Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Secret Is Out

For the last year I've been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) plotting a move to Switzerland, which I believe is the closest thing to Libertopia that exists on this planet in the post-Bush Doctrine world. This move may or may not happen even if Obama wins the Presidency this year (and it will DEFINITELY happen if Hillary somehow steals the election), but I noticed awhile back that the small Alpine nation had passed the US in just about every libertarian category: economic, social, foreign policy, etc. Fortunately for me, when most people think about Switzerland and freedom, it is only to use them as an example of how a well-armed society need not have much violent crime.

Switzerland's high libertarian/classical liberal grades are not just an uninformed perception of mine, either- I've seen a number of annual studies of different freedom indicators that have ranked the Swiss equal to or above the US in just about every conceivable category in recent years. (For the record, the US held the top spot or one of the top spots in all of those indicators in the pre-GWB/Cheney years).

...And all these indicators say nothing about Switzerland's libertarian-like foreign policy of neutrality and relative non-intervention. While this policy decidedly put them on the wrong side of WWII, it's worth noting that it has also done a pretty good job of keeping them safe but well-regarded over the years.

Well, in the current issue of The American, John Fund lets the cat out of the bag, providing a fairly in depth look at Swiss tax and economic policy, as well as at their style of democracy. Fund also points out a dirty little secret- Switzerland is one of the world's most prosperous countries despite the fact that it was an economic backwater only a century ago.

Alas, he does not mention Switzerland's relatively liberal perspective on gay rights, drugs (they're not legal but they are a far cry from our militaristic War on Drugs), and all sorts of other personal freedom issues that have little to do with economic policy. But tolerance of other lifestyles is something that the GOP would do well to learn from the Swiss.

This is not to say that Switzerland is in fact Libertopia - it has its fair share of areas where it falls short, too. But it is the closest thing to it currently in existence. Not surprisingly to libertarians, it has a quality of life to match. Surprisingly to Progressives and socialists, it has one of the world's finest health care systems, structured in a way that is more market-friendly than the American system.

In response, my socialist and Progressive friends will likely point to the case of Denmark to show how socialism can work. But that would ignore an important distinction between the two countries - Switzerland is a surprisingly diverse country (note to the anti-immigrant crowd: the Swiss have FOUR official languages), while Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries are extremely homogenous. No less an authority than Hayek recognized that socialism can conceivably work in a small, homogenous society where everyone shares a common purpose. That does not make it feasible in a massive nation like the US which has one of the world's most diverse populations (second note to the anti-immigrant crowd: restricting immigration more is a good way to screw up that diversity and therefore make socialism more likely).

Now if only I could find a job in Switzerland....