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Net-based Microsecession

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AJ Posted: Tue, Jun 16 2009 3:08 AM

When we think of micro-secession, we think of the Free State Project, Sealand, and other geographically based attempts at stateless societies. And we imagine that government in a particular location will vanish all at once.

I submit that the state is already being dismantled piece by piece on the Internet.

First of all, what are the power structures that comprise a government?

- Police, courts, central bank, military, the media (insofar as it's state-influenced and pro-establishment), education, state-run corporations, the FDA, USDA, IRS, FBI, CIA, SEC, COMEX (for gold suppression), etc., and most of all people's innate paternalistic superstition that government is beneficial or necessary

Notice how many of these functions are beginning to be taken care of by the Internet. From most obvious to least:

The media: This is why many of us are even here at mises.org, why Ron Paul got popular, and why the Fed is re-entering the public debate after all these decades. Although reading reddit.com or digg.com is still depressing because of the rampant economic fallacies and politics, I think things are changing rather quickly because of Internet freedom of information and news. People are being exposed to libertarian ideas that they would have never heard before. The change may seem slow, but it seems lightning-fast from a historical perspective.

Education: Almost all you do in college anyway is go to lectures, take tests, work problems, and in some fields do experiments, have group discussions, and write papers. Quality video lectures are already available on almost any subject (by top professors), you can talk directly with famous professors or other quality educators on newsgroups like sci.physics or any of myriad message boards (like this one), engage in discussions all over the place, work math problems on all sorts of sites, and write papers on your own or as submissions in discussions. There are even websites that provide good methods for taking tests, even for certification (think Cisco router technician certificates). Of course there are entire accredited net-based universities that offer degrees for cheap. Offshore 'em in a tax haven and encrypt communications and you have complete freedom from state interference. Lab experiments are the one thing I can think of that the web can't provide.

Police, courts, defense: Private security and arbitration options have always existed, but the Internet has presumably made it easier and more economical to access these options. Advances in cryptography are strengthening people's ability to exercise their privacy rights and, of course, the 'net in general is obliterating the concept of copyright. On the other hand, maybe it's terrorists we'll have to fear in the future, rather than governments (I doubt it).

Fed, IRS, SEC, COMEX, etc.: Digital gold currency in combination with public-key cryptography may soon make it impossible for any government to monitor transactions at all. Even if searched by totalitarian police forces, technologies like perfect forward secrecy would make it physically impossible to obtain evidence to find out how much money anyone possesses or has used to buy particular goods or services. Digital gold currency is already being offered by several firms, although some of them ended up being scams (fractional/fictional reserves - go figure).On the other hand, this may encourage fraud, extortion, etc.

FDA, USDA, other regulatory agencies: What's stopping certification firms based in tax havens from getting good reputations? I suppose just the fact that the FDA, etc. will still inspect food and medicine when it crosses the border. Far in the future, replicator and transporter technologies could make this work.

For more info, check out the Wikipedia article on crypto-anarchism. I hope no one thinks this is something we should advocate (wrong image and doesn't help us anyway, since probably none of us are in the field), but I think it's important strategically to realize that these things are on the technological horizon whether anyone wants them or not.

Imagine if all money and transactions were 100% private and secret, totally unknowable except by the goods delivered or any visible actions involved in the services offered. I think by that alone the state would be toast. All they could do is ban the Internet, but then there'd be Freenet, so they'd have to physically remove all communications lines. Hopefully by that time people would realize the state is not necessarily their friend.

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bbnet replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 4:23 AM

Great post AJ!

The net is the closest thing we currently have to a stateless society and represents a giant leap forward in the evolution of the human animal.

The states will not give up their power without a fight though and I expect to see many more attempts to control and regulate the net in the future. Thankfully we have many super bright netizens that will be able to counter the states' every move.

Eventually the states will be so desperate they'll either concede stolen powers back to the people or make unapproved net use a capital crime. By then the masses will be so dependant on it that there just might be a global revolution resulting in a most beautiful world to live in? (dreamin perhaps, hasta manana)

 

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And we are not sent here by the politicians you drink with - L. Dube, rip

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AJ replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 3:32 PM

bbnet:
Eventually the states will be so desperate they'll either concede stolen powers back to the people or make unapproved net use a capital crime.

