I don’t remember who said it, that writing isn’t something you consciously control; very often you just think of something, start writing, and once you get into it, the story just has a life of its own, and through inertia it goes on evolving in ways you didn’t foresee when you started the whole thing. That’s what happened with my previous post, I didn’t set out to write a thesis on the intersection between Clausewitz and Dunbar. It turned out a pretty good post (the ways of the brain are inscrutable), but I wanted to write about something else at first.
I wanted to write about this guy:
This old man being interviewed is Price Hans-Adam the Second, the sovereign of Liechtenstein. As most of you will know Liechtenstein is just a mountain valley in the Alps, which was so tiny and inconsequential that nobody ever thought of integrating in any of the empires or nation states that were forming in Europe. Not even Hitler bothered to send some troops to draft some Aryan kids into the Wehrmacht. So this little alpine valley was just left there, the personal fief of the Lord of Liechtenstein, who had actually been living in Vienna for 1000 years, being an absentee landlord as all the cool kids used to be. He actually had way more land than that miserable piece of mountain, but he wasn’t so lucky at keeping those from the onslaught of nationalism. Security through obscurity they call it nowadays. Come 1938, Hitler’s army comes rolling up to Vienna, which ceases to be the cool avantgarde aggregation of cafes that the aristocrats enjoyed, so the House of Liechtenstein decides to hide for a while in their alpine holdings. WW2 ends, but this time it’s Stalin’s tanks who are in the outskirts of Vienna, while most of Europe is becoming either outright Communist or some lame shade of Americanized socialism. What is one sovereign aristocrat to do in this New World Order? Well start a bank, of course. No taxes, bank secrecy; with this easy recipe, 30 years later the Lord of Liechtenstein, that piece of unproductive mountain land who not even Hitler wanted it, was worth billions. The intersection of feudalism and modernity produces this little miracles.
So you got this man, this family, who are the only aristocrats in Europe allowed to keep their own sovereign fief, and is smart enough to use it to make a lot of money. The luckiest guy on the continent. And having his aristocratic family connections, he has hundreds upon hundreds of noble friends who, having lost their assets, surely are sucking up his ass every single day. Noble women throw themselves at him, men beg to be his friends, he’s the coolest kid in school. The Liechtensteins have power. Both sorts of power. They are sovereigns of a country, and have power in their social circle.
So what this guy do? Having some knowledge on this particular milieu (don’t ask why), and given the time frame (Postwar Europe, 1960s, etc.) I’d imagine the Liechtensteins would spend their winters skying in Switzerland, their summers in the French Riviera, would buy some wineries, make some friends in Iran, and basically live a life of champagne, caviar, blonde sluts and pure and distilled debauchery. That’s what these people did (do). And I don’t blame them. Looking at the picture of the young Hans kind of confirmed my intuition.
Then I watched the youtube of the interview the now old Hans II gave to the Hoover Institution.
Now first question is: what the hell is the feudal lord of an obscure tax haven in the Alps doing talking to the Heritage Foundation? He’s presenting his book. A book? What about? How I built an awesome country and made a fortune by taking money from your countries? He would know something about that. Alas no, Hans may have power but he doesn’t have a sense of humor. He wrote a book called The State in the Third Millenium.
Yes, this billionaire feudal lord, this medieval aristocrat who owes his fortune to his tax evasion racket, has written a political treatise! Well he does own a state, a very different state to the liberal democratic nation-states we are used to. He surely must have some reactionary insight. Maybe he’s talking about bank secrecy? About zero tax rates? How modern states are evil and totalitarian?
No, he’s written a book about his idea that the state must serve the people. Now to be fair to the man, he’s not parroting communist nonsense. He gives it a classical liberal twist, the state must give good services in a limited way, focusing on law and order, equality of opportunity, local autonomy, etc. Not bad stuff prima-facie. The man has given some thought to his politics, and his great idea (so great he just had to write a book about it), is that the monarchy he leads doesn’t derive his legitimacy from God or tradition, but he has democratic legitimacy through the awesome services he gives to his people.
Well, duh, good luck with that. A big problem with European political thought is that they’re still using the same old arguments all over. The old Keynes vs Hayek fight. No HBD, social psychology, religion theory. Politics is about policy, if we just think of a good management system and we will it strong enough, everything will be alright. Which is the thinking process of a bureaucrat, who only understand adjustments.
I don’t blame most of European intellectuals, most of whom are bureaucrats or are related to them, for thinking like that. But the Sovereign Monarch of Liechtenstein? This guy is not a bureaucrat. He’s a landowner. He could just hire a manager and go to live in Monaco. But he doesn’t. He enjoys managing his “country”, he gave them democracy, wrote a book, and goes to an American plutocratic think tank to sing the praises of low taxes. He must feel like a rockstar being interviewed like a great thinker in Washington DC.
The Prince of Liechtenstein is the closest thing there is to Fnargl in the West. And what does he do with his power? Write a lame book about how holy he is because he serves his people.
Why would he do that? The guy is filthy rich, has his own country, and he spends his time going abroad to preach transparent lies about how where his wealth comes from? “No, I’m not rich because I my companies have a tax advantage so we can leech from their markets, not at all. It’s just that I’m a libertarian so my policies rock.” Why would he do that? He doesn’t have to. I just don’t get it.
And that’s how I came up with my last post. People’s friends matter more than people’s interests. Human Fnargls, i.e. monarchies don’t work like some think they do. I have more post on Fnargl fails coming on. Stay tuned.