Last week Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison stemming from charges related to running the online “anonymous” drug marketplace. In response, the ILC (Internet Libertarian Community) has largely reacted with an outpouring of support for Ulbricht. Many libertarians view Ulbricht as a hero for creating the Silk Road, thereby circumventing “the State” and it’s rights-violating War on Drugs.
There have been some dissenting voices, such as the Mises’ Institute’s Jeff Deist as well as our own John Odermatt, both of whom, while opposed to the War on Drugs and Ulbricht’s obscene sentencing, do not view his venture as being particularly heroic nor something libertarians should be clinging to.
To be clear: the purchase and sale of all drugs should be completely legal, and creating a website in order to enable such transactions should not, in and of itself, be viewed as a crime in any way. While I fall into the camp alongside Deist and Odermatt, the purpose of this article will not deal with whether the creation of Silk Road is per se a heroic act. Rather, I intend to examine one of the consequences which inevitably follows black market economic activity, that being violence.
The FBI claims that Ross Ulbricht ordered the assassinations of up to five people, though it’s now admitted that no actual murders ever took place. The full (and fascinating) story of Ulbricht’s founding of Silk Road and the subsequent events leading to his arrest are documented in this very detailed Wired article, which I highly recommend reading. Many libertarians have come to his defense on this issue, pointing out that the chat logs and diaries implicating Ulbricht in the assassination attempts could have been manipulated by an admittedly corrupt DEA agent, and that Ulbricht has not been convicted on any charges related to assassinations. But focusing on the specific facts related to whether or not Ross Ulbricht initiated attempts to assassinate individuals who may have harmed his business – either through attempts to steal from him or fear they would assist the Feds in arresting him – misses the point entirely.