How I Live a Little Freer by Staying on the Move (Gary Gibson)
Tuesday September 11th, 2012
Even after the armed Mexican drug dealer punched me in the face for the third time I didnít regret my decision to move to Mexico. Iíd been in Acapulco just over a month at that point. Iíd been here for a couple weeks the year before and had felt just as safe as could be in that little seaside city.
This time around I got a bit more settled in and comfortable because I was planning to be back in Mexico often for longer and longer stretches.
After a night of carousing, my companions and I ended up in one of our regular beach bar haunts. A band of local drug-dealing toughs were also there that night and the largest and most muscular of them had a shapely girlfriend who trotted about in push-up bra, ultra short jean shorts and five-inch heels, as if she were advertising.
Our groupís gaze lingered on her as she minced her way to the bathroom. Her gorilla of a boyfriend then started gesticulating angrily in our direction. A few minutes later one of my companions glared back at him and the gorilla tossed an empty can of Red Bull at our table. Then he got up and charged over.
Donít misunderstand about Mexico. Sure, there is a lot of Prohibition-based violence. There is the small time crime rooted in greed or desperation. There is the big time crime practiced by politicians. Then there is the typical anger-based violence that you find in bars. In other words, itís just like anywhere else on the planet. The key to having a trouble-free good time is to keep to the nicer parts of town, to be respectful of individuals and of the customs, and to try not get too drunk in public. Just like anywhere else on the planet. That night Iíd ignored at least two of these guidelines.
As I prepared to try to calm him down before he got to my friend, the gorilla moved in quickly and punched me twice rapidly in the left eye. As I raised my hands he punched me again on the left side of my mouth. Boxing and soccer are popular in Mexico, sort of like basketball in US public housing projects. Iíve met quite a few competent boxers among the general populace in Acapulco. The gorilla appeared to be another one of them.
My contact and host in Mexico had often advised me to take the sport up. I had not gotten around to it yet. My lack of familiarity with boxing really showed that night, as did the dozen or so vodkas Iíd had. I was slow and uncoordinated, but at least I barely felt any pain.
The bar managers and staff quickly came over to stop the fight. As I aimed my best bit of "Is that the best you got?" taunting at the gorilla, the bar manager holding onto me warned me that if I did not leave immediately, my assailant and his friends would do great harm to me with the guns I had failed to notice strapped to their waists.
My other companion -- who had spent years in Mexico and understood the danger -- was at the bar exit frantically urging me to get leave. As we sped away in his vehicle, he explained, "There really are no bar fights in Mexico, especially with narcotraficantes (drug dealers) like that guy and his buddies. There is some posturing and then some shooting. We were lucky to get away."
Surely this little adventure must have soured me on MexicoÖand perhaps made me question this whole notion I had that living anywhere else was better than living in the belly of the US leviathan.
Actually no, not at all. This kind of thing could have happened anywhere in the US. And the US government still frightens me far more than some local toughs in a foreign country. You think that armed bar bully was bad? Iíd much rather take my chances with him than with the IRS or with the governmentís growing army of death-dealing spy drones. Thing is, at least I can avoid armed tough guys by avoiding certain places at certain times. Itís much harder to avoid the IRS and death-dealing spy drones. You have to give the entire US a wide berth. Even then your safety isnít assured.
And so my desire to avoid both the police state and outrageous poverty-inducing government theft led me to begin my life as a perpetual tourist. The wonderful thing about being a perpetual traveler or tourist is that you get to interact with the world almost solely on commercial terms.
Living as a perpetual tourist isnít pure anarchism, but it does allow you to see the beauty of a life with minimal harassment from the state. You get to experience how blissful it is to deal with people on the basis of coming to mutual agreementÖor walking away when you cannot agree.
Merchants try to persuade you at every turn while the taxing authorities have very little or no claim on you. You choose what you need and pay for what suits your budget and tastes bestÖfrom lodging, to clothing, to transportation. It is all persuasion and no coercion. Right now I have no family and thus have the freedom to keep moving, never staying in a country long enough to warrant the attention of government thieves. The only government forms I have to fill out these days are those ridiculous customs declarations that flight attendants hand out on international flights.
Permanent tourism works much better if you do not have citizenship or permanent residency status (i.e. a "green card") with the United States. The US, as itís often been pointed out, is one of the very few nation-states to require income taxes even on its expatriate citizens and permanent residents. Sure the first $96,000 or so of income earned outside the US by expats is tax-free (unless the expat is self-employed in which case he has to pay both the employer and employee "contribution" to Social Security). But even if no taxes are owed, one must still report oneís earnings to the IRS.
Even if a US citizen or resident spends the entire year outside of the US and his income falls under the amount that can be taxed, that US citizen or resident must still send a tell-all form to the IRS. This may not seem like such a hassle to some. After all itís just a little paperwork, right? But if you fail to comply with this presumptuous hassle, the US government assumes the right to steal your assets and possibly kidnap you.
To some of us radicals who insist that people donít belong to the state, this is both ridiculous and outrageous. Most of the rest of the statist world doesnít have to put up with having to report to the nation of their birth like an adolescent to a parent. A permanent tourist who retains ties of citizenship and residency to the US will never feel the sheer freedom of one who cuts those tiesÖor who never had those ties to begin with.
Giving up US citizenship is possible, but to many Americans it is unthinkable. It smacks of treason to jingoists and to those who feel some moral satisfaction from smiling while politicians and bureaucrats steal from them. And anyway the renunciation is a little complicated and can be expensive. There are forms to be filled out and submitted and sizable exit taxes to be paid.
But it could be well worth the trouble. Just ask Denise Rich and Eduardo Saverin. And notice that the lines to renounce are growing. Renunciation isnít just for the wealthy, however. Even for Americans with little in the way of assets but who can make a good living online, over the phone or via the mail, renunciation and well-chosen relocation could mean savings of millions of dollars over a lifetime.
The world doesnít currently allow one to be stateless, so a renouncer needs to have another citizenship ready. Some passports make much better travel documents than others. But once youíre free from worldwide taxation, you donít have to travel perpetually. There are a few countries in which you can settle down as a citizen where you wonít be taxed on any foreign income. Imagine thatÖkeeping every single dime you earn! Thatís something most people in the US associate with criminal disloyalty.
Iíd advise them to read Rothbard or Hoppe joining the Laissez Faire Club to get that bit of brainwashing cleared up. I have to admit, however, that even if youíre a US tax cow who is partial to the notion, youíd have to give up the comforts of the US to enjoy income tax-free life. And thatís just not for everyone. But for those who want to be a little freer -- and keep what they earn -- there is a big, beautiful world out there. Just avoid the late nights at questionable bars.
Gary Gibson is the former managing editor for Whiskey and Gunpowder. He joins the Laissez Faire staff as a graduate of Fordham University, Gary now spends his days reading about and writing on limited government, sound money, personal responsibility and resource investing.