Simon Black – Notes from the Field…….via E-mail

In Business/Political Trends Worldwide, Continental Travel, Government, Interesting places, Political, Travel on November 1, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Sovereign Man

Notes from the Field

Date: November 1, 2010
Reporting From: Colombo, Sri Lanka

I’m writing to you from Sri Lanka, even though I’m supposed to be in Thailand today; it turns out that the government of India had other plans for me.

It all started on Saturday night; I had a flight booked from Sri Lanka to Bombay that departed just after midnight, and then a connecting flight from Bombay to Bangkok at 4:40 in the morning… yeah, I know, what kind of sadist comes up with these flight schedules?

When I arrived to the airport, though, the check-in agent informed me of some obscure rule that the Indian government enforces– if you have previously been in India on a tourist visa and then subsequently leave the country, you are not allowed to re-enter India for 2-months without obtaining special permission.

I had just been to India last week, so despite my having a 10-year multiple entry visa to the country, I was politely (yet firmly) denied boarding for Bombay.

Always one to make the best of a bad situation, I immediately hopped in a taxi and returned to palatial, shockingly cheap accommodation in Colombo from whence I had departed. Post-war Sri Lanka has really grown on me, and I wasn’t terribly disappointed to be spending a bit more time here.

After passing the remainder of my weekend on the beach and researching the property market a bit more, I set out to fix my visa problem first thing this morning at the local Indian consulate. After going through a full security screening (including a rather intimate pat down), I explained my situation to the receptionist–

“Hi. Apparently I need special permission to take a 2-hour transit through the airport in Bombay even though I have a 10-year tourist visa. What should I do?”

“Fill out these forms, sir, and take a number.”

The forms were classic government bureaucracy… pages and pages of paperwork asking the most ridiculous questions including:

1) What is your father’s name?
2) What is your blood type?
3) What other nationalities do you have?
4) What countries have you visited in the last 10-years?

The last one made my eyes widen and wonder if I would run out of ink. There’s a similar question on the blue USCBP immigration form that American citizens fill out when returning to the US– you have to list all the countries that you’ve been to since you were last in the United States…

The US form allocates two small lines for your answer– a normal person might be able to list 6 or 7 countries. I’m wondering how I’ll be able to fit the dozens of countries I will have traveled to by the time I’m next in the United States… or how I will even remember.

The real question is– why does it even matter? Why does it matter who my father is, or what my blood type is, or where I have traveled to over the last 10-years…?

When my number was finally called, I jokingly asked the worker at the window if they would require my childhood address.

“No, sir, not on -this- form.” He was serious.

That’s the trouble with bureaucracy: it’s a self-perpetuating force. Governments hire workers to bring people on to the payroll, and then create useless paperwork to keep the workers busy. None of these stamps or forms does a damn bit of good for the rest of us, and the bureaucracy comes at a substantial cost.

Imagine a small village where everyone has to pay $100 each year to the local government office… yet the local office’s only function is to collect the $100 tax from residents. This is extortion, plain and simple, but it’s the very nature of everyday government bureaucracies.

Our governments dress up the bureaucracies by pretending that they provide “essential services” like license plates. In fact, governments have managed to convince people that our society simply cannot function without these services… so while everyone complains about the bureaucracy, people just accept it as a necessary evil.

In Florida, for example, the state’s vehicle registration office was running at a major loss after the downturn started– they simply weren’t able to issue all of those driver licenses, vehicle tags, and registration stickers profitably.

Consequently, Florida’s politicians made the only “sensible” decision last September: increase fees. Driver license renewal fees, for example, more than doubled from $20 to $48, and most of the additional revenue went to pay for the self-serving bureaucracy that has no productive purpose.

When you peel back the onion, the vehicle registration office is just another dressed up bureaucracy that serves no useful purpose… like our village example, the vehicle registration office collects money from people in order to pay for the vehicle registration office that collects money from people.

Just because they issue useless trinkets like license plates (that eventually just end up as ‘pieces of flare’ on the wall at any TGI Friday’s) doesn’t mean that the office has a productive purpose.

After all, what benefit does a license plate really have for you and I? Zero. They give the government a bit more money and a lot more control, but they only cost us time and money.

I’m using license plates as an example, but the concept extends far beyond. Think about all the taxes and fees you pay, then wonder if you’re actually getting something productive that justifies the cost. The answer is probably “no.”

The trend that we can see coming in advance, particularly in the west, is more of the same– more bureaucracy, more fees, more government control, and still nothing of value.

As I am fond of saying, this is not a cause for panic, but one for measured preparation. I recommend having an escape plan for yourself and your family (foreign property, residence, citizenship, etc.), an escape plan for your capital (foreign bank account, brokerage, trust), and an escape plan for your livelihood (offshore business).

Until tomorrow,

Simon Black
Senior Editor,


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