Agorist Opportunity?

Rad Geek touches on an issue initially brought to my attention by my good friend Ben "Theophanes" Darrington the other evening, namely: Might the Ron Paul implosion signal an enormous opportunity that we (as young libertarians so-far untethered to any major libertarian institutions) should take advantage of as soon as possible?

Writes Rad Geek,

I’d say that recent news — Ron Paul’s next-to-last performances in early primaries, and the rippling effects of the recent brouhaha over the newsletters published under his imprimatur — is as good a reason as you could hope for for believing that time is up. Either the Paulistas unhitch themselves now or they will be carried far away from their intended destination. ...

So Ron Paul’s chances in the Republican primaries, if he ever had any to begin with, are on death’s doorstep, and all that remains on this point are a number of damning associations with his name that radical libertarians will not be able to dispel or to dissociate within the electoral forum. Those radical libertarians who have tried to use Ron Paul’s personality and campaign, warts and all, as an indirect means for educating people about and persuading them of anti-war and radical libertarian views had best give it up. Those radical libertarians who have tried to mix with Ron Paul’s other supporters as a source for new recruits had best give up on trying to work together with the Paulistas within the context of Ron Paul’s campaign, and start working on poaching them from the campaign into other projects. Any further effort at bolstering the campaign is, as far as I can see, going to be wasted effort. The campaign is just about dead in the water, and ongoing libertarian efforts to talk it up are, as far as I can tell, very unlikely to educate anyone about the real nature of libertarianism. What they are far more likely to do is undermine any efforts to educate people about what genuine radical libertarianism entails. If these efforts are not simply ignored, then what they will accomplish is not mainly to push more anti-libertarians and not-yet-libertarians towards libertarianism, but rather to push them towards associating radical libertarianism with the reactionary bigotry of the hard Right. What would be far more productive is a concerted effort to break that association, by publicly dissociating from and criticizing the Ron Paul campaign, on the grounds of clear, public, and unapologetic statements of radical libertarian principles.

So if we are to "poach" them from Paul, where should we direct them to? Will Wilkinson and others have suggested organizations such as Cato, IHS, and Reason, which are all great institutions for young libertarian intellectuals, but they are not designed to deal with and tap into the talents of your average Ron Paul activitist. The groundswell of support the Ron Paul campaign attracted cannot simply be funnelled into an intellectual movement. What made the Ron Paul movement so unique in general, and so unique for libertarian movements in particular, was not its intellectual characteristics--although those were certainly important--but its netroots funding, absurdly decentralized organizational skills, and the passion and devotion of local activists contributing inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money to a long-shot campaign for reasons that are completely beyond my comprehension.

But there is no where for them to go after the Paul campaign fizzles, and the problem here is not just that this is a huge wasted opportunity. The associated feelings of loss of time wasted in the past, pointlessness of continuing to participate in political activities in the present, and hopelessness about the likelihood of positive change in the future will lead many of these activists to give up on politics altogether (which is not necessarily a bad thing) or come to the false and unfortunate conclusion that the Paul campaign failed and was replaced with nothing because it deserved to fail and be replaced with nothing.

Ben suggested that, given my recent interest in Agorism, this might be just the right direction towards which to channel ex-Paulites. With an emphasis on direct action, a cynical, skeptical view of electoral politics, and, of course, most importantly, an overall worldview much more agreeable to mine than paleoconservatism, Agorism is where it's at, yo.

Of course, word-dropping alone is not enough to start or redirect a movement. Serious questions must be answered and major obstacles overcome before even I can convince myself that this is a worthwhile idea. Why did Agorism seem to die down (and never really catch on) during the late 70s and early 80s? Was it just too much of a personality cult centered around Konkin, without enough second-hand dealers in ideas to carry the torch any further? Did Konkin and his fellow travelers piss off the other major libertarian camps or funders? Was the lack of movement success of Agorism over the last few decades intrinsic to the ideology itself or a result of personality clashes betweem Konkin and others? Or something else entirely?

Agorist experts--both critics and advocates--please weigh in.

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While I am no agorist expert

While I am no agorist expert I am not sure it is doable. Ron Paul's message is fundamentally anti-agoric. He insisted a lot on the rule of law a lot. "illegal" immigrants broke the law for example. Most of the supporters I have met or talked to completely shared this sovereign-nation rule-of-law spirit.
I am not sure you can convince Ron Paul supporters that privately operated tunnels under the US/Mexico border are the coolest thing ever.

While a lot of Ron Paul's

While a lot of Ron Paul's rhetoric is over deferential to obeying the state's laws, the actions and words of his supporters are much less so. Did you see the video of Ron Paul supporters chasing Sean Hannity down the streets of New Hampshire? (If you haven't you need to. It's one of the most funny/heartening things I've seen in a long time.) Spend some of that 6 million dollars on tar and feathers and were set!

I spent a couple of days answering email for the campaign and I was struck with how many complaints they get from the Department of Transporation, city governments, etc. complaining about illegally posted signs, demonstrations, etc. I'd just write them back and tell them the official campaign has no knowledge of or control over what these people do. This is one beauty of the movement that lends itself to Agorist means. It's so decentralized and self-organized that there is no central body to pin blame on or attack and a bunch of people putting themselves at neglible risk by commiting misdemenors here and there can have a significant rule breaking impact on the agregate level.

