PostHeaderIcon Eliminating Authority

For the first time in our society’s seemingly inexorable death spiral, I have regained a significant measure of hope for the future of America, and indeed all of mankind. Once again, it seems, technology will come to our rescue.

Would a world without any rulers, where war was rendered impossible, be such a bad place to live? If there were a way to eventually nullify the power of all states, not just our own, would it be worth doing?

“Anarchy is not lack of order.  Anarchy is lack of ORDERS.” -unknown

What if there were nobody left daring to even follow unpopular orders, much less issue them? Without so-called ‘leaders,’ and disciplined followers willing to execute their orders, no form of tyranny or warfare could possibly exist. Think about that undeniable fundamental truth for a moment.

I find it astonishing that I had never heard of Jim Bell, and his 20-year-old 10-part essay, “Assassination Politics,” in which he described and defended a technological method for eliminating unpopular politicians from society.

Part 1 begins:

I’ve been following the concepts of digital cash and encryption since I read the article in the August 1992 issue of Scientific American on “encrypted signatures.” While I’ve only followed the Digitaliberty area for a few weeks, I can already see a number of points that do (and should!) strongly concern the average savvy individual:

1. How can we translate the freedom afforded by the Internet to ordinary life?

2. How can we keep the government from banning encryption, digital cash, and other systems that will improve our freedom?

A few months ago, I had a truly and quite literally “revolutionary” idea, and I jokingly called it “Assassination Politics”: I speculated on the question of whether an organization could be set up to legally announce that it would be awarding a cash prize to somebody who correctly “predicted” the death of one of a list of violators of rights, usually either government employees, officeholders, or appointees. It could ask for anonymous contributions from the public, and individuals would be able send those contributions using digital cash.

I also speculated that using modern methods of public-key encryption and anonymous “digital cash,” it would be possible to make such awards in such a way so that nobody knows who is getting awarded the money, only that the award is being given. Even the organization itself would have no information that could help the authorities find the person responsible for the prediction, let alone the one who caused the death.

It was not my intention to provide such a “tough nut to crack” by arguing the general case, claiming that a person who hires a hit man is not guilty of murder under libertarian principles. Obviously, the problem with the general case is that the victim may be totally innocent under libertarian principles, which would make the killing a crime, leading to the question of whether the person offering the money was himself guilty.

On the contrary; my speculation assumed that the “victim” is a government employee, presumably one who is not merely taking a paycheck of stolen tax dollars, but also is guilty of extra violations of rights beyond this. (Government agents responsible for the Ruby Ridge incident and Waco come to mind.) In receiving such money and in his various acts, he violates the “Non-aggression Principle” (NAP) and thus, presumably, any acts against him are not the initiation of force under libertarian principles.

The organization set up to manage such a system could, presumably, make up a list of people who had seriously violated the NAP, but who would not see justice in our courts due to the fact that their actions were done at the behest of the government. Associated with each name would be a dollar figure, the total amount of money the organization has received as a contribution, which is the amount they would give for correctly “predicting” the person’s death, presumably naming the exact date. “Guessers” would formulate their “guess” into a file, encrypt it with the organization’s public key, then transmit it to the organization, possibly using methods as untraceable as putting a floppy disk in an envelope and tossing it into a mailbox, but more likely either a cascade of encrypted anonymous remailers, or possibly public-access Internet locations, such as terminals at a local library, etc.

Hopefully, that has peaked your interest enough to go read his thought-provoking essay, because I would love to discuss its potential and/or flaws. Obviously, back in ’95, the internet was in its infancy, and very few individuals had even a dial-up connection to it. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies had yet to be invented, nor had the potential for anonymity like TOR. What a difference 20 years can make in technology!

Now, internet access by smartphone is ubiquitous worldwide, and the technology necessary to implement Bell’s idea, is readily available. Crowd funding and prediction markets are now commonplace. In fact, it seems that someone has already started a version of it on the TOR network, focused on banking opponents of cryptocurrency. I have read, for instance, that the reward for correctly predicting Ben Bernanke’s death is $75K. I wonder how much that has changed his lifestyle? Even if it is a false flag honeypot, designed by the authorities to try to entrap someone, that wouldn’t help Bernanke; because there would still be no way to trace his would-be assailant, or know ahead of time when and where he intended to act. He could hire armed guards to protect himself 24/7; but how could he trust them? What would happen if their names were then added to the list?

I reckon that it is only a matter of time, before a workable, automated, and unstoppable worldwide system is designed and implemented. If TOR can already circumvent the Great Firewall of China, how could it be stopped, and by whom? Moreover, while mass retirements of politicians, bureaucrats, police, and military officers would undoubtedly soon follow, I don’t see it as being limited to government functionaries. Why not Jihadist leaders and their radical imams? How about dishonest used car salesmen? There could easily be multiple prediction markets, to eliminate all manner of uncivilized behaviors. 🙂

Being an unpleasant jerk and pissing people off, could become extremely dangerous. If one did something to provoke getting one’s name on a ‘hit’ list, with a sufficient reward to tempt a friend or associate, one’s life would never be the same again. Since the reward funds are donated up front, as anonymously as the ultimate recipient of them, there would be no way to cancel a ‘contract’ once initiated.

