Economic freedom is all about momentum

Written by Andrew Henderson
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I’m often asked why I would want to pack up my things and fly half way around the world to visit and live in developing countries like some of the ones I’ve reported from recently, and will be reporting from in the months to come. A lot of people in my home country can’t comprehend why I’d want to leave the luxuries of home for the unexpected – and in “third world” countries to boot.

Say nothing of the fact that I’ve also spent years on the ground studying the economies of much of western Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau, and others. Some people just don’t get – and sometimes ridicule – why I think the Philippines is a great place to relocate to or why the Caucasus nation of Georgia is a good place to bank.

They’ve been brainwashed to believe that pop songs playing in sprawling mall parking lots and 1,000-calorie sodas for seventy-nine cents are the true measures of a country’s greatness. Anything less must be a banana republic.

Yet you and I know just how many freedoms are evaporating in The Land of the Free and other western countries.

I prefer to look at things in a different way than many. Rather than study the exact facts and figures about a country today, I look at the trends.

Have they been increasing freedom recently?

Is the government open to foreigners and foreign investment?

Are they working to fix their problems while bolstering what they’re already good at?

Is their attitude one of arrogance or one of openness to those who can invest and contribute?

After all, in most other aspects of life, attitude and hard work are everything. When I ran a business in the broadcasting industry, I saw tons of talented people who wouldn’t go the extra mile. They’d nickel and dime you and refuse to pitch in on anything.

Then there were the guys who would stay late, schmooze you, hang out anywhere they could to absorb knowledge and show they were a team player. Those in the ladder, even if they were less talented, were the ones that succeeded.

To me, the way to determine where to plant your flags is momentum. Some countries have positive momentum in spades. Some are on the other end of the coin.

Following Cyprus, the anti-freedom movement is on the move to destroy offshore banking anywhere they can. They take a communist, bankrupt country like Cyprus, hold it up against more stable, wealthier countries like Luxembourg, and make the correlation that any country with an outsized banking sector is going to go belly up any minute – and we’d better take steps to shut it down.

Now, forget the fact that Luxembourg is nothing like Cyprus. Switzerland is nothing like Cyprus. Liechtenstein, Andorra, and Austria are nothing like Cyprus.

The European Union is a band of countries more dissimilar than all countries whose name starts with the letter “M”. But that won’t stop the “tax justice” crowd from making sure they shut down every escape hatch for your money.

Don’t be bothered by the fact that even “strong” American and Canadian banks often have less than 2% of deposits in cash, or that entities like the FDIC have less than a penny on the dollar to insure those deposits.

Even if banks in Andorra have liquidity ratios fifteen times higher than their Too-Big-to-Fail mega-bank counterparts, the politicians want to take action against them.

To statists, it’s not about freedom. It’s not about prosperity. It’s about control.

Fortunately, countries like Austria are willing to stand up to them. And fortunately, their ability to wield influence – even if they succeed in the EU – won’t span the entire world. They fail to understand that the essence of freedom is fungible.

No wealthy foreigner ever put their money in a Swiss bank just because they loved the delicious macaroons at Confiserie Sprüngli in Zurich. They put their money there because Switzerland offered them a unique proposition – that their banks were the most stable, private banks in the world.

As Switzerland has caved in by reducing privacy and whacking their currency in recent years, much of the offshore wealth there has gone elsewhere. If places like Luxembourg cave in, that money will go elsewhere as well. I saw it first-hand in Singapore last month, as bankers regaled me with tale after tale of American and Asian clients alike who had felt betrayed by Switzerland and moved their money to Singapore.

When I wrote last week that it’s not worth staying and fighting for your country, people replied that eventually, there will be no place to go. I couldn’t disagree more.

That’s because I see momentum as the number one asset of those seeking personal and economic freedom.

It’s no secret that momentum in Old Europe is on the decline. As much as many Americans think their country is just hunky-dory, momentum is moving the wrong direction there, too. But go to Asia and things are looking great.

Australia, despite its flaws, looks promising although I imagine the currency will have to pull back in the short-term. Even some leftist countries in South America offer better opportunities for freedom seekers when you take into account that they, too, have momentum on their side.

It’s all about which way the arrow is moving.

During my recent visit to the Philippines, I spent a lot of time with business leaders, expats, bankers, and entrepreneurs. Sure, the country is developing. And yes, corruption has long been an issue there. But the government has been making big steps in the right direction.

In one year alone, their world ranking for economic freedom increased ten places – quite a jump. The politicians in charge are carefully studying what policies work in other countries and are cracking down on problem spots within their system.

Frankly, I’ll take a country that’s moving up that fast over one that’s falling and refuses to admit it. The countries with upward momentum know what they have to do to improve and work on those things. Those with downward momentum rest on the laurels of past greatness and blame you, Joe Citizen, for cracks in their fault lines.

The statist bureaucrats that want to clamp down on your legal right to bank offshore, start a business overseas, or expatriate don’t understand the free market. Big surprise, huh? They arrogantly think that if they try hard enough and bash enough skulls together that they’ll solve the problem of people seeking freedom by simply making those urges go away.

It can be frustrating to see this kind of dopey populism penetrating society. But there’s a reason I didn’t call it Offshore Capitalist or European Capitalist or anything like that. It’s called Nomad Capitalist because you can always get up, find the next opportunity, and take yourself and/or your capital with you. The laws of nature dictate that when one place is trending down, somewhere else will be on the upswing.

I believe you’ll see a lot of this as the world changes in the years to come. As Obamacare sets in and the quality of care deteriorates in the US, places like Dubai and the Philippines will step up to become medical tourism hot spots.

If Europe wants to listen to the EU thugs and put pressure on countries like Luxembourg, some place new will fill the void. Countries like Singapore that already believe in economic freedom will also continue to reap the benefits of a cash and talent influx.

Phenomenons like Bitcoin have showed that freedom moves faster than government. Those seeking refuge will find it regardless of whether it’s out of favor in one corner of the world or not. As the world becomes wealthier and that wealth comes from more places, it will only be a question of momentum.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 30, 2019 at 2:23PM

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