International Man: Prior to World War I, you didn’t need a passport to travel internationally. The ability for a free human being to travel without having to obtain government permission was a self-evident truth.
But that’s not how the modern passport system works.
Today, in order to travel, you need a passport, probably with one that contains biometric information such as digital fingerprints. And in order to get a passport, you need a government’s blessing.
In other words, travel is treated as if it’s a privilege. You need to ask for permission. Any government can restrict or revoke your passport for whatever reason it wants.
What are your thoughts on the concept of passports and how they’ve evolved over the years? Aren’t they just slave cards that show which government considers you their property?
Doug Casey: Yes, passports have become slave cards. Things have been changing for the worse, rapidly over the years. They were originally documents to facilitate travel; they now serve to restrict it.
There is an organization called the World Service Authority, founded by Gary Davis, whom I used to know. He was an American bomber pilot during World War II. Anyway after the war, Gary renounced his US citizenship and burned his passport in Paris to much brouhaha. It was an event partly because he was the son of Meyer Davis, a very famous band leader.
Gary found that he couldn’t travel outside of France because he didn’t have a passport. He decided to solve the problem by setting up the World Service Authority (WSA). He created a document that looked very much like a United Nations passport and used that to travel almost anywhere.
Gary became quite a world personality. I met him in the ’70s, and he personally issued me one of his passports. The World Service Authority and its passports were just a creation of his imagination, something he just made up. But why should the WSA’s passports be any less valid than those of the UN, or the Knights of Malta for that matter. Or those of micro countries like St. Kitts that sell them.
I used my World Service Authority passport for travel to Peru, Iceland, Honduras, Costa Rica, and French Polynesia in the ’70s and early ’80s, and it was accepted just like any other passport. And I had some real exotic travel adventures when it was turned down in some other places, like Rhodesia, Egypt, Morocco, and Senegal, among others.
Today, using it is out of the question, because it doesn’t have the necessary microchips and such. All these governments are now hooked by computer. They take themselves very seriously these days.
Today, it’s useless for travel, except perhaps for outlying border posts in the Third World. But it looks like a regular passport—although it no longer mimics the UN passport or quotes from the UN Charter. It’s good for checking in to hotels, identifying yourself at a casino. Make it look more “official” by putting a few stamps of one sort or another in it.
The fact that not so long ago—even as late as the ’80s—you could travel on a WSA doc is indicative of the direction things have gone. And it’s getting worse.
Not only do you have to have a government passport, but you must have a preapproved visa to enter a country in many cases. In fact, the number of countries that will allow you in without a preapproved visa is the major determinant of a passport’s quality. If you have one from a backward Third World country, your passport is barely better than a WSA document. A US passport is visa-free in 185 countries. The best passport is from Japan, which offers access to 190 countries visa-free, followed by South Korea and Singapore with access to 189 countries.
Let me point out something very serious for Americans. If you’re accused—not adjudicated, but accused—of owing over $50,000 to the US government, your passport can be taken from you. That apparently happened to over 300,000 Americans last year.
Now, I don’t believe most of what I read, because reporting is so bad and can be fabricated. But I believe this. Why? Because it happened to a man I know well, and I have this right from the horse’s mouth. He’s accused of owing the US government $85,000 in taxes. He showed me a letter from the government saying that his passport was going to be invalidated if the taxes were not paid by a certain date.
This is a very serious thing. Your passport isn’t your property. It belongs to the state that issues it.
International Man: This seems like a good reason for someone to want to have a second passport.
Doug Casey: There are many benefits to having a second passport. If you have a second passport and something goes wrong with your first one—perhaps something as simple as losing it—that second passport will bail you out.
US citizens will find it hard to impossible to open a bank or brokerage account—or even a safe deposit box—almost anywhere outside of the US. A passport from another country may solve that problem.
It’s incumbent upon anybody who wants to maintain his freedom to have at least two passports. Among other things, if you fall into the wrong hands abroad, it can be quite dangerous to be a US citizen. On the other hand, terrorists aren’t known for singling out all the Lithuanians on a plane.
International Man: It seems the economic, political, and social situation will continue to deteriorate in the US and Europe. So, why do so few Americans and Europeans seek the political diversification benefits of having a second passport?
Doug Casey: Because they have the mentality of a medieval serf. In medieval times, most people never went any farther than a day’s walk from where they lived. They were afraid that there might be dragons that lived over the hill.
Perhaps this is a genetic fault with humans. They tend to be born in one place, and they die in the same place. Probably out of fear. I understand that about 15% of Americans have never even been outside their home state, forget about a foreign country. And when they do travel abroad, it’s generally on a packaged tour.
Throughout history, all kinds of people—for reasons that might have seemed unbelievable to them only a year or so before—have had to leave their native countries.
Any country can turn into a Russia in the ’20s, Germany in the ’30s, China in the ’40s, Cuba in the ’50s, the Congo in the ’60s, Vietnam in the ’70s, Afghanistan in the ’80s, Bosnia in the ’90s, or Venezuela today. These are just examples off the top of my head.
Only a fool tries to survive by acting like a vegetable, staying rooted to one place, when the political and economic climate changes for the worse.
And if they didn’t have a second passport, where are they going to go? Where will they be accepted? What are they going to do if all their assets are trapped in the wrong country?
International Man: Economic citizenship programs are legitimate government programs in various countries. They offer people the opportunity to make an investment and obtain citizenship in a matter of months.
That being said, generally, is it easier or harder to get a second passport these days? What is the trend?
