One of the primary symbols of bitcoin, Ross Ulbricht, was just sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in maintaining the Silk Road marketplace online. What came to be known, fairly or unfairly, as a bazaar of illicit activity, the Silk Road shut down by the FBI for its “unsavory” online behavior.
But what was the real reason why Ross was thrown in prison, his website shut down forever? Yes, the mainstream will claim it’s because of the drug related marketplace the Silk Rfacilitated. Then again, there are plenty of drug marketplaces for legal and illegal drugs that operate with impunity today due to their leadership’s connections with those in political and financial power.
The Silk Road, and Ross, were a shot across the bow for the dollar denominated vice trade. If you want to see a currency for bad things look no further than the US Dollar…accepted worldwide for anything and everything given it’s world reserve status. By utilizing bitcoin the Silk Road represented a decentralized approach to the highly profitable vice trade where intermediaries could no longer take a cut. There are many rich and powerful interests aligned against such a solution that would cut them out of the fray.
Was what Ross did illegal? Yes. However, it was no worse than legacy illegal systems being supported by powerful intermediaries using the USD as their currency of choice. Ulbricht was put away as he was a threat to the powers that be and the prevailing paper currency system. The powerful interests were not prepared to take over via digital currency yet – they needed time to formulate their approach before the common man could disassociate themselves from the centrally controlled system.
Evil or good Ross stood against many when he and his companions were just a few. He was a revolutionary and will pay dearly for his work. Nonetheless let us never forget the economic incentives he stood against and why what happened actually happened.