SAMUEL EDWARD KONKIN III - July 8, 1947 - February 23, 2004
A letter about Sam from J. Neil Schulman follows, and then an interview with Sam himself (and you can also read the "Fannish Tribute to Samuel Edward Konkin III" by clicking here):
Tue, 24 Feb 2004
I've been putting this off since last night. I don't want to be writing this. Please feel free to forward this as appropriate. and to get back to me for further information.
Yesterday, on the properly Discordian 23rd of February, Samuel Edward Konkin III passed away to the hereafter, in his apartment in West Los Angeles, California. He was found collapsed in his apartment by his landlord in early afternoon. I got the call from Sam's client, David Silvers of Beverly Hills Publishing, just before 2:00 PM. I went over to Sam's apartment, identified his body officially for the police who were waiting for the LA County Coroner, and thumbed through Sam's organizer until I found the number for Sam's brother, Alan, in Edmonton Alberta. I left a callback number and when Alan called me a few minutes later, I told him, and made arrangements for me to act as his proxy in any way necessary until he comes to L.A.
Alan tells me that his plans, in accordance with Sam's mother, are to return Sam's remains to Edmonton where Sam will be buried next to his father, Samuel Konkin II. Alan will be consulting with Sam's friends here on a "Sam-appropriate" Los Angeles memorial service, likely in mid March. Also the next meeting of the Karl Hess Club, which Sam founded, will be dedicated to memories of Sam. I'll say details when I know them to be factual and final.
There is so much that I want to say -- have to say -- about Sam that this can only be a beginning.
Sam may only have had one biological brother. But he was my brother, also, in every other sense.
I first met Sam in 1971 in New York City, at the first libertarian meeting I ever attended, the New York Libertarian Association, in Gary Greenberg's living room. I had already started a campus libertarian group at the branch of City University of New York that I was attending. Sam, a believer in the "libertarian alliance" concept of stringing together libertarian groups, immediately found this naive 18-year-old worth talking to. We found out almost immediately that we shared an interest in science fiction (particularly Robert A. Heinlein) and the works of C.S. Lewis, whose Narnian chronicles I'd read as a child. Sam was only the second other person in my life I'd met who had read Heinlein, and the first other person I'd met who'd read Lewis. It was Sam who told me that Lewis had written more than the Narnian children's books, introduced me to Lewis's nonfiction and adult fiction, and took me to my first meeting of the C.S. Lewis Society of New York, which we attended together regularly. Sam also took me to my first science-fiction convention, Lunacon, in New York City, and to my first world science fiction convention, Torcon, in Toronto, ON, in 1973, and to my first meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). We joined the just-formed C.S. Lewis Society of Southern California together in 1975, and Sam and I each served on its governing council for a number of terms.
Other than a few long letters I'd written at age 16 for my high-school underground newspaper, Sam was my first publisher. He published my first fiction and my first articles in his magazine, New Libertarian Notes. He took me to lectures where I met Murray Rothbard, and introduced me to the writings of Ludwig von Mises. Sam's seminal writings on counter-economics became the deep background of my first novel, Alongside Night, which is dedicated to him. He's also on the dedication page of my short story collection, Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories.
Sam took me to my first libertarian conference at Hunter College in New York City, where I first met Robert LeFevre.
And Sam and I tooled around New York City, searching out "underground gourmet" restaurants, and always (on the first day when possible) catching the latest Woody Allen movie or the latest James Bond movie. He also ate many of my mom's home-cooked meals at my parents' apartment of the West Side of Manhattan. Sam was a speaker at both of the CounterCon conferences I organized in 1974 and 1975.
I have too many stories to tell. I'll get to them soon, I'll get to them.
We left New York together to come out to the promised land, Southern California. Our automobile journey west with two other libertarians (Bob "Kedar" Cohen and Andy Thornton), in July and August 1975, took us to the Rivercon science fiction in St. Louis and to the home of science-fiction magazine publisher Richard E. Geis in Seattle, before we arrived in Los Angeles on August 10, 1975, where we spent our first night sleeping on the apartment floor of Dana Rohrabacher, Sam's libertarian mentor, and now U.S. Congressman from Orange County, CA.
I just got off the phone with Congressman Rohrabacher, who remembers Sam fondly, and spoke fondly of his genius and imagination.
Dana introduced us to Chris Schaefer, who managed an apartment complex in Long Beach. This became the AnarchoVillage (named after Sam's recent six-floor walk-up apartment on East 11th Street in NYC which he'd dubbed the AnarchoSlum) and we lived two apartments away from each other until 1984. Many, many days were spent collating, folding, stapling, and mailing out magazines (many with articles of mine) with eating and drinking afterwards. When I was broke in those day's, Sam was always happy to pick up the check and lay a "meal ob" on me.
A few years later I returned the favor when I set Sam up in an apartment he dubbed the AnarchoVilla, on Overland Avenue in Culver City. That apartment was production central for my book publishing. Sam was the production backbone and book designer for every book that came out from Pulpless.Com, and a talented graphic artist for many of the covers.
