You might recall a few weeks ago that Hardyville’s normally
All-American, ex-military guy, Carty, was
thinking about leaving the U.S. He was fed up with the
Libido-in-Chief, the inveterate invertebrates in Congress, snoopy tax
collectors and general loss of freedom.
Well, Carty’s still here — for the moment. But after that column,
he’s certainly got a lot more information to mull. Many people had
opinions on the subject of going offshore. About half wrote to say,
“Only a coward would leave America. Stand and fight for freedom!” The
other half said either, “How do I get out?” or, “I got out!”
One of the latter was David Jessup*, who now lives in Costa Rica.
Because he’s not much different than a lot of us, and because he made a
very conscious, well-researched choice to go, his story might help those
folks who ask, “How?” David came in from the beach long enough to answer
a few questions about how — and why — he left the U.S.
When and why did you first think about leaving?
Other than military service overseas and a while in Europe, I didn’t
think seriously about leaving until early 1995. The U.S. was no longer
the land of the free that I’d believed in. In fact some Americans were,
and still are, fighting harder than anyone else to limit freedom. The
Internet was starting to twist space so that any two points on the Earth
were next to each other. You couldn’t tell whether you were
communicating with the next cubicle or the next hemisphere. Suddenly it
looked like I could work from anywhere.
Can you give some background about yourself?
I was born in Texas to parents who both grew up on farms. My dad
became a businessman and engineer, my mom a housewife and secretary.
Most of my childhood was in suburbs. I spent some years in the military,
went to four colleges and universities and had four majors without
getting a degree, and ended up building some software systems and a
company or two. I’ve been with an amazing lady for over 20 years. We
have no kids, one cat.
What do you do for a living?
I’ve done a number of things, and loved software the most. Edsger
Dijkstra has called it “pure thought-stuff.” If there’s a more pleasant
way to earn a living I haven’t found it. I’ve also enjoyed running or
helping run some small businesses.
I love learning, and the Web is a tool for it straight out of science
What do you value?
I’m much more rational with my family than I would be without it.
Together we’ve enthusiastically built the life we dreamed.
That life is centered around personal freedom. Milton Friedman
described it as “freedom to choose.” It’s the liberty to decide for
yourself what life you want, and the opportunity to earn and enjoy that
life. The only reasonable limit on this freedom is that you not infringe
on others’ liberty to do the same.
Almost as important, we’re having a blast.
Did you ever assume the barriers to emigration might be too high
for a person of ordinary means?
For years I thought if I wanted to live free I had to get rich first
or fight. I had already shown I could live in another country just by
working for someone else, but freedom was harder to find.
Then along came the Internet. It became easy to run a business from
Where did you begin your research?
We were living near Atlanta in 1995 and realized we could probably do
almost everything we did over the Net. It looked like we could travel
the world as easily as we could stay in Atlanta. But other than very
special cases, we couldn’t find anyone who was actually running their
business that way yet.
So to test the idea, we moved to a beautiful place in deep rural
Tennessee, with a 150-year-old house where the living room was bigger
than some of my apartments have been, plenty of room for our horses to
run, and a good Net connection. The first year sales grew some while we
ironed out some bumps. The second year was our most profitable year
ever, without us ever physically visiting a single customer.
It had worked. We hit the road.
Did you find a lot of bogus or misleading information when you
were trying to locate a new homeland or move your financial life
Almost everyone knows which place is best: theirs. Cutting through
the hype is tough. Finding sources that aren’t sponsored by some
government is a challenge.
The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic
Freedom was a good early resource. Until I saw this analysis I
believed that although the U.S. wasn’t very free overall, it was
probably the most economically free country in the world. It was a
surprise to find out that while the U.S. is near the top, there is some
very good competition even in this area. And the U.S. keeps slipping.
The Heritage Foundation also did a good job of explaining how they
measured economic freedom. We were able to apply their metrics to
countries they hadn’t covered and compare those countries.
I started thinking hard about what made one country better than
We first eliminated countries that had recently killed many of their
own people. These were countries like Nazi Germany, Russia under Stalin,
Maoist China, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and a few others.
The next best criterion is how many people a country puts in cages.
If you’re in a cage, you’re not free. The Lindensmith Foundation’s
Sentencing Project has done the comparisons.
We looked at a lot more, such as what percentage of their populations
were armed government employees, and tax laws. Some places became
interesting because others had chosen them.
In the end we decided to try the options for ourselves.
Can you help people learn how to recognize fraudulent offshore
services — of which there seem to be a lot, these days?
I doubt that there are many more frauds in offshore banks than
onshore. For example, look at the S&L problems of the 1980s. The S&Ls
made “questionable” loans and “lost” their customers’ money. But that
money wasn’t just burned in a bonfire. The loan recipients got it. Many
of those loans were silly on their face. Does anyone believe that none
of the loan recipients ever compensated the bank officers that approved
the bogus loans?
Still, spotting the crooks offshore can be more work. The offshore
industry provides financial privacy. If a customer complains, that
customer loses their privacy. In some cases losing their privacy can
mean losing their freedom, or even their life. That’s why many people
who are fleeced just shut up. This situation tempts some con artists.
Research helps. Read everything you can find about the banks you’re
considering. Remember your criteria may not be the same as the person
who writes an article. They may think a particular action by a bank is
bad, while on balance you think it’s good. Think hard about this.
Also, try to keep the amount of money at risk small. You can build it
up over time as they gain your trust. If you can, spreading your money
around diversifies your risk. Anyone can easily keep some of their money
in physical cash.
Another partial solution is to choose financial institutions which
are also used by people it’s not safe to cross. Or, be someone it’s not
safe to cross.
What made you decide on Costa Rica?
I haven’t decided on anywhere yet. There’s a long life ahead. In
fact, I’m not there right now.
Costa Rica’s government is not very strong, so you have a lot of
personal freedom there. Although it’s socialist, in practice it’s a very
free place to live. It’s also a place of astonishing beauty.
When did you actually go?
I woke up July 4, 1997, outside the US.
Next week David Jessup talks about “Getting used to paradise.”
In the meantime, if you want to read more about how people of
ordinary means can find and move to an offshore haven, check out “Tax Freedom
by Doug Porter in The
Times. Porter himself has moved out of the U.S. He gives details
about how he did it and offers links to information sources.
*Pseudonym to protect privacy.