On further thoughts, I think

On further thoughts, I think the best place to channel these efforts could be bureaucrash.

It has a spirit a bit similar to Ron Paul's campaign (without the scary sovereignty part)

I'm friends with the

I'm friends with the bureaucrash brothers and give mad props to their outfit, but while it may be the best of the now existing institutions for what I'm aiming at, it would need either a major overhaul or an entirely seperate sister-organization to achieve the sort of scale I'm thinking about here. They seem to be more of a low-overhead, fly-by-night, move-to-wherever-the-action is counter-propoganda org, and I'm thinking more along the lines of a permanent, multi-state, student outfit along the lines of Ralph Nader's PIRGs or campus Hillels. That, of course, would require massive funding as well as full-time employees on staff 24/7, and not just free volunteer student labor.

Where do we channel the Ron Paul Parade?

See,, and

Meh, I wish the FreeStaters

Meh, I wish the FreeStaters all the best, but it's not really something I can personally get all that passionate about. And since I am, like everyone else in the world, a thoroughgoing solipsist, if I can't get excited about the FSP for myself, I can hardly expect others to be that different from me.

Apart from the obvious costs of picking up and moving to a new state (which could be significantly, albeit not entirely, reduced by Patri's Dynamic Geography), it's also important to take into account the greater importance culture plays for most people than mere cost of living with gov't bureacracy. Or, as Nick Gillespie put it,

Fewer tax and regulatory hassles and, most important, a tremendously lower cost of living are, in the end, probably not that important to people.

Rather, I suspect the number of opportunities, for businesses and consumers alike, and something we might dub as "action"—a rough metric of buzz, restaurants, cool shops, weirdness, culture of all sorts—are far more important to most people in deciding where to live and work.

Where to live and work

Your solipcist belief is wrong (at least if it's plain solipcisim)... I can't prove it to you, but I know it is.

Ok now to your quote, I unfortunately agree with it. I live NYC, I could hardly pick a worst place for taxes, but given business opportunities, work opportunity etc it's still worth it to pay the cost of governement. Even if New-York city could relocate itself at a low cost, there is still the high cost of coordination. Patri's proposals are interesting but they are incremental and networks are very hard to move incrementally.

All in all, there are plenty of places with low taxes and low governement, but people don't flock there. And if they did, it'd be possible for government to increase there.


I have written a more formal

I have written a more formal explanation or answer to your question here,

I hope it satisfies. :)

If there are any more questions, don't feel hesitant to ask.

[responded over on your

[responded over on your blog, crossposting here as well]

I think both of us are confusing, or at least not adequately distinguishing between, two different meanings of "success." There is extra-libertarian success - the success agorism might have in the larger, non-libertarian world, and there is intra-libertarian success - the success agorists have in convincing other libertarians to adopt the agorist strategy. I'm more concerned with intra-libertarian success; if we can't convince those who already agree with us on 95% of the issues of the wisdom of our strategy, there is no point in worrying about why we can't convince nonlibertarians either.

Further, while I understand what you mean when you say that Agorists have already succeeded, I think this equivocates between two different meanings: that Agorism qua Agorism (w00t! free Randian Scrabble points!) has succeeded, and the world is a different, better place now than it would have been if no one had ever put down on paper the insights of Agorism and thereby acted upon those insights, or Agorism as a materialist (dare I say Marxist? yes I dare!), economic force of history, that would have happened regardless of whether anyone recognized it as such. I'm more than willing to buy into the latter theory; I am more skeptical of the former.

I do put much credence in your "the time just wasn't right" theory, and like you, wonder which factors, which personality types we should be looking for in determining when a better time approaches. The Ron Paul phenomenon and its inevitable collapse, I think, represents such an opportunity; if so, the question now is what we need to do to take advantage of it?

Simple answer? Sectarianism!


You ask:

"Why did Agorism seem to die down (and never really catch on) during the late 70s and early 80s? Was it just too much of a personality cult centered around Konkin ..."

My impression is that it wasn't so much a personality cult around Konkin as a clash of strategies which tended to produce a polarization/separation among their various advocates. That can look a lot like a personality cult around Konkin (or Rothbard, or whomever), but it takes on a life of its own and transcends and outlasts the personality in question.

There never was, and still isn't, any sound principled or strategic reasoning which requires agorists to eschew either politics per se, or strategic alliances with those who practice politics. It's just a silly territorial squabble.


So do you think there is realistic potential for the next generation (i.e. us) to put aside the silly territorial squabbles of our forebearers, or are we doomed to repeat history? I don't have a problem making strategic alliances with voters--hell, some of my best friends vote!--but I certainly have no interest in voting myself, though I could be convinced of the value of small-scale activism designed to influence the outcome of local politics. Again, though, this just isn't my comparative advantage.

