Six years on, I wrote 5 Reasons Why Agorism is a Failed Strategy.
The million-dollar question – how do we start doing agorism? We’re convinced the right way out of this tyrannous morass is to starve the bastards out by trading outside of their purview. We’re giving up on voting in their sham elections. We’re tired of begging them for relief from their own tyranny. We’re locked out of their monopoly in-justice system. Now what? What is agorism and how do we get started doing it?
Create a Product
To approach the question as simply as possible, all you have to do is come up with a product – something people want, something you can produce better or cheaper than the state sector already does. Then sell it discreetly. The customer does not have to understand agorism; they don’t even have to be interested in liberty. Most importantly, you must not report the transaction to the state, you must not collect or pay taxes on it in any form and you must ignore state regulations if they interfere with the proper operation of your business. Absolutely do not even think about registering this effort with the state as some kind of corporation.
Not Strict Agorism
Now this isn’t really strict agorism. But it’s a good way to start thinking about it. It’s critical to start, even if your initial efforts are rough. As long as you initiate and sustain at some level your entrepreneurial ventures, they will bear fruit. And I’m not just talking about money. Your life will become more flexible. You’ll have more time for your friends, your family, your hobbies, your kids, you name it. You’ll stop worrying about paying your bills and have more time for yourself.
Don’t Have to Start a Business
If you’re not interested in starting your own business, you can still practice agorism! Just work for cash. Work under the table, don’t do any W-2 or 1099 jobs. The agorist entrepreneurs surely have many different kinds of jobs they need done. You can do them. Little commitment or risk but you still earn a tax-free wage.
There are agorists all over North America. Leverage that! Maybe you’ve got some great maple syrup. Trade that to folks in Georgia for some juicy organic peaches. You can make your own solar panels and hire agorists in other areas to market them for you. The possibilities are endless.
Worried about law enforcement interest? Disguise yourself! Create a barter network – there are tons of them so you’ll blend right in. Give it a vanilla name, nothing even remotely connected to liberty. Call it the Granite Barter Network. That doesn’t sound subversive at all!
Co-Opt the Statists
And that’s just how you want it because now that you’ve disguised agorism and created a paradigm anyone can plug into, you co-opt the minarchists and other statists into joining you. They spend so much time on counter-economics they forget all about voting and protesting. Since they’re spending more time with market anarchists, they radicalize. Soon it becomes easier to patronize the counter-economy than the official one. Certified agoristic products flood the shelves. Now we’re winning!
Agorism is Just Trade Without Government
Agorism may sound complicated, but it’s just extra-governmental trade. Anyone can do it. In fact, you’re probably already doing some of it. Anyone can be successful at it. You can earn extra income, become self-employed and advance liberty all at the same time. What could be better? Get started today raising organic vegetables, baking pies, manufacturing solar panels, importing hemp and stevia or doing a million other productive things.
Join the Conversation
For more information on agorism, explore agorism.info. It’s full of pamphlets, books and other resources on agorism and market anarchism. Subscribe to the Center for a Stateless Society’s website to keep up with the international agorist conversation.
20 replies on “How to Start Doing Agorism”
You are conspiring to overthrow the government. ;)
I just want to create jobs so we can sustain the recovery. ;)
I’m acting individually to obsolete the government… :) They shouldn’t be able to complain about that; after all, isn’t their lament that they must do what they do only because the world needs them?
A very useful tool for any would be agorist: P2P currency, totally decentralized and untraceable, based not on trust in a centralized agent, but on cryptographic proof-of-work
Bitcoin – http://www.bitcoin.org/
James, thanks a TON for that link, I had read theories about that idea before (and fiction) but didn’t realize anyone had a working product out, I really appreciate it.
“Agorism may sound complicated, but it’s just extra-governmental trade. Anyone can do it.”
