Simon Black's "Best Of 2010": Explains Why Planting "Mutiple Flags" Is Crucial For Our Insolvent Age

Tyler Durden's picture

Simon Black, who for the past few months was frolicking in middle earth has reemerged again, this time from Buenos Aires, and shares a "Best of 2010" compilation with readers. "

Date: December 28, 2010
Reporting From: Buenos Aires, Argentina

As we're quickly approaching the end of December, I thought it would be appropriate to republish a few letters from earlier this year. 2010 brought substantial growth for this community-- our numbers swelled, and I know that many readers probably missed some important letters from earlier days.

Today I want to repost a letter that I originally sent to you in early January, just after the 2009 holidays. In it, I defined what planting multiple flags is, and why everyone should be thinking about it.  As the events of 2010 have unfolded, I think those reasons have only become stronger.

From January 4, 2010 in Malaga, Spain:

Welcome back; I hope you had a relaxing holiday. 

I spent 10-days with my family combing through the Italian countryside and drinking some unbelievable wine from a local grape called "Primitivo." It's a distant cousin of the California Zinfandel, and is only found in this region. A bottle from the best vineyard will set you back about 9 euro.

For New Year's Eve, I saw a fireworks show that was simultaneously the most disorganized and explosive I have ever witnessed... so literally for me, the new year began with a bang.

I'm optimistic about 2010. I know a lot of people in the financial community who think that 'this is it,' that 2010 shall bear the worst economic cataclysm in history, causing widespread doom and agony.

Sure the conditions are ripe for stock/bond market crashes, a currency crisis, and multiple sovereign debt defaults.  But these are a far cry from a gloomy end of human civilization.

It's not that I have tremendous faith in world 'leaders' (as ridiculous a moniker as that is to use); last month's debacle in Copenhagen only further underscored how perverse and ineffective the existing political process is, and everyone is really starting to see it.

The Social Contract is deteriorating rapidly, and in the end, the one thing that you can count on is that people will ultimately do what they perceive to be in their self-interest.  This is what drives markets and trends.

As the protracted effects of government stupidity become more apparent, one such trend that I see emerging this year is the rise of the sovereign individual-- the rebirth of the multiple flags approach.

I've talked about this before and I wanted to start off the year with a quick primer since it is a recurring theme of this letter. To be more specific, I absolutely implore you to plant multiple flags as part of your New Year resolutions.

The idea, originally conceived by international finance guru Harry Schultz, suggests diversifying different aspects of your identity across multiple 'flags,' or geographic jurisdictions.

As an example, Schultz coined the term 'three-flags' in the 1960s, suggesting that an individual should have citizenship in one country, residence in another, and businesses in another.

Later authors expanded on this idea by adding other 'flags,' including places to bank, places to 'play,' places to house electronic assets, etc.

Many writers today talk about 'five flags' or 'six flags,' but frankly I don't see a limit on the number of things we can diversify geographically: email, citizenship, residence, banking, brokerages, gold/silver deposits, business registration, e-commerce, customer base, phone/fax, postal mail, etc.

So what's the point? Why should you do this?

Diversifying geographically increases your freedom, your privacy, your sovereignty, and potentially reduces your tax burden. It protects you against bank failures, market changes, litigation, divorce, overzealous governments, and "NGC's" (non-government criminals).

Perhaps even more importantly, planting multiple flags expands your existing contact base and opens a lot of doors to new opportunities.

Think of it like a life insurance policy-- even if the worst never happens, it gives you great peace of mind and in many cases can rank as a significant asset.

While everyone recognizes these benefits of life insurance, no one actually expects to die anytime soon... so they put shopping for a policy on the back burner, sometimes until it's too late.

In this case, the time to start diversifying internationally and planting multiple flags is now... before it's too late-- before currency controls are imposed, before tax codes change, before the last remaining foreign banks close their doors to foreigners.

I could cite you examples all day long, but I will list just a few hypothetical cases--

Imagine getting sued, losing the case, and having your financial assets commandeered by the court. Now imagine if your assets were safely offshore in another country.

