The Elite: It's a Big Club and You're Not in it

Journeyman

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Easy to believe - the shitholes are usually the most expensive places for expats to live, as there's a huge divide between the haves and the have-nots. The elite are ludicrously wealthy and thus businesses that exist to serve them charge big bucks.

A friend of mine used to live in Accra, in Ghana, and was earning something like US$200 000/year tax free back in the late 1990s while working in the mining industry in Africa. He shovelled a fair bit of money away in a bank account in the Channel Islands, but he said that he also spent a lot of money living in Accra and when visiting Cote d'Ivoire and other surrounding countries. Eating out in decent restaurants (pretty much the only good restaurants were in luxury, upmarket hotels), buying decent whisky or other spirits, or getting name-brand clothing all came at a massive premium compared to what we were paying in Australia at the time.

On a related note, I continue to be surprised at how Tokyo keeps on topping these lists. I know that if you want to spend a lot of money in Tokyo, you can, but prices are now quite affordable in Japan compared to many other countries as the Japanese economy has been pretty much stagnant for the past couple of decades. I actually save money when I visit Japan with my family, as things like eating out, public transport and clothing all cost less in Tokyo than they do in Brisbane, Australia. I would have thought that Geneva, Moscow, London, NYC and so on would all cost more than Tokyo, even for a high-living expat with an expense account.
 

Zé Ferreira

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A friend of mine used to live in Accra, in Ghana, and was earning something like US$200 000/year tax free back in the late 1990s while working in the mining industry in Africa. He shovelled a fair bit of money away in a bank account in the Channel Islands, but he said that he also spent a lot of money living in Accra and when visiting Cote d'Ivoire and other surrounding countries. Eating out in decent restaurants (pretty much the only good restaurants were in luxury, upmarket hotels), buying decent whisky or other spirits, or getting name-brand clothing all came at a massive premium compared to what we were paying in Australia at the time.
What now? How do I do this? Besides the whole living on the dark continent?
 

Journeyman

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What now? How do I do this? Besides the whole living on the dark continent?
Are you a geologist or a mining engineer?

Do you enjoy living a life of deprivation out in the backblocks of poverty-stricken countries that are rife with nasty diseases, interspersed with bouts of ludicrously expensive, drunken hedonism in the decrepit, poverty-stricken capital cities of those countries?

If so, a career as a mining expat may be for you!

The same friend now lives in Lima, in Peru (he switched continents from Africa to South America about ten years back). He seems to be enjoying himself there but he now worries about security as there have been a couple of kidnap attempts on his wife and child over the past few years. I guess if you're a gringo who works for a multi-national company and you're on a few hundred thousand dollars a year, the non-elite may see you as a potential cash-cow.

Apparently, every time he leaves the house, he wears a Glock 9mm pistol in a shoulder holster under his jacket.
 

Russell Street

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My friend did a stint as, essentially, military PR in various coastal African nations. The hotels he would stay at had to meet certain minimum security standards... and that basically meant the most expensive hotel in the city. He had some story about how they were razzed by some scruffy Peace Corps guys. Being goodwill ambassadors, they started chatting. When they figured out where the military guys were staying, they got real schmoozy and asked if they could visit.
 

Zé Ferreira

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Are you a geologist or a mining engineer?

Do you enjoy living a life of deprivation out in the backblocks of poverty-stricken countries that are rife with nasty diseases, interspersed with bouts of ludicrously expensive, drunken hedonism in the decrepit, poverty-stricken capital cities of those countries?

If so, a career as a mining expat may be for you!

The same friend now lives in Lima, in Peru (he switched continents from Africa to South America about ten years back). He seems to be enjoying himself there but he now worries about security as there have been a couple of kidnap attempts on his wife and child over the past few years. I guess if you're a gringo who works for a multi-national company and you're on a few hundred thousand dollars a year, the non-elite may see you as a potential cash-cow.

Apparently, every time he leaves the house, he wears a Glock 9mm pistol in a shoulder holster under his jacket.
I like it. I could expat in South America.
 

Journeyman

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Shit, now I want to go to Japan.
You should!

