Author Topic: What is a Country?  (Read 3090 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline UK Decimal +

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1 472
  • Nil carborundum
What is a Country?
« on: January 09, 2010, 10:52:32 PM »
For an everyday example, you should think about the 'United Kingdon of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'.

To those of us who live in England, Northern Ireland is certainly a foreign country, although we do appreciate the people who live there.

Scotland is also 'over the border'.

Wales, although more closely associated with England, is also a separate country.   The Royal Mint is located there.   Wales is not represented on the latest 'Dent' series of coins.   When I suggest that 'Made in Wales' should be included on British coins, I am not joking.

There are many areas in which our customs differ, including the language used locally.   Remember also our close ties with the Falkland Islands.

Worry not, I have nothing against any of these places.   We do not need separate coinage, but they are still different countries.

Bill.  
Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

People look for problems and complain.   Engineers find solutions but people still complain.

Offline ciscoins

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 341
    • Coins of CIS and Baltic countries
What is a Country?
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2010, 11:36:51 PM »
For an everyday example, you should think about the 'United Kingdon of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'.
...
We do not need separate coinage, but they are still different countries.

So the main question is: What is a country? At which stage should we call some territory "a country"?
- when its culture, economy, law, etc. are separate from other territories (like Padania inside Italy, Gagauzia inside Moldova, etc.)
- when it declares its independence and gains it in fact (like Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Somaliland, Tamil Eelam)
- when it is recognized by some other countries (like Taiwan, Kosovo, Abkhazia, etc.)
- when is is recognized by most of the countries in the World
- when it enters the United Nations Organization
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

Online Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 202
What is a Country?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2010, 12:06:29 AM »
This is a question of international law with plenty of precedents. A country is defined as an entity that has a) land, b) a population and c) is recognized as a country internationally. Some law researchers will drop the third condition, but I have seen plenty of examples, where recognition was the deciding factor. Some examples:

No land: the Maltese knights (an office in Rome is not enough, even if it is on the ground floor)
No population: Vatican City (everybody is an expatriate)
No recognition: great gobs of examples.

That doesn't mean such entities cannot issue coins. Many, if not most do, though in most cases it's strictly pseudo-coins. It also doesn't mean that you can't collect these coins. In the end, questions of law shouldn't overly concern coin collectors, I think.

Peter

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

RHM22

  • Guest
What is a Country?
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2010, 12:21:24 AM »
Sealand immediately comes to mind. It's one of the most famous pseudo-nations.

Online Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 202
What is a Country?
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2010, 12:26:41 AM »
No territory, no population to speak of and no recognition. Disney's Fantasyland is better positioned. For a list of fantasy countries, see here.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

RHM22

  • Guest
What is a Country?
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2010, 12:46:26 AM »
I'll have you know that his majesty, prince Roy of Sealand has issued a warrant for your arrest. If you ever want to vacation on a cement slab in the middle of the ocean, you'd better not go to Sealand!

Offline chrisild

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8 573
  • NW · DE · EU
What is a Country?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2010, 12:30:24 PM »
I disagree. 1997 set:

Right. But keep in mind how much these pieces are worth. 1 euro is about 25,000 dobras. So yes, São Tomé & Príncipe does issue coins, but I wonder how many actually occur in circulation ...

Sealand, oh well. I just find it amusing that this "country" does not only have a legitimate government but also a truly legitimate government in exile which apparently cooperates with the current government of the German Reich. But for places like that we should have a different topic: "Coins which do not have countries of their own". :)

Christian

Online Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 202
What is a Country?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2010, 01:16:41 PM »
There's still the question of whether England, Scotland and Wales are countries. I think these are good examples of how important recognition is. In the case of Wales, there can be little doubt. It was conquered, its people served in English armies since the hundred years war and its affairs have been handled by England for centuries. There is just no legal support for Wales being a country.

The case for Scotland reinforces that of Wales. Scotland was an independent country. It accepted England in a personal union at the death of Elizabeth I, but remained a separate country. All changed with the Act of the Union, which amalgamated Scotland with England (I am leaving out Ireland here because it complicates unnecessarily), stupidly retaining the English, rather than the Scottish numbering of monarchs (this may have been a negotiating sop to the English, who were losing their independence) under the queen of Scotland. Scotland was henceforth part of a federation with England and Wales and the parts of the federation got equal status. This is no different from Swiss cantons, US states, Dutch provinces under the Republic, Malaysia or Australian states.

