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Note on Cost of Living for Newcomers to Chile

The cost of living is a technical economics term. It means, generally, “the level of prices relating to a range of everyday items, and regular household, educational, tax, insurance and transportation expenses.” Investopedia provides a more complete definition:

Cost of living is the amount of money needed to sustain a certain level of living, including basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes and health care. Cost of living is often used to compare how expensive it is to live in one city versus another locale. Cost of living is tied to wages, as salary levels are measured against expenses required to maintain a basic standard of living throughout specific geographic regions.

Accordingly, newcomers from Paris, London, New York and Hong Kong will find Chile to be relatively inexpensive, albeit with lower salary expectations, while people from places like small town Italy, rural New Zealand and many places in the USA and Canada located outside of major cities will find it to be extraordinarily expensive. The same thing is true when people from those places travel to other spots in the world that feature a significant cost of living disparity.

Sometimes, normally rational people, make rather irrational judgments based on limited data. For example, newcomers to Chile from the USA see that gasoline costs much more in Chile and then extrapolate that the overall cost of living is higher in Chile. This conclusion is false. By the same logic, Venezuela and Bolivia, where gasoline supposedly costs fifteen U.S. cents per gallon, must be extraordinarily cheaper places to live than in the USA, where gasoline is “excessively” expensive. However, this reasoning is erroneous. Other things in those countries are not cheap. Living in the Third World is cheaper for a lot of things but the added costs of bodyguards, criminal threats, political unrest, unsanitary conditions, etc. have to be factored into the equation.

Can I fairly judge that the USA or Finland are excessively expensive for wine since I pay US$4 for the same bottle Chile that people in those countries pay US$25 or US$40? One must look at overall cost of living in Chile verses those other countries without getting caught up in extrapolating on the prices of individual products, whether they be cheaper (e.g., medical care, vegetables, yogurt, pharmaceuticals, maid service) or more costly (e.g., gasoline, peanut butter, boxed cereals, power tools). Also, to be fair and consistent, one should never compare cost of living in small town Italy or Arkansas verses a major metro area like Santiago. Instead, use Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Milan, Berlin, Hong Kong, Sydney or Singapore as a baseline. Should anyone be surprised to know that living in Chicago, San Francisco, Munich, Barcelona or Geneva costs more than it does in Mobile, Little Rock, Porto, Cuneo or Salerno?

Some items that make up our standard of living should also be considered within any discussion of cost of living. For instance, what is the value of having an ocean or maintain view from your living room window? What is the value added by having a Mediterranean climate? What is the benefit of having a maid that does all your cooking, cleaning and laundry? Does having a year-round garden appeal to you? How about a much lower probability of being mugged, murdered, drafted, bombed or accidentally shot by cops? Let’s not forget to consider the level of air and water pollution, or overall food quality. Or maybe add the proximity to good medical care, a professional baseball stadium or world-class theater, not to mention living in strong buildings, with great internet service and quality interurban highways all around.

In other words, any analysis is deficient that simply compares only the cost of living in a place without also considering the amenities which influence our standard of living and quality of life. With most of the aforementioned items, Northeastern Santiago and Viña del Mar, Chile provide far more to augment one’s standard of living than can be found in most metro areas of over one million population around the world. The same can be said of Auckland and some other places, but not many others. For many people, it is worth paying more to have a better environment and certain amenities.

Nevertheless, cost of living still serves as a good starting point. After all, newcomers must be able to survive. If they have no accumulated wealth, they can create portable income by becoming a 51Talk online English teacher with a decent salary, most likely tax-free. After having money to spend, they will likely want to avoid paying higher living costs. At this point, many newcomers become frustrated by the price of “little” items. Perhaps the following remarks will help keep things in perspective and alleviate frustrations about living in Chile for the fist couple of years.

One newcomer recently told me, “Prices are by far the most demoralizing thing about Chile.” I suggested that he read the chapter on cost of living in my book Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers. He needed to get the “big picture.” Many smaller items are more expensive in Chile but many larger budget items are not. His frustrations and worries were based more on emotion than rational analysis. Do not make the same mistake.

It is always good to answer questions and concerns rationally when it comes to the relative cost of products and overall cost of living, especially when the products in consideration make up a small percentage of our overall spending in any five-year period. For instance, how much contact lens solution does one buy a year? Even if it is significant, are there alternative means to get it cheaper? Can you have it shipped to you via Amazon and pay the 25% duty in Chile and still come out ahead? Do the same exercise with peanut butter, pliers, shoes and alarm clocks. It is not more expensive to live in Chile. You simply have to change your way of doing things from what you used to do. Try ordering smaller things online or stocking up on them while on trips to Europe or the USA and even pay an extra suitcase fee to bring them back (you might save enough to cover the costs of the flight!).

A household’s biggest budget items are housing, insurance and taxes. Those costs are all going to be reduced dramatically in Chile, even as a percentage of income, dwarfing any extra costs one has for “little” things. Food, transportation and education are important second category items. Depending on how one handles them (mode, selection, quality, etc.), and where one chooses to live, they will be either a little more or a little less in Chile than where you came from.

Let’s consider another “little” item that tends to be expensive in Chile by USA standards, but is not something you can import: meat. Think about it. How much more does a family spend on meat, continuing to eat it normally in Chile as they would have in the old country? Let’s say it costs an extra US$200 per month or US$2,400 per year. This sum pales by comparison to US$40,000 less in paid taxes alone, once a newcomer starts working his professional job. Until then, he simply has to absorb the cost as part of the price of emigrating. Even so, assuming the family eats lots of fruits and vegetables, there might be savings of US$2,000 per year if those foods are regularly bought in open-air markets. Therefore, look at the big picture rather than individual items. Also remember that we do not eat GMO-fed beef in Chile and the fruits and vegetables are better quality. Again, the cost of living should not be divorced from the standard of living.

A similar thing could be said of electricity costs. A newcomer living in an apartment in Santiago once told me, “I got the electric bill; it is unbelievable. I cannot understand how people can survive here.” Yet they do survive here, and on much less than their American counterparts. Why? They know how to play the game, whereas a tourist does not. After my years in Chile, I am now spending about the same on electricity as I did in the land of the free. In our household, we use electricity for lighting, small kitchen appliances, range hood, oven, washer, dishwasher and things plugged into outlets inside the house. Outside it is used for a sewage pump, lights and outlets (e.g., for the lawnmower). Those that choose to heat with electricity make a mistake. Most locals choose to get one of the Japanese or European kerosene units, like Toyotomi. The cost for heating will thus be much less over the long run than using electricity. Another slightly more expensive but more convenient option is to hook into the natural gas system if it is available.

My (cynical) Chilean wife says that Chileans that heat with electricity have found a way to alter the electric meters and thus rip off the companies. She may be right. Others use some sort of gas heating system. Newcomers should listen to her. She often knows. While in Las Condes, we used the Toyotomi heater instead of the apartment’s furnace heat or electric heaters. We saved a bundle and the heat was better. Also, the maid could help fill up the heating unit, maintain it and the room temperature, which is a benefit that newcomers are likely not accustomed to having.

