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Finding Freedom in an Unfree World: A Reality Check

About 10 years ago, Doug Casey set out to create something no one else had successfully done before…

In a world where freedom is increasingly scarce, Doug wanted to create a freedom seeker’s paradise.

But is that even possible? Can you actually break the chains government sociopaths have put you in?

The answer, as you’re about to find out, is yes and no.

Here’s my discussion with Doug.

Until next time,

Nick Giambruno
Senior Editor
International Man

Nick Giambruno: Hello, Doug. Today we’re talking about whether it’s actually possible to find freedom in an unfree world, to paraphrase the title of Harry Browne’s book.

You’ve spent most of your adult life looking for freedom. Your involvement with La Estancia de Cafayate in Argentina is part of that quest. The project started in earnest about 10 years ago. From your perspective, how’s it going?

Doug Casey: It’s going better than even I anticipated—and I had high expectations. The main reason is that birds of a feather like to flock together. If I just wanted to live in a pleasant place, I could’ve stayed in Aspen, which is a small town about the size of Cafayate that already has all the facilities and amenities you could possibly want. But Aspen has two problems from my point of view.

Number one, it’s in the United States, and I’m afraid the U.S. has become the epicenter of much of what is to be feared in the world. And number two, the people that wind up living in Aspen are no longer the kind of people I want to associate with—as often as not, rich statists.

As a result, even when I’m invited to cocktail parties and such, I find that I’m the skeleton at the feast because I don’t have any values in common with them.

So where do you go if you’re a libertarian? In actual fact, there is no place in the world where it’s known that libertarians can hang out together… especially successful libertarians. If I could have found a place like that, I simply would have bought a lot there and made my life a lot easier. But there wasn’t, and so after searching for the right place to create it—and I’ve been to 145 or more countries—we wound up where we are.

Nick: What’s your vision for La Estancia de Cafayate? Is the idea to build a community of like-minded people, where they can enjoy the good life in good company, or is there more to it than that?

Doug: Well, the people who have bought lots there are from 33 different countries, so obviously everybody is not moving in exact philosophical lockstep, if only for that reason. I’d say around half of the buyers are American, another 20% are Canadian, the next largest contingent is Argentine, and then there are people from over two dozen other countries.

So that’s where the people come from geographically. But philosophically and psychologically, I’d say there is a definite get-along/go-along libertarian attitude common to the owners. So the chances are excellent that when you meet your neighbor, you are going to like them. And you’ll find that the people you meet from the Estancia community are the kind of people you’d like to have over for a drink or a barbecue. I can’t say that about my neighbors in Aspen, most of whom are antagonistic to each other.

Nick: As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time down there myself. I’m also an owner and a happy member of the community. While the place is beautiful and the weather and the caliber of food and so forth are excellent, people who’ve bought property there tend to mention those things as secondary reasons for buying. By a wide margin, the number one reason is the strong sense of connection to community coalescing around La Estancia.

Doug: Yes. It’s a little like analyzing mining stocks. People are, by far, the most important thing. Next is the property, and I think that’s spectacular in all regards. I was very particular about the physical beauty and the weather, both of which are important, but I was adamant about having the kind of amenities that would make it enjoyable to live there. By the time the place is fully buffed out—and we are well advanced at this point—I’m of the opinion that, from a physical amenity point of view, it will be one the best places in the world to live at any price.

This is the reason we’ve put in a world-class gymnasium of 3,500 square feet and a separate yoga and aerobics room, all outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment. That’s why the spa not only has an outdoor lap pool, but an indoor resistance swimming pool. Plus, there’s a kids’ clubhouse with the kinds of things kids like.

We’ve tried not to miss a trick: a basketball court, three tennis courts, a squash court, a volleyball court, a bocce ball court, and a regulation croquet course. Those last two are great fun with a few drinks after dinner.

Nick: And you haven’t even mentioned the polo field and Bob Cupp-designed golf course, or the clubhouse.

Doug: Yes. I may be getting a little too long in the tooth to play polo properly, but I don’t feel like I’m quite old enough to play golf yet. I know golfers love their golf courses, though, and we have one of the best golf courses in the hemisphere, I’m told. Anyway, riding either one of my polo thoroughbreds or a Paso Peruana on the trails through the woods and the vineyards is likely to be a daily thing for me.

