Privacy During Economic Crisis
I don’t want to keep you waiting as regards privacy solutions for the economic collapse I discussed last episode . Go listen to to that episode first, since I give my thoughts on why the economy is in dangerous territory and my guest Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse Blog reaffirms many of these concerns while adding his own. Make no mistake, given the numbers at play, the government debt, and the massively decreased economic productivity, there is a reckoning that will happen sooner or later in the United States, in Western Europe, and in most places of the world. The only question is the severity and the quickness of this economic trouble. And even if you can see it coming: are you prepared for it?
An economic collapse, in the sense that Snyder uses the term, does not necessarily mean a sudden shocking event. It might mean that people generally will have less wealth because there will be decreased productivity and because fiat currencies will lose value from inflation. There might be some key event that triggers this, but it might also happen gradually. During an economic decline average people will lose savings, retirement, pensions, investments, and jobs. The danger of economic collapse—aside from your own financial demise—is that when people feel hopeless or cheated they become angry and desperate. They protest and riot. Jobless people have nothing to do except stoke the fires of discontent. Irrational blame will be cast: at business owners, at the police officer down the road, at various ethnic groups such as Asians in San Francisco, as I mentioned in the last episode. Banks will start to demand loans paid and surprised people will be kicked out of their houses and businesses as a result. Some who can’t pay their rent will fight landlords who have their own bills to pay. You can expect shortages, lines, crowds, and chaos. Theft will increase massively, and in response the potential for a crackdown by police and military intervention. Almost everyone will be in a worse mood, and will be less likely to forgive and forget.
Privacy during and leading up to economic crisis is crucial for your safety. In this article I’m going to demonstrate how to prepare for economic crisis using two recent examples. The first and less extreme is Greece, and the second and more severe is Venezuela.
In 2009 the Greek debt crisis began in response to the 2008 Great Recession, which was simply a catalyst for a rotten Greek monetary policy. The Greek government found itself very much in debt and since it uses the Euro currency it did not have the means to print more and thus use inflation to try to escape financial reality. This Greek crisis has remained for the last decade and a half, and today there is mass unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and all of the things that go along with it. Or, as one academic I encountered has described it—the Greeks are reaching “political limitations and strategic dilemmas as they struggle to constitute a viable hegemonic alternative to neoliberal rationalities and governance.” Uh huh.
In Greece the banks closed overnight. If you hadn’t taken cash out, then you were out of luck. All payments and transfers outside of the country were banned. Such government coercion is gently called “capital controls,” which forbids financial activity to a staggering degree. Think today in the US a complete shutdown of all banks, credit cards, financial apps, and crypto exchanges. In Greece at one point there was a 60 euro per day limit on taking cash out of ATM, which led to huge queues of people, some of whom could not take out cash because ATMs ran out. Haircuts were discussed. A “haircut” is a euphemism that amounts to creditors getting government approval to have money taken (stolen) from banks or individual people to pay off debts. Greek people, like others facing economic crisis, have quickly learned who actually owns money kept in a bank.
Predictable chaos has ensued in Greece: protests involving millions, fire-bombing, hard policing, and even assassination of public officials using explosive booby traps. I’m not kidding. Nationalist frustration has ensued with anti-German sentiment and increased support for extreme political groups who can make unrealistic promises that appeal to desperate people.
In moments of stability the Greek government has gone after tax evaders in an effort to pay down its debt. Tax evaders across the world are almost exclusively working class people who pay in cash and believe they don’t attract much attention; in socialist Greece and other countries of the EU (the most taxed region of the world) this is especially the case. To collect this lost revenue the Greek government started requiring electronic payments for businesses if they wanted tax deductions for them—with a big fine for disobeying. Electronic payments have a trail, of course. Greece even made a deal with the Swiss government to reveal information about Greek account holders in Swiss banks. Businesses accused of tax evasion by pocketing cash were forced to close for days in addition to fines and back taxes. This kind of thing can be a death sentence for a business. Suffice it to say the war on cash in a place traditionally dependent on cash has only made things worse.
What can we learn from Greece? First, monitor the situation. If your country is in debt, you should know about it. If financial bubbles are all around you, you should understand what that means. Many people predicted the 2008 crash, and most of them were not on mainstream news. Listen to alternative media about economics. Remember that the corporate media, whose billionaire owners have fortunes invested in these markets, has much to benefit from giving the impression that things are fine. Conversely, eternal doomsayers have their own beliefs to uphold. Stick to the numbers, study history, and ignore economic and monetary news at your peril.
