Fiction Has a New Libertarian Hero
“Speculator” Charles Knight Is
Rugged Individualism Personified
A review of Doug Casey and John Hunt’s “Speculator” by Fergus Hodgson
Dear Fellow Investor,
Doug Casey says fiction can change the world, because you can say things “you don’t dare say in non-fiction.”
Whether his first foray will sway public opinion remains to be seen, but “Speculator” proves he can weave unabashed capitalism with suspense and more than get away with it.
Coauthored with John Hunt, this 442-page novel is not a quick or smooth read, and it is heavy on Casey’s views of the world. These appear both in the spoken words of characters and in their actions as typical of those in their field. This is not a bug but an integral part of the distinct design, within a plot that follows a West African gold-mining prospect — the first installment of what Casey says will be an extended series.
For those who know Casey’s life story, he appears to have gleaned the best of his experiences and reflections, making this book part autobiographical and a legacy for future gold bugs and individualist explorers. The fact that he has lived it makes his shoot-from-the-hip style more believable and part of the allure, as he seemingly recalls many familiar scenes and imparts his wisdom on the mining industry.
The central character, Charles Knight, is both a potential recipient of such wisdom and a hero who rises to the occasion. The American from Montana is in his early twenties, has declined the conventional life, and is on the road, searching for something more meaningful and satisfying. Amid his journey to and from Africa, he meets Casey-style gurus, who share their wisdom and help to refine his thinking, independence and work ethic.
So brazenly capitalist is the account presented that it has the power to send progressive bleeding hearts and state agents to their safe spaces.
Casey and Hunt introduce just such a character into the plot, an ambitious and aggressive SEC and IRS agent, and then confront her directly in a priceless dialogue. One character goes so far as to recommend Walter “the moderate” Block’s 1976 classic, Defending the Undefendable, as necessary reading to overcome her misperceptions.
But just as “Speculator” may scare away the fainthearted, unwilling to have their worldview challenged, it will captivate those open to a narrative all too often lost in modern fiction. With a Randian appeal, Casey has revived the capitalist hero, warts and all. Knight’s shortcomings, particularly his naiveté, make him more appealing and genuine. His willingness to think for himself and courage to act on his findings give him his stature as a rebel with a cause.
As Casey discussed on a recent podcast with Gold Newsletter, the trick is not to overwhelm the story and make it preachy, since “no one likes preachy.” Further, the moral significance of the story will ideally not overshadow the suspense and pleasure that comes with the adventure of fiction (as exemplified by “The Giver,“ which managed to become a Hollywood film). Here too, Knight’s fallibility, learning process and regrettable actions show him to be no Sunday-school teacher. The coarse language and brutal honesty at play leave no holier-than-thou sentiments.
“Speculator” does achieve this, but to some degree that will be in the eye of the beholder. The stronger the resistance to the authors’ perspectives, the greater the hurdle the moral significance will be. Particularly for those already inclined towards individualism, the more philosophical dialogue will seem relatively normal, almost comically familiar.
This division will likely carry over to the book’s reception, which suggest it will become a classic in its own right, but only after aging like a fine wine — and one cannot speak of the forthcoming additions to the series.
Once this book garners its deserved recognition among libertarians and gold bugs, they will then channel the novel to younger and open-minded readers. Particularly given the modern language, updated setting and rising appeal of a series, “Speculator” could then easily surpass the appeal and influence of past cannons of capitalism.
To Buy "Speculator"