Agorism, Immigration, and Ron Paul

Some really good stuff over at Rod Long's blog recently.

First, an illuminating exchange between Charles Johnson (aka Rad Geek) and David Gordon that should once and for all lay to rest any remaining nonsensical hand-wringing libertarians may have about open immigration:

DAVID: Free immigration combined with a welfare state is a dangerous brew: does it make sense to reject Ron Paul because he cannot accept it?

CHARLES: It may be true that when you combine something fundamentally moral – free immigration – with something completely immoral – a coercive welfare state funded by expropriated tax funds – you’ll get bad consequences from the combination. But that’s a good reason to try to limit or eliminate the immoral part of the combination, by undermining or dismantling the apparatus of taxation and government welfare. It’s certainly not a good reason to try to limit or eliminate the moral part of the combination by escalating the federal government’s surveillance, recording, searching, beating, jailing, and exiling innocent people.

DAVID: He points out that some efforts to restrict immigration use violence against people; and he is right that here lies danger. Libertarians who favor immigration restrictions need to specify exactly what measures they think permissible. Ron Paul doesn’t favor beating and jailing people.

CHARLES: Of course Ron Paul does favor beating and jailing people in the name of his immigration control policy. He favors the creation and enforcement of federal immigration laws, including a paramilitary lock-down of the land borders, aggressive enforcement of the existing visa system, and the continued criminalization (“no amnesty”) of currently undocumented immigrants. He also favors the necessary means to these ends: border walls, paramilitary border patrols, government immigration dossiers and employment papers, internal immigration cops, detention centers, and all the other necessary means to interdicting, discovering, arresting, jailing, and deporting people who try to live and work peacefully in the United States without a federal permission slip for their existence. If you don’t believe that this process necessarily involves violent means, then just try to cross the border without government papers and see what happens to you.

Next, Roderick eloquently echoes the point I was trying to make in The Medium Is The Message:

How strong is the libertarian case for rejecting electoral politics altogether? The Voluntaryist moral argument that electoral politics involves impermissibly lending one’s sanction to the state I continue to find unpersuasive, for reasons I’ve explained previously. But the Agorist strategic argument is one that I find more convincing than I used to.

The Agorist line is that, given the informational and incentival constraints on state behaviour, the ultimate triumph of liberty is unlikely to come through top-down political action. Hence the more effective strategy is to encourage the withering-away of the state through education, building alternative institutions, and encouraging the withdrawal of support via La Boétie-style mass civil disobedience. But this means that we should be trying to wean people away from the political process – that we should be encouraging them to ignore the state, not to become energetically involved in political campaigns.

David Gordon writes that “Rothbard scorned those who disdain political action. Interested only in their supposed ideological purity, they retreat to an intellectual pantisocracy and display little interest in actually securing libertarian political objectives.” But this is a misunderstanding, I think. Those who disdain political action in the sense of electoral politics are not necessarily disdaining political action in the sense of action aimed at achieving libertarian political goals; they just think that the best way to do the latter is to resist, rather than to embrace, the former. It’s sometimes said that anarchists and minarchists are headed in the same direction, and so might as well ride on the same train for the time being, with minarchists merely getting off a stop or two before the anarchists do. But if the Agorist argument is right, they’re not really riding on the same train; and the minarchist train encourages a mindset that tends to undermine the success of the anarchist train.

I plan to start writing (and reading!) a lot more about Agorism in the near future, starting with a discussion of two drug movies, American Gangster and Blow. Until then, here's a brief synopsis of my argument to hold you over:

I was comparing [American Gangster] to Blow the entire way through. Johnny Depp's character [in Blow] proved--to me, at least--the impossibility of explicitly using the drug trade to promote agorist ideals. Depp played a middleman who was either unwilling or unable to incorporate the use of violence into his entrepreneurial toolkit. He failed as a result, pushed out of the market by competitors who were so willing to use violence. It seems that in the absence of a functioning market for protection and enforcement of property rights, these protection services have to be bundled together with the distribution and sale of narcotics. Such bundling pushes peaceful actors like Depp out of the market, and welcomes the Denzel/American Gangster type (though Denzel's character was better than most aggressors).

More to come on that, so stay tuned...

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Drug agorist movie

If you want a good drug movie with an agorist message, I highly recommand: "Maria llena de gracia"

gay marriage

But this means that we should be trying to wean people away from the political process – that we should be encouraging them to ignore the state, not to become energetically involved in political campaigns.

I wonder what Long's position on gay marriage is.  I disagreed with you (Micha) when you supported gay marriage laws for this very reason.  Do you still hold that position?

Although it's not quite on

Although it's not quite on topic with the issue of gay marriage for agorist, here's a thought for what it's worth.

The problem with gay marriage is that gay ask it for the wrong reason. From what I gathered they are mostly concerned with obtaining a blessing from the state. It seems that marriage to people needs to be "blessed" by a higher authority, and gays want the state to assume that role. Of course the state is free to refuse that, and contrary to popular opinion, it is not a monopolist of mariage, no more than the church it just won't recognize marriage it did not organize. Up to that point there is no moral case for or against state approved gay marriage from a libertarian perspective.

