“Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to make their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they individually saw fit. [It] turned out to be a naive and costly idea that I deeply regret.” ~Ross in sentencing letter to his judge
The internet’s first successful global black market was Silk Road, a website founded by ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ the web pseudonym of Ross Ulbricht.
Currently 34 years-old, Ross is serving a double life sentence plus 40 years in federal prison as a political prisoner of the United States. At its root, his crime is that he created a place where people around the world could engage in trade with each other without the oversight of the state. It was an experiment in true privacy and voluntary association that worked so well the state shut it down and inhumanely punished Ross for thinking outside of the statist matrix.
You see, the state is control by force of violence. The lives so many of us enjoy are in effect curated by the laws, regulations and whims of the state, and so long as we don’t think too deeply about the possibility of a stateless world with a truly free economy, Uncle Sam (or Uncle Joe, or Chariman Mao, or whomever) is happy to let us graze in his wide pastures. Should we stray to far, we can expect to be severely beaten as an example to others who might be considering the same.
More than anything, Ross committed thought crimes. That is, he clearly articulated why the state has no place in the lives of truly free, sovereign human beings, and proposed and executed on ideas to realize this vision for humanity.
Read the following quotes by Dread Pirate Roberts to better understand why the state threw the book at Ross, and to understand why the state must at all costs stamp out certain ideas should they prove to be real-world, viable alternatives to the violence and coercion of state control.
1.) On the Libertarian principles on which Silk Road was founded:
“Silk Road was founded on libertarian principles and continues to be operated on them. It is a great idea and a great practical system…It is not a utopia. It is regulated by market forces, not a central power (even I am subject to market forces by my competition. No one is forced to be here). The same principles that have allowed Silk Road to flourish can and do work anywhere human beings come together. The only difference is that the State is unable to get its thieving murderous mitts on it.” [10/1/2012]
2.) On the War on Drugs and agorism:
“Silk Road has already made an impact on the war on drugs. The effect of the war is to limit people’s access to controlled substances. Silk Road has expanded people’s access. The great thing about agorism is that it is a victory from a thousand battles. Every single transaction that takes place outside the nexus of state control is a victory for those individuals taking part in the transaction. So there are thousands of victories here each week and each one makes a difference, strengthens the agora, and weakens the state.” [9/23/2012]
3.) On fighting state power with ingenuity:
As a community, if we are going to survive, we need to adopt a LONG TERM vision. Getting the most out of this thing before it gets taken down is NOT going to bring us success. In that world, Silk Road will be a shooting star that burns out quickly and dies as little more than a dream, swallowed by the nightmare reality of an ever-expanding, all-powerful global oligarchy. Planning ahead and doing everything we can NOW to prepare for the war to come is the only way we are going to have a shot at this. We are still mostly ignored by our true enemies, but this incubation WILL NOT last forever.
I don’t like writing this kind of stuff publicly because it taunts our enemies and might spur them into action, but I risk it because the context for what we are doing is too often lost in the day to day stuff that happens here and it needs to be put in from time to time. Silk Road NEEDS our support. It needs everything we have. The return on what we put into it will be immeasurable if we can get through the months and years ahead and gain a real foothold on the global stage. HELP ME GET US THERE!!! Do it for me, do it for yourself, do it for your families and friends, and do it for mankind.” [1/11/2012]
4.) On the potential for a state ban on Tor or Bitcoin:
“The state may try to ban our tools, but if we never use them for fear of them being banned, then we have already lost, no? Personally, I don’t think they can be effectively banned at this point. Iran and China, for example, are actively trying and failing.” [9/23/2012]
5.) On the right to self defense:
“We at Silk Road have no moral objection to the sale of small-arm weaponry. We believe that an individual’s ability to defend themselves is a cornerstone of a civil society. Without this, those with weapons with eventually walk all over defenseless individuals. It could be criminals who prey on others, knowing they are helpless. It could be police brutalizing people with no fear of immediate reprisal. And as was seen too many times in the last century, it could be an organized government body committing genocide on an entire unarmed populace. Without the ability to defend them, the rest of your human rights will be eroded and stripped away as well.
That being said, there is no reason we have to force everyone into a one-size-fits-all market where one group has to compromise their beliefs for the benefit of another. That’s the kind of narrow thinking currently used by governments around the world. It’s why we are in this mess in the first place. The majority in many countries feel that drugs and guns should be illegal or heavily regulated, so the minority suffers.” [2/26/2012]
6.) On honoring the most important member of society, the individual:
“Here at Silk Road, we recognize the smallest minority of all, YOU! Every person is unique, and their human rights are more important than any lofty goal, any mission, or any program. An individual’s rights ARE the goal, ARE the mission, ARE the program. If the majority wants to ban the sale of guns on Silk Road, there is no way we are going to turn our backs on the minority who needs weaponry for self defense.” [2/26/2012]
7.) On the Federal Reserve banking system:
“The Federal Reserve system relies on the force of government to maintain its monopoly power on the issuance of money. This is how all central banks maintain their control. Without the state’s involvement, people would be free to use whatever currency they like. Historically this was gold. If the founders of the fed tried to do what they did w/o the Federal Reserve Act legislation, and later the Brenton Woods agreement, they would have failed miserably. No one would have bought into their system.
