From CrossbowsTo Cryptography:
Techno-Thwarting The State
Future ofFreedom Conference, November1987
You know, technology—and particularly computer technology—has often gotten a bad rap in Libertarian circles. We tend to
think of Or- well’s 1984, or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, or
the proximity detectors keep- ing East Berlin’s slave/citizens on their own side of the border, or the sophisticated
bugging devices Nixon used to
harass those on his “ene- mieslist.” Or, we recognize
that for the price of a ticket on the Concorde
we can fly at twice the speed of sound,
but only if we first walk through
run by a government
and permit him to paw through
our belongings if it beeps.
that mind-setisa mistake. Before there were cattleprods, governments tortured their prisoners with clubs and rubber
hoses. Before there were lasers for eavesdropping, governments used binoculars and lip-readers. Thoughgovernment certainly uses tech-
nology to oppress, the evil lies not in the tools but in the wielder of the tools.
represents one of the most promisingavenues available for re-capturing our freedoms from those who have stolen
them. By its very
nature, it favors the bright (who can put it to use) over the dull (who cannot).
It favors the adaptable (who are quick to see the merit of the new) over the sluggish (who cling to time-tested
ways). And what two better words are there to describe government
bureaucracy than “dull” and “sluggish”?
One of the clearest, classic triumphs of technology over tyranny I see is the invention of the man-portable crossbow. With it, an untrained
peasant could now reliably and lethally engage a target out to fifty me- ters
– even if that target were a mounted, chain-mailed knight.
Unlike the longbow, which, admittedly was more powerful, and could get off more shots per unit time, the crossbow required no formal training to utilize.
Whereas the longbow required elaborate visual, tactile and kinesthetic coordination to achieve any degree
of accuracy, the wielder of a crossbow
could simply put the weapon to
his shoulder, sight along the arrow itself, and be reasonably assured of hitting his target.
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