Editor’s note: William Dunk is a frequent contributor to Local Tech Wire. Novelist and essayist Arthur Koestler had a diverse career in many countries. Best known for “Darkness at Noon”, which made it to Broadway, he’s less known for what is reputedly a passable manual on sex, put together under a pseudonym while he was in England.

We like him best for his two-part autobiography, “Arrow in the Blue” and “Invisible Writing,” where he recounts how he began life all over again on at least two or three occasions. Educated in the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he tore up his record of courses taken at the last (in those days you kept your own university transcript) and headed off to Israel to work in the kibbutz, or something like that. Later on, he became a semi-renowned journalist at a liberal newspaper in Germany only to leave it and the beginnings of Nazism behind to try out Soviet Russia. Equipped with no more than a phrase book and a couple of names to contact, he tried his hand at Stalin’s Russia. Unlike his whole nest of relatives in Austria and Germany, he fled security. Ironically, of course, he lived to tell his story; they didn’t.

Templeton speaks

The euphemists say, “Common stocks will do well for you in good times and bad over the long term.” Wrong, at least some of the time. As far back as the first quarter of 2001, the prescient Sir John Templeton warned us off stocks. Stocks, the obvious place to invest, will probably give you cause for remorse for a while to come. Sir John thinks an excessive 18 year bull market could only be followed, in his estimation, by a 9-year bust. It will be problem enough to conserve capital, much less grow it.

A list of no-nos to do

In fact, the investment trail leads to a bunch of places the wise men are shunning. For example, institutions are chary of international venture investing, particularly in Asia. They say they’ve lost 3% in Asia over the last decade. But, logic rather than emotion says it is very much the time to get into China, the only major economy with heady growth in the world.

Closer at home, we’ve spotted a little company in Cary, North Carolina that resells second mortgages, buying them from issuers and selling them into various financial channels. We hear from everyone that you should watch out for mortgages, especially in tough times — and you should simply forget about second mortgages at all times. But ALH Capital is making a handsome nickel for all concerned, because its second mortgages are doing very nicely, thank you. In fact, foreign investors are beginning to recognize them as a good thing to own. As it happens, the right mortgages, properly screened, can turn out to be very, very secure.

The counter-intuitive man

We are living in an age where he who lives dangerously but has a keen eye and an agile brain will be the survivor. The need for apparently risky behavior ranges well beyond our investing activities. All the airlines, now in meltdown, are shaving away passenger comforts and amenities: Continental has kept a lot of the extras and, lo and behold, has captured lots of extra passenger revenue. Ecuador, by giving up its currency and locking into the dollar, has turned in a 5% plus growth rate, the highest in Latin America. Everything tells us to pull in our horns and do what we did yesterday, shying away from new ventures: the evidence lately is that caution will be a losing strategy. At no time in the last 30 years have our day-to-day tactical impulses and our long-term strategic interest been more at war with each other. For the long haul, one must live a little on the wild side.

P.S. A couple of companies who have struck out for new pastures come to mind. Years ago, AFLAC, a supplemental cancer insurance company in Georgia, temporarily had a downdraft in its business due to some negative press in the United States. It went into Japan big time — and today Japan is its key market. Hewlett Packard, once an instruments company, then an also-ran in the computer business, got into the printer business a few years back, the business that Xerox should have owned. At any rate, it’s printers that have kept HP alive, a business it will probably neglect with the purchase of Compaq.

For more news from Dunk’s Global Province ( www.globalprovince.com , the marketplace of business ideas – a site for investors, business executives, journalists, and elitists everywhere. To learn more about William Dunk Partners, visit www.globalprovince.com/williamdunkpartners.htm