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L. Neil Smith's
Number 549, December 20, 2009

"The United Nations must be destroyed."

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Smashing: Fail; Withdrawing: Epic Win
by Jim Davidson

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Smashing the state sounds elegant, but is wrong. Etienne de la Boetie was right in advocating that we let the tyranny fall by withdrawing our support.

Some people think they want the order the state provides. When they see attacks on the state, efforts to smash it, they see those as reasons to strengthen the state. So smashing at the state often makes things worse.

Efforts to smash the state don't often succeed—the number of failed rebellions in history far outnumbers the number of successful revolutions. But suppose you do succeed? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Whatever you build that is strong enough to destroy the state that oppresses you is going to be stronger than that state. And therefore it is going to be desirable to those who seek to oppress others, either the old crowd using new phrases to hide their views, or a new crowd. Time and again through history we see people building up something strong enough to resist tyranny and finding it perverted, sooner or later, into something even worse.

The Greeks formed leagues to resist Xerxes and tore their society apart a few decades later in the Peloponnesian wars. The same leagues they formed mutated into tyranny over their city states.

The Americans formed a continental government to overthrow Britain. It was mutated into the constitution which has authorised all the tyranny we now suffer, or was powerless to prevent any of it. (I think it is the former, and by design.)

If we are going to avoid the same mistakes, over and over and over and over, it is important to understand what has gone before. That's why it is so important to read works of literature, philosophy, and practical politics in their original. You can't understand things by reading some other person's interpretation of ideas—what was interpreted ten minutes ago for someone else isn't going to match your situation right now.

Raise up free markets. Raise up the spontaneous order of the market. Raise up the agora. Not to smash the state, but to obviate it. Not to make it the victim, and encourage its supporters to give it more power, but to make it the bully. Show the surplus order of the state for what it is, so that people choose to abandon it.

What do I mean by surplus order? I mean exactly what Alvin and Heidi Toffler meant in 1990's Powershift: Wealth, Knowledge, and Violence on the edge of the 21st Century. They meant to distinguish between the order that ordinary people want—to be able to walk down the street without being attacked by riot police, to cross a border without being beaten and arrested, to enter a shop without being raped, to operate a shop without endless shop lifting. That sort of basic order is the order of the free market, and widely available.

Surplus order imposes riot police wherever there are protesters, border police at every border crossing, a security camera in every bathroom, a surveillance net for every phone call. Surplus order is when the state revokes passports, sets up a barricade at every airport and train station, kicks in doors at 3 a.m., and drags parents away from their screaming children. Such surplus order does nothing for the people living in communities. It serves only those who control the state.

Withdrawing: Epic Win
In 1999, the IRS was called on the carpet by Congress. During Congressional hearings on brutality and abuses of power, the IRS was asked to justify their vicious attacks on individuals and private property.

One of the answers they gave was that, in their view, about sixty million Americans who "ought" to be filing tax papers every year do not. At the time, I think there were about 280 million Americans as far as the government was concerned, and perhaps 220 million of those were adults. Figure that 20 million were not expected to file for various reasons, like being elderly or in hospitals or in prisons or such. That leaves 200 million expected tax filers, of whom 30% were not filing.

The figures these days are, if anything, more weighted toward non-compliance. The last figure I saw from the IRS suggested something like 130 million individual income tax filers. The latest figure I have on population (doubtful, since it is a gov't figure) is 307.5 million. If we take out about 87.5 million for being under age or such, that leaves us 220 million population today. So over 40% are now non-compliant. Of course, these figures are guesses and estimates, and I don't believe the government can count that high, nor that it knows anything about the real population numbers, nor that they would tell us if only 100 million were filing.

Here's an interesting factoid. About 131 million people voted for any candidate in the 2008 presidential election. See [this link] and gross up the figures on McCain and Obama by a bit more than 1.6 million other votes. Which compares very closely to the number bothering to file taxes.

In other words, non-participation in government, by choice, seems to be the American way.

If we just look at the raw population figures, and determine that we won't make children under 18 "unpersons" or "second class citizens" as I think they ought to be counted as whole, real humans, we get about 43% compliance with taxes or participation in voting. (By this way of thinking, Obama was elected by less than 23% of the people he claims to rule.)

So, in other words, about 57% of the population is either denied the opportunity to vote based on various criterion (formerly felon, currently under age, currently in mental hospital, etc.) or chooses not to vote (and often not to register). About that same percentage of the population doesn't comply with tax filing.

