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L. Neil Smith's
Number 574, June 13, 2010

"America didn't have a drug problem
before it passed drug laws."

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Who Benefits
by Jim Davidson

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

"Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla ille quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat identidem in causis quaerere solebat 'cui bono' fuisset."
—Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Roscio Amerino

The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, 'To whose benefit?'

Thus writes Marcus Tullius Cicero in his famous "Pro Roscio Amerino." Roscius of Ameria was a notoriously-accused patricide, and Cicero's speech was in his defence. Roscius was almost certainly innocent of the crime, and the accusation was notorious because it was part of the dictator Sulla's "enemies list" project. Cicero's speech is considered an essential document of Roman history. You should read it.

A conversation on Travis Eby's page about agorism prompted me to think about this question. Who benefits? In particular, who benefits from you being in a condition of learned helplessness?

You say you aren't? But I suspect that you really are. Do you grow your own food? Do you have food at home sufficient to feed yourself for a year? Do you have your own water well? Do you have your own weapons? Can you and your family defend your homestead from all comers? I suspect that the answer is no, in a very great many cases.

"No," you say, "I can't do all that, but I have no need. Division of labour works great. The economy is just fine. The people who put chlorine and fluoride and possibly other poisons in my drinking water are excellent folks who send me a monthly bill which is paid by automatic deduction from my bank account. Really, I don't even glance at it."

Yes, division of labour works, but who benefits? Specialisation works to make it possible for you to apply only a particular set of skills while deriving sufficient economic surplus to let you pay rent, buy water, shop for groceries and sundries, and pay really a huge amount in taxes—sales taxes, inventory taxes, property taxes, gasoline taxes, income taxes, withholding taxes, excise taxes, import taxes, export licence fees, etc., etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Who benefits from having a poor public education "system" that produces extremely few graduates with basic literacy, basic mathematics skills, basic knowledge of science? Who benefits from you being unable on your own land, or in a window box, or in a hydroponic grow room, to feed yourself? Who benefits from your dependence on calling the police in case of prowlers or burglars? Who benefits from you not being "allowed" to have a water well inside the city limits? Who benefits from the licence tags and licence papers and other documentations you are expected to have?

Does it matter? Probably, in the enduring time and lasting scheme of things, it matters who gains these benefits. Almost certainly a careful examination would show that banking gangsters, tax collectors, and the beneficiaries of the system of taxation and control, notably military contractors and construction contractors (nationally and locally) are gaining from the added economic production you are capable of by reason of you specialising in some particular craft or trade—and thereby having no time to train with weapons or grow your own food, let alone go out and hunt or fish. Do you even know how to fish? Could you set a snare, gut a rabbit, tickle a fish, if you were starving?

In the scope of your own self-interest, the main thing to notice is that the answer to "who benefits" is "not you." You do not benefit. You went to school a very long time to get good grades, and your parents were proud. You went to college and got excellent grades. You went to graduate school and got excellent grades. You did a post-doctoral activity, and praises were heaped upon you. And finally you became who you are today, a scholar, a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, a merchant, a tradesman. Substitute any number of technical or vocational learning experiences and you became a master electrician, plumber, computer technician, carpenter, or auto mechanic.

Nor is there any shame in it. But there is not as much benefit as you were told to expect. And if your clothes are ragged, can you mend a seam? If you have ambition to put in a bomb shelter, can you run the electrical system? How about plumbing? Can you design and implement a staircase? Can excess fruit from your garden? Build raised beds to maximise productivity from limited acreage? Track game?

Who benefits from you not being able to do all these things? You don't.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly."
—Robert Heinlein

If you can't do some or all these things, wouldn't you be better off if you were to learn?

Consider the last time a globe-dominating empire fell into ruin. Oh, say, 1991? Okay, let's go back further. Consider the fall of Rome. Not the causes, because we don't like empires, and figuring out why one fell in the expectation that one might prevent another from falling isn't the idea here. Consider the results.

For millions of people all over Europe, it was freedom. Towns all over the empire would open their gates to the barbarians because the barbarians demanded 10% in tribute, and Rome demanded 30% or more. The barbarians would also happily kill the Roman senators, bureau-rats, and soldiers living inside the walls, taking away many useless mouths. Senators had a habit in those days of taking from a land owner his land, or choice parcels, or his wife, or his favourite horse, or anything else. And what were you going to do about it, squire? Well, after a while, you were going to open the gates to the barbarians, that's what.

So this "dark age" that the elitists talk about was nothing of the sort. Learning became much more widespread. Technologies advanced very rapidly. Small holders became wealthy. Yeomen had tools for self-defence. Thousands of principalities, free towns, leagues, guilds, mutual societies, monasteries, churches, and schools of all sizes were founded.

