Sam Konkin and Libertarian Theory
by David Gordon
The late 1970s and early 1980s in Los Angeles were a thriving time for libertarians. In those years I was fortunate enough to meet many striking personalities and influential writers who lived in the LA area; and among them, Sam Konkin, or to give him his full name, Samuel Edward Konkin, III, was one of the most significant.
One could not fail to notice Konkin in any libertarian gathering. To show his anarchist beliefs, he dressed completely in black, a color associated with that movement since the late nineteenth century. Whether he ever altered his attire, I cannot say, as I did not know him well; but on the occasions that I met him, he invariably wore this color.
Konkin had a gift for coining words that attracted the libertarian public, and even those libertarians unfamiliar with Konkin use his terms. He called supporters of a minimal state “minarchists,” condemned Libertarian Party “partyarchs,” and warned against the undue influence of the “Kochtopus.” I recall another of his coinages, which has not come into general use. This stemmed from his disdain for minarchists; in particular, he was no admirer of the leading minarchist theorist, Robert Nozick. I do not think this has made print, but he called followers of Nozick “Nozis.” If this was unkind, it was at any rate amusing.
Konkin was much more than an ingenious wordsmith. Murray Rothbard, who often disagreed with Konkin, said about him, “And yet, Konkin’s writings are to be welcomed. Because we need a lot more polycentrism in the movement. Because he shakes up Partyarchs who tend to fall into unthinking complacency. And especially because he cares deeply about liberty and can read and write, qualities which seem to be going out of style in the libertarian movement.” (‘Konkin on Libertarian Strategy”)