How representative democracy gradually degenerates into dictatorship or chaos; we need Swiss-style direct democracy

Something is wrong with representative democracies; even the most stable among them, political polarisation Left-Right is deeper than ever before. Most people think of the US as the example of polarisation.

In the US it has reached the point where Republican and Democrat politicians despise each other. The media are equally polarised; the media on the Left disparages and ridicules the media on the Right, and the media on the Right returns the favour.

It has reached a point where ordinary people no longer consider the media as a source of credible, independent information; people use the media to reinforce their opinions. This is extremely unhealthy for democracy.

In the US, the situation has reached a level of polarisation that the people on the Left consider most people on the right as dumb, ignorant, and practically fascists. It is no surprise that the people on the Right consider those on the Left as Communists.

In other well-known democracies, the situation is not as extreme as in the US, but nobody disputes that polarisation is higher than ever in France, the UK, Germany, etc. Even countries like Canada and Sweden, recently considered examples of low key politics, are more polarised than ever before.

I believe that, in part, many Western democracies are polarised because the ideas that create polarisation in the US spill over to other countries through the international American media, American movies, American political campaigns.

I am sure polarisation results from other factors, but one that is obvious is that politicians foster polarisation; to win elections politicians feel compelled to paint rivals as not very intelligent, unprincipled, narrow-minded, at the service of lobbies, etc.

Why the fights to win elections are so fierce in the US and other representative democracies?, because politicians have a lot of power in those countries.

This means that in elections, there is a lot at stake. The Right wants to win to do the things it considers need to be done; perhaps lower taxes to business, stop or discourage unionisation, strengthen the armed forces, build more highways, etc. The Left wants to win to spend more on social programs, increase pensions, make education and health care free, increase taxes for individuals and business, etc.

The Right contends it will deliver the Country to the “promised land of milk and honey”. The Left promises the same thing, but with different policies.

As a result, the country divides itself into two major camps, who are almost like political religions. The people who define themselves as progressives feel compelled to vote for leftist parties no matter what. The people who define themselves as conservatives feel compelled to vote for the conservative party.

Polarisation and religious-like thinking do not favour discussion based on the facts of issues. In political “religions” people follow their “faith” no matter what. It is obvious such outlook does not favour the rational, respectful debate that is essential for democracy to survive.

When politicians on the Right or the Left demonize rivals, they are no longer democrats. Democracy rests on the respect for the opinions of those we disagree with.

But there is another aspect of representative democracy that also corrupts voters; the practice of political parties to win voters, not with open arguments but with promises; normally economic promises that, in time, can ruin the country; “with us university will be free”, “we will reduce taxes to business to foster employment”…., well, you know what I am talking about.

The party in power, to win elections, can do more than make promises. It can try to seduce voters with various gifts right before the election. For example, the government, right before the election, instituted a program that will give homeowners $ 10 000 if they install solar panels. This is a very seductive program, but for people who can afford to take part in it.

Who can afford to take part?, the people able to pay to the contractor 10 000 up front, because the homeowner will have to wait several months to get money government. This means people who do not have the money to pay the contractor before the government money arrives, cannot join the program. The result will be that the people with fewer means will continue to pay more for their electricity, more in absolute terms and in proportion to their income.

The government could have geared the program to favour the people with fewer means, but all governments know the people with fewer means vote less. This means that the electoral “return on investment” is better with people in higher income brackets and enough in number to swing the election.

In representative democracies, the parties want to create the association: “if you vote for us, that is what you will get”. The other parties may argue that such pre-electoral gifts are an inappropriate use of public money. Unfortunately, most voters can not say: “wait a minute, you are buying our votes with public money”. Most voters see that if they vote for this or that party, they will get various “gifts”.

The other party may say such programs are an irresponsible use of public money. Unfortunately, they will do exactly the same thing, or worse, if they are in power.

Representative democracy caters to the immediate. It seeks to make voters feel good right then and there.

The result is the incredible deficits and debt levels of many countries. We also see the incredible orgy of money printing most countries have engaged in.

Direct democracy changes all that. Direct democracy gives the people the power to decide laws, policies, taxation levels, etc. By doing that, direct democracy makes the voter directly responsible for the economic and general management of the country.

Direct democracy also makes impossible polarisation at the levels we see in representative democracies. It is impossible because the politicians do not have the power to decide; they need the consent of the people.

In a direct democracy, the people can stop any law or program the politicians come up with. In fact, they stop the politicians and also decide independently of the politicians. We know that from the experience of Swiss direct democracy.

For example, on the past Sept. 26th, the Swiss voted No to raise taxes for business and  No to decrease taxes for people on salaries. 65% voted against the proposal, and in all cantons the proposal lost ( Cantons are roughly similar to states in the US). In several cantons almost 80% of the voters said No to the proposals.

If voters in representative democracies decided that, I am certain than in most of them, the proposal would pass because there is a widespread feeling that people who derive their income from investments are unfairly privileged by the system. In such countries, most voters would center on “righting a wrong”; they would not think too much if taxing people who invest may drive them to other countries, if business would invest less in R&D, if business would become less competitive, if jobs would be lost, etc.

Swiss voters do think about the consequences of their votes, they have to. They do it because the Swiss decide specific issues and are responsible for the consequences of their decisions; they know there is no “promised land of milk and honey”, they also know they can not blame the politicians.

In short, representative democracy weakens itself from within because politicians do all they can to “buy votes”. Of course they do it with very skillful words, so that the people will not notice what is happening.

I do not want now to get into another big issue; how lobbies by-pass, even corrupt, representative democracy by donating or lending lots of money to political campaigns, to create obligations on politicians to help the lobby.

In the 1800s, the Swiss drafted their constitution using many of the ideas of the French Revolution and the American Revolution. The time has come for the Americans, the French and the rest, to copy and adapt their constitutions to the Swiss one and become direct democracies. The Swiss improved American and French ideas when they introduced the old, but new again, Greek idea of direct democracy.

But the politicians will not do it voluntarily, they dislike giving up the monopoly power they have. We know that because Swiss politicians didn’t like it either in 1867; the people forced them to, peacefully but insistently.

