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The Prince of Prosperity and Secession

Here is a fascinating YT documentary on Liechtenstein, that remote Elysium high on the young Rhine, with a long interview with the Prince himself, starting just before 6 minutes in, and running mostly to the end, in all 38 minutes. Some fascinating commentary from him on his policies and his country’s history, including the slightly farcical Nazi ‘March on Vaduz’ of 1938. Having started as a ‘rotten borough’ in the Holy Roman Empire, the first Prince to live there moved in as late as 1938. He is a fan of being in the EEA, unlike the Swiss, but he got it through via direct democracy. Every village has the right to leave the nation. He found inspiration for local democracy from Switzerland and the United States (at the State level one can infer).

They have a system where 11 municipalities (villages) engage in tax and regulatory competition with each other. He says that he is trying to make government work. (He’s not done badly). He wants them to deliver services with low cost and therefore low taxation.

Are you listening Mrs May, or are you changing your slogan to ‘Brexit means Anschluß’?

There is direct democracy, where you have to explain your policies. That actually means that people discuss government proposals and it provides stability despite the low threshold for proposing changes. He also has his royal veto power, last used in 1961 for a hunting law. The only law he can’t veto would be the abolition of the monarchy. Some less ‘royalist’ politicians note with almost heart-breaking sadness in their faces that by popular vote, the royal veto was retained, so they cannot prevail.

“…One kept taxation as low as possible so as to attract business…”

He asks why should taxes support banks. He notes that people are getting detached from governments, and states can get over-centralised.

GDP per capita: $139,000 (USA $59,000).

Of course, the people and what they do are what make Liechtenstein what it is. By God, it looks like a decent place.

24 comments to The Prince of Prosperity and Secession

  • Paul Marks

    I agree Mr Ed.

  • The only law he can’t veto would be the abolition of the monarchy.

    Why not? Isn’t that one of the more obvious things his veto power is for? 🙂 (As Burke put it, “A king may abdicate for himself but he cannot abdicate for the crown”. In the same sense, all U.S. supreme court judges could resign tomorrow, but they could not announce that the US supreme court was thereby abolished.)

    Happily it seems, from your description, that the issue is very theoretical at the moment.

  • APL

    Mr Ed: “Are you listening Mrs May ”

    A rhetorical question, I think.

  • Mr Ed


    It is, if you like, akin to the right of revolution in New Hampshire’s State Constitution, which comes right after the prohibition of hereditary offices. Perhaps a nod to a lesson from France?

    [Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

  • Ian

    It was a fun interview with the Prince, however I rather enjoyed this one.

  • Mr Ed, June 8, 2018 at 8:13 pm, while the tone of the New Hampshire State Constitution may influence the temper of the people, using it as a legal ground of a right to make revolutions would be as subject as elsewhere to the rule:

    Treason never prospers; what’s the reason?
    Why, if it prospers, none dare call it treason.

    I think anyone rebelling in New Hampshire had better plan to win if they hope to stay out of jail.

  • CaptDMO

    Direct democracy? Great!
    How many folks does this entail?
    Over how much area?
    How much anonymity does that afford?
    I’ve seen Communism work out fairly well, in communal living (with a reasonable amount of space), in a small commune, of about 100.

  • Julie near Chicago


    *slight frown* –I am suspicious of the quote as given. I suspect it is inaccurate, as I seem to remember that the author (whoever he may have been) was acquainted with the subjunctive mode. The way I remember it:

    Treason never prospers; what’s the reason?
    Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.


    At a quick glance, the Net, which incontrovertibly carries only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, gives an interesting medley of versions of the quote, and a lack of attributions as to the author. But I will cop to the charge of spending a max of 30 seconds on the quest, including the time to paste in the search criteria, due to insufficient curiosity. :>)
    Seriously, I’ve always enjoyed that epigram. It’s fine verbal art — spare, complete, and beautiful to the mental ear. (Also true, but who’s counting!)

