Assassination Politics

by Jim Bell

I've  been following the concepts of digital  cash  and
encryption since I read the article in the August  1992
issue of Scientific American on "encrypted signatures."
While  I've only followed the Digitaliberty area for  a
few weeks, I can already see a number of points that do
(and   should!)  strongly  concern  the  average  savvy
1.   How  can we translate the freedom afforded by  the
Internet to ordinary life?

2.   How  can  we  keep  the  government  from  banning
encryption, digital cash, and other systems  that  will
improve our freedom?

A  few  months  ago, I had a truly and quite  literally
"revolutionary"   idea,  and  I  jokingly   called   it
"Assassination Politics":  I speculated on the question
of  whether an organization could be set up to  legally
announce  that  it would be awarding a  cash  prize  to
somebody who correctly "predicted" the death of one  of
a   list   of  violators  of  rights,  usually   either
government employees, officeholders, or appointees.  It
could  ask for anonymous contributions from the public,
and  individuals would be able send those contributions
using digital cash.

I  also speculated that using modern methods of public-
key  encryption and anonymous "digital cash," it  would
be  possible to make such awards in such a way so  that
nobody  knows  who is getting awarded the  money,  only
that  the  award is being given.  Even the organization
itself  would have no information that could  help  the
authorities  find  the  person  responsible   for   the
prediction, let alone the one who caused the death.

It was not my intention to provide such a "tough nut to
crack"  by  arguing the general case, claiming  that  a
person  who  hires  a hit man is not guilty  of  murder
under  libertarian principles.  Obviously, the  problem
with the general case is that the victim may be totally
innocent under libertarian principles, which would make
the killing a crime, leading to the question of whether
the person offering the money was himself guilty.

On  the  contrary:  my  speculation  assumed  that  the
"victim" is a government employee, presumably  one  who
is  not merely taking a paycheck of stolen tax dollars,
but also is guilty of extra violations of rights beyond
this.   (Government  agents responsible  for  the  Ruby
Ridge  incident and Waco come to mind.)   In  receiving
such  money  and in his various acts, he  violates  the
"Non-aggression Principle" (NAP) and thus,  presumably,
any  acts  against him are not the initiation of  force
under libertarian principles.

The  organization set up to manage such a system could,
presumably, make up a list of people who had  seriously
violated the NAP, but who would not see justice in  our
courts due to the fact that their actions were done  at
the  behest  of the government.  Associated  with  each
name  would  be  a dollar figure, the total  amount  of
money  the organization has received as a contribution,
which  is  the  amount they would  give  for  correctly
"predicting" the person's death, presumably naming  the
exact  date.  "Guessers" would formulate their  "guess"
into  a file, encrypt it with the organization's public
key,  then  transmit  it to the organization,  possibly
using  methods as untraceable as putting a floppy  disk
in  an envelope and tossing it into a mailbox, but more
likely   either   a  cascade  of  encrypted   anonymous
remailers,    or   possibly   public-access    Internet
locations, such as terminals at a local library, etc.

In  order to prevent such a system from becoming simply
a  random  unpaid lottery, in which people can randomly
guess  a  name  and date (hoping that  lightning  would
strike, as it occasionally does), it would be necessary
to   deter  such  random  guessing  by  requiring   the
"guessers" to include with their "guess" encrypted  and
untraceable  "digital cash," in an amount  sufficiently
high to make random guessing impractical.

For  example, if the target was, say, 50 years old  and
had  a  life  expectancy of 30 years, or  about  10,000
days,  the amount of money required to register a guess
must be at least 1/10,000th of the amount of the award.
In  practice, the amount required should be far higher,
perhaps as much as 1/1000 of the amount, since you  can
assume   that  anybody  making  a  guess   would   feel
sufficiently  confident of that guess to risk  1/1000th
of his potential reward.

The  digital  cash  would be placed  inside  the  outer
"encryption envelope," and could be decrypted using the
organization's  public  key.   The  prediction   itself
(including  name and date) would be itself  in  another
encryption envelope inside the first one, but it  would
be  encrypted  using a key that is only  known  to  the
predictor himself.  In this way, the organization could
decrypt  the outer envelope and find the digital  cash,
but they would have no idea what is being predicted  in
the innermost envelope, either the name or the date.

If,  later,  the "prediction" came true, the  predictor
would  presumably send yet another encrypted "envelope"
to  the organization, containing the decryption key for
the  previous "prediction" envelope, plus a public  key
(despite  its name, to be used only once!) to  be  used
for  encryption of digital cash used as payment for the
award.  The organization would apply the decryption key
to  the  prediction envelope, discover that  it  works,
then  notice that the prediction included was fulfilled
on the date stated.  The predictor would be, therefore,
entitled  to the award. Nevertheless, even then  nobody
would actually know WHO he is!

The organization doesn't even know if the predictor had
anything to do with the outcome of the prediction.   If
it  received  these  files in  the  mail,  in  physical
envelopes  which had no return address, it  would  have
burned  the envelopes before it studied their contents.
The  result is that even the active cooperation of  the
organization could not possibly help anyone,  including
the police, to locate the predictor.

Also   included   within   this  "prediction-fulfilled"
encryption  envelope would be unsigned  (not-yet-valid)
"digital  cash," which would then be blindly signed  by
the  organization's  bank  and  subsequently  encrypted
using  the public key included.  (The public key  could
also  be publicized, to allow members of the public  to
securely  send  their comments and,  possibly,  further
grateful remuneration to the predictor, securely.)  The
resulting  encrypted file could be published openly  on
the  Internet, and it could then be decrypted  by  only
one  entity:   The person who had made  that  original,
accurate  prediction.  The result is that the recipient
would be absolutely untraceable.

The digital cash is then processed by the recipient  by
"unblinding" it, a principle which is explained in  far
greater detail by the article in the August 1992  issue
of  Scientific American.  The resulting digital cash is
absolutely untraceable to its source.
This overall system achieves a number of goals.  First,
it  totally hides the identity of the predictor to  the
organization,  which  makes  it  unnecessary  for   any
potential  predictor to "trust" them to not reveal  his
name  or location.  Second, it allows the predictor  to
make   his  prediction  without  revealing  the  actual
contents  of  that  prediction  until  later,  when  he
chooses  to,  assuring  him that  his  "target"  cannot
possibly  get early warning of his intent (and "failed"
predictions need never be revealed).  In fact, he needs
never  reveal his prediction unless he wants the award.
Third, it allows the predictor to anonymously grant his
award to anyone else he chooses, since he may give this
digital  cash to anyone without fear that  it  will  be
For  the  organization,  this system  also  provides  a
number  of  advantages .By hiding the identity  of  the
predictor from even itself, the organization cannot  be
forced to reveal it, in either civil or criminal court.
This   should   also   shield  the  organization   from
liability, since it will not know the contents  of  any
"prediction" until after it comes true.  (Even so,  the
organization would be deliberately kept "poor" so  that
it  would be judgment-proof.)  Since presumably most of
the laws the organization might be accused of violating
would  require that the violator have specific or prior
knowledge, keeping itself ignorant of as many facts  as
possible,  for  as  long as possible, would  presumably
make it very difficult to prosecute.

                        Part 2
At the Village Pizza shop, as they were sitting down to
consume a pepperoni, Dorothy asked Jim, "So what  other
inventions are you working on?"  Jim replied, "I've got
a  new  idea,  but it's really evolutionary.  Literally
REVOLUTIONARY."  "Okay, Jim, which government  are  you
planning to overthrow?," she asked, playing along.

"All of them," answered Jim.

                Political Implications
Imagine  for  a  moment that as ordinary citizens  were
watching  the  evening  news, they  see  an  act  by  a
government  employee  or officeholder  that  they  feel
violates  their rights, abuses the public's  trust,  or
misuses the powers that they feel should be limited.  A
person  whose  actions are so abusive or improper  that
the citizenry shouldn't have to tolerate it.

What  if they could go to their computers, type in  the
miscreant's  name,  and select a  dollar  amount:   The
amount  they, themselves, would be willing  to  pay  to
anyone who "predicts" that officeholder's death.   That
donation would be sent, encrypted and anonymously, to a
central registry organization, and be totaled, with the
total amount available within seconds to any interested
individual.   If  only 0.1% of the population,  or  one
person in a thousand, was willing to pay $1 to see some
government slimeball dead, that would be, in effect,  a
$250,000 bounty on his head.

Further,  imagine  that  anyone considering  collecting
that bounty could do so with the mathematical certainty
that he could not be identified, and could collect  the
reward without meeting, or even talking to, anybody who
could  later identify him.  Perfect anonymity,  perfect
secrecy, and perfect security.  And that, combined with
the  ease  and  security with which these contributions
could   be  collected,  would  make  being  an  abusive
government  employee  an extremely  risky  proposition.
Chances are good that nobody above the level of  county
commissioner would even risk staying in office.

Just  how  would this change politics in  America?   It
would  take far less time to answer, "What would remain
the  same?"  No longer would we be electing people  who
will  turn around and tax us to death, regulate  us  to
death,  or for that matter sent hired thugs to kill  us
when we oppose their wishes.

No military?

One of the attractive potential implications of such  a
system  would be that we might not even need a military
to  protect  the country.  Any threatening  or  abusive
foreign   leader   would  be  subject   to   the   same
contribution/assassination/reward system, and it  would
operate  just as effectively over borders  as  it  does

This   country   has  learned,  in  numerous   examples
subsequent  to  many  wars,  that  once  the  political
disputes  between  leaders  has  ceased,  we  (ordinary
citizens)  are able to get along pretty well  with  the
citizens of other countries.  Classic examples are post-
WWII Germany, Japan, and Italy, and post-Soviet Russia,
the Eastern bloc, Albania, and many others.

Contrary  examples  are those in  which  the  political
dispute  remains, such as North Korea,  Vietnam,  Iraq,
Cuba,  Red  China, and a few others.  In all  of  these
examples,  the  opposing leadership was  NOT  defeated,
either  in  war  or  in  an  internal  power  struggle.
Clearly, it is not the PEOPLE who maintain the dispute,
but the leadership.

Consider  how history might have changed if  we'd  been
able  to  "bump off" Lenin, Stalin, Hitler,  Mussolini,
Tojo,  Kim  Il  Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Ayatollah  Khomeini,
Saddam  Hussein,  Moammar Khadafi, and various  others,
along with all of their replacements if necessary,  all
for  a  measly  few million dollars,  rather  than  the
billions   of  dollars  and  millions  of  lives   that
subsequent wars cost.

But  that raises an interesting question, with an  even
more interesting answer.  "If all this is so easy,  why
hasn't  this  been  done before?"   I  mean,  wars  are
destructive, costly, and dangerous, so why hasn't  some
smart  politician figured out that instead of  fighting
the  entire country, we could just "zero" the  few  bad
guys on the top?

The   answer   is   quite  revealing,  and   strikingly
"logical":  If we can kill THEIR leaders, they can kill
OUR  leaders  too.  That would avoid the war,  but  the
leadership on both sides would be dead, and  guess  who
is  making  the  decisions about what  to  do?   That's
right, the LEADERS!

