Red Train to St. Moritz
A Journey Into the World’s Most Successful Democracy
By Marcia Christoff
The Swiss Guard
Critical Lessons from the World’s Most Successful Democracy to the World’s Most Threatened One
By Marcia A. Christoff
28 September 2022
Organization of Notes
“Switzerland will have the last word,”
Summary: This engaging work will make the case that the future of democracy in the United States requires a vision of democracy that once upon a time almost became the foundation of our constitutional republic. The Anti Federalist model was inspired by Switzerland and this model, along with other aspects of Swiss political and social culture, are necessary to the survival of our constitutional republic. We are no longer “functioning” and Switzerland is the only modern democracy whose model any sovereign Western country should assert as its standard.
I propose to write a book on the timely example of contemporary Switzerland as the model of what constitutes a democratic state that has remained true to its founding principles and how this model is so critical and relevant to the future of the United States. A philosophic and personal narrative of my experience and knowledge of the country’s contemporary state of society and political society, the writing will be framed with the necessary historical context that makes for an engaging narrative and written in a style of tone that highlights the first hand knowledge of someone who has spent twenty years in living in the region.
My qualifications include living in Vienna and Milan for just under 20 years with personal-family and professional connections to Switzerland that have been consistent throughout this time. I have written on the private banking practices and historic banking laws of the country for the Wall Street Journal Europe and as a column, “Swiss Watch” for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which is a respected online journal of the so-called Austrian School of Economics. My European reporting has also appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, the New York-based policy journal Foreign Affairs, The Economist and two online journals of society and culture in which I have written about the elaborate health care, welfare and immigration policies of Switzerland. I speak, read and write the main languages of the country–French, German and Italian–and am the editor of a Milan-bsed journal of fine arts and architecture that has corresponding coverage of Switzerland. I currently live right near the border of that country, in northern Italy on Lago Maggiore, where the economic and cultural influence of Svizerra is pervasive (and, dare I say, much welcomed).
The crisis taking place in America today, which is that of an incredible nation’s breathtaking decline, is fundamentally of a philosophical nature and not a political, economic or social one. As such, this situation must be addressed at the level of the metaphysical ideas upon which the country’s institutional founding is based, which few thinkers across the left-right spectrum are willing to do at length since this would mean dissolving the artificial ideology that separates the two sides and that amply profits either. Among my core convictions in this regard is the belief that the seeds of our decay were planted right within the very body of principles that gave rise to American greatness, resulting in an intellectual Gordian knot wound around our national destiny and an existential noose tightening around our cultural survival. Specifically, I mean the ambiguity that is at the core of the delineation of power between federal and state authority. The attempt to define the respective realm and reach of these powers comprised the essence of our constitutional debates between Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The former philosophy propounded by Hamilton and Adams obviously proved the stronger case, paving the way for a strong central government superior in breadth of authority to the powers of the individual states to form the governing framework of our constitutional republic. In this work, I maintain that this model has produced a disaster, and a disaster far too “soon” in the life of the United States. I find it inconceivable that any rational citizen of this country would find the expansion of federal power in Washington DC to the point it has reached today to be the natural consequence of what the founders had intended, nor do I the exercise of this power upon the citizen to the extent it has so profoundly reduced his rights and liberties as anything less than tyrannical.
Now, at an accelerated pace, we are dissolving into a sham republic, with very limited citizen control over deadbeat and power-mad elected representatives who have little or no concept of public duty and public service; a ghoulish Supreme Court whose decisions, by dint of whatver ideological current catches the wave, holds the fate of this swaddled democracy in its collective greasy palm, and an executive that has multiplied agency upon agency within its shadowy bowels and has created internecine chains of command ascending ever higher, and ever lower, into nether regions of no accountability. This is the product of many things, but it is ultimately the product of the Federalist model. This, I argue, is the result of two irreconciable aspects of our particularly American Federalist model: that of a strongly-centralized constitutional republic that is profoundly multicultural and also an imperial power–a combination, in my estimation, best suited to constitutional monarchy. The alternative would have been the Anti-Federalist outlook: a decentralized confederated republic of self-determined state identity and unified nationally and internationally through commerce and national defense. Thus, the United States finds itself once more at the crossroads of this philosophical conflict–that of a Federalist versus Anti-Federalist conception of the country–only this time, the debate is necessary to prevent further disintegration of the nation rather than, as originally, to secure its evolution and expansion. Were the Anti-Federalists right? Is the recent decision by the Texas Republican Party to add to its party platform the right of that state to secede from the United States evidence of a potential trend in the direction of that philosophy?
I maintain that on both accounts the answer is ‘yes’ . From the start, but especially now, the Anti-Federalist idea of the distinctly superior rights of individual states, and the public authority within them, over the powers exercised by central government must be asserted and only this insistence upon the state over the federal can save this country’s political culture of democracy. For a brief time this outlook defined the early years of the United States (1781-1789) and, in different forms, the old Swiss Confederacy (in various iterations from 1291 to 1798), then referred to as the Eidgenossenschaft or “oath fellowship” to describe the strong treaties among the cantons. In modern terms, this fundamental philosophy is best embodied in the political culture of modern Switzerland (1848-present).
At the time of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, the Confederation of Switzerland (1291-1787) was in disarray owing to the Napoleonic wars. At that Convention there was no mention of Switzerland except in negative terms. Prior to this, however, during the Anti Federalist debate, frequent reference to Switzerland was made, which will be brought out over the course of this writing. When in 1848, Switzerland consolidated itself as a Federal Republic, it drew on the American constitution for much of its inspiration. That federal model, however, remains highly successful in that country where in the United States it does not.Though a federal republic with a constitution, the country restricts its central government to a largely subordinate position in relation to the twenty-six cantons of the country and persists to this day in enforcing the democratic ideal of its own political culture. This Swiss ideal consists of four primary qualities: the superiority of cantonal rights over federal authority; the institutional traditions of Direct Democracy, Initiative and Referendum; fiscal conservatism and a robust sense of what Montesquieu called ‘civic virtue’, the most necessary condition of democracy according to that fine thinker. The Swiss concept and practice of democracy will be the focus of this writing–and, one hopes, of the question of where America is headed and why.
In a word, the United States has to become something it never was in order to remain what it truly is. But if things stay as they are, it will cease to be what it once had been. Let us back up a moment:
I wrote above that the Federalist model as applied to a country of the multi-ethnic character and ‘imperial’ ambitions of the United States is more consistent with constitutional monarchy than that of a republic. I maintain that the failure to recognize this has resulted in the crisis of national identity that we have today: for, we have no such identity except in a nostalgic sense of cultural icons, many of whom are being subjected to damnatio memoria. Consider how often one hears the expression “the American nation” as one would the equivalent in other countries and it is remarkably absent– “the American people”, yes; the “American dream”, of course. But these are political slogans and don’t quite evoke the depth of connotation embodied in “nation” and perhaps this is on purpose, to avoid the continental gravitas of “motherland” and “fatherland” , etc. These linguistic concerns aside, however, this absence of defined national identity has produced a bizarre polarization of American political culture: we have become, on the one hand, a country splintered and micro-splintered into self-absorbed, navel-gazing “communities” for whom broader social bonds are only valued as the non-committal, tattery loose ends of on-demand material association; on the other, this atomization of society and its deadbeat individualism have allowed for the imposition of heavy-handed, supra-state, central government control by way of eroded liberty, capricious diktats, frivolous mandates and endless surveillance etc. always in the guise of public welfare and always for a public indifferent to its own rights; to the health of its cities, to civic responsibility. On the international level, we exist only in abstract, as the machinery-of-state; a big, baggy ogre devoid of moral leadership, fueled by savage debt and the short-sighted strategems of minority interests, whether geopolitical or economic, in turn packaged for and palmed off to domestic consumption. It is a country teeming with traitorous greed and a self-subverting death wish in the form of porous borders, staggering violence and depressing levels of cultural illiteracy and contempt for patriotism. “In every modern democracy the process towards centralization under state control is at work”, wrote Charles Maurras, the French reactionary philosopher and no friend of democracy. “There is an inexorable centripetal tendency which is the very nature of democracy. Had we instituted from generation to generation a permanent representative among the best of the descendents of any of the principal Founding Fathers–a Washington, a Madison or Adams, etc– to serve as our ‘monarch’ in the transcendent sense of “the guarantor of the continuation of the nation”, would such decay be taking place in America today–or, at least, at such an accelerated pace? Had this title been conferred as a meaningfully symbolic anchor to the country’s identity–which is philosophically and institutionally Anglo-Saxon– then handed down by inheritance to the descendents of that selected founder, all the while the country under its president or prime minister, its legislature and judiciary continued to refine its enlightened-but-conservative democratic progress-–free market capitalism, personal liberty, the spirit of loyal immigration, a separation of church and state, social mobility, ….if this had been our organization, would we be suffering the decline that we are today; would we have been reduced to a coast-to-coast mass market and managerial class that have asset stripped our history and heritage in order to sell them short while our value plummets?
But if, on the other hand, we had stayed a confederation, would we have produced the same industrial might and world prestige? Would this ‘national identity’ have been yet more eroded? I argue the following: first, that the more immediate, more strongly enforced transparency of the democratic process that would take place on the state, that is to say local, level, would have thwarted or greatly reduced the multiplicity and opacity of agencies of the executive branch that effectively have taken over the “presidency”; Congress would not operate like a whorehouse for lobbyists in which the prostitutes pay the clients; nor would our ghoulish federal judiciary be so ideologically omnipotent that the death of a Supreme Court judge keeps a nation on the edge of its seat awaiting the next leftwing or rightwing corruption of law. Second, it would have created a highly competitive domestic manufacturing base immune to constitutionally binding treaties and international treaties that go against state and local interests: third, the union of states would have provided for a national army but would have required far more transparent debate and popular consent over the wars to which “Washington” recklessly commits; fourth, currency might have been standardized but it is unlikely there would have been a Federal Reserve; or, that it would have remained what it was originally conceived to be and that is a banker’s bank of last resort. In a word, the Anti Federalist model would this have resulted in a greater control of the citizenry on the destiny of the country, more direct representation, less oligarchical politics and possibly fewer “entangling alliances”thus very likely a greater sense of national identity in the broad sense of independent association and shared interests.
