“Geoism and Libertarianism” by Fred Foldvary

Libertarianism is the philosophy of live and let live. Its ethic is that it is morally wrong to coercively harm others, and not morally wrong to do what is not harmful to others. This ethic is a natural law, due to human nature as beings that can choose their actions. We therefore have a natural right to do whatever is peaceful and honest.

In libertarian political philosophy, government should not be imposed on people by force. The proper role of government is to protect our natural rights. To the extent that government instead violates our rights, government is morally illegitimate. Where government is imposed, it should have the limited role of protecting the territory from outside attack and providing for internal justice. Otherwise, government should let people be themselves.

Libertarian government policy therefore consists of these elements: 1) No intervention in the affairs of other countries; 2) A pure free market with no restrictions on peaceful and honest production, exchange, and consumption; 3) full civil liberties, with no crimes unless there are victims who have been invaded; 4) Public finance from user fees, pollution charges, and very limited taxation, if any.

Geoism is the philosophy of sharing the benefits of the land (geo), while respecting the equal self-ownership of persons. Self-ownership implies that one owns one’s body and life, and therefore one’s labor and wages and the products of labor. These should be unrestricted and untaxed, and traded without taxation or restriction. The benefits of land have their economic manifestation as rent, which can be shared either as public revenues, community financing, or as dividends to the members of a community. Geoism draws much of its inspiration from the thought of the economist and social reformer, Henry George. It is thus often called “Georgism,” although the basic ideas were present long before George.

We can see that the two movements and philosophies have much in common and have no inherent conflicts between them. There are adherents to both movements, geolibertarians who identify with both geoism and libertarianism. But for the most part, these have remained distinct movements with different cultures. Libertarians stress individualism, while many geoists emphasize community.

Many libertarians have little knowledge about the economics of land and rent. Those who favor minimal taxation think of limited income or sales taxes and are not aware of the option of using land rent. Libertarians think all taxes are bad, and do not consider the economic reality that different types of taxes have quite different effects.

Geoists are focused on land, rent, and taxes, and mostly ignore other freedom issues such as victimless crimes, regulations, excessive litigation, and free-market schooling. Many geoists don’t fully understand free trade, or that regulation is a type of tax, so that true free trade would deregulate as well as untax.

Libertarianism and geoism are complements. Geoism fills the lack of an adequate view of public finance in conventional libertarianism, while libertarianism provides a more complete view of the geoist aim of free trade.

It is mostly ignorance and separate historical traditions that keep the two movements apart. But there are geolibertarians who strive to bring the two movements together. As the intersection grows, it will indeed create a more powerful and appealing philosophy and policy.

If you do a web search on “geolibertarian” or “geo-libertarian” you will already find many entries. The term “geolibertarian” has been around since the early 1980s. Now the “geolib” movement has taken off, and efforts to join together both movements are growing worldwide. May the day come when “geoism” and “libertarianism” are synonyms, meaning the same thing!

Originally appeared in The Progress Report.

“History of the Libertarian Movement” by Samuel Edward Konkin III

Before 1969

Prior to 1969, there was no “organized” Libertarian Movement. In the 1800s, circles formed around Lysander Spooner’s individualist abolitionism in Massachusetts, followed by Benjamin Tucker and his Liberty magazine (not to be confused with the Seattle ‘zine of the 1980s & 1990s) which upheld the black banner of individualist anarchy from 1870s to 1907. In that year, the entire stock of back issues and books were burned and Tucker left America to live obscurely in France until his death in 1939.

The orgy of statism peaked first with World War I and then receded. Randolph Bourne uttered the memorable line, “War is the health of the State” just before his death in 1918 and the Roaring Twenties saw a brief revival of freedom. The two main spokesmen were Albert Jay Nock and his Freeman magazine (where Suzanne LaFollette first came to prominence) from 1920-24, and then H.L. Mencken and his American Mercury in the late 1920s and through the 1930s until the approach of the second statist orgasm, World War II.

Nock’s student, Frank Chodorov, was responsible for the first proto-libertarian student organization in the 1950s, the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (still around, but now called the Intercollegiate Studies Institute). Murray Rothbard, a political fan of Chodorov (but disagreeing with his Georgist deviation on “The Land Question”), formed the Circle Bastiat in the late 1950s after being purged from William Buckley’s National Review. (Buckley was a fan of Nock himself, and had described himself as a “philosophical anarchist” before anointing himself the avatar of modern American conservatism, having “seen a Dream Walking.”)

Robert LeFevre and Leonard Read, like Rothbard and Chodorov, evolved from the “Old Right” alliance against the ultra-statist New Deal war machine of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Classical liberals (like John T. Flynn) and anarchists and even socialists like Norman Thomas joined in the great America First crusade against U.S. imperialism between 1939 and 1941 with never less than 80% of the people behind them…until Pearl Harbor.

LeFevre had a fling at running for Congress with the likes of Richard Nixon in 1948, but soon realized that one could not build a movement for freedom without first re-informing the American people what freedom was, something they had lost in five decades of non-stop statism. He formed the Freedom School in Colorado and his youthful graduates became the original activists in the student movement. Older people attended Read’s Foundation for Economic Education in upstate New York.

Rothbard was attracted to the growing student movement and actually entered the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) with his small following. He broke with those libertarians still clinging to an alliance with the anti-New-Deal Right by opposing Barry Goldwater in 1964 and beginning publication of Left & Right in 1965. He actively attended New Left meetings, wrote for Ramparts magazine, and even formed tactical alliances at the Freedom & Peace Party conventions with Maoists against old-line socialists.

LeFevre’s students began the Libertarian American in Texas and Liberal Innovator (then just Innovator) in California but, when Kerry Thornley became editor, also pursued a pro-New Left alliance. The Innovator leafletted Goldwater delegates at the 1964 Republican Convention at the San Francisco Cow Palace. Innovator also published the first articles concerning underground market activity which was later to be known as Counter-Economics. Alas, the Innovator contributors went underground just as the Libertarian Movement was about to explode aboveground.

Daniel Rosenthal, Sharon Presley, Tom McGivern and others broke from the Youth for Goldwater campaign to form the Alliance of Libertarian Activists, the first explicitly libertarian activist organization at the end of 1964 at the University of California at Berkeley. Meanwhile, the earlier 1960 Youth for Goldwater which had reformed at Buckley’s Sharon, Connecticut estate continued to attract libertarian students largely unaware of the other groups. The new student group, Young Americans for Freedom, had one libertarian chair, the founder, Bob Schuchman, who rejected the label “Young Conservatives.”

Thus, while the early libertarian activists following Rothbard and LeFevre mostly fought on the side of the New Left, the later and much larger group of hard-core campus activists who sympathized with liberty found themselves on the opposite side in the largest anti-New Left group, YAF, in the summer of 1969.

A Word About Ayn Rand

Jerome Tuccille’s claim (in his book title and elsewhere) that It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand was not accurate, but was indicative. Tuccille himself joined Rothbard and others in the early pre-St. Louis attempt to create a Libertarian movement out of YAF and SDS chapters, the Radical Libertarian Alliance (RLA). Rand herself opposed independent political activism, always supported Republican candidates (going back to Wendell Willkie) or no one, and strongly rejected any association with libertarianism. She called her followers Students of Objectivism and they operated on campuses independently. (For example, at the University of Wisconsin in 1968-70, around 300 of them were called Committee to Defend Individual Rights, or CDIR.) But it is true that many YAF members were influenced by reading Rand, and chapters in Pennsylvania and Maryland were openly Randist. Don Ernsberger and David Walters of Pennsylvania formed the Libertarian Caucus within YAF with Dana Rohrabacher and Bill Steele of California (LeFevrians). According to David Nolan of Colorado, an earlier Libertarian Caucus was tried at the previous National YAF Convention of 1967.

Another of Rand’s following who contributed to early libertarianism was Jarrett B. Wollstein, who created Students for Rational Individualism and The Rational Individualist magazine. Along with Rothbard’s new Libertarian, which he changed when he found the name was used by an obscure newsletter to Libertarian Forum, and LeFevre’s Rampart Journal, Rational Individualist became the leading libertarian publication until 1971. Also influenced by Rand was Lanny Friedlander, who began a fanzine called Reason in 1968.

Writing for RI and Rampart Journal was anarcho-objectivist Roy Childs. Childs wrote an “Open Letter to Ayn Rand” which obtained no response from her other than the usual purge for questioning her ideology. But its case that objectivism lead naturally to free-market anarchy left unanswered provided a conduit for many conversions to libertarianism by such as philosopher and friend of Childs, George H. Smith.

In 1968, Ayn Rand split with her chief disciple, Nathaniel Branden, who had run her activist organization, Nathaniel Branden Institute or NBI. Ex-objectivists filled the ranks of YAF and SRI.

At the end of 1968, Rothbard attempted a Left-Right Anarchist supper club in New York with anarchocommunist Murray Bookchin which lasted two meetings. Rothbard was joined by the former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, Karl Hess, in Libertarian Forum and in SDS activism. Hess went so far as to join the Black Panthers; his article in early 1969 in Playboy, “The Death of Politics,” was second only to Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is A Harsh Mistress (published serially 1967-68) with its portrayal of a largely successful libertarian revolution on the moon in swelling the ranks of the about-to-be-born libertarian movement.

1969-1974

If the Libertarian Movement has a golden age, it ran from August 1969 through around August 1974. The SDS convention split several ways, purging the anarchists before the other delegates even arrived. The Young Americans for Freedom began purging racist and Randist chapters in July, and both sides, libertarians and traditionalists or “trads,” engaged in “papering” their chapters with members to maximize delegate strength in St. Louis for the National Convention over the Labor Day Weekend. Assisting the libertarians was the proximity of the World Science Fiction convention, also that weekend in St. Louis, and the number of Heinlein fans who would be attending and available to accept delegate status.

The trads, already in power, succeeded in stripping most of the libertarian delegates of credentials, but about 200 hard-core libertarians retained delegate status and many who came as trad supporters (such as the founding editor of NEW LIBERTARIAN) switched to the Libertarian Caucus when they saw the repressive treatment of the authoritarian trads. Agitating additionally was the small Anarchist Caucus of RLA and the Student Libertarian Action Movement, or SLAM. The AC peaked at about 30 delegates, and could not get more than that for self-styled “philosophic anarchist” Michael Ingallinera. Karl Hess led a rally under the famous St. Louis arch which was dispersed by the police.

Dana Rohrabacher, the “Johnny Grass-Seed” of the Libertarian Caucus, could not get more than 220 votes and was most popular of the pure libertarians. Harvey Hukari of Stanford, running independent of both the “National Office” trad slate and the LC, did better but still could not win. James Farley, claiming to be a libertarian running on the NO slate, on the other hand, received the highest delegate vote total (around 500 out of 800). Samuel Edward Konkin III, a Wisconsin delegate, and his anarchist friend Tony Warnock (both rightly suspected of having been won over by Rohrabacher and Rothbard) found they had been replaced by alternates when they had gone for a late breakfast, even though they arrived back an hour or more before their state’s votes were to be declared.

The most spectacular moment at the St. Louis YAF convention of 1969 occurred when an AC member lit a xerox of his draft card in front of television cameras and was attacked by YAF trads football-style. Libertarians tried to form a line to protect him and the subsequent physical battle radicalized a lot of “fusionist” libertarian-conservatives. Though some like Jared Lobdell tried to mollify libertarians with a strong anti-draft minority plank, and unopposed Chairman David Keene appealed to both sides for unity, the purges continued after the convention.

That fall, the Libertarian Caucus and the Students for Rational Individualism merged into the Students for Individual Liberty, dually based in Pennsylvania and Maryland around Ernsberger/Walters and Wollstein/Childs. Rohrabacher and Steele, after their purge, formed the California Libertarian Alliance, and announced a huge convention in early 1970. Rothbard and Hess jumped the gun with a Left-Right Conference at the Hotel Diplomat in October 1969 (Columbus Day Weekend).

The RLA conference did attract New Left individualists and former YAF anarchists, but the free-marketeers stayed to hear Rothbard and his Circle Bastiat brothers, Leonard Liggio and Joseph Peden, discuss economics and revisionist history, while Hess led a contingent to join the March on Fort Dix of New Leftists. When the latter returned pursued by FBI agents, the RLA collapsed and Rothbard swung right.

In February 1970, backed by Riqui and Seymour Leon of LeFevre’s relocated Rampart Institute (in Santa Ana, California), the California Libertarian Alliance hosted the Left-Right Festival of Mind Liberation at USC. Nearly 500 activists showed up to hear LeFevre, SDS former president Carl Oglesby, Hess, Rohrabacher, SEK3, and most of the early activists. Press coverage of libertarians (such as the con coverage in the LA Free Press) was growing, peaking with the 1971 color cover on the New York Times Magazine (see below).

Libertarian Alliances and SIL chapters spread to every major campus during 1970. The Madison, Wisconsin, UW Libertarian Alliance sprouted chapters in neighboring high schools and started the newsletter, Laissez Faire. Its five issues were the first volume of what was to become NEW LIBERTARIAN. During the Cambodia demonstrations in May, UWLA rallied former YAFers and YIPpies and was attacked by both National Guard tear gas units and Maoist Progressive Labor heavies.

During the summer of 1970, SEK3 established contacts with Eastern libertarians, and brought Columbia students Stan Lehr and Lou Rossetto (now publisher of Wired) into the Movement. They formed the Columbia Freedom Conspiracy. SEK3 moved to New York University and formed the NYU Libertarian Alliance, changing the newsletter name to NYU/New Libertarian Notes (in ironic homage to New Left Notes) and recruiting most of the NYU Science Fiction Society as the kernel of NYULA. Quickly seeding LA’s on other campuses, he formed the New York Libertarian Alliance, but in deference to the older group, formed from the objectivist Metropolitan Young Republican Club (MYRC), called by Gary Greenberg the New York Libertarian Association, NY LA was seldom used publically, leaving “NYLA” to the association. NYLA was part of SIL while the Libertarian Alliance was strongly identified with the California LA.

NYLA and the New York LA worked together on Libertarian Conferences such as Freedom Conspiracy’s Columbia Libertarian Conference of 1971 where Milton Friedman was confronted by SEK3 as to his responsibility for the withholding feature of income tax. Friedman’s ready embrace of the “credit” excused as needed to fight World War II (which was questioned by most of the revisionist-historical libertarians there) discredited him and his Chicago School throughout the Libertarian Movement and put Ludwig von Mises (and Murray Rothbard)’s Austrian School of Economics in the forefront of free-market theory. NYULA attended Mises Circle meetings at NYU and Mises was guest of honor at subsequent East Coast Libertarian Conferences hosted by SIL at Drexel Campus in Pennsylvania.

By 1972, NYU Libertarian Notes had evolved from a mimeoed fanzine into a typeset semi-prozine; with the growing infrequency of The Radical Individualist (now just The Individualist) it became the major cross-factional publication with its credo, “Everybody appearing in this publications disagrees.” Still influential was SIL’s SIL Notes, but it too began skipping issues. In New York, RLA’s Abolitionist was expanded into Outlook even as RLA changed its name to the Citizens for a Restructured Republic (CRR) and abandoned Weatherman tactics for electoral alliances. Rothbard urged support for Mark Hatfield or William Proxmire as anti-war candidates, but when they were eliminated, he balked at supporting George McGovern.

On the west coast, Rohrabacher, Leon and LeFevre published two issues of Pine Tree which became Rap magazine. As usual, the California Libertarians were far too early and hip for the rest of the movement or the market. Most ambitiously, Leon Kaspersky tried to distribute a monthly libertarian tabloid, Protos but gave up. All failed within a year. The earliest libertarian bookstore attempt was made by Berl Hubbel in Long Beach, the prophetically-named Agora Black Market Bookstore.

Lanny Friedlander, based in Massachusetts, sold Reason to minarchist (term coined by SEK3 in 1970 and appearing in Newsweek in 1972) Robert Poole and anarchist Manny Klausner who along with objectivist philosopher Tibor Machan moved it to California and relentlessly rightward, eventually out of the Libertarian Movement altogether. It did achieve the highest circulation of any publication calling itself libertarian at 10,000 (it continued to grow after it embraced neoconservatism); second was Robert Kephart’s Libertarian Review which peaked at 7,000 under its subsequent ownership by Charles Koch and control by Ed Crane.

In 1971, the New York Times published its cover story on Rossetto & Lehr of Columbia. In 1972, Edith Efron referred to Libertarianism as a third position distinguished from Liberal and Conservative in TV Guide. Libertarian media recognition began to drop because of a new organization appearing in early 1972 to the near-universal scorn of the highly anti-political and even revolutionary libertarian movement, the “Libertarian” Party or LP. To everyone’s amazement, including the few LP supporters, it won an electoral vote for its presidential candidate John Hospers, and its vice-presidential candidate, Toni Nathan, the first woman to get an electoral vote. As a reward for his defection from Virginia’s all-Nixon electoral college delegation, Roger McBride was given the 1976 LP nomination and nearly brought it back down to total obscurity.

In October 1972, Samuel Edward Konkin III and LP founder David Nolan debated the morality of voting in NEW LIBERTARIAN NOTES.

The real crucial election turned out to be the New York mayoral election of 1973; SEK3 and the LA had agreed to join the Free Libertarian Party of New York though explicitly urging the LP’s destruction; SEK3 won election to the Executive Committee and promptly built a coalition of upstate minarchists and Manhattan radicals who matched in strength the New York City “anarchists” who were willing to oppose the state but embraced party politics: partyarchs (also coined by SEK3 in NLN). The only campaign which all participated in was Fran Youngstein for Mayor. Unfortunately, Murray Rothbard was attracted to Youngstein and his scornful opposition to the LP (he supported Nixon in ’72 as did Rand) ended. The NLN anarchists, who were Rothbardian in most respects but adhered to the California Libertarian Alliance (LeFevre) anti-political position as most consistent, were forced to split and walked out of the 1974 FLP Convention just as their coalition partners were winning control, leaving a stalemate. However, enough won delegate status to the Dallas National LP convention to ally with the moderate Reformers of E. Scott Royce who ran against Edward H. Crane III and the Nolan National Office.

After Royce’s defeat, Crane created an authoritarian machine and purged several state newsletters as sympathetic to SEK3 and the “radical caucus.” Those campus LAers who resisted the LP and the LPrc who worked outside the party as a revived SLAM, now called for a New Libertarian Alliance which was announced in 1974 after Dallas. As partyarchs geared up for the 1974 congressional elections (which produced nothing), the NLA surged up only to go…underground. SEK3’s response to electoral politics was refusal to pay taxes, obey regulations or in any way give the State vampire its blood — Counter-Economics — combined with Libertarian Theory. In other words, politically-aware black marketeers, or agorists.

1975-1980

Aboveground, the Party was left with the dregs and vacillators of the Libertarian Movement; underground the NLA built its counter-economy. But still another factor entered in 1975: the vast fortunes of Charles and David Koch, and the Cato Institute they endowed. Ed Crane, already in control of the LP, became chair of Cato and disburser of funds. A complex of offices was set up in San Francisco and Cato bought Libertarian Review from Kephart, keeping Roy Childs as editor but hiring Jeff Riggenbach to keep LR actually running. Riggenbach wrote for NL as well.

