Inspiring Economics

Inspiring Economics

Human Motivation in Political Economy

Bruno S. Frey

Bruno S. Frey illustrates what he perceives to be the inspirational quality of economics and how this differs from the type of economics studied in many academic institutions. He introduces insights into economics from a psychological perspective, dealing with issues such as transformation of anomalies, identification in democracy and crowding effects, and focuses on intrinsic motivation and how it is undermined.

Chapter 9: Popular Referenda and Institutional Reform

Bruno S. Frey

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology


On 6 December 1992, the Swiss citizens voted in a referendum on whether their country should join the European Economic Area (EEA). This date was preceded by a heated discussion in the public media (radio, television and newspapers), in the political parties and interest groups (who organized a large number of contradictory meetings and who engaged in a lot of propaganda activity), as well as among individuals (the issue was discussed everywhere from restaurants to trains and private homes). The position of the Swiss political, economic and cultural leadership was as unanimous as never before: the national and cantonal governments and parliaments, the political parties, the pressure groups involving both the manufacturers and the trade unions, academics, artists and sports people, and whoever else ‘mattered’ in society, solidly supported Switzerland’s entry into the EEA. The popular referendum witnessed an extraordinarily high participation rate of 78 per cent. This compares with an average voting participation between 1985 and 1992 of only 42 per cent. The result was that 50.3 per cent of the population, and 16 out of the 23 cantons, were against the proposal, so it was rejected by the citizens. Such a clear-cut difference between what the leaders or the ‘classe politique’ want and what the population want is no rare event in Switzerland. Thus it was in 1986 that the government decided the country should become a member of the United Nations. Again, the political, economic and social elite solidly supported this move, but the proposal was rejected...

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