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Doug Casey is a highly respected author, publisher and professional investor who graduated from Georgetown University in 1968. Doug literally wrote the book on profiting from periods of economic turmoil: his book Crisis Investing spent multiple weeks as #1 on the New York Times bestseller list... More
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  • Three Reasons Why The U.S. Government Should Default On Its Debt Today

    The overleveraging of the U.S. federal, state, and local governments, some corporations, and consumers is well known.

    This has long been the case, and most people are bored by the topic. If debt is a problem, it has been manageable for so long that it no longer seems like a problem. U.S. government debt has become an abstraction; it has no more meaning to the average investor than the prospect of a comet smacking into the earth in the next hundred millennia.

    Many financial commentators believe that debt doesn't matter. We still hear ridiculous sound bites, like "We owe it to ourselves," that trivialize the topic. Actually, some people owe it to other people. There will be big transfers of wealth depending on what happens. More exactly, since Americans don't save anymore, that dishonest phrase about how we owe it to ourselves isn't even true in a manner of speaking; we owe most of it to the Chinese and Japanese.

    Another chestnut is "We'll grow out of it." That's impossible unless real growth is greater than the interest on the debt, which is questionable. And at this point, government deficits are likely to balloon, not contract. Even with artificially low interest rates.

    One way of putting an annual deficit of, say, $700 billion into perspective is to compare it to the value of all publicly traded stocks in the U.S., which are worth roughly $20 trillion. The current U.S. government debt of $18 trillion is rapidly approaching the stock value of all public corporations -- and that's true even with stocks at bubble-like highs. If the annual deficit continues at the $700 billion rate -- in fact it is likely to accelerate -- the government will borrow the equivalent of the entire equity capital base of the country, which has taken more than 200 years to accumulate, in only 29 years.

    You should keep all this in the context of the nature of debt; it can be insidious.

    The only way a society (or an individual) can grow in wealth is by producing more than it consumes; the difference is called "saving." It creates capital, making possible future investments or future consumption. Conversely, "borrowing" involves consuming more than is produced; it's the process of living out of capital or mortgaging future production. Saving increases one's future standard of living; debt reduces it.

    If you were to borrow a million dollars today, you could artificially enhance your standard of living for the next decade. But, when you have to repay that money, you will sustain a very real decline in your standard of living. Even worse, since the interest clock continues ticking, the decline will be greater than the earlier gain. If you don't repay your debt, your creditor (and possibly his creditors, and theirs in turn) will suffer a similar drop. Until that moment comes, debt can look like the key to prosperity, even though it's more commonly the forerunner of disaster.

    Of course, debt is not in itself necessarily a bad thing. Not all debt is for consumption; it can be used to finance capital goods intended to produce further wealth. But most U.S. debt today finances consumption -- home mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit card debt, among other things.

    Government Debt

    It took the U.S. government from 1791 to 1916 (125 years) to accumulate $1 billion in debt. World War I took it to $24 billion in 1920; World War II raised it to $270 billion in 1946. Another 24 years were needed to add another $100 billion, for a total of $370 billion in 1970. The debt almost tripled in the following decade, with debt crossing the trillion-dollar mark in October 1981. Only four and half years later, the debt had doubled to $2 trillion in April 1986. Four more years added another trillion by 1990, and then, in only 34 months, it reached $4.2 trillion in February 1993. The exponential growth continued unabated. U.S. government debt stood at $18 trillion in 2015. Off-balance sheet borrowing and the buildup of massive contingent liabilities aren't included. That may add another $50 trillion or so.

    When interest rates rise again, even to their historical average, the U.S. government will find most of its tax revenue is going just to pay interest. There will be little left over for the military and domestic transfer payments.

    When the government borrows just to pay interest, a tipping point will be reached. It will have no flexibility at all, and that will be the end of the game.

    In principle, an unsustainable amount of government debt should be a matter of concern only to the government (which is not at all the same thing as society at large) and to those who foolishly lent them money. But the government is in a position to extract tax revenues from its subjects, or to inflate the currency to keep the ball rolling. Its debt indirectly, therefore, becomes everyone's burden.