Yikes! I predict a very polite society in the future of mankind. Those believing that gangs of thugs would naturally terrorize society in the absence of government, need to think again. They wouldn’t dare have any leaders either! Who could a gang leader possibly trust, with a sufficient price on his head? For their bloodthirsty lot, it wouldn’t even need to be a very high price, since it could be collected completely anonymously, with a few keystrokes on a smartphone.

Once this genie is out of the bottle, and anonymous cryptocurrency use becomes ubiquitous worldwide, I predict that eventually all oppressive governments will fail, and all military organizations will cease to exist. I am unsure what individuals will then do with their lust for power, when none is available. I suppose they might have to settle for becoming well-paid assassins; but even that would be destined to become a dead-end career, as the survivors did their very best to avoid provoking anyone, in any way. 😉

Now, if you have absorbed Jim’s entire essay, please show me the hidden flaw. I can’t find it! â—„Daveâ–º

12 Responses to “Eliminating Authority”

  • As long as the states are in cyber-competition with each other, the nimble hackers will continue to win, and frustrate all attempts to control the internet. As long as there is greed for power and wealth, there will always be competition and a lack of real interstate cooperation. Therefore, ultimately, Bell’s brilliant idea is unstoppable! 😈 â—„Daveâ–º

    • At what point does one believe the government or each state for that matter does not have equally nimble hackers who will ultimately find out who gets paid what?

      It appears Bell relies heavily on honesty and integrity of those in charge of “the system”. Honesty and integrity appear to be in short supply these days.

      My favorite part was about Howard Hughes and his ball bearings. Leave it to a genius who is a little daffed. 🙂

      • You have to understand the nature of public key encryption, digital cash, and TOR to realize that the information is simply not hackable, CT. Those operating “the system” don’t know, and cannot possibly learn, the identities of the contributors or recipients of the digital cash either.

        The only question about their honesty and integrity, could be whether they were actually paying off the winners, with all the donated proceeds (less the agreed overhead percentage – probably 1% or less). There are several factors, which would ensure they performed as expected. One, would be competition. There could easily be dozens of “systems” to choose from, and likely would be. Another, would be the likelihood that a dishonest operator would soon end up on a list himself. Then, it could easily become an completely automated process operating on a distributed computing system, where no corruptible human was even involved, much less in charge.

        This understanding is part of why I predict that the idea will be implemented, it will work, and there is nothing the powers-that-(currently)-be will be able to do to prevent it. The potential for the peaceful future of mankind is truly mind-boggling. Too bad we won’t be here to enjoy it, CT; but at least we can stop worrying ourselves, over the future for our posterity.

        I enjoyed the Howard Hughes vignette also. 😀 â—„Daveâ–º

        • Since this earth plane has been in existence for eons and has yet to achieve a state without war … my guess would be you are correct we (you and I) will not be around to see it.

          Frankly I doubt this playground will EVER ADVANCE to that elevated state in our next 50 life times if there is such a thing. 🙂

          Perhaps it would be better to choose a more advanced playground next time around … oh wait that would not be as much fun 😉

  • Kaizen says:

    There is no HIDDEN flaw per se. But taking Bell’s paper(s) to its logical conclusion would necessitate EVENTUALLY a total wipe-out. This is Mad-Max syndrome but on steroids! In the end,(assuming you/me/him/her) lived that long, what’s the point? Which is why when Bell let loose “Assassination Politics” I rejected his methodology/ideology outright, as being just too…………sci-fi! You may disagree, as is your right, but I’ll take some very serious convincing!

    • I’ll take some very serious convincing!

      Great! I love a challenge… especially when the implication is that a serviceable mind, is actually open to being changed!

      Allow me to initiate the process, which I will take in chunks with multiple replies. For fun, I will start with:

      I rejected his methodology/ideology outright, as being just too…………sci-fi!

      As a kid growing up in the ’50s, I devoured nearly every sci-fi book in the library. I still think Robert Heinlein’s libertarian-like philosophy had a subtle, yet profound, influence on my own burgeoning contumacy, as I went through puberty, and beyond. I was in the middle of reading his series of space travel and planet colonization classics, when Russia launched Sputnik, so I wasn’t surprised at all… only thrilled. Not having any idea that he would one day become a rather disagreeable politician, John Glenn became a personal hero, after his three orbit space flight only five years later. To me at the time, sci-fi wasn’t just fanciful fiction, it was thought-provoking predictions about the exciting future of mankind.

      Electronics became my hobby, and I remember when I excitedly got my hands on my first transistor. I built a simple AM radio receiver with it, which was small enough that I was able to use it, to surreptitiously listen to the World Series during class in the 9th grade. Two years later, after mastering Morse Code, I got my Ham Radio license and built my first transmitter. A mere 25 years later, I was regularly communicating digitally via Ham Radio, with the International Space Station as it passed over Hawaii, from my yacht with a laptop computer, a 1200 baud Packet Radio modem, and a VHF transceiver.

