May 26, 2014

David and Goliath politics

Posted in Behavioural Economics · 61 comments ·
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Every now and then you get a chance to work in a place that you’d happily pay to visit. There can be few more stunning places on earth than Interlaken in Switzerland. Therefore, waking up here this morning I could appreciate one of those rare joys in life – someone paying me to come to paradise.

When you look around this place, is it any wonder that the Swiss, with their banking, pharma, high-tech, attention-to-detail, light and heavy industry – not to mention tourism – want to avoid joining the dysfunctional EU?

The Swiss papers this morning are reporting on the European Parliament elections as if they are some sort of quaint ritual in a far-off and rather dysfunctional land. To the Swiss, the notion that you would elect people from your country to sit in a parliament which has no power and no accountability, seems not only illogical, but dangerous.

After all, this is a country where few people care about who is the prime minister. In fact, I’d wager precious few foreigners could name the prime minister of Switzerland. This is because in Switzerland – almost uniquely in the world – power gets weaker and weaker the higher and higher up you go.

It is a country where direct democracy works and is seen to work.

Local is everything, and all the cantons compete against each other to attract business and offer the best standard of living. Taxes are local and financing is local. If there is a national issue that any citizen wants to change, stop or advance, he or she has only to collect 100,000 signatures for a national referendum. This means the little guy can stop anything – or at least the average citizen can be mandated on every major national decision if 100,000 of their fellow citizens feel the same way.

At a time when so many countries are returning nationalist candidates in the European elections – people driven by what Freud described as ‘the narcissism of small differences’ – the Swiss, with their four distinct languages and three major cultures (German, French and Italian), manage to hold it together without hassle. Nationalism between the major ethnic groups is unheard of.

Can you imagine this in Ireland, Scotland or Spain for that matter?

As part of a new quasi-itinerant Irish professional class – a class that finds more work abroad than at home – I find myself comparing countries quite a bit.

Direct democracy as practised in Switzerland is truly interesting, and it appears to work very well. By diminishing the power of big politics, it seems that a country can reduce dramatically the latitude of unwieldy poisonous ideas that lead people up garden paths and ultimately, in extreme cases, pit them against each other.

I have come here from a lecturing stint in Madrid earlier this week, and the contrast between both countries couldn’t be greater.

The political contrast is between the primacy of local politics driven by day-to-day issues, and the primacy of big, national movements which try to bond people with a greater notion of race, religion or language.

In Spain, the nationalists in Catalonia are constantly trying to gain more and more independence and the nationalists in Castile are trying to stop them. In Switzerland, the wind has been taken out of the nationalists’ sails by local politics, so one village can speak Romansh and the next German and no one blinks an eye.

This can only be a good thing when you see what is happening in Ukraine and Scotland, where small differences are elevated to major issues and people are set against each other. Ultimately, this leads to the Balkanisation of people who have much more in common than they are allowed realise. Anyone who has travelled in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia can attest to the savagery of the ‘narcissism of small differences’.

However, this is not the only difference: money helps, and helps a lot.

For example, economically the first thing that strikes you when comparing Spain and Switzerland is that Spain is cheap and Switzerland is expensive. Spanish unemployment is at 25 per cent, yet last week in Switzerland – where unemployment is virtually zero – there was a vote to introduce the highest minimum wage in the world at €20 an hour. At a macro level, Spain can’t pay its way and has budget and current account deficits; on the other hand, Switzerland runs a perennial current account surplus.

In a crisis, money leaves Spain, and where does it go looking for a home? Yes, to Switzerland of course.

This makes Switzerland richer and Spain poorer and the constant movement of capital reinforces this gap.

Was it the money that allowed Switzerland to run a system of direct democracy, or did direct democracy make the country rich?

Does centralised, big government and power placed in a few hands make countries poorer? Or is it the relative poverty of countries like Spain that drives this type of big politics?

It is a question worth asking in this weekend of elections.

If I were a citizen of Switzerland, I’d stick to the direct democracy model, because it works. They have a lot to lose by doing anything else.

It is amazing that Switzerland can compete with anyone for anything given how expensive the country is. It does so because the people are productive. They are educated and disciplined and, with such a reservoir of capital, capital deployment is rarely a problem. Maybe it is also a function of small governments which only deal with local issues that bind people together.
But enough of this Swissophillia!

Taken together, would I prefer to live in Madrid or Zurich?

Madrid any day. Sometimes, there’s more to life than efficiency!

