chapter  2
Direct democracy: the Swiss experience
ByHANSPETER KRIESI
Pages 17

Switzerland is the only country where politics at all levels – including the national level – is decisively shaped by direct-democratic institutions. Thus, more national popular votes have taken place in Switzerland so far than in any other country. Therefore, the Swiss experience with direct democracy is of utmost importance – for its critics as well as for its supporters, even if the pertinence of this experience has been called into question by some of the critics. Schumpeter (1962: 267), unsurprisingly one of the greatest detractors of direct democracy, has, for example, put into question the relevance of the Swiss experience, because, as he argued, ‘there is so little to quarrel about in a world of peasants which, excepting hotels and banks, contains no great capitalist industry, and the problems of public policy are so simple and so stable that an overwhelming majority can be expected to understand and to agree about them’. In Switzerland, he suggested, direct democracy could be an effective mechanism of political decision, ‘but only because there are no great decisions to be made’.