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LukeVrsDarthEmpIf you’re a Star Wars fan from my generation, you’ll immediately recognize this age-old question, “Which movie was better, ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ or ‘Return of the Jedi‘?”, and have a very strong preference for one or the other. Most people I’ve encountered over the years have fallen on the “Empire” side, and I can see why. It’s fun. It’s full of exciting battles, wild escapes, mind-blowing revelations, lots of humor and a bit of romance.

For me, though, the answer has always been “Jedi”. The reason? That final confrontation between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. Luke tries not to fight, and chooses not to kill, his father; but instead, reminds him that he was once a Jedi, that he stood for something other than what he had become, and pleads with him to come back. Ultimately, Vader (Anakin Skywalker) chooses his son’s life over that of his Sith master. That, to me, is the defining moment of the whole series: the redemption of Anakin.

Now, what does this have to do with market-anarchism, voluntaryism, the ever growing militarized police-state and all that? For that, we must turn back to Étienne de La Boétie, who asked, “If a tyrant is one man and his subjects are many, why do they consent to their own enslavement?” A tyrant, whether an emperor, president, parliament, etc. is always a small minority. How do they maintain their power when they are so vastly outnumbered? Well first, they dole out favors to a favored political class, who are given money, power and priviledge so long as they tow the Party line. But what of the masses? They are controlled through an army of thuggish enforcers: the police, military, and intelligence services—the stormtroopers of our day. They keep the Hoi polloi in line through fear tactics, constant intimidation, and the use of violence: beatings, kidnappings, rape, murder, etc.

But again, why do these enforcers enforce the ruler’s edicts against their own. Firstly, they are given power and an elevated status in society. This helps distance them from the people they abuse. Secondly, they are imbued with an almost mythical ideology that they are protecting the weak and serving the people, when in fact they are protecting and serving the political class.

It is this ideology that we must attack. Yes, civil-disobedience is important. It challenges the legitimacy of the rulers, makes others aware of the immorality and unjustness of their laws, and strips them of their mystique. However, civil-disobedience tends to have less favorable effects as well. More often than not, it is seen by the police as an attack on the system that they instictually defend. They shut down critical-thinking and become defensive—solidifying their statist ideology and devotion to their masters. Likewise, Dorner-esque violence, while viscerally satisfying, only causes the enforcers to close-ranks and act even more irrationally and violently to maintain the system: as we witnessed when the LAPD went on a terror-spree in their hunt for Dorner.

Thus, we can neither defy nor fight the enforcers without entrenching them even deeper in their faith in the rightness and righteousness of what they are doing. What we can do is confront them, not as enemies, but as family concerned with a wayward relative. We can ask them why they became police officers, or joined the army, or Homeland Security. We can ask them if what they do now is in service to those goals. We can ask them how they feel when they are not. We can awaken them to the fact that they serve as bodyguards to a corporatist elite, not as protectors of their fellow citizens; that they are more like over-seers on a farm of human-cattle, than the heroes they imagine themselves to be. We can ask them what they would change, how things could be different. Here and there, we can add in our own thoughts: about the Non-Aggression Principle; about the inefficiencies, corruption and abuse that naturally arise in a system of monopoly justice; market and community alternatives to the state’s “justice” system, etc. And by so doing, we can gently introduce them to market-anarchy.

Granted, we cannot save them all—perhaps, not even most. Many are hopelessly mired in their lust for power over other men. As Frank Herbert put it, “Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, absolute power attracts the corruptible.” But I believe that there is humanity in, and hope for, even the worst of us. And while some may easily come to see that their means do not match the ends they sought to effect by becoming enforcers, many will resist the truth tooth-and-nail. Still, even a few victories would weaken the state; and more importantly, destroy the myth of the state-sponsored thug as ‘benevolent protector’.

This is a slow and difficult path; but there is no more satifying victory than to turn your enemy into your ally, or even a friend. We can topple the power of authoritarians by depriving them not only of our obedience, but also of the obedience of their enforcers. And the more enforcers we awaken, the more others will question their service until an avalanche of defectors leaves the rulers weak and ineffective, if not entirely powerless.

