Keeping Capital in a Depression

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  • Thu, Apr 14, 2011 - 03:57am



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    Keeping Capital in a Depression


This article addresses a question commonly seen around CM.  What to invest in ?   This seems to do a decent job of breaking it down.


By Doug Casey, The Casey Report

Nothing is cheap in today’s investment world. Because of the trillions of currency units that governments all over the world have created – and are continuing to create – financial assets are grossly overpriced. Stocks, bonds, property, commodities and cash are no bargains. Meanwhile, real wages are slipping rapidly among those who are working, and a large portion of the population is unemployed or underemployed.

The next chapter in this sad drama will include a rapid rise in consumer prices. At the beginning of this year, we saw the grains – wheat, corn, soybeans and oats – go up an average of 36% within one month. In the same time frame, hogs were up 30.7%. Copper was up 29.1%. Oil was up 14%. Cotton was up 118%. Raw commodities are the first things to move in an inflationary boom, largely because they’re essential to everything. Retail prices are generally the last to move, partly because the labor market will remain soft and keep that component down, and partly because retailers cut their margins to retain customers and market share.

We are in a financial no-man’s land. What you should do about it presents some tough alternatives. “Saving” is compromised because of depreciating currency and artificially low interest rates. “Investing” is problematical because of a deteriorating economy, unpredictable and increasing regulation, rising interest rates and wildly fluctuating prices. “Speculation” is the best answer. But it may not suit everyone as a methodology.

There are, however, several other alternatives to dealing with the question “What should I do with my money now?” – active business, entrepreneurialism, innovation, “hoarding” and agriculture. There’s obviously some degree of overlap with these things, but they are essentially different in nature.

Active Business

Few large fortunes have been made by investing. Most are made by creating, building and running a business. But the same things that make investing hard today are going to make active business even harder. Sure, there will be plenty of people out there to hire – but in today’s litigious and regulated environment, an employee is a large potential liability as much as a current asset.

Business itself is seen as a convenient milk cow by bankrupt governments – and it’s much easier to tap small business than taxpayers at large. Big business (which I’ll arbitrarily define as companies with at least several thousand employees) actually encourages regulation and taxes, because their main competition is from small business – you – and they’re much more able to absorb the cost of new regulation and can hire lobbyists to influence its direction. Only a business that’s “too big to fail” can count on government help.

It’s clearly a double-edged sword, but running an active business is increasingly problematical. Unless it’s a special situation, I’d be inclined to sell a business, take the money, and run. It’s Atlas Shrugged time.


An entrepreneur is “one who takes between,” to go back to the French roots of the word. Buy here for a dollar, sell there for two dollars – a good business if you can do it with a million widgets, hopefully all at once and on credit. An entrepreneur ideally needs few employees and little fixed overhead. Just as a speculator capitalizes on distortions in the financial markets, an entrepreneur does so in the business world. The more distortions there are in the market, the more bankruptcies and distress sales, the more variation in prosperity and attitudes between countries, the more opportunities there are for the entrepreneur. The years to come are going to be tough on investors and businessmen, but full of opportunity for speculators and entrepreneurs. Keep your passports current, your powder dry, and your eyes open. I suggest you reform your thinking along those lines.


The two mainsprings of human progress are saving (producing more than you consume and setting aside the difference) and new technology (improved ways of doing things). Innovation takes a certain kind of mind and a certain skill set. Not everyone can be an Edison, a Watt, a Wright or a Ford. But with more scientists and engineers alive today than have lived in all previous history put together, you can plan on lots more in the way of innovation. What you want to do is put yourself in front of innovation; even if you aren’t the innovator, you can be a facilitator – something like Steve Ballmer is to Bill Gates. It will give you an excuse to hang out with the younger generation and play amateur venture capitalist.

This argues for two things. One, reading very broadly (but especially in science), so that you can more easily make the correct decision as to which innovations will be profitable. Two, building enough capital to liberate your time to try something new and perhaps put money into start-ups. This thinking partly lay in back of our starting our Casey’s Extraordinary Technology service.


In the days when gold and silver were money, “saving” was actually identical with “hoarding.” The only difference was the connotation of the words. Today you can’t even hoard nickel and copper coins anymore because (unbeknownst to Boobus americanus) there’s very little of those metals left in either nickels or pennies – both of which will soon disappear from circulation anyway.

