"The United States -- in fact the entire world -- now faces a massive depression.
American banks today are the proverbial accident waiting to happen . . . stocks today are such a poor bargain . . . 300 on the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is not unreasonable . . . bonds are even less desirable than stocks . . .
"Franchised operations (McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Burger King are just a few in the fast food industry alone) will be crushed . . .
"The coming collapse and the end of prosperity will make real estate one of the biggest losers in the years aheads . . . holding land for investment is a bad idea . . .
"Art . . . has become an overinflated and overrated place to put your money . . . ."
Who is Douglas R. Casey and why is he writing these terrible things? Doug Casey, who lives in a condominium. Doug Casey, art collector. Scion of a Washington family fortune built on real estate, son and brother of men who sit on the board of one of the region's biggest banking companies.
"I really do try to be contrarian," says Casey, author of "Crisis Investing," subtitled: "Opportunities and profits in the coming great depression."
Casey's contrary view of the nation's economy jumped to first place on Time magazine's nonfiction best-seller list last week. Harper & Row has ordered 225,000 copies. Helped by full-page newspaper ads "Crisis Investing" has become the No. 1 nonfiction title at Crown Books, B. Dalton, Walden Books and Brentanos.
The talk show trips already have started, but last week Casey was back home in Washington, packing for an investment conference in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a long way from Wall Street, Casey admits, and that's the point. Blue chips are blase, and a bad investment, he contends, but the stock market down in Columbia has jumped four for one in the past year and real estate in Nicaragua could be a tremendous buy.
Didn't Nicaragua just have a revolution? Isn't Colombia being overrun by gun-toting drug smugglers?
Of course, grins Casey, "I believe in buying when there's blood in the streets."
Cocaine and marijuana smuggling have pumped illegal billions into Colombia, and now that money is looking for a more respectable future. Think of the investment opportunities. And Nicaragua? "If you bought a beach house in Nicaragua back when Mick Jagger and the jet set were going there, you might be able to sell it today for maybe one-tenth of what you paid for it."
A great time to buy, if you buy Casey's theories.
Acknowledging that "Crisis Investing" is, "a political book thinly disguized as an investment book," the author said his favorite chapter is one the publishers urged him to throw out, an allegorical tale about the evils of government.
His personal politics are beyond laissez-faire and into anarchy, and Casey in interviews is even more outspoken than Casey in print.
"The best opportunities are created by the stupidity of governments. I rely on the stupidity of government for my investing. There are 200 countries in the world and most of them are run by people even stupider than the ones who run our government," he explained, lounging in a leather covered chair in his living room in the Beekman Place complex on 16th St. NW.
Why does a man who denounces real estate in general and condos in particular live in a condominium? "I didn't say I owned this place did I?" responds Casey, who admits he used Beekman Place as the example in his book of what's wrong with buying a condo as an investment. Casey's rent is considerably less than the owner's mortgage payment. The tax deductions and depreciation help his landlord, Casey writes, "but if the house doesn't go up in price, he's going to realize he's been subsidzing his tenant."
Doug Casey does not need rent subsidies. If his publishers can sell what they've printed, his book will gross in the neighborhood of $3 million. He's already at work on his next volume -- "The Dow Jones Guide to International Investing" -- and is starting an investment newsletter. (He was going to call it the Casey International Advisory, but dropped the International after looking at the initials.)
When he's not writing by night and typing his book by day, Casey gives investment advice and works on deals, mostly of the unconventional sort that he touts in the book.
He says he spends about half the year outside the United States and stresses the merits of investing abroad. "Politics is the biggest danger today. You've got to be diversified politically," he urges, just as more conventional investment analysts tell their clients their holdings should be diversified by industry and type of investment.
Casey comes by his entrepreneurial instincts naturally: he's the son of Eugene B. Casey of Gaithersburg, a multimillionaire landowner and developer. The father is the largest individual shareholder (9.3 percent of the stock) of Financial General Bankshares Inc., and sits on Financial General's board, along with Douglas' brother, Eugene S. Casey.
The family fortune generally maintains a low profile, but occasionally the elder Casey's dealings reveal the contrary genes he's passed on to the son.
When talk of a takeover by Middle Eastern interests began attracting investors to Financial General a couple of years ago, the bank holding company's common stock began to move upward. But there was little interest in the company's class A shares; they were equal to the common stock in everything but voting rights, but the Middle Eastern group made no mention of buying them.
Yet every month, Eugene B. Casey dutifully reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that he had picked up a few more shares of the Class A stock. "Everybody else is buying votes, I'm buying stock," he explained. When a plan to make a public offer for the common stock was announced a few weeks ago, the Middle Eastern buyers said they also hoped to acquire the Class A shares. If they do, Gene Casey will make a bundle on his 160,000 shares, which have nearly doubled in value.
But even that kind of potential profit is not what Doug Casey is looking for.
You should not make an investment unless you see the potential for it to go up at least five to one," Casey advises. "And you shouldn't do anything unless the odds are at least five or 10 to one in your favor.
"You've got to be a speculator today. It's no longer possible to work hard and save your money and get ahead in life."
Casey's favorite speculative shots these days are "penny" gold and silver mining stocks and over-the-counter energy companies. In person -- if not in the book -- he admits these are ultra-high risk investments in fields ripe for con men and comeons."If you think the Denver stock market is risky, you ought to see Colombia," he adds.
One of the complaints about his book, Casey admits, is that the list of stocks was written 18 months ago and is now out of date. The book was first published last year by '76 Press, and Atlanta outfit specializing in right-wing polemics, assassination tracts and conspiracy theories, then was picked up by Statford Press and distributed by Harper & Row.
Economic events since the book was first published have given Casey a little embarassment and a lot of ammunition.
On the embarassing side, he insisted that even if silver prices jumped dramatically, the supply of the metal would not change much. But when silver bubbled to $50 an ounce last spring, new mines and old caches opened up, flooding the market.
On the other hand, Casey a year and a half ago wrote that inflation in the United States would soar to an unprecedented 20 percent, then get worse. Last week the government reported producer prices were increasing at the rate of 22 1/2 percent a year.
"The book is more timely than ever," he said, reflecting on the gloomy news. "I think things are going to get much worse than anybody imagines."