I would not be who I am, what I am, or where I am if it were not for Sam. With rare exception, I would not have met my current friends, including a long list of prominent authors. If I had succeeded in becoming a writer, I would not have written any of the books I've written. I would be living an unrecognizable life in an alternate universe. I know lots of other writers who can make the same statement.
One of my last extended conversations with Sam was my using knowledge, logic, and vocabulary I learned from Sam to challenge his premise that there was no reason to consider the existence of God. At the end of that conversation, Sam was left without challenges and said that he thought I'd made a comprehensive case. If my case was correct, then Sam already knows it.
We'll resume that debate whenever Sam and I find ourselves on the same side of that Great Divide ... and wherever that might be, as before, I am confident there will be plenty of dark beer to lubricate the philosophy.
J. Neil Schulman
Interview With Samuel Edward Konkin III
Konkin, author of the "New
Libertarian Manifesto" coined the term "agorism" to describe
his ideology. Although very similar to anarcho-capitalism,
unlike anarcho-capitalism it opposes intellectual property.
It is also explicitly against voting and parliamentary strategies
and shares a desire with most individualist anarchists to have an
economy in which workers are also owners of the business they work
I would would dispute, however, Konkin's definition of
"libertarianism" as "free-market anarchism." I think all
anarchists, and even some conservatives, are believers in liberty
as a fundamental value, and therefore libertarian.
Burton, a.k.a Melchizedek, Lord of the Brambles
Smashing the State for Fun and Profit Since 1969
An Interview With the Libertarian Icon Samuel Edward Konkin III
Conducted by _wlo:dek & michal
You don't know SEK3 and call yourself a Libertarian? Well,
actually and unfortunately Sam needs an introduction. While
he's well known among all those Libertarians form Class of '69 who
were there back in the day, he is virtually unknown among those who
were to young to participate in early Movement. To a degree
he is to blame for this. During the early 90s when most of young
activist were introduced to Libertarianism Sam took a short break
from the libertarian Movement. But now he's back and kicking.
So who the hell is Samuel E. Konkin III? What is
John Guilt? It took a whole book to answer that
question... As for Sam - Original Libertarian, who earned his
Capital L in the streets of the Battle of St. Louis.
Editor of "The Agorist Quarterly", "New Isolationist", "Frefanzine"
and many, many other Libertarian, Agorist, Anarchist, and
anti-interventionist publications, the best known of which is "New
Libertarian" published since 1970 and acclaimed by Mr.
Libertarian (aka Murray N. Rothbard) as the leading
"in-reach" magazine in This Movement of Ours. In 1980 he made
big splash with his "New
Libertarian Manifesto" applauded by Robert LeFevre for its
"position respecting consistency, objective and method" (you can
read it on-line, by pointing your browser to http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/nlm/nlm.html
). To promote Libertarianism he co-funded Movement of the
Libertarian Left, The Agorist Institute and Karl Hess Club.
He organized academic conferences, classes, seminars and
meetings... No wonder, he become a role model for fictional
libertarian heroes created by L. Neil Smith ("The American
Zone"), Victor Koman ("Kings of the High Frontier") and J.
Neil Schulman ("Alongside Night").
O.K. so now you've seen the tip of the iceberg, don't let
me stop you any longer. Go for it.
Q: Before we start the interview I would like to ask you to
define a term that will pop up many times during this discussion
and as many people think is synonymous. What is
Libertarianism for you?
SEK3 - Libertarian is another term for Free-Market Anarchist,
though it often includes softer-core fellow travelers such as
minarchists. The word originally was used by free-thinkers in
relation to religion to mean those who believed in free-will over
determinism (which is not all that bad an association for us) and
then became a euphemism for anarchist in Europe in the 19th
Century. It was revived by Leonard Read in the 1940s to mean
those Classical Liberals who refused to join the rest of the
Liberal Movement into becoming soft-Left statists, and who had
largely joined the U.S. Old Right coalition against that kind
of Liberal, bordering on fascist, New Deal. With the election
of Eisenhower and death of Robert Taft, the Old Right coalition
disintegrated. Buckley pulled the pro-State conservatives
into his New Right while Murray Rothbard rallied the Isolationist
(non-interventionist in foreign policy) Libertarians into alliance
with the New Left. New York-based Rothbard became an
anarchist in 1950 and defined the hard-core position
accordingly. Robert LeFevre accomplished the same in the
Q: Unfortunately many people associate Libertarianism with
Libertarian Party. Some people even believe that it was the
first organization that defined libertarianism. Could you
straight that out?
SEK3 - In 1969, both the SDS and the Young Americans for Freedom
split at their respective conventions. The "right"
Libertarians from YAF joined the free-market anarchists from SDS at
a historic conference in New York over Columbus Day weekend, called
by Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess. In February of 1970,
several activists working for Robert LeFevre organized an even
bigger conference in Los Angeles at USC, which included Hess, SDS
ex-president Carl Oglesby, and just about every big name in the
Movement up to that point. I attended both, as well as the
YAF Convention in St. Louis before.
