No fair! How come the CIA doesn’t deliver bags of cash to me? I’m sure I could stay bought at least as well as the typical third-world puppet. (We all know those standards aren’t too high.) It’s a sure thing I could find some cronies to share the loot with. Heck, I’d probably have cronies crawling out of the woodwork as soon as they learned I was the source of buckets of untraceable dollars. I’ll bet I could even find a warlord or two to fund. So why not me? Why not you? But since it’s not us, I’d like to ask the CIA: Are you being sure to write suspicious activity reports (SARs) on yourself for sneaking all that secret dough out of the country? Are you going to arrest yourself and confiscate all your own assets any time soon? P.S. If you ever do start delivering to me, I prefer gold. Paper is so ticky-tacky. Thank you.
Man spends (fortunately small) life savings. On a carnival game. Wins a stuffed banana. With dreadlocks. No doubt it was all the carnival operator’s fault. The idiot victim will probably end up getting compensation and tax-paid counseling.
This is not a good way to go Outlaw. Still, it’s pretty amazing this disappearing mom remained between the cracks so long even in the Surveillance Age.
NOTE: Somehow, comments got turned off on this post. Links posts don’t usually get a lot of comment, anyhow. But I just caught the problem and turned that feature back on, in case anyone’s interested.
Sandy is a writer, businessman and soi disant recovering lawyer. Currently, he’s getting ready to relocate from Panama to Chile to work on the Galt’s Gulch Chile community project. You’ll find contact information for him at the bottom of this post.
But first, Sandy offered to answer some questions about going offshore. I asked him a few — Q&A below. Please feel free to ask your own questions in the comments. Sandy says he’ll check in to answer, but won’t get into debates — both because he is, after all, a recovering lawyer and because going expat is yet another question people are going to make up their own minds about, no matter what anybody says.
Q. The arm of the U.S. government is long. It reaches clear around the world. Why do you think anybody might be more safe outside the U.S. than in it?
A. Good question, but it is based on the false assumption that just because the USG can do ANYTHING,* that it therefore can do EVERYTHING. Well, it can’t. It lives under the sames laws that underly all economic calculations — cost benefit analysis. With limited resources (and all resources are limited) you have to pick your battles carefully. Yes, any given target can be smashed, but that just mean other targets get off Scott free. So for all practical purposes, out of sight, out of mind.
Q. There’s a lot of truth to what people say about expats being welcomed because they have money (or because the locals think they have money). So this is a two parter: How vulnerable to do you think Americans abroad are likely to be in local hard times? And what happens to American expats if the USD turns to toilet paper while they’re living in another country?
A. First the assumption about why Americans and other expats are welcome. Sure some locals want to suck off the gringo teat. However, they can be easily avoided by living away from tourist and expat enclaves. I will soon be moving to live in my fifth country. I have acquired many genuine friends around the world. People everywhere like friendly, interesting people and expats are some of the most interesting people in the world … even Canadians.
As to hard times and the dollar’s decline, I would have to ask the questions why are you contemplating moving to countries that are headed toward hard times and why are you still holding your wealth in US dollars? There are countries with exploding economies, budgetary surpluses, low cost of living and (relatively) hard currencies, not to mention the availability of land, gold, etc.
Q. A lot of people mention age or health as reasons not to uproot and go to another country. What do you have to say to that?
A. Much of Latin America, Asia and Oceania have better and cheaper health care than the US. Google medical tourism. With regard to age, I am just a few months away from the 2/3 of a century mark. The reality is that old folks think old. What that means in practice is that they are unwilling (not unable!) to accept change. Well if that is you, brother, do I have bad news. Change is coming to you and I believe it will be far greater and far more devastating than moving to Uruguay or the like.
Q. Most people just don’t want to be foreigners, which is understandable. They are genuinely content where they are. They have a stake in their lands, homes, families, etc. Why are you so adamant that everybody needs to get out of the U.S.?
Q. First, who says you have to be a “foreigner”? I have found it surprisingly easy to become a part of every local community I’ve lived in. People are people wherever you go and you already know about people.
I am not adamant that everyone leave the US. However, if YOU personally feel it is to your benefit to do so, you should. Family and friends? What I advocate is that rather than everyone going down the tubes together, that you get yourself out, show the way and provided a soft landing for others to come later if they feel the need.
