Black Markets

Silk Road Proprietor Says Libertarian Mission is Most Important Part of the Online Black Market

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Like the literary pirate captain from whom he borrowed his name, Silk Road proprietor Dread Pirate Roberts is the successor to the actual founder of a criminal enterprise — although, in the real world case, it's the victimless activity of peddling forbidden intoxicants and other illicit goods to willing buyers. As fascinating as the encrypted and anonymous online black market is, though, it's made even more intriguing by the Dread Pirate Roberts's libertarian philosophical musings. 

From Andy Greenberg at Forbes:

Roberts also has a political agenda: He sees himself not just as an enabler of street-corner pushers but also as a radical libertarian revolutionary carving out an anarchic digital space beyond the reach of the taxation and regulatory powers of the state–Julian Assange with a hypodermic needle. "We can't stay silent forever. We have an important message, and the time is ripe for the world to hear it," says Roberts. "What we're doing isn't about scoring drugs or 'sticking it to the man.' It's about standing up for our rights as human beings and refusing to submit when we've done no wrong."

"Silk Road is a vehicle for that message," he writes to me from somewhere in the Internet's encrypted void. "All else is secondary." …

"We're talking about the potential for a monumental shift in the power structure of the world," Roberts writes. "The people now can control the flow and distribution of information and the flow of money. Sector by sector the State is being cut out of the equation and power is being returned to the individual."

Roberts's ideas are pretty specific. Greenberg writes that "he's even hosted a Dread Pirate Roberts Book Club where he moderated discussions on authors from the Austrian school of free market economics."

You don't need ideology to participate in a successful underground business, however, and intriguing ideas won't make such a venture fly. An earlier interview by Vice with some of the dealers who sell through Silk Road found that they were "really nice guys" who were very concerned about customer service (Silk Road has seller ratings and holds payments in escrow until goods are delivered).

The technology on which Silk Road and Roberts rely — Tor and Bitcoin — are nominally neutral, but inherently political, since they allow for free and anonymous transactions with or without the consent of the state. That certainly explains why so many government officials are openly hostile to both encryption and digital currencies. And, then again, the control-driven antagonism to such technologies is exactly what drives their development

Says Roberts in the extended interview:

At its core, Silk Road is a way to get around regulation from the state. If they say we can't buy and sell certain things, we'll do it anyway and suffer no abuse from them. But the state tries to control nearly every aspect of our lives, not just drug use. Anywhere they do that, there is an opportunity to live your life as you see fit despite their efforts.

Next up, suggests Roberts, is a renewed effort to sell firearms and ammunition online, to escape tightened controls around the world. Also, the site is looking at basic consumer electronics, since high tariffs have created an opening for black market operators.

As Reason's Matthew Feeney noted, Silk Road's success has spawned competition, most notably the recent startup, Atlantis.

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  1. I approve of the nom de guerre.

  2. Can someone explain how you convert a bitcoin into real money? Or does everyone within the supply chain have to accept bitcoin? A quick and dirty explanation would be great.

    1. You can buy and sell Bitcoins for USD, like pretty much any other currency. In the case of Silk Road and similar marketplaces, both the buyer and seller will accept Bitcoins, but the rest of the drug supply chain probably doesn’t.

      1. Thanks Bradley. I actually wiki’d it and saw that. Looks like it might be promising.

      2. Works like a charm (I’ve got a Coinbase account) with one caveat:

        Holy fuck, is it slow. Typical lag between placing an order for bitcoins and having them show up is around 4 business days. I haven’t redeemed bitcoins yet, so I don’t know what the lag is on the return trip.

        1. Bitinstant would only take about half hour. But they’ve been upgrading their system and have been down for like a month now.

    2. You can use an exchange like Coinbase that is linked to a bank account.

      You could sell for cash through localbitcoins, but I’ve never tried it.

      Or you can get cash, money orders, or moneygrams anonymously through silkroad, but that is highly taxed.

      They did have a weapons section on silkroad in the past but it was removed not for any PC reason but due to lack of listings/buyers.

    3. I have to split this up because they won’t allow more than 3 links per comment.

      The following places are all TOR accessible while being clearnet sites.
      Since buying Bitcoins is perfectly legal, using your regular ISP is fine.

