In a national referendum, the Swiss just voted to ban the construction of any new minarets in the country.
Minarets are the onion-shaped crowned spires of Islamic mosques, from which Muslims are called to prayer five times each day.
At MarginalRevolution.com, economist Tyler Cowen’s first thought on the Swiss vote was, “Sooner or later an open referendum process will get even a very smart, well-educated country into trouble.”
Cowen doesn’t elaborate on what he means by “open.” But he does raise an important distinction between freedom and democracy.
I’m a huge fan of voter initiative and referendum, but a bigger fan of freedom of religion. Freedom for the individual must come first — no dictator has a right to deny it.
Nor does a revolutionary tribunal.
Neither does the Congress or a state legislature or city council. Or even a solid majority of voters in a referendum.
But Cowen misses something, too. The problem in Switzerland isn’t really their initiative and referendum. Legislators make mistakes, too . . . as do, of course, authoritarian regimes. We generally have far less to fear from government under such voter control.
In fact, though I deplore this vote, the ability of Swiss citizens to directly check the power of their government has helped make it one of the best places in the world to live. That is, one of the freest.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.