Dr. Mark Skousen On Keeping An Open Mind In The Middle Of Divisiveness

With the entire nation divided politically, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming, and the crippling economy, everything is in total disarray indeed. With different opinions clashing with one another, keeping an open mind at all times is certainly needed. Dr. Diane Hamilton is joined by one of the top economists today, Dr. Mark Skousen, to discuss how to deal with people who have values, mindsets, and perspectives different from yours without resulting in a heated debate but instead coming to a collective solution. He also displays his forecasting abilities by explaining the possible path the economy may take as it gradually falls into inflation and shares his experiences interviewing politicians as the editor-in-chief of Forecasts & Strategies.

TTL 793 | Open Mind

 

I’m so glad you joined us because we have Dr. Mark Skousen here. Mark was named one of the top living economists in the world. Do I need to say anymore?

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Dr. Mark Skousen On Keeping An Open Mind In The Middle Of Divisiveness

I am here with Dr. Mark Skousen, named one of the Top 20 Living Economists in the world. He was appointed a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. Also, in honor of his work in economics, finance and management, Grantham University renamed its business school, the Mark Skousen School of Business. He’s the author of more than 25 books on economics, personal finance and investment. It’s so nice to have you here, Mark.

Diane, it’s a pleasure. I’m speaking from sunny California, you’re probably in sunny Arizona so you’re living the carefree life and living the dream.

I know that you’ve done so many amazing things and we talked about some of the things that you’ve done. I know one of them is having an entire business school named after you where I work part-time and I was very impressed with what you’ve done. I’ve worked at Grantham for many years as an associate faculty. I started looking at some of the stuff you do and you also have an award-winning newsletter and you’re the producer of Freedom Fest, which is the world’s largest gathering of free minds that meets every July in Las Vegas. A background with the CIA. I got a little backstory on you. I’m sure everybody knows who you are. In case they’ve missed some of the highlights, can you give me the Reader’s Digest version of how you got to this level?

Before I do that, you got me thinking when you mentioned Grantham University and naming a business school after me because that means either one of two things, either you’re dead or a billionaire. Maybe that makes me a billionaire, although it would probably be in pesos rather than dollars.

You are one of the greatest minds of all time. One of those.

It’s hard to describe everything I’ve done in life. I’ve traveled a lot. I grew up in Portland, Oregon. A real intellectual community because it’s a rain forest. Everybody’s indoors the whole time reading books. I gradually moved east for most of my career. I went to BYU as an undergraduate. Being an active member of the Mormon faith, I went on a mission for a couple of years to Latin America. That was my first exposure to international travel.

I went to Venezuela, Colombia and Central America. I learned Spanish and that’s how I got my position at the CIA after I graduated from BYU. It’s the only position I got. Out of 250 applicants, I got the job and I asked the CIA operative why I got this job. I said, “How’d I do on the test?” He says, “You flunked the test but we hired you anyway because you lived with Latin American people and you speak fluent Spanish.” They immediately put me on the Brazil desk. I knew that there was something wrong with the CIA.

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Spoke Spanish in Brazil. That’s funny.

At that time also got married to my wife, Jo Ann and we’ve been partners for almost 50 years. Five children and seven grandchildren. It’s been a wonderful journey together. In the ‘70s, after my 2.5 years with the CIA, it was too much of a bureaucratic job, I applied for a position as the Managing Editor of an investment newsletter called the Inflation Survival Letter. Which was typical of the ‘70s, looking for alternative investing. I had a PhD in economics, which I got from George Washington University but had never learned much about finance, accounting and everything. Economics can be a specialized field. I got this position and it was funny because Bob Kephart, the publisher said, “Skousen, you got the job. Out of 250 applicants, you got the job.” Like the CIA. Out of 250 applicants. “You know why you got the job? Because you were the only one who knew a participle from a predicate.”

I went home to my wife and I said, “Sweetheart, I got this new job but can you answer me one question as an English professor, what’s the difference between a participle and a predicate?” That got me started in the whole financial world and I’ve been writing my own investment newsletter since 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected president. I’ve been going now for more than 40 years, writing my investment newsletters called Forecasts & Strategies. I try to forecast the future, that’s my crystal ball and then make investment strategies.

