by Nick Giambruno, International Man:
Nick Giambruno: Hello, Doug. Today we’re talking about whether it’s actually possible to find freedom in an unfree world, to paraphrase the title of Harry Browne’s book.
You’ve spent most of your adult life looking for freedom. Your involvement with La Estancia de Cafayate in Argentina is part of that quest. The project started in earnest about 10 years ago. From your perspective, how’s it going?
Doug Casey: It’s going better than even I anticipated—and I had high expectations. The main reason is that birds of a feather like to flock together. If I just wanted to live in a pleasant place, I could’ve stayed in Aspen, which is a small town about the size of Cafayate that already has all the facilities and amenities you could possibly want. But Aspen has two problems from my point of view.
Number one, it’s in the United States, and I’m afraid the U.S. has become the epicenter of much of what is to be feared in the world. And number two, the people that wind up living in Aspen are no longer the kind of people I want to associate with—as often as not, rich statists.
As a result, even when I’m invited to cocktail parties and such, I find that I’m the skeleton at the feast because I don’t have any values in common with them.
So where do you go if you’re a libertarian? In actual fact, there is no place in the world where it’s known that libertarians can hang out together… especially successful libertarians. If I could have found a place like that, I simply would have bought a lot there and made my life a lot easier. But there wasn’t, and so after searching for the right place to create it—and I’ve been to 145 or more countries—we wound up where we are.
Nick: What’s your vision for La Estancia de Cafayate? Is the idea to build a community of like-minded people, where they can enjoy the good life in good company, or is there more to it than that?
Doug: Well, the people who have bought lots there are from 33 different countries, so obviously everybody is not moving in exact philosophical lockstep, if only for that reason. I’d say around half of the buyers are American, another 20% are Canadian, the next largest contingent is Argentine, and then there are people from over two dozen other countries.
So that’s where the people come from geographically. But philosophically and psychologically, I’d say there is a definite get-along/go-along libertarian attitude common to the owners. So the chances are excellent that when you meet your neighbor, you are going to like them. And you’ll find that the people you meet from the Estancia community are the kind of people you’d like to have over for a drink or a barbecue. I can’t say that about my neighbors in Aspen, most of whom are antagonistic to each other.
Nick: As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time down there myself. I’m also an owner and a happy member of the community. While the place is beautiful and the weather and the caliber of food and so forth are excellent, people who’ve bought property there tend to mention those things as secondary reasons for buying. By a wide margin, the number one reason is the strong sense of connection to community coalescing around La Estancia.
Doug: Yes. It’s a little like analyzing mining stocks. People are, by far, the most important thing. Next is the property, and I think that’s spectacular in all regards. I was very particular about the physical beauty and the weather, both of which are important, but I was adamant about having the kind of amenities that would make it enjoyable to live there. By the time the place is fully buffed out—and we are well advanced at this point—I’m of the opinion that, from a physical amenity point of view, it will be one the best places in the world to live at any price.
This is the reason we’ve put in a world-class gymnasium of 3,500 square feet and a separate yoga and aerobics room, all outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment. That’s why the spa not only has an outdoor lap pool, but an indoor resistance swimming pool. Plus, there’s a kids’ clubhouse with the kinds of things kids like.
We’ve tried not to miss a trick: a basketball court, three tennis courts, a squash court, a volleyball court, a bocce ball court, and a regulation croquet course. Those last two are great fun with a few drinks after dinner.
Nick: And you haven’t even mentioned the polo field and Bob Cupp-designed golf course, or the clubhouse.
Doug: Yes. I may be getting a little too long in the tooth to play polo properly, but I don’t feel like I’m quite old enough to play golf yet. I know golfers love their golf courses, though, and we have one of the best golf courses in the hemisphere, I’m told. Anyway, riding either one of my polo thoroughbreds or a Paso Peruana on the trails through the woods and the vineyards is likely to be a daily thing for me.
In the evening, I often spend time at the social clubhouse. It’s very “gemütlich”—a home away from home.
Nick: Okay, so that’s the vision for La Estancia, which you could describe as a libertarian enclave, with people from different walks of life and various countries and cultures coming together in an amenity-rich community. You picked Argentina. Why?
Doug: Once I had decided that the U.S. was not the place to be, I began a process of elimination. Canada was out, partially because it’s U.S.-lite, partially because the weather is not acceptable there six months of the year.
Central America crossed my mind, but it’s backward, lacks class, and is completely overrun with gringos looking for cheap beer. Mexico has a lot of problems, especially when it comes to land tenure.
So where else are you going to go?
Europe has been on the frontline of serious wars for the last 2,000 years and there is no reason to think that’s going to end at this point. In addition, Europe is fiscally bankrupt, highly socialist, and quite expensive. It is in demographic decline and has serious problems developing from the Muslim world. Switzerland is way too uptight. All of Europe is a sinking ship; very expensive, extraordinarily bureaucratic, and not really an alternative to the U.S. at all.
In Asia, the only place that made sense to me was Thailand, but you’d never become a part of Thai society. And they have begun to enforce regulations that make it harder for a foreigner to buy property and live there. Singapore is very meticulous about everything, including the application of its immigration laws. Plus it’s very expensive, and it’s a city.
Australia and New Zealand are entirely too collectivist. I thought of some South Pacific Islands, but they’re way too far off the beaten path. In the end, it boiled down to the Southern Cone—Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile—where typically there are no squatter problems, good property rights, no racial tensions, and European traditions.
Within those three countries (and I’ve travelled extensively in all three), I was drawn to Cafayate as the place that I liked best in terms of just about everything.
I like Argentina’s wide-open spaces. I like the fact that it’s culturally more like Europe than Europe itself is at this point, and that the costs are quite low. I like the sophisticated culture. This is not to say it’s the perfect place because, if it were, it would have almost no government.
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