With regard to property, well a lot of Jews felt they should stay in Germany to protect their assets. Most ended up with neither their property nor their lives. If that seems a big overly dramatic or unlikely in your “free” country, okay, how about just the property. What guarantee do you have you will be allowed to keep it? The answer is none. In the US everything you own can be taken by the USG via eminent domain or executive order. Ditto for most other advanced western countries.
Consider the monkey trap. You bore a whole in a gourd, basket or whatever, that is just big enough to admit a monkey’s paw. You tie the gourd to a tree. Then you put a banana, sweets or whatever the monkey likes to eat, inside. When the monkey grabs the banana and tries to pull his hand out, he cannot, because his fist is now too large. When you approach the trapped monkey, you can simply throw a net over him. Right up until the net drops, he could easily escape simply by releasing the banana. Don’t trade your freedom for the illusion that you can hang onto your things.
Q. You’ve commented that a lot of reasons for not wanting to leave the U.S. aren’t real reasons at all. People are either just afraid of change or they’ve gotten a wildly distorted idea of what some other country is like via the media (e.g. Mexico is nothing but violent drug lords from border to border). What would you like to say to these people?
A. You have to be true to yourself. If you are simply afraid of the unknown, drop the rationalizations and admit the truth. Then if you still want to get out, make the unknown known and base your decision on facts, not dark fantasies.
To get the facts, turn your TV OFF. Do not read newspapers nor Department of State warnings. Instead, there are two things you should do.
First, go on line and look for expat blogs and mailing lists in the countries you are considering. There you will get the day-to-day reality from people who are living it. Sign up for the lists. ASK QUESTIONS.
Second, if at all possible, visit one or more of your target countries. The longer the visit, the better, but anything is better than nothing. Talk to expats, but be sure to talk to locals as well. Don’t know the language? You will probably find English-speaking locals who will fall all over themselves to talk to you in English (yes, really). You should also learn polite and inquiry phrases such as “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good evening,” “how do you say?” (accompanied with a pointed finger), “do you speak English?” and of course the all important, “where is the bathroom?”
Q. Some people say, “Yeah, I’ll bet millions of people in Europe talked just like that when others were starting to up and leave. They were just making excuses for not wanting to take a risk.” Others say, “Sure, but back then there was someplace to go for genuine freedom. Now there isn’t.” Your comment?
A. The biggest lie in the world is “My country, (fill in the blank) is the freest country in the world. It says so right here in the government Cliff Notes.” Understand this, there are two “freedoms” in the world — theoretical and practical. Constitutions are theoretical, but as you already know, they are honored more in the breach than in the observance. Practice is what really happens in the street. Given a choice, I always choose freedom in practice rather than theory.
* In practice even the assumption that the US can do anything it wants is false. The Vietnamese kicked the US’ ass and the ragtag people’s army of Afghanistan is doing the same, just as it did to the Macedonians, British and Soviets before them.
For further information, you may contact Sandy at: ssandfort at galtsgulchchile dot com.
I wrote about him more than a year ago. He’s still nagging (and offering kind assistance); I’m still dithering. In fact, to my discouragement, I discover that I’m at approximately the same stage of dithering I was at when I wrote the linked blog entry above. Inwardly I may have shifted in this direction or that. But I’ve neither said, “Yep, I’m on my way” nor “Nope. Ain’t goin’ and quit bugging me.” Nor am I close to either of those positions.
I know some of you — most of you, judging by the comments that earlier blog got — are opposed unto death to the notion of “abandoning your country.”
I’m not. But I’m in a different spot on the spectrum: I recognize that my country has abandoned nearly everything that made it “my country.” America was great because it was the shining beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. Sure it often failed in virtue. But … well, is this still “our” country if we’ve become the land of the 18th most free? Or the seventh most free (or wherever it falls for you on this freedom-seeker’s tally)?
On that tally, I find that if I choose gun rights as an absolutely crucial value, the U.S. still tops the freedom list. But run the numbers using nearly any other criteria and half-dozen or more other countries top the U.S.
Including — ulp! — one of the several countries my friend has been trying to persuade me to consider. In fact, that one’s rising year-by-year and looking really good.
Of course, these are just numbers. Based at least in part on subjective data. How much weight do they give to the NDAA and Obama’s policy of assassinating anybody he wants to assassinate? How much do a country’s laws matter and how much more important is culture or one’s particular locale within a country?