    As I've said before, I think the U.S. government should default on not just some, but all of its debt.

    There are at least three reasons for that. First is to avoid turning future generations into serfs. Second is to punish those who have enabled the State by lending it money. Third is to make it impossible for the State to borrow in the future, at least for a while.

    The consequences of all this are grim, but the timing is hard to predict. Perhaps the government can somehow borrow amounts that no one previously thought possible. But its creditors will look for repayment. Either the creditors are going to walk away unhappy (in the case of default), or the holders of all dollars are going to be stuck with worthless paper (in the case of hyperinflation), or the taxpayers' pockets will be looted (the longer things muddle along), or most likely a combination of all three will happen. This will not be a happy story for all but a few of us.

    Editor's Note: Because of this risk, we've published a groundbreaking step-by-step manual on the three ESSENTIAL steps all Americans should take right now to protect themselves and their family.

    These steps are easy and straightforward to implement. New York Times best-selling author Doug Casey and his team describe how you can do it all from home, with very little effort. Normally, this book retails for $99. But we believe this book is so important, especially right now, that I've arranged a way for U.S. residents to get a free copy. Click here to secure your copy.

    Sep 18 4:51 PM | Link | 1 Comment
  • Money—How To Get It And Keep It

    Editor's note: Casey Research founder Doug Casey literally wrote the book on profiting during economic turmoil. His book, Crisis Investing, spent multiple weeks as No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list and became the best-selling financial book of 1980. Today, he is one of the most entertaining and controversial newsletter writers in the world.

    Doug believes America is headed for a huge financial disaster. In today's weekend Masters Series essay, he shares some of the ways to protect yourself and prosper in an economic crisis. Even if you disagree with Doug, this essay - originally published in June 2012 - will teach you plenty…

    Even if you are already wealthy, some thought on this topic is worthwhile. What would you do if some act of God or of government, a catastrophic lawsuit, or a really serious misjudgment took you back to square one? One thing about a real depression is that everybody loses. As Richard Russell has quipped, the winners are those who lose the least. As far as I'm concerned, the Greater Depression is looming, not just another cyclical downturn. You may find that although you're far ahead of your neighbors (you own precious metals, you've diversified internationally, and you don't believe much of what you hear from official sources), you're still not as prepared as you'd like.

    I think a good plan would be to approach the problem in four steps: Liquidate, Consolidate, Create, and Speculate.

    Step 1: Liquidate

    Chances are high that you have too much "stuff." Your garage, basement, and attic are so full of possessions that you may be renting a storage unit for the overflow. That stuff is costing you money in storage fees, in depreciation, and in the weight of psychological baggage. It's limiting your options… It's weighing you down. Get rid of it.

    Right now, it has a market value. Perhaps to a friend you can call. Or to a neighbor who might buy it if you have a yard sale. Or to some of the millions of people on eBay. A year from now, when we're out of the eye of the financial hurricane and back into the storm, it will likely have much less value. But right now, there's a market. Even if most people are no longer wearing those "He who dies with the most toys, wins" T-shirts that were popular at the height of the boom, there are still buyers. But the general standard of living is dropping, and mass psychology is changing. In a year or two, you may find there aren't any bids and the psychology of the country has changed radically. People will be desperate for cash, and they'll all be cleaning out their storage units (partly because they can't afford the rent on them).

    Liquidate whatever you don't actually need - clothes, furniture, tools, cars, bikes, collections, electronics, properties, you name it. You'll be able to rebuy something like it, or better and cheaper. Just as important, you'll feel light and mobile, unburdened by a bunch of possessions that own you and weigh you down. It will definitely improve your psychology, which is critical to the next stage. And the cash it generates will be helpful for the rest of the plan.

    Step 2: Consolidate

    Take stock of your assets. After Step 1, that should be a lot easier because you'll have less junk but a lot more cash. You'll already feel more in control and empowered. And definitely richer. But your main assets aren't money or things. It's the knowledge, skills, and connections you possess. Take stock of them. What do you know? What can you do? Whom do you know? Make lists and think about these things, with an eye to maximizing their value.

