You probably have a favorite place. Maybe it’s the beach in Bali, the ski slopes in Colorado, or your own back yard. Whatever the spot, it’s your favorite for good reason.
Doug Casey has a favorite place, too. And it’s a place well worth hearing about.
Doug has travelled to 155 countries, making him by far the most well-traveled person I know. But winning the passport stamp contest isn’t what sets him apart. It’s his unique, historically informed perspective.
When Doug found his favorite place, he decided to build a freedom-lover’s paradise there. You can read all about it in our chat below. I think you’ll find it insightful and entertaining.
Until next time,
Nick Giambruno: Let’s start with the big question. What is your favorite place in the world and how did you settle on it?
Doug Casey: The question is, which of the world’s countries is “best”?
There are a lot of possible answers to that question, and they change over time. When my grandparents left the Old World, there was no question that the US was the best choice. I’m extremely happy they chose to move there and not act like potted plants, rooted to the soil where they were born.
But things change. For decades, America has been changing… in the wrong direction. There’s too much fear. Too much force. Too many taxes. Too much regulation. Too much debt. It’s become as homogenized as an endless field of genetically engineered Monsanto corn, and is becoming just as unpalatable. The system itself has become unstable. I’ve been to 155 countries, many of them numerous times, and lived in ten of them. I see the world as my oyster. All that travel has given me the opportunity to make some interesting comparisons.
I ruled out Africa, which is where I would go if I were 30 years younger and I wanted to make a bunch of money. But as a lifestyle choice, it’s a nonstarter.
I ruled out most of Europe, though there are still some interesting places there, because it’s likely to be on the front lines of what may resemble World War 3, as well as the unfolding conflict with Islam. Plus, it’s overtaxed, overregulated, completely corrupt, and the population has an extremely socialistic mind-set. Further, all the European countries are members of organizations such as NATO, OECD, and the EU, which carry the potential to drag them into every fresh crisis that arises in that historically troubled region, the current dust-up with Russia being a good example.
I’m a big fan of Southeast Asia. The problem is that the region is full of people, which is fine if you want to live in a city, but I also like wide open spaces. And if you aren’t Thai or Chinese, they will never truly accept you into their society. They may treat you as an honored guest, but more likely as a white ghost; you’ll never truly integrate. That isn’t always a bad thing, but I like to at least have the option.
So that brings us to Latin America. I ruled out Central America because, frankly, it has no class… the land of the Frito Bandito and all that. I’ve been to every country in Latin America numerous times and I could talk about all of them at length, but by process of elimination, it basically boiled down to Argentina.
Of course, Argentina has problems, but regardless of the tremendously bad press it sometimes gets, it has fewer problems than any other place I can think of, and far more advantages.
Nick Giambruno: How does Argentina’s government impact your day-to-day life?
Doug Casey: Not very much at all, because you have to remember that Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, but has a population of only 41 million people, most of them concentrated in and around Buenos Aires. That means most of the country is empty.
So once you’re out of the capital, it’s truly wide open spaces. When people are widely dispersed, it tends to be much more relaxed, almost an Old West kind of atmosphere.
The government doesn’t bother me, at all, when I’m there. I’m viewed as a valuable foreign investor, which is quite different from the way I’m treated in the United States: as a milk cow on the way to becoming a beef cow.
So that’s point number one.
Point two is that, although it’s true that everybody who goes into the government in Argentina—just as in the United States or Europe or anywhere—has a very statist and collectivist mind-set, of all the countries in Latin America, Argentina has by far the strongest libertarian, or classical liberal, tradition. There isn’t even a second-place contender when it comes to that. It’s a very sophisticated, well-educated, outward-looking country.
Look, every country in the world has its problems, but from the point of view of living there, Argentina actually has fewer of them. In addition, from a cultural point of view, it’s one of the most desirable places in the world.
The Argentines like to make jokes about their origins, and they’re funny because they’re true. One goes, “The Mexicans came from the Aztecs, the Guatemalans from the Mayans, the Peruvians from the Incans, and the Brazilians from the jungles. We came from the boats.” Of course that’s true. Argentina is, by far, the most European country in Latin America, both ethnically and psychologically. It’s an outward-looking country; all of the others are insular and inward-looking. The other Latin countries tend to resent the Argentines, who are perceived as elitists.
