Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leaving the USA: The New Zealand Option

The following guest column was written by Michael Reps.

I came across the EPJ site during a Google search for the topic “Leaving the USA”. I noticed the absence of advertisements for ammunition reload kits and raccoon jerky recipes for the coming Armageddon so thought to myself, I perhaps, won't get flamed for sounding too anti American for my Pro New Zealand bias. Needless to say, I miss the America I grew up in, not because I live 12,000 miles away, but because it no longer exists. You see, freedom and democracy are not American precepts that disappear once you leave its soil. It is mans nature to be not only free in his thoughts but as a natural extension, free in his governance. And as you can see, America has less freedom today than it did 10 years ago.

I believe the solution, however, is not is stockpiling ammunition or rodent meat. It's in fostering the growth of democracy where it is welcome and not where it conflicts with the interests of a command based market system.

On that note let me give you a little background on myself. I do, in fact, know how to reload ammo and make jerky meat, I learned it while a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne and again as a Captain in the USMC. I was born and raised in California where I spent my formative years brow beaten by Catholic Nuns with thick ankles and short fuses in the mid Wilshire area of Los Angeles. My formal education is a degree in philosophy from Claremont McKenna College. After the Marines I spent the next 15 years involved in the financial markets where I surmised that the US was heading for a cliff dive economically which ultimately led to me emigrating to New Zealand in July, 2001. Borrowing money to pay for borrowed money simply doesn’t work unless you can import new buyers of the debt at a greater rate than the debt being created.

Now, we have to ask ourselves what will a consumption driven economy look like if it loses its reserve currency status? Now that the framework for a new type of rail system has been laid, where are the new opportunities? Perhaps it wasn't just a dot com bubble for bubbles sake. Perhaps there are underlying reasons the information age captured so many imaginations. Instead of now focusing on the train wreck caused by excessive liquidity under the guise of structured finance, we should recognize that the world is not returning to pyramid economics while memories are still fresh of its dangers. Maybe cutting our loses and regrouping is a prudent strategy.

You see, While the US is still growing its population base, 300,000 people emigrate from the USA every year according to loosely compiled data by the US Census. Interestingly, that number may be set to rise according to a report issues by the Migration Policy Institute. Have a look at this study for further information.

New Zealand, on the other hand takes in about 40,000 people per year under their various visa schemes. And more Americans are coming. I should know, I help them in for a living with my company. The interesting thing I am observing now is the more libertarian bias these people are possessing. I suspect some of the US's most ardent patriots are holding on to their American ideals but recognizing that they are less welcome in America these days.

In New Zealand, everyone’s viewed as entitled to a “fair go”. Also with a land size the area of Colorado this means that crowds are not an issue nor a draining of resources. The “close the door behind” you mentality seen in small provincial towns in the US is non existent here. New Zealand is also outward looking as a result of its insignificance on the world stage. New ideas are embraced, and the ambitions of many desire to be tested against the rest of the world. New immigrants wanting to settle in are embraced in stark contrast with the US where new immigrants represent a drain on services.

The US is different in this regard. With 300 million people and only about 20% of the population holding passports it's more insular in nature. There appears to be stresses in the system now that lead to zero sum thinking that wealth comes at the expense of someone else’s loss. Just ask anyone who purchased a McMansion in 2006 about what it feels like to hold the proverbial “bag”. The corporate structure is one of scale and multi national exposure where as New Zealand is the land of the family business.

There was an event however, that stuck out in my mind as a moment of this contrast. Back in 2004 an American developer came out here to view real estate development prospects. After seeing so much unused coastal land he was quoted in the paper as saying New Zealand should get rid of those useless sheep and cattle, cut the hills flat and put in thousands of condos. Needless to say, I am certain this chap’s stay here was short lived, and he’s still wondering about how his permits got lost and his visa wasn’t renewed. Remember, 4 million people puts 2 degrees of separation between you and everybody else. It also means the charlatans and hucksters get run off to Sydney.

Speaking of visas, there are several avenues you can use to enter New Zealand. English speaking and being resourceful are your major requirements. The basic premise behind the immigration policy here is one of attempting to add benefit to the economy either through your skill set, small business start up, or passive investor. Required in each of these applications is a police report and medical exam. The medical is more about being a burden on the healthcare system, than anything else so don’t worry if your elbows are on backwards.

The easiest way to understand the viability of an emigration is to visit the New Zealand Immigration website at Suffice it to say, it is not a lottery based system but one that has clearly defined guidelines.

I believe an argument can be made that even if the US were to enact policy that set it back on the right course, the amount of time necessary to purge the system, repay the debt, and bring about this change may be measured not in decades but in generations.

Lastly, as a historical note, the last time the US saw a net migration of its population out of the country was during the decade of the great depression. Or as the Zimbabweans I have met are fond of saying, “The is the difference between an immigrant and a refugee is only timing".