I was in South Africa in the ’90s when the National Party (who had run the apartheid political machine) and the ANC were negotiating the future rule of the country. The two parties were highly antagonistic to each other, yet each had lost the backing of their cold-war benefactors (US support exclusively for the Nats crumbled with the sanctions program and the Soviet Union had simply evaporated) who could have helped one dominate the other. Each party attacked the other’s bad ideas: the Nats wouldn’t allow the ANC to nationalize the mines, the ANC wouldn’t allow the Nats to continue the agricultural control boards. The Zulus, the DP, and dozens of other parties were doing whatever they could to avoid domination by the two major parties. More than gridlock, this was actually shrinking the political pie. As a result, the country was on the brink of completely freedom. Laws were deleted from the statute books, entire government departments closed, and people ignored what unpopular laws were left in the expectation that they would soon be overturned. Finally, the negotiators realized they better start agreeing or they would lose everything. The future was with the ANC–individual Nats either left government or finally merged with their “archenemies” to stay in the power game. It took the ANC the better part of a decade to reimpose the restrictions on the country; to make sure no matter what you wanted to do with your life, first the government had to get its cut.
But in that period of crippled government, the country bloomed like a desert when the drought finally ends. Office buildings turned their underground parking lots over to managers to rent out as flea markets on the weekend. Traders could rent two parking bays for the weekend (though competition was fierce for spots and most were tied up with long-term commitments). Sometimes a food court would be built in a cul-de-sac. Traders would chat during the day–which markets were doing well these days? Have you got an “in” there? Can my brother share your cousin’s stand until we get our own?
I was doing contract work (mostly scientific data analysis for mining houses), and my wife was running a goat dairy. Milk is highly perishable, and your animals’ production varies wildly from a maximum after newborn kids are weaned to nothing in the last few months of pregnancy; the name of the game is to figure out how to deliver a steady supply of products. We sold pasteurized, frozen milk to regular shops and made cheese during the peak times. We had big wheels of Gouda that needed to be matured for anywhere between six months and two years, we had soft cheeses that could be sold within a month, and we had a processed cheese made from the wheels that cracked open or otherwise didn’t pass our QC test (taking a plug from the side and tasting it) at the end of a six month production process.
We wanted to know what customers like, so we would pack up everything for our stand: cheeses and some frozen milk (using a broken chest freezer as a big cooler), the cheeses of other suppliers (some ran their own stalls at different markets, some were busy enough with just cheese-making), tables and shelves built to fit in our two parking spaces, table cloths, packaging, scales, and cleaning supplies. We’d tie it all on the back of a pick-up truck, and try to be early in line when the market opened for traders at 06:30. If you were early, you could drive in and unload in 15 minutes; the later it got, the more difficult it was to drive out around the other stands; if you didn’t get in well before 08:00 when the market opened to customers, you had to hump in all your gear on your back. Then, the music would start being piped in, signaling that opening time had arrived.
I loved the buzz of the marketplace! Indian traders with spices, Boere with biltong, undocumented black immigrant peddlers with blankets, east-ender type English with pirate CDs, Pakistanis with carpets, car parts, books, clothing, art work, fish, balloons, candy, jugglers, musicians, puppet shows–the place was all color and sound and smells and desire swirling together. It was the glorious integration of hundreds of individual wishes being negotiated and satisfied. As a trader, you had to learn to manage your focus. At once, you had to keep an awareness of everything around you, and make personal eye contact with your customer. You had to keep the line moving or people would leave, yet you had to make enough time to swap pleasantries and stories with whoever was trading with you, for you were selling the market experience as much as your product. You had to invite opportunities and yet protect your goods against thieves and cheats.
The best times were when the whole family worked the same market together. Our two sons were probably between six and ten during this period, and my wife and I would coach them in how to serve customers and run the till. It was amazing to see our eight year old offer up samples for tasting, then slice a piece of cheese that came to within 5g of the price the customer wanted, wrap it, ring it up, and bid the customer well on their way. As they became comfortable with the routine, my wife and I would excuse ourselves to go to the food court for a schwarma, or satay, or boerewors. We wouldn’t tell the boys that one of us had our eyes glued to them while the other bought food; that the topic of discussion while we ate together rarely strayed from pointing out to each other the skills they had developed. The boys would get paid as soon as the morning rush was over so they could go buy treats and toys from the other stands.
I can remember only two interactions with government people during this time. One was 40-ish Xhosa woman in expensive western business dress and speaking in a condescending tone that confirmed she was was from some child welfare bureau. She asked lots of pointed questions to our eight-year-old about how many hours he was working, and gave him a card with a help-line number before she left. My son gave me a puzzled glance–I explained to him that if he was unhappy working on the stand, she could use the police to remove him from us and put him in the care of an institution or another family. He rolled his eyes and threw away the card. The other government worker was a 20-ish white girl from the health department, new enough in her job to take things seriously. She gave me a lecture about how we needed running water on the stand in order to keep selling cheese. She didn’t seem to be worried that this would be impossible in the middle of an underground parking lot. It was a slow day, and she was kind of cute, so I kept asking her help for how we could bring things up to her standards. I think we got 20 minutes into designing a portable water storage tank above the stand with a gas heater before she got creeped out by the middle-aged married guy having such an interest in her. Never saw her again.
