Skip to main content

When "Liberty" is Terrifying

The NYT profiled Dread Pirate Roberts, the alleged founder of the infamous "Silk Road" website:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/business/eagle-scout-idealist-drug-trafficker.html

The most interesting part about people like Dread Pirate Roberts (aka Robert Ulbricht) is their bizarre view of liberty. Aside from his alleged willingness to murder people (one would think murdering someone would be an attack on their liberty on a much grander scale than forcing them to pay income tax), he seems genuinely disgusted by the idea of some level of democratic oversight of basic societal functions:
For centuries, consumers have been taxed by governments or overlords of one type or another, rendering unto Caesar for as long as there have been Caesars. But if Silk Road were scalable, that era was over. Or at least imperiled. Anyone would have the option to sell goods undisturbed by regulations and without sharing a percentage of revenue with the state. And why stop at drugs? The system would work for legal products, too. The tools are there for a kind of subterranean Amazon.com.
That sounds great, right? But if we look at how the website actually operated, we see that Ulbricht didn't have any problem with an "overlord" taxing transactions, so long as it was someone clever and liberty minded- someone like, umm, himself:
The site acted as an intermediary, hosting the online market and holding money in escrow until buyers confirmed that products had arrived. D.P.R. would then release the payment to the seller, keeping 8 to 15 percent of the transaction.
While the ruling class of old recognized they could make a ton of cash through a societal structure maintained and perpetuated by governments long in control of people like themselves, this new breed of would-be titans are purists. They would have society run by Platonic philosopher kings in the mold of John Galt and completely abolish even the pretense of any democracy. To me, that's the direct opposite of liberty. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Against Empire

It seems like no one outside of the “American Conservative” is thinking about the US as a declining empire. Contrary to what some thought, Trump has no interest in scaling back the US to a “normal” country. That wasn’t what MAGA meant. Quite the opposite, Trump and his goons think the post war international order isn’t US-centric enough. This is where Trump and the neoconservatives find common ground. 

What’s more interesting to me is the Democratic Party, and the liberal/left in general. The Dems are historically the war party, and they have renewed that patriotic passion in the Trump era. The shameful treatment of Ilhan Omar is a good example. This charge of her being “anti-Semitic” for questioning Israel’s influence in US foreign policy is disingenuous and disgraceful. (People are acting like we didn’t already go through this silly “debate” when Walt and Mearsheimer’s book came out over a decade ago. It’s infuriating. These are also the same people who can’t go a half an hour witho…
I’m listening to Christopher Hitchens’ fine collection of essays, “arguably.” I’d read many of these years ago, but had forgotten how good of a writer he was. Listening to him take down JFK is pure poetry. However his post 9/11 theme, that fundamentalist Islam is the threat most comparable to 20th century fascism for the enlightenment influenced democracies, stands on even shakier ground today. His realpolitik version of Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” had our enlightenment influenced democracy with Puritan characteristics as some sort of revolutionary regime spreading the best we can do to some despotic areas. It’s quite a twist that Iraq ended up being a boon to Iran, which caused the gulf monarchies to freak out. Of course Trump and his goons are now trying to make amends by demonizing Iran to an absurd degree. I wonder if America allying itself with al-Qaeda in Syria would be enough to cause Hitchens to rethink some things? Maybe his weird hatred for the Baathists extended to the…
I’m really glad to see Paulsen and Lewis gone (especially Lewis who is particularly ghoulish), but I would be much more confident if the DFL would have kept Walz’s and Nolan’s seats. Many powerful Dems were already convinced of the “suburban strategy” (basically a mad dash away from anything labeled “populist”) and the midterm results are going to make them even more zealous. The problem is that this strategy is based almost solely on moral outrage and that burns people out. It’s simply not sustainable. And while I’m sure they’re good people who know how to say the right things, I don’t trust the political instincts of Craig or Phillips. 
The Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is the most interesting thing to happen to it since Vietnam and there is a real possibility it will be manuvered into irrelevance during the 2020 nomination process. This will make the Dems turn to suburban white collar professionals complete. It will also cede all populism to the right which will open the do…