New Libertarian Manifesto

Samuel Edward Konkin III

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Chapter Index

This is a set of excerpts from is Konkin’s agorist manifesto.

Agorism is perhaps best defined as the ideology that holds that the marketplace is the best, most practical, and only ethical means by which to bring about social or political change.  It is, therefore, a revolutionary form of libertarianism, whose goal is not merely the diminution of the state, but its abolition.  The method of agorist revolution is radical in the sense that it aims to fight the system from without, rather than employing the liberal means of fighting or merely reforming the system from within.  Agorism tends thus to eschew any association with institutions or organisations that, like the Libertarian Party, aim to employ the aforementioned liberal means; in the view of agorists, this approach is either impractical or even unethical.

“New Libertarianism,” always found capitalised, is the term Konkin uses to describe his own particular agorist take.  In a manner of speaking, “New Libertarianism” is the strategy of promoting agorism through the organisation of entrepreneurs for Liberty.

As I am not myself a “New Libertarian,” I find myself in disagreement with Konkin during a number of occasions.  Below you find a collection of interesting quotes from this classic work, along with some comments I wrote to myself while reading this book.  The latter will be written in pale yellow, whereas the former will be quoted in white.


From the Manifesto

From the Replies to the Manifesto

  • Rothbard on The “Kochtopus”
  • The Strange Libertarian Party
  • Is Voting Evil?
  • Immediate Emancipation
  • Konkin on Parties
  • Konkin’s Reply to Rothbard’s Voting Slave Argument
  • The Market is Never Imposed
  • White-listing Bad Black Marketeers
  • The Aggressor Yields Ownership Through Aggression
  • I.  Statism: Our Condition

    Our Unnecessary Condition (p. 15)

    We are coerced by our fellow human beings.  Since they have the ability to choose to do otherwise, our condition need not be thus.  Coercion is immoral, inefficient and unnecessary for human life and fulfillment.

    Blind Reaction (p. 15)

    Blind reaction goes in all directions negative to the source of oppression and disperses opportunity; pursuit of a common goal focuses the opponents and allows formation of coherent strategy and tactics.

    Self Defence Must Be Immediate (p. 15)

    Diffuse coercion is optimally handled by local, immediate self-defense.  Though the market may develop larger-scale businesses for protection and restoration, random threats of violence can only be dealt with on the spot ad hoc.

    The Libertarian Resistance (p. 16–17)

    Where the State divides and conquers its opposition, Libertarianism unites and liberates.  Where the State beclouds, Libertarianism clarifies; where the State conceals, Libertarianism uncovers; where the State pardons, Libertarianism accuses.

    Economics, Philosophy, Ethics, History, Psychology, Art (p. 17–18)

    Libertarianism, as developed to this point, discovered the problem and defined the solution: the State vs. the Market.  The Market is the sum of all voluntary human action.  If one acts non-coercively, one is part of the Market.  Thus did Economics become a part of Libertarianism.

    Libertarianism investigated the nature of man to explain his rights deriving from non-coercion.  It immediately followed that man (woman, child, Martian, etc.) had an absolute right to this life and other property—and no right to the life or property of others.  Thus did Objective philosophy become part of Libertarianism.

    Libertarianism asked why society was not libertarian now and found the State, its ruling class, its camouflage, and the heroic historians striving to reveal the truth.  Thus did Revisionist History become part of Libertarianism.

    Psychology, especially as developed by Thomas Szasz as counter-psychology, was embraced by libertarians seeking to free themselves from both State restraint and self-imprisonment.  Seeking an art form to express the horror potential of the State and extrapolate the many possibilities of liberty, Libertarianism found Science Fiction already in that field.

    From political, economic, philosophical, psychological, historical, and artistic realms the partisans of liberty saw a whole, integrating their resistance with others elsewhere, and they came together as their consciousness became aware.  Thus did Libertarians become a Movement.

