the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Minarets Nein Danke

the worst form of government

in General Rants , Monday, November 30, 2009

So the Swiss citizenry has voted quite decisively to outlaw the building of minarets in their country. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the underlying issue are (for the record, I don’t find minarets any more offensive than church towers) what is interesting is the outrage from politicos around the world, especially those that habitually bang on about democracy.


What we have hear is pure, unadulterated democracy in action. Democracy actual implies that the will of the majority (with, possibly, some degree of weighting) carries the day. This isn’t at all what the common perception is. When people say something is “undemocratic”, they usually mean “it’s NOT FAIR!” or it is “contrary to the policies of the US of America”. Now they have a clear illustration that democracy doesn’t necessarily produce the result they believe should have happened, or they want. Another example is the fair, democratic election of Hamas in the Palestinian State.

So, yes, it probably isn’t fair to deny Muslims in Switzerland the outward expression of their faith. But it is democratic. Very democratic.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” - Winston Churchill.


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from John Ellis on Tue, December 08, 2009 - 6:56

I can’t say that I’m in agreement!  A state has a responsibility towards minorities, which is why in the UK the referendum remains controversial and rarely used.  It is easy for an extremist party or organisation to take control of the media and whip up a campaign: ultimately it can lead to darker places.  Democracy is not simple: the UK would have the death penalty were a referendum to be called.  We elect representatives to, in effect, provide that ‘sleep on it’ hurdle to prevent precipitate populist action.  The right’s campaign in Switzerland to whip up hatred and suspicion of those who have already had to flee their country is quite despicable and roundly points up the referendum as a dubious tool in the democratic arsenal: rarely can a yes/no answer be a sensible way of making policy.

from John Ellis on Thu, December 10, 2009 - 12:49

Did you wipe my comment?

from david mantripp on Thu, December 10, 2009 - 4:51

Sorry John, no, I just took a long time to approve it. I don’t edit or delete any comment except obvious spam.  One day I’ll find a foolproof way to automatically detect comment spam. Then I’ll invent cold fusion.

The reporting of the situation in Switzerland by the foreign press is actually not very accurate. And the political process here is really quite unusual.  It is almost certain that the minarette ban will be overturned, and for good, by exactly the same process. The debate is only just starting. 

And do bear in mind that in Switzerland a referendum is not called by the Government, as it would be in the UK. It is called by the people.  The Swiss government is bound by the constitution to serve the will of the people. The UK government could certainly use a dose of that.

The point I want to make is that “Democracy” is actually not really what most people assume it to be.