This letter is the second in a series of open letters to Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted of being Dread Pirate Roberts, the creator of the infamous Silk Road. A few of the writers at Bitcoin.com got together and decided to start this open letter project as a way to show support for Ross and to raise awareness about his excessive prison sentence. As the Senior Editor for Bitcoin.com, I thought this idea was brilliant and felt compelled to write a letter of my own. A physical copy of this letter will be sent to Ross for him to read. Hopefully, Ross will be able to respond to this letter soon; we will publish any response we receive from Ross here on Bitcoin.com
Also read: Open Letters to Ross Ulbricht: Series 1
I first discovered the Silk Road during my Senior year of high school, sometime between 2011 and 2012. Back then, I had no interest in politics or economics, I had no idea what Bitcoin was, and no one knew who you were yet. I simply thought Silk Road was a cool, new, and modern way to get drugs. Not being a drug user, I didn’t give the site much thought. It took me a couple years to fully understand how monumental this experiment truly was.
I didn’t hear about the Silk Road again until it got taken down in late 2013, which is also when the authorities arrested you. By this time, I had started studying Bitcoin, so I paid a little more attention as your unfortunate saga began.
At first, my main concern with the takedown of Silk Road was about what would happen with the bitcoins taken from Silk Road users. When the first auction took place in the Summer of 2014, I speculated on how the sold coins would affect the overall Bitcoin price. My predictions were dead-on, which was really affirming for someone who had just entered the world of journalism, putting his thoughts on the Internet for the public to see.
Then, several months later, the publicized portion of your legal ordeal began. This is when I began to move past the monetary aspect of the Silk Road saga, and began focusing on you, learning about you as a person, an entrepreneur, and an activist. Before your trial, I had not studied the philosophies powering Silk Road — I merely thought of it as a businesses. Any notions I held in association with the site about freedom of choice and resisting the drug war came from my own opinions. Thus, when I learned of your motivation behind creating the Silk Road, I was pleasantly surprised. The Silk Road was an experiment, a real-life application of the theoretical notions of individual choice and spontaneous order. I believed these things to be inherent in Silk Road’s foundation, but to know that you felt the same way changed my entire perception of you.
That isn’t to say I previously viewed you in a negative light. On the contrary, I admired your entrepreneurial spirit and the Silk Road’s ability to stay in business for so long. However, after your trial, I respected you as a leader; you took an abstracted idea and put it into practice, showing the world that freedom of choice and free markets do foster order and community.
In the months following your trial, I reflected on how you and the Silk Road have affected my life. Your influences on me are far from obvious; I never purchased anything from Silk Road, I only visited the site three or four times, and I knew basically nothing about you until your trial began. I don’t use drugs of any kind, and I don’t condone their use either. Yet, your experiment and your choices have greatly impacted me.
I don’t think I would have learned about Bitcoin if you hadn’t created Silk Road. In turn, my life may have ended up going in a totally opposite direction than it is at present. Firstly, the sheer notoriety of Silk Road thrust Bitcoin into the libertarian spotlight, allowing it to gain enough popularity to become accessible to someone like me. Secondly, becoming infatuated with Bitcoin sparked my passion for economics halfway through my undergrad career. In the two years since, I have studied the subject intensely both on my own and in college, and I hope to one day get a Master’s degree in economics. Finally, using the knowledge I possessed about Bitcoin and economics, I was able to land my first job as a freelance Bitcoin news reporter in May of 2014. That first job turned into a series of freelance gigs, which led to me joining Bitcoinist.net in December 2014 as an assistant editor, resulting in my becoming Senior Editor of both Bitcoinist.net and Bitcoin.com. I hope to use the experience I gain in this industry to start a career in journalism, a passion I would not have discovered without your influence on Bitcoin’s popularity.
So, even though we have never been in close proximity to each other — physically, digitally, or economically — I still feel like I have a lot to thank you for. Regardless of whether or not your actions on the Silk Road were moral (it is not my place to make that decision), you played an instrumental role in bringing Bitcoin into the limelight, which ended up giving my life a little more direction and optimism.
What I would like for you to take away from my letter is this: your intellectual reach extended far beyond your role as an “internet drug lord”; as far as I am concerned, you have done far more good in this world than harm. Keep this in mind when the critics and bureaucrats try to define you as nothing more than a law-breaker, don’t let their hurtful words diminish your spirit. You have inspired many people, and you have sparked a much-needed discussion about the drug war and the intersection of the Internet and the law. No matter what happens to you, never forget that you did something positive.
Thank you again. I hope this letter finds you in good spirits, and I wish you the best of luck in your appeal. I hope these letters from Bitcoin.com help you stay positive, and I will do my best to ensure that people continue writing to you.
Readers of Bitcoin.com are encouraged to write to Ross and research the non aggression principle. We believe there are millions of people who are incarcerated in this world who don’t deserve to be. Email submissions for letters to be published to the “Open Letters To Ross” series can be sent to ~ email@example.com
The address where you can send a letter to Ross directly is here. Ross especially likes discussions on economics, politics and science.
Ross Ulbricht, #18870-111
MCC, New York Metropolitan Correctional Center
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007-1780
Those who choose to donate Bitcoin can do so by visiting Freeross.org to help fund his appeal process directly.
Has the Silk Road impacted your life in any way? Let us know in the comments below!