It’s no secret I love Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. No, I am in love with them, and even view them as a way for younger generations to break free from crippling debt imposed on us. There has been so much benevolence from the Bitcoin community, and the currency has been used for everything from feeding the homeless to buying fertile chicken eggs to of course…drugs. I have no problem with anything that can be bought with Bitcoin or the notorious Silk Road. If anything, the Silk Road allowed for fairer prices and higher quality of whatever it was you were buying with efficient delivery and less casualties as opposed to going to the streets for drugs.
Now, I have to deviate from some of my fellow libertarian and anarchist friends over the recent detainment of alleged Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts. I want to make it clear that I in no way support caging anyone for victimless crimes nor do I support the state in its current form locking anyone up for any reason. But, and this is a serious but, supporting someone who may have ordered a hit on other people is unsettling to me.
At this point, there doesn’t seem to be solid evidence that shows people lost their lives at the behest of DPR. I am comfortable saying I truly don’t know if he had people killed or not, and am willing to change my position if new evidence arises. However, it is disturbing that people are holding such allegiances to an idol in the crypto-currency world without sufficient evidence to justify their positions.
It is possible DPR was set up, that no lives were lost, and that he was detained because he was competing with the drug trade in the US. I am willing to entertain that idea, and if true, DPR would have my full support.
What is not known, however, is if the assertions of his innocence in plotting murder are true. There are known knowns and known unknowns and at the moment what is known is that DPR has been detained, that he made some serious mistakes at covering his tracks, his Bitcoin wallet has been seized (though the FBI cannot access the roughly 600,000 BTC, lol), and that he is facing some severe charges that will likely land him in prison for a very long time.
What is unknown is if someone or multiple people were killed to protect the Silk Road, yet supporters are rationalizing his actions on the assumption that it is true he ordered people to be killed. Like I said, I could get on board with the possibility that he was set up and even that the person threatening to leak client information is a total scumbag; but if the allegations are true, I cannot conscionably stand behind someone who resorts to tactics used by mafia members and federal agencies to silence opposition to an operation.
Let’s for a minute assume the allegations are true and people have been killed.
The rationalizations behind supporting a murderer, in this case a hero to many in the community, are shoddy at best and must rely on utilitarian thinking; which is often anathema to people who argue in favor of a state free society. Supporters have made the point that DPR acted in the best interests of his clients, and that the actions prevented many more lives from being ruined; therefore, hiring a hit man to kill one person or a couple people was justified. This is all hypothetical, though, because there’s even a lack proof that the person threatened was able to expose Silk Road users.
There’s also the added problem of many Silk Road users being undercover agents, which certainly adds to the idea that it might have been a set up but in no way is provable yet. How can this argument be applied consistently without violating a person’s right to self-ownership? Statists are hounded all the time for using this same logic for coercive functions of the state like taxation, regulations, drug raids, etc. Why are anarchists adopting it to be a fitting defense of DPR?
Another common argument libertarians and anarchists make is that the agents of the state are subject to the same moral codes and have the same rights as civilians. If a cop kills someone, his badge shouldn’t grant him immunity from the consequences of his decision. In order for us to be philosophically consistent, we have to apply those same standards to those in our own community who break commonly accepted moral rules…you know, like killing someone. DPR doesn’t become a brave saint protecting his clients by killing off his enemies.
Plus, if you are involved in serious black market activity, you are dealing with a greater number of criminal elements, and should expect trouble. Facilitating drug deals is extremely dangerous and because of its black market status there is a ton of violence that is done against others; moving the activity to the internet doesn’t change this factor. Inb4 but teh drug war caused this! Acting like Don Corleone doesn’t make you worthy of support because you adopt a special label that identifies you as trustworthy within a community just like badges don’t grant special rights. As much as I distrust the “official” version of events when it comes from the state (and in this case I truly want them to be wrong), it is not unreasonable that DPR would have been involved in highly criminal activity to protect his empire. Common sense must play a role in this issue given the nature of the Silk Road.
The blind support of DPR is symptomatic of a greater problem in anarchist circles. Because someone identifies as “one of us” we assume they are good guys no matter if they accumulate extreme amounts of wealth and the trappings of power that we so frequently say are the cause of corruption among politicians and other agents of the state. What makes anarchists think that people who identify as anarchists would be any different than your average person? Adopting a label doesn’t make you magically more ethical and immune from the effects of rapid wealth and power accumulation.
This excusing of harmful behavior hasn’t just been applied to DPR, but many of the most vocal modern day proponents of anarchism. There are people who have stolen from each other, broken contracts and not paid people for the work they did, turned into narcs and got other activists imprisoned, and people have defended these individuals on faulty rationale that comes down to either claiming they were just a victim of the system, outright denial, or just brushing the accusations off because they have done “so much for the movement.”
If we can throw out the personal responsibilities people have who harm others because they claim membership in a special club, then there is no consistency in the philosophy or actions of anarchism. You can’t on one hand say people shouldn’t kill each other and then on the other say, “Well, except for fellow anarchists trying to protect their clients and drug profits.”
I don’t believe every supporter of DPR is blindly supporting him, and I really, really, really want to see proof that he did in fact not have people killed. There are so many intelligent people in the crypto-currency world, and if anyone can provide this evidence I will take an honest look at it. There’s no vested interest in me being right in this discussion because if the government is actually right about DPR’s actions then it has the potential to turn the public even more against the concept of crypto-currencies. It could undermine a lot of hard work others have done to prove the legitimacy of unconventional currencies.
But I don’t want to end on a negative note, so the good news is I think Bitcoin et.al. are here to stay despite the crackdown on Silk Road, and that even more sites like it will fill in the gap for people to gain safe access to beneficial medicines on the black market. DPR is one guy who let the power go to his head (sound familiar?) and while his situation is unfortunate, it appears to be of his own making. If you’re going to be breaking the law especially if you are making millions and competing with drug cartels in the federal government, then you better be really freaking careful. It is hilarious to me that the FBI still can’t access his Bitcoin, though. I’m not switching teams here or anything because DPR might be a murderer.
Thankfully, the future of crypto-currencies is bright and isn’t solely defined by what some people choose to purchase with them. Many vendors are still happy to accept them and many more will start. While I’m not a believer in the complete innocence of DPR, I am still enthusiastic about the future of alternative currencies. I’ll still accept them for my articles and hula hoops, even if this particular post isn’t likely to earn me any tips. We can separate the dubious actions of DPR from the life changing potential/actuality of Bitcoin regardless of the outcome of this situation, and it is an excellent learning opportunity for those who may hold others humans as sinless because of their philosophical identity.