The problem with “folk activism”

7. April 2009

A tip of the hat to Perry Metzger for alerting me to the essay by Patri Friedman on the Cato Unbound site, “Beyond Folk Activism.”

Friedman provides a cogent theory for why electoral politics and what we normally think of as “political activism” cannot achieve libertarian goals. Rather than restate that theory here, I invite readers to peruse Friedman’s essay.

Friedman also highlights a quartet of alternative strategies, which he denotes as “Free State Project,” “crypto anarchy,” “market anarchism,” and “seasteading.” He examines what he sees as the strengths and weaknesses of each, and seems to regard seasteading most favorably.

“Free State Project” here refers to the movement seeking 20,000 libertarians to relocate to New Hampshire, so as to provide a sufficiently large concentration of activists to wield political clout at the state and local levels. As Friedman himself notes, this is really a variant on traditional activism, and the only really “alternative” aspect of this strategy is that it’s a response to the libertarian movement’s failure to develop the massive following necessary to change national policy.

(I should note here that I am nominally a part of an alternative to this alternative, the “Free State Wyoming Project,” promoted by Boston T. Party, attempting a similar strategy in Wyoming. Boston felt that FSP chose the wrong state, and I was inclined to agree with him. So far, FSW appears to only be a tenth the size of FSP, and is currently focused on just getting libertarians here and so far has had zero impact on Wyoming politics at any level.)

The second strategy, “crypto anarchism” refers to employing the Internet and encryption technology to carry on economic activities outside the state’s purview. So far, this strategy has not had much success either. PayPal was reigned in by the state and now reports cash flows to the IRS. E-gold’s principals have been arrested and are being prosecuted on money-laundering charges. Other digital-currency schemes simply don’t have the kind of widespread participation needed to liberate its participants from the Federal Reserve-run economy. I can’t spend e-money at the grocery store, or the gun shop, or the furniture store. However, this strategy yet holds some promise, when combined with other strategies, as I’ll explain in a moment.

The third alternative Friedman lists is “market anarchism,” which he lauds mainly as a promising “ecosystem” with the sort of institutions and incentives built-in to serve a free society. And I agree. The problem, according to Friedman, is that there seems to be no path from here to there. Contemporary state institutions have formidable inertia and a strong tendency to preserve and propagate themselves. Market anarchism as developed by, for example, Murray Rothbard or David Friedman, lacks a cogent strategy for establishing itself.

But it is here that Friedman is mistaken. For one variant of market anarchism, developed by Samuel Edward Konkin III and denoted as “agorism,” does have such a strategy. In a nutshell the strategy is for libertarians to withdraw from the legal economy as much as possible and participate in the black and grey markets, and in the appropriate times and places to develop alternative institutions which will replace the state’s monopoly on such things as dispute resolution and law enforcement. SEK3, who died in 2003, outlined his theory of revolutionary change in his book The New Libertarian Manifesto, currently available in print from KoPubCo and in PDF form at the site. Konkin’s other book, An Agorist Primer, also available from KoPubCo, presents a more general outline of agorism, including his theory of how-to-get-there.

I note here that this is an area where “crypto anarchism” may be employed to enhance the development of alternative institutions, while the state is still strong enough to otherwise suppress them. In this sense, agorism might be regarded as a combination of market and crypto anarchism.

Agorism is a relatively under-developed branch of market anarchist theory, but also a very promising one. In fact, novelist J. Neil Schulman wrote a science-fiction story, Alongside Night, dramatizing how agorist theory might someday rescue civilization from a future crisis — a crisis which looks alarmingly similar to what we face presently. Schulman has developed a screenplay adaptation of his story and is endeavoring, with the aid of activist Jim Davidson, to raise the capital needed to produce a feature film.

(I have also been asked to produce a graphic novel version in the event the screenplay is green-lighted.)

