I’m at AgoraFest. Come back next week.
“Muh roads!” is a libertarian meme started because anytime you discuss eliminating government with a statists they eventually break down and say, “But who will build the roads?” As it turns out, the people who need the roads will build them:
Gangs smuggling goods into Russia have secretly repaired a road on the Belarussian border in order to boost business, the TASS news agency reported Monday.
Smugglers have transformed the gravel track in the Smolensk region in order to help their heavy goods vehicles traveling on the route, said Alexander Laznenko from the Smolensk region border agency. The criminal groups have widened and raised the road and added additional turning points, he said.
The market in action. Having a great product doesn’t do any good if you can’t get it to buyers. That means producers will either build the infrastructure necessary to get their products to consumers or will partner with another producer who is willing to build the infrastructure.
Transportation infrastructure isn’t some magical good that can only be brought into being by the wave of a government wand. Individuals and non-governmental organizations have been building and maintaining roads for a very long time. And they’re still doing it whenever they need a road that isn’t expressly approved of by the State.
It’s getting close the annual weekend of celebrating markets and voluntary interactions. I’m talking of course about AgoraFest.
This year was a bit hectic since our old venue, the Villa Maria, shutdown at the beginning of this year. We had already reserved the site and made our downpayment when we received the news. Fortunately, the Villa staff refunded our downpayment quickly but that still left scrambling to find another site. After a great deal of searching we went with Turtle Creek Glen in Wisconsin. The upside is that the venue is a bit cheaper so we were able to bring the price of admission down. You can enjoy four days, September 22nd through the 25th, of AgoraFest for $95.
What is AgoraFest? As the name implies, it’s a festival of counter-economics. There are talks, workshops, drinking, musicians, and most importantly exchanges. Agorists are encouraged to bring wares and services for sale (your business is your business, not the State’s), skills to teach, and camaraderie. Political types are encouraged to setup their booths and signs in the designated violence speech zone located about 20 miles from the site. Think of AgoraFest as a reprieve from the nonstop politics where real work at creating real change can be done.
This year I’ll be hosting a seminar on build an AR-15 and another one on assembling a bug-out bag. I may do a cryptography talk as well but our networking infrastructure is limited since we’re out in the middle of nowhere. Anybody who wishes to attend and give a talk, host a workshop, or do business (that you want advertised to AgoraFest attendees) should shoot an e-mail to support[at]agorafest[dot]com.
When people think black markets the image of drug deals shooting it out over gang wars often comes to mind. But the black market is far more than that. Like the white market, the black market is composed of both savory and unsavory sorts. How many people have paid somebody in cash so both parties could avoid the additional burden of taxes? Don’t answer that because such activity is illegal. But anybody who has done that has also participated in the black market.
As the burdens of operating in the white market continue to grow so does the black market. For example, a recent article points out that Canada’s black market is thriving:
Canada’s underground economy is still thriving, according to a new report from Statistics Canada, in spite of efforts to cut down on the number of transactions that “escape measurement because of their hidden, illegal or informal nature.”
The value of Canada’s underground economy in 2013 totalled $45.6 billion, or about 2.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
That’s pretty much exactly where the numbers were in 2012, give or take a few billion dollars, and where they’ve been hovering since 2002.
Agorism, unlike political action, works as a strategy for weakening the State because it relies on activities people do already. While the State can increase its efforts to stop unapproved transactions it is still an organization of a few people trying to outwit the entirety of humanity. Needless to say, the odds of the State effectively thwarting the black market are approximately zero. And as the State increases the burden of operating in the white market, those people it is attempting to extort will use their creativity to find ways of avoiding those burdens by moving their activities into the black market.