The true statement of the respective powers of the two elements of this government is made in the following sentence of Thomas M Cooley's Principles of Constitutional Law (1891): " In American constitutional law a peculiar system is established; the powers of sovereignty being classified, and some of them apportioned to the Government of the United States for its exercise, while others are left with the States. Under this apportionment, the nation is. possessed of supreme, absolute and uncontrollable power, in respect to certain subjects throughout all the States, while the States have the like unqualified power, within their respective limits, in respect to other subjects”
In the meantime, we are left with a doomed enterprise. The only solution is for the world’s most successful democracy to tutor the world’s most self sabotaging.
In this spirit of the times one is intrigued, perhaps more than ever, by the example of Switzerland. “Where the government is lodged in the body of the people, as in Switzerland, they can never be corrupted; for no prince, or people, can have resources enough to corrupt the majority of a nation; and if they could, the play is not worth the candle. The facility of corruption is increased in proportion as power tends by representation or delegation, to a concentration in the hands of a few.”
`These words were written by the Anti-Federalist “Agrippa” in 1767, and never have they been more true. Switzerland is a healthy society, a wealthy society that is egalitarian and the envy of the world; a system of direct democracy, Initiative and Referendum that has balanced conservative and progressive political forces within the political will of those governed; whose traditional fiscal conservatism and banking secrecy are trademarks of the country where credit cards are spurned and debt is a social blackmark; where welfare and unemployment benefts must be paid back and homelessness is near non-existent; where high culture is a matter of prestige and engineers historically received titles of nobility. The enigmatic nature of political Switzerland has long made it intriguing as a theme, but the fact that the country remains rather impenetrable on many levels to the outside observer; keeps a low media profile, and is criticized internationally for its strignent immigration-migrant policies, will lend this work all the more weight as an authoritative contribution to this most sphinx-like subject of study.
This book will consist of the following sections and chapters:
Prologue: A brief, three page statement on the significance of this book at this time and what the democratic model of Switzerland can teach the United States for the sake of the latter’s own future as a democracy. This Prologue will present the main argument of the book that demoracracy only exists where, as in the modern-day cantons of Switzerland, the people determine directly their own destiny, or where through direct primaries, the referendum, the initiative and the recall they are able to enforce their will upon their representatives. It will also briefly outline the extraordinary historical relationship between the early United States and the two incarnations of modern (18th and 19th century) Switzerland as a Confederation, then as a Federation, and the two countries’ mutual influence upon the political thinking of the other. I will also state my qualifications in writing the book, the fruit of consistent study, research and writing over the course of the last 15 years.
Introduction. Red Train to St Moritz: A Journey into the Soul of Switzerland “The silence of historians is the surest record of the happiness of a people”, a scholar once wrote. “The Swiss have been four hundred years the envy of mankind, and there is yet scarcely an history of their nation.” And so begins this exploration of the mystery of the enigma that is Switzerland, the intransigent alpine state historically surrounded by empires and conquered by none; the landlocked eidgenossenschaft— “oath-bound community”–so poor in natural resources and wealthier than everyone else; the statelet that possessed a military prowess emperors around the world sought to emulate and the astute ancient and modern republic that created what is arguably the most successful advanced democratic system in the world. The title references one of the most famous train rides in Europe, the Bernina Express, founded in 1910 and best known as the iconicred train that makes its long journey from Italy to the chic resort town of St Moritz with sweeping Alpine views through its immense windows; glaciers and wild mountain scenery. Yet beyond this physical beauty and its many tourist attractions for which the country is mostly known, the title’s soul-searching idea of a “journey inside” intends something more profound. That particular mountain passage into strange, seductve Switzerland serves as a symbolic record of the centuries the country fought to maintain its independence as a secure safe have away from rising and collapsing empires and to steer itself clear of the centripetal forces seeking to manipulate Switzerland’s three principal national groups into self-slaughter. As the Introduction to work, these pages will present my close personal and professional experience of the country over the course of the twelve years that I lived in next door Vienna, Austria– an impression that influenced my political-philosophical outlook as to what makes a country “work”. The origins of these experiences are those of a common, even clichéd, initiation: I was writing for the Wall Street Journal Europe on the tax haven status of Switzerland and on the old adventures of new friends in their wartime and post-war dealings with that banking culture, the long arm of European law, secrecy, neutrality and freedom à la Suisse. The stories were bold and the landscape beautiful but something more beckoned, inspiring deeper research into this closed, “difficult”, but respected and serious island of security and civic energy in which “the State” knew its place and stayed in its place; a small, vague country yet one so powerful as to have influenced the very debates of the founding of the United States. An entire philosophy of state was slowly revealed to me; a philosophy of direct democracy and genuine power of the people; of strict fiscal discipline, patrician civil codes; a country in which every man from 20 to 50 is a soldier and that had fought back Holy Roman Emperors, Habsburgs, Napoleon and two World Wars all the while its three main ethnic groups lived peacefully though elsewhere continuously at war. It is on this red train that one not only journeys into the geographical center of Europe where the highest summits converge and where the largest rivers of that continent have their sources, but into a land, unique in the world, where democracy continues as it was originally intended.
Part One: Modern Switzerland: Civilization Without Discontents:
As I believe it would be in the interest of the reader, my first section will be devoted to the Switzerland of today, focusing on what distinguishes its social organization, its approach to money and the living tradition of direct democracy apart from the rest of the world. The sections after will focus on the political history of the country and its relation to the early Federalist-Anti-Federalist debates of the United States
Chapter One: Self-Determination, Swiss-Style. I will begin with a narrative overview of the conservative approach to contemporary society in the country as this tends to be quite an eye-opener to American (and international) readers, per my own writing experience on the subject. For each detail listed below, I will feature in my book historical context and engaging anecdotes in order to turn the ‘data’ into at-the-scene story-telling. These points include the following examples:
- To begin with , Switzerland has a zero-tolerance approach to homelessness. There are homeless, usually from other countries, but they are fined and warned and forced to leave. Last year, the city of Basel announced a program whereby homeless individuals would be given twenty Swiss francs and a one way ticket to any other European city if they promised never to return or, at the minimum, to stay away for at least four years, violators immediately deported. This program proved very popular.
- Begging on the streets is illegal, for which one is fined quite substantially. For example, in Geneva in 2015, a Roma woman, not able to pay several fines for begging that amounted to around 500 CHF (more or less $600), received a sentence of five days in prison in that city. The European Court of Human Rights demanded that Geneva overturn its decision, maintaining that such begging was an expression of the woman’s own ‘human dignity’. The city was told to pay her close to 1000 CHF in ‘damages’. Despite examples such as this, Switzerland has remained undeterred and law enforcement throughout all the cantons continues to fine begging.
- Individual responsibility and family responsibility are “national” priorities: Any state assistance (welfare) must be paid back once the individual, or family, is back on its feet. Furthermore, a Civil Obligations Code requires that families take care of those members who cannot take care of themselves (parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren) and authorities can request family members to cover all or a part of social welfare payments and health care payments. Again, responsibility is critical here: keep in mind that Switzerland became the first country in the world to vote at the national level on the issue of universal basic income and shot the idea down by 77% of voters in a referendum of February 2016.
- Switzerland discourages migration/immigration where it may lead to state dependency. The federal government takes care of asylum seekers across the board (shelter, basic health services), but only temporarily and for usually up to three months. Swiss migration law allows only for the immigration of highly skilled labor.
- Authority remains strict: refugees arriving at a Swiss reception center have to hand over to the state any assets worth more than $1000, according to latest figures, and up to a maximum of about $15,000 — to help cover their costs, exempting very personal items (wedding rings). If refugees leave voluntarily within seven months, they can get the money back. If they find work during the time of their temporary protection status, as they are allowed to do so, and win the right to stay and work in Switzerland, these individuals have to surrender 10% of their pay for up to ten years until they repay $15,000 in costs.
- The rules are just as tough for citizens and permanent residents: If you are employed and then become unemployed in Switzerland, your name is put in a central database with your qualifications and background in your canton (your regional ‘state’). That canton will then start to send you notifications of job offers commensurate with your work history and education. You are allowed to reject two of these offers. If you reject the third you must leave the country, unless you can prove enough wealth to sustain your livelihood for a specified amount of time.
- If you become unemployed in Switzerland, the state will give you, for a short while, welfare benefits. Once you are employed, the welfare must be paid back.
- Good Samaritan laws are still in place. If you see something happen or someone in trouble, the least you are required to do is to call the police. The failure to do so results in quite heavy fines or brief jail time.
- There are very strict Sunday laws. Sunday is considered sacred–not just in religious terms but as a matter of civic respect. You aren’t allowed to mow the grass, you can’t hang laundry, and you cannot recycle your trash. If you are caught sending out the trash on Sunday to one of the centers close to you, you will be fined. If you cannot pay the fine, you can choose the option of a few days in jail.
- Years ago, in an attempt to liberalize the drug laws, the Platzspitz or “Needle Park” in Zurich was an open-drug market in the 1980s and early 90s when heroin users could inject the drug without being arrested and volunteer doctors supplied the needles. The scene spun out of control with the number of drug-related deaths in Switzerland increasing twelvefold between 1975 and 1992. Authorities shut it down that year, with a heavy gate built across the park.
