(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)
L: So Doug, the queen of England parachuted into the arena with James Bond to kick-start
the Olympics. I'm sure you must have some comments on the – literally
– passing parade.
Doug: Well, you know I'm no great fan of royalty. She's the leading
representative of a useless, repressive, corrupt, and anachronistic
institution. PR flacks are doing their best to rebrand her in an appealing
way; she's essentially a commodity. So part of my mind was hoping her chute
wouldn't open – even though I obviously wish no ill to an aged
L: Awww… C'mon, Doug.
You know it was a stunt double.
Doug: [Laughs] Of course – somebody expendable. But
skydiving isn't overly dangerous; I have 59 jumps myself. Nonetheless, it's
really beyond me why mobs of people would want to go to the Olympics. They go
to a city that becomes – if it wasn't already – a prime target
for any bad boys out there who might want to make a terrorist point. Much
more dangerous than the presumed terrorists, however, is that the British
have turned the place into an armed, totalitarian police state for the
duration of the Olympics. The place is crawling with soldiers, and the
rooftops of buildings have been commandeered for anti-aircraft fire and
L: Crisis and Leviathan, Doug. You know they'll never
take down any extra "temporary" cameras and "security"
devices they installed. Why spend more money decommissioning them when they
can leave them up and keep a tighter rein on their subjects?
Doug: Of course. And London is already wired with thousands
of cameras watching everything. But back to the Olympics. Rooms at such a
time must be near impossible to get and exorbitantly priced when they can be
had. I hate mob scenes.
But maybe the most important reason for those concerned with the actual
sports is that you'll get a much better, closer view on your wide-screen in
the comfort of your home. You go through all the trouble and expense of
going, just to be there, only to find yourself sitting behind a pillar
– or missing the crucial point if you happen to glance away at the
wrong time. And in an auditorium it's quite hard to hear the commentary.
So I really don't see the point of going at all.
L: Where's your patriotism, Doug? Don't you want to go
and cheer for the US?
Doug: Ah, yes. My country is the best country in the world
– because I was born here. Patriotism is widely viewed as a virtue, but
it's actually no more than a romanticized view of nationalism. Rabid patriots
are just jingoists, as rational and dangerous as a bunch of chimpanzees
eyeing a neighboring band.
L: Of course everyone's country is the best –
don't be so uptight with your bourgeois logic.
L: But Doug, most people can't skip around the globe on
a lark the way you do. The vast majority of the people
watching the Olympics are doing so on TV and never would have even
thought of actually going.
Doug: Okay then, let's look at the Olympics themselves.
Back in 776 BC, when they first got started in Greece, individuals
competed, representing their different city-states. But in those days, every
citizen knew almost everyone else; the people living in those cities –
which were very small by modern standards – were related by extensive
family ties, shared cultural and linguistic bonds, shared philosophical
contexts, and more. So an individual from Athens could be considered
reasonably representative of his fellow Athenians, as would a Spartan.
But today, Some kid-athlete from Detroit or San Diego or New York almost
certainly has little in common with me – certainly less than my friends
scattered around the world. He or she doesn't represent me, or America, for
that matter. Anyway, there no longer is an America, only the US. And almost none of
these other nation-states today are truly "a people." They're
cobbled together hodgepodges of various mutually antagonistic racial, ethnic,
linguistic, and other classifications of people, resulting from war and
conquest. Most people in most countries today don't have anything significant
in common, except the name of the government on their ID papers.
So the whole idea of having individuals representing countries in
sporting events makes no sense at all today.
L: What has always startled me is the way the
achievement of some individual athlete is a source of pride to people who
happen to be coerced into paying taxes to the same government. A gold
medalist's achievement is that athlete's achievement, not Germany's, nor China's
– and certainly not that of other Germans or Chinese.
But many people seem to have a strong need to be part of a tribe. Being a
sports fan gives people something to belong to, something they can feel proud
of when things go well, even if they had nothing to do with it. Doesn't this
supposed competition among nations have root in the same psychology?
Doug: Well… you may be right. I guess my beef isn't
really with people who want to enjoy the Olympic spectacle, but with these
nation-states that have co-opted the event for political grandstanding.
You've got China, with 1.3 billion people that can cull millions of
athletes for the best of the best, and you've got some small places like
Lichtenstein or Palau, with only a few thousands of people – it doesn't
mean a thing if China's athletes trounce the team from Tuvalu.
