The Aristocracy of Action
It’s now been several decades since the idea of cyber-libertarianism and cryptoanarchy first entered the minds of more than a few people. Today, we see almost nothing. There are a dozen reasons for it, and they do not include that the vision was unsound or undoable. The main reason, as I see it, lies in the nature of today’s man and the size of the project ahead.
There are a few very active players in the cryptoanarchic and agoristic scene. People that work hard to make things happen. That spend countless hours of their time, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment and services to create a new reality. And I applaud them, because they are not the problem by the only reason why these thoughts still exist.
Today we look at a world that appears to more and more people as being dysfunctional. We begin to learn that a world that is built on hierarchy after hierarchy of management, centralization of control and a constant spiral of intervention does not work in the long run. All our so called public services are broke or at the verge of breakdown. Certainly the explanation the mainstream media and the intelligentsia espouses is that all that is due to "lack of regulation”, "lack of oversight” or "greedy capitalism”. I disagree. The fundamental reason in my view is that you cannot change the world by wishful thinking, not by visions that ignore the reality of nature, economics and human behavior. The masses thought that fixing the problems caused by the latest fix of a problem would sooner or later lead to a perfect world. I got news for you: It does not. There is no man-made paradise to ever exist on this planet - quite the contrary: The only thing we created so far is a man-made hell for so many.
Yes, mankind has acheived many things. Not the smallest among them is that hunger and plagues have been largely overcome for hundreds of millions of people in the west - and they are beginning to become a much lesser problem day by day in the developing countries. If you do not believe that, please look at the living conditions before the industrial revolution began. But instead of embracing this great achievement the fat and satisfied masses of the west, those that have forgotten hunger and poverty, are spitting on the things that made this possible - like the rule of law, functional markets, relative economic freedom and things like that (read Hernando de Soto, The Other Path or The Mystery of Capitalism by the same author for some not-too-radical insight into this). Instead of embracing individualism, liberty and economic freedom the world is turning to the next fix of self-induced problems. Instead of doing away with harmful Corporatism the call is out to create a more "social” world, a world were the blessing of democratic control enters into even more areas of life. Where government is seen again as the blesser of the many and the protector of the weak. As if history has never taught us any lesson. Like the fundamental lesson that only a productive lifestyle - and not a parasitic one - can advance the lot of humanity. It is no accident that economists, complexity theorists and other scientists are developing an understanding for how fragile our systems have become. Systems that are not built on individual achievement, productivity or decision-making, but systems that are built on redistribution, fraud and top-down control. Our way of living - of ruling others - is only steps away from global disaster, indeed it probably passed the climax several years ago and is accelerating on its path to oblivion. I am not saying that the world ends tomorrow, but truly we currently face only two options: Delay the decay or break down today.
Today the task ahead is the same it was decades ago for those looking for a sound alternative. And still the answer is the same. We need a more detangled world, a more free world, more decisions made by individuals, more diversity. The lessons that are shouted from the roof-tops by those that want to save the planet are not applied to humans. Instead, we are living in a forced mono-culture that is just another bug away from ecologic collapse. And grass-roots action is most of the time just an illusion - in the end it is all about telling the rulers from below to adapt new rules for all. The problem is the "for all”, the monoculture of activity, rules, thoughts. We need diversity. We need competition for the best ideas while tolerating those that are inferior. The alternative, the "fix”, is not more of the same. It is a radical change of thought. It is true tolerance, true liberty, individualism not collectivism. It is a world that operates on two simple rules: "Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto yourself”, and "Leave each other alone unless you are asked to the contrary”. Yes, it is about "leaving each other alone”, not intruding on their every thought, action and word as if the pure existence of another gives you permission to mess with it.
But, you are most likely aware of that all already. The question that matters most is "where to go from here”?
Three fundamental steps of thought
First, everyone wishing to live in another world has to realize that this world does not simply come about by wishful thinking. Nor does it come around by applying the same "fixes” that broke our world. It does not even come about through talking, influencing the media or politics. There is only one path to that new world, and that path is gruesome.
The first step on that path is that we honestly have to deprogram ourselves from the learned methods of collectivist thought, mono-cultural thinking, top-down directing and hoping for the masses. I repeat: Do not waste your time in trying to fix politics, win over the masses or receive approval. You are on your own for now. While this might sound cruel it is still true. Every achiever is alone at first - and possibly for a long time. Societies break down collectively, but they are only rebuilt individually.
