Charlemagne: Hail Helvetia

THE euro crisis has recreated a rift between a Germanic north and a Latin south that decades of integration tried to efface. Economists and political scientists puzzle over its persistence. Some point to patterns of industrialisation, of literacy or even of Catholic and Protestant attitudes to sin and redemption. Whatever the roots, the euro has made it worse.Belgium offers a worrying glimpse of what the euro zone might yet become: a dysfunctional, over-bureaucratic polity with bewildering layers of government, infused with a poisonous resentment between a dependent French-speaking south and a subsidising Flemish north. But there is a more hopeful model: Switzerland, which for all its linguistic and religious splits, combines prosperity with contentment and a dose of direct democracy. An index of the best places to be born in 2013, compiled by our sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit, put the Alpine confederation comfortably first.The European Union has often looked to America, a continental federation, for inspiration. But it could usefully study how the Swiss bring together Catholics and Protestants and German-, French-, Italian- and Romansh-speakers…

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