Things get more complicated when we introduce the fact that there is no freedom of contract, that there are inheritance taxes, etc, etc. Marrying, for gay people allow them to allieviate many of the rights infringements of the state. Although the state should not be forced to recognize gay marriage, it doing so would prevent it to commit some rights infringements. In this case forcing the state to recognize gay marriage is self defense, but I doubt this is what the gay demonstrators really have in mind. 

Things get even more complicated when we consider that some laws infringe on people's right when two people are married. Think non-discrimination against married couple. In this case, forcing the state to recognize gay marriage will make it hurt other people and not stop hurting other, thus it does not fully qualify as self-defense. We're in moral dilemma land. Using Aquinas' principle of double effect, I would tend to favor state recognition of gay marriage.

Arthur, I don't think it's

Arthur,

I don't think it's fair or justified to claim that gay people ask for the right to marry "for the wrong reason," nor do we have any basis for assuming what "gay demonstrators really have in mind." We are talking about a large, amorphous group of people here, people who do not all fall in lockstep agreement with each other, nor receive a single set of talking points from central command. Sure, some gay people push for gay marriage because they want society's stamp of approval (not that there's anything wrong with that desire, either), while others are more concerned with the legal implications of inheritance, hospital visitiation rights, and custody, to name but a few issues.

I do agree, though, that legal recognition of gay marriage both expands freedom for some while restricting freedom for others. And I also agree with you that, on balance, state recognition of gay marriage is an overall benefit in terms of freedom, and not a cost. The issue is similar to immigration, for the reasons Charles mentioned in the original post in this thread. Paraphrasing Charles:

It may be true that when you combine something fundamentally moral – freedom to contract into gay marriage – with something completely immoral – anti-discrimination law – you’ll get bad consequences from the combination. But that’s a good reason to try to limit or eliminate the immoral part of the combination, by undermining or dismantling the apparatus of anti-discrimination law. It’s certainly not a good reason to try to limit or eliminate the moral part of the combination by denying gay people the freedom to contract with each other.

 

 

Gay marriage and immigration

No no, the issues are quite different !

In immigration, the issue is to have the state abstain to prevent immigration. This, combined with welfare has bad consequences to some.

In gay marriage, the issue is to force the state to recognize gay marriage. This can be justified only in self defense, but self-defense cannot harm others, and it would in that case.

In France, civil unions are widely available and they solve most of the problemes tax, inheritance, etc, so the demand is really for blessing. I use a religious word on purpose because I believe people who seek recognition by the state of their marriage for its own sake are following a cult.

If civil unions were

If civil unions were available for gay people, and if these unions carried all the same legal ramifications as marriage, I would certainly be satisfied, and I suspect most of the support for gay marriage among the gay community itself would dry up, as they would be satisfied as well. Of course, the suspicion is that by restricting special language for heterosexual relationships, we would end up with a "seperate but equal" system, and we all know how well that works in practice.

Yes, I still hold that

Yes, I still hold that position, but I appreciate and respect the libertarian critiques (such as the one offered by JTK). You're right; gay marriage is a similar issue in this respect, as is school vouchers/tax credits. It's not 100% clear whether a second-best solution is better or worse than the status quo, but I suspect Long's position on gay marriage is similar to mine.

Agorists' focus is on security

"Johnny Depp's character [in Blow] proved--to me, at least--the impossibility of explicitly using the drug trade to promote agorist ideals. Depp played a middleman who was either unwilling or unable to incorporate the use of violence into his entrepreneurial toolkit. He failed as a result, pushed out of the market by competitors who were so willing to use violence."
This is why agorists put the emphasis not on drug dealing nor tax evasion, but on security and justice alternatives - libertarian rights enforcement. In the agorist novel "Alongside night" this is what the depicted agorists mostly provide: exfiltration and hiding of people the state wants to disappear, safe underground marketplaces, police diversion services, private arbitration for aggressions and theft.
Basically, all this is adressed to people who are afraid of the police. In today's developped countries, that would be mainly illegal aliens, at first, then tax fraudsters as the state would escalate crackdowns.

Agorist Miniarchist?

But if the Agorist argument is right, they’re not really riding on the same train; and the minarchist train encourages a mindset that tends to undermine the success of the anarchist train.

I'm not sure Roderick is right here. In another post I think Misha (may have been someone else) called Arnold Kling an Agorist Miniarchist. Why is this possibility not open? Must a miniarchist prevent any voluntary efforts to provide security? I think not. Agorism seems to be even more open to the miniarchists and the anarchists coming together than other strands of libertarianisn because it is essentially experimental. If the anarchists are right, some set of institutions will work to replace the state. If they are wrong, no set will work. In the mean time, why not experiment? What's the harm? The competition may force the government to work better even if the anarchists' dream never comes true.

~Matt