And  the  leaders (both theirs and ours!) would  rather
see  30,000,000 ordinary people die in WWII  than  lose
their own lives, if they can get away with it.  Same in
Korea,  Vietnam,  the  Gulf  War,  and  numerous  other
disputes around the globe.  You can see that as long as
we continue to allow leaders, both "ours" and "theirs,"
to  decide who should die, they will ALWAYS choose  the
ordinary people of each

One  reason  the leaders have been able to  avoid  this
solution  is simple: While it's comparatively  easy  to
"get away with murder," it's a lot harder to reward the
person  who  does  it,  and that person  is  definitely
taking a serious risk.  (Most murders are solved  based
on  some  prior  relationship between  the  murder  and
victim,  or  observations of witnesses who know  either
the murderer or the victim.)

Historically,  it  has been essentially  impossible  to
adequately  motivate an assassin, ensuring  his  safety
and  anonymity  as well, if only because  it  has  been
impossible to PAY him in a form that nobody can  trace,
and  to  ensure the silence of all potential witnesses.
Even  if  a  person was willing to die in the  act,  he
would want to know that the people he chooses would get
the  reward,  but  if they themselves  were  identified
they'd be targets of revenge.

All  that's  changed  with  the  advent  of  public-key
encryption  and  digital  cash.   Now,  it  should   be
possible  to  announce a standing offer to  all  comers
that a large sum of digital cash will be sent to him in
an   untraceable   fashion  should  he   meet   certain
"conditions,"  conditions  which  don't  even  have  to
include  proving (or, for that matter,  even  claiming)
that he was somehow responsible for a death.

I   believe   that   such  a  system   has   tremendous
implications  for the future of freedom.   Libertarians
in  particular  (and  I'm  a  libertarian)  should  pay
particular  attention  to the  fact  that  this  system
"encourages" if not an anarchist outcome,  at  least  a
minarchist  (minimal  government)  system,  because  no
large  governmental  structure  could  survive  in  its
current form.

In  fact, I would argue that this system would solve  a
potential  problem, occasionally postulated,  with  the
adoption  of libertarianism in one country,  surrounded
by  non-libertarian states.  It could  have  reasonably
been suspected that in a gradual shift to a libertarian
political  and  economic system,  remnants  of  a  non-
libertarian  system such as a military  would  have  to
survive,   to  protect  society  against  the   threats
represented   by   foreign  states.   While   certainly
plausible, it would have been hard for an average naive
person to imagine how the country would maintain a $250
billion    military   budget,   based   on    voluntary

The easy answer, of course, is that military budgets of
that  size  would  simply not happen in  a  libertarian
society.   More problematic is the question  of  how  a
country  would defend itself, if it had  to  raise  its
defenses   by  voluntary  contribution.    An   equally
simplistic  answer is that this country could  probably
be  defended just fine on a budget 1/2 to  1/3  of  the
current budget.  True, but that misses the point.

The real answer is even simpler.  Large armies are only
necessary to fight the other large armies organized  by
the   leadership  of  other,  non-libertarian   states,
presumably  against the will of their  citizenry.  Once
the  problem  posed by their leadership is  solved  (as
well  as ours; either by their own citizenry by similar
anonymous contributions, or by ours), there will be  no
large armies to oppose.
                        Part 3
In  the  1960's  movie, The Thomas Crown Affair,  actor
Steve  McQueen  plays  a  bored  multi-millionaire  who
fights tedium by arranging well-planned high-yield bank
robberies.  He hires each of the robbers separately and
anonymously, so that they can neither identify him  nor
each  other.   They  arrive at the  bank  on  schedule,
separately  but simultaneously, complete  the  robbery,
then separate forever.  He pays each robber out of  his
own  funds, so that the money cannot be traced, and  he
keeps the proceeds of each robbery.
In my recent essay generally titled "Digitaliberty," or
earlier  "Assassination politics," I hypothesized  that
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 [would  be  the  reward]  the
predictor  has  earned.   (This  presentation  [of  the
digital  coins,  making up the reward, to  the  issuing
bank] 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 "unblind" 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.)
This  process sounds intricate, but it (and  even  some
more detail I haven't described above) is all necessary

     1.    Keep  the  donors,  as  well   as   the
     predictors, absolutely anonymous, not only to
     the  public and each other, but also  to  the
     organization itself, either before  or  after
     the prediction comes true.
     2.  Ensure that neither the organization, nor
     the  donors, nor the public, is aware of  the
     contents of the "prediction" unless and until
     it  later  becomes true.  (This ensures  that
     none   of  the  other  participants  can   be
     "guilty" of knowing this, before it happens.)
     3.   Prove to the donors (including potential
     future predictors), the organization, and the
     public  that,  indeed, somebody  predicted  a
     particular death on a particular date, before
     it actually happened.
     4.   Prove  to  the  donors  and  the  public
     (including potential future predictors)  that
     the  amount  of money promised  was  actually
     paid  to  whoever  made the  prediction  that
     later   came   true.   This   is   important,
     obviously,   because  you  don't   want   any
     potential  predictor to doubt  whether  he'll
     get  the  money  if  he  makes  a  successful
     prediction, and you don't want any  potential
     donor  to  doubt that his money  is  actually
     going to go to a successful predictor.
     5.   Prevent the organization and the  donors
     and   the  public  from  knowing,  for  sure,
     whether  the predictor actually had  anything
     to do with the death predicted.  This is true
     even  if  (hypothetically) somebody is  later
     caught  and convicted of a murder, which  was
     the  subject  of  a successful  "prediction":
     Even  after identifying the murderer  through
     other means, it will be impossible for anyone
     to  know  if  the murderer and the  predictor
     were the same person.
     6.  Allow the predictor, if he so chooses, to
     "gift"    the    reward    (possibly    quite
     anonymously) to any other person, one perhaps
     totally  unaware of the source of the  money,
     without anyone else knowing of this.

Even  the named "target" (the "victim") is also assured
of  something:  His  best "friend," could  collect  the
reward,  absolutely anonymously,  should they "predict"
his  death correctly.  At that point, he will  have  no

This may represent the ultimate in compartmentalization
of  information: Nobody knows more than he needs to, to
play  his  part in the whole arrangement.   Nobody  can
turn  anyone else in, or make a mistake that identifies
the  other participants.  Yet everyone can verify  that
the  "game" is played "fairly":  The predictor gets his
money,   as   the  donors  desire.   Potential   future
predictors are satisfied (in a mathematically  provable
fashion)  that all previous successful predictors  were
paid  their  full  rewards,  in  a  manner  that  can't
possibly  be  traced.  The members of  the  public  are
assured  that,  if they choose to make a  donation,  it
will  be  used  as promised. This leads me  to  a  bold
assertion:   I  claim  that, aside from  the  practical
difficulty  and  perhaps, theoretical impossibility  of
identifying either the donors or the predictor,  it  is
very  likely  that none of the participants,  with  the
(understandable)   hypothetical    exception    of    a
"predictor"  who  happens to know that  he  is  also  a
murderer, could actually be considered "guilty" of  any
violation  of black-letter law.  Furthermore,  none  of
the  participants, including the central  organization,
is aware, either before or after the "prediction" comes
true,  that  any  other  participant  was  actually  in
violation  of  any law, or for that matter  would  even
know  (except by watching the news) that any crime  had
actually been committed.

After  all, the donors are merely offering gifts  to  a
person  who makes a successful prediction, not for  any
presumed  responsibility in a killing, and the  payment
would   occur   even   if  no  crime   occurred.    The
organization is merely coordinating it all,  but  again
isolating itself so that it cannot know from  whom  the
money  comes, or to whom the money eventually is given,
or    whether    a    crime   was    even    committed.
(Hypothetically, the "predictor" could actually be  the
"victim,"  who  decides to kill himself  and  "predict"
this,  giving the proceeds of the reward to his  chosen
beneficiary, perhaps a relative or friend.  Ironically,
this might be the best revenge he can muster, "cheating
the hangman," as it were.)

In  fact, the organization could further shield  itself
by  adopting a stated policy that no convicted (or, for
that matter, even SUSPECTED) killers could receive  the
payment  of a reward.  However, since the recipient  of
the   reward   is   by   definition  unidentified   and
untraceable  even  in theory, this would  be  a  rather
hollow assurance since it has no way to prevent such  a
payment from being made to someone responsible.

                        Part 4
In  part 3, I claimed that an organization could  quite
legally  operate, assisted by encryption, international
data networking, and untraceable digital cash, in a way
that  would  (indirectly) hasten  the  death  of  named
people,  for  instance hated government  employees  and
officeholders.   I won't attempt to "prove"  this,  for
reasons  that I think will be obvious. First,  even  if
such  an operation were indeed "legal," that fact alone
would  not stop its opponents from wanting to  shut  it
down.  However, there is also another way of looking at
it:   If  this system works as I expect it would,  even
its  claimed "illegality" would be irrelevant,  because
it  could operate over international borders and beyond
the legal reach of any law-abiding government.

Perhaps the most telling fact, however, is that if this
system  was as effective as it appears it would be,  no
prosecutor   would  dare  file  charges   against   any
participant, and no judge would hear the case,  because
no  matter  how  long the existing list  of  "targets,"
there  would always be room for one or two  more.   Any
potential user of this system would recognize  that  an
assault  on  this  system represents a  threat  to  its
future  availability,  and  would  act  accordingly  by
donating money to target anyone trying to shut it down.

Even  so,  I  think I should address two charges  which
have   been   made,  apparently  quite  simplistically,
claiming  that  an implementation of  this  idea  would
violate the law.  Specifically:  "Conspiracy to  commit
murder" and "misprision of felony."

As  I  understand it, in order to have  a  "conspiracy"
from a criminal standpoint, it is necessary to have  at
least two people agree to commit a crime, and have some
overt act in furtherance of that crime.

Well, this charge already "strikes out" because in  the
plan I described,  none of the participants agrees with
ANYONE  to  commit  a crime.  None of the  participants
even  informs anyone else that he will be committing  a
crime, whether before or after the fact.  In fact,  the
only crime appears (hypothetically; this assumes that a
crime  was actually committed) to be a murder committed
by  a  single individual, a crime unknown to the  other
participants, with his identity similarly unknown.
Remember,  the "prediction" originally sent in  by  the
predictor was fully encrypted, so that the organization
(or  anyone else, for that matter) would be  unable  to
figure  out the identity of the person whose death  was
predicted,  or  the date on which it was  predicted  to
occur.    Thus,   the  organization  is  incapable   of
"agreeing"  with such a thing, and likewise the  donors
as  well.  Only if the prediction later came true would
the  decrypt  key  arrive,  and  only  then  would  the
organization  (and  the public) be made  aware  of  the
contents.  Even then, it's only a "prediction," so even
then,  nobody is actually aware of any crime which  can
be associated with the predictor.

                "Misprision of Felony"
This crime, sort of a diluted form of "accessory before
and/or after the fact," was claimed to qualify by  "Tim
of  Angle," who subsequent to my answer to him on  this
subject  has  totally  failed to  support  his  initial
claim.   (A recent curiosity is that this crime is  one
that  has  been  charged against Michael  Fortier,  the
person  who  claims he helped OKC bombing  suspect  Tim
McVeigh "case the joint" at the Federal building.)

