Ideas for liberty – the Jim Bell System revisited

A few weeks back, someone suggested in a comment that it might be time to set up the “Jim Bell System.”

This idea, also known as a type of “Assassination Politics” was invented back in 1995 by an anarchocapitalist (or crypto-anarchist) seeking a way to directly address tyranny and the seeking-to-be-omnipotent State. For details on his original proposal, visit this website. It provides the complete series of essays he wrote between 1995 and 1997. (For readers’ convenience, I’m providing an extract of his proposal at the end of this commentary.)

But in brief, people use crypto-currency, digital cash, and online encryption to establish organizations which are clearinghouses for people to bet on exactly when some politician or leader or bureaucrat – at home or abroad – croaks, and put their money down. As the pot grows, lottery style, one of those bettors bets on a specific date and covers his/her bet by ensuring (in some manner) that the subject of the bet does indeed die. And then anonymously claims the stake anonymously, in one or more forms of cryptocurrency which is untraceable.

For those more interested, visit this website which more recently exposed Mr. Bell’s invention and addresses the pros and cons of the entire concept.

The Price of Liberty takes no stand on the entire idea. It is beyond our limited understanding of encryption, anonymity, and cryptocurrencies – or gold bars, for that matter – to be able to evaluate. It appears feasible.

Although I do not think there is a connection, the proposal is very much reminiscent of the major plot device in H. Beam Piper’s Lone Star Planet, also known as A Planet for Texans from 1957, in which Assassination Politics (AP) is the key feature of government on a distant, long-colonized planet. It has even more in common with another novel, which I often conflate with Piper’s story. On that planet, all of the politicians in office wear explosive collars tied wirelessly to a system of voting booths in which citizens can express their disapproval of the politician’s actions. If the weight of votes is sufficient, a signal is sent to the collar, and bang! – there is one less dastardly politician infesting the body politic.

(If a reader can identify the forgotten name of that novel, please let us here at TPOL know!)

But the Jim Bell System goes beyond that. The explosive collar idea requires that there BE a government. As did Piper’s system. AP claims to require NO organized government or even a public organization – everything is done anonymously and online, using current technology and methods. And although “legal” could function even if made illegal by government.

Other than a fascinating look at an idea that is very much “outside the box” the issue here at The Price of Liberty is a simple one. Is this (as Jim Bell labeled it) a form of “murder by hire”? Or just plain encouraging/inciting murder? Or is it actually a legitimate (and moral) form of self-defense against those tyrants, large and small, that infest our society, our nations, and our world? What do you, dear reader, think?

And is it truly a solution, or just another idea (a form of technology) that can be used as much for evil as for good? Would government begin using this against the people? Would this open Pandora’s Box anew? For almost three decades, free-market and other anarchists and even minarchists have been discussing this. Is it time to seriously consider this? Let us here at TPOL know.


From Jim Bell’s third essay (found at this website):

…it should be possible to LEGALLY set up an organization which collects perfectly anonymous donations sent by members of the public, donations which instruct the organization to pay the amount to any person who correctly guesses the date of death of some named person, for example some un-favorite government employee or officeholder.  The organization would total the amounts of the donations for each different named person, and publish that list (presumably on the Internet) on a daily or perhaps even an hourly basis, telling the public exactly how much a person would get for “predicting” the death of that particular target.

Moreover, that organization would accept perfectly anonymous, untraceable, encrypted “predictions” by various means, such as the Internet (probably through chains of encrypted anonymous remailers), U.S. mail, courier, or any number of other means.  Those predictions would contain two parts:  A small amount of untraceable “digital cash,” inside the outer “digital envelope,” to ensure that the “predictor” can’t economically just randomly choose dates and names, and an inner encrypted data packet which is encrypted so that even the organization itself cannot decrypt it.  That data packet would contain the name of the person whose death is predicted, and the date it is to happen.

This encrypted packet could also be published, still encrypted, on the Internet, so as to be able to prove to the world, later, that SOMEBODY made that prediction before it happened, and was willing to “put money on it” by including it outside the inner encrypted “envelope.”  The “predictor” would always lose the outer digital cash; he would only earn the reward if his (still-secret) prediction later became true.  If, later on, that prediction came true, the “lucky” predictor would transmit the decrypt key to the organization, untraceably, which would apply it to the encrypted packet, and discover that it works, and read the prediction made hours, days, weeks, or even months earlier.  Only then would the organization, or for that matter anyone else except the predictor, know the person or the date named.

Also included in that inner encrypted digital “envelope” would be a public key, generated by the predictor for only this particular purpose: It would not be his “normal” public key, obviously, because that public key would be traceable to him.  Also present in this packet the predictor has earned.  (This presentation could be done indirectly, by an intermediary, to prevent a bank from being able to refuse to deal with the organization.)

Those “digital cash” codes will then be encrypted using the public key included with the original prediction, and published in a number of locations, perhaps on the Internet in a number of areas, and available by FTP to anyone who’s interested.  (It is assumed that this data will somehow get to the original predictor.  Since it will get to “everyone” on the Internet, it will presumably be impossible to know where the predictor is.)  Note, however, that only the person who sent the prediction (or somebody he’s given the secret key to in the interim) can decrypt that message, and in any case only he, the person who prepared the digital cash blanks, can fully “unbind” the digital cash to make it spendable, yet absolutely untraceable.  (For a much more complete explanation of how so-called “digital cash” works, I refer you to the August 1992 issue of Scientific American.)