This system worked in layers of government legitimacy. There were those, like the building owners, with assets that couldn’t be easily hidden and were easy pickings for tax collectors. Then, there were the market managers, who had offices in the buildings, but made private contracts with traders. They would have to show some income on the building owners’ books to justify their position, but it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to track their transactions.
Finally, there were the traders. They were doing business in cash and turning over a handfull of bills to the market manager. They could disappear at the end of the day, if they wished, leaving nothing behind but a pay-as-you-go cell phone number on the manager’s application form.
The market exists everywhere there are two people who can satisfy each other’s needs. A free market exists anywhere they can do so without interference.
@Mark: What happened to those markets after power was reconsolidated? (Thanks for the great story by the way, you should post it independently).
Justen: “What happened to those markets after power was reconsolidated?”
Not completely sure, though I have some clues. We left the country a few years later; in preparing for the move we sold our herd, cheese making equipment, and farm.
A big part of the reason we moved was family–I grew up in Virginia (USA, I mean–confusingly, there’s a city named Virginia in South Africa) and my sons had cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents they had spent very little time with. But the nail in the coffin that caused us to move was a change in the SA tax laws that declared consultants were equivalent to employees–thus a corresponding portion of all invoices would be withheld by the hiring company. Since a significant part of my income was from major mining houses who were very high on that scale of maintaining legitimacy with the government, I was facing 50% of my revenue going down a sink hole, to maybe be returned to me one day when a bureaucrat processed my forms. So, I brain-drained. Better to be a poor person in a rich country than a rich person in a poor country when the parasites are about!
I’m sure AIDS and a crackdown on undocumented workers also damaged the markets. I’m not sure how much you can blame the appearance of AIDS on government, but it would be easy to make a case that the government unintentionally contributed to its spread.
There’s another story I should tell about the influence of crime during this time. If I do, I’ll let George know so he can put a head’s up here. I cross-posted this story on Distributed Republic with a link to George’s article. I’ve enjoyed following George’s blog the last several months and hoped to introduce some more DR readers to it.
Mark that is an absolutely brilliant and fascinating story, thanks for sharing that! I’m going to share it on Twitter and Facebook.
“To approach the question as simply as possible, all you have to do is come up with a product – something people want, something you can produce better or cheaper than the state sector already does. Then sell it discreetly. The customer does not have to understand agorism; they don’t even have to be interested in liberty. . . . Get started today raising . . . hemp[.]”
This world has been clamoring for a drug dealer with morals. I think it grand that you want to be the agoristic pot peddler, and you will be granted great fiscal reward for improving culture through this vessel. Perhaps I will live to see the day when the drug trade (all the way from the underground to the highest floor of pharmaceutical corporation’s skyscraper) is one of the most honest of them.
Hemp is not a drug. Its THC levels are negligible and you won’t get high from it. Many useful products come from hemp: roap, clothes, nutritious seeds and a million other things. Hemp is legal in Canada and reportedly a lucrative crop. During WW2 the US government begged farmers to raise hemp so they could use it to make the enormous ropes needed for all the new US navy ships.
I know, George. I was reading between the lines of your whole entry and I just thought the weed idea was good. I had to quote something. Hemp is good and well but you will not be as richly rewarded for your promotion of agorism. All I know is that from a cultural standpoint, I’ve had a particular interest to see the (unlawfully-illict) drug trade reach an unprecedented level of professionalism which it lacks today, a goal which comports with your advocation here. Could you say what good or category of goods you were actually planning to agorize if not this?
I have zero interest in producing, selling or consuming narcotics and the like.
I was thinking of organic produce as a good agoristic product for me.
