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Countries that can weather the Age of Turmoil

January 14, 2011
Santiago, Chile

I want to start out this end-of-week missive by reiterating one immutable fact: no place is perfect… and in these tumultuous times which I call the ‘Age of Turmoil,’ no country is going to be completely immune to the looming problems which face the world, namely rising prices and resource shortages.

We discuss many countries in this daily column which stand head-and-shoulders above their peers– Brazil, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Panama, and several others. It would be unfair and inaccurate, however, to say that they are not without a few challenges.

For example, this week in Chile there were some small-scale riots in the extreme south of the country as people protested a 17% hike in gas prices. Chile imports most of its fuel and is thus more exposed to changes in oil prices than, say, food or industrial metals.

That being said, Chile remains among several other countries whose economic fundamentals, resource reserves, arable land and water supplies, and balanced societies will provide significant cushion to weather any trouble ahead with only minor bumps and bruises.

Conversely, the dominant western hierarchy of the past is on course to experience extreme shock and awe as their public finances fail and supranational policies unravel. On the balance, I’ll happily take a mild head cold over the Bubonic plague any day.

On that note, Sharon asks, “Simon, can you comment somewhere about whether citizenship is required for gun ownership in Chile and other South American countries that do permit handgun and other gun ownership?”

There are many gun friendly nations in South America. Chile is one of them, and so is Panama and Uruguay.  Residency is required to apply for a permit, but this is fairly easy to obtain. (I discuss a unique option in Chile in our upcoming Sovereign Man: Confidential, which is due out this weekend).

You can also import your own firearms, and this is probably a good idea considering that weapons tend to cost more in Latin America than they do in North America.

Next, Captain writes, “Simon– having already acquired two passports and foreign property, I am slowly preparing to become an expat once I retire from the US military. Since I will be drawing retirement pay, is there any way to stay under the radar while I live abroad?”

First off, if you want to keep drawing your US military retirement pay, you should not consider renouncing US citizenship. Your retirement pay will be cut off if you do so since it’s contingent upon you being able to be recalled to active duty.

Second, you may want to consider keeping a bank account in the US just to receive your retirement checks. Once a quarter, you can wipe the account clean by wire transferring the balance to a bank account of your choosing anywhere in the world, or taking a cash withdrawal through a money transfer service.

In this way, you won’t have to give up your home address overseas to the Defense Department.

Next, Devin asks, “Simon, did you hear about the IRS agent who was convicted of tax evasion?”

I did indeed. Former IRS agent Albert Bront recently pled guilty to filing fraudulent tax returns and faces sentencing this coming April. The even worse story was of Roger Coombs, another former agent who was caught trying to solicit a bribe in exchange for lowering a business’s taxes.

Few things boil my blood like politicians and government agents abusing the power that they should have never been given in the first place for the sake of personal gain.

Tim Geithner doesn’t pay his self-employment taxes, it’s an honest mistake. Charlie Rangel neglects important disclosures and he gets a slap on the wrist followed by a Congressional standing ovation.

If Joe Six Pack does these things, he gets an IRS agent standing on his doorstep with a bill (at best), assets frozen (likely), or an arrest warrant (also possible).

It happens everywhere– I remember reading about a case last year in Canada in which two agents of Canada Revenue Agency were arrested in connection with ensuring that politically-connected construction companies wouldn’t be audited.

These are all cases where the privileged elite of the political class, and their bureaucratic underlings and police forces, accord themselves special rights and immunities that no one else would be entitled to. The higher the rank, the more likely they are to get away with it.

In the wake of the Arizona shootings last weekend, there’s already talk of beefing up security for Congressmen, and Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina has been further arguing that Congressmen should receive special treatment from TSA at airports.

Any way you slice it, this system is utterly corrupt, and Lincoln’s fateful notion of a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ has absolutely perished from this earth… at least from the western world.

Last, I’d like to end the week on a lighter note with a bit of comic relief; my good friend Chris has passed along this hilarious video that pokes fun at technology in a way that only dry British humor is capable of doing.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ggkl

    Lincoln’s fateful notion of a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’

    which he did not uphold and violated..

  • Zpaz

    very funny thanks

  • G Mitchell Sr
  • Jeff

    A couple of notes of corrrection or clarification…

    1. It’s absolutely illegal to import firearms into Ecuador. If they find them in your container, you’re put on the next flight hom.

