Dateline: Riomaggiore, Italy
I made the last-minute decision to fly down to Italy’s Cinque Terre this weekend. Since it is Easter, much of Poland has come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, last minute airfares in Europe are pretty cheap – $151 each way into Milan.
While I’ve been enjoying living in Poland and seeing some of the opportunities there, there is nothing quite like the five gorgeous towns that make up this part of Italy’s northwestern coast.
On the downside, Italy is now just another bankrupt Western European nation. Friends I made when I was here three years ago have told me they are out of a job and have little hope. They have their own reasons to escape their country these days.
Italy is a country that has gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery, amazing food, and some Super Tuscan wines that aren’t half bad, either.
How did they manage to screw it up?
On the flight down, I got to thinking about the LAST guy to screw up in this part of the world. If you’re living in the imperialist empire that is The Land of the Free, pay particular attention to this story…
The Roman Empire’s legacy of dictatorship
It was 44 BC.
The Ides of March had come and gone and Julius Caesar — who for years used his military prowess and bread-and-circus populism to retain his spot as the unrivaled ruler of Rome — had been assassinated.
Following his untimely death, a teenager of the plebeian class found himself posthumously adopted by the authoritarian leader.
His name was Augustus. As the heir to Caesar’s estate, he conferred with Mark Antony and Lepidus to form what would be the Second Triumvirate. It would bring together three warring factions and create an authoritarian military junta.
Soon, Rome’s Senators and aristocrats would lose their titles, their lands, and in some cases their lives, as the Triumvirate transitioned the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire and built up more and more power for themselves as dictators.
Taking from the Big Government Playbook, Augustus rejected dictatorial titles and called himself “The First Citizen”.
But dictatorial was his rule. The rulers put bounties on the heads of Senators with rich estates. Once willing Romans turned these Senators in for their reward, the Senator’s lands were seized to prop up the new dictatorship. Political enemies throughout the country were killed like never before.
As time went on, each member of the Triumvirate lashed out at his enemies in his own way. Killings became more widespread.
Within ten years, Augustus was tired of sharing his newfound powers. He started wars that wiped his partners out — and led Mark Antony to his legendary suicide — and began ruling with even more of an iron first.
However, Augustus knew how to play the game. In 27 BC, he put on a show by returning full governing power to the Roman Senate. In reality, he continued to rule with an iron fist. His ultimate sanction was force.
Those who followed Augustus continued the dictatorial empire. Caligula was widely known as the ultimate tyrant for his cruelty and sexual perversity. He directed public monies to building luxurious residences for himself, where he held court over frequent orgies.
When Caligula was assassinated, Rome’s Praetorian Guard saw to it that any chance to restore a Republic was thwarted.
The madness continued through one ruler after another. Nero was rumored to have burned down the city to make room for a palatial palace for himself.
One by one, he removed his advisors in order to assure his universal dominance. Obsessed with popularity, he made token gestures to maintain the support of the working class.
Political executions became more and more common as desperate rulers clung to their power. Nero executed his own mother and poisoned his stepbrother. Christians were persecuted — Nero went so far as to burn them alive in his palace garden in order to provide a source of light after dark.
Long after the Roman Empire collapsed, people and governments have fallen victim to the same madness.
And each time, the situation of those that don’t see the warnings signs get worse…
Government oppression in the twentieth century
In 1908, the Young Turk Revolution broke out in the Ottoman Empire. Its goal: restore constitutional government to the empire. Enver Bay quickly rose through the ranks as one of its most invaluable military leaders.
As war dragged on, the Empire sunk deeper and deeper into despair. Bay formulated an attack on Bulgaria, won, and made himself a Pasha — a high military and government leader.
The Pasha soon introduced a military dictatorship. Freedoms were curtailed. The Empire, despite any brief recovery, was falling apart. Eventually, the Young Turks drove Armenians from their homes and forced them to take part in the Pasha’s death march across the Syrian desert. It has been called the first genocide of the twentieth century.
Until 1962, Burma was among the richest nations in Asia. Then, military officers staged a coup in a bid to create the ultimate socialist state. Killings and “disappearances” became common across the land. By 1974, corruption was among the worst in the world. Workers were being arrested. Famine was spreading. Few dared speak out for fear of losing their lives.
In the late 1980s, Burmese leaders caused a currency devaluation that caused widespread panic and wiped out almost everyone’s life savings. Anarchy reigned. For some, their entire life had been spent in a country devoid of the prosperity and freedoms their parents had enjoyed.
… and worse.
Long protected by a minority-run Caucasian government, whites in the self-declared independent territory of Rhodesia had a leg up. They owned a majority of quality farmland, had good jobs and enjoyed their own wealthy culture within the sub-Saharan African country.
When the country gained full independence in 1980, taking on the name of Zimbabwe, the new government was ruled by the black majority. Whites lost their standing in the country. Guerrilla wars between black factions began.
Robert Mugabe’s new government took away social services for whites almost instantly. Gone were education and healthcare. Job opportunities for whites began to dry up. Farmlands owned by whites were confiscated, sometimes through violence.
