Agorism is the idea that libertarians can bring about a voluntary world by trading outside the state-approved sector, without business licensing, without paying taxes and fees or submitting to governmental approvals. This form of trade is called counter-economics, by the way.
Over time, the security, social safety net and dispute resolution institutions required for a voluntary and stateless society to work will evolve in response to market needs. The end result will be a starved state sector and an enriched marketplace. Then, dispensing with the remnants of the state sector will be relatively uncomplicated.
Agorism is a failed strategy. I encourage people to not pursue it at this time.
I won’t go into how I practiced it because I don’t owe anyone an accounting of my life and it would be stupid to risk incriminating myself. It’s not that I’ve engaged in any wrongdoing – agorism is not necessarily illegal – it’s just that there are so many laws now and bad people love to twist things.
But here’s why:
- You’re Alone: Precious few other people are pursuing the strategy in any meaningful capacity. Agorism can’t succeed in the aggregate without community institutions. I formed one (Shield Mutual) and the demand simply was not there.
- High Risk: Agorism can get you caged or killed. Without a tribe of people taking the same risks and working towards the same end, what’s the point? Who’s got your back? No one.
- Real World Failure: In many South American and sub-Saharan African countries, black market activity is above 40% of the economy and yet strong states still rule. Clearly, it’s not as easy as counter-economic theory makes it out to be.
- Ineffective: Denied tax revenue is not a significant threat to the US government, the one that most needs to be toppled. They will simply tax the conformists more, print more money and scale up police powers. See, for example, warrantless checkpoints, no-knock raids and parallel construction.
- Self-Limiting: Selling things under the table limits who you can sell to and where you can advertise. It’s like dropping a pile of bricks on a seedling. You can’t grow. It defeats the very point of free enterprise, which is to grow without artifical limits.
- Short-Sighted: The agorist strategy demands that we fight the state where it’s strongest. Because effective agorism inevitably violates the law, agorist defense actions happen against police and in courts of law, two places where the state is most prepared and where its “law and order” propaganda is most ingrained in the population. Any failure to mount an effective legal defense is a mid-stride abdication of the strategy. An effective legal defense is usually expensive, thus wiping out the profits gained from trading risk for reward, the core benefit of agorism. This is a fatal strategic failure.
Thus, agorists are left only with the downside of criminal penalties and risk of death and without the upside of a chance at toppling a government. There aren’t enough people doing it and, even if there were, the potential impact on the intended target is trivial.
I say this as someone who has studied and practiced agorism for more than 5 years. The idea intrigued me. I experimented with it. I researched and wrote about it.
The real challenge is to build yourself, not a movement. The cost of doing this while complying with today’s overpowered states is minimal compared to your upside. There is so much more you can do for yourself, your loved ones and your community while outside of jail and still alive.
There will always be time to stop cooperating with the state. But it has to be done with proper organization, from a position of strength and with unity because the most precious resource in the liberty community is not the collected works of Murray Rothbard but the people. You. Stay safe and keep building your power within your risk-reward limits and without falling under the spell of hype.
Greater than the concept of liberty is the concept of life. One must preserve one’s own life, enjoy it and thrive, first. Only then can we talk about maximizing liberty. That’s why they put “life” before “liberty” in The Declaration of Independence.
That said, I have no plans to form LLCs any time soon. I will though if it saves me money on payroll taxes. I won’t be getting a white-market corporate job, either. Not unless I’m broke, on the street and it’s my best option.
Photo Credit: Karsun Designs CC-BY-ND