Another popular joke is, “What is an Argentine? He’s an Italian, who speaks Spanish, lives in a French house, and thinks he’s British.” That’s true too, although it doesn’t give enough credit to all the Irish, German, and Jewish immigrants. In other words, Argentines are more like Americans or Canadians than, say, Ecuadorians or Venezuelans.
At many dinners and parties English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian are spoken interchangeably by everyone at the table. That doesn’t happen in too many places in the world. The place is more like Europe than Europe itself, but lacks the destructive EU and millions of highly problematical migrants.
Nick Giambruno: You’ve written a lot about the coming Greater Depression, which could hit full force in 2017. If and when that happens, how does a place like Cafayate, in the northwest Salta Province, rate as a bolt-hole?
Doug Casey: Well, that’s one of the fundamental reasons I zeroed in on Cafayate.
Put it this way: When I’m in the US, I live in Aspen, Colorado, and everybody in Aspen is looking for the next Aspen, because the house prices are $5, $10, $15 million, or more. But although everyone is looking for the next Aspen, the next Aspen doesn’t exist in the US, or even in North America. Even taking the whole world into account, there are just a handful of candidates, and it turns out that Cafayate is one of those.
For starters, although it has its own jet airport, it’s in a very isolated part of Argentina, sited in a stunning valley surrounded by mountains, with not much of anything there other than the town of Cafayate. And that is surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of vineyards. Of course, wherever wine grapes grow, generally the climate is perfect, and people love it.
So, we have this little town of 10,000 people, a tourist town, a wine town like a young Napa Valley—it’s ideal for pleasurable living. But to expand on your question, on a macro scale, Argentina isn’t involved in any entangling foreign alliances or conflicts. This is also a very important plus.
Well, there is the problem with the Falklands, but there’s nothing the government can do about it because the average Argentine despises both the army and the police. This is a very good thing compared to, say, a country like Chile, where they actually love their army and police, which I don’t find a good thing at all.
I’ll illustrate the point by relating that the Argentines had a destroyer, and a few years ago that destroyer actually sank at its moorings at the dock and keeled over 45 degrees from lack of maintenance. That’s how competent the Argentine military is at this point.
So, Argentina isn’t going to get involved in any conflicts, either with its nearby neighbors or countries further afield, and I like that.
Argentina is isolated and largely insulated from the rest of the world’s problems. It could do well as the Greater Depression deepens.
Nick Giambruno: What about Argentina’s economy?
Doug Casey: I came to Argentina for the lifestyle. But value made it a great place to combine business with pleasure. And I’m not just talking about the low cost of living and high standard of living.
For years, my friends thought I’d gone off the deep end, putting millions of dollars into the “country where money goes to die.” But they forgot that the time to buy is when you’re afraid to, when things look grim.
Everybody understands—intellectually—that you should “buy cheap and sell dear,” but they act according to their emotions. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. The same people who have been afraid of Argentina, because they hear terrible things about its government’s finances, are currently unafraid to buy a $700,000 500-square-foot “crap shack” in LA’s Compton ghetto.
Over the years I’ve become accustomed to being paid to live in places that I like: Aspen, Marbella, Hong Kong, Palm Beach, Vancouver, and Auckland, among others. They were all great values when I wrote about them. All of those cities have done vastly better than the average, even while the average has done very well. But the great post-WWII real estate boom is at its peak and coming to an end for many reasons. Now there are only pockets of value—anomalies—left in the world, where appreciation of property will, in effect, pay you to live there. Argentina is one of the very few places where it’s great to live, and you’re going to be paid for just being there.
The opportunity has been created by the chronic mismanagement of the Peronist Argentine state. There are many bad things about a disastrously managed economy, currency, and banking system… for locals. But, from a foreigner’s point of view, they’re a blessing in disguise. For one thing, a total lack of mortgage money means that the prices of property are real, not inflated by borrowed money. What that means is, in Argentina, prices for equivalent houses and land are 10–20% of those in North America. That’s about to change; one’s going up, and the other is headed down.
I’ve said for years that the country would boom if it only had a government that was simply not insane. That’s not asking much. But in the 60 years since Perón first took control it hasn’t had one. Until now.
I admit to being not only delighted but surprised by the election of Mauricio Macri.
It’s too early to tell, but Macri’s election has the potential to be as radical a change as the rise of Deng was in China, overthrowing decades of Maoist stagnation.
