Well it’s finally happened. The feds have busted the world’s largest black market drug bazaar, Silk Road, and imprisoned it’s administrator Ross William Ulbricht, aka “The Dread Pirate Roberts”. I guess you can only remain in the crosshairs of leviathan for so long before they get you.
There’s certainly reason to be disappointed. For many people, including myself, the Silk Road was never about drugs (I never made any purchases on the site). It was about standing up to the bullies in the Federal government. About taking a stand against the government’s grossly immoral and self-destructive “war on drugs”. The Silk Road was a symbol of freedom. Testament to man’s desire to live free and capacity to do so despite the overwhelming odds.
The Dread Pirate Roberts himself was also an incredible source of inspiration. Not only did he put his liberty on the line so that people could peacefully trade with each other, but he frequently gave us incredibly inspiring prose like this:
Don’t be tempted by this short-term easy fix of “let the government handle it.” Their time is coming to an end. The future is OUR time. Let us take this opportunity they’ve given us to gain a foothold from which we can throw that yoke off completely. We are NOT beasts of burden to be taxed and controlled and regulated. WE are free spirits! We DEMAND respect! The future can be a time where the human spirit flourishes, unbridled, wild and free! Don’t be so quick to put on that harness and pull for the parasites.
If prohibition is lifted, where will you be? Will you forget about all this revolution stuff? Will you go back to ignoring that itching feeling that something isn’t right, that men in uniforms and behind desks have just a bit too much control over your life, and are taking more and more of your sovereignty every day? Will you go back to thinking that taxes are as inevitable as death and the best you can do is to pull as hard as you can for them until you mind, body and spirit are all used up? Or will you feel the loss, as one more wild west frontier comes under the dominion of the enemy, and redouble your efforts to stop it?
I know where I’ll be. I won’t rest until children are born into a world where oppression, institutional violence and control, world war, and all the other hallmarks of the state are as ancient history as pharaohs commanding armies of slaves. The drug war merely brings to light their nature and shows us who they really are. Legalizing it won’t change that and will only make them stronger. Hold on to what you DO have, and stand for the freedom you deserve!”
DPR was a genuine hero to so many people, including myself. That’s why the worst part of today is the government’s allegations that he solicited murder-for-hire in dealing with an extortionist. While the Canadian government claims no murder actually took place, it seems pretty clear from the transcript that was his intention. Some redditors are claiming that the “hitman” was also the same person trying to extort him, playing both angles. Others have speculated that DPR might have known this and played him back to lower the extortion fee from $500k to $150k. Who knows.
It should go without saying that contract killing isn’t cool. What a way to completely ruin your reputation. Absent this aspect of the today’s events, I have no doubt that we would’ve seen “I am Ross Ulbricht” signs right next to the “I am Edward Snowden” and “I am Chelsea Manning” signs. Now anyone who dares lament the seizure of Silk Road will be seen as throwing in with a common criminal and murderer. What an unfortunate way for it to end.
Still there are some questions I have about exactly how the Feds busted him. From Business Insider:
In June 2013, Ulbricht allegedly logged into Silk Road from an Internet Cafe in San Francisco. From there the feds traced his Gmail logs and located his home, 500 feet away, on Hickory Street in San Francisco.
What are we supposed to make of that? Were they spying on every single person who logged into Silk Road and snooping through all their emails or were they tracking him before this? [Update: Looks like they got his email from the bitcoin talk forum. The username he used (and linked his email to) was also used to promote Silk Road in the beginning.]
In July 2013, the FBI located the Silk Road server and copied an image of it — all its contents, in other words. They discovered 957,000 registered accounts on the server, of which at least 30% were from the U.S.
How did they do that? The whole point of a Tor hidden service is that you aren’t supposed to be able to find the server. Did something else give away it’s location or did they break Tor? Should all hidden services be considered vulnerable? Googling around, I can’t find any more information on this. [Update: The complaint doesn’t say, but they may have found the server by tracking DPR’s financial transactions to see which hosting companies he was paying.]
Either way, this is still a very depressing day. I’m sure another entrepreneur will come along and fill the void left by Silk Road. Hopefully, this next person will learn from DPR’s mistakes. Still, it just won’t be the same without stuff like this:
For years I was frustrated and defeated by what seemed to be insurmountable barriers between the world today and the world I wanted. I searched long and hard for the truth about what is right and wrong and good for humanity. I argued with, learned from, and read the works of brilliant people in search of the truth. It’s a damn hard thing to do too with all of the misinformation and distractions in the sea of opinion we live in. But eventually I found something I could agree with whole heartedly. Something that made sense, was simple, elegant and consistent in all cases. I’m talking about the Austrian Economic theory, voluntaryism, anarcho-capitalism, agorism etc. espoused by the likes of Mises and Rothbard before their deaths, and Salerno and Rockwell today.
