There are few more dangerous errors in political thinking than to equate democracy with liberty.
The Swiss Federation has had three Constitutions since 1848 following the military defeat of the “Sonderbund” alliance when the liberals used the opportunity to strengthen federal central power in Switzerland. They were prudent enough, however, to allow cantons extensive rights of self-determination, particularly in areas that had proven to be delicate; the basic principles of the constitution of the U.S.A. were adopted. There was a partial revision in 1866, a new Constitution in 1874, and a new Constitution promulgated as recent as 1999.
We have had precious little in terms of constitutional reform since 1688 and the ‘Glorious Revolution’ when one bunch of Aristocrats and arrivistes, pushed out another bunch of Aristocrats and arrivistes and sat in their chairs. The Constitution was declared as just three words ‘ Parliament is Sovereign’. The net result is that around six hundred and fifty people secure about thirty per cent of the popular vote each to become representatives. They then owe allegiance to their party and its whips that do the bidding of an even smaller clique called the cabinet, who variously all went to the same school or were interns together. They call this Parliamentary Democracy, which is an oxymoron.
Why do the Swiss feel the need to revise their Constitution three times in one hundred and fifty years, and we cling to a sclerotic form of government that is three hundred and twenty years old?
We are living a myth that we live in a free and democratic society and are yet still an Imperial power, when the reality is that it is a delusion brought about by a two party system that neither side has any real interest in changing much. The proponents of this ramshackle system that is long on tradition and pomp and very short on representing the popular will of the people say it is the stability of the system that counts, as if the Swiss Confederation has been a model of political instability, along with proportional representation.
In the last one hundred years we have fought two major conflicts that bankrupted the country, we are still fighting wars that we can neither afford or should be fighting. Political life has been degraded by both the political elites with the over centralisation to Whitehall since 1944. The voter no longer counts, has no influence, yet the political elites claim a ‘popular mandate’ . They may have not noticed but politicians are not that well regarded.
Let me cite Article nine of the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation:
Art. 9 Protection against arbitrary conduct and principle of good faith
Everyone has the right to be treated by state authorities in good faith and in a non-arbitrary manner.
The Swiss Constitution recognizes that Government by its very nature acts in bad faith and in an arbitrary manner, and yet seeks to protect the citizen against the worst aspects of Government by declaring such actions as unconstitutional.
Try telling some low level government jobsworth when he is making your life hell, he will laugh his socks off if you said his actions are illegal and unconstitutional, he will just turn round and say ‘it’s the rules, you can change them at the next election in five years time if you don’t like them’.
The country is exhausted, broke and worse still, its morale is low. Hardly the sort of background for Cameron to say we are all in this together.
Only by root and branch Constitutional reform on a Cantonal system can Britain survive. The Conservatives and the Social Democrats are paying lip service to localism, but are too scared to let the reins of power go. Labour on the other hand wants to keep the power centralized. If Con-Dem does not have the courage to return power to us, the vast majority are going to have to live under another Labour Government in a few short years that would have to be resisted as an arbitrary power not a legitimate one.
*James Bovard’s writings have been publicly denounced by the head of the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI), the US Secretary of Agriculture , the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the chiefs of the US International Trade Commission, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Emergency Emergency Management Agency, and multiple Commissioners of the Internal Revenue Service, and the chair of Congressional Black Caucus. Therefore worth a read for the Libertarian.
Andrew P Withers.