Why the USA is still okay (for business and for living)
It’s trendy these days to talk about all the places around the world that are more free, cheaper, more business friendly, less regulated, lower taxed…than the US.
There are examples of places that have one or even all of the qualities listed above.
And therefore, we Americans, especially those with location-independent businesses, should be looking to get out. Right?
Down, but not out!
Well I’m going to give the contrarian view to the contrarian view…and provide solid reasons to back up my beliefs here.
Now, I’m the last person that could be considered a flag-waving patriot. I have no use for police statism, drone attacks, political parties, or even elections. Arbitrary borders make no sense to me and I’m sure there will be a day that people will look back on the madness that we consider normal today, like all the ways governments around the world make it difficult to travel, with all the paperwork, bureaucratic nonsense, and visa restrictions. Since none of these things pass the logic test, they won’t pass the test of time either.
I’m a huge fan of traveling, living in various places, and taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities to start businesses in cheaper jurisdictions, or even just taking advantage of tax havens (see my interview with Steve Michaels on Perpetual Travel).
But I’m here to say that you can be free and live in the belly of the beast, right here in good old America- despite all that I mentioned above, and despite some of the latest truths to come out- that Big Brother truly is watching us, here in the “land of the free”.
Here are 9 reasons why the USA is still okay:
1. Things WORK here. I’ve been to many countries in Southeast Asia. There are varying degrees of how well things work. But it’s a given, throughout Asia, even in relatively first world countries like Thailand, that shit don’t work. What I mean is, you have something broken and need it fixed? Maybe it will happen today. Maybe tomorrow. You wanted to run some errands. Oops! It’s yet another holiday. Your transportation is late. There seems to be no way to cross the street. The guy you need to see to sign the papers has taken the afternoon off, with no warning. In the US, for the most part, things get done, and there aren’t as many surprises that can sometimes cost you valuable time.
2. The idea of liberty is still alive. Sure, this country isn’t even a shadow of the country that was founded in 1776. The US has the largest government the world has ever seen, and it never matters which party is in power or what is said during political campaigns- government just keeps growing. However, something I realized when I was living in Australia in 2008 is that although it isn’t widely practiced these days, the idea of America is freedom and liberty. There are still many people willing to fight for it, although most will just watch the evening news and accept the status quo. Australia- a much smaller, yet comparable 1st world country- does not have this foundation. Liberty isn’t discussed, for the most part, in Australia. Most would rather just “pay my taxes and go to the pub.” Now these are wild generalizations, but the observation while I was there is that bloated governments controlling much of your life is just a given and there’s no reason to question it. In America, as much as I think some of the groups are misguided- like the Occupy movement or the Tea Party- there is a thread of this desire to be free among all of these movements. There’s still some fire in our bellies.
3. There is a diverse landscape and population. There are so many beautiful places to see in the US. You could spend years traveling around California alone and not see all the natural attractions. And because America has been a worldwide destination over the years for people everywhere who wanted to be free (mostly pre-9/11), it comes with a diverse population- not just in race and nationality, but in ideas being brought to the table. Many other countries can’t say this. South America is predominantly Catholic. Indonesia is Muslim, with the exception of Bali, which is around 90% Hindu. Most of Europe is socialist. Thailand is ruled by a king who by law you cannot speak badly of. But here in the US? Everyone is from somewhere else. And that’s what many people like about it.
The Flatirons in Colorado, just a mile or so from where I'm currently staying.
4. It has Silicon Valley innovation. Silicon Valley has attracted all kinds of tech innovation. And then there’s the mini-Silicon Valleys in other parts of the country, like Austin, New York, Raleigh, and Denver. It’s not a coincidence that some of the largest, most innovative companies in the world- like Apple, Cisco, and Amazon- are here. I’m not a believer in so-called American Exceptionalism, but the US was founded on an entrepreneurial spirit that is still in its fabric.
5. It is easier to operate anonymously and stay in the US than to uproot. If you are an American businessperson, it is hip to look for better tax jurisdictions, plant flags all over, and spend time running your business where the local authoriteyes will leave you a little more alone than they do here. But is that even necessary? As I discussed with Steve in Freedom Lovin podcast episode #4, you can be a permanent traveler (PT), and set up an anonymous business with a New Mexico LLC. Many people have families or other ties to the US and realistically, can’t leave. But to be free, you don’t have to go anywhere. You can anonymize your business, become a PT and live where ever you want. Start operating in Bitcoin, and you add another layer of privacy that even Singapore or the Seychelles can’t bring you.
6. Evolutionary change will happen here first. America was built on the idea of individualism. Most of the rest of the world is based on collectivism. In collectivist societies, the good of the group is more important than the good of the individual. So naturally, groupthink is the norm, and questioning government becomes less popular. It only makes sense that the evolvement past the ideas that 1) One group of people should have a monopoly on violence over the masses and 2) A portion of one’s income should be handed over at gunpoint to a bureaucracy, will happen in America first, where there is still a semblance of individualist thought.
7. The cost of doing business is still relatively low. No, it’s not as cheap as Southeast Asia, or Panama, or any 3rd world country. But compare the US to the developed world. It’s cheaper to do business here than England. Far cheaper than Australia. Even the “BRIC” countries- Brazil, Russia, China, and India- are notoriously expensive in the urban areas. And, to cut costs, businesses can always outsource to less expensive areas without actually having to move.
8. Speech is still relatively free. Yes we live in a surveillance state. Yes going against the status quo has become more risky now than ever. But….let’s take for example the recent case of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Thanks to alternative media, the mainstream media had no choice but to cover this story. Imagine so many other places in the world if this happened? Just a couple of years ago, a man in Indonesia was arrested and thrown in prison for expressing his disbelief in god on Facebook. Here in the US, we’re no longer living in a free country, but free speech is not dead.
9. If you want choice, nowhere tops America. The one thing I always miss when I travel abroad is all the choices we have here. Ever been to Whole Foods? Home of 8 different types of peanut butter. 10 different brands of canned tuna. 3 variations of kale. Is it overkill? I don’t think so. If there wasn’t demand for all of these things, they wouldn’t exist. Yet, even in Australia, it was incredibly difficult to find some things I consider staples here in the US. And when I did, it would cost an arm and a leg. In Asia, it’s even worse. When I was in Vietnam, I went t-shirt shopping, and it seemed like there were only about 5 different shirts in the whole country! (the Starbucks one, the iPho one, the flag…). Where I last lived in San Diego, there were within walking distance 3 Thai restaurants, 2 Vietnmese, 3 burger joints, and endless Mexican places. You get the idea. Having choices is a huge component of freedom, and hard to sacrifice if it’s something you’re used to.
Leaving and breaking free and exercising your freedom to live anywhere is totally cool, but staying and still living free is a respectable, and in many cases wise choice.