Markets Ripe for Agorism

Modern markets are fundamentally unfree. Most libertarians and anarchists realise this, and see that centuries of systemic state intervention have created infrastructures that are wasteful, coercive and destructive. The majority of capitalist markets, rather than developing through spontaneous order, are in fact borne out these infrastructures, growing as deformed appendages that have some elements of competition and ground-up innovation, but mostly being suited toward government-created and subsidised corporations who are so capital intensive that they rely on and use these infrastructures to keep their profitability, and with it their monopoly status.

In a world of climate change, extremely high levels of waste, stagnating innovation and the increasing precarity of large sections of the world population, these markets are kept alive by gargantuan states and starved taxpayers. They rely on cheap, abused labour in East Asia and South America, and on the continuing use of diminishing resources. Energy, water and shelter, three of the most important things for human survival, are locked in these statist-market processes where water is being used in increasingly more wasteful ways (usually for the vagaries of industry, agribusiness and corporate supply chains[1]), planning laws are continually outlawing new home ideas and homes for the homeless, and the world is still reliant on fossil fuels.

These markets are ripe for the activity of black market entrepreneurs and illegal communities who can develop significant independence away from the state. In creating these markets, spaces of economic and political freedom can be developed, curtailing the power of the state and moving toward off-the-grid, independent communities and neighbourhoods akin to the concepts of Eric Wichman.

Energy is already being honed in as an area for agorist activity. The development of standalone power systems means that communities no longer need to link up to state-created electricity grids, instead providing their own power with their choice of electricity variability and pricing. Guerrilla Solar is a movement that has begun using photovoltaic energy production in unlinked solar panels. They want “to place energy made from sunshine, wind and falling water on this planet’s utility grids with or without permission from utilities or governments”[2], thus creating a form of independence that previously might never have been possible. New technological advances are increasingly making solar and wind energy significantly more intensive. Combined with new metering technologies which place the use and pricing mechanisms of electricity increasingly into the hands of those who use it, new markets can grow out of this, as they already have with the Guerrilla Solar movement and the market for off-the-grid photovoltaic technology. Equally, new hydrogen fuel cell technology may well be profitable for black market entrepreneurs in creating new electricity grids and markets. Such fuel cells have the capacity to power streets of houses, with this power being scaled up consistently. Unfortunately, as is the way with developing technologies, patent after patent and regulation after regulation has been placed on hydrogen fuel cells. However, with their burgeoning use in cars, entrepreneurs may well be able to illegally deconstruct and redevelop this technology for homes and community power grids, putting the blueprints for such technology online in open source platforms.

In a similar vein, water is an area in need of new entrepreneurial and illegal activity. Increasing amounts of water are being wasted to keep corporate supply chains and large, corporate farming as the major economic actors in the global economy. With this, they are developing a larger ecological footprint as we see more issues of drought and water scarcity[3]. There already exist off-the-grid ways of illegally collecting water and using it in one’s own community. Rainwater collection and directly taking water from local lakes and reservoirs has been something done for centuries. The state however, in its infinite wisdom, is already declaring such means illegal[4], forcing homeowners to connect themselves to municipal or private water mains. The best way to deal with this challenge is to simply continue collecting water illegally, while at the same time creating new markets and private legal systems that can push against the hegemony of the state. An Ostromite way of looking at this can mean the development of water sale markets with community members as shareholders and the water systems held as local or regional commons. Further, new metering technologies that already effect electricity can be used with water, thus developing the capacity to measure particular types of water use. This can lead to households and commons relying on cheaper local sources and using utility company sources less and less. Altogether, new markets are created with new entrepreneurial opportunities, and all of them would be illegal or semi-legal.

Housing has been subject to state planning and interference for large parts of the 20th century onwards. The myriad of planning and zoning laws effectively legislate the control of the housing market by monopolistic development and construction companies. Now these regulations are becoming even more pernicious, both ecologically and socially. On an ecological level, the way housing is designed and constructed needs a fundamental rethink. Large, energy intensive houses are becoming obsolete with the development of un-gridded electric-generation technologies. The way such houses interact with the surrounding environment usually necessitates the dredging and clearance of land, rather than housing being built into existing natural infrastructure. At a social level, there are increasing levels of homelessness in the US and the UK, as well as massive increases in rents and house prices due to government-led housing bubbles. Where there have been attempts to build box houses for those homeless, they have been ripped down by city governments based on local ordinances which forbid such activity. Similarly, housing projects which aren’t developed by favoured companies and aren’t massive in scale are rejected by local governments and banned by the stupidities of planning laws.

Despite this, there now exists open source housing development plans and software, as well as the ability to 3D print certain sections and parts. This has culminated in the Wiki House[5], a project where houses can be 3D printed and made in a box-like fashion, with all of it being left to the homeowner to decide upon. Similarly, in more rural neighbourhoods, large development firms are being shunned in favour of local alternatives, as they turn out to be cheaper and quicker due to their use of local materials and their desire to build individual housing units into the existing natural environment, rather than flattening land for massive housing projects. Again, whole new environments are created for the redevelopment of economies of scale which favour entrepreneurial activity over monopoly power. By ignoring planning laws and ordinances, housing can be pulled back into the realm of the local rather than being a tool of rentiers and corporations.

By creating a community around these off-the-grid, illegal market systems, the state becomes less able to penetrate such a tight-knitted system, forcing the state to rely on pure violence against its citizens (which in the world of 24 hour news and social media might not be as feasible as some think). In its stead exist independent communities with empowered members. As noted in 2006, 180,000 families already off-the-grid in the United States alone[6]. The state can only penetrate our lives when it has full control over the things that provide us them. As I’ve noted, the state is beginning to lose its grip, and in some cases has no interaction with communities whatsoever in these economic sectors. However, more needs to be done, and more agorist entrepreneurs need to develop technologies that pull the economy out of the hands of the state, and into the hands of the individual and their community.

[1] McKinsey & Company, The Global Corporate Water Footprint, P.3


[3] McKinsey & Company, The Global Corporate Water Footprint, P.4




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