Will the trend hold? Again, I’m fairly optimistic. It’s not just that the strength of the coming boom is likely to get a lot of people to put two and two together at last. But Argentina has always had—by far, there isn’t even a remote competitor—the strongest classical liberal/libertarian tradition in Latin America. And, after the US, one of the strongest in the world. It’s been quashed since Perón, but it’s making a comeback. The free market reforms that Pinochet made in Chile transformed that country from a backward socialist-oriented mining province into the best economy on the continent. But the Chileans have been backsliding because they never had the right philosophical underpinning. The Argentines do, and they’re going to rediscover it.
Nick Giambruno: What do you like most about Argentina?
Doug Casey: For me, it’s the personal freedom.
Of course, with my middle-class values, I appreciate the low cost of living in Argentina, but what I really love is that nobody bothers me. There is a very limited and nonthreatening police presence, and outside the bad parts—which every big city has—of Buenos Aires, a very peaceful country.
On a more personal level, I love that I can get up in the morning in Cafayate and work out in the Athletic Club for an hour, followed by an hour-long massage for $25, then maybe ride my horse for a while before doing some business on the Internet.
In the evening, I might decide to wander over to the Grace Cafayate hotel for a drink and to smoke a cigar in the cigar bar there. Then maybe play a game of poker with some of the gang.
So the lifestyle there is perfect. And I speak as somebody who spends a lot of time in Aspen, which is supposed to have the best lifestyle in the world. But I find Cafayate a huge improvement. Several of my friends from Aspen have actually made the move.
I suggest you take advantage of the cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere to come down here and take a look. For the lifestyle and the diversification, of course, but since prices haven’t really started to move yet, for the financial opportunity. Spend some time in BA. Consider going to Patagonia, and seeing San Martín de los Andes. Mendoza is worth a visit. And definitely come to Cafayate, in Salta Province. I’ll be there at our event (more on that below), and will be happy to share a glass of wine with you. And a cigar, if you’re also an aficionado.
If you’ve been looking for a chance to play a big trend and buy at the bottom, this is it. Don’t let the boat sail without you.
Nick Giambruno: Doug just mentioned our next special event at La Estancia de Cafayate, his sporting and lifestyle estate in beautiful Salta Province.
Here are a few more facts about La Estancia de Cafayate:
Owners from 33 countries give it an international flavor, but the bulk is made up of North Americans, Europeans, and Argentines.
It has 50 completed homes and another 15 under construction.
The property has zero debt against it.
Most of the lots have been sold.
All of the primary infrastructure has been built.
Seventy hectares of grapes are producing enough juice to make 200,000 bottles of wine a year.
The 18-hole golf course is rated in Argentina’s top 10 (not bad in a country with more golf courses than the rest of South America combined).
The Athletic Club & Spa is, hands down, the best in Argentina and one of the best in South America.
The five-star Grace Cafayate hotel and villas, developed in conjunction with a Greek billionaire, are open, featuring a gourmet restaurant right on the property.
It offers tennis, bocce, squash, indoor resistance pools, and extensive horse facilities (including a 17-kilometer trail on the property, polo, a wonderful clubhouse with great food, and much more).
And it’s all situated a few minutes from the most charming small town in Argentina, a place just like you’d imagine Napa Valley was 50 years ago.
We’ve just confirmed the dates for Doug's next private retreat at La Estancia de Cafayate… and you are invited.
This exclusive event takes place April 3–7.
You’ll join Doug Casey and me in an immersive experience of the good life in Cafayate. The week will be filled with exciting social events including cocktail parties, horseback riding adventures, golf, tennis, luxuriating at the athletic club and spa, dining out on Cafayate’s scenic plaza, and generally enjoying Argentina.
There will also be plenty of opportunities to network with successful, like-minded individuals from all around the world.
This retreat is a chance to fully appreciate why, out of all the places in the world, Doug chose Argentina—and specifically Cafayate—as the place to build his freedom-seeker’s lifestyle community.
As you probably know, Argentina’s government went through a massive shake-up just over a year ago. A free-market advocate replaced a dysfunctional populist president, and the country is now brimming with renewed optimism.
With its markets opening up, there’s a good chance Argentina will offer some very attractive investment returns in the months ahead. So be sure to mark the dates: April 3–7.
The only way to fully appreciate the opportunities in Argentina and the good life at Doug’s La Estancia de Cafayate is to visit in person.
Space is extremely limited. For more information about this special retreat and details on how to attend, send an email to JoinNick@LaEst.com. Let us know you are an International Man reader to get priority.