NEW LIBERTARIAN NOTES had come a long way; it serialized an interview that J. Neil Schulman had got with Robert A. Heinlein, the first such interviewed published in decades. NLN’s circulation took off and it nearly hit a thousand at the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington, D.C. with the final installment of the Heinlein interview. In 1975, SEK3 finally gave up on the East and with the hardest core (except for John Pachak, the long-time layout artist), piled into a Toyota for a legendary three-week trip across the U.S. to relocate in Los Angeles.

Between December 1976 and January 1978, SEK3 and those who had come from New York with him (Andy Thornton, J. Neil Schulman, Bob Cohen) plus Southern Californians like Victor Koman and Chris Schaefer put out NEW LIBERTARIAN WEEKLY — 101 issues of NLW before finally retreating to monthly and less frequent publication. Ironically, the publication with the best history of on-time frequent publication (even better than reason which delayed and skipped several issues early in its publication career) burned itself out in weekly production and never returned to regular on-time publication again. During that time, NLW not only became the premier publication of anti-party libertarians and “journal of record” of the Movement, but also took up the cause of opposing “monocentrism,” the monopolization of the Libertarian Movement by Koch money and power, the legendary “Kochtopus.”

Just as NLW sputtered down in frequency to just plain NEW LIBERTARIAN magazine, Rothbard broke with the Kochtopus. Relations between MNR and SEK3 were maximally strained during 1977 when Rothbard joined the Kochtopus and moved to San Francisco. Rothbard was described as the “Darth Vader” of the Movement (Star Wars had just been released). Rothbard lashed back with his attack on the “space cadets” of science-fiction oriented libertarians, and was attacked himself within the LP by “space cadets” who labeled his faction “grubeaters.” But Rothbard had a falling out during the 1980 Clark for President campaign with Crane who controlled the campaign, and his “shares” in Cato were confiscated by the other Board members. NL promptly supported Rothbard in his cry, “They stole my shares” and relations were largely repaired.

Edward Clark and his vice-presidential running mate, David Koch, did get the highest number of votes ever for the LP (nearly 900,000) but at an incredible cost per vote. And the few thousand votes Hospers had received in 1972 had at least got him an electoral vote. The LP began its long decline. (Hospers himself turned against the LP.)

1981-1990

With Rothbard’s opposition to the Kochtopus, Crane’s control slipped fast. Students for a Libertarian Society quickly collapsed and its handpicked leader, Milton Mueller, dropped out of the Movement. Cato’s attempt to reach out to Left-Liberals, Inquiry magazine, plateaued in circulation and was combined with Libertarian Review, which could not break the 5,000 level of circulation. At the 1983 LP National convention, Crane lost a close battle with the combined Right-Center coalition who put California state apparatchik David Bergland up against CFR member turned mild isolationist, Earl Ravenal. Koch’s money was pulled out for the 1984 election and Ed Crane turned on the Libertarian Party.

In 1985, at the Libertarian International convention in Oslo, Norway, Crane and Konkin were to debate the validity of the Libertarian Party for libertarians. After SEK3’s demolition job, Crane got up and refused to defend the party, even shaking Konkin’s hand. Alas, Crane was moving rightward.

Rothbard, too, lost interest in the Libertarian Party with no one left of consequence to fight over it. A feeble attempt was made to stop Rothbard’s candidate, Republican U.S. Representative from Texas, Ron Paul, from getting the 1988 nomination., mostly from the Association for Libertarian Feminists (ALF) who strongly opposed him on abortion. When Paul’s vote continued the decline from the Clark high, Rothbard blamed the “Left” Libertarians (apparently still in the LP) and luftmenschen with no visible means of support (Agorists and other counter-economists?), and quit the party. With Llewellyn Rockwell, Rothbard formed the Ludwig von Mises Institute and announced an alliance with Rockford Institute’s Thomas Fleming and his paleoconservatives as an attempt to revive the Old Right.

While the LP declined schism by schism, the New Libertarian Alliance sprouted to aboveground entities. In 1978, the Movement of the Libertarian Left was formed out of remaining aboveground activists to restore and continue the alliance Rothbard and Oglesby had begun between the New Left and Libertarians against foreign intervention or imperialism. MLL’s internal newsletter was Tactics of the MLL; it also began a theoretical journal after the publication of SEK3’s long-delayed New Libertarian Manifesto. The responses by Rothbard, LeFevre, and anti-voting/anti-activist Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss and Konkin’s replies became the basis of Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #1. SNLA#2 began SEK3’s Agorism Contra Marxism serialization and George Smith’s criticism of Rothbard’s “Leninist” Libertarianism. Within a decade, Rothbard had swung right and the Berlin Wall had fallen. (Agorism had made the East European Marxist journals and was vigorously debated in the early 1980s.)

On December 31, 1984 The Agorist Institute was formed on that symbolic date and with the logo of “the tip of the iceberg.” So in 1985 MLL was turned over to Victor Koman and Mike Gunderloy while SEK3, J. Kent Hastings and John Strang concentrated on AI. The New Isolationist newsletter combined the editorial skills and writings of Konkin and Royce, with Alexander Cockburn and Noam Chomsky from the New Left, Thomas Fleming and Charles Reese from the Old Right, and many other anti-interventionists.

Meanwhile, NEW LIBERTARIAN brought forth its long-awaited time capsule of the new generation of Science Fiction Authors of the 1980s in 1990. The triple-sized issue, first with a color cover, mutated into a tribute to Robert A. Heinlein who had just died. Contributors included Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Victor Koman, Brad Linaweaver, L. Neil Smith, J. Neil Schulman, Oyvind Myhre of Norway and Chris Shaefer on the films based on Heinlein writings. Libertarian science-fiction fans (frefen) had turned their parties into “Heinlein Wakes” in the late 1980s, and that culminated in the largest, most international gathering of libertarian writers at The Hague over the “Bank Holiday” weekend in late August where NL All-SF Triple Issue premiered. Final copies were not available until the NASFiC in San Diego the following weekend.

The Libertarian Party was in such bad shape that SEK3 called for a ceasefire and re-direction of energy in the previous issue of NL; with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, key libertarians “retired” to engage in a personal life for a couple of years.

1991-Today

Reason had drifted further and further away from mainstream, let alone radical, libertarianism in the 1970s so that by 1985 only Libertarian Review and NEW LIBERTARIAN remained with plus-1000 circulations. When LR and Inquiry quit, NL was not left alone. Bill Bradford, a lifetime subscriber to NL, started his own Centrist Libertarian magazine, Liberty. Briefly, it was inclusive, but soon it purged Rothbard and Konkin (Bradford claimed an Editorial Board he created had the responsibility, not him) and it defined itself between agorist/inclusive NL, paleolibertarian Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and the neoconservative Reason. In 1991, Reason under its new editor Virginia Postrel crossed the line and became the only publication to be viewed by some as libertarian to endorse the Gulf War. Even Reason‘s former editor Robert Poole and Cato’s Ed Crane opposed the naked imperialist maneuver.

When the agorists returned to activism in 1994, they found a changed Movement — but not victorious, as they had assumed it would be. Liberty was rehashing objectivism and Ayn Rand’s personal life over and over with the vapid sneering attacks by cowardly nom-de-plume “Chester Alan Arthur” substituting for political (or anti-political) analysis; the Libertarian Party had run an out-and-out scoundrel and party-funds embezzler, Andre Marrou, for President in 1992; Jeff Friedman was editing a “theoretical journal” claiming that Libertarianism was based on Egalitarianism (one of Murray Rothbard’s essays and book titles was Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature) and embracing chunks of deconstructionism, postmodernism, and even Liberalism; and, rather than rallying the demoralized, de-socialized Left to the Libertarian (black) banner, nearly all factions were cozying up to (different) parts of the already victorious and thus scornful statist Right. Reason was gone completely from Libertarianism, as was Reason.

With Chris Hitchens and Alex Cockburn calling for a revived New Left/Libertarian Alliance on CSPAN and in Left publications, SEK3 and the revived MLL answered them positively with the pamphlet “What’s Left?” and subsequent meetings of the Karl Hess Club (successor of the anti-Party Libertarian Supper Club of Los Angeles and Albert J. Nock/H.L. Mencken Fora). But the Original Gang Libertarian ranks thinned considerably. Robert LeFevre had died in 1986; Karl Hess left us in 1994 and Murray Rothbard in January 1995. The struggle for the minds (what was left of them) and hearts of the Libertarian Movement was thus engaged.

New Isolationist revived first; then the long-awaited Agorist Quarterly, the theoretical journal of The Agorist Institute, challenged J. Friedman’s Critical Review and began the development of the foundations of Counter-Economics and the rest of Agorism. Finally, NEW LIBERTARIAN returned to set the movement straight again with NL187 in December 1996 (dated April 1997.) Deviationists, sell-outs and compromisers fled in terror; the hard-core and unyielding defenders of freedom, as well as those who had been shut out of dominant libertarian publications for their individualist, non-conforming viewpoints, rejoiced.

And they all turned into .PDF files (Adobe AcrobatTM), moved to the World Wide Web of libertarian cyberspace, and lived happily ever after . . .

“The Last, Whole Introduction to Agorism” by Samuel Edward Konkin III

Agorism, unfortunately, needs an introduction.

Counter-economics and agorism were originally fighting concepts, forged in what seemed to be the ever-cresting revolution of 1972-73, and which proved to be the last wave instead. Revolutionary rhetoric or not, agorism arose in a time and a context where slogans required extensive published analysis and ongoing dialectic criticism with highly
committed competing factions. Thus, when the crucible of “The Sixities”1 had cooled, amongst all the garish Party pennants, Trashing rubbish, and exploded-Ideology ashes lay a hard, bright and accurate theory and methodology. Probably the first economically-sound basis for a revolutionary platform, agorism’s market melted away before it could even get on the display rack.

Origins of Agorism: Background
The collapse of the Berlin Wall was prefigured twenty years earlier by the collapse of statist economics, particularly the Orthodox Marxism and liberal Keynesianism. With our release from those reigning dead economists, alternatives flourished from heretical “anarcho”-capitalism to deviationist Marxism – the more heretical and deviationist, the better. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Murray Rothbard, paleoconservative (Old Right) class theory and isolationism was grafted onto (or synthesized with) a free-market economics that was so pure it generated the same systemic shock as, say, modern
Christianity discovering original, primitive Christianity.

Austrian School economics, particularly Ludwig von Mises’ uncompromising praxeology, was, most appealingly, uncompromising. Furthermore, it required  no patch-up or cover-up failures; in fact, in 1973-74, it successfully predicted the gold boom and the subsequent stagflation which so confounded the Official Court Economists. Mises died at his moment of triumph: Moses, Christ and Marx to the libertarian movement rising out of the ashes of the New Left and its dialectic opponent, the student Right.

Murray Rothbard was the Gabriel, St. Paul and Lenin. Rather than watering down praxeology to gain establishment acceptance and Nobel Prizes (as did Wilhelm Röpke and Friedrich Hayek, to name two), Rothbard insisted on radicalizing Austrianism still further.

Mises, though adored by radical rightists from Ayn Rand to Robert Welch, died calling himself a Liberal, though a 19th century Hapsburg Austrian Liberal, to be sure. Rothbard, with his academic historian allies Leonard Liggio and Joseph Peden, insisted that Austrianism went beyond the tepid classical liberalism being revived by the Milton Friedmans; it demanded not merely limited, constitutional, republican government – it required none at all.

How could  Röpke counsel Christian Democrat Kanzler Konrad Adenauer and Birchers love Mises when Rothbard preached outright anarchy? The answer lay in praxeology’s crucial concept of wertfrei – value free. As many critics later pointed out – even friendly, libertarian ones – economics assumed some values at various levels, such as to take the most blatant example, economic study itself. Nevertheless, suppressing conscious valuation allowed Mises to make a far more penetrating analysis devastating to all political illusionists of his time – but also allowed his theory to be sold in amputated parcels by selective opportunists and bought by well-meaning but narrow-focused activists.

The true meaning of Misesian “Austrian Economics” continues to be hotly debated in the Journal of Austrian Economics, Critical Review, and libertarian movement journals, but what concerns us here is what it was perceived as being at the founding of Counter-Economics.

Origins of Agorism: Counter-Economics
Austrian economics answered questions.

Q: Why do we value and how?
A: It is inherent in everyone and it is subjective.

Q:
Why do we give up anything at all ever?
A: Because we subjectively value A more than B while some Other values B more than A. We do not relinquish; we acquire a greater value.

Q:
But why would anyone give up something that is universally (or as close as possible)  subjectively valued for something of less value?
A: Because that one-thousandth unit of the seemingly more valuable is less subjectively valuable than the first unit of the seemingly lesser. Who would consider it folly to trade one’s hundredth loaf of bread for a first diamond? Utility is marginal.

Q:
Why do we have money?
A: Facilitate trade, keep quantitative accounts, make change and store value.

Q:
From where does money come?
A:
It arises from commodities exchanged more and more as a middle or medium of exchange.

Q: Can government improve on money?
A: No, it is strictly a market function.

Q: What is the result of government intervention anywhere in the market?
A:
Government is force, however legitimized and accepted; all force prevents subjective value satisfaction, that is, whatever human actors voluntarily give up and accept is, by their personal subjective (and unknowable to others) understanding, the best informed outcome to them. Any violence that deters their exchange is counter-productive to all the exchanges and to those whose exchanges depend on theirs – that is, violent intervention is a universal disutility in the market.

Mises thus concludes that all coercion – and that includes government action – is not just anti-market but inhumane. Not bad for value free assumptions!  Röpke (author of Humane Economy), Hayek, and even Mises felt that once private force or that of another state entered the marketplace, government counter-force was justified for rectification. Furthermore, none could conceive of any other way to deal with humane protection.

Enter Murray Rothbard… and Robert LeFevre.

Origins of Agorism: Anti-Politics
Between 1964 and 1974, the entire political spectrum save for a sliver of “liberal” machines in the Democratic and Republican parties were intensely alienated from politics. The moderate Left had their hopes dashed by Kennedy’s assassination and looked further Left; the moderate Right pinned their hopes on Goldwater and were driven out of politics by the establishment-medium distortions of his – their – positions. Some turned on, tuned in, and dropped out.

The rest of us pursued what Europeans call so diplomatically extra-parliamentary politics. Rothbard and his “East Coast” libertarians pursued an alliance of alienated “Old Right” and “New Left” for a classical revolution. Robert LeFevre and his “West Coast” libertarians pursued a civil-disobedience stance: non-participation in state-sanctioned politics, particularly elections and office-holding, coupled with education and activism to expand refusal until the State could no longer function. By 1969, the Weatherman tactic of exacerbating State violence with its own to accelerate revolution drove Rothbard
to give up his Ultra Left-Right coalition dream, and support peace candidates. LeFevre remained anti- collaborationist until his death in 1986, but civil disobedience and pacifism went out of fashion in the mid-1970s.

Origins of Agorism: Counter-Economics
Thus, when agorism appeared, there were several questions to be dealt with beyond the answers of then-current Austrian Economics and libertarian politics:

Q: Can the State be praxeologically dispensed with?
A: Answering that affirmatively, as both Rothbard and LeFevre and several others did…

Q: How?

Richard and Ernestine Perkins, Morris and Linda Tannehill, and David Friedman and the many contributors to The Libertarian Connection gave early answers as to how the market could provide protection agencies which would be competitive – eliminating the problem of the inherent coercion of the State. Unable to regulate or tax, able to act only when paid for and asked to protect or reclaim property, the agency solved the problem of intervention
against subjective-valuing human actors. Arbitration would replace magistration for justice – or at least settling rival claims.

But none of them describe the path of getting from here (statism) to there (stateless marketplace or agora). Assuming market entrepreneurs would find a way, the strategy for achieving liberty was left as an exercise for the readers.

In the same 1972 U.S. Presidential election where the power elite did to George McGovern and the non-revolutionary anti-war left what they had done to Barry Goldwater, a new party emerged. Although the Libertarian Party received a miniscule percentage of the vote and was ignored by everyone from Rothbard to LeFevre, a rebel elector in Virginia bolted Nixon’s overwhelming majority to put John Hospers and the LP on the political map. It turned out to be the high point of the LP’s success, but with the Fran Youngstein for Mayor Campaign in 1973, conservative and radical libertarians mingled and then repolarized. The crucial debate of 1974 was no longer anarchy vs. minarchy, but partyarchy vs. agorism.

The anti-party majority argued that working within the political system had failed for two centuries. The new “party anarchists” or partyarchs argued that nothing else had worked (everything else, presumably, had been tried in the Sixties)). At least they had a strategy. Furthermore, it could be perceived to work in stages and even increments as a law was repealed here or a tax there. Of course, in the twenty years of the LP’s existence, no “retreat of statism” has been noticeable.

The anti-party libertarians were forced to choose between yet another paradigm shift to respond (remember, most had been radicalized from conservatism to near Weathermen) or give up. Those who remained in the fight with their new analysis and corresponding strategy took the name of the market to oppose themselves to political parties and statism – agora. The new paradigm of the agorist was called (in tribute to the then-fading Counter-Culture) Counter-Economics.

Counter-Economics is the study and practice of the human action in the Counter-Economy. The Counter-Economy is all human action not sanctioned by the State.

Just as Quantum Mechanics arose by theoretical chemists and physicists refusing to ignore the paradigm-breaking experiments, and Relativity arose from Einstein’s acceptance of the Michelson-Morley results, Counter-Economics arose as a theory by taking into account what all standard economics either ignored or downplayed. Just as light tunneled out of Hawking’s black holes, human action tunneled under the control of the state. And this underground economy, black market, nalevo Russia turned out to be far, far to vast to ignore as a minor correction.

In the earliest agorist-influenced science-fiction in 1975, the story predicted the USSR would fall to counter-economic forces by 1990 and soon thereafter turn into such a free-market paradise that it would be invaded statist world lead by the imperialist U.S. (as this article is being written, the last of that prophecy would come to pass).

The Counter-Economic alternative gave the agorists a devastating weapon. Rather than slowly amass votes until some critical mass would allow state retreat (if the new statists did not change sides to protect their new vested interests), one could commit civil disobedience profitably, dodging taxes and regulations, having lower costs and (potentially) greater efficiency than one’s statist competitors – if any. For many goods and services could only arise or be provided counter-economically.

In 1975, the New Libertarian Alliance left their campuses and aboveground “white market” jobs and went full-time counter-economic for a decade to prove the strategy’s viability. In 1980, the long delayed New Libertarian Manifesto was issued to those into party politics or other forms of hopelessness.

Agorism Today
Surprisingly little systematic research has been done in counter-economics since the agorist discovery a decade after the immersion of the agorist cadre. They surfaced to find a changed political landscape. It had been expected that their more-timid allies would stay aboveground to conduct officially-sanctioned research, but that failed to happen for now obvious institutional reasons. Hence, determined to report their findings, take advantage of freedom of the press and academic freedom to do so, and, incidentally, raise families, the publishing cadre formed the Agorist Institute in the libertarian-rich American Southwest at the end (symbolically) of 1984. The rest of the history of agorism is the history of The
Agorist Institute’s trials and tribulations (which will presumably be published someday). AI flourished at the end of the 1980’s, hitting its nadir as counter-economics – if not full agorism – swept the globe and tossed socialism into the dustbin of history.