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.”
— Étienne de La Boétie

So next time you see a cop, rather than flipping him off, yelling “ACAB”, or fantasizing about burning his patrol car, stop to ask him what he thinks about his job. It may be the start of a conversation that leads to conversion to market-anarchism, … and redemption.

My wife was recently lamenting the demise of the Spielberg-inspired science fiction show, Terra Nova. While it was a fun little escape, I have to admit that I was always a bit uncomfortable with it—from the under-stated “worker’s-paradise” economy, to the obvious military-junta that ruled over everyone. But what was most disturbing was the lack of moral-clarity. The white-hats (Terra Novans) and black-hats (Sixers) behaved much the same. Each had something they thought worth fighting for and used much the same methods of violence and coercion to attain them.

In one episode, the supreme white-hat, Commander Taylor, tortures a citizen of Terra Nova on the suspicion that he is working with the Sixers, who are trying to take down Terra Nova. In another episode, Taylor violates his own order that no one is to leave the colony boundary. When stopped by a junior officer, he and Jim Shannon, the de-facto Sheriff of T.N., laugh—the rules do not apply to the rule-makers. And in a very revealing episode, Dr. Malcolm Wallace, the chief science officer for the Terra Nova colony, is too busy to do Shannon a favor, testing a blood sample. Shannon responds by smashing Wallace’s lab equipment and experiments one by one until Wallace capitulates.

We watch these shows, our younger siblings and children watch these shows, and then we wonder why people grow up to start fights, start wars, become violent rights-violating cops and soldiers, or police and politicians who believe that “the rules are for everyone else, not me“. They have learned the lessons of the entertainment media—that there is no fundamental behavioral difference between the bad-guys and the good-guys. These are merely labels for two groups which are morally equivalent—that is, both violate the Non-Aggression Principle and the Law of Equal Liberty.

These are just a few examples from one silly little sci-fi show. Now look at the plethora of cop shows and legal dramas on television and you will find even more egregious examples.

Popular culture and entertainment influences our real-life interations. And the actions of everyone from presidents and politicians to local beat-cops and teachers—and our response to their behavior—strongly influences popular culture. If it is wrong for a police officer to get away with a crime he would have apprehended a non-officer for, then we must not glorify such behavior in our fiction. If it is wrong to initiate violence, we must not panegyrize it in our fictional “heroes”. Instead, we must steadfastly declare what makes the good-guys the good-guys.

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”
— Murray N. Rothbard, “War, Peace, and the State,” The Myth of National Defense

If we want to change this into a more peaceful and free world to live in, we need to start with our culture. Everything begins with ideas. If we can elevate our ideas, educate people about the NAP and LEL, and get them to live it, then we can transform the world.

The Abrupt Death of Gradualism

The first three Republican primaries have passed and Ron Paul has not fared well. He will not be the Republican candidate.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Ron Paul is a great man for standing up for his principles for so long. And I owe him a great debt of gratitude. It was Dr. Paul who led me to read Nock’s Our Enemy, The State, and led me to read Mises, which led me to Rothbard, which led me to Konkin. I would not have the intellectual armaments I need in this battle for liberty if it were not for him. However, Ron Paul is not our savior. He is, at best, a kind of John the Baptist.

His quest to obtain the reigns of power, if only to not use them, is over. And if you are waiting for the next generation of libertarian-ish politicians to save you, such as Rand Paul, then you are only fooling yourself. You must know that by now.

The political establishment will simply not tolerate a challenger to the power-game. They hold the reigns on the media, as evidenced by how often Paul was maligned by all the networks, and how few times he was ever given air-time in the debates. The voting populace has been so conditioned by our atrocious public school system and by the media that they no longer respond to well-thought out arguments, or principles, or challenges to our most deeply-held (but never really deeply-considered) beliefs. Instead, they respond to sports metaphors, catchy sound-bites, and “tough talk”. We vote for politicians the way we vote for American-Idol contestants: by slickness, by bravado, and by punchy rhetoric. Witness, how self-identified Christian Conservatives in South Carolina expressed their desire for a “values candidate” by voting for Gingrich (a man with over-lapping marriages) against Paul (a man who has been happily married to the same woman for over half a century). Or how that same electorate booed Dr. Paul’s suggestion that we live by the “Golden Rule” in regards to foreign policy.

