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Rejoice! The Agora is Growing!

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Have you entered a store without the mandated mask affixed to your face?

Visited a friend in violation of a lockdown order?

Frequented a New York bar that didn't offer "substantive" food to go with your beer?

Congratulations! You're a thought criminal!

And here's the best part: There are more thought criminals being born every day!

What am I talking about? The counter-economy, that's what!

As you'll no doubt remember from my previous writing on the subject, counter-economics is not what the Pentagon does to cook its books each year. No, it's both an idea and a practice that was pioneered by Samuel Edward Konkin III, everyone's second favourite Canadian emigre anarchist.

In An Agorist Primer, Konkin explains that "All (non-coercive) human action committed in defiance of the State constitutes the Counter-Economy." That's a deceptively simple definition, so let's tease out some of the nuance here:

    "Non-coercive" is important because murder, theft, assault, fraud, extortion and other forms of coercion are not part of the counter-economy, but, as Konkin notes, are simply "other forms of statism." "Human action" is important because, as Konkin was at pains to stress, counter-economics is not a dry, dusty theory to be discussed in a philosophy classroom, but an idea that can only be realized in practice. And "in defiance of the State" is important because the purpose of counter-economics is to undermine, and, eventually, shrink the state out of existence.

So, you walk into a store without a mask in defiance of your city's ordinances? Congratulations! You're a practicing counter-economist.

You pay a barber under the table to cut your hair despite lockdown orders to the contrary? Congratulations! You're a practicing counter-economist.

You're a business owner who fails to implement the government-mandated physical distancing and disinfection standards in your workplace? Congratulations! You're a practicing counter-economist.

Now, this idea could be extended to the point of inanity. Yes, you could technically be a counter-economist if you drive 51 km/h in a 50 km/h zone, but such action is less likely to be an attempt to undermine the authority of the state and more likely to be an attempt to get to a dental appointment on time.

A key part of counter-economics is that this "human action committed in defiance of the state" is consciously directed action. Its purpose is to defy the state, or to carve out a space for people to interact and transact with each other in ways that defy the state's edicts. This space-the truly free market, unfettered by concern for the state and its mandates-is the agora. Derived from the Greek word for the marketplace, the agora is the space where counter-economic activity flourishes. (But you already knew that, right?)

As Konkin puts it: "The goal is living in the agora and the path is expanding Counter-Economics."

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