    In Defence of The Libertarian Party (p. 19)

    Although not fond of political parties or party-politics, I do not have the same anti-LP outlook as Konkin.  Truth be told, I bet most agorists start off as LP-supporters.  The LP, despite its flaws, is still the primary outreach tool for libertarianism to the general public.

    In Defence of David Nolan (p. 19)

    The libertarian and anarchist factions of YAF, known as the “rads,” came to heads with the larger conservative faction, known as the “trads,” in 1969.  See Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty for more on this.  Although Konkin is correct about Nolan being a minarchist, it hardly seems appropriate to call him a “conservative.”

    II.  Agorism: Our Goal

    Consistent Action (p. 23)

    The basic principle which leads a libertarian from statism to a free society is the same that the founders of libertarianism used to discover the theory itself.  That principle is consistency.  Thus, consistent application of the theory of libertarianism to every action the individual libertarian takes creates the libertarian society.

    The Value of Consistency (p. 24–25)

    Whether or not this manifesto is itself correct can be determined by the same principle.  If consistency fails, then all within is meaningless; in fact, language is then gibberish and existence a fraud.  This cannot be overemphasized.  Should an inconsistency be discovered in these pages, then the consistent reformulation is New Libertarianism, not what has been found in error.  New Libertarianism (agorism) cannot be discredited without Liberty or Reality (or both) being discredited, only an incorrect formulation.

    Arbitration (p. 27–28)

    These cases [legal disputes] may be settled by the primitive “shoot-out” or socially—that is, through the intervention of a third party who has no vested interest in either of the two parties to the dispute.  This case is the fundamental problem of the society.

    Any attempts to force a solution against the wishes of both parties violates Libertarian principle.  So a “shoot-out” involving no risk to third parties is acceptable—but hardly profitable or efficient or even civilized (aesthetically pleasing) save to a few cultists.

    The solution, then, requires a judge, “Fair Witness,” or arbitrator.  Once an arbitrator to a dispute or judge of an aggression has performed judgment and communicated the decision, enforcement may be required.  (Pacifists may choose arbitration without enforcement, by the way.)

    The following market system has been proposed by [Murray N.] Rothbard, Linda and Morris Tannehill, and others; it need not be definitive and may be improved by advances in theory and technology (as this author has already done).  At this stage of history, it seems optimal and is presented here as the beginning working model.

    Aggression Insurance (p. 28–30)

    Arbitration is Less Costly than War! (p. 29–30)

    Restitution is Punishment (p. 32)

    I do not see how restitution is not a form of “punishment.”  “Restitution,” I believe, is the name we give to that form of punishment that is proportional to the crime committed and restores to the victim what is rightfully hers or his.

    I submit chapter thirteen of Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, which I believe presents a fairly accurate reflection of Justice.  Although I now reject the “second tooth” of Walter Block’s two-teeth-for-a-tooth ideal, as it seems to be based solely on the deterrence principle (which Rothbard himself admits is flawed), I still accept everything else in this chapter.

    Restitution (p. 32–35)

    Thought of The Aggressor (p. 34)

    If you sit up in shock to find that I have I have crashed through your picture window, you don’t particularly care if I tripped and fell through while walking by or if I engaged in some act of irrational anger jumping through or even whether it was a premeditated plan to distract protectors across the street from noticing a bank heist.  What you want is your window back pronto (and the mess cleared).  What I think is irrelevant to your restoration.

    Prisons on The Free Market (p. 35)

    Prisons could theoretically exist on a free market, although they would likely be very rare due to low demand.  For one theory in support of the view that prisons could arise in a free society, see Chaos Theory: Two Essays on Market Anarchy by Dr. Robert P. Murphy.