The winners of the second Agorist Writer’s Workshop competition were announced yesterday:
Bridge at Adelphia by Lela Markham
Einstein & FDR by Peregrinus
Janus Doctrine by Calvin Mickel
Letters from Home by Cara Schulz
Marilyn Reimagined by Bokerah Brumley
Redfeather by Lyssa Chiavari
Runnymede Rebellion by Tim Walker
Teppichfresser by Mark Johnson
That Holy Anarchist Experiment by Justin Fowler
The Guard and the Crane by Heather Biedermann
The Invading Storm by Matthew Tanous
The Liberi by Christopher Burg
The Six-Sided Cabin of Calhoun County by Joseph Knowles
The Sixth Republic by Richard Walsh
The Vacant Chair by Diane L. Anderson
Warsaw by Eric Nies
Don’t let the fact that they accepted my short story worry you. The other authors are actually good. But my short story will deliver pirates, which should count for something. You’ll be able to pick up a copy of the collection when it’s released at AgoraFest in September.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, libertarians are bad at politics. It’s not our fault. Politics is the art of aggression and libertarianism is a philosophy built on non-aggression. But many libertarians refuse to accept this fact so they end up doing stupid shit like starting Libertarians for Trump.
If you read through the post a lot of time is spent by the author, Walter Block, trying to argue what Donald Trump is the most libertarian mainstream candidate currently running. His arguments ring hollow though since his logic would just as easily lead one to compare who is more libertarian amongst Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot. While one can technically compared the three for the purposes of determining which is the most libertarian, in the end you’re still comparing three individuals who are fundamentally anti-libertarian.
But his article falls to pieces before he even gets to his justifications for supporting Trump. He immediately falls into the same trap many libertarians fall into by assuming only two options exist:
Let me just say that there is nothing, nothing at all, incompatible between libertarianism and voting, or supporting political candidates. Both Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard can be considered political junkies, and you won’t find too many better libertarians than those two.
Suppose we were all slaves, and the master said we could have a democratic election; we could vote for overseer Baddie, who would whip us unmercifully once per day, or overseer Goodie, who would do exactly the same thing, but only once per month. We all voted for the latter. Is this incompatible with libertarianism? Would this make us worse libertarians? Anyone who thinks so does not really understand this philosophy. For a remedial course, read this book: Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 . The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press.
Between the two options presented he makes a valid argument. However, there are options outside of voting for either the really evil slave owner or the slightly less evil slave owner. You can instead attempt to escape or overthrow the slave owner. In fact this is exactly what Lysander Spooner proposed when most people were arguing over electing politicians who supported the Southern views of slavery or the less harsh Northern views of slavery.
People like to divide libertarians into right and left. If we’re going to collectivize, err, categorize individual libertarians into two groups though I’d much rather divide them up into neophobes and neophiles. Both groups recognize the system of slavery they suffer under and express a desire to create radical change. But the neophobes act inconsistently with their stated goal whereas the neophiles embrace their radical goal.
Walter Block belongs to the Rothbard tradition of libertarianism. I would classify them as neophobes. While they do want to bring about change by moving society towards libertarianism they want to do it without radical changes. They want to utilize the already existing political system to elect the already existing politicians to the already existing political offices. By doing that they hope to legislate libertarianism into existence. Well, at least some libertarianism. Many of them also want to ensure certain already existing political creations, such as government borders continue to exist. But that’s beside the point. Neophobe libertarians fail to embrace the radical nature of their stated goal and that leads them to take ineffective political action.
Agorists such as myself belong to the Konkin tradition of libertarianism. The Konkin tradition falls into the neophile category. We want to bring about radical change and see the already existing political system as a hinderance. After all, how can a fundamentally anti-libertarian system be used in a fundamentally anti-libertarian society to bring about libertarianism? Incrementally over decades? To that I will point out that Rothbard and his followers were working on that decades ago and the only result has been a continuation of the slide towards totalitarianism. We recognize that libertarianism cannot be legislated. Furthermore, we want radical change. The currently existing political creations? Destroy them and salt the Earth they once occupied.
