L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 890, September 18, 2016
The Litmus Test for Agorism
by J. Neil Schulman
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Samuel Edward Konkin III, and I, co-founded what today is called Agorism or the Agorist movement.
Sam was Agorism’s chief theoretician in published works such as The New Libertarian Manifesto (1980) and The Agorist Primer (1986). Before that Sam introduced counter-economics in his talks to the CounterCon conferences I organized in fall 1974 and spring 1975.
The first printed explication of Agorism was in my novel, Alongside Night (Crown Publishers, 1979).
The first explication of Agorism in a movie was my adaptation of the Alongside Night novel into the Alongside Night movie, previewed to libertarian and science-fiction venues in 2013 showings and released in limited theatrical showings in 2014.
The Alongside Night movie is an independent film produced for under a million dollars. Compared to studio productions for theatrical or network television release that’s ultra-low- budget. Nonetheless, the Alongside Night movie achieved production values including starring actors who have appeared in major theatrical movies and network television series, visual effects produced by artists whose work has appeared in blockbuster movies, a musical soundtrack composed, orchestrated, and conducted by a musical artist whose work has been used in numerous major studio movies and recorded by a major symphony orchestra—and additional music licensed with a major recording artist and another full symphony orchestra—and both interior and exterior locations worthy of a studio picture.
This is not debatable opinion, These are provable facts.
Yet the only explicitly Agorist-content movie has been relentlessly denigrated by persons calling themselves Agorists. They not only attack every aspect of the movie’s production they go on to attack the Agorist content of the movie itself. Sometimes these attacks on the movie are by persons claiming to like the novel—but the attacks on content in the movie are on content that originated in the novel.
Here is a new example.
On the Agora Club Facebook page, Agoristball (now identified as Mitchell Connor Wiecek) writes, “The book was pretty good but… just… wow… As far as libertarian message is not subtle at all and beats you over the head with liberty in ever frame and honestly it seems to glorify a lot of libertarian straw men. Like at one point the main character goes to buy nuke from a market. Not exactly the film I’d want representing my ideology.’
The Engineering Nuke in Alongside Night
So let’s compare the sequence from the novel, and from the movie, that “beats you over the head with liberty,’ glorifies “a lot of libertarian straw men,’ and which this man claiming to represent Agorism writes is “Not exactly the film I’d want representing my ideology.’
Keep in mind that both the novel sequence and movie sequence were written by one of the founders of Agorism and the novel version was vetted by Agorism’s universally-acknowledged theoretician, Samuel Edward Konkin III.
The guard looked them over, and saw they were genuinely confused. He motioned with the Taser. “Come on.’
He led Elliot and Lorimer to the security alcove, and told the commandant—a different one from the previous night, “Two for Aurora Proper.’
The commandant then asked them, “Anything you want from the lockers?’
“I have a pistol,’ said Elliot. “Do you think I need it?’
“I couldn’t say,’ he replied. “Cadre are not allowed on the trading floor.’
“Why not?’ Lorimer asked.
“Privacy,’ the commandant explained. “The allied businesses in Aurora have delegated to the Cadre the right to monitor incoming and outgoing goods and communications, to ensure that the location is kept secret. To make sure that the Cadre can’t try to use this authority against them, they forbid us to enter into their domain and maintain their own security force to keep us out. Their guards are armed; except during emergencies we are not allowed to be.’
“Well,’ said Elliot, “if I’m allowed to, I guess I will take my revolver.’
“Right. Surrender your badges, please.’
Taking their badges and feeding them into a collection slot, the commandant then got Elliot his revolver. After Elliot had put on his holster, the guard led the couple down the same corridor through which they had entered the Cadre complex initially, retracing the 45-degree bend around which was the steel door defended by still another guard. The door was opened for them, and they were instructed to walk to the Terminal corridor’s end and wait at the large portal opposite the Terminal. They did—Elliot meanwhile noting the Terminal door locked—and a few minutes later the portal slid open.
They were facing a freight elevator.
After they had got on, the door automatically slid shut, the elevator creeping down. When the door opened again, they were looking down the main promenade of what looked to be a small village.