If you want to save your democracy, and prevent the dangers of extreme reactions, you have to push for direct democracy.

Germany had representative democracy in the 30s, and you know what happened when it stopped working…, Spain and Italy too, so did Chile…

Victor Continue reading “How representative democracy gradually degenerates into dictatorship or chaos; we need Swiss-style direct democracy”

Swiss-style Direct Democracy, not California-style direct democracy, is the system Milennials all over the World need! Let them know why!

Millennials are the people who are now in their twenties, thirties and forties.

These people less likely to vote, they are the most educated and also the most disillusioned and distrustful of the political system.

The Harris, Pew and Gallup polls say those things about Millennials, however, from my personal interactions with people of all ages, I also see that many people younger and older than the Millennials, are disillusioned and do not trust the political system.

But let us not fool ourselves; Millennials and the rest are disillusioned with the politicians, they simply do not trust them. Unless you are blind and deaf, a fanatic of a political party or make a living from politics in the form of work, grants, etc., you know most of the reasons why so many citizens do not trust politicians in most democracies. Of course, in dictatorships, they have no choice but to say that they trust the government; no “self-respecting” dictatorship will allow anyone not to “trust” it. You only have to look at the “polls” about China and the likes of it, to know that.

In representative democracies many people do not trust politicians because the system of representative democracy itself generates those problems.

This is how it happens:

In representative democracies, politicians once elected they have all the power they need to do anything they want. They do not have it when they are in the opposition, but once in power they do and behave essentially like their predecessors; removed from the people and ignoring the people.

In representative democracies, once the people elect the politicians, the people have no say on any law, policy or treaty the politicians decide it is good for the town, state, province, region or country. In a representative democracy, the people are mere spectators; they can scream, demonstrate, burn cars and garbage containers, etc., but in representative democracies the people do not have the power and the tools to control the decisions politicians make.

Because they have all that power corruption is a logical consequence; the lobbies, all of them, know that they do not need to persuade the majority of citizens to have the politicians (who supposedly represent the majority) pass a law that favours those who pay the lobbyist. All they have to do is figure out how to gain influence, even control, over the politician.

It is a lot easier to influence the politicians than the majority of people; to gain influence over the politicians all you have to do is figure out the professional, sometimes the personal, priorities of the relatively small group constituted by the politicians.

Even the honest politicians can not escape the influence of the lobbies. One of the reason is financial; the politicians and the political parties need money to compete in elections. If they refuse money, in the form of donations and other commitments from big business, unions, professional associations and others, it will be very difficult for a politician or political party to win. If donations are not so important to win, then bank loans are. Naturally, banks do not lend money to a political party in the way they lend ordinary citizens money to pay their car loans, their mortgage or small business loan. This is because the politicians, once elected can pass laws, hand out contract, increase or reduce taxes, lower or increase tariffs, etc., affecting the banks and their big customers.

This is why lobbyists often help the major moderate political parties on the Left or the Right. The lobbies know that a lot of the positioning of political parties on social issues is not reflected in the hard facts of money.

For example, in the US, it does not really matter if Democrats or Republicans win, most big companies win, no matter who wins. We saw socially progressive Barack Obama rescue capitalist General Motors, we saw Trump reducing taxes benefited big companies and the rich.

Year after year we see how the middle class, the working class and the poor are screwed by “the system”, by the politicians. That is why the rich become richer and the middle class and below, poorer. It happens no matter who wins: what more proof you want politicians of major parties do not really work for the majority of the people.

They give demagogic speeches about “serving the people”, “justice”, “fairness”, “opportunity”, etc., but at the end of the day, economically they do not do much. They distract the majority of citizens with measures that do not cost big business much; LGBT rights, women’s rights, injustice with minorities, changes to the educational system and so on, but big money remains untouchable.

Many big business have also discovered that instituting socially progressive measures deflects attention from excessive profits and from the income of executives.

In other cases, politicians also know that if they “behave” while in politics, once they leave politics because they lose an election, or because they retire from politics, very well paying jobs will be waiting for them at universities (who also depend on rich donors), foundations, big business or even as lobbyists to “persuade” their former colleagues in the executive and the legislative to do pass this or that law, etc.

Sometimes, the politicians starts already with a flawed character and become easy target of legal blackmail; the lobbyist does not have to say anything, the politician knows that the lobbyist knows.

Direct democracy gets rid of most legal and illegal corruption of the democratic system because it turns the tables on the lobbyists. In a direct democracy, the people have more power than the politicians. In a direct democracy, the people still elect politicians, but the people have the power to stop any law, policy or regulation tha politicians want to pass or have passed if it does not serve the interests of the majority of the people.

In a direct democracy, the people have that power at any time after the election. In this situation, the politicians know it makes no sense to pass a law that the majority of the people oppose. They soon learn “we better pass only laws, policies or regulations that do not get the majority annoyed because they will kill it”.

As  a result, the lobbies are “defanged”, they stop having power over the politicians because the people are the ones having power over the politicians. Why spend millions donating to politicians, why give big loans to politicinans or parties, if they can not deliver? In this way, direct democracy redically cuts the influence of the lobbies on the political decisions the country makes and, automatically laws, policies, regulations or treaties that help the lobbies and not the majority of citizens.

In the end, direct democracy is better for everyone because it produces a healthier, more stable democracy. We all know business needs a healthy and stable democracy because instability is bad for business, it can even be dangerous.

How do we know this? Because in Switzerland, the only country practicing direct democracy in all levels of government, politicians enjoy the highest level of trust anywhere and the country is the most stable (that is the main reason for the rich keep their money there, it is not bank secrecy laws. The reason for Swiss stability is obvious; Swiss politicians have to govern in tune with the majority of the people.

This means that when we speak of “corrupt politicians”, we should stop focusing on the politicins and more on the system. There is no way to stop political corruption, legal and illegal, as long as politicians have more power than the voters.

If Millennials want to regain trust in the system, they will have to act. They will have to mobilise until the politicians agree to change the system to direct democracy. In a direct democracy, the politicians will keep their jobs but they will lose a lot of power. In the end, even the politicians will enjoy the change, even if they may en up not as wealthy as they may now; it can not be fun for politicians to have to bend to the pressures of lobbies.

