Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’
by adminadam in articles
Peter Schiff, chairman of SchiffGold, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Inc, and host of The Peter Schiff Show, fearlessly ventured into the heart of Liberty Plaza during the Occupy Wall Street protests to try and find common ground with the people there. What I love most about this video is not Peter’s bravery in facing the 99% as a more-or-less unapologetic member of the 1%, rather I admire his tenacity and consistency in the conversations with folks who seem to believe, and in fact are likely to have been pigeon-holed as believing that the main reason for the inequality and injustice in our country lies in corporations taking in too big of profits. So as you watch know that there is some oversimplification going on. But ask yourself: Is it the Occupy protesters who are engaging in oversimplification, or is it the media that is oversimplifying their arguments? (I’ll give you a hint: Not all of the Occupy protesters are anti-capitalist!)
As Peter explains, corporate taxes are always passed onto consumers or taken out of workers’ pay. Thus, corporate taxes discourage growth and development in the economy. Personally, I believe growth and development in the economy are a good thing.
Unhindered growth allows for innovation. Just look at the smartphone in your pocket. Any state-run phone company would produce half the product for twice the cost, and it would take twice as long at that! In 1913, there was only one telephone that you could get, and you couldn’t even buy it; you had to rent it from AT&T, which was a state-regulated monopoly.
Fortunately for us, the Market always finds a backdoor or a workaround to allow innovation to continue. It’s just that sometimes these black-or-grey-market innovators find themselves in court for their unsanctioned attempts to increase our choices and our freedoms.
In the telephone market, competition began creeping in in 1956, when the courts overruled an FCC ban on Tom Carter’s Hush-a-Phone, a device which snapped on to a telephone and made it possible for the user to speak in a whisper. That was perhaps the first step in the dissolution of the telephone monopoly.
The Hush-a-Phone decision paved the way for 110 and 300 bit per second acoustically-coupled computer terminals, like the one shown below.
Carter eventually won a decision against AT&T that allowed customers to connect any device to the AT&T network, without the previously required “Protective Coupler”. That was the Carterfone Decision of 1968. This lead to today’s near total deregulation of telephone equipment in the US, something on which the rest of the world followed suit. The communications regulatory bodies in those countries clearly saw the benefits of allowing their citizens to connect new devices which allowed for both voice and data to be transmitted.
Without this kind of deregulation, it’s possible the Internet would have remained a slowly-moving, bureaucratically-controlled project, restricted to use by the oligarchs in government and large corporations, and a select few who could afford to pay for access to the overpriced, shoddy service they would have certainly provided.
By contrast, in our modern-day, largely capitalistic internet ecosystem — although tempered by some degree of cronyism — we now have reliable, high-performance, internet-connected, bluetooth/wifi/NFC-enabled, secure and sleek smartphones for as low as $35, not to mention the infrastructure (internet backbone, up to 13 Gbps) on which to operate them. Don’t believe me on the price? Just check out what Mozilla has done with their Firefox OS phones, meant for emerging markets like Brazil, India, and the Philippines.
The Cherry Mobile Ace Firefox OS Phone featured below was released in December of 2014 for 1499 PHP — Philippine Pesos — approximately $33! But wait, it gets better. Their sale price was 999 PHP, only $22 for a fully-useable, well-designed smartphone!
Personally, I want as many people in the world as possible to be able to purchase and own devices such as the Cherry Mobile Ace. It is a form of empowerment through technology that nary a socialist would promote if they understood that only through deregulation can such things come to pass. They would have to relinquish political power and their thirst for it in order to allow such empowering trends to fully develop. I truly admire anyone with the courage to let go of their vice-grip attachments to such delusions of grandeur as “empowering the masses” by means of appropriating other people’s hard earned money.
Enterprising Entrepreneurs Empower Everyone
Consider what you can do because of Market Innovation and Market Innovators:
- Phone and text your friends, families, and business partners for free using things like WhatsApp
- Send, receive, and manage your money without a bank account or a government ID or anyone’s permission using Bitcoin and a Bitcoin wallet app (there are many options!)
- Record videos and take pictures
- Mix and remix almost any kind of media
- Share and sync files with anyone
- Learn new skills on Khan Academy and through MOOC’s (massive online open courses)
- Get weather alerts
- Get important health information and even diagnose diseases
- Call on your neighbors to defend or aid you in times of crisis through apps like Peacekeeper
- Navigate to new areas easily
- Give and get rides through Uber
- Rent out your home with Airbnb
- And so much more!