Elliot and Lorimer faced a carpeted mall—daylight simulated by sunlight fluorescent panels in a low acoustic ceiling—twenty- feet wide and stretching ahead over twice the length of a football field. On each side of the promenade was an array of storefronts and offices the likes of which Elliot had never seen, and shopping in the mall were over a hundred persons obviously of widely varying nationality, creed, and custom.
“This is clearly impossible,’ said Elliot. Lorimer did not disagree.
They began down the promenade, on the left passing the Black Supermarket (it looked like a supermarket); next to it, offices of the First Anarchist Bank and Trust Company—AnarchoBank for short; farther down, NoState Insurance; and beyond that, a post office: The American Letter Mail Company, Lysander Spooner, founder.
On the opposite side of the promenade were The Contraband Exchange (jewelry, novelties, duty-free merchandise), Identities by Charles (makeup and disguises), and a restaurant, The TANSTAAFL Café. There were several dozen more shops and offices that looked even more intriguing.
“Well, what do you think?’
Lorimer paused a moment before answering. “I think it might be easier to hide the Lincoln Memorial.’
“We might be under it.’
They walked farther, passing The Gun Nut and an office for Guerdon Construction, coming to a door marked “The G. Gerald Rhoames Boarder Guard and Ketchup Company.’ Elliot and Lorimer took one look at it—then at each other—and decided to go in.
A bell of the door tinkled as they entered; the shop was old- fashioned, almost Dickensian in style, with a small, well- dressed man seated behind a glass counter. He stood as they came in. “Yes?’
He bowed slightly.
“We were wondering what you sell here,’ Lorimer asked.
“My sign does not convince you?’ He spoke with a British accent contaminated by overexposure to Americans.
“Surely not. Gentlemen should deal neither in frontier guards nor ketchup. I am a cannabist.’
“You eat human flesh?’
“Good heavens, no, dear lady. I am a cannabist, not a cannibal. A cannabist deals in Cannabis sativa, the most select parts from the female hemp plant. I am a seller of the finest hybrids from Colombia, Acapulco, Bangladesh.’
“Wholesale or retail?’ Elliot asked.
“Both,’ said mr. Rhoames, “though naturally my store here is quite limited. Over three kilograms entails outside delivery.’
“What would an ounce of Acapulco go for?’
“Very well, then. Thirty-three.’
Elliot pulled out his wallet, extending a blue. “Do you have change of a hundred?’
Mr. Rhoames looked at it with disdain. “Surely you do not think I was pricing in fiat? The price is thirty-three cents aurum.’
“Well, how much is that in dollars?’
Mr. Rhoames shrugged. “I’m not a clerk.’ He pronounced the word clark. “I suggest you utilize a bank here and exchange them.’
“Thanks,’ said Elliot. “Come on, Lor.’ They started to the door.
“I say—on the subject of dollars …’
They turned back to him.
He reached behind the counter, his hand returning with a small box. Inside were five manufactured cigarettes with gold dollar signs engraved on the paper. “A house blend, grown hydroponically in my own tanks.’
“I’m sure they’re excellent, but I can’t do anything until I get my currency exchanged.’
“No, no, no,’ said Mr. Rhoames. “On the house.’
“Why, thank you,’ said Lorimer. “That’s very kind.’
“Nothing at all. Come back anytime.’
When they were fully out the door, Lorimer turned to Elliot and just said, “Well.’
“I’ll reserve my opinion until I see how these others are,’ Elliot replied.
A two-minute walk returned them to the AnarchoBank, inside three tellers’ windows with a half-dozen customers in line, and a sign on the wall: “Offices in AURORA, AUTONOMY, AUCTION, AURIGA, AUDACITY, AUBERGE, AUSTRIAN SCHOOL, AUNTIE, and AUM.’
Elliot and Lorimer bypassed the line, instead walking over to a good-looking black woman behind a desk marked “New Accounts.’ “Excuse me, but who do I see to exchange New Dollars?’