Millennials would do well to learn from Switzerland instead of from the never eneding stream of papers coming out of American and other universities about democracy. Those institutions are not interested or are ignorant of direct democracy. This is why they propose superficial changes such as proportional representation, participative democracy, deliberative democracy, etc. None of those changes deals with the root problem; politicians with too much power, much more than the people.

If Millennials want to fix the system they will have to act, just like the Swiss did; Swiss elected politicians did not want direct democracy either, they enjoyed the power it gave them.

Millennials will become illusioned with politics if they change the system from “we vote, they decide” to “we vote, we decide”

Victor Lopez

On Sept. 26, 2021, the Swiss voted and decided, the Germans voted but decided nothing

Every day it becomes more obvious that representative democracy is a dumb system for many reasons, one of them is that it dumbs people because the people do not have to decide real, specific, issues, (for sure, dictatorship, religious or not, is much worse, it dumbs people and is also a crazy, dehumanised and dehumanising, system).

2700 years ago, the Greek figured out that direct democracy is the best system because it does the obvious; it gives people the power and the responsibility to govern themselves; no “emissaries” from the gods, no “divine” books, no “great” leaders with special talents. Instead of that, ordinary people decide what is good or bad for the people, it makes sense.

But it requires a radical shift in the perception people have of themselves; from “we need special people to guide the nation and decide for that nation”, people need to feel good enough about themselves to say to themselves: “most of us are smart, are capable, are responsible, are rational, we have the common sense required to decide by ourselves”.

Amazingly, 2700 years later, only the Swiss come close to Greek democracy. Among the peoples of the World, only the Swiss people decide their destiny. All other nations elect those who make the decisions or have various dictatorships and dictators who appoint themselves to “guide” the people by force.

Only the Swiss have direct democracy, which means the people have more power than the elected politicians, at the local, regional (canton, state, etc.,) and national level.

On September 26th the Swiss people decided that gay marriage will be as legal in Switzerland as any other marriage. They also decided not to raise taxes to incomes generated by investments and not to lower them for people on salaries.

The Swiss make decisions like that on four dates every year. They also decide if a swimming pool will be built in the town, changing the constitution of the canton or change the federal constitution. They do all that on their own initiative and also where the law requires a popular referendum. Interestingly, Swiss politicians can not call referendums. Even more interesting, all decisions, law proposals, treaties, etc., proposed by the Swiss politicians in the executive and/or the legislative, can be thrown about by the Swiss people if they so decide.

By contrast, the Germans also voted on the 26th of September and, unfortunately, they did not decide one single issue; all they have done is elect politicians. They are the ones who will decide all issues, and the German people can do nothing, zero, zilch, nada, about what the politicians decide. In the German system, the politicians decide if the borders will be open or closed, if Germany will sign a treaty with Russia, if taxes will be raised or lowered and for whom, if gay marriage will be legal, etc.

At most, what the German people have done is decide who will make the decisions; the decision-making power will rest with the politicians and, sometimes, with the Supreme Court. By the way, in Switzerland, the Supreme court has a zero say on the results of referendums. To the Swiss, the notion that a bunch of judges, selected and appointed by the elected politicians, could prevail over the will of the people, is absurd.

After each election, the German people become spectators; the actors are the politicians. The German public will, again, be just spectators. They will have the same power that spectators in a football match have; they can scream, insult the referee, insult the payer of the other team, burn containers and cars, but can do nothing about the decisions and actions of the referees and the players.

It makes sense that spectators in a theatre, or at a football game, lack the power to decide if the play should stop, or a goal should count. It makes sense because they go there voluntarily, knowing what the rules are and knowing the play or the game will not affect their daily lives; taxes, neighbourhood safety, the education their kids will receive, border control, etc.

The German system is not really a democracy. Democracy means “government by the people”. It is obvious it can not be that because in Germany the people do not govern, they elect those who will govern; it is very different.

But what happens in Germany is like what happens in the US, in Canada, in France, in the UK, etc. For example, Canadians had a national election last week, they decided nothing, they just re-elected the same government and the same “opposition” (what a name!). Canadians, like Germans, will be spectators for another four years.

That the German system has proportional representation, while the Canadian has not, it does not make much difference; proportional representation gives a voice in parliament to people who otherwise would not be represented, but the decision-making power continues to be in the hands of the politicians.

The Swiss system has proportional representation, but that does not make much difference. What makes all the difference is the power people have to decide issues. Keep in mind to that anybody in Switzerland can start a referendum, it does not have to be a political party represented in parliament. In the Swiss system, everyone has a real say in the running of the country.

Direct democracy, besides being real democracy, has many other benefits; prevent political polarisation, as elections are less important because politicians have less decision-making power. Politicians can not make the grandiose promises we see in representative democracies; they know and the people know politicians lack the power to promise much.

Direct democracy also removes a lot of ideology from politics. This happens because the people decide concrete issues. The people also know they handle the consequences of their decisions. This forces them to focus on the hard facts. Therefore, for example, Swiss voters soundly rejected the proposal to raise taxes for capital and lower them for salaries. Swiss voters had no choice but to look at the real consequences of their own decision. For example, they had to consider the effects on investment, research, relocation of business, etc., if taxes on capital were raised.

Direct democracy also does away with concept of “the opposition”. Swiss political parties soon realised it made no sense to make promises they could not fulfill if most of the people did not back the promises and could call a referendum. The result is that the 4-5 major parties, who represent 70-80% of voters, always work in a coalition to write laws and plan policies that most voters will support.

One added benefit of the Swiss system in relation to the German or Canadian system is that it produces sounder decisions politically and in effectiveness. The decisions are politically more solid because most of the people explicitly backed them. They are also smarter because the combined brainpower of voters if superior to the brain power of the politicians.

If you like direct democracy, spread to others this post and this website. Thank you.

Victor Lopez

Direct democracy at work (fourth post)

In this fourth post, I translate the arguments that the committee who gathered the signatures for the referendum puts forward for tomorrow’s, Sept. 26th, referendum.

As I already said, the referendum proposes to reduce taxes on salaries and to increase them for incomes derived from capital, such as business, from shares, from selling crypto currencies, etc.

