Browne is offering the same sort of safe-and-sound counsel as he did in last year's Why the Best-Laid Investment Plans Usually Go Wrong This time around, however, the erstwhile Cassandra weighs in with a mildly apocalyptic and consistently acute analysis of the economic outlook. In the author's informed opinion, there are three more or less immediate threats to domestic prosperity--the FRB's erratic exercise of its monetary powers, federal budget deficits, and structural weakness in the banking system. Disarmingly, Browne disclaims ability to predict just when these problems might rage out of control, precipitating a full-blown crisis. While long-term solutions are possible, he argues that they are unlikely, in part because journalists as well as politicians continue to focus on such side issues as fiscal policy, the 1987 stock-market break, trade imbalances, and the presumptive disgrace experienced by the US in its new status as a debtor nation. Having set this inauspicious scene, Browne offers the prospect of relief from financial concerns. In brief, he advises individuals to commit most of their funds to a so-called permanent portfolio. Assets would be allocated about evenly among: equities (to take advantage of bull runs); gold (to hedge against inflation); bonds (to capitalize on deflation); and cash or equivalents (for tight-money periods). Over the years in good times and bad, the author shows, a mix of this sort (adjusted yearly to maintain equal representation) provides handsome annual returns--and security of capital. Cautioning that easy money is damnably hard to make, let alone keep, in today's volatile environment, Browne recommends that those with risk capital they can afford to lose pursue speculative gains in real estate or other ventures via a variable portfolio. He also includes a wealth of detail on how to go about creating and monitoring appropriately diversified vehicles. Blue-chip guidance delivered with wit, grace, and a refreshing lack of extravagant promises.