I’m a survivor and have been beating the market lately but I’d like to think that with wisdom, I have done this. I’ve basically been involved with all aspects of the American economy. I worked for the government, with the CIA. I work for a nonprofit, I was president of the Foundation for Economic Education in New York in the early 2000s. I’ve run a lot of for-profit corporations. In fact, my Freedom Fest is a for-profit event that we hold every year. I’ve written 25 books and I teach. I’ve taught at Columbia Business School, I’ve taught at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

Between that, for ten years, my wife and I taught at Sing Sing Penitentiary. We taught the inmates economics, business, English and an actual degree-seeking program that’s been very successful. My wife and I were part of that at Sing Sing in New York. Now we’re out here. We bought a home here in California. We sold our home in New York and bought our home in California. We have a home in both California and Florida. You can probably guess which one of the homes we use as our residence for tax purposes.

Never underestimate the impact of panic or the power of a politician. Click To Tweet

I’m guessing it’s not going to be California.

That’s correct but we do enjoy it out here. We teach at Chapman University. I’m teaching a class right now called Puzzles and Paradoxes in economics and finance. My wife teaches poetry in English Lit. We have a great time. We’re enjoying it despite the lockdown and all the troubles associated with it.

It’s been a crazy time. I’ve seen your newsletter and I imagine there are no dangling participles with you and your wife going through all of that. Having somebody who’s had your background on the show, it reminded me that I had Albert Bandura. He was named one of the most influential in psychology and to get that title, the greatest living person to be quoted in this and that. I’ve seen your name cited in so many classes I’ve taught, I can’t even tell you.

I’ve never given a TED Talk. They’ve never contacted me. What is wrong with them?

I don’t know if you need to contact them, maybe? I don’t know.

I think it’s by invitation only.

I’ve applied for some TED Talks. Not the actual TED Talk but the TEDx Talks. I know you have to apply for that but I’ve never even come close to thinking anybody’s going to call me for a TED Talk. At least you’re in that realm that somebody should be contacting you for that. As you were talking about the things you did, the Sing Sing was interesting. I didn’t see that in your bio. I remember as a pharmaceutical rep for AstraZeneca, I worked for them for twenty years. One of the places I call on was a prison. They had you sign a form when you came in that said if they held you hostage, they wouldn’t use any extraordinary means to set you free. Did they make you sign that when you went there to Sing Sing?

No but they are very strict at any of these. This is a notorious state prison for maximum security. These are murderers or worse. They do warn you that if there’s a problem, they can lock down and you can’t leave until the lockdown is through. Some teachers have been caught in this lockdown. For example, an inmate will be caught with a cell phone. They’ll lock everything down for 24 hours. Nobody can come in, nobody can leave.

Fortunately, we never faced that in the ten years that we taught there but I’ll tell you, this program called Hudson link. It’s a nonprofit that’s associated with Mercy College to give the four-year college degree. These students, with the Ministry program and the education, go out with real skills and with a college education. The recidivism rate is like 2% or 3% compared to 60% or 70% that’s normal. The graduation ceremony is wonderful because you hear people who have turned their lives around. We always have a celebrity speaker.

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We’ve had Whoopi Goldberg that spoke one time. Tim Robbins and Warren Buffett. I met Warren Buffett there because his sister was a big supporter. What’s cool about this is, it’s all handled with non-government money. No parent Pell Grants or anything like that. It was all privately funded. Even the students, the inmates, have to pay $10, which isn’t much but they don’t earn very much. That’s $10 for each class so they have skin in the game and they’re much better students because of it. I taught at Columbia Business School and I’ll put up some of these inmates equal to the intelligence. They made a mistake as young people and they needed to turn their lives around, which they did and we were helpful in doing that. It was a wonderful experience.

That would be and I’m really impressed by some of these programs. I’ve had Gerald Chertavian on who did Europe. He gets people in underprivileged areas and gives them a year of training to get them into the working world. I saw him at a Forbes event and he was great on the show. There was an hour piece on that. I’ve had a lot of people, amazing people on the show like Steve Forbes and I’ve seen some of the people you’ve interviewed, I think Steve was on the list.

Steve was nice enough to write a nice review for one of my books and he’s one of the guys I worked with, at the Forbes School of Business. I noticed some of the people that you had interviewed were people I had interviewed and I was curious about Milton Friedman, which you interviewed. I had Patri Friedman, his grandson on my show. Milton, of course, is the name in your realm and I’m curious what that was like.

Milton Friedman was very open to people from all walks of life. He was difficult to argue with. You’d never win a debate with Milton Friedman but he was open to hearing you out. He didn’t know me from Adam and we developed a friendship even to the point where I think I was the last person to have lunch with him before he passed away. We developed a pretty good friendship. My favorite story is going out to lunch with Milton Friedman in Laguna Niguel overlooking the ocean. It was a beautiful day and we spent two hours together having lunch, just the two of us. When the bill came, I grabbed the bill and I said, “Dr. Friedman, I don’t want to ever hear again that there’s no such thing as a free lunch because I’m paying for yours.” Quick as a blank, he said, “No Mark, that wasn’t a free lunch. I had to listen to you for two hours.”

