Here we see the now-viral footage of Swiss finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz, 67, who is on the brink of retirement and quite able to appreciate the lighter side of some of his bureaucratic duties, such as discussing the apparently amusing matter of cured meat imports, as he does here before dissolving into a fit of laughter. Translation, anyone? —KA
Update: We asked our friend and contributor Ivo Mijnssen of Zurich to explain this to us. Here’s what he said:
Hans-Rudolf Merz, a federal councilman about to retire, is answering a question from a member of the Swiss Parliament on the distinction in import taxes between meat on which the seasoning is visible and meat on which it is invisible. He is a bit of a weirdo, but the people in the hall are laughing because the distinction is so bureaucratic.
These federal councilmen—members of the executive branch of government—have to answer personally to even the most random questions from Parliament. They cannot send some subordinate but have to be there personally. This makes no sense because the Swiss government could spend its time in a more meaningful manner. But I guess that is what you get in a direct democracy.