grarpamp at gmail.com
Thu Aug 5 02:35:18 PDT 2021
The Jim Bell System
by Robert Vroman InsanusK9 at aol.com
Ed. note: This article reflects the views of the author ONLY, not the
editors. We have no official opinion whatsoever on the Jim Bell
System, aka Assassination Politics. Please see also Bob Murphy's
response to this article.
As I write this article on July 3rd 2002, I am already hearing out my
window the occasional pops of micro-explosives enthusiasts getting a
head start on their annual excuse to play with things that go bang and
supposedly celebrate their freedom. Tomorrow, libertarians across the
country will use the holiday as an opportunity to grouse to
disinterested relatives around the barbecue grill about how little
freedom we actually have left, or really ever had. LP lifers often say
there is no magic bullet to get the kind of society we want, and it
will take decades of hard work in the political trenches, and of
course many, many donations to the party, before we ever see progress.
Conversely, I propose that a nutty guy named Jim Bell has already
designed the magic bullet; it just needs to be forged and we will
start seeing dramatic positive change immediately.
Since this is a fairly controversial topic, I will start with a
psychological self-analysis as disclaimer.
My primary long-term goal is to live forever. I’m convinced that the
exponential improvements in medical technology will curve upwards to
infinity within the next century. This means surviving the relatively
primitive period between then and now is the major stumbling block. As
an atheist, I am faced with the conclusion that this is the only life
I have. Therefore I have an enormous incentive to minimize risks to my
health and well being, just as a Christian has incentive not to sin;
we both would be gambling our presumed eternal life, an unacceptable
wager. One such risk I will choose to decline is taking up arms
against the United States government. Thus the powers that be who may
read this article can rest assured that I will be exhibiting more or
less cowardly behavior for the next 75 years or so, and present no
security threat whatsoever.
I am simply predicting what will happen and am no more responsible for
the outcome than an astronomer who reveals that an asteroid is on
course to wipe out DC. Hopefully, the destruction of this particular
doomsday rock will be localized around the tyrants.
With that said, I present the following dangerous idea.
My secondary long-term goal is to live free. By that I mean living in
a stable, secure, anarcho-capitalist society. The obvious obstacle to
this goal is the existence of the State. The problems I face generally
in eradicating this persistent pest are that:
The State is actively retarding the progress of science, thus
making my immortality timetable more and more dicey.
There aren’t a whole lot of capital resources or individuals
enlightened enough to be on my side.
If I die in the process, either from fighting a revolution or from
allowing the state to last too long, stalling out science, it will all
be for naught (from my perspective anyway)
The challenge then is to devise a plan to remove this obstacle,
balancing the considerations of speed, cost and safety.
In a recent article John T. Kennedy made the excellent point, using
the example of a porcupine, that in order to avoid being eaten, one
need not necessarily be anywhere near as powerful as the predator,
only become an over priced meal. The historical example of Switzerland
in WWII comes to mind. Clearly, with a concentrated effort the Nazi
war machine could have decimated the small neutral country. In fact
Hitler boasted early on in the war that he would “be the butcher of
the Swiss.” However, the Swiss militia system was able to mobilize a
half million trained riflemen within 48 hours of that pronouncement.
Once entrenched in foreboding Alpine terrain, they were ordered to
defend the border “to the last cartridge.” The Fuhrer decided to pass
on that challenge and instead waltzed through Denmark and France,
countries with little to no civilian gun culture.
For our purposes, the State is the predator, and we are the prey.
Kennedy mentioned (with appropriate caveats) that Assassination
Politics would be one possible method to grow some quills, and raise
our price beyond the power monger’s ability to pay. Briefly, the AP
system, as I envision its probable implementation, would operate
something like this. You come across, say, "www.jimbellsystem.com" and
see a long list of names next to dollar amounts. You are then invited
to select a name and then submit a guess as to the exact date this
person will expire, in exchange for some standard betting fee, like
$1, via some as yet undeveloped digital cash scheme. Your dollar is
then added to the total on the master list. You can repeat this
process as many times, on as many names as you like, or even submit a
new name. Strong cryptography protects your anonymity in all cases.