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You give him that. Quick wit. I like that. You interview people with a lot of wit and difficult people. I read through your list of people. I love that you got a $1 bill signed by Clinton. I saw that you’ve talked to Rush Limbaugh, Margaret Thatcher and Obama. Who is the most interesting, challenging or who stood out to you amongst the people you’ve interviewed?

That’s a difficult question to say. The Bill Clinton story is probably the most infamous because I ended up jogging at the del Coronado hotel right on the beach there. It turned out to be on the exact same day or the next is the day after the 1996 presidential debate that Bill Clinton had. He was jogging on the beaches, as was I and he was surrounded by Secret Service. I followed him. I was about 100 yards away, knowing at some point, he’s going to have to turn around and come back.

When he did, I took the bold attempt to go straight up to them, jogging right toward him and him toward me. I said, “Mind if I jog with you?” I said very quickly and he said, “That’d be great,” because he was bored to tears with jogging with the Secret Service. He turned around for half an hour. We spent a wonderful time together and talked about everything under the sun. I said, “Can you give me any tips on cheating on my wife?” I’m kidding. I did not say that.

I would have loved to see what would happen if you did. What did you really say?

That would have been the end.

Yeah. I think that conversation is over at that point.

What was funny was, when we were all through, I had a $1 bill in my hand so I pulled it out. They took a picture of me with the President. The White House photographer was there. He handed the President a pen and he took the dollar bill. I said, “Would you mind signing this dollar bill so I can prove to my wife that I jogged with the President?” He looked at the dollar bill, took a pen in his hand and these were his exact words, “It’s illegal but I’ll do it anyway.” I thought, “That could describe a lot of presidents.”

It probably could. You have talked to a lot of presidents. I saw that a lot of the questions you asked President Obama went unanswered. You asked him some harder things. You’ve talked to both Republicans and Democrats and you consider yourself a libertarian. This isn’t a political show so I’m not going to get too much into politics but this is an unusual time in history. Have you seen anything that made you scratch your head as much as what you’re seeing lately?

I’m in the category of a skeptic. I’m skeptical of government policies in general. The lockdown, the pandemic. I’m in the skeptical camp. Even climate change and all that thing. You and I have lived a long time. We’ve all had the flu many times. We’ve had flu that has flattened us for two weeks and we can’t get up. We can’t do anything. People die from this stuff and so forth but do we lock down the entire economy? I wrote up the story of Harris Rosen of Rosen Resorts International in Orlando. He’s famous for treating his employees as family and he said, I will never fire and never let go any of my family members. This month, he had to let go over 200 because the convention business is completely dried up. It’s the cruise ships that are mothballed.

Also, in entertainment. My daughter is an ice skater and she does it on cruise ships. She’s been unemployed now for nearly a year. Yes, we can say the economy is recovering a V-shaped recovery but a lot of people are still being left behind. I think Joe Biden’s reference to the K economy is more accurate. Some people are benefiting online through Zoom and Amazon and all that thing but there are people who own small restaurants, clubs, entertainment, sports, cruise ships and stuff like that have been devastated. Still, it’s like nobody gives a damn. It’s tragic what is happening here. People think as long as they get a $2,000 stimulus check that’s wonderful. That’s no way to live to get money from the government. You want to do something productive in life. That’s my two cents’ worth on the political situation.

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The Maxims of Wall Street: A Compilation of Financial Adages, Ancient Proverbs, and Worldly Wisdom

I appreciate getting your insights. You’ve been known as a maverick of economics and for your contrarian and optimistic viewpoints and different things that you say. I’ve interviewed John Tamny who has come up with some things that are contrary to what people say. You’ve done a lot of things correctly. Forecasting in the ‘80s that Reaganomics would work and when to sell in ‘87, before the stock market crashed, certain things like that.

I’m curious, a couple of questions about the current situation and trust me, people listening are probably like me, they have some economic background but they’re not anywhere near your level so keep that in mind. The stocks seem to be doing well that you know and that seems very strange in this situation. As we’re printing up all this money, what’s going to happen to inflation? There are a lot of those questions that people have been asking me and since I don’t have that economic background, I would like to get your insight on those two things.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king, which is an old phrase, which means that none of us have a clear view of the future but some of us have a better idea. I write a letter called Forecasts & Strategies. I did in 2020, start my newsletter by saying that we could expect that everything seems to be going fine but a black swan event could derail the longest bull market in history. I said that in my January prediction issue and it turned out to be that this pandemic and the lockdown were two black swan events. Certainly, the election was another black swan event. There’s a bunch of them in 2020.

