Eric Fry

In November, millions of Americans will trudge to their local polling places to cast votes in the hope of improving their lives here in the USA. Between now and then, a few hundred Americans will vote with their feet in the hope of improving their lives outside the USA.

Last year, nearly 1,800 Americans surrendered their citizenship. In a nation of 300 million folks, 1,800 émigrés is hardly a rush for the exits. But the recent trend is, nevertheless, intriguing.

Number of Americans Per Year Who Renounced Their US Citizenship

As recently as four years ago, only 200 people checked out of America for good. Back then, surrendering US citizenship would have seemed as unthinkable to most Americans as declining a free vacation to Hawaii to pay for a vacation in Newark. It would have seemed as crazy as:

  • …giving away a brand new Aston Martin Zagato to buy a used Buick Le Sabre.
  • …surrendering your membership at Augusta National in order to start playing Augusta Municipal.
  • …trading away an original Van Gogh painting for an original Peter Max poster
  • …refusing a date with Mila Kunis in order to watch re-runs of her animated counterpart, Meg Griffin, in Family Guy.
  • …abandoning a beachfront mansion to live in your car.

Giving up citizenship would have seemed as incomprehensible as…go ahead, create your own simile.

Bottom line: Surrendering US citizen was absolutely unthinkable. But not anymore. Now it is “thinkable,” albeit still relatively rare. The absolute numbers are still tiny, but the trend conveys a very large message: Discontent is on the rise.

Increasingly, the used LeSabres and Augusta Municipals are winning the contest. And probably not because they are so alluring, but rather because the “Aston Martin” is starting to sputter like a used moped and “Augusta National’s” fairways are starting to sprout more weeds than its deep rough.

To be clear, your California editor remains an American citizen with a valid American passport…and no pending petitions in any American embassies to surrender his citizenship. His observations, therefore, are not personal…but they are heartfelt.

When Americans begin abandoning the “Land of the Free” to seek greater freedom elsewhere, it is time to sit up and pay attention; it is time ask yourself, “Why? Why are they leaving? What’s wrong?”

Is it just a “tax thing” or are other forces in play? Is it because folks don’t like:

  • …drones watching their every move while the mow their lawns or skinny dip in the pool with their spouses.
  • …enduring a political “ethic” that increasingly declares, “What’s yours is mine and, if not, it ought to be”…
  • …suffering financially for behaving responsibly, while Wall Street bankers reap rewards for behaving irresponsibly.
  • …cohabitating with an NSA that builds mega-spy centers in the Utah desert to eavesdrop on their phone calls with Granny or their steamy chat messages with a significant other.
  • …living in a land that increasingly seems to be saying to would-be democracies around the globe: “Do you need a Constitution? Why not take ours? We’re not using it.” [Thanks, Jay Leno].

Who knows the exact reason why 1,800 Americans chose to leave last year — nine times as many as left four years earlier. Certainly, each one of them had their reasons. But like a corporate insider that sells his own stock, there’s one thing you know for certain about his motives: he is not selling because he believes the stock will go up. Maybe he doesn’t believe the stock will go down, but no one sells a stock they believe will go up.

Likewise, Americans who bail on their country may not think things are going to get any worse any time soon, but they clearly do not believe things are going to get better. So far, the pitter-patter of footsteps heading for the exits is barely a murmur…but the murmur is getting louder.

Eric Fry
for The Daily Reckoning

Eric Fry

Eric J. Fry, Agora Financial's Editorial Director, has been a specialist in international equities for nearly two decades. He was a professional portfolio manager for more than 10 years, specializing in international investment strategies and short-selling.  Following his successes in professional money management, Mr. Fry joined the Wall Street-based publishing operations of James Grant, editor of the prestigious Grant's Interest Rate Observer. Working alongside Grant, Mr. Fry produced Grant's International and Apogee Research, institutional research products dedicated to international investment opportunities and short selling. 

Mr. Fry subsequently joined Agora Inc., as Editorial Director. In this role, Mr. Fry  supervises the editorial and research processes of numerous investment letters and services. Mr. Fry also publishes investment insights and commentary under his own byline as Editor of The Daily Reckoning. Mr. Fry authored the first comprehensive guide to investing internationally with American Depository Receipts.  His views and investment insights have appeared in numerous publications including Time, Barron's, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Business Week, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and Money.

  • Frank K

    Surrendering U.S. citizenship is a difficult task. More difficult than finding a job after being a “99’er. The IRS make sure those who attempts to do the ‘unthinkable’ will pay big.

    What happened between 1997-2007 was the triumph of the American Dream for all, America the Great conquering the world by war, money and technology broadcast live daily by the media. Then, without warning, 9/11. And then, suddenly, incomprehensibly, the whole thing collapsed. Everybody got hit and in shock. Except those who mastermind it all.

    Millions now realize that the core American values, the foundation of U.S. power and prosperity, have been transformed into one big con job. But while millions now understood it, very few have the courage and means to act and exit from the land of the Big Con.

  • emdfl

    You forgot the most important number there. What is the level of income of those who are leaving?
    I suspect most of them have a great deal to lose by staying. And will have no pain in their country of choice.
    I know that I would certainly consider leaving if I was in a position that would let me. And I suspect that there are a lot more like me out there/here.
    I would recommend reading author Matt Bracken for a pretty good vision of this country’s future – bearing in mind that he started the series back around 2000.

