author: Theodore Minick
published: 2011-04-03 02:57:00 UTC
Agorism (From the Greek word Agora, meaning marketplace), in a nutshell, is a revolutionary strategy intended to bring about the downfall of the state, not by assaulting it, or by infiltrating it, but by ignoring it. Agorists think that the world would be better off without governments, and that any necessary service currently provided by government would be better provided by the market. Roads, schools, security, etc, would all be provided by private individuals, for profit. The end result would be an Anarcho-capitalist society. Anarcho-capitalism, however, is not Agorism. It would be fair to say that if Anarcho-capitalism is the destination, Agorism is the road.
Invented by Samuel E. Konkin III, also known as SEK3, in the 1970's, Agorism's story is long, strange, and well-worth reading. Konkin published his "New Libertarian Manifesto" in 1980, and it's still in print today. J. Neil Schulman, his friend, and the editor of his magazine, The New Libertarian Notes, wrote the novel, "Alongside Night", in 1979, which chronicles a fictional change-over from a debt-riddled America to an Anarcho-capitalist society. The revolutionary organization in that book went by the name "Revolutionary Agorist Cadre", making it the first science fiction novel about Agorism. Though it was fancy then, it seems almost prophetic now, considering the current economic climate.
Like many similar Anarchic viewpoints, Agorism holds to the Non-aggression Principle, which states that no person has the right to initiate the use of force against another. Boiled down, it's the same thing your mother always told you: don't hit people, and don't take their stuff. It's a simple enough idea, but governments, since at least the beginning of recorded history, have gotten it wrong. Governments survive by theft. They expand by violence. You can't have a government that follows the Non-aggression Principle, because that organization would be better classified as a private charity.
Agorism achieves it's goals through using what Konkin termed the "Counter-Economy," that is to say, black and gray markets. These markets, by their very nature, operate outside of government control, and thus are completely free. To clarify, A black market is trade in a good or service that is outright illegal in the area in which you're trading, while a gray market is trade in goods or services that require a permit or tax to be legal, without receiving that permit or paying the tax. For example, selling drugs or prostitution would be black market activities, while moonshine, unlicensed repairmen, and underground restaurants would be gray market.
Konkin's strategy was to starve the government, by setting up communities that traded amongst themselves, in the black or gray markets, eventually stealing "customers" away from the government-controlled, and thus heavily taxed, regulated, and monopolistic economy. The communities need not be contiguous, however. The individuals that comprise them can be spread out over fairly large distances. With the advent of the Internet, that distance can be even greater. These communities would, over time, grow more populous than the areas still controlled by the state, until, in a last gasp of inefficiency, the government collapses under it's own weight.
I can't help but think that had he lived to see it, SEK3 would have been overwhelmed with joy about Bitcoin. I'll explain why next week.
Some suggested reading, for more information about Agorism:
www.agorism.info, with many links to Konkin's writings, including the "New Libertarian Manifesto" (1983 edition)
www.alongsidenight.net for a free download of the 30th anniversary edition of "Alongside Night"
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