Doug Casey on Whether It’s Possible to Find Freedom in an Unfree World

International Man: Statism has become a new religion.

A growing number of people are interested in using the State’s power to tell others how to live. They are also voting themselves freebies at the expense of others.

It’s clear that those who want to be left alone won’t be. Is it possible to find freedom in an unfree place?

Doug Casey: Back in 1973, my old friend Harry Browne wrote a really fantastic book called How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, where he dealt with exactly that question.

Remember, that was almost 50 years ago now—a lifetime.

The book was timely, even though the world was much freer then than it is now. We now have vastly more financial and travel controls, however—many new penalties for saying, or even appearing to think, the “wrong” things. You’re now monitored in many more ways.

Harry’s book is brilliant and actually more important to read now than it was then. His answers to how you find freedom in an unfree world are useful and relevant.

But the fact is that you can run but you can’t hide.

That’s because the world has been infected by a virus. I don’t mean the ridiculous COVID virus. I mean the virus of statism and collectivism.

There’s really nowhere you can go to be safe from it—only some places that are better than others.

For instance, the so-called Five Eyes countries—the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. They were once the major bastions of Western Civilization, the only civilization—ever—that held personal freedom as an ideal. But now they’re the very ones leading the route downhill.

It’s a real problem for freedom lovers. We’re a smaller and smaller minority. Most people, however, prefer a strong leader promising the illusion of safety and security. Nothing has changed since the days of Rome. It devolved from a yeoman republic to a multicultural empire with onerous taxes in order to pay for bread and circuses to keep the capite censi under control.

In the latter days of the empire, many of its citizens attempted to escape, to live among the barbarians—even while the barbarians were taking over the empire itself. Pretty much the same thing is happening now in the West in general and the US in particular.

The best thing you can do to defend yourself—at least while it’s still possible—is to become rich enough to insulate yourself from the State. Rich enough so that even if they steal a lot from you—and they will— you still have enough. Enough to absorb the hit, keep moving, and live life as you’d like.

Let me go off on a bit of a tangent here, and look at things from the viewpoint of class. That’s perhaps appropriate in a world where neo-Marxism is being promoted everywhere. I see classes according to how they align relative to the three most important, most basic verbs in any language—be, do, and have.

If you’re lower class—which is to say have a lower class mentality— you just accept what you’re given. The lower classes are defined by psychological demoralization, apathy, and hopelessness. At best, they just think about having stuff—cars, houses, food, mates—but don’t even succeed at that very well because of their values. I doubt, however, that anybody now reading this fits into that category. Historically, they’re by far the largest group, and their numbers are now growing rapidly.

I increasingly wonder if the US even has much of an upper class any more. Being upper class is all about values, primarily being something. Money, power, and prestige don’t make someone upper class—they’re consequences of upper-class values unless you win the lottery or have great athletic, entertainment, or sometimes even business ability. Then you can masquerade for a while. But those things tend to corrupt. It’s easy to descend and become effete, entitled. Ineffectual and stagnant.

The fact is, most of us are middle class. Historically, the middle class is what America is all about; it made America unique. The work ethic, striving, and improving, doing. The middle class is being destroyed by inflation and taxes, which make it hard to save and build capital, and regulations, which make it hard to produce, to do. I’m afraid that ground between the millstones of taxes and inflation—as Lenin said—huge numbers of the middle class are descending into the ranks of the lower—the proletariat.

The three classes are natural enough. But since the invention of mass democracy, since it was turned into a worldwide secular religion around the time of World War One, there’s arisen another class—the political class. Anyone can join it. They were always there but nowhere near as hugely important or virulent. I can’t think of a single verb to define them—all the possibilities are unflattering, though. They hate the middle class, though, because its members are, by definition, productive and independent.

Anyway, these are just a few thoughts. Maybe I’ll expand on them in the future.

To get back to the original question, what you should do is become rich so you can insulate yourself to the best degree that you can from the ongoing crisis. It will eventually pass, and you can reposition yourself—if you’ve maintained some capital.

Money is far from everything, of course. It’s just a tool. But tools are helpful …

International Man: Western Civilization seems to be going downhill economically, politically, and culturally at a rapid pace. The trajectory looks grim.

Doug Casey: Once again, I’ve said this for many years, and it’s truer now than it’s ever been.

The financial and economic problems in the world are serious and accelerating. But as we go deeper into the Greater Depression, your biggest risks aren’t financial or economic. They’re political.

