Surreal Realism

The State in the Third Millennium (van Eck Publishers, 2009) by Prince Hans-Adam II, the Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, presents an interesting outline for successful government with a look back over history in search of important lessons to direct us through these uncertain times.

Right now you might be thinking, “How did Ben dig up some random book by the Prince of Liech… whatever?” I first heard about the book from an interview Prince Hans-Adam II had with Peter Robinson that starts here. Despite many disagreements that I had with the book, I’m still glad I read it.

In the book Prince Hans-Adam II begins by discussing the right to self-determination (that is, the right of the citizens of a state to make their own choices, usually through democracy.) In chapter 2 he discusses the origins of the state. There are some pretty weird books on this topic. But instead of some strange ramble about mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and lazy barbarians, the Prince simply points back to the “we don’t really know” period of history and then explains some of the logical reasons to have a government in the first place. I guess I’m okay with that.

Yes, by chapter 2 I was really starting to like the book. Mostly because I was able to give myself and intellectual pat-on-the-back when I found out that the Prince and I agree on what defines a state. He defines a nation as, “[A] geographical area that is more or less defined, with a population that in the majority has accepted a central authority or has been forced to accept an authority over a long period of time.” (p. 17) Like I always said, no borders, no country. This is especially important for a small country like Liechtenstein.

My admiration didn’t last long though, by chapter 3 our wonderful Prince was supporting the idea that intelligent people aren’t really religious, almost as if the two things are mutually exclusive. Then he goes on to suggest that emotions and religion could be expressed in the same part of the brain. Because, you know, being religious doesn’t actually make sense, right?

Though I found it more interesting that Prince Hans-Adam does not support a materialistic “fun society.” He sees that people who aren’t religious have less children, are more unruly and have no basic morals. All of which lead to the degradation of the entire society when these ideas are widely held. So Prince Hans-Adam  concludes that religion is better for society especially because they are easier to control with laws, etc. Sounds like he’s saying “religion is the opium of the masses” to me (quote from Karl Marx.)

Also in the book he covers military technology, discusses monarchy, oligarchy and democracy (all of which, the Prince says, Liechtenstein has), the Swiss Constitution, the American Constitution, the Constitution of Liechtenstein, direct democracy, indirect democracy, religious legitimation and democratic legitimation. He clearly explains many such concepts, which almost make the book worth the money.

In chapter 10.1, titled “The Constitutional State,” he drifts into the issue of illegal drugs. During this discussion he presents 3 different solution (clearly favoring the third):

1. To continue the current policy of strict prohibition. This policy has not only clearly failed, but it has enabled the drug cartels to build a worldwide distribution network, better than Coca-Cola’s, with the help of large profit margins, which are many more times those of any legal business….

2. To legalize and lift all controls on any illegal drugs. It is doubtful whether this is politically feasible or desirable today. And number of scientific studies have indicated that illegal drugs are more damaging for at least the majority of people than alcohol.

3. To combat illegal drugs by primarily respecting the laws of a market economy and treating drug addicts… Drug addicts would have to be able to obtain drugs at a much lower price than they can buy them from the drug cartels…The fight against the illegal drug business has to be carried out until the business loses its profitability for the cartels. Drug addicts should be allowed to consume drugs in locations where they are supervised by qualified personnel, who inform them about the danger of of drug consumption and advise them about possible therapies.” -Prince Hans-Adam II, Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein, The State in the Third Millennium (p. 99.)

So let me get this straight, since restricting illegal drugs everywhere has supposedly failed, the new plan is to restrict illegal drugs in only a couple of places? How would that work? It wouldn’t.

Also in chapter 10.6 he hopes that in the state of the future, “wars will be a distant bad dream.” (p. 147) Dream all you like, but I doubt it. Not until that whole “people who aren’t religious are unruly and lack basic morals” goes away. Prince Hans-Adam gets starry-eyed in the conclusion of the book when he talks about people flying away in space ships and living on far planets. Because, you know, we pretty much trashed this one… Yeah…

Interestingly enough, though, the Prince still supports using military force to spread democracy by crushing human rights violators and then nation-building. Wow, how does a small country like Liechtenstein pull off such a daunting task? By having the US do all the dirty work. The Prince recognizes, “[O]nly the United States, as the last remaining superpower, has the military, financial, and political capability to carry out a large military intervention in a relatively short time.” (p. 164) Sorry, we haven’t had the financial capabilities in a long time. The Prince also suggests that the EU (with Liechtenstein) do all the nation building. He estimates that it would take about 200,000 people to build a nation like Iraq in a reasonable amount of time. 200,000 people is more than five times the population of Liechtenstein. All this business sounds like “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” to quote Mao Tse Tung.

Okay, I’ll be fair. There are a few points in the book, such as the ones that have been discussed, that I dislike; but that does not mean the book should not be considered altogether. Prince Hans-Adam II provides and interesting perspective on several topics. He believes that the state should act as a “peaceful service company” that only serves in what it does best, which he defines as two things: The rule of law and foreign policy.

Also, in his discussion of military technology he says, “Even if a United State of Europe is one day possible, its military power will be dwarfed by America’s, and this is exactly the way it should be.” (p. 42) He has a deep admiration for America in spite of the fact that he thinks that we do not have enough democracy (and arguably so.)

Even with the bad parts of the book, there is certainly good to be found.



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