THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 753, January 12, 2014
The wages of moderation are political death.
Breaking Better: Decriminalizing Agorist Markets
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
I just watched the entire series Breaking Bad in a few marathon sessions. This is my entire review, right here:
Now let me move on to the point of this essay.
Breaking Bad shows us the operations of a counter-economic manufacturing and distribution industry: the production and sales of the mood-altering drug methamphetamine -- meth, for short. Our primary viewpoint character is a chemist who is able to produce a higher-grade of meth than is otherwise available on the black market, eventually in clandestine laboratories able to manufacture mass-market quantities.
Now, Breaking Bad is a TV show, and it ran six seasons. So plot points needed to be dramatic, ironic, and extreme. The characters needed to be, well, characters.
So this was a series filled with characters who committed a lot of murders, thefts, and mayhem; lied their asses off with a straight face; and their promises were never straightforward but always conditional and capricious. Business disputes were as often as not resolved with violence, usually fatal.
But, even as fantasized drama, this TV series raises a lot of thoughtful challenges that need to be answered by the Agorist theoretician who is arguing for stateless Agorist markets that can eventually replace that monopoly of legitimized violence we tag the State. If we argue that a stateless solution can be both more practical and more capable of producing an ethically preferable outcome, we need to find solid ground to stand on.
Breaking Bad, if taken literally as a parable, pulls a lot of ground out from under the Agorist theoretician -- and that's as much of a problem for the Agorist as was the failure of Marxism to achieve its stated predictions.
Any theory has to be reality tested. If applying the theory does not produce results as advertised, but adverse unintended consequences, it's back to the drawing board.
A lot of social theories are considered utopian -- unrealistically optimistic -- because success requires future actors within the paradigm to act better than historical actors.
The Breaking Bad challenge to the Agorist is simply this: how can you operate in an illegal marketplace with the expectation that criminal personalities will not dominate it? And by criminal personalities I mean people whose ordinary, every day choices include every form of human rights violation that we Agorists despise: murder, robbery, fraud, physical abuse and mayhem, enslavement, and threats and intimidation using all of the above in order to manipulate a desired outcome.
I am not prepared at this point to answer the Breaking Bad challenge exhaustively. But I do think I have a few opening ideas that I hope will provoke further discussion among other Agorists.
Agorism, according to its founder Samuel Edward Konkin III, is libertarianism in practice. Libertarianism is the new manual for operating human commerce that is premised on the Zero Aggression Principle: violence is only rightful when used against an aggressor, and the "collateral damage" to the innocent bystander is to be deplored, minimized a much as humanly possible, and repaired to whatever extent possible when this standard has not been met.
The wonderful TV series Breaking Bad is a set of counterfactuals that tell us how not to operate an Agorist Underground.
Agorism, if it is to succeed, needs to learn that lesson and find both practical and moral solutions to its intellectual challenges.
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