It doesn’t mean you’re looking for a change of scenery, not in the traditional sense, anyway. If you’re wealthy, either by Silicon Valley technology or finance, when you say you’re looking to buy a house in New Zealand, it means you’re thinking about the end of the world.
New Zealand pops up often in a bonkers 8,500-word feature out today in The New Yorker about affluence and “apocalypse insurance.”
According to Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, the phrase is “kind of a wink, wink, say no more” among Silicon Valley-based tech-preppers who are carrying out their own high-end version of Doomsday Preppers. As it turns out, the wealthiest among us also have the end of the world on their minds.
And New Zealand has been selected as a preferred place of refuge. In fact, the New Zealand Herald reported back in November that 13,000 Americans expressed interest in living among the Kiwi in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. For the super-rich, New Zealand seems to have become the inside joke among those looking to use their wealth to survive the apocalypse.
But interest in this level of “apocalypse insurance” extends far beyond just changing locales. Said Hoffman, “Once you’ve done the Masonic handshake, they’ll be, like, ‘Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old [Intercontinental ballistic missile] silos, and they’re nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in.’”
Evan Osnos’s story includes chats with Reddit CEOs, Facebook executives, and investment bankers. They reported taking a wide range of precautions in anticipation of a societal breakdown, from LASIK surgery to stockpiling weapons to purchasing motorcycles for transportation across the coming wasteland. They shared jokes about FEMA, which doomsday preppers have redubbed “Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.”
The precise cause of the end-times appears to be of little significance to these would-be new New Zealanders. It could be brought on by a disastrous Trump presidency or some unforeseen meteorite. What matters is that they’re going to survive it and come out on top in the process. Steve Huffman, the founder of Reddit, said of his own plans, “I also have this somewhat egotistical view that I’m a pretty good leader. I will probably be in charge — or at least not a slave — when push comes to shove.”
The rest of the population is sure to have their own opinions about whether this all represents indulgent fantasizing or prescient anticipation, but the oncoming hellscape for which these business moguls are preparing is shaping up to host a highly plutocratic future. It’s less “survival of the fittest” and more “survival of the wealthy.” And now at least we know the capital city in our real-life iteration of The Hunger Games will probably be located in New Zealand.
Read the full story here: “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich.”