- That famous healthcare system is expensive and one p ays mostly out of pocket, reimbursed later. Even though Switzerland’s healthcare system is universal, there is no free public healthcare. Instead, all residents of Switzerland must pay for their own private health insurance. There is no Medicare. Subsidies are provided in extreme cases (poverty, the infirm) with strict conditions, including the recipient having to pay back those subsidies eventually. Once voluntary, insurance coverage has been compulsory since 1996.
- Switzerland still has National Service in the armed forces, where each able-bodied Swiss man (it was traditionally from 20 to 50 years old) has to spend time each year in a training camp that forms part of the military. Up until recently soldiers must keep a gun in their home, which is a part of the military framework in readiness for potential conflict (this theme of national service and its astonishing historical roots follows in a separate chapter)
- Switzerland, as this book makes clear many times, is no welfare society. The “poor” are not urban-poor. It is not a country of food stamps or people living on the streets or under bridges. It has one of the lowest child poverty rates in the world. About 3% of citizens (7% factoring in immigration/asylum seekers) lives below that country’s official poverty level, double what the level was through the 1990s; of Swiss citizens, these tend to be single mothers or unemployed parents. Based on canton-by-canton law, those individuals receive, as single adults, about $900 a month and about $2200 maximum for a family in welfare subsidies. However, this amount is for what is called “life dignity” and covers only food, transportation, “hygiene” and communications. It is not to cover rent, rooms, or basic health insurance.
Chapter two: The Swiss Way of Health: The Incomparable Health Care System. This second chapter would explore the intelligence of the Swiss health care system, which, to Americans, might seem uncannily rational —not to mentionat times rather luxurious. While the subject of ‘health care’ normally does not make for the most glamorous reading, within the context of this book, this chapter not only introduces what is considered one of the great role model health care systems in the world but reinforces the idea of the strength of Swiss democratic institutions and the sense of civic obligation and individual responsibility in Swiss society. This chapter discusses the following characteristics of the country’s celebrated health care culture:
- One could say that the enigmatic independence of Switzerland is perhaps best demonstrated in the fact that its healthcare system manages to satisfy both free marketers and the statist-socialists in the country. It is a giant social safety net woven by individual responsibility and self-made wealth. Health insurance is almost entirely a consumer-driven private insurance model, though there are strict cantonal regulations and some governing federal laws. Coverage is not created, provided or managed by the federal or by cantonal governments, but is sold and managed by private-sector insurance companies to individuals. It is not provided by employers, except in the case of large multinationals and then only partially. There are no free state-provided health services. There is no Medicare. Subsidies are provided in extreme cases (poverty, the infirm) with strict conditions, including the recipient having to pay back those subsidies eventually. Once voluntary, insurance coverage is now, since 1996, compulsory. Public sector care such as hospitals or the administration of public assistance is paid for by taxes.
- Every citizen and resident must buy basic insurance and supplementary insurance for himself, the first being mandatory. One purchases it from a choice of around eighty private insurers that offer competing canton-by-canton plans through which individuals are free to select the insurer they want and may choose any doctor they wish — to ask a doctor if he is “on” a particular plan will be greeted by a confused stare. In addition, with the basic insurance, fees for services are regulated by the state and insurers cannot legally earn profit on those basic benefit packages.
- Otherwise, the system of premiums and deductibles is familiar territory to Americans learning about this system. Individuals (not entire families, but each individual family member) pay a premium that varies between cantons and will soon average about $450 a month. On the high-end, this will average about $2500 a month, with children under the age of 18 paying less. The annual deductibles run about these rates, as well.
- Private insurers make money by selling supplementary insurance policies (private hospital rooms, alternative therapies, those wonderful, alpine-air, Thomas Mann Magic Mountain type retreats; drug rehabilitation, dental), which are risk-adjusted. These are highly prized by Swiss consumers — about 70% of those insured have the supplementary plans.
- The most someone is allowed to pay for insurance in Switzerland is 8 % of income; anything in excess of that amount may be deducted from taxes.
- There are many out of pocket costs in Switzerland but the care and the quality of hospitals are superb. Doctors and hospitals are the very best on the continent. There are no waiting lists, either. The basic package is generous by most countries’ standards. The insurance covers the costs of medical treatment and hospitalization, but the insured person has to pay part of the cost of treatment. This is done via an annual deductible also ranging canton-to-canton. Furthermore, a copayment of about $15 a day is required for hospital stays.
- On the state side of things, each of the country’s twenty-six cantons has its own constitution and is responsible for licensing providers, coordinating hospital services, and subsidizing institutions and individual premiums. The federal government plays the role of regulating the financing of the system—that is, requiring that insurance be compulsory; ensuring the quality (and safety) of pharmaceuticals and medical devices; overseeing public health initiatives and promoting research and training. The federal government also regulates a “General Social Insurance” (detailed below) that provides healthcare to those who cannot pay for it themselves. This state involvement in the health care sector is financed through tax revenues.
- Critics of the system, such as the Swiss themselves, are quick to point out Singapore and Taiwan as providing the overall best and least expensive services. Still, taxes are quite low and the system works. Some 99.5% of the population is insured, and in a 2014 referendum vote for single-payer nationwide insurance, the proposal was swiftly rejected.
- Key to the functioning of the Swiss health care system are the cultural and social factors that are at the basis of its foundation, rather than the system being imposed “from the top down” by political posturing or global trends. Self-reliance is actively encouraged. Abuse of the system and the welfare-dependency of immigrants and economic migrants as elsewhere in Europe are almost non-existent. Corruption (hospitals, insurers, "big pharma") appears to be relatively minor. All of this is critical to the efficiency of the system. Further to this point.
- Yes, the state will pay for close to 100% of health costs in the event that an individual has no support network whatsoever or means of employment — but only in such extreme cases and only up until the point the individual finds means of work. Cantons, not the federal government, decide the distribution of such subsidies.
- These subsidies, in turn, come out of the tax-based Swiss General Social Insurance fund, mentioned above, a kind of “Bismarckian” insurance system designed to cover risks like disability and accident and, in some circumstances, to provide benefits through health care services. It covers, in particular, spending for rehabilitation in case of disability and the health care costs in case of professional and non-professional accidents of employed persons.
- Switzerland is mainly a self-governing society of rich bankers, rich engineers and rich farmers with high educational standards within a largely homogenous society. The country ranked No.1 on the 2017 Global Competitiveness Index. Additionally, wages are generally high in Switzerland and having low-income individuals performing services is almost non-existent because of the significant costs of even the most lower-skilled labor. To be sure, in Switzerland, it would be very difficult to get people to buy their own health insurance were worker productivity considerably lower.
- Health care fraud in Switzerland is relatively low. In general, Switzerland is not a country where public-private corruption is rife, despite the country’s reputation for secrecy. As of July 2016, private sector bribery was codified in the Swiss Criminal Code and Switzerland is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, ranking fifth in the Transparency International Rankings for 2016. The pharmaceutical ‘lobby’ in the country defends the high prices of drugs on the basis of long research cycles and as the leader of the country’s ongoing export wealth. High prices seem to be the extent of controversy.
- In all, the system works with a great degree of efficiency, perhaps best summarized by Swiss doctor Thomas Zeltner, M.D., the former Swiss secretary of health between January 1991 and December 2009. As Zeltner stated in an interview with an American health journal a couple of years back: “We [Swiss]will not let people suffer and die when they need health care. The Swiss believe that, in return, individuals owe it to society to make provision ahead of time for their health care when they fall seriously ill. At that point, they may not have enough money to pay for it. So, we consider the health insurance mandate to be a form of socially responsible civic conduct. In Switzerland, “individual freedom” does not mean that you should be free to live irresponsibly and freeload from others, as you would put it.”
Chapter Three: The Swiss Way of Wealth: On Money
This third chapter will be an in-depth exploration of the country’s philosophy of money, about which I wrote at length for The Wall Street Journal Europe and for the online journal of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian economic journal that published many of my essays on the fiscal standards of the traditional Swiss private bankers as well as my articles on the classic gold standard and the European economies of the First World War. To this writer, what is most interesting about this discussion is not the mechanics of “banking”, Swiss or otherwise, per se but the Swiss conservative cultural attitude towards money and the meaning of value, something remarkable in a world of debt-soaked democratic capitalist economies and money printing as the default position of monetary policy. Switzerland is a role model of fiscal vigilence and I will demonstrate this in the main points of the chapter, which include the following:
- More than any other banking system anywhere, the traditional Swiss bankers have developed the art of learning from history. From its historic position at the crossroads of and as a safe-haven from the experience of world war, hyperinflation and political upheavals, Swiss banking culture traditionally cultivated a ‘skeptical conservatism’ to ensure that bank investments were limited and of high quality. A high standard of liquidity remains in place.
- The best of ultra-traditional banking principles is summed up in one of Switzerland’s best institutions, the ‘Unlimited Liability’ banquier. Very few other banks in the world practice this severe model or have it written into law, as the Swiss.
- The expression is “Swiss private banker,” and not “private bank,” or “private banking.” This first refers to a very specific institution, defined by 1934 Swiss law and, as an expression (“Swiss private banker”), is a registered trademark. These are not UBS- or Credit Suisse-type banks (which are, for all intents and purposes, American banks), nor simply lesser-known tax-evasion vehicles shrouded in glamorous secrecy. Instead, the term refers to a narrowly defined privileged few “houses,” often centuries old and almost always still family owned, that, by law, must adhere to personal liability among their partners and high reserve requirements, among other standards. Indeed, in recent years, the number of these banks has dwindled from twelve to six, as pressures from the global economic crisis of 2008-2009 forced several of them into limited liability companies.