What newcomers often do not realize is that electricity bills come with whopping surcharges for “overuse.” In Chile, once you go over a basic amount of electricity in winter you get nailed with a rate that is 2x or 3x the normal rate and the bill skyrockets. So, in order to not cross the threshold, one learns to mix into one’s household some natural gas (or propane) appliances for heating, hot water, cooking and clothes drying. Is that inconvenient or a hassle compared to the USA (Europeans are used to such things)? Maybe so. But so what? You do not live in the old country any more. It is just something else to learn, in a new place. Locals know how to optimize energy use. Imitate them. Every government-sanctioned utility monopoly has its own unique way of “ripping off” citizens and tourists. You have to learn to cope here just like anywhere else. Locals know. Newcomers must learn. Why do newcomers expect to know everything the first two months after arrival?

A key point of my book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is to inform newcomers of issues as much as possible prior to coming to Chile. Things will be hard enough as it is for newcomers. Yet these folks routinely put off reading it as if the information were optional. They pay the price because of when they arrive unprepared. All newcomers have a hard time, but the more ignorant ones suffer the most. Newcomers should not think immigration will be easy. I have never said it is. However, you can look at my experience and that of many others who have stayed and see that it is more-than-possible to make it. Hard times make for hard choices, but the diligent can succeed.

Consider, too, the cost of using interurban toll roads. For instance, driving from Santiago to the Talca (farm belt) area on the weekend will cost perhaps US$24 dollars in tolls round trip (33% less on weekdays). One might first ask why there is a toll when gasoline (not so much diesel) taxes are so high? In Chile, most interurban highways are private and tolls are paid to a company that has won a monopoly right through a competitive bidding process (one of the “Chicago boys'” innovations stemming from the 1980s). Because of that fact, newcomers will notice that highways are in perfect condition, unlike Chile’s city streets (often rotten outside of Santiago). Fuel taxes are used in part to pay for city roads. Hence, Chile is a case study in why all roads should be private.

Furthermore, before one complains that, “Roads are no better here than in the USA,” he should consider how much he pays in taxes in the USA or Europe to get those good roads. Remember, too, that in New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California people pay tolls to the state on top of paying taxes. Also, tolls in Chile are much cheaper than New York and Europe. In those places one already pays high income and fuel taxes. Consequently, one must not judge the cost of living in Chile based on what a tourist pays for things. Once one has a job and pays less in taxes, owns a home and use medical care in Chile, all will become strikingly clear: the savings far outweighs the additional costs for some things.

For example, if one earns US$120,000 in the USA and pays US$45,000 in all taxes, including income, Social Security, car registration, capital gains, property taxes and fuel taxes, in Chile he might pay US$12,000. Europeans will have a similar experience. Given that fact, is it “excessive” to pay US$24 in tolls to go to Talca, especially if one only goes there, say, four times a year? Once again, if one only looks at the cost of the tolls, he is missing the bigger picture.

Newcomers also tend to be myopic in my experience. They might be saving, for instance, 80% on world-class medical care in Santiago (compared to the USA) or procedures like in-vitro fertilization, not to mention the associated high transportation costs of traveling to specialized clinics. Yet they completely ignore those massive savings (that even newcomers can garner) and instead complain about the relatively paltry costs of things like tolls, meat and contact lens cleaner. Doing so is really irrational, if not ridiculous. Those who do so are not yet seeing the whole picture. With the savings in medical care and procedures alone, how much “excess” costs for cleaning fluid, meat and tolls can one pay? Five or ten year’s worth?

Newcomers live as tourists for the first year or two in Chile. The associated extra costs have to be counted as part of the cost of resettling to a new country without a visa in hand. Probably, no one has ever told them that it would be cheap to leave the old country and settle into a new one. Ask yourself: “Is it worth it to me to spend an extra US$25,000 on store-bought products over the next two years in order not to have to stay in my present country?” If so, deal with it.

So many people come to Chile with the unfounded expectation that transactions costs to adopt a new culture and way of life will be low. This thinking is tragically errant, always leading to frustration. An international move, including full immigration to a new country where one does not speak the language, is not easy and is hardly cheap. Why anyone would think otherwise is beyond me. I never make such claims in what I write or on my webinars. Nonetheless, rest assured that over time initial costs do subside. In the meantime, do not be surprised by the transition costs you will face. Try to minimize them, of course. Yet, is it not far worse to live in danger in the old country? Be thankful that you at least have the money to pay to move, Most that want to do so, cannot. That fact is one reason why becoming a 51Talk online English teacher is a Godsend.

Consider, too, that coming to Chile can end up being a career enhancement. No matter what happens, even if one “goes back,” being in Chile provides an opportunity for career growth. Indeed, there is little downside professionally if one plays his cards right. These benefits offset transitional costs. Living productively overseas does not look bad on one’s resume: after a few years you will be able to list such new personal attributes as “bilingual,” “experienced in living in an overseas environment,” “dual citizen” and “cross culturally trained.” How many new opportunities will those attributes create for you? Might it generate a higher rate of pay, too? Thus, the higher transition costs do come with some ancillary benefits. In addition, if one ends up buying real estate while here, Chile is a good place to invest in rental units and a retirement or second home, even if one chooses to leave someday.

Think about it. Base your judgments and conclusions in rationality.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country. Non-wealthy immigrants to Chile should also create a portable income by signing up to be a 51Talk online English teacher. Read more details about the job in my previous post on the subject.

 Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2017 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $129.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged 2015 book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights (somewhat outdated) found in the larger book. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Memorandum to Newcomers

From: Dr. Cobin, Instigator

To: All Newcomers to Chile

Re: Fundamentals, Expectations and Rules of Conduct

Please take careful note of the following:

1. Chile is not the United States (i.e., “We are not in Kansas anymore.”), nor is it Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore or a Western European country–thank God. It is also not New Zealand or Hong Kong,

2. The way things are done in the aforementioned countries is not the only or “right” way to do things. Believe it or not, there is usually a good reason why things are done the way that they are done. You may not know those reasons now or for some time after arrival.

3. People do things differently in Chile than where you come from. That fact does not mean Chile is bad, but rather that Chileans have found different ways of coping with the challenges of their cultural context. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Do not be an ugly American. It is not any fault of Chileans that you have to move.

4. You will pay more to live in Chile for the first 14-20 months than citizens and permanent residents do. This fact should not be surprising since tourists (newcomers) usually pay more than locals in any country of the world. Be prepared for the extra expense (i.e., “get a grip” and “deal with it”). It is part of your cost of emigrating from the “land of the free” or wherever. Over time, you will see that the overall cost of living here is probably lower than where you came from. Reducing costs might require you to change the way you have done things in the past.

5. You will not know everything you need to know about Chile on the day of your arrival, or even a year later. You will undoubtedly learn by the school of hard knocks. However, you can greatly minimize your butt-beating by not being lazy and taking my advice: read Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers before you land in the Santiago airport. Also, attend as many Escape America Now webinars as you can prior to coming. If you do not read every page of the 1,500+ page book prior to coming, and hence attempt a life-changing, international move in a state of near-total ignorance, you forever forfeit your right to complain. Onlookers might also consider you to be somewhat moronic.

6. Your negativity, worry and complaining have never really helped you before and they will not help you in Chile. No matter how bad things seem, they could be worse. Best to look on the bright side and make the best of it. There are a lot of “bright sides” in Chile. Dwell on them instead, along with all the ugly/nasty/unpleasant reasons that have impelled you to leave “the old country.”

