Friday, August 24, 2012

My week in Germany

I've been in Germany all this week, first speaking at a conference and then visiting my father in Idstein, where I've been introducing my father to his granddaughter.

YAPC::Europe 2012. Frankfurt, Germany
Your author giving a keynote speech at YAPC::Europe 2012
Photo by Claudio Ramirez
One of the things I love about my profession is that I get to travel to conferences all over the world. At this conference, I was surprised to speak with several readers of my blog and I've learned a few things:

  • One reader is thinking about renouncing their US citizenship.
  • One reader is in the process of renouncing US citizenship.
  • Another reader is afraid to respond to my blog posts unless they can do so anonymously.

For those who wish to renounce their citizenship, it all boils down to one thing: the US is demanding they pay taxes but offering nothing in return. It's a common refrain I hear.

If you wish to comment anonymously, one of your best options is to download the Tor Browser Bundle. This software can be downloaded to a USB key, if you don't want to install it, and run from there. It allows you to safely and anonymously browse the Internet. Yes, some people use this to do bad things, but others, such as freedom advocates in Iran and China, use this to to communicate with each other safely.

Please note that Tor makes your internet life much more anonymous, but to truly get anonymity, you should read the Tor Web site carefully. It will explain what Tor is and how you can use it to be safe. For normal Web browsing, you don't have much to worry about (as long as you have Javascript turned off). However, if you start using "advanced" features, there are caveats you will want to know about.

There are ways of compromising Tor security, so don't take it for granted. However, they don't appear to be commonly used.


  1. A short note about he idea of paying taxes for "nothing." If these expats grew up in America and went to public schools and universities and used any of the facilities (roads,utilities, and other American infrastructure) other people's taxes paid for while they were growing up, the taxes they pay as adults is not for "nothing" it is a repayment of the lifestyle that enabled them to get where they are now.

    1. I do agree with you, but the idea is problematic. Imagine if you grew up in California and then moved to New York and California required you to pay taxes to California until you repaid your "debt to society". People would never be able to move to another state. What do you do then?

      Instead, the states understand that allowing free movement of people is desirable, so if you move from one state to another, instead of constantly having "obligation" follow you everywhere, you put down your obligation in one state and pick it up in another. What the US does internally is a good and sensible system.

  2. Another argument in favour would be what if a foreigner moves to US, in that case by same logic US must allow the foreigner to pay taxes to the country where he got his education etc. to repay his "debt to the society" there. In that case he should not be paying taxes to US because his debt lies elsewhere.