Silk Road Died, Bitcoin Crashed. So why am I so happy?

silk roadYou may have heard that Silk Road – the truly free online market – was taken down today, by the FBI. In response, the price of Bitcoin crashed 24%.

Yet here I am – just a few hours later, feeling very optimistic. Why? Because the philosophy of freedom just showed itself to be massively stronger than statism and its “don’t think, just obey” philosophy.

Here’s What Happened

As I was finishing my lunch, I saw a story posted on the takedown/crash. I did a bit of checking and conversed with a friend, and then hustled over to a place I know where crypto-anarchists hang out online.

These guys were already talking about replacing Silk Road, and doing a better job of it.

Forget about the drugs aspect of this – I don’t care for drugs and neither do the people I listened in on – they just want to build free markets.

Contrast that to a financial site, where I found a couple of Bitcoin haters, a Fed trying to supercharge as much fear as he/she could, and several people trying to buy Bitcoin at its lows, or lamenting that they were out of extra cash to buy right away.

But here’s the interesting part: In the face of an orchestrated attack (and you can be sure that the Feds arranged the day’s events for maximum fear – that’s what they do), even these people, within minutes, were walking forward, not backward.

A Better Philosophy Wins Out

Arguably, the greatest triumph of a new philosophy has to be that of the early Christians (of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries AD), they simply would not be stopped, no matter what was thrown at them.

And why wouldn’t they turn back? Because the Roman way was ridiculous and barbaric. Their gods were vile, vain, sometimes stupid and often cruel. Who wants to worship that? These Christians – whatever their faults or virtues – had found a God who loved them, who wished to help and enlighten them, who said they were meant to be free and prosperous.

Which way would you choose?

The Romans persecuted them and sometimes killed them, but they would not be turned around. These people chose the better philosophy, and in the end, they won.

Today, I saw the same thing, wrapped in modern circumstances.

Freedom-minded people are not stopping, are not abandoning their views. And why should they? Shall we go back to the idiocy and self-contradictory life of worshiping the state? Of pretending that robbery is somehow – magically – not robbery when the government does it?

Our minds have been removed from the state’s intimidation and conditioning. Shall we go back to believing lies and repeating vapid slogans for the rest of our lives?

There are real reasons why individuals move from bondage to liberty, but very seldom the reverse.

The Bottom Line Facts

At the end of all the discussions, all the fears, all the questions, all of the explaining to newbs and concerned friends, stand these facts:

Our philosophy is better than theirs. We offer men and women truth, understanding, compassion (the real kind), and strong, direct relationships. The state offers punishment, fear, an occasional promise of plunder, and intrusion into every relationship in your life.

Our people are better than theirs. Not because we were born better, but because finding and living according to truth produces better people than blind obedience and fear of the lash.

We are not quitting. We can’t. We won’t.

Yes, there may be bruises and even blood along the way, but like the first Christians, our people do not turn back – they continue regardless.

We’ve come out of the state’s cultivated darkness, and we are moving into more and more light. Why would we want to go back to where we were? Even if we tried to do it, could we really stick with it? Could our minds really fit back into their old restraints?

This is why freedom will win, my friends: The genie is out of the bottle, and the Internet has spread the message to the four corners of the Earth. It’s a better message. It produces better people.

And in the end, we will win.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Could You Have Answered This Question?

servitudeSome years ago I found myself at dinner with a small group of people. We had a pleasant time, but soon enough, someone brought up my “weird” opinions. I explained that I was an advocate for freedom and opposed restrictions on it.

A spirited debate followed, of course, and at one point I said something about disliking servitude. In response, one of the people at the table – a medical professional – asked:

“What’s so bad about servitude?”

At first I was shocked, because I had never heard anyone say such a thing. I’m an American boy, after all, and I grew up surrounded by at least an implied demand for freedom.

But once past that, I realized I didn’t have an answer to the question. I had always taken it as a given that servitude was bad – not only from what I had heard and read, but from what I knew in my bones. I dug within myself for a serious response to the question, but I came up dry. I had no answer to give.

