The Gold Report: Doug, we are at your conference in Tucson, Arizona, the day after former Congressman and presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul gave the keynote speech to a sold-out crowd. How did you two first meet?
Doug Casey: It was about 30 years ago. Ron used to attend my Eris Society (named after the Greek goddess of discord) meetings in Aspen, Colorado. Everyone from Sonny Barger of the Hells Angels motorcycle club to Burt Rutan, inventor of SpaceShipOne, would meet to discuss ideas.
TGR: In those 30 years have Ron Paul's ideas changed much?
DC: Ron believes he was born a libertarian. He's right. I believe in Pareto's Law, the 80–20 rule. I prefer to think that 80% of humans are basically decent, which is to say that they were born libertarian oriented. But it takes a while to crystallize what that means. Ron and I, and many others, have moved beyond gut libertarianism to a structured, intellectual libertarianism.
Some people see the same things we see through a totally different lens, however. Those people tend to be the other 20%, or perhaps 20% of that 20%, or even 20% of that 20% of that 20%. They range from being wishy-washy on ethical subjects to being sociopaths or even outright criminals. These people are at the opposite end of the spectrum from us in every way.
TGR: One of the things Ron Paul mentioned last night is that a true libertarian advocates for the freedom of everyone to do what he or she wants as long as it's not hurting someone else. This includes people who don't agree with your views.
DC: Exactly. As opposed to busybodies who want to tell everybody else what to do. They think they know best and are perfectly willing to put a gun to your head to make sure that you do what they think is right.
TGR: We are meeting in the midst of a government shutdown. Ron Paul called it a paid holiday for federal workers. Are we doomed to an endless cycle of these man-made crises?
DC: I would like nothing better than to see the shutdown go on forever, but unfortunately the government is only shutting down things that inconvenience people, like monuments and national parks, things that should not be owned by the government to start with. I wish they would shut down all their praetorian agencies, like the FBI, the CIA and the NSA. Shut down the IRS. I am much more concerned about Silk Road being shutdown than I am the U.S. government being shut down.
TGR: Do you think regular people care whether government is shut down or not?
DC: Over half of Americans are living off the state, receiving more from the state than they're putting into it, which makes them receivers of stolen property. They see the government as a cornucopia and therefore a good thing so they want it to be open and sending them checks.
The situation is fairly hopeless at this point and it's likely to get a lot worse before it gets better. Trends in motion, in whatever direction, tend to stay in motion until they hit a crisis at which point they transform into something else. This trend is not only in motion, but it's accelerating in the wrong direction.
TGR: Ron Paul said that the charade on the American people is that the two parties are different, that actually it's not that we need a third party, but we need a second party. Your presentation compared the end of the Roman Empire to the state of the U.S. today. Is the current political system doing a better or worse job of protecting freedom and liberty in the U.S. compared to ancient Rome?
DC: The founders consciously modeled the U.S. after Rome, everything from the way government buildings looked to having an assembly and a senate. We are similar right down to the Latin mottos. When you model yourself after something, you eventually tend to resemble it. That partly explains why we are on the slippery slope of constant wars, less freedom, more power for the executive, destruction of the currency and barbarians at the gate. Another part is the natural tendency of all empires to reach their level of incompetence and then decline. It's to be expected. Entropy dictates all things wind down and degrade.
As I pointed out in my speech, America has gone through periods of what paleontologists call punctuated disequilibrium. Things evolve gently in one direction and then experience massive change very quickly. I'm afraid that the U.S. might be approaching a phase similar to the one the Romans experienced before Diocletian made himself emperor. He completely changed the character of Rome; he believed that in order to save Rome, he had to destroy it.
As we go deeper into this crisis, of which we're just currently in the early stages, there's every chance that the American people are going to look for a savior, a strong man, probably a military person because Americans love and trust their military for some reason. I see the military as not much more than a heavily armed version of the post office, but I suspect that we'll find someone who is the equivalent of Diocletian, who will change the whole nature of society radically in the wrong direction.
TGR: Do you believe in changing from within the system or just getting out from under the system? Would you ever run for public office?
DC: I think the situation is beyond retrieval at this point. People generally get the government they deserve. At this point, Americans are much more interested in freebies than they are in personal freedom. They are like scared little rabbits. They're much more interested in safety than they are in personal liberty. I think they're going to get what they deserve good and hard over the years to come. I would much rather watch what goes on in the U.S. on my widescreen TV in the lap of luxury in another country than be in the epicenter of things here. The system is beyond the point where it can be reformed.
"I prefer to think that 80% of humans are basically decent, which is to say that they were born libertarian oriented."
And, no, I have zero desire to run for office. Plus, anyone who runs for office disqualifies himself for being in a position of power by the very fact that he wants to be in that position. My friend Harry Browne always used to say that when he ran for president on the Libertarian ticket the first thing he'd do if he were elected would be to quit—at least after rescinding all outstanding Executive Orders and recalling all the troops. Anyway, even if Ron Paul had been elected president and if he tried to make the necessary changes, the public would have rioted, Congress would have impeached him, and the heads of the CIA, FBI and the military would have sat him down and subtly intimated that they have the power and he shouldn't do anything they don't want done—or undone.
I don't think a change can be made at this point. I'm just interested in seeing what happens when we really get involved in a really big crisis, which I think is going to happen in the next couple of years as we go back into the trailing edge of the economic hurricane that started in 2007.
TGR: One of the things that has come up as part of the shutdown debate is healthcare. Do you have health insurance? And, how would you control healthcare costs?