Imagine being investigated by the government and having your email archives turned over to the authorities. Now imagine if your email server were in another country.

Imagine being robbed (taxed) by the government because your business is structured within its jurisdiction. Now imagine if your business were registered in another country.

Imagine having everything in your home country taken from theft, coercion, and litigation. Now imagine having cash and gold locked away in a secure, private vault overseas.

Imagine the social decay in your city getting so bad that riots and violent crime are a common occurrence. Now imagine having property overseas.

I'm sure you get the idea. Putting your assets, your business, your citizenship, your residency, your family's livelihood under one flag, one government, is putting all of your eggs in one very frail, weak basket.

Technology makes it incredibly easy to diversify, and I see more and more people waking up to that reality each day. It takes only moments to set up an offshore email account, a few minutes to lease a private vault, and just a couple of hours to set up a company in Singapore.

The possibilities are truly endless, you just need to find the right tools and the right flags that work for you. Yes, even if you are a US citizen who is taxed on worldwide income, there are still several options available to live a multiple flags lifestyle.

I will be discussing the options in future letters, as well as individual case studies.

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redrob25's picture

This is great and all but most people don't have the money to plant multiple flags. I have talked to multiple lawyers and barristers and the cheapest cost of an economic citizenship is $130k. You can give everything up in the US and move to New Zealand or Chile and wait 5 years for citizenship, but you have to do little things first like selling your assets here in a terrible market, find a job there that will support you, and saying goodbye to family and friends.

On opening a bank account somewhere else I agree, though that is literally getting harder by the day as many banks close to Americans.

Fat Ass's picture

What you say is true - ACTUALLY opening companies, etc, is considerably harder than writing newsletters about it.

Azannoth's picture

I emigrated as a student with 0$ in my pocket, I studied and worked in that country than I moved to another having my money stashed away in a 4th country, no you dont have to be rich just have the balls to do it

redrob25's picture

My wife's family emigrated from Cambodia after escaping the communist camps. But the only way they did it was being sponsored by an American family so they could earn their citizenship.

I don't have a 'balls' problem, but I do have 3 dependents and I need to make sure I can feed them. So there is no way I am going to just hop a plane and hope for the best. There has to be a strategy in place, and it takes years and $$ to make happen.

Not impossible, but not practcal for many with families.

Renfield's picture

One idea for people with children, who are sort of 'rooted' and can't make major shifts, is to encourage their children to think of other countries as places to live, do business, become educated, and have investment accounts. Parents could get their kids interested in setting up futures for themselves here, there, there, in small ways; making internet connections (pen-friends, etc) in other countries, etc.

Who knows? Maybe one day your kids will bring you over somewhere. Or, less drastically, you could use your children's experience of, say, their Swiss bank account to open up your own investment account in Switzerland. For example.

Obviously, as you point out, 'multiple flags' for most of us would take at least a few years of careful research and getting to know the people and culture of other countries. It's not exactly a great plan for emergency, I-need-out-this-year situations.

But for the longer term, not such a bad plan for a family to be trained toward, I would guess.

Azannoth's picture

The only problem is that you no longer have years to do it, the sky is falling (in slow-motion) and the more you wait the more you loose untill a point when running away will be either impossible or pointless

francismarion's picture

For sure, redrob25. Who is this guy anyhow, pedalling Cadillacs to a bunch Schwinn-riding weiner-heads like most of us?

He reminds me of 'The Continental' with his oo-la-la wine, (pardon, vino), eagerly pawing everything he can reach. Or maybe 'The Ladies' Man' with his cognac and Euro-trash scank in tow.


Fat Ass's picture

This joker is just regurgitating the normal "P.T." ("perpetual traveller" -- as well as other expansions) newslatter material from the 1980s.

What a chump.

And the "best" bottle of "Primitivo" costs much more than "9 euros". A pointless and Wrong opening anecdote always sets the tone.  And for the record, "Primitivo" is generally thought to be the same grape as "Zinfandel" - not a "distant cousin".

Any Italian - the land of stunning Barolos, Brunellos, etc. - would be shocked to hear anyone talking up lame zinf table wine.