I continued the conversation as best I could, and perhaps I did some small amount of good. But, as I drove home, I realized that I had a problem. This man asked a simple and essential question, and I didn’t have an answer to it.

The Answer That Should Have Worked, But Didn’t

Needless to say, I did eventually come up with an obvious answer: Being in servitude means that other people control your life, and they can lead you into disaster at any time, purposefully or not.

I saw the man again not too long afterwards and brought up our initial conversation. I gave him my answer to that first question. His response?

“I’m doing okay.”

In other words, he didn’t care. Now that really bothered me.

By all outward appearances, he was in control and successful. But, aside from work-related activities, he avoided almost every subject I brought up. He didn’t want to explore any new thought, had no measurable curiosity, and was threatened by the very idea of freedom.

Why?

The answer, it turned out, was a simple one: This man liked the idea of other people running his life for him. That way, nothing would ever be his fault, and if things went badly, there would always be someone to blame.

No doubt you run into such people all the time – your friends, family and coworkers. To put it another way, my doctor friend didn’t really appreciate life itself. He grudgingly exerted himself in his medical trade, but wanted no further responsibility. He was happy to remain as minimally conscious as possible.

Now, I don’t want to pick on the fellow too much, but he makes a good example.

People have a tendency to hide behind masks. In this man’s case, the mask was “doctor.” There’s nothing wrong with being a doctor, of course, but to limit ourselves to a single role in life – even a good one – is a big mistake. We are vibrant, creative creatures by nature. You can see this in small children, who simply throw themselves into whatever subject interests them and expect to discover the truth of it. That’s our nature too, regardless of how badly it’s been beaten out of us over the years.

Freedom and Life

The feeling of zero restraint is exhilarating. And it’s wonderful to feel your natural preference to do good, separate from the fear of punishment. But even so, what’s really important about freedom is that it allows life to flourish.

In other words, freedom is a means, not an end.

It allows life to expand and to express itself. Again, the example of the child: He or she naturally wants to explore, to know, to see, to learn… to live, as opposed to merely existing.

Freedom allows life to operate. Servitude, on the other hand, limits life to narrow channels.

The truth is that people lose their love for liberty when they lose their love for life. For this man, following rules that others set made sense – it’s a safe position. But once there, he’ll never really grow again, and he will be cut off from a lifetime of discovery and satisfaction.

What’s bad about servitude is that it prevents us from living.

Bad News, Good News

The bad news you already know: To one extent or another, we’ve all let our love of life dim and have taken ‘safe’ positions. We live in a tough world after all.

The good news, however, is that we can regain what we’ve lost merely by changing our minds. As Earl Nightingale was famous for saying:

We become what we think about.

To repair ourselves requires that we think about these things – to notice when we begin playing a role, to act on curiosity when we feel it, to stop defending our previous choices, to expect surprises and opportunities.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Commerce: The Permanent Rebellion

commerceCommerce, by its very nature, is born free. And more than this, it forever fights to remain free. At almost every time and place, commerce evades regulations and controls; it serves its own will, not the wills of rulers. Markets spontaneously emerge at every opportunity, even when they are outlawed and punished. Commerce seems to have an existence of its own, like an independent organism.

Even under the worst oppressions recorded in history, commerce continued. This was true in the USSR and it was true in Nazi Germany, and it remains true now, even as the Western world runs headlong into a surveillance-state abyss.

All that said, please don’t imagine that in referring to commerce, I am including the mega-corps that seek to dominate the Earth in partnership with states. That is not at all what I mean, as I will explain below.

I’m going to start this issue by explaining the depth of this rebellion, which is permanent; it continues in our time as in all others.

Opposing Models

Commerce does not rebel against regulation because of excesses. Rather, it is contrary to regulation by its very nature.

Commerce is a productive strategy. Strategies that exert control over commerce are oppositional – they restrain production. The two are inherently opposed: on one side are people struggling to produce, and on the other are people struggling to either slow production or to skim it away.

In 1908, Franz Oppenheimer, a German physician and sociologist, published a book entitled The State. In it, he made the very important observation that there are only two primary modes of survival upon planet Earth: The Political means and the Economic means. Oppenheimer says this:

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others.

