Agorism is a philosophy of freedom, grounded in the reality of the modern world that state interference is pervasive, yet often easy to subvert.
Put simply – Agorism is freedom from government coercion through peaceful, primarily economic, disobedience, also known as “counter-economics”.
With modern governments in many countries holding a pervasive grip on almost every aspect of life, stealing a large portion of peoples productivity through taxation and arbitrarily controlling the availability of items and substances deemed “contraband” irrespective of their beneficiality, it is little wonder that people are hungry for more freedom.
Enter Agorism, which proposes that laws do not necessarily equate to morality, In other words, breaking laws (always non-violently) in order to voluntarily trade with others is not viewed as immoral, but rather as a peaceful means by which to liberate oneself from the coercive hold of the government whilst also helping others.
Agorism has likely been around as long as coercive governing control has existed, since the first prohibitions by ancient rulers the spirit of the free markets has always overcome attempts to cripple it. However, Agorism as a cohesive modern theory was developed in the mid ’70s at two counter-culture conferences known as “CounterCon” primarily by Samuel Edward Konkin III and later by J. Neil Schulman in his novel “Alongside Night”.
Konkin went on to publish “The New Libertarian Manifesto” in 1980 which further solidified the basis of the Agorist philosophy.
Agorism in Politics
A critical concept for newcomers to Agorism to understand is that the “left/right paradigm” does not apply to Agorism. It is not a leftist philosophy, it’s not a right-wing philosophy and neither is it a centrist concept.
Rather, Agorism requires a restructuring of your understanding of the political spectrum. Instead of approaching politics based from a “spectrum based” paradigm, Agorists instead take some aspects of both sides of traditional left/right politics whilst blending in aspects of Anarcho-Capitalism.
Agorists do not identify with the party politics played out by the state, believing that this kind of divisive approach only serves to distract from the real issues while the politicians conduct little more than a cash-grab from taxpayers and wreak havoc on what would be otherwise healthy, thriving markets and economies, causing many of the social issues we see over-represented today in many modern states.
Agorism rejects the concept of voting, even for seemingly aligned parties such as the Libertarian Party. Using politics as a means to generate change is not considered moral since this will almost inevitably result in coercion. Instead, Agorists encourage the use of economic, market-based approaches to transitioning away from central government control.
Agorism Economic Theory
Agorism is based heavily on the “Austrian School of Economics”, which espouses the concepts of individualism, subjectivism, consumer sovereignty & political individualism.
Through the employment of counter-economics (more on this soon), Agorism seeks to gradually withdraw consent and thus support of the state through economic means. By operating outside state control, we can starve the state of its’ lifeblood (revenue) whilst simultaneously enriching the lives of those around us, non violently.
Freed from the encumbrance of state-mandated overheads, Agorists can often operate more efficiently than their state-shackled counterparts.
Counter-economics has been evidenced in recent years by companies such as Airbnb and Uber, both of whom challenged the (state-sanctioned) status-quo of their respective niches, and won, even against the behemoth of government.
This shows us clearly that the power of the free market not only exists in reality but has the power to play a vital role in human advancement, improvement of freedoms, economies and living conditions worldwide.
Once you understand the concept of “Non-violent, voluntary free-market trade”, the economic basis of Agorism becomes fairly easy to visualize.
Agorism Social Theory
Agorism strongly advocates the free, open, peaceful and voluntary interaction of people, outside the realm of state interaction. In practical terms, this means operating within what is commonly referred to as the “gray” and “black” markets.
Although many people hear these terms and immediately think of unsavoury criminal elements, it’s important to remember that non-violence is a prerequisite, and illegality doesn’t necessarily equate to immorality.
Instead, black and gray markets are considered as follows:
- 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)
Although the term gray market may sound somewhat criminal, it’s good to remember that well-known and trusted organizations such as Uber and Airbnb were considered gray market during their early years.
- 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.
Agorism in Action
Almost all of us have engaged in “Agoristic” interactions in the course of our lives without even realizing it. There’s no denying that at one point or another, we have chosen not to abide by certain laws or regulations, whether in our business or personal dealings.
Have you ever paid a contractor cash “under the table”, without reporting it to authorities?
(or have you been that contractor?)
– If so, you may be an Agorist!
Have you ever used a service that is not legally sanctioned by the state in your area? (i.e. Uber, Airbnb, Encrypted messaging services etc)
– If so, you may be an Agorist!
Have you ever purchased/made/consumed illegal drugs of any kind (including liquor)?
– If so, you may be an Agorist!
In fact, any time you have conducted a voluntary, private interaction that is outside of state control (usually in the context of an economic transaction), you’ve been engaging in active agorism.
A common time when Agorism appears is when a construction contractor offers the option for their client to pay cash for the job, in exchange for a discount, usually equal to the amount of HST/VAT/GST tax that they would be required to pay if the contract is done “on the books”.
The result of this voluntary transaction is that only the two relevant parties to the transaction are involved, while the state is effectively “cut out” of the transaction, and denied their unearned slice of the deal.
No-one is hurt, ripped off, or coerced during this peaceful voluntary transaction. The client gets a great deal, the contractor gets to keep all of his or her profits, and the state is starved of its’ lifeblood – tax funding — It’s Agorism at its’ finest.
Agorism: The Bottom Line
Agorism isn’t a new “fad”, nor is it a lofty set of ideals by which you are expected to live your life.
Rather, Agorism is based completely on the concept of “Live & Let Live”. It requires a rethinking of how you view state institutions and their roles in your life. Agorism is about stripping away the smoke and mirrors of state control, taking the path of self-determination and personal responsibility, starving the state of its’ lifeblood – Revenue.
In the next part of our Introduction to Agorism, we’ll be discussing Counter-economics and one of the central tenets of Agorism – the Non-aggression principle.
Questions or comments? Please share them below in the comments!