|Doug Casey on His Favorite Place in the World|
|by Doug Casey ||
If you’re interested in international diversification, you’ve likely taken the time to think about where your favorite place in the world is.
If there’s one person’s opinion on this subject that’s worth hearing, it’s Doug Casey’s. Doug is a friend and mentor, so naturally I’m a little biased. But even if I didn’t know Doug personally, I would honestly say the same thing.
Having been to over 145 countries, Doug is by far the most well-traveled person I know. But it’s not just a contest of how many countries a person has been to. Doug’s unique and historically informed point of view is what really sets him apart.
Doug, of course, has thought long and hard about his favorite place in the world. He concluded that, for him, it’s Argentina, the location of La Estancia de Cafayate, Doug’s sporting and lifestyle estate in beautiful Salta Province.
Which naturally gives rise to the question, “Why, of all the places in the world Doug could have built his vision of a freedom lover’s paradise, did he and his partners choose a remote pueblo in Argentina, a country with a famously dysfunctional government and which is once again in the news for thumbing its nose at the international financial community?”
To provide the answers, I got in touch with Doug for an interview, which you’ll find below.
While the average person might instinctively (and ignorantly) dismiss Argentina off the bat, I’d suggest you read what Doug has to say about it.
Here are a couple more facts about La Estancia de Cafayate:
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ll be joining Doug thisfor a unique opportunity to experience life at La Estancia de Cafayate.
There are only a handful of spots left, so if you would like to join Doug and me, email Juan Larrañaga at JoinNick@LaEst.com.
Juan will send you all the information you need to begin your trip planning.
I hope to see you there.
Until next time,
Nick Giambruno: Let’s start with the big question. Why, of all the places in the world you could have selected to build your vision of a freedom lover’s paradise, did you choose Argentina?
Doug Casey: For some time now, I have stressed the importance of diversifying internationally. I wanted to diversify outside the United States because, although every country in the world is headed in the wrong direction, at this point in time, the U.S. is heading there more quickly and with far more serious consequences, especially for me as a U.S. citizen. So, I have spent a lot of time looking all around the world - and I’ve been to over 145 countries - in what was basically a process of elimination.
I ruled out Africa, which is where I would go if I were 30 years younger and I wanted to make a bunch of money. But as a lifestyle choice, it’s a nonstarter.
I ruled out most of Europe, though there are still some interesting places there, because it’s likely to be on the front lines of what may resemble WWIII, as well as the unfolding conflict with Islam. Plus, it’s overtaxed, overregulated, completely corrupt, and the population has an extremely socialistic mind-set. Further, all the European countries are members of organizations such as NATO, OECD, and the EU, which carry the potential to drag them into every fresh crisis that arises in that historically troubled region, the current dust-up with Russia being a good example.
I’m a big fan of Southeast Asia. The problem is that the region is full of people, which is fine if you want to live in a city, but I also like wide open spaces. And if you aren’t Thai or Chinese, they will never truly accept you into their society. They may treat you as an honored guest, but more likely as a white ghost; you’ll never truly integrate. That isn’t always a bad thing, but I like to at least have the option.
So that brings us to Latin America. I ruled out Central America because, frankly, it has no class…the land of the Frito Bandito and all that. I’ve been to every country in Latin America numerous times and I could talk about all of them at length, but by process of elimination, it basically boiled down to Argentina.
Of course, Argentina has problems, but regardless of the tremendously bad press its current government gets, it has fewer problems than any other place I can think of, and far more advantages.
Nick: Since you mention the government, there’s no question the Argentine political class skews socialist. How does that impact you on a daily basis?
Doug: Not very much at all, because you have to remember that Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, but has a population of only 41 million people, most of them concentrated in and around Buenos Aires.
So once you’re out of the capital, it’s truly wide open spaces. When people are widely dispersed, it tends to be much more relaxed, almost an Old West kind of atmosphere. So that’s point number one.
Point two is that, although it’s true that everybody who goes into the government in Argentina - just as in the United States or Europe or anywhere - has a very statist and collectivist mind-set, of all the countries in Latin America, Argentina has by far the strongest libertarian, or classical liberal, tradition. There isn’t even a second-place contender when it comes to that. It’s a very sophisticated, well-educated, outward-looking country.
So while it’s true that, politically, the country has been captured by Peronism and populism, the basic culture is far superior to any other place in Latin America. And, frankly, the government doesn’t bother me, at all, when I’m there. I’m viewed as a valuable foreign investor, which is quite different from the way I’m treated in the United States: as a milk cow on the way to becoming a beef cow.
Look, every country in the world has its problems, but from the point of view of living there, Argentina actually has fewer of them. In addition, from a cultural point of view, it’s one of the most desirable places in the world.
Nick: You’ve written a lot about the coming Greater Depression - which, from where we sit, seems to be approaching like a slow-motion avalanche. In that scenario, how does a place like Cafayate rate as a bolt hole?
Doug: Well, that’s one of the fundamental reasons I zeroed in on Cafayate.
