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.)