(This essay was originally published in the Counter-Markets Newsletter)
The reasons one chooses to opt-out out of “traditional” institutions and societal expectations vary from person to person, but generally people are looking to stop supporting systems they do not agree with. Whether we are talking financially (to avoid taxation) or philosophically (on moral grounds), many of us who live outside of the mainstream system do so because we disagree with the people running these systems, and in some cases, the system altogether.
We do not want to fund these governments by complying with taxation. We don’t want to support the monopolized banking system and the banks that rob the people. We do not want to violate our moral compass or principles by participating in these charades. So we take steps to begin removing ourselves from these systems as quickly (and safely) as possible. We each have a different goal and different perspectives on how far to push the effort to opt out and vacate these systems that promote authoritarianism and financial theft. However, what unites us is our belief that people should be free to organize their own affairs without the interference of centralized authority in the form of government or monarchs. Quite simply, we know that each of us own ourselves and should be able to live a live free of interference, extortion, threats of violence, and forced compassion.
When I came to these conclusions I had an internal shift that was so profound and simple: I will no longer participate in systems I do not support. First, I stopped using banks because I saw the results of the 2008 financial crisis and I learned about the many economic crises created by banksters throughout history. Second, refuse to use a credit card and never attempted to establish a credit line through these banks. I also stopped driving because I didn’t want to get a State ID and instead only use a passport. By the end of 2010 I came to understand the nature of war and violence being perpetuated by the American empire and decided I would no longer pay an income tax. I stopped filing and have made efforts to keep my income below the Poverty Line. I also stopped working jobs which paid me in the form of a check.
Since that time I have started a couple businesses of my own (without filing paperwork for city licenses) and only accepted cash, silver, or crypto currency. All of my income has been in metals, cash, digital payments, or bartering. Obviously, I am still paying sales tax when I am not shopping at a farmers market or buying directly from a gray market entrepreneur, but the goal is to take steps towards completely opting out. It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t come without struggles. Let’s take a moment to look at some of these struggles and the potential solutions.
First off, what are the potential downsides to not using a bank? Before we answer that question we should note that there are alternatives to the big banks, including local credit unions and co-ops. These institutions are typically more connected to the local community and not involved in economic theft. However, do your research and use at your own risk. One criticism people usually state is a lack of security when not storing funds in a traditional banking institution. The fact is you can put your trust in a banking institution and the U.S. government or you can choose to take personal responsibility and store your money under the mattress, in a safe, in a private bank, or anywhere else you please as long as you are taking proper security measures.
Beyond the security risks, there are also financial downsides to not using banks. I recently received payment in the form of a check for a media gig. Not only was I forced to visit a bank to cash the check (Bank of America, no less), but I was taxed $8 by the bank to cash my check without opening a bank account. Now, this problem is easily remedied by ongoing education about the value of not using banks (or government backed money) and the power of alternative currencies. Unfortunately, we are still at a point where not enough people know and understand these values so there are limited options in the market. The company sending the check is an old media company whose employees are ignorant to Agorist philosophy, counter-economics, and digital payment options. The likelihood of me convincing them to pay me in silver or crypto is not high. This is important to remember because until we have built a completely parallel system that offers an alternative to the current paradigm – in every area of our lives – we will occasionally have to conduct business with people who are still filing taxes and keeping a record of every financial transaction.
Another recent issue I have had encountered involves renting or purchasing property. In my case I was attempting to rent an apartment in a big city, but these obstacles apply elsewhere as well. I am in the process of moving out of a community house into my own apartment. I have rented from different people for years, but it has become increasingly difficult as I have less and less records to show to potential landlords or realtors. In the most recent case I found several potential places, contacted the property owner, and attempted to negotiate my way into a new home. I have no problem paying rent on time, but my lack of check stubs causes issues with individuals looking for traditional forms of payment.
Again, when I attempt to explain that I receive some money from supporters via Patreon, some money via this crazy thing called crypto currency, and some money in cash, they usually look at me with a confused face. I explain that I can show them payments received Paypal but that does not seem to satisfy either. From there they tend to ask they can see a bank statement. When I say no they are baffled and then ask for a tax record. When I tell them I don’t have that either they tend to look at me like I have disrespected their mother. By the end of these conversations I am being told they cannot rent to me because I have no way to verify my income.
So what is the solution to these problems? The most obvious solution is education. Those of us who value the idea that all moral people should opt out of immoral systems and create new ones ought to spend our time and energy educating others about the value of such actions. The more people who understand this concept the more entrepreneurs there are opting out and creating value in the counter-economy. Now as far as the banking situation, crypto currencies are showing the world what digital decentralized banking looks like. The more energy we put into supporting (or creating) alternative currencies – digital or otherwise – the less power the centralized banking monopolies have.
As far as solutions for renting an apartment when you live mostly outside of the system I believe blockchain technology offers hope. Blockchain is the peer to peer, digital ledger technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptos. To understand how blockchain can help we have to think about why realtors and property owners want to see documentation from a bank or a government. Trust. Security. Due to the massive amount of propaganda promoted in public schooling, most people grow up believing these institutions to be an essential part of life, if not a benevolent force in our lives. We are taught to trust and cooperate with these institutions. The average person does not trust or believe someone is authentic or valuable or rent-worthy if they do not possess such documents. So imagine if every week when I am paid for my articles I take a screenshot of the digital payment (or a picture of someone paying me cash for a job well done) and post it on a blockchain. The blockchain is decentralized so posts cannot be altered or deleted. If I continue to post my weekly income statements on a blockchain I would have a decentralized, transparent record of my history or any other documents I chose to place on the blockchain. This could already happen by making posts on a website like Steemit. If the realtor or property owner understands blockchain or is willing to learn they can feel secure because there is a record of my pay and we could even sign a contract together on the blockchain. This would allow for transparency and security on both sides.
I believe solutions like this are the future and we are starting to see this unfold. For the moment there are difficulties as we Agorist pioneers lay the groundwork for the Counter-Economy and the next stage of human evolution. Do your part to create the future by educating yourself and others on Agorism and Counter-Economics.