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Doug Casey on Guns

 -- Published: Thursday, 15 October 2015 | Print  | Disqus 

By Doug Casey

(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)

This interview was originally published on March 17, 2010

Editor's Note: In yesterday’s Weekend Edition, Casey Research founder Doug Casey explained his controversial views on drugs, alcohol and guns.

In today’s edition, Doug explains why it’s essential to own a gun…and tells us about the guns he personally owns.

L: What would you say to our European readers or readers from other places with less tradition of firearms ownership than there is in the U.S.? Many of them think that governments keep people safe, and that individuals should not have firearms – or any weapons at all – only the police should have them.

Doug: I think that's a ridiculous attitude that flies in the face of history and the abundantly evident darker side of human nature. I think such people are both deluded and degraded.

It's striking how much things have changed on this front as well. As late as the 1930s, the period of the Indiana Jones movies accurately portray the hero as taking his pistol with him anywhere in the world, even on airplanes. In the '60s, when I was a kid, I put my rifle and my pistol in the overhead compartment on a couple of flights in the U.S., and nobody thought twice about it, including me. If you read Sherlock Holmes stories, which I've always enjoyed, you'll find that not only was Sherlock Holmes a notorious smoker of tobacco, but he was also known to indulge in other chemical substances that are illegal today. And he would often sit at his flat on Baker Street, shooting his revolver into the mantelpiece to practice his marksmanship. It wasn't mentioned, but I hope he was wearing ear protection.

L: Maybe he loaded his own ammo and made some light rounds for practice? He must have gone through a lot of mantelpieces…and had to replace the masonry of his chimney often. But that was a different world – many people say that individuals don't need guns today, that they are an anachronism.

Doug: They are simply wrong. And fools. In places where it's assumed that almost everyone has guns in their homes, like West Virginia and Alaska, the crime rate is very low. In places where guns have been outlawed in recent years, like Australia, violent crime rates have risen. And in Washington D.C., once the murder capital of the U.S., the crime rate plummeted after the city's draconian anti-gun laws were reduced. Of course, that never gets mentioned in the popular press.

L: I just looked it up, and the stats I see say that violent crime dropped 46.9%, and property crime dropped 48.3% in 2007, the year the D.C. gun ban was struck down by the Supreme Court. (As [Robert] Heinlein said, an armed society is a polite society.) But if your argument is moral – that humans have a right to self-defense – do the statistics matter?

Doug: You're quite correct, they really don't. It's improper to argue matters like this with statistics; it's purely a matter of ethics. It's an interesting observation that as a practical matter, society is better off if gun ownership is widespread, but that has nothing to do with the moral imperative: human beings have the right to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their property. And when you deny that right by law – it may sound clichéd, but it's true that when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. A system that ensures that only the predators among us have the best weapons is one that's asking for mass-produced tragedy.

Besides, a free person should not rely on others to defend him or herself – that's a kind of dependence and no way to remain free.

And anyway, you can't rely on the police to be there when you need them. Even as societies are increasingly disarming themselves, relying more on the state for everything, the police are becoming more and more of a clique unto themselves. In other words, the first obligation of police officers is to other cops – their co-workers. Their second obligation is to their employers – the government. And their third obligation – and it's a distant third – is to "serve and protect" society. "Serve and protect" is increasingly just a PR slogan. So, in today's world, you actually need a gun more, not less.

It's a happy coincidence that the moral and the practical are the same. But I find that's almost always the case.

L: [Ayn] Rand would argue that the practical is practical because it is moral. So, what about the third leg of the "right to keep and bear arms" argument? As the character V put it so well in V for Vendetta, people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of the people. A disarmed population is at the mercy of the worst thugs of all: those in uniform and their masters.

Doug: That's absolutely right. People have got to recognize that the state is not their friend. Big Brother is anything but brotherly, and the less those in power fear the people, the more bold and predatory they and their agents become. That's another reason to be armed, even if you feel safe where you live and work.

Not that I'm suggesting that anyone with a pistol and rifle would be able to stand up to an army, but it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

L: Of course. An individual, no matter how great a marksman she or he might be, can't defend a home with a gun against artillery shells. However, there are more individuals in society than there are members of the army, and if the people are armed, the balance of power changes substantially.

So, which of these three arguments is the most important to you? The moral argument (right to self-defense), the practical argument (gun ownership reduces crime), or the political argument (a disarmed populace ends up being treated like cattle)?

Doug: Oh, there's no question. It's absolutely the moral argument. If you're going to live with yourself, you have to do what's right. The only question is, what kind of guns should you own?

