presbiter iohannes

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L’ elefant a l’habitació – Thoughts on the claims for an independent Catalonia, part one


I’m born, raised and currently living in Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain. Today a public consultation is held here, the topic in discussion being the independence of Catalonia. The questions (I will get back to them later) are:

  1. Do you want Catalonia to be a state?



  1. If so, do you want that state to be independent?



Let me tell you right away what the results will be like:  the voter turnout will be somewhere between 800,000 and 1,200,000, and around 90 % of them will vote Yes to both questions. I will get back these figures later on, too.

What’s this all about, anyway? Why do Catalans seek the independence?

The reasons

The main claimed reasons are:

  1. Lack of autonomy or sufficient self-government.
  2. Economic mistreatment.
  3. Cultural suffocation.

Let’s check them out.

  1. Lack of autonomy or sufficient self-government

As the argument goes, Catalonia, an independent nation for centuries, was defeated by Spain in 1714 and therefore its laws and institutions were abolished and were not recovered, partially and insufficiently, until 1979. From 1979 to the present day, the situation prior to 1714 has to be regained yet. Any attempt of the Catalan people or the autonomous government to achieve a new level of self-government has faced the Spanish government confrontation. The last examples have been the denial of a proper referendum of independence and, before that, the constitutional appeal on the Autonomy Statute (a sort of regional constitution) issued by the Spanish government which resulted in the factual revocation of articles related to new levels of autonomy and to the consideration of Catalonia as a nation.

However, in 1714 a war ended in Spain, indeed, but it was the Spanish War of Succession, in which two candidates fought to claim the throne of Spain. In this war, a vast part of Catalonia and other regions of Spain, along with several European countries, backed the ultimately defeated candidate, while other European countries and regions of Spain, Castile among them, and a minor part of Catalonia fought for the winner. The first were punished (differently, depending on the time they needed to surrender), the latter were rewarded (e.g., the city of Cervera in Catalonia).

The Bourbon candidate won the war and, as some Catalans expected, he unified the laws, institutions and official language in all of Spain just like his ancestors have done in France before.

So, was or was not Catalonia independent before 1714? According to French historian Pierre Vilar:

What was abolished – in any case, it could be discussed, about this suppression, its legal form – was the remnants of a medieval state (and in this case the term state is debatable). It was, it is true, a representative system; representative of the three social states (excluding, of course, the popular element). However, it is thought that monetary and customs alignment in the Spanish territory that the Bourbons had focused on the Peninsula could generate fears of a complete disappearance of the old Catalan economic originality, but it is known that a new originality was obtained by successful industrialization.

And British historian John Lynch writes:

The defeat of 1714 was not a catastrophe. Everything continued working in the case of Catalans, widows and orphans continued to develop the work that the men had left. The difficulties of postwar were gradually overcome and the Catalans continued producing, selling and buying. Their sense of identity was intact and the Catalan language survived, being in popular use, if not official. The sacrosanct institutions were destroyed, but the institutions are not the only expression of the identity of a people. Catalonia was not a nation-state; so, although he had much to lose, independence was not a part of it. Despite the harsh repression, there was not a resistance movement, not even a revival of rural banditry and none of the group leaders tried to draw the crowds after a regional government program. However, the political inertia of Catalonia in the eighteenth century is not only related to the loss of ancestral institutions but to the existence of compensating factors in other areas as well.

The Catalan identity is expressed not only in the charters but also in the growth and ambitions of dynamic interest groups. When they were frustrated by the Spanish political, exploded. Resistance to Philip V in 1705-1714 was strong and full, culminating in a heroic struggle to retain Barcelona, in which nobles, merchants and students fought to the end, and there were no desertions. Leadership came from the middle class who had recently experienced economic growth and business expansion. What did defeat mean for them, for the urban elite and the gentry? They lost their political freedom and representation in the government, which hurt his self-esteem. They lost the ability to defend their own interests and to distance themselves from a decrepit Castile. In particular, their hopes in America were shattered, having to endure a stricter application of the monopoly of Cadiz and Seville. So, what did Catalans get from the new Bourbon state?  Nothing, in the short run. In the medium term, the possibility of economic development, a protected market for their products in Castile and an eventual outflow in America for their exports. The Succession War forced the Catalans to pause rather than stop completely.

To make a long story short, Catalonia was not an independent state as we conceive the term nowadays. It was one of the many territories of a King, first the King of the Franks, then the King of Aragon (after a period in which several barons and counts ruled each one their own domains) and finally the King of Spain; it had a House of Representatives of the three sates of the Ancien Régime, that is to say, non-democratic.  The Catalan civil law, in its various forms, continued to exist, even during Franco’s dictatorship.

The Catalan nationalist movement does not come uninterrupted from ancient times, it was born in the 19th century; allow me to copy an excerpt from the Wikipedia:

The Renaixença (“rebirth” or “renaissance”) was a cultural, historical and literary movement that pursued, in the wake of European Romanticism, the recovery of the Catalans’ own language and literature. As time went by, and particularly immediately after the fiasco of the Revolution of 1868(led by the Catalan general Juan Prim), the movement acquired a clear political character, directed to the attainment of self-government for Catalonia within the framework of the Spanish liberal state.

Like most Romantic currents, the Renaixença gave historical analysis a central role. History, in fact, was an integral part of Catalonia’s “rebirth.” Texts on Catalonia’s history — inspired by the Romantic philosophy of history — laid the foundations of a Catalanist movement. (…)

At the heart of many of the works of the Renaixença lay a powerful idea: the Volk. Indeed, the concept of Volk (pl. Völker) played a vital role in mainstream Catalan Romantic nationalism. It has its origins in the writings of German Romantics like Friedrich Carl von SavignyGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and, most notably, Johann Gottfried Herder.

The concept of Volk entered Catalan intellectual circles in the 1830s, stemming from the emphasis on the region’s medieval history and philology. (…). Inspired by the ideas of Herder, Savigny and the entire Scottish School of Common Sense, they asked why the Catalans were different from other Spaniards — especially the Castilians (Conversi 1997: 15) For example, Cortada wanted to determine why, despite its poor natural environment, Catalonia was so much more successful economically than other parts of Spain. In a series of generalizations, he concluded that the “Catalans have succeeded in developing a strong sense of resolution and constancy over the centuries. Another feature of their character was the fact that they were hardworking people” (Llobera 1983: 342). D’Eixalà and Llorens held a similar understanding of the Catalan national character. They held that two characteristics particular to Catalans were common sense (seny) and industriousness. To them, “the traditional Catalan seny was a manifestation of the Volksgeist“, one which made Catalans essentially different from Castilians (Llobera 2004: 75).

