Posted in philosophy, politics | 12 Comments »
A dear friend I have not seen in ages writes:
You know, it’s funny, after reading your recent interview, I feel as though essentially you and I believe in the same (or a very similar) ideal world. I never realized that might even remotely be the case. I guess that could be because we rarely if ever engaged in political debate with one another, assuming the other felt very differently.
One day not too long ago, I was describing my ideal ‘political’ system and basically it hearkens back to my teenage fascination with communes and dropping out of society at large in order to live with like minded people who create their own guidelines to live by – growing their own food, caring for one another’s children – communally. Ideally, small groups/communities would ‘govern’ themselves: everyone could sit in a room together and have a vote and the group would be small enough that each voice would be heard. I think that’s what government was meant to be (or at least should have been), but it got all fucked up when it grew – it wasn’t scalable.
Although, you’d likely leave out all the warm fuzzy hippy-sounding bits of what I’ve said, I think we seem to essentially have very compatible ideal visions of the future.
And I respond:
Okay, I’m stunned by the synchronicity here, because literally at the same time you were likely writing this I was playing a video game and thinking to myself that it’s a pity that we find ourselves so divided on political questions, and that if you understood more of the background – or if I were better at explaining it to you – that we would find we have much more common ground than we thought.
Agorism is a revolutionary strategy for achieving a voluntary society. Intellectually, it grew out of the anarcho-capitalism of Murray Rothbard. The principles of that philosophy are not entirely compatible with more “socialist” forms of anarchism, in that anarcho-capitalism rejects almost everything which flows from economics based on the Labor Theory of Value in favor of Austrian subjective value theory (marginal utility), rejects the notion that hard titles to land are immoral or indefensible, and rejects the propositions found in many schools of thought which say that profit, rent and interest are either immoral or would disappear in a stateless society.
What is interesting is that the ancap model, I believe, is capable of subsuming all of the other models within itself, and serving as an overall framework under which any given philosophy of property and economics could be freely tried out within areas inhabited by people who wanted to adopt their own, so long as agencies for resolutions of disputes between communities with different philosophies could be agreed upon.
Within the anarcho-capitalist panarchy communities could choose to organize themselves along whatever lines they wanted to. Communes? Fine, have at it. Rugged individualists? Great, just don’t come stuffing it at the rest of us. Worker self-management and a society of independent contractors? That’s permissible. Syndicalist communes where the workers control the means of production? Fine, so long as they acquire their property legitimately. Corporations? Absolutely, but good luck maintaining anything even remotely like the predatory corporate forms of today or the past without State-backed limited liability, corporate personhood and the massive subsidies and externalizations of costs granted to big businesses by States today. Any or all of these could exist side by side – and of course, there’s a lot more to it than just a general permissiveness.
Overall, and perhaps of great interest for you, who I believe approaches questions of what ought to be in society more from a “harmonious human systems” approach than from an egoist individual rights approach, is that a society of this nature would naturally entail the disappearance of the corrupt, predatory, coercive and downright evil practices used by today’s ruling classes and wealthy elites via today’s States against poor and repressed people all over the world and throughout the horrible history of humanity. Revolutionaries everywhere want to overthrow their ruling class, but usually seek to replace it with their own familiar personal despotism, and let there be blood. The Agorist seeks to subject the bloated, loathsome carcasses of State and ruling class to the merciless creative destruction of the marketplace.
Agorism implies a great many things which challenge the ruling classes and what is called today by many “the Capitalist system” (though it ought better be called something like “the neo-Mercantilist system”) at fundamental levels. People who make money smuggling human beings from one country to another ought to be celebrated as heroes provided they are not selling people into slavery and they take necessary safety precautions. The real crime is that since the activity of smuggling people across artificial State borders is illegal, there’s no effective way to drive evil or careless operators out of the business. If the evil ones could be identified and excluded, the remainder are the Agorist’s allies if they are susceptible to an Agorist ideological conversion.
Likewise the drug dealers of today. Not the top layers of the extremely violent organized crime rings and their State accomplices, but the far more numerous minor dealers who form perhaps the one or two levels of connection to the ultimate drug user and who are rarely involved in violence or fraud. The same with the pimps and the whores and the bookies and the loan sharks and all the tradesmen willing to do a household repair job “under the table” and all those unlicensed day care centers operating in suburban homes and all other people engaged in nonviolent activities which are prohibited by States or done in ways States do not permit. All of these people are allies against the State if they accept the basic contract: Don’t tread on me, honor your agreements, and, if we fall into dispute, pledge to find a non-State solution. The Agorist is anyone who, at least part of the time, trades in markets the State prohibits, or does so in manners which aren’t permitted by States – such as without complying with ridiculous regulations that serve to create barriers to market entry for the benefit of existing participants and/or wealthier entrants, or without reporting the activity for taxation.
I’m attaching two fairly brief and highly influential works [ed: attached were Konkin’s New Libertarian Manifesto and Agorist Class Theory]. Keep in mind that Agorism is a theory of revolution. Though it grew out of anarcho-capitalism and is grounded in that theory, it is quite distinct. You will not find a description of Utopia here (though I can tell you where to find plenty). In my mind, the Agorist praxis can be employed by a social revolution toward pretty much any Utopian vision, so long as the State and all of the privilege connected to it is eliminated along the way.