7. Chile is a Spanish-speaking country. Do not expect more than 2% of Chileans, nearly all found in Northeastern Santiago and Viña del Mar-Concón, to speak English. At some point, you will have to begin conducting your life in a different language than your mother tongue.

8. Plan on learning Spanish (starting now). Doing so will be really hard, take you years to accomplish and you may have to spend up to US$1,000 per month, per person for classes or tutors for up to a year. “Get a grip” on this fact. Add the “budget item.” There are a few things you can do from the old country to learn the language prior to getting here. Follow my advice from a decade ago. It is still valid.

9. If you choose to bring a “reluctant wife” with you to Chile, she will not become less so after she is in-country. She will make you ten times more miserable as a newcomer than you would ever have been if you had come alone. Indeed, you will experience rancor, odiousness, grumpiness (maybe even mean-spirited tantrums), resentment and grief like never before. If you are smart, you will think about how to minimize this emotional cost long prior to arrival, and take the proper steps to alleviate the problem. Note: there is a chance that you will not succeed.

10. You will need to spend money in Chile and have an income from somewhere. Put your assets in offshore havens and bring ATM cards with you so you can access your cash from Chile. If you are not wealthy, you should immediately sign up to be a 51Talk teacher and get a few weeks or months under your belt, so that you will have an income upon arrival in Chile. Doing so is also great for older children that accompany you, reluctant wives needing something to do and efficient homemakers. Even if 51Talk teaching ends up only being a stop-gap measure for a couple years until you have a “real job,” it could be a lifesaver. Read more details about the job in my previous post on the subject. Alternatively, you can also bring any other internet-based business with you.

11. Chile may be “somewhere over the rainbow” but no one ever promised you a bed of roses. Grow up. Your life in large part is what you make it.

12. While you may not be responsible for your present circumstances or the need to emigrate, you are responsible to make as wise and thoughtful move as possible. Do not blame me, the instigator, if you do not comply with this directive and prepare as best you can for that life-changing transition. Also, remember that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Therefore, stop being lazy, fatuous and otherwise complacent when it comes to proper preparation!

cc. general file

moron file

get-a-grip committee

Kansas/rainbow crossing/deal-with-it project

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2017 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $129.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged 2015 book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights (somewhat outdated) found in the larger book. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Chilean Census – 2017

In Chile, the national census is taken every five years. Wednesday, April 19, 2017 was census day, and people were forced to take a confined (paid) holiday in order for census workers to get around to them and conduct a ten-minute household interview. The idea was that other than emergency personnel and the census takers themselves, everyone should have been in his home. (That fact might explain why there was a large, Summer-style traffic jam coming into Reñaca the evening before.) At any rate, every resident, tourist, newborn (but excluding unborn children) that was located in the home as of 00:00 on April 17th was counted as living there. Even people that died later that day were included (even if the death was prior to the arrival of the census taker).

Source

All stores were closed, at least until 8 p.m. Bus and Metro lines only ran for a couple of hours in the morning and evening in order to bring census workers to their locales. Census workers started quizzing people at 9:00 (except for homeless people, which were counted earlier before they got a chance to get up and move away). In spite of the wide publicity about the coming census, many people were still surprised when the knock on the door came. Our census taker, a young man doing military service apparently, did not arrive until after 1 p.m., and we were only the second household of the eighteen he was required to do. He was obviously behind schedule.

President Bachelet herself went to Renca (a lower middle-class comuna in north central Santiago) and personally did the census for eighteen households. She saved taxpayers 15,000 pesos, or about US$23 (supervisors got US$15 more), that would have been paid to someone else. The young man that came to our home said that he received nothing for the effort, since it was apparently part of his public service requirement.

Census questionnaires were available in Mapudungun (local Indian/Mapuche language), English, Portuguese, Creole (reflecting the growing Haitian population), French and German. The census committee wanted to make sure to correctly count tourists, new arrivals and tribal elements within the overall population. Hotel guests and passengers on trains, planes and buses were given questionnaires to complete, too, albeit with different questions than households received.

Overall, for most people, Census Day was boring and largely unproductive. Some people with small shops still opened, like my vehicle mechanic, and people with Internet-based businesses could still work. But there was little economic activity resulting from people moving around or shopping.

Many people feared (and newspapers reported) that some of the twenty-one census questions had been turned in a politically correct direction, like allowing people to declare their gender, even if different than their sex at birth. I am not sure how much traction this particular rule got, but it was annoying to read about it. Nevertheless, the census worker did not ask us our gender, but rather decided for himself that I was a man and my wife was a woman. Hence, the transgender questions were probably put “out there” for public image purposes while in reality Chileans just ignored the provision. I inquired about the matter with the young man doing the census and he just shrugged and gave me a puzzled look. Apparently, he was not gender-confused. I bet the vast majority of Chileans are not.

The “head of household” had to be declared in each home, and could be anyone age fifteen or older, regardless of gender or income. Again, in the case of our census-taker, we were never asked who headed the home, as it was evident that I did. Once again, political correctness was trumped in Chile. The gender and head of household gestures were published as a concession to leftists that ended up meaning nothing in reality.

Contestants were, apparently, allowed to remain anonymous, by only giving nicknames to census personnel. We just gave him our names when asked, since we did not find the census to be intrusive. No question was asked about household religion, as people on WhatsApp had been discussing during the week before. The only questions asked of a personal nature were one’s age, how many children he has (living or dead), one’s employment status, if he had a job last week, one’s city of birth, where one was located during the last census (in 2012), where one’s mother lived when he was born, and how many years of education one had completed.

In sum, the census was simple and hardly as contentious as some people were making it out to be. Just in case you are here in 2022, you can expect to go through the same process.

The bigger contention came late in the evening on Census Day, and the next day, when it was revealed that many people living in large buildings and certain provinces did not get counted. Scores of people wrote comments under online news stories that people were neither interviewed nor counted in places in Santiago like Maipú, Ñuñoa, Conchalí, Estación Central, Quilicura, plus provincial cities and towns like Colina, La Serena, Puerto Varas, Peñaflor, Quilpué and Ercilla. In Maipú alone, 1,358 census workers did not show up to do their job. Elsewhere in Santiago, 390 census takers did not show up in Cerro Navia (and 1,500 homes were missed) and 350 failed to do so in Pedro Aguirre Cerda (leaving 7% of homes missed). The Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas reported similar problems with absenteeism (on a lesser scale) in San Ramón, Conchalí, Cerillos, San Miguel, San Joaquín, Macul, Ñuñoa, Las Condes, La Pintana, La Granja, La Florida (where 3,000 homes were missed), La Cisterna and Huechuraba.

Like most public policies, the 2017 Census was an example of government failure. Replacements (usually bureaucrats from the municipalities) were running around the next day, and even for a couple weeks afterwards, trying to collect the missing data. Just how accurate Chilean censuses end up being is a matter for considerable debate. Academics are also upset that more questions were not asked during the push. To go to such an effort and yet only collect a paltry amount of data seemed quite wasteful to them. It is good to have it over and done with.

