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L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 563, March 28, 2010

"The Joy of Stealing"

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Word Idolatry
by Jim Davidson
jim@vertoro.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Walter Block says we cannot give up any words. So, in this essay: www.lewrockwell.com/block/block153.html He asserts that we have to keep all the words. He writes, "Every word we use to describe ourselves is precious. We must keep them all, jettison none of them."

But this sort of fixation on words is a sort of idolatry. As if getting just the right words were going to fix everything. They won't. The good news is, we don't have to treat words as though they were a scarce world resource. They aren't. New words are invented every day.

State socialism is evil whether you call it capitalism or socialism. Statism is evil whether you identify it with the right or the left. Anarchy is almost certainly a botched word because of its association with chaos and bomb throwing. Socialism is almost certainly a botched word because of its association with state ownership of everything. Capitalism is almost certainly a botched word because of its association with cronyism and fascism.

I don't call myself an anarchist, an anarcho-capitalist, a libertarian socialist, or even a "Libertarian." My political philosophy is libertarian as opposed to authoritarian, my economic philosophy is propertarian and free market, and my self-identification is "sovereign individual." If these things are difficulties, then more discussion might be worth having.

One of the reasons I like "agorism" so well is that it is not tainted by association with a lot of past indiscretions by people who had their heads firmly stuck in their own rectums. But, look, type the word "agorism" on your Facebook status, or in a comment, and your computer probably identifies it as misspelt, depending on your browser and whether you've added this word to your dictionary. It is a new word.

Where did it come from? It comes from the word "agora" which is Greek for market place and forum or gathering place. It was used by Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3) to identify his economic and political philosophy of withdrawal from the state and entrepreneurship.

So, wait, we can have new words? Sure! The English language borrows words from every other language it encounters. There are hundreds of thousands of words in our language, which is living and growing, with new slang words, and new meanings for old words all the time.

Words are not precious. They are trivial. Words don't make things great, ideas make things great. Better ideas make for better gardens. You can call a rose by any name and it smells exactly the same. So why are you fixated on words?

I think some of the fixation has to do with wanting to make people understand by getting past their barriers of defensiveness. So a term like "libertarian socialist" might be intriguing to people who are interested in social justice and civil liberties. And that's fine. If that sort of work makes you wealthy, or brings in funds for your centre for a stateless society, wonderful. But at the end of the day, if your libertarian socialism becomes tolerant of state socialism, then it was a failure—no matter what words you use to excuse the statism part of the problem.

Yes, it is frustrating that a good word like "no king" in Greek (an-archon) has been destroyed by past association with statist collectivism and initiatory force. And it is frustrating that a system of privately owned resources and free markets could be described by a word like capitalism, except for the long-standing association of that word with cronyism and fascism—the marriage of big government to big business. Nor is it pleasant to suppose that a system of putting people before power structures described by a word like socialism has been associated with statism and power structures to the detriment of people.

But why fret about some words? There are plenty of other words. Or you can invent a new one. I like "indomitus" as a word for "not part of your system." Or "not enslaved." It is Latin for "savage" but it carries these other meanings. And we can make it mean what we want to.

I like the word "agorism" because it comes with 95 theses, it has a nice ring to it, it hasn't been connected to statism or initiatory force, and it seems like our best path forward.

Whatever you choose to do, worrying about what labels are used to describe what you do seems like the last thing to do. In general, worry is a wasted emotion.

After writing the above essay, one of my correspondents on Facebook wrote to comment that the analogy was not fully workable, since one always wants a place to withdraw to. We need, he said, to draw some lines in the sand.

Of course, the most famous line ever drawn in the sand was drawn with the tip of his sword by Col. Travis at the Alamo. A large number of men crossed that line to defend a fixed position. It has since then become the iconic symbol for liberty—the line in the sand. Were the government to cross a metaphorical line in the sand by, say, engaging in door to door gun confiscations, we would all rush out to defend our liberties and remove tyranny from our soil.

