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Author: Caleb James DeLisle
To: System undo crew
Subject: [unSYSTEM] Book Report: Assassination Politics by Jim Bell
Hey y'all radicals.

I finally got around to reading it, and I wrote my thoughts here:

For easy reading, I've copied them into the mail:


Book report: Assassination Politics by Jim Bell

I have not yet finished, this will be a thread which grows over time.

1. The technical aspect is, we now know, super boring. As long as we have someone who can be trusted
to enter the obituaries into the block chain, the rest is basically a solved problem.

2. Jim makes a rather laughable assertion that this construct would be legal. You can't call it
assassination politics and expect not to go to jail for participating. However what is questionable
is how wide the "this is a conspiracy" net would be cast... Anyone who touches the coins involved?
Could monero or zcash be banned entirely for being involved? All anonymous crypto? Would all crypto
that was ever traded for anonymous crypto be "tainted"? These questions remain unanswered, but
suffice to say, power will strive to protect itself, and a definition in black's law dictionary will
not stop it.

3. Assassinating high profile people is surprisingly difficult. They have good security details and
intelligence services are watching out for this type of thing. Phone location tracking, spy
satellites, etc make attacking quite hard


3.1. This is even more true in authoritarian countries where most people have absolutely no chance
of getting near the president, and the close associates are systematically compromised such that
death of the president would spell their death as well. Consider for example a scenario where the
body guards of the president are those who demonstrate loyalty by carrying out heinous acts which,
once known, would spell their doom. Power is not naive.

4. However, 2 things are far far more difficult to defend, those are infrastructure and "good people".

4.1. Good people, as I use the term, are not power structure, they are opposition party, or a
surprise elected president. They care about making the country a better place to live more than
immortalizing their grip on power. As such, they present easier targets, which challenges Bell's
supposition that the AM would make the world a better place.

4.2. Infrastructure is perpetually vulnerable to attack. As easily as a bet can be made on the death
of a politician, one can also be made on the failure of a power grid, collapse of a bridge, or
poisoning of a drinking water reservoir


...these things are flat out terrifying for the state, which is why the US got all weird right after
9/11, it was their excuse to impose as much control as possible over stuff where they were actually
powerless. This is also why the NSA spies on Americans and will not stop, ever. What does it
actually cost to buy train derailments, bridge collapses, power grid failures, oil spills, etc? If
the citizens are disgruntled and/or desperate, not that much.

5. This kind of thing is, ironically, not possible without state support. Somebody needs to tend the
garden, somebody needs to be typing up the obituaries. It is surprisingly difficult to do this while
staying completely anonymous. Such a role necessarily builds up a reputation, and becomes a high
value target for doxing. A little bit of deductive reasoning - remove the non tech savy, those who
are at work, soon you have a short list of candidates. A little NSA backdoor to double check and you
have your man. The only way this can work is if he is in a protected location (Russia, Iran, North
Korea, ...).

5.1. But now, geopolitics comes into play. Iran is known for using terror to get what they want, and
as a result they have very few friends in the world. Their high ranking military is regularly
attacked by drone or car bomb from the us or Israel.


5.2 Russia did in the past run ransomeware groups, but at some point they agreed to stop because,
one way or another, the us was able to bribe or pressure them. I suspect it was more the latter.

To put it simply, war favors the attacker, so the most powerful militaries in the world pretty much
have everyone else by the pressure points and can always ask them to "please stop that".


6. Power jealously guards it's anonymity, particularly in the west. If I asked you who is running
the west who would you say? Biden, Macron, Trudeau? Yeah right. Maybe you say the Rothschild family
but there is good reason to think they're were never actually in charge either - in the 1800s they
were just an ordinary poor family and today a number of their decedents live an ordinary lifestyle,
w/ jobs, etc. By the numbers - their story is more one of a high ranking servant than the master.
The onion has many layers. Bell's Assassination Market doesn't seem to take into account the
possibility that the "man behind the curtain" is in fact unknown to the masses.


7. Bell correctly identifies a key problem with the police / criminal justice system as it is
currently configured. Police and criminal justice is regularly paid based on the amount of dangerous
violent crime they have to go after, but whatever you incentivize is what you get more of.