    III.  Counter-Economics: Our Means

    Counter-Economics (p. 38–39)

    The function of the pseudo-science of Establishment economics, even more than making predictions for the ruling class (as did the Imperial Roman augurs), is to mystify and confuse the ruled class as to where their wealth is going and how it is taken.  An explanation of how people can keep their wealth and property safe from the State, then, is Counter-Establishment economics, or Counter-Economics for short.  The actual practice of human actions that evade, avoid, and defy the state is counter-economic activity, but—in the same sloppy way that “economics” refers both to the science and what it studies—“counter-economics” will undoubtedly be used.

    Black Markets Explained (p. 43)

    While some coercive acts, such as murder and theft, are often lumped into the label “black market,” the vast majority of this “organized crime” is perfectly legitimate to a libertarian, though occasionally unsavory.  The Mafia, for example, is not black market but government over some of the black market that collects protection money (taxes) from its victims and enforces its control with executions and beatings (law enforcement), and even conducts wars when its monopoly is threatened.  These acts will be considered red market to differentiate them from the moral acts of the black market, which will be discussed below.  In short, the “black market” is anything nonviolent that is prohibited by the State and carried on anyway.

    The “grey market” is used here to mean dealing in goods and services not themselves illegal but obtained or distributed in ways legislated against by the State.  Much of what is called “white-collar crime” falls under this heading and is smiled upon by most of society.

    Where one draws the line between black and grey market depends largely on the state of consciousness of the society in which one lives.  The red market is clearly separable: murder is red market.  When the State forbids self-defense, defending oneself against a criminal—including a police officer—is black in New York City and grey in Orange County, California.

    We Engage in Counter-Economic Activity (p. 45)

    Nearly everyone engages in some sort of misrepresentation or misdirection on their tax forms, off-the-books payments for services, unreported trade with relatives, and illegal sexual positions with their mates.

    To some extent, then, everybody is a counter-economist!  And this is predictable from libertarian theory.  Nearly every aspect of human action has statist legislation prohibiting, regulating, or controlling it.

    State Power is The Product of Compliance (p. 46)

    What exists everywhere on Earth that allows the State to continue is the sanction of the victim.  Every victim of statism has internalized the State to some degree.  The IRS’s annual proclamation that the income tax depends on “voluntary compliance” is ironically true.  Should the taxpayer completely cut off the blood supply, the vampire State would helplessly perish, its unpaid police and army deserting almost immediately, defanging the Monster.  If everyone abandoned “legal tender” for gold and goods in contracts and other exchanges, it is doubtful that even taxation could sustain the modern State.

    The Role of Guilt in Promoting Statism (p. 48)

    A common characteristic of most hardened black marketeers is their guilt.  They wish to “make their bundle” and return to the “straight society.”  Bootleggers and hookers all long someday for reacceptance in society—even when they form a supportive “subsociety” of outcasts.  Yet there have been exceptions to this phenomenon of longing for acceptance: the religious dissenting communities of the 1700s, the political utopian communities of the 1800s, and most recently the counter-culture of the hippies and the New Left.  What they had was a conviction that their subsociety was superior to the rest of society.  The fearful reaction they generated in the rest of society was the fear that they were correct.

    The Agora, Not the Commune (p. 48)

    The basic organizational structure of society (above the family) is not the commune (or tribe or extended tribe or State) but the agora.

    IV.  Revolution: Our Strategy

    “Library Libertarian” Defined (p. 56)

    [“Library Libertarians” are] those who profess some theoretical variant of libertarianism but eschew its practice.

    Limited Liability (p. 56)

    There are those who, like Rothbard, would argue that limited liability can arise on a free market through voluntary contract.  Personally, I believe a sort of limited liability could arise, but I hasten to note that it is quite different from the sort of limited liability that we experience under statism.  Under statism, if your company is granted limited-liability status by the ruling class, then your comany can pollute the land of its neighbour and not be held fully liable for damages.  Conversely, if we had a free market, limitations on liability would be restricted solely to those with whom you or your company have contracts.  Thus, under a truly free market, if your company has no contract with me but pollutes my land, it would be one-hundred percent liable for all damages, regardless of how many limited liability contracts it has with other people.