Next, protect your finances. None of this is financial advice, but is simply educational and covering a hypothetical scenario. A wise person might have cash on hand, cash diversified, and other assets ready. Have a stockpile of cash on your property at all times: enough to keep you going for a few months. Enough for a plane ticket, petrol to get out of your city, and food supplies for many weeks. When you have cash at home split it up, first of all. Then hide each section in the most innocuous place possible. Stuff it at the bottom of shoes collecting dust; at the bottom of a photo album collection, in an old envelope; between the pages of books on a bookshelf; taped underneath your table; in the freezer rolled up in plastic pouch inside a bag of mixed vegetables. Do this with your local currency, but also consider it with currencies you know to be stronger than your own. During severe economic crises the local currency can become worthless. The US dollar is often preferred in countries that are committing economic seppuku. If the US were to decline, then maybe the Euro or the Swiss Franc, or something else would hold its value. There are a variety of ways to get foreign currencies in your home country.
Get and stay out of debt. Creditors during a crisis will be rabid, and will use their full power to collect your various debts. Creditors have immense access to resources such as addresses and phone numbers. Follow the advice in my privacy guide to get this stuff hidden now rather than when it’s too late. Never answer questions on the phone or at your front door without verifying who the person is. Never answer questions period. You might also want to have property that you own and not rent, since landlords might very well do ridiculous things that they deem necessary in these times. Don’t forget that they have a key to your house—unless you change the locks like I suggest in my guide. If you rent, then make sure to definitely have your valuables locked up somewhere, and possibly even in a storage unit.
Have alternatives to physical cash. In economic crises your fiat might plummet in value, or it might be searched on you if you try to leave the borders. Gold coins might be able to help here, and half ounce coins and smaller look like normal fiat coins. Gold jewelry can also get around specific searches for coins. If you buy gold and silver bullion, consider buying the kind that will be recognized internationally. US Gold Eagles and Canadian Gold Maple Leafs are actually legal currencies and if you enter or leave those countries with one it might bring extra regulatory scrutiny. A Krugerrand—the most widely recognized gold coin—might avoid all of that and will be widely recognized when you try to sell it abroad.
Digital currencies should also be on your radar. Bitcoin is the most widely accepted. Just make sure you have your crypto in a local wallet on your computer such as Electrum. I have no doubt that if financial transactions are shut down across a country, then public exchanges such as Binance, Coinbase, and Kraken will comply likewise. These large public exchanges, which in many ways are antithetical to the philosophy of cryptocurrency, have in recent months bent over backwards to comply with governmental regulations. Keep your crypto in your own open source wallet and try to memorize a seed phrase instead of having evidence of the wallet on your computer when crossing borders.
What if crypto is not the answer in these situations? It is not widely accepted, for one. You might wish you had set up a bank account in another country. For Americans this is increasingly difficult, because the US government demands information about all Americans’ bank accounts worldwide and punishes countries that don’t comply (the law is called FATCA). It is still possible for Americans and for everyone else it is much easier. If you have a bank account in Mexico, then if hardship hits Canada you might be able to use your Mexican debit card. Maybe. Either way, having a foreign bank account can help you play one country off of another in the long run. The next time you visit a country consider setting up a bank account there—keeping in mind that it’s possible to have a foreign bank account in your home currency. Whatever bank account you have at home or anywhere, just make sure not to have too much in it in case of a “haircut.”
Also consider assets. These are arguably the best commodity during an economic crisis. Having months’ worth of ammo, toilet paper, flour, water, and frozen meat will mean you don’t have to risk going out to the crazy stores, and will mean that you might be able to share and barter with others. Just be cautious of being perceived to be a so-called hoarder. We saw during the early months of the COVID government lockdowns that people were called out, doxxed, and even arrested in some cases for possessing more than their “fair share” of supplies. Do not post photos of stockpiles online; make sure they can’t been seen through a door or a window; do not reveal the quantity of your supplies. Always appear to have one or two extra. Another desired commodity during times of crisis is a gun. If you have extra ones, you can make some decent wealth by selling. The same goes for any essential supplies you make or have. During the early COVID lockdowns people started making their own face masks and selling them at high prices. This was before the face mask supply caught up to demand. One lady where I lived got her family together, threw up a website, and started selling dozens a day. She could easily have pocked five figures in a couple of months just from that. If you have skill fixing vehicles or things of this nature it might also work in your favor. For privacy reasons avoid having people come to your home and instead go out to meet them. Economic crisis is not a good time in life to be a police officer, or a security guard, or a bank employee, or a small business owner with a physical shop.