Doug Casey: Easier, at least in some ways, and this is a good counter-trend. There are an increasing number of countries where the government is essentially bankrupt—anxious for cash—that will sell economic citizenships.
Right now there are about a dozen economic citizenship programs. They range in price from about $100,000 on the low end—plus various fees and attorney costs—up to about $2 million on the top end for a European Union passport. It takes about six months to have the paperwork completed.
There are other ways to get a second passport. A number of European countries offer citizenship through ancestry, including Ireland, Poland, Italy, Lithuania, and others. This is also true for Jews, with Israel.
Then there are other countries, mostly in Latin America, that offer high quality passports, where the residence requirements are not onerous and the language requirements are minimal. In as little as two years in the case of Argentina and Uruguay or three years in the case of Paraguay, you can become a citizen and have a very valuable and legitimate passport.
International Man: Since 1993, the Caribbean island of Dominica—not to be confused with the Dominican Republic—has offered one of the most affordable and credible economic citizenship programs.
Most people don’t know this, but you played an integral part in the creation of that program. What’s the story behind this?
Doug Casey: I’d like to think that I did anyway. I went to Dominica around the time of the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.
What I used to do in those days, when I visited a new country, was open the Yellow Pages and look for real estate agents and lawyers, because generally they know everybody. They are centers of power and they’ll talk to anybody, because you might be a potential client. Also art gallery owners, since I’m interested in art.
I used to set up appointments with them. I often established rapport with somebody, and I’d be invited to a dinner or party. Or be referred on to a colleague.
Anyway, in Dominica, I met with this one lawyer. Let’s call him Mr. X.
“Oh, you’d enjoy meeting my brother, who’s the director of the Industrial Development Bank.”
That’s a rather impressive title for a little country that has no industry.
He called his brother and set up a dinner appointment for us that night. He’s a black guy, I’m a white guy, and he’s suspicious of me. Perhaps he thought I might be an Uhuru jumper, someone just opportunistically looking to exploit the country.
By way of background, when the US invaded Grenada, the face of the invasion was not Ronald Reagan. It was Eugenia Charles, who was the president of Dominica at that time. The US government typically prefers a front man, a beard, or a coalition, when they’re looking to invade someplace or other.
They paid Dominica $1 million for Mrs. Charles to act as the leader of the invasion force. Dominica sent a couple of policemen to tag along with the Marines.
With that in mind, I knew that $1 million was meaningful money for these people.
So I said to the lawyer’s brother, “Look, this is a beautiful island. But most of it is crown land. It’s just dormant jungle, mountaintops—basically dead capital. Why don’t we take a mountain someplace and put it in a corporation, so it has an asset. Then we’ll sell shares in the corporation. Let’s say $50,000 would merit an economic citizenship, to help develop the country. Your new citizens would be wealthy and capable of investing more. Although I suspect very few will become full-time residents…”
At the time, South Africans and people from Hong Kong had real trouble traveling and really needed a second passport. I felt confident that we could market 1,000 economic citizenships at $50,000 a piece, or $50 million in total. And remember, that would be about $200 million today.
This got his attention immediately.
Then I said, “Look, we can take it further. Now that we have a corporation, which has $50 million of cash and some real estate, we can take it public in New York, London, and Tokyo, and raise hundreds of millions of dollars. And with that, we can do some amazing things. We can turn Dominica into a real destination. A banking and financial center. An international tax haven. The corporation could become highly profitable, and the shares could become very valuable.”
He was pretty excited about the prospect, and I said, “But it’s better than that. When we take it public in New York, let’s say at $10 a share, people who are of significant help to the corporation—well, people like you, for instance—might get a million warrants to buy shares at 10 cents.”
The conversation stopped for a minute, which is a long time. He was thinking about it. I was hoping, since he was the director of the Development Bank, he could do the arithmetic.
Then he said, “You know, that’s a very interesting idea, Mr. Casey. I want you to tell me more about those warrants.”
This is the way these things work. People don’t do things unless there’s something of benefit to them, personally.
Ten minutes later he walked off, got on the phone to President Charles, and set up an appointment for me with her the next morning, to talk about how we might get the ball rolling with economic citizenships.
It turned out, however, that her ailing father died that night, and I got a late call, canceling the appointment. It was going to be a Caribbean funeral; that could’ve taken a week for all I knew. Idiotically, I boarded my flight the next afternoon. I should have stuck around there as long as necessary. Along with any number of paths not taken, this might have changed the entire course of my life.
Over the years, though, I’ve found that you have to hold people’s hands in these places, to keep them on track. Otherwise you experience what’s known as the “wheels up syndrome.” As soon as they see the wheels on your departing plane are up, they forget all about the plan and go back to whatever they were doing before.
But I am convinced that Mr. X’s brother, the director of the Development Bank, kept that idea in his head, and that led to Dominica launching its economic citizenship program years later. It takes forever to get anything done in these places, but I think that I was the first one to come up with the idea, and Dominica was one of the first countries to put it into effect.
I’m going to have to go back there, look these guys up, and ask them for a free citizenship, as a kind of compensation.
Fast forward to today. As I said, there are now about a dozen countries that sell economic citizenships. I suspect there are going to be a lot more in the future, simply because most Third World governments are bankrupt and desperate for all the income they can get. Unfortunately, they invariably just fritter the proceeds away—which was not my plan. In fact, talking to subsequent governments, I’ve significantly augmented the plan I first pitched to Dominica.
But that’s a story for another time.
Editor’s Note: Doug Casey and his team just released a new complimentary report, “The Easiest Way to a Second Passport.” It contains all the details of one of the easiest countries to obtain a second passport from. Click here to download it now.