    If you're light on knowledge, skills, and connections, then do something about it - although if you're reading this, you probably already live life in a way that builds all of those assets daily. But there's always room for improvement. Think the Count of Monte Cristo. Or if you're not so classically oriented, think Sarah Connor after she met the Terminator.

    Part of this process is to look at what you're now doing. The chances are excellent there's a better and more profitable allocation of your time. Even successful rock stars tend to reinvent themselves every few years. You don't want to get stale. That leads to Step 3.

    Step 3: Create

    Remember, the essence of becoming wealthy is to produce more than you consume and save the difference. But it's hard to maximize value working for somebody else. And when you're given a job, it can be taken away for any number of reasons. There is cause, and there is effect. You don't want to be the effect of somebody else's cause. You want to be the cause for everything in your life. That implies working for yourself. At least turn your present employer into a partner or an associate.

    Perhaps go through the Yellow Pages (while they still exist), page by page, line by line, and see what you can provide as a service for the businesses advertising there. I promise you, they're all looking for someone to come along, kiss their world, and make it better. Think like an entrepreneur at all times. Remember that there is an infinite desire for goods and services on the part of the 6 billion other people on the planet. Find out how you can give them what they want, and the money will roll in.

    I've said many times that I believe you could airdrop me naked and penniless into the heart of the Congo, and by the time I emerged, I'd not just have survived, I'd come out wealthy. And believe me, I don't think wealth is by any means the most important thing in life; it's important but should be considered a convenience, not an imperative. Not that I'd want to be airdropped into the Congo at the moment; I've gotten a bit lazy, I have other interests, and you can't be everywhere and do everything.

    But now that I think about it, if I wanted to make a real fortune today from a small base, I might prefer Africa to any other continent. As an educated Westerner, you can quickly meet anyone on an equal level much more easily than you could at home. If you have a reason that makes any sense at all, you can be in the office of the president within a week. These countries are all plagued with incompetence and corruption, they need everything, and they're full of untapped resources and talent. This all inures to the great advantage of a foreign entrepreneur.

    Here's an idea. For your next vacation, book a trip to Cameroon, Togo, Gabon, Zimbabwe, or Angola. Go through the Yellow Pages in the capital and meet everybody who is anybody. The chances are good you'll come up with several deals in the first week alone. If you can't find the time, send your kid who's just out of school and idiotically thinks he may want to misallocate time and money getting an MBA. This idea alone should be worth a million dollars. Or as I would prefer to think of it, 700 ounces of gold.

    But to an economist, money, like all goods, has "declining marginal utility." In other words, the more of something you have, the less you need or want the next unit. Of course, more is always better, but it's unseemly, even degrading, to pursue anything beyond a certain point.

    When I was in Toronto a couple months ago, I spoke with a Chinese friend who, I believe, is worth at least $250 million. As he waxed philosophic, he allowed that he didn't feel he really needed more than 30 extra-large to live exactly as he liked. I agreed, in that meals in the best restaurants, as well as the finest clothes, cars, and houses only cost so much. And it's well within a conservative return on that capital, without ever even touching the principal. Is it worth it to get more? Perhaps not, unless your interests in the rest of life are entirely too narrow. The point of money is to allow you freedom, not make you crazy with getting more.

    That doesn't rule out speculation as an avocation, however. More - everything else being equal - is still better.

    Step 4: Speculate

    You've got money. Now, you have to keep it and make it grow, because staying in the same place amounts to going backwards. That's partially because the world at large will continue getting wealthier, even as the dollars you own lose value.

    In the past, I've discussed why a lot of old rules for success are actually going to prove counterproductive over the next few years. Saving with dollars will be foolish as they dry up and blow away. Investing according to classic rules will be very tricky in a radically changing economy. Most people will try to outrun inflation by trading or gambling. The markets, which are the natural friend of productive people, will perversely prove very destructive to them in the years to come. You'll know when the final bottom in the stock market has come: The average guy won't want to hear about the stock market, if he even remembers it exists. And if he does, he'll want it abolished.