- In this chapter I will discuss the monetary philosophy with the partners of the six remaining of these banks: Baumann et Cie.; Bordier et Cie.; E. Gutzwiller et Cie; Mouge d’Algue et Cie; Rahn & Bodner; and Reichmuth & Co. As “Private bankers” as these are: (1) exclusively organized in the legal form of a partnership or limited partnership; (2) run by partners who are usually family descendants of the banks’ founders; (3) invest their own capital in their banks and maintain high cash reserve ratios; (4) are defined by a special private-banker status based upon 1943 law that is dependent upon the presence within management of one or several partners with unlimited liability for investment obligations. This last is their greatest distinction.
- Other Swiss banks offer wealth management services but their maximum liability is confined to equity capital. With private bankers, liability is not solely limited to the company equity, but partners are additionally liable with their private assets. Their primary duty is to their clients, to their own families, and to their own vested responsibilities — a quaint notion these days, to be sure. They are run by a flat management structure; decision-making chains are short; they do not develop their own products (they are not allowed to sell their own financial instruments) and are therefore not subject to any conflicts of interest in investment advice. Investments must be tradable and liquid at all times; bankers can’t act as brokers and they are not on-line banks. They tend not to invest in global real estate, and, as mentioned before, have strict rules on reserves. Furthermore, these banks share a fundamental preference for investment in real assets.
- In general, they tend to follow the investment philosophy of the traditional “Swiss Way of Wealth,” with emphasis on gold and commodity-based industry; investment in art, and land ownership. Cash is still king in Switzerland; debt is a form of indebtedness and not a form of wealth; derivatives and inflated valuation-speculation are frowned upon. Most of these banks do not offer commercial loans and mortgages and investments are almost always chosen on the basis of historical performance records.
- As the Swiss Private Bankers Association in Geneva likes to point out, so trusted was the Swiss private banker in the past that many rose to become advisers to ministers and kings — and some became ministers themselves. Albert Gallatin became Secretary of the US Treasury after negotiating the purchase of Louisiana in the nineteenth century; George Prevost became the Governor General of Canada; Pierre Telluson became Director of the Bank of England; and Jaques Necker, the Minister of Finance under Louis XVI in France. Even more pride is taken in the fact that the status of partner is handed down from generation to generation with a view to protecting the permanence of the business.
- This is founded upon a larger philosophy of money : For, once upon a time in the early history of modern banking, a common belief among all rational analysts of the system was an aversion to what was then referred to in those rose-tinted 19th century decades as “speculative political economy.” At the time, central banks carefully managed their status as “the symbol and paragon of national pride”, responsible as that institution was for the maintenance of three basic principles of fiscal agency. First, that a central bank, above all, must honor its reputation as a ‘pillar of public credit’; secondly, that the central bank both worked with while remained wary of the State; third, that the central bank had to retain a superior position to private banks, and did so by disciplining itself to preside over high reserve ratios and the strict administration of credit.
- In the US, there are three drivers of industry change — technology, customers, and regulation — that have threatened to destroy the traditional banking model. Nonetheless, the Swiss old-world traditional bank retains and will gain great advantages in such an environment. To quote PriceWaterhouseCoopers: “While [banks’] brands have traditionally been seen as a relatively limited part of their value, in the future they may become central to it.”
- James Grant, of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, stated in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in August 2016 that “[o]ver the past 100 years, collective responsibility in banking has replaced individual responsibility. The government, with the introduction of deposit insurance, new regulations, and interventions, has superseded the old doctrine of the responsibility of the owners of a property. That is why we need to go away from government intervention and go more towards market-oriented solutions such as the old doctrine of the responsibility of bank owners.” Grant’s citing of the “old doctrine of the responsibility of bank owners” is key here, and his comment is prominent acknowledgement of the importance of Swiss banking culture.
- On the other hand, there is the Swiss National Bank — the central bank — that in the last five years appears to be encouraging the same monetary policy dance-with-death that has tripped up the country’s monetarily masochistic European neighbors. How viable yet is the Swiss element in that which we still admire as the nation of Switzerland? .
- At first glance, the SNB appears to be the last of the bankers’ banks. The SNB is not powerful. It is not owned by the Swiss government. It is completely independent, as expressed in Article 6 of the National Bank Act, which explicitly prohibits the bank from seeking or accepting instruction from federal authorities. Instead, the SNB has the legal status of a special-statute joint-stock company. Under Article 11, it is not allowed to acquire government bonds from new issues and monetary policy is not bankrolled by the SNB as a central bank. The SNB has private shareholders so it must report earnings like a regular company. (The Swiss Federal Government owns no shares in the bank). It has almost 640 billion francs in its currency reserves; the cantons together own 45%; a further 15% is owned by cantonal banks and the remaining 40% by private individuals and companies. But as good as all of that sounds:
- When the SNB turned a record-setting loss into a massive profit in 2016, it was the result of the bank’s vast portfolio of U.S. stocks amounting to some $60 billion, with investments in such companies as Google parent-company Alphabet; Apple and Facebook, among others. The bank reported profits of 24 billion Swiss francs (23.4 billion USD for 2016), one of its best years ever. (This was a major turn-around from 2015, when it recorded its biggest loss in history of 23 billion francs).
- Yet James Grant once more, of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, has implored Switzerland to stay Swiss as regards its conservative fiscal philosophy. As he told the Swiss economic journal Finanz und Wirtschaft last August, this buying spree consists of francs created from “the thin alpine air where the Swiss money grows”. He adds: “All this is done with a tab of a computer key. And then the SNB calls its friendly broker – I guess UBS – and buys the ears off of the US stock exchange. All of it with money that didn’t exist. That too, is something a little bit new.”
- Gold holdings had been a standard par excellence of the Swiss. Over the course of the 20th century, the Swiss accumulated large gold reserves and ran a steady current account surplus. This placed the SNB in opposition with the International Monetary Fund, which Switzerland did not join until 1992. Thereafter, membership meant weaning the Swiss franc off its gold standard and in 1999, Switzerland became the last industrial nation to go off that standard. At that time, the Swiss National Bank held some 2,600 tons of gold, representing about 41% of its total currency reserves. By the end of 2008 its gold holdings had dwindled to just 21% of reserves. And as of August this year, they had fallen to just 7.9%. The raw tonnage has fallen over that time to just 1,040 tons, a 60% decline from 1999. The highly-anticipated Swiss Gold Initiative of 2014 — an initiative that called for the Swiss central bank to hold at least 20% of its assets in gold, prohibit selling any gold in future, and bring back all its gold reserves to Switzerland — failed. Nonetheless, nother gold reserve Initiative has been announced for 2023.
- This banking culture flourishes upon a foundation of industrial excellence and a well-educated workforce, not to mention a country that has been a magnet for foreign investors. The attractions of each of the twenty-six cantons have largely to do with the competitive nature between them, which is best demonstrated in the corporate and income tax rates. These are federal, cantonal and communal. The federal corporate tax rate is a flat 8%; the cantons determine the rest individually. For all federal, cantonal and communal corporate taxes combined, you are looking at a range of 11.9% to 21.6%. The VAT is one of the lowest in Europe although import and customs duties are high.
- Industrial Development: The cotton-spinning and weaving trades, the silk, watchmaking and chemical industries of Zurich, Basle, St. Gall, Neuchatel and Geneva are, in proportion to the size of the communities in which they prosper, and at one time were quite comparable to the largest manufactures in the United States. They are organized on a highly capitalistic basis and therefore have given rise to a well-educated, highly-skilled industrial “proletariat” on the one hand and to great fortunes on the other. On the whole, no doubt, wealth is more evenly distributed in Switzerland than in the United Kingdom or anywhere else in Europe.
- The Famous Banking Secrecy Act of 1934, founded for reasons other than what most American readers might assume, plays the key role in the modern maintenance of these principles.. Switzerland also required high standards of its National Bank, founded in 1907. By the 1930s that country had higher banking reserves than the US; the Swiss franc was never explicitly devalued, unlike nearly every other Western nation’s currency, and the country’s domestic price level remained the most stable in the world
- In addition, the separation of politics and economics, while often blurred, was understood as a principle to be critical to the efficiency of the banking sector and to ensuring the public trust. When organizing the famous Swiss Banking Secrecy Act of 1934, Swiss bankers successfully eluded the Socialist government, which sought to impose “supervision” of those banks. When the question of supervision came to the fore in the summer of 1931, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung published an editorial attacking the idea of entrusting such oversight to the Confederation. The editorial stressed that in no way the state “should have access to the financial situation of the banks’ customers”, which, it warned, would provoke the withdrawal of depositors.
- The Socialist Party conceded, stating at the time: “Government bank supervision is desirable neither for the State nor for the people…The intervention of official investigators would alarm…customers who attach great importance to the preservation of discretion on which they want to be able to rely.” There is a good example of the banks and the State knowing their respective proper place.
Chapter Four: The Swiss Way of War and Peace
“No purer type of republican ideals, no more fixed adherence to those ideals, can be found in all the whole Switzerland. Nor are the democratic principles people the mushroom growth of any sudden revolution. They have upheld and maintained their ideals, and, far from being repugnant to them, the military establishment of the Swiss has been the one means by which have been able to triumph over and withstand those tyrants and oppressors who have sought to crush the country”
—William E Rappard, 1937
On July 31st, 1914, the Federal Council of Switzerland summoned Parliament to convene on the third of August, and also issued an ordinance of preliminary mobilization (mise de piquet), and on the following day, ordered a formal mobilization (mise de pied) of the country's citizen-soldiery, Switzerland having no "regulars." The decree of mobilization was published on August 1st, the national holiday and anniversary of the first meeting of representatives of the small mountain cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden in I29I, “for formation of an alliance for the defense of their rights and preservation of their liberties”. Within forty-eight hours over 400,000 fully equipped soldiers, by general consent the most accurate marksmen in Europe, were in complete readiness on all the frontiers and 250,000 additional troops were prepared to join them at a day's notice. “Such was the result of the remarkably efficient training of the Swiss militia army”, wrote Gordon E. Sherman in a February 1917 article “The Maintenance of Swiss Neutrality in the Present War” for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review “which, while claiming no exclusive time from the citizen save the few days necessary in each year to develop the soldier, yet produces a perfectly drilled army at well nigh a moment's notice.”