Australians who finally see other parts of the planet are often so naive - sorry if you are from Australia and don't fall in this category.


Pool Shark's picture

"Paging Julian Assange... Mr. Julian Assange..."

Ragnarok's picture

I believe Mr. Black is American and once served in the armed forces in Iraq.  He also still maintains his American citizenship for personal reasons (family lives in Dallas).

Mad Max's picture

This is more of that "nice idea on paper" type stuff.

If you have enough money to actually do the international citizen stuff he proposes, you (1) probably have some political influence that would protect you at home anyway, and (2) very likely have assets in your existing domicile that can't readily be pulled up and relocated - either at all for physical businesses, or just without an enormous tax hit if all you own is paper wealth.

If you have a personal background that gives you the personal freedom to do what he proposes, chances are you don't have nearly enough money to do it in a way that will actually give you more freedom instead of more worry and risk.

It only really works if you have a bunch of paper wealth and no real personal or business ties to your existing domicile.  And any minor children makes it at least ten times more difficult.  So I guess if you're a single trust fund kid of some robber baron, it may work for you.

I say this as a regular international traveler who knows hundreds of expats from various countries living in various other countries.

dark pools of soros's picture

"single trust fund kid of some robber baron, it may work for you"

isn't all financial advise targeted to this demographic?

Internet Tough Guy's picture

What? You mean all those unemployed real estate agents with 0 retirement accounts can't globetrot to a brighter future? You mean China doesn't need any expat American lawyers? India doesn't need any American engineers?

Maybe Simon travels so much because he is a drug mule and is currently getting 'packed' in South America. Now there's a career opportunity for people with US passports.

FreedomGuy's picture

What I like about this article is the idea of the "sovereign individual". I like the idea that in a sense we are all our own country which is to say that we each own ourselves. If we own ourselves then no one can use us to serve their purposes without our consent. This is the antithesis of all governments for the last 5,000 years. The fundamental proposition of all governments is that we are ruled by divinely appointed people (most monarchs), by the strongest (Somalia, Zimbabwe, most of Africa), or even by collectivist ideals (democratic or autocratic). In all cases, we are subjects and serve the state and the purposes of those in the state. America was the first and best (arguably maybe the Greeks) reversal of this trend. America has failed miserably in sustaining this during the last century but it was an excellent idea that still won't die.

Free people are strong, decent and ultimately happier and more prosperous than others. However, you have to be brave, self reliant and fairly well educated in the necessities and virtues of liberty versus the foibles of statism. Those are not taught in government controlled education.

So, the author may be wrong in the details of wine but he is onto something in terms of liberty and self reliance. I enjoy his thinking even though it is impractical for 99% of us. Someday, we "sheeple" as some her term us may take up our liberty again, but not until the current system fails and unveils its lies and shortcomings to the general public.

Let's hope for a surviveable if not happy new year in 2011.

Renfield's picture

I like that too. The sovereign individual. We don't think often enough about the trust involved, choosing which country we live in.

Osric: "The borders of my country run around the soles of my feet." One of my favourite saws.

And, this is indeed difficult but needs must. It is probably a lot harder for people with children; but more than one citizenship/perm-res is certainly desirable. Just having some business dealings (e.g., trading or investment accounts) in other countries isn't impractical at all. Not even all that hard for Americans who share a border with Canada. Many are the comments I've seen on this blog wondering if now's the time to pick up, pack up, and move somewhere else. I hear now of heaps of Americans moving to Aus, the country we just left for its high inflation and bad prospects (in the short term anyway). It does require a fair bit of research and very careful planning.

(PS: New Years Resolution for ZH: Fix the damn 3-figure captcha...)

Financial_Guardian_Angel's picture

It takes guts to pick up and move to another country, maybe except Canada. I give credit to those who doit. At least they don't whine about America and do nothing to fix it. Some of these foreigners (that are our guests here) have the nerve to complain about their rights when back in their own country they would be taken off the street to never be seen again if they said the same thing they say here. America is still the best, but we are unfortunately lowering ourselves to the rest of the runners-up.