  • Michael Jennings

    Liechtenstein is a pleasant and prosperous little place, occupying one half of a small section of the upper Rhine valley. The “one half” is perhaps a key point, though. The river is the border with Switzerland, and the mountain ridge separating this valley from the next is the border with Austria. (One of the most amusing things I find about it is that the capital Vaduz does not have a railway station, as the railway line is at that point on the opposite side of the Rhine, and one must therefore get off the train at a station in another country and walk a short distance). Liechtenstein is completely indefensible if attacked from Switzerland, which makes it good that the neighbour in question is in fact Switzerland and not Russia.

  • Michael Jennings

    There is direct democracy, where you have to explain your policies.

    On the national day of Liechtenstein, the entire population of the country is invited to the castle, where the Prince makes a speech and provides everyone with free beer. Things are a little different when the people are this close to the government.

  • and provides everyone with free beer

    But nice Mr. Corbyn promises we will all have free beer too, and a pet unicorn as well.

  • Julie near Chicago, June 9, 2018 at 3:24 am, thanks for what is probably closer to the original version of the quote. and for prompting me to correct a vague guess in my mind as to its date and author. I had assumed it was a civil war, restoration or revolution period quote, maybe from the pen of John Dryden, and so would not use the subjunctive tense since it would be a mocking reference to a spirit of tergiversation personally witnessed by the poet. Instead, it seems to be credited to a quite different John: John Harington, inventor of the flushing toilet in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Harington died far too soon to see the civil war and aftermath, and was born too late to experience the tergiversations of the Henry, Edward, (Jane) and Mary period, which might have shown him some of the same spirit. So his use of the subjunctive tense is understandable.

  • Sam Duncan

    Anyone else seeing a touch of the Patrician of Ankh in this bloke? I like him.

    “Things are a little different when the people are this close to the government.”

    Exactly. The one thing I’d disagree with HSH on is the idea that this can scale to larger countries. He more or less admits that it doesn’t work quite as effectively in Switzerland as it does in his own country of 38,000 souls, and that the American model of state sovereignty is only vaguely similar. And doesn’t work anything like as well as Switzerland.

    I’ve said before that my riposte to the Scottish nationalists’ jibe that we who opposed them thought Scotland was “too wee” to be an independent country was that, on the contrary, I think a unitary Scottish state would still be too big. (Indeed, I suspect it’s very close to being exactly the worst size a state could be: small enough for an incestuous political class to think they’re closely in touch with the population, but far too large for them actually to be so.) Although I haven’t been paying it much attention, the more time goes by the more attractive I find Richard North’s “Harrogate Agenda” idea of UK federation of sovereign counties. But even that isn’t decentralized enough.

    Such a system really needs to be at the Liechtenstein level of “villages”; units of less than 10,000. In the UK, that would mean sovereign parliamentary constituencies – a return of the old burghs, but with teeth – and even they would be much larger than Liechtenstein’s municipalities. But possibly close enough. It’s certainly the sort of radical decentralization I’d prefer to see over all this mucking around with pointless regional assemblies.

  • Snorri Godhi

    But nice Mr. Corbyn promises we will all have free beer too

    But the Prince does not just promise it: he actually provides it.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Graham and Niall, thanks for the info, and the link.


    Niall — All O/T of course, but the conjunction “if” indicates that what follows is in some way contingent. Thus

    “IF their act be treasonous, then hanging them is just.” [This might be a statement on political philosophy, but it might also be a commentary on some current situation in which a bunch of people have in fact committed treason, and have been convicted of it. (In that case, it’s almost certainly a rhetorical device.]

    Whether “hanging them is just” is contingent on the assumption that their act was treasonous. The statement is in fact a proposition: “If A be true, then B is true.” In logic and in grammar, no knowledge in the proposition assumed as to the real-world truth or falsity of A.

    It gets interesting, though: “If 2 plus 2 were not 4, then 2 two-dollar bills would not be the monetary equivalent of 4 bucks.” The conclusion follows from the premise, regardless of the fact that indeed 2+2=4. (For some value of 2 *g*.)

    Also, “Since/Because their act is treasonous, hanging them is just.” “Since,” or “because,” does not indicate a contingency or an assumption, but rather a known fact (let’s avoid getting into the weeds here). This statement is the application of a prior belief. (Of course, the conclusion will not hold if the claimed fact is not true.)

