“Most people don’t really care about privacy and all that surveillance stuff,” a friend observed recently.
He saw the erosion of our personal and financial liberties as an inevitable outcome of the technological opportunities open to modern governments … it had nothing to do with a change in the nature of government itself.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
There is a direct relationship between government threats to your privacy and to your wealth. They stem from the same source, and it’s critical to understand what it is … and what you can do about it.
Not Your Grandparent’s Government
The behavior of the contemporary U.S. government — and of many governments in supposedly enlightened Europe — would horrify not only our Founding Fathers, but also most U.S. citizens throughout our history. Current proposals in the U.S. and U.K. to give state spies secret keys to unlock everyone’s private data and communications, or to force social media such as Facebook to report on users, would be unthinkable.
Try to imagine how our forebears thought about government. At any given point in our history, most Americans would have understood the federal government to be a humble servant to its citizens, and an equal member of the global community of nations. The idea that our government had “interests” of its own separate from those of the citizenry was unknown. And right up to World War II, a great many Americans felt strongly that the U.S. had no business getting involved in overseas diplomatic and military adventures.
And yet, by the early 21st century, the U.S. government has come to see itself as lord and master of all Americans — and indeed, of all other nations. Its prerogatives now supersede any considerations of “individual rights” or “national sovereignty.” Somehow the collective expression of our individual citizenship has become a separate thing, with its own agendas and powers that override all others.
How did this happen?
Follow the Money
The collapse of Soviet communism in 1989 changed the nature of government in the Western world.
Communism had a profound impact on the way democratic societies operated. On one hand, it encouraged the “welfare state,” which proved that everyone in the capitalist world was more prosperous than under Communism. In addition, the specter of global Communism was a great unifier, keeping the masses focused on a bogeyman whose existence justified putting “national security” before individual needs.
The end of the Soviet Union allowed powerful interests in Western societies to dispense with the welfare state, which, despite all we hear about its costs, is a shadow of its former self. It also allowed those interests to convince politicians to relax many of the restrictions that had helped keep economic peace during the Cold War — taxes came down, monopoly re-emerged and government regulation came under intense assault, especially concerning finance.
But the resulting society is now badly lopsided.
Without the threat of Communism, powerful economic elites could do more than just eliminate regulations … they could create rules that actively favor them over everyone else. We all know the rest … bailouts, free money for Wall Street, price-gouging monopolies everywhere you look.
Paranoia Will Destroy Ya
Polls tell us that Americans have never been unhappier with the state of their society, economy and government. Ratings for Congress, the future of the “American Dream” and similar indexes are at all-time lows.
Now, if you’re running a deeply unhappy society, you become paranoid. Kings and queens in the olden days were suspicious and brutal for a reason. You could never be too careful.
The same is true of modern Western democracies. Unhappy and increasingly desperate people can’t be trusted. To make matters worse, the tax burden needed to pay for all this surveillance and military might is gradually shifting away from top earners and toward the middle class. Warren Buffet wasn’t kidding when he pointed out that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we return to a Cold War-style welfare state. I’d prefer that the government get out of the business of meddling in the economy altogether.
But since that’s not going to happen, I predict that increasingly cash-strapped governments are going to try to grab more and more wealth from what’s left of the middle class to pay for the things it needs to protect itself from an angry citizenry.
Some key first steps you can take include:
- Acquiring residence in another country to when the time comes for “Plan B.”
- Protecting your digital privacy through the use of encryption and email accounts that aren’t analyzing and storing your private correspondence.
- Protecting your financial assets and privacy by acquiring gold and other tangible assets.
So when I advise you to take privacy seriously, and to adopt measures to protect yourself, it’s not just a question of principle. It’s a critical personal strategy made necessary by the turbulent and dangerous times in which we live.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor