Dateline: Sofia, Bulgaria History is littered with examples of powerful civilizations that brought upon themselves their own ruin. Historians can argue about the myriad reasons for their fall, but even when outside forces factored into their demise, the greatest civilizations of this world only died after decay from within. The Romans, for example, were so preoccupied with the external threat of the barbarians that they paid no attention to the internal threats that weakened their empire. In Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he argued that Rome’s fall only came after “the leaders of the empire gave into the vices of strangers, morals collapsed, laws became oppressive, and the abuse of power made the nation vulnerable to the barbarian hordes.” Others point out that, in its final days, the Roman Empire exacted burdensome regulation and taxes that made manufacturing and trade unprofitable. And in his book When Nations Die, Jim Nelson Black explained that the social decay of any society is embodied in three trends: “the crisis of lawlessness,” the “loss of economic discipline,” and “rising bureaucracy.” If all of this is sounding eerily familiar, it’s probably because these very trends are growing stronger in western society. And they are strongest in the empire that is the United States. I recently came across an image that illustrates this trend in a unique way. Visual Capitalist highlights Forbes’ 10 richest counties in America, showing exactly where wealth and power have accumulated in the United States. While the information is no surprise, it is alarming.
Six of ten of the richest counties by median income are based just outside of Washington D.C.: five in Virginia, and one in Maryland. This includes the number one ranked county in all of the United States, Falls Church City in Virginia, which has a median income of $121,250 and where half of homeowners own houses worth more than $500k. In case you are wondering, Falls Church City is less than a 10 mile commute from the nation’s capital.
The concentration of power and wealth
Now, I don’t mean this in an angry way — because I recognize that what I’m about to say isn’t true on all accounts — but by some standards, the United States is one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. And those ten counties tell you all you need to know. Six of ten counties around D.C.? I can tell you one thing, those people aren’t living there for their health or because they thought it’d be a nice place to raise their kids. Everyone’s got their hand to the till. All the people pumping money into wars and government programs are benefiting in some way, and you can see it right on that map. Meanwhile, everyone else just gets exploited. Just look at some of the news stories from this election cycle and it’s clear that there’s no rule of law anymore. Here’s a glance at today’s stories:
- Senator Feingold wrote the campaign funding laws that he broke.
- The FEC sent Bernie Sanders 639 pages of campaign funding violations (but who knows if anything was done about it in the end).
- Trump has illegally solicited foreign donations on a number of occasions
- Rep. Guinta received a large “donation” from his parents, which was eventually returned to them, but somehow magically appeared in a separate account that belongs to the New Hampshire representative.
- The DNC may have sold access to elected officials.
- One D.C. businessman created a shadow campaign to help a District mayor get elected in order to maintain lucrative deals that brought in 300 million a year to his company. (Crony capitalism anyone?)
- Trump used campaign donations to buy $55,000 worth of his own book.
I’ll agree with the liberals on this one, there’s no real oversight in the US. The Federal Election Commission is nothing. There are people who are federal contractors donating money to campaigns. It’s parasitic. When you have that, the country’s going to go broke and “the people” are the last group to really be represented.
It’s all the same
So what about the other counties on this list? Surely there’s at least one county where people are rich because of their innovation and business success. Sorry to disappoint, but even the county in New Mexico gets wealthy off a government research lab. Douglas County in Colorado may be the exception, but even all the Wall Street folks whose money funds the New Jersey counties on the list have big lobbying efforts in D.C. All the special interests — whether they come from Big Government itself or meddling lobbyists — are the reason for all the stuff that’s forcing you to go offshore. That’s why you have citizenship-based taxation. What lobbying group is going to say let’s not have citizenship-based taxation? None of them. There’s no interest in lobbying for a simpler tax system because there’s nothing in it for anybody with the necessary power to change such laws. Why would H&R Block or TurboTax ever have any reason to make taxes easier? Would they ever lobby for a fair tax or a flat tax? Are you kidding me? It’s never going to happen. In fact, both of them have lobbied for the opposite. H&R Block lobbied its way into a Senate bill so that taxes are even more confusing for poor people, ensuring that they use H&R Block’s services. And I have friends in San Diego who work for Intuit (the maker of TurboTax) and they openly admit that the company spends a fortune on lobbying. But don’t take my word for it, you can read this article, or this one, or this one, or even this one in the New York Times. They all say the same thing: no one with money is interested in getting the government to make taxes easier in the United States.
What’s to be done?
So what can be done to fix this? To be honest, people have been working to curb government spending and crony capitalism in the US for years and not much has changed. And I’ve never been one to stay and fight. I say, go where you’re treated best. A country like Georgia is small enough, new enough, and open enough that it can flip the tables over and actually get something to happen. They may have lived under communist rule for decades, but it only took them one decade of reform to completely change the game. You can’t flip the tables over in the US. The US is like a military carrier in comparison to the Georgias or Singapores of the world that run like speed boats. Sure, the US can change on a dime for the worse when everybody loses their house — it can go down in a hurry — but it’s too massive and sluggish to improve at a rapid pace. There are no fundamentals increasing the economy. But not every country is like that. Not every country is so big and so “powerful” that it is powerless to change its own internal fundamentals. Some countries are not empires. And for people like you and me looking for a place to set up a thriving business or increase our personal freedom, I’m glad that they aren’t.