I’ve said before that I don’t feel unfree, where and as I am. It’s just that, like everybody else with eyes and a brain, I’m getting more worried every day. And the thing is, if the U.S. clamps down on guns, then it will have slid to … I don’t know where to. But so far from #1 that Americans won’t even be able to see what’s at the top of the freedom heap.
My friend, who has lived outside the U.S. for well over a decade (and maybe much longer, counting all the countries where he’s spent time), sees the United States solely as a place of danger. He thinks anybody who doesn’t get out in the next few months or the next year or two is DOOOOOMED.
I, on the other hand, see nuances — as anybody who conducts daily life here would. I see micro-climates for freedom. Even if things get as awful as my friend envisions, I don’t see the people of St. Regis, Montana, or Riverton, Wyoming, as doomed, though a lot of people in Detroit or Chicago might be doomed by the very same events.
When it comes to danger, of course I see awful potential for it here. Don’t we all? But I see my home, my town, my friends, my life, as relatively safe. I see this as a place where I know how to function, even as things get dicey on the national level. I also understand that the frog doesn’t know he’s being boiled until it’s too late.
Where I see danger is is the unknowns of expatriation. Living with foreign languages and laws and customs and above all living in places where it might never be possible to legally remain.
My friend has to restrain himself not to be absolutely dismissive of such concerns. His most nuanced perspective isn’t on the U.S., but on Central and South America, which to him is familiar and homey. Besides, his temperament embraces risk and insecurity. Mine doesn’t. Or rather, mine embraces only risks and insecurities that it can personally evaluate and choose to feel comfortable with.
So when he says, “Hey, don’t worry about the laws; all you have to do is bribe somebody!” or “So what if you can’t get legal residency? Nobody here cares,” I hear …. yuch. Why would I want to live like that? And he hears … I dunno, whiny, wimpy excuse-making.
You know how the FBI and DHS have been broadening … and broadening … and broadening … the definition of “domestic terrorists” for all these years? Well, now Esteemed Senator Mr. Lautenberg and company want to bring us the logical culmination of that. Let the AttyGen arbitrarily deny firearms to anybody who fits the one-size-fits-all definition. Due process? Does anybody in the fedgov remember due process? Or is it now purely “we do it, so it’s the process”? (H/T WL)
Good news. Fed prosecutor Carmen Ortiz didn’t succeed in destroying these people as she did with Aaron Swartz. In fact the Caswells won a victory against that rapacious fed-vulture for property rights and plain common sense.
When you get your new issue of Backwoods Home in the next week or so (and you do get it, don’t you?) you should see an article by moi on hiding firearms. Bill Baldwin has a nice, irreverent adjunct to it. Though somehow I doubt he knew he was writing an adjunct to my article. :-) (H/T MJR)
It may be news to the Wall Street Journal that overseas banks, including the famous Swiss banks are tossing American clients out with the trash. But some readers hereabouts know it all too well. From first-hand experience. At least the WSJ has noticed that’s one reason so many Americans are giving up U.S. citizenship. Once a great boon, that blue passport is becoming a burden to many.
Speaking of books, David Young, who’s written a couple and is working on another, has a thing or two to say about the future of ebook distribution and the Death of Amazon. I don’t want to see Amazon die (and I think predictions of its death are way premature. But competition? Now, that’s good.
Pop Quiz: Can you identify this object?
The winner gets … well, the great satisfaction of being right. The losers get …
… or stream of consciousness narrative in lieu of lists of links
The browsers are crowded. Thick with links. Bursting with information. But what to do with it all, dear readers? What to do? When the Internet tells one that Hua Hin, Thailand is an ideal ex-pat haven, but Honduras aims to lure us with private cities, where does one turn? We are wanted everywhere at the same time we are welcome nowhere.
And I don’t mean merely where does one take one’s weary body when geography beckons. I mean, what does one do when swept away on the bit, byte, bazillion web site flow of information? What, for example, is one to make of this?
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that, after lo these many years of the security state an 82-year-old nun and conspirators can waltz into the “Fort Knox of uranium storage” then have to hang around waiting for “security” to notice them? Personally, I’m fond of the notion. It has panache. But one expects … well, better theater from one’s security theater. Aging nuns shouldn’t have to provide all the entertainment.
