(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)

This interview was first published on August 10, 2010.

Editor’s Note: In yesterday’s Weekend Edition, Casey Research founder Doug Casey explained why the government should step aside and let private companies figure out space travel.

Today, Doug describes the amazing potential of colonizing other planets…

Louis James: I hadn't really thought of it before, but opening up the final frontier is just the sort of thing that could revitalize a dispirited people. We'd still need sound money, which I think we'll see after the sham of paper currencies is finally and fully exposed for the fraud it is, but to really get things going again in the global economy, we need the lure of huge profits that will pull frightened capital out of hibernation. The vast riches of new worlds could be just the ticket—maybe even the only thing that could get enough people to forget about their squabbling and fears and start thinking about reaching—literally—for the stars.

Doug: Indeed. I'd find it quite entertaining to see all that potential out there unleashed… What a show it would be to see how millions of entrepreneurs come up with new ways to make use of it! Space opens the possibility of thousands of different societies to live in. And with infinite power from the sun, materials from the asteroid belt, and room, it could provide a standard of living many orders of magnitude above anything on Earth. Forget about space as surviving in a cramped tin can. And forget about the military overtones of Star Trek and Star Wars—although I'm a fan of Han Solo. Maybe think in terms of the excellent TV series Firefly, or its movie spinoff Serenity.

L: And we don't even have to wipe out beautiful blue aliens to achieve these things.

Doug: Hopefully not. Although it's an excellent bet that we eventually will find aliens. I just hope it's merchant adventurers who discover them, not space Marines; the military isn't into trade, it's into weaponry.

On a different but equally fundamental level, another reason to get out there is the fact that right now humanity has all its eggs in one fragile basket. One big meteor hits the Earth, and that's it for our species. We need to spread out beyond this one little world.

L: That's hard for most people to feel as a pressing need, not when they are two mortgage payments behind and just got laid off, but I agree.

Doug: Well, one thing even those behind on their mortgages should feel, deeply and personally, is the loss of freedom we're all seeing from the cancerous growth of the police state in America and all around the world. When people can be arrested for quietly dancing in the Jefferson Memorial, or making a joke at an airport, or for tossing an aluminum can in the trash, or for not handing over half their income to the state, or for any of the myriad other things that can land peaceful, productive people in jail these days, you know this planet has too much government. And you know government is never going to get any smaller by choice. You could try to start a revolution, but that's extremely dangerous and won't make things any better in a society full of people who don't understand the nature of the problem.

It's far better to settle the new frontier, just as Europeans did when abandoning Old World despotisms for New World risks and rewards, or as Americans did, settling the West. We need a new frontier, both for those of us who want to go out there and seek our own freedom and fortune, and as a safety valve for society's discontents, who have had no place to go for the better part of a century.

L: Freedom in space—I like it. We ought to buy the Statue of Liberty when the U.S. government is really desperate for hard money, then strive to be among the first real-estate developers on Mars. We can set it up there and welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free—they sure aren't welcome in what was America anymore.

Doug: That's right—the Statue of Liberty belongs in a place that respects freedom and has open borders. A place on the frontier. The loss of freedom in the U.S. is going to accelerate hyperbolically, with the next real or imagined terrorist attack—or just on the back of deteriorating economic conditions. This is a clear and present danger that people should be thinking about.

What about you, can you think of other reasons why people should care about colonizing space?

L: I have long said that if you're green, you have to be pro-space. Even if you're of the anti-human persuasion, you have to understand that Earth's hungry billions are not going to lay down and die for your idea of paradise. On the contrary, they'll fight you if your policies make their lives harder. Instead of fueling that conflict, it's far better to move towards exploitation of space ASAP. After all, space is mostly…nothing. It's empty space. You build a factory in a far-off orbit, and nothing is disturbed. You move all heavy manufacturing off-planet, where it would be cheaper and better, and you have no pollution to speak of on Earth.

We should mine the asteroids. If they do indeed come from a smashed planet, they should have many, many, many times more metals, more easily available, than have ever been mined on earth—or ever need be.

It's possible to increase prosperity for all of Earth's billions, and make the planet greener than it's ever been in history, simply by pushing for economic access to space as fast as possible.

Doug: Good point. You're an optimist, too. Most anarcho-capitalists are optimists.

L: Are there space exploration companies to buy? Other actions to take?

Doug: There are a few private space companies out there.

L: But if they are private companies, would you really invest in them? It's one thing to be a space enthusiast, it's another to put cash into an illiquid investment in a highly challenged industry. I know you don't invest with your heart…

Doug: I try not to. But sometimes I just can't help myself.

L: I'm glad to hear it's not just me!

Doug: But you're right—I don't like investing in private companies, for many reasons, and that's all that's available in this field right now. I might invest in some of these companies with the sort of money other people give to charity—not because I think I'll profit directly, but because I think their work is worth doing, regardless. That's not an investment strategy I'd recommend to readers, but I am monitoring progress in this field because there will come a day when there's big money to be made in it—just as with nanotechnology, 3D fax, biotech, quantum computers, and other fields that are developing rapidly now.

Space technology is like any of these fields. We're right on the edge of it, and it could advance full-speed in this generation. There will be fortunes made, just as early investors in IBM, Apple, or Microsoft made fortunes.

L: Groovy—and a good, positive note to wrap up on.

Doug: Indeed.

Doug Casey is a multimillionaire speculator and the founder of Casey Research. He literally wrote the book on profiting during economic turmoil. Doug’s book, Crisis Investing, spent multiple weeks as number one on The New York Times best sellers list and was the best-selling financial book of 1980. Doug has been a regular guest on national television, including spots on CNN, Merv Griffin, Charlie Rose, Regis Philbin, Phil Donahue, and NBC News.

Doug and his team of analysts write The Casey Report, one of the world’s most respected investment advisories. Each month, The Casey Report provides specific, actionable ideas to help subscribers make money in stocks, bonds, currencies, real estate, and commodities. You can try out The Casey Report risk-free by clicking here.