The psychology of jingoism and expatriation

Written by Andrew Henderson

Let’s do a little psychological analysis today.

Ever since arriving back on US soil a month ago for my two-month hiatus from traveling, I’ve been writing what seems constantly about disturbing trends I see here. Namely, those trends involve the idea that there is some kind of magic pixie dust baked into the land that makes this country better than any other.

I recently got into a little debate with someone who said “with the way things are going in the world, no place is financially secure”. As I see it, this is nothing more than projection.

You see, when you travel to dozens of countries and stay on the move, you see a lot of things. In just the last few months, I’ve been on the ground in the Philippines and seen how they’re doing a lot of things right. I’ve also seen how the “government” of Brunei – basically one Sultan and his hangers-on – are doing things wrong. I’ve learned lessons from far-flung places and also seen just how “yesterday” some places in western Europe are.

The one thing I never do is try to project my nationality onto the rest of the world. The reality is, there are plenty of places that are on the upswing. There are plenty of places to find freedom or easily start a business.

The fatalistic view that “once it’s over here, it’s over everywhere” is nonsense. One thing I’ve noticed from building a worldwide network of experts in various fields is that, almost universally, the people saying this kind of thing are Americans. Talk to someone who is Swiss, for instance, and they understand the ebb-and-flow of economies. After all, they’re sandwiched next to five other countries and speak four languages. They get it. The wealthy Chinese who are moving to Australia and New Zealand get it.

These people aren’t just going to throw in the towel and curl up in a ball on their sofa because their own country is going downhill. They’re doing something about it.

The fact that thousands of US citizens a year are now renouncing their citizenship has at times been front page news. Most of the reporters writing these stories scratch their heads and wonder why anyone would want to give up their American citizenship. Their writing is basically thinly-veiled jingoism. When a rich Chinese guy moves to Canada, they’re happy to make the assumption that “China sucks”, no further explanation required.

Somehow, however, that never carries over to their own country, especially in The Land of the Free. After all, the word “Free” is right in the title. Who would want to leave that? If someone renounces their US citizenship, they must be some conspiracy loon or a 1%-er fleeing the long arm of the taxman. (Who could blame them?)

It’s projection at its finest.

Remember when you were 21 and you dated that guy or girl who was just a pain? Eventually, you broke it off, but their ego couldn’t handle your rejection. Like many an immature kid, they rationalized it to themselves. They were too good-looking. Too rich. Their car was too cool. They intimidated you. Their skills as a lover were too impressive. Their body too perfect. And then they said, “I’ll show him/her”… and they went on doing the same destructive things as before with the next person.

A shrink would have a field day with that person. Hopefully, they eventually realized their faults and took action to correct them. But many didn’t. Their actions are emblematic of many who live in the United States. They figure they (their country) is so perfect that if anyone leaves – damn them; we don’t need ’em! It’s an emotional response from someone who isn’t willing to be challenged. They’re happy to face reality when it’s some other country people are leaving, but they can’t realize that maybe their country just isn’t as good as they’ve been deluded to think it is.

For after all, governments use varying degrees of propaganda to keep their citizens thinking they’re inhabiting the best slice of earth. Some just tend to believe it more than others.

There’s a reason people are renouncing their US citizenship. (Other countries don’t see such a trend because most countries don’t claim ownership of you even if you’re lived outside their jurisdiction for your entire life.) There’s a reason people are moving to other countries. It’s not because they’re not “man enough” to handle their home country in, as the 21-year-old ex might say. It’s because they view someplace else as better.

To that end, the idea that one country losing its freedom and its economic opportunity will cripple the world is ludicrous. In fact, if you’re an American who values freedom, you largely have the US government to blame for any global surveillance state. While the world has gotten freer in the past 25 years, the US government in particular has been encouraging other countries to enact their own draconian laws about offshore accounts, second citizenships, and the like.

And when you “plant flags” – that is, establish citizenship, residence, bank accounts, corporations, etc. in various countries – you’ll be more immune to any ebb-and-flow that happens in one economy. Rather than sit around bemoaning how your country is falling apart, find a better place to move and retain the option to return to that country if it gets its act together.

