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by adminadam in essays
Are Anarchism and Capitalism irreconcilable or can these two schools of thought be integrated?
Let’s first explore some definitions. The term ‘anarchism’ comes from the Greek an and archos, which roughly translates to “without rulers”.
Traditionally, Left Anarchism has promoted the idea of political action committees and workers’ councils as an alternative governance structure to State politics. Essentially, these PAC’s and councils are meant to exert political pressure as they see fit. This is both to maintain their political monopoly position — to prevent the reemergence of the “Nation State” (read: any competing governance model) in a given geographic area or indeed the whole world — and also to disrupt the inevitable accumulation of capital in any given enterprise or individual. In effect, the means of political control and domination in such a Left Anarchist society are the same as that of a capitalist nation state. Political power, undoubtedly, still exists; it has just been rebranded. Left Anarchists thus seek to appoint themselves as the new rulers of their society post-revolution.
It is interesting to note the responses received when asking a traditional (Left) Anarchist who it is that would lead these PAC’s and workers’ councils. I have often been disappointed at the naivety (and obstinance) of those with whom I’ve taken up the matter: “All of us would lead. There would be no rulers. We would make all decisions affecting our citizenry through consensus”.
I am personally unconvinced by these assurances and others, such as the assertion that all members of the society would receive everything they needed in order to live a happy and healthy life — and that all this would be accomplished through bi-weekly meetings conducted by the dedicated and incorruptible. Are we all truly so virtuous?
“It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” –David Brin
Of course humans are corruptible. And it stands to reason that — in complete denial of our own faults and arrogance — we might view ourselves as pure and righteous and worthy of such power. It is an insidious twist — a leap in logic as it were — to say that instead of just me (for, of course, I am not fit to rule) that we all rule (for, of course, we will make wise and just decisions together). What’s often left out of these discussions in my experience is the question of what happens to the people that don’t participate in the consensus process. Are their views weighed? Or is a small minority (a bureaucracy) making decisions — however presumptuously — for us all?
So we see Left Anarchism is Statism-rebranded, albeit with a necessarily destructive bent towards capital and those who wish to retain the fruits of their labor. With this it seems a wholly more thorough, more potent form of Statism with a penchant for violence and an inherently contradictory nature: If we are all rulers, and some choose not to exercise their place on the Grand Council, we will decide for them. That there can be no competing models, that the Grand Council decides everything, that capital also is inevitably siphoned off to feed this Council smacks of Authoritarianism and Tyranny to me. (Better almost to have a King, considering that: 1. Alone a King could implement logically- and internally-consistent policies, 2. Only a small portion of the populous’ wealth would go to feed him, and 3. he may even give back to his people on occasion.)
Left Anarchists do not truly seek to destroy the State, although they make such pronouncements regularly; they seek to, themselves, become it.
Could Capitalism and Anarchism conceivably compliment each other?
While few understand Capitalism to mean simply the freedom to earn and keep the product of your labor, many take it to mean a world in which corporations — regarded as citizens by the State, mind you — monopolize and exploit workers and the environment. Capitalism is understood to equate to the exploitation of workers in developing countries and the destruction of the environment by corporations. Let us not forget that these corporations are granted rights and given welfare by the State.
In all truth, this consequence or set of consequences, the impacts of corporations, are entirely dependent on the State, which:
- controls the issuance of credit and fiat currency,
- subsidizes wholly unprofitable industries, and
- bails out banks laden with toxic assets (further encouraging investment in such assets).
Remove the State, along with it the subsidies, corporate taxes, and start-up costs… and competition can begin to sort out the problems in the market. Failing banks will fail; private losses will remain private. An oil company that causes undue harm to the environment in this society will be boycotted and hence incentivized by consumers to do the right thing: make ammends, pay reparations, and straighten out its act — or else wither and die. Innovative companies will succeed, and continue to succeed until such time as they stop innovating or are overtaken by even more innovative firms. The Free Market Anarchist, the Anarcho-Capitalist, endeavors to bring about this exact state of affairs.
The Left Anarchist retort to this free market vision is often one which insinuates hypocrisy for proposing to supplant political rulers with the Captains of Industry, the Rich. Wouldn’t the capitalists become the new ruling class, absent any political structure?
This question deserves some exploration.
Capitalists as “Ruling Class”
If we return to elementary economics, we see that when a store owner tries to charge a customer too much for a loaf of bread the customer goes elsewhere. In voluntary market interactions such as these there is by definition no coercive element.
Consider the inverse of this situation, which is that a State or Workers’ Council runs the only store in town — or the only store in the whole country for that matter — and demands $10.00 for Wonder Bread. People are forced to buy it or try to get it through the black market, for which by no mere coincidence they may have their lives and livelihoods threatened by the very same State or Council. This is coercive, indeed. The Command Economy is clearly the more violent of the two systems.
Simply put, unless a State is propping up a corporation as a monopoly through legislation, bailouts, and subsidies, a corporation has no chance to coerce its potential customers. Even if for a period of time it charges high prices, eventually competitors will arise.