Fuente: Emol.com – http://www.emol.com/noticias/Nacional/2017/04/20/854989/Censo-2017-En-Maipu-1358-voluntarios-inscritos-no-llegaron-a-sus-locales-para-el-proceso.html

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Construction Quality in Chilean Cities

By now, most thinking people know that Chileans build the safest buildings in the world, at least in terms of earthquake protection. In the last seven years, populated areas of Chile have been struck by three large earthquakes (Richter Scale 8.2 Iquique, 8.3 Illapel and 8.8 Cauquenes). The damage done to postwar structures and highways was remarkably insignificant. And the damage that did occur was quickly repaired. Most people went to work or carried on with life as normal the next day.

Why is Chile so much more resilient to earthquakes than New Zealand or Italy, or even California or Japan? The answer lies in the fact that during the “framing” stage, the base of Chilean homes (if not the home entirely) and all office and apartment towers is made of 10-inch thick (or more) poured, reinforced concrete. Welded beams or metal framing studs are used on higher floors in homes sometimes, but the base is always sturdy. And many upscale homes feature poured, reinforced concrete on all floors.

In my project in Viña del Mar, like others in hilly coastal Chile, I carved out the hillside and embedded the building into it, making the structure even sturdier. Partially completed, it was unaffected during the 2015 8.3 Richter Scale earthquake.

People used to criticize Chile’s “wasteful” building procedures at the framing stage, which features so many costly restraining walls, deep-base concrete forms and poured reinforced walls. However, after the last decade’s earthquake experience here (and around the world), no one is hurling criticisms any longer. Chileans have done the rough-in stage right, ever since as many as 30,000 people died in the January 24, 1939 Chillan earthquake (7.8 Richter Scale), inland from Concepcion, wherein 47% of all Chillan’s structures were destroyed. That event made Chileans very safety-conscious. Consequently, one can feel quite safe during earthquakes in Chile, especially in modern urban areas.

Finish work is another story, however. I am not just referring to the overall high-level of defects permitted in the finish-out (at least by North American or European standards), which seems to predominate all Latin American buildings. Part of that imperfection is due to not having proper tools, laziness or workers just not having a culture of quality, given that workers tend to live in squalor and do not see the need for (or desire to have) nice-looking, perfect finish work.

Instead, I would like to emphasize that Chileans (especially in the middle classes) value image over true quality. They will buy kitchens that look nice for a few years but end up deteriorating rapidly as the particle board gives way. Cabinets, doors, “wood” floors and furniture are built with cheap wood products and then laminated with hardwood veneers. Laminated doors tend to be hollow. Floors are vinyl or wood veneer laminated. Imitation marble or granite are used if something other than Formica is used at all. Bathroom fixtures and accessories are almost always on the low-end of the scale. Stucco is preferred over brick or more elegant siding. Roofing is often cheap, local tile that frequently leaks. Windows tend to be the cheapest aluminum variety one can find in home building supercenters. Yards and gardens in houses and smaller buildings tend to be pathetic as if Chileans do not care or simply ran out of money to fix them up.

All is made to look good for a little while but is not built to last. Just about the only exceptions are building/home facades and apartment building foyers and lawns, which are elegant all the way around in upscale neighborhoods. They grant an air of affluence to those that stop by to visit, making them think more highly of the residents. That vanity is highly sought after in Chile.

One might think about buying a home or apartment with mediocre finish work, then gut it and put in high-quality stuff. Doing so is fine for those that plan to live there a long time and enjoy the amenities. However, being the best in the building or on the block will not necessarily translate into obtaining a greater resale value. One will not likely get his money out of the remodeled home. However, those that do remodel will enjoy both living with elegance and safety during fires or earthquakes.

Most people that I speak to that have lived outside of Chile, in Europe or North America especially, are simply appalled by mediocre finish work in supposedly upscale homes and apartments. However, my readers should not be surprised. Chileans like to buy cheap and they almost universally buy for image rather than quality. After the barrio quality, Chileans buy for proximity to private schools and being adjacent to neighbors in their social class. Ocean or mountain views come afterward in order of importance.

If you want something different than what is offered to the masses in the middle class, you will have to buy through one of the few quality builders around (like me!) or have a custom-built home done for you with the support of a good, expensive architect.

Quality materials are available here and, other than bathroom and kitchen fixtures, they are not terribly expensive relative to other countries. Custom cabinet and door makers exist, too, but the quality is not quite the same (even though it is very good). In sum, you can get what you want, but it will hardly be the norm by upper middle-class standards. Homes for the wealthy are another story, although even their mansions pale by comparison to the fabulous structures in the Northern Hemisphere.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Chilean Architects

Some Chilean professionals have a lot of power – too much power in fact. Architects fall into that group.

You might ask, “In what sense does an architect have power?” Well, he has a lot if you hire him to build a home for you or for your construction company. He gets to make calls that affect your business and life, whether you like it or not. And it is almost impossible, or at least very time- and cost-prohibitive to do so.

Architects in Chile are more like applied artists with a tinge of desk jockey mentality. They do very little math—indeed math and engineering are hardly required in their university studies—compared to the calculistas (civil engineers) that Chilean architects hire to do certain jobs at your site. Those specialists usually do a good job, as do most architects. Chile has the most earthquake-proof buildings in the world, after all.

They also manage the proyectistas de especialidades, people that specialize in water, sewer, gas, and electrical hookups. They do end up having to manage their own in-house draftsmen, secretaries and errand runners, along with the many subcontractors they hire out for services at jobsites. They also should keep up on new materials and products.

Americans in Chile will detect a lot more general contractor in the job than architect, and that is about right. Remember, cultures are different, and so are their practices. In the United States, architects are highly-trained civil engineers with an art flair; In Chile, they are art and public administration double majors with a wannabe squirt of physics and math added for good measure.

The reason that Architects are so powerful is that they control the entire building process, including the almighty government approvals. The local municipality will not allow just anyone to submit plans and deal with bureaucratic regulation. Architects must do it. And at times architects can turn into outright extortionists.

In the beginning, meetings with your new architect will be pleasant, cordial, professional and sane. Contracts will be signed and everyone will be happy. But time might erode those good feelings as everyone goes through the ups and downs of the building process, which can often take eighteen to thirty months in Chile.

Just before you finish the project and you are ready for your architect to ask for inspection and the recepción municipal, the final bureaucratic hurdle, the architect can demand more money. If you do not pay him then you will not get your building or home approved and your beautiful new property will remain considered as a vacant lot under Chilean legislation. Of course, his actions will not look like a total shaft or shakedown. He will make up some reason why you still owe him for legitimate expenses, costs or professional fees that were not in the contract or were ambiguous.

Of course, you will be mad about these doleful circumstances, wrought because the Chilean government grants too much power to professionals in general, and architects in particular. You will scour the contract you signed two years ago, and find that you have paid your architect in full—or at least all that you are required to pay at that point. You will find that the architect might have even left some contractually promised services undone, and has no intention of doing them. Hence, you will call a lawyer and have a serious chat with him. The lawyer will review the contract and payments made and tell you that you are probably right and would even win most points in a lawsuit. But he advises you to pay up anyway, just like you would pay off a crooked bureaucrat as a matter of “just being part of the way business is done.”

Why would you succumb to the extortion? Because the architect knows that up to certain amounts, say US$5,000 or US$10,000, it is not worth fighting him in court. The architect will go to court “all day” since he has already received 90% of his pay. He will lose some reputation points by being sued, and you will never hire him again, but so what? That course is the way that the majority of Chileans act, playing what economists term a “one shot game” (like the auto mechanic does that rips off tourists he will never see again when their car breaks down).