Like in my previous translations, I may add details not included in the original document in order to facilitate the understanding of the non-Swiss reader.

Here is the translation:

The cashier at the store, the freelance graphic designer or the bricklayer, all work to earn an income. But there is also a small group of people who do not need to work because they let their money work for them. Thanks to interest, profits on shares or dividends, i.e. income from capital, the rich are getting richer and richer, while the 99% of the population suffer from rising rents and health insurance premiums.

Wealth inequality has been growing for years. Already in 2016, the richest 1 percent of the Swiss population owned 42.3 percent of the global wealth in Switzerland. This means 99% owned 57.7%.

Thanks to dividends and profits from shares, the richest are putting more and more money into their pockets. But this money is not then available for wages, which have been stagnating for years, while rents and health insurance premiums are rising. The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation even worse. The wealth of the 300 richest people has reached a record high of 707 billion francs, while countless people face uncertain economic prospects.

Growing inequality also hurts the economy. Much of the wealth of the richest people is used to speculate in the financial markets and therefore does not feed the real economy. If working people benefited from this money, it would flow back into the economic cycle and purchasing power would increase. Small businesses, which suffered greatly during the pandemic, would also benefit.

Currently, capital income is privileged in several ways. For example, large shareholders only have to pay taxes on 70% of their capital income, while everyone else pays taxes on their entire income. We owe our prosperity to the people who work every day in offices, on construction sites and at home. Right now, the richest 1% are getting richer at the expense of all of us, and they still have a tax advantage.

The 99% initiative will allow us to tax large and important shareholders more fairly and to relieve the 99% of the population. The revenue raised will lower taxes for people with low and middle incomes and to strengthen public services, for example by reducing health premiums or providing more money for childcare. The 99% initiative is a first step towards tax justice!

The initiative committee therefore recommends that you vote: Yes

The Swiss Executive and the Swiss Parliament, in the same information package, recommend to voters to reject the initiative, with the arguments I already translated.

Is interesting to note that many entrepreneurs support the initiative, although the initiative is proposed by the organisation Young Socialists.

So that you get a feel for who those entrepreneurs are, I include their names and their business.

This also illustrates how direct democracy introduces diversity into political decisions; in Switzerland, many entrepreneurs side with leftists on this issue. I believe in representative democracies this is less likely; entrepreneurs are not likely to vote for Socialists.

In representative democracies, issues are more polarised. It is as if people affiliated themselves with political “religions”, with certain dogmas.

By the way, in tomorrow’s vote, it is likely voters will reject the initiative; it seems Swiss voters understand the issues and the effects of increasing taxes to capital, that it is a delicate balance; taxing capital too high might reduce employment in Switzerland because business might not come, might leave, might decrease investment in research, etc.

Swiss voters are also acutely aware that when they decide taxation levels and other issues, they literally take responsibility for the fate of their country, their lives, and the lives of their children. They can not blame the politicians.

In representative democracies, proportional or not, the people elect the politicians, but the politicians decide all issues.

It is also possible that Swiss voters make better political decisions because they know they can not later say: “the politicians are the ones to blame, nothing we can do”.

The system of direct democracy forced voters, at least the more aware voters, to inform themselves.

Turnout in Swiss referendums is normally relatively low, around 40%, although in some issues can reach 70%.

Some people are quick to speak of “voter fatigue” to explain the relatively low turnouts; that is just idle speculation. Voter turnout could be low also because many people aero not too interested in some issues. For example, most Swiss may not care about gay marriage, or about a commercial treaty with Indonesia, or about joining the United Nations, or limiting the growth of cities.

It is also possible many voters feel comfortable letting more interested and, therefore, better informed voters decide any of the above or other issues.

Nevertheless, 90% of Swiss voters vote on referendums if we consider all the referendums taking place in one year.

Tomorrow, again, Swiss voters will show the World how the people there decide issues than in other countries the elected politicians, or the dictator in charge, decide.

Victor Lopez

Representative democracy “at work”

Yesterday, Canadians voted in another general election. It changes nothing, not only because the same party will continue in power, with the same third opposition party supporting it, even if the main opposition party had won, even if it did with an absolute majority, none of the real, tangible issues that affect the daily lives of millions of Canadians would have been addressed.

The major daily issues that affect Canadians every day are:

Health care: 5 million Canadians without a family doctor and long waiting periods to see specialists, up to one year, and long waiting times for non-emergency surgery.

Anyone knows that the solution requires more family doctors, more specialists and more operating rooms.

Direct democracy Switzerland has twice as many doctors in proportion to the population, far faster access to specialists (often Swiss patients can book the appointment with the specialist themselves). It takes days, a few weeks at most, for the Swiss to see specialists and to have non-emergency surgery.

Why does it happen?, because Swiss politicians know that, in their direct democracy, the people have the power to force them to act, so they do. The lobbies, who might not want them to act, know that lobbying them will be a waste of time because the people have the power to prevail.

The Swiss also have far better and cheaper Internet and Telephone service. Cheaper, in spite of the fact the Swiss have 25 to 30% higher real income. Why?, again, because direct democracy pushes politicians away from the lobbies and closer to the people.

The cost of air fares in Canada is absurd too, same story.

Sometimes it seems that organisations like the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission) exist more to control consumers than to set fair prices and fair competition.

Same goes for the CanadianTransport Commission, otherwise, air fares and other fares would be far lower.

Education is another issue. Perhaps Canadian universities are comparable to Swiss universities, particularly in more or less theoretical research in the hard sciences. But they lag in applied research of use to industry to enable it to compete in the World in high tech, high value added products and services.

By the way, high tech is much more than Google, Amazon or Shopify, it is much more than the software they use, it is also al sorts of hardware, machinery, tools, etc.

Canada is far worse than Switzerlnnd in areas like professional training in skilled trades; fewer Canadians receive that training, and the training is not as good. Youth unemployment is much higher in Canada because Canadian industry is not competitive enough and because young people lack the skills to absorb the necessary training beyond smiling and wishing clients a good day.