We’ve previously dismissed the foolish and anachronistic idea of saving with dollars in a bank – so what can you save with, other than metals? The answer is “useful things,” mainly household commodities. I’m not sure exactly how bad the Greater Depression will be or how long it will last, but it makes all the sense in the world to stockpile usable things, in lieu of monetary savings.

The things I’m talking about could be generally described as “consumer perishables.” Instead of putting $10,000 extra in the bank, go out and buy things like motor oil, ammunition, light bulbs, toilet paper, cigarettes, liquor, soap, sugar and dried beans. There are many advantages to this.

Taxes– As these things go up in price and you consume them, you won’t have any resulting taxes, as you would for a successful investment. And you’ll beat the VAT, which we’ll surely see.

Volume Savings –When you buy a whole bunch at once, especially when Walmart or Costco has them on sale, you’ll greatly reduce your cost.

Convenience –You’ll have them all now and won’t have to waste time getting them later. Especially if they’re no longer readily available.

There are hundreds of items to put on the list and much more to be said about the whole approach. The idea is basically that of my old friend John Pugsley, which he explained fully in his book The Alpha Strategy. Take this point very seriously. It’s something absolutely everybody can and should do.


During the last generation, mothers wanted their kids to grow up and be investment bankers. That thought will be totally banished soon, and for a long time. I suspect farmers and ranchers will become the next paradigm of success, after being viewed as backward hayseeds for generations.

Agriculture isn’t an easy business, and it has plenty of risks. But there’s always going to be a demand for its products, and I suspect the margins are going to stay high for a long time to come. Why? There’s still plenty of potential farmland around the world that’s wild or fallow, but politics is likely to keep it that way. Population won’t be growing that much (and will be falling in the developed world), but people will be wealthier and want to eat better. So you want the kind of food that people with some money eat.

I’m not crazy about commodity-type foods, like wheat, soy and corn; these are high-volume, industrial-style foods, subject to political interference. And they’re not important as foods for wealthy people, which is the profitable part of the market. Besides, grains are where everybody’s attention is directed.

But there are other reasons I’m not wild about owning any amber waves of grain. Anything you want to plant will practically require the use of a genetically modified (GM) seed from Monsanto. I’m not sure I really care if it’s GM; all foods have been genetically modified over the millennia just by virtue of cultivation. And $1 paid to Monsanto typically not only yields the farmer $5 of extra return, but produces lots of extra food – which helps everybody. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someday the giant monocultures of plants, all with totally identical purchased seeds, don’t result in some kind of catastrophic crop failure. This is a subject for another time, but it’s a thought to keep in mind.

In any event, agricultural land is no longer cheap. But I don’t suggest you look at thousands of acres to plant grain. Niche markets with niche products are the way to fly.

I suggest up-market specialty products – exotic fruits and vegetables, fish, dairy and beef. The problem is that in “advanced” countries – prominently including the U.S. – national, state and local governments make the small commercial producers’ lives absolutely miserable. Maybe you can grow stuff, but it’s extremely costly in terms of paperwork and legal fees to sell, especially if the product is animal based – meat, milk, cheese and such. Niche foods are, however, potentially a very good business. Eternal optimist that I am, I see one of the many benefits of the impending bankruptcy of most governments as again making it feasible to grow and sell food locally.

Above all, though, this isn’t the time for business as usual. You’ll notice that “Working in a conventional job” didn’t occur on the list above. And I pity the poor fools working for some corporation, hoping things get better.

  • Sat, Apr 16, 2011 - 03:12pm



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    things to stash besides food, water

We’ve previously dismissed the foolish and anachronistic idea of saving with dollars in a bank – so what can you save with, other than metals? The answer is “useful things,” mainly household commodities. I’m not sure exactly how bad the Greater Depression will be or how long it will last, but it makes all the sense in the world to stockpile usable things, in lieu of monetary savings.  

The things I’m talking about could be generally described as “consumer perishables.” Instead of putting $10,000 extra in the bank, go out and buy things like motor oil, ammunition, light bulbs, toilet paper, cigarettes, liquor, soap, sugar and dried beans. There are many advantages to this.