You on the other hand, stand to lose your entire investment if you cannot sell it given that, legally, all you have is a vacant lot. It will take years in the courts to win a judgment and might cost just as much as the “bribe.” Plus, you will lose sales revenue and tie up your capital by sticking with your unsaleable property. You can still live in the place you build—even if it is not “received” by the municipality. But you cannot sell it. So, your lawyer advises you to just pay. You call it extortion. The architect calls it good business. The lawyer calls it sad, but logical and efficient given the “rules of the game” set up by the government.

Not all Chilean architects are extortionists (i.e., those that practice chantaje). However, you cannot know for certain from the outset that your architect will be honest and honorable. The best strategy you can take is (1) use a lawyer to draw up the contract with the architect (worth the cost) and (2) set aside US$10,000 (in a savings account) and plan on having to pay it out to the architect–above and beyond the US$15,000 to US$30,000 or more that you will have to pay him. That way, by planning to pay it out some day, losing it will be a lesser shock and not hurt or irritate you as much.

One strategy you can try in order to avoid being extorted is to contractually hold back 25% or 30% of his fee until after he delivers the municipal approval to you. Since doing so will cut his extortionist feet out from under him, he will not likely agree to it. I also recommend that you hire an architect that has money, even if he costs more. If you go with the cheaper professional, there will be nothing to get from him in terms of damages should you end up suing him.

Another possible strategy is to hire two architects and pay the second one to piggyback on the first one, so that he can step in if the first one fails or starts extorting you. However, the cost of the piggyback architect’s services might be as much as the payoff required, so you might gain little other than the pleasure of smashing the extortionist.

Think about it. You are “not in Kansas anymore.” Beware of local practices and how to deal with them.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Chilean Realtors

One good (Chilean) friend of mine says they are just lazy.

Nonetheless, I would like to think that Chilean realtors are also incompetent, uncreative, and not very good problem solvers. They have a hard time thinking out of the box, too.

They have no multiple listing service and are reluctant to share commissions with other agents, thus dramatically limiting the supply of homes that each office has to show. This fact also makes it better for sellers to take dozens of nonexclusive contracts out with different realtors so that many people are involved with the sale. Realtors have even told me that giving them an exclusive on a property for sale will not increase the amount of time or money they put into selling my property.

They do not do showings, staging or open houses, or if they do then they are rare. Most of the time they do not drive clients to properties for sale. They will meet clients on site, usually, where the customer signs an agreement to pay their 2% commission.

Whenever I have had to deal with realtors, their services have left something to be desired. They are all smiles to sign up to sell your property or to give you information on other properties for sale. But getting them to do work for you is another issue entirely. I also have found them to be dramatically uninformed about the selling prices of comparable properties, the value added by having quality inputs or features, and their unwillingness to be proactive about finding or attracting prospects.

In reality, my friend is right: they are lazy–even when I offer them 1% or 2% extra commission, they hardly seem motivated. Real estate services in Chile are more than a little bit mysterious and are a lot more than just frustrating.

20161122_174612Most of the time, the best that Realtors will do is simply open the door to the house or apartment for you that you might want to purchase, or put up their sign if they are selling a property for you. I have seen some in Santiago deal with the banks and help with the mortgage and appraisal process, but that is about it.

Really, I am totally underwhelmed by this profession in Chile. In my latest project, I have contracted dozens of realtors over the last year and not a single client or interested party has been brought to the table, while I have had many prospective buyers call or show up to visit the property just because I put up a couple of large signs visible from the street and several internet ads–the one in English being especially effective relative to the others.

20161007_173113In other words, I obviously have an attractive property that many call about and most visit. However, Realtors are unable to break into this market. Few buyers balk at or complain about the price, Realtors complain about the price sometimes because they want to sell fast.

It seems to me that Realtors are part of the social upper class that could never graduate from college and know little about sales and marketing. They do the job, like selling medical insurance, because it is a decent and respectable position for upper class folks that have few other job skills.

If I had to say which professional group in Chile is the most impressive it would have to be physicians in Santiago. The least impressive would have to be Realtors. Lawyers, architects and physical therapists fall in the lower middle of that range, with regional physicians, engineers, dentists and accountants in the upper middle. The bottom line is that when dealing with real estate agents, be prepared for frustration and underperformance, and be prepared to supplement their efforts with your own.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

A Couple of New Scams by “Friendly” Chileans

Chile is well-known for its scams.

It is society built on lying, cheating, stealing, dishonesty and deception. I do not know how I can put it more plainly. Yet, those of us raised in other cultures, even after living here many years, can still be blindsided by criminals and scammers. Thus, one can imagine how bad the situation can be for newcomers. That weakness is something profound that you should not take lightly, starting from the moment that you step off the aircraft at the Santiago airport. If you do not, beware the biblical adage: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12), because you likely will fall!

Recently, a new client of mine arrived in Chile. It was the first international trip he had taken in his life, fueled by fears of being “Trumped.” He got scammed by a taxi service, ignoring careful instructions from me, or at least not taking them seriously.

Normally, we pick up all clients personally from the airport with VIP service. However, this one had made a last-minute plane reservation and had an arrival time that conflicted with other commitments we had, thus making it necessary to find an alternative means to pick him up. The client was so worried about President Trump and the coming expected world war that he did not want to waste any time in leaving “the land of the free.” Unfortunately, he paid the price for not acting sooner and giving us a chance to better-prepare for his arrival.

Many Chilean hotel transfer drivers have long since given up writing names of arriving guests on placards. Crooks would simply look for the names that drivers had written and write them on their own placards, figuring out ways to get to the customer first. Then they would drive him off and either rob him or at the very least charge him an exorbitant amount to get to the hotel–sort of a “ransom service.” Under current practice, many hotels just hold up a placard with the logo of the hotel and the customer is instructed to look for that logo instead of their name.

Nowadays, there are pirates at the arrival gate, masquerading as airport employees. The merry thugs and thieves hire a front-man that can speak good English, providing a welcome voice to weary international travelers in a sea of foreign language confusion. Yet, sometimes bilingual Chileans are the least trustworthy, even if they wear a convincing uniform!

The tactic is simple: identify a target as he leaves the sliding glass doors at customs. Gringos are usually easy to pick out, especially when they look lost or a little tired and bewildered. Then politely ask him if he needs some assistance, noting that (the pirate) is an airport employee assigned the task of helping international travelers: a sort of “welcome to Chile” service.

In the case of my unwary client, the pirate was informed that he needed no help since he was awaiting a transfer van from the Renaissance Hotel. Then the pirate replied, “unfortunately, that van had already left.” (Literally, “he missed the bus” and was about to get bent over without knowing it was coming.) No worries, however, replied the “airport employee,” since he had other trusted taxis that would whisk him away to his destination. This sort of mishap “happens all the time,” but the airport is prepared to serve visitors caught up in such difficulties.

