Although the West has been under attack since the 1960s, woke-inspired hatred has increased and become mainstream of late, especially in the U.S. and Britain. Imperialism and racial prejudice are the culprits, according to ignoramuses eager to become top bananas in a new “reformed” America.
But I’m not here to tell you about what the dregs of humanity dredge up and accuse the West of; instead, I’ll tell you about a small European country that has enjoyed direct democracy and peace for 700 years, except for one instance in 1971, a gulp in the democratic process that had both William F. Buckley Jr. and me writing about it ad nauseam.
Bill and I spent winters in Gstaad, an alpine resort in Switzerland, and used to ski in the morning, break for lunch, then ski some more runs in the afternoon until he’d retire to work on his books and columns. In the winter of 1971, a referendum was called concerning Swiss women’s right to vote. The result was a positive one: Swiss men voted in favor of Swiss women’s suffrage. Except for one canton, which happened to be the smallest of the Swiss Federation, Appenzell.
Appenzell men denied their females the vote by a close margin, which brought on an unheard of intervention by Bern. The central government decreed that Appenzell women should have the vote, overruling their men’s wishes.
Bill had a lot of fun with this, as did I, writing in my then-Greek column that this was Swiss democracy under threat and that the next thing to expect would be a Soviet-like dictatorship. Needless to say, it was all in good fun, and the Swiss newspapers saw it as such.
Appenzell, famous for its cheese, was suddenly in the news, but cheesy or not, the women had won their right to vote, with a little help from the capital. Apparently, a few Appenzell men grumbled about central government’s interference but then went back to making the best cheese in Switzerland.
Fifty years on, the Swiss still have referenda about important issues, the most recent one being whether children and young adults should be exposed to tobacco advertising. The Swiss, mostly living in small towns and villages, are happy to go to the polls. It’s called direct democracy, and the rest of the West could take a lesson or two from good old Helvetia. In most Western democracies, the people make a very small number of decisions about economics or social policies for themselves. Elected representatives do it for us. The Swiss also have representatives, but most decisions are made in cantonal referenda. The Swiss constitution is literally written by the people. It all comes down to the fact that the Swiss people are sovereign in a way the people of, say, France, Britain, Germany and the United States are not.
The Swiss central government in Bern is responsible for foreign affairs, taxation, and other such acts of national interest, but Switzerland remains a confederation of its cantons, a model the U.S. Founding Fathers had in mind concerning state rights but one that Washington D.C. has cruelly betrayed. What I find to be an eye-opener still today—Switzerland has been my home for more than 50 years—is the fact that the Swiss Confederation is made up of Italians, Germans, and French, yet in all the time I’ve spent here, I have yet to witness a Swiss insulting another Swiss because he speaks Italian or French or German.
Bill was even more amazed when he found out that everyone in Switzerland between the ages of 20 and 50 served part-time in the armed forces and that everyone took their weapons home with them in the evening. Yet there was—and is—no crime to speak of in the country of 9 million. Ironically, as I was writing this column here in Gstaad, two men robbed at gunpoint a jewelry store in town. Their appearance was described as “Eastern.” In other words, they were foreigners.
Alexis de Tocqueville visited Switzerland twice and was, to say the least, impressed. Tocqueville feared the “nanny state” all the way back at the start of the 19th century. The so-called elites of today who control Big Tech, media, and universities always refer to democracy, but they believe in it as much as I believe in male rapists transitioning and being assigned to women’s prisons.Voter input as it is in Switzerland is to our elite as welcome as a rabbi would be in a Saudi Arabian palace or an honest fact-checker in a New York Times newsroom.
Last but not least, the Swiss have not gone into debt by sending armaments and fighter jets to Ukraine the way Britain and America have, but then the Swiss have been neutral for 700 years, or so. The neocons in D.C. have discovered Zelensky, and the armament industries are thriving. A Swiss gentleman recently asked me what I thought of Zelensky, and when I answered that he was a conman, the gentleman smiled but said nothing. It was a typical Swiss reaction.