I had to adjust. One of the books I’ve written or collected is Maxims of Wall Street and one of the great quotes is, “Never underestimate the impact of a panic or the power of a politician.” We certainly saw that in 2020, where people panic and they still are. People have been scared to death, mainly by the media and the government officials. Everybody’s gone along with this. We’re all wearing masks and we’re also distancing. We’re not traveling and we’re not doing conventions. We’re doing all kinds of strange things. You see irrational behavior constantly. People jogging with their masks on which is unhealthy.

You have lots of these going on and you scratch your head but I adjusted my portfolio. It was good that I did because I was focusing on income investing and stocks that pay nice dividends and that thing. I had to switch. In the middle of the year, I switch to technology stocks. I switched to Bitcoin. We’ve tripled our money on Bitcoin. That still has a fantastic future. We switched to gold to some extent. We even bought into Tesla. I was really a skeptic, once again, of Tesla but they are in the driver’s seat so we made a lot of money in Tesla as well. If you’re looking at my investment advice at the beginning of 2020, it’s very different nowadays. You have to adjust. You need to know the signs of the times. You’ve got to adjust your portfolio. You’ve got to adjust your lifestyle. You have to make changes and people don’t like changes but the sooner you make the change, the better off you’re going to be.

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When I talked to Ken Fisher, I remember him saying, “If you read the news, it’s too late. All the things and changes have already been built-in.” Do you agree with that?

No, he’s wrong about that and Ken Fisher is a good friend of mine and everything. He’s a bit testy.

I know. He’s a lot of fun.

He can be pretty abrasive when he wants to. The public is right during the trends and they’re wrong at both ends. Yes, you can try to get in early but I didn’t buy Tesla when it was at its lows. I bought Tesla when it was at $18,000. Now it’s at $40,000 or $35,000. It’s doubled. I got in late but the saying on Wall Street now is not buy low sell high. The saying now is buy high and sell higher. That’s a little bit riskier but you can make a lot of money and I’m proof of it because I got in late. Nobody gets in at the bottom or sells at the top except those who do it by accident. You do have to adjust and I agree with Ken Fisher on that. I will say you do have to adjust but you don’t have to be right at the bottom. I didn’t buy real estate, my first home, at the bottom of the market. It already started going up.

Real Estate’s going up. Do you think that’s going to continue? I couldn’t get over how much our area is. A lot of people are coming here from California because it’s so expensive there. What are you seeing in the real estate market in general?

As long as the Federal Reserve has maintained or adopted this ZIRP, Zero Interest Rate Policy, you’re going to see assets like real estate, stocks, maybe not bonds anymore because they bought interest rates that have hit rock bottom, they can’t go much lower. I think that the stock market in general and real estate, in general, is benefiting from these easy money policies. I’m a devoted follower of the Austrian School of Economics, which is celebrating its sesquicentennial.

One hundred fifty years since Carl Menger wrote his Grundsätze, his Principles of Economics in 1871 and the followers of the Austrian School, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, people like that, say that inflation is never neutral. It creates a boom-bust cycle. We’re in the boom phase right now. I’m taking full advantage of the boom phase but eventually, it can overshoot. We’ve seen this before, where real estate gets way overvalued and there’s a crash. I don’t know when that’s going to be but as long as it’s going up, I’ll use my stop orders to protect me on the downside.

There’s another phrase in Wall Street, “Bull markets climb a wall of worry.” There’s always something out there that people are worried about. Investors are rightly worried about the Biden administration and the fact that the democrats are now in control of all three branches of government. We investors, we like gridlock because that keeps bad legislation from happening. Whether it’s Republicans like Bush, getting involved with the war in Iraq and the financial crisis and that thing. Obama, who in the first two years, we got Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.

Those are two bad pieces of legislation. It was all because the government was controlled by one party. We prefer a split government and unfortunately, the Republicans have been so bad in marketing their message that the Democrats have won even in Georgia and that was critical to having a split government. I still think we’re going to have gridlock. I don’t think a lot of bad legislation is going to get through the democratically-controlled Capitol Hill because it’s so close. It’s 50/50. I think it’ll be okay. Still, the President has these executive powers and governors have executive powers and they can shut things down. They can do crazy things. One of the things we learned from 2020 is how we gave way too much power to governors and presidents who, with the stroke of a pen, can shut down various sectors of the economy and destroy people’s lives. I hope we’ve learned that lesson.

