An Interview with Doug Casey and Joel Bowman
Joel Bowman: When we left off last, I think you and I were talking about burning one’s passport, which seems like a natural enough subject for a couple of anti-statists to address. While we’re on the topic, I can’t help but notice that the number of U.S. citizens who are renouncing their citizenship continues to rise. Last year was another record, in fact, up 25% from the year before. The absolute number is still relatively small, but it’s been growing steadily since the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act was passed in 2010. Is this a trend you see accelerating?
Doug Casey: Yes. It used to be that a U.S. passport was the most valuable of travel documents, and being a U.S. citizen had many, many advantages. Now there are no significant advantages to being a U.S. citizen and many, many disadvantages. For instance, it’s the only major country in the world that attempts to tax you simply because you’re a citizen, even if you never intend to enter the country again. And, as big and powerful as the U.S. government is, they can enforce their will on you. Being a U.S. citizen has turned from being an asset into being a liability. More and more people are going to renounce their citizenship every year.
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Joel: It’s incredible how quickly things can turn around. So what about America, then? I feel like there exists two mutually exclusive narratives when it comes to the story there. While a non-trivial percentage of the population firmly believes that Mr. Trump has set the country on a course to MAGA, an equally vociferous portion of the population believe him to be the devil incarnate. Are these simply twin delusions? What do you make of the situation?
Doug: Well I support neither the Republican nor the Democrat narrative. Frankly, a pox on both their houses. That said, I’m very glad Trump was elected because he’s not a card-carrying member of the Deep State, and he’s not Hillary Clinton. The very fact that the members of the Deep State hate him so much is a good sign. There’s truth to that old saying that “the enemy of my enemy may be my friend.”
Unfortunately he’s done some manifestly stupid things, like continuing the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, where Americans have precisely zero interest; most people can’t even locate the places on a map. And risking—perhaps starting-- trade wars with China and Europe. It could bring down the world economy—which is a house of cards.
On the bright side however, he’s made some genuine efforts to deregulate the economy. That’s a very big deal. And he’s put through some minor, but very welcome decreases in taxes. He’s trying to stem the mass migration of aliens into the US; it’s becoming serious enough to actually change American culture in a radical way. Last, I applaud his trying to create a rapprochement with North Korea; talking is always better than fighting.
Of course, it’s likely to end badly for him because we’re in a stock market bubble, and a bond market hyper-bubble. A real estate bubble too. These markets are all likely to roll over soon—worse than what happened in 2008. And, when they do, Trump will be blamed—whether or not it’s actually his fault.
The real problem is who we get for the next president. My guess is it’s going to be a Democrat, probably a left-wing general, because the only thing Americans trust anymore is the military. That’s quite a change, incidentally, from the ‘60s and ‘70s, when absolutely everybody hated and despised the U.S. military. Now everybody thinks the U.S. military is the best thing since sliced bread, and you’re supposed to say “thank you for your service” to anyone wearing a uniform. In fact, I hate to encourage heavily-armed government employees. It’s funny how things change.
Joel: And in such a short period of time. You hear it everywhere, people referring to the bulging archive of state-sponsored atrocities and saying, “Well, it could never happen here,” as if their own society is somehow magically immune to the reliable fallibility of state actors.
Doug: It’s disturbingly true. The fact is, members of the military are quite well compensated in terms of salary and benefits, both current and in retirement. Not to mention their new-found social standing. And it’s really not that dangerous a job, certainly not when compared with being, say, a roofer or a farmer or a trucker.
Joel: Not to mention that the roofer and the farmer and the trucker are actually adding value to the broader economy, while the military represents an enormous and growing cost to taxpayers.
Doug: The trillion dollars the US Government spends on “national security” every year is both bankrupting the country, and destroying what’s left of the freedoms they’re supposed to defend. Plus making loads of foreign enemies. The days of an affable GI Joe being welcomed with flowers and kisses in Europe at the end of WW2 are long gone.
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Joel: So, going back to your belief in nature over nurture, what’s your natural impulse when it comes to dealing with the U.S. today: Fight, or flight?
