The National Initiative for Democracy


A “Plan B” when Congress doesn’t Represent

How we’re getting Better and NATIONAL Ballot Initiatives

NOTE: Sen.Gravel’s project (has stalled, but you can subscribe to our occasional news, upper right.  Gravel’s way of getting National Ballot Initiatives is still valid -and ANYONE could try it

Led by former US Senator Mike Gravel, the National Initiative empowers us to check and balance representatives, similar to ballot initiatives in 24 States, but at all levels from local to national and with major improvements. It gives us a “Plan B” whenever representatives don’t represent us. (Do perpetual wars and debt, domestic spying and bailouts for criminals represent you??) Direct democracy like this is both a strategy and a goal of the Occupy Wall Street and Everywhere Movement.

People tried to get this power from Congress, both in 1907 and 1977, with no success. Gravel adopted the Founders’ solution: rather than beg the existing 13 Legislatures to ratify the Constitution, the Founders had delegates of The People ratify the Constitution at the Constitutional Conventions. James Madison said “The people were in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over.”(His 2nd response in the 1787 Debate)

Gravel now resorts to you to read and vote to ratify the National Initiative, to make real the promise of “government by the people.” The National Initiative consists of the brief Democracy Amendment and the more detailed Democracy Act.

Real Leaders Agree

  • The Founders would agree! George Washington said “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.” More Founders’ quotes.
  • America’s best Constitutional expert agrees. As Yale’s Akil Reed Amar says in
    Popular Sovereignty and Constitutional Amendment “We the People of the United
    States have a legal right to alter our government–to amend our Constitution–via a
    majoritarian and populist mechanism akin to a national referendum, even though that
    mechanism is not explicitly specified in Article V.”
  • Superlative people agree: Patch Adams to Howard Zinn “Participation, that’s what’s going to save the human race.” -Pete Seeger
  • The Economist Magazine agrees: in 17articles!

This vote is no poll. It’s as legal as the conventions which ratified the Constitution. Senator Gravel keeps your email, registered address, etc., with your vote so it can be verified, but will share this data ONLY with the government when ratification is complete: when more than half the people who voted in the previous Presidential election vote for the Initiative. You can change your vote at any time until then. This will take several years.

Why ballot initiatives?

  • Initiatives put the people in the drivers seat. Responsibility brings more responsible people: more people vote in States with initiatives. In Switzerland, national initiatives since 1891 result in the highest newspaper readership in the world. The mental health benefits are incalculable.
  • Initiatives are competition for legislators. The National Initiative will break the monopoly Congress has on national legislative power.
  • People are less swayed by money than representatives are. This study and book show that people favor “grassroots” initiatives over “big money” initiatives while the Associated Press shows Congress usually votes the way big money wants. Buying Congress is the world’s best investment, paying off at 1000 to 1 or more. See what jailed lobbyist/bribesman Jack Abramoff says in this Washington Post article (3rd paragraph).
  • “No one misunderstands the public as much as its representatives.” See this study from the U. of Maryland
  • When legislators make mistakes they cover them up –to protect their careers. Citizens lack the coverup incentive but have incentive to fix mistakes: regular people suffer more than the privileged. Thomas Jefferson said “The will of the majority is the natural law of every society and the only sure guardian of the rights of man; though this may err, yet its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived.”
  • Large, diverse groups of independent people make better decisions. The award-winning book The Wisdom of Crowds shows how and why.
  • Even animals practice democracy! NY Times article


The National Initiative makes these improvements over state ballot initiatives
based on a century of state initiatives and 160 years of Swiss initiatives:

  • More deliberation: Randomly-selected “Deliberative Committees” would hold hearings, take expert testimony, and negotiate amendments. Their reports would be disseminated by all media. Oregon is now using the similar Citizen Initiative Review
  • Easier: Initiatives could qualify by poll, as well as by petition: if a majority polled want to vote on an initiative, they get to.
  • Less influence of money, by allowing only individual contributions to initiative campaigns. No corporate or union donations. The Deliberative Committee reports seen everywhere would make big-money ad campaigns much less important.
“We want saints and gurus and leaders and heroes because we are lazy. We think they have done all the work, and all that we have to do is just to follow them. You know, when you follow somebody, you’re not only destroying yourself, but the other whom you follow.” -Krishnamurti
Who really likes democracy? A tale of 4 Udalls -our Senator from Colorado, his brothers and late mother.

Why has’s founder, previously happy-go-lucky entertainer Evan from Heaven, spent 20 years promoting better and national ballot initiatives? See here.

to help take the “mock” out of democracy!

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Join our Facebook group! Please link your website to ours with this banner:

Evan Ravitz, founder Evan’s Freelance Editing Gates of Paradise hot springs backpacking trips More info is at Senator Gravel’s web site.

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(This is ERIC (Educational Research Information Center, a US. govt. agency) document # ED107300. ERIC #s ED095896 and ED095897 are also about Televote. All are available from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service or (800) 443-ERIC.)

A New Civic Communication System

by Vincent Campbell and Janet Santos
February 1975

This publication was funded by the Research Applied to National Needs (RANN) Program of the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C. [Grant No. GI-37183]

Editorial assistance from Sam Halsted, Stephanie Murphy, and Allen Shinn is gratefully acknowledged.


[For current information on TELEVOTE, contact: Vincent Campbell at  208-340-7253. Email:


A televote system is a convenient way to inform citizens about civic issues and quickly get opinions back from them. It is rapid, low- cost communication between the people and government officials.

People need information and public officials need feedback from the people. The success of government depends both on good decisions and public acceptance. Programs with new ideas are likely to succeed only after people are comfortable with them.


Relevant facts and opposing views on an issue are sent to all interested citizens who have registered as televoters. They then have a week to express their opinions. by dialing certain numbers on the telephone. A computer counts the number of people choosing each opinion, and the results are delivered to public officials and the media a day or so later.


Issue: Which transportation plan will be better for our city? Study the fact sheet. (A page or two of background information describing plans, their costs and supporting facts)

Choose one answer:
187 Plan A: (Summary of Plan A and its main advantages)
298 Plan B: (Summary of Plan B and its main advantages)
319 Other: If you want to tell us what other plan you prefer,
please call 998-2668.

When a televoter has studied the information and chosen an answer, the choice is televoted as follows:

  • Dial the phone number of the Televote Center
  • Dial own confidential “televote number,” which is different for every person. This assures that only one vote is counted from each person.
  • Dial the number beside the answer chosen. In the example above a televoter who chose Plan B would dial 298.

[for a modern process tailored for elections with many candidates and issues, please see our BROCHURE, under How Voting by Phone Works]

The computer counts the number of votes for Plan A, for Plan B, and for “other.” It can also give separate results for each part of town, males and females, age groups, and whatever other breakdown is desired.

Government councils, commissions, advisory panels and other citizen groups can use this information immediately in their planning, because the results are available within a day after the televote ends.

Televotes may be used by any kind of government of any size. The cost of a televote is less than any other means of getting feedback from large numbers of citizens–about 25 cents per adult resident per year after installation. [Please see COST for ’90s numbers -editor]

Televoting has been successfully used in a large school district in San Jose, California where several public agencies are now planning to share one system. By sharing they can keep costs low and each agency can still choose its own issues.


