Dateline: Hong Kong
In a classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, two swindlers convince a vain emperor that they will create the most majestic suit of clothing for him.
So majestic, they promise, that those “hopelessly unworthy” of his excellence will not even be able to see it. Once the suit is created, the emperor and his court pretend to see this magic fabric for fear of being deemed stupid or unworthy.
In the end, however, the emperor’s arrogance is called on the carpet when a child of the local townsfolk, too young to understand the pretense, calls the king out, confirming his suspicion that he has been swindled.
That same type of swindle job is happening to businesses in the western world today.
For a country chided as a chief violator of free speech, the English-language newspapers served in business class on my flight from Beijing to Hong Kong were quite bold. Headlines spoke of the Philippines’ latest clash with China over its territories in the Spratly Islands, as well as other territorial disputes.
In the eyes of the increasingly fascist west, China is the chief example of political abuse of power and violations against capitalism and human rights.
However, the west is increasingly taking a fascist line against business, abusing political powers to punish enemies and those that speak out against the government.
We’ve seen this sort of thing throughout history. Typically, it has been targeted at political opponents than creators of wealth. Governments love setting up scenarios like the Reichstag in order to flex their muscles against those that dared challenge the ruling class.
In today’s anti-business western world, these attacks have shifted toward attempting to ruin anyone who creates a profit in spite of the government’s insistence that IT, not business, is what creates wealth.
No government typifies this more than the United States.
The United States government has matched many of the characteristics of fascist Europe during World War II. It’s NSA spying program, for instance, is far more reaching than the most power-hungry dictator could ever imagine. Even its allies are miffed about it.
In the vein of political payback, however, the US government’s recent attack on rating agency Standard and Poors takes the cake.
The US government just fined S&P a record $1.5 billion… and essentially bullied it into walking back its claims that it was targeted as part of a political witch hunt after downgrading the US credit rating.
Somehow, I’m sure the US will APPLAUD S&P’s recent trashing of Russia’s credit rating to junk status. It’s all politics.
You see, back in 2011, the S&P did what everyone knew had to be done: pull the plug on the US government’s AAA credit rating.
While US debt has, of course, continued to spiral out of control in the last four years, the situation then was just as dire.
American politicians had a massive public debt with an even larger list of off-the-books liabilities they managed to pretend didn’t even exist.
Despite wallowing in nearly 15 figures of red ink and printing money by the pallet, no one had been willing to say that the United States was broke.
That its predicament was unsustainable.
Until S&P came along with a long overdue ratings downgrade that actually acknowledged just how broke the United States really was, and still is.
The powers that be didn’t like this, and they set out on a witch hunt against the ratings firm, subjecting it to a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department. Even the mainstream media opined that such a politically motivated investigation might “keep [S&P] in check”.
And this wasn’t the first time this story had played out.
Imagine the irony: the same Justice Department that can’t keep track of its own weapons while en route to drug runners, going after a storied financial firm that had the balls to tell the truth.
And so for the last four years, S&P has been quite vocal in claiming that said investigation was nothing more than political payback by the Obama administration for bruising the government’s ego on the word stage.
To our readers, it makes perfect sense. The United States government has built one of the most arrogant empires in world history. It shouldn’t surprise you in the least that the government would want revenge against a ratings agency that bruised its ego.
Even if it deserved it.
I mean, this is a country that can’t even give the owners of gold stored in its New York vaults a straight answer about whether they even have that gold there or not. Is that the type of organization YOU would want to loan money to?
S&P realized this. But for speaking out, the government bullied the company not only into paying an eye-popping $1.5 billion fine – money that will be used to fund more wars against terrorist groups the CIA created – but to also claim that their initial claim of being targeted politically was false.
While I don’t know what executives at S&P actually believe, I find it very hard to believe that they suddenly had a change of heart after four years of being under the government’s vengeful thumb.
In fact, to hear the US government crow that S&P walked such an allegation back is about as believable as the KGB claiming a man committed suicide by shooting himself in the back.
Here’s the bottom line: businesses that engage in any kind of political speech in the United States ought to be very, very careful how they manage their affairs.
In the same way desperate people in bad economies turn to crime, desperate governments who realize the jig is up turn to desperate measures to protect their hegemony.
Again, just as we’ve seen throughout history, this often leads to political payback against those who dare pronounce that the emperor has no clothes.
Of course, Nomad Capitalist is a prime example of a business that challenges the US government’s dominance. Which is precisely why I am constantly looking for new ways to diversify internationally and remove ties to the United States.
I’ve seen this personally in past businesses where successful clients who spoke out against societal rules, the drug companies, or organized religion were silenced by the swift hand of the US government.
While I often wonder if there is any 100% fool proof way to fully protect yourself from a large, menacing government, here are a few steps to consider:
1. Keep your business and personal bank accounts out of imperialistic countries.
If you insist on using imperialistic countries, at least use the ones your home country hates? If you’re an American, consider opening a bank account in China. (Jayant Bandar talked about this at our Passport to Freedom event.)
While I am not aware of any action against individual S&P executives as part of the latest “settlement”, any attack on your much smaller business could be expanded to you personally.
2. Live overseas
If you are from an imperialistic country, find one that is actually open to free speech and an open exchange of opinions, rather than one that simply pays lip service to it. This could mean a country that ardently defends free speech, or one that is so inefficient they simply doesn’t care or have the resources.
3. Have a second passport.
You never know when your home country government could cancel your passport in the interest of “national security”, leaving you stranded there for them to do as they wish to you, or stranded wherever else you may be. Again, look at the times in history where politically oppressed minorities who were against the “greater good” were stopped dead in their tracks.
I’m not suggesting that everyone who speaks ill of the US government will be rounded up and sent to FEMA camps. Anything could happen, but I’m trying to focus on the here and now.
Preparing yourself for whatever crazy politicians gets voted into office by an electorate on the dole is always a wise strategy.