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Thanks for the excellent and comprehensive writeup.

The "rule by consensus" of the Federal Council is similar to British Cabinet solidarity, however, it is hard to really defend. It is not expected in any other form of Swiss voting for losers to pretend they agree with the winners, or the voting results to be secret. When Blocher stated that there was no consensus about Schengen, it is hard to see why telling this was so terrible. The appearance of consensus is not actual consensus and such approaches frequently degenerate into forms of groupthink. The British government solves this by politicians regularly resigning from the Cabinet on principle when they can't agree with the decision, at significant financial cost to themselves, but as you observe, the FC has no real equivalent to that 'system' of regular resignations (if you want to call it a system).

Indeed the byzantine politics of the FC is a good reason to be grateful that the federal level does not have much power, in my view, and to try and stop it accumulating more. Comparing its processes to the Roman Empire is a good sign there is a problem there. Widmer-Schlumpf had no democratic legitimacy, as shown by the subsequent performance at the ballot box, and should not have replaced Blocher. Indeed the SVP is correct to run referenda trying to resolve the tension between treaties and the constitution: the situation in which the FC has put the federal government in direction violation of its own constitution and direct violation of a referendum result is totally unacceptable, but an inevitable consequence of the FC structure which is designed to satisfy the needs of obscure and remote coalition building over the expressed wishes of the people. The fact that other parties are not fighting right alongside them for that is predictable but nothing good. Really, does Switzerland even need the extra indirection of the FC at all these days? It's not totally clear to me it does, given modern communication and information systems. The parliament could have a much greater role in decision making, with perhaps a few exceptions for secret military affairs.

The performance of the federal government during corona times is another strike against the FC. In my view, Berset has done a very poor job e.g. finding time to ghost-write a book whilst apparently not bothering to read his own government dashboards and thus making statements directly contradicting published data. The cantons have been much more balanced than the federal council.  Of course, masks and lockdowns don't work, it is by now very clear from the international data and even inter-cantonal comparisons. The FC got that totally wrong throughout, have no incentive to admit this, and in the end the cantons were more correct to push back against such measures. Probably the difference between federal and cantonal levels is because the FC is exposed to international pressure whereas cantonal authorities are not.

Overall, I completely agree that the Swiss system works better than anywhere else. It is a model to be learned from, or even outright copied. But it's the result of hundreds of years of evolution and there's no reason to idolise the current state of affairs. The EU immigration referendum showed a major weakness of the system and now the precedent was (re)set that referendums can be ignored without consequence, as they were for a long time before, Switzerland may start sliding backwards.