Is Small still Beautiful? A Swiss Perspective

By Henrique Schneider*

Small polities have different advantages. Because of their smallness, they can be more efficient; this allows them to be alert to opportunities. Because of their social tissue, small polities have the advantage of self-regulating through bonding and bridging, i.e. through social capital, rather than through bureaucracy. Social capital increases with its usage and is a resource for implementing novelties based on alertness. The third factor that contributes for small polities being at an advantage is competition – in its economic and political sense. There is a cautious note, however: not all small polities can mobilize these factors.

Is Small still Beautiful? A Swiss Perspective

Switzerland consists of 26 states, which are called cantons. Each canton enjoys ample autonomy, for example in setting its own taxes – all taxes in Switzerland are primarily local and cantonal – or making its own laws. In Appenzell Innerrhoden, for example, there is no law that has not passed a popular vote. Note the distinction: Not laws that have been made by representatives of the people, as it is the case in Germany or France; nor laws that have been tacitly accepted by the people if no referendum is called against them, as it is the case on Switzerland’s national level. In Appenzell Innerrhoden, all laws must be explicitly approved by the people …

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*Henrique Schneider is a Swiss economist, HoD at the Swiss Trade Association and engaged in adult education.