L: So, which ones?

Doug: Well, different people have different needs and tastes, of course, but answering this is a little more objective than it would be for alcohol or tobacco. There's a clearly discernable difference in the utility and quality of various firearms.

L: That reminds me of your story about the guy who put the same wine in three different bottles and invited some experts to a tasting…and they all imagined all sorts of differences that weren't there. But I think anyone can tell the difference between a .22 and a .44.

Doug: [Laughs] That's right. I have an S&W Model 29 – three, actually.

L: I like .44s too, but I've never had one of the famous Model 29s. A Dan Wesson .44 was my first gun.

Doug: I've got revolvers, like the .44, but I far prefer autoloaders. And there, I like .45 autos. There have been improvements since John Browning invented the "1911 .45 Automatic Colt Pistol," but his same design is still in use, because it's one of the most accurate, rugged, and practical guns ever made. There's a reason that the 1911 almost always wins combat shooting contests whenever they're held. Glocks are great too. They're extremely simple, very reliable, and they work perfectly right out of the box. You can get them in lots of different models, some very small and concealable. And because they're about half plastic, they're also very light. Great carry guns.

L: I like 1911s too, and so do my older sons. What about a battle rifle, something suitable for militia use?

Doug: The FN FAL is the Mercedes of battle rifles, in .308. But in rifles it's tough to beat the AK-47; the things are indestructible, they work no matter how dirty, and with the worst ammo. The SKS is almost as good, and half the price. Ruger ranch rifles in .223, they're really mini M-14s, but rougher. The AR-15, especially a reworked one, is kind of a "must-own" in the U.S. But, in .223, the best is actually made by Daewoo – they took the best elements of the AR, basically the lower receiver, and combined it with the best of the AK, the upper receiver. It's flawless.

But when it comes to a defensive weapon, nothing can touch a shotgun. A shotgun, along with a .45 pistol, is the absolute "must have." I'd go for a police-model pump action, with a short barrel but a long ammo tube. Mossberg makes a very inexpensive but highly serviceable one.

L: I'm partial to the AR-10, myself, for a battle rifle. I like .308 much better than the .223 caliber the Army has gone to. Sure, you can carry more ammo with the smaller round, which, I suppose, is an important advantage if you don't trust your troops to become good marksmen, but I like a round that carries a little more authority.

Doug: Well, I agree. But there's such a huge amount to be said on this subject that we haven't even scratched the surface. If someone wants an instant education, you can't go wrong getting a copy of Boston's Gun Bible by our mutual friend Boston T. Party.

L: It occurs to me that maybe it's not such a random perverseness that these three things, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, should be regulated by one agency. The BATF started out as a branch of the Department of the Treasury, not the Justice Department. And given the nature of these commodities – they are all Mad Max-type valuable goods – they have had great importance, at least historically, to tax collectors.

There's a demented kind of sense to lumping "ATF" together, from the state's perspective. Early on in America, you could pay taxes in tobacco – and marijuana, too, by the way – and whiskey was used as money. After the revolution, there was a shortage of good money in America – people forget, but America does, in fact, have past experience using worthless IOUs for money. The Continental Congress had no gold, so they issued paper promissory notes. That's where the expression "not worth a continental" comes from. Whiskey, on the other hand, was so divisible, durable, convenient, consistent, and of value in itself, that its use as money – and the government's decision to tax it – sparked a second rebellion, which George Washington put down by force.

Doug: Yes, turning crops into whiskey was actually a good way of storing them, in those relatively primitive days – and that storage only increased the value of the whiskey. That sad episode is one of the few things that besmirch Washington's otherwise rather good reputation. But I've read that he only did it because of Alexander Hamilton, who was Secretary of the Treasury at that time. A momentary lapse of judgment.

L: Hamilton was a proponent of a single national government as well, which he was instrumental in foisting on the Americans of the day, instead of the confederation of thirteen independent states they had fought for. It's said that Washington could have made himself King George the First – he had it in the palm of his hand, but he chose not to, and that's worthy of respect. But anyway, my point is that when it comes to ATF, it always comes back to money and taxes.

Doug: And raw power, which draws the worst type of people, those who believe they should, and can, control others. What makes the anti-tobacco crusade all the more perverse in this context is that much of the early wealth and power that made America flourish came from tobacco farming. And, of course, there'd be no country if American farmers hadn't acquired large numbers of guns and trained themselves to hunt and protect their families. America, in reality, was built on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. It's ironic that the ATF, set up to regulate them, is notoriously among the most corrupt of agencies. Their misadventure at Waco back in 1993 is emblematic of their mindset.