The early works on the Catalan Volk would remain on paper long before they entered politics. This is because the Catalan bourgeoisie had not yet abandoned the hope of spearheading the Spanish state (Conversi 1997: 14). Indeed, in the 1830s, the Renaixença was still embryonic and the industrial class still thought that it could at least control the Spanish economy. Notions of Catalonia’s uniqueness mattered little to a group that believed it could integrate and lead the entire country. But this all changed around 1880. After decades of discrimination from Spanish elites, Catalan industrialists buried their dream of leading Spain. As Vilar observes: “It is only because, in its acquisition of the Spanish market, the Catalan industrial bourgeoisie did not succeed either in securing the state apparatus or identifying its interests with those of the whole of Spain, in influential opinion, that Catalonia, this little “fatherland”, finally became the ‘national’ focal point”, (1980: 551)

This switch of allegiance was particularly easy because the idea of a Catalan nation had already matured into a corpus of texts about the region’s “uniqueness” and Volksgeist. Inspired by these works of Romantic nationalism, the Catalan economic elite became conscious of “the growing dissimilitude between the Catalonia’s social structure and that of the rest of the nation” (Vilar 1963: 101). Consequently, Romantic nationalism (and the Volk) expanded beyond its philosophical bounds into the political arena.

In the last third of the 19th century, Catalanism was formulating its own doctrinal foundations, not only among the progressive ranks but also amongst the conservatives. At the same time it started to establish its first political programmes (e.g. Bases de Manresa, 1892), and to generate a wide cultural and association movement of a clearly nationalistic character.


As of today, what is the level of self-government in Catalonia? Spain is an autonomic state, meaning that it is administratively divided in autonomous communities. Their level of autonomy varies but Catalonia and others are in the second level, the first being only for the Basque Country and Navarre. The difference between the first and the second level lies in the fact that the Basques and Navarrese collect all taxes and then give a part to the Spanish government, while Catalonia collects only a part and receives the rest of the money for its budget from the Spanish government. Actually, Spain is a federal State, and the autonomous communities are the state members, just like the länder in Germany.

In Germany the division of competencies of federal and state governments is as follows:

The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany divides authority between the federal government and the states (German: “Länder”),(…)Thus, the federal government can exercise authority only in those areas specified in the Basic Law. The Basic Law divides the federal government’s legislative responsibilities into exclusive powers (Articles 71 and 73), concurrent powers (Articles 72, 74, and 74a), and framework powers (Article 75). The exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the federal government extends to defenseforeign affairsimmigrationtransportationcommunications, and currency standards. The federal and state governments share concurrent powers in several areas, including civil lawrefugee and expellee matters, public welfareland managementconsumer protectionpublic health, and the collection of vital statistics. In the areas of mass medianature conservation, regional planning, and public service regulations, framework legislation limits the federal government’s role to offering general policy guidelines, which the states then act upon by means of detailed legislation. The areas of shared responsibility for the states and the federal government were enlarged by an amendment to the Basic Law in 1969 (Articles 91a and 91b), which calls for joint action in areas of broad social concern such as higher education, regional economic development, and agricultural reform. The states are represented at the federal level through the Bundesrat, which has a role similar to the upper house in a true bicameral parliament. International relations, including international treaties, are primarily the responsibility of the federal level but, as in other federations, the constituent states have limited powers in this area. (…).[3]

One of the major fields in which the states (Länder) are largely sovereign is “culture”, which in Germany includes not only matters like subsidies for the arts but also most education.


In Scotland:

(…) However, under the terms of the Scotland Act, Westminster agreed to devolve some of its responsibilities over the domestic policy of Scotland to a new directly elected Scottish Parliament.[49] Such matters are known as “devolved matters” and include education, health, agriculture and justice.[50] The Scotland Act enabled the Scottish Parliament to pass primary legislation on these issues. A degree of domestic authority, and all foreign policy, remain with the UK Parliament in Westminster.[50] The Scottish Parliament has the power to pass laws and has limited tax-varying capability.[51] Another of the roles of the Parliament is to hold the Scottish Government to account.[52]

The specific devolved matters are all subjects which are not explicitly stated in Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act as reserved matters. All matters that are not specifically reserved are automatically devolved to the Scottish Parliament.[50] Most importantly, this includes agriculture, fisheries and forestry, economic development, education, environment, food standards, health, home affairs, Scots law – courts, police and fire services, local government, sport and the arts, transport, training, tourism, research and statistics and social work.[50] The Scottish Parliament has the ability to alter income tax in Scotland by up to 3 pence in the pound.[51] The 2012 Act conferred further fiscal devolution including borrowing powers and some other unconnected matters such as setting speed limits and control of air guns.

Reserved matters are subjects that are outside the legislative competence of the Scotland Parliament.[51] The Scottish Parliament is unable to legislate on such issues that are reserved to, and dealt with at, Westminster (and where Ministerial functions usually lie with UK Government ministers). These include abortionbroadcasting policy, civil service, common markets for UK goods and services, constitutionelectricity, coal, oil, gas, nuclear energydefence and national security, drug policy, employment, foreign policy and relations with Europe, most aspects of transport safety and regulation, National Lottery, protection of borders, social security and stability of UK’s fiscal, economic and monetary system.


In Catalonia:

Law, Order & Justice
Police Partial
Public Safety (Civil protection, Firearms, gambling) Shared
Civil & Administrative Law (Justice, Registries, Judicial Appointments) Exclusive
Child & Family Protection Exclusive
Consumer Protection Exclusive
Data protection Shared
Civil registry & Statistics Exclusive
Health, Welfare & Social Policy
Social Welfare Exclusive
Equality Exclusive
Social Security Shared
Employment Shared
Health Care Shared
Benevolent/Mutual Societies Shared
Economy, Transport & Environment
Public Infrastructure (Rail, Road, Airports) Shared
Environment (Nature, Contamination, Rivers, Weather) Shared
Economic Planning & Development Shared
Advertising, Rgional Markets and regional controlled origin designations Exclusive
Professional associations Exclusive
Workplace & Industrial safety Partial
Financial (Regional Cooperative Banks, & Financial Markets) Shared
Press & Media Shared
Water (Local drainage Basin) Exclusive
Regional Development (Coast, Housing Rural Services) Exclusive
Public Sector & Cooperative Banks Shared
Energy & Mining Shared
Competition Partial
Agriculture and Animal welfare Exclusive
Fisheries Shared
Hunting & Fishing Exclusive
Local Transport & Communications (Road Trspt, Maritime Rescue) Exclusive
Tourism Exclusive
Culture & Education
Culture (libraries, museums, Film industry, Arts & Crafts…) Shared
Culture (Language Promotion, R & D Projects) Exclusive
Cuture (Sports, Leisure, Events) Exclusive
Education (Primary, secondary, University, Professional & Language) Exclusive
Religious Organisations Exclusive
Cultural, welfare & Education Associations Regulation Exclusive
International Relations (Culture & language, Cross Border relations) Shared
Resources & Spending
Own Tax resources Yes
Allocation by Central Government Convergence Funds
Other resources Co-payments (Health & education)
Resources 60% own resources


Summing up, Catalonia has as much political autonomy as any federated state, more than Scotland and is far from being subdued. And yet, obviously, being independent would be the only step left in the self-government ladder to be taken.

