BUILDING SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES IN CHILE
September 11, 2013
[*Note: sustainable here means independent, self-reliant and built to last, not sustainable as in Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.]
I’ll begin with two facts, one increasingly obvious and indisputable, the other less so.
The first: much of the northern hemisphere—not just the U.S.—is in deep trouble: economic and financial, political, cultural, educational, environmental (given Fukushima), and spiritual. Banking leviathans, other corporate behemoths, and a bought-and-paid-for political class are running the Anglo-European world into the ground. The American middle class, for example, is being destroyed by the combination of outsourcing, illegal immigration which drives down wages, and regulations which undermine entrepreneurship. Schools are turning out illiterates hopelessly in debt. This makes the rest easy. Just make the 6 pm news entertaining.
Thus the political class (both major parties) and mainstream media lie brazenly about a “recovery” that doesn’t exist outside Wall Street and cite an “unemployment rate” (the BLS “U-3” number) that is less than a third of the actual figure. Those in power behave with increasing lawlessness: the military machine flexed its muscles first in Afghanistan and Iraq, more recently in Libya; now they threaten Syria. The Obama regime is rife with scandal and embarrassment (Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting conservative organizations, NSA spying on practically everyone, Bradley Manning made into a political prisoner, Edward Snowden seeking asylum in Russia; the list goes on and on).
Militarized police beat up, pepper-spray, tase, and sometimes gun down citizens some of whose “offenses” are being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not displaying absolute obedience. Some police forces now have reputations once limited to outlaw gangs. (Examples) Homeland Security has gradually ratcheted down the idea that the enemies of the country are Muslim radicals such as al Qaeda. Its minions speak darkly of “domestic terrorists” or “extremists” and buy unprecedented amounts of ammunition including hollow-point bullets. Other federal agencies are also arming themselves. For what purpose? That’s a good question!
Are there any prospects for turning this mess around?
I’ve no desire to belittle the good work done by numerous dedicated people and organizations in the U.S. trying to educate their fellow citizens about Constitutionally limited government, or a freedom philosophy. But they face a huge obstacle and eventual danger. The obstacle: the critical mass needed to slam the brakes on creeping totalitarianism in the U.S. simply does not exist. If it did, Dr. Ron Paul would have been a serious contender for the presidency in 2012 if not 2008 despite media indifference and Establishment Republican hostility. The danger: as the police state wields more and more power with less and less accountability, sooner or later it will crack down on Constitutionalists and anyone else who stands up to vested authority. They will be given a choice: shut up and get with the program, or risk going to prison (possibly on trumped-up charges, or with the NDAA, no charges at all)!
The second fact: for those who see the prospects for turning things around growing dimmer and seek an escape, Chile is increasingly on the radar screen as a possible destination. Central Chile in particular has a lot going for it. The climate is akin to that of southern California: not too hot or too cold, not humid, with just the right amount of rainfall. Politically, the country is stable and not at war with anyone. The economy is not perfect but considerably better than what the northern hemisphere presently offers. Unemployment is low. There are construction projects everywhere in Santiago (two are visible from my front window). These bespeak of economic health absent in, say, Detroit, where entire neighborhoods stand abandoned.
The Chilean government is entrepreneur-friendly. Chileans by and large are a kind and peaceful people who like “gringos.” A small number of adventurous estadounidenses* began to discover this relatively small South American country (population: just over 17 million) not long after the end of the Pinochet dictatorship and the rebuilding of the economy. Over the past few years, the number of expats here has begun to grow. I left a low-paying teaching job and moved to Santiago in 2012. Now, a year later, the number of those seeking escape from deteriorating conditions in the U.S. is poised to accelerate.
Santiago, the capitol, is a city of over 6 million with first world public transportation and other infrastructure. Not everyone wants to live in a big city, of course. Those who do not, may be looking for land sufficient to build sustainable communities based on time-tested agrarian principles. Allow me to profile one such place, at the forefront of an expanding network of such communities with the capacity to keep liberty alive in the world!
The name of the place is Freedom Orchard Vergel Libertad), located near a quiet Chilean town called Curacavi, almost midway between Santiago and Viña del Mar on the ocean. Parcels of land of 50 or 99 acres for organic farms are currently available to interested buyers or investors. The developers selected the land partly for its ideal location, 45 minutes driving distance from the city in one direction and from the beach in the other, and for the quality of its soil. Already, one may find orchards where organic oranges, lemons, avocados, almonds and walnuts are being harvested.