Sanctions against the country piled up from governments, companies, and world organizations. When Robert Mugabe was finally voted out of office, he signed a power-sharing deal with his enemies to continue his reign.
Three reasons to leave behind your country of birth:
Reason #1: It is smart self-preservation to leave behind a country with an oppressive, corrupt government
In all of these cases, some people stayed put. They figured, “it can’t get any worse than this”. They were loyal to their country. As things got worse and worse, many people continued to stay — either to live in fear or to “stay and fight”.
Those who chose to stay were inevitably thanked for their patriotism with fewer freedoms, elimination of their life savings, despotic madmen as leaders, and even democide.
Others saw the warning signs and decided, “I’ve gotta get out of here”. They escaped while they could, taking their families, capital, and ambitions with them to settle in other places and build new lives.
It’s the age-old tale of the immigrant who built a successful life somewhere else, despite past adversity.
No matter how many years pass, humans rarely learn from history. That sad truth can be seen now as most Americans and other Westerners watch as their freedoms are taken one by one… yet mostly do nothing.
Reason #2: Choosing to “stay and fight” big government is largely unproductive
At the tender age of 17, I accurately predicted that the newly created “Department of Homeland Security” would create a fleet of statist government buffoons who would spend ever-increasing amounts of money to make your life miserable while becoming a bunch of pseudo-law enforcement thugs.
It’s not that I was Nostradamus. But a knowledge of history will tell you a lot about how governments will act, especially when they get more and more power hungry.
The income tax in the United States started at a 1% rate some 100 years ago. Look at it now. To the ideologically bankrupt ruling class, their take today still isn’t enough. The truth is, it will never be enough for them.
They’ve created endless indebtedness and see no reason to stop just because you think they should or even because it’s the historically sound thing to do. They’re counting on you to stay and pay up like a good little serf so they can continue their quest for power and popularity.
It is this history that has shaped my view that we all owe it to ourselves and to our families to go where we, our capital, and our talents are treated best.
This can be a hard decision to make. Many people will say it’s their duty to stay and fight for their home country. They claim picking up is the same as “fleeing” or “running away” and is the response of cowards. They believe, with good intentions, that it is their duty to restore freedom in their place of birth.
However, I believe this logic is flawed. In a country like the United States, citizens have an equal right to make their voice heard. They have increasingly chosen to side with fewer liberties, higher taxes, and less economic freedom. You’re not going to combat an erosion in freedom when that’s what the people want.
In cases like these, “fighting” is only an illusion. That which you are fighting for has no face. No party leader. No easily discernible target. Government bureaucracy and a sense of entitlement permeate the culture. It cannot be fought head on.
Those who have tried to “stay and fight” often do more harm than good. Timothy McVeigh was “fighting” for retribution of government killings at Waco and Ruby Ridge. Look how far that got him. The guy who flew his plane into the IRS building in Texas didn’t do much to “fight” against the income tax, either.
People who stay and fight are usually marginalized.
I’m not in favor of violence. Think about it: do you want to be the guy firing at some paramilitary force as they descend on your house to take your possessions and subvert you to their will? Do you really think you can fight a truly tyrannical government — and is that how you want to live your life?
You could literally spend your entire lifetime fighting and not make a dent. The war you are fighting is with a nebulous, faceless entity: Big Government. It’s institutional and practically impossible to combat.
Reason #3: You can choose to live somewhere that fits your values
A country is governed by common values that may change over time. One day those values could include self-reliance and an ambitious spirit; the next, endless entitlements and government agents sticking their hand down your pants.
I frequently refer to countries — and our place in them — as a “patch of dirt”. None of us chooses where we are born. When you think about it, there is little that separates Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia other than a manmade line in the sand.
The country you are fighting for may no longer exist in the way you want it to. Once that is the case, you’re only fighting against a larger group of people who have different values than you do. All that’s left for you to cling to is that line in the sand.
I’ve never found manmade borders on a map something worth giving up my life to fight for. I’d rather just expatriate.
I want to live my life prosperous, healthy, and happy; not fighting some bureaucracy to help free everyone that laughed at me when I said our freedoms were being taken away in the first place.
Around the world, there is likely a place that suits your values and welcomes your quest for freedom and success. Your ancestors likely did it themselves at one point in time, and they were regarded as visionaries and heroes. They weren’t “running away”, but making a calculated decision to better their own lives.
The government is feeding off your hard work and burdening you with amazing indebtedness. Your way to fight back is not to throw a rally or vote in new corrupt politicians. It’s to take your talents and money elsewhere to create success in a new place that shares your values and respects you as a human being.
In our modern world, you have more freedoms than all of your ancestors combined. If your home country gets its act together — or goes broke and has to rebuild — you can always return once the dust settles. If you take my advice to leave and prosper rather than stay and fight, you’ll be able to watch the chaos on your television rather than out your window. And you can always return when your values are once again in vogue.
But I believe “stay and fight” is more a fear of the unknown than a clinging to lines on a map. Instead, you should go where you’re treated best.