Canadian business schools pretend to train people as professional managers in the MBA schools; it is absurd. Training a manager requieres far more than two years in a classroom, but the schools have done a great job at marketing…

The Liberal platform talks about “all Canadians having a family doctor and affordable medication”, but we all know those a just nice sounding promises.

I can picture Trudeau, and the leaders of the other parties too, saying with great solemnity “and a “xxx”  goverment will make sure every Canadian who needs to see a doctor can see one, and quickly, it is a shame what is happening now” (applause).

We all know the number of doctors will not increase, waiting times for surgery will not change because the Liberals and the others lack the will, or the power, to do much about it.

Internet and telephone service; we all know improvements and costs will change at a snail’s pace. Same goes for air fares, etc.

The other two parties, the Conservatives and the NDP you can see in their platforms they will not little or nothing about those issues.

If you also take into account that the promises of politicians are often just nice sounding words blowing in the wind, you know nothing about the major issues will change; millions of Canadians will continue without access to family doctors, and to specialists too, except when they have no choice but go to a hospital emergency room. It is a shame. No wonder Canadians have life expectancy lower than the Swiss; the Canadian health system is clearly worse.

It is obvious many Canadians die early becaure of the Canadian Health Care System. Sure, the American system is crazy worse; about 25% of Americans can not have a family doctor, in Canada the figure is “only” 13%.

The issue affects equally the voters on the Left, Right and Center, but the parties, with the help of lobbies and most media, manage to distract many voters with empty promises and sexy issues like energy efficiency. For example, the Liberal government is handing out millions in grants to middle class Canadians who can afford to buy heat pumps. To do that before an election does not seem too different from the vote buying of banana repuplics.

Same goes for internet, telephones and transportation; no party will do much.

Nothing really will change until most Canadians realize representative democracy is not good enough, that they need to take their destiny in their own hands. That is what the Swiss did in 1867; they have not looked back. Switzerland has become the best country in the World.

Without direct democracy, the major issues affecting the daily lives of Canadians will not be addressed. But, again, when the next election comes around, there will be lots of noise in the media, lots of seductive words by politicians, while the lobbies, working quietly in a thousand ways will get their way.

What just happened in Canada is similar to what happens in the US, UK, France, Germany, etc.

Victor Lopez

 

This direct democracy at work (third post)

In today’s post I continue translating the information package the Swiss government sends to voters to help them decide how to vote on the issue at hand. In this case the issue is to decide if taxes will be raised on capital and decreased for salaries.

I hope these materials convince you that you are as capable of deciding major issues as the Swiss are, and that it will motivate you to demand direct democracy wherever you live; from your town or village to the whole nation.

I continue the translation:

The term “capital income” is not currently defined in tax law. This term can be understood, for example, as interest, rental income, dividends and gains from the sale of securities or buildings. Part of the income of the self-employed can also be considered as capital income.

Currently, all types of income are in principle taxed in Switzerland in their entirety: income from work (salaries), pensions and income from capital. However, there are some exceptions to the taxation of capital income:
– Dividends are not taxed in their entirety as income in case of a participation of at least 10% in a company. Dividends are profits that companies distribute to their owners (e.g. shareholders). This partial taxation is due to the fact that profits are already subject to income tax. Without a shareholding of at least 10%, dividends are taxed in full.
– Private real estate gains are only taxed at the cantonal level. Such gains are realized, for example, on the sale of land or a house.
– Other private capital gains are exempt from tax. Such gains are realized, for example, on the sale of shares.
Capital is not only taxed as capital income, but also in other forms: – The cantons and municipalities levy a tax on the wealth of individuals and on the capital of companies.
– The Confederation, cantons and municipalities tax profits.
– Companies pay a stamp duty on trading in securities.
– Most cantons levy a transfer tax on the transfer of property.
In terms of the overall taxation of capital, Switzerland is above average compared to the EU member states.
For the authors of the initiative, the current taxation of capital and redistribution are insufficient. They call for a higher taxation of capital income when it is high. Capital income above a certain amount would be taxed one and a half times, i.e. 50% more heavily than other types of income. Above this amount, each franc of capital income will be counted as 1.50 francs. If the initiative is accepted, the Parliament will define the amount in question. The higher taxation will apply at both federal and cantonal level.
What the initiative proposes is that if you earn in salary 150 000 dollars, you will be taxed on 150 000 dollars, but you derive income from investments you will be taxed as if you earned 175 000 dollars.
If the initiative is accepted, the first 100,000 francs of capital income would be taxed at 100%, while the remaining 50,000 francs would be taxed at one and a half times, and thus at 150%. The taxation of  income in salaries would not be affected by the initiative and would remain unchanged.
In addition to the taxable income, the tax rate is also decisive for the calculation of taxes. The initiative does not impose any conditions regarding tax rates. The Swiss Confederation (national government) and the cantons remain responsible for setting them. If the tax rates remain unchanged, the persons concerned will pay more tax on the part of the capital income exceeding a certain amount.
The additional revenues resulting from the higher taxation of capital income will, as the initiative states, be used to reduce the taxation of low and middle income earners or for social welfare benefits.
It is not known how the initiative will be implemented. If it is accepted, it is the Parliament that will decide the concrete terms of implementation. Among other things, it will have to decide which incomes are considered as capital income, above which amount taxation will be higher, and in which form the additional revenues will be distributed.
Increased taxation of capital income could lead to behavioural changes. For example, people with high capital incomes may move to other locations. Savings patterns could also change, as income generated from capital savings would be taxed more heavily.
It is not possible to assess the extent of such behavioural changes, particularly in the absence of a clear understanding of how the initiative would be implemented. For this reason, it is also not possible to quantify the additional revenue that would result from higher taxation of capital income. Since capital income is very sensitive to taxation, it is unlikely that the additional revenue expected by the authors of the initiative will be realized. Thus, the intended redistributive objective is not likely to be achieved.
That is what the Swiss government is telling voters. The same government package also includes the position, in detail, of the committee who gathered the signatures to have the referendum.
In the next post on this issue, I will translate in detail the position of that committee.
Victor Lopez

This is direct democracy (second post)

As I said in the previous post, I am translating from French the documentation Swiss voters received from the Swiss government prior to the referendums of the coming Sept. 26.

