(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)
L: [Skype rings; it's Doug.] Howdy, Doug! I guess it's that time – what's on your mind this week?
Doug: I'm glad to see you survived the wilds of Lithuania. I'm sorry my canceled flights caused me to miss the event – it sounds like you had a really good CYCLE.
L: It was a terrific time, with some very inspiring teachers and really great students. We had a lot of return customers, actually – no longer in school – and a good number of them are applying what we've been teaching. One has become a successful investor; he makes about US$10,000 a month, lives on only 10% of that, reinvests 40%, and saves 50%. Blew me away. Several others have started businesses of their own. Some of our veterans told me this was the best CYCLE yet.
Doug: Fantastic. Too bad I could only make a video appearance through Skype. I did enjoy it a great deal the time I went in person; I'll be back. I encourage our readers who have children, grandchildren, or know of young people who need an instant education in what's really going on in the world and how they can be successful to look into sending their students to next year's CYCLE.
L: We haven't started planning that yet, but folks can send us inquiries through www.profitfromfreedom.com.
Doug: Well, that's the bright side. On the darker side of things, there's been a spate of mass shootings and attempted shootings recently, which has all sorts of people calling for stricter, so-called gun-control laws.
L: I like my gun control: I'm no great marksman, but I can hit a man-sized target with a pistol at over 100 yards. I like having the tools to protect my family in case of need, and the training on how to do it.
Doug: Unfortunately, a majority in Congress don't see it that way; their idea of gun control is to disarm citizens. It's inevitable, I'm afraid. The type of person who gets into politics is naturally a busybody who thinks he knows what's best for everyone else and is anxious to enforce his opinions using the state. Historically, one of the main differences between a slave and a free man has always been that a free man has the right to own weapons and defend himself. The average person the world over – absolutely including the US – has devolved into little better than a slave. He thinks he's free because he has a relatively high standard of living, but he's not much more than a lapdog who does as he's told. And he better not even growl, much less try to defend himself, or his masters will lock him in a cage.
L: Thereby inviting more massacres by establishing target-rich environments where crazy people can kill with impunity, knowing it's very unlikely anyone will shoot back. But that's not new; I'm just waiting for Congress to ban Batman movies, since the spate started with the movie theater massacre on the opening night of the new Batman movie. That would seem logical: if guns are to blame for violence, video games are to blame for violence, movies are to blame for violence – anyone but the crazy person who murders people is to blame for the violence.
Doug: [Laughs] That's right – let's ban Batman movies. Better ban Westerns too. It won't do for people to get the dangerous idea that they actually should control their own destinies and be responsible for their actions. Governments want adults to act like children and get permission from the nanny state for everything. The kind of people who go into government view "the masses" as automatons; they think hoi polloi should do as they're told, the way sheep should do what the shepherd tells them. God forbid sheep ever get the idea they should defend themselves…
But what do we really know about these events? All anyone who wasn't actually there knows is what they read in the press, and all the reporters know is hearsay they gather locally and official information released by the police – when they're not just regurgitating hearsay gathered by other reporters. You'll likely never know the real facts. For instance, I heard that several witnesses saw a confederate of the shooter open the emergency exit to let him in – which seems logically necessary. But that piece of data seems to have disappeared down the memory hole. And where did the alleged shooter get the thousands of dollars needed to buy all his weapons and body armor? It's said he was relying entirely on government aid for his schooling. The quality of reporting is abysmal. That said, I'm hesitant to armchair quarterback regarding things I really have no direct knowledge of, where the facts that are reported are slim, disjointed, and unreliable. Reporters today all seem to be blow-dried, air-headed faux news-readers. I'm so sorry both Gore Vidal and Andrew Cockburn have just kicked the bucket; it's almost like they were the last of a breed.
L: Fair enough; neither of us has primary data on the Colorado movie theater massacre. But we do have data – as much as anyone – on the political fallout of such things, and how the state tends to use such events to ratchet up its control over a people all to willing to give up freedom in exchange for perceived safety.