I include it here, nevertheless, because his simplistic
(and  un-careful) reading of my idea led him to perhaps
the  "closest"  law  that one  might  allege  that  the
participants  would  have  broken.   Tim  claimed:  No.
That's  called "misprision of felony" and makes you  an
accessory  before the fact.  Arguably, under the felony
murder  rule  you  could get  capital punishment  in  a
state that has such.

However,  I  did  a  little library research,  checking
Black's  Law  Dictionary.  Here is the entry  for  this
     "Misprision  of  felony.   The   offense   of
     concealing a felony committed by another, but
     without   such  previous  concert   with   or
     subsequent assistance to the felon  as  would
     make the party concealing an accessory before
     or   after  the  fact.   United  State  s  v.
     Perlstein,  C.C.A.N.J., 126  F.2d  789,  798.
     Elements  of the crime are that the principal
     committed  and completed the felony  alleged,
     that the defendant had full knowledge of that
     fact, that the defendant failed to notify the
     authorities,  and  that  defendant  took   an
     affirmative step to conceal the crime.   U.S.
     v. Ciambrone, C.A. Nev., 750 F.2d 1416, 1417.
     Whoever,  having  knowledge  of  the   actual
     commission  of  a  felony recognizable  by  a
     court of the United States, conceals and does
     not  as soon as possible make known the  same
     to  some  judge or other person in  civil  or
     military  authority under the United  States,
     is  guilty of the federal crime of misprision
     of   felony.   18  U.S.C.A  4."    See   also
     Obstructing    Justice   in    Black's    Law
The  only  "element" of this crime  which  is  arguably
satisfied  is the first:  Some person other  than   the
defendant for "misprision of felony" committed a crime.
The   second  element  fails  miserably:  "...that  the
defendant  had  full knowledge of that  fact...  "   My
previous commentary makes it clear that far from  "full
knowledge   of  that  fact,"  other  participants   are
carefully prevented from having ANY "knowledge of  that
fact."  The third element, "..that the defendant failed
to  notify the authorities..." is also essentially non-
existent: No other participants have any information as
to the identity of a predictor, or his location, or for
that  matter whether he has had any involvement in  any
sort  of crime.  In fact, it would be possible for each
of  the  other  participants to  deliver  (anonymously,
presumably)  copies  of  all correspondence  they  have
sent,   to  the  police  or  other  agency,  and   that
correspondence  would  not help  the  authorities  even
slightly  to identify a criminal or even necessarily  a

In fact, normal operation of this organization would be
to publicize "all" correspondence it receives, in order
to  provide feedback to the public to assure them  that
all  participants  are fulfilling  their  promises  and
receiving   their  rewards.   This  publication   would
presumably find its way to the police, or it could even
be   mailed   to  them  on  a  "fail[ure]   to   notify
authorities."   Nevertheless,  none  of  this  material
could  help  any authorities with their investigations,
to their dismay.

The fourth and last element of the crime of "misprision
of  felony", "...and that defendant took an affirmative
step  to  conceal the crime," would totally fail.   The
organization would not " conceal" the crime.  In  fact,
it will have no ability to do anything to the contrary,
if  for  no other reason that it   has no knowledge  of
the  crime!  And as described above, it would carefully
avoid having access to any information that could  help
solve   the  crime,  and  thus  it  would  escape   any
obligations along these lines.

     In  hindsight, it is not surprising that such
     an  organization could operate legally within
     the  U.S.,  although at least  initially  not
     without  political opposition.   First,  this
     [the U.S.] is at least nominally supposed  to
     be  a  "free country," which should mean that
     police  and other authorities aren't able  to
     punish behavior just because they don't  like
     Secondly, it is obvious that most laws  today
     were  originally  written during  an  era  in
     which  laws  assumed that  "conspirators"  at
     least  knew  each other, had met each  other,
     could identify each other, or had (at least!)
     talked to each other.  On the contrary, in my
     scenario  none of the participants even  know
     on  what  continent any of the others reside,
     let  alone  their country, city,  or  street.
     They  don't  know what they look like,  sound
     like,  or  for that matter even "type  like":
     None  of  their  prose,  save  a  few  sparse
     "predictions,"  ever  gets  communicated   to
     anyone else, so even text-comparison programs
     would fail to "target" anyone.
     Equally  surprising (to those who  originally
     wrote the laws against "conspiracy") would be
     "Person A's" ability to satisfy himself  that
     "Person   B"  deserves  the  award,   without
     knowing  that  "Person  B"  is  (or  is  not)
     actually responsible for a particular death.

                        Part 5
In   the   previous  four  notes  on  the  subject   of
Digitaliberty,   I've  suggested  that   this   concept
(collecting   anonymous  donations   to,   in   effect,
"purchase"  the  death  of  an  un-favorite  government
employee) would force a dramatic reduction of the  size
of  government at all levels, as well as achieving what
will  probably  be a "minarchist" (minimal  government)
state at a very rapid rate.  Furthermore, I pointed out
that I thought that this effect would not merely affect
a single country or continent, but might in fact spread
through all countries essentially simultaneously.

But  in addition to such (apparently) grandiose claims,
it  occurs  to me that there must be other  changes  to
society  that  would  simultaneously  occur  with   the
adoption  of  such a system.  After all,  a  simplistic
view  of my idea might lead one to the conclusion  that
there  would  be almost no governmental structure  left
after  society had been transformed. Since our  current
"criminal justice system" today is based totally on the
concept  of "big government," this would lead  a  naive
person  to  wonder  how  concepts  such  as  "justice,"
"fairness," "order," and for that matter protection  of
individual  rights  can  be  accomplished  in  such   a

Indeed, one common theme I've seen in criticisms of  my
idea  is  the  fear  that this  system  would  lead  to
"anarchy."   The  funny thing about this  objection  is
that,  technically,  this could easily  be  true.   But
"anarchy"  in real life may not resemble anything  like
the  "anarchy" these people claim to fear, which  leads
me  to  respond with a quote whose origin I don't quite

"Anarchy  is  not lack of order.  Anarchy  is  lack  of

People presumably will continue to live their lives  in
a  calm,  ordered  manner.  Or, at least  as  calm  and
ordered  as  they WANT to.  It won't be  "wild  in  the
streets,"  and they won't bring cannibalism back  as  a
national sport, or anything like that.

It  occurs to me that probably one of the best ways  to
demonstrate  that  my  idea,  "assassination  politics"
(perhaps  ineptly named, in view of the fact  that  its
application  is far greater than mere politics),  would
not  result in "lack of order" is to show that most  if
not  all of the DESIRABLE functions of the current  so-
called  "criminal  justice system"  will  be  performed
after its adoption.  This is true even if they will  be
accomplished  through  wholly  different  methods  and,
conceivably,  in  entirely  different  ways  than   the
current system does.

I  should  probably first point out that it is  not  my
intention to re-write the book of minarchist theory.  I
would imagine that over the years, there has been  much
written  about  how  individuals  and  societies  would
function  absent a strong central government, and  much
of that writing is probably far more detailed and well-
thought-out than anything I'll describe here.

One  reason  that ALMOST ANY "criminal justice  system"
would  be  better and more effective than  the  one  we
currently  possess is that, contrary to the image  that
officialdom would try to push, anyone whose job depends
on  "crime" has a strong vested interest in maintaininga  high level of crime, not eliminating it.  After all,
a  terrorized  society is one that is willing  to  hire
many  cops and jailers and judges and lawyers,  and  to
pay  them high salaries.  A safe, secure society is not
willing  to  put up with that.  The "ideal"  situation,
from the limited and self-interested standpoint of  the
police and jailers, is one that maximizes the number of
people  in  prison,  yet  leaves  most  of  the  really
dangerous  criminals out in the streets,  in  order  to
maintain justification for the system. That seems to be
exactly  the  situation we have  today,  which  is  not
surprising when you consider that the police  have  had
an  unusually high level of input into the "system" for
many decades.

The  first  effect of my idea would  be,  I  think,  to
generally  eliminate prohibitions  against  acts  which
have   no  victims,  or  "victimless  crimes."  Classic
examples are laws against drug sales and use, gambling,
prostitution,  pornography, etc.   That's  because  the
average  (unpropagandized) individual  will  have  very
little  concern or sympathy for punishing an act  which
does not have a clear victim.  Without a large, central
government to push the propaganda, the public will view
these  acts as certainly not "criminal," even if  still
regarded  as  generally undesirable  by  a  substantial
minority  for a few years.  Once you get  rid  of  such
laws,  the price of currently illegal drugs would  drop
dramatically,  probably  by a  factor  of  100.   Crime
caused by the need to get money to pay for these  drugs
would  drop drastically, even if you assume  that  drug
usage increased due to the lowering of the price.

Despite  this  massive reduction in crime,  perhaps  as
much  as 90%, the average person is still going to want
to  know  what "my system" would do about the residual,
"real"  crime  rate.  You know, murder, rape,  robbery,
burglary,  and  all that.  Well, in the spirit  of  the
idea, a simplistic interpretation would suggest that an
individual  could  target the criminal  who  victimizes
him, which would put an end to that criminal career.

Some  might  object, pointing out that the criminal  is
only   identified  in  a  minority  of  crimes.    That
objection is technically correct, but it's also  a  bit
misleading.   The  truth is that the vast  majority  of
"victim"-type crimes are committed by a relatively tiny
fraction  of  the population who are repeat  criminals.
It isn't necessary to identify For example, even if the
probability of a car thief getting caught,  per  theft,
is  only  5%,  there is at least a 40%  probability  of
getting caught after 10 thefts, and a 65% chance  after
20  thefts.  A smart car-theft victim would be happy to
donate  money  targeting ANY discovered car-thief,  not
necessarily just the one who victimized him.

The  average  car-owner would be  wise  to  offer  such
donations  occasionally,  as  "insurance"  against  the
possibility  of  his  being  victimized  someday:    An
average  donation  of  1 cent per  day  per  car  would
constitute  $10,000 per day for a  typical  city  of  1
million  cars.  Assuming that amount is far  more  than
enough to get a typical car thief's "friends" to  "off"
him,  there  is  simply no way that a substantial  car-
theft subculture could possibly be maintained.

Another  alternative is that insurance companies  would
probably get into the act:  Since they are going to  be
the  financial  victims of thefts  of  their  insured's
property,  it is reasonable to suppose that they  would
be  particularly inclined to deter such theft.   It  is
conceivable that current-day insurance companies  would
transmogrify  themselves  into investigation/deterrence
agencies,  while maintaining their insurance  role,  in
view of the fact that they have the most to lose.  This
is   particularly   true  because   if   "assassination
politics"  (as  applied to criminals and  crime)  comes
about, they could then actually DO SOMETHING about  the
problem, rather than merely reporting on the statistics
to their customers and stockholders.

Such  companies would also have a strong motivation  to
provide a workable system of rewards for solving crimes
and  identifying  criminals,  rewards  that  (naturally
enough!) can be given out totally anonymously.

