This essay was submitted as part of the First Annual Libertas Essay Contest, with cash prizes totaling $2,000! You can view all of the essay submissions here.
This essay won the $500 people's choice prize for receiving the most Facebook "likes" during the contest.
There is no doubt that liberty is in peril in our day and age. From local level all the way up to the national, government is by far the greatest cause of this peril. From thousands upon thousands of pages of bureaucratic regulations, to out of control taxation that the Founding Fathers wouldn’t have been able to comprehend, to outright theft of property, indefinite detention, and even the targeted killing of American citizens, it is without a doubt that government is the number one source of coercion and violent intervention in our everyday lives.
The philosophy of liberty is relatively simple compared to other political dogma: you have the right to control your life, also known as self-ownership. All other legitimate rights derive from this. Liberty is coupled with self-ownership, and property is the product of your life and liberty. The only proper role of government is to uphold these rights. Anything other than this is illegitimate, morally bankrupt, and a threat to us, our liberty, and property.
For too long, people have held misplaced value in false principles. Democracy and working within the political/legal system are two of the most noteworthy of these. Democracy is simply mob rule, indifferent to rights and with no moral merit. The other predominant misplaced value is in the false principle of working within the current system to bring about reform. Regrettably, it’s been historically shown that mere tinkering within the system doesn’t produce noticeable results for liberty.
When was the last time the size and scope of government was reduced? Not in my lifetime. Sure, you can win the small battles, by getting some “good guys” elected, but for every victory there are a dozen defeats, and no one can stay in office forever. You might get one or two genuine statesmen in Congress, but their efforts on behalf of liberty are futile. You can have Ron Paul giving brilliant speeches before Congress, but that doesn’t make us freer.
Education is indeed important, but education by itself is worthless without action. Mere education and working within the political system are not only futile strategies to bring about a freer world, but they are also simply not ways to live free in an unfree world. But what does make us more free?
The only perceivable way I see to live free in an unfree world is to opt out. Civil disobedience and counter-economics not only are ways to make the world freer, but also allow one to be free in a world that otherwise isn’t. This strategy is known as Agorism.
Agorism is basically the idea of reducing your government footprint – to engage in trade that isn’t regulated or monitored by the government, to avoid funding the government as much as possible, etc. There’s a saying that goes “good people disobey bad laws”.
Agorism is fundamentally based on the premise that there is no legitimacy whatsoever to bad laws – laws that violate natural rights. A government’s unjust power lies solely in the acknowledging of it. By ignoring an illegitimate authority, you do not empower it. If enough people chose not to see authority from it, it becomes nothing more than a gang or mafia. And if enough people resist the thuggery perpetrated by this gang of thieves writ large? It will exist no more.
Agorism works as not only a short term way to obtain freedom in an unfree world, but as a long-term strategy for liberty to be reclaimed. You are taking freedom back immediately when you decide to disregard immoral restrictions on your trade. For example – you have every right to purchase and consume raw milk and unpasteurized cheese; and by finding a way to avoid the prying eye of government, and choosing to consume goods that are the victims of government prohibition – you have made yourself instantly freer.
Avoiding paying taxes is another way to practice Agorism. There is nothing immoral about figuring out clever ways to keep more of your money. This also gives you more freedom instantly – more financial freedom to do more with the product of your life and your liberty. And at the same time is a long term strategy to restore liberty. Cutting off funding is the most logical and efficient way to bring down an organization. The less revenue a government has, the less it has to spend on resources to increase the scope of its power. So vote with your wallet to not fund tyranny and oppression.
Last year, Silk Road – an online black market – was put in the media spotlight for openly practicing the strategy of Agorism – in a digital realm where there is no recourse for the government to shut down the website, know who the website’s users are, or be able to track the transfer of money. In spite of being threatened by politicians and bureaucrats, the marketplace is still accessible to this day. A recent Forbes editorial even estimates the market volume at over 22 million dollars. And while that may be pocket change when it comes to government finances today, that’s money that isn’t going to fund more extortion, and isn’t being spent on bombs to kill civilians in 3rd world countries.
There are countless ways to opt-out and take back your liberty through this strategy. Grow a garden, barter, find ways to work without government licensing, etc. Giving a haircut without a government license makes you an Agorist. If you raise chickens, and sell their eggs to your neighbors without paying taxes or having the FDA inspect your eggs that counts as well. Do you home-school, or even further – not have a curriculum for your kids? If you do, you’re practicing Agorism.
It’s not about being isolated, off the grid – or the inverse, violently opposing government. It’s about simply living your life and opting out where you can. The more we opt out, the less resources the government has, and the less tyranny will exist in our society.
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