Free Minds & Free Markets

Stossel: Silk Road Founder Jailed, Drug Sales Up

People applauded when government shut down the drug website Silk Road. But online drug sales increased.

The FBI announced a big victory: they had shut down the illegal online drug market Silk Road.

They said that would prevent drug sales and save lives. A judge sentenced Ross Ulbricht, a young libertarian who created the website, to double-life plus 40 years with no chance of parole. The judge called her sentence a "warning to others."

Bill O'Reilly agreed, "Life in prison without parole. Any other wise guys want to do it, that's what you are gonna get!"

But is it really fair to lock Ulbricht up for life? John Stossel interviews Lyn Ulbricht, Ross's mom, who says her son was just an overly-zealous libertarian who "believed in free markets and volunteerism. He's not a dangerous person."

Closing Silk Road and locking Ulbricht up, did nothing to stop drug sales. Silk Road carried 12,000 drug listings when the FBI shut it down. Now the top sites combined have more than 100,000 listings.

Stossel points out that as long as drugs are illegal, whatever the police do, only drives the price of drugs higher. The big profits then encourage sellers to take bigger risks. The same thing happened during alcohol prohibition. Police cracked down, but smugglers found a way. They also funded organized crime.

Now drug prohibition funds crime, and authoritarians pretend the solution is long jail sentences. Jails are filled with people like Silk Road's creator, a smart libertarian nerd who said he wanted to "use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion."

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  • Rhywun||



  • CatoTheChipper||

    Yeah, the safe thing to do here is to leave no comment.

    SDNY is watching.

  • croaker||

    Preet isn't in the persecutor's office anymore. Unfortunately, he got a job in academia, and not as a towel boy in a gay bath house.

  • wuracituj||

    I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

    This is what I do...

  • CatoTheChipper||

    BTW, any theories on which Reason troll referred the comments thread to Preet?

    Was it Tony or Buttplug?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    FOIA the DOJ files and court records (if any).

    Maybe that would be a job for Shikha to use her talent of shrieking to get that information.

  • ||

    Good question.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Maybe the judge just googled herself.

  • ||

    Is Reason trying to entrap us into trouble again?

    Oh and still woodchipper for all involved.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The sound of multiple woodchippers starting up would be impressive.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Ross's mom, who says her son was just an overly-zealous libertarian who "believed in free markets and volunteerism. He's not a dangerous person."

    Sorry, Mrs. Ulbricht, but from the government's perspective, overzealous free-market voluntaryism is precisely what makes him dangerous.

  • Rhywun||

    And how many Americans are going to read that quote and cheer on the government? Bah.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "Drugs are bad, and i ain't want druggies anywhere near my kids!" [chugs fifth consecutive can of Bud Lite]

  • John||

    I read the other day that despite legalization or at least decriminalization in many areas, marijuana use by people under 20 is at its lowest level since they started measuring such things. Apparently getting stoned is something old people do now.

    What the hell is this country coming to?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    All the young folk are busy butt-chugging Oxy, unless my local news stations are mistaken.

  • John||

    And eating tide pods. We live in a world where marijuana is close to being legal and kids are eating Tide pods. We really are doomed.

  • Zeb||

    The Tide Pod thing might be a hopeful sign, actually. As far as I can see, people are mostly making a joke of it because it freaks out over-credulous adults. I'm pretty sure it's no more of a trend than Jenkem huffing or butt-chugging.

  • croaker||

    The problem is now law makers are trying to make them illegal.

  • Rhywun||

    Snapchat and Instagram are a better high, I guess.

  • John||

    But then I also read that they are having less sex. What kind of hell do these poor kids have to endure?

  • Raoul Duke||

    Unlike previous generations, these kids don't hang out together. Why bother going to your friend's house to play doctor when you can just Snapchat her a dick pic? I think the same goes for getting high, and they just aren't into it because they're isolated physically while being in constant electronic contact with all their friends.

  • John||

    That doesn't sound like much fun to me.

  • vek||

    Meh. Weed is lame. I never liked it. I live in Washington where it is legal, and I still never touch the stuff. Just don't like the buzz. Booze is way better. As are some other still illegal drugs. I've never done anything on the regular, but weed is probably my very least favorite intoxicant. Chugging cough syrup is better than getting stoned even!

  • John||

    Remember, Obama commuted Bradley Manning's sentence, a guy who knew exactly what he was doing and actually endangered people's lives but let this stand. I don't disagree with him commuting Manning's sentence. He deserved to go to jail but not for as long as he was sentenced. But, no commuting this sentence but being willing to commute Manning's is infuriating. Did this guy commit a crime? Sure. Should he have gotten some punishment? Yes, if only because even stupid laws still must be enforced. But life plus 40 years? More than murderers and rapists and some of the most violent and dangerous people in the country? Hell no. His sentence is a horrible injustice. Shame on the people who gave it to him and shame on both Obama and Trump for allowing it to stand.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Money didn't change hands with Manning.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Manning got his sentence commuted because he was trans.

    There are surely people in prison for mishandling classified information and their sentences have not been commuted.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Manning threw a few more clusters into what was already a clusterfuck, but one which could be pretty easily blamed on a previous administration. Ulbricht started digging a mine under the whole project of big governance. One of those is forgivable, to a technocrat.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Manning knowingly released classified information which may have been detrimental.