After L.A.'s conference, campus Libertarian Alliances sprung up
around the country. I personally organized five in Wisconsin
during 1970 and a dozen in downstate New York (New York City and
environs) from 1971-73. The Libertarian Party's first "real"
campaign was Fran Youngstein for Mayor (of New York City) in 1973,
and was the only campaign in which anti-political (what Europeans
would call anti-parliamentarian) Libertarians worked with anarchist
who embraced political office-seekin (whom I named partyarchs).
By that time, the Libertarian Movement had grown from "Murray's
living room" (and LeFevre's Freedom School, later Rampart College)
into thousands in 1970, tens of thousands in 1971, and hundreds of
thousands (some abroad, as in Britain and Australia) in 1972.
The steep rate of Movement growth leveled off with the rise in
visibility of the Party.
Q: Is it true that few activists started the first chapter of LP
as a joke?
SEK3 - Ed Butler, editor of the 1960s Westwood Village Square,
became a Libertarian in 1970. Along with anti-political
Libertarians Gabriel Aguilar (a Galambosian) and Chris Shaefer
(LeFevrian), they registered the name "Libertarian Party" in
California to use for making fun of the electoral process a full
year before David Nolan had his Christmas 1971 party where he
announced the creation of the LP, seriously.
By the way, Murray Rothbard and many others refused to take
Nolan's party seriously during the Hospers-Nathan campaign.
It would have vanished without a trace had not Nixon Presidential
Elector Roger MacBride not jumped the fence and voted for Hospers
instead of Nixon in the Electoral College (which actually decides
the president in the United States). Walter Block, who was a
rare LP candidate for lower office in New York in 1972, ran his
campaign humorously for the State Assembly by putting out bumper
stickers calling for "Block for Disassembly."
Q: When France was under occupation there was a custom of
shaving the heads of women that collaborated with Germans.
Which 'libertarians', except LP, do you think should have the same
SEK3 - Seriously, I do like your metaphor of Libertarians as
maquis, or Resistance. Nonetheless, there are two big
differences, and I don't mean how we treat our enemies.
First, we are not parasitically living off the enemy's economy but
building a better one "underground"; second, we are allowed by the
State (occupation force) to discuss and recruit publicly (at least
for now). I suspect the latter case will cease to exist the
moment they take us as a serious threat.
Q: Some people become Libertarians after reading Ayn Rand
novels; a book by Hainlein or Rothbard converts some. How did
you discover that you were a Libertarian?
SEK3 - Heinlein in Moon is a Harsh Mistress first gave me the
concept ("Rational Anarchist"). When I found out that
Bernardo de la Paz was based on a real person (Robert LeFevre), I
took it seriously. I progressed through the Canadian and then
U.S. Right via Frank Meyer (who, until his death in 1970,
attempted a synthesis of conservative and Libertarian, called
"Fusionism") and Ludwig von Mises (who called himself a Liberal
right up to his death in 1973 at the age of 92; I knew him for his
last three years). Both led in different ways to Rothbard but
he was being smeared as pro-communist in those Viet Nam War days
for his militant isolationism. The final step was provided by
an anti-communist free-market anarchist named Dana Rohrabacher at
the St. Louis YAF Convention. He was a charismatic
campus activist, radicalized by Robert LeFevre who provided him
with small funding to travel the country with his instrument and
folk songs from campus to campus, converting YAF chapters into
Libertarian Alliances and SIL chapters. Alas, later he fell
into politics, but not the LP. The Libertarian billionaire
Charles Koch supported him in two failed Republicans primary
campaigns, and after Rohrabacher put in time as Ronald Reagan's
speechwriter, he got his reward of a safe seat in the U.S.
House of Representatives from Orange County. He is still in
office today, with growing seniority. There are few issues on
which he is still Libertarian, certainly fewer than, say, Ron Paul
But in 1969-71, Dana Rohrabacher was the most successful and
most beloved Libertarian activist, and, in my opinion, there would
not have been a Movement without him. And he was a close
friend of mine until he crossed the line with his campaign for
Q: By the way, what do you think about Ron Paul? Many
partyarchs confronted with voluntaryist arguments against electoral
politics point at him and ask: "Look at Ron, do you really think
that he 's destroying the Libertarian movement?" How would you
answer that question?
SEK3 - Ron Paul in many ways belongs to another era. His
closest ideological ancestor was the Iowa Congressman H.R.
Gross in the 1960s and 1970s, and Rothbard's favorite, Congressman
Howard Buffett of Nebraska in the 1950s. One can go all the
way back to the Original who split with Thomas Jefferson's
Republicans in the early 1800s, John Randolph of Roanoke,
Virginia. The 435-member U.S. House of Representatives
seems to be able to tolerate about one at any time, perhaps as a
court jester, or maybe a lone example of what the House was
supposed to do in theory. Note that there are never two at
the same time. Note also that they have to operate within the
two-party oligopoly. And, finally, note that Paul did NOT
have the guts to join African-American Left-Reform Democrat Barbara
Lee in voting against the enabling resolution of the U.S.
House allowing George III (Bush II) to circumvent a Declaration of
War (against whom? what enemy State?), although he has been a
more consistent defender of both civil and economic liberties after
that vote than Lee has.
