27 August 1998
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe
See Jim Bell files: http://jya.com/jdbfiles.htm
Laissez Faire City Times, August 27, 1998, http://zolatimes.com/V2.27/Jbellth.htm
The wounded screams echo in my ears.
Last issue we ran an article by Jim Bell called "Assassination Politics." Some found this controversial. No so much the article itself (which is radical) but the fact we chose to print it.
Ho hum. When Matt Drudge ran the Monica Lewinsky story in January, and he was the only reporter in the country reporting it, and the White House was stonewalling as usual--that was controversial. But now, seven months after everyone else has had their way with the facts, and after the President has confessed, reporting the Monica Lewinsky story is decidedly not controversial. It's pretty old hat, even though the consequences of the story itself may not be.
When Jim Bell started his series of posts on the cypherpunk mailing list about three years ago--the posts that became "Assassination Politics"--they were controversial. But today, after months of raging debate, after Jim Bell's arrest by the IRS, and after his prison conviction, Jim Bell's thesis is well-known and there is not that much more to say about it. Reprinting it, as we did, is not controversial. If doing so appears shocking, that is because of the power of Bell's ideas: for "Assassination Politics" is one of the most powerful essays on freedom written in the 1990s.
There is no self-respecting "Information Warfare" library at the Pentagon or in the military that does not contain a copy of Jim Bell's article. Not to mention the Satanic bibliothecas of the IRS and other government agencies. Apparently The Laissez Faire City Times has some government-brainwashed serfs for readers who believe material like this should be reserved to the perusal of bureaucratically-anointed high priests, and should be kept out of the hands of freedom advocates. Well, all the better reason we should publish the article.
I intend to keep The Laissez Faire City Times relevant, interesting, well-written, and thought- provoking. "Assassination Politics" meets all these criteria. In fact, it also overlaps all three of our chosen subject areas: freedom, finance, and the digital society. It would be hard to find a better match up of supply and demand in my book.
But I see quite clearly what the problem is. Let's compare "Assassination Politics" to another article like "The Tragedy of Pol Pot Women" in the same issue. "Pol Pot Women" demonstrates poignantly how governments abuse their citizens. It shows graphically the consequences of unbridled State power. Most would say this is a "good" article, even though it implicitly attacks government.
But "Pol Pot Women" is not controversial. Why not? Because of the article's subtext: Citizens are victims. As you read the story, the subliminal teachings pour over you like a bath of molten lead: "Governments have the power. Citizens are victims. Citizens are victims. Citizens are victims."
Government zombies get off on this. It's like one of those "democratic" debates that goes something like this: "You, Sir, are abusing power because you killed 25 citizens, when you should have only killed 15!" And the Powers That Be smile tolerantly. They have been doing this for a long time, and they know they are not threatened.
Now we come to Jim Bell's "Assassination Politics." The first, most provocative thing about this essay is that Jim Bell doesn't present citizens as victims! It is no wonder the programming of the mind-controlled robots tells them they are supposed to be upset. For the message, sub- and supraliminal, of Bell's essay is: Citizens don't have to be victims. They can turn the table and make government the victim, when government officials initiate violence. This, of course, is the ultimate heresy, the final outrage.
When Jim Bell was arrested by the IRS, newspapers reported the alarming fact that Bell had lists giving the names and addresses of IRS agents/employees! It didn't occur to the journalists reporting the story to note that the IRS agents similarly had Jim Bell's name and address. (In fact, that's how the IRS knew where to show up to arrest him.) Once again, Jim Bell wasn't acting like the proper victim. The subtext of the news accounts: The IRS is supposed to collect information on citizens. Citizens are not supposed to collect information on the IRS.
The wounded screams of IRS suck-ups echo in my ears.
Now, I don't know where these candy-assed freedom advocates came from. Many of them may be of the variety that sets Atlas Shrugged on one corner of the table, and tea and crumpets on the other corner, and then smile at everyone and say, "Isn't freedom nice? Don't you think the government should give us more of it? Would you like some tea?" Well, to these moral cowards all I have to say is: Freedom isn't something the government gives. Freedom is something you take.
What is amazing about Jim Bell's essay is that he was a beginner at the concepts he was playing with. He was working through in his own mind the consequences of a digital signature. A digital signature on an encrypted message. And he realized you could create a lottery. A lottery whose payoff was a reward to the person who came closest to predicting the time of death of a given government official.
Now, you don't have to believe such a lottery is a good idea in order to profit from reading "Assassination Politics." For Jim Bell was, among other things, doing a thought experiment on one of the consequences of the digital society. And you can't escape these consequences by ignoring them, any more than you can escape the consequences of the atomic bomb by pretending it doesn't exist.
Governments have entire departments distributed among many organizations and think tanks whose sole purpose is to ferret out possible consequences like those envisioned by Jim Bell. Then they marshal vast resources to turn such consequences into practical plans for terrorizing the heathen across the border who worship God under a different name, as well as for enslaving their own citizens. To them, "Assassination Politics" is just a beginning. After that, they get serious. God forbid that believers in individual sovereignty should even by reading encounter the semblance of such a process.
Here is my prescription for those who can't bear to have their blessed victimhood trifled with. I forbid you to ever again read The Laissez Faire City Times. I also recommend you take a goodly dose of Prozac and return to your sedentary somnambulation in front of the Boob Tube. And remember to keep your mouth shut and your head bowed when the truck pulls up out front to carry your sorry carcass off to the government glue factory.