THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 610, March 13, 2011
"Much food for thought"
Agorism and the Agorists
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
As of late it has become apparent that new ground, though I am sure it is not actually very new, has to be struck. In the spirit of experimentation I had put the principle of statelessness in the foreground and set my others to a side, in part due to my interaction with one "Danzilla" Brown and his idea of anarchism without adjectives. I have learned a thing or two in this time, trust my instincts and trust my wife, funny thing is Diana bought me a shirt which reads "I don't need an encyclopedia, my wife knows it all!" This seems to be the case when regarding this subject, for what I can assume was in benefit of this experiment she did let a lot slide for a long time before she had become very frustrated and it would seem we reached this point together.
On Counter-Economics and the Agora
Samuel Edward Konkin III developed an idea with others known as agorism, fashioned in sorts as a revolutionary movement to reach an anarchist society. His idea was the combination of two other ideas which already existed in history, counter-economics (The Black Market) and Libertarianism. There is absolutely no evidence of primacy to agorism; it just has a shiny new name, much like the term minarchist and partyarch. There are many people who are wholly part of the libertarian tradition and engage in the freed market which has been traditionally known as the black market. What first must be done is to dismantle this idea that Sam was anything more than a mere human, if we will propagate myths about something, I firmly assert it should have to do with a force of nature; Sam is not a force of nature.
If we gaze back to Europe, the word liberal is still used in the traditional sense, someone who would do away with laws; the radical version of the liberal in Europe is the anarchist. There is a quaint realism to the European tradition, the fact that they are not quick to change, and in similar vein they do not have this strange classification between markets, there is the black market and the market. The black marketers of Europe do not advertise, write essays or use specialized lingo in order to spread their business and therefore their ideas, they use their market interactions. The point and purpose to the European black marketer is to avoid paying taxes, regulatory fees and other points where the superfluous order of the state is a hindrance to individual liberty and an expense to the consumer in the realm of pricing. In their action they breed a dissent for the state, it is far more persuasive to pay less for bread than to pay more, and on the black market in Europe you can purchase bread just as you can purchase cocaine. The deflection of black market actors (by creation of the gray market) away from this ever narrowing classification pushes the agorists into a corner of an ever shrinking percent of the population. It is a token defense to claim the precepts of agorism will in effect free the black marketers from the state and reward them for being the second class market that can be thrown under the bus when the state begins its inevitable witch-hunt on agorism.
The other "aspect" of agorism is the purely libertarian nature of the idea, the adherence to a non-aggression principle and a respect of property that which is owned by another. This concept has been the subject of much literary work by libertarian thinkers, the consistent view of these people leads down the road of anarchism by logical conclusion. This too predates the term "libertarian" as suggested by Murray N. Rothbard and Jeff Riggenbach by their work, the former with a compendium of books throughout his career and the later even to this day with his "The Libertarian Tradition" production featured on the Ludwig Von Mises Institute website. Great thinkers like Laozi, De la Boetie, Warren and the like had all been a fundamental part of libertarianism well before the word was invented; I do not think it is a stretch to note these men were libertarians before the word existed. More importantly if it were not for the thinkers of the past much of the intellectual foundation in which we rely on would not be present.
In a conversation with Ethan Lee Vita he excludes many people from the classification of "agorist" based on his personal narrowing of it, he claims (I am sure it is true) these notions are supported by those who knew Konkin during his life and by interpretation of his work. Unfortunately there is an inconsistency in this rendition of the classification by who it excludes in two main ways. First he seems to assert one must know about agorism to be an agorist, and second it seems to me he places a timestamp on who may be considered an agorist based on his false notion that agorism has primacy to Konkin's work. This is an unfortunate error on his part not only because of his use of the term agorist, but also how it is applied in practice; he asserts someone who practices counter-economics is not an agorist because he does not "seek to spread the agora" however many of his contemporaries are agorists because they attempt to "spread the agora" yet they fail to actually practice what they preach. I think this is rooted in a massive misunderstanding, living by example is just as, if not more so, convincing of an idea than just talking about it.