Finally, Paul is too independent to even travel in a pack with
the "Republican Liberty Caucus," the latest of four attempts to
build a soft-core, conservative voting bloc in the Republican Party
as an alternative to third-party futility.
From history to theory...
Q: Many Libertarians seek the birth of the Libertarian movement
during the Young Americans for Freedom convention in St.
Louis. You were one of the participants, could you tell me
what happened there?
SEK3 - The major issues of the 1960s for American youth were the
Viet Nam War and conscription for it, drugs legalization, and
freedom to protest. Libertarians agreed with the New Left
(SDS, etc.) on all these issues and the traditional conservatives
("trads") who controlled YAF were opposed. YAF's first
chairman, Bob Schuchman, was a Libertarian, which is why it was
called the Young Americans for Freedom and not, say, "Young
Conservatives" even though most members identified with William
F. Buckley and National Review. Thus, many young
libertarians were attracted to YAF. In early 1969, the Trads
initiated purges against other Rightists, not just Libertarians;
Objectivist, racists, closet Nazis, Wallacites, and Roman Catholic
radical traditionalists, "Rad Trads" were all ousted wherever they
had control. On the East Coast and California, these were
mainly Libertarian chapters and they showed up in St. Louis
at the National Convention to fight for their credentials.
The Trads dropped their "Conservatism with a Libertarian Face"
approach and allowed only about 200 Libertarian delegates (out of
nearly 1000 before the purges, maybe 500 would have been
Libertarian or other opponents of the National Office). Some,
like me, had been selected by the National Chairman-to-be David
Keene as a loyal supporter, but then switched sides when approached
by Rohrabacher and Don Ernsberger of Pennsylvania YAF (later
founder of SIL) with the stories of what was going on.
Jared Lobdell (still a close friend of mine) tried to forge a
compromise on the key draft (conscription) issue. However,
during the proceedings after his committee reported, a Rothbardian
anarchist delegate (one of a very few, less than 20) lit what
appeared to be to be a Xerox copy of his draft card.
The National Office (David A. Keene and Jim Farley leading
the vote) won easily and Libertarians were purged from YAF.
But there were variations from state to state. For example in
Wisconsin (where I was then based), I was somewhat protected from
the purge by my closeness to Keene and Lobdell. And Dana
Rohrabacher came to Wisconsin to campaign for David for State
Senate (Keene lost), but actually subverted the Madison UW
chapter. Three of us left on our own and joined with three
YIPpies in late 1969 to form the University of Wisconsin
Libertarian Alliance. But there were dozens, if not hundreds,
of stories like this on campuses across North America. Every
college had a Libertarian Alliance (or SIL chapter) by the Fall of
1970; for the next four years, there were two or more major
Libertarian Conferences a year on the East Coast (New York or
Philadelphia) or West Coast (Los Angeles), all preceding the
Q: In one of the first issues of New Libertarian Notes you had a
discussion with David Nolan about the morals behind running for the
office accusing him of betraying the Libertarian ideals, but a few
months later you joined the Free Libertarian Party of New
York. Was it a sudden change of views or did you just try do
destroy the party from the inside?
SEK3 - Actually, it wasn't THAT early in our publication.
It was in issue 17, in 1972, and it got NLN kicked out of Laissez
Faire Books because I "dared" to compare our exchange to that of
Lysander Spooner and Senator Thomas Bayard in the 1870s.
Ed Clark, the founding chair of the New York LP (before he moved
to California) turned over the Free Libertarian Party (it was
called because the New York Liberal Party threatened to sue the LP
for confusing the ballot) to Jerry Klasman. Jerry invited me
to join the FLP Executive Board. When I told him I didn't
believe in the Party and would work for its demise, he said "That's
O.K." In 1973 I was re-elected with the highest vote of any
candidate, but was unable to bring any of the rest of the slate of
the Radical Caucus into office. (The closest second was my
then-girlfriend and later briefly my first fiancee, Nona Aguilar.)
By 1974 we were, in alliance with Upstate Reformers against the
"Anarchocentrist" Manhattan machine, poised to win control of the
FLP. The last thing we wanted (in the RC) was to take
political power, so I and a few of the hardest core (I admit, some
of my comrades were tempted to stay in and try for power) refused
to enter the convention hall and vote. We sat outside and
Basically, I had expressed the internal contradictions of
partyarchy. I simply demanded that the LP apply the same tactics of
decentralization and weakening of authority to its own structure as
it wish to do to the State. Rothbard and Gary Greenberg led
the Centralists who argued that the LP had to have disciplined
cadre and a minimum of internal bickering (i.e. debate and
dissent). Strangely enough, my approach seemed to appeal more
to libertarians than their Leninoid tactic.
Murray Rothbard, viewing the chaos he could no longer control
with frustration, pointed to me through the open door of the
convention hall and said, "Is he the only other person who
understands what's going on here?"
Before we left the FLP we had won ourselves Delegate Status to
the Dallas National Convention so we decided to try out tactics
there. I allied our Radical Caucus delegates with challenger
Eric Scott Royce's delegates (whom we called the Reform caucus),
against the Nolan Machine. But Nolan had already lost control
to Ed Crane, who won easily. At that point, the Radical
Caucus (minus two turncoats) walked out of the LP forever, and we
took quite a few of the Reformers with us, including Royce who has
written for my publications to this day.
