L: So, Doug, North Korea shelled South Korea – do you think that’s the sound of an approaching black swan we hear?
Doug: It could be, but I doubt North Korea wants a real war, and South Korea absolutely wants to avoid one. Of course, North Korea’s government is a hereditary monarchy, run by the thoroughly degraded Kim family – which is a bit confusing, in that everybody in Korea is either a Kim, a Park, or a Lee. Who knows what’s going on in the abnormal psychology of Kim Jong-Il, or whoever is really running the place? It’s perverse. North Korea is already a wasteland, so a war would do them relatively less harm; in a way they have nothing to lose. South Korea is a G20 economy, however, so even if they win a shooting match in short order, they still lose, in terms of the damage they would suffer in the process.
From a realpolitik point of view, it makes sense for the North to occasionally kill a few South Koreans, make threatening noises, and keep the “us vs. them” rhetoric hot. It provides an excuse for their extraordinarily low standard of living, and a reason for having a police state. They use nationalism and patriotism very effectively to prop up their pathetic regime. In that regard, they are like most governments, just more extreme. But I consider the chances of an actual war to be slim.
It was interesting to see gold shoot up the day the Koreas traded artillery shells. Coincidentally, it was just after the EU’s announcement that all is well and everyone can go back to spending as usual. I don’t think it’s likely that the Koreas will go for all-out war and push the teetering global economy over the edge. But it’s possible, because we’re dealing with certifiable lunatics. It’s more likely the EU itself will provide a black swan event. The bankruptcy of the euro, and then the EU, was always inevitable. It may now be imminent as well.
Regarding North Korea, though, what’s really interesting is the information leaked through WikiLeaks that China – basically their only supporter – may be pulling back its support. The Chinese can see that maintaining a lunatic regime in North Korea no longer serves any useful purpose. They don’t need a loose cannon on their border. I expect it will collapse in the near term. The Chinese, likely with the collusion of some North Korean generals, will oust the Kims, and set up something that’s less of a liability.
L: I saw that news. It’s quite striking that after the WikiLeak, some Chinese officials have apparently come out and said that they do, in fact, favor reunification of the Koreas.
Doug: The whole idea of WikiLeaks is terrific. They’ve become one of the most important watchdog organizations on the planet, helping to expose a lot of government action for what it really is.
This latest leak of a quarter
of a million classified U.S. embassy cables is quite a coup, not just
for revealing China’s changing attitudes about North Korea, but for
exposing discussions the U.S. had with other countries about bombing Iran, espionage conducted
by U.S. diplomats in Paraguay, Chinese government
attacks on Google,
and more mundane things like the lavish
lifestyles of Kazakhstan’s political elite.
Shining a light on the sociopaths who hide in the dark places under the rocks of government is always a good thing. Just as they recently did in their exposé of what is going on with the counterproductive U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s great to have a whistleblower organization like them. Julian Assange, who runs it, is a hero, and deserves the Nobel Peace Prize – although it’s a shame that prize has become so meaningless and degraded.
L: The more skeptical people become of the Right and Honorable So-And-So, the better.
Doug: Exactly. And on a more fundamental philosophical level, this is in keeping with my sense of justice. Crooks should not get away with their crimes just because they hold lofty titles, wear spiffy uniforms, and call their crimes great deeds necessitated by “national security,” “economic stimulus,” or whatever other nonsensical lies they come up with.
I’m fond of saying, “Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law – but be prepared to accept the consequences.” Well, exposing secrets is an important part of enabling the natural consequences for dastardly deeds to follow.
The whole idea of “national security” has gotten completely out of control. It has about zero to do with protecting what little is left of America; it’s all about protecting, and building, the U.S. government, and the people who participate in it and profit from it. People fail to understand that the USG doesn’t represent them, or care about them – or at least not any more than a farmer cares about his milk cows. It’s an entity unto itself at this point. It has its own interests, which have only an accidental or coincidental overlap with those of America. Government is by its very nature duplicitous and predatory; it always puts itself first. By cynically paying lip service to traditional values, and whipping up a nationalistic, patriotic fervor, they can get Boobus americanus to go along with almost anything they propose. Just like Boobus north koreansis.
