The missing political philosophy of microstates: longevity, between survival and luxury, part 2

In the first part of our study we have summarised and introduced our ‘thesis’ and provided context for the study in terms of literature and the reasons for the lack of satisfactory research in political science and philosophy in terms of microstates.

Today we get to the meat of the matter by detailing the building blocks of our ‘thesis’. First read the Summary to orient yourself in case you have not read part 1.

Summary

Microstates are political sovereignties whose minimal spatiality allows them to focus on extended temporality. On one hand, the history of microstates prominently features survival events and dependence on the outer world. On the other hand, the current permissive international system grants unprecedented freedom for microstates to pick-and-choose strategies to prosper and sell sovereign pregoragitves to find their own unique niche. The richness of alternative routes that can be taken, the worlds of possibilities, nurtures luxury in many microstates. Abundance makes microstates overrepresented amongst states as top performers for health care and life expectancy. Health and longevity as top priority political goals faces huge obstacles in bigger, lead political actor states, (under)performing on centre stage. Some microstates have a timely (historical?) chance to take a lead in implementing the most advanced health politics and aim for a niche to participate, organise, conduct, provide infrastructure for projects to develop the biomedical tools needed for ongoing progress in healthy longevity. The first, decisive round of these developments can take place in the shortest amount of time, but only for microstates in a demonstrative way starting small scale to elicit large scale changes. Microstate citizenship schemes can enable participation for the world-wide longevity community. This is normative, active political philosophy here walking on two legs to reach actuality.

Components of the longevitarian political philosophy of microstates

In the lack of a better structure I arrange the building blocks into 4 topics: temporospatial philosophy starting point of the political philosophy of microstates, lessons from earlier history of microstates, features of recent history and contemporary political practice of microstates and data in the context of extended normative behaviourism. And that’s gonna be enough for today.

I. Temporospatial philosophy

Minuscule spatiality

A distinctive, defining feature of microstates are small size, minimal land area. Area of microstates seems at times infinitesimal, especially in a comparative context, Monaco has 2.02 km2, while Russia has 17.1 million km², that is a whooping 17/2 = 8.5 million fold difference between 2 co-existing sovereign states. 

These countries are no more than little slices of lands in terms of area, they have been actually called ‘statelets’ [1].

Extended, defining temporality, maximal longevity

Minimal spatiality frees up the temporal dimension and highlights the longevity of a particular microstate. It’s like land is only a marker, a sign of temporal existence. See for instance Monaco, San Marino, Andorra listed amongst the top 10 oldest countries in Europe. San Marino ‘is officially the oldest sovereign state in the world’, and the oldest constitutional republic as well, with the ‘oldest written constitution in history, created in 1600, which is a constitution it still follows to this day.’

If San Marino is the continuation of a monastic community founded on September 3rd, 301 AD and the current Russian Federation has its legal birthday in 1991, that’s roughly amounts to a 17 centuries difference in terms of lifespan of these political units. One can massage the numbers here to their liking, but still, you get the point.

II. Earlier History

Here we list early experiences of microstates, that can be counted as valid features today as well, while microstates are carrying on with substantial changes in their identity.

Survival

Microstates have great and numerous survival stories and nurtured survival skills. Their borderline existence are sometimes explicitly based on a borderland existence, think Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, sandwiched between much bigger and stronger countries.

‘Most are snippets of borderland regions between great empires that have managed to surf the crest of history and survived.’

Klieger, P. Christiaan. The Microstates of Europe (Kindle Locations 155-156). Lexington Books. Kindle Edition. 

Consider the following historical ‘accident’ in case of  the principality of Andorra:

Andorra, in the Pyrenees, has reinvented itself with each sociopolitical upheaval throughout its history. It survived Napoleon because a provincial bureaucrat, at the point of an Andorran pitchfork “forgot” to record to annexation of the country in the early nineteenth century.

Klieger, P. Christiaan. The Microstates of Europe (Kindle Locations 557-559). Lexington Books. Kindle Edition. 

San Marino has been formed before the Papal States that were eventually surrounding it and that lead to hundreds of years fight for its independence and against annexation. 