There are so many things that have happened and you’re talking about the mortgages and different things that could change. I’m remembering, I worked in the subprime industry for a while when things were good and we looked at things like, “This is always going to be,” “The values of this are always going to go up.” “Fix your credit then you refinance and you get a better deal.” I think a lot of people like to live right in the moment. They don’t want to think about things that could possibly go wrong in the future. Do you think that people learned anything from the collapse in ‘87 or in any of these other situations? Or do you think everybody forgets about it like childbirth? “I forgot that hurt.”

People and especially major corporations, businesses learned a lot from 2008. They build up a large cash position of retained earnings. Look at all the major corporations that are sitting on billions and billions of dollars in cash because they know the next time the market collapses and the economy is struggling, they want to be in a position to survive. I tell my students at Chapman University this all the time I said, “The people who live hand to mouth and paycheck to paycheck, they’re the most vulnerable. Don’t buy into the Keynesian mentality of spending money to stimulate the economy. You need to be conservative and careful with your budget. Save a lot of money and stock up on supplies.”

What if suddenly you had a blackout? We’ve had several blackouts. One in Pakistan and one in Italy. What if that happened to the US? We had no internet and no electricity. I don’t know how long and hopefully not for more than a couple of days or a week at the most. You got to be prepared. You’ve got to have food, water and some basics and stuff. We stocked up after what happened back in March, where everything was shut down. Yes, everyone was going to the stores and it was right for them to do that. You need to be prepared and I think a lot of Americans have learned that lesson. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. These potential riots. The riots maybe from both political groups and stuff but wherever it comes from, we need to be prepared for these things.

You mentioned that I am a natural optimist, that’s certainly true but I don’t want to be a Pollyanna either. We need to be realistic that trouble can occur especially in the big cities. Things can change quickly and we must never forget the Venezuela story, which was the wealthiest country in Latin America. I lived for a year as a Mormon missionary in Venezuela. Now, it’s a basket case of runaway inflation socialism, communism, Marxism and government control monitoring people. It’s scary that something like this could happen in the 21st century.

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Open Mind: Giving too much power to politicians who can shut down various economic sectors with just a stroke of a pen can destroy lives.

 

We’ve never seen a more divided side. I remember having Steve Forbes on the show. He said, “It used to be you could talk about politics at dinner parties and people could give opinions.” You bring it up now and you’re the bane of existence. You can’t do it. Why do you think that people are having such a hard time communicating their viewpoints on this?

I blame the media for this. At my Freedom Fest Conference, we have 2,000 people in Las Vegas every July. Although in 2020 because of the lockdown, we’re moving to South Dakota. The land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s amazing how many people have not been to Mount Rushmore. We have over 1,000 people who have already signed up. It’s exciting. I always make a point at Freedom Fest that we’re the largest gathering of free minds, of open minds.

When we get people who say, “How dare you have X speaker?” We write back to them and I say, “It’s not for you.” For the people who come to Freedom Fest, we want you to have an open mind and listen to the other point of view. Stop the name-calling, stop the far left and far right and all this language that is constantly demonizing people instead of looking at what they’re saying. It’s coming from both sides of the media in particular. Between Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, they go at each other constantly.

I say, “Look in the mirror, folks. You need to be the first ones to stop.” Personally, I have removed as much labeling as I can. I don’t do left or right and all this stuff. Why divide people when we can come together on, “We have a welfare problem. How do we solve the welfare problem? We have a global warming problem. How do you solve the global warming problem?” You can take issue after issue and say, “What are our best solutions?” Rather than, “Who’s right?” We want to talk about what is right.

I like getting both sides of anything. That’s the way I like to look at things. I’m curious what speakers were more problematic for people than others?

We had Donald J. Trump in 2015. He was extremely controversial. We had to make a decision. Do we have him speak or not? Again, we said, “We are free minds. We want to hear what he has to say.” We had Paul Krugman at the same conference but not at the same time. We had Paul Krugman debate Steve Moore and it was a civil debate. It was wonderful. Nobody was name-calling. We were talking about issues. It was good. We had Marco Rubio, the senator, speak. We then had Donald Trump come in and he gave a speech. Half the people gave him a standing ovation and half the people sat on their hands.

He was divisive but we thought, “We are a forum. We believe in free speech.” I did have a friend of mine who is a polished Mexican businessman named Roberto Salinas. He came up to me, he pointed his finger right out to me. He came up right to my face and said, “How dare you have this man speak, who has insulted my people and insulted the Statue of Liberty? He’s against immigration and the Mexicans.” I said, “Roberto, Trump is going to give a speech and then we have insisted that he do a Q&A session so people can ask questions. I’ll arrange to have you give the first question.” He said, “You’re on.”