DC: First of all, I don't call it health insurance because it doesn't insure your health. That's something that you're personally responsible for, not some third party. I call it medical insurance. Just as I call the FDA the Federal Death Authority because it probably kills more people every year than the Department of Defense does in a typical decade by slowing down the approval and hugely raising the cost of new drugs and technologies.
Getting to back to your question, no, I don't have medical insurance. If anything goes wrong with my body, I'll treat it as I would if something goes wrong with my car. I'll find the best doctor elsewhere in the world where medical costs can be 20% of what they are in this country. I'll pay for it in cash. I don't want to have to fight with an insurance company, or the government, about what's covered or not.
The whole idea of everybody having medical insurance is a corruption that arose during World War II when companies used insurance to attract workers. Then we had Medicare and then Medicaid. These are the reasons costs have escalated. In a free market society, medical costs should have collapsed and gone down in the same way as the cost of computers have collapsed and gone down even as they've gotten vastly better. People think they need the government in medicine, but it's been totally counterproductive. It's done the opposite of what was intended.
TGR: One of the things Ron Paul mentioned is that his speeches on college campuses, including UC Berkeley, have been some of the most well received. Do you have hope for the next generation?
DC: Yes, there is reason for hope over the longer term. Generally, older people in this country have voted all these "benefits" for themselves, and they don't want to have their rice bowls broken. The younger people are being turned into indentured servants to pay for these benefits. Young people are figuring this out.
"I don't have medical insurance. If anything goes wrong with my body, I'll treat it as I would if something goes wrong with my car."
Another worrisome thing is that a lot of young people have indentured themselves by taking on huge amounts of college debt; $1.2 trillion is the current number. They can't even discharge it through bankruptcy, although many are unable to pay it. More and more are deciding that doing four years in a college, to experience indoctrination from wrongheaded professors, is a complete misallocation of both their time and their money.
If I had to do it again, I definitely would not go to college. I recommend others skip college, unless they need to learn a specific technical set of skills, such as doctoring or lawyering or engineering or a science where you need lab work. Most kids today, however, are going off to college for things like gender studies, political science and English. These are things you should learn on your own, on your own time, at no cost. Meanwhile, avoid the indoctrination of the creatures who hang out in university faculty rooms who teach because they are incapable of doing anything else.
TGR: Ron Paul intimated that we're in a middle of a revolution. You said that the solution to our problems would be less command and control and more entrepreneurs. Are the small business owners the real revolutionaries?
DC: They could and should be, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to start a business because of the regulatory and tax environment in the U.S. Smart people are leaving in droves. There just aren't enough left to change things. I'm afraid we're just going to have to let things take their course.
The main function that Ron Paul has served was educating people, which is necessary and laudable. But, the odds of him succeeding in changing things are close to zero.
TGR: You talked about the role of education and Ron Paul mentioned the power of the Internet to circulate new ideas based on the theory that ideas have consequences. Your ideas are having an impact thanks to the power of the Internet. Does that bode well for the future?
DC: It does. The Internet is the best thing that's happened since Gutenberg invented movable type and the printing press; it's a marvelous thing. That's exactly why the government wants to regulate the Internet. It sees it as a huge danger.
TGR: Does suppressing ideas ever work? Is it working in China?
DC: Actually, in many ways China is freer than the U.S., but that's not one of them.
If you are a businessman and you keep your nose out of politics, it actually is freer. You'll have less taxes, less regulation in China than you would in the U.S. But instead of emulating the free part of China, the U.S. government is trying to copy the Internet restrictions because it sees the Internet as a danger to the existing order. And they're right.
TGR: But didn't the governments of Middle Eastern countries find out that ideas have a life of their own and they find a way to spread despite attempts to shut them down?
DC: They do, so let's hope for the best.
TGR: Finally, Ron Paul said that things are worse than the government will admit and the idea of economic growth this year is a dream. He said we need to be serious, but not despondent. Make financial plans, but have fun doing it. Do you agree and are you having fun yet?
DC: I am having fun. I'm doing this not because I need the money, but because it's amusing and it's good karma to sow dissention in the ranks of the enemy.
TGR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
DC: Thank you.
The audio recordings of the Casey Research 2013 Summit are available here.
Doug Casey, chairman of Casey Research LLC, is the international investor personified. He's spent substantial time in more than 175 different countries so far in his lifetime, residing in 12 of them. And Casey literally wrote the book on crisis investing. In fact, he's done it twice. After "The International Man: The Complete Guidebook to the World's Last Frontiers" in 1976, he came out with "Crisis Investing: Opportunities and Profits in the Coming Great Depression" in 1979. His sequel to this groundbreaking book, which anticipated the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry and rewarded readers who followed his recommendations with spectacular returns, came in 1993, with "Crisis Investing for the Rest of the Nineties." In between, Casey's "Strategic Investing: How to Profit from the Coming Inflationary Depression" broke records for the largest advance ever paid for a financial book.
Casey has appeared on NBC News, CNN and National Public Radio. He's been a guest of David Letterman, Larry King, Merv Griffin, Charlie Rose, Phil Donahue, Regis Philbin and Maury Povich. He's been featured in periodicals such as Time, Forbes, People, US, Barron's and the Washington Post—not to mention countless articles he's written for his own websites, publications and subscribers. Casey Research currently produces 11 publications on a variety of investment sectors and maintains two websites.
Want to read more Gold Report interviews like this? Sign up for our free e-newsletter, and you'll learn when new articles have been published. To see a list of recent interviews with industry analysts and commentators, visit our Streetwise Interviews page.
From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned and may make purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise.