If you haven’t yet read “Adam Kokesh Gets Arrested…Yet Again,” “Armed Marches, Free Speech, & Legal Entanglements: The Kokesh Connection,” and “The Activist Legal Defense Fund Scam,” please do so first before continuing. This article is, more or less, the concluding installment to my series about Adam Kokesh.
After the fallout caused by loading a shotgun within the District of Columbia’s Freedom Plaza, Adam Kokesh seems to have moved from his raided home in Herndon, Virginia all the way out to Los Angeles, California. Despite apparently changing girlfriends from Carey Wedler (who, besides his father Charles, was the only real family who was actually supportive of him while he was incarcerated, and who was also described by Kokesh himself as “the best girlfriend ever”) to “Macey,” Kokesh decided to write a book and promote the hell out of it. By finally committing his rhetoric to paper, the rest of us libertarians can actually begin figuring out what exactly Kokesh has been promoting this whole time.
Right off the cuff, Kokesh advocates for non-aggression and self-ownership as the core libertarian principles, but I don’t think he ever quite defined his terms, so I’ll do what he should have done, now. Libertarianism is the only political philosophy that upholds human liberty as its highest value; this is expressed by its twin moral precepts of the non-aggression principle and the self-ownership axiom. The non-aggression principle absolutely forbids all coercion and initiatory force; the self-ownership axiom justifies the existence of the free market by upholding individual property rights. Every political grievance can have its authenticity judged by whether one or both of these ethical principles are being violated; hence, these twin principles not only compliment each other as a duality, but also serve as the primary yardstick by which to gauge the quality of freedom in our own lives.
Similarly, Kokesh denigrates government, but alas, he again fails to define his terms. Government (or “the State,” if you prefer) is the only social institution that enjoys a coercive monopoly on the initiation of force. By existing in a completely different moral sphere from the one you and I inhabit, government is the only entity that is allowed to perform actions, that, if you or I did, would not only be illegal for us to do, but also downright immoral. In order for the rulers to maintain their hegemony over the population long-term, the State must perpetuate this illusion about itself that it is somehow serving some useful function to us in the attempt to justify its very legitimacy.
As you can no doubt tell by this point, the entire fanciful notion of government is inherently anti-libertarian, because it sanctions all violence committed by its agents while simultaneously condemning nearly all violence used by the population at-large. Besides this, the State is also inherently anti-propertarian, since it declares that in order to provide their monopolistic service of secured property rights (via legitimate property acquisition and titling), they must first blatantly violate said property rights above and beyond your consent, through such acts as civil forfeiture, taxation, and inflation. Statism, interestingly enough, is the faith placed in the (alleged) universal beneficence of government, as can be evidenced by the fact that you and I are ruled under the divine right of bureaucrats and their lawyers, which is an extension of the foundational concept that “the King can do no wrong.”
Kokesh mishandled the concept of patriotism so much so that it was impressively bad. Randolph Bourne correctly described the idea of a nation or country as being a somewhat looser aggregate of humans who possess similar traits, such as a common language; this is what constitutes the backbone of the patriot, that is, an individual who has a special fondness for said country, not blind obedience to the State, as Kokesh would have you believe patriotism entails. Whether or not voluntary collectivism, as that espoused by syndicalists and even mutualists, is desirable at all, is a separate consideration altogether.
Adam’s treatment of technology is also quite problematic, in that, unless I am misunderstanding him, he seems to want to have his cake and eat it too. For instance, Kokesh says:
“Governments are often empowered by technology in ways the public is not, sometimes secretly. Technology has allowed governments to be far more destructive that they would be without it. In many ways, technology is now empowering us to challenge government power. As long as we are susceptible to the racket, available technology will determine the nature of the oppression, but eventually technology will empower the general population to demand self-government and render the psychological roots of statism irrelevant.”
How is that possible? Stefan Molyneux has previously argued that because the free market produced so much abundant wealth under a limited government (some of which included better developed technologies), the State would inevitably break its constitutional cage and reassert itself as the inhuman monster that it is; therefore, even if constitutional government were restored, all that would be gained is rewinding the clock back to 1787 (or 1860) and having the same situation we’ve suffered in our lifetimes roll forward very similarly against our progeny. Consider the following also:
“While there is the underlying curve of all technological development, we can now see it following the development of computing power, which follows a clear exponential curve…[j]ust using technology automatically leads to individual empowerment and will inevitably lead to greater freedom. Unfortunately, governments have always known this and sought to control technology. They have spent obscene amounts of money to ensure their technological capabilities are always one step ahead of the rest of us…[a]ll technology is fundamentally empowering. The only question is to whom and to what ends…[w]e can see some technologies on the horizon and predict their impact. Cryptocurrency or other decentralized money will render government money irrelevant.”
