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Weathering With You: An Agorist Perspective

If someone asked you what your favorite emotion was, how do you think you’d answer? For many people, I suspect they would answer “Happiness”, “Joy'', or some variant of exclusively positive emotion. Someone may think more meticulously and answer with “Contentment”, which while a positive emotion has a lot of nuance attached to it. However my answer to that question is what I feel others would consider more orthodox: Bittersweet. Pleasure accompanied by suffering, not exactly most people’s first pick but from my perspective pain is necessary in order to enjoy the pleasure that life gives you. Perhaps I'm over-romanticizing but there’s something to desire from looking back fondly at times where you were hurting and seeing yourself in a better place in the present. Perhaps you finally have moved on from “The one who got away” and can look back on those times with fondness. Perhaps you are sharing stories of a friend or family member at their funeral and though they may never w

The Agorist Calculation Problem

I don't think it was a coincidence that Konkin was so inclusive in describing who is acting in his counter-economic idea world - It is quite a crowd, after all[1] - and on top of that, the actions themselves are more often than not something you didn't have to participate in all the time.

You can slide in and out of the gray and white markets as the need to do so arise. Life-style Agorism is very hard to keep 100% pure the stronger and more involved the State is around your person and those you are trading with on the outside of your personal sphere of control. Every action that gives those thieves in government a slightly less lucrative payday is valuable, no matter how small. Or, to use Konkin's own word: "'Libertarian' has nothing to do with what one says but what one does[2]

My hypothesis is that Konkin understood all this and that is the reason the manual for Agorists is so open-hearted: He (consciously or subconsciously) wanted to avoid something I like to call the Agorist Calculation Problem.

Is this the Black Market?

The first side of the problem is an internal one. I'll give two different examples, which hopefully illustrates 1) why this is a very complicated matter and 2) That it is almost impossible to live and avoid all government tentacles.

If I buy raw material on "the books" (taxed, regulated, allowed), transform it into something more valuable and sell the finished product off the books (untaxed, non-licensed, not allowed), what I have done is counter-economic.

If a ride-sharing app opposes the taxi-monopoly[3], but the company still comply with the state's taxation bookkeeping and the system as a whole, it is hardly counter-economic. If I, on the other hand, negotiate a price with a "pirate taxi" driver that'll keep the money in her own pocket, what I have done is counter-economic.

If you think long and hard about the above examples you will find a non-trivial amount of ways I have, indirectly, supported the formal economy:

The cab driver in example number 2 most likely bought the car legally with all the fees and import taxes paid, drives with a state-mandated license and refuels the car with heavily taxed gas. You can truly get analysis paralysis if you start going down the list of everything the state requires for cars themselves, their fuel and all the regulations in regards to simply being a worker.

Critics might say this is a measurement of how "unpure" my Agorism is, depending on what the critics value the most. I see it rather as a measurement of state-involvement in taxi-drivers life and how my action seeks to separate me and the driver from this.

The Agorist Calculation Problem in this instance would be a numbers game trying to track how much state involvement I was involved in on the backend, but I don't need to whip out an abacus and make a complicated recount to know who isn't getting a cut in the final exchange in the taxi-example. Every step we separate from the state on our way to the final product is great, but Something is better than Nothing and I rarely let perfect stand in the way of good enough.

The immune system of the Agora

"Now, assuming the government doesn't start clamping down on those selling in the agora, they will just tax those above board even more. There will always be a ceiling for how much the agora can grow with the existence of a state" - Jim Jesus [4]

I count Jim Jesus as one of the sane and sound critics of the Agorist strategy and I wish there were more of those because it is so valuable to be challenged in your "faith" with good arguments that make you think.

Is there a ceiling for how much the agora can grow with the existence of a state? Yes and no - This is the second side to the Agorist Calculation Problem: the external one.

In a large enough population, there will always be conservative individuals and groups that prefer the "good old ways" to anything new - There are still royalists here in Norway that insist we pay the upkeep of a castle for rich blue bloods in 2019!

So, when we are counting all the heads you will always find those that want to bow theirs, that wants to outsource thinking, security, and liberty to some higher centralized power - That is the natural ceiling for the agora, as I see it. The external side of the Agorist Calculation Problem is an insistence on that everyone or (close to everyone) needs to board the train before we can leave the station.  That is, simply put, impossible by pure math.

However, no, there is no ceiling on how large the agora can grow if we go beyond counting heads. With a good-enough immune system of the agora.

If the state can't tax my income, my industry is shielded with camouflage and good neighbors; When the immune system of the agora itself is so intact that any state-monopoly claims are irrelevant, there is no ceiling - We might as well take off the roof and let in more sun.

The state doesn't need to end for everyone, just internally between Agorists and whoever wants to trade with Agorists. The formal economy can't compete with their handcuffs on - Smugglers, homebrewers, guerilla gardeners, kitchen counter chemists, illegal bookies, and other Unregulated can undercut the white market, or even provide something the Regulated can't. Everyone trading in that space will come out with more expected value per buck put in.

If we interpret Konkin 'End of the State' as absolute and for everyone, we tangle ourselves into the Agorist Calculation Problem purely by the impossibility of the math involved - Not all humans want to be responsible for their own lives and live in a voluntary world. I can round up plenty of people that don't want to concern themselves with who builds and manages the roads, just that they are built. The state will never end for those people. Let them keep it.

- Alex Utopium


[1] Non-regulated Prostitutes, tax evaders and people speeding all participate in counter-economics under Konkin's umbrella.

[2] Konkin in his reply to Rothbard.

[3] Uber did this in Norway to the point that the app and company got banned (with the exception of Uber Black). The Norwegian Government has now changed stance on the matter and Uber is allowed back into the fold.

[4] From his youtube-video "Opposing the Collapse; Accelerationist Libertarianism and Agorist Maximalism" (highly recommended watch and it's well worth the 15-minute investment).


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