It will continue…

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow

-What were you doing with that thug?

-Dad! You startled me!

-I asked you a question. It’s late.

-Nothing. I did nothing wrong.

-Oh, you didn’t, huh? That’s for me to decide. I don’t want you to see that animal again!

-He’s not animal! If you only knew him…

-Him? Him? It! It is an animal, and you shame me!

-I hate you! You don’t understand! I LOVE HIM!

-Love? Love? You don’t know love!

-I love him! You are such a speciesist!

-Go to your corner and remember: this is my cave and you will do as you are told!

-Mom! Please! Mom!

It could have been like this. I mean, not in English, but a conversation of this sort might have had place in Paleolithic between a Homo sapiens (that is to say, like you and me) father and his daughter.  Don’t picture a man in his forties and a fifteen year old girl, though, because the life expectancy then was somewhere between 30 and 55, so the father might well have been in his mid-twenties and the daughter in her twelve or thirteen. Yes, that’s weird. Kind of. After all, nowadays in our societies there are some places where you could find something like that, so I don’t know. In any case, today our Romeo wouldn’t be a Neanderthal.

I’m writing this as a result of the recent new about present sapiens being a descendent of (obviously) prehistoric sapiens and Neanderthals and Denisovan and an unknown fourth ancestor. Tell me about melting pots.

Let me introduce you to your family:


Your folks from left to right: Neanderthal, Sapiens, Denisovan and mysterious number four.

Above you have realistic depictions of a Neanderthal man and a Denisovan woman (the Sapiens is taken from Quest for Fire). Although, on the web, we can find a lot of versions. Let’s take a peek.

Some Neanderthals:


I couldn’t find any undisputed Denisovans, but Grandma D and this one:


When you google it, all you can find are Neanderthal or Homo Rhodesiensis and Homo Heidelbergensis, which experts maintain are the same species. Here you have some:

r5 r4r3r2

There’s a theory according to which the mysterious fourth would be the Homo Erectus. This is the candidate in various versions:


Of all these ancestors, only our genus still survives, the rest were wiped out by evolution, maybe under the shape of Sapiens.

What draws my attention on this subject is thinking how they interacted. In that time, the population of hominids for the entire world would have been of one million people. Yes, only that. One eighth of London’s or New York’s present population spread in half of the world. For any human group, finding another one would have been something huge, what were the odds? Did they fight? How did they communicate? Are the encounters between species the origins of some ancient myths about strange humanoid creatures? The interbreeding (pardon my French) that has been proved, was a kind of a loot? Did the groups interchange males and females, trading? Were there any interspecies love stories? If so, were there forbidden or allowed?

I’d like to think (since all you can think of  may have happened somehow) that my Romeo Neander and my Juliet Sapiens had a better ending than their literary counterparts, until they died together at the venerable age of 55.

Sources not linked above:

The strange case of Spanish unemployment

Take a look at that:

youth-unemployment-rate-map-full unemploymenteuregions2011_flute_blog

In Spain, almost three people out of ten willing to work are unemployed. Picture that:


As you read this, the unemployment rate in Spain is the 26 %. If you think that’s incredible, wait for the figure for people under 25, it’s the 54.4 %!


How on Earth is that possible? I mean, we are talking about a country in the EU, in which the mean rate is the 10.9 %, only Greece’s (and recently) is higher, and its HDI is the 23rd in the world, way better than other countries with lower unemployment rates.

unemployment stats

Lets’ read what some experts have to say about this issue.

Samuel Bentolila, Pierre Cahuc, Juan Dolado, Thomas Le Barbanchon (three professors and a PhD student) in this article, compare French and Spanish unemployment rates and say:

Behind their apparently similar employment protection legislation (EPL) we detect two main differences often ignored in cross-country comparisons:

  • Spain has a larger gap between the firing costs of workers with permanent and temporary contracts, and
  • a much laxer regulation on the use of temporary

According to the widely used OECD (2004) index of the strictness of EPL, which ranges from 0 to 6, the overall EPL score is 3.0 for France and 3.1 for Spain (where the US has the lowest value, 0.7, and Portugal and Turkey the highest, 4.3). Hence, Spain appears only slightly more regulated than France. However, there are good reasons to think that this average EPL index, based on legal regulations and not on their implementation, does not capture Spanish EPL satisfactorily. Indeed, de facto EPL of temporary jobs is much weaker in Spain than in France, whereas the opposite holds for EPL of permanent jobs.

Considering only red-tape firing costs generated by third agents, such as labour courts and labour authorities, which cannot be compensated for in wage bargaining (since they are not a transfer from the firm to the worker), we find that the gap between both types of contracts is 50% higher gap in Spain than in France.

The causes, according to them, are:

  1. Much higher firing costs for permanent contracts than for temporary ones.
  2. Easiness for temporary contracts.
  3. The loss of jobs due to the bursting of the housing bubble.

I decided to check that out and searched for information in the statistic portals of the OECD the UN, Eurostat and World Bank. The countries represented in the graphics as blue diamonds are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. All the data are from 2010, 2011 and 2012 (more explanations at the end of the post). I’m just a dilettante, not an economist, and perhaps I will misuse some statistics, even if I try to do my best, but regardless of that, I think you will draw your own conclusions.

First of all, let’s see how the index of the strictness of EPL and unemployment correlate:

unrate vs strictness


Before going on, maybe I should dwell a little on

Correlation, causation and r squared.

Wikipedia explains us that: Causation is the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first. says: Two random variables are positively correlated if high values of one are likely to be associated with high values of the other. They are negatively correlated if high values of one are likely to be associated with low values of the other.

But, remember, correlation does not imply causation:

causation correlation

 Wikipedia again: the coefficient of determination, denoted R2 and pronounced R squared, indicates how well data points fit a line or curve. It is a statistic used in the context of statistical models whose main purpose is either the prediction of future outcomes or the testing of hypotheses, on the basis of other related information. It provides a measure of how well observed outcomes are replicated by the model, as the proportion of total variation of outcomes explained by the model.

R squared varies from 0 to 1 and the closer to 1, the better. Not all economists like it, though, as you can read here (one of many sharing opinion). When we add variables we should use the adjusted r squared, to compensate for that addition.  As more independent variables are added to the regression model, unadjusted Rwill generally increase but there will never be a decrease.

Enough of that.

