Remember Peter Thiel? The tech billionaire and possible vampire became highly visible during the campaign as a rich, openly gay Trump supporter. Now that Trump has been elected, though, apparently he believes it’s only a matter of time before the peasant look up from their Facebook pages and revolt. So he’s all set to flee to New Zealand.
To be fair, this isn’t an idle interest: Thiel has been interested in New Zealand for a while, as the New York Times notes. But a New Zealand Herald reporter, investigating one of Thiel’s land purchases, asked why Thiel wasn’t violating New Zealand’s laws on foreign ownership, and was told he has citizenship, a surprising new development from somebody backing Trump.
Thiel, it’s rumored, has his New Zealand estate as a backup in case things go south in the US, which is an odd reaction to the election of a candidate he supported in the 2016 election to the point of speaking at the GOP convention. He is, however, far from alone. The New Yorker, in a look at the fad among tech elites for high-end survivalism and prepping, talked with an anonymous hedge fund manager about buying New Zealand real estate, to the point where the article construes it as an unspoken handshake, in some circles, in a belief the country will inevitably go to hell in a handbasket:
Brought up on the East Coast, he said, over coffee, that he expects America to face at least a decade of political turmoil, including racial tension, polarization, and a rapidly aging population. “The country has turned into the New York area, the California area, and then everyone else is wildly different in the middle,” he said. He worries that the economy will suffer if Washington scrambles to fund Social Security and Medicare for people who need it. “Do you default on that obligation? Or do you print more money to give to them? What does that do to the value of the dollar? It’s not a next-year problem, but it’s not fifty years away, either.”
Unspoken in all this, however, is a rather more prosaic explanation: New Zealand’s reputation as a tax shelter. In the end, the real concern might not be so much the world goes off the rails, as perhaps some tech billionaires are worried that eventually they might have to take a bit more of a haircut.