The Future of Agorism
Unlike in the Counter-Economy itself, agorists had a problem with market feedback operating aboveground, especially in the almost-market-devoid realm of tax-deductible, educational foundations – a fund devouring unreality forbidding enough to consume a fat chunk of the Koch family fortune and spit out Charles and David. Although receiving some financial support from mid-range successful entrepreneurs, AI attempted to do it all: research support, classes, seminars, academic conferences and publication of journals and newsletters (internal and external). (All the staff had additional jobs or businesses to support themselves.)

Hence, the 1995 revival also marks the AI’S tenth anniversary and the long-awaited and delayed publication of this quarterly. Once again, we embark on studying the vast iceberg below the tip – the Counter-Economy – and report our findings. To avoid our previous pitfalls, AI is focusing on three self-supporting (in short order) publications: AQ, the already appearing but infrequent New Isolationist, and new moment-by-moment newsletter of the primary concern, Counter-Economics. The test or preview issue, #0, follows this journal.

The world has changed in a second decade – but, strangely enough, the Russian nalevo market is still there to study after the Second Revolution – only this time, we will not be able to rely on CIA sponsored published accounts. How will the European Counter-Economy, particularly the Black Labor market, fare with the dropping of borders? What about Canada’s and Mexico’s “informal” economies with the passage of NAFTA? Is Hernando de Soto’s El Otro Sendero going to win over Abimael Guzman’s Sendero Luminoso, especially after betrayal by de Soto’s alleged political (partyarch) disciples, Mario Vargas Llosa and then Alberto Fujimori? Recently, the former Comandate Cero  of the Tercerista (uncompromising) faction of the Sandanistas, Eden Pastora, chose the agorist Karl Hess Club to announce his candidacy for President of Nicaragua.

And what about the United States? How does all of the above affect America’s counter-economic foreign interface [academic for “the smuggling industry”]? What effect will Clinton’s State medicine do to the health-providing service? Will all medical treatment end up like 1950’s abortion, and will people grab free needles at the AIDS-prevention center to give to their black doctors for unauthorized immunization of their children who cannot wait their “turn” (due after their scheduled death, as in Canada and England)?

Every issue in today’s press from Bosnia to Oklahoma City has an overlooked Counter-Economic component that AI can explore, compile and publish. Other areas can be excavated from the underground that will become issues once exposed and explained, and then there is the new battleground for agorists and statists: cyberspace, where cypherpunk agorist road warriors have an early lead over the Gore statist superhighwaymen.

But, finally and overall, the issue needing the most attention is that of agorism itself. To the extent that it is “agorology” and not just ideology, what is and should be its methodology? We most urgently invite our newly awakened and empowered students of agorism and multi-disciplinarians of counter-economics to contribute their first – and second – thoughts on the subject. Are some methods out of bounds in agorism that are academically acceptable, for example? Or are some methods acceptable  in counter-economic study that are unacceptable to academic researchers? Can we wertfrei when we are
obviously attracted to the Black as Departments of Marxist Studies are to the Red? Should there be competing methodologies? (In case there was the least doubt, AI encourages one, two, many agorist foundations.)

And what about that new Power Mac equipment to hook up to the Video Toaster? Is traditional publishing enough or should it be supplemented – or supplanted – by full-scale video production passed along by videotape – or hurtled through the Internet like “Breaker, breaker” trucks on the information superhighway? Should AQ continue to appear on paper, or in .PDF on-line files as New Libertarian magazine is now doing?

Now it is the “Rightist” Militia instead of New Left cadre blowing up federal
buildings and protesting massacres of peaceful women and children, but
fighting for freedom against the American Empire is turning serious again. In
an important way, our Nineties are like the Sixties: we don’t know where
we’re going to end up, but we know we’re on our way. Or, in 90’s parlance, as
our children’s spokesperson would say, when asked about “the future,”
agorists answer, “The Future? We’re there.”

Originally published in The Agorist Quarterly, Fall 1995, Volume 1, Number 1.

 

“Copywrongs” by Samuel Edward Konkin III

Having done every step of production in the publishing industry, both for myself and others, I have one irrefutable empirical conclusion about the economic effect of copyrights on prices and wages: nada. Zero. Nihil. So negligible you’d need a Geiger counter to measure it.

Before I move on to exactly what copyrights do have an impact on, one may be interested as to why the praxeological negligibility of this tariff. The answer is found in the peculiar nature of publishing. There are big publishers and small publishers and very, very few in between. For the Big Boys, royalties are a fraction of one percent of multi-million press runs. They lose more money from bureaucratic interstices and round-off error. The small publishers are largely counter-economic and usually survive on donated material or break-in writing; let the new writers worry about copyrighting and reselling.

Furthermore, there are a very few cases of legal action in the magazine world because of this disparity. The little ‘zines have no hope beating a rip-off and shrug it off after a perfunctory threat; the Biggies rattle their corporate-lawyer sabres and nearly anyone above ground quietly bows.

Book publishing is a small part of total publishing and there are some middle-range publishers who do worry about the total cost picture in marginal publishing cases. But now there are two kinds of writers: Big Names and everyone else. Everyone else is seldom reprinted; copyrights have nothing to do with first printings (economically). Big Names rake it in – but they also make a lot from ever-higher bids for their next contract. And the lowered risk of not selling out a reprint of a Big Name who has already sold out a print run more than compensates paying the writer the extra fee.

So Big Name writers would lose something substantial if the copyright privilege ceased enforcement. But Big Name writers are an even smaller percentage of writers than Big Name Actors are of actors. If they all vanished tomorrow, no one would notice (except their friends, one hopes). Still, one may reasonably wonder if the star system’s incentive can be done away without the whole pyramid collapsing. If any economic argument remains for copyrights, it’s incentive.

Crap. As Don Marquis put in the words of Archy the Cockroach, “Creative expression is the need of my soul.” And Archy banged his head on typewriter key after typewriter key all night long to turn out his columns – which Marquis cashed in. Writing as a medium of expression will continue as long as someone has a burning need to express. And if all they have to express is a need for second payments and associated residuals, we’re all better off for not reading it.

But, alas, the instant elimination of copyrights would have negligible effect on the star system. While it would cut into the lifelong gravy train of stellar scribes, it would have no effect on their biggest source of income: the contract for their next book (or script, play or even magazine article or short story). That is where the money is.

“You’re only as good as your last piece” – but you collect for that on your next sale. Market decisions are made on anticipated sales. Sounds like straight von Mises, right? (Another great writer who profited little from copyrighting – but others are currently raking it in from Ludwig’s privileged corpse – er, corpus.)

The point of all this vulgar praxeology is not just to clear the way for the moral question. The market (praise be) is telling us something. After all, both market human action and morality arise from the same Natural Law.

In fact, let us clear out some more deadwood and red herrings before we face the Great Moral Issue. First, if you abolish copyrights, would great authors starve? Nope. In fact, the market might open a trifle for new blood. Would writers write if they did not get paid? Who says they wouldn’t? There is no link between payment for writing and copyrights. Royalties roll in (or, much more often, trickle in) long after the next work is sold and the one after is in progress.

Is not a producer entitled to the fruit of his labor? Sure, that’s why writers are paid. But if I make a copy of a shoe or a table or a fireplace log (with my little copied axe) does the cobbler or wood worker or woodchopper collect a royalty?

A. J. Galambos, bless his anarchoheart, attempted to take copyrights and patents to their logical conclusion. Every time we break a stick, Ug The First should collect a royalty. Ideas are property, he says; madness and chaos result.

Property is a concept extracted from nature by conceptual man to designate the distribution of scarce goods – the entire material world – among avaricious, competing egos. If I have an idea, you may have the same idea and it takes nothing from me. Use yours as you will and I do the same.

Ideas, to use the ‘au courant’ language of computer programmers, are the programs; property is the data. Or, to use another current cliché, ideas are the maps and cartography, and property is the territory. The difference compares well to the differences between sex and talking about sex.

Would not ideas be repressed without the incentive (provided by copyrights)? ‘Au contraire’ the biggest problem with ideas is the delivery system. How do we get them to those marketeers who can distribute them? (Ed. note: most readers probably know the answer to this in 1996, this was written in 1986)

My ideas are pieces of what passes for my soul (or, if you prefer, ego). Therefore, every time someone adopts one of them, a little piece of me has infected them. And for this I get paid, too! On top of all that, I should be paid and paid and paid as they get staler and staler?

If copyrights are such a drag, why and how did they evolve? Not by the market process. Like all privileges (emphasis added), they were grants of the king. The idea did not – could not – arise until Gutenberg’s printing press and it coincided with the rise of royal divinity, and soon after, the onslaught of mercantilism.

So who benefits from this privilege? There is an economic impact I failed to mention earlier. It is, in Bastiat’s phrasing, the unseen. Copyright is a Big publisher’s method, under cover of protecting artists, of restraint of trade. Yes, we’re talking monopoly.

For when the Corporation tosses its bone to the struggling writer, and an occasional steak to the pampered tenth of a percent, it receives an enforceable legal monopoly on the editing, typesetting, printing, packaging, marketing (including advertising) and sometimes even local distribution of that book or magazine. (In magazines, it also has an exclusivity in layout vs other articles and illustrations and published advertisements.) How’s that for vertical integration and restraint of trade?

And so the system perpetuates, give or take a few counter-economic outlaws and some enterprising Taiwanese with good smuggling connections.

Because copyrights permeate all mass media, Copyright is the Rip-off That Dare Not Mention Its Name. The rot corrupting our entire communications market is so entrenched it will survive nothing short of abolition of the State and its enforcement of Copyright. Because the losers, small-name writers and all readers, lose so little each, we are content – it seems – to be nickel-and-dime plundered. Why worry about mosquito bites when we have the vampire gouges of income taxes and automobile tariffs?

Now for the central moral question: what first woke me up to the problem that was the innocent viewer scenario. Consider the following careful contractual construction.

Author Big and Publisher Bigger have contracts not to reveal a word of what’s in some publication. Everyone on the staff, every person in the step of production is contracted not to reveal a word. All the distributors are covered and the advertising quotes only a minimal amount of words. Every reader is like Death Records in Phantom of the Paradise, under contract, too; that is every reader who purchases the book or ‘zine and thus interacts with someone who is under contract – interacts in a voluntary trade and voluntary agreement.

No, I am not worried about the simultaneous creator; although an obvious victim, he or she is rare, given sufficient complexity in the work under questions. (However, some recent copyright decisions and the fact that the Dolly Parton case even got as far as a serious trial – means the corruption is spreading.)

One day you and I walk into a room – invited but without even mention of a contract – and the publication lies open on a table. Photons leap from the pages to our eyes and our hapless brain processes the information. Utterly innocent, having committed no volitional act, we are copyright violators. We have unintentionally embarked on a life of piracy.

And God or the Market help us if we now try to act on the ideas now in our mind or to reveal this unintended guilty secret in any way. The State shall strike us – save only if Author Big and Publisher Bigger decide in their tyrannous mercy that we are too small and not worth the trouble.

For if we use the ideas or repeat or reprint them, even as part of our own larger creation – bang! There goes the monopoly. And so each and every innocent viewer must be suppressed. By the Market? Hardly. The entire contractual agreement falls like a house of cards when the innocent gets his or her forbidden view. No, copyright has nothing to do with creativity, incentive, just desserts, fruits of labor or any other element of the moral, free market.

It is a creature of the State, the Vampire’s little bat. And, as far as I’m concerned, the word should be copywrong.

“Counter-Economics: Our Means” by Samuel Edward Konkin III

The following is a chapter from SEK3’s “New Libertarian Manifesto”.

Having detailed our past and statist present and glimpsed a credible view of a far better society achievable with present understanding and technology – no change in human nature needed – we come to the critical part of the manifesto: how do we get from here to there? The answer breaks into two naturally – or maybe unnaturally. Without a State, the differentiation into micro (manipulation of an individual by himself in his environment – including the market) and the macro (manipulation of collectives) would be at best an interesting statistical exercise with some small reference to marketing agencies. Even so, a person with a highly sophisticated decency may wish to understand the social consequences of his or her acts even if they harm no other.

With a State tainting every act and befouling our minds with unearned guilt, ait becomes extremely important to understand the social consequences of our acts. For example, if we fail to pay at tax and get away with it, who is hurt: us? The State? Innocents? Libertarian analysis shows us that the State is responsible for any damage to innocents it alleges the “selfish tax-evader” has incurred; and the “services” the State “provides” us are illusory. But even so, there must be more than lonely resistance cleverly concealed or “dropping out?” If a political party or revolutionary army is inappropriate and self-defeating for libertarian goals, what collective action works? The answer is agorism.

It is possible, practical, and even profitable to entrepreneur large collections of humanity from statist society to the agora. This is, in the deepest sense, true revolutionary activity and will be covered in the next chapter. But to understand this macro answer, we must first outline the micro answer. [1]

The function of the pseudo-science of Establishment economics, even more than making predictions (like the Imperial Roman augurers) for the ruling class, is to mystify and confuse the ruled class as to where their wealth is going and how it is taken. An explanation of how people keep their wealth and property from the State is then Counter-Establishment economics, or Counter- Economics [2] for short. The actual practice of human actions that evade, avoid and defy the State is counter-economic activity, but in the same sloppy way “economics” refers to both the science and what it studies, Counter- Economics will undoubtedly be used. Since this writing is Counter-Economic theory itself, what will be referred to as Counter-Economics is the practice.

Mapping and describing all or even a significantly useful part of Counter- Economics will require at least a full volume itself. [3] Just enough will be sketched here to provide understanding for the rest of the manifesto.

Going from an agorist society to a statist one should be uphill work, equivalent to a path of high negative entropy in physics. After all, once one is living in and understanding a well-run free society, why would one wish to return to systematic coercion, plunder, and anxiety? Spreading ignorance and irrationality among the knowledgeable and rational is difficult; mystifying that which is already clearly understood is nearly impossible. The agorist society should be fairly stable relative to decadence, though highly open to improvement.

Let us run backwards in time, like running a film backward, from the agorist society to the present statist society. What would we expect to see?

Pockets of statism, mostly contiguous in territory, since the State requires regional monopolies, would first appear. The remaining victims are becoming more and more aware of the wonderful free world around them and “evaporating” from these pockets. Large syndicates of market protection agencies are containing the State by defending those who have signed up for protection- insurance. Most importantly, those outside the statist pockets or sub- societies are enjoying an agorist society save for a higher cost of insurance premiums and some care as to where they travel. The agorists could co-exist with statists at this point, maintaining an isolationist “foreign policy” since the costs of invasion of statist sub-societies and liberation would be higher than immediate returns (unless the State launches an all-out last aggression), but there is no real reason to imagine the remaining victims will choose to remain oppressed when the libertarian alternative is so visible and accessible. The State’s areas are like a super-saturated solution ready to precipitate anarchy.

Run backward another step and we find the situation reversed. We find larger sectors of society under Statism and smaller ones living as agorically as possible. However, there is one visible difference: the agorists need not be territorially contiguous. They can live anywhere, though they will tend to associate with their fellow agorists not only for social reinforcement but for ease and profitability of trade. It’s always safer and more profitable to deal with more trustworthy customers and suppliers. The tendency is for greater association among more agorist individuals and for dissociation with more statist elements. (This tendency is not only theoretically strong; it already exists in embryonic practice today.) Some easily defendable territories, perhaps in space or islands in the ocean (or under the ocean) or big-city “ghettos” may be almost entirely agorist, where the State is impotent to crush them. But most agorists will live within statist-claimed areas.

There will be a spectrum of the degree of agorism in most individuals, as there is today, with a few benefiting from the State being highly statist, a few fully conscious of the agorist alternative and competent as living free to the hilt, and the rest in the middle with varying degrees of confusion.

Finally, we step back to where only a handful understand agorism, the vast majority perceiving illusory gains from the existence of the State or unable to perceive an alternative, and the statists themselves: the government apparatus and the class defined by receiving a new gain from the State’s intervention in the Market. [4]

This is a description of our present society. We are “home.”

Before we reverse course and describe the path from statism to agorism, let us look around at our present society with our newly-acquired agorist perception. Much as a traveller who returns home and sees things in a new light from what he or she has learned from foreign lands and ways of life, we may gain new insights on our present circumstances.

Besides a few enlightened New Libertarians tolerated in the more liberal statist areas on the globe (“toleration” exists to the degree of libertarian contamination of statism), we now perceive something else: large numbers of people who are acting in an agorist manner with little understanding of any theory but who are induced by material gain to evade, avoid, or defy the State. Surely they are a hopeful potential?

In the Soviet Union, a bastion of arch-statism and a nearly totally collapsed “official” economy, a giant black market provides the Russians, Armenian, Ukrainian and others with everything from food to television repair to official papers and favors from the ruling class. As the Guardian Weekly reports, Burma is almost a total black market with the government reduced to an army, police, and a few strutting politicians. In varying degrees, this is true of nearly all the Second and Third Worlds.

What of the “First” World? In the social-democrat countries, the black market is smaller because the “white market” of legally accepted market transactions is larger, but the former is still quite prominent. Italy, for example, has a “problem” of a large part of its civil services which works officially from 7 A.M. to 2 P.M. working unofficially at various jobs the rest of the day earning “black” money. The Netherlands has a large black market in housing because of the high regulation of this industry. Denmark has a tax evasion movement so large that those in it seduced to politics have formed the second largest party. And these are only the grossest examples that the press has been able or willing to cover. Currency controls are evaded rampantly; in France, for example, everyone is assumed to have a large gold stash and trips to Switzerland for more than touring and skiing are commonplace.

To really appreciate the extent of this counter=economic activity, one must view the relatively free “capitalist” economies. Let us look at the black and grey markets [5] in North America and remember this is the case of lowest activity in the world today.

According to the American Internal Revenue Service, at least twenty million people belong in the “underground economy” of tax evaders using cash to avoid detections of transactions or barter exchange. Millions keep money in gold or in foreign accounts to avoid the hidden taxation of inflation. Millions of “illegal aliens” are employed, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Millions more deal or consume marijuana and other proscribed drugs, including laetrile and forbidden medical material.

And there are all the practitioners of “victimless crimes.” Besides drug use, there are prostitution, pornography, bootlegging, false identification papers, gambling, and proscribed sexual conduct between consenting adults. Regardless of “reform movements” to gain political acceptance of these acts, the populace has chosen to act now – and by so doing are creating a counter-economy.

But it doesnt stop here. Since the 55 mph speed limit enacted federally in the U.S., most Americans have become counter-economic drivers. The trucking industry has developed CB communications to evade state enforcement of regulations. For independents who can make four runs at 75 mph rather than three runs at 55 mph, counter-economic driving is a question of survival.

The ancient custom of smuggling thrives today from boatloads of marijuana and foreign appliances with high tariffs and truckloads of people from less- developed countries to the tourists stashing a little extra in their luggage and not reporting to customs agents.

Nearly everyone engages in some sort of misrepresentation or misdirection on their tax forms, off-the-books payments for services, unreported trade with relatives and illegal sexual positions with their mates.