Marginality

Another way to be borderline is to be marginal. Microstates are not performing usually at the centre stage of work politics. The are out of the limelight and they are actually able to choose to stay out of the limelight. This latter option giving them more degrees of freedom.

Neutrality

In military conflicts between their bigger neighbours microstates have learned and managed to stay neutral. They were never in the position to maintain a strong military capable of defending themselves in case of outward aggression from bigger countries, let alone being able to show outward aggression towards other countries. As a results these are peaceful countries, immensely interested in maintaining peace and stability. This alone suggests a link toward supporting the tools of mass longevity and peaceful existence next to each other.

III. Recent History, Economy and Political Practice

Here we mention mixed political and economical features. 

From survival to luxury

Sometimes the shock of bare survival might lead to a trigger to an abundant economic solution. For example, in 1861, Monaco’s sovereignty was recognised by France but at a price of giving up Menton and Roquebrune, ~80% of its territory to France. These 2 towns were main sources of income for the ruling Grimaldi family beforehand, but ‘declared independence from Monaco in 1848 and refused to pay taxes on olive oil and fruit imposed by the Grimaldis.’ As an alternative source of income, the idea of the casino was implemented and by 1869, they stopped collecting income taxes from residents. Source: Wikipedia: Monte Carlo Casino and Monaco.  

Luxury, riches and niches 

Pragmatic tendencies presented opportunistic solutions in the form of recognition of specialised services and lead to very high per capita income, topping the GDP charts, for instance Liechtenstein, Monaco, Macau.

Finance

This is the most well known and also most criticised economical success story in microstates. The downside involved tax avoidance on part of super-rich people, the source of some of these riches are being dubious, hidden behind bank secrecy. As of today, none of the European microstates are on the list of non-cooperative countries listed as tax havens by the EU as in the last 10-20 years they were gradually forced by bigger powers and international pressure to give up bank secrecy. So far, so good.

Tourism 

Luxury Recreational Tourism is the largest industry in several microstates, and these minimal spaces welcome multiple times of their population size on a daily basis.  

Tourism is by far the largest industry, offering year round VAT-free shopping and spa resort life to an astounding nine million visitors per year. With no railroads or airport, and just a two-lane highway in and out, no wonder the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper on weekends from Toulouse and Barcelona. Skiing in the winter is matched with mountaineering and hiking in the summer.

Klieger, P. Christiaan. The Microstates of Europe (Kindle Locations 849-852). Lexington Books. Kindle Edition. 

Medical Tourism

Here’s one feature that makes some microstates very desirable for prioritising healthy longevity as a top political goal. Let’s mention here Malta and Singapore.

Malta has been explicitly referred as “The Hospital of the Mediterranean” due to its historically specialised medical services.

Singapore:

‘This microstate has some of the top clinics and hospitals in the world, focusing on oncology. The Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre is located here. Singapore attracts 400,000 to 610,000 patients a year.’

Medical tourism: mind the turbulence, Julie Zaugg

Politics

In the contemporary political actuality of microstates there’s a plethora of opportunistic practices suitable for the extended temporality, minimal spatiality microstates, ranging from commercialising aspects of their sovereignty, direct democracy and  re-interpeting what nationality means to openly experiment with national identity. 

As Sharman writes:

‘Contemporary states are presented with several options but few, if any, functional imperatives. Using the leeway the environment affords, micro-states exercise, delegate and sell sovereign powers to different degrees at different times in order to advance their interests.’

J.C. Sharman: Sovereignty at the Extremes: Micro-States in World Politics, Political Studies, 2016.

Selling, renting out sovereign prerogatives

A curious, outlier example:

‘Several decades earlier, the Seychelles had sold its representation on the International Whaling Commission to Greenpeace (Epstein, 2008: 160–161).’ p571 Sharman

J.C. Sharman: Sovereignty at the Extremes: Micro-States in World Politics, Political Studies, 2016.

