Freedom Lovin

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.

6 comments
Randall
Randall

This is a maddening article. On one hand, all 9 points are generally sound. But only generally, while rapidly retreating. Then for other issues like the NDAA revelation and of course the stability of our currency, these 9 points seem a bit, pointless, in comparison. Then there's the crack in this theory named Chile. Points 1-4 & 7 all see 'Murika bested by Chile today already. #s 5 & 8 might be too; I haven't spent much time there yet but they are certainly catching up on those points as well. Perhaps the ol' US o' A has a few more comfy years in her... Especially if Obomba gets kicked out hard for some more silly scandals... But the trend is clear; 1984 has fully arrived, the USD is going to hyperinflate & crash within the next decade, and the standard of living nationwide has already started circling the bathroom drain. The time to get out is sooner than most people want to believe. It's going to be a seriously, ugly mess when things collapse around here.

Kevin
Kevin

Thanks for the comment Randall. I like the idea of Chile. It's a nice option and has some advantages over the U.S. However, in the not-so-distant past it has had its share of problems- and it was not founded on the idea of liberty (which I believe is still meaningful to the people in "the land of the free"). In the present, Chile is certainly up and coming, but some of the Latin American issues still exist, like the idea of time- things often don't get done there like they do in America. Santiago is heavily polluted. It's a nice place but not exactly a free market paradise. (see Fergus Hodgson's article on the ups and downs of Chile). If you're currently an American citizen and decide to move to Chile, do you think the American government will just leave you alone? The recent revelations with Snowden make the article even more relevant. If you believe that the U.S. will be a more dangerous place to live than say, Chile, then it's even more important to transact anonymously. I don't disagree with your points. It is certainly 1984. But this is worldwide. You heard Snowden's interview, he was fully aware that the CIA had a big presence in Hong Kong. Big Brother is not just in U.S. soil. When things collapse in the U.S., it will be hard to avoid the repercussions just by being elsewhere. It may be nice to not be surrounded by the propaganda, but I'm not so sure you'll be any more protected in Chile, all things being equal in terms of your identity.

Mart
Mart

Some great points you bring up here Kevin! Especially 2 and 6 resonate with me, though I agree with all of them =) Also I agree with Steven, from my own experience living in Asia can make you feel like a real outsider and I highly doubt that would ever change for someone with "western" features.

The Stateless Man
The Stateless Man

The bit about the idea of liberty in the US is so important. The way people, through government education and propaganda, have managed to demonize individualism in so many parts of the world still amazes me. It makes me so pleased I came to the US for college, although back then Students for Liberty and the like did not exist. They, along with YAL, are exploding, and that is great to see.

Steven Michaels
Steven Michaels

Another great factor about living in the USA vs. other countries (for Americans) is that you already know the "lay of the land". When going to another country it takes time to develop this "sixth sense" of how things work and how to navigate around everyday challenges. Not to mention there is an established support network that you already have in place in the USA (assuming you are not a hermit). When arriving in a foreign land one is starting at a tremendous disadvantage (although it can be easily argued that this works to your benefit sometimes).

Kevin
Kevin

Great points Steve! From my experiences, even if English is the main language in the country you move to, it can take a while to adjust to the different ways of doing things.

Freedom Lovin