By Kyle Rearden
“In an agorist society, division of labor and self-respect of each worker-capitalist-entrepreneur will probably eliminate the traditional business organization – especially the corporate hierarchy, an imitation of the State and not the Market. Most companies will be associations of independent contractors, consultants, and other companies…[t]hus an association of entrepreneurs of liberty for the purpose of specializing, coordinating and delivering libertarian activities is no violation of the market and be optimal…[such an association] is simple and should avoid turning into a political organ or even an authoritarian organization. Rather than officers, what are needed are tacticians (local coordinators with competency in tactical planning) and strategists (regional coordinators with competency in strategic thinking). A New Libertarian Ally does not follow a tactician or strategist but rather ‘buys’ their argument and expertise. Anyone offering a better plan can replace the previous planner. Tactics and strategy should be ‘bought and sold’ by the Allies like any other commodity in consistent agorist fashion.”
As the very first agorist novella, #agora was also an original piece of libertarian fiction to uniquely showcase the idea of a second realm that existed outside the grasp of the State; in fact, there’s a brief yet memorable scene where one of the cryptoagorists whips out his cell phone in order to gain access to a room that is electronically locked. Needless to say, the notion of a Second Realm captivated my imagination like little else has given the opportunities and possibilities enabled by such a concept. When I discovered that there was a non-fiction treatise on the Second Realm itself, it would be an understatement to say that I was intrigued by what its authors had to offer.
Much of what compromises the Second Realm might be said to be a counter-culture of sub-cultures. They say:
“Cultural norms of the mainstream society and most of its subcultures reward pro-state behavior while they punish non-state behavior. While this is not yet true for all parts of the cultural codes, it is increasing, often without us noticing…[i]nterwoven with these codes are values that most people are accustomed to use when judging their neighbors…[i]n addition, a wide variety of symbols are used to identify people as being ‘respectable.’ Some of these are: styles of clothing, status symbols, licenses, membership cards, use of language and laughing at the right time. Together, these codes, values and symbols form societal expectations and identities – the function of culture – and any fundamental variation from them is met with rejection or even outright hostility.”
This is crucial background information that sets the stage for the necessity of establishing such an alternate society. They continue:
“Cultural codes, values, symbols and systems and institutions of cooperation enable the state to become a spatial entity, through its agents, proponents and dependents. Culture forms the base for active consent while access control of institutions creates a soft force to keep the subjects in line. (The benefits of compliance outweigh the risks of dissent)…[t]his starts with simple social exclusion of dissenters, continues with snitching and inviting the state agents into situations where they are unwanted, and ends by using force against dissenters. The interwoven aspects of culture, institutions, profits from redistribution and the longing for stability form the foundation of the power of states and assure lasting consent (both passive and active) for this system of domination. We call the totality of this system: The First Realm.”
Okay, that identifies the enemy, but so what? They elucidate:
“Our strategy for liberty is the creation of a culture of liberty, a society that occupies its own protected space and implements independent systems of cooperation. We need to create a Second Realm…[a]narchy is the free grouping of men into societies of their preference.”
In other words, the Second Realm here could be defined as an updated version of a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). Essentially, it is the ability to conduct trade and other activities (including vices) in certain areas at particular times without reprisal from the State. Originally conceived of as being geographically mobile, TAZs (and by extension, the Second Realm) may now include cyberspace, such as the deep web.
It would behoove us to first examine the philosophical underpinnings of the Second Realm before detailing its practical manifestations. They write:
“The basic ethical axiom of Liberty is Individual Autonomy – that each and every person has the right (that is: ‘is morally justified’) to be the final authority over the law he chooses for himself, and that anything that violates this right is a crime…[w]e do have to respect the individual autonomy of First Realm persons, and even the decisions they have foolishly delegated to institutions and governments beyond their control. This does not mean that the resulting systems are ethical, but they are the will of many. It is thus not for us to take down these systems but rather to offer ethical alternatives, to open doors into the Second Realm where people can fully embrace their humanity through Liberty.”