The practice and promise of direct democracy

Due to their size, micro states are in an actual position to advance the tools of direct democracy, and sometimes the different, historical, elements of governing form an interesting mix like in the case of Liechtenstein[1]:

The direct democratic instruments – the popular and/or communal initiative and referendum, the authorities’ referendum and the consultative referendum – were imposed on the basically representative system. The constitutional tradition of monarchy and the type of parliamentary democracy were kept, although strongly modified in that parliament gained more power and henceforth was the main actor in the legislative process. No law could enter into force without the approval of the parliament – unless a popular vote replaced the decision of the parliament. On the other hand, the prince had and still has the right to sign all laws. If he does not, no law can enter into force , regardless of whether there was prior approval by parliament or by a popular vote.

Direct Democracy in Liechtenstein, Wilfried Marxer

See also interview with current prince of Liechtenstein (at ~29:00 mins), by VisualPolitik EN, crediting direct democracy in making Liechtenstein join Europan Economic Area against parliament.

Curiously, the constitution of Liechtenstein allows the right of its constituent communes to actually secede by a majority vote:

Article 4

1) Changes in the boundaries of the territory of the State may only be made by a law. Boundary changes between communes and the union of existing ones also require a majority decision of the citizens residing there who are entitled to vote.

2) Individual communes have the right to secede from the State. A decision to initiate the secession procedure shall be taken by a majority of the citizens residing there who are entitled to vote. Secession shall be regulated by a law or, as the case may be, a treaty. In the latter event, a second ballot shall be held in the commune after the negotiations have been completed.

Constitution of the Principality of Liechtenstein

Open Experimenting with national identity 

Please see Identity and Its Construal: Learning from Luxembourg by Elke Murdock:

‘This article examines national identity construal processes within the case study context of Luxembourg. Building on research highlighting the modalities of generalization from case studies, I present the country case that is Luxembourg. This social universe has a foreign population percentage of 47% and what is considered majority and minority becomes increasingly fluid. The migration process itself is fluid, ranging from daily migration, to medium-term stays, return visits and permanent immigration including uptake of citizenship. Within such a fluid environment, where national borders are permeable at the physical level of crossing borders and (national) societies are nested within societies, culture contact is a permanent feature in daily life. Nationality becomes a salient feature as culture contact tends to prompt reflection, resulting in questioning and (re-)negotiation of national identity. This affects the native population as well as the diverse immigrant population – with diversity going beyond the level of country of origin. Many individuals are also of mixed nationality and some examples for the construal process of national identity will be provided, illustrating how national identity is negotiated at individual level. Like a periscope, this country let s us adjust mirrors, permitting us to observe modes of identity construal which would otherwise be obstructed from the field of view. The case study that is Luxembourg allows us to look at the micro-setting of the construction, potentially of something new.’

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Identity and Its Construal: Learning from Luxembourg by Elke Murdock

IV. Data supporting normative, extended behaviourism

Our study on Normative Behaviourism (NB), published in 5 posts, provides the background here. According to NB, in order to choose, explain, ground, justify a political principle you look for pattern of population behaviour. In short, you look for data presented by empirical research of the social sciences. 

Default NB: insurgence and crime

Jonathan Floyd establishes normative behaviourism by introducing 2 behaviourist measures to judge, justify success of existing (or past) political systems: plainly put, the more disincentives to political insurgence and crime a system enables the more successful it’s going to be. 

When we look at microstates, the levels of insurgence are non-existent and levels of crime are negligible, so the 2 main behaviourist measures behind NB are already on all time minimal in microstates.

Extended NB acknowledging health and longevity as political preferences

I argued in Blind spot of academic political philosophy: not recognising health as a political incentive and healthy longevity as a political goal that one way it can be extended is if we take account health and longevity as top political goals, see examples in that post. And here we arrive back to the trigger of this study on microstates. A trigger I noticed in Are Social-Liberal-Democracies exclusively suited to improve health and longevity of their citizens? The Jonathan Floyd series, part 5.

The finding was that one it comes to health care and life expectancy, microstates are seriously over-representes as top performers. Singapore, Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino, Andorra qualifies here, with Singapore being the largest such microstate with a population of 5.6 million. Also part of the top lists are dependent micro-states, Macau and Hong Kong, that are special administrative regions of China, and Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, a British Crown dependency. 

In the next instalment of this study I conclude and suggest action points

Notes

[1] Jonathan Floyd, personal communication.