Thanks for the props! The hackers have come up with some amazingly clever ways around state intervention. Check this out:

Wikipedia:
...crypto-anarchists argue that without the ability to encrypt messages, personal information and private life would be seriously damaged. A ban on cryptography is equal [to] the eradication of secrecy of correspondence. They argue that only a draconian police-state would criminalize cryptography. In spite of this, it is already illegal to use it in some countries, and export laws are restrictive in others. Citizens in the United Kingdom must, upon request, give passwords for decryption of personal systems to authorities. Failing to do this can result in imprisonment for up to two years, without evidence of other criminal activity.

However, as processing power increases, and the computational cost of generating cryptographic keys decreases, this legislative key-surrender tactic can be circumvented using automatic rekeying of secure channels through rapid generation of new, unrelated public and private keys at short intervals. Following rekeying, the old keys can be deleted, rendering previously-used keys inaccessible to the end-user, and thus removing the user's ability to disclose the old key, even if they are willing to do so. Technologies enabling this sort of rapidly rekeyed encryption include public-key cryptography, hardware PRNGs, perfect forward secrecy, and opportunistic encryption. The only way to stop this sort of cryptography is to ban it completely--and any such ban would be unenforceable for any government that is not totalitarian, as it would result in massive invasions of privacy, such as blanket permission for physical searches of all computers at random intervals.

To truly enforce a ban on the use of cryptography is probably impossible, as cryptography itself can be used to hide even the existence of encrypted messages (see steganography). It is also possible to encapsulate messages encrypted with illegal strong cryptography inside messages encrypted with legal weak cryptography, thus making it very difficult and uneconomical for outsiders to notice the use of illegal encryption.

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That's an awesome post AJ.  I am a big proponent of the internet, of the internet as a very free (if not perfectly free) market and the model for future decentralization in culture/ideas/communication.

On the communication front, the internet allows us to disseminate ideas and flash mob on and offline.

Culturally and politically, we are moving closer to panarchism.

I'm not sure the state can stop the internet, or even meaningfully slow it down.  We must still guard against laziness and over-confidence.  The one that gets you, is usually the one that you don't see coming.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Stranger replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 4:02 PM

You're confusing freedom with living at the blank edges of the map. The only reason they haven't reached to control this space is that they haven't seen the need to. A real free zone is fully sovereign and secured within an admittedly narrow space.

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Stranger:
You're confusing freedom with living at the blank edges of the map. The only reason they haven't reached to control this space is that they haven't seen the need to.

No, they need to, but it is difficult to do so, because

  • multi-jurisdictional legal overlap freezes government action
  • there are no defined boundaries on cyberspace proper, only on connected space

When we get off this mudball, and move out into space, where property lines will have to be 3 dimensional, all sorts of issues, primarily resorting for 2D property lines will be completely removed.  We may see some of this on earth, with people living underground or in the air, or at different depths of the sea, but space will give us almost limitless horizons in every single direction, and THAT will be nearly impossible to regulate.

Stranger:
A real free zone is fully sovereign and secured within an admittedly narrow space.

And this doesn't apply to the internet how?  Admittedly, it is not perfect, but anyone can carve out their own sovereign space without a license, or even a real name.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Stranger replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 4:31 PM

liberty student:
And this doesn't apply to the internet how?  Admittedly, it is not perfect, but anyone can carve out their own sovereign space without a license, or even a real name.

As the situation in Iran shows, they can turn off the Internet, and you can't turn it back on. You can only try to flee to some further-off space.

You can't build capital on this kind of "freedom" and you can't build any kind of advanced economy.

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Stranger:

liberty student:
And this doesn't apply to the internet how?  Admittedly, it is not perfect, but anyone can carve out their own sovereign space without a license, or even a real name.

As the situation in Iran shows, they can turn off the Internet, and you can't turn it back on. You can only try to flee to some further-off space.

You can't build capital on this kind of "freedom" and you can't build any kind of advanced economy.

How do you explain how Twitter is being utilized to both inform those outside of Iran about the situation & fill in the void if reporting by other news agencies & sources? 