Michael Reps moved to New Zealand in 2001. He maintains US Citizenship and New Zealand Permanent Residency. He has assisted in numerous emigrations from the US to New Zealand. Further details on his services can be found at


  1. That is net 40,000 into NZ pa. 100,000 people leave NZ 140,000 arrive. NZ would be a failed state without massive immigration. Hope you like paying tax because NZ is a social democratic workers paradise. Bring money.

  2. Wenzel and guest,

    I immediately stopped reading when I saw the guest author conflate democracy and freedom.

    Those concepts don't go together, brother. Sorry.

  3. The Canadian liberarian think tank, the Fraser Institute, does a detailed international comparative survey of economic freedom around the world. New Zealand ranks ahead of the US in their multi-factor survey. (See comparative table here, -PDF). In the 2006 survey NZ ranks third and the US rates 8th (equal to Australia). My guess is that when the 2009 survey is issued the US will be lucky to stay within the top 10.

    It would be interesting to do a parallel survey of non-economic personal and political freedoms. These additions would certainly drop Hong Kong and Singapore from their no.1 and no.2 slots. NZ would score well on that scale.

    It's not clear that the US would lead the pack. The PATRIOT , domestic surveillance and, perhaps worse, the (sky-)high rate of imprisonment for victimless crimes would most probably see the US slip further down the rankings.

    (According to Nationmaster, the US has an imprisonment rate of 715 per 100,000 compared to NZ's 160 per 100,000. My guess is that the US's high rates of imprisonment for victimless crimes would explain much, but not all, of the difference.)

  4. To al-girta, I think you are confusing net migration figures with actual permitted migration quotas from New Zealand Immigration. Regarding your other comments would you care to elaborate? New Zealand ranks as one of the freest economies in the world,least corrupt governments, and one of the easiest places to start a business. Yes workers do have greater rights here, I think there are a good deal of Americans that are re thinking this issue from both political spectrums after witnessing these most recent bailouts of Wall Street.

    I cite my sources for this on my website homepage for further clarity.

    Regarding TAYLOR's comments on democracy and freedom not going together I would respectfully have to disagree. Though I do acknowledge that the US is a constitutional republic and not a true democracy. For the sake of simplicity, my point was that human nature as it relates to civil society is more aligned with freedom and democracy than tyranny. It hence, requires no natural boarders, much as you and I are exchanging ideas from 12,000 miles away. The mind was born free.

  5. YieldQwest,

    Can you substantiate your respectful disagreement with some kind of logic or evidence rather than just stating that you do and hoping that will be enough?

    Democracy is rule by the people. It entails decisions about property rights being decided by majoritarian vote. It is completely anti-thetical to the idea of individual liberty because it explicitly states that the individual is nothing to the collective majority. Democracy says that rights are relative based upon the trends and whims of the majority of the day, rather than being absolute and insoluble.

    The only way in which I could imagine you mean to say that democracy is natural to "civil society" (define: society, please) is to use some example of a family voting on where to eat for dinner or a group of shareholders voting on the course of their company. But these are poor examples because most families are not "ruled" (the -cracy of democracy) by majoritarian vote but are in fact dictatorships or aristocracies of the parents, and either way if someone doesn't like the dinner plan they're usually free to go find their own food. And in the case of a shareholders meeting, those people voluntarily consented to decision-by-vote by purchasing the stock in question. There is no "rule" or "governance" here because there is no force. It's not democracy because everyone agreed to make communal decisions this way ahead of time, and people outside the community of stakeholders have no say (thus, no "demos" in this system). That's not democracy, it's just voting.

    That'd be a far stretch from the reality of democratic law-making and democratic resource allocation (two sides of the same coin) in today's "civil society," where you can not go against the majority once it's voted lest you forfeit your property or your life.

    But I don't wish to transact in strawmen here, so I'm willing to hear your response on how you justify democracy and freedom as being agreeable concepts.

  6. I think this topic would require a blog of its own and is one I believe has more to do with Libertaian or Objectivist views and their practical application.

    I think we both find difference in this statement of yours,

    "Democracy is rule by the people. It entails decisions about property rights being decided by majoritarian vote. It is completely anti-thetical to the idea of individual liberty because it explicitly states that the individual is nothing to the collective majority."

    It is my contention that freedom is NOT "freedom to" but rather "freedom from". Having to restrain individual actions for the common good should not be confused with oppression and tyranny and unlimited access to act, should not be mistaken for anything other than might makes right logic.

    Mans nature is to live among civil society, in groups, we are not loners nor do we prosper under this arraingement. I think this may be where you and I depart.