While I would like to talk about the other advantage of
this new kind of justice, the fact that politicians and
other  government employees would no  longer  have  de-
facto immunity in most cases, the reality is that since
we   would  no  longer  HAVE  "politicians  and   other
government employees," to mention that advantage  would
be redundant.

The principle is valid, however: In today's system, you
can  have people known to be guilty of crimes, but  not
prosecuted  because  they are  part  of  "the  system."
Classic  examples would be heroes of the right  (Oliver
North)  and heroes of the left (Jim Wright) who  either
escape  prosecution  or conviction for  "political"  or
"bureaucratic" reasons.  With "assassination  politics"
that would simply never happen.

                        Part 6
A   frequent  initial  belief  among  people  who  have
recently heard of my "assassination politics"  idea  is
the  fear  that  this system will somehow  be  "out  of
control":   It  would  end  up  causing  the  death  of
ordinary, "undeserving" people.

This  system, however, will not be without its own kind
of "control". Not a centralized control, decidable by a
single individual, but a decentralized system in  which
everyone gets an implicit "vote."  A good analogy might
be  to  consider  a  society in which everyone's  house
thermostat  is  controlled to operate at a  temperature
which  is  set  for the entire country.  Each  person's
control  input  is taken as a "vote,"  whether  to  get
hotter,  colder, or to stay the same temperature.   The
central  control computer adjusts the national setpoint
temperature in order to equalize the number  of  people
who want the temperature colder and hotter.  Each house
is  at  the same, nationally set temperature,  however.
Clearly,  no  one  individual  is  in  control  of  the
setting.  Nevertheless, I think it would  be  generally
agreed  that this system would never produce  a  REALLY
"off  the wall" temperature setting, simply because  so
many  people's inputs are used to determine the output.
Sure,  if  a group of 10,000 kids decided (assisted  by
the  Internet) together to screw with the  system,  and
they  all  set  their  houses'  thermostat  inputs   to
"hotter,"  they  could  SLIGHTLY increase  the  overall
setting, but since there are probably about 100 million
separate dwellings in the U.S., their fiddlings will be
drowned  out  by the vast majority of the  population's
desires.  Is this system "out of control"?  True, it is
out  of  the  "control" of any single  individual,  but
nevertheless  it  is  well within the  control  of  the
population as a whole.

It turns out that "assassination politics" actually has
a  rather  similar control mechanism to  the  one  I've
described  above.  First, I've pointed out  that  if  I
were to operate a centralized system such as this,  I'd
only   accept  donations  naming  people  who  are   in
violation  of  the "Non-Initiation Of Force  Principle"
(NIOFP),  well known to libertarians. By this standard,
government employees (who have accepted paychecks  paid
for  with  funds stolen from citizenry  by  taxes)  and
criminals whose crimes actually had a victim  would  be
included.   Let's  call this hypothetical  organization
"Organization A," or OrgA for short.

True,  somebody else might be a little less scrupulous,
accepting  donations  for the  termination  of  ANYBODY
regardless of whether he "deserves" his fate (call them
"Organization B," or OrgB, for short.)   Most potential
donors (who, I suggest, would have "typical" levels  of
scruples)  would see that if they patronize OrgB, their
interests  wouldn't  be protected.  For  example,  OrgB
(if it survives and thrives) might later  come back  to
target  them, because of some other donor.  OrgA  would
not.   Naturally, our "ethical" donors don't want this,
so  they  would choose to  give their donation  to  the
most  "ethical" organization that will accept it.  This
maximizes  the  donors'  benefit,  and  minimizes   the
potential harm.

Since  BOTH  organizations will  accept  donations  for
"deserving"  victims, while only OrgB will accept  them
for  "just anybody," it is reasonable to conclude  that
(capitalism  being  what  it  is)  OrgB's  rates   (the
percentage of the price it keeps as profit) can be  and
will  be higher for its donations (that's because there
is  less  competition  in its area of  specialization.)
Thus, it would be more economical to target "deserving"
people through OrgA , and thus donors will be drawn  to
it.   In  addition,  OrgA  will  become  larger,   more
credible,   believable   and  trustworthy,   and   more
potential  "guessers"  (assassins?)  will  "work"   its
system,  and for lower average potential payments  (all
else  being  equal.)   Even  so,  and  ironically,  the
average donation level for people listed by OrgA  would
likely  be  higher,  since  (if  we  assume  these  are
"deserving"  people) more people will  be  contributing
towards their demise.

After  all,  if a potential donor wants to  "hit"  some
government bigwig, there will be PLENTY of other donors
to share the cost with.  Millions of donations of $1 to
$10  each would be common and quite economical.  On the
other  hand, if you just selected a target out  of  the
telephone  directory, an "undeserving"  target,  you'll
probably  be the only person wanting to see  him  dead,
which means that you'll probably have to foot the whole
bill  of  perhaps $5K to $10K if you want  to  see  any
"action.  "  Add  to  that OrgB 's  "cut,"  which  will
probably  be 50%, and you're talking $10K to  $20K.   I
contend  that  the  likelihood of this  kind  of  thing
actually  happening will be quite low, for "undeserving

Now,  the  die-hards among you will probably object  to
the  fact  that even this tiny residual possibility  is
left.   But  consider:  Even today it  would  be  quite
"possible"  for you to pick a name randomly  out  of  a
list,  find  him  and  kill him  yourself.   Does  this
frequently happen? Apparently not.  For just one thing,
there's  no real motive.  Unless you can show that  the
application    of   "assassination   politics"    would
dramatically increase the likelihood of such incidents,
I  suggest  that this "problem" will likely  not  be  a
problem after all.
For  a  while,  I thought that the "lack of  a  motive"
protection    was   momentarily   overturned    by    a
hypothetical:   I thought, suppose a person  used  this
system as part of a sophisticated extortion scheme,  in
which  he  sends  an  anonymous message  to  some  rich
character,  saying  something like "pay  me  a  zillion
dollars anonymously, or I put out a digital contract on
you."   For a while, this one had me stumped.  Then,  I
realized  that an essential element in this whole  play
was  missing:  If this could be done ONCE, it could  be
done  a  dozen  times.   And  the  victim  of  such  an
extortion scheme has no assurance that it won't  happen
again,  even if he pays off, so ironically  he  has  no
motivation to pay off the extortion.  Think  about  it:
The  only  reason to make the payment is to remove  the
threat.  If making the payment can't guarantee  to  the
target that the threat is removed, he has no reason  to
make  the  payment. And if the target has no reason  to
make  the  payment, the extortionist has no  reason  to
make the threat!

Another, related (and equally simplistic) fear is  that
political  minorities will be preferentially  targeted.
For  example,  when I pointed out that  "establishment"
political  leaders would probably "go"  quite  quickly,
one  wag  suggested  to  me that "libertarian  leaders"
could likewise be targeted.  Such a suggestion reflects
a serious misunderstanding of political philosophy, and
libertarians in particular:  I consider it obvious  (to
me,  at least) that libertarians NEED no leaders.  (You
don't  need  leaders if you don't  want  to  control  a
population,  or  achieve  political  power.   The  only
reason  libertarians "need" leaders today  is  to  take
places  in the government and (then) to shut it  down.)
And  if  my idea is implemented, "libertarian  leaders"
represent  no  more  of a threat  to  anyone  than  the
average libertarian citizen.

Fully recognizing this, another (and far more credible)
person  thought  a  while, and in  a  proud  revelation
suggested  that  one  way that the establishment  would
"fight  back"  is  to convert to a government  that  is
based  on fully decentralized authority, as opposed  to
the leader-centric system we have today.  Such a system
could not be attacked by killing individual people, any
more  than you can kill a tree by pulling off a  single
leaf.   His  "solution"  was,  in  effect,  to  totally
disband the current government and turn it over to  the
public at large, where it  highly de-centralized system
that  is  not  controlled by a  tiny  fraction  of  the
population   in  a  structure  called  a  "government,"
essentially  identical to his idea.  So in effect,  the
only  way  the  government can survive  is  to  totally
surrender.   And  once it surrenders, the  people  win.
And in practice, it will have no alternative.

Will this idea be "out of control"?  To a great extent,
that  depends  on  what  your definition  of  the  word
"control."   I have come to believe that "assassination
politics"  is  a  political Rorschach (ink-blot)  test:
What  you  think  of  it is strongly  related  to  your
political philosophy.

                        Part 7
Dear libertarian Friend,

I very much understand the concerns you voiced about my
idea  which I call,  "Assassination Politics,"  because
this  essay  is  nothing  if it   is  not  radical  and
extreme.   I  wrote  it, in the middle  of  last  year,
partly  because I think libertarianism and libertarians
in  particular  need to  address  what  is,  if  not  a
contradiction,"  is  at least an intolerable   reality:
On   the   one  hand,  we  are  told  not  to  initiate
aggression,  but on the other we are aggressed  against
by the government every time it collects a tax.

I  much  appreciate  the way some people  I  know  have
"dropped out" of the  system, and the guts that such  a
tactic  requires.   But that's the problem,  I   think:
Only  those  with  the "guts" do it,  which  gives  the
government  fewer targets so  that it  can  spend  more
time  attacking the few who oppose it.  The reality  is
that  the government STILL collects taxes, and it STILL
uses  that money to  violate our rights.  We  all  know
that's wrong.

My   position  is  quite  simple:   If  tax  collection
constitutes  aggression,  then   anyone  doing  it   or
assisting in the effort or benefiting from the proceeds
thereof  is  a  criminal.  This is quite  analogous  to
current law which  prosecutes co-conspirators.  While I
am not holding out "current law" as  some sort of gold-
standard of reasonableness that we must always  accept,
on   the other hand I think it's plausible to use it to
show  that  once  we have  come to the conclusion  that
taxation  is theft, the prescription follows   directly
by a form of reasoning allegedly acceptable to society:
It  is   reasonable to "attack the attackers" and their
co-conspirators, and everyone  who is employed  by  the
government is thus a co-conspirator, even if he is  not
directly  involved in the collection  of  those  taxes.
That's because he  IS involved in _benefiting_ from the
proceeds of these taxes, and he  presumably provides  a
certain  level  of  "backup" to the  young  thugs  that
governmental organizations often hire.

I realize, and you should too, that the "non-aggression
principle" says nothing about  the EXTENT of the  self-
defense/retaliation  that one might  reasonably  employ
in defending one's own rights:  In a sense, that sounds
like  an omission  because it at least suggests that  a
person might "unreasonably" defend  himself with lethal
force  when  far less drastic means might  normally  be
called  for.  For what it's worth, I think most  people
will  behave  responsibly.   But I think it  is  pretty
straightforward  to  argue  that  whatever   means  are
necessary to stop the attack, are reasonable given  the
terms  of   the non-aggression principle:  If  a  given
means  are known to be inadequate to actually stop  the
attack,  then  further  and  more  serious  means   are
reasonable  and called-for.