To some extent, then, everybody is a counter-economist! And this is predictable from libertarian theory. Nearly every aspect of human action has statist legislation prohibiting, regulating or controlling it. These laws are so numerous that “Libertarian” Party which prevented any new legislation and briskly repealed ten or twenty laws a session would not have significantly repealed the State (let alone the mechanism itself!) for a millennia! [6]

Obviously, the State is unable to obtain enforcement of its edicts. Yet the State continues. And if everyone is somewhat counter-economic, why hasn’t the Counter-Economy overwhelmed the economy?

Outside of North America we can add the effect of imperialism. The Soviet Union has received support from the more developed countries in the 1930’s and large quantities of instruments of violence during World War II. Even today, “trade” heavily subsidized by non-repayable loans props up the Soviet and new Chinese regimes. This capital (or anti-capital, being destructive of value) flow, together with military aid, from both blocs maintains regimes in the rest of the globe. But that does not explain the North American case.

What exists everywhere on Earth allowing the State to continue is the sanction of the victim. [7] Every victim of statism has internalized the State to some degree. The IRS’s annual proclamation that the income tax depends on “voluntary compliance” is ironically true. Should the taxpayers completely cut off the blood supply, the vampire State would helplessly perish, its unpaid police and army deserting almost immediately, defanging the Monster. If everyone abandoned “legal tender” for gold and goods in contracts and other exchanges, it is doubtful that even taxation could sustain the modern State. [8]

This is where the State’s control of education and the information media, either directly or through ruling-class ownership, becomes crucial. In earlier days, the established priesthood served the function to sanctify the king and aristocracy, mystify the relations of oppression, and induce guilt in evaders and registers. The disestablishment of religion has put this burden on the new resisters. The disestablishment of religion has put this burden on the new intellectual class (what the Russians called the intelligentsia). Some intellectuals, holding truth as their highest value (as did earlier dissenting theologians and clerics), do work at clarifying rather than mystifying, but they are dismissed or reviled and kept away from State and foundation-controlled income. Thus is the phenomenon of dissidence and revisionism created; and thus is the attitude of anti-intellectualism generated among the populace who suspect or incompletely understand the function of the Court Intellectual.

Note well how anarchist intellectuals are attacked and repressed under every State; and those arguing for an overthrow of the present ruling class – even only to replace it with another – are suppressed. Those who propose changes which eliminate some beneficiaries of the State and add other\s are often laud ed by the benefiting elements of the Higher Circles and attacked by the potential losers.

A common characteristic of most hardened black marketeers is their guilt. They wish to “make their bundle” and return to the “straight society.” Bootleggers and hookers all long some day for re-acceptance in society – even when they form a supportive “sub-society” of outcasts. Yet there have been exceptions to this phenomenon of longing for acceptance: the religious dissenting communities of the 1700s, the political utopian communities of the 1800s, and most recently, the counter-culture of the hippies and New Left. What they had was a conviction that thir sub-society was superior to the rest of society. The fearful reaction to themselves they generated in the rest of society was the fear they were correct.

All of these examples of self-sustaining sub-societies failed for one overriding reason: ignorance of economics. No social binding, no mater how beautiful, can overcome the basic glue of society – division of labor. Thu anti-market commune defies the only enforceable law – the law of nature. The basic organizational structure of society (above the family) is not the commune (or tribe or extended tribe or State) but eh agora. No matter how many wish communism to work and devote themselves to it, it will fail. They can hold back agorism indefinitely by great effort, but when they let go, the “flow” or “Invisible Hand” or “tides of history” or “profit incentive” or “doing what comes naturally” or “spontaneity” will carry society inexorably closer to the pure agora.

Why is there such resistance to eventual happiness? Psychologists have been dealing with that since they began their embryonic science. But we can at least give two broad answers when it comes to socioeconomic questions: internalization of anti=principles (those seeming like principles but actually contrary to natural law) and the opposition of vested interests.

Now we can see clearly what is needed to create a libertarian society. One the one hand we need the education of the libertarian activists and the consciousness-raising of counter-economists to libertarian understanding and mutual supportive ness. “We are right, we are better, we are surviving in a moral, consistent way and we are building a better society – of benefit to ourselves and others,” our counter-economic “encounter groups” might affirm.

Note well that libertarian activists who are not themselves full practicing counter-economists are unlikely to be convincing. “Libertarian” political candidates undercut everything they say (of value) by what they are doing; some candidates have even held jobs in taxing bureaus and defense departments!

On the other hand, we must defend ourselves against the vested interests or at the very least lower their oppression as much as possible. If we eschew reformist activity as counter-productive, how will we achieve that?

One way is o bring more and more people into the counter-economy and lower the plunder available to the State. But evasion isn’t enough; how do we protect ourselves and even counter-attack?

Slowly but steadily we will move to the free society turning more counter- economists onto libertarianism and more libertarians onto counter-economics, finally integrating theory and practice. The counter-economy will grow and spread to the next step we saw in our trip backward, with an ever=-larger agorist sub-society embedded in the statist society. Some agorists may even condense into discernible districts and ghettos and predominate in islands or space colonies. At this point, the question of protection and defense will become important

Using our agorist model (Chapter 2), we can see how the protection industry must evolve. Firstly, why do people engage in counter-economics with no protection? the pay-off for the risk they take is greater than their expected loss. This statement is true, of course, for all economic activity, but for counter-economics it requires special emphasis:

The fundamental principle of counter-economics is to trade risk for profit. [9]

The higher the expected profit, the greater the risk taken. Note that if risk is lowered, a lot more would be attempted and accomplished – surely an indicator that a free society is wealthier than an unfree one.

Risk may be lowered by increasing care, precautions, security (locks and stashes), and by trusting fewer persons of higher trustworthiness. The last indicates a high preference for dealing with fellow agorist and a strong economic incentive binding an agorist sub-society and an incentive to recruit or support recruitment.

Counter-economic entrepreneurs have an incentive to provide better security devices, places of concealment, instructions to help evasion and screen potential customers and suppliers for other counter-economic entrepreneurs. And thus is the counter-economic protection industry born.

As it grows, it may begin insuring against “bursts,” lowering counter-economic risks further and accelerating counter-economic growth. Then it may provide lookouts and guarded areas of safekeeping with alarm systems and highly technological concealment mechanisms. Guards may be provided against real criminals (other than the State). Already many residential, business and even minority districts have private patrols, having given up on the State’s alleged protection of property.

Along the way the risk of contract-violation between counter-economic traders will be lowered by arbitration. Then the protection agencies will start providing contract enforcement between agorists, although the greatest “enforcer” in the early stages will be the State to which each can turn the other cone into. Yet that act would quickly result in one’s expulsion from the sub-society; so an internal enforcement mechanism will be valued.

In the final stages counter-economist transactions with statists will be enforceable by the protection agencies and the agorists protected against the criminality of the State. [10]

At this point we have reached the final step before the achievement of a libertarian society. Society is divided between large agorist areas inviolate and statist sectors. And we stand on the brink of Revolution.


Footnotes
———

[1] Micro and macro are terms from present Establishment economics. While Counter-Economics is part of agorism (until the State is gone), agorism includes both Counter-Economics in practice and libertarianism in theory. Since that theory includes an awareness of the consequences of large-scale Counter-Economic practice, I will use agorist in the macro sense and counter- economic in the micro sense. Since the division is inherently ambiguous, some overlap and interchangeability will occur.

[2] “Counter-Economics” was formed the same way as “counter-culture;” it does not mean anti-economic science any more than counter-culture was anti-culture.

[3] This volume, Counter-Economics (the book), has been begun and should be completed in 1981 and published in 1982 one way or the other, Market willing!

o Note to Second Edition: The Market is not yet willing, but soon…

[4] That class has been called the Ruling Class, Power Elite, or Conspiracy, depending on whether the analysis comes from a Marxist, Liberal, or Bircher background. The terms will be used inter changeably to show the commonality of the identification.

[5] While some coercive acts are often lumped into the label “black market,” such as murder and theft, the vast majority of this “organized crime” is perfectly legitimate to a libertarian, though occasionally unsavory. The Mafia, for example, is not black market but as government over some of the black market which collects protection money (taxes) from its victims and enforces its control with executions and beatings (law enforcement), and even conducts wars when its monopoly is threatened. These acts will be considered red market to differentiate them from the moral acts of the black market which will be discussed below. In short, the “black market” is anything non-violent prohibited by the State and carried on anyways.

The “grey market” is used here to mean dealing in goods and services not themselves illegal but obtained or distributed in ways legislated against by The State. Much of what is called “white-collar crime” falls under this and is smiled upon by most of society.

Where one draws the line between black and grey market depends largely on the state of consciousness of the society one is in. The red market is clearly separable. Murder is red market; defending oneself against a criminal (when the State forbids self-defense) – including a police officer – is black in New York City and grey in Orange County.

[6] Thus an “L”P would perpetuate statism. In addition, and “L”P would preserve the ill-gotten gain of the ruling class and maintain the State’s enforcement and execution.

[7] An example of how this works may be helpful. Suppose I wished to receive and sell a contraband or evade a tax or violate a regulation. Let’s say I can make $100,000 a transaction.

Using government figures on criminal apprehension, always exaggerated in the State’s favor simply because they cannot know how much we got away with, I find an apprehension rate of 20%. One may then find out the percentage of those cases that come for trial and the percentage of those that result in conviction even with a good lawyer. let’s say 25% make it to trial and 50% result in conviction. (The latter is high but we’ll throw in the legal fees involved so that even a decision involving loss of legal costs but acquittal is still a “loss.”) I therefore incur a 2.5% risk (.20 x .25 x .50 = 0.025). This is high for most real cases.

Suppose my maximum fine is $500,000 or five years in jail – or both. Excluding my counter-economic transactions (one certainly cannot count them when deciding whether or not to do them), I might make $20,000 a year so that I would lose another $100,000. It’s very hard to ascribe a value to five years of incarceration, but at least in our present society it’s not too much worse than other institutionalization (school, army, hospital) and at least the counter-economist won’t be plagued with guilt and remorse.

So I weigh 2.5% of $600,000 loss or $15,000 and five years against $100,000 gain! And I could easily insure myself for $14,000 (or less) to pay all costs and fines! In short, it works.

[8] It probably should be noted explicitly that businesses could grow quite large in the counter-economy. Whether or not “wage workers” would exist instead of “independent contractors” for all steps of production is arguable, but this author feels that the whole concept of “worker-boss” is a holdover from feudalism and not, as Marx claims, fundamental to “capitalism.” Of course, capital-statism is the opposite of what the libertarian advocates.

Furthermore, even large businesses today could go partially counter-economic, leaving a portion in the “white market” to satisfy government agents and pay some modicum of taxes and report a token number of workers. The rest of the business would (and already often does) expand off the books with independent contractors who supply, service, and distribute the finished product. Nobody, no business, no worker, and no entrepreneur need be white market.

“Geoanarchism” by Fred Foldvary

The name

The American economist and philosopher Henry George began a movement named after him, thus called Georgism or Georgist. Recently his followers have recognized that this name is unsatisfactory, because 1) the basic ideas preceded George, 2) there are other concepts in the movement that George did not concern himself with, 3) the desire is not to follow a particular man but to seek truth and justice. Therefore, many adherents are now calling the doctrine “geoism,” geo standing both for land (as in geography) and for George. I will follow this usage here, having had some part in propagating it since the early 1980s, when I coined the word “geo-libertarian” for an article by that name which appeared in “Land and Liberty”.

The economics

We begin with the classical division of the inputs of production, or “factors” as economists call them. The three classical factors are land, labor, and capital goods.

Land includes all natural resources, and excludes all that is a product of human action. Labor is any human exertion in the production of wealth (goods and services). Capital goods are produced tools, goods which serve to produce other goods. All improvements to a location are capital goods, including clearing, draining, and preparing a site for construction.

The main type of land I will focus on here is real estate – the three-dimensional surface of the earth. What follows regarding land concerns only spatial land and not material land, wildlife, wind, or water. Labor and capital goods tend to be mobile. They can move, and the supply can increase. Spatial land, in contrast, is immobile and fixed. It cannot be moved, imported, or expanded.

“Rent” as used here refers only to the return on land, or the yield of land net of normal expenses. This rent is determined by the supply and demand in the market. The economic rent is not necessarily the same as the financial rent that a tenant may pay a landlord. For example, suppose a highest bidder for a leasehold would bid $1000 per month, but at present, the current tenant is only paying $600. The economic rent is $1000, not the $600. The economic rent is the same whether the land is rented to another person or is occupied by the title holder.

The economic rent can be estimated from recent sales and leases of real estate. In come cases, raw or undeveloped land is sold or leased, or the title to the land is separate from the title to the building, with a different owner. Otherwise, the rent is estimated as a residual: estimate the total property value from recent sales and leases, calculate the replacement value of the buildings and other improvements, subtract actual depreciation, and the remainder of the current property value is land value.

The price of land is related to the rent of land by the equation

p = r/i, where p is price, r is the annual rent (assumed to be constant), and i is the real interest rate (subtracting out inflation). The price is thus the capitalized future rents. If there is a tax or assessment on the land value, then the rent also pays that charge, so

p = r/(i+t), where t is the assessment rate based on p. For example, if the land value is $100,000 and the assessment paid is $2000, then t is .02 or two percent.

Given t, we can calculate the fraction f of the rent paid:

f = t/(i+t), so that if i=.05 and t=.20, 80% of the rent would be paid.

Alternatively, if f is known and we want to find t,

t = fi/(1-f)

Land value or rent arises from two sources. One is the natural advantages of a site relative to other sites. The greater advantages create a higher rent in the better land. The second source of rent is the civic infrastructure serving a location, such as streets, transit, parks, security, and utilities such as street lighting. These add to the demand for land, raising the rent and price.

The produced wealth is distributed as income to the owners of the factors of production. Landowners having title to its income get the rent. Labor gets wages. Capital goods get a rental or return. Each factor gets paid according to its contribution to output.

Anarchist geoism

In a libertarian or anarchist world, some people might be unaffiliated anarcho-capitalists, contracting with various firms for services. But if we look at markets today, we see instead contractual communities. We see condominiums, homeowner associations, cooperatives, and neighborhood associations. For temporary lodging, folks stay in hotels, and stores get lumped into shopping centers. Historically, human beings have preferred to live and work in communities. Competition induces efficiency, and private communities tend to be financed from the rentals of sites and facilities, since this is the most efficient source of funding. Henry George recognized that site rents are the most efficient way to finance community goods because it is a fee paid for benefits, paying back that value added by those benefits. Private communities today such as hotels and condominiums use geoist financing. Unfortunately, governments do not.

Geoist communities would join together in leagues and associations to provide services that are more efficient on a large scale, such as defense, if needed. The voting and financing would be bottom up. The local communities would elect representatives, and provide finances, and would be able to secede when they felt association was no longer in their interest.

Statist geoism

Imposed governments, as all are today, mainly tax income and the sale of goods. These taxes get added to the costs of production, making labor and goods more expensive, while reducing net wages and profits. Such taxes reduce employment, production, and investment. They create a deadweight loss or excess burden on the economy beyond the taxes paid.

Henry George’s main aim was reform within the system. Given that states exist and impose taxation, what would be the way to minimize the oppression and burden. There is a lower excess burden on the economy if the public revenue comes from land rent than if it falls on labor, capital, or goods. The land does not diminish when taxed, so there is no reduction in production. There are also no audits or complicated records to keep. The use of rent is based on benefit: landowners benefit from civic works, and they pay back the increased rents and land values generated by them. While libertarians would prefer that civic works be privatized, so long as they are run by government, the least intrusive way to finance them is from rent.

Within the statist system, the geoist reform consists of abolishing all taxation except on land values or land rents. There would also be user fees where feasible, such as tuition payments for schooling.

The morality of rent

Geoism includes a moral philosophy regarding property. Human beings properly own their own bodies and lives. Henry George therefore stated that it is morally wrong to tax wages and the products of labor. He may have been the first to say that such taxation is theft. But self-ownership does not extend to land. Geoists recognize that markets function well when the owners control the use of property, and so geoism includes individual rights to possess land.

But it is not necessary for the title holder to keep the rent in order to put his land to best use. The rent is a surplus due to its better location, not to any effort by the title holder. Geoists also accept the Lockean view that human beings are morally equal. Therefore, the land rent due to nature ideally should belong to all humanity in equal shares. The land rent for all land that is used by people on the earth is rightfully owned pro-rata by all people on the earth at that time. This extends to previously unoccupied or new lands when they become used by people (example: mining on the moon) and the rent rises above zero.

However, only some of the rental of land is natural rent. Much of the rental is due to the civic infrastructure, and this rental is really a return on these capital goods and labor services. Ideally, that rental would be paid to the providers of the services according to a contract or agreement.

In a statist context, the collection of the site rentals by government is not as morally wrong as the taxation of labor and capital, for two reasons. One, the moral claim to natural rent is not as strong as the moral claim to one’s wages. Second, if the government provides the civic works, it generates rentals, and if the title holder keeps the rentals and workers are taxed, this is a redistribution of income from workers to landowners. So, given that the government provides civic works, the least immoral way to get the revenue is from land rent.

The community collection of rent and rental thus internalizes two externalities: those due to civic infrastructure and services, and that due to natural advantages.

In the anarchist context, private communities and companies would provide the civic works and collect the payments by contract. Geoist communities would try to assess how much of the rental is natural rent, and distribute that equally to the population in those communities. Market anarchists outside the geoist leagues would probably be hostile to this rent-sharing system and might refuse to trade with the geoists, but that would not be much of a problem for geoists, since the efficiency of geoism would attract much of the enterprise.

Conclusion

Geoism is a theory of economic justice and efficiency. Justice is implemented by having each person keep his whole earnings and getting a share of the benefits from nature. Efficiency is obtained by not imposing arbitrary costs and restrictions on human action. The market tends to provide community services the geoist way, while governments tend to restrict and impose costs on human action. Geoism is therefore in accord with liberty, and is the philosophy best suited to a society free of state oppression and tyranny.

Originally appeared at Anti-State.com.

“A “Political” Program for Anarchists” by Kevin Carson

INTRODUCTION

In On Community, a recent pamphlet on Gustav Landauer, Larry Gambone suggested the need for an “antipolitical movement” to dismantle the state, in order to eliminate obstacles to non-statist alternatives. It was no longer possible, he argued, merely to act outside the state framework while treating it as irrelevant. To do so entailed the risk that “you might end up like the folks at Waco.” In an earlier work, Sane Anarchy, he suggested a few items for the agenda of such a movement. I now submit a list of my own (after a few pages of preferatory comment), as a basis for discussion.

Many anarchists oppose in principle such use of the political process for anarchist ends. It is unethical, they say, for anarchists to participate in the political process. Voting entails selecting a representative to exercise coercive force in our name; and appealing to such representatives for action is in effect a recognition of their legitimacy. This is a view shared by many varieties of anarchists. At the left end of the spectrum, anarcho-syndicalists prefer to ignore the state; hence the Wobblies’ split with De Leon and the elimination of the “political clause” from the IWW Preamble. Many individualist anarchists, voluntaryists, and right-libertarians (Wendy McElroy, for instance) also take this position. The only acceptable course is to withdraw all consent and legitimacy from the state, until “the last one out turns off the lights.”