“The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading US companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today.” (source: BBC: Can a company live forever?)
Let us reiterate: The average S&P 500 company of today will last just 15 years! Compare this to the life of Empires and Nation States, which is a much longer 250 years on average.
Even the average life of currencies — at 27 years — is nearly twice as long as that of a corporation:
According to a study of 775 fiat currencies by DollarDaze.org, there is no historical precedence for a fiat currency that has succeeded in holding its value. Twenty percent failed through hyperinflation, 21% were destroyed by war, 12% destroyed by independence, 24% were monetarily reformed, and 23% are still in circulation approaching one of the other outcomes. … The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is 27 years, with the shortest life span being one month. (source)
Compared with the perenniality of the State, corporations are ephemera. As fast as corporations wane at present, imagine a world in which none are bouyed up by the government. Were they then to fall into such disreputable behaviors as price gouging or senselessly inflicting environmental damage it would only hasten their demise. Fear not an enduring Corporatocracy; it cannot exist without the collusion and the many blessings of the State.
So to answer the Left Anarchist retort: No, there are no Rulers in Free Market Capitalism, only the shifting sands of the innovative and the stagnant — a sea of companies with natural variation over time, high and low tides.
But what of the Command Economy? Can’t it even out these natural variations?
Ignoring for a moment the folly of a group of politicos thinking they can outwit the market — the collective economic intelligence of all of humanity — how could we summarize the vision of the Authoritarian or the Left Anarchist and contrast it with that of the Anarcho-Capitalist?
Let us consider the intersections of political power and economic freedom. We have Authoritarianism on the one hand, which is complete political control, not unlike what is espoused in Left Anarchists circles. The typical government is monopolistic. It has one set of laws and one primary means of enforcing those laws. To suggest that alternative, parallel legal systems or means of enforcement could co-exist is tantamount to treason. The authoritarian condemns and incarcerates the dissident, quashes divergent thinking through indoctrination and “re-education”. And while anarchists of all stripes rail against this, sadly only a select few mean to completely dismantle the State and break the spell of Statism that has been cast over the people, like wool over their eyes.
The State, the Commune, the Council are all authoritarian in essence, or at the very least tend towards authoritarianism and tyranny, growing ever bigger with the passage of time. It is due to this that I lump Statism and Left Anarchism under the same category of Authoritarianism. I’ll leave it to you to perform the mental substitution for either of these schools of thought in light of my visual below.
Capitalism, on the other hand, can be considered a politically-neutral state of affairs in which the accumulation of wealth is entirely unrestricted. These two, I will argue, opposing systems often comprise the political reality of the day in concert. The U.S. is one such hybrid model, for instance.
|Political Power and Economic Freedom||AUTHORITARIANISM||CAPITALISM|
|AUTHORITARIANISM||Authoritarian Ruling Class
Entrenched State Monopolies
All Profits Go to Government
|Hybrid Ruling Class
Some State-Backed Monopolies
Some Private Profits
|CAPITALISM||Hybrid Ruling Class
Some State-Backed Monopolies
Some Private Profits
|No Ruling Class
No Entrenched Monopolies
Free Market Economy
Maximum Private Profits
We can summarize the above as follows:
- If we have a State we have a Ruling Class.
- Similarly, if we have a Council or some kind of PAC we have a Ruling Class.
- If we have Corporations and a State we may have a hybrid Ruling Class, but certainly a Ruling Class exists.
- If we have only Corporations we do not have a Ruling Class. What we have instead is a constant turnover in the means of production and consistent innovation stemming from unencumbered markets.
But how do we make decisions without the guidance of a State or Council?
If all interactions are voluntary, and all transactions are entered into freely by consenting participants, then no need for political authority exists. It is thus up to each individual to determine what he needs and what he desires. The idea of having “No Rulers” is less prescriptive and more descriptive of reality in this imagined Free World in that case. It achieves the end-game of Anarchism without the need for constant, bloody revolution, without the need for bi-weekly meetings in which conniving bureaucrats on one side, and hot-headed idealists on the other, try to convince themselves that they are still all, in fact, on the same side of the table.
All Statist ideologies posit the need for a final arbiter of truth, a single individual or set of individuals which is not only capable but also virtuous enough to make decisions for the whole of society — often without the input of any of the members of said society — on matters as diverse as finance and environmental stewardship, logistics and defense, welfare and money printing, science and morality, immigration and agricultural production, ad infinitum. We live currently in a world in which people predominantly see through the lens of Statism, one that unquestioningly asserts that such expert and morally-superior Arbiters of Truth exist. Tell me, please: Where are all these Anomalous and Divine Beings? And why on Earth would they choose to enter into Politics of all areas?
So aren’t Anarchism and Capitalism complimentary in fact?
