The dishonesty, or ignorance, or both, of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) about Switzerland and populism

This post is three times longer than usual; I hope each sentence is interesting enough so you will read the next one.

I just watched a video that I find indignant, and indign, of the BBC, of the BBC’s program Newsnight; “Switzerland: The cradle of populism?” is the title of the video. The BBC broadcasted it on September 28, 2018. You can watch it by entering the title in your computer or phone.

The title makes it clear; perhaps there is a link between populism and Switzerland.

By trying to link Switzerland to populism the authors show they do not know much about the Swiss political system, or perhaps they are just dishonest, with a hidden agenda to discredit democracy. Perhaps they are elitists also, people who do not believe in democracy, in government by the people, and only pay lip service to democracy to pose as democrats..

The reality is not like they present it, the reality is that the Swiss direct democracy system makes it impossible for populism to govern.

Populist leaders emerge in representative democracies, or much worse regimes, because in representative democracies the people do not have the power to decide anything and, in time, they get frustrated.

In a direct democracy, is is not like that; the people still elect the politicians, but the people can decide anything they want to decide, over and above the decisions of the politicians.

In representative democracies, it does not matter if the Left, the Right, the Center, or a coalition, governs, it is always the same; the people vote, the people elect their representatives, and the representatives have all the power.

In a representative democracy, the famous “check and balances” occur only among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary; the citizens have no power to check and balance the power of any of the three. If anything, it is the opposite, as it happens in those countries when the supreme court, appointed by politicians, cancels the results of a popular referendum because “it is contrary to the constitution”.

Direct democracy is provides the most important check and balance; the only one we need, the others are phony checks and balances.

All the people in those representative democracies can do between elections, if they disagree with the executive, the legislative or the judiciary, is to demonstrate, protest, riot or turn to other forms of violence.

In a representative democracy, voters have no mechanisms to vote on an issue and prevail over those in power.

When in a representative democracy, the same party controls the executive and the legislative, things are even worse; even the phoney checks and balances go out the window; the executive can do anything it wants.

Even if at the next election, voters decide to punish those who govern, all they can do is give control to a rival party. As you can guess, the rival party, once it governs, will also use its excessive power, but in a different political direction; the people still have zero power to stop or push the new executive and legislative.

In representative democracies, the economic and social lobbies soon realise that what they have to do is gain direct influence with the elected politicians. If they do that they control the agenda.

The lobbies gain influence by “delivering votes” at election time. They do that with money to finance election campaigns. They do it also by persuading the members of their unions, business groups and professional associations to vote for this or that politician or party.

Lobbies know that in representative democracy, those who govern have the real power, not the voters. This is why many such organisations donate to any party or candidate who may win; they want to be on the winning side, no matter who wins; it is a sort of “diversification of investments”.

In Switzerland they do things differently, they still elect their politicians. Switzerland used to be a representative democracy, until they realised voters should be able to control the politicians, not just elect them.

The Swiss created the process to make sure the politicians can not do anything the majority of the people oppose. The process also allows the people to force the politicians to do something the majority of the Swiss people strongly want done.

This radical change eliminates the problems of representative democracies; in Swiss direct democracy it is impossible for the politicians to go astray from the will of the people; the politicians do not have the power to do that.

If the politicians can not go astray, populism can not rise, a simple concept of difficult execution.

Because the politicians in Switzerland lack the power of politicians in representative democracies, the lobbies and the pressure groups also know there is no point in pressuring politicians to do things the people will oppose and reject. They also know there is no point in trying to stop the changes the people want.

Populism (of the Right and the Left), demagoguery, “messianism”, “great leaders”, and other assorted political derangements appear in representative democracies. They appear precisely because the voters can not control the politicians.

Conclusion: Switzerland is no “cradle of populism”, it is the opposite, it is the cradle of real modern democracy (amazingly, and shamefully for humanity, it took 2800 years after the Greeks did it).

The “cradle of populism” are the countries with representative democracies. One of those countries is the BBC’s own country. Has the BBC not learned anything from Brexit?

But I suppose it is more comfortable to do a fake program on Switzerland than to do an in-depth analysis of how the governments, of the Right and the Left, who control the BBC budget work and, as a result, populism emerges.

In representative democracies, as the politicians make more decisions that most voter dislike, or do not make the ones the people want, the frustration of the people keeps rising.

