“Others should try out new things”
Switzerland is “about average” in terms of progress according to Monika Bütler. She would like to see a more open attitude towards new ideas and scientific findings.
Professor Bütler, just how progressive do you consider Switzerland to be?
I would say we are “about average” in terms of progress. Though there are not many who advocate returning to the “good old days,” true progress is not very popular either. Switzerland has always been known for its relative openness; however, its stance is that others should try out new things.
Respondents showed the greatest willingness to speed up progress when it comes to potential underground traffic routes. What’s your take on that?
The fact that recent infrastructure projects like the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the cross-city transit station in Zurich have been so successful is likely to have contributed to the positive response. It would be interesting to see what the results would have shown if the subway line had come with a price tag. When it comes to retirement, there is a positive response to the statement that payroll deductions will increase because people are living longer. Is this the answer to the debate on the topic of the Federal Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance? Well, the response is not exactly enthusiastic [voters +11, opinion leaders +27, editor’s note]. The respondents are mostly aware that the state pension system can only be reformed by increasing contributions. In order to assess the proposal, you have to first ask whether the additional deductions would go towards the AHV – in which case I think it would make more sense to increase VAT – or to employee benefits insurance – where it would certainly make sense.
And would this solution actually be capable of gaining majority support if put to the vote?
Probably yes. But I always find the tendency of politicians to judge beforehand whether an issue will be supported by the majority to be somewhat amusing. It’s ultimately the voters who determine what the majority will support.
The respondents want to stop progress when it comes to the polarization of politics and the growing regulation of day-to-day life. How do you rank these results?
Neither of these is surprising, yet they are somewhat strange. When it comes to casting their votes, the population voluntarily sides time and time again with greater regulation and polarizing politicians. It’s as if they’re saying, yes, regulation is a problem, but this specific proposal makes sense, whether the issue is about “ruining the environment” or the health of our children.
If you were able to stop or accelerate something in Switzerland, what would that be?
Nothing specific. I would like to see a more open attitude towards new ideas and scientific evidence, for instance in the vaccine debate and mobility pricing.
Monika Bütler (57) is an economics professor at the University of St. Gallen. Her research focuses on social security and the labor market. The newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung ranked her fourth in its list of Switzerland’s most influential economists. Bütler is a member of the Bank Council of the Swiss National Bank and a member of the Board of Directors of Schindler Holding Ltd., Suva and Huber+suhner AG.