    Instead of becoming a victim of inflation and other politically caused distortions in the marketplace, you can profit from these things. Rational speculation is the optimum approach.

    What to Do if You're Already Wealthy?

    Perhaps, however, you've already covered all the financial bases to your satisfaction. Quo vadis? I have several thoughts on the meaning of wealth. You may find some of them of value as prices of everything fluctuate radically in the years ahead.

    First, recognize that wealth is a high moral good. Don't feel guilty about having it or about wanting more.

    If you've already accumulated and deployed enough capital to allow you to jump off the golden treadmill, congratulations: Chances are high that you are an exceptional human being. I say that because the moral value of being wealthy is underrated. I don't mean that in a Calvinistic way, in that Calvin believed Yahweh rewarded the righteous by making them rich. But I do believe that productive people - people who work hard to provide goods and services for others - definitely tend to be wealthier than unproductive people. They deserve to be. And since we don't live in a malevolent universe, people generally get what they deserve. So yes, wealth is definitely one indicator of moral excellence.

    Sure, some wealthy people got that way by lying, cheating, and stealing. But they're exceptions. It's much easier to become wealthy if (in addition to having virtues like diligence, competence, and judgment) you are known to be truthful and honest. Those who automatically think ill of the rich are, at best, paranoid fools. Put it this way: Rich people may lack some virtues, but they definitely have at least a few that made them rich. Poor people, on the other hand, will certainly lack some virtues, and they'll definitely have some vices that kept them poor.

    I'm a fan of some aspects of George Gurdjieff, the late-19th to mid-20th century Russian mystic, who was also a merchant adventurer at some points in his colorful life. He said that anyone who successfully employed at least 20 other people must be considered at least partially enlightened and a type of guru. That viewpoint always resonated with me. Self-made wealthy people may not be saints, mystics, intellectuals, or even especially thoughtful or moral. But they've proven they're better than the average bear in at least one important way: They can create and conserve wealth. And they've thereby eased everyone's path to further accomplishments.

    Second, figure out your purpose in having money.

    Sure, money makes life easier. And it's nice how it enables you to assist people you like with material things. But I strongly suggest that you not take too short a view on this matter. Accelerating advances in medical science are not only lengthening human life expectancy, but new developments now in the works have the potential to vastly improve your capability and health as well.

    Is it possible to live to age 200, with all the wealth, knowledge, and wisdom that implies, while maintaining the body of a 30-year-old? Not yet. But the prospect is on the horizon. It will, however, be available only to those who can afford it. Ray Kurzweil makes a case that the Singularity is near, and I buy his reasoning. It would be tragic if anyone frittered away his wealth, thinking he wouldn't live very long, and then succumbed to a self-fulfilling prophecy, not because of medical difficulties, but because of financial difficulties.

    Third, don't give your money to charity.

    Entirely apart from showing a lack of both imagination and foresight, it's a complete waste of good money, pure and simple. Contrary to popular opinion, it rarely does any good; it often does great harm. The whole concept of charitable giving is corrupt and desperately in need of a complete rethinking.

    Fourth, if you do care about posterity (who knows, you might be reincarnated…), and on the chance you don't make it to the Singularity, carefully consider how to dispose of your estate.

    For one thing, there's no reason to automatically leave anything to your children - unless they deserve it. The notion that someone should inherit your money just because he shares your genes is flawed and thoughtless. The example of Marcus Aurelius leaving the Roman Empire to his worthless son, Commodus, should be instructive. Wealth should be left to someone who is most capable of increasing it - at least if you want to benefit humanity in general. And yes, I'm quite aware that humanity in general may deserve absolutely nothing.

    At a minimum, consider that memes are far more important than genes. It's wiser, therefore, to leave your wealth only to individuals (related to you or not) who will carry forth values you hold dear and are worthy of the wealth. If nothing else, make sure you disinherit the government.