All of this on a $22 device. And whether we ever stop to think about it or appreciate it, the credit is due to Free Market Capitalism: People being incentivized to work and provide valuable products and services to one another of their own volition. People doing business without being hindered by regulations or sucked dry by the tax man for some vaguely-defined and for-all-intents-and-purposes bankrupt social contract. Just look at our public schooling systems, modeled as they were after Nazi Germany to encourage compliance, complacency, and the production of anti-intellectual, subservient factory workers. Part of our “Social Contract” is that we are forced through taxes to support keeping children locked down in destitute and soul-crushing environs for hours on end until they are 18 years old. It just drives me nuts. It’s why I celebrate, again, the creeping in of some forms of subversive innovation, creative destruction a la charter schools, for instance, or people that manage to provide a good learning experience at home for their children. It’s why I celebrate kids who do the bare minimum in school while finding ways to pursue their passions and careers independently in the few hours they are left each day. Innovation is not commanded, nor is learning imparted through coercion. To cite Plato:
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
So who is responsible for this mess? The lobbyists and the lobbied are quite suspect. Increasingly, for me, the activists and the politically-active mainstream are too, though. What ‘revolution’ can this incest between the rulers and the ruled conceivably spawn after all? Is the system ‘working’? Have things gotten tangibly better because of the state? It’s a question not-often explored; more often than not it’s denied or dismissed. It seems, instead, that the assumptions and presuppositions of the state are reinforced at every turn. It’s all about 6- and 8-year political dynasties, and our blind faith in the process: We can fix it, next time we’ll win, it’s their fault not ours, and on and on.
It takes a brave and steeled soul indeed to lock eyes with the system and keep on walking. To walk on, to traverse that mental landscape is to say, “Democracy has failed”. And let’s be honest, it has. It’s time to move on. Plutocrats and Peasants is what we are. To be a politician is to be a bought-and-sold man. And to believe so fervently in the potential of another politician, another movement, to pin our hopes on some new Inflatable Jesus Figure each election cycle, are we not succumbing to Uncle Tom Syndrome? I have begun to view and treat Democracy Lovers as I do 12th-Man Football Fanatics. Let them believe they are making a difference, but avoid them like the plague at dinner parties. You’re better off pitching ice to Eskimos.
Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.—
It’s very frustrating living in a world where Anarchy is a dirty word, thought to mean property-destruction by Angsty Anarcho-Communists, and where Democracy and Environmentalism are God and the infidels and iconoclasts are burned at the stake. We certainly have massive socioeconomic and ideological inertia propelling the prevailing, dysfunctional, political machine, but we also have a budding trend of disintermediation, divergent thinking, open-sourcing-of-everything, and a renewed optimism in the world.
It becomes apparent when looking at many of the volunteer-based projects which have benefited humanity, say Wikipedia, or the Linux Operating System. But there are True Capitalists who continue to raise the bar too: Elon Musk is one example. An electric car that goes 0-60 in three seconds, a rocket ship that can take off and land vertically, and a proposal for a “Hyperloop” vacuum-sealed, elevated, maglev transportation system that will ferry people from L.A. to San Francisco in half-an-hour — all from one man. Did I mention he plans to travel to Mars himself in one of his rockets? What an amazing icon, the likes of which Hank Rearden of Atlas Shrugged might choose to associate with from time to time (when he’s not crafting even better steel that is…). And then there’s the shadowy innovators, Satoshi Nakamoto, for instance. Gave the world Bitcoin, the payment protocol for the 5 Billion Unbanked of the World, plus a currency that is virtually (algorithmically) guaranteed to be a store of value better than gold — bless his/her heart!
There are other ways to pursue peace, order, and prosperity for our lands and our communities. The Wikipedia volunteers, Linux developers, Elon’s, and Satoshi’s of the world are building it in fact. By contrast, all statist systems, whether they be socialist, fascist, republican, or monarchistic, reek like last week’s trash. They rest upon the nullification and disenfranchisement of the individual, as opposed to his empowerment. To take from Ayn Rand again:
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
If I grow a company from the ground up, hire 100’s of people, a board of directors, offer stocks, and make a profit, am I evil? A popular idea in our world today is that yes, I am inherently evil, that profit is inherently exploitative of, most certainly, my employees, but likely the environment, and the rest of my society as well. What do people think is done with profits anyways? Surely they are never reinvested into R&D, or employee bonuses, or invested in other startups. No. Not a chance.
Check out Peter Schiff here pretending to be a democrat at the North Carolina DNC. What should be done about these evil corporate profits, he asks!