An interesting article.  While much has been written on this site about what we would recommend to stash away, a few of the newer viewers might more easily see some of it right here if we list a few things in succinct form.  The author above is probably listing things that could function as items for trade; I’ve expanded the list to include what you yourself might need that might not already be in your house and are not part of basic food/water storage.  Please consider this an invitation to add to the list or to give, once again, links to the storehouse of info on this CM site……..


Adult clothing:  work gloves for everyone (include some that are washable), extra shoes appropriate for outdoor work everyone will be doing, insulated underwear if you’re in a cold climate (silk is lightweight and warm), lots of socks (very important to keep feet healthy, dry), rain gear and appropriate coats for outdoor working if in a colder climate,……………

Children’s clothing:  kids grow in spurts and it’s tough to judge ahead when you have no way of knowing future conditions.  That being said, a pair of sneakers and jeans in each size up from where they are now x3 or more sizes up; same with socks, underpants, shirts, coats, gloves.  They don’t need lots of changes of clothing stashed.  My ancestors got by on 2/wk. in the 1800’s.  Kids had less when mom had to make it all……….

Other:  essential personal hygiene items like a year’s worth of toothpaste (figure a tube per month per person), 3 years of monthly feminine hygiene products, a complete first aid kit (rotate the items that tend to expire), 3 boxes of 50 vinyl gloves to use to prevent passing infections around when someone’s sick with flu or whatnot (rubber gloves deteriorate faster than vinyl), box of N95 face masks for infection control, a couple year’s worth of kleenex and toilet paper (be careful about getting too much, some now breaks down over time because it’s biodegradable), and multiples of a birth control method that’s acceptable to you and can be stored or rotated so it doesn’t expire (you know why!)………….


Outdoors:  basic garden tools, kitchen garden type seeds so you can at least do container gardening (lettuce, parsley, etc.), tarp and a roll of plastic sheeting in case the shingles blow off the roof or you need to keep rain off something, …………….

indoors:  some duct tape (get a good quality), lots of kitchen trashcan size trash bags (household hygiene is essential to maintaining health when conditions become more primitive); an old fashioned, enameled metal indoor potty pot with lid (get at an antique store and call it a room decoration or magazine holder), ……………….

Kitchen extras:  extra containers of cocoa in zip-loc bags to keep moisture out (chocolate is a great mood booster during stress, might be hard to get and could easily be traded), a couple extra containers of pepper (it will last for a few years, unopened), boxes of aluminum foil (regular and heavy duty, has lots of uses, is only going to go up in price), ………………


Not a complete list by any means but it’s a starter for someone who has some extra cash and wants to add to begin some “prep” supplies.  What would you add to this list?


Best wishes,  homestead grandma

  • Sun, Apr 24, 2011 - 12:04am



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    Thanks for posting this

Patrick,  Thank you for posting this.  The recommendations that Doug Casey lays out are almost exactly what I have discovered after two years of trying to deploy my investing funds toward a more localized, self sustaining economy.  His article gives me the impetus to not give up trying to create pockets of economic resilience in my own back yard. 

Whether  TSHTF or not, I firmly believe this is the way to go.

If you have any more of this kind of information, please post it or pass it along to me via private email.


Thanks, Mike




  • Fri, Jun 17, 2011 - 01:32am



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Six Things You Can Do to Accelerate Community Capital

Tue, 06/14/2011 – 20:57

Six Things You Can Do to Accelerate Community Capital

Recommendations from Don Shaffer of RSF Social Finance at BALLE’s Accelerating Community Capital workshop on June 14 about what we can each do right now to make a difference.

1.     Change your bank–from a big one to a locally based bank investing in your community.

2.     Put your short and medium term savings in CDs that are working for your communities—such as a RSF Social Finance or Calvert social fund.

3.     If you stay with your big bank, engage them and inquire what part of their deposits from the region gets reinvested regionally.  Write the CEO about community capital—they will actually write back.

4.     Spend less, save more, and then invest it locally.

5.     Make your investment in community capital the center of your savings, not the fringe.

6.     Engage the community institutions where you live (universities, foundations, religious institutions and others) and ask them where they are investing their funds.

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