No doubt that was a fine sentiment in the 1990s, but in 2005, the government actually sent the Oklahoma nationalist guard door to door in New Orleans, in the Garden District, to fine homes, and seized guns. As I learned of this, and found video of the event, I went to the Free Republic web site to post this fact and alert people to their line in the sand being crossed.

My account was deleted and I was banned from posting there ever again. You see, the Free Republic is not about freedom, it is about war monger conservatives and the Republican party.

So in response to my friend Mike's comment, I wrote, no, you never run out of places. You are thinking centralized and controlled. Think decentralized and out of control. You go back to the same places over and over again. There are always places to go.

Mike, it isn't my analogy. You used the phrase "stand your ground." Defend a fixed position. Hold your post. I called shenanigans on that idea as being based on a misguided concept of conflict, based on centralization and a hierarchical command structure. You know who holds a post? Cannon fodder.

You can win, by withdrawing. The universe is infinite in all directions, said Freeman Dyson, and within your ability to move, it is certainly infinite enough. What you lack is imagination to find better ways of accomplishing the same goals....

Again, you would never expect to use these English words to explain your ideas to someone who speaks only Russian. If it is okay to abandon your entire language to get ideas across in that situation, why isn't it sensible to abandon confusing words to convey ideas in this situation?

To which he retorted that I should ask the Apache about this matter of withdrawing without ever having a place to stand your ground. What's more, we can't, currently, get off planet, he said. NASA is preventing it.

Of greater significance Mike says we should stand firm on principles. We should not build stuff that the pigs would end up seizing and run away, because then all our efforts go to support them, as much as we don't wish it. And, he says, guerrillas have to stand and fight sometimes. And plans aren't all bad.

So I commented back:

Ask which Apache? About what? Don't tell me what I have to do, son. Try to have some sensitivity to the fact that the term "Apache" was imposed by outsiders on several ethnically related but also diverse clan groupings. Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Plains Apache have all been called by that name.

So, rather than dismiss the effectiveness of 21st Century fourth generational warfare by making reference to some groups of peoples many of whom kept their autonomy even though some of their cousins suffered various military defeats in the 19th Century when technologies favouring offence were temporarily ascendant (and not available to those people) I would much rather you give me some specific bit of information about why you think I can't simply withdraw from words that are unworkable and keep making up new ones. Your land analogy breaks down because there are always plenty of new words. Talk to a teenager if you doubt me.

As for NASA, etc. it is completely possible to do what you describe, as Jim Benson so nobly proved. It is technically and economically feasible, cost effective, and practical. And forbidden.

Stand firm on principles for ever. In matters of fashion, swim with the current. Nothing about abandoning the words socialism and capitalism effects any of the ideas that I stand for. And you know it.... See More

I write business plans for a living, I am not against planning. I am against your insistence that we waste our time fighting to preserve the sanctity of words that don't matter. Ideas matter. Words are trivial.

All this fighting between Walter Block and Brad Spangler over the words capitalism and socialism is a waste of time. Walter is not going to find hundreds of millions of capitalists rallying to the banner of freedom. Brad and Sheldon are not going to find hundreds of millions of socialists rallying to the banner of freedom. So, stop being mean to each other, guys.

There is no magical incantation of just the proper words that is going to cause everyone on the planet to embrace individual liberty, private property, free markets, and lay the foundation for ending the state, freeing the slaves, and stopping the wars. We're going to do those things, and we'll do them using whatever words work with a particular audience. It isn't rational to worship words as though they were going to be our salvation. We should find the ideas that work and use whatever words we need to convey those into each mind we encounter.

After all, every individual is different, and worthy of whatever words are needed to persuade them. One size does not fit all.

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Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. His third book Sovereign Self-Defence will be released for Kindle very soon. His fourth book Being Libertarian will be available for free download as a .pdf, being a compilation of all his essays and letters in "The Libertarian Enterprise" since 1995. Contact him at or houstonspacesociety.org.


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