bad governments

Congress brings Atlas Shrugged to America with this new bill

September 19, 2014
Santiago, Chile

It was known as Directive 10-289, and it was the government's last-ditch, desperate effort to control the collapsing economy.

The President, along with some of his senior advisors at the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources, all widely agreed that the only way out of the crisis was expand government power.

The directive was passed quickly, and among its key provisions:

"Point One. All workers,[...] Click here to continue reading

Scottish independence: they love democracy so much they’re trying to subvert it

September 16, 2014
Santiago, Chile

The polls in Scotland will close this week on one of the more important elections in recent history... perhaps one of the only elections that actually matters.

Rather than a typical vote to see who the captain of the Titanic will be, Scots are deciding whether they want to be free and independent from the UK.

Every eligible voter has a say, and a simple majority decides[...] Click here to continue reading

The last time this happened, the US went to war to ‘defend’ its interests.

petrodollar, oil, dollar
September 6, 2014
Santiago, Chile

In 1974 Richard Nixon struck a deal with Saudi Arabia that might go down as the biggest scam in US history.

In exchange for weapons and protection, the Saudis would sell their oil for US dollars, then reinvest those dollars back in the United States.

This was a matter of life or death for the dollar at the time; Nixon had closed the gold window three years[...] Click here to continue reading

The morning after: What happens when a government destroys its currency

Mexico, Peso, Mexican Pesos
September 1, 2014
Dallas, Texas

Imagine this scene:

"Everyone in the country was in shock. People’s net worth had devalued more than 53% overnight.”

“The value in savings accounts dropped in half and neither merchants nor consumers knew how to react because they had never been through something like it before...”

This is how an American business executive described living through Mexico’s devaluation of the peso exactly 38 years ago on[...] Click here to continue reading

The Worst Investors in the World

July 6, 2010
Berlin, Germany

Last Friday, I read about how the US workforce shrank by over 650,000 in June, one of the sharpest contractions ever. Private sector hiring was also less than expected, suggesting that joblessness in the US will remain sluggish.

Always ready to spin a bad story, US politicians immediately began heralding the jobs data as clear evidence that the tide was turning, that the US economy is headed in[...] Click here to continue reading

The government is sending you a message

June 29, 2010
Oxford, England

My apologies for not writing to you yesterday... I was angry (a rare occurrence for me), and I hate writing to my friends when I'm angry. You see, the G8/G20 summits took place over the weekend in Toronto, and everything about these events simply boils my blood.

To me, there's nothing more utterly worthless than a bunch of corrupt, irrelevant, incompetent bureaucrats who generate enormous pomp and circumstance[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: renouncing US citizenship, postal mail for PTs

June 18, 2010
Madrid, Spain

Long haul flights from South America generally tend to leave in the evening, usually between 7pm and 1am. The airlines do this so that you arrive first thing in the morning and can catch any connecting flight you may need... which is nice for travelers.

The flight schedule does make things a bit inconvenient prior to departure, though.  Even with a late hotel check-out, you'll have about 5[...] Click here to continue reading

What I learned from the government agents

June 7, 2010
Panama City, Panama

My weekend in New York City with fellow Atlas 400 members was really spectacular and first class all the way. There were about 50 of us in total, all with varied and interesting backgrounds from all over the world-- a renowned heart surgeon, a music business mogul, a couple of best-selling authors, successful entrepreneurs, etc.

I want to tell you a lot more about the event because[...] Click here to continue reading

Not as advertised

May 27, 2010
Chicago, IL, USA

Uruguay is one of the countries that generally receives a lot of praise and positive commentary in the expatriate blogosphere. It's often referred to as the "Switzerland of South America," or compared directly to Paris... probably by people who have been to neither Switzerland nor Paris.

The truth is that Uruguay is a very pleasant country in many respects. It's relatively clean, quiet, safe, and not very[...] Click here to continue reading

Why this may be the Great Deleveraging Part Zwei

May 19, 2010
Quad Cities, IA, USA

I wanted to send you a short note today from America's heartland to tell you what I'm doing with my investment capital, and why.

I'm closing out almost all of my speculative positions and going to sit on the sidelines for a bit because I'm concerned that the markets are entering another major deleveraging period.