On August 2d, the railroads of the country were still open for civilian travel. All the soldiers, and officers who lived away from their appointed places of assembling returned to their homes, and on Monday morning at 9 o'clock everybody was at his post. From the distant chalets in the high moun- tains, from the farms on the creeks and in the level lands, from the factories and work shops, from the houses of the wealthy and the dwellings of the poor, thousands upon thou- sands poured out to the public places of the little towns or to some meadow in a village where they knew they had to as- semble. Each one was armed and equipped, ready from head to foot. At the same time the horses and wagons, which even in peace time in Switzerland are registered for just such an emergency and for nothing else, were brought out, examined and taken over by committees of experts, former cavalry offi- cers and veterinary surgeons, appointed beforehand for that purpose.
The horses went into horse depots, to be immediately available for use in the army and to replace those used up. After the assemblage was completed, concentration of the smaller units (battalions of infantry, batteries of artillery, squadrons of cavalry) into larger units (brigades, divisions and army corps) began on the same day. The railroads stopped for civilian travel and transportation, and completed the work of mobilization by carrying to the exposed posts on the frontier, on time tables long before prepared by the gen- eral staff, the army fully organized, equipped and officered from the highest command down to the men in the ranks. The work of putting them into a state of defense by building observation towers, digging trenches, executing field fortifi- cations began at once. At some places the building of new roads or the enlarging of old ones was undertaken by the sol- diers, obstacles to the 'defense were removed, at one place even a forest was cut down-all this on plans and orders long before prepared. In the meantime our powerful neighbors who were to enter the war themselves as belligerents had started their mobiliza- tions also but ours was completed before theirs, and we know of proclamations posted in parts of southern Germany a surprise attack through Swiss territory from France.
The success of the mobilization was thus comp forty-eight hours the full strength of the army had assembled and transported with all the reserves, all th ment, all the horses, to the full number of three hundred thousand men. This saved the country. Had we not been able to shut the door that led to the neighbors' domain, those neighbors would have had to come in and in self-protection close it against their enemies. It would have been a race between France and Germany as to who would get to Switzerland first.
This chapter will explore the remarkable Swiss institution that is a hallmark of the country’s civic vigilance: its citizen-army. As a body, the army follows nearly all of the same traditions since its founding and has been the sole military instrument through which the country has defended itself, showcasing its prowess from the time of the 15th and 16th century French invasions and the Wars of Italy; and thereupon the country’s conversion to a federal republic after the Napoleonic invasions. In 1815 the country formally declared its neutrality, which was reiterated at the time of the outbreak of the First World War:
"By reason of the war now existing between divers European powers, the Swiss Confederation, inspired by its immemorial tradi- tions, is firmly resolved to in no wise depart from the principles of neutrality so dear to the Swiss people, which so well correspond to its aspirations, to its interior organization, and its situation with respect to other States, and which have been formally recognized by the signatory Powers in the treaties of 1815.”
The main points that will be discussed in this chapter are as follows:
- Since winning their independence in a series of bloody battles against Habsburg Austria in the 14th century and then Burgundy in the 15th century using their famed “Macedonian phalanx” fighting style of Alexander the Great. Swiss militia was regarded by Machiavelli as the epitome of efficient soldiers. The Swiss were chosen in 1506 to be the the “Swiss Guard”, protectors of the spiritual leader of the Western world, a role lasting through to this day.
- The federal constitution adopted in 1848 by a popular vote of I70,000 against 70,000 and with 15 cantons in the affirmative, provided that: "Every Swiss is bound to do military service," making Switzerland the first nation to introduce compulsory service in modern times.
- The idea that the Swiss system of military organization and universal training could be applied to the United States highlights some of the fundamental differences between two democracies that are highly individualistic and wealthy, one stable and not dangerous; the other, far more complex and considerably violent. Given the current debate in the United States on gun ownership, the idea of a national civilian army seems unsettling. But on this point, I discuss the argument made regarding the Swiss in this context that the civilian requirment has enforced more gun discipline in society as a whole given that ownership takes on an elevated form of responsibility, the abuse of which is subjected to military tribunal. The number of murders/homicides with guns is minimal in Switzerland and mass shootings are non existent, so this is not an urgent issue for that country; obviously, it is. This presents a signficant philosophical litmus test of sorts: if the existential fate of a nation depends upon the military preparedness of its citizenry, only strong social bonds and strong social sanity will guarantee that–as Switzerland knows. If not, it is that citizenry whose arms will be used to destroy themselves–as America most fears.
- Historical Perspective of World War I: We are living at the geographical center where the highest summits converge, where the largest rivers of the continent have their sources. We belong to three races, three tongues, three cultures. Our dearest wish is to be the connecting link between them, is to see them concur, to work with them toward the realization of the loftier ends of man. Now sud denly, through a cataclysm?the anonymous authors of which, whoever they be, appear to us burdened with a Sa tanic responsibility?we see races and tongues and cultures arrayed against one another in a gigantic conflic
- On the 1st of October, the Federal Government judg it expedient to issue an Appeal to the Swiss People, in which may be found, with the signature of President Hoffman such characteristic admonitions as the following:
- In our way of judging events, in the expression of our sympathies the concerned nations, we ought to observe the utmost reserve, we ought avoid what could hurt the States and populations involved in the war refrain from every kind of partiality.
- To weather the storm, the Republic of the present is far better prepared than the feeble, disheartened Confederation of divided cantons which emerged from the Napoleonic dis aster. A federative Union, wisely organized on the solid basis of the Constitution of 1848?a frame of government which borrowed from that of the United States some of its best features?considerably strengthened by the revision of 1874, which successfully effected a far greater concentration of national energies with the help of the people's amend ment on the Referendum, to-day's Swiss State may be called politically strong. It carries out the will of the citizens and normally, progressively, realizes its end. The nation in arms constitutes the defensive force of the country. From his twentieth to his fiftieth year every Swiss is a soldier. Thus the 1st of August, which is now annually celebrated as the National day, in remembrance of the signa ture of the first Federal Pact in 1291, saw this year the mo bilization of 300,000 men, active army (Auszug), Landwehr, and even Landsturm
- There is a Swiss mentality, a Swiss union on the basis of which nation develops and prospers. This fact ought to be emph sized at a time when so many despair of interracial unde standing in the Old World. To be faithful to such a hum ideal, the Swiss, after successfully trying to remain morally neutral, as it is sometimes wrongly put, but m tally equitable, have to show their neighbors by deeds th they have at heart the desire to alleviate their sufferings every way open to them. The activity of the Red Cross inaugurated by the Geneva Convention.
- To judge events with restraint and moderation does not imply renouncing sympathies and feelings. The heart of every citizen will continue to beat warmly for those to whom he is bound by peculiarly strong ties or whose fate is, before all, dear to him. It is only when every one observes that rule that we will be able to fulfil the duties which follow from our situation as a neutral State and maintain the good relations of our country with the others. Never was this more urgent than in the present overthrow of Europe, and never more difficult.
- We call every citizen, and especially the Swiss journalists of all parties, of all languages, of all sections, to strict moderation. It is the Press which gives expression and direction to public opinion. To it belongs the noble task of keeping down unfettered passions, of opposing tendencies which divide, of exerting everywhere a wise and conciliating influence. Out of the trial we are enduring will emerge better times of intellectual, economic, and political developments. To that effect, we need the concen tration of all the energies of our people. There ought not to subsist in them any irreconcilable opposition of racial feelings. We see the ideal of our fatherland in a community of culture which rises above races and tongues. First of all we are Swiss, and only secondarily Latins or Ger mans. Above all sympathies for the nations to which we feel tied by com mon descent we place the welfare of Switzerland, our common good. To that welfare we must subordinate all…
Part Two: The Political Philosophy of Swiss Democracy:
Chapter Five: The Swiss Trinity: Direct Democracy, the Initiative and the Referendum: “Switzerland will have the last word,” wrote Victor Hugo in the late 19th century. “It possesses one of the most perfect forms of government in the world.” A contemporary of his, Frederick Kuenzli, a scholar of the Swiss Army, boasted: “No purer type of Republican ideals, no more fixed and devoted adherence to those ideals can be found in all the world than in Switzerland.”
- The Swiss, through the power of Initiative and of Referendum, have greater control over their government than in the United States, despite the vast differences of physical fact and spiritual destiny. At first glance, there was not much to compare between the “self-made” ambitious and ever-expanding republic born in the 18th century, flanked by two oceans and endowed with every natural resource, and the unendowed, landlocked and minute Helvetic commonwealth, situated at the geographical heights of Western Europe and whose origins lie hidden in the mists of the Middle Ages. On the level of fundamental political philosophy, the relations and resemblances of the two countries are striking: both are federal republics in which the so-called principle "double sovereignty," local and national, is the wellspring their respective democratic excellence; the Swiss constitution of 1848, the basis of the country’s modern government, was a conscious imitation of the American constitution of 1789. Both countries grew wealthy; formed a powerful middle class, and became universal examples of the power of individual liberty. Yet one of these is flourishing and the other dying—why?
- The power and vibrancy of the Referendum underscores the the fact that this instrument is no mere opinion poll. It can be launched by any local who can gather 100,000 signatures in support and in Switzerland has always constituteed one of the most successful displays of true citizen-republicanism that there is. One of the most debated of these referendums took place around four years ago entitled Swiss Sovereign Money Initiative, which was a movement to obstruct financial speculation by restoring the gold standard (it did not pass), while recent referendums that were voted into law include a phasing out of nuclear energy to be replaced by renewables, and easier naturalization of third-generation immigrants.