This reminds me of my own thoughts at the time of the siege of the Branch Davidians at their church in Waco, Texas. At the time, I remember being skeptical of government accounts and suspicious of the fact that reporters were kept well away from the scene. It occurred to me that it might be a good thing to do to go down there with my own camera gear and try to get the truth, whatever it was, out to the world. I'm ashamed to say that I did not follow up on that impulse. But I'm glad some people have tried to expose the inadequacies of the government's explanations for what happened. Still, most people seem to believe the government's story and blame the 76 men, women, and children who were gunned down or died in flames for their own deaths.
I remember this when I see talking heads on news programs delivering information they have not verified as though it were fact.
Doug: Yes. There's a film trying to expose the truth about Waco done by my friend Mike McNulty, and there's a lot more he's uncovered since releasing it. But it got no traction among Boobus americanus. It's worth noting that the site of the Waco massacre is one of the largest crime scenes in US history. As with other crime scenes where the US government has killed people, a thorough forensic investigation of the place was not allowed. The government kept people away and bulldozed the place within a week, effectively destroying the crime scene and most evidence of what actually happened. That left us with very little but what the government agents had to say about it. It's both shocking and disgusting. The government kills all those people, the government conducts the investigation, and then the government puts the survivors – not the perpetrators – on trial. And the American public swallows the whole corrupt charade without even asking a few meek questions. As usual, the guys at South Park have a far more intelligent take on the episode than any of the national media.
L: I seem to recall that the county coroner in the Waco area was not allowed access – or only very limited access – and complained loudly, but to no avail.
Doug: Par for the course, and ancillary evidence that most of the US population is thoughtless, brainwashed, and/or on Prozac. But back to today. We can't say we know much for a fact about what really happened, but there are reports the killer in the Colorado movie theater shootings was getting some sort of psychological or psychiatric counseling. I would not be surprised if it came out that he was on some kind of psychiatric drug – it seems that a lot of shootings by young people in recent times have been done by kids on psychiatric drugs. The same with postal employees – and someone seems to "go postal" annually.
L: I remember reading that one of the killers in the Columbine massacre was on Ritalin.
Doug: I think that's true in more than one case – and it's one of the most widely prescribed drugs school shrinks give to kids who ask too many questions in classrooms... or just act like kids. I've heard numbers quoted to the effect that up to 25% of kids in school these days are on one kind of psychiatric drug or another. I've not heard of any studies done on this connection, but it sure seems like there ought to be. My suspicion is that Cesar Milan, the "dog whisperer," could replace 99% of the shrinks and counselors in schools – most of whom are either worthless or actively destructive – simply by taking the kids out for a long run every day. It's the first thing he does to get dogs rehabilitated.
L: Indeed. The people who use every act of violence involving a gun as an excuse for more bans and limits never seem to ask why there are more mass shootings now, when fewer people carry guns... and why there were far fewer back when many Americans carried guns frequently. A hundred years ago, it was common for boys to carry rifles to school and shoot something for dinner on the way home. I've read about schools having shooting ranges, just as they have football fields, as recently as the 1960s. But back then, massacres were pretty much the province of people in uniforms under orders from on high.
Doug: Yes. I went to a military boarding school, and we had a full arsenal, including belt-fed machine guns, a whole locker room full of M1 rifles, and all kinds of wonderful weapons – even 81mm mortars. When I was growing up in Indiana, almost everyone had guns. My friends and I would grab our rifles and pistols and head into the forest to do some shooting, and no one thought anything of it. But now, guns have become much, much less part of US culture. If people see a kid with a gun today, they'll call 911 and a SWAT team will appear.
L: When I lived in Wyoming, they allowed open carry. I could go into a gas station to pay for my gas with my gun belt on, and no one would scream, dive for the floor, or put their hands in the air. That was only 15 years ago… I wonder if it's changed.
