Could I buy a country?

I was just browsing some of the world’s countries by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and noticed that some of those countries have a lower value than some of the richest people in the world. Rwanda for example has a GDP of about $6 billion, while the tiny island state of Tuvalu has a GDP of $10 million.
Say I’m Steve Jobs and I have some money to burn, and I also have a strong desire to save the mountain gorillas, could I just buy Rwanda? And even if I have baser goals (and am a bit short on cash), and just want to chill on the beach without being disturbed, could I just buy it and claim the title of Tuvalu’s Emperor Eternal?

If so, how would I go about it? Should I just bring a brief case of cash to the sitting ruler and sign a contract? Would it be tax deductible?

Who are you going to buy Rwanda from? It isn’t like there’s anyone with a legal title to the country who can sell it. And even back in the days when one empire could buy a province from another empire for wagonloads of gold, what happens when somebody else with an army wanders into the province and evicts you, the rightful buyer?

In other words, to set yourself up as dictator of Rwanda you can’t just set down a Learjet full of cash. You have to use that cash to make yourself dictator of Rwanda. And there are going to be plenty of people in Rwanda and elsewhere that don’t want you to become dictator of Rwanda, and are going to make things difficult for you.

Your definition of GDP is way off? GDP is just how much the country produces in goods and services in a given time period, usually a year. You don’t get the land or people, wildlife, or government for that. You could buy everything Rwanda produces for $6 billion a year but even Steve Jobs would eventually run out of free cash doing that every year. You don’t get the country itself for that, just lots of little trinkets, food, etc.

Hmm… that is disappointing. But Tuvalu is certainly within Steve’s price range. And it has a monarch, avoiding the pesky ‘no ownership rule’. So could he just walk up to Queen Elizabeth and wave some green around (“Hey, I heard you were short on cash lately, wanna sell a Polynesian island?”). And would he then be King?

Up until he was assassinated, quite probably. Monarchs in general rule with the consent of the governed. Of course, I don’t think many other countries would recognize his rule anyway.

According to Part IV of the Constitution of Tuvalu, http://www.tuvaluislands.com/const_tuvalu.htm, the queen does not have the power to sell the islands. This is unsurprising. However, it seems that an act of parliament can determine who the sovereign of Tuvalu is (Schedule 1, section 13). So, I suppose if you bribed the parliament, you could be made sovereign directly. You wouldn’t have any actual power though unless you changed Part IV of the constitution.

ETA: The only recent case that I can think of of anything like this happening is with regard to Liechtenstein. If I’m not mistaken, their hereditary monarch threatened to leave the country never to return unless he was made into something more than a figurehead. And rather than have the Prince of Liechtenstein live in Vienna, Austria, the Liechtensteiners apparently gave him more power.

You could hire mercenaries, and steal a country.

We have threads about various schemes to buy/create/steal your own country from time to time. It is harder than it sounds if your main asset is just money. There are gobs of islands for sale throughout the world however and some of them are pretty sizable. Almost all of those are technically part of a country already but it might be feasible to buy up a bunch of mostly uninhabited Caribbean islands for example, develop them so they are self-sustaining, and then break away from the country that it is part of to form your own.

you just have to blow up a subway and clean out the federal reserve. then, you just have to figure out what country you want to buy.

Along these lines, I’d heard of people trying to buy entire towns, and develop them into vacation sports or some such. I’m thinking Kim Bassenger tried that, but my citation is probably Cracked.com. At any rate, no matter how much money you have, people will resist handing over all their land. It just sticks in people’s craw. You will need mercenaries. 'Course with enough of those, you won’t have to buy the country.

See The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth. Fictional, obviously, but purportedly well-researched.

I’m pretty sure the only person to privately own a country was King Leopold, during the colonization of the Congo. Other colonizations have been through governments or at the very least corporations.

If you “buy” a country, and the leader goes back on the deal, how are you going to stop them? In the end, the person with the weapons wins.

“Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.”

The PIGS are bankrupt. Make an offer on Portugal, Ireland, Greece, or Spain. Do you have enough to pay off their debts?

Tuvalu would probably be a bad deal anyway. Isn’t it one of the countries that will be inundated by rising sea level in the not too distant future?