Sean Sawyer does an amazing job of documenting estimates of the "black market" size and scope in the world today, in many cases the black market is by and far the main source of income for a great percentage of the human populace. Does it take away from the logic to end the state if the people involved in these interactions do not know who Sam is, do not know what agorism is or never heard of the NAP? The people involved on the interpersonal level of the black market anywhere are two things first and foremost, they are spreading the idea that the government is bad for the market by example and they are defunding the state on a much grander scale than any of these self proclaimed agorists can ever hope to. The second issue, the primacy issue is highlighted further by making the claim that those who had practiced agorism in the past could not be "agorists" because they were not around after Konkin coined the term. I find it a foolish classification if such is the case, how can one claim that someone today who produces articles on libertarian theory and how free markets and statelessness would be a better form of human society is an agorist, yet deny the term to include Laozi or De la Boetie.
If anyone in American history cannot be denied such a title it would be a man who not only supported statelessness with intellectual works but also sought to compete with the federal government in letter carrying. Lysander Spooner fits the bill of agorist more than any other man that I can provide proof of, he not only talked the talk but he walked the walk, I could venture even further than Konkin himself, verily a century prior. What about Josiah Warren, who even predates Spooner? This man not only spoke on the part of statelessness, inspiring Tucker, but also in practice sought to set up stateless communities, first on the communist/socialist model following Robert Owen to New Harmony, and on an individualist model known as Modern Times. Besides this he opened an Owenite "Time Store" and had used the equal exchange of labor to receive compensation and sold goods for zero profit. Here we have a puzzle, we have two individuals who are libertarian in philosophy and practiced what they preached to bring about the state's demise and to show the disutility of the state. How are these men not considered agorists, they had done everything to fit the bill, they did not know Konkin (he was not born) or any of Konkin's words (not invented) but none the less they were doing what Konkin described.
It was also claimed that this distinction between agorist and counter-economist was the foundation of the revolutionary nature of agorism. I have to call complete bullshit on this claim; the revolutionary nature of agorism is the disregard of the political process as a whole in order to achieve one iota of liberty:
Konkin himself asserts that not all counter-economists are libertarian and therefore not agorist, but he does not arbitrarily make the claim that libertarian counter-economists who do not preach libertarianism are not agorists. As I quote below, Konkin is quite clear he is more interested in action than mere words; it would be a safe assumption that a libertarian who preaches and does not act in the counter-economy is not an agorist rather they are just Libertarians meanwhile one who does act and does not preach about it is emulating Konkin's ideas consistently. Vita made the claim that agorists have a "duty" to spread the idea of agorism and it makes me question the libertarian nature of his interpretation of agorism, I have serious doubts one could even claim it is some aspect of agorism without experiencing ideological whiplash. I personally am not too happy about this statement; anything about libertarianism seems to me counter-intuitive to the notion of "duty". Maybe it was a poor choice of words, but I will not neglect the opportunity to relay the message of liberty, I rather enjoy the message. Libertarian thought does not confer a duty on anyone, anyone who believes this to be true in order to qualify them to something related to the libertarian philosophy has a consistency issue. It is not the duty of a libertarian to spread libertarian ideas, the only thing one could say is expected of a libertarian is voluntary interaction. Claiming, "One cannot be part of the "agorism" club if one is not abiding by the duty we confer on someone," co-opts the term agorism away from libertarian thought and places it into a collectivist dogma.
And then there was Mr. Spangler who laid claim that a government sponsored union of government workers staging a mass call in with the designed purpose of protesting benefit payment increases on their part due to lacking stolen funds is in some way agorist is utterly preposterous. Not only shall we recognize that there is nothing voluntary about the teacher's union in this country, but we cannot deny that these same people are, even in a strict Konkinite point of view, part of the political class. How, in any way, is this even a blip on the radar of agorism other than being eerily similar to "The Auctioneer" by Joan Samson? It seems to me that once Mr. Spangler saw "Union" and "protesting government" his brain shut off and the socialism took over for rational thinking processes.