If anything, the Roman republic with its slaughter of Archimedes and burning of the libraries at Carthage and elsewhere, and the Roman empire with its sundry library burnings, slaughter, pillaging, etc., were the dark age. Certainly the age of unreason.

By the beginning of the 13th Century there were universities all over Europe. Communication with very friendly people in the Islamic Caliphate provided copies in Arabic of texts from Greece and Rome. The zero was imported from India. Arabic numerals and algebra and astronomy and medicine were flooding through Europe like nobody's business. In England the yeomen archers got together with some of the more parliamentary barons and forced the king, a nasty get named John—after whom toilets and privies have been named ever since—was forced to sign Magna Carta. And Magna Carta guaranteed the right of Englishmen to keep and bear arms, forever. So much for documentary freedom, "freedom by law" and such trifles, huh?

But look you, it all fell apart. The clearances. The enclosures. The small holders were driven from their farms, forced into the cities, put into mines to die of lung disease, forced into factories to be mutilated by machinery, or transported to Virginia colony or Botany Bay. And for what? For whose benefit?

For the benefit of the banking gangsters, the elitists, the militarists, the tax collectors, the worthless filth who think they should run your life. They cannot even run their own lives, but they are eager to ruin yours.

So, what to do? My friend L. Neil Smith thinks we should revisit the agricultural revolution of roughly 12,000 BC or so (judging by the ruins of some of the oldest cities we think we've found, places like Jericho, e.g.) put the asteroid Pallas in a ziplock bag, and set up a hunting preserve for ourselves and our posterity. For my part, I see nothing wrong with this design objective.

If your ambition is a bit smaller, consider growing your own vegetables, or some fruit trees. Last year, I bought bush beans instead of pole beans. I thought to plant them anyway in the expectation of eating beans. I discovered that the rabbits had other ideas. So I wasn't raising beans, I was raising rabbits. Yummy.

Agorism has great potential for reducing the amount you contribute to your own oppression. By learning to do it yourself, or by trading very privately with people you trust, or by trading using advanced encryption technologies so that nobody can detect your economic transactions, you contribute less money to the system that oppresses you, and me. Moreover, you improve your privacy by getting off the grid, finding your own water in the back yard, digging a well under your house, using alternative energy sources, finding a virtual privacy network to mask your Internet presence, and adding e-mail encryption to the things you understand.

Why not? You can see how you benefit from these things. As my friend Travis pointed out, you can see how the environment may also benefit, too. And that can be good—you like a clean neighbourhood, pretty flowers in the garden, fresh air. You also benefit from a planet that doesn't become un-liveable.

Who benefits from the BP oil spill? BP did stand to make billions from sucking the oil out of the sea bed. BP shareholders, including a lot of useless pensioners in Britain, would stand to gain from all that wealth. Who benefits from exploiting this opportunity to push stupid legislation through Congress, cut off oil drilling in the USA, and further limiting the market for energy? Big oil companies, powerful senators, and those who run the state, and their cronies. Not you.

Who benefits from you not being able to grow your own food? The grocer, the jobber, the warehouse, the grain elevator operator, the big agribiz companies, the Monsanto genetically modified organism pushers. Not you. You get to eat whatever crap they are willing to sell you, and get told to like it. Grow your own tomatoes and taste a really delicious tomato whenever you please. Buy store-bought tomatoes and you get very little tomato experience. Go to your local farmer's market and meet people who know all about food, and have some of the most delicious produce you'll ever see. Bring along some silver coins, see how much further your grocery budget goes.

You have no obligation to the people who run the state. You have no obligation to the pensioners in Britain. You have no obligation to the banking gangsters. If the national debt goes unpaid, how is that any concern of yours?

And if you cannot live without the sundry services provided by government, whose fault is that? How long does it take to buy a gun, buy some ammo, take a class, and learn how to put rounds at the target down range? And from that point on, to turn money into skill by keeping up your target practice? Don't like guns? The compound bow is cheap, the arrows are re-usable, you can get war heads for cheap at Wal-mart (war heads being the kind of arrow heads you shoot at game and enemies—target heads being much less pointy), and the bow is very quiet. Twang.

Who benefits? Isn't it time that the beneficiary was you? I think so. Which is why I am inviting all my friends to learn and to teach at the Individual Sovereign University.

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Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. His third book Sovereign Self-Defense will be released for Kindle soon. His fourth book Being Libertarian will be available for free download as a .pdf, being a compilation of all his essays and letters in "The Libertarian Enterprise" since 1995. Contact him at or He and his associates at Individual Sovereign University are planning a series of concerts and celebrations of freedom around the world. One of these events is in March 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.


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