- The causes which led to the establishment of the Initiative and of the Referendum were those mainly of popular discontent. In 1798, 1830 to 1833, and 1845 to 1848 the various cantonal governments had become unpopular because, voting rights being indirect and far from universal, these rested on an aristocratic or oligarchical basis contrary to the democratic spirit of the times. In the latter half of the century the people turned against the autocratic behavior of the men they had themselves elected to office. Thus in Neuchâtel in 1858 the Referendum in all financial matters was introduced as a consequence of the government's railroad policy, which had been favoring special interests. In another example, Zurich adopted the Referendum and the Initiative at that same time as a protest against public service corporations and large corporate interests whose influence on government and on the justice system was deemed a threat to public welfare. The tradition then spread to the rest of the cantons of the country and has remained very active ever since.
- A marked change has taken place during the second half of this century in the organization of the Helvetic De- mocracy. The latter, at the outset, was akin in form to what is called representative government; the only notable differ- ence was that the executive, both in the federal and in the cantonal spheres, was not at the mercy of a parliamentary majority. It was appointed either by the people or by legislative assemblies, for a term of years, and held office irrespective of party votes till the end of its tenure. Rep- resentative government has been gradually superseded by a sort of direct government in which the people themselves manage their own affairs-and this by means of their comitia. Sovereigns de jure they have become sovereigns defacto. The political centre of gravity has been displaced.
- Now, it may be observed that on such occasions the people are at liberty to overthrow the work of their rulers, if they choose. This is the principle of the Referendum. They have on the other hand a right to move any kind of proposal which they hope may become a matter of legisla- tion. This is the right of Popular Initiative. And, at last, all shades of opinion stand face to face in those great comitia; there is no exclusion of a political party by an- other party on the ground that majorities can overrule and oppress minorities. This is the starting point of Propor- tional Representation.
- But what are the causes which prompted the Swiss people to come back to the old features of primitive self-govern- ment, and to adapt them to the necessities of the times? The reason of the reappearance of the system of direct democracy is the failure on the part of the representative government to make good its promises. Between the years I846 and I848, the last surviving oligarchies had collapsed and had been succeeded by governments freely chosen by the people. But very soon the people came to the conclu- sion that they were in the hands of "rings" or "cliques," organized for the purpose of grasping the honors and the benefits attached to the possession of power. The interests of the masses were neglected, important minorities had but few members to defend their views in the political assemblies, special measures having been taken violently to suppress their influence, for gerrymandering and electoral tricks are not entirely American devices and the Swiss may claim some part in them.
- The public expenses were ra increasing, and the taxes, too, in the same proportion was a very frequent thing to use the enlarged revenu with a view to develop the natural resources of the cou but as a means to reward the political services, eith individuals or of collections of individuals, groups, places, or districts. In short the Swiss soon perceived their older oligarchies had often been better than the ones, as the modern politicians were frequently men of reputations; indeed, the ancient patrician families, ho ever narrow and unconscious of the necessities of the hour they may have been, were at least, as a rule, patriotic citi- zens, devoted to the public welfare, jealous of their good standing and not making a business of their political influence. People, therefore, began to think of applying the methods of direct democracy to what had been thus far representa- tive government. The principal change consisted in this, that the conventions of the people in mass meetings were replaced by consultations through the instrumentality of the ballot-box-the only practical form consistent with the conditions of communities of some magnitude in surface and population
- To critics, there is and has been excessive frequency of this use of popular voting. But the quantitative use made of the popular vote in Switzerland has, on the whole, been conservatve. About sixty per cent of the registered voters usually take part in referendums and peaked to around ninety percent at the turn of the last century, for example, over the hard fought battle over state ownership of railroads in 1898. This kind of activism has not decreased in the last 125 years.
- The Initiative has been in most case for matters of civic conduct. In the 19th century, the national prohibition of absinth was brought about by an Initiative launched in the wake of murder committed by an alcoholic on several members of his own family.' The Initiative was also used (with varied success) in attempts to suppress houses of prostitution, to prohibit vivisection of animals, to reintroduce capital punishment and to reinforce penal law with respect to strike violence.
- The Referendum is the citizen-driven means by which the public voices opposition with its own elected representatives. There is this added layer, if you will, of democracy that grants this powerful instrument of keeping watch on one’s own elected officials, and actively so. Bills have often been defeated in a Referendum simply because the country was generally dissatisfied on this account, including one historic vote in 1884 when the referendum was demanded by nearly 100,000 voters on four federal bills at once, all of which were vetoed by large majorities. Overall, there is a great public dislike for bureaucracy, which is seen as suspicious and whenever a bill tends to increase the influence of political officials it usually encounters a strong opposition. Many historically significant measures, such as a Federal Pension bill or the Federal Banking bill were rejected for just this reason, and many others which were acceptable to the majority were vehemently opposed by strong minorities on account of their bureaucratic tendencies and consequences.
- The Referendum has worked against what one might call ‘ideological legislation’. When a measure is interpreted as being grouded solely or mainly on conceptions of justice, they are almost sure to be defeated. It is an interesting reaction to observe as it demonstrates the high degree of citizen activism in Switzerland that favors the practical benefits of law over the intrinsic goodness of its basic principle. Such was the case in when Swiss citizens refused to contribute to the building of an art museum and reversed their decision seven years later, or when they vetoed a bill to introduce government-owned railroads and then later reinstated the vote once it was determined that the management of that industry would be through private business and not the state. “The people are by no means averse to fine public buildings a government service, but when it comes to footing the bill they apt to object”, a journalist wrote of these two cases. Possibly more than anything else the Swiss have a profound aversion to public debt.
- The character of the Swiss is best summed up by William E. Rappard, one of the great historians of Switzerland, writing in 1937: “The Swiss have shown themselves as they are: a well-schooled, practical, unimaginative, thrifty, and enterprising people, averse to high-flown political speculation, but awake to the possibilities of careful progress; jealous of their local autonomy but not stubbornly loath to sacrifice it on the altar of national unity when the general interest clearly demands a sacrifice; suspicious of all superiority and hostile to all social and economic privileges, but still more suspicious of and hostile to all policies which tend to destroy the privileges of superior wealth and ability by encroaching too boldly on the personal liberty of all; impatient of arbitrary rule, but willing to submit to authority when imposed by the will of the majority, and especially when backed by historical tradition; unsentimentally sympathetic to undeserving poverty, but almost harshly unfeeling towards thriftless indolence.”
- In the United States, as elsewhere, the introduction of such legislation would encounter opposition. At its foundation, there were two distinct strains of attitude towards the “voting public”, one of these summed up in the more aristocratic view of the Federalists who maintained, as expressed in the words of the Earl Grey, that "the proper object of a government and especially of a representative legislature, is not to meet the needs of a majority of the population, but to adopt such measures be best calculated to promote their welfare." The idea of active popular referendum was abhorrent to this outlook, fearing as theydid the depecration of voting “from knowledge to ignorance” as an expression of popular impulse rather than civic responsibilty.
- The other outlook was decidedly ‘populist’ in the sense of its adamantine belief that all governmental power unequivocably resides in those who are being governed and, to this extent, the Swiss example had considerable influence among individual states in the US, particularly in the examples of South Dakota and Oregon. In 1897, the South Dakota legislature passed a constitutional amendment favoring the adoption of the Initiative and the Referendum of the Swiss pattern, and this amendment, having been submitted to a popular vote, was embodied in the fundamental law of the state in 1898. The powerful populist leader Rev. Robert W. Haire, a kind of Catholic William Jennings Bryant of his day and the most prominent advocate of direct legislation in South Dakota, wrote that in his campaign “against the omnipotence of the legislature”, the Swiss example "gave him the greatest courage to continue the agitation”. The political party founded by Haire still exists in South Dakota today. In Oregon, the first state that followed South Dakota's example, the Swiss influence was even more pervasive. In both states, the movement was motivated by the same cause: popular discontent with a corrupt legislature.
- This narrative then goes on to discuss the threat of corruption in this popular democratic “Swiss”scheme. As it has often been bluntly stated, “interest is the determining cause in matters of legislation." For the average voter, the best representative is no longer the most intelligent nor even the most honest, but he who most faithfully, because most selfishly, represents the local or class interest of his constituents. But Switzerland has managed to keep these local politics on the level of the highly educated and civilized because that is what is demanded of its voting public.
- In practice Swiss experience may perhaps disappoint those who expect it to accomplish constructive reforms; but it should certainly reassure those of its foes who fear its destructive revolutionary effects. At this conjuncture of American history, when public safety and intelligent progress are alike threatened by radicalism and Left-wing ideology admittedly the movement of a "conscious, intelligent public," it would seem that direct legislation, which cannot but assure the rule of the majority, should receive the support both of conservatives, in the interest of safety, and of pragmatic liberals, in the interest of progress.
Section Three: The Historical Framework
Chapter Seven: The United States of Switzerland: This section will cover the historic influence of Switzerland on American political thought. The idea of the individual states of this country having superior status to the federal government was the traditional Anti-Federalist position. Sadly for our educated public, the names George Clinton, George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, and Patrick Henry—as well as the pen names of “Cato,” “Agrippa,” and “Centinel,” who anonymously wrote their prescient essays in such papers as The New York Journal and The Independent Gazetteer of Philadelphia—have slipped down the rabbit hole of national memory and identity.
- These thinkers were never against a federal constitution per se, but against the expansive building blocks of provisions delegating powers to the national government (and it was they, the Anti-Federalists, who insisted upon a ‘Bill of Rights’). Following ratification of the Constitution, their movement did not disappear but was gradually transformed into a kind of loyal opposition. The “Madison Synthesis” attempted to recast old Federalist responses to the Constitution in terms of the central role of state legislatures as public forums; President Martin Van Buren (1837–1842) became the champion for what he called the “Anti-Federalist mind.”