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David McWilliams writes daily on international economics and finance at www.globalmacro360.com


  1. cooldude

    I just voted for Direct Democracy in our Euro elections for all of these reasons. This right to referendum should be a part of any functioning democracy. Why don’t you get behind this movement David if you admire small government so much.

    • I voted for Sinn Fein and Independents.

      Everyone got a vote except for candidates in Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, the Green Party – or candidates previously associated with any of those parties.

      • Adelaide

        Sad to see Paul Murphy (Socialist Party) not get elected. It’s the people’s loss.
        Odd election. Labour get hammered while Fianna Fail increase their vote. Anyway, it lays the ground for a guaranteed FG/FF coalition government next time. What a lovely prospect.

        • Yeah it’s a pity.

          Brian Hayes and Nessa Childers – the establishment stooges get elected.

          While Eamon ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ Ryan nearly gets in because people have short memories and the memory of his complicity in the worst government in Irish history has faded.

          Sheeple never learn. And they get what they deserve and vote for.

          • Adelaide

            Yeah, it’s a pity all right.
            Perhaps it’s part of the human psyche, did not the Icelandics vote back into power their version of Fianna Fail, the very same politicians who presided over Iceland’s collapse.

            Plus I don’t buy this ‘seismic’ shift to the Left in the Irish election. Are not most of the ‘Independents’ former disgruntled acolytes of the three main parties?

            I’m now firmly of the opinion that the oft-quote 99% deserve every misery heaped upon them by the 1%. Can one bully rule a school yard off 99 pupils?

          • Adelaide

            Tally up the vote percentagess of FG+FF+Labour+Independents*Formerly Members of said Parties* and you get a sum of 70+% of the vote. Hardly ‘earthquake’ stuff from the Irish sheeple.

  2. Brehon Law

    There was a body of Law in our system before the Common Law overtook our own native system and the power of the people was entrenched inside that .We should revisit this body of knowledge once more and borrow from it and not from the banks.

  3. Lee Mersey

    Having lived in Geneva for five months, during which I travelled quite a bit throughout Switzerland, I can only agree with what David is saying. Switzerland is clean, everything runs of time, it’s safe etc, etc. But it is also very sedate.

    I would take Dublin anyday day of the week.

  4. peterm

    No mention of the dodgy Swiss bank accounts and how they hide all the worst of the worlds money that they got from god knows what evil act, this is why the Swiss have such a good country and can have a minimum wage of 20 euro!, its zip to do with anything else, I am amazed that David did not even mention this fact?….its a no brainer for me.

    • John Farragher

      Couldn’t agree more.
      From ww2 to today the Swiss have been happy to take money regardless of how bloodsoaked.let’s look at all the cash skimmed out of the coffers of EU tax authorities, could have eased unemployed and capital shortages.
      I’ve always thought that the the fact that the Swiss can behave in the way they do in their banking system is proof of the corruption that’s endemic in modern democracies

      • Tyler

        Hey you two! New guys ..Yea you!Have you forgotten the first rule of Fight Club?!

        shhhhhhh!

        and don’t even allow the thought enter your mind of referring to the wolf-pack’s main den – the financial shamans of Switzerland’s Bank of International Settlements

        “The uncomfortable,unspoken truth is that the parallels between the plans of the Nazi leadership for the post-war European economy and the subsequent process of European monetary and economic integration are real,” Mr.LeBor writes. “The BIS runs like a thread through both.”

        shhhhh..

  5. michaelcoughlan

    “Spanish unemployment is at 25 per cent, yet last week in Switzerland – where unemployment is virtually zero – there was a vote to introduce the highest minimum wage in the world at €20 an hour. At a macro level, Spain can’t pay its way and has budget and current account deficits; on the other hand, Switzerland runs a perennial current account surplus”

    Any chance the head the balls in Fail Eireann could be convinced of the moral of the story in the quote above?

    During the artificial boom employment labour rates were never more expensive and we had full (Less than 3%) unemployment. As we have continued to hammer labour rates down we now have 48% core unemployment. 34% real unemployment, 12% “official unemployment and record levels of emigration!

    You can be sure these points are lost on labour candidates. It’s like Eddie Hobbs recently said (Many of the people in top jobs in the establishment in this Country are now openly proven incompetents and are STILL in their Jobs!)

    Go Figure.

    Michael.

  6. Jill Kerby

    David’s last two lines say it all – we are Celts/Catholics, not Germanic/Protestants (even their Catholics are ‘protestants’). That is why the rich, sedate, orderly Swiss prefer living in Zurich or Madrid or…shudder, Dublin.