Public agencies are being held increasingly accountable to their constituencies and are seeking ways to be responsive while still making sound decisions in the public interest. To be responsive is to base decisions on accurate knowledge of citizen needs. An efficient means of evaluating people’s needs and preferences is necessary. Televoting is a means of achieving this efficiency by providing quick feedback from many people at low cost. Televoting is only one useful way of exchanging ideas with people. It will not replace working committees and public hearings, which are necessary to create good plans and make known various viewpoints. What televotes can do is inform the public and get a quick, accurate appraisal of their informed choices among specific plans, policies, or goals.

In addition, one can test levels of awareness: Do citizens know what officials are planning? Do officials know what citizens want, and what they think of government plans? Attitudes are a crucial ingredient of communication as well: Do citizens feel that public officials want their opinions? Do public officials care about citizen views? Televotes can assess knowledge and attitudes as well as preferences.

If the public participates in a certain area of planning right from the start they are more likely to get the kind of programs they want. They will also better understand the problems which public officials face. For these reasons, a good civic communication system should both improve government and strengthen public support of public agencies. Over the years, mutual respect and trust between citizens and officials should increase. Because early communication avoids miscalculations of public reaction, there should be fewer failing tax and bond elections. Saving the cost of wasted elections alone might pay the cost of a televote system.


If citizen opinions are to have a beneficial effect on government decisions, they should be well informed and thoughtful. The televote system informs people by giving them summaries of information relevant to the issues, easy access to more detailed information, and time to think the whole matter over before deciding.

Televotes open to all citizens are thus similar to regular elections in which voters are sent carefully prepared arguments on ballot propositions.

Televoting by a preselected representative sample of the community is another use of the system. This use is more similar to scientifically reputable polls which survey a random cross- section of a defined population. An important difference from a typical poll is that the televoter is given a summary of the main background information needed to make a sound judgment, and is given up to a week to think it over and discuss it before reaching a conclusion. Poll respondents, on the other hand, are typically not given advance information to study, but rather are asked to make a quick judgement based on little or no information at a time which may not be convenient.

If televotes were held often and citizens came gradually to realize their impact on public decisions, they might have greater incentive to inform themselves and thus make wiser decisions. Informed or not, their opinions will bear directly on the success of government programs, and therefore should be taken into account by public officials as they make plans.


The major decisions and tasks of setting up a televote system are each described briefly below:


The system can be operated by the public agencies which use it, or by a citizen organization created especially for that purpose, or by an independent private organization. In all cases it is important that lay citizens and participating government agencies be adequately represented both in setting policy and defining issues.

Who Selects the Televote Issues

Each participating public agency identifies those issues on which televotes might assist agency policymakers. Examples: Transit routes or service; location of major shopping centers; educational programs; parks acquisition projects; and capital improvements bond elections.

Citizen groups may also initiate issues. The governing body establishes general procedures, including rules guaranteeing televotes on issues that are requested by a specified minimum number of citizens. A 24- hour hotline is open to receive citizens’ issue suggestions. Issues may also come from a citizens’ advisory body, set up to monitor issue statements.

How Are Issues Presented

Consultants and staff first research and then draft issue statements. Statements are then referred to officials of the initiating agency for review and confirmation of issue priorities. The citizens’ advisory body reviews every issue to see that all major viewpoints are presented fairly and reflect concerns relevant to particular neighborhoods. The final say on wording of an issue, however, lies with the agency which initiated it. Five or six hundred words (two pages) of concise information is a desirable amount for study by televoters. Endorsement by special interest groups, experts, or officials may heighten public interest in an issue.

The final statements are mailed directly to all registered televoters, printed in newspapers, and distributed by various civic and government offices.

Use of Televote Results

Each participating agency publicizes results and includes them in their policy deliberations. Results can be analyzed and the issue restated and returned to televoters for more reaction. A series of such televotes can produce tested and reasoned decisions. Official decisions can be published alongside televote results to show responsiveness or to explain differences.

Who Televotes?

All residents of the community age 12 [obviously, must be 18 for legal elections -editor] or older are invited to become televoters. In addition to all voluntary televoters, a representative sample of all segments of the community is asked to televote regularly.

Representative and voluntary samples provide basically different kinds of information, each kind serving somewhat different uses. A voluntary sample will more closely resemble the part of the public which normally votes and participates in civic affairs. A representative sample will describe all types of people in the community, including citizens who do not usually participate.

Getting Citizens Interested

A televote system includes a continuous program to attract citizens of all cultural and socioeconomic groups. An aim of the program is to demonstrate how televotes can help minority groups serve their special needs, as well as helping the whole community. Meetings with local and civic groups, newsletters, and mass media presentations are part of the program.

Televoting helps overcome the very low motivation most citizens have to participate in civic matters in the following ways:

  • Participation is made easy since people can study the issues and televote from their own homes in a matter of minutes.
  • A televoter can influence government decisions directly without have to display the skills of public speaking or letter writing.
  • Televoters realize that public officials are asking for their opinions to aid their decisions, and are more likely to have their say if they think someone is listening.
  • Televote impact on public decisions is publicized.
  • Once registered, televoters are reminded to call in through spot announcements on radio and TV and notices in newspapers.

The televote system allows citizens to choose a level of constructive participation in civic planning suited to their interest in a given issue. Those with much time can play a key role in defining issues, researching them or mobilizing support. Those with little time can make a valuable contribution by studying the alternatives and televoting their preferences.

The percentage of residents who respond initially will likely be small, but can be expected to grow as more citizens perceive the impact of televotes on public decisions. [and grow much faster if televotes are legally binding -editor] A starting sample of even a few hundred citizens will provide officials far better estimates of informed public opinion than officials usually have. This size sample is also large enough to give reliable results within +- 5%, no matter how large the city is.

Registration of Televoters

In order to be sure only one vote is counted per person, every televoter must be registered and given a unique televoter number which cannot easily be dialed by chance. Everyone who wishes to become a televoter therefore is registered and given such a number. Registration forms are published periodically in newspapers and provided to any organization willing to distribute them to community residents. Below is a sample form.

Sample Registration Form

Name ___________________________________


City _____________________ Zip ________

__ Male __Female

Registered voter? __yes __no

__12- 17 __18- 29 __30- 49 __50 or over

Parent of child under age 18? __yes __no

The name and address can be used to verify registration. The other information is used to break down televote results for separate groups.

A person can register by phone or mail at any time and thereby receive a televoter card along with the next televote issue. [For legal elections, see our BROCHURE, under How Voting by Phone Works -editor] The card shows instructions on how to televote and the televoter number assigned to that person, as in the sample below:

Sample Televoter Card

To televote: First study the information and choose your 
answers. Then call 998- 1166. As soon as the tone begins, 
dial your televoter number (below), then dial the answer 


If you have questions or suggestions, or want a new 
televoter number, call 998- 2668.

Processing Televotes

Televoters may use any telephone. All televote information comes to a single televote center which houses equipment and a hotline operator who uses a conventional telephone to handle inquiries, suggestions and registrations of televoters.

Each incoming telephone line by which televotes are transmitted has a data coupler and decoder to convert dial and touch tone signals to digital information. A small eight- bit computer [Now, any standard personal computer -editor.] controls the decoding process and transfers televotes onto paper or magnetic tape through a teletype machine or digital tape recorder. At the end of a televote week all data from the tapes are transmitted by telephone line to a larger computer at a commercial data processing firm where the results are batch processed overnight. [Not necessary now -editor.] There is no permanent record of how a person televoted. At the end of a week when results have been tallied, televotes of individual persons are erased permanently from all records.