Is Kokesh trying to say that technology is a double-edged sword, and as such, is morally neutral, since it can be used for good or evil? Kokesh goes onto list examples of different applications of technology to either free or enslave people, but I get the impression that he wants to argue here that technological development is fundamentally a good thing, regardless of its application. If my inference here is correct, then how does he explain the use of biometrics as the enforcement mechanism for the cashless society? Or how about how the Bitcoin Foundation had a behind the scenes, closed-door meeting with several of the alphabet soup boys about not only Bitcoin’s protocol, but also the “regulatory challenges” the bureaucrats will experience? Look, I’m sure Mr. Kokesh meant well, and had the best of intentions, but I don’t see how his rhetoric would be persuasive to much of anybody, much less deep ecologists or freegans. Transhumanism, much?
Speaking of Molyneux, it would also appear as if Kokesh has been swept up in the rhetoric of so-called “peaceful parenting.” He says:
“Most governments create a legal framework around the idea that children are the property of their parents or at least are not fully people until they attain an arbitrary age or legal status. This reinforces the idea that rights are merely privileges to be given or taken away by an authority. While parents take on a certain responsibility as caregiver, they have no right to deny the will of a child to the extent it is properly expressed. Parents are not justified in using government to help them enforce their false ownership of a child. Children know when they are being treated like property and tend to resist it. The best parents are those who raise their children with an understanding of the great responsibility of parenthood and establish relationships based on understanding and respect, rather than the threat of force.”
This is rather misleading, as Kokesh appears to have committed the sin of misplaced emphasis. When people beget children, they hung around their own neck the obligation of raising them, simply because they directly participated in creating their very lives (to put it delicately). Parents are the guardians, not the owners, of their children, and as such must respect individual self-ownership (just as libertarians do); however, until those children become adults, their exercise of free will must necessarily be curtailed. Don’t get me wrong, I will concede to Kokesh that age of consent and truancy laws are bullshit, yet, he is obfuscating that fact in order to argue that parents are somehow complicit with the State in oppressing their own flesh and blood. Although this may be true in statist families, it is most certainly not true universally, and Mr. Kokesh should know better than to falsely collectivize parents in this manner. He goes on to say:
“The most important thing you can do as a parent is ensure that your relationship with your child respects their personhood. As we better understand parenting, we can eliminate the use of force as a tempting, but counterproductive, technique to influence our children’s behavior. But truly respecting and nurturing a fellow human means much more than not spanking them…[w]hen a parent hits a child, they often forget the physical nature of the relationship from the child’s perspective and just how intimidating they can be. This also warps a child’s view of authority. The use of violent language, yelling, and anger can have the same effect and teach children the same destructive habits. Parents should use reason and logic to influence the decisions of their children and use force only when immediately required for their safety.” [emphasis added]
Ah, another falsehood to debunk. Well, just because parents chose to beget children, does not therefore mean children are equal in status to adults. Yes, they are human, and yes, they enjoy the same natural liberty you and I do. What is missing from this equation is the social contract between parents and children, just as there is a social contract between spouses. Although the involuntary position of the child with regards to his parents is blatantly obvious, what is deceptively being pushed here is an “egalitarian” agenda to undermine parental rights by asserting that children are entitled to handouts because they are “victims.”
Put another way, children, just like adults, only enjoy negative liberty, that is, the freedom to not be arbitrarily punished for their actions. Thus, any housing, food, education, and any other goods or services bestowed on the child by the parent is simply nothing other than a debt incurred when the parent in question reproduced, yet even this is primarily limited to the nature of their relationship being a temporary guardianship. Once the child has demonstrated the maturity of an adult, regardless of whether his age be 12 or 25 years old, the two individuals in question now enjoy something resembling an “equal” relationship, especially with regards to its voluntariness. The reciprocal obligations between parent and child, that is, a duty of upbringing in exchange for a duty of obedience, is not entirely unreasonable or inequitable, especially on behalf of the child, in the absence of coercion by the parent. Obviously, I cannot further explain other details, such as the use of spanking, or the unholy alliance between the “peaceful parents” and the “men’s rights advocates,” this briefly, but suffice it to say (for now) that I think John Locke got it right.
To be fair, though, Kokesh’s manifesto does have its good aspects. For instance, his economic analysis of central banking, minimum wage, and unionism were refreshing. I particularly enjoyed what he said about those “public” utilities:
“In many places, governments don’t operate utility monopolies themselves, but license corporations to enjoy monopoly privileges. It is just as true about electricity and water as it is about anything else: a monopoly policy that limits competition by force will lead to underserved customers. They will pay more and services will be worse. Nowhere is corporatism stronger than in highly-regulated ‘free’ markets for infrastructure, and this is where some of the worst corporate abuse happens. During period of high demand, utilities run or regulated by governments often force rationing of critical services when a free market would respond to that demand with increased supply.”