And YES, fix the damned captcha!!

Azannoth's picture

In  10 years America won't be better than today's Mexico, and Mexico might be better than today's America, so I would not be moving to the States now it's too late 

Azannoth's picture

That is so true, most people I talk to would not even have the idea that their needs might come before the nations/societies/country needs, they have a total slave mentality they can demonstrate before their masters for more food but never would they demonstrate for freedom

It is not the government I find my self constantly running away from it's the people on the street who knowingly and willingly enslave them selves and would even give MY freedom away without asking, they take it for granted that if you live in the same country as they and that country is a democracy than they can force you to do things you are with your body and mind opposed to

FreedomGuy's picture

I think you are exactly right, Azzannotth! That is an observation very few people seem to make. I have observed that if you ask people about liberty and rules they will tell you they personally don't need more laws and rules. They are of course presumably good honest citizens. It's that "other guy" who needs another 2000 pages of rules and regulations. They unwittingly sell not only you but themselves into servitude as that "other guy" also has rules for them. Presumably there is some point where there are enough rules to make life perfect. 

To be free we have to limit or even reject rules for our neighbor and ourselves. To be free this has become my motto,

"Believe in yourself.

Trust you neighbor.

Vote for liberty."

Here is another unsolvable problem you can throw at the rules-people, too. When they advocate more regulation of any sort, ask them how many pages, paragraphs, pounds, etc. of regulation do we need before society is perfect? Next, ask them how many rules and regulations before we are all thoroughly miserable and dominated by government in every important aspect of our lives. Which number is lower?

You can also ask the same thing about tax rates, too. What percentage of total personal and even national income is required until there is absolute "fairness" and all social ills are cured? If you have a typical hardcore modern liberal (not classical liberal)-statist-collectivist he/she will abandon all pretense of intellectual debate and begin calling you names or saying you don't care enough.

I prefer the real benefits of liberty to the theoretical benefits of collectivism and statism.

francismarion's picture


You are mistaken. No man can be free of himself. He is subject to all the forces of nature and all the depredations of other men. You can delude yourself that you are free because others have fought and died and are vigilant up to and including this moment for that freedom; that freedom, that you think is in the air you breath and yours because you are you. No, it is there because of America and what it stands for and how it got to where it is, warts and all.

You stand in a room alone and imagine that you are a god. Outside that room massive forces, natural and artificial, roil and pound, and men contend and struggle and bend those forces to keep the walls of that room of yours in place, so that you can continue to manufacture your fiction and strut and fret and preen and crow.

But you are mistaken. Because what you really are is merely the kept thing, the prized possession of a anxious loving parent that does not know that his child is an ungrateful monster that only loves himself.

The founding fathers believed that knowledgable men would form the sinews of a people that would be a shining city on the hill, a free nation. They reasoned that a free people would cherish their nation, and love it IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD. 

They could not have foreseen that that people would someday exalt themselves to godhood (the 'sovereign individual' an oxymoron and a profound idiocy), turn away from their own roots and denounce the common good; that the freedom long ago discovered and enshrined in law would become an end in itself and not the hallmark of enlightened man.

And here we have in the disgusting drivel excreted on this website the idea that the nation of one's birth, the source of every citizen's identity and the fountain of each being's endowment of freedom; is a place to be abandoned for wealth and 'individual freedom'.

Well, rave on, but you are dead. You cease to live the moment you cut yourself off from the source of your life, and that is your land.

"Be there a man with soul so dead,

That never to himself has said,

 This is my home, my native land."

       -Sir Walter Scott

FreedomGuy's picture

I cannot speak for Azzanoth but I suspect you take the wrong meaning. Our forefathers created a government to protect our rights and liberties, not consume them. In fact, in the Declaration of Independence it states that if the government fail to do this they should be dissolved and a better one formed to that end. Now, I have not yet seen the government that is willing to dissolve itself. We all should fight the good fight so to speak in terms of making our country better. However, "the common good" is not to be confused with collectivism or even an all powerful state of any sort. King George could have and did make arguments as to the greater good of the empire. Second, the sovereign individual is absolutely and completely a concept in the founding of our country. It underlies the idea that the governing derive their power from the governed. We come together as individuals to form governments not serve governments.