Here are the facts which concern me-

1)[...] Click here to continue reading

Tell me what’s holding you back

I generally don't spend very much time in the US.

I think there are more desirable places out there... and to me, the US is just like any other country in decline like Italy or Spain-- I really enjoy it as a tourist, I just don't care enough for the politics or media to stay for long periods of time.

That's one of the benefits of being a permanent traveler with no[...] Click here to continue reading

What nobody says about the death of the dollar

May 13, 2010
Undisclosed Location

Ask yourself an important question: how will you know when the proverbial fat lady is about to sing?

In our regular conversations, we talk a lot about the importance of being prepared... history is full of examples of pigs that got slaughtered for not being prepared, for not heeding the warning signs, and for waiting until it was too late.

For example, we may be able to[...] Click here to continue reading

Which countries are at risk, which countries are safe from a dollar crisis

May 6, 2010
Undisclosed Location

Most people don't realize how many countries out there are dollarized.

In some countries, like El Salvador, Panama, Palau, Ecuador, etc. the US dollar officially circulates in the economy. In others, like Cambodia and Zimbabwe, the US dollar is the de facto currency, which means that they officially have their own currency, but US dollars are commonly used and accepted for everyday purchases.

Moreover, in other[...] Click here to continue reading

Would you take to the streets too?

May 5, 2010
Undisclosed location

The last few days have been great for the shorts. I'm one of them. Global markets have been in an absolute panic over what's happening in Europe, and many major indices have erased their 2010 gains.

Clearly, the most concerning issue of the day is the ongoing trouble in Greece. The government has been borrowing and spending far beyond its means, and far beyond its growth potential for[...] Click here to continue reading

Important information about capital controls

April 19, 2010
Quito, Ecuador

I don't have to tell you that world governments are collectively pushing hard against people who abusively hide money overseas.

Governments' primary motivation at the moment is to make sure that no one is evading their tax obligations; for now, they don't care much if you pay taxes on your income, and then transfer after-tax earnings overseas.

In a way, though, their offshore crackdowns have become a[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: Being a target, Panama and the IRS, Taking your money

April 9, 2010
Panama City, Panama

My time is winding up here in Panama and I'm trying to sort out my travel for the next few weeks. I need to be in the US for two conferences by April 26th, so that gives me about 2-weeks to kill.

I'm thinking about heading to Medellin, Cuenca, Lima, Santiago, Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Florianopolis... but let's face it, that may be a little ambitious for two[...] Click here to continue reading

What emerging markets have in common with puberty

April 8, 2010
Panama City, Panama

Do you remember that really awkward phase we all went through as adolescents?

Growth spurts, voice changes, menstruation, and yes, pimples-- in the end, while we all came out of it more mature and grown up, there was a difficult and sometimes painful transition period in which we had to learn how to deal with new realities.

Developing countries go through the same sort of transition,[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: H.I.R.E. Hoopla, Panama without the Canal, cheap retirement, more

April 2, 2010
Panama City, Panama

It's been a great week so far in Panama. Each time I come back to this country I become even more sure in my conviction that Panama has a bright future.

For the next few days, though, I am going to set aside market forecasts and expatriation strategies... you see, my friends from the Atlas 400 club are starting to arrive, and I'm looking forward to a[...] Click here to continue reading

Exchange controls in the United States?

March 30, 2009
Panama City, Panama

I've been flooded with emails over the last few days about new law in the United States that many people believe to be government imposed exchange controls. Here's the deal, in case you haven't heard:

On March 18th, President Obama signed into law the innocuous sounding "Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act." Buried in the bill are several provisions that impose new taxes, penalties, and requirements regarding[...] Click here to continue reading

Which countries will compete for you

March 24, 2010
Hong Kong, SAR

One of the worst things that can happen to a country is to experience a brain-drain.  The loss of productive people who create new technologies and companies means the loss of the jobs and wealth that they create.

The long-term aggregate effects of this can be truly devastating, and history provides no shortage of examples.