Q: In 1971 you co-hosted "Freedom Conspiracy's Columbia
Libertarian Conference" during which you had an argument with
Milton Friedman. What was the reason for the argument?
SEK3 - Uncle Miltie took questions, but only written ones.
So I wrote on a card 1. Did you have anything to do with the
passage of withholding of income tax? 2. If so, do you regret
it? 3. If so, would you do it again?
To my astonishment (and I give him credit here), he read the
card and answered it straightforwardly. To the astonishment
of his audience (he apparently thought they were conservative, not
growingly radical libertarians), Friedman answered . .
1. Yes, it was during World War II when he came up with
the idea, in order to raise money for the State faster on behalf of
the war effort. 2. No, he didn't regret it, since the war was
justified. 3. Yes, for the same reason, he would do it
Friedman lost nearly everyone in the audience after that, and
Friedmanism was smashed for good in the Libertarian Movement of
1971. Ludwig von Mises and his student Murray Rothbard, and the
Austrian School reign unchallenged until this day.
Q: Since that conference many Libertarians often reject the
Chicago school and neoclassical economics as impossible to
reconcile with libertarian ideas. Some people affiliated with
it are still anarchists (i.e. D. Friedman or B.
Caplan). Don't you think that they are being a little too
SEK3 - No. Rothbard proved that the Chicago School
economists are simply efficiency experts for the State. The
worst cases were the Chilean "Chicago Boys" who served Augusto
Pinochet and the Israeli ones who worked for Revisionist Zionist
(i.e., fascist) Menachem Begin.
Q: When you lived in New York in the 70s did you have an
occasion to participate in the discussion evenings in Ms and Mr
SEK3 - Indeed, and enjoyed them immensely. Though the
Movement had already expanded out of "Murray Rothbard's Living
Room," it was still the most "in" place to be in the early
Q: As we know Rothbard's nature was a bit rowdy and he said many
things that caused a split in the Libertarian movement. How
was your collaboration with him?
SEK3 - Actually, Rothbard was seldom responsible for personal
splits; he was quite affable. His speaking manner was, I
described it in NLN, like Woody Allen but with a grasp of
economics. (Allen, by the way, is an Anarchist, though not
free-market.) Originally, he refused to take the LP seriously, so
when I did, I largely drew on LeFevre's principled attacks on
politics. Rothbard had written anti-political essays before,
so I was surprised that he embraced the LP during the Fran
Youngstein campaign. Perhaps he thought it was a new method
to bring in young professionals, especially attractive female ones
like Fran and her friends. (Youngstein worked for IBM.) At
that point, we split ideologically, though it never got as personal
as, say, Rand and Branden, LeFevre and Sy Leon, or Galambos and Jay
Snelson. Rothbard actively opposed a personality cult
developing. He continued to write for me when I requested,
and we got together in an anti-Kochtopus alliance in 1980 after the
disastrous Clark campaign. I supported him when Crane pulled
Murray's share in the Cato Institute, effectively purging him, by
my offering him shares of stock in New Libertarian magazine.
And, as I mentioned before, became a Founding Advisor to the
Agorist Institute in 1985.
We corresponded right up through the 1990 election (he had
broken permanently with the LP in 1988, pursuing a new
Paleoconservative alliance) and then again, after my divorce in
1992 up until his death in 1995.
Q: There are some who claim that late Rothbard abandoned not
only the Libertarian movement but the Libertarian theory
itself. Could you straight that out?
SEK3 - Murray Newton Rothbard, Ph.D., always left himself
maximum latitude in both strategy and tactics, while hewing to what
he called "The Plumb Line" of orthodox libertarianism. It's
true he ended his life trying to reconstruct the Old Right alliance
of his youth from Paleoconservative and "paleolibertarians," but he
insisted he gave no ground on libertarian principles. From
his accepting of anarchy in 1950 until his purge from National
Review in 1957 he was part of the Right. But he was purged
for joining the anti-nuclear popular fronts largely run by the
Left, and he accused the "New Right" of abandoning anti-imperialism
and accepting Big Government as necessary to fighting Communism
(evil because it was . . . Big Government).
He was purged from the Objectivists, though he himself was an
atheist, for refusing to pressure his wife into giving up her
He worked enthusiastically for the New Left through the 1960s,
leaving only when it became obvious the anarchists had been ousted
from the SDS and all important organizations, leaving variants of
Maoism and Stalinism battling over control of ever-smaller
grouplets. He considered supporting a Liberal Republican
(usually anathema to both Libertarians and Conservatives), Mark
Hatfield, for President in 1972, until Hatfield pulled out.
Though he had worked with anti-war Democrats preferentially until
then, he ended up supporting Nixon over McGovern.
