> While I don’t support what went on on the Silk Road – the hacking services and illegal gun trading alone made it more like the Wild West than Utopia, not to mention the alleged murder-for-hire plots – I do support its right to exist. No government should be able to shut down a conglomeration of like-minded people who wish to do business anonymously. We cannot judge the pot dealer or the LSD buyer any more than they can judge our habits and predilections. The morality of this can be debated but the right to an anonymous exchange cannot.
This makes no sense at all. Why the heck can't the 'right' to an anonymous exchange facilitating illegal activities 'be debated'? Just cause the author says so, apparently. Why does he think no government should be able to shut-down a 'conglomeration of like-minded people' (what?) who want to buy and sell weapons, computer intrusions, and murders? I don't know, he doesn't say, it's just obvious, right?
He doesn't 'support' people selling murder on an anonymous exchange, but does 'support' 'the right' to have an anonymous exchange where you sell murder? He thinks you can debate 'the morality' of 'this' (what?), but you can't 'judge' the people doing the thing whose morality you are debating, and in fact apparently can't (can't? ethically?) judge anything that can be described as a 'habit or predilection'?
What does all that even mean? It's just nonsense put together into sentences.
There might be some ethical defense of Silk Road that makes sense, but that sure wasn't it. This is what passes for thought on the techno-libertarian internet? Really, tech crunch?
I think you are misconstruing the author. He supports the right to have an anonymous exchange. That an anonymous exchange makes it possible to hide illegal activities is unfortunate, but unavoidable, in his view. This is similar to the common opinion that encryption software should not be outlawed just because it can also be (and is) used to hide evidence of crimes.
I agree that it's strange to say this isn't up for debate (I don't think there is anything that isn't up for debate and this exact point is being debated all the time). The article seems to be a reiteration of the author's beliefs on the issues of privacy and drugs, to which Silk Road is only tangentially relevant.
To be fair to the Silk Road, they shut down arms-trading after a while (apparently getting guns offline is way too easy and convenient to make it worthwhile), and the murder-for-hire was against the official rules which were indeed enforced (you couldn't go on SR and find hitman listings) - DPR did that on his own, and as the first plot indicates, didn't even need the SR infrastructure to do it. (He communicated mostly over TorChat, according to the indictment, and paid via a wire transfer.)
I think the author seems to believe in the techno-libertarian (I like that phrasing) idea of rights as absolute technical guarantees against government action instead of legal ones. There is a significant difference between saying "No government should shut down..." and saying "No government should BE ABLE to shut down..."
If you believe the former, then the shutdown of the Silk Road doesn't threaten the right to anonymous exchanges or communication any more than the police getting a warrant and searching the house of a murder suspect threatens my right to be secure in my house. But if you believe the latter, the shutdown of Silk Road IS a problem because it demonstrates that being able to technically and absolutely guarantee your ability to engage in anonymous exchanges might not be possible. In the same way that the police searching a suspect's house might trouble you if you believe that the right to be secure in your home means you should be able to physically prevent the police from getting in.
It's an interesting concept, but one that becomes a little hard to justify when you look at what some people do with those absolute rights. The author's defense, that he doesn't support what they did but supports their right do it comes across, at least to me, like a cheap cop out (not to mention a bit nonsensical). I'm not so sure you can easily shrug off your Utopia leading to the Wild West by saying, "Well, I don't support the Wild West".
Your dissection is totally out of context. The author is expressing support for the nature of anonymity, in which Silk Road was an almost perfect example. It's not concerned with the legalities - as far as the US is concerned, anyway - of what Silk Route was facilitating, but the fact that anonymous pockets of people have a right to exist and now the very belief that such a thing is possible on the internet is under threat.
EDIT: Changed 'Silk Route' to 'Silk Road'; the former is actually an Indian restaurant near me!
If I and others want to get together and communicate without divulging our identities, to each other or to third parties, that is our right in a free society. It's not anyone elses business. Not yours, not the NSA's and not the FBI's
Certainly you can gainsay that, as you do. So if that's what you mean by it can be debated, point taken.
But I'd agree with the author that it can't be debated - if you are referring to a free society. Unless we adopt an Orwellian New speak version of the word free.
Exchange of money and goods is not "communication" in the sense of "free speech" or "privacy". The state needs to protect my freedom to not be killed by a hitman, be threatened by guns etc.
I am all in for legalizing drugs, but don't pretend that all weapon trade, offering hacking services or other nasty stuff needs to be protected in a free society. Freedom of speech is about inconvenient opinions, not about "everything you can do by communicating with others".
