An Introduction to Counter Economics

Despite the complex name, counter-economics is quite a simple concept. It is the sum of peaceful human action conducted outside of state control structures.


We’ve likely all engaged in counter-economics at one time or another — Accepting or paying cash for a job,  bartering or use of alternative currencies, use of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrency, growing/farming your own food, Use or sale of illegal substances (including homemade alcohol). These are just some of the many common examples of “everyday agorism”. Whenever you’re doing voluntary exchanges outside of government control, (including taxation or prohibitions), you’re an Agorist!


Why Counter-Economics?

Despite the seemingly “delinquent” nature of counter-economics, in practice, it is wholly peaceful, based on voluntary human interactions and devoid of any coercion.

The same cannot be said for “regular” economic transactions with the state involved, whereby coercion is applied by the state systems (taxation, regulation, tariffs, etc). This coercion serves to distort markets, add to business overheads, increase costs to consumers, and the list goes on.

Then looked at logically, the state essentially inserts itself into each and every transaction made, by applying mandatory sales taxes (GST/HST/VAT etc). In addition to this, the business owner is required to pay taxes on the goods he sells, among many others. The state does nothing to enhance the transaction, they play no discernable part whatsoever. In fact, if anything, the state creates artificial barriers-to-entry such as requiring business licenses, mandated trading hours, controlling what goods or services can be sold, etc) making business harder, and yet somehow, they are able to profit from other’s transactions at the ground-level.

It starts to become clear at this point how the states “top-down” framework of generating revenue at all levels of the equation – They collect a fee when a business is registered, they collect a fee (tax) when the business owner rents and sets up his store, they collect when the retailer purchases her stock, and finally they collect when the customer purchases an item.

Counter-economics aims to circumvent this framework, instead advocating for voluntary transactions between individuals without state involvement. This generally means that your activities will fall into one of two categories black  or gray markets.


Black and gray markets: The Freedom Economy

The counter-economy is made up of 2 market sectors:

  • Gray Markets
    These include technically legal (or not heavily illegal) yet unregulated market activities such as:
    • Employing cash workers/working for cash “under the table”
    • Using cryptocurrencies to pay for products/services
    • Circumventing/avoidance of licensing mandates (eg operating unlicensed)
  • Black Markets
    Black markets are any human interactions that are expressly deemed illegal by the state. Although many immediately think of industries such as illegal poaching, human trafficking, and weapons trading when black markets are mentioned — however we should keep in mind that throughout history, legality and morality are not one and the same.

    Examples of black markets include:

    • Growing or provision of cannabis products (until recent years, this was prohibited almost globally), even in the case of critically ill patients. This has now been reversed in an increasing number of jurisdictions, further highlighting the lack of correlation between morality and legislation.

    • Housing Provision. The leasing of property outside of state-mandated rent-controls or other related market interference.

    • Provision or possession of firearms or other similar self-defence tools in non-2nd amendment countries. Many developed countries outside the USA expressly prohibit access to firearms for self-defence.

Through the development and maintenance of gray and black market activity, Agorists seek to deprive the state of financial resources by circumventing it entirely.


Black Markets: Nothing to be afraid of!

Black markets are not inherently evil or immoral. Rather, black markets are often the solution to many social issues, and indeed, a way of survival in many places worldwide.

More often than not, black markets arise in response to human need, whereby the government has been unwilling or unable to provide the basic means of survival or comfort, people take it into their own hands. Due to the inherent value created by the generally inelastic demand of state prohibited goods or services, black markets will always provide a means for individuals to generate income through the provision of them.

Although gray and black markets do include things which some consider negative, it’s’ important to remember that this is not the case – Black markets simply fill a demand. If the state ceased to function, black markets would simply become markets.

Governments generally respond to black market activity with a “crackdown” involving heavy law enforcement or even a legislative response.enacting new laws that only serve to make black markets more value.


Counter-Economics: The Bottom Line

Counter-Economics aims to circumvent state control and thus deprive it of economic funding peacefully.

By peacefully conducting voluntary transactions that are prohibited by the state, or by removing your reliance on state systems via self-sufficiency, you are naturally engaging in Agorism.

Agorism does not equate to the use of force, as some critics attempt to tie the concept to criminality. Instead, Agorism and counter-economics are based on the simple concept of non-aggressive human action.

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