8. Much of what Bell writes comes from his position as a Libertarian Anarchist. Libertarian
Anarchism is somewhat similar to (honest) Communism in that it identifies a value and attempts to
naïvely maximize that value without recognition of the complex interconnectedness of the real world.
In the case of Communism, the value is equality and in the case of Libertarian Anarchism it's freedom.

Now we do have to give Libertarian Anarchism some credit here because it is more intelligent than
Communism. While Communism doesn't make it much further than to see a person destitute and say "less
of this please", Libertarian Anarchism has the intelligence to observe a truism that government
breeds corruption and so less government is better.

The problem with "less government" is that past a certain point, secret governments, secret
societies, organized crime, mafias, gangs, and warlords begin to spring up. So you don't really get
less government as much as less accountable government.

Bell takes the Libertarian Anarchist position that a world without government is indeed possible,
and he sees the Assassination Market as THE path to achieving it.


9. Beyond the assertion that the AM can end government, Bell further asserts that it can end war.
This assertion flies in the face of the well established theory that in a world of limited resources
and unlimited potential desires, there will necessarily be a struggle for existence.

This struggle is born out in war & geopolitics, politics & corruption, business & legal battle. Even
blockchains are forced to pay tribute to the struggle if they want true decentralized security.

I would assert that any working solution to the problem of war is generalizable to solving costly
legal disputes, political battles, and even proof of work. As of now, the closest thing we have to a
solution to these sister problems is the seminal work of Dr. John Nash, who - if I may commit an
atrocity of oversimplification - proved that when the final outcome of a struggle can be known
beforehand, participants can reach agreement to voluntarily adopt that final outcome without
expending the energy of the struggle.

Nash's work helped to mathematically formalize optimal strategies such that participants could feel
confident that their strategy is correct, but the idea of modelling, communicating, and reacting to
eachothers' strategies is nothing new.

Gazelles stotting are in essence communicating to predators that a struggle with them will not end


10. What Bell very accurately predicted was the effect that the internet would have on sapping
peoples' enthusiasm for war.

Right now the whole world is watching a war play out between what are mostly Russian conscripts and
what are probably significantly Ukranian conscripts (plus clearly some Ukranians volunteers who
choose to defend their homeland).

While there are a fair share of CurrentThing™ NPCs in the west, the majority opinion seems to be
that common folks are not to be blamed for any of this and it is tyrannical government that is at fault.

An even more Anarchistic position which has gained some significant traction is that while the
Russian is ostensibly the sole aggressor, Zelensky is a CIA asset installed via a coup d'êtat, and
he and the US administration are probably equally responsible for goading Russia into the war in the
first place.

The zeitgeist may be captured by quoting Regan out of context, to wit: "In this present crisis,
government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."


Correction: s/the Russian/the Russian government/
Please don't mistake me for one of the type of bigots who represents all people of a nationality as
though they were a single person.

11. So could an Assassination Market really work?

Part of me would like to say "no" in order to be a good citizen and not promote something so radical
- but to be perfectly frank, that part of me is almost non-existent.

Part of me would like to say "YES!" in order to be part of a major new discovery in the evolution of
politics. That's the part which drove me to read the essay in the beginning.

Gibson said "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed", and I think in that
quote we can find our answer.

There are examples of Iran and Russia paying bounties for the death of American soldiers. The pre-US
colonial governments in America paid for scalps of slain Indians, and in 1 Samuel 18:25, the Bible
references a dowry to be paid in enemy foreskins.

These are all primitive examples of Assassination Markets, where in particular the target to be
assassinated is not any specific person but rather a broad class of people.

What else these examples all have in common is that the targets for Assassination are of a clearly
defined out-group and there is a culture wherein said assassination is defined as lawful, if not heroic.

I suspect that an AM could indeed exist, but only within the context of an active war, where there
is not only the cash bounty but also the guarantee of physical protection and legal immunity for the

At the end of the day, most people are not cut out to be assassins - so the job will very probably
remain with those few Professionals, who make hit jobs their line of business. And in this case,
trust and relationships being what they are, putting the job out to market doesn't make as much
sense as doing it the way it's always been done.


12. My review of Bell's essay.

Firstly, it's very non-linear, a combination of newspaper interviews, letters, and other
correspondence. It really bounces around a lot more than something like, e.g. Kaczynski's Industrial
Society and Its Future.

