Entrepreneurial Migration

As an expat from the USA living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, foreigners are immediately noticeable (unless of asian descent), and stand out. Clearly I am not originally from here, and so this lends itself to the entrepreneurial question:

Why would entrepreneurs relocate from one country to another?

  • Less risk
  • More opportunity

Opportunity and Risk

Ah ha! Risk and opportunity have a complementary relationship. Indeed, Drucker claims that doing the same thing in a time of change is the biggest risk of all. Maximizing opportunity is therefore how we manage risk, in times of change. And what times are not times of change? Certainly not these times, which are wrought with change.

Why the Scots Left Scotland

There was an enormous migration of Scots from 1725 to 1775. Indeed, this migration was large enough to be considered a contributing factor to the American Revolution. It is called the Great Migration. The cause:

Much of this emigration was directly related to a breakdown in social and economic institutions. Under the pressures of the commercial and industrial revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, Highland chieftains abandoned their patriarchal role in favor of becoming capitalist landlords. By raising farm rents to the breaking point, the chiefs left the social fabric of the Scottish Highlands in tatters. Accordingly, voluntary emigration by Gaelic-speaking Highlanders began in the 1730s. The social breakdown was intensified by the failure of the Jacobite cause in 1745, followed by the British military occupation and repression that occurred in the Highlands in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. In 1746, the British government dispatched about 1,000 Highland Jacobite prisoners of war to the colonies as indentured servants. -- Scottish Highlanders on the Eve of the Great Migration, 1725-1775

The causes, obviously, are lack of opportunity and increased risk, economic and political.


Scotland was effectively depopulated during the Great Migration and to this day has not recovered from it.

What kind of parallels can we draw on from this particular historical situation and today? My immigrant ancestor Daniel McNeill, who was an illiterate military man, yet still left for the colonies in 1725 even before the great migration. This was due to the raising of rents in Coleraine, Northern Ireland which preceded the highlands evacuation.

I left Hawaii in 2008 because my rent doubled in three years. 2008 of course is the worst year of the economic recession and we have been slowly climbing out in fits and starts. Leaving when I did preceded the real impact, as I had had impact enough. I had not lost my job, as others soon did, nor had most economic options shriveled up at the time, as they soon did. But is another situation as per the previous?

Signs and Portents

The following will be useful indicators if indeed we are to see a decline in what is currently the largest economy and most powerful military in the world:

  • Abandonment of patriarchal role of government
  • Social fabric in tatters
  • A great migration

Personally I believe we will see these signs but in a confused, muddled format. That is,

  • Some sectors of the economy will appear to function, since not everyone will be affected by the abandonment and damage to the social fabric. In the Highlands most people were subsistence farmers and small merchants. Now the economy has diversified.
  • When we reach something like ten percent of the population actively migrating either within or outside of the United States, in a given five year period, then we have likely reached the point described.
  • This also means that regional impoverishment will increase within the United States. In turn the political system will (because of unequal power distribution of impoverished sectors (rust belt, deep south, etc.)) become even more polarized.

Perhaps Scotland is not the best analogue for the United States, but it may become more like the UK, diminished role, diminished economy, still significant but less in charge of its destiny...