I keep hearing the term, "enough money to buy a country". My question is: Is it realy possible to buy a country or is this just an expression? and if so how would this work since there is no 1 person you could pay for it?

So "Bill Gates has enough money to buy a country." Is this another way of saying he has a lot of money or does this mean he could actualy buy a country if he wished for it. And if its the later then say he did want to do it. How would this work?



1 Answer 1


What do you mean? A country per se cannot be bought. The wealthiest man, Gates, has a net worth of around 67 billion USD (forbes). What could he buy?


Whatever it the country produces. The poorest country by GDP per capita is Burundi, with a total GDP per capita of around 267 USD, and a population of 10 million. That gives then a total GDP per year of 2.7 billion USD. Gates could easily afford that.


We don't have - to my knowledge - reliable wealth data on most developing countries, but the wealth/income ratio is typically around 4-6. Let's assume the maximum, 6. That would give the people of Burundi 13 billion USD, still affordable.

Public Assets

Let's pick a random country, switzerland. They have public assets worth 200 billion USD. Too much for Gates to afford. But for a smaller country, he could surely buy it out.

The answer is somewhat unsatisfactory. Why? Because the question is. In the end, before asking can xyz really happen, you should ask what is xyz and what do I mean by it?

What else is there?

I'm not aware of a country where the people are still counted as property, so you most likely can't buy them.

Perhaps you could buy all the land? There are many small islands (potentially for sale) that would grant you independence. Some people (mostly rich and eccentric) own them, which means I presume that they bought those countries at some point. So, it turns out,

You can buy a country

but you can't buy the people. !Viva la revoluçion!

  • $\begingroup$ I tried clarifying a little more. You answer made things a little more clear. But imagine he wants to buy some small country out there. How would he do it and is it at all possible to do in real life should he set his focus on a country? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ I see so if Bill Gates wanted to buy Burgundi. He would have to buy every single plot of land and every single company in the country? Basically everything the country has of value. That seems near impossible to do so the phrase "to have enough money to buy a country" is most likely an expression then. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ Of course, once you started buying property in the country, the price of the remaining property would go up, and since most wealthy people have most of their wealth in illiquid assets, their effective wealth goes down the more they spend, so buying a country would end up causing them to have to spend more with less money than you might think. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 10:15

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