The Power of the Merchant

Merchant City; photo by Ross Sneddon

Counter-Economics is a term used to describe the process of cutting off the State from access to resources. It is the direct action through black or grey markets against the power of the Ruling Elite. Where we are taxed, one must avoid paying; where the State builds a monopoly, one must move away or against it; one attempts to avoid resources ending up in the claws of the Government Treasury.

This methodology was first formalised by the left-wing market anarchists, most notably those under Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3) who published The New Libertarian Manifesto in 1980. Now, it should be used by the dissident right to separate themselves from the current establishment and ruling elite, eventually creating a power-base in the new markets that is strong enough to overthrow them.

Per Bylund further organises the methodology of counter-economics into two strategies: the vertical and the horizontal. 

The vertical strategy involves dropping out of the structures of the State in order to rebuild the infrastructure and technology needed to support your chosen community at a smaller level. In real terms, this means creating networks of inter-reliance within the community without relying on outside structures or technology. The start of the creation of ‘alt-tech’ social media and financial systems that most notably took place in the mid-late 2010s is the best modern example of this. 

The horizontal strategy refers to the active participation and creation of black and grey markets – simply individuals truly voluntary trading with each other without State interference, proper free market and human action.

The Vertical Strategy

The vertical strategy is the most important of the two strategies presented by Per Bylund. It is also, not coincidentally, the most resource, labour, and time-consuming.

It should not be suggested that one should drop everything and go and live independently of the state in the woods. That will help no one but one’s own moral disagreements with the current establishment; you may end up building a small community, in the woods and away from establishment interference, but you wouldn’t be able to build a powerbase from there.

Instead, one should focus their efforts on building the infrastructure, technologies and networks that will be needed not only to create independent self-sufficient communities but also political powerbases which can be hosted from these communities, though not necessarily be exclusive to the members of said communities.

It should also be pointed out that with the rise of the internet, these communities do not necessarily need to be physical or attached to a singular geographic location. However, physical touchpoints are vital as our lives – although I do doubt this for certain individuals – are not spent terminally online. 

Infrastructure, Technologies, Networks, & Touchpoints

It should be discussed before going forward, what exactly is required to break away from the State, via the vertical strategy, and establish a political power base to oppose the establishment. It is best to work from the top in deciding what we need: first, we start with our goals a self-sufficient community (SSC) and a political power base; then we decided what we need to support these and what support our supporting ‘nodes’.

This article may not touch on all the required nodes to successfully set up our goal for the vertical strategy but it will give one a general idea of what is required.

Software: not just literal software (though in some cases, yes, literal software), the software includes any service provider that serves the SSC or power base.

An example of software would be media; we have seen the power of media in recent years when it comes to politics, so much spin and influence it made sane people dizzy. A powerbase needs supporting media organisations to work in favour of their political goals. The SSC will also require entertainment, cultural maintenance, advertisement, social media, etc.

Another example of ‘software’ are advisors and consultants, both are required by both the SSC and the power base. The biggest political blocs have powerful advisors within their ranks, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the bloc ideologically. One must own their own advisors, securing their loyalty ideologically or through finances.

Finance: to support both the powerbase and SCC directly, and the media, one would require their own financial system – a system separate from government money. Cryptocurrencies can help in this regard, but the exchange mediums and fintech that provide it to the end-users must be under the control of the SSC and the powerbase otherwise one could be cut off from their finances. We have already seen this with big banks cutting off or shouldn’t down access to accounts and banking services, attempting to ruin the lives of establishment opponents. This is one of the most important nodes – it is where the power of the merchant comes from.

Hardware: you’ll need the necessary hardware to support everything above. Office spaces, computers, servers, electricity; in the case of the SSC food supplies, water, living space, land are also required.

These ‘nodes’, as this article has taken to calling them, are vital. However, it should be made clear that these nodes are also required for online or non-geographically-centred communities. In these cases, the nodes, instead of forming clear hierarchies of support, form networks that feed central goals (the SSC and the powerbase). It is these online or non-geographically located communities that will be the most successful as they don’t concentrate on one area for the establishment to target. These communities wage counter-economics guerilla-style.

Physical assets and space in these communities are still important – remember: we are not terminally online. Businesses run and owned by members of these communities, be they pubs, bookshops, printing presses, office space, farms, butchers, brewers, server farms, generators and everything else, serve as the touchpoints – these are the hardware nodes in the network. Everything touches these by a degree of separation. A true SSC uses only touchpoints to provide for their members, these touchpoints will be part of the financial system that the network uses independently of the State. Though, these touchpoints should also operate and serve outside of the SCC and powerbase in order to pull resources into the power base. Imagine 1000s of tiny “Ben and Jerry’s”, if that was the only ice-cream progressives consumed. They use their profits to fund progressive causes. Like them and other massive multi-national progressive corporations, touchpoints within a dissident right SSC would help fund the powerbase or projects within the SSC – this funding would help purchase items such as seeds for the SSC from the black market or hire advisors for the political power base.