Profits incentivize and propel future business ventures. If you think profits are truly evil, then what you should probably do right now is this:
And while you’re at it, what are you reading this blog post on? Go ahead and destroy that device too if it’s not the iPhone that you just destroyed. Apple made over $50 Billion in profit last year. That’s pretty fucking evil, ain’t it?
Surely the fat cats at the top are keeping all that money for themselves, right? No, actually. Forbes did a breakdown of how Apple is using its huge cash reserves — all from profits — in order to evolve and stay relevant as a company:
Apple’s balance sheet shows $97.6 billion in cash. … That money is going to be used to increase the security that the supply chain offers Apple.
… Apple’s immense cash reserves allows not only an investment in new technology, but they can literally buy the complete run of a specialist part for a number of years, locking out the competition.
It’s because of these profits, the profit motive, and Apple’s tireless innovation, that you have a shiny new iPhone in your pocket. No one else could have done it cheaper. Take away that “extra” cash, and we’re stuck with iPhone 4’s. Nobody wants that. Really!
I find this baseless demonetization of profits tiresome. But, there is another more pernicious form of ignorance to contend with: That people readily dismiss how businesses compete to buy labor. Our naivete in this area leads to the creation of policies which fundamentally harm both minority groups and individuals: i.e., Minimum Wage Laws.
Because markets go where labor is cheaper, artificially increasing demand (i.e. price) for a given unit or hour of labor results in local businesses leaving for greener pastures. “Edgar the Exploiter” is a lovely and heart-wrenching depiction of this effect, the result of our ignorance of basic economics:
Artificially raising labor costs through minimum wages hurts low-skill, impoverished, and minority workers the most. This is why I was against the $15 minimum wage law in Seattle when it was proposed. The law would simply gentrify the service industry, eventually getting to the point that only rich white college kids could work legally.
Instead of lofting idealistic legislation into the congressional fighting pits, as in the example of Minimum Wage regulations, and hoping our proposal comes out on top, we should deregulate the markets so that more people can participate in them. Innovation and wealth-creation cannot be commanded. We should stop trying to limit the market from doing what it does best: Provide us with exactly what we need for a low cost.
If we could also address the issue of suppressed interest rates (which discourages people from saving) and Quantitative Easing via the Federal Reserve (which gradually erodes our purchasing power) the world would be a better, freer, and wealthier place. Alas, you can’t have it all.
But there are some things we can do to expedite the transition to a freer and more just world, routing around the broken political system. We should explore continuous, subversive innovation via disruption, disintermediation, decentralization, and democratization. Examples of this path include:
- Donating to and improving upon Wikipedia and Khan Academy to facilitate the democratization of information around the world.
- Using OpenBazaar to buy/sell goods online in an uncensorable, pseudonymous, distributed marketplace with Bitcoin. The is subversive grey-market activity which serves to deny the state its sales tax revenue and also deregulate the products on the market. In removing 3rd parties from transactions, it disintermediates banking and financial networks too.
- Using 3D printers in local Maker Spaces to print toys, tools, guns, and more using open-source blueprints. This is an example of democratization and disintermediation in manufacturing.
- Patronizing farmer’s markets and paying in cash or bitcoin. This removes middle-men and empowers small business owners.
- Working under the table saves both you and your employer money and serves to disrupt income taxation.
All social services, up-to-and-including Government itself can be decentralized and disintermediated. Taking advantage of any of these or the above opportunities will enhance social and economic opportunities for you and your community while enhancing your freedom:
- Defense and Security can be procured locally through neighborhood-watch organizations, private security firms, and the Peacekeeper App. Private security markets would benefit from deregulation and increased Free-Market Competition first, however. This eliminates the need for a public police force or — in the case of Detroit — fills a power vacuum with members of your own community who are passionate about protecting people.
- Charities and Health Care Sharing Ministries can provide the majority of health care coverage for communities, especially once their members are liberated from taxes.
- Smart Contracts written via the Bitcoin Protocol can be used to replace intermediaries in many levels of government, to rein in corruption, and to guarantee accountability.
Basically, do all that you can to engage in and promote voluntary exchange. And pull others into it. This is the most effective way of ‘agitating for change’, as the progressives would say, to deregulate industry and technology. This will, in turn, enrich the whole world.
