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Murray Rothbard on the "Black Market Strategy"

When libertarians aren’t busy discussing the finer points of libertarian philosophy, they often spend their free time debating actual strategy. It’s one thing for you yourself to become a magnificently consistent and rational libertarian, but what about everybody else? In order to see others begin to adopt a libertarian philosophy – even while you yourself are developing your own, – the question of strategy is an essential one.

What are the best methods of advancing the ideas of liberty, and seeing those ideas take shape in the real world?

Murray Rothbard has of course addressed this in significant detail throughout his career, but believe it or not he hasn’t been the only one with some ideas. Samuel Konkin, a leading proponent of agorism - which generally promotes nonpolitical, market-based action as a strategy for liberty – laid out his vision in his 1980 book New Libertarian Manifesto. Konkin advocates the idea that libertarians can essentially move “off the grid” of the legal system, and grow the black market economy to diminish the State. Workers would all be independent contractors, free of taxation and operating outside the scope of government. {Note: I will freely admit that I am not familiar with Konkin’s work in any more than a very superficial way. I realize that this is a very broad generalization, and my intent is not to fully explain Konkin’s position, but merely to introduce the “black market strategy” concept. Agorists, I welcome your feedback.}

Rothbard finds major flaws with this black market strategy, starting with the rejection of the idea of wage labor.

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I've been thinking about this issue

Especially with respect to bitcoin. The main problem with the black market, as I see it, is that it does not have the protection of the rule of law. In the black market, there is very little protection against fraud. Sooner or later, the swindlers move in and screw it up for everybody. Furthermore, in a black market, you cannot leverage capital. Thus, long term, expensive projects cannot take place. This seems to be the major problem in many third world countries, where much of the economy is in a kind of "grey" market.

However, I disagree with Rothbard that political change is the only way forward. Political action can be useful, but only as a means towards education, not as a means to grasp power. Political action can be useful, as long as it does not eclipse other forms of education.

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

In My Opinion, "Bitcoin" Is The Blackmarket.

When elected people cannot run a system to the satisfaction of everyone, entrepreneauship starts and finds a way to spread its ideas.


Great comment!

Great comment!

Thanks, BILL3

Please note that by "rule of law," I don't mean government rule. Wanna revise that compliment? :)

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

Not really. If the black

Not really.

If the black market does not have the protection of the rule of law, that is because

a) the rule of law does not emerge spontaneously or naturally in all circumstances

b) some third party power (namely, the established gang/govt) prevents the development of the rule of law in the black market.

In either case, and I don't think there's a third, the rule of law is equivalent to the law of the established gang/govt, and no other exists.

Political Action

Rothbard in no way sees political action as the only way forward, he has laid out a multi-tiered path, political action being only one of many tools. He emphasized "Ed-ucation" (sorry I had to!) of the population in order to bring about long term change.

He is merely suggesting that the black market strategy all its own cannot be the path to liberty, and rejecting political action all together may not be prudent.

A good breakdown of Rothbard's larger strategy.


*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*