The second step thus is to realize that you have to be a builder. That it is you, as a person, as an individual, that really needs to take action. There is no one you can or should wait for. Nor is there a blueprint that you just have to give to the architects of the future. Read carefully - if you do not act, nothing will be. If you do not implement your dreams, if you do not work for your goals, they will never come true. And even if they would - you would have no say in them, you would not own them. You would just be a free rider - and we despise free riders.
The third step is cooperation and competition. One of the biggest inventions of mankind was the division of labor, and the competitive market. I will not bore you with details since others have written about these things more eloquently, but let me make something very clear here: Neither cooperation nor competition works by sitting around idly. To compete, you have to create first. To cooperate, you have to have something to offer as a bargain. There is neither cooperation nor competition for those that do not produce first. You cannot sit around waiting for the market to fulfill your dreams and come up with the solutions for your problems. The market does not create. The market is solely the method that punishes your failures and rewards your achievements. That is why many people today hate free markets - because it will punish you.
The market brings nothing into existence - entrepreneurs do. People that take action and face reality. Individuals that invest, think, act, build - and then compete and cooperate. The market only amplifies the actions of those that do comparatively well while taking out those that only create waste. And everyone who does not produce calls for the latter. Makes you wonder why a society that always talks about how evolution did this or does that still does not get this simple concept.
Before continuing, be aware that the three steps mentioned above build on each other - and that they are only complete together. They do not stand alone.
It is crucial to realize that all we can do is about cultural entrepreneurship - we have to create cultural systems. However, these changes are not welcome. The current culture does not welcome our input, our ideas, our work. It opposes everything we stand for. The current culture is that of the masses, of redistribution, of control, of majority-approval. It gives security through numbers, of being the same within limits. All we do is perceived as a fatal threat to it’s structure.
Maybe you think that I grossly exaggerate here, if you do, simply present the ideas of cryptoanarchy or even radical individualism to your peer-group.
Opposition to contemporary culture comes with several consequences.
First, it means that developing the current state of affairs into a new society would be a very energy-consuming and unlikely thing to accomplish. It makes much more sense to develop our society independently from what exists. Second, we have no chance for mass approval before we have already outcompeted the current systems of the world. And even then mass approval is not a goal that is worth achieving in itself. Third, the competition with the dominant culture comes with great risks. We will be, and are already, met with every resistance available. We are not welcome. We are enemies, and treated accordingly. This includes that those that defend the current systems of the world will take any action they see necessary, or even useful, to destroy us.
From this come two lessons I personally have learned the very hard way and taken to heart since then: Being active as a cultural entrepreneur that seeks to build a competing way of life comes with personal risks. It is smart to take reasonable security measures. We should not be naive and trust in the goodness of the hearts of our competition, nor should we lock ourselves into little castles and become ineffective. One can win a battle in two ways: Overpower the enemy in battle or scare him into submission and burn all his resources. We can defend ourselves against being overpowered with good security on our end. But we should never take it so far that we are scared away, our resources burnt or our troops immobilized.
Cultural conflict comes with risks, even with the risk of personal harm. If you are not aware of that, or not willing to take these risks, please - just leave us alone, you are not an ally then but just another risk for us to take and another sink for our energies better spent on productive action. And, by the way, stop telling us what to do if you are unwilling to do it yourself.
Notes about another society
I have no idea how another world will look in detail. But this does not keep me from working on creating it best as I can. We all learn by doing, and we identify what is relatively best by competition. There are several lessons we have learned in this process, errors we have made and identified - lessons I would like you to think about and reap profit from:
- Do not wait for perfection - anything is better than nothing. Especially when smart people meet, the theory often overcomes the practical. We spend years in developing perfect systems, perfect business-plans, perfect products - and fail. The perfect is something that develops by creating the imperfect and finding out later what is relatively best. And while you are at it you have something to build on and use. So please, do as good as you can - as long as you do. Release early - release often - improve in the open, visibly. This is especially important in the context of people we are active, people have floating ideas of what could be done, but it never gets done because of it. Consumer share is built by starting with the simple and extending to the complex. Also be aware that some people will complain about your product not being perfect - do not lose heart: Always keep in mind that something done is always better than something only envisioned - and people that just complain but do not have the guts to compete are bad advisors. One telling example of this is the creation of "perfect money”: While we do not have it, embrace cash, embrace gold and silver coin, embrace barter. Just do not stand still waiting. Make the best of what exists today.
- Be aware that the future will not consist of money-movers and coders only. Actually, coders and bankers just create platforms, tools. But the life comes from those that produce diversity. From the thousands of trades, products and services that people value. Do not expect all your customers to be computer-cracks or economists but instead target the mom-and-pop shops, the farmer, the carpenter. It is them to whom you have to prove valuable, it is them that you need to empower. A society of bankers and coders will starve in a day. This does not mean that they will not have to face a learning-curve, but keep it as flat as possible. Actually, if you are reading this and you are neither a coder nor a banker - you are most welcome to participate in this struggle. It is you that is most required, it is you that can do the most. Just do it.
