What is a cypherpunk?

Tyler Durden camera_lumina at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 6 12:23:05 PST 2005

Well, I agree with the general gist of this post though not it's specific 

OK...a Cypherpunk ultimately believes that technology and, in particular, 
crypto give us the defacto (though, as you point out, not dejure) right to 
certain levels of self-determination and that this 'right' is ultimately 
exerted indepedent of any governing bodies. In the end, most likely despite 
any governing bodies. Moreover, it has been argued (in general fairly well, 
I think) that attempting to exert one's 'rights' through a 'democratically 
elected' mob is rarely much more than mob rule. "We have voted to ransack 
your home." OK, that I think is well understood.

BUT, an essentially Cypherpunkly philosophy does not preclude any kind of 
action in the legal/governing realm, particularly when it's recognized that 
said government can easily make it very difficult to live the way one wants. 
In other words, if Kodos is promising to start curfew laws and make 
possession or use of crypto a crime, I'll probably vote for Kang in the dim 
hopes this'll make a difference.

Things get sticky when you start talking private sector...unlike most 
Cypherpunks I don't subscribe to the doctrine that, 
"Private=Good=Proto-anarchy"...Halliburton is a quasi-government entitity, 
AFAIC, the CEO of which 'needs killing' ASAP. In the US Private industry has 
a way of entangling it's interests with that of the Feds, and vice versa, so 
I don't see any a priori argument against establishing some kind of "rear 
guard" policy to watch the merger and possibly vote once in a while. With 
Palladium it's easy to see the Feds one day busting down your doors when 
they find out you broke open the lock box and tore out their little 
citzen-monitoring daemon inside, which they put in there working with 

With respect to TCPA, however, I happen to agree with you. IN particular, I 
think most people will put 2 and 2 together and remember that it was 
Microsoft in the first place that (in effect) caused a lot of the security 
problems we see. Watch mass scale defections from Microsoft the moment they 
try a lock-box approach...or rather, the moment the first big 
hack/trojan/DoS attack occurs leveraging the comfy protection of TCPA.


>From: Anonymous <cripto at ecn.org>
>To: cypherpunks at al-qaeda.net
>Subject: What is a cypherpunk?
>Date: Sat,  5 Feb 2005 22:12:16 +0100 (CET)
>Justin writes:
> > No, I want the right to fair use of material I buy.  If someone sells
> > DRM-only material, I won't buy it at anything approaching non-DRM
> > prices.  In some cases, I won't buy it at all.
>Well, that's fine, nobody's forcing you to buy anything.  But try to think
>about this from a cypherpunk perspective.  "Fair use" is a government
>oriented concept.  Cypherpunks generally distrust the collectivist wisdom
>of Big Brother governments.  What fair use amounts to is an intrustion
>of government regulation into a private contractual arrangement.  It is
>saying that two people cannot contract away the right to excerpt a work
>for purposes of commentary or criticism.  It says that such contracts
>are invalid and unenforceable.
>Now, maybe you think that is good.  Maybe you think minimum wage is
>good, a similar imposition of government regulation to prevent certain
>forms of contracts.  Maybe you think that free speech codes are good.
>Maybe you support all kinds of government regulations that happen to
>agree with your ideological preferences.
>If so, you are not a cypherpunk.  May I ask, what the hell are you
>doing here?
>Cypherpunks support the right and ability of people to live their
>own lives independent of government control.  This is the concept
>of crypto anarchy.  See that word?  Anarchy - it means absence of
>government.  It means freedom to make your own rules.  But part of the
>modern concept of anarchy is that ownership of the self implies the
>ability to make contracts and agreements to limit your own actions.
>A true anarchic condition is one in which people are absolutely free
>to make whatever contracts they choose.  They can even make evil,
>immoral, wicked contracts that people like you do not approve of.
>They can be racists, like Tim May.  They can avoid paying their taxes.
>They can take less money than minimum wage for their work.  They can
>practice law or medicine without a license.  And yes, they can agree to
>DRM restrictions and contract away their so-called fair use rights.
>One of the saddest things I've seen on this list, and I've seen it many
>times, is when people say that the laws of their country give them the
>right to ignore certain contractual elements that they have agreed to.
>They think that it's morally right for them to ignore DRM or limitations
>on fair use, because their government said so.  I can't describe how
>appalling I consider this view.  That anyone, in this day and age,
>could consider _government_ as an arbiter of morality is so utterly
>bizarre as to be incredible.  And yet not only is this view common, it
>is even expressed here on this list, among people who supposedly have
>a distrust and suspicion of government.
>I can only assume that the ideological focus of this mailing list has
>been lost over the years.  Newcomers have no idea what it means to be a
>cypherpunk, no sense of the history and purpose which originally drove
>the movement.  They blindly accept what they have been force-fed in
>government-run schools, that government is an agency for good.
>That's one interpretation.  The other is worse.  It's that people on
>this list have sold out their beliefs, their ideals, and their morality.
>What was the bribe offered to them to make them turn away from the
>moral principles which brought them to this list originally?  What was
>so valuable that they would discard their belief in self ownership in
>favor of a collectivist worship of government morality?  Simply this:
>free music and movies.
>The lure of being able to download first MP3s and now video files
>has been so great that even cypherpunks, the supposed defenders of
>individual rights and crypto anarchy, are willing to break their word,
>violate their contracts, lie and cheat and steal in order to feed their
>addictive habit.  They are willing to do and say anything they have to in
>order to get access to those files.  They don't feel the slightest bit of
>guilt when they download music and movies in direct contradiction to the
>expressed desire of the people who put their heart and soul into creating
>those works.  They willingly take part in a vast criminal enterprise,
>an enormous machine which takes from the most creative members of our
>society without offering anything in return.  And this enterprise is
>criminal not by the standards of any government or legal code, but by
>the standards of the morality which is the essence of the cypherpunk
>worldview: the standard of self ownership, of abiding by one's word,
>of honoring one's agreements.
>This poisonous activity has penetrated to all parts of internet based
>society, and its influence has stolen away what honor the cypherpunks
>once possessed.  Its toxic morality ensures that cypherpunks can no
>longer present a consistent philosophy, that there is nothing left but
>meaningless paranoid rantings.
>I challenge anyone here to answer the question of what it means to be
>a cypherpunk.  What are your goals?  What is your philosophy?  Do you
>even recognize the notion of right and wrong?  Or is it all simply a
>matter of doing whatever you can get away with, of grabbing what you can
>while you can, of looting your betters for your own short term benefit?
>Is that what it means to be a cypherpunk today?  Because that's how it
>looks from here.

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list