Obviously, this raises up a tricky paradox; in order for there to be a functional Second Realm, the autonomy of those remaining within the slavish First Realm must be respected by the Second Realmers themselves, even though such consideration is far from being reciprocated, and never can be. Furthermore:
“This calls us to keep the peace with the First Realm as long as it is up to us, to not intervene in the First Realm, to radically keep the two realms separate. There is no place for standoffs. This strict separation and the respect for individual autonomy also implies that we do not needlessly violate the laws of the First Realm but instead either confine ourselves fully to the Second Realm or live a double-life: Paying taxes in the First Realm and keeping its laws while we are located there, and ignoring the First Realm whenever we are located in the Second…[t]o be able to implement such a progressive withdrawal and strict separation makes the drawing of boundaries between the realms necessary. The clearest of these is that our physical and digital temporary autonomous zones and any interaction between only Second Realm inhabitants belongs to the Second Realm exclusively, with everything else being in the First Realm.”
Segregation, in this context, is not only ethical but also practical for survivability. This also suggests that there is a pragmatic function for legal interstices or carefully calculated submission, as well as strategic withdrawal and discrete civil disobedience.
Strategically speaking, though, what exactly are the authors suggesting here with their proposal of a Second Realm? They explain:
“Several strategies for this change have been proposed, ranging from political participation, educating and convincing the masses, civil-disobedience, secession and counter-economics, to outright revolution. While these proposals all have some interesting aspects, they are very often naïve or poorly informed as to what really shapes society. The fundamental flaw to most of these strategies, with a slight exception in the theory of counter-economics, is the reliance on mass change of social, cultural economic structures and people in general.”
These authors go on to repudiate collective-movementism in some detail, which I thoroughly appreciated. Not only that, but they explicitly acknowledged none other than black market apologist Sam Konkin as being inspirational to them. They further declare:
“We can and should focus on forming an entrepreneurial environment for tactics, and let them refine each other in the marketplace. But, for a marketplace to work, we must be prepared to reward entrepreneurs for their superior products and services, not just through respect, but also with tangible material considerations (money, etc). Contrary to our opponents, our strategy employs the time-tested roles of entrepreneurs, customers and investors. This is fundamental because it creates a situation in which people who are unable to contribute through the supply of services or products are able to contribute through the investment of time or money in products that will help us all achieve our objectives – and maybe even profit.”
If anything, this implies that the Second Realm encompasses agorism but is broader than it. Almost as if the inevitable result of what Ludwig von Mises wrote about in Human Action, grey and black market entrepreneurs who form a counter/sub-culture of libertarian resistance to statism might very well become a compelling fiction story if it was told through an appropriate media venue (just consider the successful yet controversial reception of the V for Vendetta film by the servile society). Continuing on:
“Reputation and respect are probably the strongest unifying aspects. While respect is willfully extended until proven misplaced, reputation must be earned by ethical behavior and entrepreneurship. We praise those of us that are successful, those that take risk, and those that pick themselves up after failures. Honesty and contract are holy, and secrets are respected as they not only protect but also add spice to life.”
Personal responsibility for one’s actions is seldom more evident than here. Notice, too, that secrecy is not always a bad thing, for not all truths need to be said. Also:
“Neither reputation nor respect are empty words for us. They are also ways of binding and help to mutually develop. We communicate them tangibly, by vouching for others, underwriting and extending bonds to protect our business-partners and peers. In this web of tangible relations people draw each other up the ladder of affluence, but also quickly sort out evil-doers and scam artists.”
Right there is the repudiation of government laws in favor of social ostracism as the enforcement mechanism for maintaining peace and liberty. Suffice it to say, the Second Realm strategy hinges upon principled entrepreneurship.
