Book Review – Doug Casey’s Totally Incorrect

Posted on 07. Dec, 2012 by in Book Review

Today I’m going to do something I don’t do enough. One of my favorite advisors, commentators and anarchists is Doug Casey. I can honestly say that, though we’ve never met, he’s taught me a great deal. Simply reading what he has to say about various topics will challenge anyone willing to question and examine their own ideas. Of course, there is much that he says that I firmly disagree with. But I’ve learned over the years to consider what he says before writing it off. More than once this exercise has changed my perspective, at least a little.

It’s not often that reading an introduction to a book hooks me. But Louis James’ introduction did just that. I found myself nodding incredulously, laughing and thinking, “Oh, that’d probably irk me,” all at the same time. While some folks skip the introduction, doing so in this case would be giving up a jewel.

I’ll walk through a few thoughts for readers, sharing a few comments and providing a sneak peek of what Doug has to say. But I’ll also spend a little time on some areas that I find myself at odds. These are no surprise, since I come from a Christian worldview and Doug appears to be an atheist (p 175).

In his first chapter he shares his opinion of TSA. For anyone who’s read anything I’ve had to say about TSA, you’ll find absolutely no argument here from me. One quote sums it up pretty well, “Actually, the TSA serves absolutely no useful purpose. On the one hand, it’s playing into the bad guys’ hands by helping bankrupt the US, by death through a thousand cuts. On the other hand, if a bad guy really wanted to do some damage, he’ll just stand in a line with hundreds of others waiting to go through screening, and detonate his carry-on bag there” (p 7) ‘Nuff said!

Chapter two, on charities, jumps right in my face. Basically he states that they’re counterproductive (p 13). But, you know what? He’s mainly right. I really had to wrestle with this one. Doug has a proclivity for making bold statements that easily offend, if someone’s unwilling to consider the verity of it. For instance, he states, “Morally speaking, charity is not a virtue, it’s a vice” (p 14). Now, that’s a strong statement and very broadbrushed. But it accomplishes the purpose of shocking the person into really wondering if that’s what he said.

He goes on to clarify that most charities enable people to remain in their present condition, rather than really do anything to help them improve it. Furthermore, the administration of charitable organizations generally runs up the costs involved. How much better if a wealthy person creates a job so that these individuals can become net producers rather than consumers?

In this, I find myself in total agreement. And he says so much more. But I want to share this little gem for readers, as it seems to hit at the heart of the discussion, “In most cases, philanthropy doesn’t arise from a love for one’s fellow man, but from a need to assuage guilt, a need to show off, and a lack of imagination” (p 15). One can’t help but think of the widow’s mites (Mark 12:42) as well as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).

Doug espouses an anarcho-capitalistic philosophy, which basically embraces two principles (p 175):

  1. Do all that you say you’re going to do.
  2. Don’t aggress against other people or their property.

Interestingly, these are compatible with the Judeo-Christian perspective of the golden rule, which is centered on the second great commandment: “Love others as you love yourself.” And, while I respect and very much appreciate Doug’s ethical position, it’s an interesting perspective in light of his atheism and the fact that he denounces this commandment. In fact, I find this ethical position that atheistic anarcho-capitalists espouse very difficult to grasp, as it seems at least somewhat self-contradictory.

First, I embrace the same principles, but on biblical grounds rather than a philosophical one. What is the foundation that people like Doug, Ayn Rand and others build such ethics upon? They espouse an ethical position that lines up with the second half of the ten commandments while considering the first four “useless admonitions regarding a supernatural being, the existence of which is not supported by any evidence whatsoever” (p 176).

What He fails to understand is that his own ethics are dependent upon the first four commandments. Otherwise, they lack substance and consistency. In other words, the commandments are summed up well by Christ, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first necessitates the second just as the last six of the ten are a necessary result of the first three. They’re mutually inclusive.

In all of what I read in what Doug has to say, this is only area that I find myself in complete disagreement. While he recognizes an ethical standard that is much in line with a biblical worldview, he also suppresses the truth about the source of true ethics in unrighteousness, viewing the created as its own source and human reasoning above any idea of a beneficent Creator (Romans 1:18). His view on evolution requires far more faith than any subscription to a divine creator.

He spends some time slamming Christianity on page 177. But, to be fair, he doesn’t seem to be picking on any particular religion more than any other. Christianity just seemed to fall into the discussion. This does not in any way diminish my respect for Doug. Interestingly, he shows integrity in his attempt to be consistent in his worldview. And his honesty here is encouraging.

I am, however, saddened that he would be so forceful in his denunciation of Christ and his misrepresentation of Scripture. He fails to understand God’s love for us, which necessitates his misunderstanding of Christian love. He’s well read, as you will see if you buy his book. He knows much about what the Bible says. But he simply doesn’t understand what it’s teaching (Prov 2:6).

I’m not sure which part of Doug’s book I appreciate most. Some chapters are more important than others. And, of course, some will resonate with specific readers more than others. Perhaps the sarcastic flaming of the nanny state (p 53) was the one that seemed to simply lay it out in all its ugly verity.

The title of the book probably couldn’t be more fitting. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll be offended by something that Doug says. In that sense, from political perspective, he’s absolutely “Totally Incorrect.”

But isn’t that just plain honesty? Let’s face it; if you spoke the truth candidly wouldn’t you offend people on occasion, regardless of whether you’re right or not? And is there anyone you know who wouldn’t possibly be offended by at least something you think? But most of us candy-coat or neglect to speak our minds, even when it might be most prudent, because of fear of man. In this respect, as Louis states in the introduction, Doug appears to have no fear.

This is part of the beauty of this book. I clearly can find far more to agree with in what Doug says than I can find to disagree with. But even when I find myself disagreeing, I also find myself respecting the fact that he’s thought through the issue and has a developed an informed perspective. He’s not simply spewing forth what he’s been told. He certainly doesn’t come across as one who’s been indoctrinated into any particular agenda, creed or political construct.

On the other hand, he’s complex. Knowing basically where he’s coming from is fairly straight forward. But his precise answer to any given question is likely to offer a surprise or two. And you can be sure that it’ll offend more than one or two people.

I’d recommend this book to just about anyone. The only ones I might steer clear of it would be those I perceive in some sort of crisis of faith. Simply put, they have more important things to worry about and need spiritual nourishment. And Doug’s lack of reverence toward God could cause spiritual harm in such a situation. Otherwise, investing time in reading this book should certainly be profitable for anyone who bothers to think while he reads.

Kind regards,
Another Joe

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1 comments
hope springs
hope springs

Great review.   Very honest and open, even regarding the Christian principles and the possible vulnerability that might be present in some.  In Short, Wise Sage advise.