What I'm curious about - both for shallow libertarian gossip reasons, but also for serious, strategic, don't-make-the-same-mistake-twice and don't-attempt-the-impossible reasons - is whether there is any significant bad blood between the Agorists and other libertarian camps, in the way there is between the "Paleos" and the "Beltway" libs, or between the ARIans and, um everyone else. I'd like to know what I'm getting into before I throw my hat into the ring.

Of silly territorial squabbles ...


I think we'll invent whole new squabbles to hash out. That never ends. But I also think we're entering a new era of ideological and strategic innovation.

Thing is, all protestations to the contrary, libertarians have "leader figures" too, and their reaches tend to exceed their lifespans.

Rand is dead. Rothbard is dead. SEK3 is dead.

Thing is, Rand and Rothbard have tighter post-mortem grips on the movements they founded (Rand's tighest and most stifling of all by far, but look at the [organized] Rothbardians -- at this very moment they are tearing huge chunks out of their own hides trying to hold to his late-in-life "paleo" strategy).

SEK3 seemed to have a proprietary view of agorism (note: He's the only one of the three I ever met or corresponded with), but it was more like he was so fascinated with what he was up to that he wanted to hold it close while he was up to it. He didn't pull any of this Ayn Rand "designated heir" stuff, nor are there any ivy-encrusted institutions to decree that he set such-and-such a line and that said line shall be maintained.

So, the agorists are coming out of the post-"leader"-death gate hard and fast, while the Objectivists and Rothbardians have substantially sacrificed their head starts. It's going to be an interesting mashup, and I bet some good stuff comes out of it. The squabbles are just the entertainment.


In Reply

Micha, thank you for your well thought out reply, I will post this on my blog as well as on Distributed Republic, but for the most part I do prefer replying to others in blog posts, just so you know what my style is. ;)

First, though I can understand your differentiation between the two successes, and agree with it to some extent, I do not believe that the adoption of the two different successes would negate my analysis. Whether it be a change in external society, or just a change in the broader libertarian movement, the hampering aspects of reality have been, and continue to be, based on the non-existence of the right people, though this no longer appears to be as large of a problem, and also the challenge of convincing people to block out the noise and the “Get-Liberty-Quick” schemes like the Ron Paul’s and the Libertarian Parties.

For my point on the progression of Agorism, in some way I see how it could be perceived as historical materialism in that I do believe the revolution and our victory will be inevitable, however, that interpretation, I think, does not do particular justice to the complexities of the mechanism of Agorism. My point was really more of one that we’re developing, Agorism is a process, Agorism is a young strategy, and whether by simple chance, a perfect storm coming together, the ability for us to interact with people from across the globe at our computers, or something else entirely, we are only now beginning to see the fruits of Konkin’s labour. It shouldn’t be mistaken, however, that Agorism’s success in reaching phase one automatically correlates to success in phase two, three, and four. Though I do believe we – this generation – will succeed, I do not believe in the necessity of a historically materialist equation. My reasons for believing we will succeed come from my gradual graduation into the realm of Kierkegaard’s Knight of Faith from the point of Knight of Infinite Resignation, and not from a type of pre-ordained destiny that we are due to inherit – just a little existentialism for ya’ ;).

You are definitely correct, however, the collapse of Ron Paul will mean a great victory for we libertarians – I wrote something of a paper predicting just that in the LL2 Yahoo group. For your question about what we do next, however, I can only suggest, we need to organize more, agitate more, teach more, and act more. I for one am hungry, and I’m burning to do anything and everything I can, while also trying to inspire others to do the same. I burn for this, I yearn for this, I want this revolution so bad, and I want to inherit a leadership role. My entire life I’ve wanted something to just… want something, and this is it, if that counts as the kind of personality one needs, then sign me up.

What is to be done?

Aiming for intra-libertarian success seems rather pointless. There are only a tiny number of them and they don't really possess much in the way of influence.

The ultimate aim is not

The ultimate aim is not intra-libertarian success, but it's important (for me, at least) to get a sense of the intra-libertarian history on this issue before embarking on a major undertaking; no point in making the same mistakes and traveling down the same dead-ends if it can be avoided.

The Orange Line -- not very libertarian

I am a spamming asshole.

Why don't you use your real

Why don't you use your real name if you believe your cause is so important? What are you tryring to hide?

Don't trust the Orange Line

I am a spamming asshole who won't shut the fuck up.

How can you trust any attributions on this blog?

Great, rewrite my comments. Put swear words in my mouth. Very nice.

Your software is screwed up and attributions cannot be trusted

I am a huge asshole who spams other blogs and then cries about it.

I'm not the one deleting or

I'm not the one deleting or rewriting comments. I'm not sure who is, or why.

I have seen your copy-and-pasted formula comment on a number of other blogs, clearly not responding to anything directly on point in the thread, but merely advertising your own blog, which is generally considered bad form and spamming.

If you want to advertise your blog, the appropriate thing to do is comment directly with something relevant to the host thread, and then say something like, "I've written more about this topic over at [link]."

Regardless, I have a hard time taking anything you say seriously (though judging from your blog posts, you don't have anything serious to say in the first place, so no big whoop) if you won't put your real name behind your posts. What are you so afraid of?

Ron Paul won 2nd place in NV caucuses today

2nd place in NV =)