Saturday, March 29, 2008

Meanwhile, Back in the Old Country...

John Fund is Cuckoo for Switzerland.

[...]Just a century ago, Switzerland was much poorer than Argentina.[...]

[...]In reality, the Swiss have produced a remarkable success story that goes far beyond the signature tourist products they are known for: chocolates, watches, and knives. They have one of the world’s most stable economies, a skilled workforce, internationally recognized export companies, a sound currency, and renowned banking and financial services. All this is combined with remarkable social harmony, given that Switzerland has four national languages and great religious diversity.

The nation also has a high degree of personal freedom, linked to a decentralized government in which voters are the ultimate sovereign through an elaborate system of direct democracy—citizens can both propose their own laws and challenge any action of the government. As a matter of fact, Swiss citizens may advance new legislation or “initiatives,” which must be put to a nationwide vote if their proponents can round up 100,000 signatures in support of the legislation. By means of referendum, the Swiss can also challenge a piece of legislation already approved by the federal parliament.[...]

In 2005, The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the “quality of life” in 111 countries and found Switzerland a stellar achiever in the nine factors of its index: material well-being, health, political stability, both family and community life, climate, job security, political freedom, and gender equality. Indeed, when ranking “human misery” among all countries, Switzerland ranked at the very bottom.[...]

Most Swiss do not speak in such ideological terms. “We tend not to make grand speeches; instead, we foster the stability that businesses crave and seek,” says F. X. Perroud, a senior adviser to Nestlé, the food conglomerate.[...]

“The lessons that the Swiss have held close to their heart are simple,” says Perroud. “One, there is no such thing as a miracle or a free lunch—everything has to be earned, so there is a strong work ethic. Two, we put as much responsibility as possible where people are in control. In small towns, even teachers used to be elected until recently. Everything is highly transparent, so it is difficult for anyone to accumulate too much power.”
Our part of the Burri family left Switzerland about 100 years ago. Switzerland realized its mistake and undertook massive reforms to prevent further duplication of such egregious misfortune. The Old Country has done well.

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