Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I spent my birthday several weeks ago in London waiting for the UK premier of the new James Bond movie, SPECTRE.
One of the benefits of being a nomad is having the ability to drop everything, go and stay in an outrageously overpriced hotel in London’s West End for a weekend, and countdown to a movie premier.
The new Bond movie has an important lesson for those living in the “free world” that is important to note. It’s a lesson I believe will dictate the future of life and wealth in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States.
Warning: this article may spoil the movie for you if you haven’t seen it.
In SPECTRE, a new world order is emerging. The secretive “00” program, long the home of “licensed to kill” (or, as they say in the movie, “licensed not to kill” as well) agents like James Bond is under attack by a new generation of new thinkers who want to replace secret agents with drones and catch-all intelligence.
Basically, the millennial generation has taken over British intelligence, and they don’t like the antiquated notion of sending guys out into the field. They’d rather wiretap every phone and record footage of every inch of the country instead.
As the protagonist of the Bond movies, James Bond often defies MI6 in situations where they overreach such as these. However, the MI6 of modern Bond movies has gotten so out of hand that you begin to root for the Bond villains.
Heck, while some Bond Villains do pretty repulsive stuff, who wouldn’t want to have a Members only gold rings and secret board meetings in Italian palazzos?
While British intelligence is becoming an Orwellian nightmare in the movies, the sad part is that this attitude isn’t just in a movie.
I’ve never faced as many impediments entering a country as I have the United Kingdom, especially on my last visit. Start a migrant crisis and suddenly guys who look Norwegian and carry western passports get the third degree.
All around London, cameras dot the landscape. Every second on practically every street is recorded and sent to a central data center for review. Phone calls are recorded, and the “Nine Eyes” intelligence sharing program of SPECTRE is actually a real thing, where one spy service swaps data on its own citizens with other spy services across the pond.
All of this is predictably done in the name of “stopping crime” and “fighting terror” and “the children”, yet I believe the new intelligence chief in SPECTRE is very much the real model for these services: an Orwellian, power-hungry figure sexually aroused by the idea of looking down on all of the slaves.
Here’s what it means for you
Over the last year or so, I’ve found ways to turn every piece of news I come across – good or bad – into a path to action.
One fallout I see from the growing surveillance states present in my “CUUNA countries” – Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia – is a future lack of investment and outflow of people.
Look at countries throughout history where socialist economy policy and authoritarian politics ruled the land. Most of the countries ended up in the ash heap of history, and anyone who lived there and actually managed to save a few bucks lost it all.
The countries where the surveillance state now looms even went to war with some of these countries in the past. Ultimately, things didn’t end well.
Take London, for example. Wealthy Russians flowed into London for years, taking advantage of a flat fee “non-dom” policy that allowed them to pay very little tax while living in London and driving up prices for everyone else.
It created a huge bubble.
As Russia has encountered economic problems of its own, I see a subtle change in the attitude of Russian immigrants. More of them are staying at home, or going to countries with more laid-back governments.
For instance, while the number of Russians pouring into London has slowed, the number of Russians moving to Thailand has not.
As digital nomads, perpetual travelers, and location independent workers become more and more a sizable minority, I expect more people to leave countries like the United States and United Kingdom in order to regain a sense of freedom in their life.
Similarly, while CUUNA countries like Canada close their doors to immigration, investment there will suffer. Politicians in the United Kingdom have threatened to follow in Canada’s footsteps and expel wealthy non-doms and their cash.
One of the biggest challenges I see for emerging countries is grabbing their share of the pie. We’ve discussed the large number of intriguing investments that I see while traveling, and as more countries get their act together, I expect this phenomenon to increase.
That’s an important concept, because it means the days of the United States being the only kid on the block for “freedom and opportunity” are over. Dozens of countries like Georgia are competing to be the face of a new American-style dream.
That means that migration and investment will be saturated among a number of countries. We’re already seeing this among clients who invest in Europe in hopes of getting a second citizenship. Some investors prefer Portugal, while others prefer Hungary, while others still prefer Ireland.
Saturation of dollars and of feet will make it harder for established countries to maintain their dominance, especially as they make quality of life lower by surveilling your every move.
Considering that the Arab World is one of the biggest sources of foreign investment into western Europe, I expect that hawkish attitudes from the intelligence community will only dissuade investment there.
The bottom line of all of this is that the property bubble in western countries – created partially by large foreign investment from star-eyed foreigners from the emerging world – will burst eventually. The property you own in those countries will decrease in value, and you’ll get the benefit of decreased freedom and increased surveillance as an added benefit.
Offshore banking is an easy way to protect your cash in the event of another Cyprus. Investing in foreign real estate is one way to move your cash to a jurisdiction that you feel more comfortable with. Places like Colombia, Malaysia, and even the former surveillance states of eastern Europe have become good alternatives to bubble markets in the west.