Does the Swiss federal constitution protect a majority interest group better than the US constitution?

Major reforms like Obama-care would unlikely succeed in Switzerland?

President Obama’s socialization of the free healthcare sector was made possible by the weaknesses in the US Constitution.

Rapid fundamental changes of a democratic society can only be made as fare as its constitution permits. Every society is building its strength on a moral ground and its respect for all citizens’ property and income. The US Constitution is the guarantor to protect all citizens’ civil rights.

The US Constitution and the ideas of the French Revolution have deeply influenced today’s Swiss Constitution, which was first laid in 1848.

Swizz referendums

Switzerland is a true direct democracy. Through referendums, the Swizz citizens may challenge any law passed by the parliament and through initiatives, introduce amendments to the federal constitution.

The Swizz tradition of frequent referendums concerning changes to the constitution, as well as laws, is the key to its successful deep-rooted direct democracy. More than 100 years of experience with referendums on national, cantonal and communal level have shown that Switzerland’s system of referendums guarantees not only a maximum amount of self-determination to the citizens but also a stability of the political system Switzerland is often envied for. The Swiss government and parliament take the “threat of a referendum” seriously.

Over and over again the Swiss have decided to keep up the basic principle of federalism. Whenever someone proposed a radical change the proposal had no chance to be accepted.

What is going wrong in the USA

In 1970 1 US dollar was exchanged for 4.37 Swiss Franc and now in 2010 a dollar is worth only 1.07 Swizz Franc. Switzerland had since 1970 a low interest rate, while US have had a high interest rate. The public spending and borrowing has risen faster in US than in Switzerland. The US debt held by the public is now 64 percent of GDP, while Switzerland’s federal debt is only 20 percent of GDP since it accounts for only about half the national debt. The general figure, which includes cantonal and communal governments, is 40 percent. While the US government is increasing its debt, the Swiss government will continue trimming the national debt.

Switzerland has a weak small government and no other nation is delegating as many competences to federal states and communes. The referendum institute provides a good protection for minorities and local opinions.

The Obama government is doing nifty things that are not authorized by the constitution. If the people would like any government to do things that they want, the only solution is a true direct democracy model with a strong referendum institute.

Sweden a worning example

Sweden has an extremely strong central government and a larger government public sector than any other country on this planet. During the hundred years between 1870 and 1970 Sweden had the fastest growth economy among the industrialized countries.

One reason was the taxation system. The tax rate was eight percent, raised slightly after the First World War to 12-13 percent. The incentives to entrepreneurs’ where very strong and they worked hard and invested in their businesses. During the fifties the export grew by eight percent per year.

During the 1970’s the progressive Socialist party initiated a series of costly reforms. The wages increased 59 percent in three years. Simultaneously the payroll was tax increased by 109 percent. The cost of labor raised by 80 percent in three years. The price was high and the Swedish Krona was devaluated by 30 percent in five years. The public spending exploded and reached 65 percent of GDP. On top of the wretchedness Sweden began to take up huge foreign loans and at the same time the Swedish enterprise reduced their borrowing transactions. The unemployment rose and soon one fifth of the population of working age had no job.

Referendums a Safety Valve

Even though the US Constitution is stronger then the Swedish it’s not as powerful as the Swiss. With the powerful tool of referendum the US citizens could have challenged the Obama Care law that recently was passed by the Congress.

Only the threat of a referendum could have put an end to Obama Care. Now the law is a fact and will be difficult to repeal by the time a new President and Congress will have the power to do so.

After president Obama’s misuse of the voters trust the US voters are most likely very amenable to the introduction of a referendum institute to the Constitution.

Ben Hedenberg

Masters Degree in Law and Economics