In the evening, I often spend time at the social clubhouse. It’s very “gemütlich”—a home away from home.

Nick: Okay, so that’s the vision for La Estancia, which you could describe as a libertarian enclave, with people from different walks of life and various countries and cultures coming together in an amenity-rich community. You picked Argentina. Why?

Doug: Once I had decided that the U.S. was not the place to be, I began a process of elimination. Canada was out, partially because it’s U.S.-lite, partially because the weather is not acceptable there six months of the year.

Central America crossed my mind, but it’s backward, lacks class, and is completely overrun with gringos looking for cheap beer. Mexico has a lot of problems, especially when it comes to land tenure.

So where else are you going to go?

Europe has been on the frontline of serious wars for the last 2,000 years and there is no reason to think that’s going to end at this point. In addition, Europe is fiscally bankrupt, highly socialist, and quite expensive. It is in demographic decline and has serious problems developing from the Muslim world. Switzerland is way too uptight. All of Europe is a sinking ship; very expensive, extraordinarily bureaucratic, and not really an alternative to the U.S. at all.

In Asia, the only place that made sense to me was Thailand, but you’d never become a part of Thai society. And they have begun to enforce regulations that make it harder for a foreigner to buy property and live there. Singapore is very meticulous about everything, including the application of its immigration laws. Plus it’s very expensive, and it’s a city.

Australia and New Zealand are entirely too collectivist. I thought of some South Pacific Islands, but they’re way too far off the beaten path. In the end, it boiled down to the Southern Cone—Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile—where typically there are no squatter problems, good property rights, no racial tensions, and European traditions.

Within those three countries (and I’ve travelled extensively in all three), I was drawn to Cafayate as the place that I liked best in terms of just about everything.

I like Argentina’s wide-open spaces. I like the fact that it’s culturally more like Europe than Europe itself is at this point, and that the costs are quite low. I like the sophisticated culture. This is not to say it’s the perfect place because, if it were, it would have almost no government.

Nick: Let’s talk about that for a second. You’re not saying Argentina is perfect in all respects. You’re saying it’s the best option. So even though you decided Argentina was the best place for the sort of community you wanted to build, the country itself isn’t a libertarian paradise, a laissez-faire society where anything goes. Is that a fair statement?

Doug: Yes, that is a fair statement. Though one of the many nice things about Argentina is that, because of decades of poor government, people have developed what appears to me to be a fairly widespread disregard for the institution. It’s possible to live there with very little aggravation—I’d say, as a practical matter, much less so than in the U.S.

For instance, if we tried to build La Estancia in the United States in, say, Colorado, where I’m somewhat familiar with the political situation, after five years we would still be arguing with the county commissioners about how much welfare housing we were going to have to put in and a dozen other things we’d have to resolve before getting the permits needed to even break ground. But in roughly that same time period, we’ve built all the primary infrastructure at La Estancia. There are 50 completed houses and another 15 are under construction. Most of the lots have been sold. The property has zero debt against it. It’s been amazingly easy and, based on the net result of what’s been accomplished, efficient.

In addition, an important part of the vision for La Estancia from the very beginning is as a hedge against having all your assets in the U.S., Canada, or similarly degrading countries in the more developed world. If history has taught no other lesson, it’s that having all your eggs in one political basket can be a very big mistake.

The most important diversification you can make, by far, is political diversification. That’s because the biggest risk to your wealth today isn’t fluctuations in the market (although that’s a big risk). Your biggest risk is a political risk from your own government. So no matter where you live—but especially if you are an American—it’s very important to have significant assets outside the bailiwick of your government. Sure, you may be able to open a foreign bank account, which you have to report, and you may be able to find a foreign broker who will still let you open an account. But the U.S. government could still force you to close those and repatriate the assets.

About the only thing that’s really politically safe is property, and ideally property you can enjoy if, for any reason, things become too unpleasant in your home country. If history has taught anything over the last century, it has taught the importance of that diversification. Just look at the Russians in the 1910s, the Germans in the 1930s, the Cubans in the 1950s, the Vietnamese in the 1970s, the Iranians and Rhodesians in the 1980s, the Yugoslavs in the 1990s. That’s just off the top of my head.