      Many accept various forms of payment from MoneyPak, MoneyGram, Dwolla, Money Order and cash deposit to a bank.

      ? LocalBitCoins – (Has an escrow service) – https://localbitcoins.com/

      ? Bitcoin Brokers – http://www.bitcoin-brokers.org
      ? CampBX (exchange/broker) – https://campbx.com/

    4. ? BitSTamp – https://www.bitstamp.net
      ? Bitcoin OTC – bitcoin-otc.com
      ? CoinBase – https://coinbase.com/

      1. ? MoneyPakTrader – https://moneypaktrader.com/
        ? Virwox (exchange) – https://www.virwox.com
        ? NanaimoGold – https://www.nanaimogold.com/buy.php

          1. ? BitCoinLocator – https://www.bitcoinlocator.com/
            ? TOR ATM – http://toratm3dhalotm3f.onion/

            ? BitQuick (has escrow service) – BitQuick.co – formerly Buy Bitcoins (https://www.buybitcoin.us)

            1. All of these services are recommended by the Silk Road Forums.

  3. I am really, really surprised various governments have not gone more apeshit over this than they seem to have so far. Maybe they are but just quietly, because this is the kind of stuff that sets them off. And add guns to the mix? Awesome.

    1. They’ve got their hands full with the Liberty Dollar and Bitcoin.

    2. And of course, the feds are horribly underfunded and understaffed. There’s always that.

      1. ERMAHGERD SERKWERSTER!!11!!1!1

      2. Feds won’t be happy until all citizens work for the federal government. AKA Socialism/Communism.

  4. Is buying fish antibiotics online libertarian?

    1. If the government regulated it or made it illegal, yes. If not, then it’s just straight business.

      1. Preppers are forced to stock up on fish antibiotics in case of emergency because the government feels the need to protect the public from hoarding antibiotics by hoarding antibiotics.

        1. I assume you mean preppers are stockpiling them for later use on humans, not fish?

          1. Yes.

            Though, there might be a few tropical fish fanciers in the crowd.

            1. My wife ran into this when trying to buy some for her fish tanks.

              1. How many canines were killed during the inevitable joint FDA/CDC armed SWAT no-knock raid?

          2. Mexicans in the US use it as well. They are use to getting anti-biotics without a prescription in their home country.

            Also i read an article that it is commonly used by US military personnel. Which makes sense in my mind but i am unable to describe why. Just seems like something a soldier would do.

        2. the government feels the need to protect the public from hoarding antibiotics by hoarding antibiotics.

          So, same shit different day?

    2. Is buying fish antibiotics online libertarian?

      PROBLEMATIC.

      1. +1 feminist

    3. I saw someone selling colostrum.

  5. Silk Road Proprietor Says Libertarian Mission is Most Important Part of the Online Black Market

    Get in line, Federal Prosecutors, 500 courtrooms! No waiting!

  6. Do shipping companies have X-ray for firearms and dogs for drugs? I would be willing to buy/sale firearms online but worry about the shipper alerting the Feds.

    1. Do shipping companies have X-ray for firearms and dogs for drugs? I would be willing to buy/sale firearms online but worry about the shipper alerting the Feds.

      UPS gets drug dogs occasionally, but they don’t x-ray packages as far as I know.

      It’s not a constant scanning thing.

    2. Couldn’t X-rays be defeated by packing the gun in some other X-ray opaque material that is shaped innocuously?

      1. The real danger lies in how many boxes UPS et al mangle and have to re-pack.

        1. I’m not sure i would ship a gun when I can make a deal in person legally. I guess that is why the weapon section dried up on Silk Road, other people thought the same thing.

        2. ^THIS.

          I worked the evening shift in a UPS distribution center for 2 years and we could smell the aroma of cannabis from some packages. On the sort aisle there were cameras so nobody broke into any packages but if one happened to fall in the right spot and get crushed, well…

          What gets scanned is next day air stuff. You know, cuz terrorists.

    3. Fascinating discussions on the various darknet/black market message boards on shipping. Bottom line, as far as I can tell::

      (1) Nobody/hardly anybody uses UPS. Not sure why.
      (2) USPS has dogs that you should count on your package having to clear. This is apparently accomplished with multiple layers of vacuum packaging.
      (3) Make you package look as ordinary as possible. Printed labels, USPS boxes, not too much tape, etc.
      (4) A real (or at least an established) recipient name and address.

