Guest Post: Agorism

The ALS is a very broad and diverse organisation, representing many strands of pro-freedom thought. While I know many of our more committed members would be aware of it, one movement I noticed we haven’t heard much about in Australia is agorism, which at its simplest is the use of black markets to promote free market ideals. A friend of mine here agreed to write up a brief post for us outlining the agorist case, which I think those of you unaware of the movement would find interesting. (As always , I must preface this by saying that I do not necessarily endorse or agree with this post).

Agorism – Peter J. Neiger

While idea of anarchy is far from a new one there are revolutionary developments and strategies being debated and theorized constantly. One of the newer strategies is the use of counter-economics or Agorism to bring about the desired change.

To ensure we are on the same page I feel like one quick definition is necessary. When I refer to Anarchy this is does not mean chaos, I am referring to the original Greek translation of anarchia meaning “without a ruler”. While there are some variations of anarchists most believe that change cannot happen through the current system, this is what separates them in method from libertarians, min-archists, etc.

Now the term Agorism comes from the Greek word agora meaning “market” and agorists call for revolutionary change by utilizing the black market. By operating in this counter-economy an individual can help deteriorate the power of the state and builds relationships based on trust and mutual gain instead of coercion.

Most people participate in counter-economics without ever realizing it. Every time you pay a neighborhood kid under the table to baby sit or receive a tip from a customer that you don’t report to the government you have participated.

Agorist’s view entrepreneurs, innovators and risk-takers as the strength of the free market and are invaluable. On the same note though, a pro-state businessman who attempts to use the government for his own personal profit is the center of evil.

Most conscious agorists follow the motto of A3: agora, anarchy, action. Agora representing the market, anarchy the philosophy and action for the intentional counter-economic activity. There is, of course, a risk to operating intentionally in the black. The current statists have the strength to send men with guns to your house to stop your trade, even though it is between two consenting members.

Obviously some activities bear greater risks such as narcotics, but most agorists don’t focus on that. Most current agorists, at least those I have dealt with, deal in much less dangerous products, thought they are not morally opposed to drugs, the costs and benefits just make it less common.

In order for a real agorist revolution to take place market-based security agencies need to rise up to protect the market. Not only must they be willing and able to protect property and enforce contracts but they must be willing and able to do these things against the current organized crime in power (government).

The internet and constantly improving technology is making communication among agorists much easier and safer. I believe this trend will continue to the point where physically meeting for exchange is less necessary and when it is it can be arranged quietly and effectively.

I am not optimistic enough to believe that a counter-economic revolution is inevitable but I don’t see any downside to participating and working towards this goal. Once a person has decided they no longer care about the stigma of being a “law breaker” they are much more willing to pursue their own personal happiness.

That is why I do it. I feel empowered and it gives me a growing sense of freedom. Being able to operate under the radar successfully is great feeling and I feel like I am making a difference in pursuing liberty in my life. A wonderful secondary benefit is the tight and powerful relationships forged with those I do business with. You learn to trust people and respect them instead of fearing all the time.

Luckily for us, the government continues to crackdown and prosecutes people for an ever growing number of victimless “crimes”. Every time a new product or service is outlawed the black market will swoop in to provide. The FDA has recently outlawed flavored cigarettes and agorist entrepreneurs are already coming up with ways to provide this product. The same will happen if unhealthy foods, narcotics or anything else is outlawed. The market will provide and more non-revolutionaries will begin to interact in the counter-economy. I does not matter how tyrannical the government becomes, the market always finds a way to survive.

For more information on Agorism check out http://agorism.info or if you prefer a novel a free version of “Alongside Night” J. Neil Schulman by is available on PDF. For people near DC a moderately active agorist who goes by the name Patrick Amagi maintains a blog called DC Agora at http://dcagora.blogspot.com.

Update: The correct link for the last line is http://agoradc.blogspot.com.

24 thoughts on “Guest Post: Agorism

  1. I would think that the number of people operating in the black market on the basis of simplicity or pure financial incentives would swamp those that travel under an agorist banner. As such I’d be inclined to see agorists as paddlers on a big river which will flow just as well with or without the agorist. In short calling yourself an agorist may make you feel good but it probably doesn’t change things a whole lot. None the less I’m happy to know that the agorist exists and to view them as part of the pro-freedom movement. And I’m happy to hear how others think I might be wrong about this.

  2. What about the idea of using philanthropy to crowd out the Government? I think this has the best long run chance of getting things done, and being seen to get things done.

  3. I don’t think you can “crowd out” the government because it’s incentives don’t work the same way as a normal rival.

  4. “Not only must they be willing and able to protect property and enforce contracts but they must be willing and able to do these things against the current organized crime in power (government).”

    So basically be suicidal?

    You can’t take up arms against the government, at least one not as powerful as the government of Australia. There are Nuclear-Armed aircraft carriers off the coast of Fremantle that fight on the side of the Australian government.