Eventually, the people become so upset that many of them, perhaps most of them, fall for the politicians with grandiose ideas who promise to “lead them out of this valley of tears”; “to make the country great”, “to real justice”, “to real equality”, “to rights for this and that group”, “to free them from the clutches and lobbies and pressure groups, from the capitalists, from the leftists, from the unions…”

In Switzerland the rise of people like Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders or “Mr. Brexit”, or any other populists, is not possible, because there is no need for them. The Swiss system has flexibility to govern for the majority by the majority, built-in. In Switzerland, ideology takes a back seat because the system forces the politicians to focus on the practical solutions most voters want, not ideological “magico-messianic”, politically mad “solutions”.

For example; Switzerland is very welcoming to business, they have low taxes; Mr Trump would like that. They also have better control of immigration, but they have a higher percentage of immigrants than almost any other country.

On the other side, Mr. Sanders would like the Swiss universal health care system. Switzerland has the best universal health care system in the World. In Switzerland, poor, working class, middle class and wealthy, all are covered by the same universal health system.

The poor receive the money they need to pay the premiums from the government. The only advantage the people with more money have is access to nice, but not essential, luxuries, such as a private room in the hospital, but at prices that are reasonable and affordable to many.

Swiss voters stay focused on issues because they decide issues, the system does not work them into the polarising frenzy that politicians in representative democracies work their followers into, in their mad race to gain power, almost absolute power.

So, dear fellows at the BBC, you do not understand; Switzerland is not “the cradle of populism”, it is the “vaccine” against populism.

In Switzerland, politics is more rational than in the UK, and all other countries, because of direct democracy; the people have the final say on any issue, not the fast-talking demagogues.

Switzerland is probably the only country where populism will not rise, even if a “populist” party governed, because the voters cut short any demagoguery, any grandiose or extreme policies.

It is the US, France, Germany, the UK, etc., it is the representative democracies, that are “the cradles of populism”. If populists gain power in those countries they will do exactly as those in power do now, but in the opposite direction, and perhaps aggressively, which will generate a fresh wave of opposing populists.

The BBC would do a much better public service if, instead of airing groundless programs about the Swiss, did a real in-depth analysis of why millions of ordinary reasonable people, in the UK and other representative democracies, are turning to populism.

Populists of the right and the left are also clueless about the Swiss system, even if they admire it; in the same BBC video, Steve Bannon, the well-known US “populist”, congratulates the Swiss by saying in a speech in Switzerland: “you are the most free and most prosperous place in Europe”.

It is obvious Mr Bannon does not know Swiss democracy, or Switzerland; the people of Switzerland are the most free and most prosperous people in the World, not just in Europe. They are considerably freer and more prosperous than the people in the United States.

The Swiss are freer because direct democracy gives then the power and freedom to run their country, their cantons, their cities, towns and villages the way the people want, not the way the elected politicians and the lobbies want. No other country comes close, certainly not the United States.

In terms of prosperity, the income per capita of Switzerland is higher than the US and, if you take into account that the rich in the US are extremely rich and that the poor are much poorer than in Switzerland, it is obvious the Swiss are considerably more prosperous too. What prosperity do the people without health insurance have in the US?, or the middle class people who go broke paying for health services if they do not have health insurance? Or those in debt to their eyebrows who lose everything when the recession comes?

Steve Bannon and, I suspect Trump, Sanders, the rest of populists, as well as the producers of the BBC, are pretty clueless about how much better  their countries would function if they adopted the Swiss model of direct democracy, freedom and social protection, etc., assuming the country has the collective skills to do it.

Mr Bannon is another example of an American intoxicated with the fake idea the US is the freest, best democracy in the World, it is not, it never was because representative democracy makes it impossible, Switzerland is and has been the best democracy in the World because it is the only direct democracy. Representative democracy is not democracy, it is not because, while the people elect their representatives the will of the majority often does not prevail on very important issues. In Switzerland it does, that is why it is a real (not perfect) democracy.

Nevertheless, the US still is one of the best countries in the World, that is why millions risk their lives to enter illegally, but it needs direct democracy, urgently. The defeat (fake or real) of Mr. Trump does nothing to address the root problems who gave rise to Mr. Trump and the movement he leads. If the system does not evolve towards direct democracy, in the US and other countries, the worst is yet to come. But the elites, so far, seem oblivious.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Swiss consolidated their direct democracy after a pandemic. Perhaps the current one is the opportunity we need…

Victor Lopez


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