A Little Knowledge

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.

6 thoughts on “A Little Knowledge

  1. When California was dominated by it’s agricultural business, it was a lot like Switzerland. People who are tied to the land have a tendency to live by the law of the farm. Today, it’s ruled by people who cultivate poverty (here in MN we call these people “Citidiots”) in order to create dependence.
    When the family medical leave act was proposed there were many who cliamed it would lead to employers being required to give paid time off. The supporters said that was just a bunch of right wing nuttery – yet nearly every month I read where some legislative body is preparing to impose this requirement on employers.
    Back when I was a youngster (60’s-70’s) there was a ton of moral equivalence related to the space program (if ‘we’ can send a man to moon, surely ‘we’ can save people from poverty’). Hell even Prince got in on the act.
    Fast forward to today when ‘we’ not only do free and assisted breakfast – we also do free and assisted lunch. My spouse, who works in a school system, says there are even proposals to to do free and assisted weekend meals and summer vacation meals, ’cause we can’t have ‘kids’ starving or something. The US is the only country I know of that tallies poverty stats without including the cash, non-cash and just plain right there for the taking benefits the poor receive.

  2. Obama could never figure out why William Tell refused to bow before the tyrant’s hat. Didn’t the hat represent the tyrant? And the tyrant the people? And the people, well they are just your friends and neighbors, aren’t they?
    Selfish peasant!

  3. Milton Friedman proposed a guaranteed annual income or something very much along those lines way back in the 1960s, IIRC.
    It is, of course, a far too straightforward and obvious solution to any number of problems to have the slightest prospect of adoption.

  4. And you think illegal migration is bad now?

    Seflores, I believe the weekend backpack program, where kids are given a backpack of food on Friday to sustain them over the weekend, is already in play. I recently heard that another local district instituted it – I want to say it was in Scott Co., or a similar less-likely spot. The Parks Depts. of the major cities also do this in the summer. Plus, there is no means testing, so to speak, free food for everyone. Good news: It’s saving a lot of food stamps. Bad news: it only saves the food stamps that have already been handed-out. No doubt the recipients turn back the unused portions.

    We’ve already marginalized fatherhood, we’re now doing it to the entire family structure.

  5. Pingback: LIVE AT FIVESIX: 10.07.13 : The Other McCain

  6. Recent data released about the recent SSI disability expansion could indicate that a free monthly income from the government, similar to the one in this posting, is already a reality. Particularly when it is used to formulate (un) employment statistics.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.