    Also consider that dividing wealth dissipates it and generally makes it less useful. If you have $1 million, you could leave $1,000 to each of 1,000 people. But, apart from the fact that it's unlikely anyone knows 1,000 worthy people, that much money is only enough for a modest vacation or a few baubles. The larger the pool of capital, the more ways it can be used, the more creative power it has, and the more likely it will be conserved and used creatively. I favor the Roman system, in which one could adopt children of any age - but always after you could see what their character was. You might want to do that if your own kids don't make the grade.

    The Bottom Line

    If you want serious money, you have to get serious about money. You need to understand these fundamentals and never forget them. Don't let all the garbage reported in the financial media you read, see, or hear confuse you about what money really is. Don't consume more than you make: save! Don't spend: invest!

    Editor's note: Casey Research's latest book - Going Global - is a must-read. The book is jam-packed with hundreds of techniques and tips for surviving a currency crisis… including the five currencies best-positioned to survive an inflationary storm (page 29)… the top-recommended U.S. bank for buying foreign currencies (page 131)… the best ways to acquire and hold foreign currencies (page 34)… and much, much more. Claim your copy right here.

    Tags: wealth
    Sep 01 1:00 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Doug Casey On The Real FIFA Scandal

    Recently, high-ranking officials at FIFA, the world's governing soccer (aka "football") body, were charged with corruption and fraud. The US's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deeply involved in the case. Doug Casey weighs in on the real scandal… the one you're not reading in mass media.

    The truth be known, I really don't give a damn about soccer. Nor do most Americans.

    Indeed, until recently, all that most Americans knew about "football" was that Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey, to display a great physique, after she scored the winning goal for the US in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup playoff against China.

    However, "football", as it's known to the 6.7 billion non-Americans on the planet, is revered by the rest of the world as a secular religion.

    But now football, and FIFA, the sport's governing body, is in the news because of an alleged corruption scandal. Let's not discuss the details of who was bribing whom, and where all the money went, for two reasons.

    First, that's all over the Internet, and you don't need me to repeat it here.

    Second, and much more important, it's really none of our business. Despite the fact that the FBI has taken it upon itself to prosecute at least 14 FIFA officials for corruption.

    Why is it none of our business? Because FIFA is a Swiss association that's been around over 100 years. All of its officers and directors are non-US persons. And about 99% of its players, officials, and spectators are non-American.

    But that doesn't matter. The FBI has decided to prosecute FIFA's officials for corruption, and is successfully moving to have them all extradited to the US for trial.

    Were FIFA officials treating themselves to huge salaries and expense accounts, and paying and receiving millions to decide where the World Cup should be played? Of course. Is that corrupt? We have to first define "corruption." I devote a lot of thought to the subject here, and suspect you'll find it of interest. But, essentially, corruption is about a betrayal of a fiduciary trust. In simple terms, it's sticking your hand in a till that you're supposed to guard for the interest of someone else.

    Based on that, are FIFA officials corrupt? Their behavior is certainly unsavory and unseemly. Nobody likes people who take advantage of their positions to line their pockets. But they are actually less morally culpable than the directors and officers of many US public corporations who pay themselves scores of millions of shareholder dollars, often while running the companies into the ground.

    And less morally culpable than politicians who dispense favors and contracts with public funds. Corporate directors and politicians have fiduciary responsibilities. FIFA, however, doesn't have shareholders. FIFA is really only responsible to the 200-something countries that vote to elect its officials; it's essentially a political body.

    Its "stakeholders" (a morally loaded and highly problematical term that's gained currency in recent years) are the fans who watch football. They're happy as long as someone, anyone really, makes sure the games are played.

    In other words, FIFA and the people who run it are at liberty to do as they wish with funds and favors. It may seem sleazy, that they allocate venues for the World Cup according to who pays the most (even under the table). But since the association doesn't have a fiduciary responsibility, it's not corrupt.

    If corruption charges are warranted, it's against the presidents of the countries that are members of FIFA. Any self-respecting president today leaves office as at least a billionaire. If anything, FIFA is a more of a co-conspirator, or even a victim, rather than a perpetrator. If even Mother Teresa was in charge of FIFA, I would expect her to do the same as the indicted officials, actually. She'd just spend the proceeds on bandages instead of parties.

