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Switzerland

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Map of Switzerland.

Switzerland, a nation in central Europe (the official name of the country is the Swiss Confederation, and the Latin translation of this, Confoederatio Helvetica, is where the .ch in Swiss URLs comes from), is so remote from European wars (due to their location deep in the Alps) that they can pretend to have "neutrality," has "cantons," banks, clocks, chocolate, neutrality, uses four languages but only one of its own (Romansch), and if you say it seven times in a row, has no meaning (did we mention they are neutral yet?). Another language spoken there is Swiss German, which is pretty much impossible for Germans to understand despite having "German" in the name. Four hundred years of peace, democracy, and brotherly love, and what did they invent? The cuckoo clock.[note 1] Drug companies that produce new medicines to treat diseases. And the numbered bank account, beloved of tyrants, dictators and criminals the world over.

Despite its famous neutrality in modern times, Switzerland was once the mercenary capital of Europe, providing some of the toughest armies and most innovative military tactics of the late Middle Ages and Early Modern eras. It wasn't until the Spanish started using guns against their traditional pikes that Swiss dominance ended at the Battle of BicoccaWikipedia in 1522. At the end of the Napoleonic era, Switzerland was recognised as a unified and independent country, became strictly neutral, and forbade its subjects from mercenary activity, with one exception - namely, protecting this one guy.

Cantons[edit]

AI = Canton of Appenzell-Innerrhoden
AR = Canton of Appenzell-Ausserrhoden
|
|
BL = Canton of Basel-Country
BS = Canton of Basel-City
|
|
OW = Canton of Obwalden
NW = Canton of Nidwalden
Flag of Canton of Zürich.svg
Zürich
Flag of Canton of Aargau.svg
Aargau
Flag of Canton of Thurgau.svg
Thurgau
Flag of Canton of Schaffhausen.svg
Schaffhausen
Flag of Canton of Solothurn.svg
Solothurn
Flag of Canton of Basel Land.svg
BL
Flag of Canton of Basel.svg BS
Flag of Canton of Jura.svg
Jura
Flag of Canton of Neuchâtel.svg
Neuchâtel
Flag of Canton of Vaud.svg
Vaud
Flag of Canton of Geneva.svg
Geneva
Flag of Canton of Fribourg.svg
Fribourg
Flag of Canton of Bern.svg
Bern
Flag of Canton of Valais.svg
Valais
Flag of Canton of Lucerne.svg
Lucerne
Flag of Canton of Obwalden.svg
OW
Flag of Canton of Nidwalden.svg
NW
Flag of Canton of Zug.svg
Zug
Flag of Canton of Schwyz.svg
Schwyz
Flag of Canton of Uri.svg
Uri
Flag of Canton of Tessin.svg
Ticino
Flag of Canton of Graubünden.svg
Grisons
Flag of Canton of Glarus.svg
Glarus
Flag of Canton of Sankt Gallen.svg
St. Gallen
AR
Flag of Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden.svg
Flag of Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden.svg
AI
Germany
France
Italy
Austria
LI
Cantons of Switzerland
Canton Official language Official religion Other names Capital Previous canton (for half-cantons)
Flag of Canton of Aargau.svg Aargau German Christianity Aarau
Flag of Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden.svg Appenzell-Ausserrhoden German Christianity (majority Protestant) Herisau Appenzell (1597)
Flag of Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden.svg Appenzell-Innerrhoden German Christianity (majority Catholic) Appenzell
Flag of Canton of Basel.svg Basel-City German Christianity German: Basel-Stadt Basel Basel (1833)
Flag of Canton of Basel Land.svg Basel-Country German Christianity German: Basel-Landschaft Liestal
Flag of Canton of Bern.svg Bern German, French Christianity (majority Protestant) French: Berne Bern
Flag of Canton of Fribourg.svg Fribourg French, German Christianity German: Freiburg Fribourg
Flag of Canton of Geneva.svg Geneva French None (secular) French: Genève Geneva
Flag of Canton of Glarus.svg Glarus German Christianity Glarus
Flag of Canton of Graubünden.svg Grisons German, Italian, Romansh Christianity German: Graubünden Chur
Flag of Canton of Jura.svg Jura French Christianity (majority Catholic) Délemont
Flag of Canton of Lucerne.svg Lucerne German Christianity German: Luzern Lucerne
Flag of Canton of Neuchâtel.svg Neuchâtel French Christianity Neuchâtel
Flag of Canton of Nidwalden.svg Nidwalden German Christianity (majority Catholic) Stans Unterwalden (1291)
Flag of Canton of Obwalden.svg Obwalden German Christianity (majority Catholic) Sarnen
Flag of Canton of Schaffhausen.svg Schaffhausen German Christianity Schaffhausen
Flag of Canton of Schwyz.svg Schwyz German Christianity Schwyz
Flag of Canton of Solothurn.svg Solothurn German Christianity Solothurn
Flag of Canton of Sankt Gallen.svg St. Gallen German Christianity St. Gallen
Flag of Canton of Thurgau.svg Thurgau German Christianity Frauenfeld
Flag of Canton of Tessin.svg Ticino Italian Christianity (majority Catholic) Bellinzona
Flag of Canton of Uri.svg Uri German Christianity (majority Catholic) Altdorf
Flag of Canton of Valais.svg Valais French, German Christianity (majority Catholic) German: Wallis Sion
Flag of Canton of Vaud.svg Vaud French None (secular) Lausanne
Flag of Canton of Zug.svg Zug German Christianity Zug
Flag of Canton of Zürich.svg Zürich German Christianity Zürich

