Who says you need a powerful, centralised state to run a country properly?
British politicians such as David Cameron are slowly catching on to the idea that centralized government is the enemy of innovation, efficiency and quality. But our cousins in Switzerland have been showing the way for decades.
Switzerland has emerged as a world centre for value-added industries such as pharmaceuticals and banking, and is in the global top 12 service exporters. Its GDP per capita, (estimated at $39,800 in 2008) is amongst the highest in the world. Its healthcare system is one of the top rated in Europe, and its transport system is legendary. Meanwhile, it is one of the few countries in Europe never to have had major social upheavals or revolution.
Much of this quiet success is due to the fact that, unlike Britain, the central government in Bern has very little power. Instead, Switzerland operates a system of direct democracy that gives individual citizens an unparalleled degree of political empowerment.
Decisions ranging from taxation through policing to taxi regulation are made at the local level. Through their local Canton, individuals can propose legislation, or oppose initiatives made at the federal level via referendums. Cantons also set corporate and personal tax rates, leading to a degree of tax competition that ensures pressure on taxation is down rather than up.
Imagine if Britain had such checks on central power. No longer would ambitious politicians be able to inflict their ‘visions’ on the country. Health bureaucrats, police chiefs and educationalists would be forced to look to the people they serve rather than to Whitehall. It’s also hard to imagine counterproductive ideological policies like tax credits being tolerated under such a system.
With England out of the Euro football champions this summer, there’s no question which team we should be supporting. Hopp Schwiz!