Redefining Expatriation

As a child growing up in sunny Southern California during the 1960s, life was pretty darn sunny most of the time (at least when the sun was not obscured by the dense smog that would choke the Los Angeles basin all summer long).

I made “mudpies” in the backyard, picked roses for my mom, rode my bicycle all over town, watched Flipper on a black and white TV, idolized the Marlboro Man, “camped” overnight on the back patio, played Marco Polo in the neighbor’s pool, collected baseball cards (and would have sooner cut off a finger than trade away my 1965 Sandy Koufax card) and attended schools I did not hate.

This comfy childhood unfolded in an extremely pro-America household. My mother and father were “Goldwater Republicans” – vehemently opposed to Big Government, but sympathetic to military efforts that would “contain communism.”

Every male in my immediate and extended family had served in some branch of the military. One grandfather joined the cavalry in World War I; the other grandfather joined the Army Medical Corps for both World Wars, and retired as a colonel. My father served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and in the Air Force during the Korean War, retiring as a captain.

I was proud of these résumés…and proud of America. It was the greatest country on the planet, no question about it. America was good and moral. Her enemies – past and present – were simply bad. I loved being on the winning team; the “good team.” And so I loved “playing army” with my friends in the neighborhood…and watching Combat on TV or movies like Sands of Iwo Jima and The Longest Day.

I used to sit by my parent’s big wooden stereo console and listen to the LP of Sgt. Barry Sadler’s, “Ballad of the Green Berets”… Remember the lyrics? “Fighting soldiers from the sky; Fearless men who jump and die; Men who mean just what they say; The brave men of the Green Beret…”

But as I grew older – and American history progressed – the clear-cut impressions of my youth yielded to shades of gray. The Vietnam War did not enhance my romanticized childhood pride in America. When the teenage boys who lived next door returned from Vietnam, they returned with purple hearts, gruesome stories and grisly photos of some of the Viet Cong their platoons had killed…and subsequently used for bayonet practice. I was ten. This war was nothing like Sands of Iwo Jima.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King seemed to assassinate much of America’s neo-idealism as well. There would be no more “civil disobedience,” only disobedience. There would be no more, “Ask what you can do for your country,” only asking “what your country can do for you.” The American Dream was not dead, but it had suffered some life-threatening wounds.

Nevertheless, life in the States was still pretty wonderful relative to the rest of the world. My summer vacation of 1970 was a little different than most. Mom and Dad took all of us kids behind the Iron Curtain. After spending ten grim days in Soviet-era Ljubljana, Budapest and Prague, I had never been happier to live in America. I had never been more proud to be an American.

Gradually, however, America began compounding her errors more rapidly than she compounded her successes. Little-by-little, the forces influencing America’s economy and standard of living conspired to corrode the American Dream.

Throughout the last forty years, America’s fundamental civil liberties and legendary capitalistic dynamism have faced continuous assault from agencies and policies that purported to “help” or “protect.” Meanwhile, the government’s extreme (and growing) indebtedness accelerated the corrosion of the American Dream. Because these enormous debts increased the appetite for tax revenues, for example, they also decreased any appetite for establishing entrepreneur-friendly tax policies.

America is still a great nation; but she is working hard at becoming less great.

As a result, Americans seem to be using the “E-word” more often than ever before. “Expatriation” used to be synonymous with “Commie” or “Benedict Arnold.” But a growing number of US citizens are beginning to think about the unthinkable: Leaving the US.

Last week, The Daily Reckoning aired a two-part essay entitled: “Ten Benefits of Expatriation.” In the preface to the essay, we asked our dear Daily Reckoning readers to share their insights and impressions on the topic. Specifically, we requested testimonials – good or bad – about life in America. “Tell us about the personal successes America has nurtured,” we wrote, “or about the potential successes the American system may have impeded. At the same time, feel free to share first-hand experiences – good or bad – from any other economy around the globe.

“This exercise is designed to elicit helpful insights from our unique group of readers. So please refrain from hyperbole or gratuitous America-bashing. Instead, please offer first-hand accounts that may shed valuable light on the American economy past, present and future.”

We received a torrent of excellent emails. We cannot publish them all, but we will publish many of them. You can read the first batch, which we published yesterday in an essay titled “Get Outta Dodge.”

Eric Fry
for The Daily Reckoning