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How can a country be sold?

  1. Sep 11, 2014 #1
    Hi, all. After 2008 crisis I read that a small island country Iceland was tried to be sold from e-Bay? I can understand a team, a shop or a firm can be sold but how can a city or country can be sold? Can someone please explain it to me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 11, 2014 #2


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    It's simple if you have Pay Pal. Just transfer the required amount of money to your Pay Pal account.

    It should be noted that Bjork wasn't included as part of sale. So it shouldn't take more than the price of a Starbuck's coffee to buy Iceland (Bjork sold separately).

    Buying the island of San Serif, however, would cost you at least a colon.

    Note: This probably belongs in General Discussion instead of Current Events, seeing as how listing Iceland on e-Bay was a prank by some random user.
  4. Sep 11, 2014 #3


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    Alaska was purchased by the US from Russia in 1867, but that was before e-bay was around. Even then, some thought it was a prank perpetrated by the Russian czar on the hapless US Secretary of State, William Seward. For a while, Alaska was known as 'Seward's Folly'.

    In truth, cities and countries can be bought and sold like just about anything: name your price and see if you have a seller interested in doing a deal. That's how the Louisiana Purchase was carried out: Napoleon needed some quick cash in 1803 because the British were about to foreclose on France.

    Of course, there was a slight hitch: Napoleon owned Louisiana at the time, but the Spanish were in control of the territory after it had been taken over by Spain when they won the Seven Years War against France. Technically, France had gained title to Louisiana by treaty with Spain, and Napoleon was hoping to start a new colonial empire using the Louisiana territory, which extended from the Gulf of Mexico north to Canada. After some quick negotiations between the US, France, and the Spanish officials in Louisiana, a deal was struck where the Spanish would give the keys to Napoleon, who turned them over almost immediately to the US commissioners in Paris.

    Selling price for Louisiana: about $15 million at the time, or almost $250 million equivalent at 2013 prices, a steal, since it doubled the size of the US.


    At the time, Louisiana territory included the cities of New Orleans and St. Louis and a whole lot of wilderness only sparsely settled, even by the Indians.
  5. Sep 11, 2014 #4


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    some American history I was unaware of :)

  6. Sep 11, 2014 #5
    I believe Scotland's currently seeking independence so they can sell themselves on eBay, aren't they?
  7. Sep 12, 2014 #6
    But problem is it that countries can not be simple products. They have people in it so if someone sell a country people in it becomes as if they are slaves. Countries have histories, flags and cemeteries. Then corpses which went to death centuries ago could have been sold. Polices, soldiers, doctors ... so to sell a country is out of logic. Only some parts of a country's territory can be sold.
  8. Sep 12, 2014 #7
    The rest of the USA was stolen from Britain. You owe us $250 million! I'm happy if you pay this back one at a time. If I set up a web page, all citizens of the USA can stop feeling guilty of that theft by donating $1 each via pay pal. Any takers? :tongue:
  9. Sep 12, 2014 #8


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    You must not be an avid reader of world history.
  10. Sep 12, 2014 #9
    I mention about modern times which should be after 1700s. Before that time, some kind of events could take place in history.
  11. Sep 12, 2014 #10


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    Why after the 1700s? That seems a tad arbitrary.

    Countries are not sold much nowadays because, like everything else, the prices are outrageously high (there are no more bargains to be had), and when you do pick up a used country on the cheap, it's usually been trashed by the previous owners, so you have to start over with investing a lot of time and money to fix it up. Also, even small countries nowadays are usually crammed to the gills with a resentful population, which must be managed, whereas in the old days, there might be a handful of trappers to deal with, who didn't give a hoot whose flag was raised over the countryside as long as no one bothered them.

    Take Siberia, for instance. Why does it belong to Russia? Why not China, or Korea, or Mongolia? There aren't a lot of people who live there to care one way or another, because they are too busy freezing to give a hoot. The only reason Siberia belongs to Russia is because some Russians decided to go walking east from Moscow way back around the time of Ivan the Terrible, and they didn't stop walking until they reached Vladivostok.

    There are Aleuts who live on both sides of the Bering Strait, who used to travel back and forth to visit one another's tribes, do a little hunting and fishing, and generally have a blast. The eastern Aleuts didn't care that Alaska belonged to the US and the western Aleuts weren't exactly in tune with what was going on in Moscow. They were two related groups of people hanging out and having a good time. That is, until the Ministry of No Fun back in Moscow heard about this fraternization and put a stop to it.

