“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.

Bulletin - - Politics -

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.

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