The agorist/statist spectrum in business, per SEK3

31 December 2009 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in philosophy | 6 Comments »

Let’s draw a line and make a spectrum. On the Far Left is pure agorist; on the Far Right is pure statism (I’ll leave it to the theologians to discuss as to whether statism is so Evil that it cannot exist in purity). An entrepreneur accepts all risk and operates purely underground on the Far Left. A person rejects all risk and imposes his will (or, more likely, that of his superior in the hierarchy) on others on the Far Right.

Now let’s take our compass and protractor and discern the “middle.” With my ideological tools, I see it as a largely aboveground business, accepting incorporation but only as a camouflage, afraid to deal with the Counter-Economy but equally in fear of the consequences of following regulations which will weaken or destroy the business. A highly unstable position, to be sure, as it should be. Tilting to the Right decreases risk but leads to a weaker business and less profit and thus the incentive to go ever-further right, begging, bribing and cajoling more and more statist intervention to assist the market-alienated firm, until finally it becomes indistinguishable from a branch of the State.

Tilting to the Left increases risk, but also profit and fitting supply to demand. As the company becomes more Counter-Economic, it prospers accordingly and has more capital to re-invest (since it’s paying little or no taxes) but if “outed” by the State, it can suffer ever-greater penalties. Finally, it goes completely underground and is a major Enemy of the State and essentially a key part of the Agorist Revolutionary strategy.

What keeps most entrepreneurs hovering between semi-agorist and semi-bureaucratic are the countervailing vectors of Fear of Risk/Failure vs Fear of Violence and Coercion. A few break free in one direction, embracing the risk and enjoying the freedom for however long they can succeed, and a few go the other way, embracing the State and reveling in whatever power they are granted over others.

Accepting money or any favours whatsoever is always wrong. Seizing property in the State’s sphere is always right. And what about those who fear for their families, that they will not be able to support their spouse or have their children seized and taken away? Where does cowardice fit on the political spectrum?

— “Deep Agorist Theory”, Samuel Edward Konkin III, 22 November 1999, LeftLibertarian mailing list

  1. 6 Responses to “The agorist/statist spectrum in business, per SEK3”

  2. By Kyle Bennett on 31 December 2009

    Interesting point about that center – where most small businesses sit – being a kind of tipping point. What we’ve got is basically a force field analysis matrix (, with entrepreneurial opportunity being a driving force and legal risk being a blocking force for moving leftward. In practice, it seems that the balance is weighted toward legal risk being dominant, and thus the prevailing movement is rightward.

    So the options are to either find ways to reduce the legal risk, or enhance the entrepreneurial opportunity, for moving leftward. A lot of activist politics focuses on the former, it is agorism that has begun to look at the latter, but perhaps not explicitly enough.

  3. By Kyle Bennett on 1 January 2010

    Err, strip the trailing paren on the link above, sorry.

  4. By Kyle Bennett on 1 January 2010

    Meh, here’s a better link anyway:

  5. By Mike Gogulski on 1 January 2010

    Link fixed.

    Fascinating connection, Kyle. Unfamiliar with the theory, but the description on the wiki article seems very interesting.

    But is there not another meta-level to this? Sure, reduced risk versus increased opportunity is one thing. But what seems operant here is not true risk versus true opportunity, but the actor’s perceptions of one against the other. Anarchists have to some degree done good work in illustrating the state is never as omnipotent as it would claim to be, serving to lower the perception of risk in counter-economic activity.

  6. By Kyle Bennett on 1 January 2010

    Sure, there’s a meta-level too, but the risk is real to some extent, even if exaggerated, and the opportunity is, at present, sufficiently uncertain to justify a real skepticism. Both the perception and the reality need to be worked on. Together, they are a vicious spiral that needs to be turned into a virtuous spiral.

    The second link I posted is better anyway. The theory isn’t so much important as the technique, which the second link describes. At the top of that page, in the header menu, there’s a link to “Decision Making” that has a large handful of other techniques of this kind, some of which come from Edward de Bono’s “Lateral Thinking”. I find the collection of them very useful.

  7. By Kyle Bennett on 1 January 2010

    Using the actual FFA process, I came up with the following specific forces. The point values are obviously going to be wildly different for different people, but I tried to guess at a mainstream evaluation. In any case, it might provide insight into places where change can be efficiently effected:

    Forces related to moving leftward on this spectrum:

    –Actual entrepreneurial opportunity – 2
    –Personal Freedom – 5
    –Elimination of regulatory uncertainty – 5
    –Adventure – 1
    –Counter-Economic effects – 3

    –Actual legal risk (to business) – 2
    –Actual personal legal risk – 3
    –Perception of legal risk (all) – 5
    –Perception of entrepreneurial opportunity – 3
    –Social Stigma/psychological barriers – 3
    –Fear/uncertainty of change (aside from legal risk) – 3
    –Fear of other agora/black market participants – 4

    That’s 16 to 24 – against moving leftward. The actual entrepreneurial opportunity is low here because there really isn’t that much in the Agora yet (though there is more in black markets as a whole).

    I’d guess the perceptual blockers are the easiest to change. The perception of opportunity actually favors moving rightward, but that is prone to reversing completely with the right propoganda and increased macro economic stresses. The social stigma/psych factor would take a lot of work, but that is the kind of thing that is prone to a complete and sudden reversal given the right conditions. Fear of change can be effectively addressed, I think, through basic education.

    The actual entrepreneurial opportunity factor is a chicken-and-egg problem, as is the counter-economic effects factor.

    But in the end, I think any of these can be effectively addressed. 16 to 24 is a steep climb, but since that ratio is going to vary so widely, finding and targeting those for whom it is already a closer call seems like a productive line of attack. A benefit there is that swinging them will change the evaluations for everyone else as well.

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