If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my various liberal lawyer friends, it’s this; when I see news of the filing of an absurd lawsuit demanding a bizarre amount of money for an insane claim, take a step back and a deep breath. A filing does not equal a judgment; while the occasional batspittle-crazy judgment happens, the vast majority of bizarre lawsuits end in a dismissal on summary judgment; a judge determines that no actual matters of law are involved, so there’s no need for a trial.
And the bizarre cases that appeared in a splash of laughter and anger disappear, unlamented and
Over the weekend, the word got out among the usual circles about a Swiss proposal to give every single citizen a $2,600 monthly government-paid income.
There were two reactions from among Americans I’d broadly call “conservative”; mockery, and a little bit of head-scratching.
We’ll look into the head-scratching first.
The Big Fix: In his classic book Parliament of Whores, P.J. O’Rourke noted that if we just gave the money we currently spend on social welfare to people whose income is below the poverty line, we could bring every person in the United States up to the poverty line, and save money. We’d do something that eighty years of “progressive” social policy has “tried” and failed to do; eradicate poverty, at least in a literal, personal-financial sense.
The Swiss “plan” – assuming it also involved eliminating other poverty entitlement programs – might be a huge step toward simplifying poverty entitlements and, perversely, saving money…
The Swiss Reality– …if there were the slightest chance of it becoming law.
The Swiss federal system allows the National Assembly – the Swiss parliament – to refer bills dealing with major government issues – taxes, spending and big policy issues – to a national vote, very, very easily.
Switzerland, like Minnesota, is starkly divided along what we’d call “red/blue” lines; the big cities, Zürich and Basel and Geneva, are every bit as clogged with socialist bobbleheads as Minneapolis or Duluth. But the cantons (states) of greater Switzerland tend to be very conservative. The largest party in the National Assembly is the “Swiss People’s Party” (Scheweizerische Volkspartei, or SVP in German), a center-right party that, unlike many European “conservative” parties, could be recognized as “conservative” by an American Tea Partier. The SVP leads a coalition of center and right-leaning parties that don’t quite have a majority of the Parliament – 94 out of 200 seats in the lower house – but would require absolute unity among their opposition to effectively beat.
But this isn’t even a parliamentary referendum. Swiss law allows citizen petitions with 100,000 signatures – out of a population of 8 million citizens, or roughly 2% of the voting population – to force a referendum.
Andthatis how this proposal got on the ballot.
On the one hand, it allows well-organized grass-roots groups to make a big electoral splash by getting the darnedest hare-brained ideas onto the national ballot.
On the other? They almost always get beaten. A “grassroots” group of Swiss got an initiative to abolish the Swiss military onto the ballot in 2011. It got a slew of headlines.
And it lost by about a 3:1 margin.
The election of Jesse Ventura shows that if times are good enough, you can get up to 37% of any population to suspend their good judgement on a lark, when they don’t think it matters that much.
But here, we’re talking money.
This initiative is going to generate a lot of headlines, and a fair amount of mockery from American, left and right, who don’t get how Swiss democracy works…
…and, soon, a 2:1 electoral defeat.