This is when Swiss voters will vote on ,and decide, two issues; the legalisation of gay marriage and the level of taxation for salaries and capital.

Besides this documentation, Swiss voters acquaint themselves with the issue through traditional media, Internet, debates on TV and radio, and also through discussions with friends and family.

As you may be aware, in representative democracies, people do not often engage in political discussion with family and friends, because such discussions quickly become polarised. But this because in representative democracies, politicians and the media generate polarisation among the votes; you know, “righ-left”, “progressive-opposed to progress”, “good-bad”, etc. Rational discussion is not possible in such climate.

But polarisation happens because the media and politicians create such polarisation.

In Switzerland, the people do not discuss so much if approving gay marriage is “progressive” and not approving it is “backward”. Same goes for tax reform to increase taxes to capital and reduce taxes to salaries is “progressive” or “backward”, etc.

Because Swiss voters bear the responsibility for the effects of their actions, they look at the merits of each issue and the consequences of voting “yes” or “no”.

It is difficult to explain; it is a bit like the differences between an agitated discussion and a more calm, rational discussion anywhere on any issue.

I will now translate other documents Swiss government sends voters, and that include the positions of those for or against what the referendum proposes. To assist me with the translation I used DeepL.

As I translate, I add comments and clarifications to help those outside Switzerland.

“Distribution of income and assets”

In Switzerland, incomes before taxes and before receiving social benefits, are more balanced than most other OECD countries. The percentage of the population with the highest incomes receives a little more than 10% of the total income of the country.

There are indications that income inequality in Switzerland, before taxes and before social benefits has increased slightly in th past few decades. In relation with th total of incomes from salaries, the incomes from capital have remained stable during the same period.

If we consider the distribution of available incomes, meaning the disposable income of the population after taxes and after receiving social benefits, Switzerland is more or less average among OECD countries.

As far as wealth is concerned, the the portion of the total wealth in the hands of the wealthiest, has increased in Switzerland in the last  decades. In order to reduce inequalities among the population, redistribution takes place through taxation and social benefits.

Redistribution through taxes.

Concerning taxes, the people with the highest incomes pay proportionally more than those with lower incomes.

These taxes thus contribute to redistribution. For example, the top one percent of the population earns just over 10% of total income, but pays about 40% of the federal direct tax.

We should keep in mind that in Switzerland, the cantons (roughy similar to American states, German Landers or the Canadian provinces, but with considerable more power and autonomy) and municipalities collect the bulk of the income tax: here too, high-income earners pay proportionately more tax. For the one percent with the highest income, the share of cantonal income tax is lower than the share of federal income tax. This contributes to inequality.

Redistribution through social benefits.

In Switzerland, income redistribution takes place primarily through social benefits. Old-age provision, health costs as well as disability and unemployment insurance account for the largest share of social benefits. In total, spending on social benefits amounted to about 190 billion US dollars in 2018, which corresponds, more or less as in other prosperous Western countries. It amounts to about a quarter of the overall economic output.

This share has increased since the 1990s and has helped to counteract the growing economic inequality of recent decades.

Thanks to social benefits, including old-age pensions, fewer people are living below the poverty line: the share of the population that is poor in terms of income has fallen from over 30 percent to less than 10 percent. Inequality has not increased in terms of disposable income.

In my next post I will continue with Definition of Capital Income.

I hope this does not bore you; the idea is to convey to you the sort of information voters receive in Switzerland’s direct democracy to prepare themselves to vote to decide a specific issue.

As you can see, there is no comparison between the quality and tone of this information with the information voters receive to just elect politicians.

Victor Lopez

This is direct democracy; it is the democratic empowerment and assertiveness of the majority, nothing of “dictatorship of the majority” and similar foolishness

So that you will have a feel how a well-run real democracy works at the national level of government, at lower levels is similar. I have translated from French into English the information package each potential voter receives in Switzerland.

Sometimes I do not translate literally. This I do when I judge it is necessary for clarity in English.

If you want to examine the original documents, the Swiss government sends to each potential voter, you can download the mobile app Voteinfo.

As you can will see, the packaged is a serious and fair document, no “hot air” promises, no demagogical attacks to those with different positions.

The document is serious because Swiss voters know they will make a decision and that they will be responsible for the consequences. This is very different from representative democracies, where the voter’s only decision is for whom to vote.

In representative “democracies” the people can not decide on what issues, laws, policies, treaties or changes to the constitution of the country, they will vote. In a representative democracy, the people can blame the politicians for everything, in Switzerland they can’t, because the people can stop anything the politicians have done or want to do. If the voters do not do that, it is because not enough people are interested, but they have the power to do it. In representative democracies, all the people can do is “vote and hope”. If they are very angry, they can take to the streets, as we see in the US, UK, France, Germany, etc.

The information package the Swiss voters receive, is also fair because it includes the views of the most significant parties, suggesting to the voters to vote “yes” or “no”; the government, the parliament and the committee of ordinary citizens who collected the signatures to make the referendum possible.

In the case of the Sept. 26 referendum on the popular initiative to reduce taxes on salaries and increase them on capital, this is what the information package states:

Summary

Context

Currently, all incomes from salaries, other incomes and incomes from capital (for example, interest, dividends, incomes from rents) are in principle applied to the total income. Taxes on income help to mitigate the inequalities in the distribution of revenues in the population. In this way, the people with high incomes pay more, proportionally, than the people with low incomes. Besides taxes, other instruments allow for redistribution of income. This is done mainly by social benefits, like income assistance and social assistance.

The popular initiative

The authors of the initiative (which basically is the group of citizens who organised the collation of signatures. In this case they are the youth branch of the Socialist Party, but other times is just a group of unaffiliated citizens. This is one strength of direct democracy; people vote on issues based on the facts as they see them, not so much along ideological lines) are of the opinion that the current redistribution is insufficient and not fair. They demand that the revenues of capital be taxed more when they are high. To calculate the tax, the portions of the revenue of capital surpassing a certain amount will be taxed  at one time and a half; each franc (or dollar, or pound, etc.) will be taxed as if it was 1.5 francs.