Kokesh really nailed it on the head there. According to conservative statists, their conception of the “free market” is little else other than fascism, which is what Kokesh described here quite well. An actual free(d) market would be laissez-faire, not composed of miles of bureaucratic red-tape holding back the creative potential of entrepreneurs to innovate. Good explanations were also offered by him on a variety of other political grievances as well, such as public schooling, coercive medical insurance, narcotics prohibition, environmental regulations, intellectual property, and the welfare state.
The attitude Kokesh expresses about his desire for the abolition of the State is completely not surprising. Regarding the patriot faction, Kokesh says:
“When advocating for freedom or educating those around us, it is important to stay true to core principles. If we argue for the fantasy of limited government, we are promoting at least limited injustice, which is still promoting injustice. One approach when discussing these issues with people close to us is to personalize government violence. It helps people understand the immorality of what they are advocating when we can put their positions in terms of individual implications. Every time they advocate for government, they are suggesting that some form of violence be used against us for disagreeing.” [emphasis added]
Well, even I have to admit, he does have a viable point there. As I implied in my fictional story, An Allegory of the Freedom Train, there is a very strong temptation by the patriot faction, at some point once they’re successful, to bring the other friendly factions under their rule. As the anarchist faction has correctly pointed out time and again, the most significant problem with the patriots’ grand strategy of restoring constitutional government is that at some point, the “rule of law” will be re-imposed by the new American Republic at the point of the sword. Unless the patriots are willing to compromise by allowing the friendly anarchist faction to “go their own way,” as it were, then I don’t see either of them peacefully coexisting should the patriots defeat the federal government, because minarchists are “frenemies of the State.” Personally, I think my proposed business model for defending Texan ranchers can help smooth this over to the point where a compromise can be eventually agreed to, but for the foreseeable future, I’m pretty cynical unless both of these factions get their act together for the cause of liberty. Interestingly, Kokesh also promotes agorism:
“Every time we create a relationship free of force, violence, and coercion, we are helping to build a freer world. When those relationships are deliberately conducted outside the government’s ability to inject violence through taxation, legislation, or other means of control, we are practicing agorism. The term agorism comes from the ancient Greek word for an open marketplace, ‘agora.’ Governments try to demonize agorist activity as the ‘black market,’ but that is only because they want our trade to occur where they can control and tax it, in their coercion-dominated ‘white market.’ Agorism comes naturally to anyone who can see its tangible benefits. To achieve a voluntary society, agorism will be essential to building the economic structures that will help us wean ourselves from governments. While we might be tempted by flashier activism, reaching out to those closest to us and in our communities is most important.” [emphasis added]
Agorism deserves to be examined in more detail based on its merits, but I will mention briefly here that agorism is defined as the practice of discretely civilly disobeying the government’s edicts by trading in the black and grey markets based on the counter-economic principle of exchanging risk for profit (the more risk, the more profit, and vice versa). What is rather ironic here is that Kokesh is promoting something that must be done quietly with excellent security culture, despite the fact that Kokesh himself gained notoriety for practicing brazen civil disobedience by stunts such as dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. Perhaps Kokesh has learned his lesson?
Adam Kokesh’s FREEDOM! is, rather, well, only useful for brand new people; otherwise it’s an exercise of “preaching to the choir,” much like Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty. I don’t know about you, but the libertarian echo chamber can be deafening at times. As Kokesh remarked:
“Sometimes for worse, but overall much more often for better, the anonymity of the internet allows us to say things we might be afraid to say ‘in real life.’ The therapeutic effect of this cannot be underestimated as millions have already benefited from support communities that were impossible before the internet. We can challenge the status quo in ways never imagined and speak without fear of retribution. This should inspire us to be more conscious consumers of information. Governments depend on lies and deception to maintain their rackets, but now, we have the ‘truth button’ at our fingertips!” [emphasis added]
I’m pretty sick of this rhetoric that the alternative media is infallible, despite all the evidence to the contrary. If anything, there is more misinformation and disinformation available than that pushed by corporate media; however, all this means is that it is our individual duty to sift the wheat from the chaff, no matter which special interests decry us, their opponents, as “government agents” for doing so.
In conclusion, you may be interested in also reading Matthew Reece’s rather glowing review of FREEDOM!, as well as Kokesh’s 12 easy steps for shamelessly promoting his book, should that strike your fancy. Personally, I’d recommend you read actual libertarian literature instead of this tripe, such as Lysander Spooner’s Vices are Not Crimes, Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law, and Étienne de La Boétie’s The Politics of Obedience. They contain better quality content without all the baggage that Kokesh, unfortunately, brings to the table. I take no joy in pointing this out, as I have done before about Mark Dice’s flip-flopping, or the fact that the suffragettes and the “civil rights movement” were just convenient patsies for the State. The only solace I can take away from all this is that I now know that I can get on with my life knowing I gave this Patriot Rockstar more than a fair shake, so I truly hope this review of his manifesto lays all questions to rest as to whether he is worth a minute of your precious time.