It is time to give up on gradualism—that absurd notion that we can change the system from within, through the democratic process, and gradually move toward a freer society. Gradualism cannot work. A system based on a monopoly of force cannot be begged and pleaded into limiting itself. We know “Why the Worst Get on Top“, as Hayek wrote. We know that Democracy (the political organization in which people may plead their irrational whims, fears, or prejudices in hopes of obtaining a statistical majority so that they may impose, by force, their will on the minority) is not only immoral, but also, a ruse. Democracy, policy debates, voting, law-making, the whole political process is theater designed to divide us against one another, as opposed to uniting against the political system itself. It also provides a catharsis, so that the slaves think they are the masters (or at least 1/300,000,000 master) and do not revolt. We sit patiently awaiting the next election-cycle, because then we might win. We might get to impose OUR views, our rules, our way of living on others by force of law! What a disgusting illusion. To win or lose, is to lose. The only way to win the democratic game is not to play.

“Louis XIV was very frank and sincere when he said: I am the State. The modern statist is modest. He says: I am the servant of the State; but, he implies, the State is God.” — Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy

Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses”. That may have been true once, but even in his day things were changing. The State is God now; and Democracy, the people’s religion. I say it’s time to lose faith.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu

It is time to let go of gradualism.
It is time to embrace Agorism.

“The revolution occurs when the victims cease to cooperate.” — Karl Hess

“But how do I do that?”, you ask. Many are overwhelmed at first, thinking they need to jump right into Agorist entrepreneurship and start their own counter-economic business. However, there is a lot you can do to get started.

1. Liberate your Mind – Educate Yourself

Read as much as you can on the philosophy of liberty: on libertarianism (small-“l”), market anarchy, the non-agression principle, property in/as social order, spontaneous order, Agorism, Austrian economics, stateless-alternatives for law, justice, etc. Join discussion groups. Learn, debate and strengthen your arguments until you understand what you “know”.

2. Liberate your Life – Practice Agorism

a. Cease participation in the political proccess. Living by the economic means, rather than the political means, necessarily requires that you terminate your support for the state and it’s entire apparatus. It is evil at worst—a distraction at best.
b. Minimize or eliminate your use of Federal Reserve Notes through use of alternative currencies (e.g. bitcoin), real money (e.g. gold, silver, nickel, etc.), or direct barter and trade. This reduces the effect of the government’s constant abuse of the money supply on your purchasing power. It also means that most of your transactions cannot be tracked or taxed.
c. Fund the state as little as possible. Minimize or eliminate the amount of taxes you pay. As noted above, barter and trade, or use real money, whenever possible. Patronize Agorist businesses whenever possible. Work under-the-table/off-the-books for employers who are willing to do so.

3. Liberate Others – Educate Others

Be vocal. Write. Speak. Protest. Whatever you are comfortable with. Educating others is also a part of educating yourself. It helps you strengthen some beliefs and arguments and pare away weaker ones.

When you are ready, you can try starting your own Agorist business and/or taking other forms of direct action. However, I recommend getting comfortable with #2 above, first. Good luck!

“So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.” — Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly: Serenity

Stephan Kinsella should be lauded for his great contributions toward exposing the fraud that is “intellectual property”. This state-enforced artificial-scarcity and monopoly protection-racket is not characteristic of genuine property. This has been the position of left-libertarians for quite a long time and it is nice to see self-described libertarians of other stripes hacking away at the hallowed roots of IP.

However, Kinsella is no left-libertarian—sometimes perhaps, not a libertarian at all! So while we may rightly thank him for his efforts against IP, we must also chastise him from time to time on other matters. I recently came across an old piece he wrote for LewRockwell.com, disgustingly entitled, A Simple Libertarian Argument Against Unrestricted Immigration and Open Borders. In it, he makes an argument for respecting the state’s purported “right” to restrict the movement of peoples (and, by extension, goods) across borders through a line of reasoning that assumes the state’s legitimate authority and ownership of “roads, ports, buildings and facilities, military bases, etc.” His argument is that if we dismiss for a moment the illegitimacy of the notion of “public property” and assume that the government really owns what it claims to own, then it must naturally have a right to put restrictions on usage. He claims that this is “not inherently unlibertarian”.

Speaking of roads, this is a dangerous one to travel. It is precisely this kind of thinking which has led to every expansion of government power. There is an existing evil. We take that as a given and work to find a “solution” within that framework—a least evil. Take healthcare, for instance. The problems of HMOs and managed care, already creatures of the state, spurred a call to rework and expand government control over healthcare. And now that we have ObamaCare, we find calls to restrict the lifestyles of individuals—eating habits, exercise, etc.—because the costs of their choices are now externalized to society at large. This constant drive toward more and more restrictions on our freedoms justified by past restrictions is monstrous and insane.

However, this is precisely the tactic that Kinsella adopts when he claims that,

“Advocates of open-borders/unrestricted immigration are simply those who prefer a certain rule of usage be issued by the feds: that anyone at all may use federal roads, ports, etc. Whereas other citizens have a different preference: they prefer that the feds not allow everyone, but only some people. By having the latter rule, obviously, a version of immigration restriction could be established de facto.

Now I am not so far arguing for the latter rule. I am simply noting that it is not necessarily unlibertarian, as the open-borders types want to maintain. They urge that the illegitimate owner-caretaker of public property use it in this way; others want it used another way. We all agree the rule that really should be adopted is: return the property to private hands. Where we differ is on what second-best rule is more libertarian, or more preferred. Is one second-best rule more clearly libertarian than the other? It seems to me that one useful way to compare alternative rules is to examine the restitution that would be provided by various usage-rules. A rule that generates more restitution for more people is, other things being equal, probably preferable to other rules.

In the case of federal highways, for example, most citizens currently get a benefit from being able to use roads. Is it “worth” the cost of being taxed to maintain the roads, or to pay for compensation fees paid to expropriated or bought-out property owners, or the associated liberty violations? No. But given a rights violation, some restitution is better than none. If the feds announced tomorrow that no rules at all applied to the federal highways, the utility of the roads to most people would fall dramatically, meaning that restitution has decreased. The resource would be wasted. If the feds announced tomorrow that no one could use the roads except the military, then again, this would reduce overall restitution. Some more reasonable rule in between would obviously generate a more respectable amount of restitution than either extreme.”

Before responding, I must note that these roads and other state property are not property at all. They are built with stolen goods. The US is not a joint-stock company. I did not consent to have funds taken from me to be used to construct these roads. I did not consent to have the property of others forcibly taken from them via eminent domain in order that a clear path could be made for them. The state cannot rightfully claim ownership, thus they are essentially abandoned and up for grabs. They rightfully belong to everyone and anyone who wishes to use and maintain them via the homesteading principle. Only private roads can be properly said to be owned.

However, even if we play his game and take public-property and political borders as a given, Kinsella’s attempt to find the “second-best rule” that will provide the most restitution to the most people is absurd. The contributions of individuals (i.e. just how much was stolen from them and how much applied to the roads) cannot be traced back. Nor can he claim that there is a clear distinction between citizen taxpayers and new-immigrants—legal or otherwise. Just as the burden of cost is not evenly distributed among citizens, the benefit of use is not either. Many citizens pay far fewer taxes. Large corporations externalize their costs of doing business to society at large via public roads (the damage done to roads, and the subsequent cost of maintainence, is higher for a fleet of 18-wheelers than for a family sedan). And finally, Kinsella fails to address the fact that unresticted immigration and open borders would not decrease, but instead increase, tax revenue. It is our current system of restricted immigration that has produced a sub-population of millions of non-taxpaying “illegal immigrants” who use Kinsella’s precious roads and swimming pools.