To set up a reasonable analogy, if I'm walking down the
canonical  "dark   alley" and  am  accosted  by  a  man
wielding  a  knife  threatening  me  with  it,  it   is
presumably reasonable for me to pull a gun and threaten
back,  or  possibly  take the encounter  to  the  final
conclusion  of  gunfire.  Even if I should   choose  to
hold  my  fire and test to determine whether my actions
deterred  him, I can't see that this possibility  binds
me  morally.  And should he  advance, despite the  gun,
as  if to attack, I should feel no remorse in  shooting
him and taking myself out of danger.  If you accept the
premises  so  far, you apparently accept the  principle
that  escalation  of  the  self-defense/retaliation  is
reasonable as long as if the current level of  returned
counter-threat  is  inadequate to stop  the  aggression
initiated by the other  party.  To believe otherwise is
to  believe  that  ultimately,  you are   obligated  to
accept  a  certain  high  level  of  aggression  simply
because you do  not have the resources (yet) to  resist
it.   I  totally reject this concept,  as  I  hope  you

So  if,  hypothetically,  I  could  have  an  anonymous
conversation  with  a  hard-nosed government  employee,
and  asked him, "If I killed one of your  agents, would
you  stop  trying  to collect that tax  from  me,"  his
predictable  reaction would be, "no, we would  continue
to  try  to  collect  that tax."  In   fact,  he  would
probably  hasten to add that he would try  to  have  me
prosecuted for murder, as well!  If I were  to  ask  if
killing  ten agents  would stop them, again they  would
presumably  say  that  this  would  not  change   their

The  conclusion is, to me, obvious:  Clearly, there  is
no  practical limit to  the amount of self-defense that
I  would need to protect my assets from the  government
tax  collector, and to actually stop the  theft,  so  I
suggest  that   logic requires that I  be  morally  and
ethically  allowed (under libertarian   principles)  to
use whatever level of self-defense I choose.

You  raised  another objection, that  quite  frankly  I
believe is invalid.  I  believe you implied that  until
a specific level of escalation is reached ( such as the
Feds  showing up on your doorstep, etc) then it is  not
legitimate   to  defend oneself.   Delicately,  I  must
disagree.   As we all well know,  government ultimately
operates  primarily not on actual, applied  force,  but
simply the threat of future force if you do not comply.
True,  there are  people who have decided to  call  the
government's  bluff  and  simply  drop  out,   but  the
reality  is  that  this  is  not  practical  for   most
individuals   today.   This  is   no   accident:    The
government makes it difficult to drop out, because they
extort the cooperation of banks and potential employers
and  others with  which you would otherwise be able  to
freely contract.   In any case, I fail  to see how  not
"dropping  out" makes one somehow morally obligated  to
pay  a   tax (or tolerate the collection of  one).    I
trust you did not inadvertently mean to suggest this.

The  reason,  morally,  we are entitled  to  shoot  the
mugger if he waves the knife in our face is that he has
threatened us with harm, in this case to our lives, but
the  threat  the government represents to  the  average
citizen (loss of one's entire assets) is just as  real,
albeit somewhat different.  Since government is a  past
reality,  and a present reality, and has the  immediate
prospects  of  being  a  future  reality  as  well,   I
sincerely   believe   that  the  average  citizen   can
legitimately consider himself CONTINUOUSLY  threatened.
The  aggression  has already occurred, in  continuously
occurring,  and  has every prospect  of  continuing  to
occur.   If anything would justify fighting back,  this

To  continue  the  analogy, if you've  been  repeatedly
mugged  by  the same guy down the same dark  alley  for
each  day of last month, that DOES NOT mean that you've
somehow consented to the situation, or that your rights
to  your   assets  have somehow been waived.   With  my
"Assassination Politics" essay, I  simply proposed that
we (as libertarians as well as being ordinary citizens)
begin  to  treat  aggression  by  government  as  being
essentially  equivalent  to   aggression  by   muggers,
rapists,  robbers, and murderers, and view  their  acts
as  a continuing series of aggressions.  Seen this way,
it  should  not  be necessary to wait  for  their  NEXT
aggression; they will have always have been  aggressing
and  they  will always BE aggressing, again and  again,
until they are stopped for good.

At   that  point,  the  question  shifted  to  one   of
practicality:   Sure,  theoretically we  might  morally
have  the  "right"  to  protect ourselves  with  lethal
force,  but  if  they  have  any  reputation  at   all,
government agents have a habit of showing up  in  large
numbers when they actually apply direct force.  To take
a  position  that  you  can only defend  yourself  when
they've    chosen  the  "where"  and  "when"   of   the
confrontation  is downright suicidal, and  I  hope  you
understand  that I would consider any such  restriction
to   be   highly   unfair   and  totally   impractical.
Understand,  too,  that the reason  we're  still  stuck
under the thumb of the government is that to the extent
it's true, "we've" been playing by THEIR rules, not  by
our own.  By our own rules, THEY are the aggressors and
we should be able to treat them accordingly, on our own
terms,  at  our  own convenience, whenever  we  choose,
especially when we feel the odds are on our side.
I  understand,  obviously, that the "no  initiation  of
aggression"  principle  is  still  valid,  but   please
recognize that I simply don't consider it to be a valid
counter-argument to "Assassination Politics," at  least
as  applied  to  targets who happen  to  be  government
agents.   They've "pre-aggressed," and I don't see  any
limit  to  the defenses I should be able to  muster  to
stop  that aggression completely and permanently.   Not
that  I don't see a difference between different levels
of  guilt:  I fully recognize that some of them are far
worse  than others, and I would certainly not  treat  a
lowly  Forest Service grunt in the same fashion  as  an
ATF sniper.

Now, there is one more thing that I would hope we could
get  straight:  As I originally "invented" this system,
it occurred to me that there could be certain arguments
that  it  needed to be "regulated" somehow;  "unworthy"
targets  shouldn't be killed, etc.  The  "problem"  is,
what  I've "invented" may (as I now believe it  to  be)
actually a "discovery," in a sense:  I now believe this
kind  of  system was always inevitable, merely  waiting
for  the triad of the Internet, digital cash, and  good
encryption   in   order   to  provide   the   technical
underpinnings  for  the  entire  system.   If  that  is
genuinely  the  case, then there  is  no  real  way  to
control it, except by free-market principles.

It  would  be impossible, for example, to set  up  some
sort  of "Assassination Politics Dictator," who decides
who will live and who will die, because competition  in
the  system  will always rise to supply  every  demand,
albeit  at  possibly a very high  price.   And  if  you
believe   the  maxim  that  "absolute  power   corrupts
absolutely," you wouldn't want to accept  any  form  of
centralized control (even, perhaps, that of your own!),
because any such control would eventually be corrupted.
Most  rational people recognize this, and I do too.   I
would not have invented a system where "Jim Bell"  gets
to  make "all the decisions."  Quite the contrary,  the
system   I've   described  absolutely   prevents   such
centralization.  That, quite frankly,  is  the  novelty
and  dare I say it, the beauty of this idea.  I believe
that  it  simply  cannot  be  hijacked  by  centralized
political control.

As I pointed out in the essay, if I were running one of
the   organizations  accepting  those   donations   and
offering  those prizes, I would selectively  list  only
those  targets who I am genuinely satisfied are  guilty
of  the  violation of the "non-aggression   principle."
But as a practical matter, there is no way that I could
stop  a  DIFFERENT organization from being set up   and
operating under DIFFERENT moral and ethical principles,
especially if it operated  anonymously, as I anticipate
the  "Assassination Politics"-type   systems  will  be.
Thus,  I'm  forced to accept the reality that  I  can't
dictate   a   "strongly  limited"  system  that   would
"guarantee"  no "unjustified" deaths:   I   can  merely
control my little piece of the earth and not assist  in
the  abuse   of others.  I genuinely believe,  however,
that  the  operation of this system  would  be  a  vast
improvement over the status quo.
This,  I  argue, is somewhat analogous to  an  argument
that we should be entitled to own firearms, despite the
fact     that    SOME    people    will    use     them
wrongly/immorally/illegally.  The ownership is a  right
even though it may  ultimately allow or enable an abuse
that  you  consider wrong and punishable.   I  consider
the  truth  of  such  an argument  to  be  obvious  and
correct, and I  know you would too.

I realize that this lacks the crisp certitude of safety
which  would  be   reassuring  to  the  average,  "pre-
libertarian" individual.  But you are not the  "average
individual"  and I trust that as long-time libertarians
you  will  recognize rights must exist even  given  the
hypothetical  possibility that somebody may  eventually
abuse them.

I do not know whether I "invented" or "discovered" this
system;  perhaps it's a little of both. I do  genuinely
believe  that this system, or one like it, is as  close
to   being  technologically  inevitable  as   was   the
invention of firearms once the material we now know  as
"gunpowder"  was invented.  I think it's  on  the  way,
regardless of what we do to stop it.  Perhaps more than
anyone else on the face of this planet, this notion has
filled  me, sequentially and then simultaneously,  with
awe, astonishment, joy, terror, and finally, relief.

Awe,  that  a system could be produced by a handful  of
people that would rid the world of the scourge of  war,
nuclear weapons, governments, and taxes.  Astonishment,
at my realization that once started, it would cover the
entire  globe  inexorably, erasing  dictatorships  both
fascistic  and communistic, monarchies,  and  even  so-
called "democracies," which as a general rule today are
really  just  the facade of government by  the  special
interests.  Joy, that it would eliminate all  war,  and
force  the dismantling not only of all nuclear weapons,
but   also  all  militaries,  making  them  not  merely
redundant  but  also considered universally  dangerous,
leaving their "owners" no choice but to dismantle them,
and in fact no reason to KEEP them!

Terror, too, because this system may just change almost
EVERYTHING how we think about our current society,  and
even  more  for  myself personally, the knowledge  that
there  may  some day be a large body of wealthy  people
who  are  thrown off their current positions of control
of   the   world's  governments,  and   the   very-real
possibility that they may look for a "villain" to blame
for their downfall.  They will find one, in me, and  at
that  time they will have the money and (thanks to  me,
at  least  partially) the means to see  their  revenge.
But I would not have published this essay if I had been
unwilling to accept the risk.

Finally, relief.  Maybe I'm a bit premature to say  it,
but  I'm  satisfied we _will_ be free.   I'm  convinced
there  is  no alternative.  It may feel like a  roller-
coaster ride on the way there, but as of today I  think
our   destination  is certain.  Please  understand,  we
will be free.
Your libertarian friend,

Jim Bell

Something   is   going  to  happen...      Something...