By failing to embrace their radical goal neophobes artificially limit themselves to a course of action libertarians have never been good at (because, after all, it is a course of action created by the opponents of libertarianism). This leads them to do incredibly anti-libertarian things such as support Donald Trump. Neophiles, by embracing our radical goal, are able to act in a way that is consistent with our stated goals. This allows us to avoid anti-libertarian actions such as supporting politicians who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
You are free to join Block’s little club and help continue the system of oppression that exists today. But realize that doing so will require you to participate in a system that libertarians have never been any good at. Furthermore, it will require you to support somebody who is fundamentally anti-libertarain. Or you could not join his little club and enjoy the clear conscious acting consistently with your stated goal brings. As always, the choice is yours but you will be graded based on your decision.
Borders are a sticky issue within libertarian circles. A lot of libertarians favor tightly controlled borders. Hell, even well-respected anarcho-capitalist thinkers like Hans Hermann Hopped favor strongly controlled government borders. Any libertarian in support of controlled borders is, in my opinion, foolish. But what about the agorist view? Agorism is all about continually transitioning economic activity from the white to the black market. In the case of borders the white market consists of those preventing people from crossing government borders and the black market consists of smugglers helping people across those same borders. And black market actors have enjoyed a great deal of success in overcoming the white market.
Let’s look at a quintessential historical example of heavily secured borders: East Germany. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) erected the famous Berlin Wall in an effort to stop its people from accidentally exiting the utopia of communism. For reasons nobody quite understands there were people who were actually trying to leave. Seeing a market demand many enterprising entrepreneurs stepped up to the plate and created a black market for smuggling people out of the GDR. One of those smugglers was Rainer Schubert. Mr. Schubert operated his successful smuggling operation for three years before the Stasi finally caught him. According to the Glasgow Herald he smuggled more than 100 people across the heavily guarded border. And he wasn’t alone. It turns out that there was quite an enterprise in helping people cross the heavily secured border of the GDR.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the demand for black market operations for crossing fortified borders hasn’t diminished, but has merely shifted elsewhere. The example most Americans are probably familiar with are Central Americans crossing the Mexican border into the United States. Smugglers who bring people from Central America into the United States are commonly referred to as coyotes and they have setup quite a black market business for themselves.
Agorism is necessarily opposed to government control over imaginary lines. By attempting to prevent people from crossing its borders a government creates a white market. As a philosophy based on moving white market activity into the black market agorism supports the efforts of smugglers helping people get across those borders illegally. Such efforts end up moving a lot of white market activity into the black market. People crossing a border illegally are not paying governments for visas, passports, or other travel documents. Because they’re in the country illegally they’re not going to declare any income, which keeps money out of the hands of the revenuers. In addition to that, most of their work will likely be done “under the table” since they won’t want to risk leaving a paper trail that could get them arrested and/or deported so it’ll be paid for with cash (or some other form of exchange that is difficult for the government to surveil).
Agorism is built upon black markets. Most people think of black markets as seedy back alleyways where you’re just as likely to be shanked by a seller as you are to die from the drugs they peddle. Meanwhile white markets are thought of as well-lit shopping centers where everything is guaranteed to be safe by an army of government regulators. Truthfully the difference between white and black markets is the former is under the control of the State and the latter is not. Nowhere is this difference better illustrated than in Samuel Edward Konkin’s rebuttal to Rothbard’s criticism of agorism:
With the side-excursion over, we turn to Counter-Economics, admittedly the basis of agorism and the New Libertarian Strategy. Rothbard finds NLM neglecting the “white market”—yet there is one crucial point on which it is most definitely not neglected, here or in my other Counter-Economic writing. The agorist imperative is to transform the White into Black. Nothing could be clearer. To do so is to create a libertarian society. What else can a libertarian society mean in economic terms but removing market activity from the control of the State? Market activity not under control of the State is black market. Market activity under the control of the State is white market and we are against it.