It's a fantastic place to visit.

Fly to Tokyo, spend a few days there taking in the sights and sounds, catch the train a little bit south to Kamakura or a little bit north to Nikko for a day trip or two, then take the train inland and visit Matsumoto and Takayama (make sure you visit Hida-Takayama), head south to the shore of the Inland Sea and visit Hiroshima and Miyajima, then head up along the coast to Kurashiki, Okayama and Himeji. Then, head inland to Kyoto and Nara, and head back to Tokyo via Hakone, near Mt Fuji.

If you get a Japan Rail Pass, you can travel around on all JR trains free of charge (with the exception of one class of bullet train, but you can still use the other classes of bullet train) and you can stay in youth hostels in many of the cities/towns I mentioned, or find other quite inexpensive places to stay.
 

Journeyman

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Aww, how come I can't visit fukashima?
Well, you can visit Fukushima if you like.

I don't know what the area is like nowadays, but 15 years ago, it was beautiful.

North of Fukushima is Sendai, quite a major city, and just outside Sendai is Matsushima-wan, the Bay of Pine Islands. It's one of the "three best views" in Japan, and it was lovely when I was last there - a lovely, circular bay dotted with small, rocky islets covered in pine trees. The rocky cliffs near one part of the bay were dotted with small caves and they were famous for having, once upon a time, been the favourite spot for meditating hermits to reside while contemplating nirvana.
 

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The Three Types of People Who Wind Up Rich and How They Destroy the Wealth of Others | Ian Welsh

How Concentrated Wealth Destroys Widespread Prosperity (Part 1)
Models of economics which don’t handle power are marginal at best. They serve only to describe what happens in situations where no one has enough power to set the rules; or where there is a central authority which acts to keep any other actor from having enough power to set the rules.

The Standard Model of Power in Markets

Assume that people want two things: they want stuff, and they want security. That is to say, they want to know what what they have, they will keep.

People who become rich usually fall into one of three categories:

1) people who lucked out (a lot of people who became rich in the internet bubble just happened to be working at the right place at the right time);

2)People who are obsessed with something that other people value highly. Think many musicians in the era of mass-produced music before the rise of the internet, or J.K. Rowling. These people are also lucky, in the sense that what they happen to be obsessed with is what a mass of people are willing t

3) or they are people who are obsessed with making money. They think of little else, and have devoted their life to it.

In all three cases, once you’re rich, the needs that drove you there don’t go away. Wealth has effects on people, but it rarely changes either the obsessive need that drove them, nor the human need for security.

The second group is the least dangerous because their primary interest isn’t money, and they have an obsession which drives them away from thinking too much about money.

The first group: those who got lucky, are the rank and file of the “I’ve got mine, screw you Jack” brigade. This includes people far beyond those who became truly rich, like those who worked at startups by luck, it includes those who won the genetic jackpot and inherited, and those who won the generational jackpot: the GI Generation, for example or older Boomers.

The GIs were born during the Great Recession but came of age during the greatest prolonged boom: they spend their prime working years during the greatest increase in general wages in the last few centuries. They buy houses when they’re cheap, then they get the massive appreciation of housing values from a multi-generation period where house prices increase faster than wages, capped by an actual housing bubble for those who lived long enough.

In generational terms they were born on second, though not third. They have the GI Bill, great jobs, great job security, great pensions, great health care and so on.

They lucked out. It’s not that they didn’t work hard for what they got, but the same amount of work in a different time or place wouldn’t have reaped the same rewards.

People like this become conservative. The GIs start off the footsoldiers of post-war liberalism, and they wind up Reagan Democrats. They have theirs, and they vote for politicians and policies which make sure that what they have is secure. The result of those policies is to pull the ladder up after them; to make their children and grandchildren less prosperous.

If you got lucky, then preservation of capital is the first rule. People who got lucky are against high taxes, because they can’t expect to make more money. They are especially against high taxation of unearned income, because their advantage is unearned income — their houses, stock portfolios, bonds and so on. Their money makes money.

These are their interests. Most people act on their interests as filtered thru their beliefs.