If the initiative receives the support of voters, parliament will define the amounts to which the 1.5 times criteria will be applied. The revenues thus generated will be applied to a reduction of of the taxes paid by persons with middle and low incomes or to social assistance measures.

The question that we present to you:

“Do you accept the popular initiative to lighten the taxes on salaries and tax capital more equitably?

Recommendation of the Swiss Federal Government and of Parliament (both chambers):

“No”

The Federal Government and Parliament are of the opinion that the initiative will weaken the Swiss economy and reduce the incentive to save, that it will harm employment and prosperity. In comparison with other nations, incomes in Switzerland are distributed in a balanced manner, and capital already pays heavy taxes.

Recommendation of the committee who proposes the initiative:

“Yes”

The committee is of the opinion that the initiative will create more equitable taxes for 99% of the population. Currently, incomes from capital receive privileged treatment in several ways. The rich speculate with money and benefit.  This is money that does not go to the people that work, and is missing from the real economy.

Note: Both the government and the committee who gathered the signatures include references to support their positions.

Tomorrow I will translate the documents that the committee also includes in the package to support their position.

It does not take much to imagine that the voters in Canada, UK, Germany, France, the US, Northern Europe, and even less stable representative democracies, can assimilate similar information and vote as responsibly as the Swiss historically do.

Victor Lopez

This is how direct democracy works in Switzerland, and how it would work in the US, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Australia, etc., if they became real democracies.

What direct democracy does is turn the people into the masters of the politicians, a radical change from the politicians being the masters of the people, as is the case in representative democracies.

The real difference between representative democracies and dictatorships is: in representatives democracies the people elect the politicians and can throw them out at the next election. There is also freedom of expression and there is a separation of powers (to a relative extent). However, once elected, the politicians in representative democracies have almost as much power as dictators. Representative democracies are ruled by an elected political class or group oligarchy. This happens particularly when the same party controls the executive and the legislature; there no mechanism for the people to stop the politicians, or tell them what to do, once the election is over.

In a direct democracy, the people have mechanisms to control the politicians also after the election. They do that with people-iniatated referendums, whose results are mandatory for government to follow, on any law, issue or policy.

In representative democracies, it is always the same; the people vote, the people elect and the people hope for the best because they do not have any decision-making power on any law or issue; the politicians have all that power. No wonder so many people do not bother with voting; It does not matter if the progressives or the conservatives are in power; they both dictate to the people. They tell the people what laws they will have to follow, the taxes they will pay, how the health system will work, how the education system will work, when a new road will be built, and on and on.

Direct democracy stops all that, in a direct democracy, the politicians can only do what the people approve of, tacitly or explicitly, and the politicians have to do what the people, democratically, by majority vote, tell them to do.

To illustrate how direct democracy works in Switzerland, I will use two referendums the Swiss will have on the coming Sept., 26th.

Swiss referendums are not called, can not be called, by the politicians, they can not do that, Swiss referendums are called by the people, and the results are mandatory for the politicians to follow.

In the Swiss referendums, the politicians, the executive and the legislative give their opinion on the way they believe the people should vote, no more. They have no power to do anything else. The people who propose the referendum also give their opinion on how the voters should vote.

It all starts with one person or a small group of people thinking: “I believe the government should be fairer, business should pay more taxes and individuals less”.

The people mobilise and gather the required number of signatures.

The number of signatures and the time the people have to collect them is reasonable; the people do not consider the number of signatures too high, or the time to collect them too short. Of course, if enough people felt that way, they would make the extra effort to hold a referendum to reduce the number of signatures, and/or the time required to collect them.

To collect the signatures, the group who proposes the referendum put together their arguments as of why it is necessary, in the case of one of the votes to be held on Sept., 26th, to reduce taxes to individuals and increase them for business.

Once they gather the signatures, which is a process carefully supervised by the law-enforcement authorities to ensure the rules are respected, the people present their document and the signatures to the government.

But the referendums is not automatic; the government can present to the referendum organising committee an alternative. If the committee accepts what the government proposes, they can withdraw the referendum.

Neither the federal executive nor the federal legislature can stop the referendum, only its proponents can stop it. The Swiss Supreme Court can not stop the results of any referendum on “constitutional” grounds. For the Swiss, the highest constitutional authority is the people, not the Supreme Court. For the Swiss, it makes no sense that judges, directly or indirectly appointed by the politicians, could overturn a referendum.

In Switzerland, ordinary judges can decide that a referendum is invalid if evidence shows that procedures were not followed in any of the steps of the referendum, starting with the collection of signatures.

One of the two referendums that will take place on Sept. 26 will decide if Switzerland will reduce taxes for individuals and increase them for business.

For the next post, I have translated from French the documentation the Swiss government sent on this referendum to every household. In it, the government explains the position of the executive and the legislative, and recommends to the voters acceptance or rejection of the proposal by the group that collected the signatures. In the same document, the proponents of the referendum present their arguments and recommend that the people vote in favour of the proposal.

The recommendations of political parties, unions and other significant groups are sometimes included in the information package sent to the people.

I translated the documents so that you will capture the tone and atmosphere surrounding Swiss referendums.

It is easy to appreciate the absence of the usual demagoguery and other fireworks we see in politicians in representative democracies, during election campaigns and also in parliament.

In Switzerland, the executive, the legislative and the proponents of the referendum present their arguments in a calm, factual way. There is no attacking directly what the other parties say; each presents their arguments to support their position, nothing else.

This fosters rationality and the rational expression of convictions, not the shenanigans we see in representative democracies.

Swiss electoral campaigns are also relatively subdued events. This is due to the fact that Swiss politicians have much less power than politicians in representative democracies. Everybody in Switzerland knows the people are really the sovereign, even the lobbies know and accept that they have no choice. The fight is not as aggressive as in representative democracies either. In part it is because Swiss politicians can not please the economic and political lobbies; they lack the power to do so.

Victor Lopez

On September the 20th, Canadians will vote in a free and fair federal election… to decide nothing: On September the 26th the Swiss will vote to decide real issues; gay marriage and taxation levels, because they have direct democracy

Two democracies but very different. In Canada, the election will be free and fair, unfortunately, it is dominated by lots of cute and clever slogans and…, promises, lots of promises. Here you will see most of the promises of each party.

