Posts by Simon Black

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.

  • First post: 16/06/2009
  • Posts written: 2317

Latest Articles

The best places in the world to start a business

I hold it as a guiding principle that there is quite literally a world of opportunity out there... and this goes especially for business. Years ago, there were limited consumer markets available where entrepreneurs could sell their products and services. Today, the playing field has truly leveled.

Emerging Asian economies have a burgeoning middle class that numbers in excess of 1 billion people with discretionary spending power.  The Persian Gulf region is home to[...] Click here to continue reading

International brokers and second passports

It's true what they say about the Autobahn... there really is no speed limit.  I've been in the car all day with my close friend and business partner Matt, racing our BMW from Stuttgart to Monaco.  Our goal is to reach Spain by the end of this week where we have some important meetings lined up on your behalf.

If everything goes as planned, I will be able to bring you some incredibly unique[...] Click here to continue reading

Dealing with ‘authority’

Over the weekend in Vienna, I had the pleasure of dining with a very interesting gentleman (I'll call him "Chris") who is a subscriber and new inductee into the Atlas 400 club that I've mentioned before.

Chris travels extensively, like me, and we discussed how many countries are quickly becoming police states. In Europe, I would candidly put Finland towards the top of that unfortunate list.  My entry into Europe from Thailand last week[...] Click here to continue reading

Why not Thailand and Uruguay?

Seriously... isn't it time the investment community stopped listening to the rating agencies?

Moody's, Fitch, and S&P-- these are the usual suspects who completely missed the boat on the US sub-prime debacle.  Back in 2005, they gave pristine credit ratings to risky mortgage portfolios stuffed full of borrowers who are notorious for not paying.

The recent debt crisis in Dubai underscores their irrelevance once again.

As I discussed earlier this week, Dubai's[...] Click here to continue reading

A major copper trend

I'm spending a few days in the Baltics to review how things have changed since I was last here over the summer.  This region was among the hardest hit in the world, and as I have stated numerous times, I'm convinced it will end with a devaluation in Latvia.

The big news of the day here is that Lithuania's main nuclear reactor, which supplies the preponderance of this small country's electrical needs, is being[...] Click here to continue reading

I finally need to say something about it

I tend to shy away from politics and policy.  Sure I've discussed taxes, privacy, and healthcare a few times, but I don't normally whine about government too much because (a) it's unproductive, and (b) living a 'multiple flag' lifestyle means that governments have little impact on me.

Last night, though, President Obama spoke to America's emerging military leaders at my alma mater about his 'new' Afghanistan policy, and I think it's worth having a[...] Click here to continue reading

My top picks for Asia and Latin America

 

I'm sitting in a comfortable, overstuffed leather chair this morning typing away at this letter while a team of local women give me a traditional Thai foot massage.  30 minutes in the chair will set me back about $4, and I can't think of a better way to part with my money.

It is with great hesitation that I'm even sitting in this chair-- not because I don't like massage, but because[...] Click here to continue reading

Some things you haven’t heard about Dubai’s crisis

The ticking time bomb in Dubai finally exploded late last week.

On the eve of their most important Muslim holiday, which happened to coincide with the eve of Thanksgiving in the west, Dubai authorities made two statements spaced a few hours apart.

The first-- that the heavily indebted, government-owned flagship holding company Dubai World had successfully raised a few billion dollars.  Investors collectively exhaled, temporarily relieved that the company would be able to[...] Click here to continue reading

Why Islam can save your wealth

Long ago, physical commodities were used as a mediums of exchange... gold and silver were quite popular because they were scarce, divisible, durable, and hard to replicate.

If you had a few extra ounces laying around and wanted to store it securely, you would seek out the people who dealt with precious metals all the time and had the right equipment and staff to keep it safe.  At the time, those were goldsmiths.

[...] Click here to continue reading

What Thai real estate can tell you about gold

I was having breakfast this morning at my favorite Bangkok cafe-- they do a delicious American breakfast with eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice, and fresh fruit for under $3... and it's delicious.  For another $3 I could get a backrub while I eat.

As I was reading the local paper, something caught my eye in the business section-- a full page ad for a real estate development about 2 hours outside of Bangkok. The[...] Click here to continue reading

Panama, Inc.

If he keeps this up, they might start calling it Panama, Inc.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has been in office less than 6-months, yet to the extent that it is politically possible, he seems bent on running Panama with the same vision as when he ran the chain of supermarkets that made him one of the country's wealthiest men.

Step 1-- eliminate corruption in the government. All side deals and back room handshakes[...] Click here to continue reading

3 ways you can save 60% on luxury international flights



After a hard afternoon of jet skiing yesterday, my friends and I came off the water right as the sun was descending in the horizon over the ocean. The sun sets in Thailand in a more vibrant, distinctive way than most other places in the world that I have seen, and quite honestly it can be intoxicating.