    Non-aggression is Essential (p. 59)

    Heed well, you who would be a paladin of Liberty: never initiate any act of violence regardless of how likely a “libertarian” result may appear.  To do so is to reduce yourself to a statist.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Either you are fundamentally consistent or you are not.

    Revolution (p. 66)

    When the State unleashes its final wave of suppression—and is successfully resisted—this is the definition of Revolution.  Once realization has occurred that the State no longer can plunder and pay off its parasitical class, the enforcers will switch sides to those better able to pay them and the State will rapidly implode into a series of pockets of statism in backward areas—if any.

    Meta-revolution (p. 67)

    The collapse of the State leaves only mopping-up operations.  Since the insurance and protection companies see no State to defend against, the syndicates of allied protectors collapse into competition and the NLA—its support gone—dissolves.  Statists apprehended pay restoration and—if they live long enough to discharge their debts—are re-integrated as productive entrepreneurs.  (Their “training” comes automatically as they work off their debt.)

    We’re home (Chapter II)!  New Libertarianism is taken for granted as the basis of ordinary life and we tackle the other problems facing mankind.

    V.  Action! Our Tactics

    The Oxymoron of Right-Libertarianism (p. 70)

    Right-libertarianism is oxymoronic.  The free market is inherently leftist.

    Utopias May Be Discarded (p. 72)

    Utopias may be discarded; at last we have a glimpse of how to remold society to fit Man rather than Man to fit some society.

    Konkin on Libertarian Strategy by Murray N. Rothbard, Ph.D.

    Rothbard on The “Kochtopus” (p. 89)

    [H]ow about the Kochian “monopoly”?  Here Mr. Konkin should have fallen back on his Austrian economics.  Suppose that only one firm is producing aluminum.  Should we start yelling at it for being a “monopoly,” or should we hope for more firms to enter the industry?  Clearly the latter, unless the “monopolist” is using the State to keep other competitors out, which of course Mr. Koch is not doing.  Quite the contrary.  Koch would be delighted to find other multi-millionaires converted to liberty and giving money to the movement, as would we all.  So the answer to the problem of the Koch “monopoly” is to find a dozen more multimillionaire libertarians.  It is grossly unfair and fallacious to put blame on the monopolist for his situation.

    The Strange Libertarian Party (p. 94)

    One problem with this particular LP [libertarian party] is that in a deep sense it was founded prematurely: before there were enough activists around to make it work and to educate newcomers.  The LP grew like Topsy; as a result, very oddly for an ideological party, there are literally no institutions within the Party (except for the Radical Caucus) engaged in education or discussion of principles or political issues.  The LP is one of the strangest ideological parties in history; it is an ideological party where most of its members display no interest whatever in either ideology or politics.  Marxist groups generally don’t found parties for a long time; first they build “pre-party formations” which gather the strength and the knowledge to launch a regular party.  We had no such formation, and are suffering the consequences.  But here the party is, and we have to make do with what we have.

    Is Voting Evil? (p. 94–96)

    Is a Libertarian Party evil per se?  Is voting evil per se?  My answer is no.  The State is a Moloch that surrounds us, and it would be grotesque and literally impossible to function if we refused it our “sanction” across the board.  I don’t think I am committing aggression when I walk on a government-owned and government-subsidized street, drive on a government-owned and subsidized highway, or fly on a government regulated airline.  It would be participating in aggression if I lobbied for these institutions to continue.  I didn’t ask for these institutions, dammit, and so don’t consider myself responsible if I am forced to use them.  In the same way, if the State, for reasons of its own, allows us a periodic choice between two or more masters, I don’t believe we are aggressors if we participate in order to vote ourselves more kindly masters, or to vote in people who will abolish or repeal the oppression.  In fact, I think that we owe it to our own liberty to use such opportunities to advance the cause.  Let’s put it this way:  Suppose we were slaves in the Old South, and that for some reason, each plantation had a system where the slaves were allowed to choose every four years between two alternative masters.  Would it be evil, and sanctioning slavery, to participate in such a choice?  Suppose one master was a monster who systematically tortured all the slaves, while the other one was kindly, enforced almost no work rules, freed one slave a year, or whatever.  It would seem to me not only not aggression to vote for the kinder master, but idiotic if we failed to do so.  Of course, there might well be circumstances—say when both masters are similar—where the slaves would be better off not voting in order to make a visible protest—but this is a tactical not a moral consideration.  Voting would not be evil, but in such a case less effective than the protest.