Initial set- up costs and annual operating costs are estimated below for cities of 50,000 to 500,000 population. Figures are based on actual costs for the San Jose try out.

Set- Up Costs

Equipment: $ 7,000 – 10,000

System manager (3 mos.) 4,000

Secretary/hotline operator (3 mos.) 2,000

Computer programmer 2,000

Public orientation 4,000

Registrations (12,000@ $250/l,000) 3,000

Consultants 3,000 – 5,000

Total set- up costs: $ 25,000 – 30,000

If the number of registrations rises as high as 50,000, additional one- time set- up costs of about $16,000 would be incurred.

Annual Operating Costs

After set- up is complete, yearly operating costs will vary from approximately $.15 per capita for a population of 500,000 to $.50 per capita for a population of 50,000 (assuming 12 televotes yearly). [Current Boulder election costs are now $2 per capital for a single vote -editor] A breakdown of yearly operating costs is shown below:

Number of Registered Televoters:

5,000 50,000

System management $ 10,000 15,000

Hotline operators/ secretaries 8,000 24,000

Equipment maintenance 2,000 3,000

Telephone lines 1,200 4,500

New computer programming 2,000 2,000

New registrations (20% per year) 600 4,000

Print and mail televote information

(12 televotes per year) 1,800 16,000

Televote data processing (assume 20% of

registrants respond to each issue) 2,400 6,000

Miscellaneous 1,000 2,000

Total Operating Costs Per Year $ 29,000 $76,500

If the total system cost is shared by several agencies the annual cost per agency would be:

5 agencies $5,800 $15,200

10 agencies 2,900 7,600

Costs of Alternative Methods

Once a televote system is set- up and operating, additional televotes cost little. The estimated cost per additional issue (beyond 12) is compared below for televotes and other survey methods.

No. of reg. voters: 5,000 50,000

Televote (by tele- phone- computer) $600 $ 2,000

Mail punch cards 600 5,500

Telephone survey 3,000 27,000

Door- to- door survey 8,000 77,000

The time spent by public officials and citizens defining important problems and formulating televote issues is not considered an added cost of the system. These are functions which need to be performed however civic communication is handled.


Televoting was developed and used over a period of one year in the San Jose Unified School District. This initial demonstration was funded by the National Science Foundation. District- wide televoting went on for seven months during the 1973- 74 school year. A committee of students, staff, parents and others met weekly to decide communication priorities. Others could suggest additional issues or answers by calling a special hotline.

When the committee had stated the issues well and fairly, information was mailed to all televoters and given to the media. Potential televoters were required to register by phone, by mail or by returning forms to a school. Registrations were solicited mainly through school newsletters and occasional public service an announcements on radio and TV. Every person who registered received a unique televoter number and brief instructions on how to televote.

During the seven months there were nine televotes which included 30 specific questions about 14 issues. One of the briefer issues is shown below:


In some communities high school students are getting part of their instruction outside the school building. Examples: learning as they work at a regular job; field trips; helping with a community project; tutoring younger children; observing and participating in local government; study in a museum or gallery; developing a skill or craft not offered at school. The extra costs of such programs often include transportation, insurance, special consultants, equipment and supplies. The gains or savings sometimes include freed class room space and the services of volunteers. How much do you think the high schools should involve students in out- of- school learning activities? (Choose one answer)

859 Quite a lot. Experience in the outside world should be a large part of high school education for all students. It could prepare students for a career and for adult life. They may find such activities more interesting and therefore learn more. If their work is useful, students may feel more like worthwhile members of the community.

961 Very little. Students should spend nearly all school time in school. Films, guest speakers, laboratories, and other experience in school can bring the real- life element into learning more efficiently. Out of school learning is harder to control and coordinate so that students really learn from it.

313 Other.

A three digit number was printed beside each alternative answer, plan or policy. A televoter studied the alternatives, then indicated his or her preference by calling the televote line, dialing his or her own televoter number, and dialing the numbers beside the answer preferred. Televotes were processed by computer, and all information from an individual was kept confidential.

Results of the televote were given to all interested individuals and groups and to the media a day or so later. Televote counts were broken down by school area, sex and other group differences as will be shown later for the vocational school issue.


Televote results were used in four educational decisions, particularly in the choice of new courses for a three million dollar program of the Regional Vocational Center. The courses corresponded closely to the preferences of televoters.

Over 5,500 persons voluntarily registered as televoters (total population of the district is approximately 180,000 persons), and most of these participated in one or more televotes. An average of about 700 persons voted on a given issue. This rate of participation is better than usually received by traditional methods. Yet the potential number of citizens who might participate is much greater. Participation in the televote system led to greater awareness of school issues and better relations between citizens and the school district, according to survey results.

All groups questioned about the value of televoting evaluated the system favorably on the whole. Half of the random sample of San Jose citizens surveyed said they would be willing to pay at least 25 cents per year, the amount needed to operate a televote system. Apparently most residents who are told about televoting think it has value for the community and are willing to pay the small cost of operation.


Following is a description of how educators used televote to plan a new program for the San Jose Regional Vocational Center.

The Regional Vocational Center prepares high school juniors and seniors to enter certain occupations after graduation or to continue in more advanced occupational training beyond high school. The Center serves thirty high schools in six different school districts in the greater San Jose area Students attend the Center half the day and their regular high school the other half.

Demand for vocational education has been increasing for several years in the San Jose area. As a result, the Center planned to expand their program of offerings from thirteen occupational areas to eighteen or nineteen. Since the number of occupational areas in which new courses might be offered is very large, narrowing the selection down to those few which would be of greatest advantage to students and the community was an important and difficult decision. Center staff began with a survey of industry to determine the marketability of graduates in each occupational area. This narrowed the choice down to fourteen occupational courses for which job prospects looked good in the near future.

Next a survey of sophomore high school students was conducted to determine student preferences among these areas. The major gap in knowledge at this point was information as to the preferences of parents and other adult citizens.

In mid- October 1973 the Center director found the planning process to be in a typical time bind: more information needed but too little time to get it. It was important from the standpoint of funding and community support that the new program offerings be in active operation by September 1974. In order to provide adequate time for course preparation, the decision as to which courses would be offered needed to be made in early December 1973. This left little time to plan, conduct, analyze and report a survey carried out by conventional means.

At this point the director proposed a televote to learn adult preferences among the vocational course offerings. Within three weeks a televote issue on vocational courses had been reviewed and approved by the issues committee and mailed out to televoters. The information given to televoters stated the purposes of the Center, its current courses, and the fourteen possible new courses with a brief description of each course. Televoters then selected up to five courses which they thought should be offered. By the third week in November the televote had been completed and the results tallied by computer and delivered to the director of the Center.

On the basis of these results, and the earlier 10th grade survey, the Center staff recommended to the participating school districts that six new courses be offered. (Data processing; air- conditioning and refrigeration mechanics; medical office and related services; industrial plastics; advanced secretarial; and heavy duty equipment mechanics.) The six courses recommended included four of the five courses most preferred by televoters.

Since these results correspond with student preferences, it was evident to both the Center staff and the school boards that the courses recommended had the support of the adults of the community as well as students. The courses recommended were unanimously approved by the six participating school districts.


