Justin’s note: “Nobody’s property is safe anywhere.”
Doug Casey wrote that in a recent email he sent me. He was talking about one of Donald Trump’s latest executive orders. The order, signed in December, gives the US government power to block the property of persons “involved in serious human rights abuse or corruption.”
That might not sound like a big deal. After all, human rights abuse and corruption are obviously bad. But Doug told me this could have “very interesting consequences” for everyday Americans and foreigners.
To learn why, I got Doug on the phone…
Justin: Doug, why do you think Trump signed this executive order (EO)?
Doug: Well, there are several possibilities. One could be to strike back at the Clintons, perhaps about the astounding way they used their foundation to loot Haiti. Another might be to attack African dictators, who all become multi-billionaires after taking over their—what’s that colloquialism for an outdoor toilet that Trump quite accurately used?—countries. Or the Russians, who are the flavor of the day to be hated for every reason you can make up.
His new EO is a further assault on property rights. Fabricate a credible-sounding argument, make it legal, righteously promote it to the booboisie, and the emperor can deprive a subject of anything, or everything, that he owns.
What concerns me is that so many things are done by executive order these days. Not by a law duly passed by the House and the Senate. That’s not to imply that those laws show any prudence or intelligence or wisdom. But it’s still due process. When you do something that could have big consequences, it should go through the formal legislature as opposed to an imperial decree.
In recent years, presidents have done more and more executive orders. I find that very disturbing. The most outrageous executive order that I can recall—although I wasn’t alive then—is Roosevelt’s outlawing gold. Nixon’s devaluing of the dollar was an executive order too, with gigantic consequences.
It sets a dangerous precedent when they do something like this. It’s the type of thing that a dictator or an emperor is expected to do.
Justin: Would could the consequences of this executive order be?
Doug: For one thing, it could discourage foreigners from investing in the US or even putting money in US banks or brokerage accounts. Or investing in US property. Because now the government can seize their assets based on just the accusation of human rights abuses or corruption. The fortunes of almost all foreign leaders, all of their cronies, and most businessmen from backward countries are built on corruption. I urge readers to look at the pieces I did on this a while back, entitled “Make Corruption Your Friend” (here and here).
That’s a bad thing for the US. The US needs more capital, not less. We shouldn’t do things to scare them away.
But this isn’t just bad for foreigners. Americans that feel like they might get caught up in a dragnet of some type will be even more encouraged to get their money out of the country.
This EO just directs more power to the State—which, not just coincidentally—is the source of almost all the human rights abuses and corruption everywhere. But—stupidly, perversely, and paradoxically—people look to the State to solve the very problems it creates. By giving it even more power. And it gives politicians a chance to grandstand, and pretend they’re “doing something.” What do the millennials call this? They call it “virtue signaling.” Hypocrites specialize in virtue signaling.
But the US is not even in a position to do that anymore.
Justin: And why’s that?
Doug: Well, the US no longer stands for any of the things that made America great. We have 2.2 million people in prison, most for victimless crimes, and many millions more in and out of the system. We’re constantly meddling in other countries’ affairs, and systematically violating the rights of both US and foreign citizens. We already have combat troops in 150 countries. We have 800 bases around the world, bankrupting the US, supporting corrupt governments, and antagonizing the natives. We even have our own concentration camp now in Guantanamo. So, we’re not in the position to do any virtue signaling.
And since I mentioned it, I’d like to add something about Guantanamo. In the ’70s, there was a joke floating around: “The US will never have concentration camps. We’ll call them something else.” It was a joke at the time. And then Guantanamo appeared, and it is, in fact, a concentration camp. But they don’t call it that, of course.
This is all just part of a much bigger trend. It’s just another grain of sand building up on the dune, waiting for an avalanche to bury everybody. It’s a pity—Western Civilization, the rule of law, individual liberty, and property rights were wonderful things…
Justin: I agree. And I can only imagine what kind of executive orders the president will roll out when the economy or financial system starts to unravel. Does this concern you too?
Doug: Absolutely. Everybody thinks that the government is supposed to “do something” when things get grim.
The economy not only shouldn’t be controlled by these people—from a moral point of view—but it’s too big and complicated to be controlled, from a practical point of view. Government either tries to imitate the Soviets, with their counterproductive five-year plans, or put out the fires they start with ad-hoc measures. Most of them are necessarily ill-advised and almost always make the situation worse. Government employees are not, I assure you, the “best and the brightest”—just the opposite.
So, the answer isn’t more laws and more executive orders. Rather, the government should be getting rid of all the executive orders that exist already. They need to start repealing laws—wholesale and in large numbers.
So, yes, they’re not just doing the wrong thing. Trump is doing the exact opposite of the right thing with this EO. Even if Trump acts like a saint, and only uses his new EO to prosecute “bad guys,” the next president will find a new and different group. You or I—or anybody else—could be among them.
Justin: Well, I think that covers everything I wanted to ask. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights, Doug.
Doug: You’re welcome.
Justin’s note: As Doug said, this is all just part of a much bigger trend… “another grain of sand building up on the dune, waiting for an avalanche to bury everybody.”
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Reprinted with permission from Casey Research.