I’ve known plenty of drug dealers with morals. The stereotypes simply aren’t true. I’m not a big fan of drugs myself (anything I enjoy doing is inevitably done better with a whole and functional mind than with an impaired one) but I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with a lot of stand-up guys in the drug trade, people with a sense of honor and justice, a respect for person and property, great business sense, and the general qualities I’d want out of a fellow trader. When you think of the bad men you need to worry about, don’t picture drug dealers, picture jackboots, bureaucrat flunkies, mercenaries, arms dealers, gangers, and anyone else who feels it’s okay to use violence to get what they want. Note most of them are on the side of the “law” when it comes to drugs…
I don’t think of drug dealers as the bad men I need to worry about (in the realm of all things but narrowly drugs, anyway). I picture judges, legislators, and policemen. I’m also curious as to why you would throw arms dealers into the message of people you mention pejoratively, since I would suspect that dealing arms means there’s just as much a chance that a People is armed into self-governance as it is a tyrant would be to oppress, or whatever imagined thing it is they perpetrate.
Unless someone is on the most fantastic disinformation campaign, and I don’t suggest there isn’t some sort of such campaign, there’s still people getting ripped off, bad drugs going around, unprofessional acts occurring surrounding the trade, to the level that the American people have not yet said ‘Why the fuck do you continue to perpetrate these illegal laws?’ I thought the answer was putting a better face on that particular trade. The fact is that I don’t hear any stories, ever, that someone in the drug trade has gone above and beyond in some manner. Maybe there’s proof that they’re having their drugs assayed, or they’re using some sort of tamper resistant packing, weighing and labeling, paying their 3rd world growers fair prices, or wearing suits every day. Anything like that, large or small, is going to be news whether it is reported well or in some facetious oped or blog. Of course we have such anomalies that occur as in California where the state decriminalizes and regulates the cannabis trade, for example, even though it is still federally outlawed. That is not really the sort of thing I refer to on this issue.
So, the news I want to hear about is that there are some nice, honest men in business suits who might not even be sheepish to say that they engage in a lawful vocation of providing a good to someone who desires it, and instead of engaging in something like gang violence and accidentally shooting neighborhood kids, the only violence they might be making use of is that needed to stop the threat of government agents unlawfully trying to deprive them of their life, liberty, or property on the basis of unconstitutional law. I have not read it in the news and there is no legend of such a person or organization by story told to me. That would sure make for an interesting dynamic. Justen, I’m curious about all these good people you mention, and why they haven’t kicked it up a notch.
Anyway, I was just feeling out George and elicited the answer I wanted. I appreciate your particular input, Justen.
I knew as soon as I posted that I should have been more clear about arms dealers. I meant specifically mil-industrial complex arms manufacturers who promote and foster violence in order to move inventory, not necessarily retailers, black market arms smugglers, or really anyone engaged in creating weapons for personal protection. The trouble is that arms manufacture is almost entirely monopolized by a few favored cartels, who in turn are one of the major driving forces behind war propaganda and international strife. They are the ones I intended to attack. :)
As for drug dealers and growers, the vast majority of them are just people trying to do business like the rest of us. This varies of course from drug to drug – I can’t say as I’ve met anyone or known of anyone who manufactures and deals in methamphetamine who I’d consider “good people” for instance because it’s so incredibly profitable that it’s dominated by gangs (or if you like, little statists). As for cannabis, most psychedelics, and even opiates, I’ve known many professional and fair-dealing people. They don’t “kick it up a notch” for a lot of reasons; the most obvious is that it would draw attention, very dangerous when you’re working on the black market. Cannabis in particular is grown almost entirely locally (propaganda notwithstanding), and mostly by people who are only dangerous when you become a threat to their life, freedom, or property, which is perfectly acceptable. Cannabis growers tend to be extremely particular about the quality of their product; they’re probably amongst the world’s most dedicated and experienced horticulturists. Likewise the distributors have little interest in providing bad product, no more than any other market actor. In the black market advertising is nothing compared to word of mouth, making propagandizing impossible, state coercion and protection also obviously impossible, so gaining a bad reputation is devastating and difficult to recover from. They don’t often wear slick business suits like you may wish, but they are certainly business men and all the forces inherent in doing business apply.
Our health is imperative to implementing agorism. You can barter all you want, but if you are dependent on big pharma and government for your health you won’t get far in your defiance. That’s why I’ve started healthypunk.com. It’s time to take our health into our own hands. Only then can we be free.
We are looking for people that have a similar philosophy on health and that are good journalists. Contact me if you are interested.