    2. Regarding cleaning out a bank account every quarter and wiring the funds to another country, that is now almost impossible in the US. We’ve had several people tell us here in Cuenca that when they try to wire money here (for a house, investing, whatever), they’re being forced to explain why they’re sending the money oversees. Some have been told that the bank won’t send the money.

    In Ecuador, at least, pension plan and retirement checks (or cheques) can be received and deposited into bank accounts (it may even be possible to have them deposited directly, but you’ll have to check on that from your end).

    I think a smarter way to get your money out of the US is to spend it in your new country via a credit card and/or cash advances, and pay the service fees or interest charges. If you can suck all of your monthly pension out of your account via cash advances or withdrawals from ATMs, you’ll at least have your money. If they stop allowing wire transfers in the US, you’re screwed.

    • Patrique Pascal

      Jeff, I have a question. I’m a small-fries contractor with a handful of US-based clients. My hope is to continue to work remotely and live off my contract income while moving to South America, but I’m not entirely sure how to go about receiving the income. I don’t want to keep a US-based bank account, although opening one in my destination country would be fine. So, if you have an idea, how would I go about getting paid? Currently, I’m paid by check, but I’m not sure if it would work to have my clients mail checks as I’m not sure if they’d be cashable in S.A. What do you think?

    • Jose Cactus

      Why waste good money on bank and credit card fees?
      Open an FX Transfer account (free and quick) with a XE Trade, Onanda, Etc. Just do your transfers on-line, no questions asked, in any amount you want. You just set up an ETF from your bank to your FX Transfer account, then wire the funds to your bank account in Ecuador. The EFT is free, the wire cost $22 and your funds are in your Ecuador bank account the same or the next day. You never have to keep any funds in your FX Transfer account. The best thing is, if you happen to be transferring CAD, the FX Transfer account will convert CAD to USD at a fraction of the rate (about 1%) a Canadian bank will charge (3% to 4.5%).

  • Fiji

    on the question from:Captain writes, “Simon– having already acquired two passports and foreign property, I am slowly preparing to become an expat once I retire from the US military. Since I will be drawing retirement pay, is there any way to stay under the radar while I live abroad?”

    You can have all your retirement pa, disability, Social security, ECT, deposited to a department of the treasury credit card run by Direct Express, this is a Master card and good in any country free of any charges unless in an out of the USA ATM. call 1 888 741 1115 or 1 765 778 6290 for all the info.
    But all your medical by the VET has to be done in the USA.
    take care
    From the Fiji Islands, thinking of moving to Panama?

    • Peter

      No, it is not “good in any country”. There are still some parts of the world that do not accept credit cards. For instance, someone I know mentioned that when a cruise ship he was on put in at Tristan da Cunha, there was nowhere on the island that would take credit cards.

      • Silves

        Wow! That is gooooood information. I’ll certainly let my friends know they don’t take MasterCard in Tristan da Cunha wherever the hell that is. But, what the heck, go ahead and visit anyway. I’m sure they have some Amerikan Express down there….duh!

      • President

        Tristan da Cunha is an all cash place. You need the permission of the Administrator (Governor) in order to stay there long term. Given their very small population. The same is true of Pitcairn Island.

  • Ron Mauldin


    Have you reviewed the Fair Tax Initiative in the US ( If so, I would sincerely like to hear your opinion. In my opinion, it would:
    1) likely drive jobs back to the US because taxes would be on consumption and not income.
    2) reduce costs of collecting taxes.
    3) Eliminate the IRS and thereby increase freedom and privacy.

    What is your take?


    • Joe

      To support the fair tax you have to endorse the concept that it is great for a foreign banking interest to print all of our money illegally and that we should work as serfs for 3 months a year to pay them interest. Why would any sane person support a fair tax or the income tax whose only purpose is to pay interest to the Federal reserve?

      • Annr3

        While I absolutely hate the Fed, I have to ask…what the heck does the Fed have to due with the ‘Fair” tax?

        Even I, of liberatarian bend, acknowledge that limited government will need revenue. The NO deductions/No tax loopholes of the fair tax is its strongest appeal to my way of thinking.