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Sure enough, after Trump spoke, he said, “I’ll take questions.” I said, “Mr. Trump, the first question is from Roberto Salinas from Mexico.” He gets up in beautiful English but with enough accent to know he’s from Mexico. Trump says, “I knew this was coming. Did the Mexican government put you up to this?” They had this five-minute debate, in essence. Afterward, one month later, Roberto sends me an email and it says, “I want to thank you for inviting Donald Trump to speak because my debate with him has gone viral. Five million people. I am the most popular person in Mexico because of Freedom Fest.”

He never thought Donald Trump would make him famous.

We had Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful, in 2019. He debated John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. They had a big debate that was civil, no shouting or anything like that, about business and what should be your purpose. We’ve had William Shatner. We’ve had George Foreman. I got to tell you my George Foreman story. George Foreman gives a speech and he says to me, “Listen, I give a motivational speech. I don’t like politics. I don’t want to take political questions. I’ll take questions from the audience but no politics, please.” I said, “That’s fine.” He gives this speech and it’s wonderful. He gets a standing ovation because he’s been a success story and he’s entertaining.

When it was all through, he said, “We’ll take questions.” One of the first questions was this woman who gets up and says, “George, what’s your opinion of Black Lives Matter?” George says, “I grew up dirt poor in Houston, Texas. I became the heavyweight champion of the world. Does that answer your question?” It was dramatic. Yes, he answered the question. It was a political question. Everybody was impressed with his answers like a Jesus moment.

I am imagining that you’ve had quite a few of those people who have impacted your life where you’ve learned because you’ve been around. What have you not done that you wish you had done?

I always wanted to be invited to a state dinner at the White House. That would be cool. Have you done that one?

I have not. I would love it. We should go together.

I’ve been to the White House Christmas party.

What was that like?

You couldn’t believe it. I don’t want to say under which president it was because I don’t want to suggest that it was a bias thing. It was beautifully decorated with 100 live Christmas trees. A real festive occasion. The food was five-star. The Secret Service couldn’t have been politer. My favorite room is the library, which is in the basement. It has some wonderful volumes, none of my books but still wonderful volumes where you can sit down, read and have a good time. I’ve been to the White House a number of times. I had press credentials in the late ‘70s and ‘80s from Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan.

I missed my opportunity with Ronald Reagan because there was one point where he was pointing his finger, “What’s your question?” Somebody asked the question. He then pointed a finger at the person above the next row. “What’s your question?” He then answered the question. He pointed his finger right at me and said, “What’s your question?” I didn’t have a question. I missed my opportunity to be on national television to ask Ronald Reagan a question. Republicans could learn a lot from Ronald Reagan. They do consider him as their hero but certainly Donald Trump could have learned a lot from Ronald Reagan in terms of sympathy and humor. He still accomplished a lot and he wasn’t impeached.

Someone who reminds me of him, have you met Keith Krach?

No.

He’s the former CEO and Chairman of DocuSign. He’s a billionaire that’s successful and is in government as Undersecretary in Washington.

He’s working for Trump so he’s been outed already? Blacklisted?

I don’t know. I doubt it because everybody likes this guy. In fact, I met Mr. Wonderful and some of his board groups. I’m part of the board of advisors at DocuSign and some of these other groups that he started in.

I’ve signed DocuSign many a time.

It’s a great company and he’s the one who did their IPO. He’s no longer with DocuSign but he has that charm to him. He reminds me of him quite a bit. Everybody around him likes him.

Dennis Quaid is portraying Reagan in an upcoming movie. The plan is they will be showing the film or clips from the movie Reagan at our Freedom Fest Conference and Dennis Quaid will be appearing there. One of the cool things about Rapid City, South Dakota is that the Alex Johnson Hotel has hosted six presidents including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, even going back to Calvin Coolidge. It’s going to be a fun event to see Dennis Quaid and Reagan being portrayed in a positive light. I’m excited about this annual conference that we do normally in Vegas. Vegas treated as so shabbily, it was ridiculous. The biggest lesson I learned, I thought money and interests were the most powerful influence. The Vegas casino crowd, you wouldn’t want to cross them, would you? Yet, the Imperial Governor of Nevada shut down Vegas completely and nobody complained. I’m still shocked.

How is Vegas making it without that business?

They’re not. They’re losing money every day. Without the convention business, they’re losing money because entertainment and convention business had become, with the new Las Vegas, the most important source of revenue. Gambling doesn’t cut it like it used to. You got to have the shows. You got to have the conventions in Bellagio or places like that. This is a ghost town compared to what it should be. In fact, it’s a high crime area. We did go to Vegas in November 2020 and we were told not to leave our hotel compound. It wasn’t because of the pandemic, it was because of a high crime area in Vegas. We hightailed out of town and we’re going out west to South Dakota, Mount Rushmore.