Then when someone on the list inevitably is reaped, the site operator
examines all the winning bets (if any) and divides the prize evenly
among them, after taking a small percentage as commission. The prize
money is then forwarded to anonymous digital cash accounts that the
winning bettors indicated when they submitted their entries. In other
words it’s just a standard betting pool system except with paranoid
security, and a rather macabre theme. However, the catch is that once
a particular name gets some serious cash associated with it, say $1M+,
there will be a strong motivation for an unscrupulous bettor to tip
the odds dramatically in his favor via direct intervention in the
subject’s death. The further catch is that many of the average,
non-homicidal bettors will be aware that such unscrupulous
opportunists exist and will play the game without any real ambition to
randomly pick a correct date, but instead place bets to drive up the
prize on persons they despise. The theory goes that politicians will
be high on everyone’s shit list, and be the first to rack up attention
getting prize pools. To be wildly optimistic, it is proposed that
there will be so many people with a pet peeve against a specific
politician, whether they are consciously anarchist or not, that the
system will foster a niche industry in assassination, and the
collective actions of the market will thereafter make it incredibly
dangerous for anyone to seek positions of power. Thus, the people who
currently constitute the entity known as government will either die or
fearfully resign en masse, and the State will disintegrate.
The fully idealistic conclusion is that this will result in permanent,
defensible anarchism, since AP can be just as easily applied to any
neo-statists who show up afterwards, or any foreign aggressors,
assuming there are any states left lacking sufficient internet
connectivity to have previously ousted their own rulers.
That’s the summary, I will now debunk the many criticisms of the
system, which fall into three broad categories:
In the first category are objections along practical lines for its
basic operation. First of all, is it technically feasible? I am not a
programmer, nor even done much homework in the area of
encryption/digital cash, however, there are people out there who are
certainly experts who seem to think that both of those concepts have a
very strong future. For further information on relevant technical
matters, I direct you to J. Orlin Grabbe, who does not to my knowledge
endorse any form of AP, but does treat the reader to some creative
selections of soft porn.
Since I am under educated in this field, I unfortunately will have to
pass on any specific technical objections. Logically, though it seems
reasonable to compare the operation of this system to, something like
a drug cartel. South American drug lords are well known for having top
notch computer systemsto keep track of their own affairs, as well as
keep tabs on what competitors and Federales are up to. Such cartels
are historically very good at surviving against ever increasing law
enforcement budgets and political pressure. Since AP’s main business
is in computers, and it will most likely be very profitable, it leads
me to think that electronically evading cops by similar means may not
be a hopeless task.
The second practical objection I will cover is a worst-case scenario,
where, in its desperation, the state retaliates against AP by banning
non-governmental digital cash entirely. Feds shuts down Paypal and
anything like it, and only allow e-cash that’s connected to the
magnetic stripe on your National ID, and every transaction monitored.
This unfortunate news bulletin can be handled several ways by AP’s
patrons. To go back to our drug cartel analogy, keep in mind that many
millions of people around the world flout the law daily to buy, sell
and consume illegal pharmaceuticals. Distributors of drugs are
everywhere if you know where to look. It is not so hard to imagine an
identical network of underground suppliers could meet the demand for
anonymous currency, for any number of purposes, not just AP. This
could take the form of cash servers completely off the fed grid, or
front companies that accept government e-cash and launder it for
discreet uses. Depending on the exact nature of whatever new
authoritarian legislation gets handed down, any number of solutions
could present themselves, and those same millions of current law
breakers will no doubt solicit them just as eagerly. And the added
bonus is there is no physical evidence to be un-constitutionally
searched and seized, as is the threat in the drug trade. A few Kbytes
of data is probably easier to hide than a trunk full of plant
In the same vein, the State might get extremely paranoid, and attempt
to ban all encryption lacking FBI backdoors. Assuming that civil
libertarians are not sufficiently “concerned” to prevent this, more
important is the basic impracticality of enforcement. Analogy: Its
2050 and in an understandable appeal to public safety, the Feds outlaw
recently invented personal invisibility cloaks. Storm troopers arrive
at my apartment building and question my neighbors. “We have a warrant
for the arrest of Robert Vroman for the alleged possession of an
illegal invisibility cloak. Have you seen him? No? Hmm.”