There will also be homes, a club with tennis courts, a golf course, and plenty of other amenities to encourage the building of a community. From the mission statement: “Freedom Orchard (Vergel Libertad) seeks to acquire and develop property throughout Chile, suitable for establishing sustainable communities, and alternative sites for organic farming, forestry, light industry and recreation, that will be attractive to freedom-minded people worldwide.” The latter will include expats from the U.S. and also Chileans seeking a weekend getaway from Santiago into a quiet, safe environment.
I recently spoke with Frank Szabo, one of the prime movers behind Freedom Orchard via his company Freedom Orchard Organics. He moved with his family from New Hampshire to Chile last year “to escape the nonsense going on up north.” He spoke of his long-term interest in organic farming, born of an understanding of how factory farming was turning out unhealthy food. “If people knew how their food was raised,” he told me, referring to how chickens in factory farms are immobilized in cages, filled with chemicals, fattened artificially, etc., “they would not be eating it. Factory farming is nasty!” Szabo also observed how it is becoming illegal to film or photograph what goes on in factory farms.
The problem is, such farms now have the economic upper hand. Szabo saw that traditional family farms were being driven out of business by the conglomerates dominating the poultry and dairy industries. He’d moved to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania to join the Free State Project, a libertarian effort to consolidate numbers in one location to effect change. He’d intended on founding his organic farm project there, but became disillusioned at how state government was ready to regulate him out of existence.
After 9/11, the situation gradually worsened as government increased its power by leaps and bounds. This included actual raids on farmers attempting to supply customers with healthy food! One thinks here of those raw milk farmers who were jailed, or the unprecedented recent assaults on the Amish who have operated peacefully, interfering with no one, for decades!
Szabo had also become—like most of us—a keen observer of what was happening to the U.S. dollar first under the Greenspan and then the Bernanke Federal Reserve regimes. He found himself realizing: this is not sustainable. The Federal Reserve cannot continue creating money out of thin air to buy up government debt, anymore than can the federal government continue Keynesian “stimulus” spending forever. Sooner or later, the debt-based money system has to go into a tailspin. We just can’t predict with certainty when.
Coming to Chile was nevertheless not an easy choice. As a family they debated the issue. Szabo’s wife Madeline was understandably reluctant to leave a successful career as a director of nursing at a major insurance company. Then one day he asked, referring to his belief that the fiat dollar is doomed, “What if I’m right?” That decided the issue. The two of them have a teenage daughter. They were understandably concerned for her future wellbeing.
has its challenges. The biggest, for most expats from the U.S., will
be a language barrier made worse than it needs to be by the absence
of serious foreign language instruction in the U.S. Chile is a Spanish-speaking
country, originally settled by Spaniards back in the 1500s. Although
other European groups have come here over time (especially from Germany),
their numbers have been small by comparison, meaning that Chile remains
Almost all publications, public announcements, maps, road signs, advertisements, etc., are in Spanish. Perhaps 3% of Chileans are fluent in English. Chile has a history and culture all its own, and one does not appreciate that history or culture without gaining some fluency in Spanish. Not all expats are interested, of course; some are content to exist in an English-speaking expat bubble despite the disadvantages. The Szabos, who admit they didn’t do a great deal of advance planning, found themselves having to navigate a private school system for their daughter absent the sort of directories and guidelines they would have found in the U.S., and not able to speak Spanish very well (they’ve been taking lessons with a native speaker who has carved out a niche for herself teaching gringos Spanish). Chile, we’ve all had to learn, is about networking and forming relationships. It is about getting to know the person across the table.
Szabo is encouraged by his experiences. Farmers who know what they are doing can cultivate four crops per year. The soil is fertile, and the land is not expensive compared to similar land in the U.S. Szabo wants to encourage others to do their research and either come to Freedom Orchard or treat Freedom Orchard as a model to follow in forging their own sustainable communities. (There are, I should note, other communities being developed such as Galt’s Gulch Chile. These are separate projects and should not be confused with Freedom Orchard.) The Szabos are pursuing a family-oriented development with traditional values and a strong commitment to private property rights. The classical liberal leanings of the Chilean government and economy make the country ideal for this sort of pursuit.
Another prime mover behind the development of sustainable communities in Chile is Dr. John Cobin, Christian economist and author who lived here for a while in the 1990s, went back to the U.S., only to return in 2008. Dr. Cobin, who is married to a Chilean and fluent in Spanish, is arguably more knowledgeable about Chile than any other expatriated American: two books plus an extensive blog offer a wealth of information about almost every aspect of Chilean life.
