The Counter-Economy

The Counter-Economy is the sum of all non-aggressive Human Action which is forbidden by the State. Counter-economics is the study of the Counter-Economy and its practices.

The Counter-Economy includes the free market, the Black Market, the “underground economy,” all acts of civil and social disobedience, all acts of forbidden association (sexual, racial, cross-religious), and anything else the State, at any place or time, chooses to prohibit, control, regulate, tax, or tariff. 

The Counter-Economy excludes all State-approved action (the “White Market”) and the Red Market (violence and theft not approved by the State). As more people reject the State’s mystifications — nationalism, pseudo-Economics, false threats, and betrayed political promises — the Counter- Economy grows both vertically and horizontally. 

Horizontally, it involves more and more people who turn more and more of their activities toward the counter-economic; vertically, it means new structures (businesses and services) grown specifically to serve the Counter-Economy (safe communication links, arbitrators, insurance for specifically “illegal” activities, protection technology, and even guards and protectors).

Derrick Broze defines the concepts of horizontal and vertical agorism in more detail in his essay, aptly titled “Vertical and Horizontal Agorism.” In that essay, he explains that horizontal agorism, “is related to the bold choice to pursue action that the State considers to be illegal or immoral. 

“By venturing into this territory you are joining the ranks of the bootlegger, the moonshiner, the cannabis dealer, the guerilla gardener, the unlicensed lawn mower, food vendor, or barber, the weapons dealer, and the crypto-anarchists.” 

This is essentially agorism as Konkin defined it but since then it has become so much more. It is in vertical agorism that we discover a departure from the traditional agorist rejections of the white market. 

Vertical agorism is heavily inspired by the work of Karl Hess, such as his experiments in sustainability on the neighborhood level and his books summarizing those experiences, “Community Technology” and “Neighborhood Power.” 

As such, the focus is on sustainability and community self-reliance and is not restricted to only the black and grey markets. Vertical agorism would include participating in and creating community exchange networks, urban farming, backyard gardening, farmers markets, supporting alternatives to the police, and supporting peer to peer decentralized technologies. 

It includes many of the things Broze already listed when describing vertical agorism: community exchange networks, urban farming, backyard gardening, farmers markets, alternatives to the police, and p2p decentralized technologies. 

But it is so much more than that. Cryptocurrency is largely a white market venture and yet it is championed as a prime example of agorism. The Industrial Workers of the World is lauded by Konkin himself as a perfect example of an agorist labor union and yet they are legally registered with the state and more often than not organized within the law. 

Decentralized social networking sites such as Minds and Steemit, decentralized renewable energy sources, biohacking, permaculture, hacker/maker spaces, community sharing programs, alternative models of exchange including gift economies, local exchange trading systems (LETS), mutual banking, labor notes, and precious metals, alternative and complementary medicines, unschooling/homeschooling, Tor, free stores, alternative media, and worker-owned businesses are all examples of white market agorism.

In a technological landscape dominated by only a few tech businesses, free and open-source technology is counter-economic.

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