“Do you have an account with us?’ she asked pleasantly; Elliot shook his head. “Then I’ll take care of it. Won’t you sit down?’ After Elliot and Lorimer had been seated, she asked, “How much would you like exchanged?’ Elliot took out his remaining currency, counting out twenty-seven hundred in blues. “You’d like gold or eurofrancs?’
“Uh—gold, I guess.’
She made use of a desktop computer console, then said, “We’ll have to buy your New Dollars at what we estimate is Monday’s rate.’ She explained, “That’s the earliest we can sell it. And at 28.165 New Dollars per milligram gold, we can offer you ninety-six mils.’
“How much will that buy around here?’
“Not very much. A carton of cigarettes at Black Supermarket or a light lunch at TANSTAAFL Café. As a reference point, a dime vendy trades at par with four mils, a quarter vendy at ten mils—that is, one cent.’
Elliot thought a moment, then said, “My money will buy me two dozen phone calls?’
“If there were pay phones in Aurora—which there aren’t—yes.’
“In that case,’ said Elliot, “I’m interested in another transaction.’
Concealing his motions from both the woman and Lorimer, he unzipped his belt slightly and pulled out a 50-peso piece. He placed it on the desk.
“For eurofrancs,’ said Elliot.
Ten minutes later, Elliot had exchanged his blues for a handful of vendies and had been given 405 eurofrancs for his gold piece—ten eurofrancs per gram gold and an 8 percent premium for the coin. The New Accounts officer also showed them AnarchoBank gold coins of various weights, including a one-gram wafer so thin it was sealed into plastic.
“Listen,’ said Elliot, after he had been given a thorough sales pitch for minimum-balance checking accounts, interest- bearing time deposits, and a small pamphlet called “The Wonderful World of 100% Gold Reserve Banking.’ “I don’t mean this to sound nasty—honestly—but how can I be sure this isn’t a fly-by- night outfit?’
“That’s a fair question,’ she replied, though I’m afraid the best way we can prove ourselves to you requires that you simply do business with us long enough to be assured of our honesty. Short of that, you can receive a copy of the auditor’s report from the Independent Arbitration Group, or check with any of our overseas correspondent banks. AnarchoBank is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Union Commerce Bank in Zurich, and does business through it with aboveground banks throughout the world.’
Elliot and Lorimer got up. “Well, thank you,’ said Elliot.
The New Accounts officer extended another pamphlet to him. “Your application for a Bank AnarchoCard,’ she said.
For the next hour, Elliot and Lorimer window-shopped, looking at duty-free Swiss watches in the Contraband Exchange, picking up a prospectus for Project Harriman, a countereconomic lunar mining venture, and scrutinizing the wide range of illegal chemicals on sale in Jameson Pharmaceuticals, displayed as in the patent-medicine counters of a discount drugstore. A sign on the wall announced: “NO PRESCRIPTIONS REQUIRED ON ANY PURCHASE—Consult Your Physician for Indications.’ And past rows of morphine, paregoric, methadone, and heroin was another smaller sign on the wall, but reproduced on each package: “WARNING: Narcotics Use is Habit-Forming.’
Another counter displayed LSD 25 … THC … Mescaline … cocaine … Sweet & Low …
In Nalevo Personnel Lorimer was told by a placement manager that they could guarantee her employment at twenty grams gold a week in one of the finer bordellos.
The Black Supermarket impressed them not for what it had—aside from tax-free liquor and cigarettes its merchandise was the kind any supermarket would sell—but for what it did not have: no shortages, no rationing, no listings of “lawful’ ceiling prices. Elliot felt a momentary twinge when he saw a shelf stocked with Spam; he had pushed his family to the back of his mind and felt guilty for enjoying himself.
It became evident that the trading floor was primarily a convenience for wholesale countereconomic traders, who shook hands on huge deals here, and made their deliveries outside. It was only slightly unusual to see a person walking around with face masked, though Elliot suspected that most of the people shopping on this floor were “expendable’ agents of the actual buyers, whose faces would never risk being seen.