  • Steve

    Yes, I will leave too but when the time is ripe, because of my current situation. A recession that has lasted 10+ years and a government that has radically changed my rights. Wars continuing and no end in sight. Obama signing off on Drone strikes. 55+ million on food stamps. The average homeowner lost 50% of his wealth and still declining. The Occupy Movement was crushed by government, police and pepper spray. I fought and tried and I was crushed, beaten and now disollusioned. No matter who is in office it’s the same. So why are you staying? Maybe you can not leave. At some point the Feds will close the borders and you can not leave. Prision Amerika.

  • Greg

    That may be a bit of a shadow statistic that does not include those that expatriate but keep citizenship or dual citizenship. I would guess that the expats are orders-of-magnitude greater. I talk to my kids about the possibilities of living in other countries and what it would be like,opening their minds. Looking at the trend of the last 10 years one can imagine the day when, like the Germans in the 1930s, a new domicile becomes an urgent decision.

  • CT

    Oh come on.

  • Yrrek

    I just got back from a family trip to New Zealand and boy did the experience there make coming home sobering. Though I was only there as a tourist (i.e. cultural/social rather than business/financial impressions) I was left with the extreme feeling that the Kiwis are living the myths we Americans like telling ourselves. We’re land of the free? Hardly. More like land of the over-regulated and home of the “do it for me”s. They pay through the nose for their food and goods, and I can’t claim to know what they pay in taxes, but they sure know about the sanctity of private property and personal responsibility.

    Also a fun note; coming into U.S. was a breeze. We hardly had to break stride as we walked through customs. The customs screener didn’t even glance at our bags, let alone ask to see their contents, despite the fact we checked a number of the red-flag boxes on the customs form. But when I was doing a state-to-state hop? Patted down, bags checked, palms wiped and tested, and so on.

    All hail the Toilet Security Administration and their watchful eye in protecting the country.

  • Grieving Father

    First of all, let me preface by saying that the chart above (expatriation) represents a 5 year period, that is not enough time to make long term inferences. Where is the 10 year, 20 year, 30 year data? It could well be part of a business cycle. However, there are many reasons to relocate. One is that 194 above ground nukes were detonated on US soil (1953-1964) resulting in possibly millions of cancers? additionally many forms of poisoning have occurred via vaccines, the use of pathogens, and other biological or chemical agents? One wonders if this is perhaps intentional? part of a planned population? other sinister experiment? What does the code word “Cleansing” mean to this end? Is there a plan to decimate the population? Is it safe to ask these questions? Should the inquirer medicate?

  • cecilhenry100

    Africa for the Africans, Asia for the Asians, White Countries for Everyone

    DIVERSITY is just a codeword for anti-white. More diverse = less white. How much more offensive can you get??? Diversity means Genocide. Anti-racist is just a codeword for anti-white.

    Every white country on earth is supposed to become multicultural and multiracial. EVERY white country is expected to end its own race and end its own culture. No one asks that of ANY non-white country.

    This is genocide.

    If mere discrimination is cause for affirmative action, genocide is far more so. Which means that the program of doing away with all white people to the point where Europe and America are to be majority non-white in this century requires a lot more than merely changing this policy. It calls for affirmative action at a far higher level to make up for this criminal behavior.

  • Barb

    I found the graph interesting in that there seemed to be a drop in 2008, an election year. I guess that’s when people get hopeful that their vote will make a difference. But look at the spike in 2009, when they realized that it DID make a difference, but not the kind they’d hoped for.

  • mike

    the US is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence…also, who wants to raise kids in the country with the the highest prison population, lowest life expectancy, most income inequality, worst math education amongst the top 20 nations?

  • gman

    yep. when times are good, infestors pile in. when times are bad, infestors pile out. “who offers me the most country for the least personal input?” permanent tourists, always were.

  • Horsehill

    When whites die out civilisation will die as well, so, as a discriminated against white man, I say BRING IT ON!

  • Starving Steve

    One of the lessons from the Holocaust of WWII is that it never hurts to always be a dual-citizen of somewhere. In America, I have a dual-citizenship with Canada.

    If I were more fluent in my Spanish, I would try to become a dual-citizen with Mexico as well.

  • Starving Steve

    Hi Mike, above per your comment on July 9th:

    One of the things I do love about America, including President Obama, is that America has affordable housing on LARGE LOTS. A glaring exception to this observation is San Francisco, but almost everywhere in America has affordable homes on LARGE landscaped lots…. Somehow, this kind of city planning has not reached Europe yet; in fact, this progressive approach to city planning has not even reached Canada yet.

  • Starving Steve

    When I worked for the City of Winnipeg as a planner, many years ago, I tried to raise a public awakening to how outrageous high-density planning was. When I searched subdivision approvals which converted farmland to hi-density city development, I discovered land speculation and land deals being made, and a flow of ill-gotten profits to the Deputy Mayor and to his friends on the City Council.

    When these land-deals were uncovered and published in the local newspaper, my desk in the Wpg City Planning Dept. was moved from the 2nd floor of 100 Main Street to the furnace room in the basement of the building.

    Anyway, the revelations of the insider land deals to create high-density planning were also on the radio: on CJOB on the Peter Warren morning talk-show.

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