L: Hm. Sarah Palin apparently does not agree with you about WikiLeaks. She’s reported as going on record saying that WikiLeaks personnel should be treated like terrorists.
Doug: And people thought I was being too hard on the Tea Party movement. This is exactly the sort of knee-jerk conservative reaction that shows that such people really don’t care about freedom at all. I suspect Palin is cut from the same cloth as Baby Bush – ignorant, unintelligent, thoughtless, reactionary, and pig-headed. She belongs on reality TV, not in a position where she could damage the lives of billions of people.
L: The report says she wants to know why governments didn’t hack the WikiLeaks website. Well, apparently somebody did last Sunday when these secret diplomatic cables were leaked – and who is a more likely culprit than the U.S. government? On the bright side, the attack failed. A handful of nonviolent individuals took on the world’s greatest superpower, as a matter of principle, and won. That just goes to show yet again how technological advances tend to flatten the power pyramid of society.
Doug: Yes; we talked about that in our conversation on technology. Every advance in technology puts the little guy on a more even footing with those at the top of the intra-human food chain. This is why the Colt revolver became known as “the great equalizer.” For the first time, the little guy was not only the equal of the big guy but, because he presented a smaller target, was his superior.
The Internet is the best thing that’s happened for freedom since the invention of the printing press. Technology is the biggest force for individual liberty, and politics the main enemy of it. But people idiotically idolize politicians and generals much more than scientists and inventors. Despite that, with the development of very powerful, homemade laser weapons, and 3D printers that will soon allow anyone to make almost anything, at trivial cost in their garage, the cat will soon be out of the bag. We should discuss those in the future. These things are very opportune at the very time that the bloated states of the world are going into collapse, much like the Roman Empire in the 5th century.
L: In an interesting counterpoint, Reuters reports that Hillary Clinton defended WikiLeaks, even as she arrived in Kazakhstan at the same time as the embarrassing assessment of Kazakh leadership was leaked. Sometimes liberals do defend liberal ideas, like freedom of the press.
Doug: Sometimes. But not if it’s politically incorrect press. You can rely on them only to make government larger and more expensive at every turn – that you can rely upon like a Swiss train. Hillary – like any Secretary of State – is a skilled and enthusiastic liar. Her stock in trade is deception. Everything she says is intended to forward her drive to be the President. I wonder if she’d be worse than Palin? But that’s like asking if Nero would be worse than Caligula.
L: No argument from me on that. And you know I agree with you on the watchdog principle, but what if they go after private-sector entities? CNN reports that WikiLeaks’ next target is a major U.S. bank.
Doug: It’s a mistake to think of banks in the U.S. as being private sector entities. U.S. banks got into bed with the state decades ago, and got even more closely entwined via the latest set of regulations, and bailouts. At this point they’re really parastatal entities. Plus, I’d guess that whatever whistle-blowing WikiLeaks is planning, it probably has to do with the bailouts or other government interactions with the banks anyway – exactly the type of thing that needs to be exposed.
L: Fine, but their mission is not to fight the state, but simply to publish “important” news and information. What if someone uses their secure drop-box technology to reveal salacious material on private individuals… say, a complete list of all of Doug Casey’s mistresses?
Doug: Unfortunately, that list would be rather small at the moment. Not that WikiLeaks would deem that sort of thing important enough to bother with. But, look, it doesn’t matter; there are tabloids that cover that ground already, and they get the respect they deserve. If you aren’t prepared to accept the consequences of something, don’t do it. The only sure way to avoid having your mistresses exposed, if you really don’t want that to happen, is not to have mistresses.
