Archive for the ‘Switzerland’ Tag

Swiss Students Are Fighting Back Against Unfair TV Fees | Bill Wirtz   Leave a comment

By Bill Wirtz

The European liberty movement may be small, but it’s having extraordinary growth and grassroots success in a place you might least expect it: Switzerland.

Source: Swiss Students Are Fighting Back Against Unfair TV Fees | Bill Wirtz

 

Image result for image switzerland tvSwitzerland, like many European nations, has certain television and radio channels that are run by the government. The state-run channels in Switzerland date back to World War I when the government had completely monopolized both TV and radio “for security reasons,” and paid for it with a fee called the “Billag.” After the war period, Switzerland opened the market to private media companies, but it kept the “Billag” fee in order to pay for the state channels which still absolutely dominate the market to this day.

The fee even has its own website, http://www.billag.ch, on which the mandatory contribution is explained as follows:

In Switzerland, you are legally obligated to pay the radio and television fees. By paying the fees you enable radio and television programmes in every part of Switzerland.”

Which almost sounds like you couldn’t have any TV or radio stations if it wasn’t for governmental control. For Frédéric Jollien, who is a Senior Local Coordinator for European Students for Liberty and founder of Swiss Students for Liberty, this description is dishonest:

The assumption that the media landscape would crumble if we were to abolish this annual fee is ridiculous. The opponents of our campaign claim that without the “Billag,” nobody would pay for state channels, yet they simultaneously also argue that people are very fond of the content. Which one is it now?”

Together with other classical liberals in Switzerland, Frédéric Jollien is fighting against the royalties imposed by the government for media consumption. 450 Swiss Francs, the equivalent of €382 or $456, is the annual fee that consumers are required to pay, regardless if they want state-run TV and radio channels or not.

“We are not trying to abolish anything. We merely want consumers to choose for themselves which channels they want to watch,” says Frédéric, who works in the campaign of “NoBillag,” the citizens’ initiative that intends to overturn the fee via referendum.

The “NoBillag” campaign has been working on the issue of media royalties for three years now, and effectively managed to get their citizens’ initiative approved. This means that a public vote on the repeal of the “Billag” will take place on March 4, 2018. Until then, the campaign is tirelessly working to promote its ideas. Frédéric Jollien explains that this one of the very few referenda which were organized by people who believe in the concepts of free markets and free people.

However, running such a campaign demands considerable efforts.

The government has extended the “Billag” to include private companies as well. Despite them only receiving less than 10 percent of the revenue generated by the fee, they now also have vested interests in keeping it in place and steadily negotiating a larger chunk of it. It’s us against the whole media landscape.”

The print media is equally unimpressed by the “NoBillag” campaign, as owners also seek to convince the government to initiate large subsidies for the papers, the same way it is practiced in countries like France. Furthermore, after petitioning for months to get the necessary signatures to organize a referendum, the campaign was left with only 30,000 CHF (€25,600), which is clearly too little to run a three-language campaign in the mountainous country in Central Europe.

Frédéric Jollien is very optimistic regardless.

“We started a crowdfunding campaign and raised over 100,000 Francs in only ten days, bringing us closer to our 160,000 CHF objective. But not only that: several polls have indicated that we might very well be able to win the public vote!”

The success of the idea of letting consumers choose which TV and radio programs they watch is apparent. Journalists (who, by the way, are exempt from paying this fee) are releasing heavy verbal fire on the campaigners. They claim it would cause massive unemployment in the media sector, that it is anti-democratic, and that it would enable big foreign companies to take over the Swiss market.

“It’s actually quite peculiar. The Swiss conservatives, who are usually the ones spreading fear of foreigners, support us because they believe that state media is being biased against them, while the Left opposes us because they believe the evil foreign media channels from Germany, Italy, and France will eat us up. This shows how strange the idea of a free market can sound to people,” says Frédéric.

Until the vote in March, he is busily writing op-eds and participating in radio and TV debates. If the campaign would be successful, then this would definitely be one of the most extraordinary free-market grassroots-led initiatives in Europe to date.

