So much for BMW’s run-flat tires. Believe it or not, I’m actually sitting on the side of the A3 motorway in central Germany, about halfway between Frankfurt and Munich, waiting for the tow-truck to arrive.
Apparently you’re supposed to be able to drive on these tires even when they’re flat… and with such confidence in their country’s manufacturing capabilities, the German rental car company didn’t bother providing me with a spare. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ll take a spare and a jack over run-flat tires any day.
Given what we put this car through, though, it has performed admirably– about 2,500 miles of hard driving in just 4 days at speeds usually exceeding 200 km/h. You see a lot of interesting things when you spend that kind of time on the road, and one of my observations leads me to believe that we are in for a major shift world finance.
For starters, customs agents across Western Europe are visibly out in force, patrolling the highways and major travel hubs. Their mission? Generate revenue, coercively if necessary.
In just a single 12-hour period, we were stopped twice in France by government thugs. Similar to my treatment that I described last week at Helsinki airport, the encounter felt more like an inquisition– where were we driving from, what were we doing there, what do we do for a living, and most importantly, how much money were we carrying…?
They seemed disappointed and skeptical when we said “uh, about 250 euro…” as if two well-dressed gentlemen in a nice sports car were cosmically obliged to be carrying more than 10,000 euro.
They didn’t take our word for it and continued the snooping and inquisition. If this had happened only one time, I would have written it off as an anomaly. But multiple times within a short period of time is suggestive of a broader agenda.
My business partner Matt had a similar experience before his flight from Chicago to Frankfurt just last week; as he was strolling down the jet bridge to board the plane from the business class entrance, he ran into a squad of customs agents waiting to randomly inspect passengers.
Once again, their chief concern was monetary instruments– How much cash was he carrying?
Customs officials are like feudal lords; they wield supreme power in their little border fiefdoms and have the authority to confiscate whatever they like, for any reason, and then stick you with the onus of proving your innocence.
This is exactly why the government has its people patrolling the airports and highways… low on ‘hope’ and short on ‘real change’, the government has tasked its border enforcement with grabbing as much cash as possible. It’s sort of like setting up a speed trap in a small town with no economic prospects.
If customs officials believe the amount of money that you are carrying is for suspicious purposes, they have the authority to relieve you of your cash, Constitution be damned. The same standards apply in Europe. In a very literal sense, this amounts to highway robbery.
The standard generally applied is “presumed guilty until proven innocent,” and I think it’s safe to assume that these types of searches and seizures specific to monetary instruments will increase. More importantly, though, these measures are likely an overture to the eventual implementation of capital controls.
Governments rely on capital controls to regulate the flow of capital through their borders. In times of crisis begotten by political stupidity, they have an even greater need to keep money on shore to ensure that you’re paying your fair share of somebody else’s mortgage.
The first step in capital controls is to go after cash; it raises money through confiscation and makes people rely more on the banking system out of fear. The next step is to re-regulate the banking system to make cash transactions more cumbersome and dealing with foreign financial institutions more controlled.
This is already in the works with the recently passed US House of Representatives bill H.R. 4213.
I discussed this trend towards capital controls three-months ago, but frankly I am surprised at how fast things are moving. The time to plant a financial flag overseas is now, and there are a couple of ways to do that.
First, foreign bank and brokerage accounts are a reasonable solution. I’ve mentioned this numerous times in the past, most recently with a discussion about Islamic Banking. I think that Panama, Singapore, Hong Kong, UAE, Malaysia, and Canada are all reasonable places to bank. There are many more that I will be discussing in the future.
While there are some annual disclosures to file in some countries (like the US), it is completely legal to have a foreign bank account, and I doubt governments will ever change that… they’ll just make it next to impossible to move money.
That’s why the window of opportunity is now.
Second, buying foreign property makes a lot of sense. At present, there are no reporting requirements for foreign real estate, and as we have discussed in the past, you can even move individual retirement savings into foreign land.
More to follow on all of this. Stay tuned.