    But if it is morally licit and non-aggressive for slaves to vote for a choice of masters, in the same way it is licit for us to vote for what we believe the lesser of two or more evils, and still more beneficial to vote for an avowedly libertarian candidates.

    Reply to Rothbard by Samuel Edward Konkin III

    Immediate Emancipation (p. 100)

    [A] mainly innocent businessman who pays taxes is enslaved to that extent; and is not his going black [market] by dodging or defying the taxes (whichever works best) surely the immediate emancipation of this slave?

    Konkin on Parties (p. 112)

    Votes are the “profits” of a political party.  A party is an organ of the State whose overt purpose is to vie for control of the State and whose covert one is to co-opt support—to gain the sanction of the victim.  The number of votes dictate the number of successfully elected officials and their share of power and plunder; and the number of those still accepting the State’s legitimacy and possible usefulness.

    Konkin’s Reply to Rothbard’s Voting Slave Argument (p. 113)

    Can you imagine slaves on a plantation sitting around voting for masters and spending their energy on campaigning and candidates when they could be heading for the “underground railway”?  Surely they would choose the counter-economic alternative; surely Dr. Rothbard would urge them to do so and not be seduced into remaining on the plantation until the Abolitionist Slavemasters’ Party is elected.

    Return to Babylon by Robert LeFevre

    The Market is Never Imposed (p. 127)

    [F]ree market principles are never imposed, they are learned and proven by those who learn and practice.

    Reply to LeFevre by Samuel Edward Konkin III

    White-listing Bad Black Marketeers (p. 131–132)

    [W]hile I may have been burned as often as LeFevre in market transactions with alleged libertarians, I have prepared for sale appropriate “White Lists” of untrustworthy types.  As whitelisting is developed by the counter-economy, the ripoff rate should rapidly fall.  I consider the burns I have experienced to be the start-up costs of the agora.

    The Aggressor Yields Ownership Through Aggression (p. 132–133)

    When [Robert] LeFevre challenges me on consistency, however, he does strike to the quick.  He claims that I accept the right to one’s life and property and then deny it to an aggressor.  But if I yielded up the property of the victim to the aggressor—when I could restore it—then I would be violating my consistency.  As far as I am concerned, the aggressor has opened up passage to the stolen property which is and was never within his boundary, which I reseal after gaining the missing item(s).

    The aggressor has voluntarily chosen to open that path.  The victim has agreed to nothing.  Should the victim neglect any retrieval of her or his goods, I have the right delegated to do so.  The sanction of the aggressor is given to the victim the moment the attack is initiated by the will of the aggressor.

    LeFevre chooses to look at the world from the irrational eyes of the aggressor who wishes to initiate his action and be free of its consequences.  I have no intention of faking reality for the violence-initiator.  Perhaps he can evade apprehension for his theft or attack as one who jumps a cliff can be wafted away on a strong updraft; but the natural consequences of gravity is to fall to one’s death and the natural consequence of invasion is restoration.

    To make it perfectly clear where LeFevre and I differ, I see no rights of the aggressor being violated by the restorative action.  If one beats one’s fist against a rock and bleeds, are one’s rights violated?  The same natural law applies to striking those who can and do defend themselves successfully.