Frédéric and the campaign hope to raise more money for their efforts. You can support them through their crowdfunding campaign here: www.wemakeitbetter.ch

Adapted from an article originally appearing on the Freedom Today Network

Posted January 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Do You Know Who the Swiss President Is? | Bill Wirtz   Leave a comment

Doris Leuthard. That’s the name of the incumbent Swiss president in case you wondered or might need it in a general knowledge quiz any time soon. But how come a country this well known on the international stage happens to have such an unknown executive?

The Swiss Opposed Centralization from the Start

The beginning of the Swiss confederacy wasn’t about power.

Image result for image of switzerlandFrom the 14th century on, while Europe was torn in territorial conflicts or the religious Thirty Years War of 1618 to 1648, the (originally) 8 cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy were a microcosm of peace and prosperity. These cantons in themselves did have religious differences, but preferred to agree on a pact of mutual military assistance to protect the neutrality of the region and its peace. The Holy Roman Empire had granted this community of cantons imperial immediacy, meaning they were declared free from its rule while being a part of it. As the European royalties raised massive amounts of taxes to finance their decade-long wars, being Swiss was comparable to living in the first true tax haven: by any means the destruction in all of Europe made the differences that these cantons have look insignificant.

While the Confederation of Switzerland was modeled after the United States, the Swiss avoided the concentration of the executive into one person.

Later, religious differences in Switzerland grew, sparkling battles between Catholic and Protestant cantons. Each of these battles had winners, yet none were able to impose a true change of regime, as the cantons were too diverse to be governable. The cantonal governments refused to cooperate with each other: the only foreign policy they could agree on was that of neutrality, which ended up saving it from war.

The French Revolutionary army invaded the Confederacy in 1798 and established the Helvetic Republic, a centralized state, abolished cantonal sovereignty and feudal rights and reduced the cantons to administrative districts, all in the image of France itself. This French nation-building project failed 5 years later, as the population didn’t cooperate with any centralization attempts. The Helvetic Republic was incompatible with the Swiss mentality: the people demanded that government decisions be made at the canton level, not at the federal level.

Centralization and Switzerland’s Civil War

After decades of struggles over the centralization of power, a civil war ended the everlasting Swiss question of the legitimacy of a federal government. The Sonderbund War started in 1847 and was a fight between seven conservative and Catholic cantons who opposed the centralization of power and rebelled against the Confederation which had been in place since 1814. What followed was probably one of the least spectacular wars in world history: the federal army had lost 78 men and had 260 wounded. The Sonderbund conspiracy dissolved and Switzerland became the state it is today in 1848.

Think about this, the Swiss fight (which was marked by its incredible lack of violence in comparison to others) was purely over the rejection of the centralization of power, the skepticism of the responsibilities that a large entity has, while, mind you, we’re only talking about a country of 16,000 square miles. The result is a relatively neutral state which maintains a greater amount of freedom and prosperity than most European nations.

The Federal Council, Impotent by Design

The executive of the federal multi-party directorial republic is a body called the Federal Council. It is composed of 7 members (each one responsible for one of the seven departments in Switzerland) who are voted into their position by both chambers of the Federal Assembly. Their presidency and vice-presidency is rotating each year, their mandate is four years. The current council is composed of 2 social democrats, 2 center-right conservatives, 2 national conservatives, and one Christian-democrat (Doris Leuthard, who’s the current president).

If you don’t know who the new president of Switzerland is, don’t worry. Some Swiss people might not know either.

While the Confederation of Switzerland was designed to follow the example of the United States when it comes to federalism and states’ rights, the Swiss avoided the concentration of the executive into one person. It is interesting to note that although every European country made (and makes) constant changes to their form of government, this council has not changed since 1848. The only political change has been made to the Federal Council, is the reversal of the Magic Formula, or also known as the Swiss consensus, a political custom which divided the 7 seats in the country between the four ruling parties. With the arrival of billionaire industrialist and EU-opponent Christoph Blocher and his Swiss People’s Party, this political agreement had been shaken up and, furthermore, made Switzerland’s accession to the European Union more and more unlikely.