L: True enough. But guns… People trade them, and they do hold value over time, but I'm not aware of them ever being used as a medium of exchange in any significant way. Perhaps that's because they are not divisible, convenient, or consistent. But ammunition is – I've seen ammo used as money on a small scale – and you can even make change with it.

Doug: Yes, and perhaps not coincidentally, I think that's the U.S. government's next angle of attack on this issue. They'll keep pressure up, trying to take people's guns away, but the Second Amendment has, almost miraculously, slowed them down a bit lately. So, if they can't grab people's guns directly right now, I think they'll grab the ammo instead. They'll be indirect. They won't ban it, but they'll tax it and regulate it to the point where getting ammunition will be much, much harder and more expensive.

You know, perhaps it's convenient that they've rolled all these bureaucracies of thugs, including the drug enforcement thugs, into one Department of Homeland Security. It'll make it easier to round the bastards up after the next revolution. They send their minions out into the land so they can bedevil the little guy…

L: Maybe they can get spiffy black uniforms with armbands?

Doug: They're actually moving in that direction. I find it very disturbing that Homeland Security now has its own 400-acre campus in Washington. Fittingly, it's on the grounds of the old St. Elizabeth's hospital, the oldest mental institution in the United States. Once an agency gets its own building complex and fills it with bureaucrats and thugs, you can never get rid of it, not until the country collapses. To me, this is a really big nail in the coffin of what little is left of America.

L: Just the name itself gives me the heebie-jeebies: Homeland Security. Sounds like something the Nazis or Soviets would have come up with. A sign of the endgame approaching?

Doug: It's not just in the area of personal freedom but the economy, and the military situation as well. It all seems to be coming together at once.

L: We're not going to see you on the street with a placard saying "THE END IS NIGH!!" are we, Doug?

Doug: Not at all my style. But I've got to say that one of the things I like about living in Argentina in general, and Salta in particular, is that it's "ATF-friendly." You can smoke a cigar wherever you want, as long as the owner of the place is okay with it. You can drink what you want, where you want to, including out in the street, if you wish, though there's almost no drunkenness that I can see. There's very little in the way of a police presence – it isn't needed, isn't wanted – and you can own a gun. It's unfortunate that you're supposed to register guns with the government, but it's no big deal to have a gun in Argentina.

One of the nice things about the place, besides the weather and low cost of living and so forth that we just discussed in our conversation on Argentina, is that, especially when you're out in the provinces, it's like you're stepping back in time. Sociologically, it's more like what the U.S. was like in maybe the '20s – or at the latest the '50s. It's just delightful and why I enjoy spending time there. I have all the benefits of today's technology, I have a vastly higher standard of living, and I have much more freedom than I do in the U.S. And a big measure of that freedom is the liberalism regarding alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.

Actually, although I'm a gun guy, I've never been a hunter. But I'm going bird hunting – ducks, partridges, doves, and pigeons – next month in Argentina with six friends from New Zealand who tell me some of the best bird hunting in the world is over in Santa Fe province.

L: Okay then. Investment implications?

Doug: Well, politically incorrect areas always offer opportunities. Tobacco stocks have high yields. And I don't think government will kill the industry since it cranks out so much in taxes. Gun manufacturers are also cheap. One of the more fun trades I made years ago was to short Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, which was very overpriced because they were so fashionably lefty, against long Ruger. My rationale was to be market neutral by being long and short simultaneously. It was a huge win on both sides of the trade. There are always things like that popping up, and we try to identify them in The Casey Report.

Outside of the financial markets, I don't think you can possibly go wrong setting aside part of the basement to store a few crates of ammo – .223, 9mm, .45ACP, and .308. Prices there are probably going to skyrocket, and availability decreases. The same is true of tobacco, which has always been an alternative currency. Buying a few cartons of cigarettes every time you're at the Duty Free or in a low-tax state and salting them away is a no-lose proposition.

L: And the suppression of All Things Fun is yet another reason to diversify your assets to friendlier climes.

Doug: Yes, and perhaps a barometer of sorts. Whether or not you smoke, drink, or like to shoot, if you can find a place where these increasingly politically incorrect activities are accepted, you may be on to a good place to diversify into.

L: Got it. Thanks Doug.

Doug: You're welcome. Till next time.

Doug Casey is a multi-millionaire 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 bestseller 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.

The article Doug Casey on Guns was originally published at

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