    Sorry… 🙁 …I couldn’t help it…. 😥

  • As I share your addiction to grammar, Julie near Chicago (June 9, 2018 at 9:54 pm), I cannot complain. Hopefully the OP will forgive us both.

    I think ‘if’ can be used in descriptive as well as contingent senses. For example, compare

    Meditating on politics, it seemeth to me that, were treason to prosper, none would dare call it treason.


    In these decades of civil war, restoration and revolution, I have observed that, when treason prospers, none dare call it treason.

    The end of both sentences can be rephrased as

    if treason prosper(s), none dare call it treason.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Oh good! In that case I’ll indulge just a little more. :>)

    In your second example, the modifying clause is “when treason prospers.” Here the operative word is when, which does not signify either a hypothetical, or a contingent, or a “contrary to fact” in preparation for the conclusion (“none dare call it treason”). (This last raises an interesting question in its own right, but I’ll resist temptation.) “When” implies that something has happened or is happening or certainly will happen, as a matter of fact. (“Will certainly happen”: the fact is assumed in advance of its existence, but the assumption has evidence to back it up, as for instance “When I go to bed, maybe I’ll sleep.” For sure I’ll go to bed at some point, unless — heaven forfend — I should keel over dead first.)

    “When such-and-such” ≠ “If such-and-such.” The conjunctions have different meanings (it’s tempting to say they have different implications, which is true, but that’s because the actual meanings are different).

    You have in fact pointed out that what you are about to say depends on your own observation of what happens when there is treason; based on the facts you yourself have observed, you are emphasizing that your statement is a fact. The conclusion that “none dare call it treason” is not a matter of if, but when.

    Ahem. In this connexion [pls note the eruditely archaic orthography :lol:] I commend to you a review of the final utterance of Prime Minister Hacker in the excellent episode “The Key.” –Heh — that one’s one of my two favourite episodes. The other, of course, is “Party Games,” where Sir Arnold is absolutely irresistible. My girlish heart goes pitty-pat…from a suitable distance, of course.

    “WHEN A occurs, B will occur” ≠ “IF A occurs, B will occur.” In both cases, the occurrence of A => the occurrence of B, but the first statement is based on assurance that A will occur — on the FACT that A will occur., whereas the second is based on an assumption that A will occur.


    Of course, in real life we are far looser in our talk. “If he goes to town, I’m going along.” The subjunctive is rather out there in the “here there be dragons” area of the map of what commonly passes for English. (But it strikes me just now that “Here there be dragons” uses what we today would classify as the subjunctive mood. Interesting. Somebody in one of these linguistic excursions said the the subjunctive is a relatively recent addition to grammatical taxonomy. Dunno if that’s so or not.)


    Thanks, Niall — this is fun. And thanks to our gracious host for letting us get away with it. ;>))

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed, thanks very much for your posting. The video is wer-r-ry interesting, and by God, it does look like a decent place!

    I do hope the Prince’s heir will be able to keep it a “decent place.”

    If I were a little more up to leaving …. :>)))

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Dear Julie, one suspects that they keep their country nice by having a strict border policy. Maybe they don’t let any foreigners in, and we’ll need to stay at home and ferment revolution where we live!
    Q. How many revolutionaries would it take to change a lightbulb?
    A. None! They wouldn’t settle for lightbulbs- they want to set the whole country alight!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nicholas, my own policy would be that I would be quite ready to revolute, not so much against countries per se, but against lots and lots of of individual lowdownnogoodniks in lots & lots of countries. 😈

  • Bill Reeves

    Their PPP GDP is only about 90,000. I live in a suburb near Houston (Sugarland) with that (estimated) GDP level and 3X the people and there are quite a few pockets like ours around town. I’m sure greater London has similar pockets of productivity. These itty-bitty (Texas English) countries in Europe aren’t particularly impressive when viewed from here.

    Not to say we can’t learn from them. And I would really like to live in a town called “Vaduz”.