    Ulbricht was an "overly zealous libertarian" who believed in free trade.

    If you were Obama, you would have made the same choice.

  • Social Darwinist||

    Manson had the possibility of parole.
    Capone was given parole.

  • cravinbob||

    possibility of parole because Californis abolished the death sentence but in law "possibility of parole" does not mean what normal think it does.
    capone's brain was being destroyed by syphilis and who wants that kind of person in their jail?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Capone also harmed no one. He was a free-market entrepreneur, hence Herbert Hoover singled him out as a target for government thugs. Al was in Florida when the Chicago police car pulled up, men with guns in police uniforms rushed in, and the Valentine Day Massacre made the news. Hoover, like Judge Gladys there, decried laissez-faire as "arbitrary and dog-eat-dog." Hoover despised rights and declared "The idea that the Republic was created for the benefit of the individual is a mockery that must be eradicated at the first dawn of understanding." These declarations are in his presidential papers. George Bush wanting hitmen to murder hemp kingpins is in his Presidential Papers.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Freedom isn't free.

    Time for more people to fight these unconstitutional government actions and laws until they are no more.

    Even the prohibitionists knew they needed a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol. When the time came to ban drugs, a constitutional amendment might not have been successful. The TOP MEN decided to implement the ban anyway.

    Acquit all drug defendants if you are on a jury. If you have a drug offense, appeal the conviction.

  • Hank Phillips||

    What's wrong with voting Libertarian, the way Katherine Mangu-Ward doesn't?

  • American Liberal||

    That innocent little libertarian ordered five assassinations.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Funny how those charges got dropped with a quickness.

  • John||

    Sure he did. The government didn't charge or convict him of those things and seek the death penalty, which would have been available in such circumstances out of kindness I guess. The feds are just like that, always cutting people a break.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Ulbricht ordered fake assassins to assassinate five imaginary adversaries.

    When someone is lured into fake criminal sexual action with fake underage girls or fake prostitutes they call it a honey pot.

    I guess they don't have a good name for corrupt federal agents luring someone to get rid of fake adversaries.

    Anywho... Ulbricht has only been convicted of running a drug website with convictions for: (1) distribution and aiding and abetting distribution of narcotics, 21 U.S.C. § 812, § 841(a)(1), § 841(b)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; (2) using the Internet to distribute narcotics, 21 U.S.C. § 812, § 841(h) and § 841(b)(1)(A); (3) conspiracy to distribute narcotics, 21 U.S.C. § 846; (4) engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, 21 U.S.C. § 848(a); (5) conspiring to obtain unauthorized access to a computer for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain and in furtherance of other criminal and tortious acts, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2) and § 1030(b); (6) conspiring to traffic in fraudulent identification documents, 18 U.S.C. § 1028(f); and (7) conspiring to launder money, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Ulbricht ordered fake assassins to assassinate five imaginary adversaries

    ...ALLEGEDLY, according to government agents who later dropped those particular charges completely.

  • Rhywun||

    And people wonder why we complain there are too many laws. Some of those seem to overlap each other but hey if it lets us pile on another life sentence why not?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Notice most of the charges are conspiracy.

    If he just did the crimes himself, he would have gotten less time. Its paying and/or talking to other people to do the crimes that bumps you into drug kingpin sentence territory.

    If you read the appellate decision, its textbook bureaucrat justification of government abuses.

  • amishanarchist||

    Actually, it never happened. It was just something they said to bolster their case against him in the court of public opinion. he had already sold the site, and several DPRs existed. The Agents were probably one or more of the DPRs. They also had admin access to the site, FYI, and 2 of them were caught with money they stole from the site.

  • Hank Phillips||

    One can always hope that those types of websites will also proliferate... There was a Quicksilver couplet that warned "Oh you who place your faith in fire, In fire your faith shall be repaid!"

  • cravinbob||

    Where did he keep all those drugs he was selling and he must have been in line at the post office for days at a time shipping all those drugs.
    How many recipients were arrested when their packages arrived?
    Really, what was his role? A webmaster? Did he have web servers or did he use a godaddy host? How many firearms did he have on him?
    And the one crimefighter guy said you cannot stop crime so how do they justify their job? And you CAN stop crime... if nothing is illegal. Lying should be a crime and a life sentence it you are in a position of authority and you lie Or life in a slow acting electric chair hooked to polygraph that increases volts if you lie.

  • amishanarchist||

    He was the founder and webmaster till he sold the site.

  • Hank Phillips||

    This is the Postal and Comstock Law of 1873 back again on steroids. But adding "conscious political lie" penalties from the National Socialist platform of 1920 is at best going to make matters worse.

  • Michael Cook||

    The business model today is for narcotics to be mailed directly from China and delivered by your local government or private mail distributor.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The whole reason Ross was thrown under like Tim Leary was precisely that he is honest and respects individual rights. Ayn Rand warned against these kinds of judges in a Q&A. Tara Smith writes with suggestions for stopping the Germanic fascination with coercive eugenics from using our courts as combination firing squads and torture chambers in the name of altruist pseudoscience.

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