L: So… do you believe in a human right to privacy?
Doug: In the sense of having a right to remain silent, yes. No one should ever be forced to reveal anything they don’t want to reveal. But in the sense of stopping other people from saying, publishing, or broadcasting information about you, no. The information in their heads is theirs, and they have a right to do whatever they want with it. If it happens to be about you and you don’t like it, tough. Develop better security measures. Or better, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”
L: What about libel?
Doug: If information put out by others about you is wrong, defend yourself with the truth. If you have a solid reputation accumulated over years of interactions with many people, your side of the story should get a good hearing. If you’ve been a jerk to many people, or not always honest, you’ll have a tougher time – which is as it should be.
The potential harm that lies might do does not justify giving power to the state to control what other people say – that’s a far greater harm. A complete free market in information will necessarily make people much more discriminating, and less gullible. They’ll become much less likely to believe things without solid evidence.
L: Sounds a bit like an intellectual Wild West.
Doug: Yes, but that’s a good thing. We have laws against libel and slander now, and people violate them constantly. It’s not just ineffective, it’s counterproductive, because the existence of libel laws makes people more likely to believe what they hear. In a society without laws against libel, people would be much more skeptical, and the potential harm from lies would be diminished.
L: I can see that… and why you favor the WikiLeaks technology. You remain an optimist; things have to get worse before they can get better, but the longest term trend of them all is “the ascent of man.”
Doug: Yes. The trend is towards rapidly accelerating advances in technology. So, certainly in this case, the trend is your friend. Don’t fear technology – it’s what brought us out of the caves and primeval slime – it’s everybody’s best friend.
L: After the dog?
Doug: Poodles in particular. I suspect this isn’t the time for a sidebar on standard poodles. But I will mention it’s one of the many subjects on which I’m in total agreement with my friend Richard Russell.
L: Poodles. I’m not going to go there now. Perhaps we can discuss animals and their rights, or lack thereof, in some future edition. How about investment implications?
Doug: Unfortunately WikiLeaks is not itself an investment opportunity, being a non-profit organization.
L: If it was for profit, would you invest?
Doug: I’d have to look at the actual business model and projections, but there’s reason to be skeptical. By its nature, WikiLeaks is always going to be outside the mainstream of the economy, with rabid governments trying to shut it down, maybe even imprison its people, as they get more desperate. This thing has “scapegoat” written all over it. I hear Interpol has suddenly decided to bring Assange in on charges of sexual assault – transparency and accepting the consequences of his actions should apply to him, like anyone else, but I’m very suspicious of the timing of these accusations. WikiLeaks is an encrypted, moving target, but a target nonetheless.
L: Do you contribute to WikiLeaks? You like the service, but don’t believe in charity.
Doug: I wouldn’t consider it charity; I value their service. If I sent them money it would be because I want to show support, and reward their efforts. Sending them money, and giving them other support, amounts to a fair exchange, in my view. Not because of charity, which very often just assuages the guilt of the donor, while subtly encouraging bad habits in the recipient.
L: Okay. So, other than as yet another straw in the wind – evidence of the approach of the end game for the current global economic order (the latest implications of which we’ll cover in The Casey Report in two days) – are there any other investment implications?
Doug: Well, this is also a technology story. WikiLeaks itself is not an investment opportunity, but there are new technologies that are fantastic opportunities. Not to be overly promotional here, but Alex Daley does an excellent job of covering this beat in our Casey’s Extraordinary Technology newsletter.
L: Roger that.
[Technology not only makes the world go round – it has led to a tight-knit global community, exchanging information across the world at the blink of an eye. But Internet technology is not the only tech sector that’s booming. Alex Daley, former Microsoft executive and the editor of Casey’s Extraordinary Technology, follows the best companies on the cutting edge of biotech, online gaming, cyber-security, and more. His advisory has repeatedly brought subscribers 40+% gains within a few months. Click here to learn more.]