About network agorism

by Ilja

What is agorism?

Agorism is the political philosophy that advocates the goal of the bringing about of a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges by means of counter-economics. It was founded by libertarian theorist Samuel Edward Konkin III in 1975.

I prefer “agorism” in comparison with “anarcho-capitalism”, not only because capitalism is a bad word – I’m not afraid of using words with bad reputation. The point is that capitalism – different from a free market society – is heavily misused to describe the actual economic system, which is much more close to corporatism (the economic system typical for fascist states) than to a free market. But the actual economic system deserves its bad reputation. So, let’s leave “capitalism” as a description of the actual economic system (which, in fact, favours big capitals) and choose another word – agora – to describe a really free market.

The other point which made me prefer “agorism” is its focus on the particular way to reach this society: It is not a violent revolution, not an attempt to destroy the state by force, or to take it over. It is focussed on counter-economics – economics outside the state. This is non-violent: Nobody is forced to participate in it. It is also non-destructive: Whatever works in the actual society is not destroyed by counter-economics.

Moreover, it focusses on what can and should be done now. The agorist does not have to care about minarchism vs. anarchism: He simply tries to do as much as possible outside the state, independent of the state. If he is successful, he creates a complete society outside the state. Then, this complete working society proves that the state is not necessary. If he is less successful, if there remain some problems which cannot be adequately solved without territorial monopolies – so be it.

The other method: secessions

The other thing which can be done now are secessions: Fighting against large states, by splitting them into parts, is an important way to minimize the harm created by the state. It increases competition between them, it makes it easier to switch between states, and it also decreases the inherent problems of democracies as described by public choice theory. We know that it is workable: It has worked nicely in the past, in Italy and Germany. And we know that the main economic problem of small states – tariffs and too many borders – can be solved in the same way they are solved today in Europe.

There is no contradiction between these two methods to diminish the harm created by states. But, clearly, secessions alone do not solve the problem: Even small states can be as repressive as large states, as restrictive, as harmful. Instead, if the agora succeeds, even if only for some part of human behaviour, this will be an increase in general human freedom. Thus, while I support every secessionist, separatist movement, my focus is on the agora.

The network

There is one problem with the agora: Its failure in the past. There has been a lot of economic activity outside the state, and there is, even today, a lot of it – in particular, the drug market. Nonetheless, states have been stronger in the past. And, at a first look, there seems no reason to expect a change: Modern large scale economics seems even more vulnerable to external control than the small scale economics of the past. The classical domains of economics which continue to remain outside state control do not use large factories: households, prostitution, gambling, smuggling, drugs, black job markets, private arbitration – all this is small scale. So what can be done here? What is the hope?

The hope is the revolution in information technology. It can change the situation in a very radical way. The point is that there is a technical problem with large scale agorism – the problem of trust and reputation in large societies. Maybe there are also other problems with large scale agorism – future will show. But this problem alone restricts classical agorism to small groups, where everybody knows everybody else, so that trust and reputation is sufficient to enforce contracts.

But this is a technical problem, which can be solved today: All one really needs is a global black list of contract breakers, so that you can break a contract only once in your life.

Based on a global reputational network, the agora becomes much more powerful: Violating a private, agorist contract will be penalized globally and forever – even emigration does not help. This reverts the old situation: In the past, for violators of agorist contracts it was sufficient to move into another part of the same state, but for violators of a law of the state only emigration was a solution. Now violating a state law becomes less dangerous – emigration helps, but there is no emigration from a global black list.

Based on this new power relation, morals will change correspondingly: People will care about their reputation for holding contracts, and this reputation will become more important than the reputation of following the law.