Putting Liechtenstein on the map

There are protests raging in Egypt. The Koreas are balking at their nuclear arms talks. Thailand and Cambodia still aren’t playing nice. A government minister of something or other was shot down in Sudan. The citizens of Bangladesh are beginning to grow dissatisfied at being God’s own whipping boys. The world is in chaos.

Do you know who you never hear from? Liechtenstein.

I had to Google Liechtenstein to even find out where it was, mostly because the only map I have to look at is a laminated place mat one of my children won in a geography bee and Liechtenstein wasn’t on there. It’s wedged between Switzerland and Austria and the citizenry likes you not knowing that. I’ve driven between Switzerland and Austria and trust me, there is no “Welcome To Liechtenstein, Ya’ll!” sign on the interstate. Autobahn. Whatever.

It’s horrible that when you try to Google Liechtenstein the Wikipedia page about this tiny country is actually the third entry down, the first two being pages about American pop artist Roy Liechtenstein. It was pretty hard to Google it because all these years I’ve been spelling it wrong. I admit that I haven’t spelled it that many times over the years, or even thought of it for that matter, but when I did think of it I was leaving out the first “e.” Learn something new every day.

But my Googling was not fruitless, because I now know all kinds of fascinating information about their country. They are still ruled by a prince, but in 2003 they adopted a new constitution that built a parliamentary system. They actually had quite a significant role in both of the world wars, the larger role being a truly romantic story about how the ruling prince abdicated to his much-younger nephew in 1938 when Hitler was on the rise. His reason for leaving? The princess, his wife, was Jewish. Even though the country was too small to have a Nazi Party, which right there makes it my kind of town, there were some sympathizers in the country who felt that she alone was the bulk of the country’s Jewish Problem.

After the wars, there was actually quite a scuffle because Czechoslovakia (which I think I’m still spelling wrong) and Poland both wanted to take control of Liechtenstein. Their reason was very clear: they were both under the mistaken impression that Liechtenstein was part of Germany and they really wanted to punish those Nazis. That’s like me getting back at Wyoming by taking control of Billings, Montana. Once that was all resolved with their own laminated place mat map of the world, there was still the matter of asylum. Liechtenstein had granted refuge to 501 Russian soldiers who had mistakenly sided with the Germans against their own country and were now afraid to go home. Since the national motto of Liechtenstein is, “Leave me alone,” the country took them in. Unfortunately, adding 501 people to the population of the country proved to be financially impossible and Argentina had to take those guys off their hands. I truly wish that part was a joke.

But Liechtenstein still has a proud standing in Europe. The national language is German but their currency is the Swiss franc. They trade with Europe but are actually not part of the Union. Their main industry seems to be winter sports tourism which gives them the second highest domestic gross income per person in the entire world. Take that, Bangladesh.

For a country that has a population of just over 35,000, which is less than the town I live in, there are 73,700 international companies who claim Liechtenstein as their headquarters. The US government has already written a huge report that was paid for by our tax dollars to declare that the country’s bank might be corrupt. Didn’t see that coming. But don’t think it’s all money laundering and off-snow accounts. The country is the world’s largest producer of not only sausage casings but also false teeth, both of which are vital and legitimate industries.

But these are also a highly intellectual and cultural people. When the royal family was bankrupt following one war or another, they simply pulled an old Da Vinci painting out of the basement, sold it at auction, and restored the entire country’s wealth. I think they also have a few unreleased Beatle’s recordings and Harper Lee’s unpublished second novel in their vault, just in case of an economic downturn.

The best thing I learned about the country on Wikipedia is that they have a national anthem. It’s only one minute and three seconds long and the first eleven seconds are just a drum roll. And no lie, it’s “My Country Tis of Thee.” Well, I’m sure they changed the words, like Elton John does every time a national figure dies and he needs a tribute song. Of course, we can’t be smug about that since that song used to be “God Save the King and/or Queen” and we stole it from the British.

I’ve now decided that the best job in the whole world is US Ambassador to Liechtenstein. Hopefully, with enough campaign contributions to whichever wahoo runs for office next, the job can be mine. Skiing, schmoozing, a little bit of turning the other way when other countries set up corporations there, and I’ll be gold. Plus, I can already hum along intelligibly to the national anthem.

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