Perhaps it takes an Agorist to appreciate it, but what Kinsella fails to recognize is that, “If the feds announced tomorrow that no rules at all applied to the federal highways, the utility of the roads to most people would fall dramatically” is a good thing! The public would begin to recognize that publicly held assets built with stolen funds are neither optimally maintained nor proportinately beneficial. This would create incentive for market-driven private-property road development and maintainence.

Rather than responding to an existing evil (i.e. state-“owned” property) by restricting the natural right of people to travel, trade and associate with whomever wishes to reciprocate, we would have both freedom to travel, trade and associate and, at the very least, a drive towards the dismantling of the state monopoly over roads and other publicly-owned assets.

Just as in the issue of public healthcare, the solution to the problem is not more government regulation and restriction of freedoms, but less. The proper response to ObamaCare is not legislating the amount of salt in soups at restaurants, but rather repealing ObamaCare. Likewise, the proper response to state-owned property is not immigration control or closed borders. It is the dismantling of the state-ownership apparatus.

Contra Kinsella, the correct libertarian position is not to multiply the evils and injustices caused by statism, but instead, to eliminate them.

The Nanny State was recently out “doing good” in Delaware. What I find more atrocious than the theft and defilement of these people’s private property is the infantilization of the victims. Notice how the authorities treat the owners like children.
This is your father, your mother, your god: The State.

The No Victim, No Crime T-Shirts are now available at Never Take A Plea.
Proceeds (and any donations) go to assisting those charged with victimless “crimes”.

I listened to the Agora I/O talk today on seasteading. It was delivered by Patri Friedman, founder of The Seasteading Institute. In it he made some comments about the problems of numbers and of secrecy in agorism—it’s simply hard to form vibrant markets when activities are underground and market players (agorists) are few in number and scattered around the world. He then claims that creating communities in “unclaimed territories” (“Frontierism”) by taking advantage of legal loopholes in international law (i.e. seasteading) is the solution to these problems. Is it?

Putting aside the fact that playing by someone else’s rules is no way to attain freedom, and ignoring the real possibility that such legal loopholes are likely to be filled as soon as they are taken advantage of, let’s note that there are no unclaimed territories on Earth. Every part of the world we live in comes under the jurisdiction of either some state or some collaboration of states (i.e. International Law). Unless Mr. Friedman chooses to plant his flag on Mars, then he will have to admit that his seasteading pseudo-anarcho-capitalist society will have to contend with foreign powers attempting to regulate, police, or otherwise interfere. To his credit, he does make a marginal concession in this regard.

However, Friedman claims that the U.S. will maintain a hands-off policy towards his anarcho-capitalist seastead so long as no one is “harboring terrorists, laundering money, working on weapons of mass distruction, or exporting drugs to the United States”. He then amends this to include “anonymous banking”. Even if we naively accept this, he fails to note the motives and policies of other foreign governments. He also says that, otherwise, anyone on the seastead would be free to “use drugs locally, have prostitution locally, … have very low barriers to entry for entreprenuers, … have the rights to your own genome, have different regions with different copyright laws and patent laws.”

Firstly, I suspect his list of what is verboten is a little short. What about so called “Intellectual Property”? What about small-arms manufacture? What about the acquisition of and rights to natural resources? What about the right to associate and trade with anyone who would voluntarily do so? If you think about it for a moment you will realize that there is a huge litany of activites that foreign powers will either be desirous to control or find threatening.

Despite his heritage, Friedman seems wholly unfamiliar with the beast, Leviathan. Institutions—and government is one of humanity’s oldest—are self-serving; desirous, first and foremost, of maintaining their existence and strengthening their power. Governments take or control what they believe they need for their survival. The U.S. has not been entangled in the Middle-East for nearly a century because of “terrorism”. It has been so because of the region’s strategic oil reserves. Friedman also fails to learn the lessons of Cuba, a half-dozen South American countries, and much of south and east Asia. Governments are also notoriously paranoid—especially in this age of preemption. To suppose for a moment that they will not try to influence or interfere with a seasteading community is to ignore the entire history of U.S. interference with nearly every nation on earth.

