Well the difference between retired and "deadbeat protectorates, and pixel huggers" as you call them is, that retired already have done alot of both their original alliance, and the game as a whole. They invisted time, energy and money, over several years. Asking them to go on VM, afterall they have done for game, just because they not able to be as active as they where in the past, is outright cruel.
They have fought their wars, Yarr and by extension Swagrr is made up of mainly former high ranking Arrgh members. The alliance that have without a doubt, taken a part in more wars then any other alliance.
Who's normal playstyle can admittedly be exhausting in the long run.
Even so if they able to become more active again, they often either rejoin Arrgh, join Grumpy, or end up as alliance leader of some other alliance.
My guess is, other alliances retirement homes, work much the same, else they just stay around as half-inactive whales.
But back to treaties.
Treaties being used as a casus belli, is nothing new: "Few people seem to realize that treaties themselves have significant downsides which erode your sovereignty, earn you enemies and makes you a target for wars, the exact things that treaties are supposed to protect you from."
As said by Ogaden in 2015.
It's explain Arrgh stand on treaties, why we choose not just to be, but stay as a paperless alliance.