The problem with this line of argument is that the state is an instrument of exploitation by a ruling class. And exploiters cannot, as a group, be ethically “educated” into abandoning exploitation, because they have a very rational self-interest in continuing it. If most ordinary people simply withdraw consent and abandon the political process altogether, the ruling class will just drop the pretense of popular control and resort to open repression. So long as they control the state apparatus, a small minority of dupes from the producing classes, along with well-paid police and military jackboots, will enable them to control the populace through terror. A majority of Italian workers may have supported the factory occupations of 1920, but that didn’t stop the black shirts, paid with capitalist money, from restoring the bosses’ control.

But I’m not calling for “anarchist politicians” to run for office and exercise political power, like those who served the Generalitat in Catalonia. Our involvement in politics should take the form of pressure groups and lobbying, to subject the state to as much pressure as possible from the outside.

The answer, then, is active engagement to dismantle the interventionist state, without which exploitation would be impossible. This can be done only by broad-based, ad hoc coalitions, formed on an issue-by-issue basis. A good example is the ACLU-NRA alliance against Janet Reno’s police state. The congressional opposition to the Reichstag Enabling Act (oops–USA Patriot Act) of 2001 includes elements as disparate as Paul Wellstone and Bob Barr. Keith Preston argues that a viable anti-state movement will have to get beyond obsession with right and left:

An entirely new ideological paradigm needs to be developed. One that rejects the traditionalism and economic elitism of the Right and the statism of the Left. One that draws on the best and most enduring elements of classical liberalism, libertarian socialism and classical anarchism but adapts these to contemporary circumstances within a uniquely American cultural framework that appeals to the best within our libertarian and revolutionary traditions. Political and economic decentralization should be our revolutionary battle cry….

The original principles of classical anarchism–elimination of the authoritarian state, control of economies of scale by cooperative partnerships of producers, individualism, genuine liberation of outcast groups, resistance to war and imperialism, decentralization, voluntary association, intellectual and cultural freedom, mutual aid and voluntary cooperation–remain as relevant as ever in today’s world.

Karl Hess argued a long time ago that the flower of liberty should not be disregarded because its petals are red and black, instead of red white and blue. That, in turn, brings to mind David De Leon’s remark in The American as Anarchist that an anarchist movement genuinely native to the United States might prefer the Gadsden flag over the Red-and-Black.

We must also remember that “solidarity” is not something we reserve for our ideological clones. Recently a reader poll at Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed asked, “which of the following should we give solidarity to?” and then listed a number of groups–as if solidarity were some kind of special favor, and not something we were ethically bound to. We must show solidarity for any victim of injustice, when they are in the right, regardless of their overall position. If more of the left had expressed outrage over Ruby Ridge and Waco, it might have been the beginning of a coalition of right and left libertarians against the police state.

But there is a whole cottage industry of obsessive anti-rightists devoted to preventing such cooperation. I recently forwarded, to a Marxist discussion list, an article about a 15-year-old kid who beat a drug rap because of the prosecution’s ignorance of the law. I posted it because I thought the story was inspiring, not because I agreed with (or was even aware of) the right-wing ideological background of the source. An immediate response came from an associate of Chip Berlet, who seized on the opportunity for another “Right Woos Left” screed, without even commenting on the subject of the post. The attitude of such people toward the libertarian and populist right, it seems, is “I agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death to stop you from saying it.”

The Internet has opened up exhilirating possibilities for forms of opposition based on large, decentralized associations of affinity groups. The potential for such organization is alarming to those in power. A 1998 Rand study by David Ronfeldt (The Zapatists “Social Netwar” in Mexico, MR-994-A) warned that internet-based coalitions like the pro-Zapatista support network could overwhelm the government with popular demands and render society “ungovernable.” This study was written before the anti-WTO demonstrations, so the post-Seattle movement doubtless has our overlords in a panic. Such forms of organization make it possible to throw together ad hoc coalitions of thousands of affinity groups in a very short time; they can organize mass demonstrations, issue press releases in thousands of venues, and “swarm” the government and press with mass mailings, phone calls and emails. This resembles the “excess of democracy” and “crisis of governability” that Samuel Huntington warned of in the 1970s–but an order of magnitude beyond anything he could have imagined then. In the case of dismantling corporate state capitalism, our allies include not only anarchists and the libertarian left, but populists, constitution- alists, and libertarians on the right.

One important feature of this decentralized form of organization is its resilience in the face of state attempts at repression or decapitation. We should strengthen this feature by organizing redundant telephone, email and Ham radio trees within each radical organization, with similar redundant communications links between organizations, to warn the entire resistance movement as quickly as possible in the event of mass arrests.

And when the state attempts piecemeal arrests of a few leaders, one organization at a time, we should spread the news not only to “radical” groups and alternative press outlets as quickly as possible, but to the mainstream press. If you belong to an organization whose activists have been targeted in this way, spread the news far and wide on the net and in print, with contact information for the officials involved. If you find such a message in your in-box, take the time to call or email the jackboots with your complaints, and pass the news on to others. I recently called a local police force to protest the illegal arrest of some demonstrators after I saw an article in a newsgroup, and was told by a harried operator that they were so overwhelmed that they had to refer callers to the state police. Every crackdown on an organization should result in the state being swarmed with phone calls, and the press being saturated wth letters and press releases.

This is especially urgent in the present atmosphere. As of this writing (February 2002), the state is taking advantage of the 9-11 hysteria to see how much repression the public will tolerate. For example the jackboots forced the shutdown of IRARadio.com by threat-ening their ISP with seizure of assets for “supporting terrorism” (without need of a trial, of course). Since then, left-wing political activists have been subjected to all kinds of harassment. Nancy Oden, a national Green Party organizer, was subjected to humiliating treatment in an airport and denied passage. A group of SOA Watch activists were arrested by the US Border Patrol when they tried to enter Canada for a peaceful demonstration. The FBI has hinted in its literature that right-wing groups too “obsessed” with the constitution, or with monitoring the actions of federal law enforcement, may be added to the list of “terrorists.” As Morris Dees and Chuck Schumer have said, it’s dangerous when people don’t trust their government. Every time the state puts in its toe to test the water, it needs to be badly scalded by public opinion. How long will it be before the gestapo try to resurrect “criminal syndicalism” as a form of terrorism, and shut down the IWW?

At the same time, we must remember that our “political” strategy is only secondary. We are forced to pursue it only because the state actively interferes with our primary activity–what the Wobblies call “building the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.” This means self-organization at the grassroots level to build “alternative social infrastructure”–things like producers’ and consumers’ co-ops, LETS systems and mutual banks, syndicalist industrial unions, tenant associations and rent strikes, neighborhood associations, (non-police affiliated) crime-watch and cop-watch programs, voluntary courts for civil arbitration, community-supported agriculture, etc. The “libertarian municipalist” project of devolving local government functions to the neighborhood level and mutualizing social services also falls under this heading–but with services being mutualized rather than municipalized. (See also Brian A. Dominick, An Introduction to Dual Power Strategy).

Peter Staudenmeier, in a workshop on cooperatives at Ann Arbor, referred to such alternative forms of organization as “social counter-power.” Social counterpower takes the concrete forms of “prefigurative politics” and “counterinstitutions.”

Prefigurative politics is a fancy term that just means living your values today, instead of waiting until “after the revolution”–in fact it means beginning the revolution here and now to the extent possible. This might be called the everyday aspect of social counterpower. And counterinstitutions, of which co-ops are often an example, are the structural aspects of social counter-power.

Jonathan Simcock, on the Total Liberty homepage, described a vision of Evolutionary Anarchism that included

…Worker Co-operatives, Housing Co-operatives, self-employment, LETS schemes, Alternative Currencies, Mutual Banking, Credit Unions, tenants committees, Food Co-operatives, Allotments, voluntary organizations, peaceful protest and non-violent direct action and a host of similar activities are the means by which people begin to “behave differently”, to go beyond Anarchist theory, and begin to build the elements of a new society.

Our emphasis should be on building this society as much as possible without seeking direct confrontation with the authority of the state. But I am not a political pacifist in the sense of ruling out such confrontation in principle. No matter how industriously we work “within the shell of the old” society, at some point we will have to break out of the shell. At that point either the state will initiate force in order to abort the new society, or it will be so demoralized as to collapse quickly under its own weight, like the Leninist regimes in 1989-91. But either way, the final transition will probably be abrupt and dramatic, rather messy, and will almost certainly involve at least some violence.

On the revolutionary question, I think we should have two guiding principles. The first was formulated by Ed Stamm in his statement on the anti-WTO protests of December 1999: “any revolutionary activity must have massive popular support.” This will occur of itself if our educational and organizing efforts are successful. It will never be accomplished by vanguardism or “propaganda of the deed.” Second, it should not be attempted until we have built as much as we can within the existing structure. The birth pangs do not take place until the gestation is completed. There are some aspects of a stateless society–for example complete workers’ control of industry, or land ownership based only on occupancy and use–which cannot be fully accomplished short of final destruction of the present system of power. But we should achieve everything we can short of this before we begin the final push.

Anyway, there’s a lot we can do short of revolution. In attemp-ting to roll back the state, we should remember that our progress doesn’t depend on converting a majority of people to anarchism. We just have to appeal to the values we share with them on particular issues. And we don’t have to segregate ourselves into an ideologiclly pure, separatist movement of “real” anarchists and wait for the other 99 44/100% of society to come around. Progress isn’t all or nothing. As Larry Gambone argued in “An Anarchist Strategy Discussion,”

…a mass (populist) orientation requires that one search for all the various beliefs and activities that are of a general liber-tarian and social nature found among ordinary people. These would consist of any form of decentralism, direct democracy, region-alism, opposition to government and regulation, all forms of vol-untary association, free exchange and mutual aid.

In other words, we must approach people where they are, and make our agenda relevant to the things that concern them (see also Gambone, Sane Anarchy).

Anarchists belong to countless social and political organizations in which they are a decided minority. We can act within these groups to promote a libertarian agenda. That means making common cause with movements that are not anarchist per se, but aim nonetheless at pushing society in a freer and less exploitative direction. Some may be nominally on the right, like home-schoolers and gun rights people. But the divide between populism and elitism, or between libertarianism and authoritarianism, is a lot more important than the fetishism of left and right. To quote Gambone again, in What is Anarchism?

The future of anarchism, if there is one, will at best, involve a few thousand people, as individuals or small groups, in larger libertarian-decentralist organizations. (Some will choose to work alone, spreading the anarchist message through writings and publications.) It is imperative that such people, so few in number, yet with potential influence, should know what they are talking and writing about.

People who call themselves “anarchists” are probably not even one in a thousand, and may never be. But names aren’t important; substance is. Huey Long said that if fascism ever came to America, it would be in the name of “100% Americanism.” If anarchy ever comes, it will probably be in the name of “decentralism,” “participatory democracy,” or “economic justice.”

But why would the ruling classes allow even a piecemeal rollback of the state apparatus? Why would they not prefer repression to even a partial loss of privilege? The answer is that they will use open, large-scale repression only as a last resort. (Even if we are in the opening phase of such a repression in the aftermath of 9-11, the state will likely keep it low-key and sporadic as long as possible). Such repression is unlikely to succeed beyond the short-term, and could well result in a total loss of power under extremely bloody circumstances. Ruling classes are often willing to make short-term bargains to preserve their long-term power. Even though the ruling elites took the initiative in creating the New Deal welfare state, for example, they did so only as a necessary evil, to prevent the far greater evil of public insurrection. And of course, we cannot underestimate the human failings of denial and shortsightedness, the desire to postpone the inevitable a long as possible. Ruling classes are as prone as anyone else to the “boiled frog syndrome.”

Whenever it is strategically appropriate, we should coordinate the political program with the non-political program of alternative institution-building. The social movement can be used to mobilize support for the political agenda and to put pressure on the state to retreat strategically. The political movement can provide political cover for the social movement and make mass repression less feasible.

Even when it is imprudent for the social movement to resort to large-scale illegality, it can act as a “shadow government” to publicly challenge every action taken by the state (much like the shadow system of soviets and workers’ committees before the October Revolution). Even though such “shadow institutions” may be unable to implement their policies in the face of official opposition, that fact in itself is an opportunity to demand, “Why are you using government coercion to stop us from controlling our own schools, community, etc.?” (This can be especially effective in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Republicans’ bogus “populism,” with their appeals to decentralism and local control). The objective is to keep the state constantly off-balance, and force it to defend its every move in the court of public opinion.

Not all reductions in state power are equally important, and it could be disastrous to dismantle state functions in the wrong order. The main purpose of every state activity, directly or indirectly, is to benefit the ruling class. The central or structural functions of the state are the subsidies and privileges by which the concentration of wealth and the power to exploit are maintained. The so-called “progressive” functions of the state (despite Arthur Schlesinger’s fantasies to the contrary) are created by the ruling class, acting through the government as their executive committee, to stabilize capitalism and clean up their own mess.

Therefore it is essential that the state should be dismantled in sequence, starting with the structural foundations of corporate power and privilege; after a genuine market is allowed to destroy the concentration of power and polarization of wealth, and remove the boot of exploitation from the neck of labor, the superfluous welfare state can next be dismantled. This should not be confused with the social-democratic “anarchism” of Noam Chomsky. I do not advocate strengthening the state to break up “private concentrations of power.” Capitalist power could not survive without the state. The only issue is what state functions to dismantle first.

Since I approach this largely (although not entirely) from Benjamin Tucker’s version of mutualism, I begin with the big three forms of statist privilege according to Tucker–the money, patent and land monopolies.

THE PROGRAM

BANKING. As a minimal first step, repeal all market entry bar-riers to credit unions which are more restrictive than regulations for ordinary commercial banks. The ultimate goal is an end to all restrictions on the formation of mutual banks and the private issuance of banknotes, and all state-mandated backing for currency. The banking industry would no doubt heartily oppose this. Its stooges, like Phil Gramm (who normally waxes eloquent on the glories of the “free market”), would shamelessly invoke the public’s right to a government guarantee of “sound money.” As in most cases, the solution is exposure: of the hypocrisy of the New Right according to their own avowed “free market” principles, of the inequity of the privileges they support, and of the extent to which the average person is forced to labor for their benefit. Gary Elkin argued in “Mutual Banking” that the reform might be accomplished throught the back door with LETS or barter clubs, using the pretext that they were only facilitating exchange rather than creating money.

PATENTS. The minimal first steps here are to end patent protections for any product or technology developed with government money, to eliminate the R&D tax credit, and to scale back patent law (including GATT IP protections) to something resembling traditional Anglo-American patent law. The latter means, among other things, significantly reducing the term of protection, and requiring the holder of a patent to work it in every country where privileges are claimed. The ultimate goal is to eliminate all patent laws.

As in the case of banking, the pseudo-“free market” hypocrites will noisily appeal to the need to reward innovation and protect every fledgling Thomas Edison from theft of his hard work. The solution, again, is to proclaim the facts and the opposition’s hypocrisy as loudly as possible. For example, in response to the alleged need to recoup research costs, we point out the high percentage of R&D that is underwritten by government spending. Or the fact that, according to business surveys, 86% of new technology would be developed without patents merely for the sake of maintaining competitiveness. Or that much of the concentration of industry results from buying up patents (for example the U.S. chemical industry being virtually created from scratch when Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer gave away seized German chemical patents to a handful of U.S. companies).

LANDLORDISM. Our ultimate goal here is an end to legal guarantees for absentee land ownership, and their replacement with property rights based on occupation and use. This is a case where the new society cannot be built until the shell of the old has been cracked open. There is only a limited amount that can be done in intermediate steps, short of a decisive and final dismantling of state power. Like the right of absentee ownership of industrial means of production, the plutocrats will not surrender the legal principle of absentee land ownership without a political Armageddon.

So long as the state is bound in legal prinicple to enforce property rights of landlords, any victory won by squatters will be only short-term and local, without permanent results of any significance. But the other side of the coin is that squatters are indigent and homeless people with very little to lose–after all, some people reportedly commit some minor crime around first frost every year just to get three hots and a cot until spring. If every vacant or abandoned housing unit in a city is occupied by the homeless, they will at least have shelter in the short term until they are forcibly evacuated. And the political constraints against large-scale brutality (if the squatters restrict themselves to non-violent tactics and know how to use the press to advantage) are likely to be insurmountable. In the meantime, the squatters’ movement performs a major educative and propaganda service, develops political consciousness among urban residents, draws public attention and sympathy against the predatory character of landlordism, and–most importantly–keeps the state and landlords perpetually on the defensive.

Even within the existing legal framework, tenant unions strengthen the hand of occupiers against absentee owners and reduce landlords’ ability to exact rent by monopolizing property. Karl Hess, in Neighborhood Power, referred to tenant strikes which led to the legal expropriation of the landlords. In some cities, the laws regulating collective bargaining between tenants and landlords required tenants to put their rent into an escrow account during a strike. Some slumlords were eventually forced into bankruptcy by rent strikes, and were then bought out with their tenants’ escrow money! The legal branches of the movement, like tenant unions and neighborhood assemblies, can also be used to apply pressure and political cover for squatters. The squatters’ and tenants’ movements can escalate and mutually reinforce pressure on the state.

Some states grant homestead exemptions for average-sized residential properties or family farms. Others provide bankruptcy protections for a principal residence. Both practices should be expanded as widely as possible, perhaps through referenda and initiated acts. As in the case of all other taxation, tax relief should occur from the bottom up, by removing as many ordinary people as possible from the tax rolls.

Government ownership of land should be eliminated as quickly as possible, through a new homesteading policy. This is one case in which property rights based solely on occupation and use can be established without displacing existing prorietors. Parcels of land big enough for subsistence could be provided at no cost, but with perpetual covenants attached to the deed by which absentee ownership would be unenforceable in court, and likewise even possessory rights would be unjusticiable for more than one such parcel in the same hands. This policy may be partially qualified in a couple of instances mentioned below.

IMPERIALISM AND MILITARISM. The national security state, military Keynesianism, foreign imperialism, and state-promoted globalization, all interact massively not only to bolster corporate capitalism at home, but to bring the people and resources of the entire world under the control of transnational corporations. Our ultimate goal, not realizable until the final liquidation of the U.S. government, is to dismantle the armed forces and devolve their functions and resources to decentralized federations of local militias. In the meantime we must press to eliminate all foreign military obligations and limit the mission of the armed forces to defending the territory of the United States.

A military budget commensurate with this mission would be far less than $100 billion, effectively eliminating the military-industrial and military-scientific complexes, and the system of state-planned capitalism at the commanding heights of the corporate economy. Along with it would go the imperial presidency and the whole extra-constitutional structure created by the National Security Act. Also eliminated would be the School of the Americas, the CIA’s Operations Directorate, and the rest of the rabbit warren of agencies which support military dictators, secret police and death squads around the world.

The best way to promote this is to take advantage of every opportunity to expose their evil deeds. We should do everything possible to disseminate the kinds of information available, for instance, in William Blum’s Killing Hope or the Virtual Truth Commission website, and show solidarity with organizations like SOA Watch. Every public statement by someone like Jean Kirkpatrick or Maudlin Albright, about how much the U.S. has done to promote freedom and peace in the world, needs to be challenged. The public needs to see facts–facts by the ream and by the truckload–to see for themselves the hundreds of thousands, the millions of atrocities committed on a global scale since 1945 with active or passive U.S. complicity.

