The story I’m telling in today’s video is a bit reductive. It must seem crazy, or even a little racist to try to boil all of history down to the actions and power of two Atlantic empires, the British and the American. I am aware that this vision of history is easy to argue against. But as weird as it is, I think it’s definitely saner than the standard view. The 19th and the second half of the 20th centuries are often described as if they were stable systems, governed by agreement, or at least peaceful competition between great powers. The longer I look at these issues, the more convinced I become that that’s not really what’s going on. The stability in both systems was underpinned by hegemonic power. British in the 19th, American in the 20th. The implications of this are rather grim. Looking at history this way doesn’t flatter the British or the Americans, it heaps guilt on them. That’s why British and US propagandists are so obsessed with the idea of competition.
For years I’ve been mildly fascinated by Switzerland. In the US we mostly know it for a variety of banking scandals, but there’s a lot more going on there. It’s been independent for centuries, and is famous for being a very well run and boring place. I believe there is a lot in the model to admire. From the direct democracy, to the lack of personality driven politics, to the emphasis on the local, there’s a lot that I’d like to see more of in the United States.
Today I was lucky enough to chat with an old roommate of mine, a Swiss attorney and political activist, about the Swiss system, its many benefits and few drawbacks. I learned a lot from our conversation, and I hope you do too.