Both the Szabos and Dr. Cobin view libertarians as a prime market for Freedom Orchard and future sustainable communities in central Chile. Dr. Cobin observed that Ron Paul received 2,095,762 votes in the 2012 Republican primaries (10.9% of Republican votes). He also noted that many libertarians do not vote, viewing the state as evil, and estimated that the total number of libertarians in the U.S. may be around 5 million. He cited a Cato Institute study indicating that 14% of all American voters are essentially libertarian. “At least a small percentage of these people are interested in leaving the United States,” he says, “and many of them are considering coming to Chile.”
With 207.6 million eligible registered voters in the U.S., 14% of eligible voters means potentially 29 million people that might have a frame of mind commensurate with purchasing land in Freedom Orchard. Only a few who might find Chile tempting have the assets, of course. But if just a fraction of that number were to purchase lots in Freedom Orchard, what is presently available would quickly sell out. It would, moreover, supply revenue sufficient to begin work on future developments of this sort. With a network of increasing size, the process of relocation could be streamlined and its cost lowered, hopefully before the U.S. government begins imposing currency controls.
I haven’t minimized the challenges that face anyone moving to Chile, especially those not swimming in affluence (I’m not!). I have discussed some of the challenges here. You will be moving to a different culture, surrounded by people very few of whom know more than a few words of your language. Don’t make the mistake of taking this lightly. It’s not for everyone. Moving to a Latin American country is not recommended for those who prefer to stay in their comfort zones. Speaking of comfort zones, I can’t see mine with a high-powered telescope!
In all seriousness, how long will you be able to sustain yourself in your U.S.-based comfort zone, amidst an increasingly repressive and lawless government within a stagnant economy in long-term decline? It is almost a cliché to say that the U.S. has become an empire. Szabo noted the theme of the most recent Freedom Fest 2013 held in Las Vegas: “Are we Rome?” The idea is straightforward enough. Rome began as a republic. Republics tend to turn into empires when concentrations of wealth and power cannot be constrained. There isn’t a single case on record of an empire being turned back into a republic. Instead, they decay and collapse from within. The decline of Rome took centuries. That of the U.S. is well underway; it may have begun when Nixon “closed the gold window” or it may have begun before. The point is, over time the tacit economic philosophy of the U.S.’s masses was transformed from that of respect for property rights, productivity and saving to one of entitlements, consumption and debt. This set the country on course for decades of living beyond its means while shipping its manufacturing base overseas for cheap labor. This is what is unsustainable. The middle class is disappearing; the police state grows more repressive by the day; a new feudalism is looming.
Falling from a much greater height than Rome ever achieved will not take as long, and will almost certainly be considerably more painful and violent!
The U.S., moreover, is becoming increasingly dangerous! In the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal we have seen an epidemic of lethal attacks on whites by mobs of blacks. Black-on-white violent crime, which has always been higher than the reverse, is escalating. Some blacks will attack any white person they see, whether in retaliation for the Zimmerman verdict or for the “racism” of “white society.” Only alternative media reports this. Political correctness prevents either mainstream media or even police agencies from telling the truth, which is that by and large, many blacks hate whites far more than most whites have ever hated blacks!
Thanks to political correctness, rational discourse on race is now impossible in the U.S. Most Americans still operate under the assumption that—in Frank Szabo’s words—“the U.S. is the center of the universe.” That is simply not true anymore. More and more are concluding that the battle for freedom there is lost, and that the time has come to leave to protect themselves, their families, and their assets. I don’t make these remarks lightly. I make them with sadness. As I said at the outset, there are people trying hard to defend Constitutionally limited government and sound money. There are many more I care about, some of whom are too destitute to get out (I know of a woman who would come down here in a minute but can’t afford to renew her passport!)!
All I know to do is work hard with those building new lives and communities, or in other ways creating new opportunities here. The most important thing is keeping the philosophy and spirit of freedom and free enterprise alive, for from these come peace and genuine prosperity. We won’t forget where we came from. Eventually those of us who choose to do so will be able to reach back to those struggling to survive in the declining U.S. This continues to be my hope.
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*Person from the U.S. (Estados Unidos, or EEUU). Interestingly, the English language has no exact equivalent other than U.S. citizen or American, the latter word in use among Latin Americans who consider themselves Americans and have been known to take offense at those who inadvertently try to monopolize the word American.
More information on Freedom Orchard, and a wealth of information on Chile itself can be found on Dr. Cobin’s website.
© 2013 Steven Yates - All Rights Reserved