In 1998, Virginia Postrel wrote a book called The Future and Its Enemies. I’d be hard-pressed to find a better description for the current legal battle between the young man pictured above and the US government. That young man is Ross Ulbricht, and he seems to have been the agent of the future who created the Silk Road free market.
I say “seems to,” because the people who are saying so are the US government, which has a checkered record as regards truth-telling. (And that’s being kind.) But circumstances seem to agree that Ross was the famed Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) of Silk Road. So, while I have no special knowledge on this subject, I’ll presume for the moment that the allegation is true, and that Ross really was DPR.
The Flamboyant Accusation that Vanished
When Ross was arrested last fall, the FBI immediately publicized accusations that Ross was hiring hit men and had paid them to kill people. Millions of people heard this, and, understandably, thought it was a bad thing.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to court: Those charges vanished. In the final New York indictment, no such charges were included. The murder-for-hire allegation is now an “uncharged crime.” It is mentioned in the indictment, but it is not a formal charge and (conveniently) requires no proof.
So, did Ross really do all the very, very bad things the FBI reported through its ever-friendly news corps? I don’t know, but according to their initial story, they should have had clear and unmitigated evidence. Something doesn’t fit here, and I’ve learned not to give “law enforcement” the benefit of the doubt.
And if you haven’t heard about those charges being dropped, I suggest that you withdraw any trust you’ve had in the news corps.
The Pioneering Silk Road
Silk Road was a true free market. And since free markets are illegal these days (no matter how much political types pretend otherwise), it is no surprise that the first people to use it were selling illegal goods, in this case, drugs. If you’re already on the bad side of the law, you have nothing more to lose by using an “illegal” market.
Interestingly enough, what appears to have been the most popular product on Silk Road was marijuana, which is now being legalized in state after state.
And even in the cases of harder drugs, such as cocaine and Ecstasy (products that I personally wouldn’t recommend), are the drugs the biggest problem here? Or is it kids being forced to buy them from violent drug dealers on ghetto street corners? Silk Road gave people the opportunity to buy through rated vendors, safely. Was that so terrible? People on every continent used Silk Road and received excellent service.
What people don’t understand – and what I’ve picked up from several DPR quotes that people passed to me – is that this was never about drugs; it was about free minds and free markets. THAT is the future I’m talking about. Drugs are merely a side issue. If governments stopped their “war” on drugs, prices would fall and violent thugs would no longer be getting rich on them… and Silk Road would have been selling other things.
Evidently the lessons of Prohibition don’t matter nearly as much as state propaganda.
Today, Ross sits in a jail cell in New York. (There are different charges pending against him in Maryland.) And a criminal defense is not cheap, especially when the prosecution can simply dip their hand into a stream of tax dollars and finance their legal games.
This case may matter as a legal precedent, and some people are donating to the Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense Fund for that reason. But I don’t think that’s the primary reason we should be giving.
Those of us who really care about justice and truth and liberty stand on a mutual frontier. The sad fact is that the more you care about morality, life, and goodness, the more of a threat you become to those in power. I won’t take time to explain that today, but you’ve probably had some experience with it already.
Out here on the frontier, we have to look after each other. As Saul of Tarsus once said in a similar situation,
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
That’s what it’s like to stand on a frontier, proclaiming a new truth that threatens immoral powers. And that’s why we must help each other.
If you believe that Ross was DPR, or if you believe he created a truly free market, or if you believe that he put himself at risk to further truth and liberty, you must help him now.
If you can’t do something big, then do something small. But don’t sit on your hands, make excuses, and do nothing. There’s no one out here on the frontier but us. We have to look out for each other.
Here’s the Free Ross website that (I believe) is run by his parents:
Here’s the Bitcoin address for donations:
If you want to send a check, make it to the Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense Fund and mail it to:
The Ulbricht Family
P.O. Box 163602
Austin, TX 78716
If you want to send Ross a letter, his address is:
ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT
P.O. BOX 329002
BROOKLYN, NY 11232