Doug: As a matter of fact, I once flew from Chicago to Washington, DC and back, and I took both my rifle and my pistol. I just put them in my carry-on baggage and stuffed them in the overhead bin on the plane. No gun locks nor any special arrangements of any kind whatsoever. This was normal, legal, and no one even thought to question me about it. I was just a 17-year-old kid at the time.
L: I think it was in the 1960s when the US government banned carrying guns on airplanes, and that rule spread around the world. I don't think it's a coincidence that hijacking commercial airliners became a choice tool for terrorists after this.
Doug: I think that's right. As late as the 1930s anyone could cross most any border – except into totalitarian countries, of course – with a sidearm. Remember Indiana Jones?
So what to do about mass shootings? Disarming people only leaves them at the mercy of the psychopaths of the world, who, if they are going to kill, are going to kill regardless of what the laws are. I think everyone should own at least one gun at a minimum, and preferably four or five, of different types and for different uses. And they should take the time to learn how to use them.
Even a very effective and honorable police force – which is increasingly rare – can only respond to crimes, and then only a considerable time after they've happened. People need tools for self-defense to stop crimes from happening in the first place. Failure to stop a criminal not only leaves you and your family at the mercy of the psychopath in question, but it also leaves that person free to go on to harm more victims. Self-defense is both a fundamental human right and a responsibility no one should shirk. It's perverse and outrageous that the subject is even open to discussion. It's a major sign of how degraded civilization has become.
On top of these personal considerations, there's the sociopolitical aspect of the issue: a disarmed population cannot resist its government when it turns predatory. An armed population – the more heavily armed the better – can arguably limit the depredations of the state when it gets taken over by psychopaths, as it always, inevitably, and invariably does. Although, the fact is that argument was much more realistic 50 or 100 years ago. The weapons the state can use against its subjects are now orders of magnitude more powerful than in the past. But what's happening in Syria, like what happened in Libya, is some cause for optimism…
I think this latter point is a real driving force behind so-called gun-control laws. It's not about safety or reducing crime. John Lott, among others, has shown that that's just not so. The state does not want the people it rules to have any power to resist it. The state wants its subjects to feel powerless and forced to rely on it for everything.
And so today, unfortunately, it's becoming more and more dangerous to be a gun owner in the US. Owning a gun means you're an automatic addition to the list of undesirables. The whole atmosphere in the US has changed.
L: I suppose state troopers can see if people have a concealed carry permit when they type license-plate numbers into their onboard computers – that could change the character of a simple traffic stop pretty quickly.
Doug: Yes. And cops are increasingly aggressive and paranoid in the US – it's not a good thing. We no longer see friendly "Andy Griffith" types who help lost kids get home. We see heavily armed and armored paramilitary thugs who see citizens as potential enemies. It's a fact that the term cops often use for civilians is "assholes." Cops increasingly suffer from an "us against them" mentality. Their first loyalty is to other cops, then to their employer, the government, and only then to those they're supposed to "serve and protect." It's laughable actually, the way they're portrayed in TV cop shows; good cops are becoming the exception, not the rule.
L: Speaking of this and mass shootings, I find it quite telling that the emphasis seems to have shifted from stopping the violence ASAP to making sure officers don't get hurt. If memory serves, in several recent cases more victims died after the cops showed up, because they formed cordons and waited until they thought it was safe to proceed. That's why many of these shootings only end when the shooter kills himself – Columbine, for example. Well, there was that one case in which two boys whose father was a Navy SEAL and who had been themselves trained in the use of guns tackled the shooter when he stopped to reload – they knew they had a chance while others just cowered.
Doug: Like many things that have to do with the state, it's perverse. Being a cop is more dangerous than being an office worker, but it's a lot less dangerous than being a fisherman, a roofer, a logger, a farmer, or many other professions in which physical danger is commonplace. The paranoia cops feel is unjustified. And it's a line of work that is drawing the wrong kind of people today, as we've discussed before.
