Laymen as competition for experts

In addition to direct democracy and federalism, the militia system is also part of Switzerland’s DNA. But this way of living citizenship is being supplanted by bureaucracy, just like federalism. The professionalization forced by politics is increasingly turning sovereign citizens into administered subjects.

How qualified are young parents for childcare?

Petra Orosz / Keystone

The modern welfare state, some might think, cannot leave the upbringing of the children to the parents. For two reasons: First, parents are lay people. How are they supposed to be able to perform such a task without a state certificate of proficiency? After all, it’s not just about the well-being of a single child; it’s about our future and our social systems. Education is too important to be left to the incompetence of parents.

Family or rather collective?

Claudia Wirz is a freelance journalist and author.

Claudia Wirz is a freelance journalist and author.


Secondly, every family is different, or – to use the jargon of the social engineer – the concept of the family prevents everyone from having the same starting point. This is unfair and leads to disadvantages. Only the collective can create equal opportunities. So the state with its group of qualified experts has to intervene for good money and equalize everyone’s starting chances.

At least that’s how a growing guild of professional early childhood and health promoters sees it. In her countless exposés, parents often do not appear at all as actors in bringing up children, and if they do, then primarily in the light of their manifold deficits, which in turn serve to legitimize the takeover of the family by apparently infallible specialists. It’s called family policy.

It may seem odd at first, but family policy is emblematic of the ongoing decline of the militia principle. Even at the family table, the layman no longer seems to suffice. How is he supposed to be able to take on a function in public life!

Without subsidies and remuneration

Anyone who thinks this way about lay people has long since thrown overboard the Republican idea of ​​capable citizens who are committed to the common good. The layman does not deserve this contempt, however, because his commitment has proven itself tens of thousands of times. Switzerland would not exist without civil actors who contribute to the well-being of the community voluntarily and without subsidies or other remuneration.

The militia principle is efficient and offers a unique opportunity to tap into a huge reservoir of knowledge and put it at the service of the general public. In addition, volunteering promotes what is called citizenship, which is paramount in direct democracy; the state is not some anonymous functionary, we are all the state.

Laymen as annoying competition

But the militia system has been in crisis for a long time. For the experts with their specialist certificates and diplomas, laypeople are annoying competition. In the population, on the other hand, in view of the professionalization of everyday life forced by the state, the sense of citizenship is giving way to the tendency to only consume the state instead of actively helping to shape it. That goes straight to the heart of Switzerland’s republican nature.

Those who do not lead themselves will be led. Maybe that’s tolerably comfortable in the welfare state. But this convenience comes at a price. To put it in the clear-sighted words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who is always well worth reading: When the fountain of bourgeois virtues runs dry, one finds only subjects, but no longer citizens.

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