In all representative democracies; Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, etc., it is always the same; promises and more promises.

But from experience, we know that many of the promises will go nowhere for this or that reason. We also know that whoever we elect will betray the promises, because of this or because of that….

From experience, we also know politicians will also do things they never said they would do. Even worse, sometimes they will do exactly the opposite of what they promised.

We also know politicians inrepresentative democracies also avoid tackling issues that may upset those who deliver the votes and/or the money to their campaigns. For example;, no politician in Canada is promising to overhaul the outrageous rates of mobile phones and Internet. For example, in Canada is normal to pay 50 to 60 dollars for 10 Gigabytes of data, unlimited phone calls within Canada and unlimited texting. Check here how much the Swiss pay.

And remember, the average wage in Switzerland is 65 000 USD, in Canada it is 55 000. These are real dollars adjusted for inflation and cost of living. This means the Swiss earn 18% more than Canadians and have far better and cheaper mobile phone service.

The reason for the disparity? In Switzerland, the politicians and the mobile phone companies know that if the Swiss people felt as outraged as most Canadians feel about mobile phone rates, pretty quickly they would collect the 50 000, or 100 000 signatures required for a referendum or a popular initiative. In this manner, the Swiss people can reject laws passed by the Swiss parliament, they could also propose, vote and decide a new law is necessary. They certainly would not be at the mercy of the CRTC; whicn never fixes the problem of high fees and bad mobile service in Canada.

This means that if Canadians had the power of the Swiss people, they would have organised a referendum or initiative and, long ago, Canadians would enjoy much lower rates. As it is now, Canadians make less money than the Swiss but pay more for worse phone service.

It is embarrassing that in the land of Alexander Graham Bell, phone service is so expensive and not very good. The customer service personnel of Canadian phone companies are extremely nice, perhaps nicer than their Swiss counterparts. But I suspect that if they had to choose, most Canadians would prefer the nice feeling of more money in their pockets.

Phone service is just one example, The Canadian universal health system is another one. Sure, it is much better for most people than the almost universally broken, American health system but, again, the Canadian system is clearly inferior to the Swiss universal health System.

For example, in Switzerland ALL citizens have a family doctor; 5 million Canadians do not have a family doctor! Waiting times for surgery are much longer in Canada. Surgery that in Switzerland is resolved in days or weeks, in Canada takes months.

The Swiss also have almost twice as many medical doctors per 100 000 patients as Canada. they have more hospital beds. Swiss patients hardly have to wait to see the specialist, they are even able to directly book an appointment with and specialist, no need to go to the family doctor.

In their wisdom, the Swiss realise that if a person has obvious symptoms, like heavy coughing or problems breathing, most people are smart enough to know they have to go to a specialist in that area. Likewise, if they have acid reflux, the fellow to go to is the digestive system specialist. The Swiss are also smart enough to know that if their symptoms are not so clear, the logical thing is to go to the family doctor.

Canadian political parties talk a lot about improving health care, the phone system, etc., but none of them tackles the core issues; radically cheaper and better phone service, more doctors everywhere, more surgeons, more hospital beds. Why don’t thay? I do not know if it is the phone lobby  the medical lobby, the hospital lobby, the pharmaceutical lobby, etc., but Canadian politicians do not dare overhauling the Canadian mobile phone service, Canadian health service, etc.

But Canadian voters had the power of Swiss voters, Canadians would pay less for mobile phone service, for Internet and would have better health care. They would also have cheaper universities and would not have the crazy system of student loans either.

Just 6 days after the Canadians vote on September 20th to decide nothing, other than to elect the same party, or another party that will not change anything of real importance, the Swiss will go and vote to decide two important issues; if gay marriage will be legal in Switzerland and they will also decide if corporations will pay higher taxes and individual will pay less.

Such votes will happen because the Swiss people decided they want to decide those issues. The Swiss politicians do not call such votes, the law forbids them to do it. Perhaps just as interesting, the results of those votes must be fulfilled by the politicians; there is nothing the executive and the legislative can do to change or ignore the results, nor can the Swiss Supreme Court change the results of what the voters decide.

Swiss voters, men and women, are really empowered, they have real power, not the fake empowerment propaganda we see in so many countries.

But here comes what is perhaps the most importan difference between direct democracy and representative democracy; the decision the Swiss voters will make on September 26 is really a democratic decision because the majority decides; the decisions the democratically elected Canadian politicians will make are not democratic decisions because Canadian voters will not make those decisions, nor do they any mechanism to directly reject or overturn the decisions of Canadian politicians regarding laws, regulations and policies.

In fact, it is not uncommon for politicians in representative “democracies”, like Canada, the US, UK, France, Germany, etc., to make decisions that are contrary to the will of the majority, or that it is not clear at all the majority of people would support them; you can not get much more antidemocratic than that. And that can not happen in a direct democracy because the people have the power and the tools to force a democratic decision.

The democratic superiority of direct democracy is so obvious that is hard to understand why it is taking so long for representative “democracies” to transition to direct democracy. But perhaps the “conspiracy of silence, a conspiracy without conspiring” of the elitist elites in politics, business, academia and the media, in Canada and all other representative “demooracies” is the reason. However, just like the French and American nadapopular revolutions overturned the old regimes, so a bloodless popular revolution will overturn the current regime in Canada and the rest.

The time has arrived for direct democracy. It is almost 2 centuries behind the Swiss, but not too late.

Direct democracy puts the people in charge, and places the politicians where they ought to be; obeying the will of the people.

Canada is one of the best countries in the World (although most of the World is not very impressive), but Switzerland is even a better country.

By the way, ignore the silly rankings of democracies by the Economist Intelligence Unit. It ranks Canada and 10 other representative democracies ahead of Switzerland in quality of democracy. It makes no sense that Switzerland, the only democracy that is a democracy, because democracy is “government by the people” (because the people vote to elect and to decide issues) ranks behind countries where the people vote to elect, hope for the best, forget and resent even more, because they lack the power to stop the politicians or to force them to do what the majority of the people want.

Victor Lopez