Put it this way: When I’m in the U.S., I live in Aspen, Colorado, and everybody in Aspen is looking for the next Aspen, because the house prices are $5, $10, $15 million, or more. But although everyone is looking for the next Aspen, the next Aspen doesn’t exist in the U.S., or even in North America. Even taking the whole world into account, there are just a handful of candidates, and it turns out that Cafayate is one of those.
For starters, although it has its own jet airport, it’s in a very isolated part of Argentina, sited in a stunning valley surrounded by mountains, with not much of anything there other than the town of Cafayate. And that is surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of vineyards. Of course, wherever wine grapes grow, generally the climate is perfect, and people love it.
So, we have this little town of 10,000 people, a tourist town, a wine town like a young Napa Valley - it’s ideal for pleasurable living. But to expand on your question, on a macro scale, Argentina isn’t involved in any entangling foreign alliances or conflicts. This is also a very important plus.
Well, there is the problem with the Falklands, but there’s nothing the government can do about it because the average Argentine despises both the army and the police. This is a very good thing compared to, say, a country like Chile, where they actually love their army and police, which I don’t find a good thing at all.
I’ll illustrate the point by relating that the Argentines had a destroyer, and three years ago that destroyer actually sank at its moorings at the dock and keeled over 45 degrees from lack of maintenance. That’s how competent the Argentine military is at this point.
So, Argentina isn’t going to get involved in any conflicts, either with its nearby neighbors or countries further afield, and I like that.
Nick: What about the state of the Argentine economy?
Doug: The economy is a disaster, but in the past, investing in countries where the economy is the dumps has treated me very well. I like bargains. It’s a huge plus for those with foreign currencies.
For example, when I moved to Spain, not so long after Franco left, the economy was a disaster, and things were very cheap. Then it boomed, so I was effectively paid for living there.
When I moved to Hong Kong, it was considered an extremely risky place because the Chinese were about to take over. I bought an apartment that I later sold for over 20 times what I paid for it. That was only possible because people were fearful then. It’s precisely why I wouldn’t buy in London, New York, or Sydney today - people are optimistic, and prices are insane.
Negative attitudes ruled when I moved to New Zealand; it was becoming the shallow end of the gene pool, and anybody with half a brain and the money for airfare had left for Sydney or London or Los Angeles. But since I moved there, the currency has gone up two and a half times and the price of property within that currency has gone up another four times, more or less. Time to move on...
You’ve got to buy when things are cheap and, of all the countries in the world I look at, right now Argentina is the best bargain. By far. And that’s just one reason I’ve moved to Argentina. It isn’t a risky place to go; it’s actually a very low-risk place to go for that reason.
Nick: Few people have wandered the globe as much as you have over the years. Is there something about the Latin culture or, more specifically, the culture of Argentina that you find more appealing than other places people might look at as potential expatriate destinations?
Doug: Well, it’s an immigrant culture, which I find a very positive thing. The Argentines have a saying: “The Mexicans came from the Aztecs, the Guatemalans came from the Mayans, and the Peruvians came from the Incas, but we come from the boats.”
That reflects the fact it is actually the most European society in the world today. Argentines don’t view themselves as being Latin - they view themselves as being Europeans. Another saying which is worth repeating is that an Argentine is an Italian who speaks Spanish but thinks he’s British.
Most of the Argentines are of one of those nationalities, plus German and Irish and many others. So, like only a few other places in the word, most notably the U.S., it’s an immigrant culture.
It’s also a very well-educated society, unlike a lot of other countries in Latin America or Asia, where the average person is unsophisticated, unknowledgeable, and burdened with a peasant mentality. Not so with the average Argentine. It is a very outward-looking and well-educated society, far more than any other place in Latin America. And perhaps with the exception of Panama, which is almost a U.S. colony at this point, in Argentina, a surprising number of people speak two or three languages, a sign of a general level of cultural sophistication.
And there is no other city in Latin America that compares to Buenos Aires. I love BA, though I don’t spend much of my time there.
Nick: What do you love most about Argentina?
Doug: For me, it’s the personal freedom.
Of course, with my middle-class values, I appreciate the low cost of living in Argentina, but what I really love is that nobody bothers me. There is a very limited and nonthreatening police presence, and outside the bad parts - which every big city has - of Buenos Aires, a very peaceful country.
On a more personal level, I love that I can get up in the morning in Cafayate and work out in the Athletic Club for an hour, followed by an hour-long massage for $25, then maybe ride my horse for a while before doing some business on the Internet.
In the evening, I might decide to wander over to the Grace Cafayate hotel for a drink and to smoke a cigar in the cigar bar there. Then maybe play a game of poker with some of the gang.
So the lifestyle there is perfect. And I speak as somebody who spends a lot of time in Aspen, which is supposed to have the best lifestyle in the world. But I find Cafayate a huge improvement. Several of my friends from Aspen have actually made the move.
Where will YOU be this?
This is your invitation to a truly unique opportunity to enjoy the best life has to offer at La Estancia de Cafayate, Doug Casey’s lifestyle and sporting estate in the remote wine country of Northwest Argentina.