  7. The 40,000 you mean PR applications approved?? The number is closer to 60,000 pa. NZIS also issue around 160,000 to 180,000 work permits each year (the number keeps getting bigger) to cover the number of New Zealanders who either don’t want to work or move overseas. 300,000 New Zealanders of working age receive a core benefit and don’t work out of a population of 4.3 million.

    Either way without immigration NZ would be a basket case.

    Also take a look at who owns NZ small businesses. Recently they are mostly Chinese and Indians who have moved here in over the last 15 years. (Also one third of small business owners in NZ are nearing retirement age. Some well established businesses are going to be sold. Good buying for anyone wanting to move here. )

    Government corruption. Depends on how you define government corruption. When the government grants itself the power of general competence as the NZ government has then it is no longer what you know but who.

    Free economy what about the RMA? The mainstay of the NZ economy over the last 7 or 8 years has been the housing boom a boom manipulated and sustained in large by central government via the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act.

    The NZ economy is so poorly performing the government to get things ticking over via the RMA decided to manipulate houses prices by restricting the supply of land thus increasing the price of houses. (NZ is really a greenbelt with one or two cities.) Rising house prices keep the general population happy and allowed them to be over taxed. (The average worker can’t afford to buy a house unless of course they already own. That locks out anyone under 35. This has fueled immigration.) The government people responsible for introducing and enforcing restrictive building practices already had significant property ownership. The Minister of housing owned 3 Auckland properties and made a killing as did most of the pervious government cabinet.

    Having said all that by all means move to NZ. If enough people can move to NZ the country can be turned around.

  8. YieldQwest,

    It is my contention that freedom is NOT "freedom to" but rather "freedom from"

    Agreed. And that includes "freedom from" having my property rights violated any time a majority gets together and votes to do so.

    Having to restrain individual actions for the common good should not be confused with oppression and tyranny

    Fallacy. There is no "common good" and if you think there is you need to define what the "common good" is. And if I do not see eye to eye with the "common good," does this mean I am not part of the common (in which case, what say do they have over my property?)?

    Mans nature is to live among civil society, in groups, we are not loners nor do we prosper under this arraingement. I think this may be where you and I depart.

    I don't know what "man's nature" has to do with deciding upon whether or not freedom and democracy are mutually exclusive concepts or if they are in fact complimentary. You divert into this odd utilitarian justification ("nor do we prosper...") as if you have made the case for democracy because living in a group makes people better off. But that does not respond to whether FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY are concerned with one another at all.

    Man very well be a civil creature. I don't see how this necessitates his political interactions be democratic anymore than they be monarchical or oligarchical or aristocratic or plutocratic. And of course, it says nothing whatsoever of a need for politics in the first place.

    I think this topic would require a blog of its own

    Of course it doesn't. Save your breath and your time writing a lengthy exhortation where you commit the same logical fallacies that statists and socialists have been committing for centuries and get back to me when you've got an original idea for why you have the right to violate my freedom with your disgusting democracy.

    Something tells me you won't bother, though. As an ex-mil, it's likely ingrained in your skull that somehow, somewhere there is a justification for initiating violence against others to make everyone else better off.

    Stick to your business and leave all else well enough alone.

  9. al-girta, Thank you for that very thoughtful reply.

    I assume you live in New Zealand with how familiar you are with various policy.

    While I cannot dispute much of what you say I believe its context should be in comparison to the US.

    For every RMA there is a California Coastal Commission, for every small business sunseting itself in New Zealand their are two Walmart Greaters and one TSA Officer born in Kansas City.

    Going forward, I see that aging boomer demographic as a business opportunity in both countries as multiples contract in their businesses. And it will be new money, brought in from less friendly environments that will shape the global rebalancing afoot.

    Housing bubbles on both shores where a monetary phenomenom more than anything else brought on by structured finance and the 10 Year Treasury. 35 year olds everywhere are struggling with wages dropping and housing priced at over 7 times earnings.

    The difference is that New Zealand needs 10 million people to operate on the scale of a country like Australia where as the US has too many people checking carry on bags or getting paid by the government.

    This brings up an interesting point that immigration is a growth catalyst here in NZ. I agree. I think this is a topic that needs further elaboration. You see, I suspect the US was counting on globalization to act as a buffer in its credit growth. "If only we could find more consumers, we could flip these condos one more time"

    This too, was Californias growth story, unabetted immigration, cheap labour and a shortage of housing led to rising multiples. Now, that party is over and for an example of a real basket case I suggest a weekend in Sacramento.

    New Zealand is the one eyed man in the room filled with the blind.

  10. Small Business owners are largely forgotten. Thats why I only focus on them. I have experience several members of my family file bankruptcy due to small business failures. I also I suffered through 2 destroyed businesses due to failure however, in my failings I have learned some of the secrets to success. (Who can say they know it all?)