Government[edit]

Switzerland is known for its decentralisation and direct democracy, and its political system is designed to ensure the freedom of the cantons and prevent totalitarian or autocratic rule from the center. It also looks like it should result in near-total stasis but the Swiss seem to do OK, have regular budgets, and pass laws sometimes.

Switzerland has a federal government, the Federal Assembly, with two chambers, the lower being the National Council and the higher the Council of States, although despite the upper/lower designation they are very similar in power and act to balance each other. What differs is how they are elected: the National Council via proportional representation and the Council of States however the cantons want. Members only sit part-time and work at other jobs (this "citizen legislature" is similar to lower-level regional or county administrations in other countries but unusual for a national assembly). The executive is collective, a group of seven councillors called the Federal Council, elected by the federal parliament and with the presidency of the confederation rotating among them. The federal government has a defined set of responsibilities including defense, international relations, immigration, energy, national transport, telecommunications and post, currency, and civil and criminal law.[1]

Below the federal government is the system of 26 cantons. They control most areas of domestic policy: healthcare, welfare, education, policing, local government, culture, choice of official language, and taxation. Most cantons are divided into communes (municipalities) with varying powers, but generally communes have some control over taxation and often local laws, planning, schools, and policing.

Anybody can propose a change to the federal constitution via a popular initiative, assuming they can get 100,000 signatures. In practice, if a popular initiative comes to the point where it might get put to a vote, the federal government normally produces its own variation and both proposals are voted on. Most federal laws and changes to the constitution must be approved by both a majority of the population in a referendum and by all the cantons in a vote. A similar procedure exists in cantonal and municipal (communal) governments, with citizens in some cantons able to amend laws or propose new ones.[2][3] Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of popular initiatives fail to become law.[1]

Political parties[edit]

Switzerland has a lot of political parties such that no party will get a majority in the federal government. The main parties include:

  • Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC), a nationalist party that is a misnomer, and the largest party by federal representation in recent years. Their propaganda that often infests the streets is downright vile, incorporating explicitly racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic imagery that resembles Nazi propaganda that has lead to worldwide condemnation.[4][5]
  • Social Democratic Party of SwitzerlandWikipedia (PS/SP), the biggest leftist party, one of the few Swiss parties to support European Union membership
  • FDP.The LiberalsWikipedia, which is centre-right, pro-business, pro-globalisation, and generally socially liberal (supporting some form of marijuana legalisation or decriminalisation), formed in 2009 from the Free Democratic Party and the smaller Liberal Party
  • Christian Democratic People's Party of SwitzerlandWikipedia (PDC/CVP), centre-right in the European Christian democrat mold, traditionally Roman Catholic and more socially conservative than the FDP; in recent years it has been eclipsed by the rise of the People's Party

Occasional weirdness[edit]

Animal rights[edit]

The country is especially noteworthy for legislation on behalf of animal rights, some good, others in full Poe. In 2008, Switzerland granted new rights to all "social animals" - prospective dog owners must have to take a four-hour course on pet care before buying one. Rhinoceroses cannot be kept in an enclosure that is smaller than 600 square yards; violation of this rule imposes a fine of 200 Swiss francs (175 USD). The government makes it compulsory for anglers to catch fish humanely: in Switzerland fishes can't be kept in aquariums that are transparent on all sides, believing this harms the "dignity of fishes." In particular, goldfishes cannot be killed in a "disrespectful" manner. Before killing, fish must be anesthetized first. Switzerland also is the first country is the world to officially recognize the concept of plant rights.[6]

In 1893, Switzerland banned "Shechita," the ritual slaughter of animals according to Jewish dietary laws. Anti-Semitic motives might have played more of a role than the concern for the animals' well being.

