The most intelligent society is not the one that produces the most winners of Nobel prizes, the most creative artists, fiction writers or musicians, the one with the most brilliant engineers, the one with sharpest social thinkers and commentators, etc., the most intelligent society is the one able to generate the most prosperity without natural resources, the most political and social stability for the longest time, the most democratic because it gives its citizens more decision-making power on the issues than the politicians; they do not just vote to elect, they also vote to decide, the one with the best universal health care system and so on.
It is also obvious that to reach the position of number one in those areas, such society also has to have the best education system. A system that educates its citizens as whole competent persons technically, socially, politically, because only such citizens can create such a society.
The PISA rankings of educational competence of teenagers are perhaps, I am not sure, an indicator of how able high school students are in reading, writing and math. The PISA report also shows the ability of students to solve “paper and pencil” problems in a classroom.
Unfortunately, PISA does not measure the ability of people so solve real problems outside the classroom, to get along with others, to share with and support others, to make wise individual decisions that are also wise for the community, to behave responsibly towards themselves and others, to solve problems and disputes peacefully, to work cooperatively.
Of course, PISA does not measure the professional competence of adults in any area.
It is also obvious that if the country has high wages and exports per person, large quantities of high technology, high value-added goods and services, it must have highly competent executives, managers and professional at all levels.
Their public service must also be competent to help the country achieve those results.
The most difficult thing for human societies is not to produce great individual scientists, musicians, engineers, inventors, architects, athletes, writers., painters, explorers, original thinkers, etc., we know that because practically all such societies cannot organise themselves as smooth running democratic societies as Switzerland.
The United States, the UK, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, India, Israel and other representative democracies, continuously produce brilliant individuals yet, they have many more political problems than Switzerland and are less stable economically, politically, socially stable, we see that year after tear, decade after decade, even sometimes, century after century.
Many other societies also seem unable to produce brilliant scientists, etc., but that is another issue unrelated to direct democracy…, or perhaps not.
Yet other nations are unable or, even worse, unwilling, to live democratically. This is also another issue.
In this post I refer to all those countries who are economically prosperous, where the people enjoy considerable freedom and their elites and many citizens claim they are democracies, besides producing lots of brilliant individuals.
While Switzerland has a high number of Nobel Prize winners, I also believe having such people is not the cause of Switzerland’s success. I believe it is the other way around; the ordinary Swiss people have created a society where many brilliant people, from Switzerland and other cultures, find the cultural environment and the means to dedicate their time to think.
Although the US, for example, is not as successful as a society as Switzerland, the above reasoning applies; it is the Pilgrims from England who set the roots of the prosperous society that attracted future Nobel Prize winners. It happened because it had de means for them to invest time in thinking their great ideas, but ordinary Americans owe less to its Nobel Prize winners than the winners owe to ordinary Americans.
I do not know if Swiss society is ahead of the rest (although, unlike some others, the government and the people are not prone to talk about this) because they are more intelligent, as a result of direct democracy, because direct democracy pushes/teaches them to think about issues and to decide, something representative democracy does not do, or if they have direct democracy because they are smarter, or perhaps they are just lucky, for unknown reasons, the idea of renewing democracy, along direct democracy lines, which is what Ancient Greek democracy was; no, the Greeks did not have representative democracy. To them, representative democracy is another form of aristocracy.
Representative democracy, through repeated re-election of the same politicians, and repeated re-election of the same parties, ends up creating a ruling aristocracy. Democracy is about the people deciding issues, not about the politicians deciding the issues and even making decisions that control the lives of citizens.
It is time to take a good look at Swiss democracy, adapt it to other countries, and even make it better.