It will be a week filled with exciting social events, including cocktail parties at the new Grace Cafayate hotel, horseback riding adventures, golf, tennis, luxuriating at the Athletic Club & Spa, dining out on Cafayate’s scenic plaza, and generally enjoying springtime in Argentina…
The only way to fully appreciate the opportunities in Argentina and what’s going on at La Estancia de Cafayate is to visit in person. It will be an experience you will remember the rest of your life.
Space is extremely limited. For an itinerary and more information, email Juan Larrañaga at JoinNick@LaEst.com.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
September 28, 2015 4:52 pm
Daniel Scioli powers to lead in Argentina polls
Benedict Mander in Buenos Aires
When Argentina’s leading presidential candidate deftly tied his tie with one hand on the country’s most-watched television show the audience applauded his ability to turn adversity to his advantage.
Despite losing his right arm in a powerboat racing accident in 1989, Daniel Scioli went on to win several world championships over the next decade, balancing it with a business career selling household appliances.
ON THIS STORY
- Peronist takes lead in presidential poll
- Doubts hang over Cristina Fernández succession
- Fernández holds out for debt fight win
- Argentina struggles to pay bondholders
- Citi blocked on Argentine bond payment
ON THIS TOPIC
- Argentina aims to join shale trailblazers
- Argentine bonds buoyed by political hopes
- Argentine primary signals tight elections
- Clorox warns of Argentine devaluation
IN AMERICAS POLITICS & POLICY
Now, with just a month to go until presidential elections on October 25, polls are for the first time predicting a first-round victory for the 58-year-old governor of Buenos Aires province. By gaining more than 40 per cent of the vote with a 10-point lead over his closest rival, Mr Scioli could avoid an unpredictable run-off vote on November 22, according to a poll by Ricardo Rouvier & Asociados.
“I have prepared to be president for all of my life,” Mr Scioli recently told a theatre in central Buenos Aires that, in an ostentatious show of his support, was packed with ministers, provincial governors, businessmen and powerful representatives of the ruling Peronist party, of which he was leader until last year.
After 12 years of rule by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term, and her late husband and predecessor Néstor Kirchner — under whom Mr Scioli served as vice-president from 2003 to 2007 — Argentina is now poised for a new era.
Just how different it will be from the self-styled “victorious decade” of the Kirchner couple, who took power in the aftermath of Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse, depends on whether Mr Scioli succeeds in defeating his closest rival, Mauricio Macri, the market-friendly mayor of Buenos Aires who has branded himself as the candidate for wholesale change.
Although Mr Scioli bills himself as the continuity candidate — his running mate, Carlos Zannini, has long been one of the Kirchners’ closest advisers — he accepts that “gradual” change is needed in Argentina’s stagnating economy. The country has a yawning fiscal deficit, double-digit inflation and critically low foreign exchange reserves. Complicating matters, Argentina’s ability to borrow abroad is hindered by a legal disputewith a group of US hedge funds.
“Most of the problems in Argentina’s economy have the same source, which is the fiscal deficit, and the financing of it by the central bank,” says Mario Blejer, an economic adviser to Mr Scioli and former central bank governor. “The worst problem is the lack of investment, but if you don’t fix the other problems, you won’t get investment,” he says.
There is broad consensus among Mr Scioli’s economic team that Argentina needs access to international financing to plug the fiscal deficit, and that in order to do so an agreement must be reached with the so-called “holdout” creditors, who refused to participate in debt restructurings after the 2001 default. Even so, publicly Mr Scioli still echoes Ms Fernández’s attacks against what he also calls “vulture” funds.
“Don’t concentrate too much on what Daniel says right now. Look instead at how he has governed the province of Buenos Aires for the last eight years,” says Gustavo Marangoni, the president of the Bank of the Province of Buenos Aires and a close adviser to Mr Scioli.
Most of the problems in Argentina’s economy have the same source, which is the fiscal deficit, and the financing of it by the central bank
- Mario Blejer, economic adviser to Daniel Scioli
Making up for a lack of charisma with a work ethic that Mr Marangoni describes as “hyperactive”, Mr Scioli has succeeded in balancing the budget and halving the debt of Buenos Aires province, whose 17m inhabitants account for around 40 per cent of Argentines. In doing so, he has broken with a time-honoured tradition of chronic deficits in Argentina’s provinces.
Nevertheless, Mr Scioli says that he is constantly “underestimated”, and rejects fears that he will be Ms Fernández’s puppet after she has left office. His defenders point to Argentina’s strong presidentialist system, and his success in shrugging off previous attempts to curtail his power in office.
Many say that the confrontational Ms Fernández’s most harmful legacy is the polarisation of Argentine society. But Mr Scioli’s record as a consensus builder and negotiator has raised hopes. He negotiated his kidnapped brother’s ransom and release from leftist guerrillas when he was just 18, and decorates his home with wax statues of famous figures as disparate as Che Guevara and Winston Churchill.
“Daniel is someone who brings people together, and that will never change,” said an acquaintance. “When he won in his speedboat, he did so by overtaking the competition, not by sinking them.”