This stark statement is crucial for understanding how men live in this world – and how they have always lived in it: Men survive by either producing or by taking the goods of others. However many layers of publicity and complication there may be, every act by which men feed themselves can be broken down into one or the other of these two.

The great problem with the above statement has never been a question of its truthfulness but that so many people are uncomfortable facing such a truth directly.

The statement that commerce and regulation are eternally at odds is merely a restatement of Oppenheimer.

Acts of Will

Both commerce and control involve acts of will.

  • Commerce involves individuals choosing to perform productive actions, such as growing food, making shoes, and so on.
  • Control involves individuals choosing to allow or disallow the willful acts of the productive, or to remove the fruits of production from the producers.

Commerce is an effect of active will. Commercial controls are the implementations of contrary wills, seeking to restrain the commercial will. The two are eternally at odds.

It is worth explaining here that the controllers of the Earth (that is, the various state rulers) are always forced to undermine independent will. They do this, not because they are all inherently cruel, but because their enterprises become nearly impossible if they don’t suppress individual will.

Ruling men by force alone is expensive; far too expensive to support rulership over a significant area. People who are ruled in that way quickly learn to hide their produce before it can be taken, or simply to run away. You cannot cage intelligent beings like you can beasts – it doesn’t work; they adapt.

To rule humans effectively, you must subvert their wills. You must make them believe that their wills are flawed and that using them is wrong. This is, of course, precisely what has been done since several millennia BC.

The will behind commerce, however, is born of the desire to survive, and that is not something that can be trained away. The survival instinct is permanent, and commerce endures as its great tool. Even though people have been deeply conditioned to surrender their wills to the state, they remain able to use their wills for survival, and that leads directly to commerce.

And since survival is hard-wired into us, commerce always pops back up, no matter how hard it is put down. However much it may be punished or repressed, it will forever rebel and return. Commerce is a permanent rebellion.

Because of this, nearly all arguments against it – certainly from the ruler’s side – are based on the need to restrain freedom. As economist Milton Friedman once wrote:

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

[Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from our flagship newsletter Freeman’s Perspective – Issue #29: Commerce: The Permanent Rebellion. If you liked it, consider taking a risk-free test drive. Not only will you gain immediate access to the rest of the issue (which shares fascinating examples on how commerce thrives in some surprising places), but you’ll also be able to enjoy the entire archive – more than 520 pages of research on topics of importance and inspiration to those looking for freedom in an unfree world. Plus valuable bonus reports and all new issues as well. Click here to learn more.]

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

What Is Liberty Exactly?

what is libertyMore or less every modern politician talks about “freedom” or “liberty.” Actually, they don’t talk about it as much as they use it as a magic incantation. They go on at length about “our free country,” but if you could get them to define freedom, that definition would be something along the lines of “what we have.”

Once we’re past such self-praising nonsense, we’re still left with the original question: What is liberty exactly? And then the trouble begins. There are dozens of definitions. This is a problem. We’re all going around talking about liberty, but no two of us mean precisely the same thing. If you’re looking for reasons why liberty gets so little real traction in the world, this would be a good place to start.

So, it’s about time that we clarified what we mean by these terms. And, since I’ve spent decades pursuing liberty, and since no one else seems to be addressing this, I’ll take on this chore myself.

First of all, I’m going to treat “liberty” and “freedom” as the same concept. After all, the word freedom comes to us from old English and liberty from old French, and they both mean the same thing: unconstrained.

The problem with unconstrained lies in the fact that we are constrained by the natural world, by everything from gravity to rocks to weather. Nature constrains us. Yet, we don’t feel oppressed by nature – it isn’t trying to hurt us or limit us, it simply is what it is, and we can use it as we wish too. Our bodies are part of nature, after all.

It is when other people force us to obey, use violence against us, or simply intimidate us, that we feel constrained and abused. (Which tells us all we really need to know about the nature of liberty and humanity.)

So What Is Liberty?