After a five-minute wait for a table, Elliot and Lorimer were seated in the TANSTAAFL Café, a sign on the wall translating the word as There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and rightly crediting the acronym to E. “Doc’ Pournelle. The special luncheon for Saturday offered split-pea soup, sandwich, french fries, and beverage, all for seven cents. After brief discussion, Elliot ordered it for both of them.
While waiting for the food, they paid a visit to the restaurant’s old Wurlitzer jukebox, finding it stocked only with classical music. Elliot inserted a quarter vendy and pushed I-23; the machine responded by playing the Heifetz recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
Elliot and Lorimer spent another ninety minutes drifting around the floor—talking with document forgers, electronics technicians, and arbitration agents—and visiting, at Elliot’s urging, The Gun Nut. On display was a weapon fancier’s dream, everything from pistols, bazookas, and M-21 automatic machine pistols, to grenade launchers, subsonic generators, and lasers. Its real attraction for Elliot was a fifty-foot-deep shooting range behind a soundproof glass panel. After donning ear protectors, Elliot fast-drew into a Weaver stance at a paper target in the shape of an armed assailant. Afterward, he brought his target up to the front counter.
“The proprietor said, “That’ll be ten cents. How’d you do?’
Elliot showed the man his target. He had shot a number of bull’s-eyes, fewer holes farther out, none out of killing range.
The proprietor nodded respectfully.
“Lor,’ said Elliot as they exited to the promenade, “after this place I’d believe you if you told me someone was here hawking nukes.’
The display mock-up had a sign underneath labeling it: “100 KILOTON ATOMIC FISSION DEVICE.’
The salesman in Lowell-Pierre Engineering was telling them, “… but of course much smaller than the megaton capabilities of the hydrogen fusion devices.’
“You provide the plutonium?’ Elliot asked him.
“No, of course not,’ said the salesman. “You’d have to find your own source. But even if you did, you’d have to accept one of our supervisors to ensure that the device would be used only for excavation or drilling, before we would sell you one. We don’t hand over nuclear weapons to fools who want to blow up the world.’
“But you’ve sold these things?’ asked Lorimer. “Really?’
“Of course,’ said the salesman. “Do you think we’re in business for our health?’
Now here’s the same Agorist shopping floor sequence in the movie:
Speaking as the surviving co-founder of Agorism who came up with this sequence in close consultation with the other co-founder of Agorism, Samuel Edward Konkin III, I think the movie sequence is as representative of Agorism as the novel sequence. If you press me, I think the movie does an even better job at explicating core Agorist ideas than the novel did.
So here’s what the living Original Agorist says about this.
If you don’t like the expression of Agorist ideas in Alongside Night, the original novel or the movie the original author made from it, you’re not an Agorist.
If you don’t recognize and like the Agorist content of the first Agorist movie Alongside Night you have failed the litmus test identifying genuine Agorists and weeding out the phonies, poseurs, dilettantes, communists, fascists, racists, anti-Semites, unfunny comics, belching podcasters, illiterate critics, confidential informants, oppo trolls, and all variation of stealth statists from both left and right.
You can’t claim to be a fundamentalist Christian and hate the Bible. You can’t claim to be a Muslim and declare the Quran is a piece of crap. You can’t claim to be a Student of Objectivism and say Atlas Shrugged is the worst novel ever written. You can’t claim to love America but think half of American voters belong in a basket of deplorables.
If your esthetics are such that a clear expression of Agorist content in a more-than-competently made low-budget indie film turns you off, please stop calling yourself an Agorist, because you’re not. You can claim to be any other flavor of free-thinker you like—minarchist, Libertarian Partyarch, anarcho-communist, mutualist, AnCap, Voluntaryist, distributivist, etc.—but you are not an Agorist.
That’s not an argument from authority, or a claim of trademark.
It’s just cutting through a pile of deviationist claims to reach the historical facts witnessed personally from this guy who was there when it started.
Reprinted from J. Neil Schulman @ Agorist.com September 17, 2016 at 7:56 PM © 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved. Web and email links with attribution permitted and encouraged. Other reprints permitted only with prior permission of the author.
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