As we collected our belongings and paid the 1,300 baht fee (roughly $40) for the[...] Click here to continue reading

How to send secure email

Sending an unsecured email is like shouting something across a crowded room... if you expect the information to be kept private that is probably one of the worst methods available. You might as well rent a billboard so everyone can see.

The problem with the internet is that there are so many touch points. Email traffic is routed across a hierarchy of networks, and between the sender, the receiver, the various email hosts, internet[...] Click here to continue reading

A few words of optimism amid the gloom

 

It was a rare, cool evening in Bangkok, so we decided to take a tuk-tuk back to the hotel.  You've probably seen them-- they're like open-air rickshaws attached to a lawn mower engine, and the drivers will take you anywhere in town for a buck or two.

I was riding with my friend Gianni Kovacevic who had just flown in from Zurich on his way back to Canada; at 35, Gianni is[...] Click here to continue reading

It’s not your problem, it’s my problem

Tony looked the part-- measuring tape draped over his shoulder, wire frame spectacles, and ashy hands that had been sullied by the chalk marks he had been making on my garments. 

"SAHM SIP!" he said in Thai, announcing my 30-inch waist to an anxious-looking recorder.  The fitting was almost over, and Tony's crew was about to spend the rest of the evening cranking out an exquisite wardrobe of new clothes for me-- pants, shirts,[...] Click here to continue reading

Medical care in Thailand

I was reading a menu, but I wasn't in a restaurant.

Liposuction: $625
Tummy Tuck: $1,250
Breast Enlargement: $1,125
Sex change operation: $1,625

I did a double take. Yep, that wasn't a misprint.

Thailand is renowned for a lot of things-- beautiful beaches, crazy nightlife, political instability, etc. One of the things it should be better known for is medical tourism.

People often ask me because I travel so much, "Simon,[...] Click here to continue reading

Vicious and Voracious Violation of Volition

Please begrudge me the quote from V for Vendetta,  but I'm really starting to worry about what's going on in the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday I wrote about the UK's "Interception Modernisation Programme." New rules under the program require wireless companies and internet service providers to archive phone records, web history, and emails for a period of 12 months, and to make that data available to 600+ government agencies without a warrant.

Naturally,[...] Click here to continue reading

Spying on your phone and email


 

It was with great irony and despicable deceit that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was commemorating the fall of communism in Berlin on Monday.  In his remarks, he insisted that the tide of history was moving towards our "best hopes," and praised the people who helped end tyranny and bring down the wall.

Too bad it was all poppycock.

Simultaneously, Brown's government back in London was announcing its plans for[...] Click here to continue reading

Real Estate in Thailand

First of all, thanks to all the well-wishers (especially Dusty) after my accident... your concern is much appreciated, and I'm feeling a lot better.

Today I want to talk about real estate in Thailand, and particularly here in Pattaya.  I've spent the last few days scouting property, and talking to agents, developers, and buyers.  Overall, some aspects of the market are reasonably attractive in the long-term, but I need to give you a bit[...] Click here to continue reading

A gift from Hugo Chavez

Amazingly enough, Hugo Chavez is giving us a gift.  Allow me to explain.

World leaders are gathered today in Berlin, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain.  What would have been the greatest armed conflict in the history of the world was successfully avoided... peace prevailed.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Hugo Chavez is stoking the flames of war in his region.

Notwithstanding the collapse of European communism,[...] Click here to continue reading

Answering your questions after the wreck…

I'm actually reporting tonight from bed-side in my hotel room; I managed to crash my $3/day motorcycle rental this afternoon, and between the cracked rib and other pleasantries, I've decided to call it an early evening.

Fortunately for me, Thailand has some of the best healthcare in the world, at least if you're an expat and go to the several renowned and accredited private hospitals... but more on that in future letters.  Tonight I[...] Click here to continue reading

Fight night in Pattaya

The air smelled of sweat and blood, and I could barely hear my friends talking to me over the screaming crowd.  With each blow, bookmakers were shifting odds and taking bets with such a frenzy that the arena may as well have been the New York Stock Exchange on Black Monday.

This was the scene tonight at a local Muay Thai match here in Pattaya... and aside from being a much needed break for[...] Click here to continue reading

Why the only direction for Thailand is up

November 4, 2009
Thailand

I arrived into Thailand at 3am this morning from Shenzhen, and instantly I felt a bit happier. China is undoubtedly a booming colossus full of opportunity, but culturally it can be a bit grating after a while.  After a month on the mainland,  I needed a break, and Thailand was the perfect choice.

Aside from being one of my favorite countries in the world, I wanted to spend some[...] Click here to continue reading

Two unique privacy solutions

Here's the scene... you've just landed and are making your way through immigration. Bleary-eyed and a bit disoriented, the portly fellow behind the desk singles you out for 'secondary screening,' and you are whisked away to the catacombs of the Customs service.

