When I say “Ross Ulbricht’s world,” I’m not referring to his present circumstances, of course; he’s presently in a prison cell. What I’m talking about is the better world that Ross was building before the US government came crashing down upon him. That’s the world I want to live in.
The Silk Road web site Ross created was never simply a business, it was a mission… and that mission was to create a better world. Even it’s immediate mission, to break the War on Drugs, was only a first step toward something much more. And so, before I explain the world he was trying to create, I’d like you to see one of Ross’ posts on the Silk Road forum to make this initial point:
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 your mind, body and spirit are all used up?
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.
Ross Ulbricht’s world is one of voluntary interactions. We all accept that model for our families and in personal interactions, but Ross wanted it to replace violence as the world’s overarching model of cooperation.
What Ross understood, but few others do, is this: We hold to the golden rule as a standard of conduct for ourselves, but we toss it away for everything outside our small circle. In a moment I’ll show you why this is true, but first I want you to understand that Ross came to this realization by a string of lucky breaks:
Ross was born to honest, loving and hard-working parents; that makes a difference. So does the fact that he was relatively undamaged as a child. He was further gifted with a fine mind. And finally, he was still young. Because of all these things, he was able to see to the truth of things others don’t.
And what Ross saw was that the world’s primary means of cooperation was all wrong. It embodied, in fact, the opposite of the golden rule. The central statement of any modern government, if we’re to be honest about it, is this: Do what we say or we’ll hurt you. We may as well call that anti-cooperation, but most of the world has been trained to see it as normal and inevitable. Ross, however, was able to see that it isn’t, and never really was.
But that wasn’t enough. In order for such feelings to pass into adult understandings, we generally need a better alternative to hold to. And Ross found that in Austrian economics. That was what gave solidity and scope to his feelings.
Here’s how Ross described this awakening (slightly condensed):
For years I was frustrated and defeated by what seemed to be insurmountable barriers between the world today and the world I wanted. But eventually I found something that made sense, was simple, elegant and consistent, the Austrian Economic theory. 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.
What Austrian economics gave Ross was an intellectually solid path from the world of Do as we say or we’ll hurt you, to a world of the golden rule writ large. That’s what drove him to build the Silk Road.
A few of us end up with unusual gifts; it really should be more of us, but so it is. The gifted (in my opinion) are obligated to use their abilities, in one way or another, to improve human life. What the rest of us may not do, is oppose and abuse them.
Unfortunately for us all, the new world Ross was building made the US government look ridiculous. Soon enough they locked him in a cage and intend on keeping him there for the rest of his life.
Those of us who can, then, need to help Ross. But even more importantly, we must never cease building the better world he devoted his gifts to.