Bob Barr

As we enter the final days of the 2012 campaign, cries from both sides are echoing over the airwaves that the country will not survive a victory by the other side’s candidate. Some Republican die-hards worry that the United States of America will cease to exist as we know it if Barack Obama is reelected. For their part, many dyed-in-the-wool Democrats are wringing their hands over the possible election of Mitt Romney, an event which in their view will destroy the America they prefer.

One airline company – JetBlue – is holding a contest, offering 2,012 one-way tickets to foreign destinations for “lucky” winners who register and vow to leave the country after the November 6th vote.

Such posturing is not new. The vitriol that characterized the 1800 contest between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson makes the current campaign pale in comparison. That contest gave rise to a very real threat of civil conflict and disunion. Yet, the fledgling Republic not only survived, but flourished.

In more recent decades, each quadrennial presidential election has led public figures, including – of course – entertainment personalities, to boast they will “leave the country” if the candidate of the “other” party wins. The well-known acting Baldwin brothers – liberal Alec and conservative Stephen – both have vowed they would depart our shores if the winner was not to their liking; Alec if George W. Bush won and Stephen if Obama bested John McCain. Obviously, neither followed through with their threatened self-exile. Many of their fellow actors-in-arms have made similarly idle – but headline-grabbing – threats; including Barbra Streisand, Michael Stipes, and Susan Sarandon, among others.

The advent of social networking, including Twitter and texting, has given rise to untold numbers of messages threatening all manner of actions, including leaving the country if the November 6th vote displeases the senders. “If Romney wins the election I’m fleeing to Brazil after graduation”; and “If ObamaDontWin Im moving to Ghana” are typical messages circulating in the Social Networking Cloud.

As many have written – including this author – the 2012 contest is a watershed event by any reasonable measure. America truly is at a crossroads. There simply is no way we can hope to maintain our position in the world far into the future, without strong and meaningful measures to rein in the profligate overspending by the federal government that has characterized recent administrations, particularly the current one and its immediate predecessor; fiscal irresponsibility that has pushed us to a more than $16 trillion national debt.

Still, talk of the country suddenly sliding into the abyss or turning overnight into a Third World nation, are comments irresponsible in their own right. And concluding that living in another country would provide a greater degree of freedom or fiscal responsibility, is just plain silly.

Renouncing one’s citizenship and taking up residence in Singapore – as did Facebook billionaire Eduardo Saverin earlier this year – may save you some taxes, but at what price? Singapore may provide a wonderfully serene neighborhood for someone able to purchase a huge and secluded estate, but for non-billionaires, the degree of individual freedom lost in moving from the United States to the small city-state of Singapore, would be a shock most would come to quickly regret.

Some of the more interesting phenomena in this game of looking for Nirvana in foreign climes, are plans to establish what the Guardian calls “neo-liberal start up cit[ies]” in the Central American country of Honduras. Recently, at least two groups – Future Cities Development Corporation and Free Cities Group (or, “Grupo Ciudades Libres” in Spanish) – launched plans to lay the legal and political foundation for a libertarian-leaning city in Honduras. Unfortunately, that country’s extremely high level of crime, and the inability to pin down the Honduran government’s promises to allow the interlopers to run things as they wished, have slowed such plans considerably.

There are many beautiful and enticing places in countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and elsewhere. However, the reality is that these societies do not possess the legal and political infrastructure that offers fundamentally sound and dependable mechanisms through which property, contractual, and individual rights can be protected against individual or government looters. Without such systems, the thrill of re-locating to a foreign Shangri-La soon wanes.

Despite the many and serious problems we face here in our country, the system of governance envisioned by our Founding Fathers, and which remains largely in place more than two and a quarter centuries later, remains the best you’ll find, anywhere. America is, as Ronald Reagan so eloquently stated nearly a half century ago in 1964, “the last best hope of man on earth.” Let’s work to defend and preserve it; not abandon it.


Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.