Here is a precise definition for freedom/liberty:

A condition in which a man’s will regarding his own person and property is unopposed by any other will.

That is the bedrock. From there you can add other aspects if you wish, but you cannot deviate from this core and still be talking about “liberty.”

For example, Thomas Jefferson used the same core idea (notice the inclusion of “will”), but added a political aspect:

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

The great John Locke also held to this core, but took it in a more philosophical direction:

All men are naturally in a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.

Personally, I like a very plain version of the same sentiments:

We should be allowed to do whatever we want, so long as we don’t hurt others.

I generally call these statements as Lockean, since John Locke was the first person to clearly define the concept of liberty in modern times. But, that’s just my preference.

These statements are clear, and they define liberty. No more really need be said.

You can ignore manipulative “freedom to” statements like Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Second Bill of Rights, whose proposed ‘rights’ included the right of everyone to their own home. This, of course, would require the enslavement of builders, suppliers and taxpayers. (Roosevelt never mentioned that side of the equation, of course.)

There’s only one thing which I will add to this discussion, and that is this: None of us have a monopoly on Lockean liberty.

Anyone who holds to Locke’s formulation is your brother and sister, and you must accept them as such.

We are past the time when we can be insular (if there ever really was such a time). You don’t have to agree 100% with the Ron Paul people or the free-market anarchists, or with anyone, but if they accept the core statements above, you must accept them as joint heirs of the Lockean liberties.

If you think someone is wrong, you can ignore the difference of opinion, or you can, respectfully, correct them. Better still, you could laugh at your joint human frailties and move forward together. What you may not do, is to cast them off as idiots; you may not resent them for honestly disagreeing. If they believe in John Locke’s liberty, they are your allies, not your enemies.

If we can’t do that, we don’t deserve to succeed.

Paul Rosenberg
What is Liberty Exactly?
FreemansPerspective.com

Could an Inside Sneak Attack on Bitcoin Destroy It?

attack on bitcoinThis is important.

I’ve been warning about an outside attack on Bitcoin for some time, but the biggest threat may come from inside: from people who profess to love Bitcoin.

The people I’m talking about don’t love Bitcoin itself, and they don’t love the freedom it brings, no matter what they say. Instead they love the money they hope to make by becoming the new techno-riche: successors to Zuckerberg, Gates and the rest. (Yes, that’s an unfair thing for me to say, but I’d also be willing to bet large on it.)

The people I refer to are a neo-plutocracy – insiders who wish to institutionalise Bitcoin, making billions for themselves while turning it into just another version of PayPal.

The Attack on Bitcoin begins…

One long-time bitcoiner has been warning for some time that this group controls the Bitcoin Foundation. He describes them as “regulatory statists.” He has analyzed their backtalks since their beginning and has been telling anyone who would listen that they wished to politically co-opt the Bitcoin market.

At last weekend’s Bitcoin conference, he was proved correct.

Robert Wenzel of economicpolicyjournal.com reported this, directly from the conference:

The most important vibe I am picking up at the event is that there are many money players who want to get Bitcoin up and running and are willing to play by government rules, that is, register all accounts they open and take down the name, DOB and social security number of Bitcoin buyers and sellers… Many of these players argue that it is impossible to battle the government, [one developer] told me that “It is a period to build the baby and not send it to war.”

No sooner than that passed my screen, I got an article entitled Winklevoss twins on Bitcoin: Time to work with the Feds. The article quotes Cameron Winklevoss (one of the Facebook twins) saying this at the conference:

I don’t think anyone wants a fight – I think everyone here wants to build Bitcoin, to work with regulators, cooperation is really the way forward.

Let’s be clear about this:

Bitcoin is a new thing. If it is forced into the old mold of politics, regulation and control, it will become just another tool of an oligarchy. And the prospective Bitcoin oligarchy are precisely those people who wish to shove Bitcoin, against its nature, into the same old statist, plutocratic mold. The result would be a few dozen insiders getting very rich and leaving the rest of us back where we started.

Regardless of the new plutocracy’s creative justifications and their fear-based scenarios, Bitcoin will be neutered and co-opted by governments and bankers if they get their way.

