2020-10-17 Switzerland’s exceptionalism

The problem is that Switzerland is rich and people don’t know how much of that is due to banks, and how much of that is due to our legals framework, and how much of that enables pain and suffering abroad. And because we are ignorant and rich, the explanation must be that we work hard and we are honest and there is no corruption, because that is what we see.

And so we get to Corona. Since we must be so intelligent, as we are so rich, our measures must be good. But Corona isn’t as easily bluffed and all the talk of responsible behavior, of “Selbstverantwortung” (everybody being responsible for their own actions, that is: no state intervention) are shown to be tepid air and hand waving.

Since we are so rich, and therefore intelligent, it can’t be true that the state must pass regulation to change our behavior. Ergo, this must be a dictatorship. We have no experience with dictators, they all happen elsewhere, but I guess when somebody tells you what to say or what to do, that must be it. Since this view is prevalent, politicians also hesitate. Everything is slow and panders to the loud mouthed. Even our so-called dictatorship is apparently incompetent.

The dream of the “Führer” is strong, even if well hidden. Our federalism has health departments in all the cantons, and the federal government can only overrule them in an emergency. They did that for the first time during the spring lockdown. Many complained. Now the government says the cantons must act on their own. And a different set of people is now complaining. They want a strong lead because the cantons are cowards. But the federal government is also full of cowards. How is that going to improve things?

Of course this is not going to improve things. The federal government is doing what needs to be done for all: gathering data, publishing reports, buying into overpriced snake oil. The actual measures to take are up to the people close to the people: the cantons. But that’s what they want to avoid. We always want somebody else to blame.

I like federalism. I want our own cantonal health departments to do what is necessary without having to wait for strong leaders (!?) to tell us what to do. I want people to stop complaining. The impossibility of what seems like such a simple thing breaks my head.

It doesn’t even require any coordination between the cantons. I understand that Geneva might need different measures then Glarus. That’s fine. But nobody wants to be the first to take a single step forward, nobody wants to impose stricter regulations because they need the excuse of the federal government forcing their hand. Then everybody can be angry at the federal government and the cantons can point fingers and say whatever. They’d rather take no responsibility than stand up for federalism.

For perspective, if you live in a bigger country: Switzerland has about eight million people and 26 cantons. Zürich is the largest with 1.5M people. Appenzell Innerrhoden is the smallest with about sixteen thousand (!) people. These are all small cities and towns elsewhere. A big yodel musical with 600 attendants in the canton of Schwyz with infected choir members and a nine day lag before the info was made public led to three small cantons being on Germany’s red list.



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