Larry Gambone’s scenario in Sane Anarchy, of mass protests in the capital providing political cover for local libertarian movements, is quite relevant on an international scale. When the U.S. government prepares to crush an uncooperative regime like Guatemala or Nicaragua, the movement here at home needs to undertake mass demonstrations and general strikes in support of the target country’s independence.

Finally under this heading, the U.S. should with all deliberate speed disengage from global agencies of economic governance like the World Bank, IMF, and WTO. Third World debt should be forgiven or eliminated, as quickly as can be done without a total collapse of the banking system. International patent law accords should be abrogated, and the U.S. should scale back its recognition of international patent rights commensurate with the scaleback at home–ideally to the point of eliminating them altogether. In the absence of the U.S. role in bolstering landlord-general oligarchies and encouraging IMF pressure toward corporation-friendly laws, the ordinary people of Third World countries could take their societies in the direction of cooperative or mutualist forms of economic organization.

This is another area in which a mass movement can be used to pressure the state in the proper direction, build solidarity with foreign resistance movements, and educate the American public. The role of anti-globalization demonstrations, in drawing public attention to secret meetings and contesting the authority and expertise of the oligarchy’s pet suits there is priceless. But two caveats are in order. First, the demonstrators should refrain from smashing windows and blocking streets; such tactics only reinforce the public perception that “radicalism” is at odds with the mores of the average person, and needs to be contained in the interest of “public safety.”

Second, we should contest the perception of right-wing anti-globalists (think Perot and Buchanan) and AFL-CIO bureacrats who see globalization as a benefit to the Third World at the expense of the American people. We should draw attention to the fact that globali-zation benefits only corporate elites, at the expense of ordinary people in both the West and the Third World. The best way to fight the “race to the bottom” is through strategic alliances between American labor and workers’ movements in the developing world.

Anarchists should also cooperate with the efforts of people in other countries to organize grass-roots, mutualist alternatives to the state and to capitalism. The collapse of communism left a political vacuum in the former Soviet bloc. The vacuum was filled by an alliance between, on the one hand, transnational corporations and the IMF, and on the other a new authoritarian state dominated by the mafia of former Party apparatchiks. The civil society of Russia had atrophied under seventy years of totalitarian brutality, and there was no tradition of grass-roots organization to replace the authoritarian system.

In society after society, from the Soviet bloc to South Africa and Indonesia, the old authoritarian system of power crumbles only to be replaced by a new form of authoritarianism. The reason is that there is no alternative libertarian system capable of challenging the state. In Argentina right now, the left is calling for the creation of workers’ councils, for a federation of such councils with delegates recallable at will, and for a workers’ militia to defend the councils. But that is the kind of thing you organize the nucleus of in the twenty years before the central government collapses, not afterward. Once a conventional nation-state government is established, no matter how “progressive,” the nation has a new spokesman on whom the transnational corporate order can exert pressure. We can be sure that representa-tives of the IMF and the U.S. State Department have already met behind closed doors in Buenos Aires, and threatened (as they did Allende thirty years earlier) to “squeeze the Argentine economy until it screams” if it repudiates the neoliberal agenda.

The anti-globalization movement here must aid those in the Third World trying to organize unions, peasant cooperatives, and other grass-roots organs of empowerment. Americans today, as in Tocqueville’s day, are an unusually ingenious people when it comes to spontaneous, voluntary forms of social organization. One vitally important aspect of such activity is to encourage the development of intermediate, human-scale technology that can increase the economic productivity and self-sufficiency of peasant communities. A shared set of Appropriate Technology Sourcebook–an indexed collection of 150,000 pages available on fiche or CD-ROM for $495–is probably the best single thing that a cluster of Third World villages could have. (Except for sending all the landlords and generals to Boot Hill–but one thing at a time).

POLICE STATE. We must fight to restore an absolutist understanding of the due process guarantees of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and to dismantle the police state that has grown up in the name of fighting drugs, terrorism, gangs, and other crime. Fighting for an absolutist interpretation of the Bill of Rights is much more important than repealing the substance of drug prohibition, because procedure is generally more important to liberty than substance. I’d much rather live under the substantive drug laws of Turkey or Singapore, enforced according to the ACLU’s standard of due process, than the reverse.

At the highest level, this means eliminating Operation Garden Plot and the entire infrastructure of executive orders providing for martial law and domestic surveillance of “subversives.” It means overturning Jackboot Schumer’s unconstitutional “counter-terrorism” legislation and the USA PATRIOT Act.

It means cutting off the head of civil forfeiture (a doctrine borrowed from the prerogative law of bodies like the admiralty courts that so offended the Revolutionaries) and cauterizing the stump. No one should ever forfeit property to the state without being convicted of a crime, period. This should apply not only to drug law, but to all other forms of regulatory enforcement by “administrative bodies” like the IRS, EPA, etc.

Under the heading of the Fourth Amendment, this means prohibiting “no-knock warrants” merely to prevent destruction of drug evidence; no “sneak-and-peek” searches in which suspects are unable to prevent the planting of evidence; no snooping of bank accounts, email or internet usage without a warrant from a local judge. It means the citizen must be guaranteed a “reasonable expectation of privacy” against warrantless searches by flyovers, infrared or other high-tech means, etc. It means an end to public surveillance cameras mated to biometric technology, along with all attempts to make writing checks and other daily activities dependent on some form of biometric identification system. Court rulings must be overturned that make it unlawful to resist even an unlawful invasion or arrest.

An absolutist reading of the Bill of Rights also means restoring the principle of posse comitatus against domestic police action by the National Guard, and prohibiting cooperation between local police and Delta Force, military intelligence, or other regular military assets. It also means restoring the power of free juries to decide questions of law as well as fact, and to refuse to enforce unjust laws. The erosion of jury rights, like that of much of the rest of our civil liberty, reflects the loss of the Eighteenth Century Commonwealth, or Anglo-republican, understanding of common law due process, and its replacement by a Blackstonian/Mansfieldian/prerogative law framework.

There are several grass-roots movements that could cooperate fruitfully with anarchists. One is the anti-drug war movement, including state level movements to decriminalize cannabis entirely or only for medical purposes. The cannabis front is especially smart tactically, because the feds depend on states and localities (through “joint task forces”) for the overwhelming bulkj of enforcement. Since most drug arrests and seizures are for pot, these state initiatives can throw a monkey-wrency into the gears of the drug war even if pot remains illegal at the federal level. Another tactic is to pressure local police forces not to participate in federal jackboot thuggery–for example, the Portland PD’s recent decision not to cooperate with Ashcroft in racial profiling of Middle Easterners and South Asians. Finally, cop-watch programs of all sorts are a way to serve notice to the police that the public eye is on them, and to expose issues of abuse of power to a wide audience. In all these projects, we can find much common ground with organizations like the Fully Informed Jury Association, the ACLU, and the National Lawyers Guild.

TRANSPORTATION. Our goal is to end all state subsidies to highways, trucking, airlines, railroads, and merchant marines. All infrastructure spending should be funded by user fees, assessed pro rata according to the cost imposed on the system. The state power of eminent domain should be abolished. These policies underwrite the cost of shipping freight, and thus subsidize the centralization of the economy.

This centralization leads to great inefficiency, and could not occur unless it were subsidized. Most factories operate at several times maximum economy of scale. Even when they operate at peak efficiency in terms of unit cost, this is offset (according to Borsodi’s Law) by increased distribution costs. Specialists in economy of scale like Walter Adams estimate that peak efficiency for most firms of manufacturing are reached by plants serving about one percent of the U.S. market. According to Barry Stein, this scale could be reduced by two-thirds with only about a 5% increase in unit cost of production, more than offset by reduced shipping costs. Kirkpatrick Sale believes that most kinds of light consumer goods could be produced by factories of fewer than fifty workers, and that communities of a few thousand could be self-sufficient in everything but the most capital-intensive items. Eliminating the transportation subsidy alone would take us a long way in this direction.

SYNDICALISM. Full-scale worker control of production, like land ownership based on possession, cannot be achieved until the state is finally dismantled by some dramatic and revolutionary process. These are the last bastions of privilege, which the ruling class will never surrender until the final extremity. But much can be done to reduce exploitation, even under formal capitalist ownership. Exploitation of labor–i.e., the extraction of surplus value–is impossible without state intervention. Every system of exploitation has involved a ruling class that controlled access to the means of production, in order to exact a tribute in the form of unpaid labor. In the case of American capitalism, banking laws enforce an artificial scarcity of credit and keep workers in debt slavery–both powerful forms of labor discipline. As a result, workers are forced to sell their labor in a buyer’s market. But without such restrictions on access to cheap capital, and without other forms of exploitation like patents, taxes, etc., the availability of abundant cheap credit would drastically alter the balance of power between capital and labor, and wages would approach value-added.

In such an improved bargaining position, unions can likewise achieve a measure of de facto veto power over decisions affecting the production process. One impediment to such control, however, is federal labor law. All restrictive labor legislation, but most particularly Taft-Hartley, should be dismantled, leaving in effect only Norris-LaGuardia, which removed federal troops and court injunctions from labor disputes altogether. This would mean an end to the federal role in supervising certification votes and guaranteeing the right to organize, true enough. But it would also mean an end to restrictions on secondary sympathy and boycott strikes, general strikes, sit-downs, and other forms of direct action. All these tactics, by which the labor victories of the 1930s were won, are now illegal–a loss for which the paper guarantee of a right to organize is pretty sorry compensation. It was probably easier to organize a union in the 1930s by entering a plant in a flying squadron, and telling workers to “shut her down,” than it is today to persuade people in cold blood to risk their jobs and spend years jumping through all the NLRB’s hoops.

For labor to wage a successful class war, it must think in terms of war, not “rights” or “the law.” The mainstream unions are psychologically addicted to the legacy of the New Deal “social compact.” Their inability to think outside the limits of the NLRB process is a severe handicap. Labor must think in terms of war, using all the means at their disposal, limited only by srategy and by their own sense of justice, without regard to “established procedures.” One of the most effective things we could do would be to send a copy of the Wobbly pamphlet “How to Fire Your Boss” to every union that has just lost a strike. It’s at that point, when they’ve been kicked in the teeth for playing by the bosses’ rules, that they might be interested in learning how to play by their own rules. Instead of organizing and striking according to the bosses’ labor laws (and giving the bosses a chance to break the union and replace them with scabs), workers need to do what works–unannounced one-day strikes at random intervals, “good work” strikes, “open mouth sabotage,” working to rule, etc.

All legislative barriers to union-controlled pension funds, and to investment of pension funds in company stock, should be repealed. Corruption and fiscal accountability are indeed issues; and some union rank-and-file may understandably be afraid to put all their eggs in one basket (Enron, obviously). But control of a major voting bloc of shares is one way for workers to exert control over corporate policy, if they can effectively control the union officers. In some cases, such a bloc of shares might make an employee buyout more feasible.

Most existing “employee-owned” companies don’t go nearly far enough. The shares aren’t equal, managers have more voting power, and shares can be marketed so that the cooperative nature of the enterprise decays. Such enterprises are often organized along the same centralized, top-down lines as capitalist enterprises, only with the board elected by employees. But any step in the right direction is better than what we have now, and we can encourage new forms of cooperative organization with department self-management, election of managers, non-marketable shares, etc. And a union local is a lot more amenable to genuine, grass-roots democratic control than the state. Apologists for capitalism like to crow that we already live under “pension fund socialism,” because workers own so much of the means of production through pension fund stock. Let’s make them crow out the other side of their mouths.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY. J.K. Galbraith moralized on the theme of “private opulence and public squalor,” but failed to recognize it as resulting from the very nature of “public” property. State property inevitably becomes squalid because it is administered by bureaucrats; in the absence of private or small group proprietary interests, nobody has any personal reason to take care of it. Most environmental damage takes place on government property. All the despoilation of “public” land by the oil, mining, timber and cattle industries is done by businesses that use their political influence to get access rights or leases far below market value. If the land is auctioned off instead of just leased at sweetheart prices, the bidding is open only to companies in the industry that wants the resources. Just another form of crony capitalism.

But imagine, for example, if the lumber companies actually had to buy the land where the giant redwoods grow. The government would sell the land in publicly advertised auctions, accepting bids over several months by mail and over the Internet. Bidding would be open to all interested parties, including environmental groups, not just a handful of lumber companies. It would hardly be profitable in these circumstances to destroy the trees for lumber at their market price. A similary policy regarding oil industry access to ANWR would make the issue of pollution a moot point.

The status of government land with such resources complicates the issue of homesteading policy. Until large timber or mining companies completely disintegrate under the effect of dismantling subsidies and privileges, such valuable land can hardly be open to ownership based on possession; it would amount to giving it away free to the present despoilers. (Of course, ownership could be awarded to the actual human occupiers working the land, rather than to the fictitious corporate entity; but this would probably be politcally impossible so long as the corporate elite retained any sizable amount of power.) Such land might instead be auctioned off to industry at market prices before any general homestead policy was implemented. Covenants could be attached providing that ownership would be based only on immediate possession and use after the property changed hands for the first time. When workers finally established labor self-management, these resources would become the cooperative property of those working them.

This would still leave the problem of economic rent, with producers cooperatives which controlled valuable land being in a position to extract excessive prices. But I imagine that, in a system of property ownership based on possession, local associations for mutual defense would develop some way to regulate ownership of especially productive land in an equitable way.

FEDERAL DEBT. Although I would prefer to repudiate the federal debt, this would probably be politically impossible in the short run. By the time a majority was convinced of the justice of such a policy, the state would be on the verge of collapse anyway–and that’s a lot of interest to pay in the meantime. So the immediate policy should simply be to retire the debt as fast as possible with budget savings. Short of renouncing the debt enirely, it might be possible to take some intermediate steps along lines advocated by populist and antifederalist groups in the 1780s. For example, some restrictions might be placed on honoring bonds at face value if they were sold to third parties. A distinction might also be made between small-scale bond holders and large scale holdings by the wealthy and by banks and corporations.

TAXES. Military spending, police state spending related to consensual crimes, corporate tax loopholes, and interest on the national debt, probably amount to half of federal revenue. All such savings should be translated into tax reductions. Since the wealth of the plutocracy results from state policies that allow them to live off the labor of producers, the producers should be the first to benefit from tax cuts, and the plutocrats should be the last. All targeted corporate tax exemptions and credits should be eliminated, and the corporate tax rate then lowered to be revenue neutral. All personal income tax cuts should take the form of increases in the personal exemption. This would eliminate the income tax for the overwhelming majority of the population, and let the coupon-clippers pay the full price of their “executive committee.” As the market effects of eliminating state capitalist subsidies are fully felt, the ranks of the plutocrats will quickly thin out. And the differential effects of applying tax cuts from the bottom up, in improving the relative competitive position of those on the bottom, will act as a partial remedy for past wrongs.

DECENTRALIZATION AND MUTUALIZATION OF “PUBLIC” SERVICES. Police, utilities, health and welfare services should all be devolved to the community or neighborhood level, and run whenever possible on a cooperative basis with control by the “customer.” At the same time every population unit of a few thousand people–small towns and urban neighborhoods–should organize government on the pattern of direct democracy, with public meetings and boards of selectmen, to exercise control of such government functions.

City-wide school boards should be eliminated, and each school turned into a consumers co-op, with the principal and staff becoming “selectmen” responsible to the parents. I tried to figure out the minimal tuition for a quality education, on the assumption that the parents of twenty or thirty kids pooled their own money to form a cooperative school. Taking into account things like renting a house for class space, and hiring teacher(s), the annual expense wouldn’t be over $1500 per pupil. Existing “public” schools, on the other hand, spend upwards of $6000. Most of the difference lies in the proliferation of parasitic bureaucrats with prestige salaries, and the fact that the state’s aura of majesty requires specially designed Stalinist architecture on the most expensive real estate in town.

This is a common pattern. When you try to figure out how much it would cost to organize a service for yourself, from the bottom up, and compare it to what you’re paying now, it’s stunning. Where does all the money go? It goes to support parasitic centralized bureaucracies with no incentive to economize. It’s amazing how creative and thrifty ordinary people can be when they’re spending their own money, instead of stolen loot.

“Public” and municipal hospitals should be made public in fact and organized on a cooperative basis, with the trustees directly responsible to those who use them. I’d like to see the reaction of white-collar bureaucrats, who ooze smarmy platitudes about “public service,” when they find out the public really is the boss.

But the issue of control is only a first step. Ultimately, we have to get away from our blind worship of authority in a white coat, and our belief that the “experts” reside in a big glass and steel building. As with schools, decentralization to the neighborhood level would result in massive savings in overhead. And taking responsibility for our own health would reduce the demand on hospitals significantly. I envision a clinic in each neighborhood, owned by its clients, with a minimal staff of MDs and a lot more primary care done house to house by nurses and paramedics. Sort of a cross between the Berkeley Cooperative Clinic and the Chinese “barefoot doctors.” As much as possible, emphasis would be shifted to prevention, and integration of allopathic with naturopathic and nutritional medicine. When such methods were not enough, members of local clinics would have access to more specialized, high-tech equipment owned jointly by all the neighborhood co-ops in a region. The medical school curriculum would resemble something set by Andrew Weil, instead of by the drug companies.

The ultimate goal in every case is to organize these services on a voluntary, cost basis, funded by user fees and dues rather than taxes, and thus eliminate the distinction between state and society. But the feasibility of doing this in the short term varies from case to case, and in some cases must await the final liquidation of the state. Some things, like education, cannot be done on a voluntary, cost basis until the liquidation of privilege results in a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. One candidate for immediate reorganization on a cost basis is utilities. Much of the incentive to urban sprawl lies in the fact that inhabitants of older, central areas are forced to pay higher rates to subsidize those in new developments (along with zoning codes against neighborhood grocers and other mixed-use development, which should also be abolished). The elimination of subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear power, and to utility companies, along with control by rate-payers in small decision-making units, will be a powerful incentive to conservation and the use of alternative energy. Many will choose to leave the grid in part or altogether, and dig their own wells, generate their own power, or compost waste.

In the case of police and fire service, the trend should be toward incorporating citizen-volunteers in the regular organizations. In a way, this resembles the practice in some co-ops of requiring members to perform services themselves to avoid the creation of a separate caste of wage-workers. The encouragement of widespread firearm ownership as a deterrent is a way to reduce as much as possible the need for an organized police force. The encouragement of armed neighborhood watch organizations, at the expense of “official” police forces, is another step in the right direction. At some point such voluntary organizations should be merged into the “public” organizations, with the posse comitatus entirely supplanting professional law enforcement. Combined with free local juries empowered to judge both law and fact, and with popular militias, this would be in many ways a return to the anglo-republican libertarian ideal of the Eighteenth Century.

Local government and social services are an area in which grass-roots “counterinstitutions” can be especially effective in coordination with the political movement. Neighborhood assemblies, cop watch/ neighborhood watch organizations, tenant unions, etc., are an excellent way to form the nucleus of a future non-statist form of local community organization. Such organizations can coordinate their activities with neighborhood co-ops, mutual banks, and LETS; they can undertake projects in energy and self-sufficiency. Earlier experiments like the Berkeley co-ops, the Black Panther school milk program, or the Adams-Morgan Organization (detailed in Karl Hess’ Community Technology) are excellent models to build on. There is a very broad area in which the decentralist, populist politics of Karl hess overlaps with that of Lorenzo Komboa Ervin; it is far too broad a front for the state to suppress, if the community strongly supports it.

