From Simon Black of Sovereign Man
So Where In The World Is Safe?
Yesterday’s letter about social upheaval received a lot of comments, and I want to address the major themes today.
First, ‘Simon the White’ wrote: “You imply that it’s not just the USA, but that all Western countries are screwed. Where will the contagion end? You appear to be arguing ‘expatriate at all costs,’ but if things are bad enough that there is rioting in the USA, where on earth will be safe?”
To summarize yesterday’s letter, I view social upheaval as a foregone conclusion– it’s already happening around the world, and is a direct consequence of deteriorating economic conditions. In the developed world, social upheaval is a gigantic pyre desperately seeking a spark.
I recommend having a place outside of your home country as an escape pad, but I recognize that many people either cannot or do not want to leave– at least, not yet. Even those who are aware of the problems are still comfortable at home.
I think this is fine… as long as you HAVE A PLAN.
The funny thing about the boiling frog is that every day, the pot gets a little bit warmer. First they start by fondling 5-year old girls at the airports, then it’s train stations. Train stations become bus stations, bus stations become shopping malls, etc.
This erosion of civil liberty and economic opportunity is a slippery slope, and only YOU know your breaking point. Having a plan ensures that, when you reach your breaking point and/or social upheaval hits, you’ll at least know exactly where to go and what to do when you get there.
This is not a decision you’ll want to make while packing your suitcase.
To Simon the White’s point, where will it be safe if there’s rioting in the streets of the United States? To be perfectly frank, it’s not the rioting that I’m concerned about. It’s the government response to the rioting.
Certain countries (and the US is near the top of the list) will have a Mubarak-style response to social upheaval. When you see wide-scale riots in the streets of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, you’d better believe that all available police forces will show up in full combat gear to squash the protestors.
Politicians will denounce participants as a ‘fringe minority of criminals’ and laud the police for their courage and professionalism. That’s when the real fun will begin… ‘cuz if you think you’re living in a police state now, just wait until they tighten the screws in response to mass riots. It’ll be an all-out war.
I acknowledge that some countries which are ‘stable’ today will probably experience their own problems in the future. There are four key differences to bear in mind, though-
First, what is the level of dependence that the country (or specific location) has on the outside world? Is it like the tiny nation of Palau that has to import everything, or is it like Chile, which is largely self-sufficient? The more dependent, the more potential for nasty upheaval. The US is OK here.
Second, are there existing tensions within society, particularly among race or class? Countries with an expansive gap between rich and poor are going to be the first to break. With the erosion of the middle class in North America and Western Europe, this is becoming a great concern.
Third, what is the level of violence and criminality in the culture? Is it a society that deals with turmoil in a calm, stoic way (Japan), or do people go postal? In the US, there is certainly historical evidence (Hurricane Katrina, LA riots) which suggests that pockets of the country could become unglued.
Fourth, what is the expected government response? Does the government have a massive military or paramilitary force that will violently crush protestors or impose some state of martial law? Again, this is what I view as the greatest threat in the US.
Bottom line– I’m not suggesting that everyone simply pick up and go, damn the consequences; thinking people need to weigh the options carefully against their own situation and craft a very deliberate action plan, including a clear idea of where to go in case you reach your breaking point.
Chile is one place that I recommend, and I’ll address the ridiculous coverage of the protests there next week. Andorra is another great example.
Next, Hamsterdreams writes, “A lot of us reading your articles are already too poor to have a second home in another country! What can we do?”
Here’s the deal. The traditional recipe for success is pretty much dead. ‘Working your way up the ladder’ just isn’t an option anymore. The best way to improve your cash position is to learn a skill that’s valuable to other people– so valuable, in fact, that they’re willing to pay you for it.
This could be anything, ranging from learning a foreign language to certifying rare coins to growing organic vegetables in people’s backyards. Think about how you see the future and then consider what services will be in demand based on that vision. Learn how to provide those services.
Also, if you don’t have much money, you’ll find that the opportunities to provide valuable services and create wealth are often greater overseas where the economy is growing and the market is not already saturated with competitors.
To give you an example, in July’s Sovereign Man: Confidential I wrote about some great opportunities in Kosovo. I even offered to co-finance them if a highly qualified person demonstrated interest. No one has taken me up on the offer.
Last thing to bear in mind: if you’re low on cash, remember that your living costs can be reduced dramatically overseas. If you’re barely surviving on $2,000 per month, you can live quite well in places like Ecuador on $1,000 per month.