- But, as I go on to argue, there was a significant inherent limitation in this way of thinking. The Anti-Federalist outlook envisioned a smaller republic based on the belief that republican government was suitable to a relatively small territory and a mostly homogeneous population. James Winthrop of Massachusetts expressed a common view when he said that “the idea of an uncompounded republic on an average of one thousand miles in length and eight hundred in breadth and containing six million inhabitants all reduced to the same standard of morals, of habits and of laws, is an absurdity and contrary to the whole experience of mankind.”
- This critical point about Swiss-style democracy being best suited for smaller territory I develop further in discussing the writings of Montesquieu, who is essential to this debate. The name of Montesquieu carried great weight with these thinkers, and the eloquent French philosophe taught that republican governments were appropriate for limited territories only. In effect, the Anti-Federalist model befitted the likes of Switzerland, also a federal republic, not a future world hegemon. Yet here are today with an overcentralized, reckless federal government that is indifferent to open borders and thus contemptuous of national security; that sees in its citizens conspiratorial enemies of the state and that appears to be steering itself straight into globalist surrender–whether supra-state financial structures, climate change diktats, echo chamber minority propagand and techno-fascism – now but a few years off. This situation can only be circumvented by the sinewy self-stewardship of excellent governors.
- The Anti-Federalists also argued that being organized as a confederation of states did not necessarily expose those states to outside predators. “It is not to be expected”, wrote “Agrippa”, or the Anti-Federalist III “more especially as the wealth of the empire is there universally diffused, and will not be collected into any one overgrown, luxurious and effeminate capital to become a lure to the enterprising ambitious. That extensive empire is a misfortune to be deprecated, will not now be disputed.”
- But here again the proof of falsity is furnished by Switzerland. Hemmed in among the four great belligerents-Germany, Austria, France and Italy-offering a convenient path by which either side could move to strike the other, Switzerland is at peace today, her neutrality respected and her territory unviolated, for no other reason than that, within forty-eight hours after war was declared, she had her splendid army of 425,000 mobilized on her four borders, serving notice on all the Powers that she would not submit to the fate that subsequently overtook Belgium, defense- less Luxembourg and helpless Greece.
Chapter Eight: The Swiss Mystique
Notes October 20.
Switzerland is an enigma in contemporary statecraft; the Utopia that grants nothing; the sworn enemy of class consciousness that towers aloof and self-satisfied over a jealous continent. It is the modern incarnation of the aristocratic republic and of egalitarian democracy. It is highly educated, self sufficient, deeply mistrustful of centralized authority and vigilant about civic order.
In the myth of William Tell, the protagonist suffers the most extreme attack on family imaginable: namely, the demand that a father kill his son.
The earliest poetic description of the first, secret oath appears in Das Weisse Buch of 1470:....”And so these three got together, Staucher of Schwyz, one of the Fuersts of Uri, and Melchi from Unterwalden and each lamneted his troubles to the other and took counsel and swore to each of them; and formed a league. A public and permanent oath between the cantons came thereafter.
It was the Swiss people who rejected the establishment of pure state bank in 1894. Although the bill was rejected by the Swiss people its details may be of interesst. Fr the institution it was poposed to establish was of unique character. Central banks, having a monopoy of note issue, are common. Indeed. The trend of policy in European countries certainly was in this direction. But a bank owned and administered not by a privileged corporation but directly by state and moreover a democratic state would be an important departure from existing practices and traditions.
The industrial activity of Switzerland does not rest on financial conditions as most other countries. It is surrounded by four major countries and only in the 19th century was able to carry on trade with Italy and Austra. It had no mercantile marine, no colonies. But it had flourishing trade, highly developed manufacturers and a highly educated population. In this democracy, each citizen is sovereign and habitually gives expression to his wishes through referendum and initiative. There was no lack of national feeling.
The Dukes of Austra, the Habsburgs had a good reputation in Switzerland. It was the minor nobility that was oppressive. A case of “good king, bad servants”. The Habsburgs were not the reason the nobility was driven out of the Swiss confederacy. The lesser noble servants and bailiffs were.
Balthasar Spross. Drama of Old and Young Confederates 1514. The entire piece is an extended discussion about nobility and the Swiss relationship. True nobility of the Swiss peansat as contrasts with that of feudal lords. “The nobles have become peasants, the peasants have become noble”.
The Swabian War, to the Swiss:
“You Swiss are the happiest of peoples
That lived here in these days
And if you don’t want any lords
Watch out now and never stop”.
Notes October 13, 2022.
For the Swiss Constitutional law there is of course an expression which exactly corresponds to the American idea of interstate–intercantonal–the “States” of the Swiss federal state being called Cantons. There is no expression in the German or French or Italian language which will precisely correspond to the American idea of interstate. Today the “states” of Switzerland are regularly called cantons and more rarely “Staende” (an old German term for political body). Before the Helvetic revolution the states of the confederacy were called Orte. These were completely sovereign members of the confederation.
“The political history of Switzerland is divided into two great periods. This political history regards the nation whole and the separate cantons as well. The great turning point is the year 1798 when as a result of the French revolution and through the immediate inference of the French republic the old Confederation “gemeinen Herrschaften” was destroyed and the manifold democratic, aristocratic and monarchical constitutions of the individual members of the Confederacy were swept away. In its place the Helvetic unitary state was erected on the foundation of the sovereignity of the people.
Then came some turbulence of different shapes and sizes of Federalism and confederalism. In brief, Napoleon, in 1803, in his capacity as First Counsul, Switzerland was then changed back into a compound state. Cantons were made states. After the downfall of the Napoleonic Empire in 1813 and in reaction, the Federal State was rpelacedby a simple confederacy. However, remembering the “chaos” of the pre 1798 period when Switzerland was a ‘pure’ confederacy, in this version, the Confederacy was held together by uniform institutions. This Confederacy of 1815 lasted until 1848.
To be clear: There were three stages: the three forest cantons of 1291-and Orte 1513
1513-1798: “Leagues” and unified leagues.
1815-1848: First attempt at Federalism
1848 Federal Constitution.
As in the US war of secession (the Civil War) n Switzerland, there was the ‘Sonderbund’ to fight against. The Federal Treaty of 1815 had proved too weak to hold together the cantons which notably through religious matters had come into conflict with one another. Therefore a powerful national government had to be created which would give Switzerland the necessary strength and unity and firm coherence on the inside. This was through the Federal Constitution of 1848 which is based mainly on the same principles as the Constitution of the United States. It was revised several times including completely in 1874 and always in a sense of broadening the powers of the federal government at the cost of the cantons and strenghtening the immediate supremacy of the people atthe expense of purely representative government.
The development of Swiss cantons into state and the origin of the Swiss Confederation is not the result of a single event but the outcome of a long development. The cantons of the present day were in the 18th century part of the German empire. Some of them were cities subject to the Emperoro alone others were part of duchies, counties and other possessions of territorial lords; others were association of free peasants. The measurs of the self government varied a great dea; they were not states in the same way as today. The German realm completely ceased to represent them during the interregnum of 1250 to 73 and the Habsburg family came to power with Rudolph I who wanted consolidation. The community was forced to assure possession and liberties through the establishment of leagues.
Thus on 1 st August 1291 a perpetual league was concluded between the forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, which may be considered as the foundation of the Swiss confederation. It was a defensive alliance against the Habsburgs, whose acquired rights were meanwhile recognized.
Article 5 and 12:
“If dissensions shallarise between any of the confederates, prudent men of the confederation shall come together to settle the disputebetween the parties as shall seem right to them and the party which rejects their judgement shall be an enemy to the other confederates . If war or discord shall arise among any of the other confederates and one contending party refuses to accept proffered justice as satisfaction, the confederates are bound to assist the other party. These stipulations of the Treaty of 1291 may be considered as the beginning of the modern system of international arbitration. Other leagues of the Middle Ages also contained clauses of arbitration but none of these treaties has held until modern times. It is also worthy of notice that the law of the Treaty of 1291 not only provides for an obligatory jurisdiction but a collective guarantee for the carrying out of the award.
“At the end of the fifteenth century, Emperor Maximilian I of the Germany Empire was trying to unite his country. He also tried to force the Swiss Confederation to become closer members of the empire. This lead to the Swabian War of 1499. In a series of battles and campaigns, the Swiss were successful in defeating the famous Swabian Landsknechte who had learned to fight in the Swiss manner. As an outcome of the war, the Swiss Confederation were even more independent of the German Empire.”
Thirteen Orte and also “Zugewandte Orte” (allied states). These states and allied states accepted different legal status towards foreign nations. The victorious war of the Swiss against the German empire in 1499.
***The Old Confederation was not similar in essence with modern confederacies as they have arisen in Americca (1777-1789), Switzerland (1815-1848) and Germany (1815-1866). 1. When after the victory of the Swiss against the German Empire in 1499, all Orte became sovereign states but there were still among alied states nonsovereign communities and lords who were members of the German Empire (Holy Roman Empire).
Thus the political states of the individual members was varied and the federal relations among them different. There was no federal treaty, just a system of leagues. The leagues of the sovereign states were different than those of the allied states. But there was an organic connection between them, and common institutions developed.
- On September 12, 1848, the Federal Diet, a legislative assembly bringing together the Swiss cantons, adopted the first federal constitution. The cantons’ representatives drafted it in less than 50 days. The first parliamentary elections to select the cantons’ representatives for the two chambers – the House of Representatives and the Senate – were called only two days after the constitution was adopted. The House of Representatives and the Senate worked quickly to elect the members of the Federal Council, which in turn formed the national government. The speed of these endeavors sent a clear message to the world: a new democracy was born.
