Not since the 1930's has the economy of the United States—or of the world—been in such dismal shape as it is in 1975. Inflation, though temporarily cooling off to the "low" level of 7 to 8 percent, seems likely to take off again soon as a result of the upcoming years of hundred-billion-dollar Federal deficits. Industrial production and employment continue to drop as recession teeters on the edge of depression. Our fiat dollar continues its relentless decline while the gold-backed Swiss franc reaches new heights.
Surely, one might think, with results such as these the interventionists should see the error of their ways: that prosperity cannot be created via the printing press, that laws cannot cure unemployment, that each forcible intervention in the marketplace creates distortions that "justify" further corrective interventions, which create more distortions, etc. Unfortunately, however, such a presumption does not accord with reality. If you think today's economic controls are bad, just wait a few years!
Whether out of power-lust, naivete, or fear of the effects of economic freedom, an influential group of economists, bureaucrats, and business and labor leaders has begun a concerted effort to establish centralized government economic planning. Led by economist Wassily Leontieff, the group advocates creation of an Office of National Economic Planning which would develop five-year plans for the U.S. and coordinate all government economic policy. Advocates deny that the new agency would coerce business; instead, it would simply "indicate the number of cars or the quantity of frozen fruit juice it believes optimal and try to induce industry to go along." Just like "voluntary compliance" with wage and price controls and the IRS!
That such a proposal could be advanced and supported by leaders of American industry such as Robert Roosa (Brown Bros. Harriman & Co.), Leonard Woodcock (United Auto Workers), Henry Ford II (Ford Motor Co.), Irwin Miller (Cummins Engine Co.) and John P. Bunting (First Pennsylvania Corp.) is an indication of just how fast this country is approaching a fascist-type corporate state, in which the lives and livelihoods of everyone are directed from Washington. We are not there yet; indeed, it will probably take several more years of government-caused economic misery before the demands for "stability" and "order" can be manipulated into political support for complete centralized economic control. Thus, we can expect intensifying "stagflation" in the years ahead.
It is against this dismal background that we present this second annual issue of REASON devoted to the subject of financial survival. The issue begins with several discussions of the overall problem. Harry Browne updates the advice on gold, silver, and Swiss francs given in his best-selling You Can Profit From a Monetary Crisis, while William F. Rickenbacker addresses himself to the problem of trying to beat inflation. Alexander Paris and James Sinclair fill in the background on the key factors affecting, respectively, the national and international economic pictures.
Next we present a series of articles dealing with specific aspects of surviving in the uncertain, dangerous world that lies ahead. Dr. Harry Schultz explains the advantages of operating simultaneously from several different countries, while Wain Dawson and David Bergland discuss various ways of avoiding confiscatory taxation. If an economic collapse does occur, the advice offered by Smith and Baldwin on preparing an escape could prove invaluable. Providing yourself with food and a means of self-defense for times of crisis is discussed, respectively, by Paul Benjamin and James Powell.
The articles by Raymond Daly, Victor Chigas, and Norman Lamb offer specific ideas for investing, of the kind you probably will never hear from your broker, but which deserve serious consideration in times like these, when the normal investment wisdom simply does not apply. Eugene Guccione offers a host of practical suggestions for keeping your business viable in today's topsy-turvy economy. And because of the continued importance of gold in the world's economy, we offer contrasting perspectives on the "barbarous relic" from John Exter and Milton Friedman, together with articles on the prospects for U.S. gold coinage and the revival of gold clause contracts.
There are two other articles in this issue, which I have left until last to discuss. They do not concern investments, nor do they concern other aspects of direct self-protection. Rather, Murray Rothbard and William Marina argue that the basic problem we face goes well beyond individual financial survival. What is literally at stake is the survival of our civilization and the values of freedom and individualism that make it possible. Both Rothbard and Marina argue, in different ways, that the preservation of these values and of institutions that put them into practice is of the utmost importance. We agree. That is why we publish REASON, and why it contains far more than just financial and self-preservation advice.
It is not enough simply to minimize the harm caused you today by the rampages of the State. Left unchecked, an expanding State will eventually destroy our economy, and with it, our civilization. Our task is nothing less than to stop the Juggernaut and roll back its vast power…or, failing that, to survive the collapse and rebuild a free society from the rubble. REASON's aim is to provide the ideas—the intellectual tools—needed for this task. We hope you will join us in the months and years ahead.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Editorial Introduction".