Recently, I was criticized by a friend of mine when I mentioned offhand that I had a significant amount of my retirement portfolio invested in international stocks. He claimed that by having international investments, I was being distinctly un-American and that I was helping out our international competitors by investing in their stocks. On the contrary, I actually feel it is my duty as an American to invest at least a portion of my portfolio in international funds. Here’s why.
First of all, I’m putting some ownership of international corporations into the hands of an American. I’m exchanging American dollars for a stake in a company that does business in other parts of the world. By doing that, I am claiming a portion of that company, so that if that company takes off, I (as an American) can ride that growth to the top. If Americans invest in strong international companies, then the United States can share in the inevitable growth of international companies rather than being left behind.
Second, I’m being a capitalist. The United States was founded as a capitalist nation, one that is as close to laissez-faire as you’ll find in the world today. The Declaration of Independence declares that I am endowed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and whenever I make the choice to invest in an international fund, I’m exercising all of those rights in order to make a better life for me and my family. In doing this, I harm no one, but instead build opportunities for myself and others.
Third, I’m reversing the effects of the trade deficit. Everyone is worried about dollars leaving the United States, right? When I buy a foreign investment, suddenly that corporation is paying dividends to me, causing money to come back into the United States. When I sell, if the stock has gone up, money comes back into the United States. My pal who criticized me was wearing a pair of shoes made in southeast Asia and he’s criticizing me for selling out America?
Last but not least, what does it really mean to be an American? What does the United States represent today? Some people will say that it’s a land of dreams and of opportunity. Others might complain about how it is a global superpower bent on hegemony. Still others might view it as a beacon of light in a dark time. No matter how one looks at the United States, it is completely appropriate for the nation to invest in the growth of other nations. We want to give opportunities for the best and brightest, no matter where they may live in the world, and we have enough capital here to open doors to the world’s brightest. If that’s not American, I don’t know what is.