The only way to solve that problem from a practical point of view is to diversify politically the way you would diversify financially.

That means you should have a crib in a second or third country—as well as businesses and financial assets in others besides your home country. That’s the only thing that you can do at this point. You can vote if it makes you feel good. But, as Stalin said, it’s not who votes that counts—it’s who counts the votes. Becoming a political activist is degrading and pointless. This coming election will be largely about cheating by both sides, IMO.

The political classes everywhere are using the current COVID hysteria to cement themselves in place, and very few of the sheeple are resisting. To the contrary, they welcome it, because they think drastic actions make them safe. A degenerating society values safety above all.

It’s true everywhere, though, even in increasingly primitive places like South Africa—in fact, almost all of Africa. India is totally locked down as is most of South America. These places don’t have enough capital stored to enable an enforced vacation of several years. And that’s what we may be looking at.

It’s happening almost all over the world. The people that are being hurt the most, needless to say, are the people living hand to mouth. They’re going to be hurt even worse as all these governments destroy their national currencies—because poor people can only save the local national currency.

When their pitiful paper currency savings are wiped out, then they’re really in trouble. Will they get violent, or just roll up into a ball and die? Good question.

In the 21st century, East Asia, China, Vietnam, Korea are the best places to be. This is also true of Russia and Eastern Europe, notwithstanding the fact that China is going to have a financial collapse and may very well wind up divided into five or six smaller countries.

We’re looking at worldwide chaos in the making. I was always half kidding when answering the question, “How bad do you think the Greater Depression will be?” and I’d say, “Even worse than I think it’s going to be.” But now, it’s no joke.

International Man: Almost every government and country in the world is going in the wrong direction from a personal freedom standpoint.

Are there any options for like-minded individuals to come together if there is no perfect country or place?

Doug Casey: Everybody should read Neal Stephenson’s book, The Diamond Age.

The ideas that he developed, essentially of nation-states falling apart and being replaced with phyles, was very prescient.

Humans are social animals; we like to hang out with other people.

This is especially true with people that are like us. In other words, people that believe in the same things, that have the same values, and have the same outlook on the world.

It’s actually crazy to try to put diverse, disparate people together into the same political entity. That’s because, inevitably, any and all of the groups in that artificial political entity are going to try to get control of the apparatus of the State to benefit themselves and punish the others. Politics always results in a war of all against all.

I think Stephenson’s novel was quite correct. People will increasingly find that their real countrymen are people with whom they share values and ideas—or whatever happens to be important to them. Not a national passport. That’s just government ID, like a driver’s license.

Within that context, here in the US, Libertarians tried to put together a community, I think called the Free State Movement, centering around Keene, New Hampshire. I haven’t been there. So, I don’t know if it’s in any way successful or not, or whether the Libertarians are looked upon as some type of a weird religious cult by the locals. I don’t think it’s had any real effect on anything.

Worse, if the wrong guys get in power, the thing could backfire.

It might facilitate one-stop-shopping to find potential enemies of the State. If seriously dangerous political class types take over, as is likely in November if Biden wins the election, there’s no telling what might happen.

Of course, I tried to put something together in an obscure but very pleasant part of Argentina, La Estancia de Cafayate.

It’s been an artistic success, and it’s a great place to live. We’ve got a lot of great people living there—very enjoyable, mellow, easy-to-get-along-with company. But we attracted our share of antisocial and dogmatic nutcases. Just because someone is a political Libertarian doesn’t necessarily mean he has any other virtues. And he may be psychologically unbalanced in the bargain.

Psychology and character are the real problems. Shangri-la doesn’t exist. And it won’t until the vast majority of humans are more like Harry Browne, Ron Paul, or Lao-Tzu, and less like AOC, Pelosi, or Obama. I guess my best suggestion at this point is to look at a small town, whether you’re in the US or elsewhere, one that has a frontier culture, where people are independent-minded.

I suspect most of the people reading this now are what we’d call gamma rats.

They’re not like alpha rats, which want to boss everybody else around, taking the best mates and best territory. And beat up the beta rats, who are the vast majority of the population.

The gamma rats also tend to get the best possessions and so forth, but they don’t beat up the gamma rats nor let themselves be beat up by the alpha rats. The trouble is that, in laboratory experiments, scientists found that gamma rats are only a very small portion of the population. Among humans, we’re an equally small portion of the population.

International Man: Let’s discuss some potential bright spots.

What role do you think the advancement of technology will play in empowering the individual?