It may surprise you, but all the original settlers came here to create something better than they had back at home, whether escaping religious persecutions or to enhance their lives, fortunes and personal treasuries. It was the idea of making their own individual situations better in a land where you could be the captain of your own ship leaving the lands they called "home" that drew them. There was no America, yet. It was dangerous and uncertain here, yet they came. They in fact abandoned home and family for a chance here...not to be subjects of some new state, but to chart their own path. That is profoundly individualistic and yet appeals to many worldwide for the last four centuries.

Azannoth's picture

Sorry I could not read your comment to the end because the 1st paragraph made me nauseous

BigJim's picture

Because what you really are is merely the kept thing, the prized possession of a anxious loving parent that does not know that his child is an ungrateful monster that only loves himself.

The 'anxious loving parent' here would be the government, correct? The same government that will take away my freedom if I choose to smoke one weed rather than another, that will tell me lies to get me to kill foreigners so that my 'leaders' will get bigger bribes from the companies that make the munitions? That will sell my children's future to keep bankers rich?

And then I realised you were being satirical!

What a sigh of relief I breathed, when I realised you weren't just some slavemaster's troll.


Lord Koos's picture

Actually America only failed in the last 35 years or so, when money finally poisoned politics to the extent that now very little can be done to change course.  I agree, many of these ideas are very hard to pull off for the average person.  I have some modest resources, but I'm at the age where most countries wouldn't want me, nor do I care to abandon parents and grown children by moving 1000s of miles away when the shit hits the fan.

velobabe's picture

needing foreign language skills, stands in my way. or i would be some place else for sure.

Renfield's picture

Canada actually isn't anywhere near as French as it likes to claim... ;-)

Pegasus Muse's picture

Actually, you can do much of what he talks about cheaply.  Just join the military.  Request an overseas assignment.  Meet a nice local gal.  She'll be more than happy to help you get set up "on the economy".  Rest assured, it happens all the time and is not that daunting a task. Even the language barrier is not that big an obstacle.  You would be surprised how many people speak a little English.  It is the international language.       

You've got many locations to choose from -- Far East, Middle East, South America (to a limited extent), Europe.  Some places more exciting than others.  Go for it!  

Lord Koos's picture

The military is not really much of an option for most people.

BigJim's picture

The big downside to joining the military is that you might have to go around killing people for the very same government that f*cked up your own country so badly that you want to emigrate from it.

Common_Cents22's picture

How does a owning a foreign corporation figure one?  owning an internet biz hosted and incorporated offshore, accumulating profits offshore just repatriating enough for a living in the US (paying taxes on it) to eventually get a dual passport etc??   or would you have to relinquish citizenship fully?

antidisestablishmentarianismishness's picture

Imagine an asteroid demolishing the Earth along with all your scattered assets.  Now imagine that you are lounging at your summer house on the moon when the asteroid hits.....sweeet.

pazmaker's picture

A reoccuring suggestion in all his post is an "overseas private vault for your gold"  and it only takes a few MINUTES to lease it.  and just a COUPLE of hours to open a business in many hours does it take to fly from Buenos Aires to Singapore?

 I think he can arrange that for you for a price....  This guy is always trying to sell something.

InExile's picture

Absolutely.  WTF.  For a small consulting fee and your time and effort to go to Panama you can meet with his netwrok of advisors.  Perhaps the advice will be to fork over more money to get set up.

b_thunder's picture

Imagine getting sued, losing the case, and having your financial assets commandeered by the court.

Imagine.... your email archives turned over to the authorities. N

Imagine being robbed (taxed) by the government

Imagine having everything in your home country taken from theft, coercion, and litigation.

Imagine the social decay in your city getting so bad that riots and violent crime are a common occurrence. Now imagine having property overseas.


All discussed things are certainly possible, but unless you're one of the wealthiest people in the country (like Mr. Khodorkovskiy in Russia),  you will not be alone with your problems:  there will be thousands, if not millions of people in the "same boat" as you.  Some will be armed with the law degrees, others with AR-15s...

