Agorism is a method of activism and a way of life that seeks to live and interact outside the system of government control through counter-economics in an effort to bring about change in the world towards anarchism.
The term was coined by Samuel Edward Konkin III (1947–2004) and comes from the word agora (Ancient Greek: ἀγορά), referring to an open place for assembly and market in a polis (Ancient Greek: πόλις; city-state).
The term was first proposed at two conferences, CounterCon I in October 1974 and CounterCon II in May 1975.
According to Konkin, agorism and counter-economics were originally fighting concepts forged in the revolutionary atmosphere of 1972 and 1973. Konkin credits the Austrian School and particularly Ludwig von Mises as the base of economic thought leading to agorism and counter-economics.[2:1]
In the 1960–1970s, there was an abundance of political alienation in the United States, particularly for those in favor of libertarian ideologies. Whereas Murray Rothbard chose to create political alliances between the Old Right and the New Left, Robert Le Fevre and his West Coast followers pursued a non-participatory form of civil disobedience.[2:2]
LeFevre's anti-collaboration methods ultimately lost favor and faded away. According to Konkin, after the creation of the Libertarian Party in 1971, the debate shifted from anarchy vs. minarchism to partyarchy vs. agorism.
The goal of agorism is the agora. The society of the open marketplace as near to untainted by theft, assault, and fraud as can be humanly attained is as close to a free society as can be achieved. And a free society is the only one in which each and every one of us can satisfy his or her subjective values without crushing others' values by violence and coercion.
-- Samuel Edward Konkin III
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).
Agorism advocates for gradual withdrawal of state support through what Konkin described as "Profitable Civil Disobedience".[2:3] Starving the state of its revenue and purpose by transferring these responsibilities over to decentralized institutions is the most feasible way to achieve free markets according to agorism:
Rather than slowly amass votes until some critical mass would allow state retreat (if the new statists did not change sides to protect their new vested interests), one could commit civil disobedience profitably, dodging taxes and regulations, having lower costs and (potentially) greater efficiency than one's statist competitors – if any.
Agorism does not support political engagement in the form of political party promotion as a means to transition to anarchism. The methods of the Libertarian Party are not compatible with agorist principles. Konkin referred to these attempts to fight for free markets through state approved channels of operation as "partyarchy":
Partyarchy, the anti-concept of pursuing libertarian ends through statist means, especially political parties.
Konkin's treatise New Libertarian Manifesto was published in 1980.[3:1] Previously, the philosophy had been presented in J. Neil Schulman's science fiction novel Alongside Night in 1979. Ayn Rand's example, presenting her ideas in the form of a work of fiction in Atlas Shrugged, had inspired Schulman to do likewise. Konkin's afterword to the novel, "How Far Alongside Night?", credited Schulman with integrating the "science of counter-economics" with Konkin's basic economic philosophy.