As an Agorist, I found it curious when today I checked Strike-the-Root to find linked from it an article by a libertarian arguing that the central tenet of Agorism as to the power of counter economics is ridiculous. Where the author agrees in principle, they disagree in application, which is fair enough except that disagreement is based on slightly confused logic. So I thought I’d take a stab at answering it.
Despite my broad agreement with much of the underlying philosophy, I find this chain of events ludicrous – and I am not using the word lightly. Let us consider one of the largest black markets in the world, the market for illegal drugs, which has been thriving for decades. Has this resulted in market demand for protection agencies to replace the government? Um, no. It has resulted in exactly the opposite – a strengthening of the monopoly provider of security and law. It has given us the militarization[sic] of policy, legalized[sic] theft via civil asset forfeiture, and a well-funded DEA.
To this I ask how, exactly, has all that increase in government power, oppression and regulation actually had any effect on the growth of the drug trade? Has the state actually grown stronger from it’s regulations?
The answer lies in the critique itself where the author points out that the market for illegal drugs has been thriving for decades. Specifically the part about thriving for decades. All that regulation, all the militarisation of police forces to combat the thriving drug trade has failed, and each time a political candidate stands up to announce a new approach and more funding to eliminate the illegal drug market, it fails. On the surface we see an emboldening of law enforcement but without result; still the illegal market in drugs grows. What has occurred is that there is more waste to enforce increasingly powerless regulations. Then there’s the net effect of housing, clothing, feeding all those growers, dealers and users who get arrested. More waste. And yet the black market continues to operate and grow.
Government has grown more oppressive, sure. I agree. But appears that it has not grown stronger as it is fundamentally unable to totally enforce its restrictions against the drug trade.
However the authors fundamental error lies in the scope of the analogy used to support the assertion. That is the assumption that one area of the black market, in this case the illegal drugs market, will itself bring the state to collapse. This is not the Agorist proposition. The Agorist proposition is that the collective growth of every kind of black market that will bring revolution, each working to mutually benefit the other, building counter institutions and causing the government to waste itself into collapse. Of course one sector of the counter economy isn’t going to bring an end to the state.
A more accurate example of counter economics at work is that of music piracy. Analysing this social phenomenon, we see counter economics in action and its particular effect on a oppressive institution; the trundling music corporate behemoth. After all, there are many areas and perspectives involved in music piracy; p2p filesharing, torrent filesharing, file transfers through email, file sharing through instant messengers, uploads to myspace, youtube, the abundances of CD burners and even lending a CD to your friend (not to mention the argument by some that playing music over the radio is piracy) are all regarded as illegal practices but each confers some positive benefit to the parties involved. Case in point; they are counter economic. Music piracy has since challenged the intellectual property monopoly and rattled the foundations of music corporations while thousands of entrepreneurs world wide have arisen to take advantage of this kind of viral distribution. It is not simply one area of music piracy challenging the corporations, but every area. Entrepreneurs have arisen to fill demand and innovate on existing infrastructure such as those responsible for that Tortuga-esque virtual pirate haven ThePirateBay, or the likes of Trent Reznor and Saul Williams, these individuals and all those taking advantage of the service are helping to effect change. Funnily enough, even the most avid supporters of intellectual property may download music, or at least their children may download music, which turns out-spoken friends of the music corporation into enemies.
So keeping in mind a sense of scale, we need to look at the entirety of a counter economy in any given country in order to decide it’s effectiveness. If we look at America, for example, we know the drug trade exists and we know it is perverse, because most of us know someone involved in it in some capacity and we hear about arrests in the media. However we also need to consider how many individuals cheat on their taxes, how large the prostitution industry is, how many labourers, craftsman, or tradespeople work for cash — how many people are engaging in activities where they are not directly contributing to the coffers of the US government but still provide productive, even positive benefit. We also need to consider how much waste there currently is. War is costly and the American government fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a proxy war in Somalia, assisting the Pakistani military against the Taliban and agitating for war against Iran. There’s a few trillions of dollars. Throw in all the money going towards the Pentagon, militarised police force, the CIA and FBI to protect against foreign and domestic terrorism while including the trillion dollar bail outs to industry, we can add many more trillions to the list. Then consider the effect of all those unwise social programs created by representatives simply to garnish votes and we can add another trillion. Factor in the inevitability of the printing press being looked to in order to ‘fix’ the white economy and the hole the American government has dug itself what seems to be a gaping hole while the counter economy continues to grow.
Tell me again why counter economics is ridiculous?
Imagine; revolution sans violent overthrow, sans leaders, sans reliance on political institutions.
So in answer to the authors closing statement,
Does anyone really think we can win such a war against the most powerful military in the world, on its home ground?