rank democracies. It is obvious that for The Economist “government by the people” is not the essence of democracy, but it should be; it was for the Greeks 2800 years ago, it is for the Swiss now and it is for those of us who believe in real democracy.
Please, pass this on and make others aware that the Economist rankings are wrong, mislead people and should be revised.