Indeed, it appears so, that the absence of rulers (Anarchism) and the absence of barriers to trade and free association (Capitalism) go hand in hand. Anarcho-Capitalism is a marraige of ultimate personal freedom with that of maximum economic freedom. It seems the more internally-consistent and morally-justified of the political models:
At the very least Free Market Capitalism, or Anarcho-Capitalism, starts with the assumption of Freedom for All. Maximize freedom for everyone and dismantle Political Power. On the opposing end we see Communism and Socialism — the same camp in which Left Anarchism ultimately finds itself — and these are in close proximity to Facism and Nazism. All four of these -ism’s presuppose and necessitate the expansion of government power, whether the reigns of Government change hands or not. It seems prudent — insofar as you have a choice — to choose to implement or support a system which grants you the utmost freedoms, so that even if they are eventually curtailed, at the very least you will have experienced Freedom in its purest form during your life time. What a marvelous thing that would be!
by adminadam in essays
Samuel Edward Konkin III replies to Murray Rothbard’s critique of Agorism, the counter-economic school of Anarchism.
Murray N. Rothbard’s vigorous assault is refreshing; I’m not sure even I would have taken my first major theoretical attempt seriously if it had not evoked Dr. Rothbard at his trenchant top-of-form. After all, Rothbard and his neo-Romantic view of Ideas as almost clashing super-heroes and villains inspired and maintained many, if not most, of us libertarian activists, most assuredly myself.
Having been offered a field of honour, Rothbard throws the gauntlet down swiftly: “I believe Konkin’s agorism to be a total failure.” From then on, it’s lunge, parry and slash.
In fine form, Rothbard, alas, is decidedly short of actual weapons. His accusation of a fatal flaw—seemingly the fatal flaw—of agorism is so irrelevant to the basis of agorism that it is barely mentioned en passant and in a footnote of the New Libertarian Movement (footnote * p. 21)
Before I dismiss it as criticism of agorism, let me point out that a real debate is justified here between Rothbard (and many, many others, to be sure) and myself (and quite a few) on the validity of hiring oneself out. The necessity of it is in question (cybernetics and robotics increasingly replace drudgery—up to and including management activity); the psychology of it is in question (selling one’s personal activity under another’s direction and supervision encourages dependency and authoritarian relationships); and the profit in it is open to question (only the rarest skills—acting, art, superscience—command anywhere near the market reward of even low-level entrepreneurship).
Having said that, it remains that this debate is irrelevant in the context of the validity of agorism. Surely, both Rothbard and I would agree on the desirability of increase of entrepreneurs in our society; surely we would both desire more entrepreneurs of libertarianism. Rothbard would simply “let it happen” (laisser passer), finding the origins of entrepreneurs mysterious. My own experience is that entrepreneurs are made, not born, and not with that great a difficulty, so that “entrepreneurizing (the production of) entrepreneurs” is a profitable activity.
But ceteris paribus, as the Maestro says, and let us hold the number of entrepreneurs constant. How does that affect agorism? It makes it difficult to convert libertarians to counter-economic entrepreneurism, but they still can (and ought) to become counter-economic capitalists and workers—even academics! (George H. Smith has blazed trails in becoming a largely counter-economic philosopher!) But when we’re talking about converting maybe two million libertarians (at present) to counter-economics and forty million or so counter-economists (already proven to have a strong entrepreneurial component) to libertarianism, the loss of a few thousand extra entrepreneurs seems less than crucial. Moreover, a degree of overlap exists between libertarians and counter-economists—a high degree in my associations.
Again, in passing only, my own observations are that independent contracting lowers transactions costs—in fact, nearly eliminates them relative to boss/worker relationships running the gamut from casual labor with annoying paperwork and records to full-scale Krupp worker welfarism. But this is an empirical question, one, as Mises would say, not even for economists but economic historians. Why my Austrian credentials should be called into question over such an observation is inexplicable—save as an act of verbal intimidation. En garde, then.
And wage-labor’s historical benefit may have been as great as the invention of the diaper—but surely toilet-training (in this case, entrepreneurialization) is even a more significant advance?
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 attitude 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?
Rothbard’s abolitionist credentials are not challenged, though my own treatment on such matters may impel me otherwise. But if a mainly-innocent businessman who pays taxes is enslaved to that extent surely his going black by dodging or defying the taxes (whichever works best) is the immediate emancipation of this slave. How can Rothbard reject any counter-economic moves by a white marketeer that has less than 100% risk of apprehension without yielding his abolitionist bona fides?
Rothbard’s listing of counter-economic services and goods are interesting in one respect: of “jewels, gold, drugs, candy bars, stockings, etc,” only one—drugs—is mentioned in the Manifesto. True, Counter-Economics is only now being published chapter by chapter, but even so, the few examples I gave were anything but a few service industries or easily concealed goods. Here is a list, sifted from pages 16 and 17, which were mentioned: “food to television repair;” an entire country “Burma is almost a total black market”—this does include heavy industry, although Burma has less than the heavy industry of India which is mostly black; the large “black labor” force of Western Europe; housing in the Netherlands; tax evasion in Denmark; currency control evasion in France; “underground economy” tax-free exchanges in the U.S.; “drugs including laetrile and forbidden medical material;” “prostitution, pornography, bootlegging, false identification papers, gambling, and proscribed sexual conduct between consenting adults;” trucking (the majority, by the way); smuggling at all levels; and misdirection of government regulators. All of these are not petty but, consciously or otherwise, aggregate big businesses!