The present situations of unions are not the voluntary collective bargaining and mediation services they were at the turn of the century, they are the workers analog to the corporate lobbyist, certainly in some cases people are not compelled to be a part of the union but this does not stop the union from impressing its will on those workers as well. The unions had become monoliths of the centralized organization of labor, forcing the will of itself on the entire workforce, in this sense it is just another layer of government. It may not have the right to morally rob at gunpoint, but it does not need to since it petitions for law and funds the democrat head of the political monster known as leviathan. It claims to know the "best interests" of workers much like the state claims the same for "citizens" completely ignoring that individual interest are not measured in aggregate. In the case of teachers unions, in 28 states and D.C. all teachers are required to pay an "agency fee" which is equal to the union dues, the right to work states do not carry this feature and there is the religious exemption loophole. This organization is only a political lobby group, the two largest spent $69 million on lobbying and $93 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" (numbers are from 2009) there is nothing agorist about the teachers unions in this country.
Many unions use the state the same way the corporatists do, to get their way over the rest of the population, and it works. These are the analogs to the Democrat and Republican shuffle we see in politics and oddly enough they seem to align along those lines as well. It seems maybe someone is smart enough to see the false paradigm of the left vs. right show government puts on but is at the same time just dumb enough to not see it when it involves his precious socialist staple of Unionization. Maybe it is "for the children" you are looking to let agorism include institutions which are part of, and need, the state to warrant their existence? Paint me revolutionary but with Konkin's complete contempt for the LP and their attempt to control leviathan, I do not think it is a stretch that he would hold the same ire for state run unions of state employees who grease the wheels of the state to allocate the funds reaped by the state from the white market.
The Five Market Chart
A friend of mine had generated a chart which delineated the differing varieties of markets available to individuals. These were separated into two main categories, moral and immoral and then along three secondary distinctions, approved, approved under specification and banned. This led to the understanding of a five market model in which moral markets included the white, gray and black markets and the immoral ones included the pink and red markets.
The moral markets are characterized by actions which are not violating other people, being paid to murder others is not considered moral by the creator of the chart, I tend to agree with that sentiment but inconsistently he asserts that paying the state to murder (white market) is moral. The consistent action to be taken by an individual who views murder as inherently immoral is to abandon any way of paying for that murder which is possible.
This is where the gray and black markets come into play, according to the diagram, the untaxed and unregulated markets which are "moral" by the standard depicted in the chart. This distinction I find wholly unnecessary and not at all supported by Konkin in any of his work, Konkin himself denoted only white and black markets. He specifically professed to "turn all white into black" in regard to markets, this is not a concept which aligns to this chart. The distinction between gray and black markets is wholly arbitrary, if you get the license, follow regulations and pay the taxes you are in the white market, if you do not the action is banned and you are a "criminal" in the eyes of the state. The consequences of selling crack, labor, sex, or liquor outside the white market are not necessarily equal in severity but are equally available for punishment despite the ability to transfer some of these goods and services to the white market. Gray markets as such are not, therefore, part of agorist theory by virtue of the fact that Konkin specifically labels what is considered gray market as black market.
The classification of "immoral" markets is poor at best since morality is a subjective notion; one only needs to examine the absurdity of socialist property invalidation or the abortion issue to come to this understanding. Is it moral or immoral to rent property, to perform or contract an abortion or to sell or purchase sexual services? These questions have no consistent answer because the idea of morality is wholly and unequivocally subjective; it is a matter of opinion in regard to the individual you ask. I suppose a better distinction would be between coercive and non-coercive "markets" as this would delineate between rape vs. rape play scenarios and murder vs. "Murder Park" scenarios. In a coercive "market" the initiator of the action, the rapist and murderer, stand to risk retaliatory force of self-defense and potentially pay consequences for his actions. Conversely in the non-coercive market the "rapist" and "murderer" are acting in a voluntary manner with the other individual (which would be victim in the coercive "market").
