Financial Survival in the Seventies, by Rene Baxter, Phoenix: RB Press, 1975, 244 pp., $6.00.
Rene Baxter's manual is another in the stream of survival books that have been published in this decade. It is in the tradition of Harry Browne's How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation, which was copyrighted, prophetically enough, in 1970.
Now, midway through this troubled decade, Baxter attempts to realert us, warning of "the economic Armageddon facing not just the U.S. but the entire world" and "the coming economic holocaust [that] will affect every nation in the world."
There is no doubt about the future, as far as Baxter is concerned:
Runaway inflation (and everything that goes with it) is now a virtual certainty. It won't happen overnight, certainly not in 1975, but within two or three years…the dollar will self-destruct in much the same way that the German mark did in the twenties.
Given this joyful scenario, Baxter's advice to his readers is to invest in gold, acquire firearms and ammunition, plan for a retreat, put away a year's supply of dehydrated foods, buy silver coins and Swiss francs, and get out of debt.
Baxter believes that the explosive gold move between 1972 and 1974 was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a killing in a sure thing." He doesn't think it's possible for gold to double or triple in real terms (i.e., after inflation) anymore. Nevertheless, he considers it the only authentic inflation hedge, advising his readers to buy and hold gold bullion coins and selected gold mining stocks. His book includes a helpful two-page table of gold coin specifications, such as troy weight, gold content percentage, and the usual condition of the respective coins.
In regard to gold mining securities, Baxter advocates a "balanced gold share portfolio" that includes virtually all South African issues, except for Homestake Mining and a couple of penny gold stocks. Yet he is pessimistic about the political future of South Africa, convinced that in due course it will fall to native rule.
Where else but in a contemporary "financial survival" book could one find basic advice on purchasing handguns, securing a home against intruders, protecting oneself on the street, salting away dehydrated foods, storing fuel, establishing a retreat, getting a job, renovating an old car, and moving abroad?
Some of the interesting ideas to be gleaned from the manual on personal survival include a useful shopping guide to pistols and storable foods. In addition, Baxter explores the disadvantages of relocating to another country and the advantages of restoring sturdy, economic cars built in the fifties rather than buying expensive, inefficient gas-guzzlers of the seventies.
All in all this book has its merits for what it says about liberty and personal survival, but it cannot be taken completely seriously as a guide to investing. Too much is omitted. Moreover, much of what is stated is oversimplified, and it seems as though the reader is expected to accept it all at face value.
The thesis of the entire book is based on the proposition that universal economic collapse is inevitable. No other alternative is considered. Plan your entire life around the apocalypse, Baxter tells us. In the meantime, he exhorts his readers to join the tax revolt as "the simplest, easiest and most effective method of wresting power from our oppressors."
Ray Pastor is an investment executive with a large investment banking firm. His article on tax-sheltered investments appears elsewhere in this issue.