Time to check other variables, for instance, the incidence of temporary jobs.

unrate vs temp

Better correlation, but not good enough. What about firing costs? I have taken into account the difference between the severance pay a worker receives after 9 months and after 4 years working, both graded from 0 to 6, being 6 the countries in which a worker gets more money.

unrate vs fcosts

This one shows a better correlation, but I wouldn’t say it’s significant. Other possibilities that came to my mind are the following:

unrate vs parttime

Why? I realized that, given that a country only needs, in any given moment in time, a certain amount of working hours to provide for all products and services, if these hours were divided by more people, it would not affect the GDP, but would reduce the unemployment. So the percentage of part time jobs could be an interesting variable, but the average hours worked per year and person is even better.  Consider these situations: a) 90 % of part time jobs whose working days are the 90 % of a full time job; b) 30 % of part time jobs whose working days are the 30 % of a full time job. You would have less unemployment in situation b with a lower share of part time jobs.

unrate vs avg hours

It seems that I was not totally wrong, but this factor alone doesn’t explain the unemployment rates.  I also thought of the duration of the unemployment benefits as something that could be discouraging to find a new job and, thus, help to increase the unemployment, but I found out that, apparently, it didn’t.

unrate vs benefits

It’s time to combine them. So I decided to use two of the causes the experts, such as the gap in the firing costs and the variation of construction share in GDP (which is usually negative), and my idea of the average hours per year and person. This is the result:

unrate vs combination

Pretty good, in my not so humble opinion.

You can’t change the construction industry by law but, what if Spain changes the firing costs and the average hours? Let’s use Germany’s, for instance. The unemployment rate in Spain would be approximately 15 %, and the under 25 rate would be somewhere around 30 %, still high, but within normal.

Then, all Spaniards should do is just establish new types of industry or services. Piece of cake, uh? 


And all the above linked webpages.

The best country to live in – Part II

In my last post I presented you some graphs to see in which country a person would  be lucky to be born.

I used data from two indexes, the HDI and the Gini.  There are other indexes we could follow, but the one which I find more interesting is the Happy Planet Index. According to their webpage:

The HPI measures what matters: the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them. The Index uses global data on life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint to calculate this.

Let’s see the classification according to that:

Top ten countries

Costa Rica 64.0
Vietnam 60.4
Colombia 59.8
Belize 59.3
El Salvador 58.9
Jamaica 58.5
Panama 57.8
Nicaragua 57.1
Venezuela 56.9
Guatemala 56.9

Bottom ten countries

South Africa 28.2
Kuwait 27.1
Niger 26.8
Mongolia 26.8
Bahrain 26.6
Mali 26.0
Central African Republic 25.3
Qatar 25.2
Chad 24.7
Botswana 22.6

USA would be number 105; Denmark, number 111; Australia, 76; Sweden,  52 ; United Kingdom,  41; and my country, Spain, number 62. The first two developed countries are New Zealand and Norway, in the positions 29 and 30.

How is that possible? The answer is the Ecological Footprint.

The EF is a per capita measure of the amount of land required to sustain a country’s consumption patterns, measured in terms of global hectares (g ha) which represent a hectare of land with average productive biocapacity.

In other words, and simplifying, if you use industrial products your EF is bigger than if you don’t, which penalizes developed countries.

After all, the P in HPI stands for Planet, not People. I’m more interested in people, though, so today I’m trying to set my own Presbiter Iohannes Real Welfare Index or PIRWI, which sounds funny.

What should be important to measure welfare?

This is the Maslow Pyramid:

Maslow's pyramid

The more levels of needs you have eased just by being born in a country, the better odds you have to be able of having a fulfilled life.

The most important aspects to consider are:

  1. Development. In my opinion it is obvious that the more developed a country is, the better a person can live, because development assures better medical attention, better alimentation, better education and a higher life expectancy. So I’ll take the HDI, which measures all of these.
  2. Experienced well-being is very important too, so I will use this factor from the HPI and will discard the EF, as well as the life expectancy, because it would be redundant.
  3. Large social inequality should be avoided to have a peaceful society. Thus, the Gini coefficient would be useful.

So far, with these ingredients we could make a good PIRWI, but there are some factors that I have left aside, such as:

  1. Crime and Corruption Perception indexes. You can get used to it, but that doesn’t make it right.
  2. Suicide rate, obviously.
  3. Net migration rate. If everybody wants to get out, it can’t be a nice place. It also works the other way around.
  4. Social and economic freedom. The Freedom Index provides the measurement of this point as well as number 4. You can find a larger explanation in the sources.

Problem is that not all the countries have statistical data regarding these aspects, so their use shortens the list quite a lot.  That´s the reason why I have created a second index: the PIRWIF   or Presbiter Iohannes Real Welfare Index of Freedom. You will notice some differences in the rankings.

At the end of this post you can find the sources, the formulas and their explanation, if you’re interested, but now, without further delay…



Click to enlarge

And the PIRWIF


Click to enlarge

And that would be it. Any thoughts?

Nota bene:

The formula for the PIRWI is simple:

pirwi formula

The HDI from United Nations times the Experienced Well Being from the Happy Planet Index (both positive aspects) divided by the Gini coefficient (negative), which is higher when the country has more inequality, that is to say,  when the income differences in a society are bigger (rich people are richer and poor people, poorer)

The formula for the PIRWIF is a little trickier:

pirwif formula

In every data I took the last available one and sometimes they are from different years.

The Freedom Index (quite thorough) structure is as follows:

I. Security and safety

A. Government’s threat to a person

1. Extrajudicial killings

2. Torture

3. Political imprisonment

4. Disappearances


B. Society’s threat to a person

1. Intensity of violent conflicts

2. Level of organized conflict (internal)

3. Female genital mutilation

4. Son preference

5. Homicide

6. Human trafficking

7. Sexual violence

8. Assault

9. Level of perceived criminality


C. Threat to private property

1. Theft

2. Burglary

3. Inheritance

D. Threat to foreigners


II. Movement

A. Forcibly displaced populations

B. Freedom of foreign movement

C. Freedom of domestic movement

D. Women’s freedom of movement

 III. Expression

A. Press killings

B. Freedom of speech

C. Laws and regulations that influence media content

D. Political pressures and controls on media content

E. Dress code in public

IV. Relationship freedoms

A. Freedom of assembly and association

B. Parental authority

C. Government restrictions on religion

D. Social hostility toward religion

E. Male-to-male relationships

F. Female-to-female relationships

G. Age of consent for homosexual couples

H. Adoption by homosexuals




The best country to live in – Part I

Gapminder is a website in which you can cross several statitistic data from around the world and obtain a graphic. In their own words:

Fighting devastating ignorance with fact-based worldviews everyone can understand.

Gapminder is a non-profit venture – a modern “museum” on the Internet – promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Two and a half years ago I started tinkering with statistics to see if there was correlation between the unemployment rate and public debt, or the perception of corruption, or the value of the largest companies, or the percentage of state income coming from taxes. Having failed to establish such correlations , either from lack of data or my own inability, I found what should be the best and worst countries to live.

First of all, some provision of vocabulary would be in order.

Gini Index: is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income distribution of a nation’s residents.  A Gini coefficient of one (or 100%) expresses maximal inequality among values (for example where only one person has all the income). In other words, the bigger, the worse.

Human Development Index is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers (low, medium, high, very high) of human development. In other words, the bigger, the better.

Combining both, as for 2000 (more countries in the graph), this is the result:


The more to the right and down, the better.