"Look at me, I'm quoting another user to show how wrong I think they are, out of arrogance of my own position. Wait, this is my own quote, oh shi-" ~ Nitroadict

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Stranger:
As the situation in Iran shows, they can turn off the Internet, and you can't turn it back on. You can only try to flee to some further-off space.

That's a present limitation that as the internet is interfered with, will be overcome.  It's tantamount to saying, "if they close the roads, you can't escape the country" where air or sea travel has not yet been invented.  It is precisely these state interventions, which drive people to innovate and create solutions.

The bigger the wall, the higher the ladders.

The internet is the statist's pandora's box.  It's a communications paradigm they cannot control without shutting it down, but every single day the capacity and technology creeps into more and more households, to create their own networks using the exact same protocols, wirelessly.  That is why Tesla got such a rough ride.  Wireless energy would have changed the entire paradigm.  Tesla envisioned the 'net long before Darpa.

Stranger:
You can't build capital on this kind of "freedom" and you can't build any kind of advanced economy.

Sure you can.  If you can't see it, you either aren't looking, or you don't know what to look for.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Stranger replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 4:51 PM

Nitroadict:

 

How do you explain how Twitter is being utilized to both inform those outside of Iran about the situation & fill in the void if reporting by other news agencies & sources? 

Blank edge of the map.

 

liberty student:
The bigger the wall, the higher the ladders.

Freedom means not having a wall. It doesn't mean running away incessently.

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Stranger:

liberty student:
The bigger the wall, the higher the ladders.

Freedom means not having a wall. It doesn't mean running away incessantly.

The internet is about climbing over the wall.  Essentially rendering the wall "not there".

It's not about running away.  It's about ignoring attempts at  monopoly.  That's what secession is.  That is what the internet is.

Intellectual, spiritual, moral, political and economic secession through unregulated communication.

 

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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liberty student:

Stranger:

liberty student:
The bigger the wall, the higher the ladders.

Freedom means not having a wall. It doesn't mean running away incessantly.

The internet is about climbing over the wall.  Essentially rendering the wall "not there".

It's not about running away.  It's about ignoring attempts at  monopoly.  That's what secession is.  That is what the internet is.

Intellectual, spiritual, moral, political and economic secession through unregulated communication.

 


On that note, this just came in:  Researchers Build a Browser-Based Darknet

"Look at me, I'm quoting another user to show how wrong I think they are, out of arrogance of my own position. Wait, this is my own quote, oh shi-" ~ Nitroadict

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AJ replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 5:13 PM

liberty student:
Culturally and politically, we are moving closer to panarchism.

Wow, that's a really interesting idea, probably a step-stone toward AnCap. What I wonder about is law enforcement. If someone commits a violent crime but they are not affiliated with a government that is tough on crime, what happens?

As to Stranger's comment about "edges of the map," I think darknets are a possible solution (see previous post). But more than that, I wonder why the state hasn't been moving to shut down Internet more aggressively. It could be that they move too slowly and haven't understood the issues at hand, which would be great news.

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AJ:
But more than that, I wonder why the state hasn't been moving to shut down Internet more aggressively. It could be that they move too slowly and haven't understood the issues at hand, which would be great news.

They don't have jurisdictional authority.

Remember, the only thing that kept America's head above water in the 90s was the massive productivity gains of the information revolution.  The state is wedded to information technology (and networks) like a heroin addict.  The drug is prolonging a slow death.  Withdrawal will be a much quicker death.

They simply do not have the capacity or manpower to run the state without the gains of online tax filing, online license application etc.  Without powerful databases and high speed connections, there is no way to coordinate an empire this big.

AJ:
What I wonder about is law enforcement. If someone commits a violent crime but they are not affiliated with a government that is tough on crime, what happens?

We (ancaps) really need a lot more scholarship on free market law and restitution.  We seem to be pushing hard on environmental and intellectual property issues, and I think we have the high ground on public utilities (including roads) but the key monopoly of law and justice is still a big grey area.

I assume in this case, the government of the victim is the one the criminal needs to worry about.  IANAL.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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AJ:
Wow, that's a really interesting idea, probably a step-stone toward AnCap.