AN END TO PROFESSIONAL LICENSING AND OTHER FORMS OF REGULATORY CARTELIZATION. This means no more use of medical licensing boards to enforce the drug industry’s “standards of practice” and stamp out alternative medicine. That means no more artificial inflation of doctors’ and lawyers’ fees through market entry barriers. That means an end to cartelization of the broadcast industry, and the replacement of the FCC licensing system with something resembling the common law of riparian rights. Such a system would allocate the broadcast spectrum on the basis of “first come, first serve.” The burden of proof would be on the offended party, rather than the accused.

SOURCES

Ken Darrow and Mike Saxenian. Appropriate Technology Sourcebook. Volunteers in Asia/Appropriate Technology Project (Stanford, 1993).
Brian A. Dominick. “An Introduction to Dual Power Strategy,”

http://messmedia.rootmedia.org/dualpower/dpintro.htm

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin. Anarchism and the Black Revolution. Anarchist People of Color website,

http://www.illegalvoices.org/apoc/books/abr/index.htm

Larry Gambone. “An Anarchist Strategy Discussion,” unpublished.

Gambone. On Community (Red Lion Press, 2001).

Gambone. Sane Anarchy (Red Lion Press, 1995).

Gambone. “What is Anarchism?” Total Liberty vol. 1 no. 3 Autumn 1998.

Karl Hess. Community Technology (Breakout Productions reissue, 1995).

Hess, and David Morris. Neighborhood Power: The New Localism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975).

Keith Preston. “Conservatism is Not Enough: Reclaiming the Legacy of the Anti-State Left” American Revolutionary Vanguard website,

http://www.attackthesystem.com

Jonathan Simcock. “Editorial for Current Edition, TL Homepage,

http://www.spunk.org/library/pubs/tl/sp001872.html

Ed Stamm. “Anarchists Condemn Anti-WTO Riots” The Match! Spring 2000.

Peter Staudenmaier. “Anarchism and the Cooperative Ideal,” The Communitarian Anarchist vol. 1 no. 1.

February 2002; last updated August 2002

Contact author at kevin_carson@hotmail.com

“Factions: Something For Everyone” by Karl Hess

Uniting only on the principle that force should not be initiated to advance a cause, personal, political, or philosophical, members of the Libertarian Party represent widely varying approaches to social action.

The most radical of these approaches, and proudly described as radical by those who follow it, is hard-line insistence that every libertarian action should be an action directly and unambiguously intended to abolish the nation state. The radical libertarian position does not advocate any compromise, any middle-ground, any realpolitik. It urges that the Libertarian Party place the enunciation of principled anti-state arguments foremost. Campaigns for elective office, in the radical view, serve as platforms for the dissemination of radical views.

The radical view is contrasted sharply with the minarchist, or minimum government viewpoint. The position here is that the Libertarian Party, by calling itself a political party, should take “real world” positions aiming at decreasing state power where it cannot abolish it; in short, being political and practical in action even when philosophical in discussion. Actually, to some minarchists, the abolition of the state, root and branch, is not clearly desirable. They hold to a notion of social agreement regarding governance which sees a role for a public agency with at least the scope of a state to protect property rights, reduce the cost of transactions, and, perhaps, even defend the continent. Yet, if they have agreed to join the Libertarian Party, they have also agreed that this arrangement of governance would have to be accomplished without the initiation of force.

A Libertarian Party member holding the radical view would not be likely to campaign on an issue that sought to reduce the economic distortions or garrison-state security measures of the Pentagon, but would prefer to campaign on proposals to abolish the Pentagon altogether and turn continental defense functions over to private military corporations. The other Libertarian Party viewpoint would be to campaign for immediately achievable revisions of existing security laws.

From these two viewpoints, different political styles emerge.

The radical view is represented by Presidential campaigns waged on precise and ideal statements of anti-state positions. The radical style is abolitionist.

The minimum government view is represented by Presidential campaigns waged with what are felt to be practical, achievable, and publicly attractive legislative alternatives to existing policies. Further, this viewpoint animates the actions of many Libertarian Party members who have concentrated on local political campaigns even when they involve only a limited opportunity to state the widest range of libertarian positions. In this localist view, the privatization of a single municipal service is useful even though it is not accomplished in a campaign that seeks the abolition of all public service.

There is developing within the Libertarian Party another political style that could be called one of synthesis. There are those who hold strongly to the radical position as a matter of personal conviction but who are willing to engage in practical political activities, particularly at the local level, which do not or cannot fully express those convictions. Their slogan might be “think radically, act practically.”

There will always, probably, be those in the Libertarian Party who will stand only for an unalloyed radical or an unalloyed minimum government position. Their arguments will constitute some of the most exciting debates of Libertarian conferences and communication. And those arguments will, as they are worked out, form the style of specific Libertarian Party activities, such as Presidential campaigns. The view of synthesis, meanwhile, may set the agenda for many local campaigns beyond the fundamentist debates.

Beyond these positions held internally within the Libertarian Party there are positions external to the Party but vital to the movement toward individual responsibility and liberty.

There is the well-formed view that any political activity, even the act of voting itself, is an endorsement of an over-arching nation state political system which can only be described as coercive. The fact that Libertarian Party members volitionally choose to engage in politics as, one could say, an act of self-defense is not accepted in the anti-party view. In the view of synthesis, the anti-party view is treasured as an expression of liberty itself. All that is asked is that anti-party energy — although certainly not arguments — concentrate its fire as fiercely on the nation state as on “heretical” libertarians. The other side of that street, of course, is that Party members (or partyarchs) follow the equivalent course.

Particularly challenging for members of the Libertarian Party is the anti-party suggestion that any political activity strengthens the nation state system and that the election of a Libertarian school board member, for instance, although it might lead to new freedom for private or home schooling locally, inexorably supports the nationalized school system in the broader sense.

It is not the responsibility of critics to prove this. It is the responsibility of Libertarian Party members to dis-prove it, and it is an implied fundamental proposition of the Party position that this can be done. It is the responsibility of Party members, also, to come to grips with the problem presented by volunteering to engage in the election of a hierarchical internal organization that must always skate on the thin ice of possible bureaucratization. Critics will be quick to point to the problems of such such an organization, mimicking, as it does, many of the features of traditional nation state institutions. Libertarian Party members, rather than responding with anger to such criticism, again, might respond with convincing proof that the spirit of liberty can survive such an organized framework.

There is, also, the totally isolationist view that any action in the public world is an invitation to mischief and to exposure to nation state pressure. There is, of course, no conflict here with the Libertarian Party since Party members choose voluntarily to ignore the isolationist advice, at their own freely chosen risk. A slight variation of the isolationist view is that carefully guarded commercial activities, not colliding with great state power or making claims on it, is the only proper activity for a libertarian. There could hardly be a Libertarian Party position that would oppose this. The Party’s goal includes the eventual freedom for all humans to engage in absolutely unfettered free market transactions. To those who can achieve the goal already, in their personal dealings, all libertarians must say hurray. There is, of course, nothing that bars, in principle or practice, any Libertarian Party member from pursuing their free market goals here and now as zealously as they are able. Local practical political action, it is hoped, can advance that freedom even though it may not be able to perfect it. Many hold the same hope for Presidential-level activities.

The Libertarian Party, with factions within itself, is itself just a faction of libertarianism generally. It is a faction of people who have chosen, of their own free will, to engage in certain political activities which they hold can have a positive effect on the protection of or the spread of liberty. Every Libertarian Party member should be grateful for the critical assaults launched against it by other libertarians. It helps keep them on their toes. And where that criticism proves unassailable and unanswerable then, in good sense, Libertarian Party members should act upon it. Similarly, when critical libertarians outside the Party find good work done by the Party, they may wish to join, support, or at least acknowledge it.

There seem many paths toward liberty, whether those paths are called factions or philosophies. We are each of us the means to our own ends. Perhaps it is just the journey itself that beckons us all.

Originally published in the Libertarian Party News Spring 1986.

“Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal” by Murray N. Rothbard

TWENTY YEARS AGO I was an extreme right-wing Republican, a young and lone “Neanderthal” (as the liberals used to call us) who believed, as one friend pungently put it, that “Senator Taft had sold out to the socialists.” Today, I am most likely to be called an extreme leftist, since I favor immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, denounce U.S. imperialism, advocate Black Power and have just joined the new Peace and Freedom Party. And yet my basic political views have not changed by a single iota in these two decades!

It is obvious that something is very wrong with the old labels, with the categories of “left” and “right,” and with the ways in which we customarily apply these categories to American political life. My personal odyssey is unimportant; the important point is that if I can move from “extreme right” to “extreme left” merely by standing in one place, drastic though unrecognized changes must have taken place throughout the American political spectrum over the last generation.

I joined the right-wing movement—to give a formal name to a very loose and informal set of associations—as a young graduate student shortly after the end of World War II. There was no question as to where the intellectual right of that day stood on militarism and conscription: it opposed them as instruments of mass slavery and mass murder. Conscription, indeed, was thought far worse than other forms of statist controls and incursions, for while these only appropriated part of the individual’s property, the draft, like slavery, took his most precious possession: his own person. Day after day the veteran publicist John T. Flynn—once praised as a liberal and then condemned as a reactionary, with little or no change in his views—inveighed implacably in print and over the radio against militarism and the draft. Even the Wall Street newspaper, the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, published a lengthy attack on the idea of conscription.

All of our political positions, from the free market in economics to opposing war and militarism, stemmed from our root belief in individual liberty and our opposition to the state. Simplistically, we adopted the standard view of the political spectrum: “left” meant socialism, or total power of the state; the further “right” one went the less government one favored. Hence, we called ourselves “extreme rightists.”

Originally, our historical heroes were such men as Jefferson, Paine, Cobden, Bright and Spencer; but as our views became purer and more consistent, we eagerly embraced such near-anarchists as the voluntarist, Auberon Herbert, and the American individualist-anarchists, Lysander Spooner and Benjamin R. Tucker. One of our great intellectual heroes was Henry David Thoreau, and his essay, “Civil Disobedience,” was one of our guiding stars. Right-wing theorist Frank Chodorov devoted an entire issue of his monthly, Analysis, to an appreciation of Thoreau.

In our relation to the remainder of the American political scene, we of course recognized that the extreme right of the Republican Party was not made up of individualist anti-statists, but they were close enough to our position to make us feel part of a quasi-libertarian united front. Enough of our views were present among the extreme members of the Taft wing of the Republican Party (much more so than in Taft himself, who was among the most liberal of that wing), and in such organs as the Chicago Tribune, to make us feel quite comfortable with this kind of alliance.

What is more, the right-wing Republicans were major opponents of the Cold War. Valiantly, the extreme rightist Republicans, who were particularly strong in the House, battled conscription, NATO and the Truman Doctrine. Consider, for example, Omaha’s Representative Howard Buffett, Senator Taft’s midwestern campaign manager in 1952. He was one of the most extreme of the extremists, once described by The Nation as “an able young man whose ideas have tragically fossilized.”

I came to know Buffett as a genuine and thoughtful libertarian. Attacking the Truman Doctrine on the floor of Congress, he declared: “Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns.”

When the Korean War came, almost the entire old left, with the exception of the Communist Party, surrendered to the global mystique of the United Nations and “collective security against aggression,” and backed Truman’s imperialist aggression in that war. Even Corliss Lamont backed the American stand in Korea. Only the extreme rightist Republicans continued to battle U.S. imperialism. It was the last great political outburst of the old right of my youth.

Howard Buffett was convinced that the United States was largely responsible for the eruption of conflict in Korea; for the rest of his life he tried unsuccessfully to get the Senate Armed Services Committee to declassify the testimony of CIA head Admiral Hillenkoeter, which Buffett told me established American responsibility for the Korean outbreak. The last famous isolationist move came late in December 1950, after the Chinese forces had beaten the Americans out of North Korea. Joseph P. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover delivered two ringing speeches back-to-back calling for American evacuation of Korea. As Hoover put it, “To commit the sparse ground forces of the non-communist nations into a land war against this communist land mass [in Asia] would be a war without victory, a war without a successful political terminal . . . that would be the graveyard of millions of American boys” and the exhaustion of the United States. Joe Kennedy declared that “if portions of Europe or Asia wish to go communistic or even have communism thrust upon them, we cannot stop it.”

To this The Nation replied with typical liberal Red-baiting: “The line they are laying down for their country should set the bells ringing in the Kremlin as nothing has since the triumph of Stalingrad”; and the New Republic actually saw Stalin sweeping onwards “until the Stalinist caucus in the Tribune Tower would bring out in triumph the first communist edition of the Chicago Tribune.”

The main catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from an isolationist and quasi-libertarian movement to an anti-communist one was probably “McCarthyism.” Before Senator Joe McCarthy launched his anti-communist crusade in February 1950, he had not been particularly associated with the right wing of the Republican Party; on the contrary, his record was liberal and centrist, statist rather than libertarian.

Furthermore, Red-baiting and anti-communist witch hunting were originally launched by liberals, and even after McCarthy the liberals were the most effective at this game. It was, after all, the liberal Roosevelt Administration which passed the Smith Act, first used against Trotskyites and isolationists during World War II and then against communists after the war; it was the liberal Truman Administration that instituted loyalty checks; it was the eminently liberal Hubert Humphrey who was a sponsor of the clause in the McCarran Act of 1950 threatening concentration camps for “subversives.”

McCarthy not only shifted the focus of the right to communist hunting, however. His crusade also brought into the right wing a new mass base. Before McCarthy, the rank-and-file of the right wing was the small-town, isolationist middle west. McCarthyism brought into the movement a mass of urban Catholics from the eastern seaboard, people whose outlook on individual liberty was, if anything, negative.

If McCarthy was the main catalyst for mobilizing the mass base of the new right, the major ideological instrument of the transformation was the blight of anti-communism, and the major carriers were Bill Buckley and National Review.

In the early days, young Bill Buckley often liked to refer to himself as an “individualist,” sometimes even as an “anarchist.” But all these libertarian ideals, he maintained, had to remain in total abeyance, fit only for parlor discussion, until the great crusade against the “international communist conspiracy” had been driven to a successful conclusion. Thus, as early as January 1952, I noted with disquiet an article that Buckley wrote for Commonweal, “A Young Republican’s View.”

He began the article in a splendid libertarian manner: our enemy, he affirmed, was the state, which, he quoted Spencer, was “begotten of aggression and by aggression.” But then came the worm in the apple: the anti-communist crusade had to be waged. Buckley went on to endorse “the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-communist foreign policy”; he declared that the “thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union” imminently threatened American security, and that therefore “we have to accept Big Government for the duration—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.” Therefore, he concluded—in the midst of the Korean War—we must all support “large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington.”

The right wing, never articulate, has not had many organs of opinion. Therefore, when Buckley founded National Review in late 1955, its erudite, witty and glib editorials and articles swiftly made it the only politically relevant journal for the American right. Immediately, the ideological line of the right began to change sharply.

One element that gave special fervor and expertise to the Red-baiting crusade was the prevalence of ex-communists, ex-fellow travelers and ex-Trotskyites among the writers whom National Review brought into prominence on the right-wing scene. These ex-leftists were consumed with an undying hatred for their former love, along with a passion for bestowing enormous importance upon their apparently wasted years. Almost the entire older generation of writers and editors for National Review had been prominent in the old left. Some names that come to mind are: Jim Burnham, John Chamberlain, Whittaker Chambers, Ralph DeToledano, Will Herberg, Eugene Lyons, J. B. Matthews, Frank S. Meyer, William S. Schlamm and Karl Wittfogel.

An insight into the state of mind of many of these people came in a recent letter to me from one of the most libertarian of this group; he admitted that my stand in opposition to the draft was the only one consistent with libertarian principles, but, he said, he can’t forget how nasty the communist cell in Time magazine was in the 1930’s. The world is falling apart and yet these people are still mired in the petty grievances of faction fights of long ago!

Anti-communism was the central root of the decay of the old libertarian right, but it was not the only one. In 1953, a big splash was made by the publication of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. Before that, no one on the right regarded himself as a “conservative”; “conservative” was considered a left smear word. Now, suddenly, the right began to glory in the term “conservative,” and Kirk began to make speaking appearances, often in a kind of friendly “vital center” tandem with Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

This was to be the beginning of the burgeoning phenomenon of the friendly-though-critical dialogue between the liberal and conservative wings of the Great Patriotic American Consensus. A new, younger generation of rightists, of “conservatives,” began to emerge, who thought that the real problem of the modern world was nothing so ideological as the state vs. individual liberty or government intervention vs. the free market; the real problem, they declared, was the preservation of tradition, order, Christianity and good manners against the modern sins of reason, license, atheism and boorishness.

One of the first dominant thinkers of this new right was Buckley’s brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, who wrote fiery articles in National Review attacking liberty even as an abstract principle (and not just as something to be temporarily sacrificed for the benefit of the anti-communist emergency). The function of the state was to impose and enforce moral and religious principles.

Another repellent political theorist who made his mark in National Review was the late Willmoore Kendall, NR editor for many years. His great thrust was the right and the duty of the majority of the community—as embodied, say, in Congress—to suppress any individual who disturbs that community with radical doctrines. Socrates, opined Kendall, not only should have been killed by the Greek community, whom he offended by his subversive criticisms, but it was their moral duty to kill him.

The historical heroes of the new right were changing rapidly. Mencken, Nock, Thoreau, Jefferson, Paine—all these either dropped from sight or were soundly condemned as rationalists, atheists or anarchists. From Europe, the “in” people were now such despotic reactionaries as Burke, Metternich, DeMaistre; in the United States, Hamilton and Madison were “in,” with their stress on the imposition of order and a strong, elitist central government—which included the southern “slavocracy.”

For the first few years of its existence, I moved in National Review circles, attended its editorial luncheons, wrote articles and book reviews for the magazine; indeed, there was talk at one time of my joining the staff as an economics columnist.

I became increasingly alarmed, however, as NR and its friends grew in strength because I knew, from innumerable conversations with rightist intellectuals, what their foreign policy goal was. They never quite dared to state it publicly, although they would slyly imply it and would try to whip the public up to the fever pitch of demanding it. What they wanted—and still want—was nuclear annihilation of the Soviet Union. They want to drop that Bomb on Moscow. (Of course, on Peking and Hanoi too, but for your veteran anti-communist— especially back then—it is Russia which supplies the main focus of his venom.) A prominent editor of National Review once told me: “I have a vision, a great vision of the future: a totally devastated Soviet Union.” I knew that it was this vision that really animated the new conservatism.

In response to all this, and seeing peace as the crucial political issue, a few friends and I became Stevensonian Democrats in 1960. I watched with increasing horror as the right wing, led by National Review, continually grew in strength and moved ever closer to real political power.

Having broken emotionally with the right wing, our tiny group of libertarians began to rethink many of our old, unexamined premises. First, we restudied the origins of the Cold War, we read our D.F. Fleming and we concluded, to our considerable surprise, that the United States was solely at fault in the Cold War, and that Russia was the aggrieved party. And this meant that the great danger to the peace and freedom of the world came not from Moscow or “international communism,” but from the U.S. and its Empire stretching across and dominating the world.

