Do you know the president of Switzerland?

Posted by Marc Hodak on April 3, 2008 under Regulation without regulators | Comments are off for this article

I just got back from my annual teaching visit in Switzerland. I left for Zurich earlier this week, soon after finishing an article I had written for Forbes about the governance challenge of ‘utopia.’ I wasn’t thinking about Switzerland when I wrote the article, but I was thinking about the article soon after I arrived there. One of my points in the article (hopefully coming out soon) was that it’s dangerous to invest utopian hopes in any particular leader; if they don’t disappoint you during their reigns, you will surely be disappointed by their successors. This is a useful lesson to remember during our frenetic presidential campaign, where it seems everyone is looking for a hero or a savior, and the candidates seem happy to play the part.

While riding a quiet train past Swiss villages, the titular question came to mind. I would guess that most people who read this, and others like you, can name the British Prime Minister, French President, and German Chancellor. But no one knows the president of Switzerland. To be sure, the heads of the larger European countries are very powerful individuals, and their nations have far more vigorous foreign policies, which keeps the names of their leaders in the press with some frequency. That’s my point.

Switzerland is among the most peaceful and prosperous nations on earth. But I’ve never heard of any Swiss president, let alone one leading this or that crusade. It seems to me that there is a relationship between those facts.

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