Wingnuttery[edit]

The Swiss are often used as a case study by gun nuts in the States for laxer firearm laws, pointing to Switzerland's extremely high rate of gun ownership and comparative lack of violent crime. However, Switzerland's seemingly loose gun laws come with certain rules that they would go batshit over. In Switzerland, possession of guns by civilians is for the defense of the country, not the defense of individuals or their families. Most Swiss guns are military weapons issued to young men after their compulsory military service, and they are required to train with them as part of their continued service in the national militia system, ready to be called on by the government in the event of invasion or other disaster. Each of Switzerland's 26 cantons has its own gun registry, and as of 2007, all ammunition must be kept in a public armory. Furthermore, while violent street crime is rare, there are more domestic homicides and suicides with a firearm in Switzerland than virtually anywhere else in Europe except Finland.[7][8]

In 2009, Switzerland voted for a referendumWikipedia which banned the building of minarets. The Swiss People's Party, largely responsible for this shitty referendum, also promoted a poster with a woman in an abaya and niqab posed next to minarets on top of the country, which the intention allusions of minarets to missiles. Supporters of the ban say that the Islam ideology is incompatible with Swiss democracy even though it took the Swiss until 1971 to give women the right to vote.

Lagging women's suffrage[edit]

When Americans feel bad for introducing women's suffrage fairly late in 1920, or when the French, Japanese, and Italians feel bad for introducing so in 1945, they can always reassure themselves that at least it didn't take them until 1971 (and not even for all cantonsWikipedia) like in Switzerland.[9] Due to their adherence to a troubled relationship between direct democracy and conservatism, it took the Swiss until 1991(!!!)[10] to introduce women's suffrage to all cantons (the last one, the Canton of Appenzell InnerrhodenWikipedia, was forced via a lawsuit from two women), a fact that the current crop of conservative anti-Muslim candidates prefer not speak about when they bang on about Western liberal values (Iran formalized women's suffrage before them; Iraq if you count all cantons).

Insane defense schemes[edit]

Decades after the end of the Cold War, Switzerland still builds and maintains enough fallout shelters for every citizen, and most pieces of infrastructure in the country are rigged to explode in the case of being commandeered by the enemy.[11] Federal authorities maintain a strategic supply of addictive hard drugs[12]essential goods such as coffee.[13] This would make Switzerland a survivalist's dream, except that everyone else around would be equally prepared and armed and ready to reinstate a regular society, and where's the fun in that?

Passes over the Alps? Bridges over the Rhine? Who needs them in any sort of European war? - Best defend them to the teeth in case some war-mongering nearby army tries to take them over and thus drag Switzerland into any sort of unpleasantness which might offend the Swiss people's nice and friendly neighbors.

Ufology[edit]

Notorious fraudsters ufologists Erich von Däniken, Giorgio Tsoukalos (of Ancient Aliens fame), and Billy Meier come from there. Seriously, what is it with Switzerland and crazy UFO people?

Notes[edit]

  1. The cuckoo clock actually originates from the Black Forest in Germany. Thank Orson Welles for that myth.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ten things you need to know about the Swiss political system, The Local, 3 Apr 2017
  2. Popular initiative, Swiss confederation website
  3. What is a cantonal initiative and what is a communal initiative?, Swiss confederation website
  4. Quirto, A. (February 16, 2016) "Switzerland’s largest political party insists on depicting foreigners as black sheep". Quartz. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  5. Leudi, J. (March 20, 2016). "Switzerland’s Trump and the rise of the right". Global Risk Insights. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  6. Gautam Naik, Switzerland's Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants' Rights, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2008.
  7. BBC article on Swiss gun regulations
  8. BBC News Report: Three dead in Swiss factory shooting
  9. The Federal Assembly — The Swiss Parliament . "Women’s suffrage in Switzerland: 100 years of struggle "
  10. Krulwich, R. (August 26, 2016). "Non! Nein! No! A Country That Wouldn’t Let Women Vote Till 1971". National Geographic. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  11. The Nazis are going to invade us, just like they didn't do in WWII!
  12. United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency (1976). The Global Connection: Heroin Entrepreneurs : Hearings Before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, Second Session, Pursuant to S. Res. 375,. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 2637. "Even as recently as the 1900's there were many people in the medical profession who classed "coffee addiction" with morphine and alcohol addiction." 
  13. "Swiss authorities rethink abolishing emergency coffee stockpile". Swiss broadcasting Corporation. SWI swissinfo.ch sw. 11 November 2019. "A proposal to put an end to the stockpiling of coffee for the population in the event of an emergency is now being reconsidered."