So we come to group #3. The people who made a ton of money, and who made it because that was their goal: who were always obsessed with money. You can clump under this group those people who made a lot of power because they were obsessed with power, though the dynamic is a bit different.

These people still have the need for security. The best security is legal protection: it is no one else being able to join your business. Some businesses have that innately. Let’s say that you are the cable or phone provider to an area. You have the phone lines, you have the cable: it’s unlikely anyone else can drive those lines.

But the government, in the 90s, forced phone providers to let other people sell internet over their phone lines. Dial up, for ancients. So even having a physical monopoly isn’t security if the government acts against you.

High speed internet—over phone or cable, is not something companies in the US (or Canada) are forced to allow other companies to sell.

The first job of someone who is wealthy, is to get protection from whoever is politically powerful. Government, if you wish, though it can be warlords or Kings or the local tribe, depending on the culture. They need sanction to keep what they have.

This is especially true of other types of business: selling weapons to the government, for obvious reasons. Selling music which could be copied by anyone (say hello to copyright laws). Being a lawyer, and not wanting to many other people to act as lawyers (say hello to bar exams and law school.) Selling genetically modified food which people are scared of (make packaging that says if it is GMO illegal). Creating money out of midair (which is what banks, brokers and so on do) might be considered the ultimate monopoly and you sure don’t want Joe Blow to be able to say “I have one hundred thousand dollars, and if Goldman Sachs (in the 00′s) can create money thru leverage at 41/1, I can too.)

Creating and lending money is a valuable perogative: one worth defending.

And what if everything goes wrong? What if, despite all your money and all the defenses you’ve bought, you lose everything anyway?

Be clear, this is what happened in 2007 and 2008: if you take into account counterparty risk, and you mark assets to market (value them at what they could be sold for), every bank and major brokerage in the United States and probably every one in Europe was bankrupt.

Bankrupt. Even the ones who made the right bets, like Goldman Sachs: because if all their counterparties go under, so do they.

This sort of risk requires owning government: being backed up by the full credit of the United States. It requires knowing the central bank is yours, and will act to save you.

The first thing a capitalist does when he or she gets rich enough, is buy the system.

They do this for three reasons: one is to secure their current privileges. The second is provide a backstop in case of disaster. The third is to create new opportunities.

The consequence of these actions is to drive up prices and keep out competition. It is explicitly to reduce competition, because competition is a danger. The fewer entities controlling more of a market, or controlling politicians, the more money is made and the more secure the current (and future) fortune is.

What this does is destroy the future. To those who are currently in power, the future cannot be allowed to happen until they control it: until they are the ones who will make a profit from it.

This doesn’t mean all distruptive change is impossible. There are, even today, many factions amongst the rich: Wall Street, Oil, Silicon Valley, etc… They have interests in common, and cooperate on those interests, but they are competing to see who will control the future. What they are largely in agreement on is the basics: things like continually extending copyrights, for example; or free movement of capital. On takings regulations so that government can’t enact laws which would make their business go away. On low taxes on capital. On low wages. (Apple and other Silicon Valley companies conspired to keep engineer wages low by not bidding against each others.) On unions not being powerful.

In any place where they have consensus, if they have been able to buy the system, it is virtually impossible to do anything against their consensus.

Gays have rights because it’s not important to most rich and powerful people that they don’t; and it is important to some of them (say Tim Cook) that they do.

Effective wages have stagnated or dropped for over 40 years now because it is important to most rich and powerful people that they do: your wages are their costs.

Unions have lost massive power because rich and powerful people find that in their interest: even those without unions want them kept week so they never will have unions.

Concentrated wealth quickly turns into concentrated power and concentrated wealth will always be inimical to widespread prosperity. Wealth is power when it is concentrated. Wealth that is not disproportionate is not power. If it is not power, it cannot protect wealth.

If you allow any group, especially any small group, to obtain disproportionate wealth, they will always use it to protect their wealth.