The council shows unity towards to the public and most decisions are made by consensus. That is largely because their function is more decorative than functional, as most of the power is still held by the cantons. Decisions related to education and even levying taxes are made at the regional level. There is no executive action or veto which the federal government could use.

The president of Switzerland has little to no room in public political discourse. So if you don’t know who the new president of Switzerland is, don’t worry. Some Swiss people might not know either.

Localism Works in Switzerland

The Swiss cantons perform the balancing act of politics: the conservative cantons are those outside of the big cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Bern (the capital). The population in the smaller communities reject the tendency to govern from the capital. As a result, the Swiss have continuously rejected proposals like the ones phasing out nuclear energy.

This push for localism would be considerably more difficult if it wasn’t for the system of direct democracy that is very common in the Confederacy.

All federal laws are subject to a three to four step process:

  1. A first draft is prepared by experts in the federal administration.
  2. This draft is presented to a large number of people in an opinion poll: cantonal governments, political parties as well as many NGO’s and associations out of civil society may comment on the draft and propose changes.
  3. The result is presented to dedicated parliamentary commissions of both chambers of the federal parliament, discussed in detail behind closed doors and finally debated in public sessions of both chambers of parliament.
  4. The electorate has a veto-right on laws: If anybody is able to find 50,000 citizens who will sign a form demanding a referendum within 3 months, a referendum must be held. In order to pass a referendum, laws need only be supported by a majority of the national electorate, not a majority of cantons. It’s not unusual for Switzerland to have referenda on more than a dozen laws in any given year.

These referenda are the reason why the political majorities have decided to include their own opposition in government: if the majority does not seek a consensus, the oppositions can use a citizens initiative (referendum) to overturn any decision made on the national level.

The system of checks and balances through both the aggressively localist cantons and the tool of direct democracy has made Switzerland particularly resistant to the growth of government, and one of the few relatively liberty-minded bastions in Europe.

Source: Do You Know Who the Swiss President Is? | Bill Wirtz

Posted January 14, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Liberty, Uncategorized

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The Secret of Swiss Success Is Decentralization | Daniel J. Mitchell   Leave a comment

Switzerland generally still has the type of system America’s Founding Fathers envisioned, with a small central government.

Source: The Secret of Swiss Success Is Decentralization | Daniel J. Mitchell

What the Swiss Can Teach NYC   Leave a comment

What The Swiss Can Teach New York City

NEW YORK CITY – America is falling apart.  Anyone who travels in this great land knows it.

This great city is crumbling.  I’m scared to take the underwater tunnels to Long Island or New Jersey. Our local airport, LaGuardia, should be in Zimbabwe.

The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that crumbling roads, rusting bridges, decaying railroads and transit systems are costing the nation $129 billion each year, and that crumbling infrastructure adds $97 billion annually and caused travel delays of $28 billion annually.

I raise this scandalous  issue because Switzerland, a tiny nation of only 8.2 million, just opened the remarkable Gothard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest and deepest rail and road tunnel drilled right through the highest Alps.

Source: What the Swiss Can Teach NYC

 

 

I have not traveled in Switzerland and, being from Alaska where federal highway standards cannot stand up to permafrost, I tend to see the Lower 48 highways as LOVELY, but the argument is essentially a good one … except highways really need to be taken care of by states, not the federal government, and privatized if possible. Think about it. The State of Alaska does not actually build the highways. Private contractors do the actual work. So why not cut out the middle man and make roads a whole lot less expensive to build? Lela

Lela on Nonintervention   Leave a comment

Last week, Thom suggested I had an “unusual” view of history. This is my response.

That “unusual” view of history could be viewed as the side not written by the winners, Thom. I’ve read Rise and Fall, but I’ve also read ChristopLela Markham Davidson Ditch Correcteder Hitchen’s Blood, Class and Empire and Blood, Class and Nostalia. The two books combined are an excellent treatice on the entanglement of the United States with England and deals with how England and our leaders manipulated us into both World Wars by turning the default non-intervention stance of the American people into a pro-war stance through the use of propaganda to play on our fears and engender anger toward Germany. We all want to believe that our side is the “good” side and it is sometimes illustrative to look at an event from the other side … especially if the other side is deemed the enemy by our government. That different perspective may help us see truths we’ve been ignoring for far too long.