Based on the initial San Jose tryout and work sessions with several public agencies, Televote, we believe, is a workable, economical and effective communication system. There are many ways to adapt a televote system to particular communities. Please contact us to discuss how televoting may fit the needs of your community or government, and how you might implement a televote system. A detailed report (The Televote System for Civic Communication: First Demonstration and Evaluation) is available on request describing the San Jose tryout and evaluation.

For current information on TELEVOTE, contact Vincent Campbell at 208-340-7253 E-Mail:

Grassroots ballot initiatives do better at the polls than big-money initiatives

Press release: Initiative Process: Money Doesn’t Buy Success at Ballot Box

Study: Interest Group Influence in the California Initiative Process

Book: The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation

A news article in a similar vein:

CU Journalism School Dean Paul Voakes’ article debunks myths about initiatives:

August 13, 2000, The Oregonian


So you think you’ve heard it all about Oregon’s initiative system? Try this true-false quiz:

  • Initiatives have been passing like crazy the last few years.
  • Spending on initiatives has skyrocketed.
  • Initiatives are an easy way for wealthy individuals to make their pet ideas law.
  • Conservatives are more successful with initiatives than liberals.

All true?

In fact, only one claim — that spending has skyrocketed — holds up.

The test is for fun. But at a time when Oregon seems to have gone initiative wild, it shows that there is much to learn — and relearn — about the century-old system of direct democracy that so dominates our politics.

Voters will consider 18 citizen initiatives on the Nov. 7 ballot, the most since 1914, and no state has used the initiative more frequently in the last quarter-century.

The surge in popularity of the initiatives has fostered a backlash, mainly from politicians and some citizens who say it short-circuits the more deliberative process of making laws in the Legislature.

A tempest of claims and assumptions accompanies the criticism, but are many of them valid?

To find out, The Oregonian decided to look more closely at the 99 initiatives that have been on the ballot since 1976, when post-Watergate reforms ushered in laws that made campaign contributors public.

We built a database, logging such things as campaign spending, the level of big-donor support, whether each measure had conservative or liberal backing, and how many had passed.

And to help spot trends, we divided the quarter-century into periods: post-Watergate (1976-1982), the years after courts allowed paid signature gathering (1984-1990), and the years since passage of the landmark property tax limit Measure 5 in 1990.

What did we find? Here are eight often-heard observations about the initiative system — and how they hold up under historical scrutiny.

1 “Initiatives are passing like crazy the last several years.”

Not true. They actually enjoyed a greater success rate in the ’80s than in the ’90s.

In the post-Watergate period, 28 percent of the initiatives on the ballot passed. That shot up to 45 percent in the middle period but declined to 40 percent in the past four election cycles.

Of course, more initiatives are hitting the ballot than ever, so more are becoming law or part of the state constitution than ever before.

The average number of initiatives per election increased from 4.5 in the early period to 12 in the ’90s. And the pace seems to be quickening. Since 1994, we’ve averaged 14 initiatives per November election, not counting this year’s crop.

Donald Stabrowski, a political scientist at the University of Portland, sees the increase as part of a long cycle that dates back almost 100 years, when Oregon became one of the first states to adopt the initiative system.

“Usually when there’s dissatisfaction with elected officials you get this frequency,” Stabrowski says. “We go through these ups and downs, and we’re probably at a peak right now. At some point soon, it will all start seeming too expensive, and the results won’t be as satisfying as people want them to be.”

2 “Spending on initiative campaigns has skyrocketed. “

True. “Skyrocket” might be a bit strong, but there’s no doubt that campaign spending is up — way up.

Adjusted for inflation to today’s dollars, the average spent per initiative nearly doubled from $862,000 in the late ’70s to $1.7 million in the ’90s.

All political spending is up, of course. But the increase for Oregon initiatives is more dramatic. Spending nationally on congressional campaigns rose about 60 percent during the same period, as did spending on Oregon’s statewide and legislative races.

Though average spending per initiative fell slightly in 1998, to $1.6 million, no one is predicting a downward trend.

Sean Smith, a political consultant who worked on this year’s failed initiative to repeal the death penalty, said he’s surprised that spending on initiatives hasn’t risen even more quickly.

“Connecting to voters has become a lot more difficult,” Smith said. “Especially with all these initiatives, it simply costs more to be heard above the din of all the other choices voters have.”

3 “Initiatives are an easy way for wealthy individuals to turn pet ideas into state law.”

Not quite. During the last 25 years, the major financial players have been corporations, not wealthy individuals.

The Oregonian looked up each campaign donation of $25,000 or more to identify the biggest contributors, then determined whether the money came from individuals, labor unions, nonprofits or corporations. Overall, individuals accounted for only 7 percent of these big checks. Corporations accounted for 42 percent.

Wealthy individuals such as George Soros, the international financier who helped bankroll 1998’s medical marijuana measure, are usually playing offense by proposing initiatives that shake up the status quo. Corporations are typically playing defense — and these opponents are overwhelmingly the side with deeper pockets.

Over the quarter century studied, campaign committees urging “yes” votes spent $18.5 million. Committees urging “no” votes have spent nearly $68 million, and the gap has grown larger over time.

Of all those large donations made to defeat initiatives, more than half came from businesses.

4 “The courts are overturning citizen initiatives far more often.”

Not really. The rate has increased in 25 years but not drastically.

In the early and middle periods, courts overturned 20 percent of the successful measures, either in whole or in part. In the ’90s, the rate edged up to 26 percent — not much of a difference.

It’s possible that fewer initiatives will end up being challenged in the future. The reason is a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling that requires the secretary of state to screen initiatives to make sure they don’t contain more than a single amendment to the constitution.

Since that ruling, about a dozen proposed initiatives have been rejected before backers could start signature gathering.

“We’re finally seeing the courts step in and put some reasonable balance into the process,” says David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, “one that will help voters know what they’re voting on.”

5 “Conservative causes are more successful with initiatives than liberal causes are.”


Of the 99 initiatives since 1976, only 75 can be identified as either liberal or conservative in their leaning.

As conservative, we classified measures calling for tax reductions, stricter penalties for crimes, restrictions on abortions or unions’ political activity — or any other measure obviously funded by conservative groups.

Liberal measures included calls for new or higher taxes, stricter environmental protections, restrictions on nuclear energy, broader legal uses for marijuana or any other cause mainly paid for by liberal groups.

Liberal proposals had the upper hand in the early period, but things evened out. Overall, 36 percent of the conservative measures have won approval, and almost 40 percent of the liberal measures have won.

Even in the 1990s, as more conservative politics took hold in the Oregon Legislature, liberal initiatives enjoyed a 41 percent success rate compared with 39 percent for the conservative measures.

Moreover, when the elections are close, the conservatives get burned. Thirteen initiatives since 1976 have come within 5 percentage points of winning. Each of those narrowly losing efforts was a conservative measure.

6 “Conservative campaigns are better funded than liberal causes.”

True, but the gap has closed dramatically in recent years.

From 1976 to 1990, conservative committees outspent their liberal foes by more than 2-1. In the 1990s, though, committees backing liberal causes spent $23.7 million — not far behind the $24.6 million spent by conservative opponents.

Corporations are the big players for conservative campaigns, providing nearly two thirds of large donations. Of the large donations to liberal measures, half came from unions and 41 percent came from nonprofit groups.

The minor players: individual donors. They accounted for about 11 percent of large contributions for conservative causes and 2 percent for liberal ones.

7 “Initiatives have become longer and hence more complicated.”