In fact, the hotel driver was waiting just a few meters away with his placard held up, but was never able to connect with the client. Instead, the client was quickly taken to the nearby ATM by the pirate, who explained that it was necessary to pay for service in cash, in advance. Then, the pirate took him to one of the ring’s cabbies and loaded his luggage, He was then charged four to five times the normal rate for taxi service to the hotel, and of course paid in unfamiliar cash, further confusing the tired, bewildered traveler, not quickly apt to convert between currencies or to know that the normal rate should not exceed US$25 to US$30. Also, the employee (curiously) requested a 10,000-peso “tip” (which is about one-third to one-half a day’s wages for a common worker here).

Obviously, paid employees do not normally request tips, as if they were customary and obligatory. The fact that he did, should have immediately tipped off the client. The scoundrel was probably drooling as he watched the blue bills being spit out of the ATM. Thankfully, the client arrived safely at the hotel, even though he was ripped off and the hotel was annoyed that the airport driver had to wait in vain for over an hour at the airport.

We were worried, too, and had been on the phone with the hotel driver since the time the client exited customs. Indeed, prior to that we had been on the phone with the client since the moment he got his passport stamped, trying to ease his way out. During the 2 minutes that we lost contact with the client and he left customs, the pirate got him.

The point man probably split the cab fare with the cabbie thieves. Notice that it pays to be bilingual in more ways than one! In Chile, crime pays. And P.T. Barnum’s “sucker” gets off the plane “every minute,” from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and beyond!

In another new, Samaritan-esque scam, local criminals are going around and letting the air out of people’s tires while parked. When an unsuspecting driver returns, and starts to drive off, the villain appears and points out that the driver has a pinchazo or a punctured tire. Not to worry, however, since the feigned Samaritan knows where to go to have the flat repaired. Once he leads his victim somewhere out of sight, especially if the victim has let him inside his car, he will pull a knife or gun and assault or rob his victim. Yet another reason to beware of helpful and courteous Chileans!

Furthermore, Chileans might be exporting this craft more frequently and easily in coming years. Did you know that of the 35 OECD countries, only South Korean and Chilean passport holders have visa-free travel to all G-8 countries (including Russia)? Another nice feature of Chilean citizenship, but perhaps not such a boon for the rest of the world that has just made it easier for criminals to arrive and practice their craft in new “territories.”

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s older (2014), not updated, abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Trump Administration May Pave the Way to Relinquish US Citizenship for as Low as $15.55

As many current and aspiring expatriates of the United States are aware, the number of Americans renouncing citizenship has been on the rise over the past decade or so.

Once the blue passport was sought by people worldwide, and flashed with pride by its bearers. The nations of the world recognized its holders as those who perhaps enjoyed more freedom and prosperity. Many nations opened their arms, banks readied their vaults and various business opportunities unfolded before them.

However, as the citizenry began to wake up to the fact that the state perceives them as property, the brilliant blue cover of a US passport lost much of its luster. The ominous taxes that continued to be imposed along with reams of draconian regulations took their tolls. Being only one of two countries in the world (Eritrea is the other) that requires its subjects to report and potentially pay taxes on all international income has certainly helped to build the resentment from both citizens and the international community alike.

FATCA implementation agreements

Internationally, warmongering and imperialistic pursuits didn’t help. This, along with the narcissistic attitudes of many Americans and the eventual impositions of the IRS and other alphabet soup agencies that form the long arm of US injustice and arrogation wore down once strong, vibrant and mutually beneficial relationships.

Blessing or Curse

Today, many banks shun the little blue book. If you are from just about any other country, they open their arms to new business. But the penalty exacted by the strength of US banks, the IRS, the caving of various governments to the political pressure of the US and the asinine FATCA invasion have resulted in banks closing their doors to US citizens.

As a result, more of them are leaving the US each year. Some just leave and work elsewhere for vocational reasons. Others want to live somewhere specifically, so go for it. But an ever growing number find ways to leave the confines of the US Inc in order to escape the insanity of the state imposing on their every move. They’re tired of the over-regulation and seemingly endless taxes on every move they make, unless it’s illegal, of course. A growing number of these are renouncing their citizenship.

As recently as seven years ago (2008), there were only 235 who renounced. That more than tripled the following year, then doubled again in 2010 to 1485, the year FATCA was implemented. Interestingly, it was that year that the US decided it should be charging to permit people to escape its clutches. The fee that year was $450. This resulted in an increase of only about 300, to 1,781 in 2011.

Something odd happened in 2012. Numbers are supposed to be reported quarterly, but two quarters were missed, so the total came out to 932. However, those lost numbers were apparently reported the following year, resulting in 2,999 reunciations. That year also saw the fee increase to $990.

So, how did a 220% increase in the price for freedom from the US affect renunciations? The following year, 2014, saw an increase to 3.415 citizens willing to pay for the keys to their US tax shackles. Incidentally, when getting grilled by the consulate over why you’re renouncing, stating that it’s for tax purposes is inadvisable. They may deny you. Of course, they may deny you because they have indigestion too, but most who’ve I’ve read about found the process fairly straightforward, other than the onerous fees. But it gets better.

Last year the fees were raised to an astounding $2,350, ostensibly because that’s what it costs to do the paperwork. Yet that year saw the most dramatic increase in renunciations so far, at around 6,000.

When is Being Owned NOT Slavery?

Make no mistake – this is the blatant pricing of freedom. When a person who is forced to be a tax slave, regardless of where they live and the source of their income, then it is clear that the extorting agent is claiming ownership. Just how much is your freedom worth? According to US Inc, $2,350 will remove your shackles. Of course, if you’re worth more than about $2,000,000 or have had a decent income over the past few years, you will be rewarded with paying an expatriation tax on top of any taxes you have already paid. If you haven’t kept current with your filing, it could get much worse.

If you expatriated on or after June 17, 2008, the new IRC 877A expatriation rules apply to you if any of the following statements apply.

  • Your average annual net income tax for the 5 years ending before the date of expatriation or termination of residency is more than a specified amount that is adjusted for inflation ($151,000 for 2012, $155,000 for 2013, $157,000 for 2014, and $160,000 for 2015).
  • Your net worth is $2 million or more on the date of your expatriation or termination of residency.
  • You fail to certify on Form 8854 that you have complied with all U.S. federal tax obligations for the 5 years preceding the date of your expatriation or termination of residency.
    Source: IRS

A Threat to Freedom of Speech = A Veiled Offer of Freedom?

There was recently a string of tweets and articles from the PEOTUS regarding the burning of flags. Such a right is guaranteed by the Constitution, but we all are well aware that regulations haven’t bowed before constitutional law for decades. Even though the Supreme Court has ruled that it is someone’s protected First Amendment right, many continue to strive to meet out punishment for any who would be so traitorous as to burn the emblem of those who would claim to own them. One of these would-be oppressors is Hillary, who introduced legislation in 2005 that would require a $100,000 fine and one year in prison for anyone burning an American flag.

Apparently the president elect has similar ideas, but with a very interesting twist. He was quoted as stating:

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

You mean, that’s all it will take? Then you get a choice?

This, of course, prompted an interesting string of comments around the interwebs. Peter Schiff was all over it.

 

If all that is required to lose U.S. citizenship is burning a flag, there are Americans all over the world who would gladly burn one if it gets them out of paying the $2,350 filing fee, or for wealthier Americans paying the far more onerous exit tax!

Posted by Peter Schiff on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

 


So, I did some looking around. You can buy a 3’x5′ American flag for just $15.55 on Amazon.