Again my technical ignorance may get in the way, but if I can hide the
content of my message, how hard is it to hide the source and
destination? Internet savvy outlaws will undoubtedly provide
encryption services under the Gestapo’s nose, just like their outlaw
digicash cousins, and their outlaw drug peddler ancestors.
But then what if the State, facing imminent destruction, lashes out
blindly and tries to shut down the whole friggin internet? Or what if
they establish martial law in the scariest uber-polizei-stadt since
Adolf was dancing jigs? These and other Orwellian nightmares are
possibilities. However, one must consider that any path to anarchism
will eventually take us to a point to where the State is cornered and
crazed, and thus this is not the fault of AP. On the bright side
though, if it is AP that takes us to that juncture, any measures the
State take will be short lived and futile. While they may be able to
hold off an armed rebellion or mass non-compliance and make our lives
miserable for an indefinite period, AP will march along inexorably
chowing down on their human resources and scaring them off, until
there’s simply no one left to give orders or receive them.
The third practical objection wonders if anyone will actually put
money into AP, above or below ground. Clearly, there will have to be a
significant and constant cash flow to keep the wheels turning and the
heads rolling. Finding customers is probably the least of our worries.
First on the list are the usual suspects of political extremists.
Hardcore lefties in all their myriad flavors: commies,
left-anarchists, eco nuts, feminazis, etc.
Then your hardcore righties: militia psychos, pro-life zealots,
Klansmen, dirty cops, uber-moralists, etc
Following with miscellaneous baddies: well heeled foreign terrorists,
cultists, sleaze corporations, garden variety sociopaths, drug lords,
And that’s just the fringe. I propose that humans as a whole are not
very good people. If they were, surely we would not be in the
prevailing unacceptable state of affairs. Fortunately one of the main
selling points of libertarianism is that it’s the superior system
given any level of general morality. In the short term though, AP is
well served by the relatively low level evidenced by reality. I
predict that given a consequence free chance to hurt someone they
despise at low monetary cost, a large percentage will sign up.
American citizens donate many millions to political parties every
year; clearly they take this stuff seriously. How bad do they want
their guy to win? Remember, no one will ever know if you place that
bet. You can protest the senselessness of it all in public, wring your
hands over the latest poor public servant killed in the line of duty,
and then go home and secretly sign the death warrant of that Congress
asshole who wants to cut your kid’s daycare. Seriously, look at the
kind of people around you, who wouldn’t jump at the chance at that
kind of power?
Practically anyone with any political opinions at all can name some
office holder they’d rather see gone. It should be no challenge to get
enough people with the same name in mind to bet a few bucks and reach
a tempting pot.
These people may not be betting against the worst statists in the
order an Ancap might prioritize them, but the point is, it doesn’t
matter who they bet on, as long as they hit any power holders, because
most likely the success of AP will not come from systematically
executing every politician, but instead drive them into hiding from
fear of their name rising on the list. No matter what direction the
fire is coming from, it will keep everyone in Washington’s head down.
But just to drive the point home, forget about Americans who might
unexpectedly turn uniformly patriotic and over ride their petty
partisan proclivities. For an easier challenge, lets toss AP into the
mix of some stormy banana republic below the equator. Giving AP to
practically any 3rd world country would be like letting the rival
faction leaders duel with grenades in a shower stall. Every wannabe El
Presidente will openly encourage their followers to bet against the
competition and undoubtedly receive the same in return. If you find
Somalia encouraging, imagine the entire developing world forced to go
the same route.
So I think I’ve established that there will be sufficient demand, the
other side of the coin is of course supply. Again, we are well
stocked. Last I read, the home of the brave here has some 2 million
people imprisoned, 40% of which are deemed ‘violent’. Furthermore,
approximately 1% of all violent crimes result in a prisoner. This says
to me that there is an abundance of dumb mean folks in this country. .
One characteristic of the violence prone is they tend to be poor. I
imagine that few such criminals actually enjoy risking their life and
freedom day after day in robbing random people for watches and
wallets. How many would gamble on that One Big Score, if payday were a
To name a few, we’ve got the obvious examples, Mafiosos, Hell’s
Angels, Islamo-fascists, McVeigh acolytes, etc, plus a virtually
bottomless supply of standard small time thugs and starving junkies.
