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WND Commentary
He got out of the U.S.

By Claire Wolfe
© 1999 Claire Wolfe

You might recall a few weeks ago that Hardyville's normally true-blue, All-American, ex-military guy, Carty, was thinking about leaving the U.S. He was fed up with the Libido-in-Chief, the inveterate invertebrates in Congress, snoopy tax collectors and general loss of freedom.

Well, Carty's still here -- for the moment. But after that column, he's certainly got a lot more information to mull. Many people had opinions on the subject of going offshore. About half wrote to say, "Only a coward would leave America. Stand and fight for freedom!" The other half said either, "How do I get out?" or, "I got out!"

One of the latter was David Jessup*, who now lives in Costa Rica. Because he's not much different than a lot of us, and because he made a very conscious, well-researched choice to go, his story might help those folks who ask, "How?" David came in from the beach long enough to answer a few questions about how -- and why -- he left the U.S.

When and why did you first think about leaving?

Other than military service overseas and a while in Europe, I didn't think seriously about leaving until early 1995. The U.S. was no longer the land of the free that I'd believed in. In fact some Americans were, and still are, fighting harder than anyone else to limit freedom. The Internet was starting to twist space so that any two points on the Earth were next to each other. You couldn't tell whether you were communicating with the next cubicle or the next hemisphere. Suddenly it looked like I could work from anywhere.

Can you give some background about yourself?

I was born in Texas to parents who both grew up on farms. My dad became a businessman and engineer, my mom a housewife and secretary. Most of my childhood was in suburbs. I spent some years in the military, went to four colleges and universities and had four majors without getting a degree, and ended up building some software systems and a company or two. I've been with an amazing lady for over 20 years. We have no kids, one cat.

What do you do for a living?

I've done a number of things, and loved software the most. Edsger Dijkstra has called it "pure thought-stuff." If there's a more pleasant way to earn a living I haven't found it. I've also enjoyed running or helping run some small businesses.

I love learning, and the Web is a tool for it straight out of science fiction.

What do you value?

I'm much more rational with my family than I would be without it. Together we've enthusiastically built the life we dreamed.

That life is centered around personal freedom. Milton Friedman described it as "freedom to choose." It's the liberty to decide for yourself what life you want, and the opportunity to earn and enjoy that life. The only reasonable limit on this freedom is that you not infringe on others' liberty to do the same.

Almost as important, we're having a blast.

Did you ever assume the barriers to emigration might be too high for a person of ordinary means?

For years I thought if I wanted to live free I had to get rich first or fight. I had already shown I could live in another country just by working for someone else, but freedom was harder to find.

Then along came the Internet. It became easy to run a business from almost anywhere.

Where did you begin your research?

We were living near Atlanta in 1995 and realized we could probably do almost everything we did over the Net. It looked like we could travel the world as easily as we could stay in Atlanta. But other than very special cases, we couldn't find anyone who was actually running their business that way yet.

So to test the idea, we moved to a beautiful place in deep rural Tennessee, with a 150-year-old house where the living room was bigger than some of my apartments have been, plenty of room for our horses to run, and a good Net connection. The first year sales grew some while we ironed out some bumps. The second year was our most profitable year ever, without us ever physically visiting a single customer.

It had worked. We hit the road.

Did you find a lot of bogus or misleading information when you were trying to locate a new homeland or move your financial life offshore?

Almost everyone knows which place is best: theirs. Cutting through the hype is tough. Finding sources that aren't sponsored by some government is a challenge.

The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom was a good early resource. Until I saw this analysis I believed that although the U.S. wasn't very free overall, it was probably the most economically free country in the world. It was a surprise to find out that while the U.S. is near the top, there is some very good competition even in this area. And the U.S. keeps slipping.

The Heritage Foundation also did a good job of explaining how they measured economic freedom. We were able to apply their metrics to countries they hadn't covered and compare those countries.

I started thinking hard about what made one country better than another.

We first eliminated countries that had recently killed many of their own people. These were countries like Nazi Germany, Russia under Stalin, Maoist China, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and a few others.

The next best criterion is how many people a country puts in cages. If you're in a cage, you're not free. The Lindensmith Foundation's Sentencing Project has done the comparisons.

We looked at a lot more, such as what percentage of their populations were armed government employees, and tax laws. Some places became interesting because others had chosen them.

In the end we decided to try the options for ourselves.

Can you help people learn how to recognize fraudulent offshore services -- of which there seem to be a lot, these days?

I doubt that there are many more frauds in offshore banks than onshore. For example, look at the S&L problems of the 1980s. The S&Ls made "questionable" loans and "lost" their customers' money. But that money wasn't just burned in a bonfire. The loan recipients got it. Many of those loans were silly on their face. Does anyone believe that none of the loan recipients ever compensated the bank officers that approved the bogus loans?

Still, spotting the crooks offshore can be more work. The offshore industry provides financial privacy. If a customer complains, that customer loses their privacy. In some cases losing their privacy can mean losing their freedom, or even their life. That's why many people who are fleeced just shut up. This situation tempts some con artists.

Research helps. Read everything you can find about the banks you're considering. Remember your criteria may not be the same as the person who writes an article. They may think a particular action by a bank is bad, while on balance you think it's good. Think hard about this.

Also, try to keep the amount of money at risk small. You can build it up over time as they gain your trust. If you can, spreading your money around diversifies your risk. Anyone can easily keep some of their money in physical cash.

Another partial solution is to choose financial institutions which are also used by people it's not safe to cross. Or, be someone it's not safe to cross.

What made you decide on Costa Rica?

I haven't decided on anywhere yet. There's a long life ahead. In fact, I'm not there right now.

Costa Rica's government is not very strong, so you have a lot of personal freedom there. Although it's socialist, in practice it's a very free place to live. It's also a place of astonishing beauty.

When did you actually go?

I woke up July 4, 1997, outside the US.

Next week David Jessup talks about "Getting used to paradise."

In the meantime, if you want to read more about how people of ordinary means can find and move to an offshore haven, check out "Tax Freedom Now!" by Doug Porter in The Zola Times. Porter himself has moved out of the U.S. He gives details about how he did it and offers links to information sources.

*Pseudonym to protect privacy.

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