Choose the Counter-Establishment Economy
Written by Jim Davidson (July 19, 2012).
“The idea of a strictly limited constitutional State was a noble experiment that failed, even under the most favourable and propitious circumstances. If it failed then, why should a similar experiment fare any better now? No, it is the conservative laissez-faire-ist, the man who puts all the guns and all the decision-making power into the hands of the central government and then says, ‘Limit yourself;’ it is he who is truly the impractical utopian.” ~ Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty
We aren’t well served by pretending that a constitutionally limited government worked out. Yet we see the pretense every election year, as millions of Americans go to the polls and cast votes, some of which are counted. Some portion of the counted votes are reported; many who have cast write-in votes and third-party-candidate votes have noticed their votes are not reported by election officials. Tens of millions of dollars were spent, again, this year, by liberty-oriented Americans supporting Ron Paul. At least millions of dollars are likely to be spent by libertarians supporting Gary Johnson. To what end?
The anti-federalists like Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, George Mason, Robert Yates, James Monroe, Mercy Otis Warren, George Clinton, Melancton Smith, Arthur Fenner, and James Winthrop warned that the constitution was creating a national government of unlimited power – will you finally heed their warnings? Have you even bothered to read their warnings, detailed in a long series of anti-federalist papers? You can find them on sites like constitution.org.
With the election of 1792, the “Federalist” party won a decisive victory for George Washington over anti-federalist George Clinton. The senate remained firmly pro-administration and the house was only narrowly Democratic-Republican. The enforcement of Alexander Hamilton’s whiskey tax became an essential element in domestic policy in 1794. It was enforced with conscription, because the several states did not provide sufficient volunteers for the dictator Washington’s army. There were draft riots in major cities – riots about which you’ve never heard. There were 12,950 conscripts marched across Pennsylvania, a process which killed 12 of them. And the “rebellion” was defeated in the sense that the ring leaders were rounded up, a few insurgents were killed, and at least two civilians were slaughtered in the process. With the whiskey tax, Hamilton could convincingly finance the national debt, and therefore encouraged extensive borrowing through the First Bank of the United States, the predecessor to the Feral Reserveless System.
Were the draft riots and the dead from the forced march across Pennsylvania to defeat the “Whiskey rebellion” in 1794 insufficient evidence of misplaced central power? Did you not find the century and a quarter of wars against the Indian nations to be genocidal in nature and excessive in their brutality? In the year 1819, E.I. duPont was a major government contractor whose company, duPont, sold most of the gunpowder used by the USA army and navy. He was also on the board of directors of the Second Bank of the United States (imposed after the USA lost the War of 1812 and was forced to repudiate the original thirteenth amendment punishing acceptance of titles of nobility with political exile). And, of course, the duPonts were noted for their advocacy of dramatic expansion of the United States, including the Louisiana purchase. No doubt they benefited from the numerous wars with Native American sovereignties.
Were you thinking that Eisenhower was mistaken for warning that a military-industrial-financial complex had unwarranted power, and that he was leaving a legacy of ashes to his successors? You should stop pretending surprise at the prison industries, the 83% of federal prisoners sentenced for non-violent acts, the civil asset forfeiture, the president executing Americans without trial, the indefinite detentions. You live in a fascist dictatorship which the constitution authorised entirely, or has been utterly powerless to prevent.
No, I was not the first to notice that the constitution didn’t work as promoted. Rothbard’s detailed analysis in his 1973 book, For A New Liberty, eviscerated the concept of a limited government. Long before him, by nearly a century, Lysander Spooner had written that the constitution was of no authority, and had either authorised all the government we suffer or had been powerless to stop any of it.
So, then, what to do? Should you build up a network of Americans who own guns and believe in much smaller government, rely upon them to organise a force in the field, engage in fourth generational warfare, and overthrow the tyrannical national government? I don’t think so.
I have not thought so for some time. I’ve written extensively about the problem in numerous essays since my December 2009 classic “Smashing: Fail; Withdrawing: Epic Win.” The problem has been addressed by a large number of other writers. The problem is simply this fact: in order to have a violent revolution that overthrows a given government, you have to have an organisation that is more robust, more mobile, and in various ways stronger than the organisation of the existing government.