Doug Casey: From Day One, technology has been the friend of the average man, and hugely beneficial. Except the effect comes in two stages. The first is usually only good for the ruling political class and bad for the average guy.

Let’s go to Stanley Kubrick’s movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Remember the scene where the hominids gathered around the watering hole, and the one hominid comes up with the idea of using a bone as a weapon to beat up the other group?

That was early technology. The first guy that gets technology uses it to dominate. But then after a while, it’s monkey see, monkey do. The technology spreads from the inventor or the first utilizer to the population in general, and things equalize.

It’s been that way for hundreds of thousands of years.

It was true with gunpowder. The first people that got gunpowder ran the State; they used it to keep the peasants at bay. But when it got into the hands of the peasants, they were able to use firearms to take out armored knights, which they couldn’t do before. The tables were turned.

That same was true with writing, and then the printing press. At first, they were hoarded by the political classes and priesthoods, who used them to maintain their power. The same with the computer. In the old days of ENIAC and the IBM 360, only a government or a giant corporation could afford them, and they could use them to keep track of all the little people. Now, everybody has a massively powerful laptop or cellphone. Hackers can counterattack.

I go into that theme in some detail in Assassin, the third novel in the High Ground septet. It will be released in September—lots of political implications. I urge readers who are interested to get Speculator and Drug Lord now, so as not to fall behind. Speculator is especially relevant because of what’s about to happen with gold stocks.

In other words, technology eventually turns the tables to the advantage of the average guy, even though it’s always used to suppress the average guy in the beginning.

It was technology that liberated the masses to overturn whatever the current political class might have been at the time. It has nothing to do with democracy, which is just a sop to make the peasants believe they’re in charge. If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let you do it.

It’s a trend that’s going to continue. But it can be years, or even decades, before a new technology finally gets into the hands of the average guy. Then the political class wants to regulate it.

The powers-that-be treat all technologies as dangerous. Like guns, they want to keep these things out of the hands of the average guy, basically to keep the peasants from defending themselves.

But the cat always gets out of the bag in the long run. It’s a reason for long-term optimism. That said, there’s always a chance of a genuine Dark Age if the old order collapses seriously enough.

International Man: Most people are familiar with large, centralized tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.

But we’ve also seen the development of decentralized technologies that empower the individual, such as encryption and the 3D printing of guns. One key example of this is bitcoin, which is a decentralized form of money.

What promise do you think decentralized technologies have for wresting power out of the hands of the State, and what are the implications?

Doug Casey: The mistake that people make with things like Facebook— a giant, amoral, and duplicitous corporation—is thinking that just because billions of people use it, it must be harmless. “Oh, it must be kind of decentralized and democratic because it lets everybody communicate with one another.”

Giant media corporations like Facebook and Google are dangerous because they can actually form people’s view of reality itself. Much more than newspapers or even TV could. The average person’s understanding of the world, what’s happening, and what other people think is no longer a product of talking to his neighbors or even looking out the window. Their opinions and emotions are now formed by looking at their little screens. That makes them very easy to manipulate.

The situation will get worse with Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality—somebody will program and control what goes into these things. Maybe subtly, or maybe very overtly. The situation is greatly aggravated by the COVID hysteria in many ways.

The solution to the danger, however, is not to regulate them. That would be totally counterproductive. Regulation just means giving even more power to the State—which is innately vastly more dangerous than any corporation. At least corporations have to provide a worthwhile service to stay in business…

What we really need is not just one Facebook where everybody goes, and can therefore be easily monitored. What we need is 10,000 Facebooks, so the power devolves to everybody and anybody.

The problem will resolve itself in the long run, though. Giant corporations become dysfunctional. Apart from that, they’re subject to the second Law of Thermodynamics as anything else. It’s one of the few laws I believe in.

That’s true, politically speaking as well. The world would have been much better off if Bismarck had not united about three hundred minor principalities and kingdoms in Germany in 1871. The world and the Germans would have been much better off in every possible way if they’d stayed three hundred fairly small, not powerful principalities.

Same in Italy, with Garibaldi. Today they’d be much better off if there were still scores of little duchies and counties. The same with India, which would be much better off if their hundreds of kingdoms hadn’t been forcibly united by the British. It’s true everywhere.

I hope, and actually expect, that places like Germany, Italy, and certainly India will once again devolve into smaller units. The way the Soviet Union broke up into fifteen, and Yugoslavia broke up into six, and Czechoslovakia split into two. The US, which has evolved into a multicultural domestic empire, should—and likely will—split up as well.

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