I’ve never been to Mount Rushmore. I’d love to see it.

I hear this from people all the time. That’s why they’re coming. We should have you come and speak at our conference. We’ll follow-up with that.

I don’t know if I would be able to speak about the things you guys speak about. When you talk about this, I know you don’t want to say far left, far right, Republican, Democrat because you want everybody to join in the middle. Do you think you have more of one group than another?

We come from a libertarian background in that respect but what are libertarians? They’re socially liberal and economically conservative. We do attract people from across the political spectrum. We do a mock trial every year. We’ve put capitalism on trial, religion on trial. We’ve put the Republican Party on trial. We’ve put foreign policy on trial. Public unions. We’ve done quite a bit and we get people from both sides and we have a judge. We had the mayor of Las Vegas as the judge. Oscar Goodman, one year.

We’ve had Steve Forbes and John Mackey are co-ambassadors. John Mackey is socially liberal and economically conservative. He’s our representative. Steve Forbes is, as you say, the most genuine person you’ll ever meet. I’ve met all kinds of speakers who publicly have a persona that sounds like they’re nice and stuff but privately, they’re demanding, as you know. “No, I don’t want to meet with the public.” “No, I don’t want to sign books. Get me out of here.”

It’s surprising to see behind the curtain. That’s one thing I did being on the show, I’ve met so many people. They always say don’t meet your heroes or idols or whatever. I’ve had a few who were not great. There are a few people. I’ve been to a couple of these conventions where the people in the media seem smooth and sweet and then you see they don’t want to talk to anybody afterward at all.

A lot of people think that Kevin O’Leary is like that, that he would be demanding, snippety and stuff like that. It’s not that, it’s the opposite. He’s a sweetheart in private even though publicly he’s saying, “You’re dead to me,” and all this stuff. It’s a put-on type of thing. I found the same thing about Rush Limbaugh, who comes across as divisive on the radio and stuff like that. In private, he’s jovial and open-minded, listening to other people. It was quite a shock.

It’s business in a lot of these. You get paid for what you say, you then start having this persona. Howard Stern and some of those, they’re different when you meet them outside of when they’re on the air.

One thing that we’re trying to do because of this divisiveness that you’re talking about. By the way, people can go to FreedomFest.com and see what our program is all about. I went to the top Washington and New York agents for two speakers. I said, “Let’s get these two together in the same room and have a discussion, a debate or what have you. A civil debate.” I wanted to get Tucker Carlson from Fox News, that’s number one and Chris Cuomo from CNN.

That would be great.

It was turned down immediately. You know why? They don’t give a reason but I knew the reason. It’s because they want the divisiveness.

They don’t want to resolve it because then it wouldn’t make any money.

It’s a sad commentary. We specialize in civil debates. Our debate this 2020 is on the pandemic and the lockdown. It’s been difficult to get people to come and defend what the government has been doing in 2020. Nobody wants to get in front of a prosecuting attorney defending back and forth with star witnesses. They don’t want to do it. We have plenty of people criticizing the pandemic and the lockdown but we’re having a real struggle even though those who favor the lockdown and who are doing it seem to have the majority support of the American people.

What about Fauci or somebody like that?

There’s no way, he’s not going to be cross-examined. The only time he gets cross-examined is by Senator Rand Paul or somebody in Congress and that’s because they’re forced to appear. Voluntarily, they’re not going to do it.

With social media, people are the worst thing. We saw what will happen with crowds getting upset. It’s tough to get on one end or the other of any situation if it’s going to come back to bite you. I could see that. It’s a different world, isn’t it?

It is. What’s sad is I remember the Bill O’Reilly days on Fox News. He would regularly have people that would come on who would argue with him. Now, you go to Tucker Carlson, he only has people on who agree with him. That’s it. Frankly, I enjoy it when you get someone on who said, “No, I don’t agree with you, Tucker. I don’t agree with you, Bill, on this or that issue.” That made for great TV but you don’t have it anymore. I don’t even watch it anymore. It’s so one-sided on both sides.

I’ve seen some great debates like Neil deGrasse Tyson and people like that in different realms. I’m trying to think of who would be good for this particular subject. I love it when people go out on the edge and stand up for whatever side. I love that point, a counterpoint to arguments.

Tyson would be a good choice.

I would love to hear him speak. He would be awesome. I don’t know what side he’s on but he had his own issues he had to deal with.

He has his side whatever that may be.

You never know. This is fascinating to talk about all this with you. As we end, I’m curious, now that we’ve printed up all this money, I don’t know if we ever had an answer. If you could print up money, why not pay off the deficit? People ask those simple questions who don’t understand economics. Do you have a quick response to that?