- This was the third attempt to establish a modern democracy. The first attempt was triggered by the French invasion of Switzerland in 1798, but it failed dismally after five years. The second attempt came in 1830-31, when the autonomous cantons wanted to introduce a new federal constitution. It was met with huge resistance by the Conservatives and Radicals and never got off the ground.
- The third attempt succeeded by striking the right balance between principles of pure democracy and federalism. It created the largest possible domestic market for the emerging industrial economies and had the support of Britain on a political and diplomatic level. None of this would have happened had Switzerland not gone through a civil war ten months prior to the founding of the state.
- While Switzerland succeeded in establishing a democracy, neighbouring countries tried and failed to do so. Bourgeois revolutions took place in Paris, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Palermo and Venice, but they did not manage to establish a lasting democratic state. Their monarchs always regained power.
- Even though Switzerland’s government structure was based on the US model, the composition of parliament and the election of the Federal Council were two major bones of contention in the democratisation process.
- In the end, it was decided that parliament should be composed of two chambers with equal powers; the cantons should retain their sovereignty unless national matters were concerned; and, mirroring the US, the seven members of the Federal Council should not be elected by the people but by parliament.
- Even though it was not laid down in the constitution, this two-tier system survived until the 1890s when it was finally abolished as it did not concur with the separation of powers.
- The adoption of the new constitution turned out to be tricky as the Swiss did not vote on a national but on a cantonal level. In the end, 15 ½ cantons voted in favour of the new constitution and 6 and a half rejected it, which was sufficient for the Federal Diet to adopt it.
- The cantons that voted against the constitution had to decide whether they wanted to accept the overall ruling, which was their democratic right, or not. But in the end, they were all forced to adopt it. This was a turning point for modern Swiss politics.
- This provoked a reaction among the lower and middle classes – people who held jobs as teachers and clerks. They began to campaign for state reforms in local newspapers sympathetic to their cause.
- Zurich historian Rolf Graber writes that people demanded rights because they wanted to see a more tolerable form of modernisation in the age of industrialisation.
- One idea that united this loosely-knit movement was their faith in the principle of “one man, one vote”. These activists argued that the adult male citizens of the country were perfectly capable of evaluating political decisions and the advantages and disadvantages they offered. If a parliamentary decision was not in the interests of the general public, then the people should be able to veto it, without the need to call for new general elections.
- Origins of popular sovereignty
- So it was that, 25 years after the founding of the federal republic, a new federal constitution was written to include inalienable rights such as the right to a referendum on legislation. This way, the minority in parliament could demand that voters make the final, binding decision on an issue.
- This right of veto was nothing less than the introduction of popular sovereignty
- The 1874 constitution also strengthened the young federal state. A federal court was established to ensure the cantons implemented laws in a consistent manner. Jews were granted full freedom of religion
- something they had previously been denied. Male voters who moved to another canton could get their full political rights in their new place of residence after a waiting period. There were firmer guarantees for some basic rights, like the right to marry. And the death penalty was abolished – at least for a time.
- Split among the cantons
- The highest rate of approval for the new constitution – at an astonishing 97% – came from voters in Schaffhausen, a small canton in the north-east of the country with a rather homogeneous population, just like Jean-Jacques Rousseau had imagined a century before as the basis for popular sovereignty
A marked change has taken place during the second half of this century in the organization of the Helvetic Democracy. The latter, at the outset, was akin in form to what is called representative government; the only notable differ- ence was that the executive, both in the federal and in the cantonal spheres, was not at the mercy of a parliamentary majority. It was appointed either by the people or by legislative assemblies, for a term of years, and held office irrespective of party votes till the end of its tenure. Representative government has been gradually superseded by a sort of direct government in which the people themselves manage their own affairs-and this by means of their comitia. Sovereigns de jure they have become sovereigns defacto. The political centre of gravity has been displace
Now, it may be observed that on such occasions the people are at liberty to overthrow the work of their rulers, if they choose. This is the principle of the Referendum. They have on the other hand a right to move any kind of proposal which they hope may become a matter of legisla- tion. This is the right of Popular Initiative. And, at last, all shades of opinion stand face to face in those great comitia; there is no exclusion of a political party by an- other party on the ground that majorities can overrule and oppress minorities. This is the starting point of Propor- tional Representation.
But what are the causes which prompted the Swiss people to come back to the old features of primitive self-govern- ment, and to adapt them to the necessities of the times? The reason of the reappearance of the system of direct democracy is the failure on the part of the representative government to make good its promises. Between the years I846 and I848, the last surviving oligarchies had collapsed and had been succeeded by governments freely chosen by the people. But very soon the people came to the conclu- sion that they were in the hands of "rings" or "cliques," organized for the purpose of grasping the honors and the benefits attached to the possession of power. The interests of the masses were neglected, important minorities had but few members to defend their views in the political assemblies, special measures having been taken violently to suppress their influence, for gerrymandering and electoral tricks are not entirely American devices and the Swiss may claim some part in them.
The public expenses were ra increasing, and the taxes, too, in the same proportion was a very frequent thing to use the enlarged revenu with a view to develop the natural resources of the cou but as a means to reward the political services, eith individuals or of collections of individuals, groups, sp places, or districts. In short the Swiss soon perceived their older oligarchies had often been better than the ones, as the modern politicians were frequently men of reputations; indeed, the ancient patrician families, ho ever narrow and unconscious of the necessities of the hour they may have been, were at least, as a rule, patriotic citi- zens, devoted to the public welfare, jealous of their goo standing and not making a business of their political influence. People, therefore, began to think of applying the methods of direct democracy to what had been thus far representa- tive government. The principal change consisted in this, that the conventions of the people in mass meetings were replaced by consultations through the instrumentality of the ballot-box-the only practical form consistent with the conditions of communities of some magnitude in surface and population
The true statement of the respective powers of the two elements of this government is made in the following sentence of Cooley's “Principles of Constitutional Law ": " In American constitutional law a peculiar system is established; the powers of sovereignty being classified, and some of them apportioned to the Government of the United States for its exercise, while others are left with the States. Under this apportionment, the nation is. possessed of supreme, absolute and uncontrollable power, in respect to certain subjects throughout all the States, while the States have the like unqualified power, within their respective limits, in respect to other subjects”
A constitution is a fundamental law and paramount to a legislature.
pplied. In the first decade of the state's history a Mr. John Allen was fined a thousand dollars in the Franklin circuit court for calling Joshua Harlan a Federalist.11 In the course of the trial the leading witness for the plaintiff swore that the common ac ceptance of the term Federalist was, a Tory, an enemy of his country, and that he had never heard any other meaning; that he would rather be called anything under the sun than a Federalist; and that he would feel just as safe in the woods with an Indian and his tomahawk as with a Federalist. The lawyers in their argument covered the field of American his tory, touching the administration of Washington, the election of Jefferson, the contest between Jefferson and Burr, the case of Citizen Genet, the Cunningham Correspondence,12 Alien, Sedition and Gag laws, impeachment of Judge Chase, the trial of Burr for treason and other kindred points. This hatred of Federalists endured for more than a quarter of a century being used by the Democrats as a campaign cry against the Whigs as late as 1840.13 These widely scattered, patriotic, liberty loving frontiersmen furnished the most fruitful field for the development of a new American spirit, typified by the Jacksonian democracy. (Indiana Essay, 5 October)
“Justice Swayne, speaking for the court, quoted the decision in Ware vs. Hylton, as follows: " There can be no limitation on the power of the people of the United States. By their authority the State constitutions were made, and by their authority the Constitution of the United States was established; and they had the power to change or abolish the State constitutions or to make them yield to the General Government and to treaties made by their authority. A treaty cannot be the supreme law of the land, that is, of all the United States, if any act of a State legislature can stand in its way. If the constitution of a State (which is the funda mental law of the State and paramount to its legislature) must give way to a treaty and fall before it, can it be questioned whether the less power, an act of the State legislature, must not be prostrate? It is the declared will of the people of the United States that every treaty made by the authority of the United States shall be superior to the constitution and laws of any individual State, and their will alone is to decide. If a law of a State, contrary to a treaty, is not void, but voidable only, by a repeal or nullification by a State legislature, this certain consequence follows? That the will of a small part of the United States may control or defeat the will of the whole."
It has been settled by war that a State may not nullify a legislative act of the Federal Government; and if a State may not do this, it may not nullify a treaty. There is no difference in de gree between a statute and a treaty, between the two kinds of the supreme law. As Chief-Justice Marshall said, a treaty is equivalent to a statute, and it has been decided by the Supreme Court more than once that they are of like effect; that a treaty may be repealed by a subsequent statute, and a statute may be repealed by a subse quent treaty. Each, when it is operative, is the effective supreme law of the land.
The revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century in Switzerland were essentially revolts of the individual against the traditional state–expressions of his desire to emancipate himself from the restrictions that the traditional state had posed upon him. After the reactions of the Napoleonic state and the Restoration the Swiss people indulged in further revolutions, or movements of popular opinion, which tended not only to free the individual from the state but to subordinate the state to the will of the individual. Thus after the rise of individualism, which may be said to be the emancipation of the individual from the state, we had the rise of democracy, which one may define as the subjection of the state to the will of the individual. …In the latter half of the 19th century, and up to the present day, the individual, having emancipated himself from the state, and having subjected the state to his will, has further demanded of the state that it supply his material needs . Thereby he has complicated the machinery of the state to such a degree that he has again fallen under subjection to it, and has been threatened with losing control over it. The individual in the democratic state today is in the position of the pampered old bachelor whose every need is tended to by an old servant. The servant has dutifully obeyed as these demands multiply with a tyrannical spirit; but the master has thereby fallen under the ascendancy of the servant because she has become entirely indispensible to his welfare.