Those of you who are new to libertarianism or unfamiliar with the history of the libertarian movement may not be familiar with the name Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3). Although not the originator of counter-economics he was the first libertarian to express in detail how counter-economics, which he called agorism, could be used to topple the state. His strategy conflicted with that of another famous libertarian, Murray Rothbard. Instead of advocating counter-economics, Rothbard attempted to change the United States government by working within the political system through the Libertarian Party. Rothbard was a brilliant man when it came to economics and put forth a convincing ethics system built upon Austrian economics. With that said, I find it unfortunate that he was the one of the two to rise to prominence within libertarian circles. Konkin and Rothbard enjoyed, what I would call, a friendly rivalry. Rothbard would criticize Konkin and agorism and Konkin to rebut Rothbard and the political means.
I think history has demonstrated that Rothbard’s chosen tactic, the political means, failed miserably to establish a libertarian society. That being the fact most people new to the libertarian movement will be exposed to the political means and will only come across agorism if they’re fortunate enough to meet an anarchist in libertarian political circles or venture off of the beaten path to research the more radical side of libertarianism.
The two factions within the libertarian movement don’t always seen eye to eye. Libertarian working within the political system, who often refer to themselves as pragmatists, often vehemently oppose libertarians who use counter-economics as their means of fighting for liberty. During a debate Konkin explained the danger of libertarians who attempt to work their way through the system (the explanation starts at about the 11:50 mark):
And of course, the ultimate nightmare, which I’ve described in a few pamphlets for those of you who don’t remember it, the idea of a libertarian working his way through the system. Who arrests one of us counter economists, one of us people who go and break laws and things because we don’t believe in the government. And he takes us in front of a libertarian who works his way through the system as a judge and he takes us in front of a libertarian, you know he sentences us, and a libertarian working his way through the system as a bailiff, takes us to the jail where a libertarian working his way through the system as a turnkey. Holds us prisoner until eventually a libertarian working his way through the system as a court, or the prison priest, brings us up to the electric chair where a libertarian working his way through the system as a state technician is making sure it’s in good working order and a libertarian working his way through the system as a burly guard slaps us down on the chair and another libertarian working his way through the system as an executioner throws a switch and wipes out the one person who was, in fact, a libertarian not working his way through the system.
The danger of pragmatism rears its ugly head. A libertarian working through the system can be a frightening prospect because, as I explained in my post about the dangers of pragmatism, they often become willing to sacrifice their principles for political gain. This willingness to sacrifice principle can have a devastating effect on libertarians who choose to use counter-economics. By turning in agorists libertarians working through the system can gain favor from other statists, which they often believe will allow them to further their goal of advancing liberty.
My reason for poking fun at libertarians who work within the political system is because they can actually be a danger to us libertarians who work outside of the system (whereas us libertarians who work outside of the system are no danger to those working within the system). I wish Konkin was more popular than Rothbard because then, perhaps, a majority of new libertarians would participate in counter-economics instead of being sucked into the political machinery that has a habit of turning would-be libertarians into slightly less fascist statists.