                        Part 8
The  following article appeared in the Sunday, February
4,  1996  issue  of Asahi Evening News, in  an  article
written by columnist Paul Maxwell, page 6.   He  writes
a regular column about the Internet for this newspaper.
     "Networks:  Paul Maxwell"
     "Dial Internet for murder"
     'The  first thing we do, let's kill  all  the
     lawyers."  (Shakespeare, Henry VI).
     A   startling  and  controversial  idea   has
     surfaced on the Internet recently--fear  with
     me  for a moment while I explain it.   It  is
     based   on  two  technological  developments:
     digital cash and encryption software.
     Briefly,   digital  cash  is  a  system   for
     transferring funds from one person to another
     on the Net.  For this system to be as good as
     cash,  the  transactions must be  capable  of
     being  conducted anonymously,  just  like  in
     real  life.   (You go into the  Seven-Eleven,
     buy  a Cafe Latte, and nobody knows your name
     or  your credit history.  The purchase is not
     recorded  in  a  database  of  your  consumer
     Several  competing schemes for  digital  cash
     have   been  launched,   but  the  one   that
     eventually  gains universal  acceptance  will
     surely have this anonymity feature.
     The  second innovation is a kind of  software
     called public-key encryption.  It allows  you
     to  send  a file or an email message that  is
     "locked"  in such a way that it can  only  be
     opened   by  the  intended  recipient.    The
     recipient,  however,  cannot  open  it  until
     given  a "key."  This "key" may then be  used
     to  encrypt a return message that can only be
     opened by the original sender.
     Freelance visionary and tinkerer Jim Bell has
     been following both of these developments for
     the  past  few  years.   Recently,  he  asked
     himself  a  couple of tough questions:   "How
     can  we translate the freedom afforded by the
     Internet to ordinary life?"  How can we  keep
     government  from banning encryption,  digital
     cash, and other systems that will improve our
     Suddenly,  Bell  had  a  revolutionary  idea.
     ("Revolutionary" is the word he uses, and  it
     fits.)   You  and  me--the little  guys,  the
     ordinary  working people of the  world--could
     get  together, all pitch in, and pay to  have
     every    rotten   scoundrel    in    politics
     assassinated.   And we could do  it  legally.
     Sort  of. Bell imagined an organization  that
     would  award  "a cash prize to  somebody  who
     correctly 'predicted' the death of one  of  a
     list  of violators of rights, usually  either
     government   employees,   officeholders,   or
     appointees.   It  could  ask  for   anonymous
     contributions    from   the    public,    and
     individuals  would  be  able  to  send  those
     contributions using digital cash."
     He  explains  that "using modern  methods  of
     public-key  encryption and anonymous  digital
     cash,  it  would  be possible  to  make  such
     awards in such a way so that nobody knows who
     is  getting awarded the money,  only that the
     award  is being given.  Even the organization
     itself  would have no information that  could
     help   the   authorities  find   the   person
     responsible for the prediction, let alone the
     one  who caused the death. "Are you following
     this?   Let's say that we, the public, decide
     we've  finally had enough of [insert name  of
     villain].  Ten dollars from me, ten from you-
     -suddenly  there's  a million  dollars  in  a
     fund.   The money will go to the first person
     who   can  "predict"  the  date,  time,   and
     circumstances   of   the   villain's   death.
     Obviously, this information is only known  in
     advance by the assassin.
     He  sends an anonymous, "locked" message.  He
     kills the villain.  He sends the "key" to the
     message.  He has, without ever revealing  his
     identity,  "correctly predicted" the  murder.
     The  "key" that he has provided is then  used
     to  "lock the award money in a file  that  is
     then  publicly posted on the Internet.   Only
     the  person who originated the key  may  open
     the file and claim the digital cash.
     In  other  words, public anger could  finance
     cash   awards   for   assassinations.     The
     organization  that collected  the  money  and
     announced  a  list of possible targets  would
     never  know  about a crime  in  advance,  and
     would  never know the identity or whereabouts
     of  a criminal.  It would not technically  be
     guilty of conspiracy or complicity.
     Jim  Bell  has thought about this a lot,  and
     feels  that the idea is technically feasible,
     practical,  even foolproof.   Suppose  for  a
     moment    he's   right?    What    are    the
     World   leaders  live  with  the  threat   of
     assassination every day of their lives.   But
     at the local level, this could really have an
     impact.    And  the  "target"  list  wouldn't
     necessarily  to  politicians--any   offensive
     public   personality  would  be  fair   game.
     Picture  yourself  a year from  now,  sitting
     around   with   friends.     Somebody   says,
     "Remember  when  Juice Newton  got  whacked?"
     And  you  say, "Yeah--best ten bucks  I  ever
     Satisfying as it might be to declare  war  on
     asinine  pop singers, Bell has a more  civic-
     minded  suggestion:  Let's kill all  the  car
     thieves.  He reasons that a very small number
     of   career  criminals  are  responsible  for
     nearly  all  car thefts.  If one million  car
     owners   in   a   given   metropolitan   area
     contributed  just  four dollars  a  year,  it
     would  create $10,000 a day in "prize  money"
     for the "predictor" of any car thief's death.
     "Assuming that amount is far more than enough
     to  get  a  typical car thief's 'friends'  to
     'off'  him," he writes, "there is  simply  no
     way  that  a substantial car-theft subculture
     could possibly be maintained."
     Jim as high hopes for his plan--he thinks  it
     could eventually lead to the end of political
     tyranny.  But if you don't like this idea, he
     has  others.   In a recent email exchange,  I
     asked what he was doing now.
     "I recommend that you rent the movie, The Day
     the  Earth  Stood Still, he  answered.   "I'm
     working on a similar project."
                        Part 9
For   about   a  year  I  have  been  considering   the
implications of "Assassination Politics," and for  more
than  six months I've been sharing the subject  and  my
musings  with  you, the interested reader.   I've  also
been  debating  the  issue with  all  comers,  a  self-
selected  bunch who range from enthusiastic  proponents
to clueless critics.  Ironically, some of you have even
chided  me  for "wasting time" with some  of  the  less
perceptive among my numerous "opponents."  In  defense,
my  response has always been that when I respond  to  a
person, I do it not primarily for his benefit, but  for
others  who  might be fence-sitting and are waiting  to
see if my idea will break down anywhere.

If there is anything which has fascinated me as much as
the  original  idea,  it  is  this  vast  and  dramatic
disparity between these  various responses.  It's  been
called   everything  from  "a  work   of   genius"   to
"atrocious,"  and probably much worse!  Clearly,  there
must be a fundamental, social issue here that needs  to
be resolved.

While nobody has quite yet said it in those terms,  I'm
sure that more than one of you have probably wanted  to
react  to  my  prose  with the line,  "See  a  shrink!"
[American   slang   for   a   psychiatrist,   for   the
international  readers out there.]  Well,  in  a  sense
that's exactly what I did, but the "shrink" I "saw" had
been dead for over five  decades:  Sigmund Freud.  Much
to  my  surprise,  I  was handed  a  copy  of  a  book,
Introduction to Great Books (ISBN 0-945159-97-8)  which
contained  (page  7)  a  letter from  Freud  to  Albert
Einstein.    On  page  6,  there  is  an  introduction,
describing  the  reason  for this  communication.    It
     "In  1932, the League of Nations asked Albert
     Einstein  to choose a problem of interest  to
     him  and to exchange views with someone about
     it.   Einstein  chose "Is there  any  way  of
     delivering mankind from the menace  of  war?"
     as  his  problem  and Sigmund  Freud  as  his
     correspondent.   In  his  letter  to   Freud,
     Einstein said that one way of eliminating war
     was to establish a supranational organization
     with the authority to settle disputes between
     nation as and power to enforce its decisions.
     But  Einstein acknowledged that this solution
     dealt only with the administrative aspect  of
     the  problem, and that international security
     could  never be achieved until more was known
     about human psychology.  Must right always be
     supported by might?  Was everyone susceptible
     to  feelings of hate and destructiveness?  It
     was   to   these  questions  Freud  addressed
     himself in his reply."

Interestingly  enough,  when I first  started  thinking
about  the  idea that I would later term "Assassination
Politics," I was not intending to design a system  that
had  the  capability to eliminate war  and  militaries.
What I was targeting, primarily, was political tyranny.
By  my standards, that included not merely totalitarian
governments  but  also  ones  that  many  of  us  would
consider  far  more benign, in particular  the  Federal
government  of  the  United  States  of  America,  "my"
country.   Only after I had thought of the  fundamental
principle of allowing large numbers of citizens  to  do
away  with unwanted politicians was I "forced,"  by  my
work  up  to  that point, to address the issue  of  the
logical  consequences of the operation of that  system,
which  (by "traditional" ways of thinking) would  leave
this  country  without leaders, or a government,  or  a
military,  in a world with many threats.   I  was  left
with  the  same fundamental problem that's plagued  the
libertarian analysis of forming a country  in  a  world
dominated by non-libertarian states:  It was not  clear
how  such a country could defend itself from aggression
if it could not force its citizens to fight.

Only  then did I realize that if this system could work
within  a single country, it could also work worldwide,
eliminating threats from outside the country as well as
corrupt politicians within.  And shortly thereafter,  I
realized that not only could this occur, such a  spread
was absolutely inevitable, by the very nature of modern
communications   across   the   Internet,   or    older
technologies  such  as  the  telephone,  fax,  or  even
letters  written on paper.  In short, no war need  ever
occur  again,  because  no  dispute  would  country  he
intended to war with, obviously, but he would also draw
the  ire of citizens within his own country who  either
didn't want to pay the taxes to support a wasteful war,
or  lose their sons and daughters in pointless battles,
or for that matter were simply opposed to participating
in  the  aggression.  Together, all these  potentially-
affected peoples would unite (albeit quite anonymously,
even from each other) and destroy the tyrant before  he
had the opportunity to make the war.

I  was  utterly  astonished.   Seemingly,  and  without
intending to do so, I had provided a solution  for  the
"war"  problem that has plagued mankind for  millennia.
But  had  I?  I really don't know.  I do know, however,
that  very  few  people  have  challenged  me  on  this
particular claim, despite what would normally appear to
be  its  vast  improbability.  While some of  the  less
perceptive  critics  of "Assassination  Politics"  have
accused  me  of  eliminating war and  replace  it  with
something  that will end up being worse,  it  is  truly
amazing  that more people haven't berated  me  for  not
only  believing  in the impossible, but also  believing
that the impossible is now actually inevitable!

A  little more than a week ago, I was handed this book,
and  asked to read Freud's letter, by a person who  was
aware  of my "little" philosophical quandary.  I  began
to  read Freud's letter in response to Einstein, having
never  read  any  other  word Freud  had  written,  and
having read essentially none of the works of the giants
of  Philosophy.   (Now, of course, I feel  tremendously
guilty at the omission in my education, but I've always
been  attracted  more  to  the  "hard  sciences,"  like
chemistry,   physics,  mathematics,  electronics,   and
computers.)  Since this letter was specifically on war,
and the question of  whether man could ever avoid it, I
felt  perhaps  it would contain some fact  or  argument
that would correct what was simply a might end up being
right,  but alternatively hoped that if wrong, I  would
be soon corrected.  I was fearful that I was wrong, but
also  fearful that there would be nothing in this essay
that would assist me in my analysis of the situation.

