You could have called this column Swiss Watch. You missed the pun. Turn in your dad card.

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Isn't the obvious right-wing explanation that Switzerland is full of Swiss?

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"The best governed polities tend to be about the size of Switzerland. Some badly governed polities are also small. The U.S. is one of the ten most populated countries. The other nine are governed so badly that you should be grateful to be here."

Not that I'm disputing your claim exactly, but perhaps there's a bit of cherry-picking going on? If you made this list 10 years ago, Japan would make the cut instead of Mexico

If you grab 10 countries from the middle of the population table you get:

Hungary, Tajikistan, Belarus, UAE, Israel, Austria, Togo, Switzerland, Sierra Leone, Laos

Arguably that's a slightly better list, but there are some stinkers in there too. This doesn't really convince me that small countries have systematically better governance, but it's more a reminder that good government is still a rare thing

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Which raises (not begs :)) the question, why don't Libertarians spend more effort and energy on reducing immigration restrictions. [Yes, I know of Caplan and my perception of "not enough" is subjective, but Bob's your uncle.]

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Another advantage Switzerland, Singapore, and other small but very successful polities have is trade. Specifically, they can sell to big markets without being a big market. These countries always run big trade surpluses and hold foreign assets in big countries. In a way it's as if they are pushing the externalities of political scale onto their trading partners. Generally similar with the costs of military defense (many of these countries make proportional investments in defense, but still could not defend themselves against a larger aggressor without assistance).

I'm a big fan of both countries and would love to learn lessons from them, including agreement with your main points, but I'm not sure the model as it stands can scale to the rest of the world.

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Yes to having a gov't & culture give the opportunity to create wealth.

"South Africa The Solution" (1986) [https://archive.org/details/southafricasolut00louw/mode/2up] recommended setting up tribal cantons for the 10+ SA black tribes & 2 white tribes. Had it been implemented then as part of an ending of Apartheid, it would have been far better for most citizens, both white and black.

It also could have occurred in Yugoslavia, and maybe even Czecho-Slovakia, as these states decentralized. Recently South Sudan would still be a good candidate for cantonization - with aid going more thru the more local cantons than thru the almost-inevitably corrupt central gov't and the current tribe in power.

Who is the Swiss President? (It doesn't matter so much, their President has less gov't power, and a 1 year term, and the Federal gov't has less power. )

Scott and Arnold focus more on top talent, but I suspect that it's even more important for the culture to have good life choices for low IQ folk, with good morals. This means both higher expectations of working independently, and more opportunities to find work and show up with good work habits. Next on my reading list is Freddie deBoer's "The Cult of Smart", tho I already know about its support for better culture for the non-academic oriented folk. I suspect the Swiss have better jobs, with resulting higher self-respect & dignity, for their lower-IQ Swiss citizens, but don't talk much about it.

Scott also specifies some 5 or 6 US & Swiss similarities:

1. Relatively decentralized.

2. Lots of referenda.

3. Traditionally more free market than most developed economies (although the edge is eroding.)

4. Much lower than average taxes for a rich country.

5. A long period of isolation from warfare (on their soil), and a haven for dissidents fleeing persecution. [6] Also a good place for migrants who want a business-friendly system.

We need some focus on both tails - allowing the top talent to fly, while helping the least talented to avoid being squashed.

Welfare dependency doesn't lead to self-respect nor good morals. Right now a national, state, county, or city guaranteed job offer seems among the best policies to help poor folk help themselves. But it does require the anti-Libertarian acknowledgment that some folk need more help to live decently - tho it also notes that such folk have a huge responsibility to live with good morals, that don't require money nor status.

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Solving cretinism throughout Switzerland also helped them.


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Switzerland is the only part of Greater Germany that didn't suffer from world wars, totalitarian regimes and foreign occupation. Of course it's richer than the other parts.

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They have an excellent education system. With everything being at the canton level it becomes difficult to extort benefits for special interests without the voters having a say.

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Although in general Sumner offers a fine analysis, there were a couple of statements which one might choose to dispute.

First, one might suggest that GDP per capita, or even average wealth per capita, are perhaps not the best measures of what it means to be “rich.” A contrasting statistic like median wealth per capita, shines a little different light, and finds the United States is not even in the top 20 nations: https://www.statista.com/chart/19651/countries-with-highest-per-capita-average-and-median-wealth/ This is largely due to the grotesque distortions produced by the tax expenditures in the US tax code that nudge investment into ratholes and discourages payment of dividends to shareholders.

While speaking of tax issues. Not sure how the table showing percentage of tax revenues by level of government is supposed to tell us anything about how rich a country is, but the USA is by many measures not at all a low tax nation. For example, the USA corporate tax rate is about right in the middle (after having been among the highest for many years): https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/corporate-tax-rates-by-country but with the massive tax expenditures (https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/tax-policy/tax-expenditures ) tax revenues are decreased and capital diverted into less productive channels. General government spending per capita is perhaps the best measure of overall tax burden and in that the USA is about in the middle as well: https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-spending.htm

As admirable as Musk and others may be, small business accounts for about 44 percent of USA GDP. Despite the odds, millions continue to start new small businesses each year. https://www.thezebra.com/resources/research/small-business-statistics/ Say, what you will, these people deserve respect. They may even lead the nation out of recession ( https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/the-small-business-economy-is-set-to-soar-in-2022 ) if the highly politicized and corrupt IRS does not crush them first. And, perhaps, this is the biggest difference between the US and Switzerland whom are ranked 27 and 7 on the Corruption Perceptions Index respectively. Ample evidence suggests that greater corruption in the USA is due to its majoritarian electoral system and presidentialism. Consensus and consociational democracy via parliamentary systems with with elements of proportional representation such as that of Switzerland provides better outcomes with less corruption than majoritarian first-past-the-post presidentialist systems:

“The first performance variable, government effectiveness, is a composite measure of the civil service and its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies. Regulatory quality measures the government’s ability to formulate and implement sound polices and regulations that promote private sector development. Rule of law is a self-explanatory term; it specifically includes the quality of property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the risk of crime. Control of corruption comprises not only the degree to which public power is used for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, but also the ‘capture’ of the state by elites and private interests. Consensus democracy has a favourable effect on government performance in all four areas, and the correlations are strong and statistically significant at the 5 percent level in three of them.” --Arend Lijphart in Patterns of Democracy, chapter 15.

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