The problem with wording, critics claim, is that measures become hard for voters to understand, that they’re so poorly written that the Legislature struggles to implement them or courts must overturn them.

The assumption about length is not really true. Since the ’80s, the average length of initiative measures has been about 1,400 words. That compares with an average of about 1,200 words in the post-Watergate period.

Statutory initiatives, which change state law, tend to be wordier than initiatives that amend the constitution. But constitutional amendments, which are immune to tampering from the Legislature, are on the rise.

In the early period, a quarter of the measures were constitutional amendments. In the mid-’80s a third were amendments, and in the ’90s more than half were amendments.

8 “Voters are turned off by too many initiatives.”

Well, if voter turnout is any indication, this just isn’t true.

One way to gauge voter enthusiasm is to compare turnout on initiatives to turnout for the presidential races every four years. Initiatives have never drawn the interest that presidential contests do, but the gap has been consistently small.

In fact, the largest difference was in 1976, when about 67 percent of Oregon’s registered voters cast ballots for initiatives and 72 percent voted for president. Ever since, though, initiative turnout has come within 3 percentage points of presidential turnout.

Librarian Lynne Palombo and editorial aide Jenna Thompson of The Oregonian staff contributed to this report.

Ballot Initiatives

Initiative: “The right or procedure by which legislation may be introduced or enacted directly by the people, as in the Swiss Confederation and in many of the States of the United States;”
– Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

Searchable Database of ALL US Initiatives and Referenda by the National Conference of State Legislatures

PAST Successes of State Initiatives

(Many were later adopted by Congress) (Mouseover)

Abolition of poll taxes

Aid to dependent children, blind, mentally ill

Animal rights

Bottle deposit bills

Clean Elections

Direct election of US Senators

Direct primaries

Environmental initiatives

Food sales tax exemptions

Legal marijuana

Medical marijuana

Merit systems for civil servants

Minimum wages

Mining reclamation

Mining severance & oil extraction taxes

Nuclear Freeze

Old age pensions

Open meetings

Prohibiting cyanide mining

Renewable Energy Requirements for Utilities

Public school funding

State financial audits

Sunshine laws

Tax limits

Term limits

Victim rights

Women’s suffrage

Workman’s compensation


FUTURE Potential of National Initiatives

(Percentages show popular support. I’ve left in older polls to show how progressive Americans really are.)

Trade must be fair (88%)

Stronger Environmental Protection (83%)

Enforce equal pay for women (79%)

Protect roadless areas (76%)

Pay $50/yr. more to cut hunger (75%)

Re-instate limits on campaign donations (72%)

Label genetically modified foods) (68%)

Universal Health Care (67%) End foreign military aid (65%)

U.S. cut greenhouse gases now (65%)

U.S. sign 37 treaties it now blocks (various)


Ballotpedia has lots more!

“On the most major issues we’ve dealt with in the past 50 years, the public was more likely to be right…based on the judgment of history…than the legislatures or Congress.” -George Gallup, Sr.

Initiatives are intended “to restore, not destroy, representative government” and “In order to clean house the one thing we need is a good broom. Initiatives and referendums are good brooms.”-President Woodrow Wilson

“The cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy.” -John Dewey

38 US-Unratified International Treaties

The US government is the major holdout to these international agreements

  1. Ottawa Treaty (the land-mine ban)
  2. Treaty on the Rights of the Child (only holdouts are the U.S. and Somalia)
  3. Protocol to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (vote was 178-1, the US the only holdout)
  4. United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  5. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  6. Convention on Biological Diversity
  7. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
  8. Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
  9. International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings
  10. International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
  11. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
  12. Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes Against Humanity
  13. Forced Labor Convention
  14. Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention
  15. Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention
  16. Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age to Marriage and Registration of Marriages
  17. Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
  18. Convention on the International Right of Correction
  19. International Criminal Court
  20. Kyoto Accords (greenhouse gas reductions)
  21. UN Convention on Biological Diversity (regulating genetic engineering)
  22. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  23. Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty [prohibiting programs like “Stars Wars”]
  24. Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
  25. Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes
  26. International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries
  27. International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid
  28. Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment
  29. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
  30. Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers (prohibiting sale of arms to human rights violators & aggressors)
  31. Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
  32. Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, and Other Related Materials
  33. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (bans toxic waste dumping, etc.)
  34. UN Moon Treaty [declaring the moon part of the Common Heritage of Mankind]
  35. Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
  36. UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
  37. Protocol to enforce the Convention Against Torture
  38. United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Polls (and common sense) indicate that the vast majority of the American people support these things, in spite of the President and the Senate, which ratifies treaties.

Now you can do something so that soon the People will have the power to vote on such treaties or any serious policy proposed by citizens –like ballot initiatives now in 24 U.S. states, but with many improvements. Former US Senator Mike Gravel and his nonprofit Philadelphia II have started the process of ratification of the National Initiative, much as citizens -NOT the existing colonial legislatures- ratified the US Constitution. You can read the text and vote for or against the National Initiative, at, as well as see what state initiatives have already accomplished and what might be done with the National Initiative. Don’t let our representatives misrepresent us!

“Don’t hate the government – become the government!”

Please copy and distribute this!

Citizen Initiatives in 24 U.S. states

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Source: Initiative Resource Center, San Francisco

End foreign military aid

“…another [1975] Harris poll reported ‘65% of Americans oppose military aid abroad because they feel it allows dictatorships to maintain control over their population.'”

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, p. 545, On p. 558 Zinn writes that other polls showed the same.

Direct Democracy in Switzerland

Excerpts from Direct Democracy in Switzerland

By Gregory A. Fossedal, Chairman, Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Forward by Alfred R. Berkeley III, vice-chair, NASDAQ

"More than half its [the Swiss Constitution’s] provisions, as of the late 20th century, were derived from popular ballot initiatives or referenda voted on directly by the people." Pg X


“Swiss consume more newspapers per capita than the people of any other country – twice the European average.” Pg. 3

“It is perhaps the richest country in the world in terms of per capita income, which is about $40,000 per year. [Yet] The Swiss economy is one of those – Taiwan, Japan – which seem blessed by a poverty of physical resources.” Pg. 5

“It contains communities in which popular government dates farther back than anywhere else in the world.” – “Modern Democracies” by James Bryce


The 8/1/1291 Bundesbrief, the first Swiss pact for “everlasting cooperation” of 3 cantons, is unsigned. “In some ways, this anonymous character is appropriately Swiss, the product of a politics of consensus by a group of equal citizens.” Pg. 16


“The Swiss constitution of 1848 was largely based on the U.S. constitution of 1789.” Pg. 29

“Metternich seethed at the Swiss democracy. He loathed its toleration of intellectuals and dissidents – loathed it, and feared it.” Pg 37

“There were probably more Swiss killed in the American Civil War than in their own.” Pg 38


“Legislation must pass both houses of parliament to become law, but it needs no further signature from the executive. This check, the “veto,” was thought to be unnecessary: it is carried out by the people thought initiative and referendum.” Pg. 48

Executives Branch

“…the Swiss Press… is more vigorous than the press in America or Britain with respect to discussing policy issues, but far less interested in reporting on political conflict and personal scandal…” Pg 53

“At the height of the Depression, while Franklin Roosevelt was speaking of a nation “one third” in economic distress, the Swiss suffered a maximum unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.” Pg 58