    We don’t do direct democracy. Or democracy, for that matter. We do…tribal.

    • Jill Kerby

      Sorry-that should have read, “That is why the rich, sedate, orderly Swiss prefer living in Zurich to Madrid or…shudder, Dublin.

  7. Irish PI

    One thing the Direct Democracy people conviently forget to mention about the Swiss example is,while you need 100k worth of signatures to bring a matter to the fore.How many of these petitions since 1872 have been adapted by the Swiss national govts and brought into law?? Answer exactly 12! If you go over to direct democracy Ireland and have a look on their website they have a handy video on how it works in Switzerland. Also , while we might get 100k worth of signatures together here that Enda Kenny should appear in a leather gimp suit along with his fellow gimps anytime he address the Dail.The greater the signatures amount the bigger a pirority will be given to the matter.IOW somthing like the above example would be sofar down the list with 100k worth of signitures compared with maybe 750k worth of signitures to put Phil Hogan up against the nearest convient wall at dawn with a blindfold and last ciggie or drink of water.
    Hence
    Also,do we want the country to be in a state of permanent local elections like DD in California? The state is perpetually voting on proposition XYZ on whatever almost on a monthly basis.So much that there is utter voter apathy on local issues.It got to a point where gay people’s right to marry was being held on the same day as a proposition about keeping domestic fowl in urban neighbourhoods.
    By vote count end,gay folks had lost their rights to marry and hens and ducks had gained valueable living space rights!!
    Translate that into an Irish context,and just imagine the utter chaos this place would be in.
    Simple difference is Switzerland is a functioning established wealthy society that respects basic rights as a given and petty matters that we have to fight for over here are already a given issue and enshrined in law so you wouldnt even have to raise them as an issue in the first place.

    Ireland OTOH is a dysfunctional society trying to model itself on the most advanced societies of Europe like socialist monarchist Sweden or Switzerland.About as logical as the local dullard applying for a job in the local university as a brain surgery lecturer.
    Given a choice of places to live Zurich for the work and lifestyle choices and ethic.Ireland for the craic.

    • What does IOW and OTOH mean? I have no clue.

      • Colm MacDonncha

        In Other Words and On The Other Hand…I think!

        • Irish PI

          @E Kavanagh
          I actually lived over there, for three years and saw it first hand. In a pouplation of X million Californians getting 500k worth of signitures isnt a difficult feat either. Not only that seeing that the average Californian is about as intelligent as a box of rocks, of course they will vote for poupulist nonsense.
          For a laugh one chap got a petition together to see how many people would abolish the US Bill of Rights in CA.not surprisingly he got over 200k worth of signitures!!!
          No one is forcing me to vote thankfully and when I do I would like to be voting on serious issues not on trival issues like domestic fowl living space.

    • E. Kavanagh

      That’s not a fair description of the election process in California. Generally elections occur in California once or twice a year; but with major elections only every 2 to 4 years. You may not like the initiative process, but it does require over half a million signatures to get something on the ballot. That is a significant number of citizens wanting to vote on an issue. Having said all that in some cases populism seems to win out e.g. 3-strikes law which as resulted in life sentences for very minor offences. No one is forcing you to vote.

      • Tony

        “No one is forcing you to vote”.

        Thankfully. Although if we had DD, people like the guy on Liveline today could advocate a €100 fine for not voting to ensure that people observed their democratic … obligation.

        The mind boggles.

      • Irish PI

        @E Kavanagh
        I actually lived over there, for three years and saw it first hand. In a pouplation of X million Californians getting 500k worth of signitures isnt a difficult feat either. Not only that seeing that the average Californian is about as intelligent as a box of rocks, of course they will vote for poupulist nonsense.
        For a laugh one chap got a petition together to see how many people would abolish the US Bill of Rights in CA.not surprisingly he got over 200k worth of signitures!!!
        No one is forcing me to vote thankfully and when I do I would like to be voting on serious issues not on trival issues like domestic fowl living space.

        • E. Kavanagh

          Well I’ve ‘suffered’ choosing to vote in California for nearly 20-years. Some referenda are stupid (e.g. banning raising or processing horse as meat). But that wouldn’t in any way stop me from having the process. And I don’t have a problem with a vote to increase the coup size for the short life of a chicken. And if politicians refuse to address this issue, I don’t see how it is a negative that PETA and their like, who find the issue so important, do go out and get sufficient signatures on the matter.

        • Pat Flannery

          “the average Californian is about as intelligent as a box of rocks”. Hmmm.

