“You gotta have Plan B. That’s what we’ve learned from living in Africa,” said a colleague in South Africa last night. “Americans are so naïve. Well, I guess you should say that they are happily naïve…and so far, they’ve been able to be naïve without negative consequences…a situation that is probably changing.
“You believe you can turn on the lights…and they’ll always go on. You think you can walk down the street and you won’t get hi-jacked or robbed (well, maybe you wonder about that). You think your Social Security system will look out for you in your old age…and that your officials will be more or less honest…and that your dollars will have some value. Well, you may have some questions about that, too…
“But here in Africa, we’ve learned better. Things don’t always work the way they should. Governments change. Circumstances change. You can’t really count on anything. We’ve seen what happened in Uganda…Ivory Coast…Nigeria…and what is happening now in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was a great country. Now it is a disaster. A total disaster.
“That’s why, if you’re smart, you’ll have a Plan B. We all have a Plan B…meaning, we have another passport…and a bank account outside the country…or something, so we won’t be stuck if things really go bad.
“Not that we expect it here anytime soon. I think South Africa has more good years ahead of it…at least 5 to 10. But as for the long run, who knows? It’s an African country. And you can’t count on anything forever. The different tribes of Africans are struggling for control of the country. Mbeki is a Xhosa. This fellow Zusa is a Zulu. He’s been tried for rape…his top people have been involved in all sorts of corruption. And you’ve got all these drug dealers and criminals coming down from Nigeria. They just sneak across the border. There doesn’t seem to be any way to stop them. Which way the country goes depends on which tribe gets control…and how fast they’re able to work their control down into the judicial system and other parts of the administration.
“So you have to have some way to get out of the place, if it goes really bad. And you have to have a Plan B to protect yourself against all sorts of failings. That’s why we have our own generators, for example, because we can’t depend on the power system to work properly. And it’s why I keep a stash of Krugerrands. You don’t know which way the paper currency will go. But those gold Krugerrands will always be good money.”
Markets and Money