Automobiles are made counter-economically. Let me count the ways: shipping them across borders and evading taxes or controls—whether physically or on paper; illegal alien labor for assembly-line production; skimming of parts by management, labor, or even with knowledge of the owners, which then go to produce custom cars; auto plant executives hired as “independent consultants”; design, research, engineering, executive and computer “consultants” all paid in partial or full counter-economic terms; union “corruption” to make sweetheart deals to avoid labor (State) regulations; OSHA and other inspectors bought off or misdirected; “unsold” product written off inventory and taxes and then sold; . . . forget it, I cannot possibly count all the ways. And next to autos, steel and cement have positively unsavory reputations—when it comes to “white collar” crime.
But there is a problem of scale here. Large, cartelized industries can buy politicians and gain their advantages from the State directly. True, anyone about to be apprehended by the State, can, should, and does payoff, bribe, and apply “grease” to the State’s enforcers. But what highly competitive industry with a large number of producers can effectively buy votes and politicians—and hence be tempted into using their political clout offensively? Big industry in the cartelized sense is no breeding ground for libertarian support but rather for the State’s vested interests. However, there is no need to confuse large scale of production with oligopolist characteristics, as Rothbard seems to be doing here.
Finally, as we close out this area, Rothbard accuses me of ignoring the working class. Considering how often he’s had the charge leveled at him, one might expect a bit more perceptivity if not sensitivity. What are plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, welders, drivers, farm workers, pilots, actors, accountants, engineers, technicians, lab assistants, computer programmers and just keypunch operators, nurses, midwives, paramedics and orthomedics (doctors), salesmen, public relations people, bartenders, waitresses, writers, factory workers, lawyers, executives, and all types of repairmen if not workers, covering the entire spectrum of proletarianism?
All of that list are at least 20% counter-economic and many are over 50%. If they do not take the first step by becoming independent contractors toward economic liberty, then their employer does (tax-free tips for waitresses, off-the-book illegal alien factory workers, agents handling it for actors, writers, and so on). I challenge Dr. Rothbard to find any legitimate economic field (not serving the State) that cannot be counter-economized, ten that cannot be counter-economized without organizational or technological innovation, or a hundred that cannot be counter-economized without significant gain in organizational efficiency and profit. “Konkinism” has plenty to say to everyone who is not a statist.
Rothbard’s claim that political action is superior and preferable to civil disobedience in the lightening of the levy is an incredible distortion of history coming from the one who converted me to revisionism. There has never been a single repeal of taxation or significant cut (save a few minor ones in recent years for purposes of Keynesian tinkering and now Lafferite “less gets more”) that did not result from mass refusal to pay or the threat of such disobedience. Furthermore, political action has resulted in shifts in the tax base and higher total plunder—such as the famously spectacular debacle of Proposition 13 here in California.
Rothbard’s agreement with Pyro Egon is ungraciously spurned by Mr. Egon who informs me that what he sees as my “political-like actiny” (NLA, MLL) will not generate more entrepreneurs but that entrepreneurs are indeed “make-able.” Rothbard, in subsequent correspondence, added that he believes entrepreneurs are born and not made—or at least not make-able.
“Successful entrepreneurs are not going to be agoric theoreticians like Mr. Konkin but successful entrepreneurs period. What do they need with Konkin and his group?” How about, “Successful businessmen are not going to be economic theoreticians like Dr. Rothbard but successful businessmen period. What do they need of Dr. Rothbard ?” Or “successful engineers are not going to be physics theoreticians like Dr. Einstein, . .” Or, “successful writers are not going to be English instructors like Professor Strunk . . .” Need I belablor the Rothbard fallacy?
Rothbard’s position on libertarians being dichotomized from entrepreneurs is absolutely monstrous to me. “Libertarian” has nothing to do with what one says but with what one does. Hence a libertarian must be more trustworthy and have a more rational understanding of the market or he/she is not a libertarian regardless of what they beguilingly profess. This is the basis for my muckraking for which Dr. Rothbard commends me. And, on the whole, I find the same lack of black-colored glasses in him, I hasten to add.
And what personal experience or academic study leads Rothbard to conclude that pre-libertarian counter-economists do just fine without agorists “to cheer them on and free them from guilt.” My personal experience leads me to precisely the opposite conclusion—and I have cancelled cheques of contribution and letters of gratitude to prove it.
In short, whatever planet that the good doctor is describing in contradistinction to my counter-economy sure isn’t Earth.
Rothbard’s statement that violent revolution (what other kind is there against a ruling class—would he like to mention an Establishment that stepped down peacefully?) never succeeded in history distorts either the language or history.
