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Capital Flight - What to do

by John Yu

You have just overthrown the government, your far left party has just won a landslide election, or your vast coalition of civic, labor, and religious institutions have simply decided to come together and ignore the existing government. Capitalists are fleeing your country in their private jets. Investors have pulled out all their money. Foreign banks run by capitalists suddenly decide they are no longer willing to make any loans to your "rogue" nation. The former dictator has packed up all his suitcases full of gold, jewels, and cash from your national treasury, and is now nowhere to be found.

Now what?

Economic collapse? Mass unemployment? Depression and starvation? No, of course not.

Wealth is not to be found in currency, in the so-called "precious" metals, in paintings by long-dead painters. None of those are needed to survive. Wealth is found in food, in warmth, in health care, and in the things necessary to produce them. All the land is still yours. All the labor is still yours. Even factory equipment remains, despite the flight of "capital" - that is, the loss of things that represent wealth, but are not wealth themselves. In fact, very little has been lost and virtually all of the productive capacity of your nation remains. All that has changed is the accounting.

Your nation may still have in its treasury the remnants of the capitalist financial structure - gold, other precious metals, paper money from nations around the world. Spend it - as soon as possible. Buy commodities - those things you need to survive and buy any equipment you need to produce the goods you need. That is the real wealth to people who actually have to do the work.

What happens in the rest of the world as the people of your nation are suddenly flooding it with various currencies and "precious" metals, while snapping up real goods? The supply of those currencies and "precious" metals go up, while the supply of real goods go down. These goods become more and more expensive, while "money" becomes more and more worthless. Thus, there is all the more reason to exchange your money as soon as possible for real goods you will need.

When all the old money has been spent, you are free to live, work, and produce the things you need. Self-reliance is the only secure form of wealth. Trade with other nations can still be conducted, but do not hold on to their money - money is mere promise of future wealth, promises that can be broken whether from malice or from inability to fulfill them. Exchange any money for real wealth as soon as you can.

Money within your own economy should be based on real wealth. When farmers produce a bushel of grain, let them issue a paper note representing that bushel of grain. Since that paper note can be redeemed for precisely that amount of grain, there is no inflation between the notes and the grain. These paper notes can be collected by larger farmer organizations that then reissue new notes based on a diversified index of what they produce. While the value of money issued in this way may fluctuate with respect to goods not on the index, it will not change with respect to the goods that back these paper notes. This is the first step to currency stability.

However, be warned that these notes are still only as good as the institutions that issue them. Either you trust that they can always be redeemed, or you redeem them as soon as it is convenient. This is especially true of money you receive from other nations that is supposedly backed in the same way. Distance makes people bolder and less hesitant to break promises. Ultimately, however, convenience would probably mean you will place your trust in an organization of like minded people who will help each other ensure that what you have is really what you have - although you should make sure there are alternatives should you decide to change your mind.

People can probably be trusted when times are easy and when prosperity reigns, but when times are tough, promises are much easier to break than the laws of survival. This is what makes self-reliance of an economy important. This is why local industry and agriculture should be protected. Productively ability is the real source of wealth of the nation.

However, natural disasters also occur. While the world as a whole may be fairly stable, the area around you is much more prone to random fluctuations of climate and geology. Thus self-reliance is not the entirety of a secure economy, but merely the supporting structure. The secondary source of security is prosperity in other geographical locations. The more prosperous others are, the more likely they will come to your aid in times of trouble. The more they have to thank you for their prosperity, the more likely they will come to your aid. Again, merely being creditors to their debt is not enough. Nations are sovereign, whether anarchist or authoritarian. They can break their promises - they can ignore any legalistic claims to debt. It is the general goodwill that can be fostered between two nations or people that will be your salvation in case your own self-reliance fails.

In the end, captial flight isn't really capital flight. Real capital - the people, natural resources, and equipment needed to produce real goods - cannot be packed up in a bag when the capitalist skips town. They will require a lot of labor if they truly want to escape with real capital. What remains when the capitalists are gone are merely the people who are doing the work, and the means to do it.

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Last updated: January 31, 2001