Jeffrey Tucker is Chief Liberty Office of Liberty.me, a social network
and online publishing platform for the liberty minded. He is also
distinguished fellow Foundation for Economic Education, executive editor
of Laissez-Faire Books, research fellow Acton Institute, founder
CryptoCurrency Conference, and author five books.Webpages:
http://www.fee.org/authors/detail/jeffrey-a-tuckerTopic: Attempt by New York to regulate Bitcoin by instituting a Bitcoin LicenseJeffrey's latest article on Liberty.Me:Rebels Will Inherit the Earth
To get to the coolest bar in Chicago — recently voted the best new
bar in the U.S. — you turn down a small alley and walk half-way down
until you get to a small blue light. There is a man standing guard in
front of a small and unlabeled black door, belonging to a place called
Three Dots and a Dash, one you would miss unless you knew what's what.
The man checks your ID. You pass the test and enter, walking down a
long staircase and passing under a lit-up wall of hundreds of tiny
skulls. You continue down the hallway until you find yourself in a
beautiful speakeasy with wonderful specialized drinks in farflung
glasses that recall the Prohibition Era. The whole place feels private,
decadent, and illegal in the best way.
So it is with many Chicago bars. They try to recall the glory days
when the boomingest industry in town was also the illegal one. The more
the government tried to stamp out liquor, the more the industry thrived,
and eventually came to build one of the great cities in the world. This
history is not forgotten in the slightest. It is sported and loved,
proudly, witness that the most popular selling shirt among tourists
features a heroic image of Al Capone — the most beloved folk hero to
emerge from the windy city.
This whole culture of Chicago, even today, is a monument to a salient
fact of history: government doesn't always get its way. The whole
regime was once dedicated to outlawing the production and sale of
alcohol. It didn't work. Defiance was the norm. Disobedience became the
rule. Far from outlawing it, the outlaws built a world for themselves
that has lasted even as the Prohibitionists faded from history. The
rebels won this one.
In fact, the rebels usually do win. They have the passion, market
forces, creativity, and dedication to the cause on their side. The
government is different. It tries implausible things like controlling
through coercion how people live. That works sometimes but not always
and never over the long term. People are inspired to resist in big and
small ways, despite threats, intimidation, jails, and even death. Cages
can't contain anyone over the long term.
Another story from Chicago. I attended a Bitcoin conference of a
thousand plus people. In the middle of a speech, in walked my friend
Charlie Shrem from New York. It's strange because he is under arrest in
New York, forbidden from leaving the state. But in he walked, not his
person but his robot that he was controlling from New York. His visage
appeared on an iPod that sat up top. He could control its direction,
height, and speech volume.
Later he rolled onto the stage and gave a full speech to the
enthralled audience. Silly government. It thought it could keep him in
New York under arrest for trumped up money laundering charges related to
Bitcoin. Instead he is reinvented as a traveling super hero speaking at
events everywhere, thanks to marvelous technology. The cage could not
contain him either.
People rightly have a fear of government, but when you look at the
track record, something becomes rather obvious. Government can restrict
our options but ultimately cannot control our volition. A persistent
desire to live free triumphs over all attempts to shape the world
through compulsion and coercion.
Consider that some forty years ago, Richard Nixon declared a war on
pot. He might as well have inaugurated a pot start up that became a
top-50 public company. In time, despite massive oppression and
aggression to stop it, pot has become a national way of life, used by
all classes and income groups in all regions of the country. It is so
ubiquitous that we pay no attention to it anymore.
If someone should ever point out to a user that "hey, this is an
illegal substance," the reaction would be bafflement. Yes, it is illegal
most everywhere but everyone just knows that this doesn't matter in the
slightest. The law is completely discredited.
Fifteen years ago, the federal government shut down Napster, one of
the first and most important distributed networks for file sharing. That
was supposed to be the end of that rebellious practice of sharing stuff
Today, nearly all music companies are desperate to distribute their
music for free on youtube in exchange for advertising revenue, while
file sharing sites thrive as never before. As for the distributed
network, it has become the preferred model of every form of digital
innovation from software development to payment systems.
A good example of a peer-to-peer technology is the mighty site called
The Silk Road. It allows producers and consumers of otherwise banned
products to hook up and benefit from trade. Yes, illegal drugs are sold
there but not by cartels and violent gangs but by peaceful people who
are just seeking to live a good life as they understand that phrase.
The government took the site down and jailed the brilliant and
visionary Ross Ulbricht, who is alleged to be the mastermind. Within 30
days, that site came back, this time with protections against such
takedowns. Today it does 4 to 5 times the business that the old site
did, and thrives as never before. There is absolutely nothing the
government can do about it.
"You can't do that!" goes an Internet meme, answered by "Watch me."
That sums up 100 years of government regulation, from censorship in
World War I to the latest attempts to regulate Bitcoin. The longing for
human liberty within our hearts and minds is too strong, too
instinctual, too dedicated, too persistent, to be stamp out by the
dweebs with guns who purport to run the world. They cannot outsmart the
crowd-sourced brilliance of billions of people who refused to be cajoled
and captured and told what to do.
It is a demoralizing reality for the people who think that power can
overcome the problem of the free spirit that abides within the human
person. But they must come to terms at some point. They will not win the
great struggle. The rebels will inherit the earth.