    With all of the problems in the western part of the country, the Russians still patrol the Bering Strait to make sure that none of their Aleuts cross over to mingle with their cousins in Alaska. Why? Because to the Russians, if their czar hadn't decided to sell Alaska to William Seward, they might now be sitting in Alaska, and perhaps own a good deal more of the northwestern portion of North America, all the way down to California. A lot of this country was settled by Russians before it was settled by the British or the Americans, and that still rankles the Russians, because they sold it for a pittance (about $7 million at the time).

    To take a more modern example, look at Germany. After the war, there was West Germany and East Germany, which both went their separate ways until about 1989. The previous owners needed cash, a lot of it and in a hurry, but they decided they didn't want to sell East Germany because they knew it wouldn't fetch much in terms of price, and it would probably take a long time to sell. In steps West Germany, which decided that they wanted to be reunited with their eastern cousins, so the West Germans said to the previous owners, 'We'll take over the notes, and you don't have to worry about managing this property anymore.' The previous owners said it's a deal and walked away. The West Germans thought they got a bargain, that is, until they started checking things over.

    They found that East Germany originally had a Thousand Year Lease taken on it by a previous owner, who defaulted after 12 years, leaving the place in a shambles. The seller had come in and made a few cosmetic improvements, but generally had made no large investment in keeping the place modern, except for adding a lot of asbestos to fire-proof it. When the West Germans started poking around at their new acquisition, they were shocked at how dilapidated East Germany actually was beneath the surface. Twenty-five years later, the West Germans have poured almost $1 trillion into a place they picked up for nothing, and it looks like much more will be needed to fix it up completely.

    The lesson here is, even though you can acquire a country for nothing down, you might have to make large and expensive renovations to it to bring it up to date in keeping with all the latest health and safety codes. Even after you do all this improvement, you still might not be able to put the country back on the market and re-coup anything like what you've put into the place.

    The West Germans were suckered because they thought their eastern cousins would have maintained their country to the same high standards which they, the West Germans, had maintained in their own country, and the westerners were sadly disappointed to find that the easterners were just as resentful of them as they had been of their previous two landlords.

    Another lesson to take: be careful doing business with strangers; be even more careful when doing business with your relatives.
  12. Sep 12, 2014 #11
    The problem with buying a country is - who sells her?

    Denmark could sell Virgin Islands to USA precisely because while Denmark was a country, Virgin Islands were not.

    Denmark herself was in her entirety but piecemeal mortgaged to mostly counts of Holstein by Kings Erik and Christopher. Mortgaged - not sold for good.
  13. Sep 12, 2014 #12


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    No one said that countries are simple products. Large corporations are bought and sold all the time, and some of them are worth more than a lot of countries. They are more complicated, too.

    If you live in a large apartment building, and the owner of the building sells it, do you become the slave of the new owner? Of course not! You send your rent to a different address, that's all.

    History is what's written in a book.

    The people in the cemetery don't care who owns the cemetery; they're past caring.

    Flags change all the time. In fact, it wasn't until the Berlin Olympics in 1936 that it was discovered that Haiti and Liechtenstein were using the same flag. Talk about embarrassing. The Liechtensteinians quickly added a crown to their flag, and all was right in the world again.

    As far as civil servants are concerned, they work for whoever is in power.
  14. Sep 12, 2014 #13
    But who can sell a country? A king or a prime minister? There is no owner so ... Buildings or firms have one or lots of real owners. If a very very rich man wants to buy a European country or a state from U.S can he do?
  15. Sep 12, 2014 #14


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    Just about anyone can sell a country, just like you could buy a country if you could come up with the asking price. After all, what is involved in purchasing a country? You, the buyer, pass on some paper, called money, to the seller, who takes your money and gives you some more paper, which says you are the new owner of the country.

    It's the same with any business which has a lot of shareholders. Once a majority of the shareholders of a company decide that a sale is in their best interest to pursue, then the company gets sold.

    In fact, a new country has just come on the market recently. Scotland, a subsidiary of UK, Ltd., has decided to test the market by putting itself up for sale, but, because of tax laws, they're calling this sale a referendum on Scottish independence. Scotland has some picturesque scenery and is chock full of history, the kind that upscale buyers are keenly interested in. In addition to oats and thistles, Scotland also claims title to reserves of oil and gas in the North Sea, so is hoping that fact will boost its asking price. The current owners don't wish to sell, but if they must, they don't want to give Scotland away to just anyone at any price. Scotland has wanted to test the waters before, but only recently have a lot of people convinced them that this is the time for a sale, since other countries currently on the market suffer from noticeable lack of upkeep by their current owners and would prove difficult to sell at any asking price.

