Your questions: anarchy, healthcare, mortgages, China

February 5, 2010
Mexico City, Mexico

Greetings once again from Mexico; I’m sure many who listen to the mainstream press would be amazed to find that I have spent 48 hours on the ground here with nary a swine flu infection nor simple mugging to report.

I did, however, miss my flight to Canada.

What can I say… Mexico City traffic has got to be the most dangerous thing in this country. I was able to change my plans and will be in Vancouver this evening.

Before I get started on answering your questions from the mailbag, I wanted to mention a brief administrative note– if you ever have difficulties opening or reading the daily email in your inbox, you can always read it online at; in the meantime, my staff is working on resolving all readability issues.

Moving on to questions.

To start off, John asks: “Hi Simon- you don’t talk about politics much, though I have a feeling where you stand by reading your letter each day. Can you give me a better idea of how you see the world, politically?”

First and foremost, I want to make an important distinction. I am an avowed anarchist. Just the word itself has an incredibly negative connotation– it conjures images of subversion, treachery, and treason… or at least crazy guys hoarding guns in Montana.

People too often confuse ‘anarchy’ with ‘chaos’, usually citing examples like “if there were no laws, what would keep people from driving on the wrong side of the road?” or “who would come and put out the fire when your house is burning?”

These arguments are weak and only serve to indicate the extent to which governments have brainwashed people. Most citizens now believe that the political establishment is vital for their own survival, as if we would all spontaneously combust were it not for the FDA.

Anarchy is not chaos. The political establishment is chaos. Politicians have a horrific track record managing wars, finances, education, health care, and just about everything else they put their hands on… all at the expense of public resources.  Very little changes for the better, at least thanks to the government.

And yet, every few years, we still put on a charade to cast our vote, as if this ridiculous exercise has any meaning whatsoever. It’s an unpopular thing to say, but participating in the political process is a complete waste of time… particularly since we have a much more powerful voice.

The most important votes we cast are as consumers, not constituents… we vote with our dollars every single day. The best candidates, i.e. the producers, win our votes, and the worst candidates go bust. No amount of baby-kissing can save a defunct company.

Hell, not even a government bailout could keep Chrysler and GM alive.

Personally, I would prefer to have all of my tax dollars back in my pocket and pay a usage fee for privatized roads, or an annual subscription for a privatized library, rather than have some bureaucrat funding pet projects with my hard-earned money.

I recognize that this is all just a pipe dream, at least for now. Political institutions are here to stay, and the trend is bigger government, not more limited governments.

That’s one of the reasons why I have chosen this lifestyle– with a multiple flags approach, I minimize the impact that any single government has on my life.

Betty sends along the following comment: “You wrote that hospitals in Boquete, Panama were substandard. You are badly misinformed. Hospital Chiriqui is a modern hospital with excellent doctors who speak English for the most part; I should know, I was in intensive care there for three weeks and had five specialists attend to me.”

Noted, Betty. Thanks.

Captain asks, “Simon, do any ex-US real estate markets employ US-style mortgages?”

Yes. Panama is one of them; foreigners can get a 50% to 70% mortgage, and a better rate if you become a resident. Many European countries also underwrite mortgages for foreigners.

The other thing to consider is developer financing instead of bank financing. This tactic is being used in a lot of places around the world to mop up extra inventory. I see this everywhere now– Spain, Thailand, Morocco, and here in Mexico.

Standard packages generally require 10% to 30% down, and will finance the balance on a 30-year amortization schedule for a 5-year term.

Nathan asks: “Simon- Regarding China, I know a lot of people have been high on the country for some time. But what is the real analysis here?”

To be clear, I am not a blind China bull… but I’m happy to call a spade a spade. The ‘good’ part of the analysis is fairly simple. In the long run, there are two things needed for sustained economic growth: technology and savings.

Technology makes production (i.e. wealth generation) more efficient, and a large pool of savings becomes investment capital to create businesses, build factories, etc… things that add value to an economy.

China has both, and so the foundation for its economic growth is sound. However, there are a LOT of potential problems with China– the economy succeeds despite its government, and I’m concerned about future political instability.

Furthermore, I expect one day that China will go through significant challenges as it finds that it can no longer compete with its neighbors for low-skill manufacturing. The country will have to develop entirely new industries, and that could be painful.

Lastly, the Chinese are become cultural consumers… shop-a-holics really. This consumption depletes the pool of savings, and if sustained, will create long term structural issues.

That’s all for today, I’m off to Vancouver.  Have a great weekend.