Imagine if you will a male prostitute, who sells his service to women, in which the client requests rape fantasy, would it be logical to consider this immoral? Would it be consistently moral for the client to kill the prostitute and claim she was defending herself from a rapist? Where any individual draws the line at for morality is not a consistent enough basis for a generalization over a market, verily there are people who would in honesty paint the entire scenario as immoral based on the fact that sex was contracted. To use a more pertinent example the socialist community approves of an idea known to me as property invalidation, where if an individual exploits others through his property he invalidates his ownership of said property. This is all well and good for other socialists who are unable to invalidate what they do not own in the first place, which begs the question of who is this idea intended for? The truth is, sadly enough, this is a legitimization of theft, the intent of this idea is to confiscate property from individuals who are not socialists (landlords, employers, etc.). So is this a moral action or not, does it not seem apparent it all depends on who you are asking? The socialists will tend to agree that this is morally justified; meanwhile the property owning non-socialist will complain he was robbed. Finally again I will fall back on Konkin, I do not know him to ever refer to a pink or red market (the immoral markets) so I will leave it as another unnecessary and wholly arbitrary classification.
Another damning example for the 5 market chart is the contractual stipulation to allow for violence and murder as restitution for violating the contract. Let's say Jones has money saved and he decides to lend it to Smith at interest, within the contractual interaction Jones includes in the contract the condition that if he does not pay on time he will be beaten or killed. If Smith agrees to this, explicitly and misses a payment or does not pay is Jones action immorally by hiring Williams to exact this condition upon Smith, is Williams acting immorally by taking the "job" or completing the "job"? The answer is no, one cannot claim Jones or Williams is even violating Smith since it was Smith himself who had agreed to the contract, accepted the money and therefore accepted the consequences of violation of the contract. The same could be said for Dr. Block's argument for voluntary servitude; the "master" is not immoral when someone voluntarily sells himself into servitude.
My personal solution is to simplify the process, in other words to make it absolutely clear; there is the white market and the black market and nothing else. The "immoral" markets are not markets, coercive action is not a market it is a violation of others and therefore outside the realm of consented human interaction. Is there a mugging market, a taxation market, a market in mandatory education so on and so forth? The answer is no. A market is operative in goods production, everything resulting from coercive action is a "bad" and therefore not part of a market at all. The distinction of gray needs to be lost all together, either one is in accord with the state and part of the white market or is not and in the black market, the state treats the unregulated seller of food as a criminal just as much as the crack dealer. Verily if we want to get to brass tacks everything in the black market has a white market analog, the drug dealer and the pharmacist, the prostitute and the legal prostitutes of Nevada, off books employment and on books employment, so on and so forth. In Konkin's own vein, there is a market which slaves interact and there is the black market where to some degree they are alleviated of their slavery:
This along with a non-exhaustive but extensive list of "white" market professionals which are currently in a decent proportion (20 to 50 %) counter-economic, which is to say white turned black, there is no gray in agorism. So my thoughts are simplify the idea, streamline the tools and stop with all this divisive over analysis and brain masturbation collecting certain groups of black marketers and developing (unintentionally?) a caste system in which will grant a ready class of scapegoats and/or another class of rulers. When considering this for some strange reason divide et impera comes to mind, maybe it is just me, but I am sure it is not.
The concepts which Agorism is an amalgamation of is not Samuel Edward Konkin III, it is a philosophy of dismantling the state by defunding through the counter-economy and in the market defense forces defending their customers who contract them. He may have coined the term, but it is similar to the Zaxlebax issue on a different dimension, some people are conflating Konkin's personal view of the wages system (which he basically clarified as a non-point in "Reply to Rothbard") as point and purpose to agorism. The libertarian aspect of agorism is not about who declares themselves a libertarian and therefore poses what they preach as libertarian thought; rather it is what one does. If we look at "Reply to Rothbard" where he answers the critique of Murray N. Rothbard I think Sam makes my point well enough about talking as opposed to doing.
In this light I think Sam would look at people in our day who overanalyze market interactions and segregate them by what is considered socially acceptable and declare them collectivist and not necessarily aiding the spread of the ideas. Continuing this vein I think he would also look at those who overanalyze libertarian credentials and declare pretty much the same. The positions these people hold are complimentary to each other and divisive to the counter economic actors, I am certain of one thing, Sam most likely would be attacking them himself if he were still around to do such.