This is a good one for both OfficePants OfficePants and Zé Ferreira Zé Ferreira
 

OfficePants

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The Three Types of People Who Wind Up Rich and How They Destroy the Wealth of Others | Ian Welsh

How Concentrated Wealth Destroys Widespread Prosperity (Part 1)

This is a good one for both OfficePants OfficePants and Zé Ferreira Zé Ferreira
Great piece. Explains it better than my rants.

This is what I have been trying to say for a long time:

They are especially against high taxation of unearned income, because their advantage is unearned income–their houses, stock portfolios, bonds, and so on. Their money makes money.
And:

The first concern for someone who is wealthy is getting protection from whoever is politically powerful. Government, if you wish, though it can be warlords or Kings or the local tribe, depending on the culture. They need sanction to keep what they have.

This is especially true of businesses which aren’t natural monopolies: selling weapons to the government, for obvious reasons, or; selling music, which could be copied by anyone (say hello to copyright laws); being a lawyer and not wanting too many other people to act as lawyers (say hello to bar exams and law schools); selling genetically modified food of which people are scared (make GMO labeling illegal). Creating money out of thin air, which is what banks, brokers and so on do, might be considered the ultimate monopoly. They sure don’t want Joe Blow to be able to say “I have one hundred thousand dollars, and if Goldman Sachs (in the 00′s) can create money through leverage at 41/1, I can too.”

Creating and lending money is a valuable perogative, one worth defending.
And:

Anywhere Capital has consensus, if they have been able to buy the system, it is virtually impossible to do anything against their consensus.

Gays have rights because it’s not important to most rich and powerful people that they don’t; and it is important to some of them (say, Tim Cook) that they do.

Effective wages have stagnated or dropped for over 40 years now because it is important to most rich and powerful people that they do; your wages are their costs.
 
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OfficePants

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I read that there was a special tunnel in the arena for the elite at the recent boxing match. All the celebrities and ultra wealthy were ushered into and out of the arena away from the trashy rest of us.
 

Russell Street

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A few days ago I received an e-mail from my [bank] business standards officer...
The bank itself has repeatedly been forced to admit that it has engaged on huge-scale dishonesty that has cost it billions in fines and reparations (though I am not quite sure how much faith as to their sincerity or justification I should place in such admissions)...
Given the bank’s recent history it would make more sense for me to make sure the bank was not laundering money; and in fact I replied to the business standards officer by e-mail asking him to telephone me so that I could ask him a few security questions. Where did he live? How old was he? How was I to know that the telephone number and address on the e-mail really was from the bank, and that the e-mail was not a scam organised by a Nigerian or Congolese? During the prolonged period of the bank’s admitted malfeasances, did he receive any bonuses? Etc., etc..

Please share this article by using the link below. When you cut and paste an article, Taki's Magazine misses out on traffic, and our writers don't get paid for their work. Email editors@takimag.com to buy additional rights. http://takimag.com/article/someone_must_be_telling_lies_theodore_dalrymple/print#ixzz3asI1rH2O
 

Arnathor

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I heard about the banks paying fines for manipulating markets. That's it!? is what I screamed at my radio. Now America is going to push through TPP, so kiss your sorry asses goodbye, Obama is going to ice-pick America in the back. Welcome to the land of the free to do what we tell you and home of the slave.
 

OfficePants

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I heard about the banks paying fines for manipulating markets. That's it!? is what I screamed at my radio. Now America is going to push through TPP, so kiss your sorry asses goodbye, Obama is going to ice-pick America in the back. Welcome to the land of the free to do what we tell you and home of the slave.
It's a big club, and we're not in it.
 

Thruth

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Obviously the elite have been planning to destroy the dollar before runaway global warming hits:

https://orders.cloudsna.com/chain?c...snaid=&step=start&hpmv=2&affId=&s1=##AST03347
Ron Paul: Americans are unprepared but i can prepare them.

Me: How Ron, how?

Ron: subscribe to my newsletter and i will teach you a new way to invest.

Me: Is it free, Ron?

Ron: Fuck no. you paying me $49.95 will help how do you think i will survive the crisis? by you paying me so i can even become more elite!
 