To illustrate, slaves building pyramids are white market. Slaves who run away, deal on the side stones and tools they ripped off, and otherwise engage in non-slave activity are black market—and free to that extent. What should the libertarian view be toward white-market pyramid building? Or, if you think pyramids would not exist in a free society but aqueducts might, what should our new be toward aqueduct building on the white market vs. black-market water smuggling? New Libertarians urge the slaves to screw the aqueduct and go for their private buckets until such time as aqueducts can be built under voluntary arrangements. Would Rothbard suggest anything else? Gradual phasing out of aqueduct construction and hence gradual phasing out of slavery?
If anything the white market is the seedy back alleyway where government agents wait to beat you to death with baseball bats. Consider the businessman who complies with each of the State’s numerous fee generating regulations only to fail to properly file his taxes one year. Quickly he will find himself face to face with a revenuer who will make him an offer: pay the demanded tax money and you may be let off with a fine and/or some jail time otherwise the alternative is death. I’ve not heard of a single “illegal” Mexican laborer going to somebody’s home, kicking in their door, and threatening to murder them if they fail to reroof their house again after three years.
The situation quickly changes when you’re dealing with the black market though. You no longer have to company with a laundry list of regulations designed only to extract fees from your business. Since you receive no official income from black market dealings you don’t have to decide whether you are going to pay taxes or have your kneecaps broken with a man with a baseball bat and a vaguely Italian accent.
All white market activity is slave activity. Although on the surface the rules have changed with most nation states replacing chattel slavery with, what I like to call, bureaucratic slavery the outcome isn’t dissimilar. White market actors are enslaved. Like serfs from feudal times, white market actors today must pay a percentage of their gains to the State. If they fail to do so they will be kidnapped and forced to labor in a prison or outright killed if they resist. Oftentimes people will make a remark like “If you don’t like it, leave,” but even that option can be taken by the State if you fail to hand over its demanded share of your efforts.
Ultimately what separates the white market from a black market is in the latter everybody is free to transact when they want with who they want whereas the former everybody is required to transact with the State under penalty of death.
At times when I have little else to do I enjoy skimming some of the seedier subreddits. One of my favorite subreddits is the home of some of the whackiest socialist in the world, /r/socialism. There you will find the dregs of collectivism, “revolutionary” socialists, discussing such important topics as why it was totally justified to murder the sons of Nicholas II even though he had abdicated power to his brother, and not any of his children.
You probably noticed I used quotes around revolutionary. This is because there isn’t anything revolutionary about “revolutionary” socialists. All they want to do is get rid of the current bourgeois so they themselves can become the bourgeois. From a statist perspective this would qualify as a revolution because the idea of real radical change is entirely foreign to them. The only options they see is their state or another state. But to radicals there is nothing revolutionary about toppling one set of masters only to replace them with another set.
Radicals, being anti-political in nature, tend to find the definition of revolution used by sociologists, “A radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence,” most apt. A true revolution is one where the very shape of society changes.
Let’s consider the socialist revolution in Russia. At the time imperial power in Russia was waning. When a power vacuum opened up the bolsheviks were the only group that was poised to fill it. Under the auspices of brining revolutionary change to Russia, where the workers would enjoy power instead of the imperialists and capitalists, the bolsheviks used a union with other socialist groups, including anarchists, to solidify their power base. Once the bolsheviks eliminated every person they could credibly label a counter revolutionary threat they turned on their fellow socialist allies (after all, what is a revolution without a good purge). In the end the bolsheviks were the last group standing and Russia returned to what it had been previously: a nation of serfs brutally ruled by a handful of masters. All the tropes once assigned to the bourgeois; gulags, secret police, wealth being held by the State instead of the people, etc.; were present. The only “revolution” was in the efficiency of the brutality. And history has shown Russia’s case to be the norm, not the exception. When “revolutionary” socialists throw off the yoke of the bourgeois they merely become bourgeois themselves.