I hate to say it, but I think the bad guys are winning on this issue, and the right to self-defense seems unlikely to last much longer in the US. The bad guys seem to be winning in many areas all over the world. Let's hope for a massive change of trend. I'm working for it, as are you. It's not because I expect to succeed, but because it's the right thing to do.
L: As it happens, this subject came up on my way back from Lithuania; the young lady next to me on the plane commented on the movie theater shooting in Colorado, and I said it was too bad no one in the audience was armed. She asked if it wouldn't be better if all guns could be banned – then nothing like this could ever happen. That's that way most people think these days.
I made the point that if guns are outlawed, they will not cease to exist; but the law-abiding won't have them and the outlaws will. I also pointed out that the guy's apparent purpose was to kill people, not just to go shooting. We hear he had bomb-making material in his apartment – he could have used that if he didn't have guns, or maybe just driven a truck through the glass doors of a busy store and run people over. Eliminating one set of tools does not eliminate the problem of there being a homicidal maniac on the lose. Just look at the recent mass shooting in Norway, where they have gun control. There was one in Germany some years ago, involving a high-school triathlon competitor who used his slow-fire competition rifle to kill a lot of people – and they've got a lot of gun-control laws in Germany.
To her credit, my fellow passenger gave this some thought, but even that is a rarity. So many people have made up their minds that guns are intrinsically evil, there's no point in even discussing the matter with them.
Doug: I've thought about this too; I suspect that if someone wanted to go on a killing spree, he could do a lot of harm with a simple bow and hunting arrows, with a machete as a secondary weapon – maybe even more harm than a shooter – before he could be stopped. Since the bow is almost silent, people wouldn't necessarily be alerted to the violence right away. And it's harder to disarm someone with an edged weapon in close quarters than someone with a gun.
L: It could be anything; one could put a bike chain on the exit of a crowded theater and then torch the place with a can of gasoline and a lighter. Removing one set of tools from the picture – even if it could be done – does not remove the problem, which is whatever factors are driving people to become mass murderers.
Doug: That's exactly right. You've got to get to the root of the problem, and I believe that root is that a lot of people have serious psychological aberrations. The world won't be free of violence until everyone has confronted their personal demons, come to understand them, and eliminated them.
L: I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that. I'm glad I have some ability to defend my family now. But what's the answer, then?
Doug: I don't know that there is any simple solution. But the answer is not to suppress bad impulses with the psychiatric drugs that are so popular; all they do is disguise the symptoms and tighten down the lid on the pressure cooker. Furthermore, when you try to control people physically or chemically, it leads to frustration and hostility, and those things lead to violence. In addition, the state has encouraged people to behave irresponsibly for generations now. People think it's a good thing for the nanny state to take care of everything for people: feed them, clothe them, medicate them, tell everyone what's right and wrong. This encourages people, subtly and overtly, to act in irresponsible ways. It's no surprise then that irresponsibility and criminality is what we get. Long term, the solution is to encourage people to take responsibility for their own lives – but the government is doing exactly the opposite.
I blame the state in many ways. The very existence of the state is, at least, a contributing factor to most of the world's problems.
L: I agree. In the US, it started earlier, most notably with the US's disastrous attempt at alcohol prohibition, but really, the major push in this direction started with the New Deal. That's when things changed from "some people are unlucky, so we'll lend a helping hand" to "people are not competent to take care of themselves, so we must force everyone to participate in state-run retirement and medical care schemes." Lo and behold, you tell people for generations that they are irresponsible and not capable of anything else, and you get a lot of irresponsibility.
Add to this a compulsory, coercive education system in which many schools look more like prisons than places of education, and you get a lot of frustrated people under pressure and without a strong sense of responsibility for their own actions. The consequences seem clean and unsurprising to me.
Doug: That's absolutely right. And the more the politicians do to try to solve the problem, the worse they make it. They don't see that they are the problem. Speaking of Prohibition, everybody applauds Roosevelt for helping re-legalize alcohol in 1933. But the fool learned nothing, because in 1938 he illegalized hemp – an extremely useful and salubrious plant – and basically started the insane War on Drugs. It amazes me that people look to politicians for solutions. They've learned absolutely nothing.