The Horizontal Strategy

The Horizontal Strategy is far easier, less labour intensive and less time-consuming. Simply trading with people you know or who are recommended voluntarily – without government interference in the trade.

When one employs the horizontal strategy they do so by plugging into already available black and grey market services and products.

It should be argued that if the goal of the vertical strategy is to build an SSC and a political power base then one can amass power through becoming the provider of nodes to outside parties. The nodes that are otherwise part of your network (built via the vertical strategy). This is the power of the merchant. When you become the provider of key infrastructure to another party, you hold sway over that party.

Historical Power of Merchants

Rennaissance Europe, particularly in Venice, the Apennine Peninsula, and the Low Countries saw the rise of banking and banking families, kicking off the mercantile boom experienced by Europe and leading to the association of Venice and eventually Holland as the merchant capital of Europe.

I’m going to take a particular focus on the ‘financial nodes’ in this section, as money holds the most sway. Money holds the most sway due to the nature of money, money can be traded anywhere. A provider of beef to a fast food restaurant will hold some influence in that restaurant but not as much as the bank that loaned them the money to set up their business nor as much sway as the payment service provider the restaurant uses to receive payments from customers. Some people may want to buy chicken over beef burgers, everyone will pay with money and the bank could take the restaurant if the owner doesn’t keep up his repayments on his loans.

In Rennaissance Europe, there existed three main types of banks: pawnbrokers, merchant banks, and deposit banks. Deposit banks are important historically for founding the modern banking system, but not too important for the topic at hand.

Pawnbrokers were banks that took on property as security for a loan. They were generally the smallest of the banks. Most ran high-interest rates despite the Church’s laws on usury at the time – most were run by Christians though as war and plague ravaged Europe and the Church cracked down on Christian usurers, Jews took on a greater role in this sector. The Jewish takeover of this part of the banking sector led to the creation of the Jewish moneylender stereotype, charging high-interest rates and most famously depicted as Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Local Christians, eventually, in response set up ‘charity banks’ that undercut high-interest rates significantly. As these banks accumulated wealth, property, and debtors in high-ranking positions of political power they ended up with a lot of localised power themselves. 

Merchant Banks were banks that lent large sums of money across borders. Initially, these banks were all collapsed by 1345AD after unwise business practices such as lending money to monarchs and linking the funds of branches together – meaning when one branch collapsed the rest did. A new generation of Florentine bankers replaced these old bankers, this time branches had their own funds and books with the central board owning a 50% stake in each branch.

These banks engaged in activities such as trade and commerce, maritime insurance and foreign exchange on top of their regular banking activities. This meant that a merchant bank that positioned itself well regionally could hold a lot of influence in the economy and politics of the region.

Most infamously, the Medici family that from their start as bankers produced four popes, two queens of France and hereditary titles such as the Duke of Florence (later the Grand Duchy of Tuscany) – mainly from their lending to the Papacy.

Although the Medicis declined, banking families – such as Barclays and Goldman-Sachs – still exist and wield power today. Often taking part in the World Economic Forum and other initiatives, wielding their influence for profit or power in emerging and established markets.

Wielding the Power of the merchant

By owning the nodes – the alternative financial systems, the advertising services, the servers, the software and the hardware – one can expand their sphere of influence when people outside the SSC or power base use the nodes offered by oneself. 

Say one owned a payment processor run by the SSC or the power base. A major problem in the past few years for the dissident right is major banks and payment processors denying access to their services for people the establishment find problematic. If one offered the services of their payment processor to these new customers, one would hold influence with those that use that service, be they businesses, organisations, or individuals. 

They become new nodes in the network, the profit from the payment processor feeding political projects for the powerbase or helping to expand the SSC. These new nodes are under one’s sphere of influence. A degree of control is now held with these communities, individuals, or organisations. One may now incentivise the new nodes to help, directly or indirectly, with other projects. 

Repeat this process to grow political power and influence for one’s political goals. Expand, create new nodes, gather larger spheres of influence.

By utilising the vertical strategy, to create nodes and slowly separate oneself from the State, while simultaneously providing for and utilizing the horizontal strategy, you can create a self-sufficient community (SSC) and a power base from which to wield influence.

Such a methodology will take decades to get major influence, but it positions your power behind the scenes and is not so obvious that you get immediately targeted. Such is what is happening and what happened with the banking clans today and past, as well as with the modern merchants of today.

It is an important strategy – we shouldn’t just look to separate ourselves from the establishment but to wield power in the economy and political world, otherwise, one would be crushed eventually by the weight of the State. 

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