I promised some of you a few tips about countries you might be considering fleeing to.
Here’s a quick guide to how three of them might work for runaway libertarians:
1. Cheap Living:
Forget what you’re reading about Chile being expensive and Uruguay being cheap. It all depends on where and how you’re living and what you’re doing. Comparing capitals, Santiago has more and cheaper living options than Montevideo. So does Buenos Aires. But you can find cheaper living in a smaller town in Uruguay. On the other hand, in smaller towns, don’t expect to find the variety of accommodation you find in a city like Buenos Aires. You may not find youth hostels, camping, budget hotels, or house-shares. In general, the more of an international crowd a place draws, the more and better your options.
If you are planning to live off the earth, farmland is relatively cheap and high-quality in all three countries, with Brazil and Uruguay being the cheapest. Soil quality is high in all these southern countries.
For organic growing, Chile and Uruguay are the places to go..
But rent is not the only consideration. What about food and clothes?
Uruguay isn’t as cheap as Argentina, especially with the Uruguayan peso so much stronger than the Argentine peso.
Brazil is also more expensive.
In general, you’re wise to buy whole food in the markets and leave international brands alone in the supermarket aisles. Eating out is still cheap in Argentina, but less so elsewhere.
Again, you can always find a deal if you look. Brazil has the most variety. I had an all-you-can-eat meal in the border town of Chuuy, where the variety and quality of the asado was far superior to anything I’d eaten in Argentina.
Clothes tend to be relatively expensive, but again, if you look around, you can find places where there are sales, just as you have them in the US. A recent find, a jacket for about $4.
Electronic items like computers are more expensive. Make sure to buy the correct equipment for electronic appliances. Ask at a web forum before you visit.
3. Investment: Buying an apartment in Santiago, Buenos Aires, or Montevideo requires a lot of thinking right now. It all depends on whether you are buying it to live here or as an investment.
Prices are high in Buenos Aires, but evidence of the global crisis is everywhere, and the expectation is that prices will come down soon – perhaps sharply.
Santiago realtors are expecting a 15-20% drop in the next 6 months.
In Montevideo, the general feeling is that any price-drop in the other markets won’t be felt as sharply there. But everyone knows that even in Montevideo, prices have climbed as much as 30% in good areas, as rich Argentines move their money out of Argentina and put it into the stabler Uruguay economy.
That’s true not only of apartments but of land as well, although that’s a topic that would take too long a post to do justice to.
In general, don’t let anyone rush you into buying. Nothing is ever the dead certainty it’s made out to be, and getting in and out of a real estate transaction has costs. None of the property here is very liquid at all, in my opinion.
Also, don’t forget that old houses require constant maintenance and that if local currencies strengthen against the dollar, your labor costs for maintenance or renovation may end up being higher than your budget. Same goes for labor costs for management. You really might be better off buying a condo in Miami, no matter what Faber or Rogers thinks, if economic reasons are your only ones for living abroad.
Right now, you can find a waterfront apartment in Florida for a lower price than a comparable one in Uruguay. So if cheaper living is your only criterion, you might want to chew on that.
Uruguay is no longer on the black-list for tax havens, which is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s been a bit too compliant with US demands for transparency. Chile is a morass of bureaucracy, but predictable. Argentina is the least reliable, as far as banking goes.
This might not be something libertarians are going to like to hear. But the chances are that these societies too are going to be moving toward greater control. This is more true of Argentina than of Uruguay in my opinion.
5. Business Culture:
Chile gets top marks for a culture that is business positive, for those libertarians hoping to start a new life here. With English widely-spoken, low corruption and good property laws, it’s the best place to build a business. But watch out for a cultural problem – Americans I meet seem to find Chileans rude.
Brazil and Colombia (of which I know nothing else) are also good places for starting a business. Uruguay has some problems in this respect. It doesn’t have as much of a market or a business culture and the market also relies too much on foreigners. You’d have to know exactly how to work that. As Brazil, Argentina, and Chile go, so goes Uruguay. On the other hand, Uruguay seems to be the most accessible and easy-going culture of the three.
Businessmen I met uniformly thought Argentina was a terrible place to do business – and some even called it the most corrupt country in South America, much to my surprise. Portenos (those who live in Buenos Aires) were singled out for blame – although for myself, I had nothing but a positive experience of them. People in the provinces were said to be more honest.
But then, I wasn’t doing business, I was trying to find out more about Monsanto….and in my off-time, figuring out salsa. People saw me as an Indian, assured me they loved India, and spent their time complaining about America to me, as though I wasn’t from there. So much for the liberal view of citizenship as purely political and cultural….
Brazil gets good marks, but with plenty of warnings about corruption and street crime…
I found the Brazilians I met more politically aware than the others., for what that’s worth. A lot of fans of Chomsky and much discussion of 9-11.
So there you have it…a quick guide to selecting what you can do where..
In three important countries very far south of the border..