L: So… Boobus americanus is unlikely to vote the bums out. What to do?
Doug: You know my opinion: the most intelligent thing to do is remove yourself and your loved ones from harm's way. Unfortunately, today that means most Western developed countries. This is why I prefer spending most of my time in the so-called Third World these days. As a practical matter, you're both much freer and much safer than you are in the US – or EU, for that matter.
L: So… we've talked about your favorite guns before… you packing heat today, Doug?
Doug: No, I'm not. I travel a lot and as a practical matter, can't carry all the time, which makes it dangerous to carry some of the time. I wouldn't want to get into a situation inadvertently thinking I was packing when I wasn't.
L: I went shooting recently with my wife and uncle – it had been too long, and I was rusty. It was a first for my wife, however, who picked it up like an old habit she'd forgotten she had. She hit the target with every weapon she tried, from a variety of distances. Her favorite was my .44 magnum, with its authoritative boom. It was fun!
But back to business – is there an investment angle to this?
Doug: Well, it's not practical to invest in guns on a large scale, because they're not expensive enough – too bulky to put big money into. Nor is it politically wise; if you have more than a few you might be tagged as an enemy of the state. On the other hand, they are durable, and prices have at least kept up with inflation. Guns maintain high resale values, so putting a few thousand of dollars into some good guns is a sound move – you won't lose money.
But a better investment is ammunition. I say that because the Second Amendment still makes it hard for the government to just steal everyone's guns and ban new ones. I think it will be easier for them to disarm people by regulating ammunition and taxing it right off the market – and, of course, a gun without ammunition is not much use. So, without making ammo illegal, they will essentially ban it by making it too expensive, and that makes stockpiling ammo a good speculation. I suggest owning a bunch – say a couple thousand rounds in each of a number of calibers. Put it in a dry, cool, safe place and forget about it.
L: Betting on the government doing the wrong thing and profiting – a classic Casey speculation. I guess ammo's not as good as gold, but in a pinch, boxes of ammo could function as money: they are durable, divisible, compact enough to be pretty convenient, and the units are consistent – and they have value in their utility.
Doug: Right. A no-lose investment, with big percentage upside and a lot of utility. You just can't reasonably have a lot of money there.
L: What about stocks? Would you buy Smith & Wesson?
Doug: No, I wouldn't – changes in regs could crush a gun manufacturer's profits at the stroke of a pen – too much political risk these days. And as far as general equities go, I think stocks are overvalued and vulnerable – I don't want to buy any at this point. However, in my 1993 book, Crisis Investing for the Rest of the '90s, I mentioned a pair trade of going short Ben & Jerry's and going long Ruger. Ben & Jerry's was overpriced and Ruger was underpriced – it turned out to be a tremendous spread. It was the perfect politically incorrect trade, which made it amusing and psychologically gratifying as a bonus.
L: So, what else, besides stashing ammo in the basement?
Doug: Well, everyone who travels should buy cigarettes and liquor every time they go through the airport and have access to a duty-free shop. You don't have to smoke them or drink them; such items are highly liquid and hold their value over time.
L: I can't see putting a couple million into cartons of Marlboros…
Doug: No, these are not serious investments, just prudent things to do with smaller amounts of money. Like buying a stash of silver coins.
L: Very well then. Words to the wise. Thanks for another interesting conversation.
Doug: My pleasure. We'll talk again next week, and then again at our Casey Summit coming up in California.
L: Right. For those who can't make that, you'll also be speaking at the New Orleans Investment Conference, October 24-27.
Doug: Right. Keep your powder dry.
L: I will, Doug. Thanks.
While loading up on cigarettes and booze won't offer much protection for the bulk of your wealth, there are steps you can take right now to shield your portfolio from an increasingly intrusive government. One of the most important things you can do is to internationalize your assets.