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The Economic View from the Alps

As a popular tourist destination, Switzerland offers a wealth of anecdotal data with which to assess the state of the global economy. The number of Japanese and Chinese tourists visiting places such as the Bernese Highlands attests to recent growth in those countries, regardless of what one thinks of their official data.

LONDON – I recently took a trip to Switzerland – a remarkable country that I have been fortunate to visit many times over the past 40 years. In addition to having a good time, I found a Swiss perspective useful to reflect on the state of the world and its economic vitality.

Aside from its wealth – or perhaps because of it – Switzerland has always struck me as a happy country. While spending some time in Zurich in 1994, I first experienced the joy of swimming in the city’s river and lake. And nowadays, it is common to see people doing this in many other urban areas, including Basel, where contented souls enjoy the mighty Rhine.

I recently overheard two Swiss speakers teasing each other about whether the swimming is better in Zurich, Basel, or the capital, Bern, with its fast-flowing white waters. Where else in the developed world can one enjoy such accessible pleasures? I used to find it amusing that so many Germans regard Switzerland as their ideal country; as I have grown older, I have come to understand what they mean.

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