Feature

The downside of direct democracy.

The week's news at a glance.

Switzerland

Olivier PicardDernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (France)

So much for “Swiss hospitality,” said Olivier Picard in Strasbourg’s Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace. The Swiss have gone and done what “many other Europeans secretly, guiltily dream of doing.” They have voted to toughen up their requirements for immigration and political asylum. The relentless influx of immigrants from outside Europe, particularly from African and Muslim countries, has unsettled Europeans. “Defensively,” ignorantly, we seek to ward off “what we consider to be a threat” to our way of life. In most European countries, the people can’t do much about immigration. The political elite controls the immigration debate, and that elite can rise above nationalist hysteria and weigh other criteria, such as the need for more taxpayers to support our aging populations. Switzerland, though, is different. With its “direct democracy” tradition of referendums, it allows the people to impose their pure, undiluted will. Switzerland may find it has taken a path of “selfishness” that does not lead to the “easy solution” its people want. The particular “mood of the moment” shouldn’t determine major policy—especially policy that affects so many lives.

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