I think this non-participation and non-compliance is likely to get larger as time goes on. The advantages of complying seem to be very few, and the punishment for making even trivial mistakes on tax forms is hell itself. As more people conclude that they would rather be private contractors than employees, and as more businesses agree to reduce their paperwork by engaging contractors rather than hiring (and also reduce their payroll tax obligations and many other costs) there is going to be a dwindling minority involved in "the system" as compliant individuals.

True, the vast majority of these people don't really care what Voltairine de Cleyre wrote, nor ever read a single word by her. But, so what?

If you want to have a civilisation, you ought to start building one, now. Or, as Gandhi said, when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, "It would be a good idea."

I've been thinking over something that I saw recently, attributed to Benjamin Tucker, as I recall. It said that the wealth stolen out of the mouth of labor has mostly been stolen by usurers. And I've been thinking about how that's basically true, though considerable wealth has also been stolen out of the mouth of capital, that way, too. Labor and capital are restricted to certain markets, certain sources of financing.

Why is there a New York Stock Exchange and not an Atlanta Stock Exchange? Why isn't there a stock exchange in every town and village? Why isn't there a proliferation of free market monetary systems and free market banking services?

The answer is that the monopolists use the power of the state to attack and destroy anyone like Dr. Doug Jackson, MD, or Bernard von NotHaus, or many others I could name, for daring to challenge the state's monopoly on the issue power of money, or dare to challenge the state's licensing of certain corrupt banking enterprises.

The way to reduce the toll of usury is not to attack it and ban it—that never works. The answer is to eliminate the privileges for it, make it prevalent, and have competition reduce the value of financial services to a market clearing price. Given how many people can do arithmetic, that should be a very low price.

There are many ways to withdraw support. One is to stop supporting the very businesses and industries, such as banking, such as the airlines, that have corrupted the government to monopolise their line of work. Take your money out of the banks, buy gold and silver instead. Stop using credit cards and checkbook money, and operate on cash, or barter for commodity money whenever possible. Stop traveling by airline—if you have time to spare, go by air. You can still fly, but use a private plane, or hire a private pilot, privately.

Entrepreneurs, bless them, keep developing new alternatives to the government's issue power over money. Many of these are available, today. Some work with very effective encryption software—and if you are going to avoid answering difficult questions, you really ought to learn to keep your financial affairs private.

Don't like the choices on offer? Come up with your own. Ithaca hours, Berk-shares, and other local currencies have been invented by various people to serve different needs.

The last thing you want is to find one answer to fit everyone, because that creates a centralisation problem. If you don't think centralising is a bad idea, look at how much gold and silver were stolen from e-gold and Liberty Dollar in 2007 and get back to me about that.

Where else can you withdraw? Incandescent light bulbs have been made with many different materials since 1804. The technologies involved include glass blowing and soldering. Not exactly complex stuff. Maybe someone in your neighborhood can help you with light bulbs that don't benefit General Electric, one of the biggest and nastiest of the defense contractors (aka death merchants).

Electricity can be made many ways. Why are you on the grid? You are on the grid because it is cheap and easy to be on the grid, for now. But consider supplementing with other sources—diesel generator, solar cells, windmill, a wood burning steam engine. Being dependent on a government granted monopoly with a bureaucracy and a few big power plants might not be the best way to survive. You probably already have emergency supplies for lighting and heating if the system falters during an ice storm or some other disaster. Keep going that way toward having independence from the monopolists.

Everyone has choices to take. You don't have to get off the power grid, and you may have excellent reasons not to. You don't have to get out of the banking system, and you might have great ideas about what to do with it. But the more you work at withdrawing your support for the licensees and the people who get the benefit of corruptly allocated government contracts and special laws to raise up barriers to entering certain markets, the better.

Agorism is a market based philosophy—from the Greek word "agora" meaning market. Some weeks back, I came up with a backronym to emphasise certain parts of the philosophy: Avoiding Government and Operating Realistic Individualistic Sensible Markets. AGORISM.

Consider an encrypted root laptop for your business records. Consider a virtual privacy network for your web surfing. Consider encrypting e-mails, especially about business decisions. Consider being your own boss. Think about ways to get off the grid, avoid using your identity papers, work with people who know you and trust you and don't need to have you fill out a W4 or make a copy of your identity papers.

The life you save may be your own. The civilisation you help build may be worth living in.

Jim Davidson is an anti-war activist involved in the divestment project detailed at He is also an author and entrepreneur. His latest book is anticipated in December 2009.


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