I expect upsets like that are going to increase, not decrease, in the years to come because we’re going into another period of global war, and the U.S. is going to be in the middle of it. That’s something else that drew me to Argentina: it not only stayed out of the last two world wars, but profited from them. I don’t expect a change in their approach to foreign adventures.

But you must be diversified, because anything can happen anywhere today, even though most people ignore that simple fact.

(Editor’s Note: Doug and Nick are expert “crisis investors.” They invest in markets that are bombed out, hated, and depressed. This strategy allows them to buy world-class companies at bargain prices… and to buy a dollar’s worth of assets for pennies. This sets Doug and Nick up to make big gains, like the 210% gain they made on the Cypriot hospitality business Lordos Hotels in the wake of that country’s banking crisis.

It’s all part of a strategy we believe anyone can use to “flip” financial chaos into a fortune. No matter their investing experience or level of wealth. That’s why Doug and Nick put together a video to show you exactly how to use this profitable technique. Click here to watch it now.)

Nick: On top of its other advantages, Cafayate is also a very successful up-and-coming wine region.

Doug: Yes. There is something about living among the vineyards that is just extremely civilized and desirable. And any climate that grapes like is the kind of climate that people like: warm and sunny during the day, but cool at night.

There is no ideal place in the world, but Cafayate is about as good as it gets, based on my many travels.

Nick: There’s one other thing worth mentioning. In Argentina, you are free from media-created hysteria and the constant barrage of blaring cable TV news programs, which are almost impossible to avoid in the U.S. While in Cafayate, I typically have no idea what’s going on in the rest of world, and I don’t care in the slightest. In fact, when you come back to the U.S. you realize none of the media hype really matters.

Doug: That’s right. Of course, we have all the satellite channels, high-speed Internet, and the rest of it. But you’re not inundated with them as you are in the U.S. I also minimize my use of them, by choice.

Nick: You didn’t exactly rush into the idea of helping to build La Estancia de Cafayate. It wasn’t your dream to get involved in a project of this scale, but you’ve done it. How did that come about?

Doug: Well, this thing actually evolved organically. There was no intention from the get-go to build it, but it just seemed like there was no alternative. If I wanted to live in a community such as La Estancia, it became clear that I’d have to be involved in building it. As it turns out, the place is unique.

It’s why in the years to come there will be loads of people who want to live there, but won’t be able to. There are only so many lots. It’s intentionally small and exclusive.

Nick: So, to sum up, it may not be possible to find unfettered freedom in today’s unfree world, but you can structure things in such a way that, by diversifying internationally, you can enjoy a fantastic lifestyle free of the risk of a single government sweeping in and grabbing your assets… or worse.

Doug: I personally feel much safer and much freer when I’m at La Estancia than I do when I’m in the U.S. And if there were a better place to be, believe me, I would be there because I diligently looked everywhere and compared the pros, the cons, the advantages, and the disadvantages. There is no perfect place. Shangri-La does not exist, but this is as close as I think you can reasonably come.

Nick: We’ve just confirmed the dates for Doug Casey’s next private retreat at La Estancia de Cafayate… and you are invited.

This exclusive event takes place November 1-6.

You’ll join Doug Casey and friends in an immersive experience of the good life in Cafayate. The week will be filled with exciting social events including cocktail parties, horseback riding adventures, golf, tennis, luxuriating at the athletic club and spa, dining out on Cafayate’s scenic plaza, and generally enjoying Argentina.

There will also be plenty of opportunities to network with successful, like-minded individuals from all around the world.

Most importantly, this retreat will allow you to fully appreciate why, out of all the places in the world, Doug chose Argentina—and specifically Cafayate—as the place to build his freedom seeker’s lifestyle community.

As you are probably aware, there has been a massive shake-up in Argentina’s government with a free-market advocate replacing a dysfunctional populist president. Consequently, the country is brimming with renewed optimism.

With its markets opening up, there’s a good chance Argentina will offer some very attractive investment returns in the months ahead. Be sure to mark the dates: November 1-6.

The only way to fully appreciate the opportunities in Argentina and the good life at Doug’s La Estancia de Cafayate is to visit in person.

Space is extremely limited. For more information about this special retreat with Doug Casey and how to attend, send an email to JoinNick@LaEst.com.