“The first thought of a Swiss,” as President Furgler commented, “is not, ‘let us go to the federal government for this,’ but rather, ‘let’s bring it up at the town council’ And even when you are at the national level it is not, ‘what can the president do about it?’ but rather, ‘what do we need to do about it?'”Pg. 59

“Military efficiency too requires someone to make the decisions. The Swiss, always suspicious of concentrations of power, prefer not to have such a commanding figure during peacetime. Hence there is no general-in-chief, indeed normally no Swiss general, except in time of war…” Pg 61

“Switzerland has no great bureaucracy to buck and kick against the policies desired by the government.” Pg 63

“The combination [direct and representative government] has the additional benefit of rendering the Swiss relatively difficult to sway with sudden arguments, demagogic appeals, and slanted versions of the facts…’Switzerland,’ as Lenin grumbled after living in the country for many years, ‘is the worst ground for the revolution.” Pg 64

“The Swiss probably have sacked more castles in their country, and tolerated fewer lords, than any other country of Europe. Where men and women are citizens there cannot be lords and tyrants.” Pg 66


“This air of informality in the halls of government is all the more striking in Switzerland because of the greater formality of the Swiss in general compared to Americans…” Pg 69

“Some of the persons nominated to the court, in fact, are not even attorneys but members of parliament, businessmen, and other professionals.” Pg. 70

“Switzerland has a number of provisions that discourage professionals from thinking of legal practice as a way to amass great wealth or fame. There is a loser-pays provision for lawsuits…” Pg 73

“To understand why the federal courts have almost no authority to void federal law and only limited authority to void cantonal statutes, it is helpful to remember who may: the people…In the U.S., there is much debate among legal scholars about what the “original intent of the framers” was… In Switzerland, to a much greater extent, the “framers” are still alive and they are not a particular group of men, but all the citizens. There is no need to perform highly speculative debates about what they meant; and if an error is made, it is easily corrected by those same authors themselves.” Pg. 74


“Although most members have some competence in two ro more of the country’s four official languages, some do not, and by law, individuals at such proceedings have a right to speak in any of the [government’s] three official tongues.” Pg 76

“It reflects, more than any other parliament, the people who elect is, and it enacts – especially given the many popular checks on it – laws that are closer to the heart and spirit of its people than in any other nation… the Swiss feel perhaps less alienated from their politicians than the voters of any other country… There are no federal term limits…and members enjoy a very high rate of reelection. Yet they generally step down after a period of ten or so years…In many Western countries, the pattern is the opposite: Many politicians loudly proclaim the virtues of limited terms, yet decline to step down themselves after years in office.” Pg 76

“Members of parliament come and go, leaving an outsider to wonder where the entrance is for “visitors” or the “general public…One passes through a long, old-fashioned-type communal press room with big wooden tables and ample seating, but no special desks belonging to individual reporters…The typical parliamentarian has only a shared desk in this outer commons area, or a best, a cubbyhole at his party’s office nearby. There are no paid staff, no special barbershops for members. Members generally eat in a cafeteria along with other members, visitors, and employees from the library and other government offices housed at the Bundeshaus.” Pg 79

“Senator Pat Moynihan once described the error of many Americans in thinking its legislators worked by the “consent of the governed.” In fact, as Moynihan aptly noted, they operate as they wish unless the people object. The same theme is woven thought the memoirs of the late Tip O’Neill.” Pg 80

“In the U.S., even a junior member of Congress typically enjoys staff, office, and other privileges in the amount of $800,000 and up.” Pg 82

“The citizen system has also probably played a role in the facility with which women have been able to move so quickly into the political structure in Switzerland. (Their presence is all the more remarkable if we recall that women did not even win the vote until a 1971 referendum.) [The Swiss version of the Equal Rights Amendment passed 60-40% in 1981; it failed in the US.]…The Swiss parliament consists of citizens who live not with separate members’ pension and health plans, special entrances and parking places and other perks, but will in fact be back at their workplace living under the laws they have created within a few weeks.” Pg 83

“There is almost no lobbying,” Bryce wrote, and this remains largely true today. Pg 84


“In the plebiscites in Revolutionary France, votes often resembled those 98-1 or better affairs…Taken in the spur of the moment, with little real debate or presentation of alternatives, these plebiscites revealed scarcely any of the deliberate sense of the people. They had all the seriousness and thoughtfulness of an opinion poll taken over the telephone, and gave to ‘plebiscitory democracy” the bad name it still has for many today.” Pg. 87

“Because of this advantage in holding discussions seriatim, separated by an interval of weeks or months, the referendum is more amenable to a deliberative process. Popular assemblies, by contrast, must be carefully managed to avoid becoming a chaotic shouting match.” Pg. 88

“Although there had been little experience with the device [referendum] per se on a cantonal level, there was a consensus among the men writing the constitution in 1847 and 1848 that the referendum would prove a highly useful device for legitimizing their new structure of government – and therefore, warranted to be retained as a permanent part of the design. Evidently, the people had little objection to being consulted about he constitution initially, or about its provision by which they would be consulted periodically.”

“Finally in 1891, the right of initiative for changes to the federal constitution was approved by 60 % of the voters and 18 of the 22 (full) cantons. As a check against caprice, the constitutional referendum has always required approval by both the majority of the voters and a majority of the cantons.” Pg 90

“Looking at this 150-year history, the most important characteristic is probably something one does not see. There does not appear to have been a single crise de regime caused by the initiative or referendum policy.” Pg 91

“Table 9.1 lists some of the more important uses of the referendum:”

[includes: Add initiative to referendum power, 1891; Proportional voting for parliament, 1918; Add Romansch to German, French and Italian as a national language, 1938; Voting rights for women, 1971; Equal rights for women, 1981; Consumer protection against corporate cartels, 1982; New constitution, 1999; repeated rejection of immigration restrictions, 1977, 2000; Join UN, 2002.]

“The referendum power is even, in a sense, self-denying. Far from grasping for power the people have periodically denied it to themselves – if, again, the matter is one they deem best handled by their politicians.” Pg 100

“All the articles about immigration policy in the Swiss press, while they have not enabled anti-immigration measures to pass, have provided information that the proponents are eager to see disseminated. The education process works in both directions, too. Often the movements that propound radical ideas are able to refine or moderate their positions and become more effective. Politicians who misread the popular mood, meanwhile, can go back to their office and rethink their approach.” Pg 101

“Direct democracy is the greatest single cause of these economic policies that have helped Switzerland grow so rapidly over the last century.” Pg 104

“Over the last 150 years, the Swiss have been less troubled by the wild swings of inflation and deflation seen in the world at large than almost any other country – even including he U.S.” Pg 105

“Thus the process of establishing a national bank became a forty-year dialogue, and the value-added tax, one of almost 25 years.” Pg 105

“A system of referendum does not yield the same results one would have if one polled the people about the issues on the referenda – because when someone knows he is going to be asked to render an opinion, and that opinion will become law, he treats the matter more seriously… Members of a jury treat a case differently than members of the general public; and by the same token, voters and lawmakers regard it otherwise than if they were mere bystanders.” Pg 106

“Like the U.S., Switzerland plays home to a large number of foreign-born workers and their families – close to 20% of the population for the Swiss… Public opinion polls, thought taken much less seriously in Switzerland, indicate that by margins of about 3 to 1 the Swiss feel there are too many foreigners, they cannot be assimilated, and something should be done about it.