It seems to me the people looking to dissect factors out of Agorism do so at their own peril, I am sure they must notice this by now, so why? These people share a distinction outside of agorism, they are predominantly socialist and when I say this I would apply the generalization that they are all, but many have co-opted other terms to describe the same thing. I am certain this is either ignorance on their part or deception; one can never know the intent of an individual, but more on that later. Much like the socialists of the 20th century co-opted the terms liberal and left away from those who would do away with laws and in the radical sense government they are co-opting agorist to push their socialist agenda through the agorist/anarchist community. Maybe it should be taken on that Konkin was not a socialist, never was and could never be construed as one, he made such ultimately clear in his reply to Dr. Rothbard when the latter questioned his position as an Austrian (Economist):
He does not mention the inherent exploitation of the employer employee relationship, he mentions the transaction costs, the fact that wage-labor is not as efficient as entrepreneurial contractor business, this is a statement that Sam was not only a capitalist but also understood his point as empirical and impossible to be decided until it became history. He further enunciates this point in the following passage:
Sam also indicates that his issue with corporatism is the limited liability feature, not the capitalist aspect of joint stock companies:
It may be said that this situation would be more pleasing to the socialist than the traditional anarcho-capitalist view of what will be will be, but it is in essence, proven by the former passage, precisely what Konkin is saying. This does not mean one must think Konkin was adverse to socialists; agorism being a solely propertarian system, exactly like anarcho-capitalism, allows for the socialists to do what they will with their property, even grant title to the community, hug and play Kumbya all night long while sharing instead of trading. The thing not allowed in Agorism, just as it is not allowed in an anarcho-capitalist typed society is for a group of socialists to decide the fate of another person's property when they are not specifically using it, renting it or hiring hands to work it. In short they are not allowed to use their ideas to violate the property of other people quantitatively picking on the point of property invalidation. It is true he does not declare anything specific as an organizational structure, but this does not mean he intends worldwide socialism:
Since Konkin puts a line across to New Libertarianism as a rejection of collectivist/socialist action (one can make this logical deduction based on Konkin's assertion that he is 'Rothbardian') it does not lend to the notion that Agorism is a Socialist idea. The socialists must have missed that part:
I mean how much more does one need than Sam's own words on the subject of what he fights for and against in regard to Dr. Rothbard himself?
I would think this offers much food for thought, Konkin hard rails against socialist economic ideas, the labor theory of value, ownership theory and exploitation theory as a whole, if not he would have abandoned his Austrian credentials. His use of left is not the American/socialist perversion but rather the use of which is the radical stateless philosophy as evident with his rejection of the Libertarian Party and voting in total. I would think that if it were produced in his lifetime, Konkin would have preferred to label his position as above the political spectrum in regard to my rendition of the political environment dropping left perhaps and acquiring higher.
Speaking of precepts and proscriptions of socialism and the matter of ignorance or deceit, I have also noted on a few occasions another trend of the people who magically fall in line with the same people co-opting Agorism to stand for socialism, what a coincidence. This is a lack of commitment to any principle what so ever; socialist thought had reached climax in the head of Marx, no one likes this name but I am going to shoot from the hip, he had been blacklisted by many socialists because of the outward failure of the communist model. What is happening more and more often as I see it is the mass denial of the socialist economic model's role in communism, or in other words a deception on the order of Marx. Marx had, in his philosophy of communism, merely took the role of "the State" and transferred it to "society", if we examine the idea through this looking glass we see Marx had not developed anything which would deliver freedom, rather it would only ever transfer the power of the state to another fictitious body, society.
What does this mean in regard to these current day socialists; they are opportunist looking to encourage their dogma along any philosophy, welcomed or not. They are sporadically "photo bombing" every idea they can find in order to, as far as my logic can tell, be able to revise reality and shove socialism down the throats of others based on an intelligentsia presence in every philosophy. This is, by and far, a symbol of the arrogance of the socialist, they were in the 18th century as they are today, and the main psychological notion of this doctrine is taken from the playbook of the totalitarian. They seek to co-opt anything which may deliver people into freedom in order to capitalize on its potential success, and install themselves as leaders, gurus or go to guys when a question arises, a small banality to their vanity. But the root of all evil is the smallest of banalities and much like the kraken of Greek mythology they will attempt to arise as the head of the leviathan, as the father leader directing the children subjects in order to make them all good like him.