      1. Really. I would have thought people would avoid USPS because it is government. I do like the irony of using government mail to subvert government restrictions.

        1. I think they use USPS because it is the government, and thus operates with all the efficiency and effectiveness you would expect when it comes to screening packages.

          Not sure, though. Go to silk road or atlantis and read the forums on shipping. Fascinating stuff. These are not stupid people.

          1. Will do

          2. Example: fascinating discussion on how surgical gloves won’t block fingerprints from showing up on packing tape (even multiple layers of gloves).

            1. Why not just cover you finger tips with packing tape before packing?

              In fact wouldn’t that be the first choice anyway rather then going out and getting gloves?

      2. Are you kidding me? If it were me dealing, I’d have a UPS mailbox and account under someone elses name that I used exclusively for such transactions.

        1. (4) A real (or at least an established) recipient name and address.

          The dealer isn’t typically the recipient. Why would you go through all that when all you need is to drop your package in a street box?

          1. You also need a valid sent-from address, generally speaking.

            No return address packages are pretty suspicious.

            1. Sure, but they carry almost no risk to the sender, and other than their reputation, what do they have to gain by using one?

              1. “but they not using a return address carry brings no risk to the sender…

                and who has the bitcoins

              2. Having their approval rankings on the sites at risk is no small thing. If their packages aren’t making it through, it will tank their on-line rep, and thus their business.

            2. Well, the sent-from address can be anybody at all. Its not like you really want it back, ever.

              1. yeah, that

              2. I’m assuming most people are using a method utilizing stamps, so they don’t have to have any type of “account” to send items also

  7. Anywhere they do that, there is an opportunity to live your life as you see fit despite their efforts.

    I’d say it’s more of a right than an opportunity, but ok.

    1. A right, but not one universally or even generally respected by governments. The heartening thing about opportunities like these is the capacity for human creativity and ingenuity outwit and outmaneuver the authorities hoping to stamp it out.

  8. I want a Silk Road-equivalent for bootleg textbooks.

  9. OT – convenience store clerk gets critically injured trying to save David Hasselhoff signs, apparently they are a hot item, kind of like the Hoff 30 years ago.

    http://www.u30blog.com/wp-cont…..7/url.jpeg

    http://www.ctpost.com/policere…..745548.php

    The Cumberland Farms ads, which feature the actor-singer in a blue tank top, are for the chain’s “Iced Hoffee.” About 550 of the giant cutouts have been stolen in the Northeast, according to CBS New York.

    1. One day there gonna find a recreation of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors in somebody’s basement, but instead of stone warriors it’s going to be cut-outs of the Hoff.

  10. Mildly OT:

    I love how quickly the unregulated market (the internet) weeds out (no pun intended) fake/bad salespeople compared to governments.

    But nobody will ever credit that as a free market success story.

  11. The technology on which Silk Road and Roberts rely ? Tor and Bitcoin ? are nominally neutral, but inherently political, since they allow for free and anonymous transactions with or without the consent of the state.

    That seems a lot like saying that atheism is inherently religious.

    1. It’s political in Postrel’s Dynamist vs Statist model.

      1. What isn’t?

    2. In the land of the Total State, everything is political.

  12. What if this guy resides in Portugal?

    1. Juicy salty tears…

    2. Saw that story earlier today and knew some jackass would say something jackassy.

  13. Behind this self plagiarized pyrateo ne detects the hypodermic fountain pen of Neal Stephenson .

  14. On HP there’s a columnist angsting over the ‘deleterious social effects’ BTC could have on the government’s ability to fix everything. He’s one of the smart ones. He knows.

    1. The second threat which Bitcoin poses is a drastic decrease in social development investment. Because it is completely decentralized and provides zero identification with respect to its users, Bitcoin is virtually impossible to tax. There is no way for governments to know who owns what, who is paying whom, what is being sold, who is buying what, and how much income a Bitcoin owner has.

      I think I just ruined a pair of underwear. Also, I nominate “social development investment” as the Orwellian Term of the Week.

  15. I miss the days when you could order Heroin through the Sears catalogue.

    I’m old enough to remember ordering stuff from Sears but they discontinued the smack more than 50 years before I was born.

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