Privacy Versus Secrecy

The very idea that the individual has a natural-born right to his privacy and basic freedoms flies in the face of the collectivist ideal.

Government is all about control.

Every government, over time, increases its level of control over its population in every way it can. Given enough time, any government will nibble away at its people's freedoms until it reaches the point that the people have so little freedom left that the government feels safe in taking the remaining freedoms in ever-larger gulps. Some nations are taking very large gulps indeed.

One of the primary freedoms is privacy. Under the British Constitution,

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Further,

"The common law allows people to speak and act in their own homes as they please and to carry on their daily business, provided that they do not infringe the rights of others or commit an offence."

Sounds downright libertarian, does it not? And it should, as the people who originally collected the bits and pieces that make up the British Constitution were those who, having had enough of the vague and often draconian edicts of various governments, sought to define the rights of the British citizen once and for all.

Of course, "once and for all" did not last very long. Subsequent governments have done their best to slowly erode the basic rights of the British people.

This is consistent with the governments of the world in general.

If we look across the pond to the US, we find in their Bill of Rights, the rights to privacy in numerous amendments, particularly the Fourth Amendment, which states,

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

There can be little doubt that the political leaders of the UK and the US (and, let's be fair, most of the world's governments) have violated the basic right to privacy as often as they have been able.

In this, they generally stick together. Typically, international leaders offer no objection to other leaders (either their immediate political opponents or the leaders of other countries) infringing upon the privacy of their citizenries, no matter how extreme the intrusion. They do, however object quite strongly when they find that they themselves have had their own privacy infringed, such as Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff have, recently, after finding that the US was tapping their phones.

So, when the authors of the most central principles upon which the present-day UK and the US were founded, crafted their phrasings, what did they mean when they described such essential privacies as "daily business" and "papers and effects"?

Financial Privacy

Well, top of the list would surely be financial records, as, historically, these are considered to warrant greater privacy than most any other daily business, papers, and effects.

Yet, today, we are seeing ever-greater intrusion into our earnings, our investments, our savings, and the storage of our wealth. Much of the world—particularly under the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (read: International Ministry for Intrusion into Financial Privacy)—is doing all it can to eliminate any and all barriers to its pursuit of personal financial information.

However, the prize for Most Invasive Act of Privacy Destruction must go to the US, whose Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) literally seeks to force financial institutions in other countries to turn over their records to the US.

And much of the world has caved in to this act. So, how is it that this has even been possible, given the fact that it blatantly opposes the founding principles of the US? Well, in a word: marketing.

(Editor's Note: Be sure to check out: FATCA Watch: List of Countries That Signed Agreements and Those That Will Not Comply with US Dictates)

Banking Secrecy

The OECD countries have done a bang-up job in recent years in attacking the very concept of financial privacy by referring to it by a similar but more sinister term: "secrecy."

Secrecy, of course, implies that something rather underhanded is taking place and needs routing out. And the world's low-tax jurisdictions do commit the unforgiveable sin of maintaining the principle that the depositor is entitled to privacy.

In each of these jurisdictions, it is the norm for the average banker to feel that a client's account is nobody's bloody business but his own. Whilst they can be quite vehement in this belief, it is also true that they are labouring under increasing pressure from the OECD (and now, FATCA) to compromise the privacy of their clients.

And, in doing so, the OECD has gained quite a following in the form of the media and the average person, as the very term "banking secrecy" now tends to falsely imply criminal acts. This is interesting, as the average person does still believe in privacy. He believes firmly that it is his right to maintain privacy in his bedroom or a public loo, or to draw the drapes in his living room in the evening. Yet these same people have been programmed to mentally remove financial privacy from other privacies.

Clearly, the OECD is going to continue in its intention to convince the world that the individual (unless he holds political office) has an obligation to relinquish his privacy with regard to his financial dealings. And, along the way, its marketing programme will succeed, through endless repetition, of convincing boobus humanus that this is altogether correct.

This suggests that the reader should simply give up and allow his government to invade his privacy at will. However, as those of us who are firm believers in internationalisation often comment, "There is no perfect jurisdiction; there are only jurisdictions that may be more favourable than the home jurisdiction."

As Doug Casey outlined in his visionary book, The International Man, in 1978, the concept of internationalising is not simply to pick up stakes and move to another country. Rather, it is the concept of "planting flags." Investigate possible countries in which to live, to hold citizenship, to invest, in which to gain an income, and plant flags in each. Live in one, become a citizen in another, bank in a third, etc.

Some countries still do believe that it is your right to maintain financial privacy and, whilst they may feel pressure from your home country, they are more likely to do all they can to protect your privacy.

As in other concerns, there is no ideal country, but there are those that are decidedly better, where the term privacy still retains its original meaning and individual privacy is still respected.

Editor's Note: You can find the most up-to-date, accurate, and comprehensive information from Casey Research on internationalization by clicking here.

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