But suppose for a moment that he is right—that members of his society will be free of foreign intrusion so long as they do not engage in any of the activities he lists. What prohibits anyone from doing so? And what are the consequences to individuals who do?

Suppose his fellow seasteaders are violating copyrights and patents, perhaps only within their community. Something like this goes on in Russia and China, much to the dismay of U.S. lawmakers and the industries which profit from such artificial scarcity. Economic and political means are brought to bear to “correct” this problem, to little effect. More direct means of coercion are not utilized because these are heavily armed states. Mr. Friedman’s seasteading society is not.

Now suppose, for instance, that I, a seasteader, manufacture weapons (nothing fancy or WMD-like) and one of my clients is in the small country of, Yoyotania, which does not object to the sale. A neighboring state, Meanistan, is at odds with Yoyotania and is not happy about this. Does Mr. Friedman still think that obeying his off-limits list will keep us safe? Will he try to set up laws, courts and police to restrict this and other market activities which might antagonize someone,… somewhere. Or will he defy all the states of the world … from his little boat? The first destroys the freedom he is seeking, the second invites its destruction.

And even if he and his fellow floaters obey every edict of international law, does he think he’ll be free from intrusive inspection and regulation? Does he think that governments like the U.S. with powerful corporate interests at the helm will not act to contain or limit an econonomic competitor?

There is a serious flaw in this exogenous strategy of founding an anarcho-capitalist society, and that is that you can never really be out of reach of foreign powers that want to control you. To simply bow to them is to be a subject again—not truly free. This was the essence of a comment I made, which Mr. Friedman so flippantly dismissed.

What Friedman really wants is another American Revolution, without all the fighting and other such unpleasantries. He wants “98% of the grab-bag of rights”. He wants more freedom than the founding documents gave us, to be sure; but his solution is yet another half-measure—one which will ultimately follow the same path so long as a founding-flaw, those 2% of rights, are missing. Humanity has spent far too much time, energy and blood reinventing the square-wheel. No, Mr. Friedman, I would not rather “…never have freedom than get a certain limited amount of freedom”. What I would rather do is invest my time, energy and blood in a strategy that doesn’t require compromise; a strategy that will actually deliver us a genuine anarcho-capitalist society; a strategy that will end statism and free humanity, without strings attached; a strategy that doesn’t free us from one state only to enslave us to the whims of a hundred other states; a strategy that isn’t self-defeating from the outset.

If I was unwilling to live with “a certain limited amount of freedom” as he claims, I wouldn’t be an agorist. As agorists, we enjoy some of the freedoms of an anarcho-capitalist society now, but are still limited in many ways by the existing statist system. However, agorism is a path to complete freedom from the state. It has an endgame strategy for the dissolution of the state that seasteading seems to lack.

I see only 2 probable endgames to Friedman’s seasteading venture, depending on one’s choice to remain subject to foreign powers or reject them:

1. The seasteads attempt to obey International Law and conform to the desires of neighboring states.
1.a They restrict the freedoms of their members in order to enforce these foreign laws so as not to raise the ire of a foreign power. They degenerate into mini-states, which gradually decay to the statist nightmares we have today.
1.b They fail to police their own and so become policed by foreign powers. They essentially degenerate into satellite states or simply dissolve.

2. The seasteads oppose foreign restrictions and intervention. Because they are doing so out in the open, unlike agorist black-marketeers, they must continually fight for their survival, both economically and physically. They ultimately lose to the superior forces arrayed against them.

Granted, the failure of #2 is not a sure thing. With a sufficient number of skilled people and resources, a private defense force could be mustered to protect seasteads from foreign intervention; but again, this mirrors the numbers problem Friedman was so critical of in regards to agorism. The failure of #1, however, is guaranteed from the get-go. Taking this route surrenders all sovereignty to foreign powers, and errodes the freedoms enjoyed in this now anarcho-capitalist-society-in-name-only.

