Last August, I ran a poll and discovered that 75% of you will need to generate income overseas. We’ve looked at a few options – teaching English, writing, starting a business. One thing we haven’t discussed is investing.
Nor will we.
The Founding Fathers stated that a political system depends upon the consent of the governed, the social contract. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with that phrase, you can see a brief discussion of it here.)
The Social Contract and Acts of Conscience
As a baby boomer, I was taught that the social contract extends to the responsibilities we have to our society outside of our immediate selves and family.
Civil rights are a product of the social contract. Acts of conscience and civil disobedience are products of the social contract. Supposedly, the Greek philosopher Socrates had the opportunity to escape from prison and leave Athens before he was put to death, but he turned that opportunity down. He believed that, since he was willing to live all his life in Athens he had accepted that social contract and had no right to violate it even when the laws he had accepted were against his self interest. As we all know, Socrates was eventually executed, forced to drink hemlock.
I’m an idealist. I believe that it’s my responsibility to use my money in ways that enhance and support the social contract. For years I never bought Nestlé products (even though I LOVE Nestlé’s Crunch candy bars!) because the company did terrible, abusive things in order to sell its products in third-world countries. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I don’t go to movies that feature Scientologist actors. These are all small things, and I’m sure they make no difference to Nestle, Wal-Mart or Tom Cruise, but they are acts of conscience which make a difference to me.
By now you’re probably wondering, “what does all this blather about Wal-Mart have to do with investing my money?”
I believe a company has an obligation to honor the social contract. If they are permitted to operate, they have obligations to their stakeholders. I’m not talking about law here, but about what’s right.
It’s not right that mining companies are able to rip the tops off mountains and dump the results into local waterways. It’s not right that Enron was able to sell electricity to Californians at an artificially inflated price. It’s not right that the Supreme Court recently gave corporations the power to decide our elections.
It’s not right that a bunch of elected officials decided to reach down into my pocket and yours to shore up Wall St. firms. Banks and investment companies in the US have completely abused their position. They’ve treated our IRA’s, 401K plans and pension funds like their own private mad money. They have abrogated any trust we should place in them, they have defied the social contract, and they won’t get their dirty hands on any more of my money.
So if you’re looking for investment advice, you’ll have to look somewhere else.
Americans today are angry at their government, and rightfully so.
No matter how you dress it up, no matter whether you’re a left-wing, bleeding-heart liberal or a staunch right-wing conservative, I think we all understand that the social contract has been violated beyond recognition. That’s one of the big reasons so many of us are planning to move overseas.
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I recognize that my viewpoint is out of the mainstream. Please share your thoughts on the role of financial investments in financing your international move. Just click the Comment link below to weigh in.