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New Libertarian Manifesto Paperback – May 1, 2006
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"Counter economics" probably needs a new name. It is short for "counter-establishment" economics, and was widely understood as such in the aftermath of the "counter culture," but now the term "counter economics" sounds like "un-economic" or "anti-economic." Regardless, SEK3 was anything but "anti-economic" -- he was a student of the Austrian school, and dedicated the New Libertarian Manifesto to Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard (and Robert LeFevre). What is meant by "counter-establishment" economics is eschewing the "white" market -- that is, the state controlled market -- for black (illegal, non-violent) and grey (of questionable legality) markets. The idea is that evasion, avoidance, and ignoring of the state will lead to its demise.
Konkin also discusses a "red" market -- that of violence. This is distinguished from the black market, even if both are deemed illegal by the state. Prostitution, where the prostitute is voluntarily engaging in the sale of sex for money, is a black market activity. But where the girl is forced to prostitute herself by an abusive pimp, it is red market, and not condoned.
Konkin makes the case that there are already millions of black- and grey-market operators throughout the U.S. Not only drug dealers and prostitutes, but unlicensed auto mechanics and plumbers, underground hair dressers and daycare providers, and countless independent contractors who underreport their taxable income. The "New Libertarian" strategy, says Konkin, should be for libertarians to mix with these people and convert them to libertarian philosophy. This will allow them to shed their guilt and give up their dreams of "going straight" once they have enough money. Konkin wants to libertarianize "counter economists" (black-market participants) and "counter-economize" libertarians.
The Manifesto also contains critiques by Murray Rothbard, Robert LeFevre, and "Dirty Pierre" (whoever that is). As an avowed Rothbardian, it was painful for me to read Rothbard's entirely off-base critique, in which he levels at least two absurd allegations against Konkin, champions the "Libertarian" Party and political action in general, and even defends the despicable Kochtopuss. One key issue is that Rothbard says SEK3 is against wage labor -- it's absurd, since that is clearly not the case. But SEK3 responds (the responses to the three critiques are also contained here) that while there's nothing morally wrong with wage labor, it is strategically inferior to independent contracting due to tax withholding and regulation.
Rothbard scores one solid point in his critique, though, which is that it's much harder for large-scale manufacturing businesses to be fully "black market." This is true, but if Rothbard were alive today, he'd see there was little manufacturing left in the U.S. anyway, and all those wage workers he said Konkin abandoned are in constant danger of losing their jobs -- many already have. It seems that independent contracting is thus not only preferable for agorist strategy but also for personal freedom and security.
LeFevre's criticisms rest upon his asinine pacifism, and Dirty Pierre's are swiftly rebutted by Konkin. Perhaps the Manifesto could have been better and longer, but as the dedication to Chris R. Tame says, it was better that SEK3 got it written than perfectly right. Unfortunately, "Agorism" -- which was to be what Das Capital was to NLM's Communist Manifesto -- was never completed before Konkin's death. I wish there were more old agorist literature, particularly because the people who've taken up "agorism" today have blended it with socialism, social anarchism, mutualism, etc., (none of which are mentioned in the NLM), but on its own, this Manifesto is definitely more than enough to make the case for agora, anarchy, action!
If you are looking for the same, I recommend passing on this.
If you have any involvement with libertarianism, you are well aware of the "cat herding" problem within the movement. But what do you expect from a philosophy that is so deeply opposed to hierarchy and control? SEK3, in this book, lays out his own particular brand of libertarianism that he called Agorism.
What is agorism? Agorism, from the greek word for market, is a anarcho-capitalist philosophy that holds that all interactions between individuals should be voluntary. Pretty straight forward libertarianism, one would think, but with his roots in the Old Left, it does have a different flavor than libertarian systems that developed out of the Old Right. The major difference is the focus on counter-economics rather than Austrian economics. if you are coming to libertarianism from the left, this book will definitely help you explain yourself better to your former comrades.
On the minarchist-anarchist debate, this book is solidly anarchist. I tend to favor minarchism and communitarianism, but I do see the validity of SEK3's arguments, and he does a better job than most arguing against minarchism.
major weakness- I don't believe you can ignore the state to death. this approach led him to some arguments with the "partyarchs" and the "kochtopus." (his terms). but, this approach does have more compelling things to say about how to live your life that other wings of libertarianism don't. sure, you can read Reason and vote Libertarian as a main stream libertarian, but as an agorist you will actively work to live your life in ways that purposely exclude the government.
the recent surge in libertarianism would do well to be tempered by some of the ideas presented in this book, and to use it to look for new allies on the left, somewhere libertarianism doesn't usually look.
Samuel Edward Konkin the Third was truly a radical. We need more leaders like him