Mr. Friedman raises a lot of good criticisms of the agorist approach which need to be answered, but his seasteading solution is no solution at all—not yet anyway. He makes an analogy about being obsequious to a cop so as to be treated like a well-behaved serf,  instead of a badly-behaved serf. Well, I want a world without statist cops; and I intend to work toward one. If he wants to play nice (and subservient) so that neighboring governments don’t burst the little bubble-society he wants to live in, then I wish him all the best in his oceanic folly. But like many others, I don’t want to live in a bubble at the mercy of every statist breeze, so I’m staking my future and my fight against statism here on terra firma.

Property Records

Originally published here.

Property Records
by Robbie Revenant 

 
I was reading Robert Murphy’s book, Chaos Theory, the other day and recognised an opportunity for enterprising agorists. Yes, we can replace the statist court system, police system and legal system with private alternatives in numerous ways. But to prevent or resolve disputes over property and contracts we must first have clear and trustworthy records of these—records not derived from state sources.
 
“Whatever (if any) the abstract or metaphysical nature of property law, the purpose of public titles is quite utilitarian; they are necessary to allow individuals to effectively plan and coordinate their interactions with each other. Specialized firms (perhaps distinct from arbitration agencies) would keep records on the property titles, either for a specific area or group of individuals. Title registry would probably be accomplished through a complex, hierarchical web of such firms.
The fear of rogue angencies, unilaterally declaring themselves “owner” of everything, is completely unfounded. In market anarchy, the companies publicizing property rights would not be the same as the companies enforcing those rights. More important, competition between firms would provide true “checks and balances.” If one firm began flouting the community norms established and codified on the market, it would go out of business, just as surely as a manufacturer of dictionaries would go broke if its books contained improper definitions.”
 Murphy, Chaos Theory, pp. 26-27
 
The problem with property records today is that they are mostly in the hands of the government. Some exist as contracts (mortgages, and the like) filed with banking institutions, and many unofficial copies of these documents are in the hands of individual “owners”. (I used quotes because in the present statist system, none of us actually “own” anything. The government sees us as serfs working leased-land—thus, property tax, building codes, eminent domain, etc. The same goes for anything else which we ostensibly own but must aquire a license, pay a tax, or abide some state-mandated regulation in order to be granted the conditional privilege of owning and using.)
 
What the agora needs are agencies that “keep records on property titles”, as Mr. Murphy suggests. It could initially consolidate records from government, banking and other commercial sources. Agorists who use these agencies could then sell, trade, or give property, and such transactions could be recorded by the agency with no governmental (or other) oversight or interference. These records could then be considered proof of ownership in the event of a dispute and subsequent arbitration.
 
This property records business need not be an agorist one. It could operate in the open—following governmental regulations and attracting business from white marketeers concerned about their claims to land, vehicles, homes, businesses, etc. The records could be used to settle disputes in the public (state) court system just as readily as in private arbitration. Either way, white market or black, such businesses would be invaluable. Eventually the state will disappear—and with it most of the records it holds of private ownership. It is essential that such records be entrusted to market-accountable firms rather than the state—not only for the agorists of today and the anarcho-capitalist society of tomorrow, but also for that tumultuous transition period when the state dies and takes its records of who owns what to the grave.
 
A similar opportunity exists for maintaining contract records—or even of combining the two services. I strongly encourage any agorists out there with the requisite knowledge to consider founding such a firm.

My Activist Arc

Yesterday, George Donnelly posed the question What’s your Activist Arc? It was meant to get his readers to consider the efficacy and consequences of their chosen method of liberty activism. Is this leading toward my goal or is it a distraction? Am I being effective? Am I getting in more trouble than it’s worth—unnecessarily suffering for my activism? Am I doing too much? Not enough? Do I need to change tactics?

It was an excellent question and nicely illustrated with four examples of activists, including George. It got me thinking about my own activist arc. At the moment, mine is even more low-key than George’s—perhaps, too much. This is partly due to a change of living circumstances: Having moved in with my fiancee to a very rural area of Arizona, I am now almost completely off the grid. This makes pamphleteering, attending rallys, or otherwise physically coordinating with other activists nearly impossible. My personal strategy has always been through the less conspicuous two-pronged approach of agorism and education. Getting my voice heard through my writing, sharing my opinions about the illegitimacy of statism and the means and methods of ending it, is of paramount importance to me. This is less likely to raise ire, as the state still pays some lip-service to the canonized notion of free-speech. And while agorism is not without significant risk, it can be done discreetly—without the fanfare associated with, for instance, directly confronting cops (e.g., Pete Eyre’s chosen “activist arc”).

