Counter-economics is a term originally used by Samuel Edward Konkin III and J. Neil Schulman, libertarian activists and theorists. Konkin defined it as "the study and/or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State."[citation needed] The term is short for "counter-establishment economics". Counter-economics was integrated by Schulman[1] into Konkin's doctrine of agorism, to form what they call a revolutionary variant of market anarchism.[2]

The term counter-economics is also used in a separate but arguably compatible sense to refer to addressing social justice and sustainability concerns in a market context, although one more generally counter-establishment rather than explicitly illegal.

In both senses, it can include non-monetary forms of exchange, such as a barter economy or a gift economy.



The first presentations of the theory of counter-economics were made by Samuel Edward Konkin III at two conferences organized by J. Neil Schulman, CounterCon I in 1974 and CounterCon II in 1975, both held in Cheshire, Massachusetts. Other speakers at these conferences included Robert LeFevre, Kenneth Kalcheim, and Dennis Turner.

The first book to portray counter-economics as a strategy for achieving a libertarian society was J. Neil Schulman's 1979 novel Alongside Night.

Relationship with agorism

Konkin's agorism, as exposited in his New Libertarian Manifesto,[3] postulates that the correct method of achieving a market anarchist society is through advocacy and growth of the underground economy or "black market" -- the "counter-economy" as Konkin put it—until such a point that the State's perceived moral authority and outright power have been so thoroughly undermined that revolutionary market anarchist legal and security enterprises are able to arise from underground and ultimately suppress government as a criminal activity (with taxation being treated as theft, war being treated as mass murder, et cetera).

According to Konkin's pamphlet Counter-Economics[4]:

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).

According to Konkin, counter-economics also allows for immediate self-liberation from statist controls, to whatever degree practical, by applying entrepreneurial logic to rationally decide which laws to discreetly break and when. The fundamental principle is to trade risk for profit, although profit can refer to any gain in perceived value rather than strictly monetary gains (as a consequence of the subjective theory of value).

Various practices of counter-economics include these voluntary practices:[5]

Alternative usage

The term counter-economics is also used in a separate, though not incompatible sense to refer to addressing social justice and sustainability concerns in a market context, although one more generally counter-establishment rather than explicitly illegal. In this second sense, counter-economics has been described as "money at the service of people, instead of the other way around."[6]

According to adherents to this usage of the term, the fairness of trade can be measured by several factors:

  • The extent to which workers have a direct and ongoing say minimally in their working conditions, hours, and pay, and optimally in hiring practices, the products they make, and even what to do with profits.
  • Transparency of business practices. Consumers should be able to find out nearly anything there is to know about a company - business practices, working conditions, the make-up of goods, and more .
  • The company's willingness to use true-cost pricing, environmentally sensitive practices, and suppliers who do the same.
  • Favoring local production for local consumption, to the extent possible.

See also


External links

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