Importantly, the act of the Union was internationally recognized by the behaviour of other states: they explicitly or implicitly accepted the British (federal) government as representing the whole federation, not just Scotland. Therefore, there is no international recognition that England, Scotland and Wales are countries, so they are not (notwithstanding the IOC and FIFA ;) ), just like Zürich, Texas, Holland, Selangor or Tasmania.

That doesn't mean such non-countries cannot issue coins. It does means that they need permission from the federation. Sometimes, the constitution will be in the way of sub-national coins, most of the time there will be no political will to grant permission. A compromise may be to issue coins with a nod to the constituent parts of the federation, such as "Scottish" and "English" shillings or "state quarters". Even in the case of the Netherlands, minting was decentralized, but the weight and fineness of the coins were agreed on a federal level.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Galapagos

  • Guest
What is a Country?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2010, 03:33:56 PM »
The UK is an example of devolved government, not federation, though the difference is not perhaps great. Westminster (the UK parliament) can unilaterally suspend or dissolve the assemblies (Welsh and Northern Irish) and the Scottish Parliament. It has of course suspended the NI assembly on at least one occasion, and nobody thought anything of it. A truly federal system gives more protected rights to its subunits. Imagine Congress unilaterally suspending say the state government of Texas (eh, Dale?!), and just imagine what an uproar THAT would cause.

Online Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 202
What is a Country?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2010, 04:01:06 PM »
UN membership is unfortunately not a perfect benchmark. Switzerland is not a member, Taiwan isn't and the PLO is a sort of halfway member (which pleases nobody), just to list the best-known problems.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline ciscoins

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 341
    • Coins of CIS and Baltic countries
Re: What is a Country?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2010, 04:26:21 PM »
Switzerland declined to become a member from the beginning, and didn't have any problems with entering this organization. Taiwan was a member in 1949-1971.
Ivan
Moscow, Russia

Offline Harald

  • Senior Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 333
    • Monetary History & Numismatic Linguistics
Re: What is a Country?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2010, 05:03:37 PM »
UN membership is unfortunately not a perfect benchmark. Switzerland is not a member, Taiwan isn't and the PLO is a sort of halfway member (which pleases nobody), just to list the best-known problems.

Peter
Switzerland has entered the UN a couple of years ago. I pleased to learn how widely this has been noticed  ;D

==
For the rest, first a territory needs to claim being an independent state (to use a more specific term than "country"). AFAIK, England, Scotland etc don't do this, as e.g. there is no English citizenship, foreign policy, army and all that which belongs to the attributes of sovereignty. Second, this claim has to be recognised by all major other states in the world, now usually expressed through UN membership. Switzerland was the only country that voluntarily abstained. The Rep China (Taiwan) and PR China cannot be admitted together since they mutually claim sovereignty over the same piece land.

There are a lot of intermediate cases of "de facto states" which are recognised by only some countries, like Somaliland, Kosovo, Abkhazia (all 3 claim and have control over their territory), Sahara (claims but does not have control over its territory).


cheers
--
Harald

http://www.liganda.ch (monetary history & numismatic linguistics)

Offline chrisild

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8 573
  • NW · DE · EU
Re: What is a Country?
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2010, 05:10:44 PM »
UN membership is unfortunately not a perfect benchmark. Switzerland is not a member

Errm, what?

Edit: OK, my reply was not fast enough. :) By the way, even before the country joined, Switzerland had been a member of various UN organizations. Guess it is safe to say that, if a country is a UN member, we can count it as a country for our purposes - but a country that is not a member is not necessarily a non-country ...

Christian
« Last Edit: January 11, 2010, 05:16:58 PM by chrisild »

Online Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 202
Re: What is a Country?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2010, 06:31:11 PM »
Oh my. You retire and the world turns on. How unfair. With apologies to Swiss and sunder.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 11, 2010, 07:36:59 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.