Of course, you can buy one for about any price you want to pay. But this seemed like a pretty reasonable price and substantial enough to actually catch flame visibly enough to make sure the evidence is irrefutable.

But Seriously?

#Satire aside (kinda), I really have no desire to burn the flag. To me, it’s just senseless noise. But neither do I desire to continue to be considered a tool of the state. Renunciation is a distinct possibility for my future.

Depending on your goals, you may require another passport before renouncing. In most cases, that means at least five years as a half-time resident in the country you choose. In other words, you’d need to spend at least 185 days of each year there in order to satisfy the local requirements. This varies from country to country, but it seems somewhat standard with many South American countries.

There are services that will sell you instructions and respond to email questions regarding permanent residency (not including a passport) in their country for about $500-$1,000. If you know the language, or have someone that can help, and are pretty confident in your ability to navigate, this might be a great option. This is particularly true if you don’t have much in the way of expendable cash.

For those who would rather have someone either walk them through it or take care of most of the legwork for them, the sky is really the limit. However, if you’re paying more than about $5,000 for really good service, depending on additional options, then you’re probably paying too much. Perhaps there are countries where higher fees are merited, but in most countries the work required isn’t really worth more than a few thousand bucks. The process usually takes a little over two years, depending upon bureaucratic hurdles.

Once you have permanent residency, you’re on the road to getting your passport, if you care to. Again, this will take about five years.

You don’t have to get a new residency or citizenship though. There is provision for renunciation as a stateless person as well. Of course, you are warned by the US government that doing so is inadvisable because you would no longer enjoy the protection of any government.

A final note on this: I’m no law expert, but it appears that the charging for renunciation may in fact be illegal. For those who want to dig further, you might start at the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs and with Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.

Remember, it’s on you to do your own research. Due your own due diligence and caveat emptor apply, especially when dealing with international laws. These are the apparent options before you, but often we find hidden gems to help us along our way. And, whether you seek to renounce or pursue another path, may you enjoy freedom of both mind and body.

Q & A on the Election Results and Expectations with Dr. John Cobin

As the elections grew near, many considered Hillary’s coronation to basically be a formality. When they woke up to find that Trump was the new President elect, there was a sense of shock for many – some for the shock of it just being an upset, for others a shock of disappointment and yet for others one of victory. Some among the first group have even allowed themselves a sense of hope, like maybe it’ll finally get a little better. Maybe a sense of reason is still possible from Washington. If you look back over Dr. John Cobin’s blog entries and other writings fo the last several months, you will see that he predicted a Trump win–just like Doug Casey and Michael Moore did. All of them were surely in the minority but there could be no doubt in Dr. Cobin’s mind when he saw Trump’s strategy to reach and excite the masses. Hillary simply could not compete. Trump had tens of thousands of people show up at his rallies, and none of the figures were trumped-up.


GIPHY

A few of these folks entered into a discussion regarding whether or not it was necessary for those seeking freedom to leave the US. When that suggestion was presented to Dr. Cobin, he responded:

Cobin
Still better pack your bags. Don’t let it lull you to sleep.
The elites will not let a rogue US president go along without reprisals. The powers to be have to have some say in what he does. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump is assassinated in the next 90 days (and then we will know just who controls Pence) or we will find out that there was actually an upstart group of elites vying for power that got to Trump, helped put him in office, and now back him. The Rothschilds and Rockefellers also have family feuds.

Don’t you think that the US may have just headed off WWIII?

Cobin
Your chance of war and attacks in your backyard just skyrocketed.
The police state with deportations and a walled border will start to encroach on everyone up there. It will make your escape harder.


GIPHY

Speaking of war, it might be a really good diversion right now, as would be a false flag, to divert the attention of the malcontents. A lot of them are young, so they could conceivably be sent overseas in military garb under a new draft to combat terrorism. Nothing better for reducing unemployment than killing off a lot of potential labor. Doing so leaves a lot more jobs for the rest. Then people that remain can be employed making bombs and other armaments. Like good mercantilists, Trumpians can capture and sell natural resources of the conquered nations, too. Sounds like a winning strategy for Trump.

The media coverage was so incredibly biased towards Hillary winning it was hard to watch the results. They are just beside themselves with horror. You have to admit, it is great seeing those media shills twist in the wind.

Cobin
Sure, it was fun watching the Left wither as you said and maybe some of them will be eliminated, too. A small gesture for rightists to “enjoy.” I bet he will even prosecute Hillary, even though for the moment he has backed away from that threat he boldly made publicly. But what he will do now is potentially very scary. It reminds me of the populism and euphoria for Hitler and Mussolini in the mid-1930s. I wrote about thos paralles in a blog entry not too long ago, remember?


Trump and America’s Fascination with Fascism


Okay, so we know you aren’t too hopeful about Trump. You have to see some positives to his victory though.

Cobin
Hopefully, there will be REAL benefits for the unborn now. Excuse me if I still have my doubts. Ditto for gun owners. I think he now “owes” Evangelicals, too, and thus will grant them temporary peace, and perhaps eliminate the gender-neutral bathrooms. So, all of that is a benefit, certainly better than Clinton would have done. Maybe he will listen to pro-life advisors for his Supreme Court picks? Maybe, but don’t hold your breath. I am more encouraged that he seems to want to back out of the climate change farse in the Paris agreement (that just took effect). He could save billions by withdrawing the Americans from that idiocy. Manmade climate change is a joke. He will use this money and other funds to give people jobs. That is his Keynesian side. Trump is a populist that will create employment (Keynesian) by building bridges, dams, airports, hospitals and naval/air vessels. Just be ready for the consequences of him having an even mightier military.

Do you see this affecting Chile at all? Will Chileans get trumped, too?

Cobin
Chile will benefit since Trump says he will install public works projects that will put Americans to work: building infrastructure that requires copper and other things Chile sells. It is a good time to invest and live in Chile. Chile is not on anyone’s war map. There is nothing to conquer. Chile only wants to trade. Chileans like Americans,and viceversa. They have every reason to be optimistic.


GIPHY

Also, Chileans are even surer to follow suit in their 2017 election. They will elect a new president and congress (since they are mostly lemmings, and follow the USA to the “Right,” this time to the benefit of liberty). However, the world just became an even more dangerous place for you. But it became a much better place for Chile. Of course, the doltish Chilean Right believes that the true Right in the USA has won. They are ignorant. So are Americans–as we saw yesterday. The 306 electoral college near-landslide is impressive, as Doug Casey called at the beginning of November 2016 (along with Yours Truly).

People called me to congratulate me on my prediction. My WhatsApp note to Chilean friends on the morning after the election was as follows: ¿Cuántas veces he dicho que Trump iba a ganar? Es increíble. Es malo para el mundo en términos de inmigrantes y amenaza de guerra, aunque es un poquito mejor que el diablo Hillary. El Estado siempre ha sido nuestro enemigo. Cristianos tienen que entender esto. Todos allá subestimaron cuán astuto es Trump, y cuán tonto es el votante mediano americano. Los ganadores en EEU son los niños por nacer y los dueños de armas. Por lo menos, el En Chile, no nos va seguir a los EEUU y elegir alguien de la derecha en 2017. No va a afectar mal al comercio con Chile. Al revés: van a construir de nuevo la infraestructura en los EEUU y comparar aún más cobre. Un beneficio para nosotros.