    All that would happen to any organisation that hired “their own private security to fight off the government” is that they would be massacred, and made to look like the bad guys.

    See Koresh, David.

  5. Agorism might be good for books, though. (Are you listening, SL?)
    I have an idea which I am still incorporating into a novel, about an underground insurance group, which will get victimless clients out of jail. If a drug dealer is jailed, then they help him to escape, and pay penalties for every day that they fail. These “Underdogs- United!”. with the motto “liberating Victimless Underdogs” would be an agorist insurance agency, composed of escapers and ex-SAS fighters, and victimless criminals, on behalf of others like themselves.

  6. Unfortunately, Jim, I am a slow writer. Also, I want to be as close to real-life as I can, and I need to read up on jail escapes so the one in my book will seem real. I have them rescue a man accused of drug-growing, and the sub-plot will be that he was really put in there because he was about to patent an un-interceptible mobile phone, supposedly using neutrinos, and an alloy he has invented that can pick them up like an antenna picks up radio waves. Naturally, the state wants to crush these sort of ideas, so his drug-sideline is the only one mentioned.
    Also, real life keeps throwing new options up! The U-U crew could also decorate a secret location, and take fast-food-addicts there, so they can have all those banned substances that they like! (Eat-easies, if you like!)

  7. I admit that it would be nearly impossible to take up direct arms against the Australian government without another Waco-esque incident. I don’t think that modern militarys are as invincible to domestic assault as many seem to think though, a guerrila movement could wreck havok onto any modern military.

    An agorist security force would likely be more geared towards survelliance of government forces and using technology to act stealthily. I may disagree with the author on this, who seems to advocate a build up of guns and men to deter governments from interfereing. I believe the real strength in agorism is its ability to adapt and remain fluid to avoid capture. Technology assists with this greatly, in fact a popular theory about the fall of the Roman empire involved technological advancements that the empire could not prevent or contain. A similar fate may be in store for modern empires.

    All-in-all a good postand I appreciate the end of article shout out (even if the address was wrong in the beginning). It is nice to see this being discussed

  8. I admit that it would be nearly impossible to take up direct arms against the Australian government without another Waco-esque incident. I don’t think that the modern military is as invincible to domestic assault as many seem to think though, a guerrilla movement could wreck havoc onto any modern military.

    An agorist security force would likely be more geared towards surveillance of government forces and using technology to act stealthily. I may disagree with the author on this, who seems to advocate a build up of guns and men to deter governments from interfering. I believe the real strength in agorism is its ability to adapt and remain fluid to avoid capture. Technology assists with this greatly, in fact a popular theory about the fall of the Roman empire involved technological advancements that the empire could not prevent or contain. A similar fate may be in store for modern empires.

    All-in-all a good post and I appreciate the end of article shout out (even if the address was wrong in the beginning). It is nice to see this being discussed

  9. I don’t buy your Roman argument. Rome failed as an empire because it’s leaders turned Christian and it went from a low tax empire with indifference to local religions to a high tax empire determine to wipe out local religions and impose a new alien anti-western God who was more interested in utopian love and sharing (imposed at the tip of a sword) than commerce or production. The Christianisation of Rome lead to feudalism and the impoverishment of Europe (not to mention the locking up and near monopolisation of books). It took more than a 1000 years for notions of free enquiry, freedom of religion and low taxes to really reassert themselves within western thinking. The discovery of new frontiers helped.

    Otherwise I pretty much agree entirely with you comment.

    I should note that in cultural terms Christianity hasn’t been all bad even though I’m a bit pressed right now to think of any good examples where it has improved things.

  10. TerjeP, you should not get your facts from the back of serial packets!
    The reasons for the fall of Rome are many. It was, in any case, going to be displaced by Byzantium, when the head of the Empire moved East, where the majority of the subjects were. That was pre-Christianity demographics at work. Blame the Chinese Emperors- if they hadn’t built The Great Wall, then the huns wouldn’t have gone West!
    A book I read recently showed that Empires fall when they become intolerant. Rome, under intolerant emperors, started passing laws on fashions (No trousers- only good honest Roman togas allowed!). The British empire couldn’t extend toleration to the irish catholics, being founded on anti-papism. However, non-catholics had an easier time of it- welsh and scots were soon becoming ministers and scientists, and being honoured.
    Speaking of Science, systematic science only developed in Christian Europe, because Christian beliefs about an unchanging Creator meant the universe was integrated, and understandable (Islam’s Allah is very much a God of whims, whereas Yehowah often says He changes not. the impulse to science is much less in islamic countries, therefore.)
    What do you have against Science, TerjeP?

  11. I don’t think the fall of the Roman Empire was an especially good thing considering the resulting dark ages and the brutality of barbarian kings.
    The lesser of two evils if you ask me. Trade certainly decreased as a result. I’d hope everyone agreed with that.

    Why did a growing black market result in the fall of the Roman empire anyway?

