RE: “Neighbours can exacerbate impact of landlockedness” (The New Times, November 11).
Up to the 1800s, much of Switzerland was an extremely poor agrarian society just a bad potato harvest from starvation, exporting a large proportion of its most able-bodied men to the more prosperous and more powerful European states as mercenaries, often fighting each other as armed adversaries in the service of those foreign governments. That mercenary profession is, for instance, the origin of that most famous contemporary foreign military in the service of a foreign sovereign, the Vatican’s Swiss Guard.
The reason Switzerland took off was a collegial political leadership and a very well-trained and well-armed people’s militia that enabled Bern to keep out of the periodic bouts of madness that would strike imperialist European powers from time to time, culminating in the industrial-scale butchery of 1939-45 which decimated European countries of the flower of its most productive populations, destroyed national capital accumulated over centuries, including through the pillage of Europe’s colonies in Africa, Asia and the Near East.
Switzerland had sufficiently wise leaders and the good fortune to remain out of these bouts of madness, in fact benefiting from them as a neutral that all the warring parties needed for a wide range of services. But the most important factor was the wisdom of Swiss leaders and their exceptional adroitness, as a very small state right in the middle of powerful armed coalitions, to keep out of others’ quarrels and make those infinitely more powerful coalitions of great powers to respect her neutrality.
The countries geographical location close to industrialized powerhouses was much less a factor than Switzerland’s own leadership divisions and a political system (confederation) that preferred compromise and dialogue for internal cohesion than all those other factors you present.