In other words lots and lots of people who wouldn’t think twice about
killing anyone for the right price or cause, all being simultaneously
offered heaping mounds of cash with no names being mentioned, no
questions asked, and no one to have to trust. All guaranteed and
anonymous. And the best part is, there’s no need for the ideologically
pure to go fling ourselves against leviathan in some ill conceived
revolution. I’m sometimes disturbed by the martyrdom complex some
Ancaps seem to exhibit; holing up with their favorite rifle and
apparently just waiting for the JBTs to show up someday and take down
as many with them as possible. Much safer to just pay otherwise
worthless people to do the dirty work instead.
To wax poetic, the great melting pot of human society has got scum
floating on the top, and scum settled on the bottom. It sure would be
great if we could let them thin each other’s ranks, with minimal
bystanders getting plugged.
Then again, why count on the competence and boldness of American
crooks? Watch the experiment unfold south of the border and see who
takes the gamble. In parts of the world where life is cheap, AP might
be a chief industry, and provide an excellent test pad for its 1st
If there are other practical failures I have missed, I will have to
address them in a follow up article. On to the alleged moral failures.
I do not think my audience will contest the notion that tax is theft,
enforced regulation is aggression, and basically everything the
government does, from bombing foreign kids, to propagandizing local
kids, is wrong. Libertarian logic goes on to say that you have a basic
right to defend your person and property from aggression, and that if
a given level of force is insufficient to deter that aggression, you
may justifiable escalate without bound until the aggression is so
deterred. Furthermore, you are fully within your rights to contract
out your defensive needs to other parties. If the aggressor you are
facing is so overwhelming that you can neither personally defend
yourself nor openly seek protection services, then it becomes
necessary to devise clever systems like AP.
Still, some are concerned that indirectly paying someone to
preemptively kill a politician is dangerously close to initiation of
force, even if the institution he represents is admittedly oppressive.
First of all maybe you hate the state and have a T-shirt to prove it,
but bear no ill will to the lowly 9-to-5er in the local bureaucracy
with no real decision making power. Surely that misguided paper
shuffler does not deserve to get axed along with the household name
tyrants. Fear not, because AP only recognizes the power of the dollar,
and unless someone, somewhere is willing to part with a small fortune
in order to doom the government peon, he is probably just as safe as
every other person listed in the phone book.
The stronger complaint is that no politicians deserve to die, and we
should instead get the backing of legions of converts and politely
present our leaders with one way tickets to somewhere far away and
leave them be. If that were plausible, I’m all for it. Since its not,
there’s no reason to protest the forceful alternative.
I am not obsessed with justice or vengeance. I would be perfectly
happy to let every reigning politician resign without further
punishment, even those that knowingly ordered or caused innocent
deaths. For example, I have no desire to expend energy exhuming FDR’s
corpse and dragging it around the town square, as my grandfather often
insists should be done. In other words, out of sight, out of mind. The
only thing that matters is that the rulers leave power, their offices
dismantled. Going back to my earlier criteria, I will back whatever
method of eviction is the quickest, cheapest, and safest (for me),
regardless of the consequences said method brings down on the
evictees. If AP is the Q, C, and S, then I shed no tears over however
many leaders get snuffed before the rest discover their positions
cannot protect them. If any of you have a soft spot for some
politician who is “really an ok guy deep down, he just doesn’t get it
yet” then hopefully he will be among the first to ‘get it’ and work
his damnedest to disappear from public consciousness as fast as
Imagine this scenario: You just went to considerable cost to move into
a nice new neighborhood. The day after you move in, you receive the
following note in the mail:
I live next door to you. Today is Monday. If there is not $2000 in my
mailbox on Tuesday, then on Wednesday I will send a gang of armed men
to forcibly extract it from you. If you resist, you will be killed. If
you kill them, I will send a larger gang on Thursday, and everyday
thereafter until mission accomplished. This will be a yearly event.
Everyone on the block has already complied. I only had to kill two so
far this year. Thanks for your cooperation.
Your options are A) pissing away your down payment and leaving, only
to find Vroman’s relatives run similar scams in every other
neighborhood B) coughing up the 2 grand every year, and futilely
trying to convince your sheeple neighbors to petition Boss Vroman to
leave you all alone C) killing a few thugs and eventually going down
in a hail of lead, D) spend your 2 grand hiring someone to snipe Boss
Vroman when he least expects it.
