As Australia heads into what it hopes will be a COVID-free summer, the English-speaking world in the Northern Hemisphere is headed toward what president-in-waiting Joe Biden has called ‘a Dark Winter’. To be fair, winter is always darker. The Earth rotates on its axis with a tilt of 23.5% degrees. At the moment, that tilt exposes the South Pole to the sun. It’s darker up north.
But the purpose of today’s letter is not to explain the seasons. Our ancestors have been looking to the sky and tracking the movement of the stars and the moon for thousands of years. We know these things now. Knowledge of them is embedded in human civilisation.
Unfortunately, more recent advancements — like constitutionally protected rights to life, liberty, and property — are not as embedded as you might think. And as the worldwide draconian government response to COVID has shown, civilisation and progress and individual liberty are not default states. They are fragile achievements, the result of hundreds of years of legal precedent, institutional protection, and a common belief that life is better when people are free.
All of that is under attack now. For example, news from the UK is that Britons will be allowed to rejoin public life if they can produce two ‘freedom passes’. The freedom passes are proof that you’ve been tested for the virus and passed with flying colours, all certified by an official government app on your phone. It might even be as simple as a QR code, which you could show to the military police or militarised law enforcement officer who stops you on the street and demands that you prove you’re allowed to be free.
We’ve been trained to seek permission for liberties…
Do you see what’s happened in the last year? We’ve been trained to seek permission for liberties which were once guaranteed by both law and precedent. Fear (amped up by government officials and the media) has been enough to shift psychological preferences. To many people, security is now a much higher value than liberty.
To be frank, this is why us Americans gave the British the boot back in 1776. And it’s why we wish Australia had always had more full-throated rejection of the kind of grim, stiff upper lipped submission that is common to societies used to being dominated by hereditary or economic elites. A little more rebellion would be good for the national soul.
But let’s leave politics aside and put the question in terms of markets and money. Let’s assume you’ll need a ‘freedom pass’ in Australia too at some point in the next few years. It will let you travel, go to an AFL game, have a beer inside and generally make you acceptable in public life. And if you don’t have it?
It’s off to the leper colony with you, or some more modern version of mandatory quarantine/involuntary detention/house arrest.
How is one meant to be free in an increasingly unfree, predatory and hostile world, where the state is tracking your every movement, demanding official proof of your fitness to be in public, and willing to detain you against your will if you refuse to go along? Short of taking one of Elon Musk’s rockets to Mars and starting all over again, what can you do?
Your best freedom pass is independent wealth
Financially speaking, you’ve got three options. First, you can do nothing and enjoy the ride along the Big Government, Big Money, Big Pharma, Big Tech express. It will be a very well-heeled, comfortable tyranny, if you’re willing to take the jab and download the app. We’ve entered the age of unlimited government and unlimited money. Stock markets love this because all inflation seems confined to financial asset prices.
And within stock markets, the policy preferences of politicians who believe in unlimited money and unlimited government clearly favour some industries over others. Will trillions be spent in the next five years on new biotech therapies and medicines? New vaccines for new viruses? Green technologies that will enable a ‘Great Reset’ from the Earth-killing fossil fuels of the old industrial revolution!
Well, maybe. But purely from a ‘factor’ perspective, the market is dead set on rewarding growth and momentum strategies. It’s going to take blood in the streets in the US, a war with China, or a comet smashing into Manhattan for the Dow not to break 30,000. The markets have decoupled from the real economy the way lifeboats decouple from a sinking ship.
Option two is that technology can save money. Belief in this option is probably what’s driving bitcoin close to a new all-time high in US dollar terms. Decentralised money, strictly limited in supply, secured by cryptography, is the great hope of those who believe in sound money in the 21st century. Plus, if you get the trade right, you might make enough to buy an e-Lamborghini with that worthless fiat paper you still have to use for everyday purchases.
Option three is inherently defensive. It’s gold, land and good neighbours. It means finding a community you can call home because your neighbours share your values (mostly live and let live). It means owning real, physical wealth that can’t be deleted by negative interest rates or confiscated electronically. I’m talking about gold and silver, of course. And it means incorporating geography in your plan, finding a place far enough away from central authority that local authority is a) likely to ignore edicts from afar, b) be more reasonable because it’s more accountable.
But this raises an interesting and somewhat philosophical question. What IS wealth? Is it a material thing, like physical safety, hard money, a roof over your head, food in your garden and a round in the chamber? Or is it a state of mind? That state of mind you reach when you want for nothing because you don’t want much?
The answers to those questions are of course subjective. It depends on YOUR values and what YOU want. But whatever your answer, you’d better be asking the question. In a permanent lockdown world, where the government has established the precedent that you now need permission to do things that a year ago were entirely private affairs, you DO need a freedom pass.
Your best freedom pass is independent wealth. It’s the only thing that will give you choices: about where to live, how to live, how to disperse your net worth so it’s safer from confiscation, inflation, or destruction, and how to protect what you’ve earned for your family.
One thing we should all be thankful for, as the US prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, is that we still have those choices, even though we have fewer of them than we had last year. Don’t take your financial freedom of choice for granted. It may be what the lockdowners are coming for next. Grab your freedom pass and go.
Editor, The Rum Rebellion