Consider what happened after the Greeks banded together to oppose Xerxes almost 2,500 years ago. They formed a league, led by Sparta on land and Athens at sea, and they won some great victories. These developments, though, led to the Peloponnesian war about fifty years later which subjugated Athens under the boot of a league led by Sparta. The war of the League of Sparta lasted 27 years. Another fifty years after the end of the Peloponnesian war, Alexander the Great rose to power and began conquering everything in sight.
Or consider the French Revolution, which led to the development of a dictatorship under Napoleon. The American revolution led to a dictatorship under, let’s say Washington and his successors to be candid. The Alliance that was strong enough to defeat Hitler was a threat to freedom in Western Europe, and the revised Alliance that was strong enough to defeat the Soviet empire remains a threat to freedom worldwide. Are you beginning to see a pattern? Please don’t make me assign extra reading. -smile-
Agorism and the Counter-establishment Economy
There are many other choices. You should certainly expect to have to defend your own freedom. You should certainly get weapons and learn how to use them. You should not continue to rely upon the people pretending to govern you with their pretence of your consent to protect you from crime, terrorism, nor invasion. Happily, since all those threats are distributed, the best way to meet them is with a decentralised, distributed defence. A central government was never capable of protecting your freedom, and was always a threat to it.
What is the counter-establishment economy? It is a term coined by Sam Konkin back in 1975. It refers to the study and/or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State. In other words, it includes all buying and selling, all protesting, all writing, all reading, all meetings, and all other activities which the state forbids.
Agorism advocates the goal of a society in which all relations between people are voluntary, including voluntary exchanges. It promotes bringing about that goal by means of counter-establishment economics. Agorism rejects political activities as silly, at best, and counter-productive at worst. Remember that no matter for whom you vote, the establishment wins every election. And, yes, the establishment has actively prevented Ron Paul from becoming the GOP nominee, has lied about his delegate count from the start, and isn’t going to give Gary Johnson a fair chance at being heard prior to the general election. Which strongly suggests that you are wasting your time in politics.
Death of the State
In 1995, a guy named David Chaum implemented eCash, which was briefly available through the good offices of Mark Twain bank until that company was bought by a large issuer of credit cards. Of course, the credit card issuer destroyed the ecash system in 1997 to prevent it from competing with credit cards. However, the proof of concept was very real.
With contemporary encryption systems and free market money it has been possible, since at least 1995, to have two people anywhere in the world engage in an economic transaction without being detected by anyone else. What the state cannot detect it cannot tax, it cannot regulate, and it cannot prohibit. Simply put, the state is dead.
Now, in its death throes, the state can still do enormous damage. It has the characteristics of an egregore, a term first used by Victor Hugo about 1859. An egregore is present when a project or organisation “takes on a life of its own.” People who serve the egregore, who keep the organisation alive, even when it is failing to achieve its goals or, even worse, when it has achieved all of its stated goals and is no longer needed, tend to remain with an organisation. Those who see no purpose to the group tend to leave it. Those who serve the group’s purposes of continued existence especially well get promoted. (Consider the March of Dimes, which would have ceased to exist about 1960 since polio had been defeated. However, it found a new purpose, fighting birth defects. )
No, the state is not going to go away next week. No, the people who profit from the state, who profit from wars of foreign occupation, who profit from the prison industries, and who profit from financing the enormous national, regional, state, and local debts of government, are not going to be happy to see it go. But the state is actually dead, is actually bankrupt, is actually powerless to prevent its own demise.
So, choose. Choose to pursue political follies every two years and imagine that you are doing some good. Politics is a cul-de-sac. And a great many Americans are waking up to that fact. In November 2010, about 145 million Americans who were qualified to vote chose not to do so. Only 86.8 million voted, and 3 million of those people voted for third party or write-in candidates. The vast majority of Americans are not buying it.
Or choose other, peaceful, effective activities. Choose to work in the counter-establishment economy, to support protesters through mutual aid response teams, to teach about technologies like encryption, to build new institutions based on voluntary consent and free exchange.
Choose to disobey the state which oppresses you. Choose to break your chains. You’ll be glad you did.