However, unlike Kaczynski whose writing style tells a story of one man's decay into madness, Bell
remains quite coherent throughout.

Kaczynski falls somewhere in the left/socialist/environmentalist realm, though he strongly - and
eloquently - discredits mainstream Leftism. Bell is clearly in the Anarcho-Capitalist / Libertarian

Bell may be offended that I would compare him to Kaczynski, but both are highly influential radical
thinkers from the same time period, so that just cannot be helped.

Mr. Kaczynski was not able to make any significant contribution beyond arguing the degeneracy of
Leftist thinking while simultaneously demonstrating it firsthand, but I believe Mr. Bell's
contribution is highly noteworthy.

Prediction markets remain a young and poorly understood area of research, and Bell did an excellent
job of putting a stake in the ground and describing the outer limits of how a prediction market
might be used.

I can scarcely imagine a significant paper on prediction markets which does not cite the work of Mr.
Bell, and that alone is enough to make his contribution noteworthy.

As we are so blessed as to still have Mr. Bell with us (and not in prison!), I would encourage him
to restructure his work in a more linear academic format which presents the ideas with brevity,
clarity, and linearity.

While I have said that I doubt a real Assassination Market would ever emerge, except transiently
during a wider geopolitical conflict. I do think that other types of prediction markets are not only
inevitable, but in fact desirable, and I applaud Mr. Bell for opening discussion of the topic.


13. POST SCRIPT: Thoughts on Libertarian Anarchism

Libertarian Anarchism, or Anarcho-Capitalism, as you might call it, is what I would call a "purist"
political philosophy. It rejects complexities and compromise of "The Real World" and insists that
the answer is simple and it just needs to be tried.

It is easy to discredit any political philosophy which claims to be simple and "just needs to be
tried", as the history of politics is at least tens of thousands of years old and anything which is
simple has almost certainly been tried in some place at some time in the past - and proved to be an
evolutionary dead-end.

Like it or not, our messy mixture of election, oligarchy, monarchy, dictatorship and law, is the
result of tens of thousands of years of survival of the fittest in a geopolitical struggle for

But given the tenancy of government to grow big and fat, and eventually stifle all innovation until
it's eventual collapse, why doesn't Anarchism out-compete?

I think the unseen monster which makes Anarchist and Minarchist governments unable to survive in the
long term is what you might call Secret Government.

Secret Government is a catch-all for every type of gang, mafia, cult, warlord, secret society,
conspiracy, corruption or otherwise, which aims to undermine agreed-upon law and impose it's own
system of law instead.

If I, on my land, build a nuclear arsenal, and then go about extorting my neighbors for "protection"
- this is an example of Secret Government. Perhaps the most famous one in the Libertarian Anarchist

A more realistic example may be simply selling "protection" to local businesses - with an implicit
threat of surreptitiously destroying their property if they don't pay. This, likewise, is a form of
Secret Government.

Establishing defacto Sharia Law and enforcing it on everyone in a particular area, despite them not
being part of my church would be another example of Secret Government.

Now you might come back to the Assassination Market as a solution to me, the tyrannical mafioso, but
firstly: Does anyone know their identity, and secondly: If they're under threat, wouldn't they just
cut all of the internet and power cables?

Given the assumption that *some* kind of dejour government is necessary in order to prevent
unaccountable Secret Government ceasing control, this government is itself a vulnerability.

If there is any kind of government, no matter how small, the attacker may opt to use political
influence / lobbying / advertising, to push for changes to that government to bring it under their
control. For example, via a privately owned central bank.

The challenge of government is that it must be as small as possible, whilst being powerful enough to
fend off any assault by Secret Government which is, by definition, unaccountable to the people.

A totalitarian dictatorship is super stable if the populous is kept afraid and destitute while the
cadre is an army of goons whose enemies will surely kill them if the dictatorship ever crumbles. But
this is the opposite of libertarian government.

As Gouverneur Morris said: The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest.
They always did...they always will. They will have the same effect here as elsewhere, if we do not,
by the power of government, keep them in their proper spheres.

This is the challenge. Like war, it is an arms race of complexity. Every system by which Secret
Government is prevented from emerging is another system to co-opt.

The struggle against darkness is fought one step at a time.