Chile’s economy depends on exporting natural resources. It is about to do very well. Copper, iron, silver and gold will rise sharply now. Like Switzerland in WW2, Chile and other countries with similar economic profiles will have an economic boom. In Chile, we will not be able to produce fast enough to keep up with demand for all the Trumped-up projects. We are going to oust the Left next election here and make foreign investment even more favorable. (Hint: the time to invest in Chile is NOW before prices rise and other run to supply coming demand for raw materials and food). So, expect more capital to flow in to Chile, and for us to become wealthier, maybe even closing in on Nickel-producer New Caledonia in terms of GDP per capita by 2030.


GIPHY

On top of that, how valuable will passports and real estate be for safe places to live in the world, like Chile? Manhattan lost some real estate value last night, and so long as violence abounds, the Location-Location-Location doctrine works against you. At some point, Santiago looks pretty attractive to head business operations compared to bigger, Northern Hemisphere cities plagued by a nasty mixture of populism, welfarism, violence, mercantilism and Keynesianism. Still, in the first decade, those “Berlins” are really pretty booming places. Just ask any German in 1936, leading the way out of the Great Depression while the rest of the world marveled. Lots of employment, too, by wiping out labor competition (6 million Jews?), largely by sending folks off to die in the next war.

Too bad for New Zealand that social leftism has cut its feet out from under it and it will not have available its best things to export due to its radical environmentalist policies. Gains will be relatively small from wools and Kiwi juice exports. But Australia, New Caledonia, Brunei and Indonesia should do well, and maybe even India, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, Peru and Colombia. Also, basket-case countries with natural resources like Ecuador and Argentina will too, lifting them out of their natural path to demise with a great injection of foreign capital. It is easy to forgive and forget the sins of the Left when the money starts rolling in.


Of the Lesser of Two Evils, Choose Neither


It’s been interesting to see the protests. The hypocrisy is most astonishing, except when one considers the cognitive dissonance it takes to be a leftist.

Cobin
Looks like life for y’all just got a whole lot more dangerous, if Fox News is to be believed ([article here](http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/11/10/thousands-take-to-streets-in-major-cities-to-protest-trump-election.html)). Good thing for now that these guys do not know how to aim and squeeze a trigger. You might be caught in the crossfire in a town near you! Keep checking the data on guns and ammo sales, and if more people are taking classes to learn to shoot well.
Another interesting effect will be how many democrats become strong Second Amendment supporters all of the sudden. Do they really want to live in a country governed by what seems to be a populist fascist sort (much like Mussolini or Hitler wanting to make “fatherland” in Germany or Italy “great again” in the 1930s, successfully pulling them out of the Great Depression, with a pitch to the xenophobic common men in those countries), where the government has weaponry and the citizens do not?
The Second Amendment was put there to give citizens a check against the state, not to protect hunting. So, what will they do now? Will they change their point of view and arm themselves to the teeth as they should. Trouble is, I do not think most Democrats know the first thing about guns.
I will have to add that I am glad I will not be around for the street violence or even a civil war to come. Perfect time for building momentum and numbers, then the fascist fist to crash down on these rebels around February. I feel sad for my kids up there.


Looking to Leave America? You Should be More Scared than You Are


You’re an economist. Trump is outlining plans to bolster the US economy. Some of this seems pretty legit. Are you seeing the potential for some good economic changes now?

Cobin
You are about to see economic disaster build from protectionism, make-work programs, indirect debt repudiation and the next Federal Reserve fiasco to finance what is needed (no details yet on that part). On top of that, you now have violence and enough hatred that could lead to a civil war. The losers were already angry, and already willing to expend violence on cops, who were willing to return the favor or even start it themselves. Now there is rage and hatred in the face of rising police brutality. Not a pretty picture.

Note that with all protectionism coupled with Keynesianism and Mercantilism, so long as money rolls in, the economy will do well in the short run. But things will be troublesome after a few years. Then war will be needed to prop-up the economy.


GIPHY

Look at all the jobs people will have available in the USA shortly (if Trump keeps his trumped-up promises): building a 2,000 mile 40-foot-high wall (at Mexico’s expense?); renovating airports, bridges, roads; building larger VA hospitals and centers; building military hardware; attacking people “over there” to reduce the stock of older hardware and make room to fill up the space with new stuff (lots of jobs in logistics and warehousing). Raw materials suppliers and trucking companies are about to have a field day. I wonder if Trump could “waste” (nuke?) a middle-eastern region and then get Europe to go rebuild and pay for it as a requirement for the USA to stay in NATO, hiring a few more American companies to help. More jobs! Higher wages! Marriage of Keynesianism and fascism. Good mix, much better than gay marriage, which only produces sin and no offspring.

Thanks for your perspective and insights. Any final words of advice?

Cobin
At least read a little bit more about the rise of fascism in Europe, please. And be careful whom you look upon to be your savior. The smart money and people got out of Berlin in the late 30s. While it is a nice place to live today, it was a different story under firebombing and later on when Stalin showed up.

P.S. No violent riots in Viña del Mar today, but I will keep you posted of any news.

Until next time,

Chile Never Has Hurricanes

Chile is famous for a lot of things. For instance, many Chileans are artful liars, cheaters and thieves. Recent reports show that a full 26% of them evade paying the fare on city buses in Santiago. No one in Chile is surprised by that fact, unless they think that the figure is too low.

Chileans are also artistic, entertaining and playfuleven clownish. At intersections in Santiago and Viña del Mar drivers will frequently see juggling, ventriloquist and gymnastic performances from young people trying to earn some coins as tips.

Chileans like to joke around, too, and they are inherently conservative socially—other than their propensity to engage in fornication and adultery. Accordingly, they were sanctioned recently by world soccer authority FIFA for the anti-homosexual chants of fans in Santiago stadium during soccer matches, and Chile was hence declared to be the most “homophobic” country in the world.

Those are a few tidbits of information that speak volumes about Chilean life and reality.

Nevertheless, hurricanes are not part of Chilean reality (or almost anywhere else in South America). While they are an annual preoccupation and presently occupy the attention of many millions of people in America (e.g., Hurricane Matthew’s assault), just as typhoons occupy the minds of people in the Far East and around the Indian Ocean, those living in Chile never give hurricanes a second thought. They are as foreign to Chile as squirrels, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, crocodiles, water mocasins, coral snakes, bald eagles, alligators, bears, tigers, skunks, elk, buffalo, moose, larger deer and armadillos, and just about as hard to conceive of as a “white Christmas.” Chileans only know about these animals and hurricanes because they have read or heard that such critters live or happen in other parts of the world, far away from Chile.

historical-hurricanes-1851-2016

world-hurricane-tracks-1851-2007

Note that in the world maps above tracking the history of hurricanes, they do not occur in Chile or the rest of South America—at least south of the Caribbean coast of Colombia and Venezuela. Chile is thus akin to the west coast of Africa, the western United States and Canada, most of Europe, Africa and Asia. Therefore, while Chile has its share of pitfalls and problems, one need never worry about being impacted by a hurricane while living here.

Given the current worries in the United States, it seemed fitting to broach the subject for people that did not know. Moreover, Americans would do well to remember that as bad as hurricane impacts are or will be, they pale by comparison to the damage inflicted by the United States government, as the present political circus has exemplified.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

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