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Argentina: Doug Casey’s favorite place in the world

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Taken from a recent interview done by Lous James

Let’s start with the big question. Why, of all the places in the world you could have selected to build your vision of paradise on earth, did you choose Argentina?

Doug: For some time now, I have stressed the importance of diversifying internationally. I wanted to diversify outside of the United States, because although every country in the world is headed in the wrong direction, at this point in time the US is heading there more quickly and with far more serious consequences, especially for me as a US citizen. So, I have spent a lot of time looking all around the world – and I’ve been to over 140 countries – in what was basically a process of elimination.

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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 non-starter.

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 mindset. 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.Argentina: Doug Casey’s favorite place in the world

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 a Thai or a 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.

cafayate3So 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. While I’ve been to every country in Latin America numerous times and I could talk about all of them at length, 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.

Q: 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 40 million people, most of them concentrated in and around Buenos Aires.

cafayate-5So 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 mindset, 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 meat cow.

cafayate6Look, every country in the world has its problems, but from the point of view of living there, Argentina actually has less of them. In addition, from a cultural point of view, it’s one of the most desirable places in the world.

Q: 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, 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 that “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 Argentineans 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 US, it’s an immigrant culture.

cafayate6It’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 US 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.

Doug: For me, it’s the personal freedom.

Of course, with my middle-class values, I appreciate the really low-cost living in Argentina, but what I really love is that nobody bothers me. There is a very limited and non-threatening police presence, and outside of the bad parts – which every big city has – of Buenos Aires, it’s 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 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.

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