Doug Casey on Opting Out

Casey has been on a roll lately. He covers a number of topics in an extensive interview he conducted. Below are some excerpts.

Doug: I’m in Punta del Este, Uruguay, which is a fashionable international beach resort in the backward little socialist country of Uruguay. It’s actually quite pleasant. But then I spent a couple of weeks in the Congo between wars and thought that was quite pleasant too. So perhaps I’m not as discriminating as some…

Kenli: Sounds very nice. How do you choose your locations? Is there a tradeoff between sunshine and socialist governments?

Doug: Actually, it’s hard to find a non-socialist, non-fascist or non-statist/collectivist/ progressive government anywhere in the world today. There’s almost no place you can go to escape them. They cover the face of the earth like a skin disease. And they’re all becoming more virulent and aggressive, which is disturbing.

Kenli: So you might as well take it with sunshine?

Doug: Governments that are located in tropical areas do tend to be more overtly socialist; they’re mostly undisguised kleptocracies… that’s the bad news. The good news is that they also tend to be much more lazy and incompetent, and therefore they aren’t as able to aggress against you as effectively as the Americans and the Europeans, simply because they are so backward and incompetent. Secondly, they’re even more corrupt than those in the advanced countries, so even though they’re theoretically more repressive, with more laws and more socialism, it’s actually much easier to deal with them. Corruption is a double-edged sword from that point of view. So I prefer being in these Third World countries.

Doug: Exactly. From my point of view, if anybody is asking for a job and they start out with their educational credentials, it immediately makes me question their basic method of thinking. There are three important verbs in all languages: have, do, and be. Unfortunately, most people think that “have” is important. “I have a degree” and so forth. That’s the least important verb; “having” something is relatively trivial. Like having an automobile, having a degree says little about your character and real abilities. At least ideally, having something is the consequence of doing something; doing is much more important than having. But what’s most important is being something, so people should concentrate on actions and knowledge that increases their “being”-ness. That in turn will allow them to increase their “doing”-ness, and that will give them the “having”-ness they want. But idiotically most people look at it completely backward, and they just want the things or think that the things, like a college degree, mean something. Simply having something has got nothing to do with what you can do or who you are. Perhaps a degree can be, as the Catholics might say, “an outward sign of inward grace.” But in today’s world, everybody has a degree. And things everybody has are of questionable value.

Doug: Even though technology is advancing rapidly, I think that civilization as a whole is declining in many ways. I don’t think that the economic, political, or social aspects of life are going to get better again until a big “reset” button is pushed. It seems to happen every couple hundred years, more or less. I often refer to the second law of thermodynamics, which states in essence that all systems wind down over time; it’s the law of entropy. The thing is that all institutions tend to get bigger, more bloated, and more inefficient as time goes on until the necessary inputs of energy to maintain themselves become so great that they just collapse of their own weight. That’s how empires fall; it’s how bureaucracies collapse. I think that’s actually happening throughout most of the developed world at this point. That’s what all the debt in the world is about, the high levels of taxation and regulation. I’m pessimistic from that point of view.

Although I’ve got to say that at the same time, there’s cause for optimism because the average person intuitively knows that in order to survive—unless he’s a parasite– he has to produce more than he consumes, and save the difference. That creates capital, and that’s how the world gets better; the problem is that the state encourages a large part of society to be parasites.

The second cause for optimism is that there are more scientists and engineers alive today than in all the world’s history put together. They’re doing what scientists and engineers do, and that’s creating more wealth. So those two things together explain why material conditions in the world tend to get better even while the moral and ethical foundations are weakening. Meanwhile, you have the problem of entropy working against us. The interplay of factors is complex. That’s why it’s so hard to make predictions about what’s going to come next.

Kenli: Along the line of giving advice to young people right now, theoretically let’s say again you hadn’t been wise enough to opt out of university, so let’s say fresh out of Georgetown, right now and with the debt that came with it, what would be your first steps toward living the life you’re living now?

Doug: Well, first of all, continue reading all that you can in your spare time, so that you’re a sponge for knowledge, in all areas. It is only with knowledge that you can take advantage of opportunities, and even recognize the opportunities that present themselves to you.

The second thing I would do would be to get out into the world, leave your native village wherever that is, and gain experience. Try to get as many jobs of as many types, doing as many different things as you can while you’re still young and people don’t look askance at you for doing things that might seem lowly in nature. Save 10% of every dollar that comes in the door before you even buy food, so that you can build capital and create the freedom it provides for yourself.

The third thing I would do would be to travel as extensively as you can and meet as many people as you can wherever you go in the world. And think entrepreneurially—don’t think in terms of looking for jobs; think in terms of what goods and services can I provide to these people, whoever they are. What are they are willing to give me in exchange for what I do for them?

That’s why somebody from an advanced country is better off going to a less advanced country, because it’s easier to become a big fish in a small pond. When you’re from more than 50 miles away, you’re a novelty; people are interested in meeting you and talking to you. If you stay in your native land, you’re just one of millions of others that have the same background and skills. You’re nothing special. So that’s why it’s good to arbitrage yourself, by transplanting yourself.

There’s a danger in taking a normal 9-5 style job: you may get in a rut and stay there, eventually finding yourself trapped by gradually climbing a corporate ladder. One thing leads to another and before you know it you’re 50 years old and most of your options are closed. I think it’s better to hit the road and do the unconventional, as opposed to looking for a conventional job with a conventional company and then living a conventional life paying taxes as a conventional milk cow to your home government. That is not a formula that I find appealing.

Not only do I not find it appealing, but I don’t think it’s a good formula. It’s not, in all probability, a path to enlightenment.

By doing unconventional things, you’ll have experience that not one person in a hundred thousand has, and that experience is something that you should be able to parlay and retail for a lot of value.

The entire interview can be read here.

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