This is the largest single threat facing Bitcoin at the present time. Fear and greed work, and corruption follows with them.

I am not alone in this, by the way. Bitcoin expert Mike Gogulski has come to the same conclusion, writing “the Bitcoin Foundation is TOXIC and must dissolve.”

An unnamed “old radical” warned about precisely this in 2012.

The inside threat to Bitcoin and therefore an insider attack on Bitcoin is real, and was on open display over this past weekend.

What do to

If bitcoiners are serious about human liberty – as opposed to the same old crap in a new wrapper – they must turn hard against this neo-Plutocracy and their promises of an easy way out. Nothing great comes easy, and important things are more often killed by their supposed friends than by their enemies.

I will close with a comment Martin Luther once made to a young assistant who was asking God to save them from their enemies. Please take it to heart:

We can handle our enemies. God save us from our friends.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Thomas Jefferson: “We Failed”

Thomas Jefferson failedThomas Jefferson – one of my long-time heroes – was convinced that he and his friends blew the chance they had to establish true freedom in America. I know that a hundred thousand self-praising textbooks, speeches, pundits and songs claim that Jefferson and the rest established freedom, but that’s NOT what Jefferson thought, and that is NOT what he said. (You can choose whom to believe for yourself.)

Nearly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence, he was of the opinion that the founders did not fully live up to the moment presented to them.

Here is a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Cartwright on June 5th, 1824. Jefferson’s words are in plain text and my modern paraphrasing of the lines are in italics:

Our Revolution presented us an album on which we were free to write what we pleased. Yet we did not avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position.

The Revolution gave us a shot at real liberty, but we blew it.

We had never been permitted to exercise self-government. When forced to assume it, we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had little entered into our former education. We established, however, some (but not all) of its important principles…

We weren’t prepared for what we had to do.

We think experience has proved the benefit of subjecting questions to two separate bodies of deliberants. But in constituting these bodies, [we have] been mistaken, making one of these bodies, and in some cases both, the representatives of property instead of persons.

We thought our legislative structure would protect us, but they were bought-off right away.

This double deliberation might be obtained just as well without any violation of true principle, either by requiring a greater age in one of the bodies, or by electing a proper number of representatives of persons, or by dividing them by lots into two chambers, and renewing the division at frequent intervals, in order to break up all cabals.

What we really needed was something that would break up parties and factions.

George Washington said almost the same thing about parties, by the way. Here is a section from his Farewell Address of September 17, 1796, with my paraphrasing again:

All combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character…are of a fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction; to give them an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party.

All political groups are fatally dangerous. They gain inappropriate force and displace the will of the people.

A small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

Small groups of clever and dedicated men will corrupt the actions of government, making it serve their own ends.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then address popular ends, they are likely to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to usurp for themselves the reins of government.

No matter if these groups do some good things, they will still take over government.

I think history says that Washington was right; parties did destroy the public good, and continue to do so.

And here’s what Samuel Adams thought about the citizens allowing small groups of men (like parties) to choose candidates for them:

I hope the great Business of Elections will never be left by the many, to be done by the few; for before we are aware of it, that few may become the Engine of Corruption–the Tool of a Junta.–Heaven forbid!

And to confirm the corruption of Congress that Thomas Jefferson mentioned, here is a letter that Samuel Adams wrote to his friend Richard Henry Lee on January 15th, 1781:

Is there not Reason to think that even those who are opposed to our Cause may steal into Places of the highest Trust? I need not remind you that Men of this Character have had Seats in Congress from the beginning.

And just to add one more voice, here is what Benjamin Franklin said to the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787:

I believe, farther, that this [constitution] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.

There is more that could be said on this subject, but it is almost superfluous. What matters is that we get the primary point:

The best of the American Founders were fully convinced
that their shot at freedom would fail or had failed.

So, what does this say about all those fancy speeches and songs about “the land of the free“?

And if we don’t have freedom, what is it that we do have?

Paul Rosenberg
Thomas Jefferson: “We Failed”
FreemansPerspective.com