He opposed the Libertarian Party from its founding but mainly on
strategic grounds: he considered the LP "premature" at this stage
of Movement history. When he embraced it after seeing a
superficial popularity for it among many of his activist friends,
he attempted to mold it into his concept of a Libertarian Party:
highly disciplined cadre on the Leninist model. That model
was unattractive to 90% of LP members (and an even higher
percentage of those outside the Party, of course) and when his
candidate was rejected in 1988 (after losing), he noticed Tom
Fleming organizing the Paleoconservatives and threw in his lot with
them, going so far as to become the economics advisor of their
candidate, Pat Buchanan, in 1992. He died before the 1996
election, and without Rothbard, Buchanan abandoned the market for
rampant protectionism and almost selected a socialist (black,
female) running mate.
Q: In 1975 you decided to move from New York to California,
preceding that was a three-week journey. There are legends
going around about that trip. Can you tell me something about
SEK3 - It was right out of Jack Kerouac, and anything but in a
straight line. Four of us and what belongings we could take
were stuffed in a Toyota. Although I don't like to drive, by
the time we hit Oregon (I told you it was not in a straight line),
the rest were so tired they all agreed I should take a turn.
So I crossed the entire length of Oregon in about three hours and
they never asked me to drive again.
We stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, for the first Rivercon (a
science fiction convention) and visited the best-known libertarian
science-fiction fan back then, Richard E. Geis, in Portland,
Oregon. We got lost in Marin County during its most flaky period
(captured in the novel and film, Serial, perfectly) and drove the
entire West Coast down to L.A. where Dana Rohrabacher found
None of us would ever go through that again, but we all remember
it as a Rite of Passage and, at least for me, the defining moment
of leaving the '60s mentality and finally entering that long
amorphous period from 1975 until the Fall of the Berlin Wall in
Q: After you arrived on the west coast you moved with a group of
people into the so called Anarchovillage. Can you explain
what's hiding under that name?
SEK3 - Different people had different aims. Primarily, it
was a "labour resource" for putting New Libertarian out weekly
(yes, you heard it right, every damned week except two for 101
issues) from December 1975 through January 1978. There were
10 apartments and a house, and at our peak we had 8 of them and the
house occupied by Libertarians. Two conservative sf writers
also lived there, one moving in deliberately to be with us.
An old Quaker SDS activist who had holed up there to write SF
discovered we had moved in and joined us.
No women had their own apartments, but some visited a lot and a
few moved in with different men, sometimes sequentially. One
in particular worked her way through 90% of us before moving
And we even had a token gay guy, though we didn't find out about
it for several years (the most promiscuous female, mentioned above,
outed him); he was the apartment manager and friend of Dana
Rohrabacher's who originally got us the apartment.
Q: Contemporary Libertarianism seems to be very loosely attached
to the counter-culture. Something tells me that it wasn't
always like that...
SEK3 - Hmm. I'm not sure how to answer that. As far
as I can tell, what remains of the Counter-Culture is almost
entirely libertarian. The latest "alternative culture" of
cyberspace geeks is not just libertarian but outright
agorist. The hippie counter-culture had unacknowledged
libertarian principles (see Jeff Riggenbach's In Praise of
Decadence) and Libertarian activists from Kerry Thornley, perhaps
the first conscious "Left Libertarian" (editor of the Liberal
Innovator) to always-Right Dana Rohrabacher embraced it gladly.
Science-fiction fandom, another large alternative culture, has
moved from unacknowledged Libertarianism (Heinlein, Anderson) to
accepting or criticising it explicitly as too dominant.
Maybe you are implying the current Libertarian Movement is not
entirely counter-cultural and that it used to be more so?
Actually, it's about the same split between those who largely
embrace the existing culture (such as Rothbard, as straight as you
can imagine) and those who embrace alternatives, though the
alternative offerings have expanded considerably. If
anything, I would say that rejection of the predominant culture is
greater than it was in the 1960s but less overt. Guys (and
now gals) in suits who work in a corporate office, then come home
to smoke dope, chat on-line with subversives, attend their
"alternative lifestyle" conventions on weekends, and flip over
those suit lapels to show a black flag button pinned there, are
common. This "swing both ways" attitude is certainly post-60s
and quite common among our younger people.
...and from theory to practice
Q: During the 60s and 70s many Libertarians cooperated with
groups from radical left, Karl Hess was a member of the Black
Panthers and the Students for Democratic Society, Rothbard
cooperated with M. Bookchin in New York's Left-Right anarchist
supper club. Contacts between these people broke pretty fast,
SEK3 - Very different cases. Rothbard and Bookchin fell
out over rivalry for young new recruits, but emphasized ideological
differences. The Black Panthers and SDS basically fell apart
leaving Hess behind, but Karl continued to work with the Left long
after the 1969 conventions and was affiliated with the Institute
for Policy Studies (IPS) until his demise. But in the late
1980s he reactivated his Libertarian connections, and we invited
him in 1985 to join the Founding Board of Directors of The Agorist
Institute (along with Rothbard, LeFevre, Doug Casey, John Pugsley
and Robert Kephart). Later, he became conservative enough (alas) to
do a stint as editor of the Libertarian Party's national newspaper,
which ended only as he became too ill to continue.
