Lost in Translation

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.

Update 3. Feb. 2013

It is a slight exageration on my part to claim that the media ignores us. Here is a couple of examples of some much needed attention.

Der Bund writes about Christoph Zimmeli’s proposal for the simplification of the communal administration. By the way, I am with Christoph on this one. (02.02.2013)

— The Bernerzeitung writes about Jacqueline Gafner’s postulate that challenges the cantons in its decisions that are detrimental to the city. (31.1.2013)