Doug: Look, the U.S. is still a very pleasant place to live. There are all kinds of conveniences. Things like Amazon Prime, excellent infrastructure, and retail stores everywhere. Even better, the average American is still much more entrepreneurial than most other nationalities. It’s an easy place to live—and consumer goods are cheaper than almost anywhere else in the world.
That said, a prudent American should definitely own a crib in some other country, in case things get scary in the U.S. As we’ve seen throughout history, things can get very scary very quickly. In 1910, for instance, nobody would have guessed that Russia would turn into the Soviet Union by the end of the decade. In 1930, nobody would have guessed that, only three years later, the National Socialists would be elected. Nobody would have guessed that, in Rwanda, a sleepy little central African country, a half-million people would be chopped to death with machetes. This type of thing happens all over the world and with great regularity. Even in the US, who would have guessed, in the 1850’s, that a decade later almost 3% of the population would die in the War Between the States?
Joel: Short of becoming one of the 7,000 Americans who annually burn their passport, what other steps can your average individual take to internationalize himself?
Doug: Well, to start with, you’ve got to do a bit of traveling. It’s cheaper and easier than ever with the advent of jet planes. The problem for most people, of course, is that they have a regular job. That takes them eight hours a day, five days a week, basically twelve months of the year. Holding down a conventional job makes it pretty hard for the average person in any country to diversify himself politically and geographically. Most people are barely making ends meet—even with booming financial markets.
That’s a real pity, because the clock is always ticking, as it were.
One very important thing you can do is figure out how to become self-employed-- not an employee. Preferably in a line of work you can do from anywhere in the world. There’s really no advantage to being a wage slave, whether you do that in the U.S. or in some other country. You’ve got to figure out how to provide value to the market, from anywhere, to anywhere. Hopefully we’ll be able to offer some viable suggestions along those lines in the months to come.
Joel: Even if you do manage to win the rat race, you’re still a rat.
Doug: Exactly. You probably only go around once in life. You don’t want to spend your time on a treadmill.
Joel: And what do you say to the “remainers,” who view those of us who leave our so-called “home countries” as somehow being traitorous or unpatriotic?
Doug: I’d say people who think that way, or feel that way, are possibly stupid. Certainly they’re thoughtless. They simply don’t understand that the place they are from is really just an accident of birth. They never ask themselves the question: Is the best country in the world the place where I just happened to be born? And why is that? Or do I think it’s the best place just because I happened to have been born there? I mean, you had people born in the Soviet Union or in China under Mao who were rabidly patriotic to those countries, even though they were perfectly horrible places. Perhaps it’s genetically inbred in the human animal to think that way—but I prefer to think a person can shape himself into any form he envisions. You don’t have to slavishly accept the cards you’re dealt at birth.
The best kinds of people are opportunity-seekers that go to places that offer opportunities and values that they share and believe in. Not those who act like potted plants, who just stay rooted in one place. Acting like a plant isn’t a good survival strategy for a human being.
Joel: I guess then it’s appropriate that, while you were accidentally born in America and I was accidentally born in Australia, we are having this conversation between Uruguay and Mexico.
Doug: Yes. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Joel: Thanks so much for your time, Doug. I guess the next time we shake hands will be when the International Man team meets in Freedom Fest in Las Vegas a week or so from today.
Doug: See you there.
Joel’s Note: One of the many pleasures in talking with Doug is that you know you can always count on a straight answer. No mealy-mouthed nonsense. No beating around the bush. And, certainly, no “political correctness.”
In life, as in investing, Doug has no problem going right to the heart of the matter. It’s no surprise, then, that in addition to being a true International Man, Doug also boasts one of the very best track records when it comes to investing. Whether it’s speculating on junior miners… getting out ahead of the pot bonanza, or making a mint on crypto currencies, Doug has been at the forefront of some of the biggest, most profitable trends in modern times.
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A note from John Hunt, MD (Doug’s coauthor)
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Tags: adventure, culture, digital diversfication, expat, expat issues, foreign residency, geopolitics, international diversification, internationalization, politics, renounce citizenship, second passport, taxes,