A Safe, Quiet Place
by Gary North: Tax
Burden: 40 Million Government Workers
I have a site, Gary North's Specific
Answers, where subscribers can post questions. I answer a lot
of them. I have a lot of practical subscribers who also answer.
One of my
site's forums is "Safe Places Forum."
Here is a
question that was posted recently. I think a lot of people would
like a correct answer.
Is there a
place, anywhere, where a law abiding person can go? and live in
did not add the crucial question that economists are trained to
ask: "At what price?"
At some price,
the answer is easy: yes. But this price is higher than most Americans
are willing to pay.
town under 6,000 people is safe and quiet.
Go to this
Click on any state. Then click the link for "Cities, towns, and
villages in between 1000 and 6000 residents." There will be lots
The page for
each town has detailed statistics on crimes. You can compare these
rates with national crimes per capita. In almost all cases, the
rates will be lower.
why these towns are still under 6,000 people is because they are
so quiet. For two centuries, young people have left towns like these
and headed for cities, where employment opportunities are better,
educational opportunities are better, and marital opportunities
What is happening
on a gigantic scale in China and India has been happening in the
West for two centuries. The vast majority of people have headed
can be bad in the inner cities. But if we are talking about suburbs
and bedroom communities, violent crime is low. How many people do
you know where a close family member was murdered? The sense of
crime is great because of the rule of media news: "If it bleeds,
it leads." Stories about violent crime attract readers. But the
locations in which most middle-class people live are low-crimes
areas in a way that the world would have regarded as utopian in
1800. Older Americans compare our with the world of 1960, which
was far more crime-free than today. But in the grand sweep of things,
modern middle-class living is safe.
Is it quiet?
It can be. People live in a digital world in which entertainment
is close to free and is available day and night. As digits get cheaper
and choices get larger, people do not have to leave their homes.
This is a worldwide trend in technologically advanced societies.
In the suburbs,
people live isolated lives geographically. This is why Facebook
has been a sensation. Through digits, people establish community.
It is called virtual community, but it is not virtual. It is real.
When you can talk face-to-face (Skype), exchange ideas, post videos,
and post photos, this is community. People can organize politically.
They can develop social programs that can be implemented by local
In what way
isn't this real community? In what way is this less communal, for
example, than a rural family without electricity in the United States
Think of "Little
House on the Prairie." The weekly TV stories all assumed that there
travel time was low. They went into town often. Also, it was never
winter there. In winter, no one went very far in a wagon. There
was little community. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a book on this:
So, why don't
most Americans head for small towns? Because they don't want to
live there. Some people prefer to dream about living there.
must earn a living. How? This barrier puts a halt to most would-be
emigrants most of the time. Only the very poor and the very rich
leave their native lands for distant shores.
move to Canada and gain more safety and more quiet. But it's cold
in Canada, except in Vancouver. You might as well live in Point
Roberts, that peculiar bit of American territory that is located
south of Vancouver and is cut off from the mainland. There is no
state income tax in Washington. My guess is that it will never be
invaded by Canada. But there are not many jobs in Point Roberts.
could move to New Zealand. They could move to Ireland. They could
move to Scotland or England. Outside the cities, crime is low. But
taxes in these countries are higher. The welfare state is more developed.
don't welcome oldsters with open arms. Old immigrants can get access
to socialized medicine, but they paid in no taxes. This is why older
immigrants need to deposit large amounts of money in local banks
to get permanent visas. They are not given permanent status if they
move to a tax haven like the Bahamas. Crime would rise. Mainlanders
get island fever. Then there is the mantra of the Caribbean: "No
problem." Nothing gets done fast, and little gets done right.
There is always
the cost of cultural adjustment. People in foreign countries do
things differently, such as driving on the wrong side of the street.
Most people do not want to adjust, so they don't become expatriates.
is the problem of retirement income. Retirees get income in U.S.
dollars. That has been profitable, but for how much longer? Will
these retirement programs remain solvent?
AMERICAN SAFE PLACES
I have known
people, all rich, who have bought homes in Latin America: Ecuador,
Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Argentina. Property can be cheap
there. But the culture shock of moving permanently can be huge.
Only one of the people I know has moved there year-round. They have
multiple retreats and always at least one in the United States.
One of them
seems to have dug in. He is rich beyond your wildest imagination
and unknown to the public. He lives in Panama. He lives in a compound
with very rich people and former senior government officials and
generals. He has his own helicopter. He does not venture out of
this compound except to fly to the airport in Panama City to fly
to one of his other isolated villas around the world. You would
have to learn a new language. You would be a lifetime gringo. You
would be cut off from your family in the United States.
makes a move like this. Hardly anyone ever will.
barrier to moving to a safe, quiet place is that most people have
family members nearby. Grandchildren are major anchors. Grandchildren
are a source of community that digital communications cannot establish.
follow the grandchildren. My wife and I did. Or they can stay put
because that is where the grandchildren are.