“Yet when confronted with the chance to reduce immigration through policy, Swiss voters have consistently rejected the proposals – and by large margins. Anti-immigration measures failed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.”

“In the U.S., since there is no national initiative or referendum and since there are two dominant parties, it is much easier to bottle up issues or proposals for years.”

“Because of many stages and iterations in Switzerland, the referendum process is not one shot – it’s more deliberative and seriatim.”

“[Such problems plus] the sheer expense of collecting signatures… and the large amounts of money spent on demagogic appeals – which the voters, being less trained as legislators than the Swiss, are more susceptible to – has rendered the process more like what the American founders feared for direct democracy, than it is like the Swiss alternative.” Pg 108

“The Swiss are direct democracy professionals, working out regularly. The typical Swiss citizen votes on a constitutional amendment about once a year, and votes several times on cantonal laws, initiatives, and amendments… Imagine if all the effort and money spent in Washington went towards educating people – and listening to them.” Pg 109

“Most groups have suffered enough defeats, but also won enough victories so that the “losers” don’t comprise a consistent or solid ideological bloc. Business interests, for example, have lost many votes on environmental policy, but have won others on taxes. The left has been unable to push certain pending schemes, but has enjoyed victories on pension and health care policies.” Pg 110

“The difference between it [the Swiss system] and purely representative democracy is illustrated if we imagine a system in which you could pick only which grocery store someone else would shop at for you – or, still further, if you could select between 3 or 4 [2, usually!] carts that had been previously filled by people at the store, but could not stock the carts yourself.” Pg 113

“Having asked dozens of Swiss what the worst result initiative or referendum has produced, most of them answered ‘none.'” Pg 115

“In most countries, as the former economic an political guru to Jack Kemp, Jude Wanniski, has observed, the voters as a whole are smarter than their leaders. The difference may be that, in Switzerland, most leaders believe the people are smarter.” Pg 115

“As a result, there is perhaps less of a gap between elite and popular opinion in Switzerland than in any other country. There is, when such gaps occur, less arrogance felt by the elites and less frustration by the people than perhaps mankind has ever seen over an extended time under any other political system. The chief institutional sources of the distinctive level of mutual respect, in my observation, is the federal and cantonal initiative and referendum process, and community democracy.” Pg 116


“It is simple. Citizenship is conferred by citizens.” [Citizenship is granted to immigrants by vote of the local town councils.] Pg 119

“The discussions, the meetings – they all end, politically and therefore psychologically, at the people. Consensus building among elites, in this sense, is merely a faster way of bowing to the inevitable.” Pg 126


“People are perhaps more satisfied with the schools than in any country in the world – Sweden, Australia, and Germany, in my experience would offer significant comparison; the U.S., Canada, and Britain would not.”Pg 136

“When men cannot argue about principles, they will argue about interests, and then, personal morals.”-Alexis de Tocqueville Pg 142

“Over time, of course, the most important impact of this process [ballot initiatives regarding education] may, ironically, be pedagogic. By constantly empowering even the smallest voices to set off a legislative debate and making frequent to the jury of the people, the Swiss education system, in combination with the political, leads a constant dialogue. And, unlike an abstract, academic discussion where nothing changes as a result, this is, if one may co-opt a 1970s phrase, a “meaningful dialogue.” Pg. 142

“In Switzerland, the majority, as scholar Carol Schmidt puts it, often “does not behave like a majority.” That is to say, there are majorities in Switzerland – Protestants, German-speakers, and others – that abstain from establishing certain practices they might otherwise prefer, out of a deliberate respect for the minority.” Pg 143


“Swiss income tax rates are among the lowest in the industrial world.” Pg 145

“Wage income, capital gains and corporate income are all taxed – none at more than 40%, few at less than 10%. This attribute has been called “longitudinal fairness” Pg 148

“The voters have the same power, indeed greater power, to limit taxes at the cantonal and local levels – yet they have proven more willing to approve new and higher taxes at those levels than the voters in perhaps any other country in the world.” Pg 150

“As a review of the initiative and referendum process suggest, it is more difficult to raise taxes in Switzerland than in perhaps any other country. Yet, taxes are raised and altered from time to time. And when they are, there is less resentment than elsewhere, because the burdens are self-imposed.” Pg 151

“Income taxes are paid to the community, which reports and divides income with the canton; the canton in turn reports and directs income to the federal government.” Pg 153


“Swiss crime rates are not the lowest in the world, but they are close.”

“Switzerland enjoys high employment that has exceeded 98 % for most of the century.” Pg 155

“nearly every Swiss male between 20 and 50 years old has his rifle ready at home and practices regularly.” Pg 155


“Surveys, however, suggest that about 5.6% of the population had an inadequate income to meet basic physical and health standards.” Pg 172

“Little of this poverty, while real in a sense, is hard core. That is to say, few of the people who may be poor one year in Switzerland are poor two or three years later.”

“The shape of poverty in regional, ethnic, and other terms is happily even…For instance, of all the statistically poor, about 74% are of Swiss birth, and 2% are foreign born – roughly their proportion in the work force as a whole.” Pg 173


The typical Swiss surely casts more votes every year than the citizen of any other country. And the people read more newspapers per capita than in any other country in the world. (With a respectful nod to Norway, first by some measures.)” Pg 181

“Swiss newspapers make more than 95% of their sales to subscribers. This is a much higher proportion than one sees in most of Europe or in comparable parts of the U.S. – namely, large cities. “There is less pressure to sell a paper every day by having the most glaring photograph or headline, under this system.” Pg 185

“But most people are for or against [joining] the EU because they think it will be good or bad for the country, not because tit will be good or bad for them.”…”by contrast, an economic treaty with much narrower ramifications for America’s vast economy – the 1993 trade pact with Mexico [and Canada -NAFTA] – was debated largely in class or special-interest terms.”Pg 188

“Swiss public TV and radio enjoy an audience share of roughly 50%–a figure unheard of undeveloped countries.” Pg 190


“my memory of interviews with more than 500 Swiss brings to mind only a few divorced men or women.” [Table shows 29 per 100 marriages in Switzerland, 48 in the U.S.]

“In conversations about women, Swiss men are less coarse than is the Western norm, and far less coarse than the American norm. There is less of an obsession with sex in normal conversation…”Pg 195

[Adolescent pregnancy rate is 21.1 per 1000 in Switzerland, 83.6 per 1000 in the U.S.]

