Zurich, Switzerland — When you think of Switzerland what comes to mind? Beautiful lakes surrounded by the Alps; a rich country with happy people; the home of milk chocolate, expensive watches and discrete bankers; a peaceful country that has not been at war in more than two centuries? All that is true, and even more. Switzerland is at or near the top of almost every measure of a successful country, including the just released Human Freedom Index complied by the Cato and Fraser Institutes, and others.

The prosperous and peaceful country of Switzerland is, in fact, rather recent in origin. The high level of prosperity has only really existed since the end of World War II. The current constitution that created the existing federal state was adopted in 1848, revised in 1874, and modernized and cleaned up in 1999. The 1848 constitution was modeled after the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted 60 years earlier. The Swiss, much more so than the Americans, have stuck with the federal model of strong local and state (cantons) government with a small and rather weak central government. In many ways, it is much truer to the type of government envisioned by Jefferson and Madison and many of the other American Founders — which is responsible for much of Switzerland’s success.
I first started visiting and writing about Switzerland on a regular basis more than 30 years ago. Having been an adviser to leaders in a number of countries, I found it more productive to argue that they should follow successful role models rather than a particular economic and governance theory. Of course, the highly successful role models, like Switzerland, all have the rule of law, protection of private property, and a high degree of economic freedom.