Part II of II, by Claudio Grass, Hünenberg See, Switzerland
There are many good reasons that could easily explain the flock of so many wealthy families and investors to Switzerland and all of them have been reinforced by the pandemic. For one thing, the local measures that were adopted to contain the virus were far less restrictive than those that were enforced in Germany, France, Italy or the UK. Business activity, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, all individual and civil rights were significantly less infringed upon compared to what we saw in other “Western democracies”.
Furthermore, there are the long-standing advantages that Switzerland has to offer, like its tax regime. While this is not a new argument in favor of relocating, the aftermath of the covid crisis has highlighted its importance. After the massive stimulus packages and the unlimited spending that governments all over the world engaged in during the pandemic, and continue to do so, there are legitimate concerns over imminent tax hikes and other financial repression measures. We are already seeing solid evidence that many advanced economies are headed in this direction. In the US, President Biden’s tax plans are clearly designed to penalize wealthy individuals and successful businesses, while over in Europe, the pressure is also building to follow suit.
Last, but certainly not least, Switzerland offers legal and regulatory stability, the assurance that the rules will not change overnight and at the whim of whomever happens to be in power at the time. The country’s system of direct democracy, the principle of subsidiarity and its reliance on frequent referendums, ensure that the state’s powers remain in check and that the Swiss people have the last word. Of course, our liberties are also threatened here too and there is always constant pressure from statists and central planners. However, a large part of the Swiss population has and will continue to resist it. Especially in terms of private property rights and respect for individual liberties, Switzerland might be far from perfect, but it is as good as it can get.
It is this particular feature of the Swiss democratic system, the direct and accurate representation of the public will, that provides the bedrock of nation’s sustained track record of prosperity, peace and economic strength throughout the decades. It renders political power grabs, oppressive legislative moves and regulatory overreach much less probable, while the citizens’ ability to be heard, to freely debate important issues and to represent themselves also contributes to the nation’s social harmony and cohesion. All this is instrumental in the long-term stability that investors are seeking and the combination of all these elements cannot be found anywhere else.
The bigger picture
While this trend clearly underlines the specific advantages that Switzerland has to offer over its neighbors and most other advanced economies, it also illustrates a much more important point and provides evidence of a wider shift that investors, savers and ordinary citizens should bear in mind going forward.
One of the most consequential changes that the pandemic brought about was the sudden and explosive expansion of the government’s reach and its ability to interfere with the average citizen’s private life and property. As history teaches us, “emergency” state powers and “temporary” curbs on civil liberties have a tendency to linger long after the actual crisis is over.
Politicians know that they should “never let a good crisis go to waste” and this became apparent very early on in the covid crisis. They successfully employed the oldest trick in the book, promising security in exchange for freedom, and with the full support of the mainstream media fear mongering campaigns, countless citizens accepted that deal. As a result, excesses and abuses that would have been deemed unthinkable before the virus emerged are now part and parcel of daily life.
The body politic has largely come to accept them as “necessary”, while a considerable segment even presses for more and tougher restrictions, under the misguided belief that the state can protect them from any and all risks out there. Such a dramatic shift would normally have taken decades, or would have required an event as cataclysmic as a war to act as trigger. The fact that it materialized so swiftly during peacetime and that it represents a trend that is very unlikely to be reversed anytime soon presents numerous grave and imminent threats to all those who are opposed to it.
Many responsible investors and savers have long understood the implications of such a shift and have been preparing for it for some time. In particular, precious metals owners have found themselves in an enviable position, one that is set to hand them a decisive advantage in the aftermath of this crisis. In this climate of widespread uncertainly, the investment case for physical gold and silver is clear cut, as no other asset class can offer this level of protection and reliably preserve purchasing power just as it has done for the past 5000 years.
However, beyond the obvious economic challenges, there are also political and regulatory risks that must be seriously considered and factored into any viable and effective financial plan. Scenarios that were once perceived as far-fetched or extremely improbable are now an essential part of many wealthy investors’ strategies, as the rush of relocations and the asset inflows into Switzerland plainly demonstrates.
This is a realization that is necessary and vitally important not just for the ultra-rich and the “1%”. Proactive planning, thinking ahead and developing a reliable and sensible defensive strategy that covers both financial and political risks is essential for any prudent saver. Complacency, blind faith in one’s government and merely “hoping for the best” are surefire ways to end up on the losing side after the dust has settled.
Claudio Grass, Hünenberg See, Switzerland
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