Ultimately, I’m just a man who wants to live freely and well with the woman he loves, but is now all too aware of the forces that would prohibit that. I’m torn between my passion to end the injustice of the state on the one hand, and my desire to simply disappear with my beloved on the other. I want to change the world, but I also want to live in it. I suppose that I’m still feeling my way through this.

One thing I would like to note, though, about George’s exposition is that, while I agree that direct confrontation with the state’s enforcers will tend to bring about swift and cruel reprisal, even the most passive resistence frequently engenders the state’s malevolence. Consider the jailing of Thoreau for refusing to pay the poll-tax. Even now, peaceful tax-protestor Irwin Schiff is languishing in a federal prison. Anti-war protestors are spied on, cataloged as “low-level terrorists”, searched, detained and arrested. Some, like Martin Luther King, Jr., are even assassinated. And just yesterday, the originator of the Liberty Dollar, Bernard von NotHaus, was convicted in federal court—the U.S. attorney declaring him and his associates “domestic terrorists”, saying,“While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country.” One need not harrass cops to call down the heavy hand of the state.

Government is institutionalized violence. The state knows only force. It simply does not know how to respond to peaceful dissenters with anything less than a crushing blow. I do not personally recommend flagrantly defying the state, but even if your chosen “activist arc” is more circumspect, as is mine, you may ultimately face the same consequences. So do what you are comfortable with—what you think is right. In the end, the path you choose must be your own.

Our “Leaders”?

I’ve been assaulted with this nonsense one too many times. It wasn’t the content of the article, World Leaders Launch Military Action in Libya , that bothered me so much as the title. This oft-repeated conflation of the words “leader” and “ruler” simply drives me to distraction; and it’s about time I said a few words about the connotation and denotation of these words.

The word leader once meant someone who guides or inspires. There is a purely voluntary association between leader and follower. Followers may choose to follow, or choose not to follow, without fear of retribution. This is the word’s denotation. It’s connotation has become blurred with another word, however—much to our disadvantage.

The word ruler does not embody the civility of the word ‘leader’. It denotes someone who has sovereignty over others—someone who commands and must be obeyed lest punishment be brought to bear. As such, it is wholly inappropriate to denote Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Sheiks, and other such statist tyrants with the title “World Leaders.” These people do not lead, do not guide or inspire others to voluntarily follow them. They use coercion—force and fraud—to achieve their goals. For instance, when someone joins the military because he is told by his “World Leader” that the endless War on Terror is needed to secure the peace, safety, and freedom of his family and homeland, that is fraud. When he is prevented from leaving the service and compelled to kill for the state and its corporate cronies, that is force. Thus, to be accurate and honest, the article mentioned above should have been entitled “World Rulers Launch Military Action in Libya.”

What is truly unnerving is the Orwellian double-speak being practiced and unthinkingly accepted. “Leader” has come to embody both meanings: it denotes “voluntary guide”, whilst simultaneously connoting “coercive master”. This common misuse of the term when referring to a government official white-washes the coercive nature of rulership. And it allows us to quiet the cognitive-dissonance caused by holding the absurdly false belief that our statist masters are also the defenders of our freedoms.

This bastardization of the word ‘leader’ works to the advantage of the rulers, and to the disadvantage of those who are ruled. If we cannot even admit to ourselves that we are ruled, if we persist in accepting the oxymoronic notion of a “chosen master”, how can we begin to fight against the aggressions of states and statists? We cannot, for we have intellectually disarmed ourselves before ever taking up physical arms against our oppressors. This was one of the lessons of George Orwell’s 1984. When language is so de-constructed as to leave us helpless to formulate the concepts necessary for resistence, or even acknowledge that such resistence is necessary, then we are doomed.

Language, thought, and action are inextricably linked. Words have meaning and power. Do not let that power be bent against you.