About a third of the way through Freud's letter, I  had
my  answer.  Below, I show a segment of Freud's  reply,
perhaps  saving the whole letter for inclusion  into  a
later  part  of  this  ongoing essay.   While  I  could
drastically  oversimplify  the  situation  and   state,
"Freud  was  wrong!,"  it turns  out  that  this  brief
conclusion  is at best highly misleading and  at  worst
flirting with dishonesty.  By far the greater  part  of
Freud's analysis makes a great deal of sense to me, and
I  would say he's probably correct.  But it is  at  one
point that I believe he goes just a bit wrong, although
for  reasons which are entirely understandable and even
predictable, given the age in which he lived.  It  must
be remembered, for example, that Freud was born into an
era  where the telephone was a new invention, broadcast
radio was non-existent, and newspapers were the primary
means  that  news was communicated to the  public.   It
would  be  highly unreasonable for us to have  expected
Freud  to  have anticipated developments  such  as  the
Internet,  anonymous digital cash, and good  public-key

In  some  sense, at that point, my biggest  regret  was
that  I couldn't discuss the issue with either of these
two  communicants,  Freud  having  died  in  1939,  and
Einstein in 1955, after having helped initiate research
that  led  to the development of the atomic  bomb,  the
weapon  that  for  decades  and  even  now,  makes   it
absolutely,   vitally  important   to   eliminate   the
possibility of war from the world.

  But  I'll let Dr. Freud speak, as he spoke over sixty
years ago, because he has much to say:

     "Such then, was the original state of things:
     domination by whoever had the greater might--
     domination  by brute violence or by  violence
     supported  by  intellect.  As we  know,  this
     regime   was   altered  in  the   course   of
     evolution.   There was a path that  led  from
     violence  to  right or law.   What  was  that
     path?   It  is my belief that there was  only
     one:   the path which led by way of the  fact
     that   the  superior  strength  of  a  single
     individual could be rivaled by the  union  of
     several  weak ones.  "L'union fait la force."
     [French;   In   union  there  is   strength.]
     Violence  could be broken by union,  and  the
     power   of   those   who  were   united   now
     represented  law in contrast to the  violence
     of  the single individual.  Thus we see  that
     right  is  the might of a community.   It  is
     still  violence, ready to be directed against
     any  individual who resists it; it  works  by
     the   same  methods  and  follows  the   same
     purposes.  The only real difference  lies  in
     the  fact that what prevails is no longer the
     violence  of  an individual  but  that  of  a
[But  below is where I think Freud falls into a certain
degree  of  error,  perhaps not by  the  standards  and
realities  of his day, but those of ours.  My  comments
are  in  square  brackets,], and Freud's  comments  are
quoted "".   Freud continues: ]
     "But   in  order  that  the  transition  from
     violence to this new right or justice may  be
     effected, one psychological condition must be
     fulfilled.  The union of the majority must be
     a  stable and lasting one.   If it were  only
     brought about for the purpose of combating  a
     single dominant individual and were dissolved
     after   his   defeat,   nothing   would    be
     accomplished.  The  next  person  who  though
     himself superior in strength would once  more
     seek to set up a dominion by violence and the
     game  would  be  repeated ad infinitum.   The
     community  must  be  maintained  permanently,
     must  be  organized, must draw up regulations
     to  anticipate the risk of rebellion and must
     institute  authorities  to  see  that   those
     regulations--the laws-- are respected and  to
     superintend  the execution of legal  acts  of
     violence.  The recognition of a community  of
     interests  such as these leads to the  growth
     of  emotional ties between the members  of  a
     united  group  of  people--communal  feelings
     which  are  the true source of its strength."
     [end of Freud's quote]

[Those  of  you  who  truly  comprehend  the  idea   of
"Assassination    Politics"   will,   I'm    confident,
understand  exactly why I considered  this  segment  of
Freud's  letter to be important enough to include,  and
will  probably  also recognize why I  consider  Freud's
analysis  to  go wrong, albeit for comparatively  minor
and  understandable reasons.  I will address  the  last
paragraph in greater detail, to explain what I mean.  I
will  repeat  Freud's words, and address  each  of  his
points  from  the standpoint of today's  situation  and

     "But   in  order  that  the  transition  from
     violence to this new right or justice may  be
     effected, one psychological condition must be
     fulfilled.  The union of the majority must be
     a stable and lasting one." [In a sense, Freud
     is  absolutely correct:  Whatever  system  is
     chosen   to  "govern"  a  society,  it   must
     continue  to  operate  "forever."  ]    Freud
     "  If  it  were  only brought about  for  the
     purpose   of  combating  a  single   dominant
     individual  and  were  dissolved  after   his
     defeat, nothing would be accomplished."

[This  is where the problem begins to creep in.   Freud
is  leading up to justifying the existence of a  formal
government as he knew them in the 1930's, based on  the
continuing need for keeping the peace.  The first,  and
I  think, the most obvious problem is that Freud  seems
to implicitly assume that the purpose of the union will
actually be fulfilled by the formation of a government.
Freud,  who died in 1939, didn't see what his survivors
saw, a "legitimate" government in Germany having killed
millions  of  people in the Holocaust,  or  many  other
incidents subsequent to that.  And Freud, whose  letter
was  written  in 1932, was probably not  aware  of  the
slaughter of the Russian Kulaks in the late 1920's  and
early  1930's,  or  the purges which  followed.   Freud
could  have felt, generally, that the problems  with  a
country's  governance were caused either by  inadequate
government or simply a rare example of government  gone
bad.   We know, to the contrary, that governments  very
frequently   "go  bad,"  in  the  sense  of   violating
citizen's  rights  and abusing the power  entrusted  to
them.   Few may end up killing millions, but to  assume
that  we  must  continue to tolerate  governments  just
because  they  don't go quite as far  as  Nazi  Germany
would be foolish in the extreme.]

[The second problem is the implicit assumption that the
long-term control he (correctly) sees MUST come from an
organization like a traditional government.   True,  in
the  era in which Freud lived, that conclusion  made  a
great   deal   of  sense,  because  a  well-functioning
government  appeared superior to none at all.   And  it
was  at  least plausible that such control  COULD  come
from  a government.  But as the old saying goes, "Power
corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."]

[To  use  a  house's  thermostat  as  an  analogy,  but
differently than I did in "Assassination Politics, part
6,"  a  person  who  lived in an era  before  automatic
furnace  thermostats  would  always  conclude  that   a
person's  efforts would have to be continually directed
towards  maintaining an even temperature in his  house,
by  adding fuel or limiting it, by adding more  air  or
restricting,  etc.   To  the extent  that  this  manual
control  constitutes a "government,"  he  will  believe
that  this  hands-on control will always be  necessary.
But  we  now  live in a time where a person's  time  is
rarely  directed  towards  this  effort,  the  function
having  been taken over by automatic thermostats  which
are  cheap,  reliable, and accurate.   They  are  also,
incidentally, essentially "uncorruptible," in the sense
that   they  don't  fail  except  for  "understandable"
reasons,  and  repair  is  cheap  and  easy.   (And   a
thermostat can never be bribed, or get tired,  or  have
its  own  interests at heart and begin to subvert  your
own   commands.)    Quite  simply,  the   progress   of
technology has put control of temperature in the  hands
of  an automatic, error-free system that is so reliable
as to be ignorable most of the time.]

[I  argue  that  likewise, the progress  of  technology
would  allow an automatic system to be set up, which  I
called "Assassination Politics" (but could probably use
a  more  apt  name, since its application  extends  far
beyond   the   issue   of  politics)   different   from
traditional government, a difference somewhat analogous
to  the difference between a person's full-time efforts
and  an  automatic thermostat.  Aside from the dramatic
reduction in effort involved, an automatic system would
eliminate  the  errors  caused by  inattention  by  the
operator,  such  as leaving, falling asleep,  or  other
temporary  lack of concentration.  These  failures  are
somewhat analogous to the failure or misbehavior  of  a
corruptible   or  indifferent  or  even   a   malicious

[This   makes  a  government  like  Freud  saw  totally
unnecessary.    Of  course,  Freud   could   not   have
anticipated the technological developments  that  would
make  an  "automatic" replacement for  government  even
possible,   and  thus  he  followed  his   contemporary
paradigms and sought to justify the governments as they
then existed.]  Freud continues:

     "The next person who thought himself superior
     in strength would once more seek to set up  a
     dominion  by violence and the game  would  be
     repeated ad infinitum."

[This  statement is correct, but I think it misses  the
point:  Many functions of individuals and machines  are
never "completed", and must "be repeated ad infinitum."
(The  most  basic example:  If we are optimistic  about
the   future   of   the  human  race,   by   definition
reproduction   and  survival  must  be   "repeated   ad
infinitum.")    That does not mean that  the  mechanism
which  handles  that need must be any more  complicated
that  the  minimum  necessary to  achieve  the  control
needed.  I agree that a system of long-term control  is
necessary; where I disagree with Freud is simply that I
believe that a vastly better method of control now  can
potentially exist than the traditional governments that
he   knew.   To  the  extent  that  he  couldn't   have
anticipated the Internet, anonymous digital  cash,  and
good  encryption,  he  had no reason  to  believe  that
government  could be "automated" and taken out  of  the
hands  of a tiny fraction of the population, a fraction
which  is  corruptible, malicious, and self-interested.
Also,  by not being aware of modern technology,  he  is
unaware  how  easy  it  has become,  conceptually,  for
people to come together for their self-defense, if that
self-defense required only a few kilobytes be sent over
fiber-optic  cables  to  a central  registry.   Freud's
objection  to  an "endlessly repeating"  system  breaks
down  in  this  case,  so his conclusion  need  not  be
considered valid.]

Freud continues:

     "The    community    must    be    maintained
     permanently, must be organized, must draw  up
     regulations   to  anticipate  the   risk   of
     rebellion  and must institute authorities  to
     see  that  those regulations--the laws--  are
     respected and to superintend the execution of
     legal acts of violence."

[Again,  I think Freud misses the point.  He refers  to
"the  risk  of rebellion," but I think he forgets  that
the  main  reason for "rebellion" is the abuse  by  the
government  then  in  control.  (Naturally,  it   looks
differently  from  the standpoint of that  government!)
If  the latter problem could be eliminated, "rebellion"
would  simply never occur, for there would be no reason
for  it.   If those that were "rebelling" were  in  the
wrong,    violating   somebody's   rights,   then    my
"Assassination Politics" system would be able  to  take
care of it.  This, presumably and understandably, Freud
could never have foreseen. Also, Freud does not address
the  question  of  whether or not the government  which
promulgates  those laws is doing so in a way  primarily
for  the  benefit of the public, or those who  populate
the  government itself. Graft was well known if Freud's
time; it seems to me that he should have addressed  the
question   of  whether  or  not  an  entity  called   a
"government"  could actually achieve  the  benefits  he
claims  justify the government, without being subverted
by  those who control it, for their own interests.   If
not,  then  there is certainly a issue to be addressed:
At  what  point  do  the depredations  of  a  parasitic
government exceed its benefits?  And can we find a  way
to do without it?]  Freud continues:

     "The  recognition of a community of interests
     such   as  these  leads  to  the  growth   of
     emotional  ties  between  the  members  of  a
     united  group  of  people--communal  feelings
     which  are  the true source of its strength."
     [this is end of the portion of Freud's letter
     which I quote here.]