          Having decided to advance my Irish political education by observing democracy at work at the count in Castlebar these last three days, this particular dumb-as-a-rock Californian now considers himself a very lucky person to have spent most of his life as one of those Californian dummies you so confidently refer to, and to have escaped what you consider the superior intelligence that takes many drunken hours to redistribute a few hundred votes that any underpaid post office clerk would pigeon hole in fifteen minutes, i.e. do four “counts” per hour.

          I am just glad none of my fellow Californian rock-dumb friends got to witness the excruciating nonsense that I witnessed in my native county throughout Saturday, Sunday and on and on into today in the Royal Ballroom in Castlebar. It would be too embarrassing.

          And this is the (tribal) process that produced Ireland’s current Taoiseach?

          I think I will just keep quiet about my “Castlebar” experience and not talk to my fellow dumb Californians about it. They just wouldn’t be able to understand such advanced concepts as the Irish democratic system.

  8. Irish Cantons

    Pale – Dublin ( greater )

    Munster – Thomond – Desmond – Bandon – South Kerry

    Connaught – thats it

    Ulster – thats it

    Leinster – thats it

    The islands can be leased to New Scotland .

    Limerick City – can form its own Principality and print its own money .

    Cork City – same

  9. Colm MacDonncha

    How did you enjoy meeting Galway’s Guitar heroes Fred and James, David?

  10. Colin

    You cannot compare Switzerland with the Balkans.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8385069.stm

    5 years ago, the native Swiss had a referendum to ban minarets.

    700 odd years ago the native Balkans didn’t welcome the idea of minaret construction either, so they had to fight the invading Turks. They sacrificed it with their lives, and lost,and lived under fascist Islam for 500 years. Some natives switched sides later and became Muslim to enjoy favourable taxation policies. These ‘soupers’ descendants then helped the Nazi campaign in WW2, murdering innocent anti-Nazi Serbs.

    But hey, the media tell us the Serbs are the baddies, and we are reminded of Srebrenica every week, but the much larger massacres of the Serbs before that are forgotten.

    The Swiss are lucky that the gates of Vienna held back the Turks.

    • E. Kavanagh

      So murders 500 to 50 years ago, justifies the Srebrenicia slaughter! Are you out of your mind?

      • Colin

        Where did I say murder was justified Mr. E kavanagh? Point it out, where?

        Like putting words in other people’s mouths? Go find out how many Serbs were murdered in WW2 instead of putting your own misguided words in other people’s mouths!

        • E. Kavanagh

          Well what is your point then? Your two posts are so poorly argued that I have no idea what you are trying to get across.

          • Colin

            I think the difficulty is your grasp of the facts.

            Read David’s article again. In it you will see the following quote, ” Ultimately, this leads to the Balkanisation of people who have much more in common than they are allowed realise. Anyone who has travelled in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia can attest to the savagery of the ‘narcissism of small differences’.”

            Still with me? Sure, great, ok, next big leap…..ready?

            Read first line of my first post again. I’ll read it out to you then, shall I? “You cannot compare Switzerland with the Balkans.”

            That’s my point.

            Please let me know what other difficulties you are having with reason, reading and visions of moving goalposts which seem to afflict you, as I’ll be glad to help you out, no fee.

          • ‘The Gates of Vienna held back the Turks’ :

            It was the beginning of one of the greatest arrivals of a major commodity to the market : COFFEE .

            Coffee changed the face of Vienna forever afterwards and many families like Jacobs & Meinl in Vienna and others marched forward to elsewhere in Europe to spread the scent of the new money .Later Cacao joined in the excitement .You can still see the coffee logo for Meinl coffee showing a black man wearing a turk red hat .

        • E. Kavanagh

          I’m replying here as I’m not able to reply to your subsequent post. I think I realise why your post is so stupid. McWilliams was pointing out the differences between Switzerland and the Balkans. McWilliams’ point is that they are not alike because referenda in Switzerland allow power to come from the bottom, not from top as in the Balkans (and Spain and Scotland). So your initial statement that one “cannot compare Switzerland to the Balkans” is completely redundant as McWilliams didn’t do that.
          Regarding the Serb murders; clearly you are defending the Serbs. Maybe you’d just feel better if criticism was pointed at others also; but that isn’t clear from your posts.

          • Colin

            I’m replying here because it is the correct place to reply to your very stupid reply.

            David said “By diminishing the power of big politics, it seems that a country can reduce dramatically the latitude of unwieldy poisonous ideas that lead people up garden paths and ultimately, in extreme cases, pit them against each other.” ……now, is there a comparison in his mind when he says that, ask yourself!