Gross Domestic Product:  is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a year. GDP per capita (aka per person) is often considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living. GDP per capita is not a measure of personal income.

Purchasing Power Parity: (PPP) is a component of some economic theories and is a technique used to determine the relative value of different currencies.PPP exchange rates help to avoid misleading international comparisons that can arise with the use of market exchange rates. In other words, it is a way to compare how expensive is what yoy buy according to what you earn in any given country.

Inflation adjustment: is just taking out of the equation how the cost of living grows as time goes by.


Again, right and down is good.

And I finally considered how to reflect the happiness of people or the lack of it. No further explanation needed for the next graphic.


In your opinion, what are the best countries to live?

First things first

No matter what the about says, I’m not really the Presbiter Iohannes, or am I?

Who was the fellow, though?

Presbiter Iohannes, aka Presbyter Johannes, aka Prester John (and Preste Juan, Prete Gianni, Prêtre Jean, and so on) is a mythical King and Priest who, in the Middle Ages (1165 to be exact), wrote a letter to Manuel I Commenus, the Byzantine Emperor, bragging about his kingdom with the excuse of giving thanks for a present.

In this kingdom of his there are lots of fantastic creatures and landscapes, such as, but not limited to: cynocephalus, blemmyes, sprites, cyclops, griffins, monopods, a miraculous fountain, a sea of sand and a river of stones, the ten tribes of Israel, amazons, bragmans, a mirror to watch all of his vast kingdom and a lot more. I mean  a lot.

A blemmy, a monopod and a cyclops hanging around in Prester John’s Kingdom

The letter is a forgery (apparently written by jews from Northern Italy) and the two emperors didn’t buy it. The pope, though, had to act. After all, if there was a Christian Priest and King surrounded by infidels he should do something about it. So he wrote a one thousand word letter to the Presbyter and sent it via an ambassador and missioner, Phillip of Venice (poor guy), since the Prester was a nestorian, an heretic.

There were mentions to the presbyter previous to this letter in several ways: from the christians in India of the Acts of Thomas, to the figure of the syrian John the Presbyter, to the Chronicle of Otto of Freising.

Did he really exist? If the question refers to the king and patriarch of the letter, then he didn’t.  But there may have been a christian patriarch and/or king somewhere in India, the Mongol Empire or Ethiopia which served as a basis for the legend.

So why did I choose this character?

I found the story about the Presbiter Iohannes in one of my favourite books, Baudolino by Umberto Eco, which I strongly recommend.


But the main reason is that nobody knows why the forgers wrote it or what for, what they expected to achieve. Or was it just  trolling avant la lettre?

troll face


Presbiter Iohannes, potentia et virtute Dei et domini nostri Iesu Christi dominus dominantium, Emanueli, Romeon gubernatori, salute gaudere et gratia ditandi ad ulteriora transire.

Presbiter Iohannes, potentia et virtute Dei et domini nostri Iesu Christi dominus dominantium, Emanueli, Romeon gubernatori, salute gaudere et gratia ditandi ad ulteriora transire.

Nuntiabatur apud maiestatem nostram, quod diligebas excellentiam nostram et mentio altitudinis nostrae erat apud te. Sed per apocrisiarium nostrum cognovimus, quod quaedam ludicra et iocunda volebas nobis mittere, unde delectaretur iusticia nostra.

Etenim si homo sum, pro bono habeo, et de nostris per apocrisiarium nostrum tibi aliqua transmittimus, quia scire volumus et desideramus, si nobiscum rectam fidem habes et si per omnia credis in domino nostro Iesu Christo.

Cum enim hominem nos esse cognoscamus, te Graeculi tui Deum esse existimant, cum te mortalem et humanae corruptioni subiacere cognoscamus. De consueta largitatis nostrae munificentia, si aliquorum, quae ad gaudia pertinent, habes indigentiam, per apocrisiarium nostrum et per scedulam dilectionis tuae nos certifica et impetrabis. Accipe ierarcham in nomine nostro et utere tibi, quia libenter utimur lechito tuo, ut sic confortemus et corrobore mus virtutem nostram ad invicem. Tigna quoque nostrum respice et considera. Quodsi ad dominationem nostram venire volueris, maiorem et digniorem domus nostrae te constituemus, et poteris frui habundantia nostra, et ex his, quae apud nos habundant, si redire volueris, locupletatus redibis. Memorare novissima tua et in aeternum non peccabis.

Si vero vis cognoscere magnitudinem et excellentiam nostrae celsitudinis et in quibus tennis dominetur potentia nostra, intellige et sine dubitatione crede, quia ego, presbiter Iohannes, dominus sum dominantium et praecello in omnibus divitiis, quae sub caelo sunt, virtute et potentia omnes reges universae terrae. Septuaginta duo reges nobis tributarii sunt. Devotus sum christianus, et ubique pauperes christianos, quos clementiae nostrae regit imperium, defendimus et elemosinis nostris sustentamus. In voto habemus visitare sepulchrum domini cum maximo exercitu, prout decet gloriam maiestatis nostrae humiliare et debellare inimicos crucis Christi et nomen eius benedictum exaltare.

In tribus Indiis dominatur magnificentia nostra, et transit terra nostra ab ulteriore India, in qua corpus sancti Thomae apostoli requiescit, per desertum et progreditur ad solis ortum, et redit per declivum in Babilonem desertam iuxta turrim Babel. Septuaginta duae provinciae serviunt nobis, quarum paucae sunt christianorum, et unaquaeque habet regem per se, qui omnes sunt nobis tributarii. In terra nostra oriuntur et nutriuntur elephantes, dromedarii, cameli, ypotami, cocodrilli, methagallinarii, cametheternis, thinsiretae, pantherae, onagri, leones albi et rubei, unsi albi, merulae albae, cicades mutae, grifones, tigres, lamiae, hienae, boves agrestes, sagittarii, homines agrestes, homines cornuti, fauni, satiri et mulieres eiusdem generis, pigmei, cenocephali, gygantes, quorum altitudo est quadraginta cubitorum, monoculi, cyclopes et avis, quae vocatur fenix, et rete omne genus animalium, quae sub caelo sunt.