Either he is saying that no revolution has been libertarian enough to triumph without its contradictions bringing it down (true, but then irrelevant to bring it up as precedent) or he is saying that no group overthrew a ruling class using democratic means of oppression. The latter is not only false but a direct reversal of history. Nearly all somewhat successful revolutions in recent history have overthrown precisely democratic trappings: American Revolutionaries vs. the democratic British Imperialists; Jacobin Revolutionaries vs. the bourgeous assemblee; Liberal Revolutionaries against the Czar’s Duma (March 1917) and the Bolshevik revolution against the Liberals and Social Democrats (November 1917); the falange against the Spanish Republic (1936); Peron’s shirtless ones against the Argentine parliament; the National Liberation Front of Vietnam vs. the South Vietnamese parliament (at least until near the end); the popular overthrow of Allende’s democratically-elected regime (with Pinochet co-opting the revolution for the military); and the recent overthrow of the democratically elected but right-wing president of El Salvador by a centrist “popular” junta. This list is not exhaustive. A claim that “violent revolution” has only succeeded in “democratic countries with free elections” would be nearer the mark, and is often used by Latin American as justification for preventive coups.
All of the above revolutionary groups have their credentials open to libertarian question, to be sure—but who has not so far? To close up this side issue, either Rothbard is saying that all “violent” overthrows of States were not revolution because they were not libertarian (in which case the libertarian case is untried) or he is historically wrong.
Rothbard has chutzpah: to demand I separate libertarianism from counter-economists because the latter don’t need it—and then turn around and ask why the Russian counter-economists have not condensed into agoras. Human action is willed action; without entrepreneurs of libertarianism, it will not be sold. Even so, my estimation of the Soviet scene matches that of several Russian dissidents that Russia is a powderkeg waiting to go up. The Polish situation, of course, fits the agorist paradigm perfectly, right down to the counter-economic workers being co-opted by the partyarch-like Solidarity union.
Rothbard thus fails to make any substantive case against counter-economics and hence agorist strategy. He shoots at peripherals and warps either language or history to make his case. Still, our disagreement seems to me largely one of misunderstanding, and misunderstanding of verifiable facts, not speculative theory. This is hardly surprising since—to my knowledge—we share the same premise and analytic methods. Considering that I adopted mine from him, it’s even less surprising.
Rothbard’s critique of New Libertarianism seems to rest on seeing tips of icebergs and dismissing the vast bases. He sees only the one percent of the economy thought of as “black market” and not the 20-40% of the economy the IRS(!) sees as “underground” and double that to make up the whole Counter-Economy which the IRS ignores as irrelevant to taxation. It takes a libertarian, educated by Rothbard and others, to perceive a common characteristic and sum the anti-statist whole.
And the same can be said of Rothbard’s view of my activities and the hundreds of other New Libertarian Allies around the world. The small but warranted attention we pay to his few deviations seem prominent to him and understandably so. The somewhat larger amount of public criticism we have of the LP and other activities he is most interested in whether in our publications or at public forums are most of what interests him and remains with him. The 10,000 people I conservatively estimate that have called themselves libertarians after primary or secondary contact with me and my hard-core allies he never met and hence they are invisible. The network of counter-economic businesses that we are painstakingly nurturing and the millions of dollars cumulatively exchanged “invisibly” are again understandably invisible to him as well.
I for one see no real barrier to re-convergence (“regroupment” a the Marxists would say) between Rothbard and his “sane, sober, anarchist center” and us “ultra-left deviationists.” Rothbard’s remaining criticism is really not that germane to the Manifesto itself, though it makes up the majority of his article. Yet in some ways it is the most telling criticism of me personally in that it vitiates his compliment to my writing ability, when I must have obviously failed to communicate effectively. Most of his criticisms of me are misreadings in the latter part, and I will but list and deny them where urgent. Of course, the Party Question is another problem entirely.
New Libertarianism does have an organizational preference. Other forms of organization might then be considered non-New Libertarian but not necessarily “unlibertarian” or non-agorist. What the New Libertarian Strategy seeks is to optimalize action to lead to a New Libertarian society as quickly and cleanly as possible. Activities that lead to authoritarian dependency and passive acceptance of the State are sub-optimal and frowned on; action that is individualistic, entrepreneurial and market-organized are seen as optimal.
With that constantly in the reader’s awareness (pages 22, 23, and 24 of NLM are a long disclaimer to this very point!), it is obvious that there are no moral (other than individual self-worth) questions involved in organization and hierarchy. (My “lumping them all together” that Rothbard decries might be considered integration of concepts by others.)
Nowhere have I ever opposed joint-stock companies (see page 23 again where they are specifically affirmed). After I penned NLM I set up precisely that to own New Libertarian magazine. I assume we both continue to oppose the statist perversion of joint-stock companies into limited-liability corporations.
I have never suggested “floating affinity groups.” Should Dr. Rothbard set up a general Libertarian Alliance which runs no candidates and engages in no statism, I will take out a hundred-year membership immediately. I urge him to “call me out” on this point.
I see fewer problems in organization than Rothbard does and can easily see some organizations not having any.
There is a bit or irony in Rothbard’s spirited defense of the “Kochtopus” since his own defection but I’ll let that pass. I have to mention his secession from and opposition to it because that, effectively, ends my major objection to it and I find it relatively harmless and conceivably needing my defense in the near future as the chorus of opposition swells. To the extent that my early attacks are responsible for the demonopolization of the Movement I am thankful.