    In fact I just don’t get this idea that black markets bring down governments – certainly not in any fundamental way. What about socialist/facist governments in a country like Zimbabwe (where there is a huge black market) or other African/South American countries.
    How about Cuba? – famous for black market medicine etc

    Also I think Terje has it right #12.
    I think philosophy is the fundamental driver of human action as opposed to many people who seek for evolutionary psychological type explanations that diminish the importance of the workings of the human mind ie: our conceptual faculties and our free will.

  12. A free market is important to a free mind, and the Emperor before Constantine tried to rig the markets so things would stay as they were, forever. His name was Diocletian, and it is not well-remembered. the damage he did was long-lasting.
    I think that black markets prop up totalitarian regimes. If they couldn’t trade underground, then these economies would implode- or explode in an orgy of violence, as the people overthrow one odious regime with another, which might become even more odious. Black markets complement state markets, by suppling what they can’t.
    Places like Lightning Ridge already have agorists, because the local council doesn’t do much! Sounds to me like there could be a market for a firm (Call it A-PLUS, All-Private Local Utility Services) to offer private alternatives now, before people call for councils to ‘do things’ for (to) them! Home-power generators, or compost sewerage facilities, or fresh water supplies, etc.

  13. Tim R said:

    “I don’t think the fall of the Roman Empire was an especially good thing considering the resulting dark ages and the brutality of barbarian kings.
    The lesser of two evils if you ask me.”

    Seems a rather strange statement on a libertarian blog, especially given that the Roman Empire was established through violence and built upon slave labour.

    Reminds me of the Life of Brian jail sketch:

    BRIAN: What’ll they do to me?
    BEN: Oh, you’ll probably get away with crucifixion.
    BRIAN: Crucifixion!
    BEN: Yeah, first offense.
    BRIAN: Get away with crucifixion!
    BEN: Best thing the Romans ever did for us.
    BRIAN: What?
    BEN: Oh yeah. If we didn’t have crucifixion this country would be in a right bloody mess I tell you.
    BRIAN: Guard!
    BEN: Nail ’em up I say!
    BRIAN: Guard!
    BEN: Nail some sense into them!

  14. Sure the Roman Empire was far from ideal. The Dark Ages were even worse though.
    So it then follows that if it is true that agorist elements brought down Rome (which I don’t believe is true but that theory was mentioned in the comments) then agorism ultimately resulted in a worse political situation.

    Monty Python have many sketches about the brutality of the Dark and Middle Ages too.

  15. The point I was trying to make, Tim, was that libertarians should not really be in the business of talking about the lesser of two evils when it comes to brutal rulers. Both should be an anathema to lovers of liberty. I’d suggest the issue of most importance is whether or not an event is a step towards liberty or away from it. In that light, a move away from the centralised government of an Empire creates a situation where liberty is more likely.

    In the modern world, the EU is a case in point. Liberty is not possible under the EU. Although its break up could lead to some countries reverting to less free governments and even conflict, I still believe its break up to be necessary and desirable.

  16. I agree.

    Although in no position to do so, war against the Soviets and Third Reich was justifiable when they invaded Poland.

    Why isn’t change from within possible in the EU?

    Perhaps I am too optimistic. I view the EU as a vehicle for libertarian change.

  17. In theory, Mark, the EU could be a good thing, if it confined itself to liberalising movement of people and trade (although it only wants to do this within the EU). Unfortunately, modern EU politicians are no different than their modern national counterparts, they have the same desires to control every aspect of people’s lives (for their own good) and have the advantage of a lot less accountability and a great deal of power. With these impulses, the general rule that the bigger the entity and the further removed it is from the governed, the worse the outcome for liberty holds.

    When the EU constitution was rejected by the Dutch and French (the UK didn’t get to vote), the re-packaged it as the Lisbon Treaty and, being a treaty, states that had promised constitutional referenda argued they no longer had to hold referenda. However, Ireland chose to, when the Irish people voted no, the EU’s basic response was: “we’ll wait a while and give you a second chance to get it right” (this is not the first time this has happened).

    You’ll find very little support for your optimism among UK libertarians. A couple of articles illustrate this point. The article by Sarah Fitz-Claridge is 8 years old but still sums up the issue of liberty within the EU very well and has been borne out by events over those 8 years.

    http://lpuk.blogspot.com/2009/01/free-speech-snubbed-out-by-eu.html

    http://www.fitz-claridge.com/node/7

  18. “Rome failed as an empire because it’s leaders turned Christian…”

    Silly. Rome adopted Christianity because it was failing as an Empire, and this was a desperate attempt to pull people together.

    “The Christianisation of Rome lead to feudalism and the impoverishment of Europe”

    I guess if you get to just make up history, you could say this. Unfortunately, Roman institutions continued well after the adoption of Christianity, and feudalism only arose and poverty set in due to the decline of cities (population decline due to the plague) and the cutting of trade with the East (due to Islam).

    It sounds like the most recent historical writer you’ve read on this topic was Gibbon!

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