What Zimbabwe Can Teach Investors About Jurisdictional Diversification

History is replete with examples of countries enjoying shocking levels of prosperity to later transform into basket cases decades later.

That’s how civilizational cycles work out.

But it’s not just confined to the West. The African continent has had its fair share of once economically prosperous countries turning into dumpster fires.

At one point, Zimbabwe was viewed as Africa’s breadbasket and one of the few countries that appeared to transition out of its previous colonial status without many hiccups.

Led by Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (1980-1987), Zimbabwe was breaking the mold as one of Africa’s success stories. Although Mugabe was marketed as a revolutionary, he was rather pragmatic in his economic stewardship of the country during his early years in office.

Mugabe maintained many of the features that made Zimbabwe’s predecessor state, Rhodesia, prosperous. However, he always had a radical agenda up his sleeve but generally concealed it in his initial years of power.

It wasn’t until Mugabe became president in 1987 that the country began taking a different path. But things started changing towards the start of the 21st century. Mugabe began pursuing ambitious land reforms that ruffled the feathers of many elites and upwardly mobile economic actors.

He met a roadblock in 2000 when voters rejected Mugabe’s efforts to confiscate white-owned farms at the polls.

But Mugabe was not deterred. He relentlessly pushed for land confiscation and was able to get his wish of expropriating the landholdings of white property owners.

By using political and paramilitary means, Mugabe ended up confiscating 23 million acres of land without any form of due process or compensation.

But Mugabe didn’t stop there. He pursued an inflationary monetary agenda by turning the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe into a personal printing press that suited his political needs.

The monetary policy Mugabe carried out was the most hyperinflationary in recent memory. For example, hyperinflation reached cartoonish levels of 79,600,000,000% in 2008. After thoroughly trashing the value of the local currency, Zimbabwe had to embrace “dollarization” and turned to outside currencies such as the dollar and the African Rand.

Even worse, Mugabe’s government attempted to fight inflation in the most futile manner possible through its implementation of price controls. This policy has been an abject failure everywhere it’s been implemented — from Ancient Rome to present-day Venezuela. The price controls only worsened the existing shortages and accelerated Zimbabwe’s economic debacle.

Mugabe was eventually deposed in a coup in 2017. At that point in time, 70% of Zimbabweans were living in poverty and the country’s economic output plummeted by half since 2000. On top of that, real per capita income fell by 15% since 1980.

Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa is still facing inflation problems with inflation presently hovering around 60% — a marked decline from previous years but still an alarming level of inflation.

Pretty tragic story.

What you can learn from the Zimbabwean case study is that political jurisdictions can be stable one day and go completely haywire the next. While the US is far from descending into Zimbabwe status, there are states that are much more economically stable than others. So, you must always plan accordingly when settling down in one area.

America has 50 states that vary not only in terms of their cost of living and housing arrangements, but also in their political profiles. This carries over into how housing is regulated.

Generally speaking, although there are a few exceptions, pro-business states tend to be more landlord-friendly. So, if you’re dealing with a deadbeat tenant, you can evict them in states with higher degrees of economic freedom. Think along the lines of states like Texas and Florida.

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