Q: People who describe themselves, as Libertarians often don't
want to be associated with left-wing. Leftists look at
Libertarians with unwillingness. Where did you get the idea
to call your organization the Movement of Libertarian Left?
SEK3 - Rothbard decided that we (the original LP radical caucus,
who left the LP as the New Libertarian Alliance, and then promptly
went Underground to build the Counter-Economy) were, using Marxist
terminology, the Ultra-Left Adventurists and Left Sectarians.
Some who remained close to him called me the Trotsky of the
Movement. So it became natural to refer to us as the
Libertarian Left in that context.
Secondly, we interested in continuing Rothbard's 1960-69
alliance with the anti-nuke, then anti-war New Left, so when we
decided to project a presence aboveground again, it made sense to
use a label that would appeal to those remnants.
Thirdly, we didn't want NLA members who were building successful
counter-economic enterprises to feel compelled to return to
anti-political activism so we made it clear it was a different
group who were willing to soil themselves working with
Finally, I had been reading for years the politics of Europe,
Australia and Asia, and in 1978 I was fascinated with a group in
Recall that in France then there were two large parliamentary
alliances, and, unlike American political coalitions, these were
highly ideological. But in the Union of the Left AND the
Center-Right alliance, there were members of the once-dominant
party of France known as the Radicals. They had a largely
free-market position on economics, though in neither coalition was
even an old laissez-faire liberal position dominant. The
Radical Partie proper remained allied with the Gaullists and
Independent Republicans of Giscard d'Estaing, but there "left wing"
had split off and joined the Union de Gauche as "The Movement of
the Radicals of the Left" (literal translation of Mouvement des
radicaux de gauche, or MRG). I liked the sound and
implication of that so, with a slight bow to English grammar, our
new aboveground activist group, to join forces with the "old" New
Left to fight the imminent War in Central America, became the
Movement of the Libertarian Left, or MLL.
Q: What are the main differences between
left-libertarianism/agorism and anarcho-capitalism?
SEK3 - There are several ways of looking at this, from a
theoretical view, from a strategic view, with left jargon, with
right terminology, etc., but it's a fair question.
In theory, those calling themselves anarcho-capitalists (I
believe Jarrett Wollstein, in his defection from Objectivism,
coined the term back in early 1968) do not differ drastically from
agorists; both claim to want anarchy (statelessness, and we pretty
much agree on the definition of the State as a monopoly of
legitimized coercion, borrowed from Rand and reinforced by
Rothbard). But the moment we apply the ideology to the real
world (as the Marxoids say, "Actually Existing Capitalism") we
diverge on several points immediately.
First and foremost, agorists stress the Entrepreneur, see
non-statist Capitalists (in the sense of holders of capital, not
necessary ideologically aware) as relatively neutral drone-like
non-innovators, and pro-statist Capitalists as the main Evil in the
political realm. Hence our favorable outlook toward "conspiracy
theory" fans, even when we think they're misled or confused.
As for the Workers and Peasants, we find them an embarrassing relic
from a previous Age at best and look forward to the day that they
will die out from lack of market demand (hence my phrase,
deliberately tweaking the Marxoids, "liquidation of the
Proletariat"). One can sum that up in the vulgar phrase, "If
the State had been abolished a century ago, we'd all have robots
and summer homes in the Asteroid belt."
The "Anarcho-capitalists" tend to conflate the Innovator
(Entrepreneur) and Capitalist, much as the Marxoids and cruder
collectivists do. (It's interesting that the gradual victory
of Austrian Economics, particularly in Europe, has led to some New
Leftists at least to take our claim seriously that the Capitalist
and Entrepreneur are very different classes requiring different
analyses, and attempt to grapple with the problem [from their point
of view] that creates for them.)
Agorists are strict Rothbardians, and, I would argue in this
case, even more Rothbardian than Rothbard, who still had some of
the older confusion in his thinking. But he was Misesian, and
Mises made the original distinction between Innovators/Arbitrageurs
and Capital-holders (i.e., mortgage-holders, coupon-clippers,
financiers, worthless heirs, landlords, etc.). With the
Market largely moving to the 'net, it is becoming ever-more pure
entrepreneurial, leaving the brick 'n' mortar "capitalist"
But it is dealing with current politics and current defence
where Agorists most strongly differ from "anarcho-capitalists."
A-caps generally (and they have lots of individual variation)
believe in involvement with existing political parties
(libertarian, Republican, even Democrat and Socialist, such as the
Canadian NDP), and, in the extreme case, even support the Pentagon
and U.S. Defense complex to fight communism (I wonder what
their excuse is now?) until we somehow get to abolishing the
State. Agorists, as you have undoubtedly picked up, are
revolutionary; we don't see the market triumphing without the
collapse of the State and its ruling caste, and, as I point out in
New Libertarian Manifesto, historically, they just don't go without
unleashing senseless violence on the usually peaceful
revolutionaries who then defend themseelves.
Q: The manifesto of MLL was a pamphlet "New
Libertarian Manifesto". What kind of reaction did it
SEK3 - Strictly speaking, NLM was a manifesto of the New
Libertarian Alliance, not just MLL. It was supposed to have
been published in 1975. But by the time the first edition
came out, MLL had been organized so we included mention of it and
ads for it as well.