Liberate the economy and the state will fade into irrelevance. We think the state is an institution of social service, that it’s there for our own good. But perhaps it’s not the morally-superior, altruistic conglomerate of thinking and resources that it’s made out to be. Murray Rothbard said it best in “What the State is Not”:
We are not the Government; the Government is not us. Society and the State are not the same thing. The rise of democracy has conflated the two further. Consider: If 70% of our democracy approved a measure to murder the remaining 30% it would technically be a democratic decision, justified by the internal rules of the philosophical framework. It would not be considered murder, however, as the ‘subjects’ of the state effectively are the State. Consider how in Nazi Germany the extermination of the Jews was a legal and government-sanctioned act. Statism projects that, as appendages of the state, the ‘murdered’ actually killed themselves. The system is full of such internal contradictions.
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
When we get down to it, the state is simply the institution occupying a given territorial area which has a monopoly on force and violence. If it commits some social good, then that is ancillary to its existence. The state need be nothing more. It exists through and because of coercion alone: The violent enforcement of the borders, the appropriation of the territorial residents’ wealth through taxation, and the metering out of pre-appropriated, universal human rights to its subjects via the legislature and the laughably-named ‘Justice System’.
Just like as in War, there are no Winners in Statism. It is a zero-sum game. One policy, one person, must come out on top. Compare it to Socialism’s theory of economics, which incorrectly posits that economic activity is a zero-sum game. Of course, if that were true in economics we would have no more value in the world than we did when only 1,000,000 humans roamed the Earth. It is silly to think of 7 billion people — and the product of all their activity — having no more worth than a measly million hunters and gatherers, don’t you think?
Ironic then, isn’t it, that so many Statists proclaim Capitalism to be a dead-end, when really the State is the one that’s dead in the water. Capitalism is a force for good; Statism a parasite. Free Market innovation is the reason we have a world of such wondrous stability and abundance. And luckily for us, there will always be people who wish to build and consume new and better things.
Let’s get the State out of the way. Engage in counter-economics. Obfuscate your wealth. Avoid taxes. Avoid the “Man’s Money”. State your preference for Bitcoin or barter. Shrink the State, or obviate it by innovating around it.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.—
The sooner you do — the sooner you opt-out and start participating in these new, disintermediated models of reality — the sooner we will all be free.
Let us hasten the demise of the State.
If you would like to further educate yourself in economics, Marginal Revolution University has a wonderful, free, and accessible course entitled “Everyday Economics“. (Yet another Capitalist Innovation; and yes, you can pay for more content later if you wish. It’s up to you!)
Contents of “Everyday Economics” include:
- The notion of the Hockey Stick of Human Prosperity, a visualization of the explosive expansion of wealth in more recent human history
- Increased life expectancy as a measure of human prosperity
- Reduced mortality and increased average height, hygiene, sanitation, and technology as measures of human prosperity
- The origins of prosperity, lessons from “The Wealth of Nations”, and other insights from Adam Smith
- How wealth has shifted from being the exception to being the norm
We didn’t used to try to figure out what causes poverty, as we do today. We used to try to figure out what causes wealth. This was Adam Smith’s goal. And you can learn about it for free. Pretty swell, huh?
Please click the “Donate BTC” button up top or the green shield icon below to donate Bitcoin to me if you like my writing. In exchange I promise I’ll have a book someday that you can buy and read..!
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.
by adminadam in videos
We need free association.
Extropy, our web of knowledge, the dynamism of modern society, the foundation for and end-result of our labor, wealth, and prosperity — all of this is needed for us to be able to make one pencil. The Market is the driving force: people exchanging their labor for money. Seemingly mundane, ordinary pencils serve as an excellent example of complexity, diversity of roles and labor and materials, and voluntary cooperation. No one is forcing the lumberjacks to fell the trees, nor the miners to gather copper, zinc, and aluminum — nor is anyone mandating that the end product be cylindrical, or hexagonal, or octagonal, etc. Coercion has no place here.
Self-motivated individuals cooperate to earn themselves a living. And we reap the benefits. I would posit, ultimately, that coercion, additional oversight, and regulation of the myriad interactions, exchanges, and processes involved in pencil-making would not fundamentally make pencils better. It would most likely serve to reduce choice and variety, and increase costs along the way, with the additional downside of potentially reducing quality. Indeed, what could be improved through government mandate in the case of pencils? Do we want them all to necessarily be yellow and hexagonal? I certainly don’t want my choices to be reduced arbitrarily.
by adminadam in articles
12 nations have and are agreeing to cede their national sovereignty completely to the new Global Corporate Order through the docily-named Trans-Pacific Partnership. They are:
- The United States
- New Zealand
These governments have more-or-less agreed to step out of the way of Corporate & Business entities and any and all decisions they would make in their Profit-Seeking, Earth-Raping, Human-Dignity-Destroying endeavors. Thailand and the Philippines have also expressed interest in becoming slaves to (and enforcers of) the new and grander Corporate Crony-Capitalist Aristocratic Kingdom.
by adminadam in home
In 2009 in the fall I came to Turkey — to Adana in the Southeast — to teach English as a Second Language. Now after three years in Turkey (and as many schools) I am finishing up my time here and getting to know “Illustrious Istanbul” a bit before I depart. For this summative post, I wanted to write up an account of life here as a foreigner and offer my honest attempt at cultural analysis to whomsoever wishes to read it.