Ideology and strategy aside, what are the practical tactics of the Second Realm? It’s crucial to first understand that:
“We protect our secrets, we value them. Protecting our privacy becomes second nature to us, liberating us from the prying eyes of our enemies. But our privacy is also a key symbol for the autonomy we live. We are taking back what a totalitarian outer world wants to steal from us. What fences are to atoms, data privacy technology is to bits and bytes. We claim that both are owned by us alone: This is our place.”
Whether it be anonymized remote controlled access control or anonymized remote controlled defense systems, Second Realmers are conscious practitioners of security culture, first and foremost. Crypto-anarchy is indispensible, as well:
“Technologies are changing optimal business sizes and the number and diversity of products and actors required for a functioning market…[t]wo of these technologies are the advent of various kinds of urban farming, especially industrial vertical urban farming (which promises to make food-production for many thousand consumers possible and economical – in a single skyscraper) and micro-fabbing. Micro-fabbing is the automated production of parts through means of 3D-printing without the need of special tool development. This will allow the download of construction plans from the internet and subsequent printout of complex geometries with 3D-printers that do not require any attention during production. The number of base materials available for this method is increasing rapidly and will soon permit anyone with the right skills to compete with specialized, high-capital production facilities, with a fraction of both risk and investment.”
Just about anything that can facilitate a homebrewed neo-industrial revolution is bound to be more beneficial than not, whether through the auspices of open-source hardware or additive manufacturing. TAZs are similarly invaluable in providing space for manifesting the Second Realm more tangibly:
“Temporary Autonomous Zones give us the opportunity for our culture [to] exist in physical space, allowing us to conduct our business, organize our social relationships and to handle conflicts in the way we think to be right…[f]or our purposes, such a temporary autonomous zone can range from business clubs of a semi-permanent nature to street markets that only last a few hours. The security requirements for different kinds of zones may differ significantly, according to the risks they face…[t]he primary purpose of a temporary autonomous zone in our strategy remains to ‘keep evidence out of the hands of the attackers, and to have a secure place for our culture and business.’ ”
Obviously, mobility is a key factor in providing good security against both private and public (government) criminals. Something close to my heart was revealed brilliantly in this passage:
“Pseudonymity is the concept of having alternative names and identities that we reveal as they are needed, that are attached to their own histories and reputations. Breaking the spell of our ‘True Name’ and using self-chosen, task specific identities enables us to limit the ability of our opponents to attach all of our actions to the leash that binds us to them and at the same time utilize the functions that names and identities provide. These pseudonyms do not need to be registered by the state nor do they need to be tied to our true identity as long as specific methods of assurance and enforcement are available.”
Should there be any time for me to say, I told you so, this would certainly be it. All these morons within the alternative media who are so insistent upon transparency that they demand that other content producers reveal their First Realm identities, but then complain when they inevitably get doxxed, is the pinnacle of idiotic hubris. Not only that, but my revulsion of the legal person assigned to me by the State is philosophically rooted in identity theory; that is, by subverting a government imposed designation (like the Social Security Number), I am committed to enabling my own individuality to blossom, hence my current and former nome de plumes.
Other methods of the Second Realm are worth mentioning in brief. The authors detail that:
“Instead of dispersing information far and wide and leaving behind traces with any move, the foundation is Need to Know. It is necessary to limit information to the bare minimum required for the invited and affected parties. The information justly required can of course differ from case to case, but uninvited and unaffected parties should always be prevented from acquiring any meaningful information or deducing potentially harmful conclusions. The art of implementing the objectives of ‘Need to Know’ is commonly known as tradecraft.”
Naturally, this conflicts with the idea of open-source intelligence gathering (which was the original purpose of the alternative media), however, if there was such a thing as a kind of one-directional isolation in the sense that Second Realmers engage in open-sourced activities whenever there is no perceived danger to themselves, then I think individual privacy can still be respected (think about Satoshi Nakamoto, for example – his invention was open-sourced yet his First Realm designation is still unknown, despite tabloid “journalists” attempting to villainously unmask him). In any case, the practice of tradecraft is paramount to the development of the Second Realm:
“Entrepreneurs can excel in providing tradecraft services to other actors in the marketplace by providing means of covert communication, opaque trading-rooms, un-traceable transportation or insured pseudonyms. This frees other actors from having to unduly invest into these abilities and keeps a culture of paranoia from seeping into everything we do.”