            Question, where have we seen people pit themselves against each other recently? Look up Mostar, Bosnia, where the people hated each other so much they blew up the bridge connecting them. You will find Bosnia is slap bang in the centre of the Balkans.

  11. Tyler

    COMING SOOOON!!

    FIRESALE OF IRISH BEACHES!!!

    Curracloe beach in Wexford,Silver Strand in Wickow,Ross Beach-Kilala Mayo,Inchydoney in W.Cork,Dublin’s Dollymount Strand,Ballinskelligs in Kerry,Mullaghmore Beach in Sligo,Stroove in Donegal,,Bunmahon Beach Waterford and Wexford’s Rosslare Strand –

    Under the hammer and they’re all going…going …gone,SOLD to The JV of Bank of England and Abdullah ibn Abdilaz?z! [at a 90% discount!]

    Check out our suffering comrades in Greece and their David and Goliath battle with the evil asset stripping Troika/IMF

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-05-25/greece-sells-110-beaches-appease-troika-tell-russians-qataris-hurry?page=1

    • E. Kavanagh

      That article is about privatization of beaches. In my memory Silver Strand has always been privately owned.

      • Tyler

        Your “grasp of the facts” is certainly dubious.Maybe i can recommend a second read of the Guardian article.

        “The sale of the coast at Afandou is part of the Greek government’s desperate attempts to raise money by privatising its vast portfolio of state-owned assets – the largest firesale in history. Some 70,000 lots are for sale, ranging from pristine stretches of coast through to royal palaces, marinas, thermal baths, ski resorts and entire islands.Only last Wednesday,bidding closed for a stake in the state gambling company”.

        It’s a story of gun-to-the-temple privatization of Greece’s cultural gems -being looted by the elite!A story of highway robbery,dressed up as a quid pro quo for access to next tranche of EU 8.8 Billion bailout funds.

        And yes while there may be ‘somewhat’ productive spinoffs for Greece’s economy,are ANY of the profits from these sales from this HRAD FUND gonna get ploughed back into the Greek physical economy,in order to boost real growth?That was rhetorical.ALL proceeds will be fed to the ALPHAS and they only want,DEMAND to feed on the nutrient rich liver,kidney and heart of their kill!

        We are in the wolf’s den !

        3mins
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9hnYXb9y9I

        • E. Kavanagh

          Please explain how the Irish Government is going to sell off the privately owned Silver Strand Beach. I’m sure the Wolohans would be very interested to know.

    • michaelcoughlan

      Where is the evidence that the beeches in Ireland are for sale?

  12. Deco

    David – Very excellent points are being made by this article.

    And hilariously enough, even the French President is now making speeches about less power in Brussels. This is a full 180 degree turn from the “established wisdom” of French Presidents.

    Does Singapore need to join the EU ?

    The EU has lost the plot. It is intellectually bankrupt. It has become an empire. An empire to end empires. And now there is a need to wind it down. And it does not want to be rolled back.

    Decentralization is badly, badly needed.

  13. Bamboo

    Singaporeans are only interested in London and the surrounding area aka Engeland. Secondly they like Paris, Switzerland and Austria.

  14. Bamboo

    I like meeting people from all over the world and that is why I travell. In all the years I’ve been travelling and from all the people I’ve met I’ve come across three couples from Switzerland and one from Austria. Is there a reason for that?

    Could be a coincidence of course. I notice a lot more Belgians travelling lately.

  15. CorkPlasticPaddy

    I’m sure I mentioned this before, but just to remind everybody I’ll mention it again. Everything was fine when the EU was just the EEC and since the EEC became the EU everything has gone ‘tits up’. The results from all over the 28 member states just goes to show that the average European citizen doesn’t want more integration they simply want things to return to way things were when we were just the European Economic Community and the sooner this happens the better, for everybody!! The ‘head the balls’ in Brussels should be told in no uncertain terms that political integration is a ‘bridge too far’!!!

    • Tyler

      The ‘head the balls’ in Brussels should be told in no uncertain terms that political integration is a ‘bridge too far’!!!

      +1

      @Corkplasticpaddy

      +1

      political integration,and financial terrorism,is a ‘bridge too far’!!!

  16. N’Espresso

    Like everything in Switzerland there is a ‘system’ and their coffee success supports that .For anyone to own one or more of their machines they will learn that there is a support to repair/replace the machine any time if it is faulty .Support is always there too to allow anyone anywhere to order the great selections of their wide range of coffees .The system works and it continues to grow .

