“Agorism upholds the free market…the term ‘agorism’ is derived from the ancient Greek word meaning an open market place. The market is not a single place or center. Goods and services are exchanged at the corner store, on the stock exchange, at a swap meet, in your backyard, or across the Internet…in reality, a completely free market is a highly decentralized order.”
Cryptoagorism is the merger of crypto-anarchy and agorism; the former is a libertarian strategy of using digital technology (including encryption protocols) to frustrate the State’s capabilities of surveillance, and the latter is another libertarian strategy of using counter-economic (black and grey market) trade in order to abolish the State itself. Whether they be starving or smashing the State, cryptoagorists use direct action in order to bring statism to an end.
Building a “second realm” through crypto-anarchy is a pivotal theme in this novella. Daniel LaRusso, the protagonist, summarizes the concept thusly:
“They call the current society the ‘First Realm.’ The First Realm is ruled by politicians, personal freedoms are inhibited and restrained. Rather than advocating a revolution, they want to build a ‘Second Realm,’ one that is free from the rulers of the First Realm. More and more parts of our lives can be transferred to the Second Realm, until an individual lives mostly free in the Second Realm, while being technically ruled over in the First Realm…technically, the Second Realm is described as encrypted communication, encrypted currencies, anonymous and pseudonymous identities and untraceable action…I could be my usual self in the First Realm, pay some taxes, pretend to have a normal job and be an ordinary citizen. In the Second Realm, I could be free.”
Second Realm-ers use tools like crypto-currencies, email encryption, dark smartphones, and cryptomarkets as privacy-enhancing technologies. There is a scene where one of the cryptoagorists, Denton, teaches Daniel about how to use smartphone apps to pay for goods (hence a recurring motif of “There’s an app for that!”). Another scene is where a different cryptoagorist, Michael, explains to Daniel how he could make his livelihood selling laptops modded with privacy-enhancing free software:
“See, you gotta have a password right in the beginning. There’s nothing at all you can do with this thing, not even enter the BIOS, without entering a password. The hard drive is encrypted, too. So if someone steals your laptop and plugs the drive into another computer, he won’t see shit…the cheapest mod we do is a $300 markup from the hardware. So if you order a $1,000 laptop, it’s $1,300…I think if they want a secure machine, Windows is not an option. And this isn’t really too different for the user. There’s LibreOffice, Firefox, and a few accounting apps…there’s Thunderbird with GPG preinstalled, of course. OpenVPN preconfigured. If you buy the premium package, it includes a one-year membership of encrypted Skynet VPN service. So you got your multi-hop VPN tunnel right there.”
Once Michael tells Daniel that he will be paid 10% commission on each sale of these free software modded laptops, Daniel eagerly sells them to whomever he can. Interestingly enough, there’s a traffic stop and interrogation room scene where Daniel is suspected by the police of trafficking in “stolen merchandise” because he’s got 27 laptops in his rental car (plus tens of thousands in paper Euros); thanks to Second Realm Insurance bought by Michael, a lawyer was quickly called to spring Daniel from the police station where he was being held under investigative detention.
My favorite character is Marie Dähnhardt. Known by her pseudonym, “Caty,” she’s the most developed, by far. Her explanation of why Michael’s laptop modding business is valuable is as follows:
“Not everyone is so tech-savvy and not everyone wants to do that. You don’t clean your own clothes and grow your own foods. You could probably do it, but you got better things to do. Through economies of scale and specialization, some people just make more money doing other stuff for an hour than installing Linux and downloading software.”
Of course, economies of scale reduce opportunity costs through the division of labor, as any economist worth his salt knows. What makes Caty intriguing is that despite her devil may care attitude, she is adroit, insightful, and rather quite charming (at least to me; most of the other male characters typically describe her as a bitch, but unlike those chumps, I truly enjoy her sarcastic persona). One of these enlightening attributes of hers is when Caty applies the Austrian subjective theory of value to dating:
“This is a market process, Daniel. We’re both individuals looking at the market to meet our needs. Your need is to fuck a girl you think is hot. My need is to get fucked by a guy I think is hot. I’d say we can agree that there is a baseline we can work with. You’re obviously hot for me and I like you too. What needs to happen now is that we find a deal we both agree on. If we don’t, we have to satisfy our needs elsewhere or leave them unsatisfied.”
Caty’s explanation here is brilliant, plain and simple. No overcomplicated psycho-analytical bullshit required here, at all. Better still, are Caty’s reasons why she won’t ever marry Daniel:
“Listen to me, Daniel LaRusso. I will NEVER marry you. I repeat: never…because I love you…marriage is effectively a legal monopoly on another person’s love…if we get married, we won’t have as big an incentive to fulfill each other’s desires and needs. Because we don’t have to. The other person can’t just leave or take a better offer…incentives work, no matter how hard you try to ignore them. I would get fat and puffy and I’d stop shaving my pussy. You’d fart in bed and not shave and leave your dirty socks on the floor. Besides, what would I do with my legal monopoly on your cock? Sue you every time you’re hot for a blonde with a rack? How’s that going to stop your attraction to blondes?”
This is, quite literally, the most eloquent description of free love I’ve ever heard. Properly understood, the origins of free love weren’t based off of the so-called “sexual revolution” of the “countercultural 1960s,” but rather, a firm principled stand that, much like homeschooling (the separation of school and state) and private roads (the separation of travel from state), free love advocated for the separation of romance from the State.
Speaking of romance, no mention of it would be complete without family. The most heart-wrenching scene is after Daniel and Caty’s ordeal with the police when Denton takes them both to his home to crash for the night. Daniel is left alone with Denton’s wife, Lorelei, for a bit, and during their conversation, Daniel asks her about the scar along her abdomen. Lorelei answers:
“The police…they broke down the door in the middle of the night. They were wearing full SWAT gear and automatic weapons. They threw a smoke grenade in the bedroom. I woke up coughing from Denton shouting for me to get under the bed…I didn’t make it. I screamed as one of them hit Denton in the head with the butt of his MP5. He went down and they kicked him. I tried to get to him and they threw me down, too. And kicked me. I was three months pregnant with my second child at the time…One of Denton’s clients was under suspicion of laundering money, at least that’s their justification for killing my unborn child. When I got back from the hospital, I said: You can’t stop now, Denton.”
This is further amplified when Lorelei’s young daughter asks her from the kitchen doorway if she was crying because she was telling what happened to her little baby brother. She then offers Lorelei her cushion because she thought her mom sounded sad, and therefore (as is typical of little kid logic), if she gave her cushion to her, her mom wouldn’t be sad anymore. Needless to say, the sharp contrast between Lorelei’s daughter and the SWAT thugs who murdered her sibling is meant to tug at your heartstrings, but it also explains why Denton refused to sleep with Caty earlier; he’s a family man bent on revenge.
w4r2342’s #agora is a wonderful novella full of insightful nuance. In many ways, it’s a more realistic portrayal of agorism than Alongside Night largely due to the insistence on practicing good security culture, although the beginnings of what could become something like the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre is implied in the ending. Fascinatingly, there’s numerous references to other literature I’ve never even heard of (both fictional and “instructive”), so perhaps this novella serves as a gateway portal to earlier works, which I might just have to check out and report back on 😉