Of course the aforementioned situation is only applicable in the case of deceit, to which I would like to say I do hope beyond hope it is not the case and if it is they can all rot in hell. The other potentiality is that they are truly ignorant, which would not be so bad if they were not like so many pied pipers, spreading the malignant tumor of collectivist dogma and claiming it can do anything but lead to starvation and death or bring us right back where we are today. If their priority was to action at least then they would get to try their plan, go off to someplace and fuck themselves in the ass with a broken bottle, in the best case learn their lesson, in a sub optimal case they would perish as a result of failure. One important point though, the rest of the rational actors in the world would see irrefutable proof of the untenable nature of the socialist model and one could hope the socialists die off with their shitty ideas and take them to the grave with them.
Are we looking for the philosophy of agorism to go the way of liberal and left, traditionally held as anarchist and non-interventionist positions co-opted into a nanny socialism which in turn will bring us right around full circle to where we are today? This I cannot tell, but I have been fighting it, Diana has been fighting it and others as well, too many to mention, some may prefer non-notoriety, anyway it is a perversion of the truth which so many claim to stand for.
Moving forward is always the goal, whether you believe we will see the agora in our lifetime or in generations, the revolution does not need to be won on a battlefield but rather in the lives of individuals along the way. Each person who embraces the counter-economy is at once relieved of some fraction of the slavery and to such an extent freed by this factor. So to each person who reads this I say, get your hands dirty, it is not what you say, it is not who you believe yourself to be but rather what you do that defines you and your character. Start a business, find a source of income which is unregulated and untaxed, offer goods and services in a tax free environment, and find these same things in a tax free environment. I know of a university which allows anyone to be a professor, set their own price for their services and not report a single thing to the government, if this is something that interests you. You do not have to do anything, but if you have a goal which is akin to mine, the end of Leviathan, I happen to be of the opinion that any of the above suggestions is a decent starting point.
Whether you are open or secretive about your actions is only relevant to one's personal preference towards risk versus reward. It is very rewarding to be open, there is a definite niche in every market for cheaper goods and services and my own analysis of the market shows a decent niche for political angst as well but this comes with the risk of capture by goons. Not everyone's counter-economic business will be as defensible as "The Last Biscuit" was when the state cracked down on them, and this is something to keep in mind. Being secretive is also not exactly counter intuitive to high reward, if this were the case I think the "drug" market would be far less alluring to people than it actually is. There are no absolutes in markets and this cannot be ignored, all one can hope for is that their actions are consistent with the desired results of them and this makes the outcome more reliable.
Demonstrating in public does not seem to have that much of an impact, the Keene people still have prohibitory laws enacted, the federal reserve is still in business, people are still being robbed from via the State and there are still people all around the world being killed systematically because of accident of birth. All protesting has done was make people targets for political, punitive or discrediting actions by politicians, police and media outlets. When protestors get arrested funds are taken from productive actions and directed towards paying off the kidnappers, if counter economic actors participate in these things it seems to me there is an inconsistency in execution of ideas. At the end of that day, I respect the authority one has over their production, and the rewards they reap, so I will not tell them they are wrong, but I will note the glaring inconsistency between word and action.
White market jobs are not necessarily the enemy, they help us hide in plain sight, certainly we are robbed at our white market jobs but is adds to an appearance which can benefit us in the current situation. It is not hypocritical to work on the books, as it is a defensive feature, it affords one less attention from Leviathan and this can only be a good thing. Jim Davidson discusses a lot on hiding in plain sight during his "Fireside Chat" at the Individual Sovereign University Founding Fiesta, this is one of the many reasons one may wish to purchase the complete disks, make sure to have pen and paper in hand as you will be learning something. An "On Books" job also can serve as a primary source of capital for one's counter-economic measures; this is especially the case for those who are new to the counter-economy. These two factors alone are compelling enough to suggest that white market jobs are not inconsistent with being an agorist, per se; it is the action one takes beyond this job that determines ones intentions and positions.
In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi "Be the change you believe in!" you will have to be the one to make the changes in your own reality tunnel, maybe someone will see them and be convinced of their merit, maybe not. The only person you can really save is yourself, and after that you stand the chance to be the inspiration for others to follow suit or not, but again the choice must be theirs, this is the libertarian way, this is the way of Agorism.