        But once again, what does the fair tax have to do with the Fed?

    • Jefferson Channel

      I don’t think it has a chance of getting passed anyway.

    • Frank

      all taxes are theft

    • President

      Novel idea. The goal should be to eliminate the income tax and replace it with nothing.

  • Diogenes

    Superb and essential article as always. One quibble-I think we did get and still have Lincoln’s government exactly as he said it, which is rule by the force of the larger majority. Mob rule, otherwise known as ‘Democracy’, has clearly been a failure-depressions,wars,big brother and finally a global economic collapse turning point.

    It’s important to recognize that,because even if the South American Democracies are developing their version of the 50′s-60′s high point of the US Democracy, they will eventually reach where the US is now if they remain Democracies. Passing the ‘high point’ period and on to the big brother stage will probably also come much faster for them because they wont have currency reserve status and other unique historical US advantages.

    The only way to avoid wars,depressions and tyranny is the even power distribution and accountability of anarcho capitalism. This is critical for all people every where to understand, because after the massive global collapse begins in earnest, the elites and others of every country will have a choice between the freedom and prosperity of anarcho capitalism, or the lasting impoverished tyranny of the global big brother state

    . If they don’t even know they have that choice, by default they will support and build ever more ‘Democratic’ institutions like the IMF,world bank,UN and techno big brother domestic states plugged into the global system.

    • John The Free

      Very well said, diogenes. I think that this point is rarely made. There is no such thing as a static government. In U.S we have witnessed exponential growth in the role of the state. This is interesting to note because the United States began as a libertarian’s wet dream. We essentially had a night watchman state. It’s just a matter of time before the same thing occurs in Asia and Latin America. The nature of the state/bureaucracy is to grow itself. The pursuit of a minimalist democracy has really proven to be futile.

  • Earthshine

    What do you think about switzerland? They have great economy, large assets in gold, and nice, free society. Because they’re not part of EU, destructive socialist bills won’t get them.

    • Christoph

      Hi Earthshine

      I’m from Switzerland. Be sure, our country is no dream land. We do suffer from our own socialists who want to nationalise our private pension insurance system. We too have a central bank that is intervene in the market by buying Euros. Last year that brought us a loss of 21bn Swiss Francs. I say “us” because the SNB /Swiss National Bank) distributes parts of its profits to the Cantons, which then can reduce taxes.

      We also have no control over our borders anymore, leading to an immense immigration wave of Germans, Brits, Americans and so on. See, Switzerland is a small country, excluding the mountain region it has the size of Maryland. With about 8 million inhabitants, it really has become a crowded place. The consequences of that are exorbitant house prices and an increasingly negative attitude towards foreigners.

      Additionally, our classe politique isweak and not willing to stand up against the pressure the EU and other institutions are putting on us – I only say 15 bn Francs for the IMF. Divide that by 8 million inhabitants and you get my bill for saving European banks… ehmmm… sorry, the Euro.

      • Jim

        “We also have no control over our borders anymore, leading to an immense immigration wave of Germans, Brits, Americans and so on.”

        How’s it possible for Americans to immigrate to Switzerland at will without Swiss immigration controls? Please explain.

    • Darnit

      If you can afford to live in Switzerland, why not just have your Lear Jet at the ready?

      • President

        Ideally, Liechtenstein would work. The problem is one would stand out a lot more in a smaller country than a larger nation like Switzerland or even Austria. Sadly, Austria as we know is a member of the cartel. (Cartel: EU)

      • Enfant terrible

        Switzerland is not that bad if you know where to look. It’s expensive in the major towns but relatively affordable in many rural ares. Believe it or not, about 1/5 of its population is expat, perhaps the largest in the world. Work permit and residency card are pretty easy to obtain if you have money to open a business.

  • NNW

    Still eyeballing Southern Ecuador myself with its abundant lush land and mild climate. Not sure how well a 6’3 235lb American can keep a low profile among dark-skinned 5′ tall indigenous. The trick will be to learn Spanish well and earn local friends. Failing that bribery may work.

  • Joe Jordan

    Mr. Black,
    Why on Earth did you spoil a perfectly good article by quoting Lincoln? If Lincoln had the slightest interest in a government of the people he would have let the South secede in peace. Haven’t you read the works of Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo?