What would a real revolution look like? Since hierarchy and coercion are the norm today a revolution would be the opposite: a non-hierarchical and voluntary society. The challenge in creating revolution is that it requires revolutionary tactics. Relying on the statist tactic of war will only server to perpetuate statism, as “revolutionary” socialists have demonstrated time and again. A non-hierarchical, voluntary society can only be achieve through non-hierarchical, voluntary means. Agorism, for example (it is not the only example, merely the example I am most familiar with and believe will be most likely to succeed), is a truly revolutionary strategy to bring about a truly revolutionary world.
Agorim is itself anti-statist. In fact the entire idea is to separate one’s self from the State as much as possible. That means avoiding taxes by participating in underground commerce, preferring market currencies over government currencies, creating alternative methods for educating children, forming mutual aid organizations, and utilizing secure means of communications to thwart government surveillance.
A major emphasis of agorism is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is an attempt to empower the individual and in so doing eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, hierarchies. One area where I believe the labor movement has failed is in its focus on empowering collectives instead of individuals. When a collective has power the individual is at its mercy. Whether we call the collective a government or council is irrelevant. Whether the collective arrives at its decisions dictatorially or democratically is also irrelevant. So long as the collective is in a position to dictate the lives of individuals a hierarchy exists. Entrepreneurs, being in control of their means of attaining the necessities of life, are far less beholden to others then employees.
Agorims also strongly emphasizes voluntary interaction. When the coercive guns of the State are replaced with voluntary market action the ability for any individual or group of individuals to establish a hierarchy is diminished. Coercive powers such as taxation and arbitrary issuance of laws allow the State to get away with any number of horrible actions. But when people are truly free to interact with you or not it becomes in your best interest to be polite and honorable. If the State murders somebody everybody in society is required to continue paying taxes but in a free society nobody is required to continue interacting with a murdered (in fact many prohibitions against self-defense that are created by the State wouldn’t be in the picture so the chances of being a successful murderer would likely diminish as well).
That is a true revolution where the State is replaced entirely by a society that represents everything statism isn’t.
Do you want to know a secret for making lots of money? Learn how to fix things! Seriously. Using this one weird trick you can actually save yourself a ton of cash in a short period of time.
As I noted yesterday, one of the hard drives in my server gave up the ghost. While I probably could have sent it into to Apple to have them charge me $300 to put a new drive in I opted to go the cheaper route and fix it myself. In fact that is always my strategy when something breaks and isn’t under warranty. This is why iFixit is one of my favorite companies.
In addition to creating excellent repair guides and selling a wide selection of tools, iFixit has been promoting the repair culture. Part of this promotion involves getting people over the mindset that they cannot fix things by posting articles about seemingly impossible or very difficult success stories.
But I promised a secret for making money, not saving it, and I should deliver. My fellow agorists are also looking for a way to make a few bucks under the table and knowing how to repair things is an easy way to do it. Compared to producing new products money gotten from repairing is easy to hide. Purchases of tools, spare parts, instruction manuals, schematics, and testing equipment can all be plausibly explained away as things you use to keeping your own equipment in running shape. In the case of personal electronics you don’t even need a place of business, you can either repair them in your home or your customer’s home. And when the job is finished there’s nothing left behind besides broken components that can be easily explained away.
Another benefit for an agorist repair business is it’s easy for an individual to beat their larger competitors. Consider the price Apple, Samsung, Dell, or any other electronics manufacturer charges to do a repair out of warranty. Can you honestly tell me you couldn’t beat their prices? Especially for repairs that involve little more than swapping a common component like a hard drive or RAM module. You can make a tidy profit and still beat their prices by a wide margin. This is why you see so many mobile phone screen repair businesses. The margins are still good when you’re undercutting the manufacturer and enough people drop phones to ensure a constant income flow.
Learn how to repair things. You’ll save yourself a lot of money and you can make a lot of hard to trace money with your knowledge.