"Time to Get Out of Dodge?"
By Bill Bonner
YOUGHAL, IRELAND – "A German movie, title long forgotten, showed a group of children whose parents were killed near the end of World War II. The four children were orphaned into chaos, ruins, and hunger. With no family nearby, no functioning government, no communications or social services available, and neither law nor order to protect them, what could they do? The children set off, making their way across Germany in 1945 – amid scenes of desperation, violence, and depravity.
The redeeming thing was not only that the children were resourceful and intrepid, and succeeded in reaching their grandmother’s house… but that when they got there, they found it just as they remembered it – an oasis of tranquility… untouched by five years of brutal warfare. When things fall apart, in other words, is a good time to be where they don’t fall apart.
On the Move: Suppose you were in Russia in 1917… or in Germany in 1933… or in Venezuela in 2010. If you were clever or lucky, you might have found a way to prosper safely. But the better strategy was to get out when the going was still good.
Two million Russians emigrated during the Civil War, 1917-1922. 130,000 Jews fled Germany between 1933-1937. And more than four million people have left Venezuela in the last 10 years. And now… partly in response and partly in anticipation… Americans seem to be on the move, too. Some are fed up with politics… with their neighbors… or just with the weather. Others, like animals moving to higher ground before a tsunami, may be sensing danger. “Zoom Towns” are booming. And prices in some areas are soaring.
Curiously, if masking up, closing down, and staying away help reduce death rates from COVID-19…Americans must not fear death. Because last year, they moved from places with fairly strict control measures to places without them.
This remark should not be confused with “the science.” It’s just an observation passed along by a French colleague, Simone Wapler. She reports that 16 million Americans packed up last year, and sent us the latest figures compiled by moving company, United Van Lines. They show, on the left, the states people abandoned… and on the right, where they went.
Writes Simone: "People left the towns where local taxes were high, and states where people were locked down – such as California, New York, and Illinois. They found more moderate taxation and less confinement in states such as Florida, Idaho, and Tennessee."
Getting Out: Others seem to be moving out of the U.S. completely. Yesterday, we talked with a colleague, Ronan McMahon, an expert on real estate in the resort communities of Central America. “Most of the buyers used to be older people,” Ronan explained. “American retirees.” “I’m in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Here in my building, it used to be very quiet, with a couple of common rooms for meetings and cocktail parties. Now, the place is full of families – some with young children. And the meeting rooms have been turned into digital workstations. And over on the East Coast of Mexico, I’ve never seen so much activity. Restaurants are full. Beaches are crowded. Americans are buying places sight unseen. They seem almost desperate to get out of the U.S.”
Trouble Ahead: The U.S. is clearly headed for trouble. Deeply in debt already, it proposes to solve its problems – real and imagined – by borrowing (and printing) more money. Eventually, the whole money system will blow up. Most likely, the supermarket shelves will empty… and the headlines will fill up with reports of violence, corruption, and jackassery.
How bad will it get? We have no way of knowing. Maybe we will muddle through with only financial losses. Or maybe millions will die in a coming “Dark Age” of starvation and civil war. When will things get rough? We don’t know that, either. Typically, disasters take much longer to begin than you expect. Then, they happen faster than you expect. And finally, they get worse than you ever imagined. Whatever happens, some places are less likely to fall apart than others.
Find Your Bolthole: In the meantime, we are “locked down” in our own little bolthole in Ireland… waiting for the country to open up again… and for the birth of a grandchild. (Any day now!) But you don’t have to leave the U.S. to find relative safety. America’s small towns still provide some of the easiest and most agreeable living opportunities in the world.
Colleague Dan Denning has prepared a “bolthole” report for our Bonner-Denning Letter subscribers. You may want to take a look at it. [Paid-up subscribers can download the report here. To subscribe, click here.]
Or you could sign up for colleague Tom Dyson’s Postcards From the Fringe free e-letter. Tom and his family are “hobos,” with no fixed home address. In his Postcards, he explores the places he visits – his current residence is in Driggs, Idaho – and describes the transient life he leads. [Go here to sign up.]
Until next week…"