NLM had an amazing reaction. The initial press run of
1,000 ran out, and Victor Koman undertook to print a "deluxe"
version, slick black cover with gold leaf lettering. The
second 1,500 are now sold out except for about 10 copies in my
possession and Victor's. So a hard-core, purist booklet,
densely typeset to save money (it's really a small book but we used
small tightly-leaded type to save printing costs), addressed only
to those Libertarian activists at the time who were highly immersed
ideologically and thus a very limited market, became an Underground
Best-Seller. It was never registered with the Library of
Congress or even mentioned aboveground. Laissez-Faire Books
refused to carry it. Only foreign Libertarian bookstores like
the one in Toronto and, of course, Chris Tame's Alternative
Bookshop in London would carry it. Eventually Laissez Faire
and San Francisco's Freedom Forum Books would sell it under the
Murray Rothbard immediately agreed to write a critical response
to it, and Robert LeFevre wrote a largely laudatory one. I
found the now-obscure Erwin "Filthy Pierre" Strauss to criticize it
as not radical enough and put them together, with my rebuttals, in
a new journal, Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #1 (SNLA1
for short). It sold out, too. We still have a few
copies of SNLA#2 left, but SNLA was absorbed into the Agorist
Quarterly in 1995.
Q: In that text you suggest that counter-economics is the only
way to be conformable with Libertarianism and in the same way an
efficient way to fight with the government. Can you say a
little more about it?
SEK3 - Counter-Economics in the sense of actively building and
expediting what was later called "infrastructure" of the
Counter-Economy is the only strategy guaranteed to bring about a
Libertarian Society. As the market passes from under the
control of the State, the free society grows accordingly. At
a certain point, so much of the market is free of the State, and I
mean completely free, no subjugation to any form of State control
including its judicial and enforcement arms, history's most
successful parasitical social entity will finally perish from
malnutrition. Of course, it will lash out with unfocused
violence to save itself in the final stages, as all collapsing
States do, and the Agorists successful self-defense will be the
Q: 20 years passed since the publishing of "NLM" do you think
that since then we're closer or further to accomplishing its
SEK3 - The Counter-Economy grows, the statist White Market
shrinks and chokes on its own dysfunctional regulation and
creativity-draining tax plunder, throughout the West. In the
East, the nalevo brought down the Soviet state, no matter what
absurd claims for credit the Reagan neoconservatives make.
That is, with limited understanding, the people themselves brought
down the worst tyranny known to man through almost unconscious
agorism. But conscious awareness of the process is
growing. The one weapon the State has still going for it is
that most people who participate in Counter-Economics feel guilty
about it, as if they were doing something wrong, and the
institutional bandit gangs are morally superior. This is what
Ayn Rand brilliantly understood and called the Sanction of the
Victim. The task of Libertarian activists, while it is still
possible to speak freely aboveground, is to prove convincingly to
the masses, especially the young enterprising masses in the global
economy linked by the free-market anarchist haven known as the
Internet, that resistance and disobedience in economic activity is
the MOST moral human action possible. Not just on website,
but in the arts, science-fiction novels and now films, stage, and
the new forms emerging from home computer technology with easily
Q: Lately many Libertarians follow a new strategy promoted by
Free Nation Foundation. They want to build a Libertarian
nation from the base. Cypherpunks have their hope in the
Internet and cryptography. What do you think about these methods of
SEK3 - The Cypherpunks provide a useful tool/weapon for the
Counter-Economy, but there is a lot more to an Economy than
that. No one single advance for freedom will achieve the
Anarchist Agora, but none should be discarded or belittled,
either. Kent Hastings has pointed out the value of
nanotechnology, spread-spectrum radio, and small, unmanned, flying
vehicles (I forget the term for them) combined with Net privacy to
expand the counter-economic infrastructure spectacularly.
I have nothing against "free country" activists, but I think
they are just setting up an easy target for the State to use its
traditional mass-destruction weaponry to destroy. They rely
on the State having a certain level of moral restraint in all of
their plans to defend themselves, and I think they are wrong.
It has none. It would gladly sacrifice a few million of its
subjects to crush a visible beacon of a functional free society,
let alone a bit of bad press. I call these attempts to build
free countries in today's statist environment, Anarcho-Zionism,
"The Search for the Promised Gulch."
Q: As a long-time activist I'm sure you follow action of the
younger generation of radicals. Do you think that there is a
chance that Libertarian thought will get to the demonstrators in
Seattle or Prague?
I listened rather than preached to the anti-globalist anarchists
in Los Angeles (after Seattle, Washington, Prague, etc.) in 2000
but they, including the Black Bloc, had their hearts in the right
place. They were being used by the Old Left apparatchiki through
hyperfeminization and other guilt trips. When former
anarchist Jello Biafra (of the great old punk group, The Dead
Kennedys) called for support of Ralph Nader for president, I
started a call for Nobody for President and was immediately and
eagerly joined by the Black Bloc kids. They had less trouble
grasping the contradiction of an anarchist supporting a
presidential candidate than the "libertarian" partyarchs.