If the fact that communication may be about an exchange of goods frowned on by politicians (even when they are right to frown) means the communication can't be anonymous, then no anonymous speech is possible.
The possibility that any speech may slide into commerce would mean any speech is open to observation.
Western culture, generally, tends towards a "you can think what you like about morality, but don't you dare measure other people up to that standard" mindset. What you have noted is a good example of where such a mindset tends to snap.
Additionally, the person making the statement "I don't think you should measure other people up to your own standard of morality" is actually doing exactly what they purport to rail against.
>"you can think what you like about morality, but don't you dare measure other people up to that standard"
This is an interesting thought because where I think it works well in our thought experiments and our online forums, it's the very business of government to do just as you say: measure people by a social standard. And it's not like government just popped up out of nowhere one night, the standards and institutions that it uses are ones that have evolved over time to deal with specific problems. It's an organic development and as such it has all the weird inconsistencies of an organic creature.
So where I think lots of us (myself included) probably think what you say in our heads, I doubt many of us (if we were totally honest with ourselves) go about our daily business not actually measuring people by our standards and expecting the state to do the same.
> Sometimes people forget that democracy is about the majority oppressing the rest.
That is just one form of democracy. There's a lot of works that discusses forms of authority and democracy and various ways of balancing the rights. One of my favourites on the subject is "After the revolution? Authority in a good society" by Robert A Dahl - particularly because it is short, clear and to the point.
But incidentally, your reasoning is the basis for Marx use of the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" - in Marx view, a state wielding power over one group against another is a form of dictatorship whether or not the group wielding the power has a majority or not.
"There might be some ethical defense of Silk Road that makes sense, but that sure wasn't it. This is what passes for thought on the techno-libertarian internet? Really, tech crunch?"
The same law enforcement tactics we might sadly accept to save us from murder are obviously outrageous when they're applied to crimes we don't really consider crimes.
Quite a lot of the middle class, a vast majority of techies, and a majority of the working class and underclass consider drug use and trafficking to be less of a crime than double parking. The cops and statutes treat drugs as if they were in the same class as rape and murder.
The result is going to be some foolish opinions and practices about law enforcement and privacy.
You can be against something while believing in the right to do it. You can think it's destructive, and implore people to not do it, but believe it's not your place to use physical force to stop it.
Taking about the right of exchange is a bit more nuanced. I suppose you could make the argument that it's moral to possess a drug as long as you don't use it? Like if you own a machine gun but never load it, you're clearly not hurting anyone.
I was just going to quote the same paragraph - the Silk Road was a distribution center of drugs and mayhem. It's an oxymoron to say that people want to do business anonymously. The majority of legal businesses want to be well known and well thought of but with those rare few exceptions who do operate anonymously they have corporate identities for that.
"the Silk Road was a distribution center of drugs"
You say this as though there is something immoral about selling drugs. There has never been a strong moral argument for drug prohibition, and in fact many "illegal" drugs (many that were sold on SR) are legal by prescription (cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, etc.). Drug prohibition is and has always been a combination of racism and corporate profits.
The difference between frequency and types of crimes committed by powder-cocaine users and crack-cocaine users was also so great that laws were enacted to treat the drug differently.
This is racism, pure and simple. It may not be intentional, but that doesn't change it. The frequency and types of crimes committed by powder and crack users are a function of their socio-economic backgrounds, not their drugs of choice, which are a co-incidental cultural preference which was convenient in the repression of lower social classes. The same thing happens now with white meth users.
Yes, they are different drugs. No, one is not considerably more addictive or dangerous than the other.
> "and everything around them becoming 10x worse as a result?"
(Note my emphasis) You are begging the question here.
Consider the alternative hypothesis, that things went to shit and they switched to a cheaper form of cocaine. 'And', not 'because'. In fact, one can hypothesis that both changes were triggered by another factor that you have failed to mention.
> Absolutely immoral. Drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, etc, make you into an addict once you start taking them on a regular bases - and that happens quite easily.
You've listened to and believed too much propaganda. It has been and is illegal to conduct studies on most of those drugs. So their actual effects are unknown. What scientific knowledge there is indicates addition rates are low ~20%. Not nearly a sure thing. btw nicotine and alcohol dependence probabilities are higher.
[My opinion] It is likely that probability has more to do with the individual user than the individual substance.
The problem is addiction rates for many drugs are exaggerated and the amount of people that live functional lives(functionally equivalent to normal people) is understated. People like you get a free pass with saying things like this but you have no real world experience.
I speak of cocaine specifically of that you mentioned and not crack-cocaine as I have no experience with that.