Let’s set one thing straight. I never said Hitler was a 10 year old boy during World War I. I said many of the Germans who supported him in World War 2 were young children during World War 1 and what they went through in that earlier war set them up for World War 2. Hitler was a madman. If I could go back in history to execute him before he became Fuhrer, I would gladly do so. My sympathy is for the German people who were as much manipulated by him as the American people were by Wilson and later Roosevelt, Johnson, both Bushes and the current occupant of the White House.

No leader can prosecute war without at least some tacit backing from the citizenry. Hitler needed the Germany people to populate his army, maintain the economy and guard the concentration camps. But would they have been willing to do so if there’d been a negotiated peace with the Allies in 1917 rather than a unilateral surrender in 1919? The only reason why the latter is actual history and the former didn’t happen is that the United States entered World War 1 just as Britain was running out of resources and would have needed to negotiate. This is what made World War 1 different from previous European wars. Britain could demand a unilateral surrender and crush Germany because the United States had resources Germany couldn’t touch or blockade.

If there’d been a negotiated peace, Germany would have been just another country in Europe, enjoying the fruits of economic well-being during the 1920s, instead of paying crushing reparation payments to England. It wouldn’t have needed the loans the United States provided to prop it up, so its economy would not have crashed when our collapse required ending those loans. Like England, France and Canada, who suffered through brief depressions after our stock market crash, Germany would have recovered in months rather than years and Hitler might not have seemed so attractive. I’ve read Mein Kampf too and only people who feel absolutely trapped in a struggle not of their own making could ever embrace its crazy-town concepts.

There’s no strong historical evidence that Germany had planned for war when Archduke Ferdinand was killed. They were sucked into the war by their treaty obligations with Austria (which ought to be a cautionary tale for us). And, by the way, had Austria not annexed Bosnia, the Serbians wouldn’t have wanted to kill the archduke, This was a tale of interventionism gone wild. Had the United States stayed out of World War I, we might not have developed and then introduced the world to a particularly destructive form of propaganda.  President Wilson campaigned on a platform of American non-intervention. He probably would not have been re-elected if not for the theme “he kept us out of war.” Yet, right after his second inauguration, he hired New York Times journalist Walter Lippman and psychologist Edward Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) to develop a propaganda campaign designed to brainwash the American public into entering the war on the side of Britain. This was necessary because of the large percentage of the US population who were either of German or Slavic descent (thus sympathetic to the Germans) or Irish (thus opposed to almost anything England did).

WWI propaganda posterWilson saw opportunity in the European war. Using the fear of war in his 1st term, he’d already rammed through the Federal Reserve, income tax, and re-segregation of the armed forces. One of his early second-term accomplishments was issuing Executive Order 2594 which set up the Committee on Public Information (CPI), whose sole purpose was to generate propaganda to create public support for US entry into the war. The CPI used censorship, coercion and even mass arrests to silence opposition groups. It circulated posters showing German soldiers bayoneting Belgian babies (Belgium was neutral). All this was designed to make Americans afraid that “the Hun” was about to devour American women and children like some raging beast. The laudable and long-standing American concept of non-interventionism was recast as irresponsible isolationism.

Not too surprisingly, by 1917, the public who had abhorred the European war was now clamoring for our entry. Thus softened up, all that was required was a galvanizing event. Wilson issued a line-in-the-sand statement that Germany had better not attack any US ships. The Lusitania was a British ship laden with a 173 tons of munitions provided by JP Morgan. The German high command placed ads in the New York Times warning that the Lusitania was carrying arms and that they intended to sink the armament-laden Lusitania to protect its national interest. The British admiralty had also warned that the Lusitania ought to stay out of the area. The Wilson administration should have known it was going to be hit, but they never issued a warning, so the American public thought it was safe. Viewed with a skeptical mind, it sure seems like Wilson knew what he was doing, that his administration manipulated the American people into willingly going into a war that a year before they wanted nothing to do with. It’s important to state once again, international law did not allow combatant nations to blockade ports to prevent food stuffs from entering. They could stop armament shipments only, but England had maintained a blockade of all goods for nearly two years. With their people starving the Germans were desperate.

