One of the hardest questions for a new agorist to answer is, “What kind of agorist business can I start?” Coming from a society that has very little entrepreneurial spirit left, which isn’t surprising when children are told their highest aspiration in life is to get a college education so they can work for somebody else, it’s not surprising that this question is so commonly asked. Hell, I still ask it (although I’ve finally got some solid ideas). In my experience the first step in answering that question is identifying a market with relatively high demand, a low entry fee, and an abundance of regulatory burden.
Beer is a good example. Drinking is a common pastime for people, getting into home brewing is affordable for people of even modest means, and there’s a massive amount of regulatory burden:
In a video posted in September by the group Learn Liberty, two college professors break down the cost of a brew to reveal who and what is responsible for that price tag.
According to Peter Jaworski of Georgetown University and Christopher Koopman of George Mason University School of Law, the answer is simple: taxes.
Koopman says that up to 44% of the cost of a beer can be attributed to federal, state, and local taxes. Furthermore, Koopman says that beer is “one the most highly regulated industries across the country,” which causes additional problems for craft breweries.
Any market where 44 percent of the cost comes from taxes is a good place to start when you’re not interested in collecting taxes. The real barrier to entry in the beer market is learning how to brew a halfway decent beer. Fortunately we’re living in a renaissance period for home brew. Information on getting start is not only widely available but the people who already know how to do it are usually happy to teach newcomers (especially if they’re selling brewing equipment or otherwise profiting from teaching).
Some may be concerned that the home brew market is saturated at this point. If everybody who brewed beer sold their creation under the table for profit that might be the case. In my experience most of the people who brew beer, like most people in general, are overly concerned with being a good law-abiding citizen and therefore do not sell their beer or sell so little that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Because of this beer is still, in my opinion, a good market for a budding agorist to dip their toes into.
I’ve been talking about the need to decentralize the Internet. Unfortunately handing so much power to a handful of domestic companies has proven to be a boon for the surveillance state. This is one of the reasons why I self-host most of my online services. I don’t like the current centralized environment and am therefore trying to walk the walk in decoupling myself from large service providers. Admittedly the current environment makes things like self-hosted e-mail questionably useful in most cases, mostly because almost everybody uses Gmail and therefore most email ends up on Google’s servers anyways, it does demonstrates the feasibility of a strategy (and as I wrote elsewhere every revolution has a humble beginning).
For the purposes of this post I’m going to create a phrase that’s probably already being used unknown to me: micro hosting. Micro hosting is an idea that came to me at AgoraFest after hearing a speaker urging agorists to develop a million one dollar ideas instead of one million dollar idea. A micro host is some schmuck like me with a server, a business Internet connection, and knowledge in system administration providing services to a handful of people. The key to this model is that you have a million small hosts providing services instead of one large host. Decentralization not only makes it more difficult for the State’s surveillance apparatus but also makes it difficult for the state to enforce it’s massive number of regulations.
Another advantage to this model is that it could finally weaken the grip advertising has on Internet services. Each host is obviously free to develop whatever business model they choose. For people like me that business model would involve getting paid by users instead of advertisers. Under such a business model privacy becomes a feature instead of a liability since convincing customers to pay for your service over, say, Google’s would likely require assurances that you’re not snooping through their communications for advertising purposes.
Recently I’ve put out feelers to people I know who are concerned about privacy to see if there’s an interest amongst them to have me host their e-mail for a small charge. Surprisingly there has been quite a bit of interest in not just e-mail but other services as well. Since I’m already running the services the overhead of hosting more people is pretty minimal. In other words this makes for a great agorist business idea since the risks are fairly minor and the prospect of turning a profit exists.
As I move forward with this this plan I’ll post updates. My reason for this is to inspire other agorists, specifically to start a small business such as a micro host. An additional reason, of course, is to inspire other people who may not be agorists to start a micro host to help decentralize the Internet.