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Old 24.06.2013, 21:28
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Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

So says author of The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his new book, Antifragile.

He says that Switzerland is the most antifragile country in the world and defines this as the opposite of fragile - more than robust, something that actually gains from upset, disorder and volatility. The visible effects of this would be wealthy emigrés arriving with their billions and the franc rising when trouble flares in the rest of the world.

Of course Swiss exporters and housebuyers might not agree this was such a good thing.

He reckons the reason for this is down to Switzerland not having much in the way of a central government - as we know, the Cantons (and Gemeinde) have most of the power and there is plenty of direct democracy in the form of citizen-inspired referenda.

His thesis is that all the volatility this brings at the lower levels aggregates to form a very stable whole. Contrast this with the top-down, centralised EU that is forever in crisis and seemingly on the brink of collapse these days.

This is also what seems to make Switzerland so peaceable. As his co-author notes, "Stalin could not have happened in a municipality".

As a Brit, I have to say that I like living somewhere where there is no official head of state and presidents serve a one-year term. I just had to check Wikipedia to see who the current one is

I think perhaps the rest of the world could learn a lot from Swiss politics...
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Old 24.06.2013, 22:26
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

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So says author of The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his new book, Antifragile.

He says that Switzerland is the most antifragile country in the world and defines this as the opposite of fragile - more than robust, something that actually gains from upset, disorder and volatility. The visible effects of this would be wealthy emigrés arriving with their billions and the franc rising when trouble flares in the rest of the world.

Of course Swiss exporters and housebuyers might not agree this was such a good thing.

He reckons the reason for this is down to Switzerland not having much in the way of a central government - as we know, the Cantons (and Gemeinde) have most of the power and there is plenty of direct democracy in the form of citizen-inspired referenda.

His thesis is that all the volatility this brings at the lower levels aggregates to form a very stable whole. Contrast this with the top-down, centralised EU that is forever in crisis and seemingly on the brink of collapse these days.

This is also what seems to make Switzerland so peaceable. As his co-author notes, "Stalin could not have happened in a municipality".

As a Brit, I have to say that I like living somewhere where there is no official head of state and presidents serve a one-year term. I just had to check Wikipedia to see who the current one is

I think perhaps the rest of the world could learn a lot from Swiss politics...
the official head of state and the head of government is the Bundesrat in corpore represented by the Federal President (this year the defence-minister, next year the foreign minister)
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Old 25.06.2013, 07:04
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

I've got the book, and read it, and there are some good/interesting concepts and ideas in there, but I didn't agree with everything in the book. Switzerland is definitely a very interesting place, historically and politically...I'm not sure if you could 'scale up' the political structure, but it did make me wonder whether countries (such as my home country Australia) would run better / more efficiently if the local municipalities had a bigger role, but also much bigger local involvement by the people. Our local councils in Australia have a reputation for being the domain of developers and anyone who stands to make a profit from development decisions. There is something to be said for local social/community involvement, and Switzerland also seems to have a very intact social/community structure, where the locals do get involved and have a connection.
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Old 25.06.2013, 12:27
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

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So says author of The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his new book, Antifragile.

He says that Switzerland is the most antifragile country in the world and defines this as the opposite of fragile - more than robust, something that actually gains from upset, disorder and volatility. The visible effects of this would be wealthy emigrés arriving with their billions and the franc rising when trouble flares in the rest of the world.

Of course Swiss exporters and housebuyers might not agree this was such a good thing.

He reckons the reason for this is down to Switzerland not having much in the way of a central government - as we know, the Cantons (and Gemeinde) have most of the power and there is plenty of direct democracy in the form of citizen-inspired referenda.

His thesis is that all the volatility this brings at the lower levels aggregates to form a very stable whole. Contrast this with the top-down, centralised EU that is forever in crisis and seemingly on the brink of collapse these days.

This is also what seems to make Switzerland so peaceable. As his co-author notes, "Stalin could not have happened in a municipality".

As a Brit, I have to say that I like living somewhere where there is no official head of state and presidents serve a one-year term. I just had to check Wikipedia to see who the current one is

I think perhaps the rest of the world could learn a lot from Swiss politics...
Maybe you are interested in this lecture (~80 min) of James Breiding, author of the new book "Swiss Made: The Untold Story behind Switzerland's Success", which he (recently?) held at Princeton:



In the talk he brings up some interesting interpretations about the success of Switzerland. First he talks about the "proof" for the success of Switzerland (GDP per capita, Nobel prizes per capita, live time of companies etc.) and then talks about, according to his interpretation, reasons for this success including the lack of an ultra-centralised government you mentioned, but also the size of the country, the education system, Swiss company culture, a strong milk production tradition and some other points which are quite interesting in my opinion.

I doubt Switzerland is really "antifragile" and profiting from persisting problems around it. Switzerland is too much involved in the international market to be not negatively effected by a very long crisis.
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Old 25.06.2013, 13:53
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

In my humble, subjective opinion it boils down to people. What I saw was a consistency in "quality" of character - no cheating for slight personal gains, strong collective thinking, good education, hard work is not something to avoid but to be proud at, and so on. You can find these qualities in other nations too, in variable amounts (ie Icelanders surprised me very, very positively). Swiss had a bit of luck, with positioning, made couple of right decisions (where the power lies, privacy of banking data etc) and in time, it all builds up into current situation.
But I don't think they're bulletproof, not in current globalized economy. They might fare better than most, but that's it. One eyed among blind, maybe
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Old 25.06.2013, 14:13
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

Not spending the country's gold reserves on fighting Germany for 9 years of the last hundred helps too.

Likewise a cabinet that is composed on a so called "magic formula" based on parties, sex and location of its members, rather than all Conservatives, all Labour, all Democrat, all Republican etc has removed the swings from left to right and back seen elsewhere...
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Old 30.06.2013, 15:26
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

Of course, the consequence, according to Taleb, of an antifragile country, is its lack of ability to be creative and spontaneous in artistic, tech terms etc. This is perhaps why CH is sometimes seen as quiet or even 'boring'...

However, I would certainly prefer to live in a stable, crime-free country with plenty of positive attributes (from powerful local politics, a strong work ethic to play coaches on intercity trains!).
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Old 30.06.2013, 15:38
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Re: Switzerland: the most successful country in the world

Our politics here in Switzerland are tough to beat. We tend not to berate individuals or their characters because most of us know at last someone involved in politics, even if that is the local school overview committee in your local town.

We more or less get the chance to vote on all the major issues through referendums. Issues as potentially volatile as the minaret case a few years ago wasn't associated with individual politicians, rather the political parties were the protagonists. Keeping individuals out of both national and international issues does allow the electorate to focus on the issues at hand, rather than being fed a diet of tabloid type sensationalism.

On the other side, when politicians are left to their own devices, they can make a mess of major issues which would have been better dealt with by referendum. The non bailout of Swissair, or handing UBS billions without consulting taxpayers spring to mind.
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