I don't understand why the two are mutually exclusive. Suppose someone opened up a voluntary socialist commune in a generally AnCap society. In fact, true blue statists opened up their own pet voluntary government communities. Or perhaps they were not physical communities. How is this different from panarchy? See Rozeff's archives on LRC if your truly interested in more panarchy stuff.

 

 

 

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Stranger replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 5:39 PM

liberty student:

The internet is about climbing over the wall.  Essentially rendering the wall "not there".

I can't imagine how insane you have to be to believe something like that.

In the world of meaningful things, climbing a wall is a rather solid evidence that it is there, otherwise what are you climbing?

liberty student:
It's not about running away.  It's about ignoring attempts at  monopoly.  That's what secession is.  That is what the internet is.

Secession is a forceful overthrow of a monopoly. It can't be ignored. That is delusion, not secession.

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Stranger:
I can't imagine how insane you have to be to believe something like that.

I'm not sure if you're confused or just being argumentative.

Stranger:
In the world of meaningful things, climbing a wall is a rather solid evidence that it is there, otherwise what are you climbing?

Over bad laws, restricting free speech for example.  Freedom of expression.  Historical revisionism.  Spreading counter-economic ideas.  Organizing for civil defense.  Soliciting financial support for libertarian campaigns and institutions.  The internet is beyond the jurisdiction of any particular law or state.

It's no coincidence that libertarian action offline is coordinated online.  It's no coincidence that the online paradigm is bankrupting statist mainstream media.  It's no coincidence that exposes and investigations are coordinated and disseminated online.  It's no coincidence that most attempts to replace state money are being done online.

Stranger:
Secession is a forceful overthrow of a monopoly. It can't be ignored. That is delusion, not secession.

No, secession is not a forceful overthrow.  When Gandhi drove the British out of India, he did it with economic secession. Violence was not necessary.  Only a withdrawal of consent from the state and it's enterprises.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, that was not due to force.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Stranger replied on Tue, Jun 16 2009 9:12 PM

liberty student:

 

No, secession is not a forceful overthrow.  When Gandhi drove the British out of India, he did it with economic secession. Violence was not necessary.  Only a withdrawal of consent from the state and it's enterprises.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, that was not due to force.

Gandhi deliberately violated British law and used the crowd for his own protection. It wasn't economic secession (a nonsensical expression). It was force.

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Stranger:
Gandhi deliberately violated British law and used the crowd for his own protection.

He ignored the British monopoly on law.  Same as using the internet.

Stranger:
It wasn't economic secession (a nonsensical expression).

Economic secession is not nonsense.  That is what China is going to use to destroy America.  They are going to secede from the dollar hegemony and establish the renminbi in BRIC trade.  You simply stop trading with the state, and paying taxes to the state.  And the state is delegitimized.

Stranger:
It was force.

Gandhi used non-violence.  The use of the crowd was only to demonstrate that they no longer recognized the authority of the British.  They never sought skirmishes or confrontation.  They simply moved past the British when they wished to do so, without any aggression, or defensive force.

Anyway, I don't really have much interest in debating offline tactics involving violence with you.  This topic is about using the net to further liberty.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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AJ replied on Mon, Jun 22 2009 7:58 PM

Interesting article on this topic:  http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/41708942.html

From the article:

"New types of societies, often referred to as virtual networks, are arising outside of state control."

"One of the reasons the modern state became the preeminent form of societal organization was its ability to harness resources and manage large groups of people." etc. etc. A lot of thought-provoking material.

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filc replied on Thu, Sep 17 2009 2:48 PM

Government cannot turn off the network. Cheap consumer products easily get around any efforts of the government.

I explained easy ways of getting around governmental blockades of internet here. Consumer based products offer tools to get around these things.

The only thing the government could do is equip police cars with radio signals and warez their way around town finding people participating in ad-hoc networks. Destroying the internet however would be political scuicide. They will have to regulate it under the guise of protecting the innoscent, like children and fraud. Disregarding the fact that the free market has already created answers to those problems.

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If you had a big enough boat and enough fishing skill, you could live in the middle of the ocean without anyone bothering you.  Although it wouldn't be very luxurious.