Friedman’s fourth alternative, seasteading, involves developing floating cities which would float about the world’s oceans, outside of any current state’s jurisdiction. Currently various technologies are in development which promise to create stable floating platforms which could be linked together, (or un-linked, where appropriate) to form stateless communities. Friedman notes the principal weaknesses of this approach: 1) the dangers of the ocean environment (think hurricanes and tsunamis); and the likelihood that states will interfere either to prevent establishment or to destroy or enslave these communities after the fact in the name of “fighting terrorism” or closing tax havens or what have you.

This suggests a rather more fanciful fifth alternative — space colonization. If some technological breakthrough or breakthroughs can allow inexpensive access to space, then we have a “new frontier” similar to that which eventually birthed the United States. Colonies on the moon, Mars, the asteroids, etc., could be established beyond the easy reach of existing governments wherein stateless societies may develop. This of course is an idea my writing partner Sandy Sandfort and I explore in our adventure web-comic, Escape From Terra.

Kategorie anarchy, Big Head Press, comics, movies, Posts, Wyoming | 20 Kommentare »

Armageddon ouda here

11. January 2007

I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, when our bright and shiny lives were lived under the dark cloud of the Cold War possibly becoming a Hot War, which would amount to a fiery and poisonous global nuclear holocaust destroying perhaps 90 percent of all life on Earth. We didn’t dwell on these things constantly but this threat was always in the background, leering at us from behind the bouganvillias.

But when Russia de-Sovietized and the Eastern Bloc fell apart that threat seemed to recede almost out of consciousness, still potentially there but remote enough to be no longer alarming.

I think for Westerners this relaxation left a void in our consciousness — that lurking dread of global armageddon had become so familiar as to establish a place for itself in our shared model of the world, and its absence left a disquieting emptyness.

I considered this as I had the Science Channel playing on the background TV, while I went through my morning routines, which presented first a documentary about how near-Earth asteroids and comets might one day smack into us, creating a fiery and poisonous global holocaust destroying perhaps 90 percent of all life on Earth. We’ve got people now scouring the heavens looking for these buggers, but we’ve no real plan what to do if we find one. And it’s just possible something could come in fast out of deep space and whack us before we can spot it.

This was followed up by another hour-long exploration of the recently-discovered “super-volcano” underneath Yellowstone National Park, and how its eruption might cause a fiery and poisonous global holocaust destroying perhaps 90 percent of all life on Earth. And this particular super-volcano has exploded 1.8 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago, 600,000 years ago — you see a pattern?

See? Even if we don’t do in ourselves and most of life on Earth, then the Earth, or the Solar System, might well do it for us. Balance of horror restored, problem solved.

Kategorie Posts, Wyoming | 2 Kommentare »


1. December 2006

I’m not sure why but in the last two days I got as many e-mails commenting on a cartoon I drew five years ago: I call it my “Sept.11 cartoon” because the sobriquet “9/11″ referring to the terrorist attacks that day had not yet come to be firmly established. For those who haven’t seen or don’t remember it, here it is:
Sept.11 cartoon

I know that this cartoon has been copied to all manner of web-sites, mostly gun-rights sites, and likely some other sites I may not approve of. I have no idea where these two recent correspondents saw the cartoon.

Now, I can take a challenge to my opinions so long as they’re expressed in a civil manner. The first e-mail was civil, and went like this:

You said on your website “Bill of Rights Enforcement note: The Sept. 11 mass-murder could not have occurred had airline crew and passengers been able to exercise their civil right to bear arms, as emphasized in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

But to point a gun at someone who was willing to die would have proven useless. To fire a gun in an airplane would have killed everyone on board.

I understand there are a thousand ways we wish we could have prevented those attacks, but having nothing that could be used as a weapon would have prevented this attack as well. Everyone wants to change the past for a better future.

I’m sorry you have to feel this way about all Arabs for the rest of your life. Don’t let hate consume you like it had consumed them. How will we ever understand?

I responded in a similarly civil manner, correcting his misconceptions about what a stray bullet will do in a pressurized airline cabin (nothing much, really — explosive decompression from a bullet fired through a window only happens in James Bond movies), and explaining that I don’t hate Arabs, or Muslims, I just hate murderers. I pointed out my opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions (many countries harbor murderers and we don’t invade, overthrow governments and occupy those places indefinitely just to nab the badguys).

