Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Underground is Surfacing

So far in this series about the Phoenix Society, we've addressed the massive size and rapid growth of the underground, apolitical economy, the rising decentralization and individual empowerment in response to the ongoing failures of centralized, top-down control, detailed specifics of new technologies that hold the promise of decentralizing production, new tools for and attitudes toward collaboration, and the decentralization of production. But the story of the Phoenix Society is not only in the depth of the changes occuring at the edge of the future, but the breadth of support for these changes, even among those who have yet to realize their depth.

Stories that explore the widespread acceptance of this new decentralized paradigm are everywhere, and a number of those stories have been told here at The Tireless Agorist. In Detroit: America's Greece, we saw examples of residents reclaiming homes taken by banks and government agencies, community gardening projects, voluntary cleanup efforts, neighborhood watches, and new sorts of microbusinesses, all the result of individual initiatives, not government programs.

Accidental Agorists Rebuild A Road tells the story of a community of volunteers repairing a road vital to their well-being because the government couldn't or wouldn't get the job done and they weren't willing to set around and watch their livelihoods destroyed. Meanwhile, Tombstone, Arizona Clings to Life as the citizens still wait after more than a year for permission from the government to repair vital water systems that are in an area protected by the Wilderness Act.

We found in Greece Surrenders to the Underground Economy that their government is now recognizing non-euro localized exchange systems in the marketplace. Although these systems provide a medium of exchange, a method of accounting, and a store of value, the three functions of money, they are referred to as exchange networks, rather than money. Nonetheless, those three functions have defined money since barley was used as an intermediary in 3000 BC. A future article will explore the widespread use of alternative currencies in today's economies. We discovered in Pizza Federalism, Kickstarter and the Arts that bottom-up, voluntary funding for projects at a single site on the Internet now exceeds the top-down, coercively-obtained funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

From India came the story of Barefoot College - Electrifying Empowerment by training illiterate grandmothers in the techniques of solar engineering, bringing light and communications to villages far removed from the massive power grids enabled by centralized government. The Largest Libertarian Society in History examined the phenomenon of the Internet as it related to the overnight building of a community of shared interests leading to the defeat of SOPA and PIPA, in direct defiance of the wishes of the political machine and politically-connected corporations.

Not only groups, but individuals acting alone are more commonly attempting to defy the state, and succeeding. Sweet Sixteen Circumnavigation documented a young girl's triumph over the Dutch government, achieving her goal of sailing around the world alone. Shall Not Be Infringed and DC's Plantation-like Gun Control told the story of one woman's effort to overturn draconian laws against self-defense in Washington, D.C.

This attitude of bottom-up initiative and decentralization is challenging even the most centralized of pursuits, that of the race for the Presidency of the United States. In He's Catchin' On, I'm Tellin' Ya!, What's Your Candidate Done to Change the World?, and Is Gary Johnson a Threat to the Two-Party System? we explored the phenomenons of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, and their assaults on the two-party political machine.

And finally, in The Transformational Generation, we explored the perspective of those who have grown up on the Internet, deeply involved in a world-wide society they view as a network, not a hierarchy. This is a generation that does not feel a religious respect for ‘institutions of democracy’ in their current form, does not believe in their axiomatic role, as do those who see ‘institutions of democracy’ as a monument for and by themselves.

There are many, many more stories of the ascendency of decentralization, bottom-up initiatives, and communities and individuals providing "new guards for their future security" in lieu of, in spite of, and even in defiance of, centralized government policies. The Tireless Agorist will continue to regularly report on such stories in the future. I invite my readers to inform me of such stories, either here in comments or through Twitter, @AgoristDon.

In a similar, although much more politically-oriented vein, is The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, by Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie. The thesis of the book is that "we are in fact living at the cusp of what can only be called the libertarian moment."
"The era of big government will not come to an end because libertarians have won a political argument. It is coming — and soon — because politicians spent their way to the brink of a massive fiscal shock," they write. "We are out of money."
Although I believe they put far too much faith in the eventual reining in of the political machine by concerned voters, the book is well worth reading for its collection of more-mainstream analogies, examples and case studies drawn from popular culture over the last several decades, providing important historical context for the seismic shift ahead. Their examples include the story of Kodak and Fujifilm and the digitization of photography, the impact of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, the fall of the USSR, and the rise of infinite choice, all leading inexorably toward a more libertarian society.

Veronique de Rugy said "I would argue that it is especially worth reading if you are skeptical of libertarianism or even a straightforward anti-libertarian. For instance, if you think libertarians are irresponsible, dope-smoking, unserious, head-in-the-clouds pacifists, this book is for you."

Kirkus Reviews summed up their review with this praise and faint condemnation.
An enthusiastic, entertaining libertarian critique of American politics, brimming with derision for the status quo and optimism for the future and confident of the right direction, but disappointingly silent about which roads to take.
The Phoenix Society series of columns is defining the road before us that Gillespie and Welch failed to take. Columns still to come will delve deeper into the story of the increasing use of alternative currencies in the face of the impending global failure of fiat money systems, and explore solutions for utilities, defense and justice that will arise from the move toward decentralization and the consequent deregulation. We'll also examine the rise of the globalist, corporatist economy we're currently living under, the Greecy slope all the nation's economies are currently on, and the race to the future between the two world visions. I hope you'll stay tuned.

...and that's all I have to say about that... for now
Author's Note: Here's a Table of Contents for the Phoenix Society series of posts.
Purchases through the link below benefit The Tireless Agorist.


  1. "Columns still to come will delve deeper into the story..."

    I'm watching. :)

    It is truly wonderful to find some actual good news.

  2. Great column, really looking forward to your piece on alternative currencies!