In 2010, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States caused uproar as Justices upheld that corporations could not be restricted in spending money under the protections of political free speech. Super PACs (Political Action Committees) were instantly created, and allowed for corporations to spend millions in campaign funding by aggregating individual contributions from members. Besides dealing with the non-profit corporation’s rights in the hearing, the ruling also extended to for-profit corporations and other associations, including what seems to be individual associations within the black and grey Agorist Free Marketplace that has sprung up amongst modern-day Anarchists.
An Agorist marketplace is very simple: individual transactions are done on a person-to-person basis through 100% voluntary associations, trade, barter, or purchase. Some marketplaces have been made open to the public and some have been closed as “member-only” where the associations are amongst trusted users of the market. Any type of trade can occur within these free markets, from everyday goods and services to other more scandalous items, such as guns or drugs. However, each trade or purchase is 100% voluntary in that each person is honest and forthright in what they are seeking from the deal, and neither person is forced to finalize. Some traders may be fully compliant with state and federal laws regarding regulation of their products or services, while some further the Agorist cause by not involving the state at all. Advocating for an Agorist Marketplace cannot even be considered an “imminent lawless action,” as it simply amounts to nothing more than advocacy of illegal action at some indefinite future time (Hess v. Indiana, 1973). All of these encounters, therefore, are protected as Free Speech under the First Amendment, and is particularly guarded, as political speech, often highly regarded as the, “most free speech,” by the Supreme Court.
Agorists have, literally, put their money where their mouths are, and have realized that- whether political or commercial speech- the government has no compelling interest that would require strict or even intermediary regulation of trade between two volunteering associates. Amazingly (and unwittingly) the Supreme Court agrees!
First, in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc (2011), the SCOTUS upheld that restriction of sales (and disclosures of prescribing practices of individual doctors) violated the First Amendment based on content and speaker-based restrictions that required high scrutiny for government interference. This is an expansion on the Citizens United ruling, where the majority opinion states, “The First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker and….protects associations of individuals in addition to individual speakers.” Buckley v. Valeo (1976) reinforces the idea that spending money is essential to disseminating free speech, and Citizens United confirmed that restrictions on spending money is unconstitutional because it limits the ability of members to associate effectively and to speak on political issues. The conclusion that restriction of sales would violate First Amendment Rights between two voluntary associates who are using the markets to make a political statement is logical and sound, based on these three rulings, and that there is no compelling interest for the State to restrict Anarchist or Agorist speech, simply based on content (Free Market Advocacy) or Identity (Being Against the Power of the State).
Second, in Citizens United, the majority endless opines that associations of any kind are extremely important to “the marketplace of ideas,” which is essential to have free political speech within a democracy. Justice Scalia is known to say, “The more speech the better,” and “the individual person’s right to speak includes the right to speak in association with other individual persons.” Scalia had actually further expanded this point of view by stating that simply knowing their association as an organization allowed for people to know directly how the political speech was being funded.
Citizens United, along with other recent cases, have highlighted the need for voluntary association amongst individuals within the marketplace of ideas, and, in order to have a flourishing Democracy, we cannot restrict this speech, whether in the form of money or words. Disseminating knowledge is essential to a Free Person, and, without it, we not only restrict the disseminator’s speech, but also the Free Association of any of the people censored from unfavorable opinions or coerced by untrusting organizations.
To put the final nail in the coffin of regulating free-trade markets, Agorists will eventually have to argue that the state has no compelling interest in regulating any speech; there is no Compelling Interest Clause in the Constitution. It does not exist anywhere in the Enumerated Powers or anywhere, at all, within the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court hasn’t even fully defined what a “Compelling Interest” is within their own Court, making it an arbitrary standard by which they feel justified in restricting speech. The argument for grey and black markets will need to be further ensconced in the idea that spending money outside of government regulation is, in its very essence, essential to an Anarchist’s ideology, and that the very notion that we can form our own voluntary communities depends upon a lack of interference from a third-party between two willing parties, lest either party be coerced into doing business or interacting with one another.
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Rachel Sunshine is a writer at Distract. Media. if you need to contact her you can reach her by sending her a message on the Distract. Facebook page
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