Habemus alias gentes, quae solummodo vescuntur carnibus tam hominum quam brutorum animalium ei abortivorum, quae nunquam timent mori. Et cum ex bis aliquis moritur, tam parentes eius quam extranei avidissime comedunt eum, dicentes: “Sacratissimum est humanam carnem manducare”. Nomina quarum sunt haec: Gog et Magog, Amic, Agic, Arenar, Defar, Fontineperi, Conei, Samantae, Agrimandi, Salterei, Armei, Anofragei, Annicefalei, Tasbei, Alanei. Istas nempe et alias multas generationes Alexander puer magnus, rex Macedonum, conclu sit inter altissimos montes in partibus aquilonis. Quas cum volumus ducimus super inimicos nostros et data eis licentia a maiestate nostra, quod eos devorent, continuo nullus ho minum, nullum animalium remanet, quin statim devoretur. Inimicis namque devoratis, reducimus eas ad propria loca. Et ideo reducimus, quia, si absque nobis reverterentur, omnes homines et universa animalia, quae invenirent, penitus devorarent. Istae quidem pessimae generationes ante consummationem saeculi tempore Antichristi egredientur a quatuor partibus terrae et circuibunt universa castra sanctorum et civitatem magnam Romam, quam proposuimus dare filio nostro, qui primo nascetur nobis, cum universa Italia et tota Germania et utraque Gallia, cum Anglia, Britannia et Scotia; dabimus ei Hispaniam et totam terram usque ad mare coagulatum. Nec mirum, quia numerus earum est sicut harena, quae est in litore maris, quibus certe nulla gens, nullum regnum resistere poterit. Hae vero generationes, sicut quidam propheta prophetavit, propter suas abhominationes non erunt in iudicio, sed deus mittet super eas ignem de caelo, et ita consummabit eas, quod nec etiam cinis ex eis remanebit.

Terra nostra melle fluit lacte habundat. In aliqua terra nostra

nulla venena nocent nec garrula rana coaxat,

scorpio nullus ibi, nec serpens serpit in herba.

Venenata animalia non possunt habitare in eo loco nec aliquos laedere. Inter paganos per quandam provinciam nostram transit fluvius, qui vocatur Ydonus. Fluvius iste de paradiso progrediens expandit sinus suos per universam provinciam illam diversis meatibus, et ibi inveniuntur naturales lapides, smaragdi, saphiri, carbunculi, topazii, crisoliti, onichini, berilli, ametisti, sardii et plures preciosi lapides. Ibidem nascitur herba, quae vocatur assidios, cuius radicem si quis super se portaverit, spiritum immundum effugat et cogit eum dicere, quis sit et unde sit et no men eius. Quare immundi spiritus in terra illla neminem audent invadere. In alia quadam provincia nostra universum piper nascitur et colligitur, quod in frumentum et in annonam et corium et pannos commutatur. Est au tem terra illa nemorosa ad modum salicti, plena per omnia serpentibus. Sed cum piper maturescit, accendunt nemora et serpentes fugientes intrant cavemas suas, et tunc excuti tur piper de arbusculis et desiccatum coquitur, sed qualiter coquatur, nullus extraneus scire permittitur. Sed cum piper maturescit veniunt universi populi de proximis regionibus, secum ferentes paleas, stipulas et tigna aridissima, quibus cingunt totum nemus undique, et cum ventus flaverit vehementer, ponunt ignem infra nemus et extra, ne aliquis serpens extra nemus possit exire, et sic omnes serpentes in igne fortiter accenso moriuntur praeter illos, qui suas intrant cavemas. Ecce consumpto igne viri et mulieres, parvi et magni, portantes furcas in manibus, intrant nemus et omnes serpentes assos furcis extra nemus proiciunt et ex eis densissimos acervos componunt, veluti in area fit paleis granis excussis. Sic siccatur piper et de arbusculis combustis colligitur et coquitur.

Quod nemus situm est ad radicem montis Olimpi, unde fons perspicuus oritur, omnium in se specierum saporem retinens. Variatur autem sapor per singulas horas diei et noctis, et progreditur itinere dierum trium non longe a paradyso, unde Adam fuit expulsus. Si quis de fonte illo ter ieiunus gustaverit, nullum ex illa die infirmitatem patietur, semperque erit quasi in aetate XXX duorum annorum, quamdiu vixerit. Ibi sunt lapilli, qui vocantur midriosi, quos frequenter ad partes nostras deportare solent aquilae, per quos reiuvenescunt et lumen recuperant. Si quis illum in digito portaverit, ei lumen non deficit, et si est imminutum, restituitur et cum plus inspicitur, magis lumen acuitur. Legitimo carmine consecratus hominem reddit invisibilem, fugat odia, concordiam parat, pellit invidiam.

Inter cetera, quae mirabiliter in terra nostra contingunt, est harenosum mare sine aqua. Harena enim movetur et tumescit in undas ad similitudinem omnis maris et nunquam est tranquillum. Hoc mare neque navigio neque olio modo transiri potest, et ideo cuiusmodi terra ultra sit sciri non potest. Et quamvis omnino careat aqua, inveniuntur tamen iuxta ripam a nostra parte diversa genera piscium ad comedendum gratissima et sapidissima, alibi nunquam visa. Tribus dietis longe ab hoc mari sunt montes quidam, ex quibus descendit fluvius lapidum eodem modo sine aqua, et fluit per terram nostram usque ad mare harenosum. Tribus diebus in septimana fluit et labuntur parvi et magni lapides et trahunt secum tigna usque ad mare harenosum, et postquam mare intraverit fluvius, lapides et tigna evanescunt nec ultra apparent. Nec quamdiu fluit, aliquis eum transire potest. Aliis quatuor diebus patet transitus.

Est etiam inter mare harenosum et inter praedictos montes in planicie lapis admirandae virtutis, vim in se habens fere incredibilis medicinae. Curat enim tantum christianos vel id fieri cupientes, a quacumque detineantur infirmitate, hoc modo. Est lapis quidam cavus ad modum conchae aeneae, in quo semper est aqua in altitudine quatuor digitorum, et custoditur semper a duobus senibus, reverendae sanctitatis viris. Illi primo interrogant venientes, si Christiani sint vel fieri velint, deinde, si sanitatem toto corde desiderent. Quod quum fuerint pro fessi, vestibus propriis exuti, intrant concham. Et si vera professi sunt, aqua incipit crescere et adeo crescit, quod cooperit ita eum totum, quod super caput eius ascendit. Idque tercio facit. Deinde paulatim decrescit et redit ad cottidianam mensuram. Et sic qui intraverat ascendit de aqua sanus factus a lepra vel a quacumque detinebatur infirmitate.

Iuxta desertum inter montes inhabitabiles sub terta fluit rivulus quidam, ad quem non patet aditus nisi ex fortuito casu. Aperitur enim aliquando terra et si quis inde transit tunc potest intrare et sub velocitate exire, ne forte terra claudatur. Et quicquit de harena rapit, lapides precio si sunt et gemmae preciosae, quia harena et sabulum nichil sunt nisi lapides preciosi et gemmae preciosae. Et rivulus iste fluit in aliud flumen amplioris magnitudinis, in quod homines terrae nostrae intrant et maximam habun dantiam preciosorum lapidum inde trahunt; nec audent illos vendere, nisi prius excellentiae nostrae ipsos demonstrent. Et si eos in thesauro nostro vel ad usum potentiae nostrae retinere volumus data medietate precii accipimus; sin autem, libere eos vendere possunt. Nutriuntur autem in terra illa pueri in aqua, ita ut propter inveniendos lapides aliquando tribus vel quatuor mensibus sub aqua tantum vivant.