For the record, my aim in as spectacularly drawing attention to the monocentrism around Koch’s money as I did was a warning. Too many neo-libertarians think only taking money from the State leads to dependency and control. True, it is not immoral in a libertarian sense to become a billionaire’s kept writer or lap-activist but it hardly serves the movement’s image or substance and hence is un-New-Libertarian. I knew the rest of the Left would attack libertarians for being a plutocrat’s tool (as Mother Jones eventually did) and took action to show the existence of diversity and independence. Off-hand, I’d say it worked.
I agree with all of Rothbard’s defense of millionaire libertarians and have a few (not multi-millionaires to be sure) in alliance with me. His solution to increase competition in the Movement is and was my solution. I doubt that having Koch compete with himself is a viable answer, though; even Rothbard seems hesitant about suggesting it.
My being “unfair to Charles Koch” requires a bit of semantic care. I have never implied that Charles Koch personally was motivated to do anything. Anybody’ who threw millions into the Movement with a bit of judgment in buying up institutions would have produced the same results.
I’ll take Rothbard’s and LeFevre’s—who know him personally—word that Koch is a great guy. May he profit richly and evade the State forever! (But may he never buy another politician.) And may he contribute to his heart’s content to any Libertarian or Libertarian organization (save the LP). Gee, what a great movement when a poor activist like me can be so generous to an oil billionaire!
But I’ll go further than Rothbard in my willing recognition of the positive personal characteristics of the Kochtopus. Roy Childs may be cranky and unforgiving at times but he’s a fun, erudite person of superior taste, no more deviationist than Dr. Rothbard. Jeff Riggenbach remains a friend, associate and sometime ally even working full-time for Koch’s Libertarian Review. Joan Kennedy Taylor, Victoria Vargas, Milton Mueller—whom did I leave out?—I’ve had nothing but enjoyable contacts with them all. Even Ed Crane(Rothbard’s—ahem—bête noire) is a laugh a minute with a ready handshake and a fast quip who serves Liberty as he sees best for him and the Movement.
May none of us ever sink to ad hominem.
Finally, the Libertarian Party. Rothbard says he will “assume for the moment that a libertarian political party . . . is not evil per se.” I wonder how open he would be to assuming the State is not evil per se and then continuing the discussion of some legislation, let us see where it leads him. It seems to lead to the wonder of repeal of laws.
Now Rothbard’s historical acumen seems to have failed him again. Since when did the State repeal anything from the Corn Laws to suburban property tax unless it had authority to maintain that law? First comes counter-economic scofflawing, then mass civil disobedience, then the threat of insurrection, and only then repeal. No, I don’t agree with LeFevre that it is immoral to repeal the draft (assuming LeFevre would say precisely that) but it is immoral to support politicians to oppress us because they might relieve one oppression. For all the money, time and energy that needs to go into electing a politician good on one or a few issues, how many could be directly freed and their risk of apprehension reduced in tax evading, draft evading, regulation evading, and so on? Nor do you need exhort the evaders to contribute to a noble cause but simply offer—and some sell this for exorbitant fees! —instruction on how to beat detection and watch them go for it. . . . freeing themselves, not being freed by someone else.
Votes are the “profits” of a political party. A party is an organ of the State whose overt purpose is to vie for control of the State and whose covert one is to co-opt support—sanction of the victim. The number of votes dictates the number of successfully elected officials and their share of power and plunder and the number of those still accepting the State’s legitimacy and possible usefulness. Crane and the Clark Campaign were only acting in accordance with their nature qua partyarch. As Frank Chodorov might have said, “The way to get rid of sell-outs in LP jobs is to get rid of LP jobs.”
Let’s take up those political parties Rothbard finds admirable. It is clear that the Democrats were not so lovable in Conceived in Liberty when, as Jefferson Republicans, they fought the Anti-Federalists and co-opted opposition to the Constitution. Did Jackson, the agent of Nullification’s defeat; Van Buren, the archetype of boss politics; Polk, the anti-Mexican imperialist; or Pierce and Buchanan, the defenders of slavery: redeem this tainted beginning?
And the British Liberals were condemned by Rothbard for leading Liberty’s advocates into defense of Empire and World War. Nor did the moderate minarchists—let alone alone the many anarchists even then—of the time have any use for Democrats or Liberals. Those minarchist reformers were then in the Free Soil Party in the U.S. and the Philosophic Radical Party in Britain, respectively.
It would be gauche of me to remind Dr. Rothbard who invented the Radical Caucus and then discarded it when it served nothing but “objectively counter-revolutionary” ends so I’ll pass this section up.
“A militant and abolitionist LP in control of Congress” begs the question—how did it get there? How could it get there? (George Smith’s scenario seems far more plausible. In fact, the LP will be in power during the final stages of agorist revolution to lure away our marginal allies and ensnare the unwary with “libertarian” newspeak. The LP will be put in power as soon as the Higher Circles need it there. I have no doubt that Dr. Rothbard will be the first to notice and denounce the collaboration.