    Economics in Ireland is devoid of any system and what most economist believe to be ‘law’ in the country are fakes/ dodos that act as imposters and bleed the nation dry . Lawyers / Barristers know full well and have no conscience to make a change because it suits them to make their ill gotten gains from a decaying corps .It sickens to see some write in newspaper columns their concerns while they continue to feed themselves from the stench of democracy they contributed to make.

    Economist continue to read from the same hymn sheet and ignore the shortfalls in areas that they claim is outside the domain of their science known as ‘economics’ .This void of ‘ unknown’ breeds more unknowns and we all know where the unknowns lead us to .Irish economics will always fail no matter what the argument will be because of the sinking foundation it is built on and emigration will continue to be a by product for an eternity and substitution with cheaper foreigner labour will grow thus diminishing the central theme of ‘who we are ‘and our dreams become no more .

    The body of law once enjoyed in Ireland and that contributed to the present law we now practice was known as Brehon Law and we need to retrieve that again and renew its legal patent .

    Sadly N’Espresso machines have run out of their patents and fakes are arriving that can also make a good coffee from the same capsule and competition prospers. Their capsules will never change and that is a Secret .

    • Tyler

      Thomas Paine,a legendary pioneer of Freedom,presents his theory of government as a logical system and also distinguishes,in a fashion/style,that only he could,between a person’s Natural Rights and Civil Rights,where Civil Rights,are but a subset of Natural Rights.

      Persons have an inherent right to PROGRESS,to GROW and any policies that counter that intent,are basically crimes against humanity and must be opposed with courage,ingenuity,passion and sans fear,we can smote the Goliath that is oligarchy [attempting to DENY us]and then purposefully choose another path.

      Or do we just give up…

      (1min)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFVk5xVK7vs

  17. ppmoore

    A bit embarassing to read David’d gushing admiration for Swiss democracy. This is the country that institutionalised offshore banking / tax havens, that happily profited during World Wars 1 and 2 by trading with Germany, and that confiscated Jewish gold after the World War 2. In fact similar to Belgium, another country with a troubled linguistic coexistance, there are severe linguistic strains in Switzerland, with the French and Italian minorities having strong cultural bonds with their fellow speakers across the border. A few years ago when the latest DD referendum on the matter was held, the Swiss French and Italians voted to join the EU, but were blocked by the dominant German-speaking cantons.

    Interesting that unlike Switzerland, Belgium has no system of of DD. Even referendums are not provided for. On the other hand, Belgium had a turnout of 85% in this weekend’s municipal, national and European elections. Not because Belgians have a higher sense of civic-mindedness than elsewhere in Europe, but because of the legal obligation to vote. Maybe that’s what’s so facinating about Europe, the diversity of it all.

  18. Pat Flannery

    David never fails to use any excuse to bash the EU, which in this piece he calls “dysfunctional”.

    The reason Switzerland “works” is because it is tolerated by its EU neighbors, just as the State of Delaware is tolerated by the U.S. Both Switzerland and Delaware exist as pimps to the white collar criminals of larger political groups.

    In his efforts to bash the EU David argues in this piece at cross purposes with himself. On the one hand he argues against Balkanization by pointing to Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and the savagery of the “narcissism of small differences”, while praising Switzerland, the very epitome of Balkanization.

    • Dilly

      The EU is a complete and utter scam though. So its swings and roundabouts. The Balkan War is not over either. I was in places such as Mostar and Sarajevo in the 90′s and they havent finished yet. Ireland is a corrupt little backwater so we cant really point fingers at the Swiss while acting all smug. Although Irish people do Smug even better than the English. Many people died in this country under the control of the Church/Political Parties.

    • michaelcoughlan

      “Switzerland, the very epitome of Balkanization”

      Really? Smashed villages and internecine religious warfare etc in Switzerland is there?

      Michael.

      • Pat Flannery

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkanization

        Look it up. It does not mean “Smashed villages and internecine religious warfare etc”. Switzerland is a classic case of “division of a region or state into smaller regions”.

        • StephenKenny

          “Balkanization, or Balkanisation, is a geopolitical term, originally used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or non-cooperative with one another.[1] It is considered pejorative.”

          It hardly applies to the Swiss. After all, Switzerland is the product of smaller states coming together.

          But I generally agree, if we’re going to lose the benefits of nationalism, we should benefit by getting rid of the corrupt downsides: Nazi gold; offshore this and that; etc etc.

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