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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8 Responses to Ideas for liberty – the Jim Bell System revisited

  1. pigpen51 says:

    One other thing that I can see needing attention to. The person who is named must be some government toady, or politician, or other high profile person deserving of death. Otherwise, it is possible that a vindictive person might place a couple grand on the head of his old high school math teacher who made his or her life a living hell, just to see if they can get them whacked.
    Now, I might not be understanding this right, and this might not be possible, and if so, forgive me, and forget I even mentioned it. Another thing, before I lost my other computer, and all of the data, including my saved books, i had a book that spoke about a group of the people in the U.S. who got pissed with the government and started to eliminate some of the government officers, like the BATFE’s and personal assistants to Senators, the head of planned parenthood, an odd Senator or Represenative, and then, as they became more bold, people who supported them in the nation started to help with the task, killing people like the DC head cop, etc.
    The main person who started it was some retired SOF guy, with a huge stockpile of weapons, of course, and friends. If anyone has an idea of the name of this book I would love to find it and download it again. someone sent the link to me, it was a freebie. I think it was like 600 pages long, but a good read.
    I am not saying that I would ever be involved in a scenario like that, but if a civil war were to break out, that is probably the only way to win it, just like the Vietnamese and the sort of how the Afghans did, by being smart, and hitting and running. Although from a few friends who went to Afghanistan told me that sometimes, the Afghans were simply stupid. They would take 2 toyota trucks, full of men with AK 47’s and drive up to the main gate, jump out and run to the gate, while a SAW simply mowed them down, to the last man. The one friend was from work, and he mostly rode shotgun from Kuwait to Bagdad every other day. But when he was in Afghanistan for a month, he said that 3-4 times he saw the trucks come at dusk to the gate, and the guards simply let them get out, run up to the gate, and then mowed them down.
    Our shop gave this guy, a former Marine, and a member of the National Guard or the Reserves or something, a computer, a bunch of phone cards, I think, some things for his wife and kids, they treated him really good. When he came back, within less than 2 months, they fired him. Total jackasses. Trumped up charges, but they made certain that their expensive lawyers were involved, so you cannot win.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Pigpen, that is an interesting thought. Is the Jim Bell System “just” an anti-government method, or can it be applied to anyone who is aggressing against people? And who limits the potential targets? (And how?) For example, would the CEO of General Motors have been a legitimate target (that is, violence in defense/for self-protection or protection of your family) back in 1964 for producing the Chevy Corvair? Or would the boards of Big Tobacco be legit targets for selling tobacco? There are very thin lines here, aren’t there?
      Many people agree with you that an unconventional, even low-intensity urban and rural warfare is the best, if not only, way to overthrow an entrenched tyrannical government. And that the more violence and threatened violence against ordinary people and military veterans and lovers of liberty is done, the more people are driven to resistance: not just civil disobedience and passive resistance but active guerilla warfare against the state and those they see as allied to and supporting the state.
      Situations like that you describe with the veteran can and have led to such things in the past, even here in the Fifty States in recent years.
      Yes, many Afghans were stupid – but a good many of those were simply tools for the more cunning: religious fervor can lead to that sort of suicidally-stupid action. But it still benefited the groups and people resisting the occupation by the ferengi. And at the same time, reduced the problems they faced during the US withdrawal (and now): it “purified” the population of the most fanatical.

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  2. Slave Larry says:

    “Bind them down with the chains of the constitution.” How’s that worked out for ya. There is no justice in this life. They literally “Believe” they are God. From POTUS to the local code enforcer. There must be consequences or it just gets worse.

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    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Right to the point, Larry. Among others, Boston T Party and Tom Knapp have pointed that that the Bill of Rights really doesn’t have an enforcement provision. The impeachment process has been demonstrated to be nothing but a political, partisan game – all image and grandstanding. And Congress has virtually nothing – vote them out of office? Come on! And recall elections? Depends as much on the alternative person proposed as it does abuse of power or law-breaking by the incumbent.

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      • jim bell says:

        Thank you for your coverage and comments. Jim Bell, author of Assassination politics.
        I occasionally do a web search for ‘ “assassination politics” jim bell’.
        I can usually be found on the Cypherpunks email list.

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      • TPOL Nathan says:

        Jim, you honor me and all of us here at TPOL. You have suffered much for the cause of liberty, and we salute you.

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  3. Steve says:

    Bell’s system needs a couple further things to be moral, in my opinion.

    First, there can not be anything even resembling to a bounty. Instead, some form of a bet needs to be in place. Maybe a betting pool, where for a buck or a sawbuck, you get to choose a date and time.

    That might actually be enough, though I’m also inclined to think you need one thing more — a way to retract your “bet”. People change. Situations change. I think that’s probably achievable with just the outer wrapper. At the option’s expiration, either the original owner can supply the key and redeem the coupon, or maybe you choose a beneficiary — at expiration, your proceeds go to the orphanage or whomever you chose.

    Others buying into the pool could also see when various bets were expiring. If the pot isn’t worth it, or won’t be worth it when a bunch of the pot disappears next Thursday, he just doesn’t bet.

    In this way, there’s always a way for someone on the list to repent, and if enough of the pool assigned reasonable expirations, the repentance can still have some worldly impact.

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