By nature, though, people are generally creatures of habit-- inert beings.[...] Click here to continue reading

How to invest like an “unprincipled speculator”

March 10, 2010
Pattaya, Thailand

Yesterday I apparently declared a premature end to major combat operations against the virus that has invaded my body.  Maybe it was just the celebratory Mexican food I ate last night to commemorate the end of my 4-day sickness, but I now seem to be experiencing my own W-shaped recovery.

Always the optimist, though, I'm actually grateful for a few things; namely, I've been too consumed with the[...] Click here to continue reading

Questions: Jobs update, a dollar crisis, gold banking in Singapore, sustainable community

February 19, 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

I really need to start out today's letter by expressing how truly humbled I am to be part of such a fantastic community.

Matt and I have spent much of the last few days combing through resumes (200+ so far) for the job openings that I posted on Monday, and the caliber of talent and energy is really impressive.

Applicants vary in age from 17 to 70.[...] Click here to continue reading

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[...] Click here to continue reading

Making money from junkies

February 16, 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

The popular press has been bandying a lot of cute acronyms for the 'sick' European countries. I have seen PIIGS, STUPIDs, and DUHs... and while the individual circumstances of each country are different, they all have one thing in common--

Their obligations far exceed their assets, and they have to borrow money just to pay interest on the money that they've already borrowed.

We don't need a[...] Click here to continue reading

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.[...] Click here to continue reading

Case Study: Multiple Flags in Venezuela

January 19, 2010
Mexico City (DF), Mexico

For such a pale skinned gringo, his Spanish was impeccable. We were both sitting in the business class lounge at the airport, and the fluidity with which he was prattling away in Spanish on his mobile phone caught my attention.

Ordinarily, given his very light complexion and European fashion sense, I would have guessed that he was Argentine; his accent, however, was devoid of the traditional[...] Click here to continue reading

I ignored the warning signs

It was an interesting weekend, to say the least, and what I am about to tell you is a true story.

I 'intended' to drive down to Gibraltar this weekend, hop a ferry for Morocco, and spend a few days in Africa. As it happened though, once the famous Rock of Gibraltar emerged in the horizon, I inadvertently turned my car north into the Sierra Bermeja mountains.

Down on the coast where I[...] Click here to continue reading

How to avoid living in a police state

If I have been too subtle in the past, let me be absolutely clear this afternoon: the time to do something, the time to take action to safeguard your future and your families livelihood, is NOW.

I'm more impassioned than usual this morning... and with reason.  Reluctantly, I tuned in to Team Obama's press briefing last night about the ongoing saga of the Nigerian underwear bomber.  Obama's is clearly trying to cultivate a fear[...] Click here to continue reading

You’re officially on your own…

January 5, 2010

Reporting from: Estepona, Spain

I've spent a lot of time lately sitting on the terrace of my coastal villa here in southern Spain, enjoying great conversations with friends, pondering the markets, and making significant investment and business decisions.

I've found that it's much easier to do this in a peaceful environment, free of the normal distractions that can invade our daily lives.

In fact, one of[...] Click here to continue reading

Multiple Flags Overview

Reporting from: Malaga, Spain

I do not have tremendous faith in world 'leaders' (as ridiculous a moniker as that is to use); last month's debacle in Copenhagen only further underscored how perverse and ineffective the existing political process is, and everyone is really starting to see it.

The Social Contract is deteriorating rapidly, and in the end, the one thing that you can count on is that people will ultimately do what they[...] Click here to continue reading

Planting your electronic flag

We all know that Google is in bed with the government... I suppose it's nice that CEO Eric Schmidt is at least open about it.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Schmidt effectively admits that Google archives everything about a user-- web searches (google), email and contact lists (gmail), online office documents (google docs), photographs (picasa), text and voice messages (google voice), and even a user's current location (google maps).

The depth of[...] Click here to continue reading

Capital controls are a foregone conclusion

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,[...] Click here to continue reading

A way to play rising taxes and a dollar correction

It took three speeding tickets in the south of France on the way from Monaco to Barcelona, but we made it to Spain late yesterday evening.  I had forgotten how expensive it is to drive in France. Fuel is among the most expensive in Europe thanks to a series of extraordinarily high taxes.

Gasoline, as people often forget, is a fungible commodity... in its pure form it should cost the same everywhere because it[...] 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

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