      From my experience, it seems that all it takes is time, for sci-fi to evolve into reality. Another example… do you remember the Dick Tracy comic strip, with his fanciful wristwatch? Knowing what was involved in building a 2-way radio, the notion that it could be miniaturized into a wristwatch, was simply beyond the realm of possibility to my young mind. By the time it evolved into a TV watch in the ’60s, I had already had a part-time job in a TV repair shop, while in high school, and was a technician in the US Army Signal Corps. I knew how CRTs worked, so that idea was patently ridiculous. I think about that often, when I answer my iPhone with my Apple Watch! Dick Tracy’s lame watch didn’t even have text messaging, with the ability to speak to Siri, which does an absolutely amazing job, of converting my nominal voice into text for a reply. All, without ever taking my phone out of my pocket!

      How about the internet itself? I had my first internet connection through a wormhole at the University of Hawaii, using that same Packet Radio station from my yacht, back in the late ’80s. This was before the WWW protocol was invented, and basically all that was available to civilians, was university databases and libraries. Everything was text based, because the 300 or 1200 baud modems available at the time were so slow. Downloading a research paper could take hours; but that it was coming into my yacht in Hawaii, from a university in New York, was just mind-boggling marvelous. Now, just 30 years later, I have a cable modem that consistently delivers 60mb broadband internet, simultaneously with a couple hundred HDTV channels.

      The technological changes that have occurred in my lifetime, are truly amazing. I suspect that youngsters today have no idea, how much we old farts have done to develop technology, for their welfare and amusement. I submit that at this point, if the mind of man can conceive it, technology can be designed to achieve it. This is particularly true in the interconnected digital world. Any potential obstacles to implementing Bell’s thesis on technology grounds, could be rather quickly rectified.

      …more to follow… â—„Daveâ–º

      • Chris says:

        Just to throw out a bit of a muse that I can’t quite figure out yet. In this day and age anybody can carry in their pocket the wisdom and knowledge of all recorded human history and every technology known. All the great philosophers, leaders, and critical minds works are at our finger tips. Yet we remain so stupid.

      • Kaizen says:

        Ok Dave, I never disputed the scintillating technological advances that have been accomplished during the past 60+years, with perhaps the most significant during the last 20. However, I’m going to change my mind to prove I’ve got one! I was wrong in my opening line above. There is a hidden flaw and that flaw is Bell himself. Whilst I never meant to dispute the technological CAPABILITY of his hypothesis being accomplished, the man clearly is a wacko and I do not and will not subscribe to wacko-politics. Sure, we all listen to the lunatic fringe,(we have several in the UK and with the internet, their platform(s) expands) but a balanced, logical mind says I’ve listened and rejected it. On that, I shall not change my mind!!

        Similarly, I dispute Chris’s sweeping generalisation – …”We remain so stupid.” I disagree. I believe that the vast majority of the silent majority are now apathetic to the speed of change because of the speed of change. That, per se, now impinges on every facet of life. And even with access to the world’s knowledge base at the touch of a button, nothing, absolutely nothing replaces
        common-sense. That, I suggest, is what we (and I do generalise here), the current planet’s inhabitants, have forgotten. Furthermore, we spend too much time just “doing” and far too little time just thinking. If we thought more and did less, my guess would be that Dave and Thoughts Aloud could replace Google!

        • There is a hidden flaw and that flaw is Bell himself. …the man clearly is a wacko and I do not and will not subscribe to wacko-politics. …a balanced, logical mind says I’ve listened and rejected it. On that, I shall not change my mind!!

          More’s the pity. I preferred your original challenge. This is the epitome of argumentum ad hominem, in its original meaning. I was not intending to promote Bell’s political viewpoint, wacko or not; I didn’t even mention it. My interest was only in discussing the potential of his innovative ideas, for individual Liberty and peace, in a world without rulers. Challenging ideas themselves, is always fair game. Trying to discredit them, by attacking the character of the man suggesting them, is not.

          Imagine the book title, “How we Created Freedom in a Ruler-free World.” ‘Wacko-politics’ is in the eye of the beholder. Harry Browne was not a wacko by my lights; but he undoubtedly was considered so by the oligarchs and their sycophants, who preferred to perpetuate the status quo. Had Harry conceived of this solution to “Why Government Doesn’t Work,” I have to believe he would not have hesitated to openly discuss it. I, for one, would have listened carefully, and searched for the hidden flaw in the idea, and could not have found it in Harry’s basic political philosophy…

          I have tried to move discussion of Chris’s “sweeping generalization” over here: Information vs Wisdom â—„Daveâ–º

  • LOL

    Yet we remain so stupid.

    I am afraid we have not hit the bottom of the pit in stupid yet. After all the arrogance of man is astounding to me. We can send a man to the moon but can be build a GREAT PYRAMID? Are we really as smart and as advanced as a whale or dolphin?

    Sometimes I wonder if the average man is as smart as my cat …. I am afraid my answer would be NO! … LOL 😉

  • jim bell says:

    A very interesting discussion!
    Jim Bell, author of the Assassination Politics essay.

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