I was thinking about writing a post about agorism, when by improbable coincidence a couple of related chunks turned up in my media consumption.
Firstly, the always fun Dave Emory covers seasteading and Patri Friedman in episode #744 of his For The Record radio program. This chunk of media doesn’t relate directly to agorism, but seasteading is a concept out of what you might call SciFi Libertarianism, which is the same ground as has spawned agorism. Making the connection more resonant is the fact that Patri Friedman runs a PUA blog.
(PUA, if you don’t know, stands for Pick Up Artist. The PUA community/industry is an outgrowth of a new, loosely associating Social Tactics movement that claims to have good advice about convincing women to have sex with you. More often than not, though, things labeled PUA are rackets for breaking cash off of sexually frustrated men. Recession-proof, that.)
The reason why Patri Friedman’s activity as a Pickup Artist is resonant is complicated. You may want to break out your Illuminati! deck to follow along. These PUA guys are the hucksters of the Social Tactics movement, separating out Game–the sexy part–and repackaging it for resale at inflated prices.
(Game, as with Social Tactics in general, is available for free. All you need to do is figure out the right books to read and get them from the library. Meanwhile, you get out there and talk to people. It’s all really no more than a more self-conscious method of Growing the Fuck Up. You know, put down the controller and get involved in life.)
The thing about Game, though, is that it becomes political because it must consider feminism. Feminism is a constant specter for players because feminism wants to make bad Game illegal–literally. Good Game is invisible. Bad Game is harassment, or so it would be if feminists succeed. This means that any player’s game must be flawless %100 of the time. Otherwise he’s a harasser.
The place where Game butts up against feminism is quite a busy one. There you’ll find a rich array of men who question the wisdom of feminism’s mission and premises. And out of this grows an increasing suspicion of leftism, Marxism, postmodernism, multiculturalism and… governmental social programs. So then, a minarchist, if not completely anarcho-capitalist sensibility pairs very well with the study of Game, and especially well for the PUAs who have decided to turn Game into a business (as shady as it may be).
While agorism doesn’t require anarcho-capitalism theory–any illiterate thug can become an agorist–anarcho-capitalism does provide a theory to support agorism. And here is where criticism of Patri Friedman gets weird for me. To some degree, Friedman and myself are fellow travelers. I think seasteading is a brilliant idea, and I’ve written mediocre science fiction exploring the topic. Also, I study Social Tactics. For a long time I’ve been frustrated on a handful of fronts, not just with women, but in earning a living, excercising my creative impulses, and keeping the Other People from fucking up my day to day. Being kind of nerdy I’ve turned to reading to see if I can’t find some insight that could help me break through. After an excruciatingly long time I’ve come to realize that it’s eye contact and conversations that determine our lives, and that social competence is the most important skill. Meanwhile, the unfolding of history has made me realize that I can rely on neither government welfare nor corporate employment to take me where I want to go. The only way I’m going to fund my adventures in this life is through my own entrepeneurial spirit. Hence agorism. Because agorism is the methodology of the proletariat capitalist in the belly of the corporate plutocracy.
So Friedman and I have similar views on some things. The difference is that he’s a high roller and associates with people like Peter Theil a major investor in Facebook. Facebook is of course a data mining operation for the government. There is no arguing against this fact, because at the very least these two statements are undeniable: 1. Facebook has lots of data about lots of people. 2. Facebook will comply with practically any subpoena.
So, we’ve rounded the corner of our ass and our elbow looms on the horizon. The point is that my interest in agorism, not to mention a few other ideas I carry around, have been linked to fascism. That is, after all, Emory’s greater premise–that the Third Reich did not collapse after WWII but went underground, and that it is now making a gradual comeback.
Secondly, idle web surfing lead me to this sentence at The Exiled:
“I did a brief check on what sort of “libertarian anarchists” were at Hunter College in the early 1970s, and discovered this: some libertarian hack named J. Neil Schulman waxing nostalgic about his libertarian youth, including some forgettable “libertarian anarchist” lectures at Hunter College in the early 1970s.”
Interesting. Schulman is the author of the 1979 novel Alongside Night, the preeminent work of literary agorist illustration. In the tradition of Moore’s Utopia, Skinner’s Walden Two or Ayn Rand’s novels, the book paints a fictional picture of what well-developed agorism looks like. The book is more than 30 years old, but Schulman is still alive and active publishing a blog at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/
As part of a longer pastoral that excortiates libertarianism as a faux-radical movement that plays to the needs of the existing hegemonies to the degree that the FBI has consciously passed on infiltrating it, the Exiled article portrays Schulman as an establishment stooge with a–oh no!–pro-gun point of view. The piece is idealogical but written well enough to give a thoughtful person pause.
Fortunately, though, Schulman actually comments on this Exiled article, resulting in a dialectical clash that spills over to his own blog. The comments section of Schulman’s blog entry becomes an excellent back and forth addressing differences between Marxist and market anarchisms.
Yeah, it’s a big convoluted mess. I’m relieved, though, because I’ve been reading about agorism for a few weeks now and finding myself comfortable with the practical aspects of it–counter-economics and so on. As the agorist story goes, capitalists have consolidated their wealth and power all these years by hamstringing the little guy via governmental regulation. This seems true enough in the United States. International corporations can operate the different facets of their businesses anywhere in the world, according to profitability. Labor costs and taxation are the clearest examples of this. For years manufacturing has thrived in countries with the weakest labor laws. Meanwhile, income has been streamed to nations with the lowest tax rates and stashed in the countries with the most discrete banks. Middle-class Americans, though, can’t usually skirt the law by changing locations. (And I’ll skip the opportunity to point out how these facts contribute to the lack of productive growth in the United States.)
The agorist solution to this is to ignore the law and operate under the radar. Agorism in action, called counter-economics, includes black market and grey market business. A meth lab is counter-economical, but so is a bake sale. While these are radically different types of operations, they are the same in that they are motivated by a desire for cash income, and not by a desire for political change. Agorism gives sub-market business a political underpinning and provides points of solidarity for those who want them.
It’s a heartening set of ideas for hustlers of all types, but it’s also viable and relevant. Claims that agorists collaborate unknowingly with the establishment are launched from confused minds.