This survey will make you want to leave immediately

February 17, 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… and I found myself wondering out loud- “Are these people insane??”

Apparently, yes.

I was watching Richard Edelman this morning on Bloomberg Television discussing the latest results of his research and PR firm’s annual “trust survey.”  Edelman takes a scientific poll each year, drawing on a global pool of educated, well-informed people from G20 nations.

The theme is always the same– trust.  Edelman’s research gives an indication of the public’s confidence in the private sector, the banking industry, NGOs, the mainstream media, and of course, the government.

For example, I wasn’t surprised to hear that public trust had fallen for corporations and the financial sector since last year. Edelman’s data suggest that people are more leery of business than in the aftermath of the Enron scandal, and only 29% of respondents trust what a CEO says about his/her company.

Given what has happened with the Goldman/AIG sweetheart deals, the Toyota recall, the socialization of Chrysler and GM, etc., this sentiment is to be expected.

What was shocking to me, though, was that the US public’s trust in their government and political leaders actually increased from last year– 46% of Americans trust in their government to do the right thing, which is more than the French (43%), German (46%), British (38%) and Russian (38%) believe.

What’s more, Americans’ trust in their government increased by over half of 2009’s level– a 53% increase, proportionally, from last year.  Who were they interviewing?? Barack Obama’s kindergarten teacher? The guy who owns a warehouse full of “Real Change We Can Believe In” bumper stickers?

Among major nations, only the Chinese at 74% had more confidence in their government.

Economically, 65% of respondents worldwide, including 61% in the United States, said that they want governments to *increase* control over all industries, and fewer than half of the Americans polled believe that the free market should be allowed to operate without significant government influence.

These indications are really unfortunate, because when the people ask for more government control, they will absolutely get what they deserve.  And once power has been vested to the government by the people, it almost takes a revolution to wrestle it back.

If you’re one of the minority who can properly identify runaway governments as the problem and not the solution, you should really think hard about your options.

Expatriation is often too radical a concept for most people, especially those who find themselves chained to geography by factors like job, money, and family.

Personally I would argue that family is one of the chief reasons to expatriate, and that most people would have more financial success and live a better, cleaner lifestyle overseas.

If fear and uncertainty are preventing you from making a move, I would advise that you at least get your feet wet by internationalizing yourself in baby steps.

For example, definitely consider purchasing foreign property as a first step– buying property is definitely the best way to move money between countries.  It also makes for a great investment, provides you with an emergency landing pad, and frankly gives you a reason to travel from time to time.

Do your research and buy in a free country that has a stable economy and fiscal discipline.

Panama is an excellent example– the country’s debt level is currently a manageable 45% of GDP, and the government is astutely borrowing a bit of very cheap money to make lucrative infrastructure investments that will yield a soundly positive ROI.

Furthermore, as the country continues to experience a solid growth rate and manage its debt levels, Panama’s proportion of external debt to GDP should continue to decline in the foreseeable future.

In fact, Panama is one of just a handful of countries that experienced positive GDP growth last year, and you can see evidence of this on the ground. There are currently some attractive investment opportunities in the property market, as well as fairly straightforward bank financing available.

I promised a few weeks ago to bring you some inside information about Panama’s property market, and I intend on doing that tomorrow. More to follow.