- Do not build your actions on the approval of the masses nor depend on masses to be educated or convinced. It is as hopeless as to stand in front of an approaching herd of buffalo - either you run from them or you are overrun. It is much better to stand far away from their path that leads to destruction and invite those that split from the herd over.
- The world really does not need another social network for freedom lovers. While talk is fun, it changes little. Focus on trade, focus on getting people fed in liberty - not fed up with talk.
- We live in exciting times. Never before would a project like ours have any hope of succeeding. And the reason for this is the broad availability of international shipping and international instant digital communication (also known as the Internets). Because we are few and far apart, embrace the digital, embrace the Internets. This tool can bring us together from all places. It is what opens our market, enables us to trade with the few that we are simply because we do not have to be all in one place. We can grow slowly and wide apart - and still grow successfully.
- Embrace the physical. This is probably the biggest error we have made so far. Not everything is digital, life does not happen on the Internets. And because we are not welcome by contemporary society, we cannot delegate the physical to them. Mixing our actions with their institutions - be it banking, justice systems, police, law, identity assurance - does not work, it harms. It makes us vulnerable. Be physical yourself, create physical places to meet and trade. Protect your personal perimeter but do not stay in hiding - there is not much life and no progress in staying dug into your fortress. Be bold but reasonable. Be physical. Work on replacements for the instruments that are provided by our competition, create new physical currency, create trade networks, create warehouses, market-places, clubs, bars, hospitals, factories! Be, and be physical.
- The mixture of both the physical and the digital enables us to experiment a lot more than just having the physical. Digital communications allows us to experiment with panarchy, it means that we do not have to agree with each other because we can use digital shields to only interact when we want it, and under the terms we agree on. If someone does not subscribe to your notion of private property then you have a problem in the physical - but not so in the digital. And, it get’s better: Because of these digital shields we can even cooperate if we do not agree, we do not have to answer all philosophical questions before we act. Quite the contrary: Our actions will solve the philosophical questions - and where they do not get solved they do not matter! Again, one less excuse for not acting. Act!
- You are not the only one acting, nor should you be. Division of labor does require others apart from you. And frankly speaking: We humans need human interaction. We need peers that give us new insights, new inspiration, or just someone who understands what we are going through and listens. But there is more: Trade and economy are about people more than they are about goods and money. It is the business relationships that are the fundament for many friendships, for new products, for new ideas. Furthermore we are talking about a new society to be created. This requires social interaction. Take time to invest in your relationships, invest in joining an existing or building your own tribe.
Being a builder
There is one thing that sets a builder, an entrepreneur, apart from all others. It is not his success or failure nor the numbers of his bank account or the marketing talk. It is the productive actions he takes. The entrepreneur does not wait for someone to ask him to join an established company, or someone who sits around waiting until some piece falls into place to enable him to finally stand up and act. The builder is always awake and searching for opportunity, for something he can do for profit - or even just do it for fun. He never waits for others to fix his problems and satisfy his needs.
It is also a misleading notion to think that everything an entrepreneur does is to invent new things, do things that have not been done before. But that is not always the case, actually it is rarely the case. The entrepreneur looks for things he can do better, things he can improve, things he can do differently. An entrepreneur needs to embrace diversity - just because someone else has done something does not mean that it could not be done better, cheaper, nicer, more beautiful - or even the same way again! Never shy away from competing, never shy away from improving, not even shy away from copying! Diversity is what makes the world beautiful, and resilient.
In doing the builder takes risks, and it is these risks that are what create his profit. Without risk-taking, nothing is done because nothing valuable is risk-free. It is reasonable to reduce risk - but not by all means possible. Do not freeze into inaction because you could lose. One of these risks is competition, or actually being overcome by competition. Embrace this risk, do not try to kill or control competition. Maybe you can cooperate, maybe you will lose, maybe you win. Never give up or cooperate just because you shirk away from conflict and risk. It is about creating the better things, competition helps us to find out what really is best.
The society we work for comes with a learning curve, most precisely in the tools of defense we have to use and in unlearning some of the harmful ways of doing business that we are used to from the current society we live in. There are things you have to learn, like how to use encrypted communication, how to use anonymous networks, how to communicate via instant-messaging or chat networks like IRC. It will also require you to learn things like making a deal without being able to call the police or how to enforce a contract without violence at your disposal. Self-reliance and resilience demands skills, you need to learn them. There is no way around it. Learn secure communication, encryption software and tradecraft. It will most likely keep you out of harm’s way.
