Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The people's man!

                                         (credit: mnhs.org)

 

 In very general terms, I talked a tad bit of shit about Minnesota's "greatest" governor Floyd B. Olson in CounterPunch a couple weeks ago (see post below). Somewhat surprisingly (I assumed most people thought of Olson as the name of a highway), I received a few emails, in state and out, informing me I pretty much had no clue what I was talking about. True, if you compare Olson to Mark Dayton (who I find likable), he comes off as a scary Bolshevik. But that's hardly a correct comparison. Olson was governor when labor was at the peak of both its consciousness and political power. In that context, he was more like a brake than a spearhead. He was a check on power. (He threw labor leaders in jail during the '34 Teamster Strike while business leaders were literally killing people on the streets for god's sake.) I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given Minnesota's bizarre compulsion to turn politicians into faultless martyrs. (Cough, Wellstone, cough.)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Short History of the Minnesota-Farmer-Labor Party

I wrote a brief history on an important, and relevant, part of our history for Counterpunch. Read it here!