Now, tell me why the same calamities cannot happen in a foreing country?  They can, they are, and they will.  Except over there you will be a "gaijin", or "el gringo extranjero" and there will be nobody on your side.  Your property will be taken away and there will be no court that would care to listen your case.  And most countries are much further down the  "social decay"  path than most think.  It's not uncommon to get a bullet in the back of the head during an all-too-common robbery in any of the "famous" Caribbean tax havens than anywhere in the USA outside of the Chicago's South Side. 

Yeah, having a backup/escape plan is nice....  Just don't think that foreign countries will be any safer.


Renfield's picture

They won't be safer. They will be different. Years of research and getting to know people in other countries helps...

I think that the concept of having a base of some kind in more than one country is very sound. You can't escape all danger but you're confining the risk of any one country to less than 100% of your [assets]. And, if you have to fly from one place, this gives you a "To".

Azannoth's picture

1500 people died on the Titanic, a few survived, which group do you want to belong to ?

ronin12's picture

Have you ever been sued?


antidisestablishmentarianismishness's picture

Imagine spending your entire life waiting for a Doomsday that never comes and then one day when you're 75 years old you have a massive stroke and can only speak gibberish and watch helplessly as your children ridicule you for being a dumbass who spent his life hoarding ammo and gold (gold now back at $250, S&P at 10k) while everyone else was out having fun.


Now imagine that Doomsday actually does arrive and you are proven to be a prescient genius, but your equally paranoid neighbor gets in a lucky shot and sends you to the morgue before you have a chance to do any bartering with your huge supply of gold.

Azannoth's picture

And your alternative would be .. ?

Stashing away 1$ bills under the mattress or partying like there is no tomorrow ?

BigJim's picture

Why would you be dumb enough to advertise the fact you're hoarding a 'huge supply of gold' to your paranoid neighbour in the first place?

And if by 'equally paranoid', you mean someone who also saw the storm clouds gathering, then he's more likely to be an ally... an ally against the hoards of wasters and dumbf*cks who believed their 'leaders'' lies and took no precautions.

wsdave's picture

For the various naysayers: This is the first I've heard of this concept, but my family has been working toward this for about 3 years. It's good to see that I'm not the first to think of it.


We already own a house out of the US, and are in the process (easier than you’d imagine) of setting up a series of corporations to contain our assets. Corporations can be set up for just a few thousand each, and are a great way to get your foot in the door to be able to bank in that country.


Employment can be an issue, obviously, but in our case my wife works on the internet and can be located anywhere.


We are doing this, while living in the US, on an income of about $65,000/year. Not exactly trust fund.

redrob25's picture

Ok so you own a house in another country. How did you carry the second mortgage? Most people will not be able to afford it without some serious financial restructuring. While that is their fault, it does not change the reality. Land is not cheap in many places unless they are fraught with risk.

Second, did you setup a second citizenship? If not, then you have to deal with renewing visas and therefore will have to have a strong business relationship or job in the other country to keep you there until you own full citizenship.

Thirdly, most people here would have to setup an Internet business that is actually successful, and that is no easy task. Businesses take years to setup and run successfully.

Not saying it cannot be done, but it is certainly not something you can make happen in 2011 unless you pay for an economic citizenship outright.

Azannoth's picture

" MicrosoftInternetExplorer4" .. are you using MSIE4 ???

What cave are you writing this from ?

ronin12's picture

I certainly appreciate many of the commenters reticence to these ideas - at first blush the idea of planting multiple flags can seem quite overwhelming. There are certainly many obstacles. However as the old saying goes, nothing worthwhile is easy.

I am attending Mr. Black's seminar in Panama in February (I convinced the wife to turn it into a vacation). So I will know a lot more then about whether or not to continue down this path. Right now though, maximizing economic and political freedom, protecting one's assets, diversifying risk - just makes too much sense to me.



FreedomGuy's picture

Post a summary of what you find out for the rest of us, lol! Have a great trip!

ronin12's picture

Thanks - I definitely will post a summary when I get back.