    Currently, no US states are on the market, but the welter of federal regulations would probably make a purchase of an entire state by a private citizen very difficult to close. Without taking on the responsibility of purchasing the whole state, you can buy up large parts of it without too much difficulty. Recent market conditions and increases in the capital gains tax mean that you will have to hold onto the property longer before you can realize a profit, unless you can negotiate some special tax breaks from the government.

    At one time, when the Japanese were flush with cash, they tried to buy up Hawaii, California and parts of New York, but a downturn in the economy in Japan meant that these purchases had to be re-sold quickly, often at a loss. Now that the Chinese have come into a windfall recently, it is thought they may be interested in making some purchases, but they are wary given the experience of the Japanese. Also, California has depreciated quite a bit in value, and it would take a massive investment to get it into shape to sell. The Chinese may be interested rather in properties closer to home, like Taiwan. The Chinese have also taken an interest in some property close to the Philippines, but it is unclear what the attraction of that parcel may be, since it is mostly underwater (literally).
  16. Sep 12, 2014 #15
    You're absolutely right. In the overwhelming majority of cases there is no proper "owner" of a country who could sell it.

    SteamKing is being facetious to a large extent, but, in doing so, points out that proper ownership can be turned into a non-issue, or obviated to a large extent.

    I can lay claim to Iceland and sell you Iceland. If you buy it from me what you have really bought is not Iceland, but my claim to Iceland. One the sale is complete, I have agreed not to interfere when you try to occupy Iceland. The extent to which the inhabitants of Iceland resist your occupation is your problem, not mine. This is what the US bought from France with the Louisiana Purchase: we bought France's claim to the territory. That means France agrees not to contest our occupation and use of it. Had we not made the purchase, France might well have sent armed troops to prevent any attempt we made to develop the territory.

    The guy who tried to lay claim to Iceland and sell it on eBay failed because he had no troops or other power to enforce his claim. There is no point in you buying my claim to Iceland if I can't even prevent you from simply counter-claiming it for yourself. This is a large part of SteamKing's point: what you own or don't own is very much dependent, in the cold world of real politics, on what you can defend against other claimants. If you can get away with selling it, then, realistically speaking, you own it. Having bought the Louisiana Territory from the French, the US proceeded, bit by bit, to extract it from the indigenous inhabitants, by force, trickery, bribery.

    We have seen this sort of thing happen over and over in history in various forms.
  17. Sep 12, 2014 #16
    Then somebody can even sell the Moon, the Sun, the Milky Way ... Am I correct?
  18. Sep 12, 2014 #17
    Only if they have a means to enforce their claim on it against other claimants.
  19. Sep 12, 2014 #18


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    I can sell you _a_ Milky Way. Got $1.50?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way_(chocolate_bar [Broken])
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  20. Sep 12, 2014 #19


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    The Virgin Islands were an overseas possession belonging to Denmark, much like Greenland was a former Danish colony.


    The US VI had in fact been a Danish royal colony since the 17th century, but administering the islands became a drain on the Danish treasury. Denmark had sought to unload the islands on a suitable buyer, and had approached the US in the 1860's about making a purchase. The US was interested but not too eager to make a deal, having just finished the Civil War. Eventually, during WWI, there were US fears that Kaiser Bill's navy would seize the islands and set up a U-boat base from which to maraud through the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. A deal was struck with the Danes, who held a referendum in their country to approve the sale. Treaties of sale ratified and money having changed hands, the US VI became American territory in January 1917.


    Like a lot of properties tied up in probate due to inheritance issues, countries involved in such familial disputes are subject to being subdivided and traded amongst the surviving relatives. The duchy of Holstein is one example of how things can flop back and forth between branches of one family, or between different families altogether.


    Danish one day, German the next, or traded for a handful of magic beans later in the week.

    You can bet that if Kings Erik and Christopher put their 'X' on a mortgage document and didn't live up to the terms, sooner or later some prince or king who held the paper would come around looking to see what could be sold off to re-coup his investment.

    There have been several instances when the ruling house of a country changed hands due to the death of the monarch. England went from the House of Stuart to the House of Orange to the House of Hanover (the Scottish-Dutch-German infield play) in the space of about 25 years.
  21. May 21, 2015 #20
    my dream is to own cuba!
  22. May 21, 2015 #21


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    Necro brought back by a now deleted post. Locked.
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