Can you imagine slaves on a plantation sitting around voting for masters and spending their energy on campaigning and candidates when they could be heading for the “underground railway?” Surely they would choose the counter-economic alternative; surely Dr. Rothbard would urge them to do so and not be seduced into remaining on the plantation until the Abolitionist Slavemasters’ Party is elected.
Rothbard’s characterizing me as a “wrecker” is truly surprising to me considering all the libertarian organizations and publications I have built up and supported—more than anyone else save Dr. Rothbard himself, from Wisconsin to New York to California, and in nearly every state, province and country on this globe. Am I supposed to list all the libertarian groups which have not been subjected to moral attacks by me? How about every libertarian supper club in Los Angeles and New York? The Society for Individual Liberty, Society for Libertarian Life, the old California Libertarian Alliance and Texas Libertarian Alliance, the British Libertarian Alliance, the Future of Freedom annual conference, the Southern Libertarian Conference. Oh, this is ridiculous. Yes, I stopped beating my wife—even if I’m not married.
The only things I’ve wrecked are the wreckers of our once party-free movement, defense of partyarchy and compromise of libertarianism in general. Is Rothbard claiming that he averted his eyes from those leaving “The Plumb Line” because they might otherwise be doing good work?
In conclusion, Rothbard and I continue to fight for the same things—and against the same things. Hopefully we will continue to fight in our own ways, reaching those the other missed. And most hopefully may we reduce our time and energy spent on fighting each other to free resources against the common enemy. I shall let no outstretched hand be passed up.
If the New Libertarians and the Rothbardian Centrists must devote some time to our differences (“engage in Revolutionary Dialogue”), let it be devoted first to understanding each other—as this exchange is devoted to—and then resolving the differences. Ah, then let the State and its power elite quake!
ORIGINAL SOURCE: From Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance, Number One, May Day 1981, 11-19. It is a response Rothbard’s critique of the New Libertarian Manifesto [NLM], which critique may be read here. I’d be grateful to learn of any surrebuttal by Rothbard. The text of the second edition of the NLM is available here, as is Wally Cooper’s Agorist Class Theory, which builds on Konkin’s work, here. For more on Konkin, see novelist J. Neil Schuman’s personal tribute here.
Learn more about Agorism at agorism.info.
The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher
By John Taylor Gatto
New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991
Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do at the time, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. The license I hold certifies that I am an instructor of English language and English literature, but that isn’t what I do at all. I don’t teach English, I teach school — and I win awards doing it.
Teaching means different things in different places, but seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They constitute a national curriculum you pay for in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. You are at liberty, of course, to regard these lessons any way you like, but believe me when I say I intend no irony in this presentation. These are the things I teach, these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you will.
A lady named Kathy wrote this to me from Dubois, Indiana the other day:
“What big ideas are important to little kids? Well, the biggest idea I think they need is that what they are learning isn’t idiosyncratic — that there is some system to it all and it’s not just raining down on them as they helplessly absorb. That’s the task, to understand, to make coherent.”
Kathy has it wrong. The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parents’ nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world….What do any of these things have to do with each other?
Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions. Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on them as quality in education. The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science and so on than to leave with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality in education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess.
Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and education is a set of codes for processing raw facts into meaning. Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences and the school obsession with facts and theories, the age-old human search lies well concealed. This is harder to see in elementary school where the hierarchy of school experience seems to make better sense because the good-natured simple relationship of “let’s do this” and “let’s do that” is just assumed to mean something and the clientele has not yet consciously discerned how little substance is behind the play and pretense.
Think of the great natural sequences like learning to walk and learning to talk; following the progression of light from sunrise to sunset; witnessing the ancient procedures of a farmer, a smithy, or a shoemaker; watching your mother prepare a Thanksgiving feast — all of the parts are in perfect harmony with each other, each action justifies itself and illuminates the past and the future. School sequences aren’t like that, not inside a single class and not among the total menu of daily classes. School sequences are crazy. There is no particular reason for any of them, nothing that bears close scrutiny. Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism.
I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order. In a world where home is only a ghost, because both parents work, or because too many moves or too many job changes or too much ambition, or because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny. That’s the first lesson I teach.
2. CLASS POSITION
The second lesson I teach is class position. I teach that students must stay in the class where they belong. I don’t know who decides my kids belong there but that’s not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered by schools has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human beings plainly under the weight of numbers they carry. Numbering children is a big and very profitable undertaking, though what the strategy is designed to accomplish is elusive. I don’t even know why parents would, without a fight, allow it to be done to their kids.
In any case, again, that’s not my business. My job is to make them like it, being locked in together with children who bear numbers like their own. Or at the least to endure it like good sports. If I do my job well, the kids can’t even imagine themselves somewhere else, because I’ve shown them how to envy and fear the better classes and how to have contempt for the dumb classes. Under this efficient discipline the class mostly polices itself into good marching order. That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.
“What a liberation to realize that the voice in my head is not who I am. Who am I then? — The one who sees that.”