Ultra fluvium vero lapidum sunt X tribus Iudaeorum, qui quamvis fingant sibi reges, servi tamen nostri sunt et tributarli excellentiae nostrae.

In alia quadam provincia iuxta torridam zonam sunt vermes, qui lingua nostra dicuntur salamandrae. Isti vermes non possunt vivere nisi in igne, et faciunt pelliculam quandam circa se, sicut alli vermes, qui faciunt sericum. Haec pellicula a dominabus palatii nostri studiose ope ratur, et inde habemus vestes et pannos ad omnem usum excellentiae nostrae. Isti panni non nisi in igne fortiter ac censo lavantur.

In auro et argento et lapidibus preciosis, elephantibus, dromedariis, camelis et canibus habundat serenitas nostra. Omnes extraneos hospites et peregrinos recipit mansuetudo nostra. Nullus pauper est inter nos. Fur nec praedo invenitur apud nos, nec adulator habet ibi locum neque avaricia. Nulla divisio est apud nos. Homines nostri habundant in omnibus diviciis. Equos paucos habemus et viles. Neminem nobis habere credimus parem in diviciis nec in numero gentium.

Quando procedimus ad bella contra inimicos nostros, XIII cruces magnas et praecelsas, factas ex auro et lapidibus pretiosis, in singulis plaustris loco vexillorum ante faciem nostram portari facimus, et unamquamque ipsarum secuntur X milia militum et C milia peditum armatorum, exceptis aliis, qui sarcinis et curribus et inducendis victualibus exercitus deputati sunt. Cum vero simpliciter equitamus, ante maiestatem nostram praecedit lignea crux, nulla pictura neque auro aut gemmis ornata, ut semper simus memores passionis domini nostri Iesu Christi, et vas unum aureum, plenum terra, ut cognoscamus, quia caro nostra in propriam redigetur originem id est terram. Et aliut vas argenteum, plenum auro, portatur ante nos, ut omnes intelligant nos dominum esse dominantium. Omnibus diviciis, quae sunt in mundo, superhabundat et praecellit magnificentia nostra.

Inter nos nullus mentitur, nec aliquis potest mentiri. Et si quis ibi mentiri coeperit, statim moritur id est quasi mortuus inter nos reputatur, nec eius mentio fit apud nos id est nec honorem ulterius apud nos consequitur. Omnes sequimur veritatem et diligimus nos invicem. Adulter non est inter nos. Nullum vicium apud nos regnat. Singulis annis visitamus corpus sancti Danielis prophetae cum exercitu magno in Babilone deserta, et omnes armati sunt propter tyros et alios serpentes, qui vocantur terrentes. Apud nos capiuntur pisces, quorum sanguine tinguitur purpura. Municiones habemus multas, gentes fortissimas et diversiformes. Dominamur Amazonibus et etiam Pragmanis.

Palatium vero, quod inhabitat sublimitas nostra, ad instar et similitudinem palacii, quod apostolus Thomas ordinavit Gundoforo, regi Indorum, in officinis et reliqua structura per omnia simile est illi. Laquearia, tigna quoque et epistilia sunt de lignis cethim. Coopertura eius dem palacii est de ebeno, ne aliquo casu possit comburi. In extremitatibus vero super culmen palacii sunt duo poma aurea, et in unoquoque sunt duo carbunculi, ut aurum splendeat in die et carbunculi luceant in nocte. Maiores palacii portae sunt de sardonico immixto cornu cerastis, ne aliquis latenter possit intrare cum veneno, ceterae ex ebeno, fenestrae de cristallo. Mensae, ubi curia nostra comedit, aliae ex auro aliae ex ametisto, columpnae, quae sustinent mensas, ex ebore. Ante palacium nostrum est platea quaedam, in qua solet iusticia nostra spectare triumphos in duello. Pavimentum est de onichino et parietes intexti onichino, ut ex virtute lapidis animus crescat pugnantibus.

In praedicto palacio nostro non accenditur lumen in nocte nisi quod nutritur balsamo. Camera, in qua requiescit sublimitas nostra, mirabili opere auro et omni genere lapidum est ornata. Si vero alicubi propter ornatum sit onichinus, circa ipsum eiusdem quantitatis quatuor sunt corneolae, ut ex virtute earum iniquitas onichini temperetur. Balsamum semper in eadem camera ardet. Lectus noster est de saphiro propter virtutem castitatis. Mulieres speciosissimas habemus, sed non accedunt ad nos nisi causa procreandorum filiorum quater in anno, et sic a nobis sanctificatae, ut Bersabee a David, redit unaquaeque ad locum suum.

Semel in die comedit curia nostra. In mensa nostra comedunt omni die XXX milia hominum praeter ingre dientes et exeuntes. Et hi omnes accipiunt expensas singulis diebus de camera nostra tam in equis quam in aliis expensis. Haec mensa est de pretioso smaragdo, quam su stinent duae columpnae de ametisto. Huius lapidis virtus neminem sedentem ad mensam permittit inebriari.

Ante fores palatii nostri iuxta locum, ubi pugnantes in duello agonizant, est speculum praecelsae magnitudinis, ad quod per CXXV gradus ascenditur. Gradus vero sunt de porfiritico, partim de serpentino et alabastro a tercia parte inferius. Hinc usque ad terciam partem superius sunt de cristallo lapide et sardonico. Superior vero tercia pars de ametisto, ambra, iaspide et panthera. Speculum vero una sola columpna innititur. Super ipsam vero basis iacens, super basim columpnae duae, super quas item aliabasis et super ipsam quatuor columpnae, super quas item alia basis et super ipsam VIII columpnae, super quas item alia basis et super ipsam columpnae XVI, super quas item alia basis, super quam columpnae XXXII, super quas item alia basis et super ipsam columpnae LXIIII, super quas item alia basis, super quam item columpnae LXIIII, super quas item alia basis et super ipsam columpnae XXXII. Et sic descendendo diminuuntur columpnae, sicut ascendendo creverunt, usque ad unam. Columpnae autem et bases eiusdem generis lapidum sunt, cuius et gradus, per quos ascenditur ad eas. In summitate vero supremae columpnae est speculum, tali arte consecratum, quod om nes machinationes et omnia, quae pro nobis et contra nos in adiacentibus et subiectis nobis provinciis fiunt, a contuentibus liquidissime videri possunt et cognosci. Custoditur autem a XII milibus armatorum tam in die quam in nocte, ne forte aliquo casu frangi possit aut deici.

Singulis mensibus serviunt nobis reges VII, unus quisque illorum in ordine suo, duces LXII, comites CCCLXV in mensa nostra, exceptis illis, qui diversis officiis deputati sunt in curia nostra. In mensa nostra comedunt omni die iuxta latus nostrum in dextra parte archiepiscopi XII, in sinistra parte episcopi XX, praeter patriarcham sancti Thomae et protopapaten Sarmagantinum et archiprotopapaten de Susis, ubi thronus et solium gloriae nostrae residet et palacium imperiale. Quorum unusquisque singulis mensibus redeunt ad domum propriam per vices suas. Ceteri a latere nostro nunquam discedunt. Abbates vero secundum numerum dierum anni serviunt nobis in capella nostra et singulis mensibus redeunt ad propria, et alii totidem singulis kalendis ad idem officium capellae revertuntur.