I am actually arguing that you are incorrect, on the basis of the data. I will not twist the definition. I will propose that a functional human being who has most issues worked out who takes drug use can treat it like any other risk/reward, and that drug usage can be a 'win' scenario.
"Absolutely immoral. Drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, etc, make you into an addict once you start taking them on a regular bases - and that happens quite easily."
Under the assumption that selling an addictive product is immoral. Coffee shops must be the work of the devil himself, and it is immoral for a company to provide its employees with free coffee. Video games are also very addictive, so you have just condemned the entire video game industry. Social networking is addictive too, so you just condemned social networking (ironically, you may have even condemned Hacker News, the very site on which we are having this discussion).
Basically, your standard of morality is beyond extreme.
"So a prescribed 5mg Desoxyn (dextro-methamphetamine) pill swallowed once per day for Narcolepsy is no different than the typical 100mg of crystal Meth put and smoked in a pipe to get wired for 24h?"
No, but that is because you are describing the difference between use and abuse of a drug, which is not relevant to the question of whether or not drugs should be illegal. It is also worth pointing out that pharmaceuticals are far less damaging because of the regulations on their production and that one of the biggest problems with black-market methamphetamine is adulterants.
Let's put it this way: would you rather have a meth addict get their drugs in regulated dosages and purities, or leave everything up to chance? When my doctor asks me if, when, and how often I drink alcohol, I can give a meaningful answer because alcohol is legal and regulated. Why shouldn't a meth user be able to do the same?
"Or a couple of Vicodin or Percs for pain in you back is no different than shooting black tar heroin?"
In fact, pharmaceutical opiates are more habit-forming than heroin, due to their purity and the fact that they are basically engineered to be effective drugs. That is why people wind up in this situation:
"The difference in effects between powder-cocaine insufflated and crack-cocaine smoked is so great that it literally feels like a different drug."
Likewise with injecting cocaine, which was once the common way to use the drug, versus drinking coca tea, which was the original way to use the drug. This is like comparing beer to grain liquor; all you are doing is comparing one form of a drug with another form of the drug.
"One of many counter-points to the "it must always be a race thing" argument."
The counterpoint to which is the history of powder cocaine prohibition. Yes, powder cocaine was once legal in the United States, and then people started saying that black men who used cocaine would become more accurate with a pistol, impossible to stop with a shot through the heart, and prone to rape white women. Don't believe me? Here is a New York Times article from the early 20th century:
("Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are A New Southern Menace")
It is not just cocaine. Marijuana was make illegal under equally questionable premises: claims that it fueled black Jazz musicians, claims that it caused white women to want to have sex with black men, claims that Mexican vagrants were using it to corrupt the white youth, and so forth. Heroin was made illegal to punish the German company Bayer, and people were told that opiates in general were part of the bad habits of Philipinos and other Asian immigrants. You can look at the Congressional Record and see the overt racism that surrounded the early debates about drug prohibition, debates that we have never revisited.
When you look at the history of drug prohibition you will find racism and hand-outs to corporations. That is because drug prohibition is and has always been about racism and corporate greed, never about public health (unless you care about the propaganda used to support it). While people were (and continue to be) told racist nonsense to justify drug prohibition, corporations that benefit from said prohibition have lobbied hard in favor of it. It should come as no surprise that tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical companies are big contributors to "The Partnership for a Drug-Free America" -- they have enjoyed inflated profits as a result (the irony of a tobacco company pushing a message about the deadly consequences of marijuana or methamphetamine is off the scale).
If you meant something more specific than "addiction" maybe you should have said so. This is not just a pointless distinction, it gets at the very heart of the public health issues involved and should not be glossed over. Lives are not destroyed by addiction in general, as you yourself pointed out.
...and we are just supposed to assume that addictions to those drugs represent a special category? Not only that, but you yourself distinguished between someone who takes methamphetamine as their doctor prescribed and someone who freebases it to get high -- yet prescription stimulants are just as addicting and have the same withdrawal effects.
> yet prescription stimulants are just as addicting and have the same withdrawal effects.
In fact, in many ways, addiction triggered by prescription painkillers and stimulants can be more difficult to deal with. We have gotten fairly good (with a lot of improvement to go) at treating "standard junkies" but people who don't consider themselves to be in that "class" will often fail to seek out treatment because they fear association with that "class".
Basically, the stigmatization of illegal drugs and addiction in general causes collateral damage. The attitude that addiction is immoral or signals some sort of personal defect (more or less, the sort of attitude powertower is showing here) causes harm.