Editor’s note: Regular readers know that Casey Research founder Doug Casey made his fortune by being a contrarian.
Adhering to contrarian views – buying when there’s “blood in the streets” and not getting shaken out of investments due to panic – is a skill. It takes discipline and a sound mind.
In today’s Conversations With Casey, Doug applies his calm, cool, rational thinking to the coronavirus panic… tells us why it’s just hysteria… and shares what we should really worry about.
Daily Dispatch: Doug, the coronavirus attracted a lot of headline attention in recent weeks. This seems to be the latest in a number of deadly viruses that have emanated from China or Southeast Asia in recent years.
Is this coincidental? Do these things happen everywhere and all the time? Or, can you see any kind of connection between these virus outbreaks and urbanization?
After all, when you’ve got 1.4 billion people living in an area the size of the United States… is this inevitable?
Doug Casey: There are several questions here. In the first place, I suspect this is mostly hysteria. Why do I say that? The total number of casualties from the last two viral epidemics, SARS and MERS, were less than 1,000. That’s not even a rounding error. Your chances of getting these things, including Wuhan coronavirus, are about zero. It’s a decimal point with lots of zeros on the right side.
In other words, don’t worry about it. In fact, before medicine discovered bacteria and viruses, before it was able to diagnose the cause of diseases, many of these things came and went unnoticed. They sickened some people, killed a few others, but most people never even knew that they were there. I look at it in that context.
The real damage is likely to be gigantic amounts of wasted time and resources due to the hysteria.
Daily Dispatch: And the issue of whether this is a “China thing” or related to urbanization?
Doug Casey: Great epidemics have always come out of large population centers. That’s where these things can spread and mutate easily.
The bubonic plague arose from the giant pools of humanity in central and eastern Asia. That’s nothing unusual. If you’re around diseased people, you run a better chance of getting sick. That’s a major reason to stay out of hospitals – they’re veritable petri dishes of disease.
The plot of one of Stephen King’s novels is going to be right eventually – some ultra-lethal mutation will arise, spread insanely well, and wipe out a lot of the human race. The U.S. government has spent many billions of dollars since the end of World War II developing biological agents. No doubt they’ll use them at some point. They have lots of advantages over either conventional or nuclear weapons. They don’t destroy material, you can inoculate your own troops against them, they’re super cheap, they can wipe out the enemy before he even knows he’s under attack, and there’s plausible deniability about who did it.
Taking this further, bio agents can be bred to zero-in on particular racial groups. This would be convenient for the U.S. government, should there be a major war with China. Perhaps agents will be used to just wipe out major crops to cause global famine – easy since most crops today are giant monocultures. I suspect World War III will have a big bio element.
Daily Dispatch: Whoa. Many of our readers will be shocked that governments could develop bio agents to target specific racial groups. Do you really think that’s possible?
Doug Casey: Of course. The sociopaths that populate the American government and every other government in the world think the same way. Do you think the ethical character of the kind of people who go into government has improved since the very recent days of Stalin’s USSR, Hitler’s Germany, or Mao’s China? If anything, they’ve degenerated… The situation is potentially even more dangerous than the threat of thermonuclear war.
I’m not, incidentally, saying that’s what the coronavirus is about, but you’ll recall there were similar rumors about an escaped virus in the case of both AIDS and Ebola. At the same time, anything that can happen almost certainly will happen, eventually.
In fact, in my seventh Charles Knight novel, we have a variation on that theme. But that’s also in the future. This July we’ll release Assassin, the third in the series.
That said, I wouldn’t get terribly worried about this particular episode.
Daily Dispatch: So you don’t think there’s any chance of a repeat of one of the most famous and deadly viruses in recent history, the Spanish flu of 1918? The way some of the press is going on at the moment, you could be forgiven for thinking that coronavirus is the modern equivalent.
Do you have any comments on why this is all just hysteria?
Doug Casey: Well, I’m neither a virologist nor a biological researcher. So who knows? Probably no one at this point. Maybe it is a Spanish flu lookalike. But I believe in the law of large numbers, and the odds are against it.
Also, you have to remember that the Spanish flu was hatched in a wartime environment 100 years ago. Mass chaos, bad sanitation, and widespread medical ignorance. And not even antibiotics to combat bacterial pneumonia, which was the actual agent of many deaths.
Today, we have a lot more knowledge about how these things spread; what’s wise and what’s unwise. Sure, it can happen again. But medicine has advanced a long way in the last hundred years.
The odds of a large pandemic are much lower now than they were then for that reason alone.
Daily Dispatch: Sounds like you’re not letting the hysteria get to you… thanks for your time today, Doug.
Doug Casey: No problem.