And then we studied the foul European conservatism that had taken over the right wing; here we had statism in a virulent form, and yet no one could possibly think these conservatives to be “leftist.” But this meant that our simple “left/total government—right/no government” continuum was altogether wrong and that our whole identification of ourselves as “extreme rightists” must contain a basic flaw. Plunging back into history, we again concentrated on the reality that in the 19th century, laissez-faire liberals and radicals were on the extreme left and our ancient foes, the conservatives, on the right. My old friend and libertarian colleague Leonard Liggio then came up with the following analysis of the historical process.

First there was the old order, the ancien régime, the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a despotic ruling class, using the church to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism; this was the right wing. Then, in 17th and 18th century western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition movement arose, our heroes, who championed a popular revolutionary movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government, free markets, international peace and separation of church and state, in opposition to throne and altar, to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy and war. These—”our people”—were the left, and the purer their vision the more “extreme” they were.

So far so good; but what of socialism, which we had always considered the extreme left? Where did that fit in? Liggio analyzed socialism as a confused middle-of-the-road movement, influenced historically by both the libertarian left and the conservative right. From the individualist left the socialists took the goals of freedom: the withering away of the state, the replacement of the governing of men by the administration of things, opposition to the ruling class and a search for its overthrow, the desire to establish international peace, an advanced industrial economy and a high standard of living for the mass of the people. From the right the socialists adopted the means to achieve these goals—collectivism, state planning, community control of the individual. This put socialism in the middle of the ideological spectrum. It also meant that socialism was an unstable, self-contradictory doctrine bound to fly apart in the inner contradiction between its means and ends.

Our analysis was greatly bolstered by our becoming familiar with the new and exciting group of historians who studied under University of Wisconsin historian William Appleman Williams. From them we discovered that all of us free marketeers had erred in believing that somehow, down deep, Big Businessmen were really in favor of laissez-faire, and that their deviations from it, obviously clear and notorious in recent years, were either “sellouts” of principle to expediency or the result of astute maneuverings by liberal intellectuals.

This is the general view on the right; in the remarkable phrase of Ayn Rand, Big Business is “America’s most persecuted minority.” Persecuted minority, indeed! Sure, there were thrusts against Big Business in the old McCormick Chicago Tribune and in the writings of Albert Jay Nock; but it took the Williams-Kolko analysis to portray the true anatomy and physiology of the American scene.

As Kolko pointed out, all the various measures of federal regulation and welfare statism that left and right alike have always believed to be mass movements against Big Business are not only now backed to the hilt by Big Business, but were originated by it for the very purpose of shifting from a free market to a cartelized economy that would benefit it. Imperialistic foreign policy and the permanent garrison state originated in the Big Business drive for foreign investments and for war contracts at home.

The role of the liberal intellectuals is to serve as “corporate liberals,” weavers of sophisticated apologias to inform the masses that the heads of the American corporate state are ruling on behalf of the “common good” and the “general welfare”—like the priest in the Oriental despotism who convinced the masses that their emperor was all-wise and divine.

Since the early ’60s, as the National Review right has moved nearer to political power, it has jettisoned its old libertarian remnants and has drawn ever closer to the liberals of the Great American Consensus. Evidence of this abounds. There is Bill Buckley’s ever-widening popularity in the mass media and among liberal intellectuals, as well as widespread admiration on the intellectual right for people and groups it once despised: for the New Leader, for Irving Kristol, for the late Felix Frankfurter (who always opposed judicial restraint on government invasions of individual liberty), for Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook. Despite occasional bows to the free market, conservatives have come to agree that economic issues are unimportant; they therefore accept—or at least do not worry about—the major outlines of the Keynesian welfare-warfare state of liberal corporatism.

On the domestic front, virtually the only conservative interests are to suppress Negroes (“shoot looters,” “crush those riots”), to call for more power for the police so as not to “shield the criminal” (i.e., not to protect his libertarian rights), to enforce prayer in the public schools, to put Reds and other subversives and “seditionists” in jail and to carry on the crusade for war abroad. There is little in the thrust of this program with which liberals can now disagree; any disagreements are tactical or matters of degree only. Even the Cold War—including the war in Vietnam—was begun and maintained and escalated by the liberals themselves.

No wonder that liberal Daniel Moynihan—a national board member of ADA incensed at the radicalism of the current anti-war and Black Power movements—should recently call for a formal alliance between liberals and conservatives, since after all they basically agree on these, the two crucial issues of our time! Even Barry Goldwater has gotten the message; in January 1968 in National Review, Goldwater concluded an article by affirming that he is not against liberals, that liberals are needed as a counterweight to conservatism, and that he had in mind a fine liberal like Max Lerner—Max Lerner, the epitome of the old left, the hated symbol of my youth!

In response to our isolation from the right, and noting the promising signs of libertarian attitudes in the emerging new left, a tiny band of us ex-rightist libertarians founded the “little journal,” Left and Right, in the spring of 1965. We had two major purposes: to make contact with libertarians already on the new left and to persuade the bulk of libertarians or quasi-libertarians who remained on the right to follow our example. We have been gratified in both directions: by the remarkable shift toward libertarian and anti-statist positions of the new left, and by the significant number of young people who have left the right-wing movement.

This left/right tendency has begun to be noticeable on the new left, praised and damned by those aware of the situation.(Our old colleague Ronald Hamowy, an historian at Stanford, set forth the left/right position in the New Republic collection, Thoughts of the Young Radicals (1966). We have received gratifying encouragement from Carl Oglesby who, in his Containment and Change (1967), advocated a coalition of new left and old right, and from the young scholars grouped around the unfortunately now defunct Studies on the Left. We’ve also been criticized, if indirectly, by Staughton Lynd, who worries because our ultimate goals—free market as against socialism—differ.

Finally, liberal historian Martin Duberman, in a recent issue of Partisan Review, sharply criticizes SNCC and CORE for being “anarchists,” for rejecting the authority of the state, for insisting that community be voluntary, and for stressing, along with SDS, participatory instead of representative democracy. Perceptively, if on the wrong side of the fence, Duberman then links SNCC and the new left with us old rightists: “SNCC and CORE, like the Anarchists, talk increasingly of the supreme importance of the individual. They do so, paradoxically, in a rhetoric strongly reminiscent of that long associated with the right. It could be Herbert Hoover . . . but it is in fact Rap Brown who now reiterates the Negro’s need to stand on his own two feet, to make his own decisions, to develop self-reliance and a sense of self-worth. SNCC may be scornful of present-day liberals and ‘statism,’ but it seems hardly to realize that the laissez-faire rhetoric it prefers derives almost verbatim from the classic liberalism of John Stuart Mill.” Tough. It could, I submit, do a lot worse.

I hope to have demonstrated why a few compatriots and I have shifted, or rather been shifted, from “extreme right” to “extreme left” in the past 20 years merely by staying in the same basic ideological place. The right wing, once in determined opposition to Big Government, has now become the conservative wing of the American corporate state and its foreign policy of expansionist imperialism. If we would salvage liberty from this deadening left/right fusion on the center, this needs be done through a counter-fusion of old right and new left.

James Burnham, an editor of National Review and its main strategic thinker in waging the “Third World War” (as he entitles his column), the prophet of the managerial state (in The Managerial Revolution), whose only hint of positive interest in liberty in a lifetime of political writing was a call for legalized firecrackers, recently attacked the dangerous trend among some young conservatives to make common cause with the left in opposing the draft. Burnham warned that he learned in his Trotskyite days that this would be an “unprincipled” coalition, and he warned that if one begins by being anti-draft one might wind up opposed to the war in Vietnam: “And I rather think that some of them are at heart, or are getting to be, against the war. Murray Rothbard has shown how right-wing libertarianism can lead to almost as anti-U.S. a position as left-wing libertarianism does. And a strain of isolationism has always been endemic in the American right.”

This passage symbolizes how deeply the whole thrust of the right wing has changed in the last two decades. Vestigial interest in liberty or in opposition to war and imperialism are now considered deviations to be stamped out without delay. There are millions of Americans, I am convinced, who are still devoted to individual liberty and opposition to the leviathan state at home and abroad, Americans who call themselves “conservatives” but feel that something has gone very wrong with the old anti-New Deal and anti-Fair Deal cause.

Something has gone wrong: the right wing has been captured and transformed by elitists and devotees of the European conservative ideals of order and militarism, by witch hunters and global crusaders, by statists who wish to coerce “morality” and suppress “sedition.”

America was born in a revolution against Western imperialism, born as a haven of freedom against the tyrannies and despotism, the wars and intrigues of the old world. Yet we have allowed ourselves to sacrifice the American ideals of peace and freedom and anti-colonialism on the altar of a crusade to kill communists throughout the world; we have surrendered our libertarian birthright into the hands of those who yearn to restore the Golden Age of the Holy Inquisition. It is about time that we wake up and rise up to restore our heritage.

Originally appeared in Ramparts, VI, 4, June 15, 1968.

“Foreword to “The Market For Liberty” by Karl Hess

The most interesting political questions throughout history have been whether or not humans will be ruled or free, whether they will be responsible for their actions as individuals or left irresponsible as members of society, and whether they can live in peace by volitional agreements alone.

The fundamental question of politics has always been whether there should be politics.

Morris and Linda Tannehill, in this book, which has become something of a classic even while being (until now) out of print, answer that politics is not necessary, that the ancient and ongoing contrivance of the marketplace can be substituted for it with ennobling results.

Advocates of state power will of course recoil from the idea and point out that it is all idle dreaming, that the state has always existed and must always exist lest brutal humans descend into, horrors, ANARCHY.  They are correct, of course.  Without the state there would be anarchy for that is, despite all of the perfervid ravings of the Marxist Left and statist Right, all that anarchy means—the absence of the state, the opportunity for liberty.

As for the direction that a world headed for liberty would be taking (descending or ascending) the Tannehills and many others have reviewed the record of the nation state and have discovered a curiously powerful fact.  The nation state has never been associated with peace on earth.  Its most powerful recommendation and record is, as a matter of fact, as a wager of war.  The history of nation states is written around the dates of wars, not peace, around arms and not arts.  The organization of warfare without the coercive power of the nation state is simply unimaginable at the scale with which we have become familiar.

Having shown no capacity whatsoever to bring peace to earth, then what is the claim of the state on our allegiance?  In closely reasoned arguments, the Tannehills maintain that there should be no claim at all; that the state is not needed at any point in our lives and that other, volitional, arrangements can be substituted for every single state function.  They see these arrangements operating in the framework of a truly free market and they carefully explain them.

The benefits, they argue, are as numerous as the problems that now plague us.  Pollution is more easily opposed when it is seen sensibly as an aggression against property rather than as a political cause or licensure.  Monopoly is less likely in a laissez faire world than in a regulated one.  Crime is less likely in communities responsible for their own protection than in those which are simply precinct outposts of the state’s police forces.  And so on and on throughout the entire, dreary record of state activity and through the exciting possibilities of libertarian activity.

Much of what the Tannehills have to say has become familiar to libertarians since the book was first published in 1970.  It is their proposition that it will become familiar to more and more people as the myths of the state topple under the weight of reality.  It is also their proposition that the changed order that will ensue from libertarian ideas will be enduring and beneficent, unlike the changes that have occurred in the past as the result of violence.

Supporting their contention is an analysis of the state which even if it seemed fanciful to some in 1970 must seem almost modest today.  The free economies of the world, the so-called underground economies, are growing at an astonishing rate.  In Italy it is the underground economy that keeps the country afloat.  In America it is the least inflation-prone and probably the fastest growing part of the economy, having elicited from President Reagan the wistful comment that if the underground paid its taxes (tribute) to the state then he could balance the budget.  In the countries of the Soviet police-state the underground economy is at one and the same time a powerful force in keeping people alive and also a powerful force in keeping alive their hopes for freedom.

Meantime, the economy of the least free state, the Soviet, continues to sputter along at a rate so depressed that the subjects of the state tyranny cannot even feed themselves adequately.  And the economy of the most free state, America, drags itself deeper and deeper into state-related debt and depression.  Only, in America at least, a renewed sense of entrepreneurial possibility keeps anything moving ahead.  Seeing such activity should remind us all that the entrepreneurial shine in a state society could become star-bright brilliance in a fully free society.

The importance of re-issuing the Tannehills’ book at this time, it seems to me, is in the probability that it will inspire and enlarge the horizons of young entrepreneurs who may enormously enjoy what they are doing but may not fully appreciate the larger implications of a free market world.  Some will appreciate, from reading the Tannehills, that not only can they make money but that they can help make a new world as they do it.

“Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” by Murray N. Rothbard

Karl Hess’s brilliant and challenging article in this issue raises a problem of specifics that ranges further than the libertarian movement. For example, there must be hundreds of thousands of “professional” anti-Communists in this country. Yet not one of these gentry, in the course of their fulminations, has come up with a specific plan for de-Communization. Suppose, for example, that Messers. Brezhnev and Co. become converted to the principles of a free society; they than [sic] ask our anti-Communists, all right, how do we go about de-socializing? What could our anti-Communists offer them?

This question has been essentially answered by the exciting developments of Tito’s Yugoslavia. Beginning in 1952, Yugoslavia has been de-socializing at a remarkable rate. The principle the Yugoslavs have used is the libertarian “homesteading” one: the state-owned factories to the workers that work in them! The nationalized plants in the “public” sector have all been transferred in virtual ownership to the specific workers who work in the particular plants, thus making them producers’ coops, and moving rapidly in the direction of individual shares of virtual ownership to the individual worker. What other practicable route toward destatization could there be? The principle in the Communist countries should be: land to the peasants and the factories to the workers, thereby getting the property out of the hands of the State and into private, homesteading hands.

The homesteading principle means that the way that unowned property gets into private ownership is by the principle that this property justly belongs to the person who finds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor. This is clear in the case of the pioneer and virgin land. But what of the case of stolen property?

Suppose, for example, that A steals B’s horse. Then C comes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be called a thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminal for stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performing a virtuous act of confiscation, for he is depriving thief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is at least returning the horse to the innocent “private” sector and out of the “criminal” sector. C has done a noble act and should be applauded. Of course, it would be still better if he returned the horse to B, the original victim. But even if he does not, the horse is far more justly in C’s hands than it is in the hands of A, the thief and criminal.

Let us now apply our libertarian theory of property to the case of property in the hands of, or derived from, the State apparatus. The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called “taxation” and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty. In the case of the State, furthermore, the victim is not readily identifiable as B, the horse-owner. All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted. How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.

Take, for example, the State universities. This is property built on funds stolen from the taxpayers. Since the State has not found or put into effect a way of returning ownership of this property to the taxpaying public, the proper owners of this university are the “homesteaders”, those who have already been using and therefore “mixing their labor” with the facilities. The prime consideration is to deprive the thief, in this case the State, as quickly as possible of the ownership and control of its ill-gotten gains, to return the property to the innocent, private sector. This means student and/or faculty ownership of the universities.

As between the two groups, the students have a prior claim, for the students have been paying at least some amount to support the university whereas the faculty suffer from the moral taint of living off State funds and thereby becoming to some extent a part of the State apparatus.

The same principle applies to nominally “private” property which really comes from the State as a result of zealous lobbying on behalf of the recipient. Columbia University, for example, which receives nearly two-thirds of its income from government, is only a “private” college in the most ironic sense. It deserves a similar fate of virtuous homesteading confiscation.

But if Columbia University, what of General Dynamics? What of the myriad of corporations which are integral parts of the military-industrial complex, which not only get over half or sometimes virtually all their revenue from the government but also participate in mass murder? What are their credentials to “private” property? Surely less than zero. As eager lobbyists for these contracts and subsidies, as co-founders of the garrison state, they deserve confiscation and reversion of their property to the genuine private sector as rapidly as possible. To say that their “private” property must be respected is to say that the property stolen by the horsethief and the murdered [sic] must be “respected”.

But how then do we go about destatizing the entire mass of government property, as well as the “private property” of General Dynamics? All this needs detailed thought and inquiry on the part of libertarians. One method would be to turn over ownership to the homesteading workers in the particular plants; another to turn over pro-rata ownership to the individual taxpayers. But we must face the fact that it might prove the most practical route to first nationalize the property as a prelude to redistribution. Thus, how could the ownership of General Dynamics be transferred to the deserving taxpayers without first being nationalized enroute? And, further more, even if the government should decide to nationalize General Dynamics—without compensation, of course—per se and not as a prelude to redistribution to the taxpayers, this is not immoral or something to be combatted. For it would only mean that one gang of thieves—the government—would be confiscating property from another previously cooperating gang, the corporation that has lived off the government. I do not often agree with John Kenneth Galbraith, but his recent suggestion to nationalize businesses which get more than 75% of their revenue from government, or from the military, has considerable merit. Certainly it does not mean aggression against privateproperty, and, furthermore, we could expect a considerable diminution of zeal from the military-industrial complex if much of the profits were taken out of war and plunder. And besides, it would make the American military machine less efficient, being governmental, and that is surely all to the good. But why stop at 75%? Fifty per cent seems to be a reasonable

cutoff point on whether an organization is largely public or largely private.

And there is another consideration. Dow Chemical, for example, has been heavily criticized for making napalm for the U.S. military machine. The percentage of its sales coming from napalm is undoubtedly small, so that on a percentage basis the company may not seem very guilty; but napalm is and can only be an instrument of mass murder, and therefore Dow Chemical is heavily up to its neck in being an accessory and hence a co-partner in the mass murder in Vietnam. No percentage of sales, however small, can absolve its guilt.

This brings us to Karl’s point about slaves. One of the tragic aspects of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in 1861 was that while the serfs gained their personal freedom, the land—their means of production and of life, their land was retained under the ownership of their feudal masters. The land should have gone to the serfs themselves, for under the homestead principle they had tilled the land and deserved its title. Furthermore, the serfs were entitled to a host of reparations from their masters for the centuries of oppression and exploitation. The fact that the land remained in the hands of the lords paved the way inexorably for the Bolshevik Revolution, since the revolution that had freed the serfs remained unfinished.

The same is true of the abolition of slavery in the United States. The slaves gained their freedom, it is true, but the land, the plantations that they had tilled and therefore deserved to own under the homestead principle, remained in the hands of their former masters. Furthermore, no reparations were granted the slaves for their oppression out of the hides of their masters. Hence the abolition of slavery remained unfinished, and the seeds of a new revolt have remained to intensify to the present day. Hence, the great importance of the shift in Negro demands from greater welfare handouts to “reparations”, reparations for the years of slavery and exploitation and for the failure to grant the Negroes their land, the failure to heed the Radical abolitionist’s call for “40 acres and a mule” to the former slaves. In many cases, moreover, the old plantations and the heirs and descendants of the former slaves can be identified, and the reparations can become highly specific indeed.

Alan Milchman, in the days when he was a brilliant young libertarian activist, first pointed out that libertarians had misled themselves by making their main dichotomy “government” vs. “private” with the former bad and the latter good. Government, he pointed out, is after all not a mystical entity but a group of individuals, “private” individuals if you will, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang. But this means that there may also be “private” criminals as well as people directly affiliated with the government. What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property. It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus.

Originally appeared in The Libertarian Forum Vol. 1, No. 6, June 15, 1969