From their works, I understood the mechanics of liberty, and the effects of tyranny. But such vision was a curse. Everywhere I looked I saw the State, and the horrible withering effects it had on the human spirit. It was horribly depressing. Like waking from a restless dream to find yourself in a cage with no way out. But I also saw free spirits trying to break free of their chains, doing everything they could to serve their fellow man and provide for themselves and their loved ones. I saw the magical and powerful wealth creating effect of the market, the way it fostered cooperation, civility and tolerance. How it made trading partners out of strangers or even enemies. How it coordinates the actions of every person on the planet in ways too complex for any one mind to fathom to produce an overflowing abundance of wealth, where nothing is wasted and where power and responsibility are directed to those most deserving and able. I saw a better way, but knew of no way to get there.
I read everything I could to deepen my understanding of economics and liberty, but it was all intellectual, there was no call to action except to tell the people around me what I had learned and hopefully get them to see the light. That was until I read “Alongside night” and the works of Samuel Edward Konkin III. At last the missing puzzle piece! All of the sudden it was so clear: every action you take outside the scope of government control strengthens the market and weakens the state. I saw how the state lives parasitically off the productive people of the world, and how quickly it would crumble if it didn’t have it’s tax revenues. No soldiers if you can’t pay them. No drug war without billions of dollars being siphoned off the very people you are oppressing.
For the first time I saw the drug cartels and the dealers, and every person in the whole damn supply chain in a different light. Some, especially the cartels, are basically a defacto violent power hungry state, and surely would love nothing more than to take control of a national government, but you average joe pot dealer, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, that guy became my hero. By making his living outside the purview of the state, he was depriving it of his precious life force, the product of his efforts. He was free. People like him, little by little, weakened the state and strengthened the market.
It wasn’t long, maybe a year or two after this realization that the pieces started coming together for the Silk Road, and what a ride it has been. No longer do I feel ANY frustration. In fact I am at peace in the knowledge that every day I have more I can do to breath life into a truly revolutionary and free market than I have hours in the day. I walk tall, proud and free, knowing that the actions I take eat away at the infrastructure that keeps oppression alive.
We are like a little seed in a big jungle that has just broken the surface of the forest floor. It’s a big scary jungle with lots of dangerous creatures, each honed by evolution to survive in the hostile environment known as human society. All manner of corporation, government agency, small family businesses, anything that can gain a foothold and survive. But the environment is rapidly changing and the jungle has never seen a species quite like the Silk Road. You can see it, but you can’t touch it. It is elusive, yet powerful, and we are evolving at a rapid clip, experimenting, trying to find sturdy ground we can put roots down in.
Will we and others like us someday grow to be tall hardwoods? Will we reshape the landscape of society as we know it? What if one day we had enough power to maintain a physical presence on the globe, where we shunned the parasites and upheld the rule of law, where the right to privacy and property was unquestioned and enshrined in the very structure of society. Where police are our servants and protectors beholden to their customers, the people. Where pace our leaders earn their power and responsibility in the harsh and unforgiving furnace of the free market and not from behind a gun, where the opportunities to create and enjoy wealth are as boundless as one’s imagination.
Some day, we could be a shining beacon of hope for the oppressed people of the world just as so many oppressed and violated souls have found refuge here already. Will it happen overnight? No. Will it happen in a lifetime? I don’t know. Is it worth fighting for until my last breath. Of course. Once you’ve seen what’s possible, how can you do otherwise? How can you plug yourself into the tax eating, life sucking, violent, sadistic, war mongering, oppressive machine ever again? How can you kneel when you’ve felt the power of your own legs? Felt them stretch and flex as you learn to walk and think as a free person? I would rather live my life in rags now than in golden chains. And now we can have both! Now it is profitable to throw off one’s chains, with amazing crypto technology reducing the risk of doing so dramatically. How many niches have yet to be filled in the world of anonymous online markets? The opportunity to prosper and take part in a revolution of epic proportions is at our fingertips!
I have no one to share my thoughts with in physical space. Security does not permit it, so thanks for listening. I hope my words can be an inspiration just as I am given so much by everyone here.