It seems to me that the whole thing would be more wholesome and
meaningful if the Olympic organization were set up to enable any individual
or team from around the world to enter and compete against any other from
anywhere else in the world. That would bring people from around the world
together to root for the best, without stirring up jingoism and dangerous
The thing is that the Olympic games have become corrupt and outlived their
original useful purpose – like any human institution that grows old.
The current iteration of the Olympic games, in my opinion, really went off
the rails with the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was the Nazis who firmly
established the precedent of hijacking the games to showcase nationalistic
propaganda. The British seem to have kept up that sorry tradition with their
opera on the NHS, the nationalized medical system, with hundreds of patients
and nurses on giant beds. Bizarre and pointless, I thought.
I believe the tradition of the competitors standing at attention while
their national flags wave and anthems play started in 1924 – but I
think that's inappropriate at any sporting event. I really don't know why I
should have to endure the national anthem of any gang of crooks calling
itself a government before any sporting event, and I disapprove of standing
up for any of them. And most of those anthems are about as dissonant as rap
music – with the notable exceptions of the EU's Fourth Movement of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and France's La Marseillaise. In
the US, The Star Spangled Banner only became the official US anthem in
1931, and it only became customary to have it before games during WWII. But
now, anywhere in the world before a sporting event, there's always a national
anthem. I don't know what a national anthem has to do with sports.
L: I suppose that rules out the World Cup for you, then.
Doug: None of those sporting events that are supposedly
between countries make any sense to me. I mean, where there used to be a
Soviet Union fielding sports teams, now there're 15 countries fielding them.
There used to be a Czechoslovakia; now there're two countries to cheer for
– in the former Yugoslavia there are five. And in Germany, there used
to be two of each team to cheer for, and now there's one. It's a completely
meaningless way of grouping people, and counting the achievements of people
this way means even less. It makes no sense for people to have any loyalty to
these arbitrary lines drawn on maps.
I suppose some might feel some bond of kinship for the people of a region
they inhabit who share a culture, language, history, and so forth. Or, for
that matter, if a corporation you work for decides to field a team, it might
make sense to root for your group… and groups of people might come
together for other reasons that bind them and sponsor sports teams. I could
see it making sense in many ways – but the idea of nation-states
co-opting this process and turning it into a vehicle for political propaganda
is just awful.
It turns the objective of friendly competition and camaraderie on its
head, substituting ritualized warfare in its place and spreading
international tension instead.
Just look at all the boycotts that have been conducted over the years
– not just the Americans in 1980 and the Soviets in 1984, but lots of
other countries in other years. It's shameful, because the athletes who had
the misfortune of holding the wrong passport were denied the opportunity to
compete because of some politician's whim. That alone is an excellent reason
the Olympics should be denationalized.
L: Okay… So what about college football or
basketball tournaments? Do you ever go to those to watch the athletes
perform? They are privately funded and organized and usually not political.
Doug: I’ve got no problem with them, although I have
to admit that I'm not big on cheering on teams. Unless the teams include
people I know and care about. I really got into polo, as you know. I love to watch team sports just for
the athleticism – the poetry in motion – but I rarely really care
who wins or loses… unless I have money on the game. I mostly like
watching the instant replays and highlights in slow motion of any kind of
athletic activity, frankly.
L: You don't feel a need to be there in person when
opposing gangs of gargantuan, semi-armored, hobnail-booted thugs break each
other's bones for possession of an inflated pig bladder?
Doug: [Laughs]. No, no. I really don't. As I said before, I
dislike crowds – most particularly violent ones.
L: But you grant that that's just your personal
preference – nothing wrong with those who get a thrill out of being
there to be there?
Doug: To each his own. But that brings me to a whole other
reason why the Olympics as they are today should be abolished. Where does a
broke government, like the one in the UK, get off spending some $30 billion
putting on a sporting event that's got no chance of breaking even? It's
unethical in the extreme for over-indebted entities to spend money they don't
have on events they don't need, only to stroke the egos of the politicians
and bamboozle voters, while the economy continues deteriorating under the
dead weight of their hands.
It's shameful that people who may have zero interest in a circus are
forced to pay for it.
L: Worse than Nero fiddling while Rome burned?
