Assassination Politics

grarpamp grarpamp at
Mon Sep 26 15:30:00 PDT 2022

Matt ฿
Bitcoin, privacy and cypherpunk stuff
Dec 18, 2018
4 min read
Dark Markets: Jim Bell’s Assassination Politics

Anonymity and private communications online have opened up a myriad of
ways for individuals to communicate and transact in cyberspace, in
ways that thwart surveillance.

This series of articles will explore some of the notable proposals
(and iterations) of digital marketplaces furthering crypto-anarchic
agendas. First up: the prediction markets for betting on the lives of

Even to hardline crypto-anarchists and libertarians, this one is a bit
of a stretch – on the surface, it would appear to stand in stark
opposition to the non-aggression principle. Jim Bell, however, remains
adamant that the ends justify the means insofar as government
employees/politicians are concerned, as he explains in depth in his
90s essay entitled Assassination Politics. According to Bell:

    In receiving [a paycheck of stolen tax money] and in his various
acts, [the government employee] violates the “Non-aggression
Principle” (NAP) and thus, presumably, any acts against him are not
the initiation of force under libertarian principles.

In the essay, the author discusses the harnessing of public-key
encryption and digital cash to create a system where anonymous donors
could add to a fund, which would be paid out to whoever correctly
‘guessed’ the date of death of an office holder. Note that the term
‘guessed’ here should be interpreted very loosely — the implication is
that a $10m kitty might just incentivise someone to ensure that their
guess was correct.
Do I need to spell it out?
Anarchy Through Fear

Envisaged by a staunch libertarian, Bell’s hypothetical marketplace
had an ulterior political motive: the eradication of any hierarchical
governmental structure.

He reasoned that, as leader after leader was offed for continuing to
“tax us to death, regulate us to death, or for that matter send hired
thugs to kill us when we oppose their wishes” (I can’t stress the
extent to which he really hates taxes), others would eventually fear
assuming office, and government intervention in the lives of
individuals would be drastically reduced. From there, everything falls
into place – global access to the assassination markets would mean
that militaries across the board cease to exist (lack of leaders and
lack of funding).

You might be wondering how such a system would remain limited to
persons involved with the government. I’m not altogether convinced
that the ‘ethical underpinnings’ of the society that uses these would
make it infeasible for a competitor to simply start taking bets on
anyone (though you might struggle in finding people with enough hatred
for your neighbour who keeps blaring music at 3am to contribute to the
pool that would be paid out in the event of their untimely death).

That said, Bell argues that if you wanted to hire a hitman (which is
what you’d essentially be doing here, as opposed to crowdfunding one),
that’s already possible today.
AP Today

Bear in mind that this proposal was floated at a time before the magic
of blockchain or the advent of decentralisation for the sake of
decentralisation (and raising obscene amounts of money for mere
mentions of the word). In Bell’s model, a centralised organisation is
the ultimate arbiter over which names are added to the system, and
therefore has certain ‘moral’ rulebook. If, on the other hand, someone
were to create a decentralised prediction market, you’d be firmly in
the chaotic code is law domain.

Whilst it runs in a decentralized manner, Augur operates much like
traditional prediction markets: users trade contracts with payouts
tied to a future event. These contracts are binary, meaning that bets
are placed on whether an outcome will or will not occur. Can you see
where I’m going with this?

You’re by no means limited to attempting to predict the deaths of
people here – want to bet on whether Elon Musk is going to cry in a
video interview before a certain date? Here you go. When Apple will
release a folding iPhone? Right here.

That’s not to say deaths haven’t been predicted – bets on terrorist
attacks, mass murders and assassinations of prominent politicians are
all there, too. It’s trivial to set them up, though liquidity is still
lacking. Not so trivial is shutting them down – the Forecast
Foundation burned the escape hatch some months back, effectively
removing its central point of failure.

While Bell’s Assassination Markets are abhorrent to most, they’re a
textbook example of the markets that will crop up as the result of
anonymising technologies and in the absence of legal obstruction. It’s
perhaps too early to tell whether decentralised prediction markets
will live up to this notorious potential (there’s still some kinks to
iron out where oracles are concerned), though it certainly appears
that the proverbial table is being set as we speak.

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