    The real problem is that the whole system is politicized, much like the Olympic Games. FIFA, and the Olympic Committee too, have turned sports into showcases for nationalism. Corruption is a necessary and inseparable part of politics.

    The solution to the problem is to start a new sanctioning group, organized with new teams, players, and officials. Let them organize their own World Cup games wherever they wish, on whatever terms they wish. The fans can support whomever. It's actually a non-problem. Maybe the new organization will change the rules so that they more closely resemble those of Rollerball. Maybe they'll cultivate attendance by semi-pro football hooligans among the fan base. Who cares?

    But wait. That's where the US government, the world's arbiter of morality, comes in.

    What's really scandalous about the FIFA affair isn't the alleged corruption, but the US government's reaction to it. Nobody, anywhere, seems to be asking how the US can not only unilaterally bring charges, but then extradite foreign citizens to stand trial in the US. And for things that aren't even real crimes. Without a peep from anyone.

    It's part of an accelerating pattern that Pastor Martin Niemöller might have recognized in a different context. You're likely familiar with his poem about the passive reaction to the Nazis and their aggressions:

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out --because I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

    How might that poem read today?

    First they sent a SWAT team to New Zealand to capture Kim Dotcom, a German national, for something that's legal in both New Zealand and Germany, and I did not speak out -- because I was not in the computer business. Then, they conducted drone strikes and assassinations and renditions around the world, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a swarthy foreigner. Then, they invaded countries, from Granada and Panama, to Afghanistan and Iraq, and I did not speak out -- because I believed we were always on the side of truth and justice. Then, they prosecuted the FIFA guys, and I did not speak out -- because I couldn't care less about rich guys making money from soccer. Etc. Etc.

    Specific charges (brought under the RICO Act, an abusive monstrosity) are wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. Passive and thoughtless Americans accept these charges as if they were part of the cosmic landscape. But none of them are common law crimes.

    "Wire fraud" is simply the use of electronic media to assist in the commission of an alleged crime. But why does that constitute an extra crime?

    "Racketeering" is generally just a pattern of extortion. But you can't have extortion without a threat of violence. How was FIFA threatening violence?

    "Money laundering" is a very recently manufactured crime, generally the disguising of the source of funds. Why is that even a crime?

    All of these charges exist only to make the prosecutor's life easier. The fact that these things are being alleged is the real crime.

    You might ask why is the US government involved at all in international soccer. FBI Director James Comey gave an Orwellian answer shortly after the indictments. Get a load of this:

    If you touch our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or through using our world-class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption.

    In other words, the Department of Justice's indictment alleges that since a part of the alleged corruption may have been planned in the US -- even if it was then carried out elsewhere -- they are in charge. And the use of US banks to transfer US dollars gives them additional jurisdiction.

    It's a sign of how degraded the world's moral climate has become that nobody even comments on the absurdity of all this, much less is outraged.

    That the US government can get away with all this is analogous to the Haitian government arresting an American baseball player for violating one of their laws because the game is played with balls manufactured in Haiti. It's likely the charges were brought because Russia was awarded the venue for 2018, and Washington wants to punish its designated enemy.

    Well, fear not. This is all just, in relative terms, a tempest in a toilet bowl. Much more serious things are brewing. Not just ISIS in what used to be Iraq and Syria. Or China in the Spratly Islands. Or the separatist provinces in the eastern Ukraine.

    The next sideshow is the developing financial disaster in Europe, which you'll hear more about in future issues of The Casey Report.

    P.S. Because the bloated US government has helped make our financial system a house of cards, we've published a groundbreaking step-by-step manual on how to survive - and even prosper - during the next financial crisis. In this book, New York Times best-selling author Doug Casey and his team describe the three ESSENTIAL steps every American should take right now to protect themselves and their family.

    These steps are easy and straightforward to implement. You can do all of these from home, with very little effort. Normally, this book retails for $99. But I believe this book is so important, especially right now, that I've arranged a way for US residents to get a free copy. Click here to secure your copy.

    Tags: fifa, scandal
    Aug 06 11:37 AM | Link | Comment!
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