Habemus aliud palatium non maioris longitudinis sed maioris altitudinis et pulcritudinis, quod factum est per revelationem, quae, antequam nasceremur, apparuit patri nostro, qui ob sanctitatem et iusticiam, quae mirabili ter vigebant in eo, vocabatur Quasideus. Dictum nam que est ei in somnis: “Fac palatium litio tuo, qui nasciturus est tibi, qui erit rex regum terrenorum et dominus dominantium universae terrae. Et habebit illud palatium a Deo sibi totem gratiam collatam: quod ibi nullus unquam esuriet, nullus infirmabitur, nullus etiam intus existens poterit mori in illa die, qua intraverit. Et si validissimam famem quis habuerit et infirmetur ad mortem, si intraverit palatium et steterit ibi per aliquam moram, ita exiet satur, ac si de centum ferculis comedisset, et ita sanus, quasi nullam infirmitatem in vita sua passus fuisset”.

Nascetur etiam in eo fons quidam super omnia sapidissimus et odoriferus, qui nunquam exibit de palacio, sed de uno angulo, quo nascetur, fluet per palacium ad alium angulum ex adverso, et ibi recipiet eum terra, et sub terra revertetur ad ortum suum, quemadmodum sol de occidente revertitur sub terra ad orientem. Sapiet enim in ore cuiusque gustantis quicquid optabit comedere et bibere. Tanto siquidem odore replebit palacium, ac si omnia genera pigmentorum, aromatum et unguentorum ibi pilarentur et commoverentur et multo his plus omnibus. De quo quidem fonte si quis per triennium et trimensium et tres septimanas et per tres dies et per tres horas omni die ter ieiunus gustaverit et in tribus horis ita gustaverit, quod nec ante ipsam horam et post horam, sed in spacio, quod est infra principium et finem uniuscuiusque istarum trium horarum, ter ieiunus gustaverit, ante siquidem trecentos annos et tres menses et tres septimanas et tres dies et tres horas non morietur, et erit semper in aetate extremae iuventutis. Porro quicumque tamdiu vixerit, in ultima die praedictorum temporum convocabit parentes et amicos suos et dicet eis: “Amici mei et proximi mei, ecce iam cito moriar. Rogo vos, ut claudatis super me sepul chrum, et orate pro me”. Hoc nempe dicto ilico intrabit sepulchrum et, valedicens eis, deponet se, quasi velit dormire et ut impleatur prophetia “finita iam hora reddet animam creatori suo”. Videntes autem hoc omnes more solito plangent super corpus dilecti et clauso sepulchro commendant eum domino et recedunt. Mane facto Quasideus, pater meus, perterritus de tanta visione, surrexit et, cum cogitaret et multum esset sollicitus, audivit alti sonam vocem, quam et omnes, qui secum aderant, audie runt dicentem: “O Quasideus, fac quod praeceptum est tibi, noli aliquo modo hesitare, quia omnia erunt, sicut tibi praedicta sunt”.Ad istam nempe vocem admodum confortatus est pater meus et statim praecepit palatium fieri, in cuius compositione non sunt misi lapides preciosi et aurum optimum liquatum pro cemento.

Caelum eiusdem, id est tectum, est de lucidissimis saphiris, et clarissimi topazii passim sunt interpositi, ut saphiri ad similitudinem purissimi caeli et topacii in modum stellarum palatium illuminent. Pavimentum vero est de magnis tabulis cristallinis. Camera nec alia divisio est infra palatium. Quinquaginta columnae de auro purissi mo ad modum acus formatae intra palatium iuxta parietes sunt dispositae. In unoquoque angulo est una, reliquae infra ipsas locatae sunt. Longitudo unius cuiusque columpnae est LX cubitorum, grossitudo est, quantum duo homines suis ulnis circumcingere possunt, et unaquaeque in suo cacumine habet unum carbunculum adeo magnum, ut est magna amphora, quibus illuminatur palatium ut mundus illuminatur a sole. Sed si quaeris, quare columpnae sint ut acus acutae? Hac videlicet de causa, quia, si ita essent grossae superius ut inferius, pavimentum et totum palatium non ita illuminaretur splendore carbunculorum. Tanta est namque claritas ibi, ut nichil tam exiguum, tam subtile possit excogitari, si in pavimento esset, quin posset ab aliquo intueri. Nulla fenestra nec aliquod foramen est ibi, ne claritas carbunculorum et aliorum lapidum claritate serenissimi caeli et solis aliquo modo possit obnubilari. Porta est una in eo de purissimo et lucidissimo cristallo, circumcincta de auro fulvissimo, posita ad orientem, altitudo cuius est centum XXX cubitorum, quae quando sublimitas nostra venit ad palatium, per se aperitur et clauditur, nullo eam tangente. Sed quando alli intrant, ostiarii eam claudunt et aperiunt. Omni siquidem die intramus palacium istud ad bibendum de fonte, quando sumus in civitate illa, in qua est palacium, quae dicitur Briebric. Quando vero equitamus, facimus de fonte illo, quocumque imus, nobiscum portari, et omni die ter ieiuni gustamus, sicut in paterna visione praeceptum est. In die nativitatis nostrae et cotiens coronamur, intramus palatium istud et tamdiu sumus intus, donec po tuissemus ibi comedisse, et inde eximus saturi, ac si omni genere ciborum essemus repleti.

Si iterum quaeris, cum creator omnium fecerit nos praepotentissimum et gloriosissimum super omnes mortales, quare sublimitas nostra digniori quam presbiteratus nomine nuncupari se non permittat, non debet prudentia tua admirari. Plures enim in curia nostra ministeriales habemus, qui digniori nomine et officio, quantum ad ecclesiasticam dignitatem spectat, et etiam malori quam nos in divinis officiis praediti sunt. Dapifer enim noster primas est et rex, pincerna noster archiepiscopus et rex, camera rius noster episcopus et rex, marescalcus noster rex et archimandrita, princeps cocorum rex et abbas. Et icirco altitudo nostra non est passa se nominari eisdem nominibus aut ipsis ordinibus insigniri, quibus curia nostra piena esse videtur, et ideo minori nomine et inferiori gradu propter humilitatem magis elegit nuncupari. De gloria et potentia nostra non possumus ad praesens satis tibi dicere. Sed cum veneris ad nos, dices, quia vere sumus dominus dominantium universae terrae. Hoc tantillum interim scias, quod extenditur terra nostra in partem unam fere ad quatuor menses in amplitudine, in altera vero parte nemo potest scite quantum protendatur dominium nostrum.

Si potes dinumerare stellas caeli et harenam maris, dinumera et dominium nostrum et potestatem nostram.