    Joe Jordan

  • J-M

    I have a question. How is it that an ex pat is shut off from their retirement or pension funds when they become a foreign citizen? Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we paying foreign nationals SS in some kind of “reciprocity” agreement? I.E. A Mexican national works here for a few months and is entitled to recieve SS (for far less working time than US citizens btw) and yet if *I* move to Mexico and become a Mexican citizen, I would get cut off?

  • StanTheMan

    “First off, if you want to keep drawing your US military retirement pay, you should not consider renouncing US citizenship. Your retirement pay will be cut off if you do so since it’s contingent upon you being able to be recalled to active duty.”

    Recalled to active duty? That depends. Once you are discharged or just retiring into the retired reserve, you can be re-called. But if you are *discharged * you can never be called back to active duty. As I understand it, If you are over the age of 60 you are no longer eligible for military service. I could be be wrong, but I would check this out more.

  • Peter leg

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Hong Kong and i wouldn’t put it on the list of places to go to WTSHTF(when the *** hit the fan) HK is a financial center but it relies on CHina for food and water. And I think water is the weakest link. So if China has water problems then there will be problems here. I want to go to a place that has food and water

  • Brian

    I visited Prague last year and was pretty taken with the Czech Republic overall. I know Europe is going down but how does the CR look as far as living there maybe half the year? Do we have any Czech visitors on this site?

    • DeanTheMachine


      I visited Prague a few years ago, before the Euro conversion and it was cheap at the time and a beautiful city. I was thinking the same thing, at the time-living there part-time (and not during Winters!).
      The english-language New Prague Times would be a good source for rentals, etc.
      You’d also, do well looking at Craigslist for news and info. They have a Czech Republic listing.

  • Gene Callahan

    Oh my. Someone thought that blackberry skit was funny?

  • Mojo

    why do you mention the horrible tyrant lincoln in association with
    ideas (of the people,for the people,etc) that were neither his nor honored by him at all??? if you by chance aren’t aware of how much Lincoln contributed to tyranny and central gov’t (oops, I repeat myself), please read thomas di lorenzo. yhanks

  • President

    Hong Kong could be shut down by the People’s Republic. Abu Dhabi could be shut down by the Islamic Republic.

  • wordsdontmatter

    My call is Brazil as the place to be… I left the states in 2000 and lived and worked in London up to 2002. Married my then ex in London, divorced in Spain.

    I stayed around Spain (Barcelona) 2002 to 2008. Had to leave… I lived off past investments and sold my house in 2004 and invested in learning the language and culture. I did sublet a nice flat in BCN but since I lost that.. I was heading to Brazil but ended up in Buenos Aires 4months.

    Returned to States as ran out of steam, funds, and places to go.. luckily the economic “crisis” hit so it leveled the playing field and then I decided to ride the next wave Student Loans , returned to university.

    Studied a year in FIU , Brazilian Portuguese, International Relations to intellecutalize my past experience in Europe and plan for my future.

    Now I returned to MD, living with family, will transfer in state to lengthen my ability to study. Plan on Major in Spanish, Intl Studies, focusing on Southern Cone. Mostly, Brazil, but the region is important..

    I have no more money but luckily i invested in languages, cultural experience, and the ability to walk away from things and nothing to hold me down.

    I think the best investment would be a hostel in Rio… too bad I spent my dosh in the past but I think people have learned money comes and goes… no one can take back languages, experience, and cultural awareness..

    My call has been Brazil and it is easily confirmed before and after the crisis..

    I hope to do a masters in london LSE in 2014, if possible, but mostly I will hit brazil when $$ permits, or oppt..

    Like GI joe says, “knowing is half the battle…”

  • Brian Richards1945

    After doing a considerable amount of research into obtaining a second passport, relatively easily, I am even more confused than ever. The St. Kitts/Nevis economic passports seem expensive. Spending 3 or 5 years in residency somewhere seems like a chore. My Grandfather was not Polish, etc. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where would be a good, fairly easily obtainable passport (even if it cost $25,000 for instance)? Many thanks. Brian

  • Globalist

    I would add that Canada’s banking sysem has been ranked as the best in the world ever since the financial meltdown (we didn’t have one).

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“The battlefield is the United States of America”