At this point, it really doesn't matter what country you're arrived to... until you clear customs and immigration, you're in no man's land.  For customs officials, anything is fair game, including laptops[...] Click here to continue reading

Five reasons you should consider China as a place to live and do business

I spend a great deal of my time on the road, traveling around the world in search of opportunity. I put boots on the ground while I'm on the hunt and end up screening a tremendous amount of both business and investment ideas.

Some of these ideas make the cut, and we take the concept further. Others don't.

Regardless, the time that I spend on the ground getting to know the cityscape and[...] Click here to continue reading

Why Latvia’s devaluation is certain

What if they held a bond auction and nobody came?

This is exactly what happened in Latvia a few weeks ago, as the country failed to receive a single bid for $16 million of debt, maturing in April 2010. In other words, investors were not willing to loan what amounts to international finance pocket change to a sovereign government for a measly 6-months.

Why? Because everyone expects that Latvia will devalue its currency;[...] Click here to continue reading

What China’s wealthy want…

 

I spent the better part of my day today at a small conference attended by many of Shanghai's wealthy, plus their lawyers and accountants.  Considering the subject material is highly frowned upon by the government, I was surprised that so many were in attendance.

So what was the topic of discussion at today's event? Second citizenship.  Specifically, the St. Kitts second citizenship program.

Throughout the afternoon, local Chinese listened intently as[...] Click here to continue reading

How to play a dollar rally

It had to happen eventually.

Nothing moves in a straight line in either direction, up or down... and when it does, there's clearly room for a correction. 

In this case, I'm talking about the dollar, which has surged in the last week. 

What a roller coaster ride-- we watched it continually slide for years against major currencies while the credit bubble fueled capital flows into foreign currencies and commodities.  When the bubble[...] Click here to continue reading

Dubai is struggling, but rising (a bit)

Dubai is looking something like Rocky Balboa late in his first fight with Apollo...bruised, battered, struggling to his feet-- but still fighting. Of course, if you remember the movie, Rocky didn't win that fight. He was all heart, no belt. I think the analogy fits.

To be clear, I think Dubai is great... I have done a lot of business there and I enjoy it; it's fun, safe, diverse, historic, and cosmopolitan. For the[...] Click here to continue reading

Profting from turmoil in Thailand

He has ruled through 12 US Presidents, a string of military dictatorships, several coups, and a historic transition to democracy. At 81 years of age, King Bhumibol of Thailand has really seen it all.

Despite his essentially ceremonial position, King Bhumibol is revered, almost worshiped, by his people-- not like other constitutional monarchies where the royal family is merely a rubber stamp soap opera.

He has used his extreme influence on several[...] Click here to continue reading

How a Chinese stock and property bubble will affect gold prices

I have the temporary misfortune today of feeling a bit under the weather. I've always wondered how such an expression came to pass, but if it is meant to be any sort of metaphor, my 'weather' is something like a category five hurricane.

As a consequence, I was unable to attend this week's Asia gold conference which took place in Hong Kong; fortunately, though, my friend and colleague Christine Verone was in attendance, and[...] Click here to continue reading

Network Infiltration

As promised, I published my "Network Infiltration Black Paper" late Friday afternoon; I had spent all week working on this free report designed to teach anyone how to build contacts, gain influence, and infiltrate any exclusive network.

Unfortunately, I found out on Monday that, after I released the paper, the volume of people simultaneously trying to download it temporarily crashed my Ireland-based web server over the weekend.

Problem solved. If you didn't get[...] Click here to continue reading

Five things you need to know about Uruguay

I love Uruguay... it is, without a doubt, one of my top five choices in Latin America-- the country is clean, beautiful, and cheap, full of great wine and friendly people. But if you're considering the country as a place to live, work, or do business, there are definitely a few things you need to know:

First, Uruguay is NOT a financial center. It achieved a reputation over the years as a tax haven[...] Click here to continue reading

A silver lining for taxpayers

The US Internal Revenue Service was feeling rather proud of itself yesterday; IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman held a press conference to release the final results of 2009 amnesty program.

Over 7500 taxpayers came forward this year to confess hiding income in overseas bank accounts; this number is substantially greater than the several hundred which usually step forward.

Obviously, the unity of insolvent western governments against overseas 'tax havens' coupled with the UBS/Swiss banking[...] Click here to continue reading

Set up your kids for life

If you're presently expecting a child or are planning on having one soon, you should really consider having your baby overseas.

There are many countries, particularly in the western hemisphere, which grant citizenship to all children born within its borders, regardless of the nationality or immigration status of the parents. The legal term is called jus soli, which differs from jus sanguinis, or citizenship by blood/ancestry.

The United States and Canada are two[...] Click here to continue reading