In fact, this is the beauty of libertarianism. The people are free to choose what system they want. No need for one size fits all government solutions. If you want to use a debt based inflationary monetary system, go right ahead, doesn’t affect me so long as you don’t try to force me to use it as well.” [1/30/2013]
8.) On the problem with the U.S. Constitution:
“I have a pet theory about where the framers went wrong. First off, I can’t applaud them enough for what they accomplished given the circumstances. It’s easy to critique centuries later, supported by the wealth their system allowed to emerge. But I wonder how things would have happened differently had the constitution been 100% voluntary. As in, here are the rules our members live by and how those rules are amended. If you want to be in the club, you must pay your dues and follow the rules, but if you want to go it alone, or join a different club, we won’t bother you unless you bother us, and you are free to go at any time.” [10/16/2012]
9.) On the need for conscious agorism:
“Anything you do that is outside the control of the state is agorist, so in some sense we are all agorists whether we know it or not. Some people just take those actions because of the personal gain they can obtain, which is perfectly fine, but some do it as a conscientious objection and act of rebellion against the state as well.
I’m out to turn unconscious agorists into conscious active ones. :)” [10/04/2012]
10.) On the so-called positive benefits of warfare:
“There is an important point you are overlooking in your assessment of the positive benefits of warfare, and that is the costs, both seen and unseen. The seen costs are obvious: death and destruction. However, the unseen costs alone make the benefits you mentioned not worthwhile. That unseen cost is lost demand in the private sector. It’s simple: the resources used in warfare are unavailable to private individuals. We have no idea what people would’ve done with the trillions of dollars worth of resources that have gone into blowing people and things up, not to mention the resources that were directly destroyed. Considering the efficiency with which people competing in the market operate, and the inefficiency of the military bureaucracy, I suspect that the innovation and wealth produced by a world without war would make any advances the military has made look negligible.” [10/11/2012]
11.) On how to fix TSA and airport security:
“Here’s a market solution for ya: hold airlines accountable for any destruction that comes about as a result of misuse of their planes or other property. They would then insure against it and actuaries would be able to put a price on this potential cost and the risk reduction of security measures in airports so airlines could make economic decisions about what measures to take. Customers would also get a say as they choose their airlines based on cost vs. security measures taken.” [10/11/2012]
12.) On the paradigm of large corporations wielding so much political and social power:
“The people who run corporations, heads of state, the person selling you food, you, me and every human being are all fallible and capable of using power to dominate other people. Liberty is not a pill that makes men angels. What it does do is limit the extent to which evil can be expressed in the world. Right now, in any given geographic area, we have a monopoly on many of the most vital social institutions that is maintained through violence. If voluntary organizations consolidate their power and turn on their customers and start stealing from them, putting them in cages, killing them, spying on them and telling them what they can and can’t do, well then we’re back to where we started, the present day state. But, if I am correct, and the pressure for those firms to compete with one another for our favor leads them to serve us, then we can have freedom and prosperity the likes of which the world has never known.” [10/3/2012]
13.) On the police state vs. free market security:
“State police scare the hell out of me. Who would you trust more, someone who you paid to protect you and who’s livelihood depends on your continuing to pay them, or someone who steals from you (taxes), buys guns with the money (FBI, DEA, ATF, Military, local and state police, etc.), and then forces you to do things against your will when you are not hurting anyone else?
…Bullies are bad and should be spanked.” [10/1/2012]
14.) On why we need true government not a monopoly of force:
“This may shock some of you to hear coming from me, but we absolutely NEED government, and good government at that. In fact, the services the current governments of the world monopolize or regulate are some of the most demanded and needed: security/defense, law, dispute resolution, education, healthcare, transportation, utilities, quality control etc.
The question I present to you is, do we want a single entity monopolizing the provision of all of these critical goods and services, or do we want a choice?” [9/29/2012]
15.) On legalizing, taxing drugs, and ending the war on drugs:
“I keep hearing this argument come up when people talk about drug prohibition: legalize, regulate and tax it. On the surface it sounds like a good idea. No more drug war, more tax revenue, government regulators can make sure it is safe. Makes sense, right?
I can’t help but think something is wrong though. Feels like the bastards that have been screwing everyone over all this time still win in this scenario. Now all that money can go to the state and to their cronies, right?
Here’s the rub: the drug war is an acute symptom of a deeper problem, and that problem is the state. If they “legalize, regulate and tax” it, it’s just one more part of society under their thumb, another productive sector that they can leech off of.
If prohibition is lifted, most people here will go away. You’ll go back to your lives and get your drugs from whatever state certified dispensaries are properly licensed to sell to you. Drug use will be as interesting as smoking and drinking.
Here’s my point: Silk Road is about something much bigger than thumbing your nose at the man and getting your drugs anyway. It’s about taking back our liberty and our dignity and demanding justice. If prohibition is lifted, and the drug industry is placed under the yoke of the state, then we won in a small way, but lost in a big way. Right now, drugs are ours. They aren’t tainted by the government. We the people control their manufacture, distribution and consumption. We should be looking to expand that control, taking back our power, no giving what is ours to the very people that have been our enemies all along.
It’s easy to justify though. Think of all the horrors the war on drugs has caused that will be gone, almost instantly. That pain could stop!
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!” [4/29/2012]