This corresponded and I exchanged a few more debate points until the argument had run its course and I didn’t hear from him again.

In stark contrast to this, the following day I got the following from another critic:

If you think guns on planes is a good idea think about how good of an idea it is to have gangs with guns on the streets. Think of how many people would be shot on planes. Also if any of the chickenshit cowboy americans in your little picture had shot their guns off, the plane would de-pressurize and crash anyways you fuckin idiot. If more guns save lives and keep people safe why does america have the HIGHEST GUN RELATED CRIME IN THE WORLD? In Canada it is much less, but you know what we have more of? Fist fights between real men who aren’t so scared to get hurt they want to press a button and end anything scary. People who carry guns are afraid of getting hurt because they’re pussies, a gun doesn’t make you tough, it just means you spent $200 to escape any situation you’re scared of instead of facing it head on like humans have for thousands of years. I would love to hear what you have to say about this, unless you actually read this and realized what a scared little cowboy you are.

And here is how I responded:

You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about, and get your idea of how the world works from movies. Talk to aircraft engineers. They’ll tell you that a stray bullet, or even six stray bullets in random directions, will NOT cause a pressurized aircraft cabin to rapidly depressurize. It just doesn’t work that way, Poindexter.

And the United States does not have the highest gun-related crime rate in the world. If you read the fine-print in statistics usually quoted by your gun-grabbing masters, they restrict comparisons to “the industrialized world.” And the reason for this is that several “Third World” countries have higher gun-crime rates than the United States, as does the formerly “Second World” Russian Federation, despite the much more draconian gun laws in those countries. Gun crimes have been rising in Britain and Australia at the same time gun laws are becoming more strict. Violent crimes of all types have fallen in those American states where gun restrictions have been relaxed.

You seem to want to return to a world where the biggest, strongest tough-guy in town lords it over everyone else, or where an elite class of families who can afford to invest thousands of hours learning the sword can lord it over entire nations. That was the state of the world before guns made everyone equal, you elitist snot.

You would rather see your mother, your sister, your wife, or your daughter raped and strangled to death with her own pantyhose, than see her with a gun in her hand and able to defend herself against a man twice her size and strength.

Fuck you and the constipated weasel you rode in on.

I haven’t heard back from this guy since.

The moral to this story is, if you want to express a disagreement with me, fine, but be civil. If you come at me with belligerence and insults, I will answer in kind.

Kategorie anarchy, Free speech, Posts, Wyoming | 8 Kommentare »

No time for Heroes

5. July 2006

While it seems like everybody who is anybody in comics converged on Charlotte, NC this past weekend for Heroes Con, the Big Heads have been converging on Cheyenne, WY instead.

Bre’r Frank made the drive up from BHP Galactic Headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, bringing wife Jan and son Jake, showing up a day earlier than he said he would. Caught us in the middle of franticly cleaning up La Casa enough not to be embarrassing, at least. Frank said his “travel math” was off. He was leaving on the second for a two-day trip so he should arrive on the fourth, right?

As it happened, they showed up just in time for the great Cheyenne Deluge, Power Outage and Lost Dogs Round-Up. We had the biggest rain storm of the year open up just before they arrived; then after the weather cleared a bit we went out to eat and the power died before we could get our beer orders in. We found another restaurant in another part of town that had power — as it turned out, the outage only affected a roughly 8-square-mile section of the city — but when we returned to La Casa power was still off.

We heard our dogs barking in the backyard as we scrambled to set up my camping lantern and acquire some candles. We didn’t notice when they stopped barking, but I did notice when I called them in at close to midnight that they weren’t there. They’d managed to knock the gate open and escape. So we had a great time driving around the neightborhood looking for our prodigal canines, and find them we did by and by, and then I had to disappoint Frank by explaining that the next day would probably not be as interesting.

Kategorie Big Head Press, Posts, Wyoming | 1 Kommentar »