This is why
I think that most plans to depart for safer, greener pastures will
not come to fruition.
that parents sit down with the children who are the heaviest family
anchor. Are the children concerned about safety and lifestyle? Is
the breadwinner willing to take a cut in pay in order to buy peace
and quiet? That's the key: the willingness to suffer a loss of income
for the sake of a major move.
should show a willingness to move to a new area if the children
do. If they are willing to move, this removes one of the anchors
from the younger family. The grandparents will be around.
the risk of growing old with no close family members to help. Parents
should factor this into their calculations. The thought of living
in an assisted care unit a thousand miles from your children should
I face this
situation. My mother is on the other side of the country. She is
in an assisted care unit. It is a nice unit, but I cannot visit
often. My father is dead. Virtually all of her peers are dead. She
no longer can phone out: her memory is almost gone. It is not Alzheimer's,
but she can remember little.
I have a friend
who has recently moved his mother, age 89, to an apartment close
to him. She had been 700 miles away. She had spent her whole life
in Pittsburgh. She had outlived her relatives. She had missed seeing
her grandchildren grow up. It was best that she move. Now she must
adjust to totally new surroundings.
that parents must be willing to make the move. They become dependent
on the careers of their in-laws.
If the in-laws'
anchor is career-based, which is likely, then there is a possible
strategy. It takes money, but not as much as you might think.
If the in-laws
do not want to move, the parents can still do some something to
reduce the risks to both families.
If the assumption
is that there will be a broken economy coupled with turmoil close
to where one or both of the families live, the parents can start
looking for a small town close enough to the families to serve as
a port in the storm in a major economic crisis.
I think a
90-minute radius is sufficient. Take a map and look at drive times.
Is there an area that would provide safety and quiet in a crisis
when unemployment is over 20%, prices are rising at 20%, and the
in-laws are out of work?
In such a
scenario, the two families can move to the new area. The parents
don't lose much, and the in-laws don't either, given the new job
If the parents
locate such a place, they can visit on weekends to see what kinds
of housing is available, and at what price. The ideal situation
would be a pair of houses inside the city limits, but which have
enough space in the back yards to plant gardens. There are neighbors
to keep an eye on things.
Then the in-laws
are brought in. Would they be willing to live there? If so, the
parents can buy two properties as rental units. Then they rent out
both units. This way, the income pays for the properties. There
may be red ink for cash flow, but that becomes a safe haven investment.
It probably will appreciate over time.
If the parents
buy from distressed sellers through a short sale, or from a bank,
the cost of getting in will be low. This takes a lot of the risk
out of the deal. We are still in a real estate recession. There
are deals out there.
If the children
decide to move to a different state or region where one or both
can get jobs, the parents can sell the houses and move closer to
the in-laws. There is risk, but if the parents' concern is turmoil,
this strategy can solve the problem without too much loss.
If the crisis
hits in full force, both families can move to the agreed-upon location.
They can ask the renters to leave. The leases should be six-month
leases. Price the rentals below market. This reduces vacancies.
would be to buy a property out of town. It should have a water well.
It should be legal for mobile homes. It's possible to buy double-wide
mobile homes for $25 per square foot. Put in concrete foundations
for two homes. Put in septic tanks. Plant a few dozen fruit-bearing
trees. Plant berries.
Work a deal
with neighbors. Let them have two-thirds of the berries if they
will do some weeding and keep an eye on things. They can save some
fresh ones for you or else freeze them. Make the same deal for the
fruit trees. The idea is to have a good relation with a local family.
that you plan to retire there pretty soon, but things have not worked
out just yet. This is true.
to choose? The ones who go to church.
As a long-run
investment, plant whatever commercial regional trees grow fast without
maintenance, or else buy a place that has young trees already. Urban
residents ignore trees as a way to make rural land pay. In an economic
crisis, it will be possible to buy the mobile homes and install
way, the initial expense is limited to the land cost and minimal
improvements. The biggest expense the mobile homes
can be deferred. In a crisis, they will be available.
Americans who want to buy peace and safety can do so today. In a
crises, maybe not. In a crisis, when 10% or 20% of the urban population
really wants out, prices in 90-minute drive-time locations will
get more expensive, Urban property will get harder to sell.
land that would make a nice summer retreat for grandkids. Maybe
you can rent a couple of RVs each summer for the families to use.
Make the property part of the families' memories. For that alone,
the investment may be worth it.
Buy low, sell
high. Better yet, buy low and don't sell.
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2012 Gary North
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