— Eckhart Tolle
STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
In Consciousness, the starting, waking state is that of the ordinary, Rational Mind. This state is defined by Ordinary Consciousness and Sense Awareness. It rests on the ever-growing-to-do-list, worry-bound, don’t-forget-to-take-out-the-trash-and-sometimes-go-smell-flowers kind of breathing-smelling-hearing-tasting-and-feeling-things level of reality.
Immediately below this state in the hierarchy we find Dreams and a bit further down is where the Subconscious and the Subliminal Self churn and stir themselves. Hypnosis impinges on these level and may occasionally allow for the liberation of bottled-up agony and fermented solitude. Dreaming, however, along with socializing, reading, and, of course, exercise and physical activity, work out the subliminal kinks in the mind and squeeze out the toxins quite satisfactorily most times, but the higher (and infinitely more enjoyable) stages require more focused and serious work, and greater commitment, to have any claim on the transcendental territory therein contained…
When we can set foot on higher ground, we are climbing (initially at least) a ladder that rests on the substrate of Ordinary Mind. Here we can see Higher Consciousness manifest a small fraction of its true potential in terms of Inspiration and in feelings of Peace and/or Revelation. But, at this level the Rational Mind is still in control and only allows limited bandwidth (probably 1 Kb/s combined throughput) on the ladder’s rungs and rails – and even climbing (transitively & figuratively) one thinking-man up the ladder per day is a neat trick in this epoch of history. Just consider. How much of the minority-portion in which we can breathe of our time are we NOT spending on matters of the Spirit, on feeling for the universally-accessible-but-rarely-accessed essence of things anyways? To make it worse, people nowadays don’t seem to care about ‘that kinda shit’ and those that do are (or intentionally make themselves) invisible and hence cannot be considered exemplary counter-examples to the spiritual malnutrition of the age.
But I digress (and thus continue onto what should be the highest level of consciousness).
The highest level of consciousness is, as you expected, the domain of the Sassy Spirit, the arena for Mossy Meditation, and the profoundly quiet, clean and wooden, Court of Contemplation. Really though… Transcendence is the approaching of both self and absolute in a kind of trance of dancing blue flames in which the body’s boundaries begin to dissolve and are dismissed as the evenly-spaced energy and information packets of which they consist. Merely ideas. Alone and afloat.
Unfortunately, even at the fire-dancing stage certain degrees of freedom can and often are distinguished – and the abstract, artificial division of self and other is again guarded, protected, i.e. allowed to stand.
This castle-moat effect around the self happens habitually and automatically, especially when we live in a world of words and constantly add “evidence” to our pools of doubt that we keep filling up in order to convince ourselves of our separate nature from that of our distantly-kept loved ones and fellow humans. In such swamps of ego-negativity the distance, indeed, only grows when we try to “transcend” all on our own. And yet why do we both know this and also so-obviously-fundamentally at the same time NOT know this (considering the evidence readily available in our behavior)?
It is here that we should take a critical look at the rolling, snowballing, ever-expanding ego momentarily and these things will perhaps be made more clear than they have been up to and including this point – in this essay, I mean…
The inertia of the Ego, as we know, is strong and heavy. We constrict ourselves by our constant and mostly-unaware way of working and stretching it out into the career-, life-, family-, status-, and goal-oriented pursuits of our lives. Now don’t get me wrong. This is the game of life. It should be, it must be played. These things are not undesirable or un-pursuit-worthy, but often they end up blocking the long-dormant channels running through our stomachs (those that start from the origin, from the source, from the initial point of the big bang and run up vertically through space and time – to what? — To the 11-th dimensional tri-tonal non-dualistic non-material non-conceptual gods of orgy-pleasure and enlightenment that are waiting for their old playmates to come back home and build castles in the sand with them, that’s what!) and we are filling these holy channels up with status-oriented-classist-materialist, earth-destroying, mtv-youtube-infotainment-website-channel activity and all the other garbage of that ilk all the time. And take it from me, mon frere: Your channels do not need to be filled. (Dump that meme!) When they are empty they are at their absolute fullest.
So we see that the inertia of Ego is strong. The patterns of negativity, our inherited neuroses, and our bad habits are ESTABLISHED. With Pride. Since 1909. Deeply Rooted. Really. So? What to do? The answer is to find a way to break out of your cycle. Try to create something NEW and NOVEL. Creation is the highest-level cognitive (and I might argue Spiritual) task there is. Make some art then, or write in your journal, form a club, or plan a social event. Take your genes (an operating system), your psychology (out-of-date software), and your personality (80’s themed). They do have a bit of sway, sure. But — they are ultimately impermanent, non-dictatorial. You must then recognize and claim and reclaim your freedom to do things differently at every step of the way. You’ve got Genetics, Culture, Society, Psychology, and Mental Habits to reroute you, but however much you choose to abdicate your will to these things, you are still, at root, free to do otherwise. So show it to the world, and show it to yourself. You are free.
Remember: there’s no need to climb and creep up some rickety transcendence-ladder when already your own creative-flowing-liberated-and-also-liberating essence can just float in the direction you choose. Now go. Float.
“Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known.”