As long as interest rates stay down and the consumer price index stays relatively low, the government officials have no restraint. They have no discipline. I would not be surprised to see the deficits balloon even beyond what we’re seeing. They’re going to keep doing that until interest rates start rising and inflation gets out of hand. They are then going to say, “We have a crisis. What are we going to do? We’re going to have to cut back. We’re going to have to tighten money. We’re going to have a crash.” It’s a typical boom-bust cycle that we faced.

That’s economics. You can’t change that. There’s no free lunch. You pay me now or pay me later like the old Pennzoil commercial. It’s the same thing with the pandemic, we keep trying to keep it from happening but it keeps spreading. You almost say, “Maybe we should have stopped all the mask and go back to normal.” It’s going to happen. It’s going to get you now or get you later so you have to build immunity. That’s my skepticism speaking out.

TTL 793 | Open Mind
Open Mind: As long as interest rates stay down and the consumer price index stays relatively low, the government officials have no restraint.

 

in terms of inflation, it’s there. It’s not going into consumer goods and services because technology is ahead of you cutting costs, offering new products and that thing. What it’s going into is investments, the hard assets. It’s going into stocks. It’s going into real estate. It’s going into Bitcoin, gold and silver. There are lots of inflation you see in asset prices. That’s where the inflation is going. Also, you have to remember that the dollar is unique because it’s a world currency. We can export our inflation. This is why the dollar is declining in value.

We do see the early signs of inflation, there’s no question about it but we’re still pretty far away. As long as that happens, you’re going to see Congress and the Federal Reserve continue to act irresponsibly. They may say they’re responsible but you can’t maintain this easy money policy and big spending programs without generating a productive economy, which is the key. Trump has bad mouthed globalization. I’m fearful that we’re going to start closing our borders and we’re no longer going to be a world community. There are a lot of problems that we’d face but we’re Americans.

I’m optimistic like Steve Forbes is. I’m not as optimistic as I used to be because of the divisiveness. Where’s the statesman? Can we have one statesman come forth and say, “Enough of this? Let’s try to focus on what we can all agree on.” Biden has said that but I don’t give him much chance. My biggest fear are these executive orders by Governors and the President of the United States and where that will lead. I’m hopeful that they won’t use that power but power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely as Lord Acton says, that’s another great quote from The Maxims of Wall Street.

That’s a good quote. Only time will tell but this was fascinating. I covered a lot with you because you’ve got many great ideas and many interesting things that you’ve done. I appreciate having you on the show. Thank you for doing this.

Before we end, I got to ask you one question. How old are you because you must be at least 200 years old to do all the stuff that you have done?

I’ll go with 229 because that sounds good. It does look like a lot but compared to yours, it seems little. Thank you for that. Is there a website you want people to follow? I want to make sure we get that on before we go.

There are two of them. One is FreedomFest.com, which gives you our wonderful annual conference, which people like no matter what their politics or background is. It’s not that expensive. My newsletter is at MarkSkousen.com. SkousenBooks.com for all of my books like The Maxims of Wall Street and The Making of Modern Economics and all that thing. It would be great to hear from your people. We need more dialogue. We love to hear from people who don’t necessarily share the same views. We’re opposed to the cancel culture.

We want to hear from people. There’s a warning here because the more you suppress people you don’t agree with, the faster they grow. I remember back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they tried to outlaw the Communist Party. Guess what? The Communist Party grew like wildfire in Italy, Greece, Europe and even in the United States until they said, “Let’s make them legal.” They then started losing their influence. That’s a warning sign to people.

There’s so much great information on your site and they could learn from following you. This was an interesting conversation. Thank you for being on the show.

Thank you, Diane.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Dr. Mark Skousen for being my guest. What a great show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com and you can catch more than 1,000 guests there. Yes, more than 1,000 on the show. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.

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About Dr. Mark Skousen

TTL 793 | Open Mind

Dr. Mark Skousen was named one of the top 20 living economists in the world.

He was appointed a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University and in honor of his work in economics, finance, and management, Grantham University renamed its business school “The Mark Skousen School of Business.” He is the author of more than 25 books on economics, personal finance, and investing.

He has an award-winning newsletter and is the producer of FreedomFest, the world’s largest gathering of free minds which meets every July in Las Vegas. He has the unique distinction of having worked for the government (CIA), non-profits (president of FEE), and several for-profit companies. In 2004-05, he taught economics and finance at Columbia Business School and Columbia University.

He has also taught economics, finance and business at Barnard, Mercy and Rollins colleges, and Chapman University.

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