That’s how the free market works. I for one prefer the principles of free market thinking a lot better than the principles of deflective thinking employed by scorned 21-year-old douche bags.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 30, 2019 at 2:13PM

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  1. 李江土

    Over two hundred years ago the Chinese believed that those who left China were leaving civilization and were no longer worthy of respect or protection. What followed was over a century of humiliation, economic stagnation, decline, and misery.

    What does this forebode for the US…

    • Pete Sisco

      The US is in for some very rough road. From 2001 to 2011 the US contribution to global DGP dropped from 31% to 21% making it that much less relevant. When hyperinflation/default arrives and the US loses its reserve currency status the standard of living will drop like a stone. Then America might be more like Germany or Japan after defeat, more humble and embarrassed for what it did to the world with its jingoism and bombast.

      All of that said, when those 300-million people get back on their feet they will have the opportunity to rebuild without using a coercive social system and if they do that they will resuscitate an economic and inventive giant.

  2. Ted

    Have you renounced your US citizenship? Perhaps you’d like to pick up a Philipino passport? Give me a break guy…../you would have the luxury of travelling to so many countries while slamming your own on most passports of the world of those very countries that you’ve been singing praises about. Put your money or better yet your passport where your mouth is,,,,

    BTW I’ve been an expat for 14 years and for all it’s ills would never give up nor encourage others to give up their US citizenship and I live “not travel to” one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. Don’t be such a hypocrite…

    • Ted

      Typo correction “./you would have the luxury of travelling to so many countries while slamming your own on most passports of the world of those very countries that you’ve been singing praises about.”

      Correction: “would you have the luxury of travelling to so many countries while slamming your own on most passports of the world? Especially of those very countries that you’ve been singing praises about while slamming you own?”

      • Pete Sisco

        You can’t blame a guy for where he is born and you can’t expect him to automatically be proud of where he was born and think it has a wonderful government. Do you want every Cuban-born person to write about how great his country is? Every Somali? Every Pakistani? Then why should every American? Many of us would love to own a Stateless Passport that declared we were owned by no country – unfortunately those aren’t available so we’re all stuck with the one we get from our birthplace. Changing that is expensive and takes years to qualify under some similar coercive terms. We trade a headache for an upset stomach. I have two passports – both better than American for taxation and travel purposes – and I’m a PR of a third country with no income taxes but it took years and a ton of money to make that happen. That’s not practical for billions of people. People are stuck with what a coercive state gave them and they rightfully complain about that.

        • Red

          I guarantee you that if you offerred a Cuban, Pakastani, Philipino or Somali a chance to trade in their passports for a US passport, Make no mistake, they would do it in a heartbeat! That’s the difference! I’m merely asking the same question to the author of this article to demonstrate the same…. Nothing wrong with not liking aspects of your country etc. free speech…but when you are writing articles about renouncing your US citizenship and encouraging others to do the same just as a way to express your differences. Then you better be ready to put you money where your mouth is and do the same! Otherwise you’re a hypocrite!

          • Pete Sisco

            1. I agree. But you changed the subject. Yes, some Cubans, etc would trade citizenship. So would some Americans. People are not hypocrites to not like their government. (I don’t like any of them.)

            2. Why does a guy have to “put his money where his mouth is” or anywhere else? There is lots of good advice to offer and not all of it can be taken by the person giving it. Getting out from under the US Taxman is a pretty good idea even if the guy saying it hasn’t done it yet.

            3. Is it possible you are a proud American who doesn’t like to hear the USA “slammed” and that is the real issue here – if he was saying the same about the UK or Canada you’d be OK with it?

  3. Victoria Marie Ferauge

    I’d go for an EU passport myself. Easy travel to the US plus access to 27 countries. Not bad. Plus I’ve lived in France for nearly 20 years and I don’t really mind the high rate of taxation because I get value for my my money. I was recently treated for cancer here and the care was outstanding.

    But I also have to pay US taxes because I’m an American citizen (don’t earn enough to pay taxes on my salary but have had to pay capitals gains taxes to the US even though the investments had nothing to do with the US.)

    So that has me thinking “Should I stay or should I go?” Just for fun here is a cost benefit analysis I did last year:

    • nomadcapitalist

      Victoria, Thanks for the comment and your well-thought out commentary. Welcome to the site.