“Indeed, the Swiss have a higher percentage of women in their parliament, more than 20% of the combined chambers, than the U.S. or most European countries. Switzerland has now had one woman president, and following the election of another woman to the federal council in 1998, will have two more terms by women presidents by 2010, under the country’s rotating presidency.” Pg 202


“Nearly every male voter is also a military man – and, with a full-time military establishment of only about 1,000 officials or less, nearly every military man earns his living in the civilian economy. No doubt this is one reason there have been relatively few of the military scandals in Switzerland, either as to over-priced procurement items, what weapons to purchase, or other matters.” Pg 208

“Neutrality, thus, is a state of mind and personal philosophy, a broadened version of that very wise beginning of the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm.” Pg 211

Switzerland Accused

Bar [head of an old investment bank in Zurich]: “I feel very proud and very ashamed of my country. I am a Swiss, and a Jew…Switzerland made mistakes – was guilty of horrible political stupidity after the war. There should have been n active effort to recompense the owners and the descendants of the dormant accounts…At the same time, Switzerland resisted the Nazis for years when she was completely surrounded.”Indeed, even before the war, Switzerland was the first country to launch a significant armament program to defend against the Nazi threat. Pg 213

Bar’s natural conflictedness was well captured when his preparatory school in the U.S., the Horace Mann School, asked him to accept an award in 1998. Bar was flattered. He would have liked to receive the honor. “But I could not accept an award in the U.S., while my country was being treated as it was by the U.S. government and in the U.S. press [in the late 1990s]… I told them, as a Swiss, I could not accept.” Pg 214

“Deutsche Bank, Ford Motor Company, Allianz, and GM all benefited from unsavory relations with the Nazi regime before or after the war. “New York State,” as Bar points out, “was the beneficiary of most of the Holocaust funds transferred to the U.S. under your escheatment laws – and never returned a penny.” Pg 215

“As a neutral nation, Switzerland naturally kept up some economic and political relations with her largest trading partner [Germany]. A secret British report lat in the war concluded that Swiss neutrality had been highly beneficial to the allies, as did such American officials as William Clayton, Dean Acheson, and John Foster Dulles.” Pg 216

“The Swiss encirclement [by Axis-controlled countries] was exacerbated by the American economic embargo of the Axis powers, which was a de facto quarantine on all of Western Europe. In December, 1941, Washington froze Swiss assets in the U.S., including substantial gold reserves. The ironic result was to drive Switzerland, needing gold reserves to conduct trade and defend its currency, into the arms of Germany…”

“The Swiss are just he people,” as the NY Times observed, “if pushed a mite too far, who would prefer to starve or die fighting rather than give in. Because they are that kind of people, they may not have to prove it in action.”Pg 225

“He [Hitler] immediately ordered his generals to draw up fresh invasion plans and described Bern – accurately- as the “center of international spying against Germany.” Pg 225

“It was no accident that Hitler linked the Jews with the Swiss in many of his eruptions. Although many Jewish refugees were turned away at the Swiss border, thousands, particularly children and families with children, were accepted. (More by far than were welcomed by any other country in per capita terms.)” Pg 226

Churchill: “I put this down for the record. Of all the neutrals, Switzerland has the greatest right to distinction. She has been the sole international force linking the hideously surrendered nations and ourselves. What does it matter whether she has been able to give us the commercial advantages we desire or has given too many to the Germans, to keep herself alive?” Pg 226


“In Switzerland, minorities are not tolerated. They are favored” -A. Togni Pg 233

“One people, composed of several races speaking several languages; with several religious beliefs, various dissident sects, two churches both equally established and privileged; all religious questions turning into political ones, and all political questions turning quickly into religious ones – in short, two societies, one very old and the other very young, joined in marriage in spite of the age difference. That is a fair sketch of Switzerland.”-Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

“Those national cultures along the Swiss border – in many cases less separated by natural boundaries from their affinity group than the three major Swiss language populations are from one another – have been an entropic magnet, always urging the country apart.” Pg 233

“Ethnic Italians, Germans, French, Jews, and Arabs – groups that haven’t been able to get along anywhere else for centuries – swirl together within a work force more than one-fifth foreign born.” Pg 233

“Scholars and historians comparing Switzerland to such multilingual nations as Belgium, Canada, India, Nigeria, and South Africa are intrigued at the degree to which the Swiss have managed to form a bona fide nation.” Pg 234

“In almost any settings where government documents are on display, one will see four or five stacks of everything – always German and French, and frequently in Italian, English, or Romansch.” Pg 234

“There’s a sufficient diversity of different societal groupings (race, language, religion) and of different levels of government and other institutions so that most Swiss are in some important minority and some majority groups…” Pg 236

“Once again, the unusual degree of harmony between people and elites in Switzerland, the mutual respect unusual even in democratic societies, makes it very difficult to say who is leading whom.” Pg 237

“The Swiss have escaped both tyranny of the majority and tyranny of the minority.”

“In his study of America, Tocqueville was impressed by the effect that juries had as a kind of “training ground” for citizenship. Yet jury service is a rare event for Americans, something most of us will experience once or twice, for a few days. The Swiss army, as we have seen, permeates social, business and political relationships in a popular way.”Pg 244

“When asked an open-ended question about their reasons for being proud to be Swiss, most named some element of their political system, such as direct democracy.” Pg 246

“The Swiss facility with different languages has made them a natural power in the emerging world of global business… This is seen by the country’s highly disproportionate share of Nobel science prizes and international patents.” Pg 247

“Ironically, perhaps – since they already have to deal with four official languages – the Swiss leaped past much of Europe in becoming a nation skilled in English…” Pg 247

The End of History and the Next Citizen

“The people can never willfully betray their own interests; but they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people” -The Federalist, No. 63. Pg 251

“Interestingly, thought, the reasons raised against direct democracy nearly all could be used, and in earlier times were used, to argue against the American Revolution; to argue it cold not be extended elsewhere, to deny the vote to blacks, women, and other groups deemed insufficiently educated, or otherwise “not ready” as a cultural or traditional matter for democracy.” Pg 252

“In focus groups and surveys, people express a rage at the system’s immobility, feelings that democracy (in America and Europe) is unresponsive to their concerns and frustrations.”

“In Switzerland, by contrast, people asked an open-ended question about what makes them proud about their country were more likely to give an answer having to do with their political system than were the next several answers combined.” Pg 254

“Who commits acts of sovereignty,” as Tocqueville noted in analyzing the Swiss poltical scene in a report to the French parliament, “is sovereign.” Pg 255

“In effect, for this highly decentralized country, initiative and referendum may have been a key legitimizing device which made action by the central and even to some extent the cantonal governments a palatable thing – as any future encroachments could be checked by the people.” Pg 255

“The maxim of indirect or representative democracy is, “Write your congressman.” The maxim of direct or populist democracy is “vote yes (or no).” Pg 256

“Second, direct democracy sharpens the ordinary sense of political responsibility. When one has to make up his own mind on a wide variety of specific issues – the Swiss tackled 66 federal questions by general vote in the 1980s, hundreds of cantonal ones and an unknown number (nobody added them up) of local-community matters – he learns to take politics seriously.” Pg 257

“A hundred years ago fewer than 2% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 went to university; now more than a quarter do.”

“…as any student of history knows, it is inertia and conventional wisdom that form the most powerful cabal.”

“It is hard to picture [either of the two] major parties making a major issue of direct democracy. But the latent interest in political reform among the American people is so strong that it would only take one leader.”

“Hitler and Stalin, Pinochet and Marcos – all held plebiscites when it suited them.; The test of a new application of direct democracy will be its automaticity, the extent to which it takes place not at the caprice of leaders, but of the people. [This is the purpose of the citizen initiative, sometimes categorized with plebiscites generically as referenda.] Pg 265

“Did not Japan leap into the industrial age most decisively in the mid-twentieth century, when alone among the Asian despotisms it adopted a significant degree of democracy?” Pg 266

“Swiss have a greater incentive to follow political issues and to think seriously about them – they may well be voting on them in a few months.

“Swiss politicians, journalists, and business leaders all, in turn, adjust their behavior accordingly. More focus is placed on informing, and listening to, the people, than in any other democracy.” Pg 267

“Empires such as the Swiss,” as the advisory to King Louis once put it with unintended irony, “extend their empire by the bad example of their liberty.”

“In this world, it may well be, as Victor Hugo cryptically insisted: “Switzerland will have the last word in history.” Pg 268