Right on time for the next Swiss poll, not on the State of the Union, but on a three items posited to be of national relevance, there comes a little juicy piece from the EU on the matter misused English: Agent Does Guide to EU-Speak. If nothing else, the piece expresses what gives me often great opportunity to scratch my head trying to figure out what on earth these peoples – the EU peoples – are writing about. Still, it is an interesting phenomenon which cannot be prevented: the tumultuous evolution of language in the tower of Babel at the Schuman Plaza. It does make me me wonder how we still manage to communicate.
Back on the ground, here in Switzerland, while the EU is talking to the USA about a free trade agreement, on the Swiss ballots we get to cast votes on family policy, rip-offs, and land-use regulation. In short, family, money and property. The trio ought to be relevant to all Swiss. I find myself apathetic at best, and definitively irritated.
My family is in my heart, not in some silly constitution paragraph that is not going to add any substance to the whole, if only the Swiss would get on with the times and implement more of what they have already signed up for at the international fora (aka international public law). Money in the style that Vasella extorts from Novartis is also something I cannot relate to, and again the Minder initiative is going to do nothing, but nothing, about putting an end to such moral abuses which are perfectly legal under national and contract law. Finally, when it comes to land-use regulation, my gut feeling is that the ‘no’ sayers – the usual suspects on the extreme right of not necessarily just one party, are fear mongers that do not want the new regulation for their very own private reasons.
There is much heartache these days in our charming little city parliament fraction. We are now eight from this very Swiss party, the liberals, who in January took our seats at the Rathaus for the legislation period 2012-2015. That is two less than four years ago.
I did not join this party because of some ideology which I thought they represented, and that I could identify with, or at least subscribe to. That may be the whole appeal of this party, at least from my perspective. We disagree often, but on major issues, we disagree less. I can only speak for myself, but somehow I like this. The trouble is that the folk out there have one hell of time knowing what we are about, and what we do.
Actually, we in the city parliament who belong to this fraction of the liberals, we are there for all in this city. We fight to keep the small business in town in business, and we fight to make sure that city employees pension funds are well managed. We fight to keep the budget under control, and we actually succeed on that one for years on end. It isn’t as though we did nothing. Unfortunately we have the media sex appeal of a dead gnat. The media loves to ignore us.
There is nothing less newsworthy than a group of politicians who actually serve the public interest and are not on some sort of ego trip. Most of us are intellectuals, lawyers, jurists, and have a full-time job on side, family, but our biggest blunder is that we argue much too subtly. We are not against this or that, we are not even against the Reitschule, but we do criticize it. We are not against increasing the offer of living space in the city, but we want this done with the right mix of regulation and market forces. You see, we have a problem. Do we? I really do not think so.
What I think is that there is much too little understanding of what drives a liberal. A liberal is not a capitalist. A liberal is not a neoliberal that can not distinguish capitalism from free-market. And a liberal may be radical in that she advocates political and social reform. A liberal is neither a libertarian willy-nilly, nor libertine à la Strauss-Kahn. It is perhaps not fair to mention DSK, but somehow I cannot resist mentioning such a conflicted character. That said, it does not mean that among the liberals there are no individuals as conflicted as DSK. If faut de tout pour faire un monde.
Actually I joined this party exactly because they did not have an ideology to which I was to subscribe to until death do us part. In the vagaries of political affairs one needs to be able to think straight and unencumbered by ideology; politics is about finding solutions. It is also about finding solutions that are sustainable, equitable, and anchored in the social norms of what we aspire to be. I read Marx, and I like reading Marx. I read Hayek, and I like reading Hayek, but I also read Feyerabend and Amartya Sen. When it all gets too much for me, I escape into Agatha Christie. Occasionally I read newspapers.
Perhaps I should engage with our newspapers a bit more. Actually I have already started. It is not all bad what the media publishes, but it is just a very small slice of reality that finds its way to the (mainstream) media.