Lock your house down. If you are a targeted minority like Asians or rich people, don’t advertise that. Bolster your locks, get up curtains, park your car in the garage, set up spotlights in the back (where most thieves come from), show evidence of a dog in your yard, get rid of bushes that can foster hiding. Create hiding spaces in your house for valuable goods which might involve hollowing out a wall or doing a bit of digging.
And finally, don’t join any protests. The mob mentality is a real thing, and people who think themselves independent might find that they still have the animal part of their brain that encourages a gazelle to wade into crocodile waters just because others are doing it. If you simply must make your voice heard, go into a protest with no phone, or at least a phone purchased anew and especially with a cash-purchased SIM card with no connection to your identity. Use private messengers and never SMS or regular phone calls. Never bring your own car; get dropped off or walk. Always wear a mask and sunglasses. Hide all tattoos and distinctive features which in the age of Internet investigation will get you identified really quickly. And of course don’t do anything stupid such as destroying property or harming anyone.
Stepping it up with Venezuela
Let’s move to a more extreme scenario: Venezuela in recent years. This is definitely a societal collapse prompted by a terrible economic collapse. Once again you have a socialist government that tries to escape the constraint of reality and gets a kick back in the face. For the last few years Venezuela has led the world in murder rates. Today 95% of its people live in poverty. Ninety-five percent. Millions have fled the country and millions more would if they could. There are shortages of every kind. There are closed borders: and not just on Venezuela’s end. There are horrific stories and likely even worse ones that will never be reported.
Looking at Venezuela it should become clear that you first of all want to make sure you don’t live in a country that can destroy you. Remember always that a government large enough to give you everything you want is large enough to take away everything you have. Of course psychopaths disproportionately run these regimes and do not, in fact, believe in what they say about helping the people. Venezuelans should have see the writing on the wall and checked out long ago. Though I’m sure leading up to this crisis they said things like, “It will all work out.” “Venezuela always comes back.” “That’s fearmongering.” “But this is our home.” There are other Latin American countries that would have taken them; Spain allows former colonies to earn Spanish citizenship; and second citizenships are widely available today across the world through various methods. Dominica is usually the cheapest at roughly $100,000 plus various legal fees; Mexican residency is straightforward and desirable and can lead to citizenship. If you have more money you have many more options for citizenship by investment. Don’t just get second residency permits and passports, but establish some kind of connection in a new place. Have supplies ready and all the things you need already in place.
Speaking of those who can destroy you, in times of economic crisis where rule of law goes out the window and new laws are passed overnight, you might be targeted for your opinions, especially if they are critical of government policies. That’s why its so important to use a pseudonym when online, hide your IP address with a VPN, and otherwise be sure that what you put out into the world can never be traced back to you. Social media is the problem here, since it is most likely where you will complain and where you have a profile strongly connected to your identity. If you’ve protected your address and aspects of your personal life, this might not be a problem. Otherwise reflect on what you’ve said, what you are considering saying and, well, at least edit out your personal details and real name before you go on a textual rampage.
You can also see the advantages of taking more extreme privacy measures. These are the times when you would wish you had purchased your house in the name of a trust or other legal entity instead of your own name so that your neighbors and anyone else cannot look up these public records and find where you live. If you’re wealthy you’re especially a target. This is why I advocate everyone as a matter of practice avoid a flashy car or other signals of wealth; today an average person can buy an Apple Airtag, secure it to a car, and track them pretty easily.
A boat is a great thing to have if you live near the water. Land borders get shut down hard, and airports are some of the most highly policed and regulated pieces of ground on planet Earth. If you have a boat you have a great opportunity to escape these kinds of systems. A decent boat under the cover of darkness is really hard to stop. Practice your boating now.
If things get bad very quickly, which they did in Venezuela, then then there’s not much more to say except get out of your city and hope you have some supplies, a place to go, and some skills to get you through the next days and weeks and months. Any of the numerous prepping channels or books can help you in this regard. If you just have time for one I tend to recommend the realistic novel Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wessley, Rawles.
In conclusion, let’s take a step back. The philosopher Boethius did not realize that he was living at the end of the Roman Empire. The empire had existed for hundreds of years. Why would this be the end? Why should it ever end? How was Boethius to know that the glory days were behind and that the next thousand years would be Dark Ages across Europe where economic and intellectual stagnation would be general across the continent? The truth is that we can obviously only be certain of things after they occur. All we can do is make predictions about where things are going based on the only stable aspect of human societies: that they always change.
Yours in peace and privacy,