Monday, June 08, 2009

Patri Friedman, you are an agorist!

In a blog post, Patri Friedman, a fairly well known libertarian (and the only well known 3rd gen lib) says:
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 of policy, legalized theft via civil asset forfeiture, and a well-funded DEA.
I agree that the direct effect of the black market for recreational drugs is to increase freedom – it provides something the government is trying to ban, thus ameliorating the effect of that ban. As an occasional user of illegal drugs, I think that’s fabulous. But to see black markets as the route to indirectly weakening and eventually toppling governments just doesn’t match up to the evidence. Coercive geographic monopolies on violence work, folks, much though we may hate it.

Ahh so much material for dismantling here.
First: "Has this resulted in market demand for protection agencies to replace the government? Um, no."
Well first off I'd say, your own approach to this game has clouded your ability to see what is relevant. You may actually have a point here, but assuming you did, that's not what the black market in drugs is attempting to solve. It's attempting to provide people with drugs, at which it succeeds admirably. That is one avenue of government interference that is thwarted.
Then again, you might be wrong about that also. As Jim Davidson said:
The answer is yes, it has. And most drug dealers provide their own protection, often in concert with other dealers in their area. These private protection agencies are referred to as “gangs” and their leaders as “drug lords.” They employ violence to enforce contracts, control territory, and defend the sovereignty of their members.

Secondly, we don't live in a free market, which is the whole thing we're objecting to in the first place with all this libertarianism! Can we adequately measure the demand for private protection services? All we can measure is what is supplied, which is filtered by what the government allows to be supplied.
All you're really saying here is that the government is somewhat effective at suppressing/containing private protection agencies for now. (which has some interesting implications for what their priorities really are)
Secondly, the natural market for illegal drugs is almost certainly not as massive as the government propaganda wants us to believe in the first place. To look at this as the one marker of what agorism stands for is like saying the free market in drugs would be the shining example of the free market, overall.
Certainly the people want drugs! But we want a lot of other things much more. Look at the Copyright War as a more classic example of agorism in action, doing it's job, providing alternatives.
And in the long run, the war for freedom is won in the minds of the people. What has brought more people to question the legitimacy of the government than the fact that they won't give us what we want... and that when we say "fuck the law", we can get it?
How many budding young anarchists or at least potential anarchists have been sparked (excuse the pun) by becoming stoners and/or "pirates"? The answer, is, a whole shit load.
Now also there's this part:
"But to see black markets as the route to indirectly weakening and eventually toppling governments just doesn’t match up to the evidence."
Again, there is this sort of mental filtering, this lack of relevant response.
We aren't "indirectly weakening" the government... we're not trying to slink into liberty. We're playing "Operation" with the body politic.
"Oops, there goes control of drugs!"
"Oops, there goes intellectual property"
We don't care if the government raises it's hackles in response. Let them come! This will only make more of us. You're thinking of a war of attrition. We're thinking of 4th generation warfare. The bloated, wasteful MEGASTATE cannot survive very long. A state that is 80% free, but still authoritarian? That would be a fearsome opponent and far more dangerous to us, in our opinion. Nonetheless, all other things being equal, agorism is the most functional strategy in almost all cases, except possibly near the end game, when the state is almost about to fall, when other approaches might become effective.
Here's some more from the same post by Patri:
"I believe in a different indirect path: global competition between governments. Let’s hit states where they are weak – at providing good services to their customers, not where they are strong – at holding onto territory with violence. We can do this by competing for citizens and capital, not for territory. Whether this is done through seasteading, free zones, or some other method entirely, I think it is a far more plausible route to indirectly improving political institutions."
Well, we can't improve political institutions. This actually again points at what I mean by "meta-agorism". What makes a government a "government" and not a mafia?
Agorists want to kill the state, piece by piece, not improve it gradually.
Meta-agorism wants people to understand that there's no such thing, there never was, and you're being imprisoned by a mafia.
In that sense, what you are doing is extremely valuable, because you're giving people somewhere to escape to.
And as an "illegal" provider of defense service you are also an agorist!

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