And why is there no rest for the weary? Why can’t even a retired drug dog take a break from busting people these days?
Personally I think the dogs of the world should rise up on their strong legs, turn on the cops of the world and do some serious shin chewing, at the very least. Not help them bust innocent (though obviously not very bright) dopers. Dogs, dogs, your loyalty is admirable, but so misplaced! Forget evil cops! Go dance with dolphins!
And we? Are we any better off than poor canine slaves? We seek anonymity, but foil ourselves time and again. Or, passively, we get foiled. Or some other word beginning with “F.” We may as well be as bold as bold Captain GATSO, confronting authority where it lives. Which, as it happens, is in a narrow little box.
Are things really “different this time,” as hopeful bubblistas like to claim? Well, yes. But not in a good way.
And we, The Others, cry, “What do you mean ‘we,’ White Man?” My conscience is clear — and so now are my browser tabs.
No, I haven’t lost my mind. I just figured I’d see if I could clear all my tabs, in order, and make sense of them all. So I failed. Shrug. We all do sometimes. We writers just get the chance to fail more publicly than most.
I also owe quite a few hat tips for links above, but please pardon me; I’ve totally lost track.
Back from a good — but busy and tiring — weekend. As Dave says, the Mother Earth News Fair was even bigger and better than last year. My friend and I were there only a few hours in a very full weekend.
Some links and a couple of funnies for you:
Part one of a four-parter on how DC cops SWATTED a vet because they thought he might have some unregistered guns. (Several people sent me this one, thank you.)
The FBI and ATF bust yet another harmless but idiotically careless victim. Check out the middle name on that young lady! With a name like that how could she not be interested in things that go boom?
The following is from an entrepreneur friend I’ve blogged about before. What he’s going through is a direct result of FATCA. You and me? We might not think we’re rich enough to be affected by this horrible, impossible law. If we have few or no offshore assets, we might think we have nothing to worry about.
But in the long run, we’re all hurt as American citizens become worldwide pariahs, as avenues of freedom are closed off, and as stupid government tricks push our commerce and technology into fear-created backwaters.
Anyhow, from my friend:
I’ve already whined to you about having to close my Swiss bank account. That process has been started. It will end up costing me about $10,000 in travel and fees. I’m moving the money from accounts denominated in Swiss Francs to a firm that will warehouse gold bullion for me – for a fee. I kept gold in my Swiss safe deposit box for annual fee of $150 – and no one, no one at all, know what was inside. Now I will pay a fee to buy bullion, plus about 1.5% of the value of the gold to the new firm every year, and they will know exactly what I have at all times.
It’s better than nothing, but it’s a major loss of money, privacy, and control.
I also had Swiss Travel Cash cards. These were very cool. You pay a small fee to load a card from your Swiss account. You can have cards for dollars, Euros, or Swiss Francs. You can have them for meatspace credit cards, or internet purchases, or as an iPhone app. I had dollar and Euro credit cards. Each card can hold up to 10,000 units of currency. There are no additional fees. The cards have no names on them, just a European mastercard number. You can use them anywhere mastercard is accepted, with a 4-digit pin. See here.
When a close friend was going through a nasty divorce, her wealthy in-laws paid a pack of lawyers to freeze all her assets, the better to steal the house and get custody of the kids, I handed her my dollar card and whispered the pin in her ear. She was able to hire her own lawyers and sort things out. I was repaid in full. The kids are with her. There were no records of the spending, no way for the other sharks to get at this money.
Now its gone. I got a polite but firm email stating that I have to close out all Swiss Travel Cash cards by June 1. Like closing the Swiss bank accounts, this applies to all US citizens.
I realize there won’t be much sympathy for a rich one-percenter. Actually I’m just breaking into the 10% class, the ones who make 43% of US AGI and paid 70.5% of total income taxes. But once the idea of class war is accepted, the lines get blurry. It really doesn’t matter if I’m in the 1%, 5%, 10%, or even 20%.
What matters is that I’ve been cut out of the herd, and forced into a series of ever tighter chutes, and I know what lies ahead.
I read libertopia dreamers who write about anonymous digital cash. It’s not a dream, it is cold plastic reality, but it is being denied to Americans while the rest of the world moves ahead.