It should also be noted that the Lusitania and the 173 tones of British war munitions she was carrying went to the bottom of the ocean in May 1915. The US Congress did not declare war until April 1917 … after Wilson had won the 1916 presidential election. That hardly seems as if they “had no choice.” More like it made a convenient propaganda tool to push us toward a war the people of the United States didn’t want. The public outrage you speak of had died down by the election, Wilson’s keeping us out of war was a primary campaign point and then … suddenly, we had to go to war. I don’t buy it.

So, let’s talk about American post-World War II interventionism.

The CIA involvement in the Ukranian Orange Revolution is well-known, by the way. Considering what we did in 2004, it seems reasonable to suspect us of doing it again. But let’s be honest here. The US doesn’t just destablize leftist regimes. It has been instrumental in the destruction of many democratically-elected regimes that were deemed not pro-American enough. The US propaganda machine convinces us that these regimes are evil, but the fact is that many were elected in free elections by the citizenry of the country who wanted to control their own resources rather than be dictated to by American corporations or the American military. These people did not elect the United States to interfere in their country’s internal affairs, but we have done it time and time again.

The problem with treaty obligations is that we run the risk of being Germany circa 1914. One of our allies does something stupid — invades Russia in a territorial tug-of-war over Ukraine, for example — and now we’re obligated to enter World War 3. When I was taking foreign policy seminars in college, one of the scenarios we discussed was a Middle East color revolution whereby the United States and the USSR ended up facing one another over a country like Syria. The world would take sides and threats would be hurled. Then some minor actor on one side of the other would do something idiotic — kill someone’s prime minister, perhaps. Because of treaty obligations, we’d have to issue sanctions or invade that country. OPEC would embargo American oil shipments and now we would have no choice but to attack or energy starve. The USSR would come in on the side of OPEC and there would be World War 3.

Of course, the USSR collapsed and fracking was developed so that when the color revolution happened in the Middle East, it wasn’t (or isn’t yet) that precipitating event, but it still has that potential. It would seem that our CIA fomenting a revolution might easily lead to a multi-national war, which means treaty obligations that can come back to bite us quickly enough. When our CIA works to destablize a country like Ukraine, what is it up to? When our president draws a verbal line in the sand with Syria, it sure sounds like he’s trying to get us into a war.

We were fortunate with Syria that the US Congress was less than energetic about starting that war, but western society has been here before — circa 1914. If North Korea pisses off South Korea or Japan irritates China or Putin’s planes fly too deep into Alaska air space … and once that big war has started, the nuclear war you keep saying we need to avoid through US intervention around the world becomes a great deal more likely.

What would be so wrong with neutrality? It has worked for Switzerland for almost 200 years. Switzerland is an international porcupine — heavily armed for its own protection, but not messing with other nations. It has been instrumental in the peace process of several international hostilities while not actually suffering any wars itself.

You haven’t convinced me that our aggressive attitude toward other nations really provides stabilization or if it actually risks destabilizing the world. Especially as we are now facing economic implosion due to mounting debt, at some point someone has to ask — when we no longer have the capacity to act as the world dictator, what then happens to the world? Might it not be better to ease off our role as international meddler par excellence now, while we still have the capacity to bow out gracefully?

Thom StarkAlways being on a war footing invites war. In fact, it encourages our leaders to find wars to involve ourselves in or to create conflicts by destablizing regimes so we can have an excuse to use our muscle.  While I see the logic behind maintaining our web of bases just in case something happened, I can’t help but wonder if those web of bases are not viewed as occupying forces that will one day become a focal point for rebellion.

No one likes a tyrant and we sure do act like one.

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author ofTransformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

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