December 13, 2001
hear someone brag that America is the greatest country on
earth, I want to ask, Have you ever been to Switzerland?
Well, I have. I spent a whole week there once.
Very dull. No war, no international crisis, no crime, none of the things that give
life its savor for red-blooded people like us. Nobody even knew who the president
of the country was. The Swiss have never even had a great president. Their
national hero is still that guy with the crossbow. Their national pastime is
I dont intend the blasphemous
suggestion that Switzerland is the Greatest Country on Earth, but it has a fair
claim to be the sanest. It has had less history over the last thousand years than
most African countries have had in the last generation. You know the old Chinese
curse: May you live in interesting times. The Swiss have no memory
of interesting times. They have a proud history of not making history.
Switzerland sat out two world wars, for
which it is resented by the sort of people who think war is a duty. The Swiss seem
to feel that the rest of the world can enjoy mutual slaughter perfectly well
without them. They have never joined the United Nations, NATO, or the European
Union. They are content to hunker down within their sheltering Alps, while
Americans will cross two oceans, simultaneously if necessary, to get into a good
war. Nor do they have troops, battleships, submarines, and military bases around
the world. And no nukes.
In short, the Swiss are what all right-thinking
people have learned to call isolationists. They have stubbornly
maintained their independence. As a result, an awful lot of Swiss didnt die
violent deaths in the twentieth century.
Oh, by the way, the Swiss arent
afflicted by terrorism. Osama bin Laden has probably never heard of Switzerland,
unless he stashes his money there. It may not be the Greatest Country on Earth, but
nobody calls it the Great Satan, either.
Not that the Swiss arent ready to
defend themselves. The men are required by law to serve in the militia and to keep
firearms in their homes. But when they say defense, they mean
defense not empire, not New World Order, not global
They have a federal system of government, and
in Switzerland federal still, oddly enough, means decentralized. Each
canton treasures its independence. The national president has little power, little
opportunity to achieve greatness. The Swiss franc is one of the
worlds most stable currencies. Swiss banks are the worlds most
Naturally, a country like that, free, peaceful,
and prosperous, isnt going to be left alone. A few years ago there was an
outcry against Switzerland as a repository of Nazi gold, which
turned out to be a scam, an attempt to blackmail the Swiss. They were given a
choice between coughing up billions or facing international opprobrium and
sanctions. It later transpired that the Nazi gold was mythical, the accusations a
cynical smear campaign.
Independence is always hated by centralizers
and internationalists. The papacy is hated because the Pope, unlike politicians and
journalists, cant be bought or bullied. Switzerland is hated because it
remains aloof from the international community. Id offer
other shining examples of resistance to the pressures of internationalism, if I
could think of any.
Switzerland has enjoyed the kind of history
Americans once hoped for. But while America has been drawn back into the
quarrels of the Old World its people had hoped to escape, Switzerland has in effect
managed to secede from that worlds strife without leaving the continent.
If you want excitement in Switzerland, you just have to roll your own; the state
wont provide it for you. You can sum it up by saying Switzerland is a
country that has lost more lives in skiing accidents than in war.
The story of Switzerland is the greatest
political success story of the modern world, yet we never hear about it. Why not?
Because it puts all other states to shame. Most rulers want to Americanize their
countries; but if they really cared about their peoples welfare
lives, liberty, property, and all that they would try to Swissify. Its
a sign of the times that I am forced to coin this indispensable verb.