Saturday, May 24, 2008

Swiss democracy


Switzerland is not perfect but it is peaceful and prosperous.

Switzerland is divided up into cantons and towns (communes). In Switzerland, the central government (federal government) is not given too much power; the cantons and towns have a lot of power; referendums are held.

The central government controls foreign policy, defense, the railways and the mint.

If the central government brings in a new policy, a referendum can be held to vote it down.

There is a six-month period during which a referendum can be called by any person or group able to get 50,000 signatures on a petition. A central government policy can be thrown out by a simple majority vote in a referendum.

The cantons and communes control economic policy, welfare policy, the police, education and so on. Each canton has its own parliament and constitution.

Switzerland spends a lot on welfare and education but manages to keep taxes relatively low. This is because there are no huge ministeries full of useless civil servants, or bureaucrats.

Cantons and large communes have referendums and 'initiatives'. An 'initiative' is when an ordinary citizen proposes a new policy or law.



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