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Caley McKibbin:
If you had a big enough boat and enough fishing skill, you could live in the middle of the ocean without anyone bothering you.  Although it wouldn't be very luxurious.

As I get older, the luxury I crave the most, is time.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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filc replied on Fri, Sep 18 2009 1:36 AM

Caley McKibbin:
If you had a big enough boat and enough fishing skill, you could live in the middle of the ocean without anyone bothering you.  Although it wouldn't be very luxurious.

Sounds completly luxurious to me.

I actually plan on moving to a third world country outside of the big cities to some small pueblo when I get a bit older and grab a bit more cash. Most pueblo's in third world countries have little or no government involvement. I can live peacefully in beautiful paradise without being molested by the state. I did this when I was younger in central america for a while. It was blissful. In a single year of living down there, including working 5 hours a day I accomplished the following.

A) Read 30 books

B) Taught myself C++ in 3 months and created several network client/server based utilities (simply because I was curious and enjoyed it)

C) Ran every day and was in the best shape of my life

   C1) Every day during my run I would head out to a huge rock outcropping and watch the scarlet red sunset.

D) Despite all of this I still had free time to enjoy myself, drink local beer, and make some good friends. :) 

I learned that down there, without so many common american distractions I was far more productive.

I sure do miss it.

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filc replied on Fri, Sep 18 2009 1:47 AM

liberty student:
As I get older, the luxury I crave the most, is time.

Shoot. Thats a luxury I have been craving since I was 20 my friend. Paradise

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The internet is still a bunch of cables that the government more or less has control over. If the it really becomes a serious danger to the state, they just shut it down.

"They all look upon progressing material improvement as upon a self-acting process." - Ludwig von Mises
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AJ replied on Thu, Mar 24 2011 3:22 PM

Might it be as LS says above that the state has grown addicted to the Internet?

It struck me when I was in the tax office in my city in Japan today waiting around, how everything in the whole office - every pen, stamp, printer, monitor, light bulb, ticket dispenser, desk, chair, escalator, and piece of paper - was the product of a private company, most bearing logos: NEC, Epson, BIC, Sharp, Infrontia, etc.

I was looking around in vain for any product the state made itself. I finally thought of one: tap water. But really, the Japanese government uses all sorts of equipment in collecting, testing, purifying, chlorinating, and delivering the water, and probably all of that equipment is from private companies. Isn't the government's inability to make any product themselves the very best illustration of the lesson of I, Pencil?

In a similar vein, it seems that the state may not be able to ween itself off the incredible efficiency of services on the Internet. Search engines like Google may already be indispensible for a wide variety of government operations. Maybe there are a whole lot more sites like this, and although services are in some sense "easier" than products and the government already provides a lot of services, maybe there is an argument to be made in the spirit of I, Pencil. Whereas the essay takes about the physical products and processes needed to create a pencil, perhaps a similar argument can be made for services. Perhaps the free Internet will, or already has, made some services so much cheaper and better that the state simply can't afford to shut it down or censor it very much. But then again, they can't really afford to interfere with the market as much as they do; if they left things alone for a while they'd have far more tax revenue eventually as technology and production skyrocketed.

In any case, I'd like to see LS make the argument above in greater detail.

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Walden replied on Thu, Mar 24 2011 4:39 PM

There are laws on the books (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/514.html) which guard against a free market of currencies which encrypted currencies could provide. You don't see such civil disobedience as force? To the extent that the currency monopoly is the lifeblood of the state , this would be an immediate and real victory- in fact, the greatest victory of all in my opinion. "[Paper money] has financed the growth of the state on all levels, federal, state, and local. It thus has become the technical foundation for the totalitarian menace of our day." http://mises.org/daily/3231

When the law becomes unenforceable it ceases to be law.

To say it's just running to the edge of the map- quite the contrary. It's an act of turning inward and securing freedom in these borders. If some Ghandi figure wants to face the brunt of the state head on, I admire such efforts but pitching a tent in front the Fed won't do anything. Ghandi drove the British out but he certainly didn't end central banking. A different strategy is required for a different kind of threat.

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