So which will it be, Ex-pat, LP, Waco, or…AP?
Whether you buy that as sufficient excuse or if instead you buy into
Bob Murphy’s pacifism plan, is actually quite irrelevant. Here is the
clutch argument. Why Ancaps should not oppose AP is that the fate of
anarchism and AP are inextricably entwined. It is obvious that if the
system works at all, it will be very profitable to the operators. In
Ancapland there will be no law enforcement per se to crack down on a
proposed AP operation. Thus it is inevitable that some profit seeking
anarchists, with no fear of state reprisal, will eventually start one
or more AP servers.
No matter what route is taken to anarchism, peaceful evangelism or
other, the end result will be a society devoid of central authority,
and with an AP system in existence, due to simple profit motive.
Furthermore, even if the consequences of AP are a hell on earth
comparable with the worst examples of grotesque statism, that is also
irrelevant, because AP is unstoppable. Even if we all converted to
minarchism so that we could have the benefits of
pseudo-libertarianism, while still having a violence monopolist to
counteract AP, that changes nothing. AP can destroy any state, minimal
or monstrous. No matter what the ultimate outcome wrought by AP, there
are no steps we can take that will avoid it. Even embracing the
current police state, if that were a serious option, would not provide
significant long term resistance to the looming threat of AP. There is
nothing short of 100% popular refusal to participate that will prevent
AP from tearing down every political office in the world, and given
human psychology, that 100% won’t materialize.
Thus the only question is whether AP is useful enough for transition
purposes that someone develops it now, or uses other methods to
destroy statism first, and wait for AP to show up on its own.
It’s like this. Person A is holding person B hostage at gunpoint. You,
being a pacifist, would like to save person B, without killing bad guy
A. Unfortunately for your humanitarian plans, person B is a part time
ninja, and as soon as the immediate threat of the gun is gone, he is
going to snap A’s neck instantly. You also have a gun. So whether you
shoot A yourself, or somehow non-lethally disarm him and unleash B’s
hands of death, A will die. Thus given the certainty of A’s death (and
deserved at that) the primary concern should be the other two people
in the equation. If you attempt to disarm A, you could get shot,
leaving B still trapped and you dead. Or you could just easily shoot
A, saving both yourself and B, but troubling your conscience.
That’s all I have to say about the moral issues.
Lastly there are the criticisms that claim that AP will successfully
kill politicians, moral or not, but the real problem is that the
system will result in something no better than the current regime.
There are common cries that AP will get ‘out of control’. I see two
ways this could happen. Foremost is that the operators of AP will
somehow appoint themselves de facto rulers in the resulting power
vacuum and twist the tool to assassinate their personal enemies at
will. This is clearly impossible because if they were able to operate
their servers despite the pressure of a state, clearly someone else
can operate a competing server despite the pressure of the rogue
AP-ists, and if said rogues build themselves a personality cult in a
bid for world domination, they make themselves ridiculously easy
targets for AP v2.0.
The better reason this is impossible is because ideally the AP system
would be so well designed that it would run autonomously, so as to
avoid there being any actual operators for the state to arrest. Thus
there are no operators to go bad in the post-state world either.
The other possible unintended consequence, opposite that of
crypto-dictatorship, is the Randian fear about war of all against all,
i.e. ‘bad’ anarchism ala Mad Max. I see little reason to worry about
this possibility. If society degenerates to the point that putting a
$100 bet on someone dying tomorrow results in a very real possibility
that you will be right, then this would imply that AP players are so
widespread and killing so unremarkable, that you might as well just
whack the person yourself and save the C-note. At this point AP will
fall into disuse for being an unnecessary middleman in the homicide
business, except for those rare hard to find targets, as was its
Therefore, AP has a feedback loop that prevents it from being
practical as a means of facilitating petty murders.
In conclusion, AP is pragmatically sound, ethically justified, and
strategically prudent. The only question is when. Watch out State,
you’re on a collision course with an extinction level event. I have
July 11, 2002
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Robert Vroman is a economics student at St. Louis University, a
committeeman of the St. Louis Libertarian Party, and an organizer of
the Free State Project. His personal site is Anti-Marx.com.
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