One  of the interesting things about this statement  is
that  it  is  the  development of  tools  such  as  the
Internet which will be eliminating the very concept  of
"foreign" and "foreigner."  They will become artificial
distinctions.   There  is clearly  much  precedent  for
this, from the country in which I live, America.   When
formed,  it contained people whose primary loyalty  was
to  their  state,  not to the Federal government  as  a
whole. Even our civil war, from 1861 to 1865, was based
on  loyalty  to  states  or regions,  rather  than  the
country as a whole.   To cite just one example, myself,
while  I  reside  in the state called Washington,  I've
lived in a number of other states, but I don't consider
myself  loyal to any particular state.  (Perhaps  using
myself  as  an example is misleading, because  at  this
point I don't consider myself "loyal" to any government
at all!)
In  fact,  later in Freud's letter, he says,  "Anything
that  encourages the growth of emotional  ties  between
men  must operate against war."  Sadly, Freud  did  not
live  to  see the development of the Internet, and  the
massive  international  communication  which   it   has
already  begun  to  foster.  In his day,  the  ordinary
people  of one country and another rarely communicated,
except perhaps for letters with relatives from "the old
country" that emigrated.  The idea of going to war with
people from whom you get email on a daily basis is,  in
itself,  a "foreign concept" to me, and I hope it  will
remain  so!   In  that  sense, Freud  was  very  right:
"Assassination Politics" active or not, it will be much
harder for governments to whip up their citizens into a
frenzy to kill the enemy if they can type to them every
day.  Frustratingly left unanswered is a question whose
answer I'd like to know:  Could I have convinced Freud,
or  Einstein, that "Assassination Politics" is not only
a  necessary or even an unavoidable system, but also  a
GOOD  one?   Could  I  convince them  today,  had  they
miraculously survived until today, aware of the last 64
years of history subsequent to their correspondence?
Jim Bell

Klaatu Burada Nikto

Something       is       going       to       happen...

          Part 10:  "Non-Euclidean Thinking"
An  interesting  communication I had  recently  on  the
subject   of  "Assassination  Politics."    The   other
person's commentary starts with a ">".  The subject  is
how  to  actually implement this system, and  my  first
comment  notices the fact that despite my efforts,  the
government  has  not attempted to  use  this  issue  to
justify  some  sort  of crackdown  on  net  rights,  or
anything like that.

I think they're actually afraid to start the debate,

>I think they don't believe you're a threat.

You're probably right about this.  I guess I'll have to
think of something to change their minds, huh?

>Remember,  they have incredible amounts of money  with
which to hire bright but greedy people.  All they  have
to  do  is find the people running the "Guess the Death
Date"  lottery.   They would have  great  incentive  to
apply their considerable resources to this end.

Your  logic  is excellent.  But as strange  as  it  may
seem,  there may be a different way...  Let's see,  how
do  I  explain?  First, a little diversion that may  or
may  not  be  relevant to this subject,  but  initially
won't appear to be so.

Somewhere  around  20-25 years ago, I  read  some  item
concerning  Howard  Hughes, the late  billionaire.   It
described  the  history  of his business  ventures,  in
fields such as aircraft ("Spruce Goose" is a well-known
example)  but  also  mentioned  that  Hughes  Tool  was
(originally?) into oil-well drilling equipment.

I don't know how much you know about  oil well drilling
and  drill bits, but they look nothing like the classic
fluted drill bits common in hardware stores.  Oil  well
drill  bits  consist  of  multiple  ultra-hard  carbide
points mounted on rotating shafts mounted at the end of
the  drill "string," and these shafts must be connected
to  the main shaft with bearings.  They roll around  on
the  rock, not sliding, and they "spall" off pieces  of
rock due to enormous applied pressure.

  Oil well drilling is done by lubricating the drilling
operation with what is called "drilling mud," which  is
actually  a  slurry  of  solids  in  water,  which   is
primarily  used to cool the cutter and  wash  away  the
rock  chips  and dust produced in the operation.   Now,
since  the  rotating cutter wheels must spin  on  their
axis,  that  means they have to be run on  shafts  with
bearings installed.  These bearings cannot be perfectly
sealed  and thus protected against rock and  mud  dust,
and their useful lifetime is strongly limited by  their

And  since  every  time they wear out the  whole  drill
string  has  to  be  pulled from the  well,  that's  an
EXTREMELY expensive proposition for well-drillers.   So
it  should not be surprising that these guys considered
bearing  quality to be very, very important.  A  little
improvement was worth a lot of money.

"Quality",  to  a  bearing  manufacturer,  is  strongly
related  to  surface  hardness, and traditionally,  the
best  bearings  were  (and,  mostly,  still  are)   the
hardest.   But there's a problem:  Ultimately,  a  very
hard  circular  bearing rotating on a  very  hard  flat
surface  (especially  if  its heavily  loaded)  applies
nearly  all  its  for  on  a  single  point  (for  ball
bearings) or on a single line (for roller bearings) and
that  eventually causes bearing failure.  So there  was
an upper limit, generally, on how good you could get in
bearings.  And the hardest won.  Until Hughes.

[don't go to sleep yet... it gets relevant real soon]

According  to the source I read, what Hughes  Tool  did
that made them really rich was quite simple and counter-
intuitive:  Rather than trying to make his bearings  as
HARD  as  you  can get, he made them SOFT,  very  soft,
"almost  as  soft  as  lead."    (Which,  if  you  know
anything  about  metals,  is very  soft  indeed.)   The
bearings deformed on their raceways, spreading out  the
load over a far larger area, and the resulting bearings
were  the  best  in  the business.  (He  probably  also
applied  a  lot  of research into how to  avoid  "metal
fatigue," but that's quite another story.)

Very  counter-intuitive, but he "won" precisely because
he did exactly the opposite of what everyone "knew" was
the  proper way to go.  Okay, so that explains a genius
who later became a billionaire who later turned into  a
neurotic,  or worse.  "What," you will ask, "does  this
all have to do with Assassination Politics?"

Well,  to draw an observation originally posited in  an
essay  titled  the "Libertech Project," about  7  years
ago,  libertarians  (of all people) are  "non-Euclidean
thinkers."   Basically, this means  that  we  recognize
that the best way to go from "point A" to "point B"  is
NOT  NECESSARILY a straight line.  And  like  Columbus,
who  sailed west in order to go east, sometimes  it  is
necessary  to  sit  down,  and  totally  re-think  your
strategy if you're trying to accomplish some goal.

By "classical" thinking, "Assassination Politics" would
have  to be the best, tightest-security, more protected
organization that has ever existed on the face of  this
planet.  Just about EVERY powerful person would want to
kill anybody who had anything to do with such a system.
The  codes  would have to be unbreakable, the remailers
would  have  to be certain, but most importantly,  each
and  every  participant  would  have  to  be  perfectly
anonymous  to  even have a prayer of  pulling  it  off.
Especially  the operators of such a system.  Especially

That's classical thinking.  And that's what I thought a
few  months  ago.  I thought, "it's do-able,  but  it's
gonna be a lot of work!"

But let's suppose, for a moment, that somebody "pulls a
Hughes."   Rather  than  trying  to  make  the  hardest
bearings in the world, why doesn't somebody try to make
the softest?  Rather than trying their darndest to stay
anonymous, or wait and let somebody else implement this
system,  why  not just "let it all hang out,"  (as  the
saying  went in the 1960's) and publicly announce  that
they're  implementing this system, come  hell  or  high
water,  and  invite anyone who wants to participate  to
help  form  what will be the LAST revolution on  earth,
the one that'll take down ALL the governments.

This  sounds crazy, right?  I mean, who wants  to  die?
Who  wants to commit suicide just to... just to... just
to...  make  an ENTIRE WORLD FREE FOREVER?   Free  from
wars,   militaries,   governments,   taxes,   political
oppression.    Free  from  the  kind  of   totalitarian
governments  that  existed and currently  exist.   Free
from  the Holocausts that have killed Jews, Cambodians,
Armenians,   Russian  Kulaks,  Iraqi   Kurds,   Chinese
dissidents,  Native Americans, and oh so  many  others?
"Who, exactly, would be stupid enough to risk death  to
make the world free???"

Everyone  who volunteered to fight to fight Hitler,  to
name  just  one example. Remember, or have we forgotten
so  soon, that occasionally people die to keep the rest
of  us free.  That's the way it's been for hundreds  of
years.   The  United States of America was  founded  by
people  who  risked death to shake off the  yoke  of  a
government that was, by the standards of the  day,  not
particularly bad.

Think  about it.  Somebody had to be the first  one  to
start  banging on the Berlin Wall, with a sledgehammer,
in 1989.  Somebody had to be the first to walk through.
Somebody  had  to  be the first to stand  up  and  say,
"Enough!"   And the ironic thing is, the most strangely
unusual  thing, is that the entire Eastern  Bloc  fell,
almost  bloodlessly, in a couple weeks, because one  by
one   everybody  realized  that  all  that's  sometimes
required is to finally stand up and be counted, and  to
just  say  no  to the government.  When  the  time  was
right,  all it took was a slight push and the  dominoes
tumbled down.

Now,  don't  get  me wrong.  I'm  not  suggesting  that
EVERYONE  would  be identified.  The  "donors"  to  the
system  would  remain  perfectly  anonymous,  and   the
"guessers"  would likewise be perfectly anonymous,  but
the  organization  itself would  be  made  up  of  real
people,  who have published addresses, who have  simply
decided that they have had enough of the current system
and  are  going  to  participate in a  PERFECTLY  LEGAL
enterprise  by the laws of the country, and  just  DARE
the  government  to try to stop them. The  organization
wouldn't have to buy ads; the publicity firestorm would
be  enormous.  Suddenly, all the politicians  would  be
put  on  the  spot!   Instead of  being  asked  by  the
reporters for their position on the economy, pollution,
the  budget deficit, or some other thing, they'll  ask,
"Why should the public NOT want to see you dead?"

When  would be the best time to do it?  Why,  during  a
major  political  campaign!  When Congress  is  out  of
session,  and  they  can't  pass  legislation   without
calling  some sort of emergency session.  But it  won't
matter anyway, for a few weeks the organization doesn't
actually  have  to take bets or make payments,  they'll
merely  publicize their efforts for  all  to  see.   To
reassure  the public, they could announce that  they'll
only  take  bets  on  elected and  appointed  political
officeholders...and  anyone  who  tries  to  stop   the
system.   And the politicians will be scurrying around,
looking  for political cover, trying to figure out  how
to  NOT  look  scared, but at the  same  time  each  is
wondering  if he'll be the first to go.   And  all  the
while,  the public will be loving it, laughing  at  the
efforts  of  the  politicos to cover  their  collective
asses, and taking private bets among themselves on  who
will be the first one to die.

Prosecute   the   participants?    On   what    charge?
"Conspiracy  to  commit  gambling"?   Which  prosecutor
would risk appearing to be impeding the progress  of  a
useful  system?    At  that point,  the  organization's
members  will just be publicly exercising their  first-
amendment  rights.  Which judge would  take  the  case?
Now  THEY'RE on the spot, THEY have to decide  what  to
do.   I  contend that in an election year,  before  the
election,   there  would  be  mass  resignations   from
Congress,  or  members  deciding  "it's  just  not  fun
anymore"  and decline to return even if re-elected,  as
well   as  the  complete  loss  of   whatever  residual
confidence the public has in the government. Whew!   Is
this all just wishful thinking?  I really don't know!