Also, you will need to relearn things that our forefathers knew. I am not talking about building your own barrels or to plough with a horse. I am talking more about business processes and being an honorable merchant. Many things that made trade and business effective in the past have been buried and replaced with methods that primarily serve as means of control - not improvements like that have been advertised as. Did I mention that many of these methods are less costly and time-consuming than what we have to use today?
You need to invest time in learning and building in and for the new society. It will not come easy or fast. It is a process and you start from the bottom. Take your time to build relationships with others in the underground economy, take time to talk with people on the various chat networks and forums around. Just make sure you look for the practical stuff, the useful stuff. Do not get held up in philosophical discussions.
Also, invest in people. Talk can never replace action. To learn and to build business relationships you need to do business. This is especially important in our world. Start with small deals, listen in for reputation and warning but weight them carefully - even we have crooks amongst us. Invest in your reputation by making good deals and keeping your word - for this you have to act - you have to deal - you have to take risks.
All this said, you will probably still have this nagging feeling somewhere around the area where your heart and stomach are located. It’s called fear. And it is a good thing. Fear will keep you awake and aware, it will make sure that you follow security procedures. It will serve as a protection against letting your guards down because of shame. Just make sure that you embrace your fear and not vice-versa. Rule your fear, use it, do not let it rule and use you. Seriously, your future will likely depend on if you can embrace your fear without your fear keeping you inactive.
The Aristocracy of Action
The title of this article is "Aristocracy of Action” and you might have asked yourself what it is all about.
Many people have asked me where those networks are, those bandwagons they could jump on, the perfect place for them to sit down, rest and reap the fruits of liberty. How often I have heard the words "there must be someone who has done this and that can show us”. There is none of that (well, there is, but…). To become part of this, our, world you need to enter into the Aristocracy of Action.
What we do is risky, and we are people that are aware of it. What we do has value, but we also know that we might not have the best implementation. And we have learned that being picky on whom to associate and work with saves a lot of energy (and we need that for building).
In short, we are not offering you a free lunch. Maybe we do not even want to offer you our lunch at all. We are not even willing to be your leaders and marshals.
If you wait for us to solve your problems, to implement the tools that you want, to enable you and lift you up - then you are seriously mistaken. It is not our focus in life to do the work you will have to do for yourself. We are not the makers at your disposal. Do not wait for us - do it yourself. If you do we will ponder if and how we can partake. Being passive will not get you anywhere. We want doers, not talkers. We are on the lookout for those that walk the walk - not those that only talk the talk.
And we take little at face-value. You have no right to be taken serious by us, nor do we owe you anything. If you want to be included, honored even, you have to prove yourself. Prove yourself by acting, doing, building.
Neither is our world a place of free stuff. If you want something, you will have to pay for it. What we do has cost us dearly and continues to do so. Be thankful if you receive a gift, but never demand it. We will never demand anything without compensation from you either.
We are merchants, capitalists, builders, entrepreneurs, tradesmen. But contrary to contemporary belief we are civilized - actually we have to be because of what we do. We demand the same from you. Show that you are honorable and virtuous. Watch your words, keep your contracts, behave like a grown-up, serious person. If you think that this demand is old-fashioned and out-dated, leave us alone.
Be patient. Rome did not fall in a day, nor was it built in a year. Good things take time. If you are impatient you will jump from one flower to another - you will be unreliable and a bigger hassle to work with than worth it. Be quick, but be patient. However, for those that act instead of waiting for others, patience is probably the least of all problems.
Now, you might not agree with what I said above, or with what we ask for. You might think that there is a place for you in our midst where people drag you along and feed you. That you have a right to get without giving, or to demand that we take what is of no interest for you. Maybe you think that with enough education we would change our mind. Maybe so. However, if you do not produce value we are not even interested in trying. If you do not produce, go away. We do what we do precisely because we want to escape plunderers, parasites, talking-heads and free-riders. Leave us alone.
Maybe however you think that all this is too much for you. That all the problems are not worth it. That there must be an easier way or that we can make it a lighter burden for you. If you do, leave us alone. If you cannot take it, do not waste our time. We need it to somewhen have a society that is reachable even for those that cannot take it today.
But what if you agree? Then prove yourself to be of the Aristocracy of Action.
Photo: Tom Hermans (@tomhermans)
Notes: This text was saved from the original source above some years back and published on a social media by me. I have preserved the text here as well now, and as of published date the original file is no longer available.