Looking into each of these specific techniques is certainly a worthwhile venture for another time, but suffice it to say for now that the likely success of establishing a Second Realm through such tradecraft is a promising course of direct action. One method that particularly intrigues me is the notion of the proxy-merchant:
“Another area unique to our situation is the integration into the larger economy. Since a sufficient market-size and diversity can only be hoped for in the long run, we are required to interact and integrate with other markets unless we want to find ourselves in a subsistence economy. However, this integration comes with great risk. These facts call for a special career that is especially interesting to people that have not yet found their vocation (or who have left their previous vocation) and are looking for low capital opportunities: The Proxy-Merchant. A proxy-merchant is a bridge connecting the Second Realm to the First Realm while keeping risks at bay. Many ways of bridge-building are conceivable, from people who handle exchanges between Second Realm money and official currencies to shopping and trading agents.”
Fundamentally, these proxy-merchants are professional intermediaries between the realms. Much like the vonuan concept of import-export with the servile society, proxy-merchants enable an interface with the First Realm so as to facilitate commerce. I would further suggest that said proxy-merchants be those individuals who don’t have a criminal record or any sort of questionable behaviors (according to the cultural dictates of the First Realm) that would invite police surveillance. Additionally, it is further observed that:
“Using these contract-registries and evidence-retention systems, affected parties can call on mediation and arbitration providers and hand over the facts necessary to decide the case. Combined with escrow and bonding services, enforcement becomes feasible without having to rely on aggressive law enforcement in commercial settings. Furthermore, strong pseudonyms and reputation systems can provide means to reduce future risk of questionable actors and serve as a social restraint against repeat violations.”
This is a crucial explanation that ancaps/voluntaryists have routinely neglected to bother mentioning during their advocacy for a stateless/propertarian society. I always kinda figured that with the privatization of adjudication services, there would have to be some kind of fiscal element to it, not only for the profitability of the adjudicators, but also as a mechanism for enforcing judgments (“sentencing”). Of course, it doesn’t quite make sense to me how an “evidence-retention system” would be practically feasible if the entire purpose of a Second Realm TAZ is to keep evidence out of the hands of attackers, but again, further exploration of this is more appropriate for another time. Finally, it is mentioned that:
“Trading posts that provide anonymous deposit boxes that are accessible through tradeable digital warehouse bonds are one solution to protect both buyers and sellers by reducing the need to conduct trades in person. Another idea is the use of ‘trading tables’ that can be reached from both sides only by hard to observe corridors and that feature a barrier between the parties that can not be easily climbed over and which conceal the identity of both parties. Buyer and seller hold each other with one hand during the trade, preventing one side from running away with only one half of the transaction having taken place, and use the other hand to move goods between them. Essentially these trading tables resemble a bank counter except in protecting both sides equally.”
Such opaque trading rooms (or tables, windows, posts, etc.) could also reduce the risk of a police sting operation being pulled off successfully, provided that the target of the sting was able to arrive and depart without being tailed. In any case, this conception of a privacy enhancing trading floor merits deeper investigation, specifically regarding the construction, dismantling, and overall mobility of said trading posts.
Smuggler & XYZ’s The Second Realm: Book on Strategy is a worthwhile treatise on manifesting how a truly libertarian infrastructure could be built. As elegantly summarized by the authors themselves:
“Many lead a double life with only an occasional visit to our markets where they are greeted with their pseudonyms. Others operate their business half a day in the First Realm, and open shop in the Second after sunset. Still others are true ghosts to the First Realm, having no footprint there except for traveling through it from one autonomous zone to another, some of them having perfected their livelihoods in our world, but others that just cannot stand the shallowness of the other side anymore.”