Russell Street

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Damnit, you're only North American so you are pardoned for not knowing that Ron Paul considered his congressional salary excessive and gave most of it to charity.
The man is still railing for an audit of the Federal Reserve, which is one of the most elite scams going. Ron Paul is an enemy of the elite.
 

Thruth

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Maybe so but he wants $49 dollars from me to tell me to invest in gold, precious metals and open a foreign bank account.

He is the Billy Mays of Libertarianism now
 

Rambo

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Fourteen Points on the World Economy as the US GDP Drops .7 Percent | Ian Welsh

Fourteen Points on the World Economy as the US GDP Drops .7 Percent

May 29
So, while it generally takes two quarters for a recession to be so-called, it may be that the recession is here.

Let us recap the non-recessionary period:

  • The percentage of people employed in the US never recovered;
  • More than the total amount of growth went to the top four percent or so, with most of that going to the top one percent and most of that going to the top .1 percent;
  • The stock market had a huge bull market, even though the economy wasn’t working for anyone but the top few;
  • Outside America, the “south” of Europe never recovered in any meaningful way, and most European nations generally did badly for most of their citizens;
  • Various resource nations did well for a time, but their success was based on demand from developed nations or, more commonly, from China;
  • Chinese demand collapsed some time ago;
  • China has been printing more money than either Japan or the US; much more;
  • Japan’s “unconventional monetary policy” has been a roaring failure–if its intention was to get the Japanese economy going again;
  • The collapse in oil prices last year helped the US briefly, but because the rest of the world has rolled off a cliff and because those gains couldn’t go widespread, it was only briefly (this is as I predicted at the time);
  • Canada’s economy was hurt badly by the oil price crash, and because the mixed economy has been critically injured, there is very little else to hold up the economy;
  • Both Britain (or London…almost the same thing) and Canada have huge housing bubbles, and those bubbles, with the addition of financial games, are all that holds those economies together at this point;
  • Britain never actually recovered either, for the majority of its citizens–just a large enough minority to elect Cameron;
  • Australia has tied itself massively to resource extraction on the back of Chinese demand. There is no meaningful Australian economy whose fate is not tied to China.
  • India’s development is hollow neo-liberalism, and has seen an actual decrease in per capita calories. It is consumptive and limited to a few key areas.
Let me put this another way: The developed world is in depression. It has been in depression since 2007. It never left depression. Within that depression, there is still a business cycle: There are expansions, and recessions, and so on. Better times and worse times.

While cheap solar is a big deal, it is not yet deployed sufficiently to break the “widespread demand will crash the economy through oil price increases” problem, and this is exacerbated the by the deadlock rich elites have on most of the world’s politics and economic policies, since it is not in their interest to solve problems, but only to become more rich. Not that solving problems is something they mind, if it makes them richer and keeps everyone else poor.

The world still has very few problems we couldn’t solve if we acted on them in a productive way (though some, like climate change and the great die-off, are beyond the point of no return for catastrophic damage), but that’s largely irrelevant while public policy remains in the hands of oligarchs. There is some reason for hope, as left-wing parties rise in Europe, but those green shoots are still nothing but green shoots.

I suggest that my readers who are able to make money do so now, you may soon find that you can’t. This is especially important if your employment is precarious. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other, unless you are lucky enough to live in the few rich, social democratic states left, you cannot expect much aid from your governments.
 

OfficePants

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Props to Rambo Rambo for giving me the lead on this show, but Mr. Robot is great. So elite exposing.

Mr. Robot | USA Network

"Oh I don't know. Is it that collectively that we thought Steve Jobs was a great man, even though we knew he made billions off the backs of children. Or maybe it's that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself is just one big hoax, spamming each other with our running commentary of bullshit masquerading as insight. Our social media faking as intimacy. Or is it that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but our things, our property, our money. I'm not saying anything new, we all know why we do this. Not because Hunger Games makes us happy, but because we wanna be sedated. Because it's painful not to pretend. Because we're cowards. Society."
 

Russell Street

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I hate John Ellis Bush, well all Bushes, but the dude has a point there. People live too long to be retiring so early unless they, you know, have the money to do so.
I prefer just ending Social Security and letting people take responsibility for their own futures... like adults.
 
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