This place has been interesting. There’s a lot that can be and is usually said about Turkey. I would agree with most any travel book on the culture, the traditions, noteworthy things to do and go and see and on and on. But I am interested in more than just these things. There are more subtle and profound things to be teased out. And this takes time.
On the one hand, I love the people’s general hospitality, the food, the depth of history, the ruins, and all that. On the other hand, it has been a fascinating anthropological study, one in which sometimes I am less than objective, admittedly. Interesting to note is the way the currents of authoritarian rule still seem to guide and direct the energies of the people, despite an overtly successful transition to democracy here in 1923. The old Empire fell not very long ago, and surely there were hangers-on in the new power vacuum – Islamists, Secular Bureaucrats, and other ‘Nobility’.
The new democracy that sprung from this has been a shaky one, evidenced by the many coups to take back power that have occurred in the name of “Ataturk”, the nation’s founder, and his secular-democratic principles. I now feel that all the centralization, the episodes of power-consolidation, the bureaucracies both imperial and democratic, have led to a strong DIY or “DIF” (Do-It-with-the-help-of-your-Family) disposition in the masses on the one hand, but that’s not all…
When I see the fierce competitiveness (and sometimes downright rudeness) between people — when the vehicle I’m in gets cut off on the highway, when someone cuts in front at the bank, blocks off an entire aisle in the grocery store, when I try to cross the street and just barely make it — in these behaviors I see, these experiences I have, I actually sense great disempowerment at the root of it all. And it’s Might Makes Right, through and through. (Car bigger than person? Car wins. Get the heck out of the way. He ain’t slowin’ down…) Indeed, what better impetus for such behaviors and attitudes than an entrenched, essentially authoritarian system, a culture obsessed and lured falsely by the gods of Power, Wealth, and Prestige?
It happens all over the world, but in Turkey it’s two clashing world views – Secular-Democratic-Capitalism & Nostalgic-Islamic-Imperialism — one in its end-stage having only barely begun to begin here, and one long since dead — that continue to squash the populace, press them and cage them in psychically…
It is of the utmost importance, then, to be patriotic, to support your team, your country, your leader. It is of the utmost importance to be rich — or maybe more to appear rich; i.e. not look poor… Saving face is huge; confrontation avoided if it’s not a fist fight brewing — let no one put the blame on you. Women stay home and raise the kids. Talk about shopping, and clothing, and cute babies. Whatever you do, don’t read books. Especially not foreign ones. Etc… It’s a bit of hyperbole to say everyone acts thusly. But such values and behaviors as a socio-economic-and-political outcome… This is an interesting and different way to view it all.
People fall prey to the illusions, the delusions of power, sense of control, the adrenaline of a football rivalry, the lust for wealth, for shiny things. We do it in The States, too, perhaps with American Football replacing Soccer, or maybe greater religious or ethnic tensions than Turkey has. The point being, when the system is such that you have to step on someone, on anyone and everyone to get ahead, when you don’t feel you can trust anyone but your family, when everyone else on the road is an asshole … Hell! What’s a person to do?
So I don’t really blame the individuals themselves anymore; I try to see them through this gradually-coming-into-focus economic and sociopolitical filter-lense I’ve created… Still it’s hard to be happy in a place where I can hardly cross the street without feeling like I am going to get run over, like some car is ‘purposely’ going to try to swerve towards me as it passes, where people don’t move mutually for each other on the sidewalk, but wait to see if the approaching person will first yield to THEM. It is a vicious passive-aggressiveness (and sometimes just pure-aggressiveness) that I’ve learned to cope with. Understanding the likely roots of it – scarcity, disempowerment, materialistic delusion, greed, lust for power, etc. – this has been the hardest part. For they always say, the WHY of a culture is Deep Deep Down under the surface of the water, like the body of the iceberg. Behaviors, attitudes, traditions, all are laid bare on the surface, but usually sans explanation – and if you do get one, you can count on it too, to be superficial. After all, who of us can cogently express the WHY behind our own activities and actions, those of our home cultures or even of ourselves as individuals? For example… Read the rest of this entry »