Doug: Yes; at least Nero didn't pretend to be doing it for
the people's own good.
L: Hm. Isn't Mitt Romney the guy who made a set of
winter Olympic games profitable?
Doug: That's what they say. But even if a government isn't
broke and could make money on the games, it still has no business sponsoring
sports teams or getting into show business. It politicizes what should be
private endeavors and brings corruption and inefficiency to what would
otherwise be more dynamic and interesting sport-related businesses.
Why not have governments sponsor absolutely
everything? Next will be NASCAR and monster trucks.
Doug: As an aside, I have to say that I'm so unimpressed by
Romney. I really don't know where the Republicans find these hostile, angry,
old white men who do nothing but embarrass those who don't want to vote for
Anyway: the Olympics should be run as a strictly private enterprise,
completely separate from and devoid of any government or nationalistic
influence. They should be run by whatever rules work best for attracting the
largest audiences and making the most money and open to any athlete from
anywhere who qualifies. That would end the unethical drain on taxpayers, make
for better sporting events, and enable athletes to shine and prosper without
having to kowtow to politicians.
L: But without government control, sports might not be
fair… the horror!
Doug: That's another thing. This whole "level playing
field" illusion is ridiculous. There is no level playing field between
China and the Vatican City, when it comes to capacity to field a world-class
wrestling team. And this hysteria about keeping drugs out of sports is a
government-pushed idiocy that has nothing to do with creating the best
sporting events possible. If athletes can take performance-enhancing drugs or
other treatments to perform better, why shouldn't they? Others can as well;
and if they're dangerous, it's up to each athlete to weigh the risks and
benefits – that calculation becomes part of the sports.
There could be leagues for purists, "natural" practitioners who
don't use any enhancements beyond hard work and, different "no-holds-barred"
leagues for those who want to see what maximum human potential might be.
There's nothing wrong with using drugs to enhance performance – the
problem comes from cheating. And cheating is cheating in any field, whatever
the accepted rules are.
L: I suppose there will be leagues in the future for
people who were "naturally conceived" and genetically altered or optimized people.
Doug: Exactly. Already, different people from different
places have access to different training equipment, different amounts of time
to train, different levels of support, different
kinds of medicine available – there are all kinds of inequalities. A
completely level playing field is not an option. Drugs certainly are an
option. Let there be freedom of sports, and let people compete in accordance
to whatever rules they agree to, without interference by governments with
irrelevant agendas. Let a hundred flowers bloom.
L: That could lead to some pretty interesting sporting
Doug: It will. Actually, at La
Estancia de Cafayate, we're having a duodecathalon – a kind of Renaissance-Man Olympics
I designed. My idea is that the physical nature of the sports you see in the
Olympics is great – but combining it with an intellectual element could
make it better. Anyway, you no longer throw a discus or a javelin in
day-to-day modern life. So, my duodecathalon will
include chess, a quiz contest, poker, and billiards, as well as an equestrian
event, parcours, tennis, golf, archery, skeet, and
the 100-meter freestyle, among other things. We're hoping to do a trial run
of the first one in early November at one of our semiannual events, and then
make it into a regular attraction. The idea is that it shows the spirit of
the place and showcases some of the things you can do there. Part of the
spirit of Estancia is the theme of Mens sana in corpore sano.
L: Very cool, Doug. I know you've wanted to do that for
a long time, but didn't know you've actually got it started. Will you
Doug: [Chuckles] I'm afraid I've destroyed my body to a
degree that will prevent any inspiring athletic performances on my part, but
I like the idea of getting to be the emperor who gives the thumbs up or down
at the end.
L: [Laughs] I can just see you doing that! Well, while
we're mentioning world-class events, we should mention one that's much closer
than Cafayate for most people: our upcoming Navigating the Political Economy Summit. It'll be
September 7 – 9, in Carlsbad, California, near San Diego.
Doug: Yes, it's always interesting to meet our readers at
our summits, and I have to say, David [Galland] has
lined up some excellent speakers this time.
L: I'm looking forward to it, too. But to wrap up on the
Olympics, as interesting as this conversation has been, I don't see any
compelling investment implications that can be acted upon before the revolution… do you?
Doug: Not beyond its general implications as a sign of our
L: All right then, until next week.
Doug: We'll be in Lithuania. I'm really looking forward to teaching with you again
– see you there.
L: Great – me too!