In America, other than coma patients and Appalachian hermits, pretty much everyone knows who the president is. That’s a function of how much power the president has come to wield, and of what a central position the office holds symbolically. But there is a country where many people don’t even know who their president is because decisions are made a the local level as often as possible. That country is Switzerland, long known for its neutrality, is also a bastion of federalism. The Foundation for Economic Education explains below how, after being invaded by the French who attempted to establish a centralized government, the Swiss resisted and developed their own, unique and effective form of government.
After decades of struggles over the centralization of power, a civil war ended the everlasting Swiss question of the legitimacy of a federal government. The Sonderbund War started in 1847 and was a fight between seven conservative and Catholic cantons who opposed the centralization of power and rebelled against the Confederation which had been in place since 1814. What followed was probably one of the least spectacular wars in world history: the federal army had lost 78 men and had 260 wounded. The Sonderbund conspiracy dissolved and Switzerland became the state it is today in 1848.
Think about this, the Swiss fight (which was marked by its incredible lack of violence in comparison to others) was purely over the rejection of the centralization of power, the skepticism of the responsibilities that a large entity has, while, mind you, we’re only talking about a country of 16,000 square miles. The result is a relatively neutral state which maintains a greater amount of freedom and prosperity than most European nations.
The Federal Council, Impotent by Design
The executive of the federal multi-party directorial republic is a body called the Federal Council. It is composed of 7 members (each one responsible for one of the seven departments in Switzerland) who are voted into their position by both chambers of the Federal Assembly. Their presidency and vice-presidency is rotating each year, their mandate is four years. The current council is composed of 2 social democrats, 2 center-right conservatives, 2 national conservatives, and one Christian-democrat (Doris Leuthard, who’s the current president).
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